A Tale With A Twist

Once upon a time, in a forest filled with trees, there lived four great friends; the deer, the tortoise, the mouse and the crow. The deer was called Houndleg, the mouse was known as Nailtooth, the tortoise and crow were christened Stoneback and Blackwing respectively. They would all come to the lakeside and enjoy the whole day there. But one-day tragedy struck. The deer went missing. The crow, mouse and tortoise were highly distressed. They started searching for their missing friend. Blackwing flew across the forest looking for his friend. He finally spotted houndleg entangled in a trap. As the crow started descending Houndleg yelled, “No. Please! Go away! You should not be here. If the hunter sees you, we will be both be killed.” The pain was apparent in Houndleg’s voice.
Blackwing interrupted his words and said, “Don’t be so naïve. I have come to save you. I will be coming back with Nailtooth to cut these cursed wires. You will be free my friend”
He came back in a few minutes with Nailtooth and without further delay nailtooth set to work. Nailtooth did not even think about the danger the hunter’s return would bring. He worked hard and remained focused. Stoneback could not stand being left alone and rushed to lend a helping hand too. He arrived as fast as he could and said, “Friends I have come to help you.” Blackwing yelled at stoneback. He said, “Why have you come? Are you mad? You are well aware you cannot outrun the human hunter!” stoneback could not keep the hurt from his voice and said, “How could I stay behind and not help my friends while they are in danger!” Nailtooth kept doing the work as now the danger was more and he knew another life was at stake now. He was consistently nibbling on the wires, like a demon’s saw put to work. He had almost finished when a booming voice filled the air, “leave him alone. He is mine.” The hunter had returned for his day’s catch. But Nailtooth had already cut the wire, leaving a wide enough space for Houndleg to free himself. ‘Run! Run!’ shouted Nailtooth. “The wire’s cut.” Nailtooth ran into the distance. Blackwing flew towards the sky. Houndleg ran after Nailtooth into the darkness and out of the hunter’s sight. It was Stoneback who was crawling slowly away from the hunter that caught the hunter’s attention. “What if I have lost gold? I shall make do with silver,” he said with a smug smile. He reached towards the animal and with one hand grasped it and put it into his jute sack. He held it close and started walking away. Houndleg saw his friend’s fate and Stoneback’s words came back to him so without thinking twice, he ran towards the hunter, nudged him and ran away, fast enough to be away from his arrow’s range but slow enough to be in his sight. The hunter could not miss this opportunity. He took out one of his arrows and aimed. Luckily the shot missed the deer by a hair’s breadth. The hunter took another arrow and aimed. Stoneback was terrorized. He knew it was only a matter of minutes for his friend’s life. He thought swiftly of creating a good distraction. The hunter’s concentration was broken when he heard a splash and a scream from the vicinity of the pond. He turned and saw the water rippling. He searched his sack and it was empty. “A suicidal tortoise!” he thought. He had horrible luck. When he searched for the deer, it was nowhere to be found. He left cursing his luck. A few meters away, inside the pond, a stone rested at the bottom. Five openings were situated symmetrically in the stone’s diameter. A head convoluted itself out from one of the openings. Soon the limbs appeared. Stoneback swam over to the surface to see if his plan had succeeded. What had happened was that when the hunter reacted, stoneback flung himself towards the pond. In the air, he put his head and limbs inside the protective back and screamed when he splashed. As he had anticipated, the hunter didn’t realize that the tortoise could do that. Stoneback sighed heavily when he reached the surface. All friends heaved a collective sigh of happiness. With each other’s sacrifices and friendship their bond strengthened and they lived happily for eternity.

Shubhi Vijay