I wrote this earlier before work and since I knew I wouldn’t be able to write much, I just kind of continued my story as if it were a fairy tale and did all the sort of fairy tale things. Before I delete it, I’m posting it here so it lives forever somehow. It was fun to write!
* * *
“That wasn’t the name of their village, you know,” Cambali said.
“When you said the village was ‘Porurama’.”
“That’s what you said!”
Cambali chinged an arm at her. “It was twice that long. The old woman told me they were going to change it now. At least we did some good here.”
Tapi snorted, juggling all the bags. “It’s too bad we were noticed and had to leave so soon. We didn’t even get to see the statue of the river goddess.”
“I’m sure it’s green with moss by now. ‘A fruitful Summer,’ just like always.”
Tapi was quiet with frustration. Her poor sister didn’t care about much as long as she was moving away from the Charcoal People. How much distance from their father would make her happy? “Are you going to be a grump forever?”
Cambali answered with some very unLady-like things.
“Well, it would be nice for you to learn to respect things, like art. And the gods, your ancestry, your training, your sister. A little humility will probably save us someday,” Tapi said wisely.
“Mmm,” Cambali shook her head. “D’you know that old woman said the same thing? I bet you were listening…” She sighed, “I, ah, do respect you, Tapi.” The rain picked up and the wind blew harder so it could hear Cambali’s rare compliment, too. “Without you, there would be no adventure…”
“False!” Tapi interrupted.
“Just travel,” Cambali finished. “Still have to stay one step ahead of bad guys, soldiers, and suitors.”
“So we’re going…?”
“Since everybody thinks I need some humility, and because I love my dumb, art-filled, river-sister, I heard there’s an old, old, like hundred years old, temple along the paths somewhere. I thought we could check it out,” Cambali said.
Tapi grinned wildly, “Not because the old woman thought we should pray there for safety, good luck, and long lives?”
“Pfff,” Cambali’s body wiggled in disapproval. “I knew you were listening. And no, because I’m hoping for something fantastic like a flaming chariot we can hitch the sun to…”
“That’s a cheetah in front of us,” Tapi quickly pointed out. There weren’t many trees on this side of the mountain so it was easy to see the beast staring at them. Well, as easy as it can be to spot the dotted coat of the predator. He looked pretty hungry, as cheetahs usually are in the morning. To prove it, he somehow slobbered, licked his chops, and chirped, his fur bristling.
“I see him,” Cambali said. “He won’t bother us.” She clanged her foot at the beast, who came nearer and nearer. “Some kings train these for hunting. Animals can learn all kinds of things, you know. I heard a story about a bear training some lions to fish once.”
“I don’t think that one’s trained,” Tapi backed up. She was ready to throw the bags down to distract the large, wild cat.
-Fairy tail version-
* * *
“No, I’m not.” The cheetah stopped growling to speak. He came closer, his soaked fur and drooped whiskers weren’t so scary. And he was stinky like all soaked, big cats are.
“Ah,” Cambali almost started to pay attention, “Did that cheetah say something?”
“Yeah, I said ‘I’m not trained.’ As if I would learn anything from man.”
Cambali considered this, for she often thought the same thing. She figured she just already knew stuff instead of having to be taught. This was tough for her father mostly as she wasn’t smart enough to know otherwise yet. “You look like a cheetah.”
“Well, I’m an asura, and I live in the monsoon…, and sometimes I want to look like a cheetah. You know, ‘faster than the fiercest winds’?”
He raised his snout into the air and meowed. As he did, his nose grew longer, his body grew shorter, and his tail got bushier. His tan fur remained and his meow turned into a bark, “And sometimes I want to be a jackal.” He wiggled his pointed ears, “You know, ‘as clever as the winds are fierce’?”
“What?” Cambali pointed, very rude. “If you’re an asura, why be anything else?” Tapi protected Cambali by hiding behind her.
“The age of the asura is over so I’m learning to be a Jain,” the jackal said as if everyone knew. “It’s much easier to be peaceful as an animal. But, well, ‘eat when hungry,’ right?”
“And what do you eat? Peaceful creatures are usually vegetarians.” Tapi said from under her sister’s hair. “We have plenty of dried fruits and stuff. Ah, rolled leaves with rice, chickpeas.” She waved the bags.
“Nope. As a powerful creature, I eat special, precious things. Pearls, gold, the eyeballs of young girls. How come you don’t know this stuff?” The jackal paced impatiently.
“But, how can you eat our eyeballs peacefully?” Tapi was quick to point out. Cambali chinged in agreement. Bad guys always really only wanted the last thing.
The jackal sighed, he was very close and all his little teeth were very sharp. “I’m going to save them from drowning in your faces, of course. It’s an act of kindness right out of scripture! ‘Save a drowning thing’? I forget the line exactly, but if I happen to crush them between my teeth by accident, I can eat them. And if you happen to die while I rescue your eyeballs, then I can eat you, too. It’s best not to waste.”
“Whu…” Tapi began, but Cambali grabbed her by the bags and started running away. “We’d go faster downhill!” she was again quick to say.
They ran and ran, in circles, under rocks, into shallow caves, uphill, downhill. Tapi was throwing the old coconuts the woman had put in their bags. Probably not to be used as weapons, more to be rid of them herself. There was no path anymore as the jackal chased them, growling and laughing.
Sometimes he was a cheetah and would catch up easily and then be winded because cheetahs don’t have lungs for chasing and laughing. He lost sight of the girls during a nap, but there was only one place they could run. And he was chasing them there, his home, the old Rudra temple.
It so happened that there was a monk traveling in the mountains. He was very devoted to the monk-life and he was walking into the wind and rain of the monsoon as a sort of learning experience. He overheard what the jackal said about rescuing the drowning eyeballs and as lightning split the sky, the monk had the same idea about fish.
Normally, as a monk, he couldn’t eat fish, but if they died while he was rescuing them from drowning, he’d have to eat them. It would be wasteful to do anything else! He joyfully ran straight to the river and rescued fish and put them on the shore where they were safe. But they died peculiarly and then he ate and was filled with the strength of eleven monks.
He picked up a nearby rudraksha tree and chased down the napping asura. He clobbered him over the head and the girls were saved, though they never knew how. They just found themselves at the crumbling old temple.