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The Grateful Fenvaok

This is a story of heroism and retribution. A young, aspiring ranger kills a
snake in order to save a nest of fenvaoks, thus disturbing the balance of nature. A companion snake then lures him into a situation where she wants not only to exact revenge for her mate's death but also to teach the ranger an unforgettable lesson about the circle of life…and death. At the very last moment, the ranger is saved by the young birds, repaying his naïve kindness with their own lives and restoring the way things were intended to be all along.

It was a long, long time ago. A bright young ranger lived in a small, remote village surrounded by mountains. After many years of training and study and much toil, he was finally ready to embark on a long journey which would bring him to the thriving town of Wehnimer's Landing where he would join his profession's guild. He was excited about this rite of passage, which he had worked so hard to attain. He walked for several days, from dawn till dusk. On his journey, he passed through numerous villages and hiked through the forests and climbed twisted snowy mountain passes. He was eager to reach the town as soon as possible, and he knew he was getting closer when he arrived at the coastal areas.

Knowing that he was within a day's march of his destination, he started out earlier than usual. After several hours of walking through scraggly, rocky paths and just as he was about to turn around a thick growth of bushes, he heard the agonizing crying sounds of a bird. "Caw! Caw! Caw!" Thinking that something tragic was happening to the bird, he ran toward the area. He stopped just below a tall modwir tree and looked up. The sound came from a fenvaok's nest on top of the tree. His instincts told him to investigate the situation closely. Slowly and stealthily he climbed the modwir. There he found a large snake ready to attack a fenvaok that was guarding chicks in her nest. Making use of his great archery skill, he swiftly took his bow and an arrow from the quiver on his back and aimed at the snake. The snake was hit and fell to the ground, lifeless. It all happened in a matter of moments.

The young man felt bit guilty at first, but soon, continued on his way, satisfied that he had done a good deed. After all, he had rescued the birds just in time from being swallowed by the snake. He kept on walking, without even realizing that it was getting dark rather quickly. Soon he found himself deep in the rocky coast with no village in sight. After it became completely dark, he could hardly see anything other than the moonless night sky. With exhaustion and hunger pressing down on him, he could hardly take another step. Suddenly he was a little anxious as he looked around on this unfamiliar terrain.

"Where shall I spend the night?" he thought wearily, remembering the snake he had slain earlier. He couldn't shake the feeling that he was being followed, watched. He looked around in the dark, hoping to find some type of shelter, when his eyes caught a faint lamp light quite a distance away. Mustering all his strength, he stumbled toward the light. Eventually he found himself in the middle of what seemed in the darkness an abandoned fishing village. As he got closer to the source of the light, he noticed that it came from a large, stately house with a well-tended façade. Who would have expected to find such a nice house in the midst of a ruined village?

"Hello! Is anybody home?" He pounded at the door, shouting with all his strength. "Hello, is anybody there?" After a while, he heard someone opening the door. It was a beautiful young woman with bright emerald eyes.

"It got dark on my way to Wehnimer's Landing", he said, almost out of breath. "I'm going there to join the ranger guild", he added. " Would you be kind enough to let me stay overnight?" he pleaded.

"Oh, of course. Step inside, please" answered the woman. "You must be very hungry and tired. I'll prepare something for you to eat." Soon she came back with a delicious meal for him. After eating his fill, the young traveler was overcome by exhaustion. Night was getting deeper. He fell sound asleep.

Sometime later that night the young man was awakened by the sudden feeling of being stifled and choked. He realized that he was being slowly strangled by a huge snake that was completely coiled around his body, staring at him with malevolent, emerald eyes.

"Help! Help!" he said painfully. He could hardly breathe.

The enormous snake just hissed, its hypnotic gaze studying him slowly. "No one is around here to save you" it seemed to be telling him. The young man knew immediately that the beautiful woman who had been his savior from the dangers of the night was in fact this very snake.

"Did you really think you could get out of my domain safely?" The snake hissed in his ear.

The ranger was petrified with fear, but managed to say: "I do not understand. What have I done?"

The snake stared at him impassively and hissed: "Think!"

Amidst his panic, the ranger began to think, uneasily remembering again the snake he had fatally shot earlier that day. He was sure that his captor was somehow related to it and that she had lured him into this house in order to exact revenge for its death. Things now became clear to the young man. "I am in deep trouble. There is little hope that I can get out of this situation alive."
He thought desperately.

The young man begged in a trembling voice. "I did not kill that other snake out of hatred, but I did so only out of pity for that fenvaok and her chicks." The reptilian eyes betrayed nothing, but the snake swayed its head back and forth, as if listening.

"I am now on my way to the Landing to take my place in the guild and to further train in the ways of rangers," he continued slowly. "I have worked toward this goal ever since I was a boy. Please, do not treat me as an enemy. If you spare my life, I will never forget your generosity. Please, have mercy on me."

The snake did not waver; instead, it constricted his body even harder. He was now gasping for each breath and his ribs ached. He pleaded once again with tears in his eyes.

"You are your own enemy"", the snake hissed, "Life and death are inexorably intertwined. How dare you interfere?"

The ranger's eyes lit with the sudden realization that the snake was right. He need not have intruded upon the snake and the birds. He had upset the balance of nature. Almost imperceptibly, he nodded.

Satisfied that the lesson had been learned, the snake hissed once more: "I will spare you, if you comply with my wishes."

"Listen carefully. Deep in these cliffs, there is an old abandoned temple. No one lives there now. In that temple, you will find a huge bell still hanging from the ceiling. If you toll that bell three times, I will let you go."

"That cannot be too difficult" gasped the ranger. "I will do as you ask."

"You are too eager to agree" came the loud hissing response. "You must ring the bell from here, from right where you are now. That is the only way you can save your young, naive life."

The young man silently pondered his impossible situation. "By no means would it be an easy task even to find the temple in this pitch-dark night, but toll the bell from here, a captive of this snake…it cannot be done." The young man resigned himself to his fate and closed his eyes and waited.

All was very quiet for a while. Then, suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of a bell tolling in the distance:

Ding.... Ding.... Ding...

Exactly three strokes of the bell resounded one by one through the night. No sooner did the snake hear the bell tolling than she transformed into an emerald-eyed dragon, leaving the young man free of her deathly embrace. Surrounded by thick smoke, the creature outstretched its leathery wings and with a thunderous roar, flew into the dark sky. At the same time, the illusion of the grand house disappeared and the ranger found himself inside an old, dilapidated hovel.

Everything happened so fast that the young man was in a daze. "What a strange happening! Who tolled the bell?" He asked himself.

Soon it was dawn. Still bewildered, but determined to discover what had occurred, he set out to find the abandoned temple. After a few hours of exploring in the cliffs, he found a half-ruined temple with its belfry still intact. Just below the ancient bell, there lay three blood-covered fenvaoks, dead, as they were meant to be the day before, with their beaks and heads smashed by the impact of bird against bronze.

The young ranger gazed at the scene for a few seconds, before turning around and starting back towards his destination, aware that the lesson of the previous night was learned best through one's own experience.

 

 

 



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