Once upon a time, in the Land of Far Away, there was a young raify called Griff.
Now, raifies, as I am sure you know, are shy folk who never usually leave their own shaded nooks and who are eager to stay away from the fearsome rush and bustle of the Great Wide World. But Griff was a special raify, because he was insane.
Why was Griff insane, you ask? Because he was cursed with curiosity, and this filled him with the desire to go out into the Great Wide World.
That was what his Fother and Mather whispered to each other when they thought nobody was listening. “What should we do about Griff?” they asked each other, these poor folk, weeping on each other’s shoulders. And they would think and think, but in the end they would come up with the same answer. “We can do nothing about him. Nothing.”
Fortunately for Griff’s parents, they did have his brithers and sosters to spend their time on, and nobody tried to actually stop him from doing as he pleased. Of course raifies never do that anyway. But they were dreadfully unhappy when the neighbours talked behind their hands about Griff, and made a point to ask about him – very politely – whenever they visited.
“Please, Griff,” his Mather said one day, “give up this silly idea of seeing the world.”
“It’s not a silly idea,” Griff replied. “Don’t worry, Mather dear, I’ll be all right.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” his Mather muttered, but under her breath, so he couldn’t hear.
Not that Griff would have cared what she’d said anyway.
So one day Griff sat astride his favourite dragonbligh, Dangjo, and waved goodbye to his Mather and his Fother, to his brithers and sosters. “Goodbye, goodbye,” he called. “I’m off to see the Great Wide World.” And off he went.
Now, as you must surely know, the Land of Far Away is a very long way away from everywhere else, and Griff and Dangjo flew on and on and on, until both were very tired, and then they came to the Forest of Everywhen. Now, you must know that the Forest of Everywhen is not a nice place. It’s filled with things nobody should ever meet, with Grollops and Zackaloopies, with Singaronees and even a few Hambagoroos, whom not even a Fontiloona would want to meet, let alone a lone young raify and a dragonbligh.
“This is a dangerous place,” Griff said. “We should move along as quickly as possible.”
“I can’t fly much further,” Dangjo replied, flapping all six of her gauzy wings with increasing slowness. “I need to rest a while.”
“But where can we rest?’ Griff asked.
Just then, in the distance, they saw, rearing above the Forest of Everywhen, the great Tree of Everything, so huge that its top ripped a hole in the sky and vanished into the world beyond. “Let’s go to that tree,” Griff said. “I’m sure we can rest there safely.”
Now of course this was a foolish move on his part, because the Tree of Everything is in the centre of the Forest of Everywhen, and all its many, many dangers are most dangerous around the Tree. But Griff was only a young raify, and he did not know any of that.
Now, sitting on the lower branches of the Tree of Everywhen, watching Griff and Dangjo fly towards him, there was a snackadoodle called Ghoopti. And if Ghoopti was astonished to see a raify in the heart of the Forest of Everything, he was also already wondering how he could use that to his own advantage.
Yes, sad to say, Ghoopti was not a nice snackadoodle. Few snackadoodles are. Remember that you can always trust a boglin, and most of the time a pamvire will keep its word, and even an ocr can be relied on more often than not – but you can never, ever, for any reason, trust a snackadoodle. But of course Griff did not know this.
So when Dangjo landed on the tree and Griff stepped off her back, he wasn’t the least bit suspicious when Ghoopti sidled up to him, smiling ingratiatingly. And snackadoodles, of course, can look very trustworthy if they want, especially one like Ghoopti, who had short grey fur and eyes like blue faceted sapphires.
“Well, well,” Ghoopti whistled. “A raify, I see. And what are you doing so far from home, young sir?”
“I’ve come to see the Great Wide World,” Griff said.
“Good, good,” the snackadoodle whistled. “That’s excellent. But you know what you should really do? You should marry a princess.”
“I don’t want to marry a princess,” Griff responded, surprised. “I want to see the Great Wide World.”
“You can do that, do that,” Ghoopti readily agreed. “But you should also marry a princess. A fine raify like you really needs to marry a princess.”
“I don’t even know any princesses,” Griff said. “I’ve never seen a princess.”
“Oh, you’re in luck,” Ghoopti whistled. “I’m the king of this tree, and I have a daughter. So she’s a princess.” Now this was a really shocking lie, since, of course, Ghoopti was not the king of anything and so his daughter was not a princess. But Griff had no way of knowing it. “Come with me and we’ll go meet her.”
“Your mount can wait here,” Ghoopti waved a paw dismissively. “It will be fine.”
“If I were you, I wouldn’t go with him, Griff –“ Dangjo began, but I already told you how curious Griff was, didn’t I? He didn’t even look at the poor dragonbligh.
“That’s nice,” he said, as they walked along the branch, which was broader than the biggest highway in The Land of Far Away. “I’ve never really met a king before, either. Shouldn’t I call you Your Majesty, or something?”
“Well, yes,” Ghoopti acknowledged. “But I like you. I like you a lot. Also, if you’re going to marry a princess –“
“I’m not going to marry anyone,” Griff said.
“If you’re going to marry a princess,” Ghoopti continued, regardless, “you need to be a prince yourself. You know that just anyone can’t marry a princess.”
“But I’m not a prince either,” Griff said, with some relief. “So I won’t be able to marry –“
“I was going to say,” Ghoopti said firmly, “that I’m going to make you a prince.” He slapped Griff lightly on the shoulder with one of his paws. “There you are, I dubbed you a prince. Now you are one.”
“I,” Griff began, about to say he wasn’t sure about this at all. “I –“
“Here we are.” The snackadoodle whipped aside a bark curtain to reveal an entrance in the wood. It was quite a small entrance really, but to Griff, who had only seen the tiny doorways of his raify home, it seemed awfully grand, more than big enough for a palace. Why, he didn’t even have to bend double to pass through it.
“What a lovely door,” he couldn’t help saying.
“Ah, it’s only a back entrance, prince,” Ghoopti said. “The other one, which you’ll see later, is much grander. Now come along in and meet my daughter.” Without giving Griff a chance to hesitate again, he put a hand on the raify’s back and gave a hard shove. Poor Griff, losing his balance, stumbled in and fell flat on his face.
“Ouch,” he said, rubbing some of his limbs with the others. “That hurt.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Ghoopti said, not sounding sorry at all. He made as though to help Griff up, but let the young raify get to his feet by himself. “But, really, now that you’re a prince, you ought to be careful about these things, you know.”
“Why?” Griff asked, confused. “What does being a prince have to do with falling...”
“Oh, well, people are always trying to overthrow princes,” Ghoopti whistled carelessly, “and when you’re overthrown you fall down, of course. So you’d better be careful not to fall.” He led the way through winding passages in the wood until they came to a large hollow in the depths of the trunk. “Here’s one of my palaces,” he announced. “And,” he added, “here’s my daughter, Rikti.”
Griff hadn’t been looking earlier, or he might have noticed her. But then he might not have known what he was looking at, because, as you know, female snackadoodles look like nothing on earth. There literally are no words to describe them.
“Father,” Rikti hissed, “who is this?”
Griff barely heard her. He was still trying to understand what to make of her...and those...and that other thing...and failing. He did, however, remember to bow, because that’s how he’d heard one should greet a princess.
Now, there is one thing you should never do to a female snackadoodle. Remember this always. You can insult her to her...whatever the word for that is. You can even thumb your nose at her, or stamp on the floor and flounce away dramatically. But you should never ever bow to her. When someone bows to them, female snackadoodles react completely by instinct.
...so when Griff regained consciousness, sometime later, it was to find that he couldn’t move at all. He was bound by so many sticky threads that he could barely even breathe. With great difficulty he managed to open some of his eyes, whereupon he discovered Ghoopti looking down at him sadly.
“Now you’ve torn it,” the snackadoodle said. “What did you go and have to bow to her for? Didn’t your parents teach you anything?”
“Mmmf ghmff nmmff,” Griff said.
“Yes, well,” Ghoopti whistled, “it’s true enough that one should bow to a princess...if one isn’t royalty. But you’re a prince now. I made you one. So all you had to do was shake her, um...”
“Rmmff umff kmff,” Griff protested.
“Well, yes, I’ll grant you that,” Ghoopti agreed. “I’m no happier about the situation than you, because I didn’t want you to end up like this. I was thinking of perhaps holding you to ransom, or, if that didn’t work, maybe I’d sell you to the humans. But that’s not going to happen now.”
“Grmfff?” Griff enquired.
“Because my daughter is going to eat you, of course,” Ghoopti said. “Once you’re all parcelled up like this, she can’t help herself, you know. She’s on a diet – doctor’s orders – or she’d have eaten you already.” He looked around to make sure Rikti wasn’t within earshot, and leaned over. “She eats a bit too much,” he confided. “I’m always telling her she needs to lose weight. But she wouldn’t listen to me. Well, maybe the doctor...”
“Srmff!” Griff said with a mighty effort.
“What do you want me to do about it?” Ghoopti said petulantly. “It’s not my fault you had to go and bow to her. I don’t want you to get eaten, that’s true, because you’re going to ruin my daughter’s diet and probably give her an upset...uh...as well – which will mean even bigger doctor’s bills. But what can I do?”
“Smff bgmff hrmff,” Griff urged.
“No, I can’t cut you free,” Ghoopti said. “What do you suppose I have, claws or something? And I have no intention of getting all those sticky threads on me. The outer layer’s bad enough, and it’d dried.”
“Pmff,” Griff said sadly.
“You know what, though,” the snackadoodle said, “I’m not too keen on her eating you, as I said. But I can’t stop her once she’s started on you. She’s going to be back soon from her exercise session – and she’s going to be hungry.”
Griff would have winced if he could have moved, but he couldn’t, so he merely said “Frff.”
“So this is what I’m going to do,” Ghoopti told him. “I’ll roll you out of here on to the branch and throw you off. What happens to you after that isn’t my problem.”
“Gmff!” Griff protested.
“Oh, don’t look like that,” Ghoopti snapped. “I’m going to save you from being eaten by her, and let me tell you, being eaten by a snackadoodle isn’t a pleasant experience. Also, just think of how I’m going to snag my fur on the threads, even the dried ones on the top. I’d better do it fast, before she gets back.”
Without waiting to listen to any more protests from Griff, he began rolling the bundled-up raify up through the passage to the bark-curtained door. Luck was with the snackadoodle, and he managed to reach the branch before Rikti showed up.
“You’re lucky, you know,” he said, pausing to wipe the sweat from his fur. “At least you won’t have to listen to the ruckus when my daughter gets back and finds you’ve vanished. She does love her food.” He rolled Griff to the edge of the branch, and wedged a foot under the edge of the bundle. “Well, bye, then.”
Griff managed a yawp as he fell. Then he managed another yawp as he fell some more, and still another when he kept on falling. And after he fell some more, he was wondering whether he should yawp once again when he clunked on something and rolled to a stop.
He wasn’t on the ground. In fact he wasn’t even halfway down the tree. He had merely landed on another branch.
He didn’t lie there long when there was a snuffling and grunting near him...
Now, if you are ever in the Forest of Everywhen, remember this: that there is only one animal there which eats everything, and that is the Tree Nangkaroo. There is, quite literally, nothing it won’t try, and even if it can’t actually eat it, it’ll chew it to splinters and then spit it out. And one of these Tree Nangkaroos had just climbed up from the lower branches, and it was feeling hungry...
I won’t disgust you with the details of what happened the next several minutes. But the Tree Nangkaroo had just chewed off all the threads Rikti had spun, and was thinking of starting on Griff, when there was a great whirring of wings...
Dangjo had waited, and waited, and waited for Griff, and then she had waited some more. Then she had begun to get hungry. And as she waited even longer, she’d got even more hungry. And finally she couldn’t bear it any longer, and began flapping her way down the tree looking for something to eat...
A Tree Nangkaroo may be the most voracious animal in the world, but it isn’t exactly used to being confronted by a dragonbligh. I mean, would you? With a yelp of terror, the Nangkaroo jumped back from Griff and fled so suddenly down the tree that it almost fell, and only saved itself by biting a branch – which fortunately didn’t prove edible, or it would have eaten it and fallen after all.
By then, though, Dangjo was helping Griff to his Nangkaroo-saliva-slathered feet. “Are you all right?” she asked, even though she could see for herself that he wasn’t. Dragonblighs can be stupid sometimes.
“Oog broog,” Griff said, as he tried to wipe his face. “Groogh!”
“Are you going to go home now?” Dangjo asked later, as they flew away from the Tree. “Back to your Mather, Fother, brithers and sosters? It’s going to be safer, right?”
“Not on your life!” Griff retorted. “Fly on!”
Well, I did tell you that he was cursed with curiosity. And so they flew on to many more adventures.
But, as they say, that is another story.
But, as they say, that is another story.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2015