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Tatiana Schatten

The King of Falcons, Part 1

Not based on true events

The Gyrfalcon was the King’s most trusted servant. During famines, he would procure food without causing the least inconvenience of the starving serfs and villains*. When time of plenty returned, it would fly off at the King’s bidding from within the castle walls to circle in the wide sky and cry out jubilantly that all was well. Then would the subjects of the King raise their dust-strewn faces and cheer. During war, this falcon was first and foremost in the battle, delivering letters of parley to the enemy, and returning with tidings of what it beheld. This, it would scratch in words on the soil, and the King, reading it, would move his troops accordingly and therefore reign victorious.  But this tale is not concerned about war but famine. Strange to say, at the appearance of this certain shortage of food, the King was unusually reluctant to send the falcon to search for provisions without depriving his subjects. So, believing that another one of his beasts would perform the arduous search just as well, he sent forth a great Grey Wolf who was another of his animal companions. But lo! Soon it returned fruitless,because it was unable to cross the raging river which encircled the lands of the King. As a result, His Highness went hungry for that day and that night, and, during the hours of dark, he pondered upon which creature could pass the river, a creature which was not his trusty falcon. With this circling within his mind he managed to slumber, despite the discomfort of a mealess day. In the morning, he awoke, and immediately decided that a duck would succeed in the quest where the wolf had failed. Or should it be a goose? No, thought he, a duck would do. And so he requested that his personal duck-herd should procure for him the strongest swimmer of all the ducks. This was done, and a large, emerald-throated male mallard was brought, who could both span the air, and water excellently. And so this feathery fellow was set loose to attempt the journey, but like the raven in Noah’s Ark, he returned fruitlessly. Indeed, he was quite able to cross the river, and when I say fruitlessly, I do not mean empty-billed. But a human man can not sustain himself on seeds and weeds mixed with dragonflies and fish eggs. So the contents of that bill were quite useless, and the mallard was permitted to devour them himself as a reward for his valiant effort. At length, when another empty night came, the King began to reconsider his beloved falcon who at that very moment was guarding him from an iron perch which was thrust between the stones of the bedchamber. Perhaps, thought the King, perhaps I have been rather foolish. And so, perhaps he had.

To be continued...

* A class of peasants slightly higher than serfs.

The Dragon and the Knight

Not based on true events

I believe he was angrier than a hornet and more furious than a fiery dragon. And this human fiery dragon had in sight a knight, a knight who was not even seeking to conquer the beast, a knight at whom he could blast his ire. Why, ask you, did he feel ire whatsoever? The answer is as simple as a single-celled animal: he had a prick in his foot and it drove him to the point of overarching insanity. So the knight, who in fact was an Armoured Hero Shrew, was made the victim, and the enraged dragon stamped as best he could with a wounded foot towards it, and all the while the shrew remained as still as a statue, with only its nose snuffing in the dirt about. Finally, it took note of the approaching enemy, but it was too late, the man was upon him, literally. Yes, indeed, his whole flabby foot was on the body of the shrew, yet nothing occurred. The man then stood solely upon that terrible foot but nought more did the creature do but slightly shuffle into a more comfortable position. This was most frustrating indeed for the dragon, for he could not wound the stout knight as he had wished and his rage grew with every pound of weight that he set upon his victim.  And so there they remained for a moment, the shrew showing  no signs of discomfort and the man showing many signs of fuming disquiet. Finally, his annoyance grew adamant, and he cried out in words which, of course, the shrew was unable to understand: “ What’s the matter with you?!!” I am afraid that that proved to be the dragon’s undoing, for as soon as the cry came to the ears of the knight, the shrew gave a squeak of the utmost terror, and burst out from beneath the heavy foot and soon was scurrying out of sight. Meanwhile, the dragon had been thrown flat onto his bottom, and was left there all alone in the deep forest to ponder whether hurting another hurts oneself more. Indeed, in this case, it seemed very much true and he at length arose with a rumble to make his slow limping way home. 

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The Pugnacious Plant, Part 2

Not based on true events

I replied to the Olive-backed Pocket Mouse that it was me, here in the sundew, and he came timidly to inspect. “ Y-you scared me, back there,” said he as he snuffed at the leaves. I immediately replied that I was scared myself: scared of never coming free. “ So could you please help?” said I in conclusion. For a moment, the pocket mouse put his head to one side in thought, and when he righted it again, and piped: “ But how?” Evidently, my companion was not the brightest hero in mind, but I suggested snipping off the leaves to which I was attached with his slender teeth. “ Well, I guess so,” was the reply, and the mouse began his labours. Crunch, crunch went the little teeth. Nibble, nibble went the tiny mouth. Twitch, twitch, twitch went the funny nose. At times, though, there came an “Ow! Ow! Ow!” from me when his teeth failed to remain upon the sundew. My freer would then sheepishly but profusely apologize, and in this manner, I soon was captive no more, and my captor was three leaves less in foliage. My rodent friend now drew back to look upon me with what I hoped would be satisfaction, but it was definitely not that. In fact, the only emotion I could read on his countenance was puzzlement as he inquired: “ Are you always going to keep those leaves on you?” “ No indeed!” said I, “I hadn’t planned on that! They will come off on their own, eventually. But for the meantime, thank you, my good pocket mouse, for your service, and if ever I can repay you, I will.” And I turned to flutter off, but my words were not the last, for at the very time of takeoff, the rodent cried out behind me: “ You can! By not scaring me!” And that was my battle with a plant, not tarnished in splendour, I hope, by the presence of a side kick.

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The Pugnacious Plant, Part 1

Not based on true events

It is rare, almost impossible, for a bat to become ensnared in battle with a ruthless plant. But yet I somehow managed to do just that, and to take the trophy of victory away with me. I was not conscious of any ill will on the part of the plant, which was a tenacious Round-leafed Sundew, and even now consider the affair an unfortunate accident. It all occurred like this, when I first dropped upon the ground in curiosity. After all, I am sure any bat does the same when it is weary of the sky and branches which it calls its home. Well, there I was, snuffing the tall moss-heads about me, and keeping a keen vigilance for any approach of a predator. But that was my undoing, for, as I shuffled forward in the cool cushion beneath, there came to my touch something sticky, very sticky. In fact, so sticky that the claw on my right forewing was held fast, and I could not detach it. And so, there I was in a fine pickle, with one claw upon a leaf of the sundew, and the other free. That is when I made my second mistake of trying to rid the leaf of my claw with my other claw, and I am sure you all know the result. So there I was caught, by two claws. By this time, I was becoming rather vexed as well as worried for my security. Therefore, in a fine dance of anger, I stamped my hind legs, but there was a sundew leaf under my one, and as certain as the sun will shine, it ensnared my foot, and there I was in a finer pickle than before, not daring to move another inch. All that I could do now was to wait for a foe or friend. Which it was, I cared not for a mighty long time, for I was as humiliated as could possibly be. Thankfully, though, the end swiftly drew near and there in the distance I beheld: a friend.  And what friend may you ask? An nervous, stuttering little Olive-backed Pocket Mouse. “ Hellooo!” cried I at the sight of his furry body, and instantly that furry body leapt thrice its height in the air. “ W-who is it?” He twittered when he returned to dry ground, his body shaking spasmodically in fear.

To be continued... 

Snap!

Not based on true events

“He skimmed the surface of the sea, he skimmed so merrily, and when dimmed was light of day,he dove and ducked and skimmed away.” These verses describe a very unusual bird, a very quaint bird, and one whose characteristic protruding lower bill is shared by very few others of its kind. This is an African Skimmer, and his most prestigious name was Daisium Clamaticumis, but we will call him Dais. This, indeed, will shorten the tale to a sizable bite. He lived true to his name: in the wilds of Africa, and flew joyfully with his tern-like wings through clouds and mist, rain and shine. Here, he would slice any body of water with his sword-like lower jaw and snap at any fish that would so much as brush against it. But one day, that something which he had thought was a fish snapped back! It was the unusual apex of an unusual day. Dais had awoken as sleepily as he had fallen a-slumber, and teetered for some time upon the edge of the pond shore before he found his feet and wings. But even then, in the air his flight was unusual and erratic. Many a pair of eyes observed him wheeling like a drunken sailor in the sky, and a child nearby pointed to him with the words: “ There’s a funny tern!” But Dais was not a tern. He was a skimmer and said so to himself to console his mortified spirit. At length, he lowered himself over the water and lazily opened his jaws and dropped the under-mandible within it. Fishing now bore no zest for him that day, and even the motion of that exhausted African Skimmer was mechanical. That is, until he  felt in, a split second, something touch his bill and without a moment’s hesitation, shut it with a clack! But what was his surprise when he felt an agonizing pinch above his bill and between his eyes! Later, he thanked God with all his heart that it was not a sting, for what had he picked up but a Common Yellow Scorpion, who, by ill-luck, found itself floundering in that pond. With a breath-taking shriek of “ Ouch!” Dais dropped the creature like a burning stone, and the scorpion was so condescending as to let go of his forehead and go plummeting down to land harmlessly in a clump of grass below. For a time, Dais fluttered helplessly about, crying out in pain and bobbing his head like a mad thing until he finally realized something, and his mind and body grew steadier. He was no longer tired! The sun was no longer dim! The world no longer scowled upon him, but smiled gently, and in a relief of exultation, Dais made a clownish loop of satisfaction in the air and proceeded to fish with as much zest as a lemon seed.

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Wednesday March 13, 2024