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A little bruising of the heart.

We moved Merlin, Annaham, and Phoebe out into Bantytown, protected by a grow-out pen so the big chickens don’t peck them to death. I thought they were all big and tough when they were in here, but out there, they’re half the size of the adult banties. Phoebe and Annaham were immediately overcome with delight for bugs and sunbeams (Phoebe even fell over and sunbathed!) but Merlin cried and cried for me to pick him up and pet him. I told him that it’s time for him to learn to be a Big Chicken and live outdoors and think about wooing girl chickens and chasing bugs and crowing and things, but he says he wants to be my House Chicken.

I am trying to stay strong but it was a little heart-bruising to leave him out there with him making pathetic noises at me like that. I wish I had the facilities to keep a small chicken happy in the house, but I really don’t. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to explain that to Merlin.

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Let me show you the world in my eyes…

It is a well-known fact among my family that I have always had a highly active imagination. I did not have cats as a kid, I had tame cheetahs. Likewise the nondescript grade mare Sugar who lived at my grandparents’ house was not a nondescript grade mare, but a purebred warhorse on whom I had fantastic adventures. In my teens, when I was reading a great deal of Mercedes Lackey’s books, I leased Harvey Wallbanger, an Arab/Quarter Horse cross, who looked to the rest of the world like a fat and placid gelding, but I knew his secret name and when I whispered it in his ear, he was a Shin’a’in warsteed, the only stallion ever allowed off the Dhorisha Plains, and I his rider. We saved the world a lot.

I have never actually grown out of this tendency, it’s just gone underground. Tink is not actually a Doberman, but a rare Moonhound who lost an eye in battle with the Wargs who come down out of the north in the winter with the snow. Sid is not, in fact, a German Shepherd from East German working lines, but a ferocious and loyal black wolf who pads beside me on my adventures. I’ve taken a religious vow not to ride horses, which is why I no longer have a purebred warsteed. Oh and my husband is not a stay-at-home spouse in the hinterlands of Virginia, but the consort to a warrior Queen who watches over the kingdom while his wife hares off on quests. And while the undiscerning eye might look at Emmaline and Noodlehead and see two tabby-and-white mutt cats, formerly feral, I know that they are in fact Stripey Disapproving Meepers whose ancestors were saved from the sinking of Atlantis by the priests because they can see the future, only in the intervening years they have forgotten how to speak. On one of our quests, Sid and I may discover the key to teaching them to speak again, but then I will obviously need to learn Atlantean.

What? I commute two hours a day and mostly tell myself stories to fill the time.

Anyway, knowing these things, it will come as no surprise to my gentle readers that Belphegor is not, in fact, a small floofy chicken at an exceptionally awkward stage of feather growth, but my raven familiar. Merlin and Annaham, who greet me enthusiastically and demand to be picked up, are not adolescent chickens but fierce small hawks. Mostly they play along and humor me, being good-hearted birds. I mourn the day they all grow up and become more interested in bugs and chickens of the opposite sex than perching majestically on my wrist, although it is possible I suppose that they will always be willing to perch majestically on my wrist, and possibly I can even train them to swoop down on my foes.

Merlin is working on it already. He just needs some more practice distinguishing friend from foe.
Merlin, a very small crele chicken (white with grey stripes on his back and brown ones on his breast) stands triumphantly atop Daniel's head.  Daniel's eyes are closed.