It’s storytime, everybody! Usually I don’t post on Saturdays, but since this treat was finally finished, I just had to share it today.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Whiskers from Westerdelle but would like to know what those weird words are all about, it is a story that I’ve been sharing bit by bit on Thoughts of a Learner for the past four weeks (with one interruption). It’s a family-friendly fantasy about a creature called a Knop named Bye-Bye Buttons. Please refer to the following other posts if you’d like to to catch up with what’s been happening!
Finished? Alright! Here is Chapter Three, part one.
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Chapter 3 ~ Exceptionally Shrewd
The recorded birth of Naguga Moon, the three-hundred eighty-fourth Knop to be added to the community, had happened but less than three weeks ago. Immediately after hearing a report that such a helpless knopling had been lost, the room fell completely still.
Emberus’ eyes blazed with fury and his hair stood up on end. The island itself might as well have had committed a murder. The question was not whether or not the knopling was dead. The question was how had she and her mother become separated to begin with. “Explain that, please,” the Knop chief at last said stiffly.
Naguga Moon’s mother, whose name was Orangie, stared at the treehouse floor. She tried her best to stifle some tears. At last she said, “Yes, sir.
“It was in the last quarter of this afternoon. I was going just a little north from here to collect some comecome nuts. Without my mate,” she added, swallowing. “He was teaching our other children how to use telekinesis. It wasn’t his fault.”
“He had actually told me not to go, but I’d heard that the quota of nuts hadn’t been met, and so I went anyway. Without telling him.” Orangie blinked guiltily. “Naguga, of course, went with me. We were alright for a while. We seemed to be in a safe and quiet place. I collected nuts and, as her mother, I never forced her to the ground for anything.
“The sun began to disappear, but we were surrounded by bright yellowcape flowers and so I didn’t think about heading home. I was also enjoying our time together very much, and since I could still see plenty of nuts everywhere, I didn’t go back. I also saw another Knop a little ways off, and he was heading even deeper into the jungle. I don’t know who of you that was, but seeing that assured me that my little knopling and I were safe,” she shuddered.
Something inside of Bye-Bye twinged.
“I heard an unexpected whining noise, and only then was I scared,” Orangie continued. “The underbrush suddenly exploded open and a whimpsnake had found me! It found us! I knew the thing to do–stare down at it and look as big and as fierce as possible–and so I did that. This snake actually didn’t hurt us, then, but stayed where it was and half-fell asleep. I couldn’t tie it into a knot like I was supposed to, though–I had the nuts to carry! But if I left the snake as it was, it would wake up and chase me. It would kill me and eat my poor Naguga too.”
The Knopf listened, almost more enthralled by the story than they were grieving.
“I was realizing all this while what a foolish decision I had made. I longed to be here, to be home up in the tallest and safest of trees, but if I moved then I would die. I then asked for the Appointer’s mercy. Suddenly, something else seized Naguga from me! The snake reared up its ugly head and screamed, and I screamed as well and dared to look up and see the thief for myself–a grank! A disgusting and vile and hideous grank was taking away my poor Naguga and disappearing up into its own terrible nest!”
“I guess the Appointer wasn’t merciful that time,” Bye-Bye commented, but not out loud of course. The other Knopf buzzed gravely among themselves. One of them cursed the grank.
“The snake chased the grank and left me behind in one piece,” finished Orangie, “and it’s your guess as well as mine as to which of those beasts ate my knopling. Now I’ve said it. Now you know why I am here and why Naguga Moon is not.”
Emberus quietly thanked her for telling the story.
The community let another moment pass for respectful silence. Then they resumed their song, and for Orangie’s sake, they sang the words “dear Naguga Moon, she was three-eighty-four” in a solemn and beautiful melody before carefully counting out the few knoplings left who had so far been unmentioned. No others were missing. But one Knop with hair as black as midnight and the saddest soft blue eyes, the father of Naguga, tentatively reached out his tentacles and rested them lightly around Orangie. Thus he spoke to his mate in the Knopf’s silent language of touch, expressing to her his great sorrow, anger, and empathy. Emberus would attend to them at the end of the meeting and tell them his opinion as to whether it was a good idea for them to have any more knoplings. He often had a say in such things. Their lives had been desolated forever.
Aprille’s saddened eyes were locked onto Bye-Bye Buttons. She knew of course that he was the one who had also been out late in the day, whom Orangie had seen.
Bye-Bye yawned. Whose fault was it, really, that Naguga was gone, but Orangie’s own? She had had that quota of nuts to be met on her conscience, after all. Maybe he instead should have thought about getting the nuts; yes, perhaps he should have; but he had been too busy doing much more important things: things like braving the Boof and uncovering a Firespring! Stuff like that. No, no, it wasn’t his fault; and perhaps it wasn’t even Orangie’s either. It was Emberus’ fault! Yes! That endless regulator and quota-maker had done it! He was why Naguga was dead!
“Why won’t he just leave us alone and let us each collect our own food?”
“I love my father, Bye-Bye,” Aprille’s heartbroken eyes stated. “You can’t blame him for this.”
“You’re way too innocent, Princess. You don’t know him.”
“Well, maybe I am, but why don’t you have a heart?! Poor Naguga! Poor Orangie!”
“I wasn’t born with one. You were. That makes all of the difference. What doesn’t make sense is that you turned out to have less of a mind.”
“You’re exceptionally shrewd, that’s why.”
“Oh, yes. I must be.”
Bye-Bye concluded the imaginary conversation with a satisfied grunt and closed his eyes. He curled in his tentacles, turned away, and started to snooze right where he was. The counting song was over and the Knopf were afterwards granted several minutes as always for visiting and eating pudding before they would be dismissed. Bye-Bye wasn’t hungry, and, if he had friends, then they were all on the other side of the room.
“Goodnight, Princess Aprille. Don’t hate me forever,” he whispered.
Chapter 3 is continued in my next post…