Worried faces were taken over by rushed faces. People from town came out to help everyday that Nononi was gone. And everyday, the people of Walnut Grove and the Milankovitch Clan waited to hear from their relatives who were journeying to Walnut Grove for the Festival. The Clan was also waiting to hear from the authorities. Already seven of the eight birds had made it home safely with news from the different Clans and from the authorities of different towns. The Outlaws had not passed by their way or through their towns.
The eighth bird had not come back yet, which meant it had either gone the farthest or it had reached the rest of the family, the Clans of Nononi's aunt and uncle. Hopefully, the two Clans were traveling together and would get the message together. If the two Clans were traveling together, that meant they would have many more eyes watching out for the Outlaws as well as Nononi. This meant that there was a better chance of getting Nononi back safely.
Word of Nononi:
As the Milankovitch Clan worked the land getting ready for the Festival and building two more houses to house the Dex and Grear families, the eighth bird flew above the Clans that were transporting not only Nononi back to the safety of her family, but also the Outlaws as well. Because in our culture* if a man decides to take it upon himself and hurt a woman, then that man shall get what is coming to him, because women do not let other men touch them or hurt them without putting up a fight first. And boy did Nononi put up a fight.
(*AN-I don't know if this is true but it is in this story.)
Aunt Masaya and Uncle Cetewayo summoned the bird down to where they were camped. Nononi sat in between her aunt and uncle, to make sure that she was alright and to make sure that she didn't leave their sight. They wrote that they had Nononi with them and that they were on their way to Walnut Grove. They also wrote that the Marshal or Judge should be in the town when they arrived for they had the Outlaws with them. Nononi was alright, but a little banged up. She put up a heck of a fight and would not let those men touch her or hurt her. Then they sent the bird back to Walnut Grove, where they would soon arrive. Nononi was safe and unscathed, well barely.
The School House:
Keeza, Nashat, Ashes, Dreamer, Swan, Ronin, Sasha, Naria, and Quinn were all sitting in the School House, trying to learn the material that had been set in front of them, but none could take their minds off of Nononi. The screech of a bird at the School House window brought not only Keeza's head up, but also the heads of Ashes, Sasha and Naria. They looked at each other before Keeza got up from her seat and went to the window. Mrs. Wilder tried to tell her to sit back down, but when Keeza opened the window, put her arm outside, then pulled her arm back in with the eighth bird perched atop her hand, she stopped.
Keeza went back to her seat and sat on the table, the bird on her arm looking around wildly. She took the note from the bird's claw and unfolded it. Reading what it said, her face lit up and everyone in the room knew that whatever was in the note was something good, that maybe Nononi had been found alive and well. But when Keeza's face fell, they knew something was wrong.
"Keeza, what is wrong with you? First you have a happy face and now you have a sad face." Dreamer asked.
"Aunt Masaya and Uncle Cetewayo say that Nononi is safe and with them and that they will reach Walnut Grove in a matter of weeks. But they also say that they have the Outlaws with them and that we should have the Marshal and Judge here so that they can take them into custody and prosecute them properly and finally."
"What else does it say?" Nashat asked, eager to hear more about his sister.
"That the Outlaws tried to hurt Nononi, but when they turned on her, she started fighting and that is how they found her. Aunt and Uncle could hear Nononi jingling while she was fighting them and when they got upon them, the Outlaws were begging them to pull her off of them. They pulled Nononi off of them, but then they tied them up. Aunty says that them Outlaws are going to need some medical attention because the Clans have refused to give them any medical care due to what they have already done to our family now twice."
"Thank the lord that Aunty and Uncle found Nononi safely. I don't know what I would have done if she hadn't been found safely." Ashes said.
"Neither do I Ashes. But you don't have to worry 'bout those men much longer. Once they get here, they will be taken into custody and tried for the murder of your parents and the kidnapping of Nononi. Now, let's go tell Papa and Mama that Nononi is safe in the arms of our Aunt and Uncle. If that is alright with you Mrs. Wilder?" Keeza asked.
"That is fine with me Keeza. Besides, I think school is pretty much over for the day. Now that we know Nononi is safe, we won't have to worry about her being found now do we. Alright, everyone is to practice their spelling words and do their arithmetic tonight. Then tomorrow, maybe we will have better news."
"Well we have some news right now." Swan said.
"And what kind of news do you have for us Swan?" Nancy asked matter-of-factly.
and Papa would like to invite you to the Festival since you have been
so kind to our family. Will the town not come to our Festival now
that you have been formally invited?"
"We will see. If the Festival does not fall on a school day, then maybe." Mrs. Wilder said.
"Then we should not expect to see you at the Festival since it will be held during the week and on the weekends." Naria said.
"You may see us if the town wants to have half-days for school and then we may be able to come." Mrs. Wilder said.
"Will you ask the town council if that can happen?" Ronin asked.
"I can try." Mrs. Wilder said.
Aunt Masaya and Uncle Cetewayo's Clans:
I sat on the horse Uncle Cetewayo had brought for me. It was to be a present when they arrived in Walnut Grove, but since I was already with them, he did not see the harm in giving it to me now. Anyways, they wanted to see me happy again, like they always had, not hurt like they had when they found me. I pushed the horse to the front of the column of wagons and let the horse take control. I missed my horse back home, but this horse would do just fine. My cousins were riding up front as well and they wanted to know what was going to be happening now that the Outlaws were tied up.
We talked for the longest time and by time dinner came around, I was willing to get up and dance around the camp fire again, though my sore ribs would hinder my efforts. Siesha was the first to get me up and dancing. Jingling as we danced around the camp fire, we were screaming with laughter by the time everyone else had joined in. This is what I had missed so much while we were on the road traveling all the time. I had missed having fun with my cousins, who had a knack for always getting me up and dancing before any of my siblings, nieces and nephews.
We were having so much fun that we hadn't realized our very moves were being recorded by a camera. Uncle Cetewayo had finally bought a camera to record the Daily Routine of the Clans. Uncle Cetewayo and Aunt Masaya normally traveled together since they were brother and sister. And because they traveled together, the kids normally intertwined between the wagons. I was my old self again and it felt good. I would never wear the clothes that I had been taken in. They would be put away in a trunk, the jewelry kept out since my sisters and I had matching sets.
Teala, Siesha, Inyananga, Ibo, Kamoto, Hunter, Kinshasa, Katia, Kolwezi, Heleyna, Tibetsi, Zander, Reckley, Shaba, Tara, Sirena, Sieasha, Sharay, Cara & Carla, Saphire, Raya, John & Reesha were all waiting for me to tell them a story. Normally, every Clan has there own Story-Teller, but because my cousins loved hearing my stories, they would only listen to mine whenever in my company. This didn't hurt the feelings of the other Story-Tellers, since they also loved to hear my stories. My older cousins came with their children and sat around the fire as well. The one story they wanted to hear the most was about me fighting the Outlaws. They knew I had a wild imagination, which meant the story would be better then what actually happened.
I was riding my horse through the meadows, away from the school house because the teacher had upset me. She tried to tell us how we should where our clothes and I was appalled, especially because we had just told her our customs and she still wanted us to change while we were in school. I had hid in a thick patch of grass and made Lobo lay down as I saw my older sisters ride past, looking for me. I let Lobo up after my sisters had left, going back to town.
I took Lobo out of the tall grass and let her drink some more of the water. I heard horse hoof beats coming up fast and stayed in the tall grass where I had gone. I had gone exploring the tall grass to see if I could use it to make something with. Lobo had wandered off back towards home and the town and I stayed silent as the riders dismounted. They were talking about Ashes and saying that they were going to grab her when she was alone.
A twig broke under my right foot and they moved towards me. I stood up and ran as fast as I could. When I stopped to look back, they were mounting their horses and coming after me. I could hear the horses catching up with me as I ran for the town, then I was no longer on the ground. I saw my siblings and family members next to the school house and screamed as loud as I could before I was knocked unconscious.
When I regained consciousness, my hand were tied behind my back, I had a gag in my mouth and the men were laughing about how they gotten who they had been looking for. The first thing that ran through my mind was that I had to find a way out of their ever wandering looks. They looked me up and down the whole time I was with them. It was about a week later that they tried something. They both came at me, started touching my hair and clothes. That's when I started fighting back. They had untied my hands, the stupidest thing they could have ever done.
I started hitting them, kicking them, punching them. They tried to defend themselves, but I wouldn't stop hitting them. That's when you all showed up and pulled me off of them. That's when Aunty and Uncle tied them up and made sure that I was never out of their sight.
"Okay, time for bed. And I could use some rest to. We should be arriving in Walnut Grove within the next day so we should get as much rest as we can tonight. We'll be on the horses and trail all day tomorrow."
"Goodnight Nononi. Thank you for the story. Just the way the others tell it, no outrageous comments in this one huh?" Zaryck said.
"Can't please you guys all the time. Besides, I wasn't in the mood to make outrageous comments. This story was just how it happened, nothing more, nothing less. Besides, I can't wait to get home."
"Yeah, you've been away from your family way too long. Come on, let's get you rested. You can ride out front with your cousins and be seen by your family that you are safe. Come; let's get you into the wagon. Me and your uncle will sleep outside tonight. You will feel more comfortable on the blankets in the wagon rather than on the ground." Aunty Masaya said, pulling softly on my hand till I stood in front of her. She kissed my hand and knew that I had scared her from the moment she had gotten the letter from my parents. I had scared everyone. I hugged her and let her help me into the wagon and between the comforters.
Arriving In Walnut Grove:
When morning came, we packed everything up and started out. Zaryck helped me into my horse and then we moved to the front of the column of wagons and horses. Zaryck would ride with me just in case my ribs started hurting and she had to pull me onto her horse. Zaryck had always been the most protective of my cousins because we had always been the closest. During every Festival, she would make sure that she spent most of her time with me, until she was married and had her own family.
I had slept peacefully the night before and couldn't wait to get home. I couldn't wait to have my siblings surround me and have my parents hovering over me, I just hoped they wouldn't hover every single minute of the day, even though I knew that they would. We started out as soon as the tents, blankets and belongings including all the trunks full of food and cooking/eating utensils were put away. The wagons were full of the smallest children that couldn't walk or ride the horses. Adults drove the wagons, making sure the horses stayed on the right path, moving towards Walnut Grove.
I pushed the horse forward, happy to be going home, happy to see my friends and family. I was wearing a blue skirt with bells and jewels attached to the seams, a light blue shirt with one shoulder missing, my hair was braided in one long braid with six individual braids poking out, moccasins with blue beads woven into the top, and a tealish blue sari wrapped around my head and shoulders. Zaryck had picked the outfit out, knowing that I would like it because I had always said that I had whenever I saw her in it. Her husband had wanted her to wear it when we arrived in Walnut Grove, but he understood why I now wore it.
We were laughing the whole way home. It's amazing that I accepted Walnut Grove as my home even though I had technically only lived there for about a day and a half. We had ridden for about three hours when Aunty & Uncle wanted to call for a break. I turned the horse around and shook my head. I sent Summer back to tell them that we were almost there, about twenty minutes or so and we would be in Walnut Grove. They said it was okay and kept everyone one the path, not stopping for the break like they had wanted. They knew that I wanted to get back to see my family as soon as possible.
Zaryck had been tempted to pull me from my horse many times during the ride to Walnut Grove and had almost pulled me off four times but I had stopped her. My ribs might be hurting, but I was going to ride into town with a smile on my face and with dignity and pride. I wasn't going to give in to the pain and I wanted to see my family's faces when they saw me leading the clans into town. She stayed close enough to pull me off my horse and onto hers, but not so close for me to reach out and smack her like I was tempted to do every time she made a motion to grab me.
With every step of the horses, we came closer to Walnut Grove. We had not passed through Mankato; we had gone around it knowing that the clans would just clog the streets trying to get through. Ten minutes to go and we would be in Walnut Grove in the arms of my family and the Festival could begin. Zaryck said something to me and I laughed, she was always trying to get me to laugh at something and she knew that I needed to laugh, to get what had happened out of my mind for good.
I stopped the horse on a hill and the clans stopped behind me. I looked down the hill and saw Walnut Grove, going about its business, probably wondering when we were going to arrive. Summer, Vidra, Tanganyika, Onuwami, Wageni, Teala, Zaryck and I pushed the horses forward, moving down towards town and leading the clans into Walnut Grove. The eight of us had been chosen to lead the clans into town and towards the Milankovitch property. As we approached Walnut grove, we moved into formation and pulled the reins of the horses so that we could make them dance as the musicians started playing the instruments, walking as their horses had been tied to wagons.
Zaryck and I had our horses in front of the formation, dancing our horses from the right and left sides. The rest of my cousins were doing the same, dancing their horses on each side of the clans, making their way into Walnut Grove. We knew that with school being in session, my siblings and nieces and nephews would see us. We could see that there was a Judge and Marshall in town. The horses were dancing down the middle of the streets and we were the first to be seen as the rest of the clans made their way into town, single file, with the musicians out to the side, leading the wagons and horses and everyone into town. I saw the school house doors open and my siblings, nieces and nephews run out.
The jarring of the horses dancing was hurting my ribs but I didn't care. All I wanted to do was make a grand appearance to my family and the town. I wasn't dead; on the contrary, I was very much alive. And this was my culture, and I was going to show it off any way that I could. Zaryck noticed the pain in my eyes, but this time, she made no attempted to pull me off my horse and onto hers. She knew that if she did that, my family and new neighbors would know that something was wrong and the doctor would want to take a look at me.
We moved through the town and up to the Milankovitch property. It took nearly an hour to get the both clans up and onto the property. But by the time everyone was on the property and they had their wagons settled in the places designated for them, school had been let out and my family and new neighbors had come up to the property. Zaryck helped me off my horse and kept an eye on me as we walked towards my family. Her husband, Nijali, tied the horses' reins to the wagon and gave them some water before moving to walk with us. He interlocked his hand with Zaryck's and made sure that I was okay before talking to his wife.
Of course, Zaryck was more interested in how I was doing and paid no attention to her husband, which didn't really bother him since we were always the closest of all our cousins. He went off to find Aunt Masaya and Zaryck and I continued towards my family. They were standing around talking about what had just happened in town. Zaryck made sure that I was as comfortable as she could possibly make me, then pushed through my neighbors and to my family.
Nebi, Morgan, Pia, Wyatt, Keeza, Nashat, Ashes, Swan, Ronin, Sasha, & Naria were standing next to mama and papa. I was in my family's arms within a matter of seconds. My arms were around mama and papa's necks within a matter of moments. They held onto me as tight as they could until a cried out from the pain in my ribs. My family pulled away and looked at me with worry in their eyes.
"It's okay; it's just a few broken ribs, nothing bad. They tend to hurt every now and then, but they're healing. How has everyone been?"
"Worried sick about you that's for darn sure." Nebi said.
"And the little kids, where are they?"
"Mrs. Wilder has them at their house. She said that she would bring them by in an hour. She knew that you would want to get settled and that you might not want the little kids running around you al the time."
"That was nice, but I've been dealing with the little kids of Aunty & Uncles clans for the past two weeks so I wouldn't have minded. You all look good. How have you been?"
"How do you think we have been? Our worried hearts had to be replaced with getting ready for the Festival. When seven of the eight birds returned, we knew that the eighth must have found either Aunty or Uncles clans or possibly both. When the eagle flew up to the school house, Keeza and all of us held our breath as she read what it said. We saw her face light up and then her face fell at the part that you had been hurt. You should really learn not to scare us." Ashes said.
"I didn't think me beating up the Outlaws would scare you. Aunty & uncle are getting them out of the last wagon as we speak. Where are the Judge and Marshall?"
"Mr. Olson and Mr. Edwards are bringing them up as we speak. Come, you must be tired, you should get some rest." Papa said.
"Thanks papa, but I rested well last night. Aunty gave up her wagon and comfortable mattress so that I could sleep with no pain in my ribs last night and so that I would be rested for the journey here. It only took us about 3½ hours to get here today. They wanted to take a break twenty minutes before we got here, but I was anxious to get home and see my family."
"Well, then you will have to rest up tonight because the Festival will start within a matter of days, once the rest of the clans get here." Mama said.
"They should be here any day now. We passed up Sephie's clan and the Sanchez and Kolwezi clans on our way here. They said that they were stopping in Mankato to do some shopping before moving on to us. Unfortunately, we didn't see the Chvatal clan or the Shoe clan so we don't know when they will be arriving."
"They should be here any day now as well. They wrote to us when they sent the eagles back. We should have known that you would run into the rest of the clans since Masaya and Cetewayo normally travel together and the two clans barely make up the Kolwezi clan." Mama said.
"Barely, however, we are minus twenty people." Zaryck said.
"Yes, come, lets get you all settled and everything so you can help with the rest of the preparations for the Festival." Papa said.
"We would like that. And I'm sure the horses will want to roam with the other horses instead of being harnessed to the wagons." Zouka said coming up to Zaryck and Nononi.
"I can not wait to have some of your Christmas ginger bread Keresa. You are making it this year, are you not?"
"If we can get the ingredients that we need, then I will make enough for not only the clans to eat but also the town to buy from. Though I will not let them have the recipe."
"But right now, we have some beef stew on the stove for Nononi since we know it is one of her favorites." Pia said.
"Thank you, I have craved your Beef stew since Aunty and Uncle found me."
"We figured you would want something familiar to you for food when you got home. We have been cooking all day. We have Squash Soup, Mixed Bean Salad, Stir Fried Vegetables, Ceaser Salad, Broccoli and Beef, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Roast Chicken, Salmon with Risotto and some Ginger bread. We have made enough to host Aunty and Uncles clans tonight so we might as well bring the food on out. Why don't you guy's get the tables all set up and get the benches from the barn. Keeza and Ashes can show you where to get the benches and tables." Nebi said.
"Thank you, we will get them right away." I said as I grabbed my sisters' hands and pulled them towards the barn. We were laughing again, happy for me to be home. Keeza and Ashes kept asking they had come to Walnut Grove in the first place and how they had known that we had settled in the town. I couldn't answer that question for I didn't know the answer myself.
Dinner with the Clans:
Mrs. Wilder brought the little ones home early as Mrs. Olson had ridden back to tell her that Nononi wanted the little ones home as soon as possible. It was understandable. She wanted to be surrounded by her whole family, not just bits and pieces of it. Mrs. Wilder told her that it would take a while before she got caught with all her class work, but if she wanted to, Mrs. Wilder would help her after school. Nononi accepted, but also told her that she was a quick learner and if her siblings helped her, she would be able to catch up quickly. Mrs. Wilder seemed content with that answer and left with Jenny, who had come to the Milankovitch property with Albert, Willie and Nancy.
The whole time Nononi was missing or on her way back to Walnut Grove with her Aunt and Uncle, she had tried being nice, tried not lying to anyone, tried being positive and everyone could see that she was having a hard time at it, but at least she was trying. Now only if she keep trying now that Nononi was home. If she could try not to lie, try to be nice, and try to be positive, she would have so many more friends and nobody would hate her as much.
Nancy knew that she would have to try her hardest, because while she wasn't lying, while she was being nice and positive, people had liked her and had invited her to play with them in their games and invited her over to there house. And that's what Nancy needed the most of all. She needed to be accepted and she needed friends that treated her the way she wanted to be treated. Who knew that a tragedy like this would change Nancy for the better? Nobody did that's for sure. Nancy was proud of herself and she was going to make an effort to stay nice and positive and try not to lie from now on. It would be hard but she could do it with a little help from some friends and family members.
The Olson's, Wilder's and rest of the town went back to their homes and the Milankovitch's had dinner with the Rhustane and Nyasnakovich clans. Nononi was home and in the arms of her family and they knew that it would be some time before they let her out of their sight.