Once upon a time, there was a little lamb. He loved playing with his friends in the flock. His parents loved him, for he was their only lamb. The shepherd of the flock dearly loved this lamb also and named him Joi, for he was.
Joi was curious, loved to consider what was beneath the rocks on the hillsides. He was easily distracted; butterflies, clouds, lizards scurrying from view behind rosemary plants. His wool snared tightly to low brush. He wandered too closely to a stream and nearly drowned because of his water-logged coat. Yet he always knew that as long as he bleated, called for help, he would be rescued. The shepherd was kept busy because of Joi’s many adventures.
One day, Joi followed the gentle flight of a dove. He shoved his way through a thick cove of greenery, carefully stepped on cobbled dry rock, one eye on the still water. He soaked up the warmth from the sun, paused often to enjoy the tender grasses, and twice napped beneath stately oaks.
Joi lost track of time. As the sun started to set, he looked around and saw nothing familiar. Confident that with a few bleats, rescue would come, he called and listened for the sound of human footfall. None came. He called out, a little louder, a little longer and waited.
Nothing. Joi looked up to the darkening skies and tried not to panic, for he heard the long howl of a wolf. Far off. Recalling stories of sheep lost, he huddled deeper into the bushes and swallowed back loud cries.
He heard a different noise; not quite sheep-like, he couldn't identify the sounds. He squinted into the dark. Off in the far distance, white blurred closer and larger towards him. It was a large herd of goats.
In the dark, they didn't look any different than he; maybe he could blend in, be protected.
When nearly half the herd passed by his hidden refuge, he cautiously worked his way inside the group.
No one talked to him, which he thought was good. He listened, understanding small portions of their language. Trying to disguise his scent, he bumped against as many as he could.
Days passed. He ate when the herd ate. His body language became goat-like, and he understood more of their words. At first the goats were highly amused by this lamb that wrongly thought his identity was concealed. They'd wink, and then ask him to do specific skills which only goats could do. To be accepted, (and hoping to stay protected), he would try his hardest. Grinning behind his back, they'd look him straight in his eyes and say his skills were improving.
As the herd moved through season to season, the hungry wolf shadowed; even with his eyes closed, he could smell this lamb. And his stomach rumbled.
The goats, knowing that the wolf was staying in the shadows were not anxious to share the lamb; he was highly entertaining.
One early morning, while the goats slept, he slipped away, following a sparrow.
A small group of goats were startled awake by the enemy's growl. Joi skidded to a stop and froze. As his heart beat in his throat, he attempted to call for help, but could not remember how. Although he could understand the language of the goats, he could not speak it. His natural skills for communicating as a sheep were gone, hiding somewhere behind the frantic beats of his heart.
He smelled the rank dampness of wolf-fur; he felt the energy of bound muscle prepared to quickly move. The enemy’s breath - hot, parted the air between the lamb and predator.
A cry exploded out of Joi as the wolf leaped out.
Before Joi could move, before he could close his eyes, He was there. The Shepherd. Staff extended, it sliced through the air, hissing, and caught the wolf mid-flight. Shocked, wolf howled and spun, landing on all four feet. Snarling, he rushed forward, ignoring the Shepherd, wanting only to sink his teeth in that which he followed for so long.
The shepherd gave no warning, but with another cut through the air, caught evil dead-on. Screeching in defeat, the wolf scrambled just beyond the shepherd's reach, and feigned slinking away.
The shepherd reached down, all fluid movement, and securely wrapped his arms around the lamb. Lifting him high, above his head, Joi felt as though he was floating, warm, over the Shepherd's shoulders and nape of his neck.
With a roar, the wolf burst from the dark, and with one soft word from the Shepherd, he fell, deadweight to the grass.
Back with his own, Joi finally became that which he was named.
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