Peching’s webbed foot, experimentally touched the water. He liked the way the ripples tickled his toes. “Peching! You wait for me!” called his mother as she waddled over to him. But Peching didn’t want to wait. With a running start, he launched himself off the bank and landed with a splash in the water, soaking his fuzzy yellow down. “Peching!” Smiling sheepishly, Peching turned to face his mother, Dottie standing on the bank. Her beautiful white feathers were ruffled with frustration and she clacked her beak in annoyance, but one look at her happy son and her demeanor softened. Gliding gracefully she joined Peching in the water. “Your lack of obedience will get you in trouble someday” She said as they made their way around the pond. Peching flapped his tiny wings impatiently, “Don’t worry about me ma!” The big white duck laughed, “I’m your mother Peching, that’s my job.” Peching was happy to swim along beside his mother but it only took a few minutes before he started to get bored and he started to stray farther and farther away from his mother’s side. “Peching,” she said warningly catching up with him for the 5th time, “Don’t stray too far.” But Peching wasn’t listening, for only seconds later he splashed away after a dragonfly. As he swam Peching suddenly became aware of a tugging around his legs and he was going much faster then he normally would. He tried to move away but found he couldn’t change his course. Panic surged through him, he was stuck in a current! “Mother!” he peeped, flapping his wings and paddling helplessly. His panic only heightened when he saw where the current was leading; he was coming up on the rapids of a narrow, fast flowing stream. “Peching!” his mother paddled as fast as she could but she couldn’t catch up with the racing current. Peching’s heart was racing and he was struggling for all he was worth as the stream drew nearer and nearer, but it was no use. He caught one last look of his mother before he was shot off down the rapids. The power of the water was too strong for Peching and he was soon tumbling end over end. He worked to right himself but he was only able to get above his head for only a brief moment, before the current swept him under again. He waited to be brought to the surface again but it didn’t happen. He just kept being pushed along the sandy rocky bottom, kicking it up and filling his eyes and face with dirt and mud, until he could not tell up from down. He swam as hard as he could, desperate to get to the surface, but he didn’t know which way was up. He needed air. He had to breathe… “Gotchya!” Peching was suddenly snagged from the water and dropped gently onto the bank. Gasping and coughing he laid there totally spent and gratefully drawing air into his searing lungs. “Hang on, there little fella,” someone said, patting his back, “Deep breathes, you’re ok now.” Peching coughed up water for a few more seconds then turned his head to look at his rescuer. Standing beside him, and grinning down at him was the strangest duck Peching had ever seen. His head was a dark mix of bluish green. His feathers were different shades of brown and grey, across each of his wings was a bright strip of blue. “Hey there, little fella, the names Donny.” He said brightly. “What’s your name and how did you come to be floating down the stream?” “I’m Peching,” croaked the soaking little duck. “I got caught in a current.” His little black eyes shone with grief, “My mother and I were swimming and I strayed to far, she tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t listen.” A breeze blew up making Peching shiver. Donny felt a pang of sympathy for the little duckling. “Oh you poor thing. Come! I will take you home and get you warm and something to eat and then we can see about getting you back up the river.” Peching followed Donny along the river bank, making sure to stay very close to his rescuer. They had not gone far when the river began to slow and widen. The woodland began to thin slightly into marshland with flowers and reeds lining the river bank. Donny led Peching to a patch of reeds. “Home sweet home!” he said jovially. Pushing apart the reeds Donny ushered Peching through. As he stepped through the reeds Peching couldn’t help but gape. It was paradise. There was a massive pond surrounded by smaller ponds. Between each pond was reeds and flowers and plants. Areas perfect for nesting. Around the whole thing weeping willows hung down as though providing a protective curtain, and everywhere he looked Peching saw ducks. Some looked like Donny but others were mostly brown with the bright strip of blue. None of the ducks he saw were white and all were just half the size of his mother. Running around the brown ones he could see little yellow and brown fluff-balls. The noise of chattering ducks filled the clearing. “Welcome to Duckweed Swamp, Peching.” Said Donny with a grin. “Donny! Where have you been!” a very short plump duck waddled her way over to them, “I have looked everywhere for you! Where…” suddenly she noticed Peching, “Well hello, who’s this?” “Hello, Lotus. Peching, this is my mate Lotus. Lottie, t his is Peching. I was out flying and fished him out of the river.” “You don’t say.” Lotus circled Peching looking him over. “Hmmm, you are a strange looking duckling. But you are a duckling all the same! So let’s get you fed and warmed up shall we? Our nest is just over here.” The mated pair led Peching to a patch of reeds just a few yards away. As they walked Peching couldn’t help but notice they were the only pair not surrounded by little ones. “Here we are!” said Lotus proudly, showing off her nest. It was a good sized comfortable nest closely guarded with cattails. “Come right on in.” Peching followed Lotus but Donny remained outside. “I’m going to go and see what I can do about getting you home Peching. You make yourself comfortable.” A few hours later Peching was warm and dry. He lay drifting to sleep on a full stomach. Lotus lay next to him keeping him warm. He was grateful but still wished it was his own mother. Donny still had not come home. Late that night Donny finally came home. He looked upset and seemed agitated. Lottie waddled up to her mate, looking concerned. “What is it Donny? What’s happened?” “Me and a few others flew up the river the where Peching came from. There is nothing there, Lottie, nothing but a few broken shells. The white have moved on. I don’t know where they are but they are gone.” He cast a sad look at Peching sleeping peacefully, “He cannot go home……….” Two weeks went by and eventually the longing Peching felt for his mother and own kind began to fade. Donny and Lotus had taken him in and were willing to raise him as their own. He lived happily side by side with them and his two best friends, Ollie and Sage but still he could never consider Duckweed Swamp his home. “Peching!” yelled Sage running after him. “Slow down!” Sage was a small duckling, thin and fine boned. Even at her young age she already bore some of the elegance of a full-grown female mallard. She was beautiful, with a personality to match. Peching slowed his pace slightly and let his smaller friend catch up with him. He grinned down at her. “Come on Sage, we have to go get Ollie.” “And we will.” She said somewhat out of breath, “At a reasonable pace.” Peching allowed Sage to set the pace and the two of them made their way through the Swamp to Ollie’s nest. When they arrived, Ollie and his brothers and sisters were splashing in a small puddle made by the recent rains. Ollie was a very short and very round little duckling. He was sweet as can be, and always in a good mood. Ollie smiled brightly when he saw his two friends coming, “Good morning!” he called cheerfully, climbing out of the puddle and shaking off the water. “Hey Ollie,” said Sage, “We’re going exploring. Want to come? “You bet I do!” said Ollie enthusiastically. “Come on then!” said Peching, and the three of them took off laughing into the woods. It was a beautiful spring morning, the sky was clear and blue, flowers were popping up and there was a cool refreshing breeze blowing. The three friends ambled along talking and joking. They had a good time checking under logs, looking around trees and playing hide-and-go-seek in the woodlands just outside the Swamp. They’d been playing for a long while when Ollie slumped to the ground looking beat. “That’s it!” he said rubbing his plump stomach, “I’m done! Let’s go home and get something to eat!” “Oh come on lazy-flippers!” called Sage, from where she stood on a near by log. “I bet I could beat you to that rock!” she pointed her wing off to the right about 3 yards. Ollie glanced in the direction she was pointing, “Yeah?” he said with a yawn, “I bet you could too.” Peching laughed, and nudged his friend to his feet, “Oh go on! Give it a try!” Ollie shook his head, “I refuse to subject myself to such unchecked degradation.” Peching tilted his head, “And that means?” “No!” Suddenly a thunderous racket of honking, squawking and the beating of wings filled the air, bringing to an end the peaceful quiet of the woodland. Sage and Ollie stiffened, eyes wide with fear. Sage made a dive for the ground and huddled beneath the log she’d been standing on. Peching looked at them curiously, “What? What is it?” “Hide!” hissed Ollie burying himself in the leaves. Though he didn’t know why Peching hid himself beside Sage under the log. Peering out from under the log Peching could make out massive shadows moving across the ground. Looking up he could see through the tree tops huge figures flying in a V formation. He’d never seen birds so big. They were even bigger than Peching’s kind. One of them at the point of the V was bigger than all the rest. His black and brown feathers were handsome but his face was oddly disfigured. To look at him made Peching shudder. He could see why Sage and Ollie would be afraid of them. When the big flock of birds had passed over Peching crawled out from under the log and looked at his two friends, “So what was that all about?” he asked. “Those were geese.” Said Ollie with a shudder. “Horrible creatures. They steal land and territory from ducks all over.” Sage nodded, “Spring is the worst because that’s when they come back from migration and are looking for a place to live until next winter. If the ducks don’t leave they are forced into slavery under the geese. Those are your options. Leave your home or be slaves.” Peching eyes went wide, “That’s terrible! Why doesn’t someone do something?” Ollie looked appalled, “You saw how big they were! Mallards are nothing compared to that.” Sage agreed. “We can’t fight them. We’d just be killed.” “But all together, surely you could do something.” “Forget it Peching!” said Sage sharply. “It cannot be done.” Their games forgotten, the three friends decided to head home. On the way Peching was burning with questions about the geese but decided it would be best not to ask Ollie and Sage. He ‘d just have to ask Lottie and Donny when he got home. “Peching!” said Lottie when he arrived, rushing over to him. “We heard the geese! We were so worried! I’m glad your safe!” Peching hugged his surrogate mother back, “Yeah, no worries Lotus. I’m ok.” “Your lucky.” Said Donny looking grim, “Those geese are bad news.” Peching gently broke away from Lottie, “That’ s what Sage and Ollie said.” “They’re right.” Said Lottie, “So from now on you stay in the Swamp. Got that?” “Sure Lottie, I got it.” That night, Peching lay in the nest unable to fall asleep. His mind kept returning to the conversation with Sage and Ollie… “They steal land from ducks all over…” Ollie had said. “Those are your options. Leave your home or be slaves…” Sage had said. So Peching had to wonder, is that what happened to his kind? Did they flee their home in order to escape enslavement? And if so, where did they go? Days went by but Peching could not keep his mind off the geese. He kept thinking about his old home, wondering, almost to the point of obsession. “Is it possible?” he asked Sage for the umpteenth time. The two of them were walking in the woods just outside the swamp. The pretty young female ruffled her new adult feathers exasperatedly. “Peching please. I’ve told you as many times as you’ve asked me. Yes it’s possible but honestly you have o way of ever finding out, I’m sorry but it’s true. So please stop dwelling on it!” Peching hung his great white head. Over the last week he and his friends had grown a lot. They had their first set of adult feathers and Peching was now twice their size. “I can’t, Sage they’re my family, it was my home.” “Right, of course they are.” Peching was surprised by the bitterness in his friend’s voice. “What’s wrong Sage?” She shook her head but wouldn’t look at Peching, “Nothing, it’s just… be careful that you don’t spend your whole life looking for something that’s right under your bill.” Peching stopped walking, “What’s that supposed to mean?” Sage stopped to, “Maybe someday you’ll figure it out.” Peching shook his head clearly baffled, “Figure what out?” Sage smiled sadly, “Then again, maybe not.” “Sage!” said Peching, getting frustrated, “What are you trying to say?” Sage blushed but looked Peching right in the face, “Well, I…” “QUACK!” Peching’s head snapped up at the sound of squawking and fierce quacking. “Sorry Sage,” he said starting to run towards the sound, “Hold that thought.” “Drakes.” Muttered Sage but hurried after him. It didn’t take them long to find the source of the noise. Barely 20 feet from where they were, in a small clearing surrounded by blackberry bushes two creatures were fighting. One was a goose, the other a huge white duck. Though the duck was putting up a good fight, he was obviously loosing. One of his wings was badly torn and his movements kept getting slower and slower. Before Sage could stop him, and without taking time to think Peching let out an angry hiss and made a dash toward the fighting pair. He threw himself between the two birds, hitting the goose and knocking him off balance. The big white duck slumped down, winded. Shaking himself the goose got back to his feet and turned to face this new opponent. His black eyes were burning with anger. Now that the goose was facing him Peching, recognized the scarred and disfigured face. It was the same goose that had lead the flock Peching and his friends had seen only a few days before. Peching was terrified but he stood his ground, keeping himself between the goose and the injured duck. “You are out of place little duck.” Hissed the goose. Peching didn’t move but he was far to frightened to reply. The goose laughed. “This will be easy.” “Back off Castor!” The big white duck was back on his feet, every bit as angry and powerful as the goose. “Ready for another go Rush?” asked the goose smugly. The white duck Rush, looked bad, and he limped when he walked but he still pushed Peching behind him. A look of surprise and a slight flicker of fear flashed across the goose’s face before it was replaced by contempt. “You are not worth my time.” Then he turned his gaze on Peching, “This doesn’t end here little duckling.” The goose sprinted a few feet and with one last squawk flapped up and out of the clearing. As soon as the goose was gone Sage ran out of the berry bushes and up to Peching, “Peching! You stupid, foolish, incredibly brave, excuse for a friend! What were you thinking!” “I wasn’t.” said Peching shakily. Peching’s comment made Rush laugh, “Perhaps not little duckling but you did save me. Thanks for that.” He said limping over to stand beside them. Standing next to Rush even Peching looked small and Sage was positively dwarfed. Sage looked the huge white duck over with concern. “You’re hurt sir. Come back with us to the Swamp and we’ll get you fixed up.” “Sounds good to me.” On the way back to the Swamp, Rush leaned on Peching with his good wing and Sage walked beneath his hurt wing to keep it off the ground. “So what are you doing way out here in mallard territory Mr. Rush?” asked Sage. “Patrol. I was out looking for geese.” Rush smiled grimly. “Guess I found them. What about you little hero?” he asked addressing Peching. “Me sir?” “Well you’re obviously not a mallard. What is your name and why are you here?” “My name is Peching. I live here. I was swept down a river when I was very young and ended up here.“ Rush suddenly stopped causing the two little ones to stop with him. He turned to face Peching, his eyes wide with disbelief. “Peching? Oh my…we…we thought you were dead.” Rush didn’t feel much like talking on the way back, so Peching didn’t ask him any questions, but he waited anxiously for Rush to feel well again. He couldn’t believe it! He’d found an old flock mate! The big white duck caused quite a stir in the Swamp, especially with the story of him fighting the goose. All the ducks were amazed with his courage and size. They welcomed him and took him to a comfortable nest to rest and get up his strength. While Rush rested Peching paddled in a little pond with Sage and Ollie. “I can’t believe it guys! A duck from my flock! I’m going to find out what happened to my family!” “Ya we know Peching.” Said Sage somewhat exasperatedly, but she was smiling slightly. Ollie on the other hand was all grins, “Yeah, and I can’t believe you attacked a goose! Dang! I couldn’t do that!” “Well even Peching admitted he wasn’t thinking,” said Sage nudging him jokingly. “But still!” exclaimed Ollie, “A goose! And Castor no less!” Peching perked up at the sound of the goose’s name. “You know about him?” Ollie nodded, “Sure, he is the biggest, meanest ,goose around, even his own flock is afraid of him. And you fought him!” Peching was about to reply when Donny swam up them, “Peching? Rush is awake and would like to see you.” Peching grinned, eyes shining with excitement, “Ok! Coming!” Donny led Peching to where Rush was resting in some reeds. His wing still looked bad but there was a spark back in his eye, and he was sitting up. “Hello there, little hero.” He said with a grin. Peching ducked his head modestly, “You look better Rush.” “Thanks to you friend.” Peching grinned but didn’t know what to say. Rush resituated himself with a wince, “So Peching, I suppose you have some questions.” “Yes, I do. About everything, my flock, my family, Castor, what happened?” “Early spring, just after you were swept down the river, Castor and his flock attacked. At first we wanted to fight. Pekin ducks are not small ducks and we were at least a match for the geese, for they far out numbered us. Sadly many of us were killed before we swallowed our pride enough to move on. It was your mother’s idea actually. She felt no reason to continue fighting. First she lost you, the only surviving duckling in her clutch, and then your father was killed by the geese.” Peching ducked his head ashamed, “Donny said he looked, I would’ve come back.” “It’s not your fault Peching, don’t ever think that it was your fault.” Peching nodded, “Go on?” Rush shrugged, “ So we migrated. It was rough going, considering we can’t fly. But we all made it. That’s why I’m here actually. We came back and I was sent around to scout for left over geese.” “Back.” Repeated Peching, “Your back?” Rush nodded, “Yes we’re back.” “So that means…” Rush nodded, “Yes Peching, when I’m well enough, I will take you home.” Peching was speechless. All this time, wondering, wishing, and now here it was right in front of him. He was given the one chance he never thought he’d get. He could go home. “Rush…I…thank you.” Was all he could say. Rush grinned broadly, “Of course Peching. Boy, will your mother ever be shocked.” Peching tensed, suddenly nervous, he couldn’t help but remember his mother’s warning to him so long ago, to stay by her side. “My mother, she’ll remember me? She’ll forgive me?” “Peching, not a day has gone by when your mother doesn’t think of you, and she forgave you a long time ago.” Peching and Rush talked for a few more hours, planning. They would leave in two days at the first sign of the sun. When Sage and Ollie found out they were beyond happy for him, but afterward they seemed somewhat withdrawn, especially Sage. But Peching was occupied, spending as much time as he could with Rush and learning about the other members of his flock. The night before they would leave Peching was walking home along the edge of one of the many ponds, full of excitement. Tomorrow was the day he’d been waiting for. He was going home! “Peching?” Peching was so immersed in his thoughts of his flock that he jumped, startled at the sound of Sage’s voice. He blushed, embarrassed that she’d startled him, as she walked out of a clump of reeds. “Hi Sage.” “So, you’re leaving tomorrow.” Peching nodded, “Yeah, I told you that.” “I haven’t you seen for two days Peching,” she said accusingly. Peching shifted his feet uncomfortably, “Yeah, I’ve been busy talking to..” “To Rush, I know. But you know Peching, you sit there talking about some ducks you never met but whom you call your family and you completely ignore the ones around you. The ones who’ve always been around you.” “I haven’t been ignoring you!” said Peching defensively. “I’ve just been busy.” “Right, planning your big bright future without us. We may never see you again Peching. Did you ever think that maybe we’d want to spend the last few days with you?” “Sage..I…” “Yeah, I didn’t think so.” Said Sage and she turned to walk away. “Sage, wait.” The little female turned to face him. “Yes.” “If you don’t come tomorrow, you know to see me off, I, um wish you and Ollie a good life together.” “Me and Ollie?” said Sage looking shocked. Peching shrugged, “Umm, yeah I always thought, you know…” Sage smiled sadly, “Thanks, but it’s not Ollie I want to be with Peching.” Peching watched Sage disappear into the darkness before he continued on his way to his nest. The next morning dawned bright and clear as Peching and Rush stood at the edge of Swamp. With them was Lottie and Donny. Lottie hugged Peching close, “I’m sure going to miss you Peching! You were the duckling I never had!” she said starting to cry. Donny patted him on the shoulder, “You’re a good duck Peching, you’ll do well my boy.” “Thanks Donny, thanks Lottie, I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me.” “We’d do it all again sweetheart.” Said Lottie with a watery smile. Donny nodded and cleared his throat, “Yes Peching, without a doubt.” Peching hugged them both. He was now twice their size. “Good -bye guys.” “We love you Peching.” the mated pair said together. “I love you too.” Said Peching, and he was surprised at the catch in his voice. Finally he broke away from Donny and Lottie and went to stand beside Rush, just as Sage and Ollie hurried out of the reeds lining the edge of the Swamp. “Oh thank goodness!” wheezed Ollie, “I thought we’d be to late.” “Hi guys.” Said Peching with a slight smile. None of them knew what to say, so they stood their looking at each other. “Well,” said Ollie clearing his throat, “I guess this is good-bye.” Peching nodded, “It’s been great Ollie.” He said, patting his friend on the head. Ollie hugged him briefly before he went and stood beside Donny and Lottie. Finally Peching faced Sage. “Good-bye Sage.” She smiled, though her eyes were bright with tears, “Good-bye Peching.” She hugged him tightly then she too went and stood beside Lottie and Donny. Rush patted Peching on the shoulder, “Are you ready little one?” Peching nodded, “Yessir.” He took one last look at his friends and the Swamp that had been his home before he followed Rush into the woods. Rush and Peching made their way through the woods until the sun was high in the sky and then they settled down for a rest. Peching was looking up at the clouds a thoughtful look on his face. On the walk through the woods, he tried to keep his mind on the future and the excitement of seeing his long lost family and it wasn’t hard, but sometimes his mind couldn’t help but wander to thoughts of Duckweed Swamp and especially, to his surprise, Sage. Rush watched him, “Peching?” he said after a while. “You ok?” Peching nodded, and Rush shrugged, “Well ok, if you’re sure.” He said, and then settled down to take a nap. Peching knew he should sleep some too, but he couldn’t. He fidgeted with excitement and anxiety, and wished Rush would get up so they could continue on their way. Unable to sit still any longer, Peching went to wander. A sudden rustling sound caught Pechings attention. Nervously, he stood and peered into the undergrowth. He yelped with surprise when a creature flew out of the ferns and sent both of them tumbling backwards. “Ollie?” After he untangled himself from the intruder Peching stared amazed at the tubby little mallard. The little mallard stood and shook himself indignantly, “Peching, the next time you start looking through the bushes, make sure you announce yourself, I honestly thought I was going to be eaten.” “Ollie, what are you doing here?” “Well obviously I came to find you.” “Why?” Sudden Ollie’s face turned grim. “We need you Peching. It’s Castor. He’s attacked Duck Weed Swamp.” Peching gaped at his friend, “What? Is everyone alright?” “Well hard to say pal considering they are in the middle of a battle.” “You guys against geese?” “I told you we needed you. Please Peching. We don’t have much time. Are you coming or not?” Peching thought of Rush still sleeping many yards away. He offered to take him home to his real family, something Peching had always dreamed of, and if he went back to the Swamp that chance could be lost and yet…childhood memories flashed through Peching’s head; memories of playing in the pools with Sage and Ollie, of sleeping curled up next Lottie and Donny, of a whole Swamp of ducks, to whom he was a complete stranger and had yet opened their hearts and lives too. He realized that family didn’t always have to look like you, act like you, or even be related to you, family was who was there for you through thick and thin, always there for you to count on. The ducks of Duckweed Swamp had done that for Peching and now it was time he returned the favor. He nodded to Ollie. “Let’s save Duckweed Swamp.” Ollie beamed like a ray of sunshine and the two friends dashed off into the woods. Sage cowered as Castor, the big ugly goose, loomed above her. His disfigured face making him even more terrifying than just his sheer size. He sneered down at her. “You should not have fought, you foolish little bird.” Scared stiff, Sage didn’t know what to do. Her only thought was that she’d never get out of this alive. The big goose drew back to strike and Sage looked away her thoughts drifting to Peching, wishing she could have seen him again… and suddenly, he was there; big, strong, wonderful, Peching. Eyes blazing and beak snapping he flung himself between Sage and Castor. For a moment Castor stood stunned with surprise but then he smiled cruelly when he recognized the young white duck. “Well, well if it isn’t the little hero. You still have not learned your place duckling.” “Actually, I have.” Said Peching. His voice was strong with conviction. “It’s right here. Between you and Sage. Protecting my family.” Castor laughed cruelly, “Aww how sweet. I’m sorry that this is the last time you’ll see them.” Peching smiled slightly, “And I’m sorry for you Castor, because you’ll never know what it feels like to be loved.” With a furious honk Castor lunged at Peching. Peching sidestepped and swung his beak, dealing a cracking blow to Castor’s head. The goose squawked and whipped around to face his opponent again. The two birds fought furiously. They pecked and scratched, and whacked at each other with their wings. Peching snapped his beak at the goose’s face, but the goose ducked and grabbed hold of Peching’s wing in his strong beak and whipped the smaller bird to the ground. Peching squawked in pain, as Castor’s clawed feet pinned Peching where he lay. Castor sneered down at the young duck, “Face it little hero, you cannot win. “ Peching’s heart hammered fit to burst. This wasn’t like the last time he’d faced Castor. This time no Rush was going to come to his rescue. It was up to him. But this time he wasn’t just fighting for his life he was fighting for his home and his family, and that made all the difference. Peching glared right back at Castor, “Think again.” Peching kicked with all his might at the goose’s chest, sending him flying backward. Castor landed hard, knocking the wind out of him. Before he could stand up, Peching struggled to his feet and stood over him. Castor looked at the young duck in awe. Despite his bruised and battered body, Peching stood tall, with his head held high. “It’s over Castor,” he said, his voice low and menacing. “You are beaten. You cannot win.” The look on Peching’s face filled Castor’s heart with fear. His nodded his head to show he understood. “Good.” Hissed Peching as he stepped away from his foe, “Now gather your geese and go.” Castor rose unsteadily to his feet, surprised at this act of mercy. He honked once and immediately his flock came to his side. As they turned to go, Peching called out to them, “Castor! I have shown you mercy. But be warned, if you ever come back I will be here and you will face me again, because this is my home and this is my family and I will defend it.” Castor hissed angrily then taking a running start, he and the rest of his flock flew off over the trees. As soon as the geese were gone the clearing erupted into the cheers of the victorious ducks. They surrounded Peching laughing and cheering for him. Donny, Lottie and Ollie threw themselves on him in suffocating hugs. “You came back! You came back!” Peching smiled and hugged them back but he was drained of adrenaline leaving him exhausted. “Peching!” Ollie, Lottie and Donny, all moved away from Peching at the sound of Sage’s voice. Peching cleared his throat nervously, “Hi Sage.” She stood in front of him, a fierce expression on her face. “Was it true? Did you mean it? What you said to Castor, about us being your family?” Peching nodded, “Every word.” Sage’s demeanor softened instantly and with a huge smile she flung herself on Peching hugging him tightly. “I love you Peching.” “I love you too.” This made the other ducks laugh and cheer. “Well done Peching. Well done.” The crowd of ducks dispersed as the big white duck, Rush, made his way toward Peching. But he wasn’t alone. Walking by his side was another duck. She was white, and though her feathers were slightly ruffled with age, she was still very beautiful. Peching gaped as they approached. “Mother.” Tears ran down Dottie face as she looked at her son. “Peching, I never thought I’d see you again.” She whispered. Peching rushed forward and hugged her. “I’m sorry mom I’m so sorry. I was young and stupid and didn’t listen. Peching broke away and ducked his head in shame, “Can you ever forgive me?” “Forgive you?” Dottie lifted her sons head, “My son, I’m so proud of you.” Peching met her gaze with surprise. “You are?” Dottie nodded, “Yes, my son, and,” the old duck looked around at the smiling faces shining up at her son, “I think it’s safe to say, we all are.” For the rest of his life and for many years afterward Peching will always be remembered for his brave and selfless actions in saving Duckweed Swamp.