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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Leadership (03/14/05)

TITLE: A Lucky Little Lamb
By Melanie Kerr


Nicos sat under the olive tree, his back nestled against the twisted bark. It was late afternoon, but still very warm. He could hear the droning of bees from the dense branches above his head. Shielding his eyes he watched a single eagle gliding gracefully in lazy circles high above the ground. Nicos frowned, wondering if the eagle was about to drop out of the sky like a stone, unsheathing its deadly talons, striking at its prey with a vicious swipe. He had seen it happen once before, a few years ago. The loss of the small lamb had shaken him badly, and he spent hours with his catapult, aiming stones at empty bottles.

His mind today had been occupied with the letter that arrived that morning. Nicos knew it was from the school. His attendance had been spasmodic since his grandfather's death. Did they not realise that someone had to look after the sheep? Their family had the best flock in the village and everyone agreed that the milk, the cheese and the yoghurt made by his mother was far superior to all the others. His grandfather had built up the flock, buying new sheep from the market in Limassol every so often. He could remember the last sheep they had bought. Nutmeg was brown and sturdy with strong curling horns. His father would not allow the driver to tie it on to the roof of the bus and insisted of holding it on his knee for the journey as the bus meandered its way around the twists and turns of the road up to the village.

His grandfather had taught Nicos how to be a shepherd. The long summer days were filled with slow, peaceful walks through the hills, chiding the sheep along as they searched for patches of lush grass and cool streams. He had shown Nicos the different plants that nourished the sheep, and the ones that were poisonous. They tasted fresh cold water from springs that bubbled up from under rocks. Together they explored crags and nooks where the sheep might get lost and bleat piteously. His grandfather taught him to whistle, and Nicos liked to think that his sheep felt comforted by the tunes he warbled. They would turn their heads and nod gently as if in approval.

Nicos was woken from his reverie by a shriek that sliced through the quietness. He scanned the skies for the eagle. The small black spot was hovering, taking up position, settling its feathers, ready to dive.

In an instant, Nicos was on his feet, scampering down the hillside, loading a stone into the catapult in his hand. He headed towards Nutmeg and her newly born lamb. Sheep were not brave animals and Nutmeg sensing danger had abandoned the lamb, her distressing bleating competing with the screaming eagle. The other sheep in panic were running blindly, scattering in all directions.

Nicos' stone whipped through the air, fractionally missing the eagle, but dislodging a feather or two. Undeterred, the eagle continued its dive. Nicos stood over the lamb, his arms waving frantically as the eagle struck. He felt a sharp pain as the talons dug into his arm, ripping the skin open. He felt warm sticky blood ooze from the wound. The eagle was gone.

Trembling he gathered the lamb in his arms, stroking the knotted wool along its back.

"Well, well, that was a scary moment, hmm? But you are safe now. You are a lucky little lamb to have me as your shepherd." Nicos soothed as he whistled a gentle melody, breathing his tune into the lamb's ear. As he rubbed the woolly fleece, Nicos' experienced fingers probed deeper, looking to ticks and tangles. He smiled as the lamb ceased trembling. Nicos looked at Nutmeg as she nuzzled his shoulder.

"It's a good job I didn't go the school today, hmm?"

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