Selection from "The Tales of The Inkweaver"
There once were four animals in partnership who lived together around a cave in the woods.
The bull lived on the green under a precipice outside the cave, where he had shelter from the rain, fresh grass to eat, and plenty of room to roam. The snake lived on the sandy floor of the cave, where plenty of fat mice skittered within reach, and where it was warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
The bird lived in the tree standing at the mouth of the cave, and the hare lived in a little hollow among its roots.
While it is true they all lived in the same place, each one thought itself quite sufficient without the others.
The bull said, "I am strong enough to fend for myself. If anybeast dare threaten me, I can gore them with my horns and trample them with my hooves."
"Pooh, that is nothing!" said the snake. "I can hide in small spaces, cracks in the rock too fine to be seen, and I strike quickly. If anybeast comes near, I can slay them in an instant with one bite from my fangs!"
"You are small and cunning," said the hare, "but you cannot shift your long body away fast enough without legs like mine! I can sense danger before it senses me, and I can be far away before it is even close to me!"
"You may be fast, neighbor hare," twittered the bird, "but you travel the same ground as your predator, and your strength is easily spent. When anybeast threatens me, I have but to spread my wings and I am free to go where I will in the sky, and they cannot follow me. When I tire, I have the wind to carry me. What say you to that?"
So each had their own opinions about which characteristic was best, and they left it at that.
One day, while each animal was about it's business, a bear came and scratched up the tree and entered the cave.
When the bull returned, the bear reached out of the cave too quick for the horns or the hooves, and swiped a claw at its flank.
When the snake returned, the bear thundered with its paws and chased the snake out of the cave.
When the hare returned, the bear roared and showed its terrible sharp teeth. The hare ran away quickly and was too frightened to go near the cave.
When the bird returned, it found all its friends some distance from the cave.
"What has happened?" asked the bird.
"A bear has come into our cave," said the bull, showing its flank.
"It nearly smashed me with it's great big paws!" said the snake.
"It nearly ate me with it's big sharp teeth!" said the hare.
"Leave it to me," said the bird, and he flew to the cave to try and shoo the bear away.
But the bird was too small, and the bear just laughed and did not leave.
"It's hopeless!" cried the bull.
"What will we do when winter comes?" asked the hare.
"We must find another home soon!" said the bird.
"Nonsense!" said the snake. "Don't you see, friends? Each of us alone cannot drive away the bear, but if we work together, I think we may succeed."
So the four friends crafted a plan to get the bear out of the cave.
The bear sat comfortably in the cave, laughing to himself as he prepared to settle down and live in the cave that he had stolen.
Just then, he saw a strange sight. The snake came into the cave, but it was flying through the air! The bird flew with the snake in it's feet, and dropped the snake upon the bear's head, where it easily sank its fangs info the beast's fur. The bear roared in pain.
Just then, the hare raced into the cave and ran circles around the feet of the bear. The bear could not see as the snake slid down its face and bit again on the bear's sensitive nose, and it stumbled over the hare, who raced back out of the cave before the bear could touch him. The bear could not stand it, but the animals were not finished.
The bull came charging into the cave with it's horns lowered, and circled behind the bear. Pushing from behind, the animals goaded the intruder out in the open. The bear flailed with its claws and met only the bull's horns. It tried to swipe the snake from its snout, but only succeeded in wounding itself. Finally, unable to stand it, the bear took to all fours and the bird snatched the snake away as the bear ran far from the forest to find a more inviting home. In this way, the four neighbors learned to work together, and they have been friends ever since.
Far from being wary of me like I had feared, I found that the full, honest confessions of the last two days seemed to make Belak more receptive toward me. He smiled when we approached, and beckoned me toward the seat next to him while Larryn and Greyna took the seats on the other side of the table.
"Sleep well?" He asked in a display of general good manners.
Larryn and Greyna murmured in affirmative. Belak gave my hand a gentle squeeze as he directed his next question toward me.
"Did you dream again last night?"
I had to laugh softly to myself; here I had been afraid ever since the dreams began of any of my friends finding out—and yet now that I had been honest, they treated it with the utmost sincerity.
"I did," I answered, struck with the oddity of this conversation, "but I don't understand it."
"What was it about?" Asked Larryn, as a barmaid brought us mugs of cider and plates of warm biscuits and jam.
I waited until the woman departed to answer.
"Well, for one thing, all four of us were in it," I began.
"Really?" Belak cut in, but I glanced at him to let him know that I was about to expound upon it.
"We were all standing in a field of some sort," I said, "and then we all turned into animals."
Larryn snorted so hard while in the very act of taking a drink that she almost spewed her drink across the table. "We what?" She could barely form the words as she choked on her cider.
"I wasn't any kind of fowl, was I?" Belak said as he chuckled.
"No," I answered, feeling considerably less regard from my friends due to the bizarre nature of the dream. "Actually, Belak changed into a bull—"
"Not a bad idea," Belak remarked, flexing with a modicum of modesty.
I glanced across at the girls. "Larryn was a hare, and Greyna turned into a snake." I shuddered at the recollection. Watching a human being turn into a legless, slithering thing definitely qualified as one of the most disturbing sights I had experienced thus far.
"A snake?" Greyna grimaced. "That's not quite fair, if you ask me. A hare for Larryn is right enough, because she is so fast—but the snakes in all the stories are always devious!" She studied me with a wounded expression. "You don't think I am devious, do you?"
“Of course not,” I answered quickly. “And in the dream, the snake was actually a friend of the other animals—at least, from what I could tell.” Already the images were blurring over in my mind.
“So what does it mean?” Larryn asked. Belak glanced at her, and she defended herself, “What? All her dreams mean something. Are we going to be enchanted at some point today, do you think?”
“Goodness, I hope not!” I cried. “I don’t know what it means.”
“At any rate,” Belak stretched his arms and finished the last bite of breakfast. “We don’t have any reason to stay here in town, so we really ought to be moving down the road further if we want to reach the end before the first snowfall.”
Snow? I certainly hoped we would not be traveling as long as that! We paid our bill to the innkeeper and found the road that would take us further toward Gramble. We had been walking for several minutes before Belak finally said, “Say, Shereya—you never told us what animal you turned into in your dream.”
“Yes,” Larryn spoke up, matching my stride on the other side. “What were you? A doe? No wait, I know: a—“
“Thank you, but I can answer for myself!” I said, before Larryn could tease me with another poorly-informed guess. “I turned into a songbird.” The fact remained: I did not understand the dream. Why those animals? I could understand Larryn as a hare, she was so flighty, and Belak as a strong bull—but what of the bird and the snake? And what circumstances would occasion our having to outsmart the bear that our animal counterparts had battled?
Also from "Inkweaver":
-The Legend of The Wordspinners
-The Last Inkweaver
-What Are You Afraid Of?
-In The Inkweaver's Cottage
-The Unfinished Tapestry
-Tales of the Inkweaver: "The Three Daughters"
-In The House Of The Talesmith
-"The Invisible Gift" and "Forward Unto Danger"
-Escape From Blackrope
-The Rise and Fall of Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham
-The Morning After
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Four Travellers"
-In the Court of Count Bergen
-"The Four Travellers" Part 2
-Do You See What I See?
-Welcome to Criansa
-A Nice Cup of (Honest) Tea
-Interpreting The Stone
-Tark Trades People
-"Plotting" and "Meet Tark's Crew"
-Storytime for Tark
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Stone in The Road"