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The Cerberus (youngsters:fairy tales, 3283 words)
Author: Ian HobsonAdded: Jan 24 2007Views/Reads: 5013/1537Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The porcupine's name was Echinops and he was getting old and rather deaf; too deaf to hear the warnings of the magpie that had flown overhead and squawked, 'Don't go into the woods today. There's danger!'
 



The Cerberus (Another tale from Astrantia) 

© 2006 Ian G. Hobson 

Ever heard of a cerberus?  A nasty creature a cerberus; though it's
nothing more than a dog really; a hound with four legs and a tail, just 
like any other hound - except for its three heads of course.  Oh yes, 
they have three nasty snarling heads, three pairs of ears to hear you 
coming, three noses to sniff you out, three pairs of eyes to see you 
with, and three sets of very sharp teeth that could bite off your head 
and each of your arms in one go.  Not the sort of animal you would want 
to meet on a dark night, or even on a sunny day come to that.  But 
don't worry; there are very few of them around, even in Astrantia. 

*** 

The boy was used to living wild, sleeping under the stars, foraging for
food, even hunting and trapping.  He was tall for his age, though he 
didn't know it, as he had little or no idea of how old he was, having 
been stolen away from his family at an early age by a baboon who had 
lost her baby.  Eventually the boy had been found by Dictamnus, a 
trapper and hunter, who had named him Dryas and taken him as his own 
but treated him cruelly, making him fetch and carry and beating him if 
he tried to run away. 

But eventually Dryas was able to run away and to be free of the hunter
and his cruelty; free to live his own life, and to make his own 
decisions.  For a little while he worked for a farmer, helping to plant 
seeds in the fields and to scare away the crows and even to milk the 
cows, and in return he had been given food and a place to sleep at 
night.  But soon he had become bored and returned to his old ways: 
sleeping in the woods, fishing in the rivers and the streams, stealing 
the eggs from the nests of wild geese, and setting snares for rabbits.  
The snares were made of strong twine attached to a wooden stake that 
was hammered firmly into the ground, the twine forming a circular loop 
that would tighten around a rabbit's neck if one happened to run into 
it.  Though one day Dryas snared something a bit bigger than a rabbit; 
something he had not bargained for: a porcupine. 

The porcupine's name was Echinops and he was getting old and rather
deaf; too deaf to hear the warnings of the magpie that had flown 
overhead and squawked, 'Don't go into the woods today.  There's 
danger!'  And so poor old Echinops had entered the woods, stepped 
straight into one of the snares and immediately become entangled; and 
no matter how hard he tried, he could not free himself.  Fortunately 
his friend Callistephus happened by. 

'Hello, Echinops,' said Callistephus, in a loud voice.  He knew that
Echinops was a little deaf, and that he could be a prickly character at 
times, which was why Callistephus always tried to approach him from the 
front so as not to startle him.  And that was the right thing to do 
because, like all porcupines, Echinops had an armoury of very sharp 
spines that he might fire at anyone who caught him unawares. 

'Oh thank goodness it's you!' exclaimed Echinops as he recognised the
golden-haired boy.  'I seem to have got my leg caught in something and 
I can't get free.' 

Callistephus knelt down to take a look.  'It's a snare,' he said. 

'A bear?' replied Echinops.  'Surely there are no bears around here.' 

'Not a bear!' said Callistephus, in a louder voice.  'A snare!  A trap
to catch wild animals.  I wonder who could have set it.' 

'A trap!'  Echinops began to panic and started to struggle to be free
again, pulling on the snare and making it even tighter. 

'Keep still, Echinops,' said Callistephus as he tried to help.  'I can't
free you if you keep struggling.'  The snare had pulled very tight and 
Callistephus was not sure how to loosen it. 

'Get away from there!' said an unfriendly voice that neither
Callistephus nor Echinops recognised. 



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