06 October 2008

Zatanar - The Island

This is part a collection of stories I am writing about a secret Island that the narrator lived on as a child. the stories are being collected under the title Zatanar:
Back again, grandchild? What is that, you will have to speak up. My hearing is not all that it used to be. You want to know more about the Island itself? I guess I could share. Keep in mind though that much of this was not told to me until I was years older, and that much of this was collected from the animal storytellers years down the line.
The island itself was elusive, for from the beginning of time no map had ever been able to chart it. No one officially explored it. It did not even have a name.
It wasn’t that people had not want to explore it. It was just that the island was kin the middle of nowhere, a lonely stretch of ocean that few ships even ever came close to exploring. Very few people even had the slightest idea that there could ever be an island in that part of the world.
For the longest time only the animals of the sea knew it existed. The dolphins told their children and grandchildren how to swim to it. Whales gave birth near its shores. Fish swam playfully in its lagoons. A flock of seagulls came to roost in the luscious palm trees, having been blown off course by a fierce storm. They took a liking to the island and never left.
The island was also dangerous. A giant reef surrounded it, a reef that was larger then even that of the famous large continent. It was a formidable barrier to getting to the island. Only small boats were able to maneuver through the reef’s treacherous tentacles. Larger vessels were caught tight in their grasp.
The reef was also dangerous because it could not be seen easily. It was an invisible hand that protected the isle from intruders, for once a ship spotted the island, it was too late, for the hands of the reef would cling to and hold fast the hold of any ship. Only the strength of a rare ocean storm’s waves could free any such imprisoned craft, but it was at the cost of that craft.
Such was the case of the so-called circus ship. The vessel had embarked from the orient laden with treasures destined for the markets of Europe. It also carried a collection of animals intended as gifts for foreign rulers. Crudely fashioned cages lined one hold of the vessel. They were full with apes, cheetahs, bears, lizards, birds and other exotic creatures anticipated to become curiosities in the aristocratic societies of Europe.
A fierce hurricane blew three days after the ship had left port, blowing the old wooden craft back and forth on the water. It rattled the poor thing, throwing cage doors open and dumping animals out as the waves tossed the ship about.
The crew was too busy trying to save the ship to notice that the animals had been released from their cages. It was not until the ship had run aground upon the reef that one of the ship’s crewmen had sounded the alarm.
The crew recoiled in terror as first the bears, and then the cheetahs and apes emerged onto the deck from the hold. The men went for their firearms, but in their haste they forgot to load them. Within minutes a majority of the crew had been killed. Soon, all that remained of human life aboard the ship were the captain and his cabin boy.
The captain was a sorcerer of sorts. He had the ability to change his form, though only the cabin boy knew of his ability. He stared at the animals from the door of his cabin, watching them as they feasted on the remains of his crew.
One of the bears turned towards the captain and stood on its hind legs. It looked at him with menace in its eyes.
Animal friends!” the bear growled. “We have missed not one, but two of the humans that have so woefully oppressed us. Let us kill them and be free of our imprisonment.”
The animagus took his place in front of the boy, intent on protecting him, for he could understand every word the animals spoke.
The young ape, which had already established itself as the spoken leader of the small band of apes that had been captured, could sense the power of the captain. It drew back, slightly afraid of the powers of the man, but in awe as well.
The cheetah female growled. “No one touch this man, for he has shown me kindness. I had injured my paw, which had led to my capture. When I was brought on board this ship, he saw my injury and cared for it himself. It was as if he felt my pain.”
Other animals voiced their own opinions as to why the captain should be spared. Only the alligators were allied with the bear in their opposition, but fearing the wrath of the apes and cheetahs, they backed down. The bear had no choice but to concede and spare the captain’s life.
At least let me kill the young one,” he roared. He took a step closer to the boy.
At once there was a ferocious growl. The man doubled over and landed on all fours, his body changing rapidly from human to another form. Within a few seconds the man no longer stood in front of the boy, but a brutal, muscular tiger. He positioned himself in front of the bear and let out another fierce growl.
Lay one claw on the boy and you will pay with your life.”
The ape fell to the ground in revered fear. “Lord Shinglesh,” it whispered.
The Tiger Lord stood before them.
The other apes and the cheetahs followed his lead, as did many of the other animals. Only the bear remained standing, though it had lowered itself back down onto all fours. It glared at the tiger as it backed away, trying to remain ever defiant, even though it was fearful for its own life.
Lord Shinglesh crouched down and allowed the boy to mount his back. With one leap he soared over the side of the ship and landed in the water with a graceful splash.
Upon touching the water, the boy himself began to morph. His feet fused together in a single powerful limb. His hands and arms became sleek and efficient for swimming in the water. His body grew in size until it was as large, if not larger, then that of the tiger. He took a great breath and then submerged completely into the water, finalizing his transformation into the great dolphin king Opsindino.
The ape looked at the bear. “You would have killed a lord!” he shouted.
The bear glared at him and turned, walking away from the side of the deck, where the animals stood mesmerized as they watched the lords swim away. The tiger swam to the deserted isle whilst the dolphin swam to join his kin in the lagoon.
After both had disappeared from the animals’ line of sight, the ape organized them into a rescue party and proceeded to lead them off of the ship, for it was beginning to creak and shift as if it were about to fall apart. Those that could not swim or fly away were loaded onto the backs of those who could and carried to shore. For the extent of the rescue operation, it appeared that the animals could work together in harmony.
The spirit didn’t last long, however. Once they were all safely on land, the animals scattered. The smaller ones ran in fear of their lives. Some of the larger ones smacked their lips in anticipation of a snack after their swim and went chasing after them. Only the cheetahs and the apes remained on the beach once the majority of the circus ship spread out. They stood on the beach, watching the waves pull the ship off the reef and into its watery grave.
Once it disappeared, the cheetah female turned and bowed low to the young ape.
You are very wise for one so young,” she said.
The ape bowed in return. “Thank you, dear friend, but I am not so wise. I have merely paid attention to the elders of my clan.”
The cheetah smiled. “Even still, you are wise, for you have chosen to listen to them. Because of you, we have recognized a lord of the land and a lord of the sea. Because of you, we all have survived the great wreck. I am honored to be in your presence.”
With that she bowed again and offered her friendship.
Now normally cheetahs and apes would not be friends, but rather mortal enemies. But on that mysterious island, they not only became allies, but fast friends who would eventually be willing to die for each other.
It is lunchtime now, child. Let me eat and gain a bit of my strength back, and then I shall continue to tell you the story of how the clans became established.

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