Story the Crow Part 3
Story eyed the glowing, warming sun as it shined brighter and brighter every moment. The very instant it left the horizon boundary, he squawked at the top of his lungs, "Good morning! Good morning! Awake! Awake! Good morning! Good morning! Awake! Awake! News today! News today! Good morning! Good morning!" he repeated this several times until he was sure everyone could hear him.
"The two legs are coming! The two legs are coming! We must leave! We must leave! Every kind, leave this place, the two legs burn and bite! Tesser agrees, agrees!" He continued to yell out his morning reveille until his throat was hoarse, and that was truly a difficult thing to do for a crow. But he was satisfied to see the field kind gather in little clumps, looking concerned and in deep discussion with one another. He also saw the elders of the mice, rabbits, snakes, coyotes, sleepy gophers and skunks making the rounds to speak to everyone. It seemed that everyone was deciding to move in one accord.
Before his voice gave out, he changed his message, "Go to where the sun sets! Go to where the sun sets!" This he repeated, switching between his first message and his last all the way till the sun was at its peak. He knew that once the sun started traveling towards the night horizon, all the kind of the field would start leaving in accordance with his instructions. He stopped and realized he was thirsty and hungry. He clucked to himself for his foolishness and decided that next time he would eat and drink first. Then he heard a tiny squeaking noise below. It was the Field Elder. Reja was standing on his hind legs and trying to get Story's attention. Despite his thirst and hunger, he bounced to take wing and swooped down to meet Reja.
"Story, thou loud and tale bearing bird, how farest thee?"
"I am well but thirsty from all this yelling Field Elder."
"All well my friend, we shalt fetch thee some water for thine thirst."
Loosed from protocol, Story felt free to speak, "thank you good Reja, are all the kind moving?"
"It seemeth prudent Story, thou hast spoken with Tesser?"
Story bobbed his head and blinked enthusiastically, "yes, yes Elder, she does not care for you but agrees the two legs are trouble and we must leave."
Another younger mouse came through the grass dragging a large oak leaf laden with water. For them, it must have seemed a treasure, and Story realized that they must have anticipated his need when he started crowing and prepared the leaf to collect the morning dew. That was the best kind of water and he could hardly wait to lap it up.
Reja continued, "How far must we travelleth? I am old and not every mouse is young, nor the rabbits."
Story had not anticipated this question and cleverly responded, "Until we are away from the two legs Reja."
"All well, wilt thou be our eye in the sky? There art many dangers about for us small kind."
Again, Story had not planned for this, but this time the answer was simple, "I will be your eyes for you Reja, my friend."
Reja dropped to all fours and turned to walk away, "We shalt leave this field, our home and cleave no more to it."
Story was reasonably certain that meant they were leaving right away, and he eagerly bent down to drink all the water from the leaf as Reja walked away. When he was done, Story spread his wings, stretching them in the sunshine. With a flurry of energy and two short hops, he lifted himself into the sky.
Immediately he saw two things that chilled his heart. First a family of foxes stood at the far end, apparently waiting for all of the animals to start leaving. They were directly in the path of the exodus, no doubt waiting to snap up the unaware. They gave no thought to the Forest Law of Peace: when two or more of different kinds are running from danger such as fire, no kind shall be in danger from another kind.
Story decided that he would shame them into obedience. They were probably counting on all the ground kind to be so unintelligent that they would not challenge the foxes with knowledge of the law. His chest filled with pride as he thought of the duty that had fallen on him: protector of the field kind. But then he noticed the second thing, and it brought fear into him. Tesser was perched not at the passing place for the field kind, but in a tree off to the side of the field. Naturally, the paths of the ground kind mattered very little to a winged predator, and from there could patiently snag mouse after mouse, rabbit after rabbit if she could eat that much. Story knew he had been duped. But he also knew he was right about leaving and decided to continue his charge to protect the small kind.
At the risk of incurring Tesser's wrath, he yelled out again, "Tesser in the far away tree! Tesser in the far away tree! Be wary! Be wary!" Then, before Tesser could do anything, Story swooped down and scooped the air with his wings for a soft-hop landing in front of the family of foxes. They looked at him with hungry eyes, his quick movements had gotten their attention. He ruffled all of his feathers to intimidate them and adjusted his folded wings.
He looked them all in the eyes with his left eye and said, "You are breaking the law."
One of them piped up, "No law is being broken foolish bird, now go so that we may eat meatier prey."
Story refused to back down, and spoke more sternly this time, "We are all running from danger, the Forest Law of Peace requires that you leave them be."
Another bright eyed coyote spoke this time, his voice higher and obviously younger than his wily father. "We are not running from danger, the law stipulates that only when all kind are running from danger do we not attack one another. Clearly this is not the case as you can see we are not afraid of the danger."
The young pup's father looked back at him to snap his teeth in warning and yelled, "silence!" He turned harsh yellow eyes back to Story, who had turned his head the other way to look at the family with his right eye. "My mouthy offspring is right, there is no law to apply here, we are hunting, not fleeing. Besides, we do not see this danger only you talk about, and perhaps Tesser there only gave you her wisdom so she could eat."
Story refused to budge. He sidestepped to move closer to the family of foxes and puffed his feathers even more if that was possible. He lowered his head and spoke menacingly, "I will call the council of the sleeping bear, who will soon awake, to resolve this lie of yours."
The father and mother foxes looked as if they had eaten a snail, (bitter and slimy, a snail is only eaten as a last resort if there are no mice or rabbits to eat), and slinked away into the forest with an ominous warning, "we will wait to see what Tesser does to you Story, then we will decide how to act today."
The message was clear: Story now had to confront Tesser, and if he lost, the foxes would eat heartily at the field creatures' expense. If he won, the foxes would not challenge one who threatened to call the council of the bear.
With the foxes dealt with, Story turned only to see Tesser coming straight at him. Her claws were wide open and reaching for his head. He surprised Tesser and flattened himself to the ground. Startled by the unexpected maneuver, she lost her sense for a moment and crashed into the ground in a heap of wings, legs and feathers.
Cursing loudly and obviously in pain, she flopped around on the ground until she found her feet. Story rose to watch. He took no posture except to sit still while he waited to see if she was foolish enough to try to attack him again. She finally stumbled to her feet, several feathers sticking out at odd angles, hate smoldering in her eyes. "I am not fond of eating flying kind, but in your case I will make an exception black one."
With that, she launched herself at him, powerful wings beat heavily to gain momentum for the short attack run. Seeing her attack, Story shot into the sky and gained altitude. He looked back to see Tesser's attack run turn into a takeoff. Being a heavy predator bird, she did not rise as quickly, and took seconds longer to reach the same speed as Story. In the meantime, Story flapped his wings hard to gain altitude and circled in wider and wider circles as he rose. He could see the kind of the field gather at the edge of the field where the attack began and the foxes were chased away. He also knew that the foxes were waiting in the shadows for the outcome of this battle. There was more at stake here than Story ever had thought could be, but he would persevere, he couldn't turn back from his decision now. The thought of changing his mind only passed through his mind with a shudder, knowing that he could never do that. But even if he did change his mind, the family of foxes and Tesser the hawk would hunt him down until he was dead.
He decided he was high enough and looked back. This far above the treetops, he was surprised to see Tesser coming at him quickly. He knew he had the advantage. Folding his wings halfway, he dove at Tesser, gaining speed as he had seen her do when she hunted small prey. She didn't realize what was happening until it was too late, and he struck her with his feet and beak and beat at her with his wings while they fell together towards the ground. Just past the treetops, he parted ways with her and flapped his wings mightily to avoid hitting the earth. She wobbled and gained flight just in time as well and quickly rose into the air again with mighty thrusts of her wings.
This time, he could only keep up with her, neither bird gained the height advantage over the other. He was breathing hard, his attack and climb had taken his energy. He was hungry and tired. Together they rose, higher and higher until they reached the clouds, where no birds fly. Then they circled, warily eyeing each other. Tesser made the first move and dove in at him across the imaginary circle of flight. She screeched loud and long as she once again reached for him with her vicious talons. He was so tired he could only jerk to the left as she closed the gap, but it wasn't quite enough and one of her feet struck his back and he yelped in pain as she passed by. He heard her deep and throaty laugh in the cold air. It was an awful sound he would never forget, and it made him think of all the things he was fighting for.
Drooping, he started to descend quickly. It looked as if his wound was too much and he could no longer stay aloft. With a screech of victory, Tesser went after him. She would hang him from her talons for all to see as she flew over the field, and then pick at his flesh for a meal. He seemed to fall faster and faster as down they went, and she saw him start to tumble as if his life had left him. She folded her wings almost completely to catch up with him. She could feel her own blood on her back from his first attack, but it didn't matter, she would soon have him. The ground grew larger and larger each instant, and this focused her, this was very much like hunting fast prey that poked their heads above the holes of the field and that she plucked after falling upon them. The crow was hers, and with his death, the kind of the field as well.
She got closer and closer and when they were just inches from each other, Story suddenly awakened and snapped his wings wide to catch the air and she fell right past him, falling like a rock to the earth beneath. She had barely enough time spread her wings once more and narrowly avoid death. She was stunned by the crow's cunning, she was not sure what to do anymore. Before she could do anything else, Story dropped onto her back with all his weight, and she was forced to the ground. They slid a few feet together, and when they came to a stop, Story instantly pecked at her and beat his wings wildly. She jerked her head back and limped away, her right leg had been hurt by the fall. She cowed her head as he continued to peck and squawk and beat her with his wings. Finally, he relented and she clumsily flapped her wings to fly away into the distance. Breathing hard, Story watched until she was a speck in the sky and even then continued to watch until she was completely gone. he turned back to look and saw that the field kind had started leaving, and the foxes were nowhere in sight.
Reja the Field Elder came up to him and stared at him in silence for a moment then spoke, "Thou hast done a great deed Story the crow. You have saved our lives from the two legs and their created things that biteth and burneth. Thou hast outwitted the foxes with the law and puttest them to shame. And finally, thou hast defeated the evil Tesser, whose guile wouldest killed us all. In reward, we, the mouse kind, vowest to feedeth and watereth thee for the rest of thine natural life."
Story had recovered enough to bow deeply at the Elder of the Field. "But Reja, my life ist long and many seasons longer than thine." Because it was a formal occasion, Story spoke the Mouse's formal language.
Reja did not react to Story's objection, instead answered seriously, "We art prepared for thine long life, I swear that thine story wilt be passed down the generations until thee hast expired."
Story replied with amusement, "Then I hopest I will not get fat!"
Both Reja and Story laughed together. Reja dropped back to all fours and rejoined the mouse kind leaving the field they had known so long as their home. Story preened his flight feathers and then wearily launched into the sky once more to lead the kind of the field to their new home. From then on, he made it his duty to protect the kind of the field, especially the mice, who fed him everyday. It was not nearly enough and he continued to look for food on his own, but he never let them know, and let them think they were doing a great thing. They were doing a great thing, just not in the way they thought. Story was an intelligent bird, and knew the value of love. Love was kind, and took no offense. Love helped him to appreciate the small way the mouse kind showed their appreciation of him.
In time, he knew another kind of love, that of a mate. They had young crows of their own and raised them to continue the service their father had started with the mice so long ago. Tesser was never seen again, and the field kind were safe from the two legs for as long as he lived.