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The Wishing Map
Chapter Nineteen: The Naim Games (Continued)
Previously: By pushing them beyond what they could comprehend, Zack unwittingly incited armed conflict among the childlike naims!
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Cries of dismay exploded from the Root Naims. Within seconds they were throwing rocks, bark, tree branches, anything they could put their hands on. This was matched by a shower of objects from the Leaf Naims. Because the field was so wide, the makeshift missiles failed to make it to the opposite side and fell instead on the heads of the children who’d been acting out the stories. Many dropped, bruised and lacerated, to the ground. Their parents screamed and scrambled to drag them out of harm’s way.
Bulgy led his followers onto the field. In their hands were bludgeons and maces, lances and pikes, bows & arrows. Zack suddenly realized where they’d been going when he saw them earlier, and why their cloaks had looked so bulky: they’d raided the heartwood armories and stashed the weapons under their garments!
They were looking for an opportunity, and I provided it!
“No! Listen! I, Master Zaggyzim, order you to stop!” At his command, the violence ceased. He dropped his greatcoat to the ground. The Root Naims saw him dressed in a Root Naim tunic, proudly emblazoned with a red root patch; the Leaf Naims saw him in a Leaf Naim tunic, featuring an unashamedly bold blue leaf patch!
Both sides began to cheer, “Hey-fah for Master Zaggyzim!” And for one brief moment neither side stopped to wonder why the other was cheering. Zack knew his ruse could not last: at his request, Miffy Mufferslip had secretly stitched half a Leaf Naim tunic and half a Root Naim tunic together so that, seen from either side, he would appear to be wearing a whole tunic of one type or the other, but seen from the front or the rear…
All twenty thousand naims were deliriously proud of their Master Zaggyzim, but none was as proud as little Bud, who’d slipped away from his parents, Noddie and Sniggle, and was now running out onto the field. “Uncle Zaggy!”
Uncle Zaggy heard and, without thinking, turned to scoop him up.
In a trice, he realized what he’d done. The crowd’s rapture died like a bug against a windshield. It was followed by the ugliest silence Zack had ever heard, and then a single voice:
“Zaggyzim speaks ne’er traith!” It was Lyffwin.
“Ne’re traith! “Ne’re traith!” Leaf and Root Naims alike shouted. The accusation was directed at both Zack and the opposing side of the field because both believed the other had been in on the betrayal! A hail of stones and branches followed, this time accompanied by arrows from Lyffwin and Bulgy’s armed militias.
One arrow—the size of a knitting needle—struck Zack in the neck. It hurt like crazy. “Ow! Dang! Ow!”
Zack’s cry was followed by a high shriek. He felt a thud against his leg and looked down to see little Bud crumpling, an arrow through his knee.
“Oh, God! Oh, Uol!” Zack shouted.
Thoughts: Is there anything worse than causing another person, especially a child, to suffer?
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