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YOU LOOK FAMILIAR

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Bright sunlight dances over the undulating grass of Curdle Glade as it dances in the gentle breeze. A single tree stands proud at its centre, offering shade to visitors and a home to the more adventurous animals who wish to sleep in its boughs.

A gentle tinkling bell announces the arrival of guests to the quiet glade. Noses of various sizes peek out from a myriad of hidden places amidst tall stems and hillocks to sniff out who has come to be chosen. The proud Whittle family dressed in the finest black velvet and lace crowd around a thirteen-year-old boy; Agathon. Tattoos flash and catch in the sun as ink glimmers on the arms and hands of those who pat him on the back or draw him close for hugs.

He takes a deep breath and steps into the Glade, excited eyes sweeping back and forth. Agathon sees a deer, its antlers mighty and expansive, step into the Glade. He glances back at his family, bursting with joy for only a moment as the impressive animal snorts and leaves. Agathon’s shoulders slump and he turns back to his family. Before any can offer comfort or encouragement, one of the Whittle familiars steps past them. This one, another deer but somehow wiser than the one which rejected him.

His mother’s fingers trace its lean body as it gently steps towards him. The deer nudges him back toward the glade but not before resting its head against Agathon’s and allowing him to stroke its cheek. Revitalised, Agathon heads towards the tree at the centre of the glade. The leaves rustle and wave with the sound of flowing paper. Walking around its trunk, he chooses the side which obscures him from his family and slides to the ground.

Different animals come to sniff at him as he rests his back against the tree, staring up through the leaves and chewing on his lip with fear that none will choose him. It’s the greatest of honours when an animal chooses to share its life with a person and every one of his family were picked immediately upon entering the glade. He scrunches his eyes and punches the ground gently. “Come on... Please... Come on.” he whispers fervently.

Bright, inquisitive eyes peek from the treeline, staring at the boy. The creature darts from one hiding spot to another, its chestnut brown body and white/yellow throat flashing through the grass at speed. Closer, it lifts its head and twitches small, rounded ears towards the boy and his worried whisperings. Their eyes meet and Agathon grins broadly as the pine marten makes the final bound towards him. Joy flows equally between them as Agathon cries in relief and happiness, gently stroking his new familiar as it wraps a bushy tail about his arm.

The Whittle family pour into the glade, bringing with them a small band, food and other assorted celebratory paraphernalia as they welcome Agathon to the next stage in his magical journey and the pine marten into their family.

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