“But I’m supposed to do it!”
“So, now what?” Belle asked.

It was later that same siku and they were sitting up in their leaky tower, although it had now stopped raining, for the foreseeable future. Archimedes had retreated to his house in a huff after Belle had dried him off, but she knew it wouldn’t last long. Now she poured her uncle a cup of chai and one for herself.

“The boy needs to learn about survival instincts,” Merlin replied, smacking his lips as he took a sip of tea.

“Hasn’t he been through enough today?” Belle smiled. “I’m just glad Archimedes was there to rescue him.”

“I did nothing of the sort!” came Archimedes voice from inside his house.

“Have it your own way, Archie!” Belle laughed.

“One near death experience isn’t enough to teach the boy about the moralities of brains over brawn,” Merlin said, leaning back in his best armchair. That was one thing about this place, Belle thought; at least they’d brought their own furnishings with them. The place had been bare when they first came, and what kind of furniture Sir Ector would have aliyopewa them had they asked just didn’t kubeba thinking about.

“So he needs another, is that what you’re saying?” Belle joked.

Merlin smiled. “You, Belle, my girl, are getting as cheeky as that sugarbowl!”

They found Arthur, when they had finished their tea, in the jikoni scrubbing a large cooking pt and singing. “To and fro, stop and go, that’s what makes the world go round...”

Merlin tapped the pot with his cane, like it was a gong, and Arthur looked up. “Oh, it’s you, Merlin, sir! And Belle!”

“Hi,” Belle smiled. Arthur always sounded so eager to see them, it was nice.

“Now, boy,” alisema Merlin, “have wewe ever considered being a squirrel?”

“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” replied Arthur.

“Now well, there is a tiny creature with enormous problems! How he has survived throughout the ages is one of nature’s big mysteries. His life is hazardous, downright dangerous. Would wewe care to try it?”

Belle laughed.

“Oh no, I’d better not,” Arthur said.

“Oh, um, too dangerous for you, eh?” Merlin asked.

“Oh, no, it’s not that. It’s just that I’ve got all this work to do.” Arthur indicated around the jikoni at the piles upon piles of dirty dishes and other pieces of crockery.

“What a mess!” exclaimed Merlin, shaking his head.

“What a mess indeed!” Belle agreed.

“What a medieval muddle!” Merlin said. “We’ll have to modernize it!”

“Uncle Merlin, what are wewe planning?” asked Belle, with a frown.

Merlin leapt on juu of a pot and tapped his stick/wand. “Alright now! One and a two and a three and a four!”

In a jiggling rhythm, the crockery began to wash itself up. Belle and Arthur ducked to avoid being hit kwa a line of plates. “But I’m supposed to do it!” Arthur exclaimed.

“No one’ll know the difference, so, who cares as long as the work gets done?” was Merlin’s reply. “Rubbity, scrubbity, sweepity, flow. Come on, now, let’s go, let’s go!”

Throwing dubious looks over their shoulders, Belle and Arthur followed him out of the kitchen.

This time, Merlin led them far beyond the ngome grounds and to the outskirts of the forest. There he transformed Arthur into a little red squirrel. “Now wewe next, Belle,” he alisema to her, after instructing Arthur to scurry up the nearest tree.

Belle closed her eyes and when she opened them she was a golden-coloured squirrel. Finally it was Merlin’s turn and once he was a squirrel, a grey-blue one, he followed them up the tree. “No, Wart, no!”

“Arthur, careful!” Belle exclaimed as Arthur took a leap from one mti to the next. The branch he leapt to broke but he was able to grab the one beneath it.

“Now what did I tell you?” Merlin scolded. “Always look before wewe leap!”

“Well, I made it, didn’t I?” asked Arthur, slightly indignantly.

“Yes,” Merlin replied, grimly, making his way over to Belle. “You made it but wewe can’t always trust your luck, boy.”

Arthur righted himself on the branch and Merlin stepped in front of Belle to demonstrate. “Now, the first thing is to start with the short jumps, gauge the distance, carefully, and...” He sprang forwards and almost missed the branch with a yelp.

“Uncle Merlin!” Belle exclaimed as Arthur ran to yank him back into place.

“Now, wewe see?” Merlin said. “Even then wewe could miss!”

Belle sprang lightly onto the branch behind him and giggled as her uncle looked somewhat put out at being outclassed kwa his much younger niece. “So,” he continued, “don’t take gravity too lightly au it’ll catch up with you.”

“What’s gravity?” asked Arthur.

“It’s the elemental force that pulls wewe downwards when wewe fall,” Belle explained.

Merlin nodded. “The phenomenon that two material particles au bodies, if free to move, will be accelerated towards each other.”

Arthur hopped along the branch, getting the hand of it, and then, suddenly, up ahead, a red girl squirrel appeared. She chattered, politely, at him. Arthur tried to get past but she didn’t seem to want to let him. “Um, Merlin, how do we get by?” he asked as Merlin and Belle came up.

“Oh?” Merlin saw the problem; there wasn’t enough room for them both to pass. “Oh, I guess we’d better go back to a side track.”

The trio moved back but the girl squirrel followed them. “Go on, go on,” Arthur alisema to her, irritated, “You’ve got lots of room!”

The girl squirrel’s response was to sniff him. Belle smiled. “I guess she can’t be sidetracked,” Merin chuckled.

The girl squirrel giggled and tried to take Arthur’s paws. He wriggled away. “She sure acts funny.”

“Arthur, she likes you,” Belle told him.

“Well, why?” Arthur asked, and the girl squirrel almost knocked him over in her eagerness. Arthur ran behind Merlin, but she followed, and they both began to run circles around him. “Well, I can’t really explain it,” he laughed. “Hey, see here, you’d better leave me out of this!”

“Yeah, me too,” snapped Arthur to the girl squirrel, but she pulled him back kwa the tail. “Merlin! Belle!”

“You’re on your own, lad,” Merlin alisema to him. “I’m afraid magic can’t solve this problem.”

“Oh, dear,” Belle smiled, watching Arthur’s attempts to brush the girl squirrel off fail miserably. She made a few soft, chittering noises and then kissed him. “Oh, leave me alone!” Arthur snapped, pushing her away. “Merlin, what do I do? She won’t leave me al-ow!”

The girl squirrel had pushed him back. Belle laughed. “Good for you, girl!”

“Well, I’m afraid you’re stuck, lad,” Merlin told him. “When a girl squirrel chooses her mate, it’s for life.”

“But I won’t be a squirrel tomorrow.”

“She doesn’t know that; all she knows is one simple fact, that you’re a him and she’s a her.”

The girl squirrel giggled and scampered playfully away.”It’s a natural phenomenon,” Belle explained, as Arthur hid behind Merlin’s tail.

“Phenomenon-anon?” Arthur asked, ducking as the girl squirrel came scampering back.

“Well, it’s, er,” Merlin pointed to his tail. The girl squirrel understood and yanked Arthur out again, much to his annoyance. “It’s a state of being, frame of mind, it’s a most befuddling thing. And to every being of every kind it is discobumerting. You’re wasting time resisting, you’ll find the zaidi wewe do, the zaidi she’ll keep insisting, her him has got to be you!”

“Now leave me alone!” Arthur snapped as she followed him around. “I mean it!”

“It’s a rough game, anyone knows. There are no rules, anything goes. There’s no logical explanation for this discobumeration, it’s a most bemuddling, most befuddling thing!”

“Oof!” exclaimed Archimdes, as Arthur landed on juu of him. “Now go on, shoo, get a mti of your own, skedaddle!”

“Uncle Merlin, shouldn’t we help him?” Belle asked.

“What can we do, Belle?” Melrin rolled an acorn down his shoulders. “No sensible explanation for this discobumeration, it’s a most bemuddling, most befuddling thing!”

Merlin broke off, seeing a large, female squirrel was sniffing him, seductively. “Oh-oh!” she coeed, trying to get closer to him.

Merlin pushed her away. “No, see here, miss, I mean Madame, I mean..you’ve made a mistake. Now, um...”The female squirrel grabbed his tail. “Oh, Madame, Madame!” exclaimed Merlin, snatching it back.

The female squirrel chattered. “Now, look here,” Merlin tried, “I’m not a squirrel, I’m an old man. An old HU-man!” he added the squirrel hugged him tightly. He pushed her away but she kissed him. Merlin spluttered and tried to push her away. “Go away, shoo, shoo!”

The squirrel giggled and pushed him back, right into the mti trunk. “Impossible!” muttered Merlin, crossly. “Impossible!”

Belle laughed. “Serves wewe right! Now wewe know how Arthur feels!”

She leapt down to the branch Archimedes had been trying to sleep upon. “Hey, Archie. What’s up with you?”

“Squirrelly squirrels!” snapped Archimedes, stuffily. “A bird can’t take a nap! Pinfeathers!”

Belle laughed, and then, to her surprise, Merlin fell out of the mti and into a large kichaka below. “I’ve had enough of this nonsense!” he snapped, as grouchily as Archimedes.

“Uncle Merlin!” Belle scrambled down the tree. The female squirrel had followed him and was hurrying towards the bush, chortling.

“Alakazam!” shouted Merlin and Belle felt herself transforming back into a human. Merlin was now himself, covered it bits of bracken and leaves.

The female squirrel screamed. “There!” Merlin snapped. “Now wewe see I’m an ugly, horrible, grouchy old man!”

The squirrel ran up the mti and made a scolding noise. Indignantly, Merlin replied “Ruff ruff!” like a dog and she ran away.

“Merlin, where’s Arthur?” asked Belle, looking around.

“Merlin!”

Merlin glanced around, and then, bending over a large rock, he chuckled. “So, here we are, then?”

Arthur was being cuddled kwa the girl squirrel who had taken a fancy to him. “Quick, Merlin, the magic!”

“Snick snack snorum!” Merlin commanded, and Arthur became himself once again, still being cuddled kwa his newfound companion. He chuckled and she gasped, looking up. “There now, wewe see, I’m not a squirrel, I’m a boy. I tried to tell you.”

The girl squirrel ran up the nearest mti and into a knot hole, sobbing her moyo out. “Oh,” Belle said, sympathetically. “Poor girl.”

“You know,” alisema Merlin, as they left. “That upendo is a powerful force, boy.”

“Greater than gravity?” asked Arthur.

“Well, in a way, yes, yes, I’d say it’s the most powerful force on Earth.”

Belle put her arm around Arthur and gave him a hug. “It’s ok, Arthur. She’ll get over you, eventually.”

“Now wewe next, Belle.”
“Serves wewe right!"
“Ruff ruff!”