“Wake up Miss,” said Abby, standing in the bedroom doorway. ‘There’s a rhino rider at the door.”
“WHAT?” said the Knight, sitting up.
“There’s a rhino rider at the door,” said Abby, once again. The Knights have him surrounded.
“No worries,” yawned Judy. “I’ve got this.” Then she got out of bed, pulled on yesterday’s clothes, and started to leave. “You can stay here,” she said to her Knight. “I won’t be long. But, if you want to come down and join us, please feel free to do so.” Then she blew him a kiss and ran down the stairs, laughing.
“Uhg,” said the rhino rider.
“Good morning,” said Judy. “Have you had breakfast?”
“BREAKFAST! HAVE YOU HAD BREAKFAST?” she said, loudly.
“Okay, then come in and sit down.”
“You’re stealing our rhino’s. We’re breaking the truce and taking them back.”
“Mmmmm,” said Judy. “That doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for the rhinos either. They like it here.”
“You took what was ours.”
“Did not,” she said, staring at the horrified look on Martha’s face as she put a mug filled with scalding hot coffee in front of the rider. “They came here of their own accord.”
“We didn’t TAKE them, they came here all by themselves. The WANTED to come here.”
“We want them back.”
“No. You can’t have them. You’re mean to them.”
The rhino rider drank the entire mug of flaming hot coffee in three gulps. “Good,” he said, slamming the mug on the table.
“Wasn’t that hot?”
“What was hot?” he asked, frowning.
“Never mind,” sighed Judy. “You’re not taking the rhinos and that’s final. But, if you promise to act nicely, I’ll take you to see them.”
Judy walked the rider to the field where all the rhinos were grazing and enjoying themselves. Rosy suddenly froze and set off an alarm. She smelled the rhino rider, which was quite easy to do, and all the rhino’s turned toward him, heads down in a fighting position. Runway stepped forward to stand next to Rosy and Roland came up on her other side. Some of the others backed them up and they all began to paw at the ground.
“I don’t think they like you. Definitely not happy to see you.” said Judy, who turned to stand in front of him. “These are free rhinos now, they don’t belong to you.”
Just then the old rhino appeared. Battle worn and limping he inhaled deeply, getting ready to fight. Rosy walked over to him and leaned against his side. She rubbed her horn against his and he started to calm down. Runway and Roland joined her and all stood around the old one to protect him.
“You’re upsetting them,” said Judy. “You’ve seen them for yourself. They want to be here. If you try and take them back, the war will begin’ve again and you won’t win.”
As she was speaking five more rhinos flew in circles over the field and then landed behind the others. Then a few more came and more after that.
“What have you done to them?” asked the rider, threateningly.
“It’s what you’ve done to them that matters. All I did was let them be themselves. You turned them into something they never were. This,” she said, holding out her arms, “is who they are.”
Rosy came forward, her pink skirt picking up flashes of sunlight. She walked up to Judy and rubbed against her. Judy put her arms around her and kissed her forehead. “You’re all safe,” she said to Rosy. “The riders can’t hurt you any more. We’ll get the armor off the new one’s right away.”
“Why’s she wearing a skirt?”
“Because it makes her feel good and it was a gift. Now come on, we have things to discuss.”
They left the field and Joseph and his crew went out to remove the armor from the new arrivals. The other rhinos gathered around them and welcomed them. Then Joseph walked over to the old rhino and gave him a few apples. “You did good,” he said. “I’m proud of you boy.” The rhino grunted but pushed against Joseph and let him pet his back. Then the two of them walked over to a shady spot and settled down for a chat.
The Knight was pacing back and forth when Judy and the rider walked in.
“Why would you bring him to the field? To upset the rhinos?”
“No,” said Judy. “To show the rhinos that he couldn’t hurt them any longer.”
“I have to check on our rides. Baby needs to fly, so does Rusty. ”
“We can go after I talk to him,” she said looking at the rider. “Please stay and help us work through this.”
“I want to kill him,” he whispered.
“I know,” she said, gently. “He wants to kill you too, but let’s try not to fight and instead have some bread and jam and talk about peace and happy rhinos, okay?”
“Can I kill him when we’re done talking?” he hissed.
“Let’s wait and see, shall we?”