I have been thinking about this story for some time now. I wanted to sit down and type it out awhile back, but I kept getting distracted. I’m glad though because that has given me some more time to mull things over, flesh it out before even writing the first word.
My dad has been one of my best and vocal supporters. He has said some of the kindest things to me about my writing and he’s been a tremendous encouragement as I some times struggle to come up with a story. The story below, along with the second part later, is dedicated to him.
Ká sat on a large rock near the stream, content with his meal of fresh caught fish. It was some time after midday, for the sun was directly overhead now. His belly was full, the sun was shining, what more could he ask for?
Just as this thought crossed his mind, Ká heard a sudden shrill noise coming from within the thicket behind him. He didn’t remember seeing anything earlier, but he was concentrating on his meal at the time.
The noise did not wane, in fact it grew louder and more insistent. The longer he heard it, Ká became more certain it was some small creature in pain.
By now Ká was getting annoyed and was forced to leave his warm rock to investigate. Slowly he picked his way through the underbrush, drawing closer to the cries.
At a young age Ká had been wounded, attacked, which left him blind in one eye. This seemed to hone his other senses, such as his hearing. Perhaps that is how Ká was able to locate the noise so quickly.
When he entered the clearing, Ká was aware something was not right. The brush had been trampled recently, as early as that morning. The bushes and lower hanging branches were broken, or even crushed down. Ká didn’t see any blood on the ground, but the strong smell hit him right away.
Cautiously Ká moved closer to the noise; it was coming from the base of the largest tree in the clearing. It had been some time since he first heard the crying, and at this point it was obvious the poor creature had worn it’s voice out.
Ká inched over to tree, and with a few quick glances around the clearing to see if everything was safe, he peaked over the massive roots. Loosely wrapped in an odd skin, lay a squirming newborn, a dark skinned little thing that sleepily blinked at Ká.
Neither made a sound, only locked eyes, staring intently at one another. This little thing was so foreign to Ká that he didn’t even have a name for it. The only thing that Ká could be sure of was that the mother was no where to be seen, that this newborn was alone in the world.
It was in that moment that Ká knew, looking deeply into the infant’s dark eyes, that he would do anything to protect this innocent creature.
That was immediately put to the test as a large roar snapped Ká out of his thoughts. He spun around and instinctively threw his arms up, spreading them out to make himself appear as big as possible. Ká was terrified to see a massive bear standing in the middle of the clearing, but found it impossible to leave the infant. He was grounded, feet firmly planted and unmoving.
The bear was still on all four paws, and looked more bored than anything. It lazily growled. Ká could tell the bear wasn’t really trying, that it just saw an easy meal.
Ká hissed at the bear and tried to shoo it away.
“Get out of here!” he said, waving his arms.
The bear looked surprised and stopped his low growl. It leaned back to sit down with a loud thud.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” said the bear.
“I said, go! Get out of here,” repeated Ká. “There’s nothing for you here.”
“Nothing?” said the bear, mockingly. It pointed with a long claw. “What about that little thing there? Are you going to eat it?”
Ká grunted angrily. “Of course not.”
“I’m warning you, bear, you will regret it if you come closer,” said Ká.
The bear guffawed at the seemingly empty threat.
“Listen, little crow,” said the bear through his laughter. “I’m hungry. That’s a meal. Simple.”
Ká thought of his options. The infant was too heavy for him to lift. Trying to attack the bear would be his death. He’s fast, and his beak is sharp, but there was no chance of actually stopping the huge predator. Maybe he could approach the problem from another angle.
“All that you’re worried about is a free meal?” he asked.
“I am a bear, it’s what I do.”
“Then, how about we work out a trade?”
The bear tapped the ground thoughtfully. “What kind of trade?”
“I know a heron…”
“That I can eat instead?” interrupted the bear.
“No,” said Ká. He dropped his wings to his side. They were beginning to ach from holding them up for so long.
“Oh. Wait, you’re friends with a heron?”
“Well, no. I know of a heron. Through a mutual friend,” explained Ká.
“Okay. And?” the bear said impatiently.
“This heron knows of a lake that is filled with fish.”
“So,” said the bear.
“These fish are huge, and easy to catch,” Ká continued. “These fish practically jump out of the water at you.”
“Hmmmm,” said the bear. He stretched his neck out to look over the crow.
“They are at least the size of this newborn,” Ká quickly said, catching the bear’s gaze.
“But what’s to stop me from just taking that little thing from you, then going off to find this lake?” asked the bear.
Ká ruffled his feathers in frustration. He calmed himself and tried to keep his voice level.
“Nothing, except there are many lakes in this land,” said Ká. “And there are many herons as well. I vow to take you to find a never ending supply of fresh fish after I deal with this newborn.”
“Aha. That implies that I would need to stay with you wherever you go with that thing, otherwise how would I ever get my end of the deal,” said the bear.
The bear stood up, walked to the edge of the clearing, and back again. He paced the clearing, his throat rumbling as he thought. Finally, the giant predator lumbered to the crow, to stare him directly in the face.
“What kind of fish?” he asked.
“Does it really matter? They’re twice the size of me,” said Ká as calmly as he could.
“Deal. I’ll go with you until you finishing doing… whatever it is you need to do with that thing,” said the bear with a nod at the infant.
“Good,” said Ká, relieved. “What’s your name?”
“Ohkwa,” said the bear.
“Mine is Ká,” said the crow. “It’s a pleasure to not be your meal.”
“Don’t push it, little bird,” said Ohkwa with snort at Ká.
Both the bear and crow turned to look down at the newborn, which was now asleep. Ká suspected the infant had exhausted itself and had drifted off during their discussion. The bird wondered when it had last eaten anything.
“Well,” said the bear. “You’re the smart one. Now what?”
Before Ká could answer, from somewhere overhead, they could hear the soft sound of giggling.
To be continued in another installment…