Tweeldedum and Tweedledee

He tiptoed up to one of the tall, hulking trees. His ragged brown coat danced around his booted ankles. He flattened his back against the rough trunk, and firmed his grip on the solid scrawny branch he'd spent a good ten minutes to find before hunting down his foe. Hard blue eyes darted from tree to tree. He was lost in a dark forest that seemed endless, filled with possible dragons and other menaces around every ominous corner. Of course, that's what he'd like to believe – he could easily ignore his parents seated on their picnic blanket a yard away in the clear grassy knoll, illuminated in the sunlight of a lazy summer afternoon. His mother straightened up and squinted at him, and called in an impatient voice, "Dante, have you found him yet? Hurry before the food gets cold!"

Parents! Count on them to spoil the fun. Six year old Dante waved at his mother to hush her, and leaned against the tree with his head tilted to the side, listening intently. Had she given away his position? He heard nothing; only the rustling of the leaves in the breeze, the songs of the native birds, and the creaking of some crickets. Slow and watchful, Dante crept around the tree, keeping his ears open and his eyes wide for any sign of movement. Nothing. His prey must be further down, closer to the stream. Tch, the stream. Father told them specifically not to go near the water, but of course big brother wouldn't listen. He knows everything, actually, so why should he listen to Father anyway?

Dante trudged deeper into the woody area. He paused when he heard the steady rushing water up ahead. He sent a look over his shoulder, to see just how far away he'd gone from the safety of his parents, and let out a little scream of surprise. He spun around full body to face his reflection, who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere without a sound or even a breath to alert him to his presence.

"How'd you keep doing that?" Dante hollered at his brother.

"Father does it all the time. I just do what he does." Vergil said in a 'duh' tone of voice, and then scowled. "What are you doing with that stick?"

Dante remembered the thin branch he was hanging onto, and lifted his chin. "It's not a stick! It's my sword!" He flipped the branch over and pointed the blunt end at his enemy. "En garde!"

Agreed to fight a battle,

"That's a twig, Dante." Vergil said, tilting his head to the side and studying his brother uncertainly. He shrugged and puckered his lips. "But okay, if you wanna fight like that... hey, wait!" Vergil dodged out of the way when Dante swung the branch at him. "No fair! Wait for me to get my own sword first!"

"No way! You always beat me when you have something to fight back with!" Dante said, and charged forward again.

"I'm telling mother you're trying to hit me with a stick!" Vergil threatened, again barely shifting out of the way to miss the branch coming straight at him.

"It's not a stick, it's a sword!" Dante shouted in frustration, and put more force behind his swings as his temper flared. "Why won't you play with me?"

"We shouldn't even be here." Vergil retorted, backing away grumpily. "Father said we have to stay where he can see us."

For Tweedledum said Tweedledee

"Is it because you're scared I'm gonna win?" Dante challenged, and Vergil stopped in his tracks.


"Then why won't you play war with me?"

"Because....because... because you're a cheater and you're no fun to play with!" Vergil huffed crossly. "We have to get back before Father comes looking for us."

"Come on, Vergil, please?"

"I said no!" Vergil said, and turned his back on his brother.

Dante stood watching his brother's retreating back, and then his anger got the better of him and he charged him from behind. Vergil turned at the last second and grabbed the branch as Dante brought it down, intending to whack him over the head with it, and he wrenched it out of his younger brother's hands.

Dante's blue eyes grew round in disbelief when Vergil lifted his knee and snapped the branch in half with seemingly little effort. Vergil flung the pieces of wood aside with a cold, "Enough already!"

Had spoilt his nice new rattle

"Hey! It took me forever to find that!" Dante protested, staring with teary eyes at the broken shards of wood. "You're a bully, Vergil!"

"Whatever." Vergil said over his shoulder.

"I hate you!" Dante shouted, and rushed his brother again.

This time there was no chance for Vergil to leap out of the way. Dante rammed his head into his twin's gut, tackling him to the ground, and the two boys rolled across the forest soil. Skinny arms flailing as one tried to stop the other from striking him in the face, legs sprawling and kicking, and angry, demonic growls rented through the secluded air of the woods.

"Dante, stop it..."

"...gonna tear your face off..."

"...going to tell mother about this..."

"...don't... don'tdon'tdon't bite me...OW!"

"Hah! Get off me or I'm gonna bite off your hand!"

"No biting!"

"OW! Dante, stop th...ow, ow, OW!"

"Take that you stupid big head!"

Just then flew by a monstrous crow

An unearthly cry tore through the woods, startling both young boys so much that they physically jolted away from one another. Vergil scrambled over to the nearest tree and tried to find shelter beneath the large winding and looping roots. Dante sat open and vulnerable on the forest floor, face pale and eyes round, paralysed to the spot.

"What was that?" Dante squeaked out.

"Get over here!" Vergil hissed at him.

"But...I can't move," Dante said, and sobbed, terrified.

"Yes you can, dummy! Just crawl toward me! Hurry!" Vergil nearly shouted at him.

"Vergil, come get me!" Dante cried, dazedly trying to see where Vergil's voice was coming from. "It's gonna eat me!"

"It can't eat you if it can't get you, and it can't get you if you're over here with me!" Vergil reasoned, but it didn't work. Dante just kept turning in a circle on his knees, trying to see where the horrible cry had come from.

" Dante!" Vergil growled, hesitating long enough to see if there was any other movement around them, before scrambling out from the safety of his hidden nook and crossing the ground toward his stunned brother.

As big as a tar barrel,

Vergil clasped his hands around Dante's arm the same instant something colossal and pitch black rose up from out of nowhere. It flapped enormous wings at them. The sheer force of the wind it created knocked Vergil flat on his rump.

"Don't move!" Dante hissed at him.

They stayed rooted to the spot, staring up at the gigantic bird-like creature hovering over them. Hearts racing unpleasantly fast. Their hands becoming damp with fear. Sweat beading across their pasty faces.

The creature landed before them, sinking sharp black claws into the ground and releasing the scent of fresh soil turned over. Green eyes glowed back at them with disturbing malice. It opened its long, slim, razor sharp yellow beak and let out another scream that made their bones jostle in their little bodies.

"Run!" Vergil yelled the instant the beak came down to slice at them.

The boys rolled in opposite directions to avoid the attack, and then they were half-running, half-dragging each other, stumbling over tricky roots and thick shrubbery. Two sets of footsteps thudded across the ground.

Which frightened both the heroes so,

"It's chasing us!" Dante yelped.

"Just keep running!"

"Are we going the right way?!"

The feathery demon behind them shrieked out its bloodlust.

"I don't care! We need to get away from the monster, nothing else matters!" Vergil shouted back over the rushing wind and their terrified gasps for breath.

"HELP! Somebody help!" Dante screamed.

The grassy knoll came into sight. Their mother was standing in the open sunlight, concern etched across her face, holding both her arms out toward them. Their father was coming into the woods, marching toward them with his sword drawn, the silver blade gleaming sharply in the light. They heard the monster behind them stagger to a halt and the wild rustle of feathers as it started to stumble back. They heard its once furious cry for blood turn into a frantic, terrified squawking. Neither brother slowed their pace. They shot past their brooding father with his purposeful stride, and flung themselves into the comforting, safe circle of their mother's arms.

They quite forgot their quarrel.