Momma woke her at dawn, and Ellie hurried to collect eggs and eat breakfast.
“You sure are in a hurry for something today, were you planning on going somewhere?” Daddy asked as Ellie shoveled down the last of her meal. She started guiltily and swallowed.
“I was just gonna go ‘sploring today. If that’s okay…” Ellie’s heart was in her throat as she waited for his response.
“I suppose as long as you’re back by tonight it’ll be alright. But be back before dark, you need to help Ma mend your dress tonight.” She nodded and washed her plate in the sink before bolting out the door with a small lunch she’d carefully wrapped in a small blue handkerchief she’d found. Outside, it was a brilliantly sunny day, even a few birds were visible in the sky. She ran down the path, red hair streaming behind her in the morning sun. She’d been in such a rush she hadn’t braided it this morning. The ruins loomed ahead quickly and she climbed inside the same way she had before. Ellie squeezed through the door to the side room and stood up to see the lost one watching her. It tilted its head and chirped softly.
“I…” She had to pause and think of what to say, “I wanted to thank you for saving me from the wolves.” She stood there awkwardly for a few moments as the lost one did nothing. Suddenly, it struggled to its feet, tucked one arm behind its back, and bowed deeply. She couldn’t help giggling a little, and curtsied in return. It chirped and straightened up again. It was easily twice as tall as her, but in the light of day it didn’t look so scary. Suddenly it walked over to the corner and picked up a can with a handle on it. The can sloshed with rainwater, and the lost one was careful not to spill as it lay on the ground and pulled itself through the opening with one hand. The sound of metal on stone hurt Ellie’s ear but the sight was amusing enough to make her smile as she crawled out of the room behind it.
Ellie followed it, curious, and was surprised to see it water some of the nicer flower beds on the floor. It slowly made its way around the building, ending on the pretty purple flower she’d seen before. “So you care for the flowers?” It chirped once and gave a creaky nod, heading back to the room to put the can back. She followed it into the room and back out again. “I like the purple one, purple is a pretty color.” It chirped in agreement. “Do you have a name? Momma says I should call people by their names to be polite.” The lost one paused, looked at her, and made an odd series of clicking noises followed by a long whirring sound and a chirp. She tried to replicate the noise for a few seconds before giving up, “Can I call you chirp?” She smiled when it nodded and chirped again. They walked out into the woods in silence, heading away from the path. It occurred to her briefly that it might not be a good idea to wander away with a lost one, but she shook her head and gripped Chirp’s metal hand. Chirp looked at her and chirped softly; she smiled to herself and looked down at their feet. Chirp had circular flat feet with no toes, compared to her little shoes that daddy had made. They emerged into a clearing finally and she gasped in surprise. There were dozens of the pretty purple flower growing in the circle of light. She knelt down and sniffed one. They smelled wonderful; if only she had a way to take one home. Chirp handed her a few flowers and she sat down, weaving them into a crown for herself. She put it on her head, glad she hadn’t worn her hat today, and looked at Chirp as an idea came to her. “Kneel down on one knee.” Chirp tilted his head curiously but knelt down as well as he could, considering his bad leg. She looked around and found a straight stick, then walked back over to him solemnly and tapped the stick on either shoulder. “Arise, Sir Chirp of the woods!” She paused and waited, giggling when Chirp didn’t move. She nudged him gently, “Get up silly, I’m knighting you.” Chirp stood up clumsily and tilted its head curiously again. Ellie realized suddenly it didn’t understand and laughed, “That means that I’m your queen, and it’s your job to protect me and go on quests for me.” Chirp seemed to think about this, then nodded and chirped. Ellie felt pleased and looked around the area, “But where can we go on a quest around here?” Ellie said to herself, gasping in surprise as Chirp scooped her up and started off into the woods at a lopsided lope. When they finally stopped they were standing in front of a giant opening into the ground. The remains of a metal fence stood around the opening on three sides and stone stairs led down into the darkness. Chirp set her down and she stared down into the darkness.
“Perfect…” She started down the steps looking around in awe and Chirp followed. As they hit the darkness she realized that two cones of light projected from Chirp’s eyes they could walk by. She stopped and looked up at her metal friend, “I have to be back before dark, so we can only adventure for a couple hours, okay?” Chirp nodded and chirped and they ventured into the darkness.