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February 17, 2016
A time when life in the Earth Kingdom, as with everywhere else, begins off anew. The skies above the Earth Kingdom forest were bright blue, clear, and kind for the spring day. The forest itself was lush and green; tall trees which stood for hundreds of years stood nice and tall, as the animals scurrying amongst the forest floor and canopy were enjoying the spring bounty. Different sorts of animals congregated here, from the small bird, to the grazing wild boar. With such a thriving world, it's no surprise that new life began to come on around. Within one area of the forest, one of the locals, in particular a young Badger Fox, was off on a morning hunt, steadily walking along the soil just to keep as quiet as he could, just as he always had for the longest time. With his black and white coat working off the morning shadows of the trees, he was suited for his hunting practice. While the birds were chirping among the trees, a distinct sound of one in distress signified a successful hunt for the Badger Fox. A fair breakfast in any case.
Still, just before the little predator could even begin his meal, the back and white hunter had some company awaiting within the trees; a small little Raccoon Ferret climbing down from the trees after hearing the fresh kill. Basically a raccoon with a weasel anatomy, the little guy went right up to the Badger Fox with little provocation on either side.
"A nice morning for breakfast, eh Zicco?"
"Oh, hey Tazi. How are you?"
"Doing fine - which is more than could be said for some other animals of this wood."
Zicco could only sigh.
"How many now?" Zicco asked, waiting for an answer as he started eating his latest catch. Tazi got onto his hind legs, scratching his neck as he thoughts for a bit.
"Eh, about half a dozen burrows, five tree holes, and ten -" Tazi was cut off by a distant sound of a falling tree. "... Make that six tree holes and eleven nests." The news was rough for Zicco to accept, as he got up and looked to where they heard the tree fall. It was happening so much, they no longer felt startled once a tree did fall. To think anywhere else, a fallen tree would raise a ton of alarm, but in Senlin, the activity has become too much of a norm now. Zicco began to pace a little bit, working his own mind on the matter.
"This is getting worse Tazi; for months, those humans kept pushing further into this place. I swear on Hei Bai's name, if this continues anymore, no one will have anywhere to go by the next spring thaw." As Zicco was talking, Tazi helping himself to the scraps left from Zicco's bird meal, gnawing on a wing bone.
"Eh don't be sobby; we're alright, those humans are too busy blasting each other to bits in that big war thingy to care about us anyway."
"This is not a joke. We've lost five acres of forest in just two months, and that's not counting winter either. *sigh* come on, let's see who lost their home this time," Zicco decided, beginning to head off to the fallen tree.
"Can I finish breakfast first?" Tazi asked. Zicco simply nodded as the Raccoon weasel eagerly dug into the rest of the bird. Tazi will catch up later, he was sure.
Further down from where Zicco was, the tree in question was a tall, fully mature oak tree now gone. The humans involved in cutting down the tree had already been and gone with what wood they got, but the damage left from it was still evident by the time Zicco showed up. stray branches, scattered leaves and nuts, and flattened bushes from where the tree landed were pure signs of the fallen tree. As for the tree itself, all that was left was a large stump in the dirt. Zicco wasn't the only animal to show up and see what was going on; someone else was already there. He was a Tiger Badger (a orange badger with a large set of stripes and a cat tail), and like Zicco, he too came over to see who's home was also lost in the collapse. Sadly, among the area, shown a small nest with five shattered eggs. Nearby were a pair of sad peacock pigeons (basically smaller versions of their peacock namesake). Aside them was another animal; a Hedgehog Shrew to be exact.
"You here too, Zicco?"
"Yeah I am, Luo. Another family lost, huh?" Zicco asked. All the Tiger Badger did was nod, as they both looked over to the parental birds. The father, whom was more brightly colored than the female, looked over to them as he tried to comfort his wife, a wing around her as she sobbed.
"I'm sorry this happened to you," Luo said, trying to comfort her.
"I know you are, Luo. And I'm sorry too." The father looked to his wife. "There, there dear." As they were, Luo looked back to Zicco, who was sitting down by the nest at that point. Seeing the eggs shattered on the ground was just another reminder of their situation. Luo sat down next to him, the Badger Fox sighing at the sight.
"This isn't good Luo. So many times, families are either at risk or lost altogether. We'll all end up this way if this keeps up for much longer."
"I'll second that," added the Hedgehog Shrew nearby.
"True, true, but what're we going to do? If we try anything against the humans now ..." Luo couldn't bare to bring up anything. But, let's just say their loss will be far higher far quicker. The Hedgehog Shrew nearby soon went over, stopping alongside Luo.
"You don't have to remind me. But still, we can't just do nothing either," Zicco sighed.
"Uh, pardon me for interrupting. I believe this calls for a meeting, doesn't it?" He asked, front paw raised to get their attention, being much smaller himself.
"A meeting, Pumu? A bit of a drastic measure, ain't it?"
"No, Pumu's right. A meeting should be called for now. We can't take anymore of this," Zicco decided, looking down at what remained of the nest. Soon, the Badger Fox got up to his paws, as the Peacock Pigeons, Hedgehog Shrew, and Tiger Badger stood aside.
"Alright then look. If we work together on this, we might be able to get everyone in the wood together - something that's a must for this. Maybe somebody could come up with an answer to our predicament. Agreed?"
"Agreed, Zicco. What're we going to tell them?" the Peacock Pigeon wife asked, wiping off some tears from her eyes.
"That's easy; Tell everyone to meet at Hei Bai's shrine. At sunset. Should be enough time for all the animals to make it, eh?"
"Right!" They agreed.
"Good. Each one of you go and get the word out. The more that are aware, the better. I'll start off this way, meet you all there," Zicco decided, heading off on his way to get the word out. It was Luo's turn to instruct soon after that.
"Okay everyone, you heard him; let's go and spread the word shall we?" Luo decided. The others nodded in agreement, and with that they all spread off in different directions. If this meeting is to be successful, then they need everyone of the wood all ears.
Throughout the rest of the day, word of the meeting had spread around to all who lend their ears on what they had to say. Human activity had slowed down from the nearby town, so, that was fairly good to avoid any suspicions. To assure that they have their best chance at getting the word out, Luo, Pumu, and the Peacock Pigeons told those they got the info too to tell the others just to be sure every creature of the forest got the message and will arrive at the designated meeting place. Luo, Zicco, Tazi, and Pumu were already at the meeting place which was Hei Bai's statue as the sun started to set. Still, despite their efforts, the crowd of animals that did arrive wasn't everyone in the acres of Senlin wood. Apparently not everyone had agreed to come to the meeting despite the risks done to the wood.
At the statue, the area was opened around the area, making a ring out of a number of bear statues. One of these was on its hind legs, signifying the main statue of worship while smaller ones on four legs made out the perimeter of the prayer's platform. By the standing statue, Zicco and Luo were patiently waiting for the meeting to begin as more animals arrived and took their seat. The types of animals varied in shapes and sizes, though none of them were bigger than they were for the most part; either the same size or smaller. While plenty were hybridized animals, there were other more normal animals amongst the crowd gathering. Speaking of gathering, Pumu and Tazi helped the animals upon arrival get to their spots so they all had the best view of what's going on, like a set of ushers at a theatre if you will. The basic set up was smaller animals to the front and larger animals to the back or side, so none of the animals would have a hard time looking past the others animals depending on who. After about an hour of arrivals, the gathered creatures soon slowed to a halt, and it appeared everyone who accepted had made it. After counting it out, there was about twenty or so animals total, mainly consisting of families or those who had trouble with these humans beforehand - including the Peacock Pigeon mother and father.
"Now, are we all present?" Zicco asked. Before anyone of the animals could answer, a notable snort suddenly rang out from the forest, as one of the larger animals went right on through. Out of many of the residents of the Senlin Wood, he was the bulkiest one; a hog to be exact. Not a wild boar, looking more domesticated than most, with the main difference form a normal boar being his elongated snout and two sets of tusks.
"I'm not last, am I?" He asked, another snort coming out of his mouth.
"Someone has to be I suppose. Just have a seat, Gutah," Luo said. Gutah did so, and sat down over to the side. Soon afterwards, Luo looked on to the rest of the crowd and began the speech.
"Now listen everybody; I'm sure you're all aware by now of the human activity on Senlin Wood. Ever since they've appeared, life within our wood has steadily become more hazardous for every single one of us. Our homes, one by one, had been cut down for their own sanctuaries. And I don't need to remind some of you of the devastation that had made." Luo wasn't pointing out anyone on particular with that comment, but they knew who they were, and they knew what he was talking about. With trees cut down, burrows filled in, and nests getting destroyed numerous times, that can easily point to a number of animal families and individuals amongst the crowd.
"We've done our best to adapt, and live with the humans. But here I ask; is there anyway out from this dilemma? It seems too obvious that we can no longer live here without risk as of before. So, does anyone of you have any ideas?" Luo asked. It might not be the best exact reason to get everyone together, but it was the best idea to get a solution on what to do. After all, with so many animals together, one of them has to come up with something. At first there was some slight mumbling amongst each other. Soon, Zicco eventually looked over to the birds amongst the crowd.
"Konna? What about you and you birds? You get about a bit, don't you? Any ideas on where we can go?" Zicco asked. The birds didn't answer at first but eventually, one of the birds, a female Cat Owl (Konna), soon spoke up.
"Not necessarily, Zicco. Many of us don't venture out of Senlin all too often - not much need to anyway," Konna said.
"I see. Anyone else?"
"Let's just march in their pathetic village and drive them out! They're wrecking our home, why not wreck theirs?" Gutah suddenly announced, angry and ready to go. However, Konna already answered him before the others could.
"Don't be ridiculous, Gutah! Humans are a social species - they work together more than any of us do; if you attack even one human, the whole world will know about it and we'll all be wiped out in no time at all!" Konna informed. While not exactly friendly in tone, it was enough to get the point across to the otherwise annoyed hog. If any animal were to attack a human, and the word got out, the whole species will be in trouble out of the human desire for protection.
"Your heart's in the right place, but not all of the animals are as versatile as you are. It would be a loosing battle even if we do try," Luo added in. Gutah only gave a snort as the other animals tried to think on what to do. They couldn't fight the humans, but they can't stay here either.
The group of animals at the meeting were cut short upon hearing the warning. Looking up in the sky, a flock of birds was high-tailing it out of the forest, their calls echoing in the animal's ears.
"What's going on?" Luo wondered. Amongst the crowd, Tazi sniffed the air, catching a peculiar smell in the air. The smell was a bit odd to get, nothing normal or familiar. But the smell was unmistakable. Suddenly worried, Tazi began running over back to Zicco as some of the other animals sniffed the air as well. By the time Tazi told Zicco what's what, those who caught the scent already were aware of what was going on. In the evening sunlight, the sight of smoke could be seen past the trees ...
"Fire!" Gudath yelled. Everyone soon noticed the oncoming smoke from further off, more birds flying off and away. Soon, as more of the animals began to panic, there was nothing else for it; the meeting was cut short, and everyone ran off.
As for where they went, the animals instincts drove them back to their homes or to wherever was safe from the oncoming blaze. How did it start was an enigma, but none of the animals were questioning the oncoming inferno. For the fire itself, the effect it was doing was horrifying for everyone; trees caught ablaze as it scattered everywhere. Multiple creatures ran helter skelter every which way, trying to avoid the deadly inferno creeping through the Senlin forest. All over, the cries of all sorts of animals echoed through the sounds of burning wood and falling trees. Zicco, like everyone else, was trying to find a safe spot to avoid the deadly wildfire, but unlike some who were just running in pure panic, he kept his mind focused. As he ran, he saw other animals either running down from the trees or reaching their burrows underground, though Zicco didn't bother to stop. The Badger Fox ran as fast as his four paws could carry him, trying to avoid falling trees and oncoming fire as much as he could.
Probably the easiest off were the birds of Senlin; Konna and the other birds simply flew away from the fire. Though from where they were, they had a full view of the situation. The fire itself was far larger than they anticipated, a huge chunk of the forest already on fire closest to the nearby river. However, Konna in particular also noticed that the fire affected more than just the forest, as a few areas of the human settlement were also under siege. She could make out humans with their own children running for their own lives, just as every other animal was doing.
In the forest, the only hope for the animals was hide in their homes, and hope for the best. Zicco soon did the same; making to his own burrow just nearby an older oak tree, the Badger Fox wasted no time to rush inside. His burrow was rather deep, perfect for hiding in, and Zicco went right to the deepest his burrow will go. The smell of smoke was still overwhelming inside the burrow, and all Zicco could do was cover his snout with his own tail as the best defense against the smoke; his only defense. While the fire itself couldn't get to him, he was still exposed to the sounds of other animals perishing in the blaze, leaving him to wonder if anyone he knew was still alive or died in the flames. In fact, just outside the burrow, he could see shadows of other animals running by, flickering off the fiery embers. All Zicco could do was hunker down, and wait...
As dawn of the next day began to approach. The sounds of the embers had ceased, along with the sickening smoke and fire, however nobody dared leave the safety of their homes just yet. No birds were chirping, no animal made any sound...
After a good while, first signs of any survivors began to come out. From a tiny hole in the ground, a small Meadow Vole poked her head out to see what had become of the wood. She was joined by her mate, who looked with a similar sign of worry. What they saw was a new world of complete barren; no trees. No bushes. not even much grass. All they did see was the scars of the firestorm lay around them. The two white rodents began to come out and try to look for food somewhere, but the looks weren't good. All around, scorched trees and earth laid barren all over the place, with little food - if at all.
"Dear, oh dear," the female Vole thought aloud. Her mate thought he found some grass, but one small nudge with his nose crumbled it. Obviously not much was left. Scared, the two stayed together as they continued. For such small animals, being out in the open like this was a clear calling card for anyone wanting a free meal, so the two must be especially on alert.
"W-Where is everyone?" the male Vole shuttered out. A question probably on anybody else who had survived the fire...
One by one, little by little, other animals started to appear from the aftermath. The survivors were few, and far between. Different sorts, herbivore and carnivore of whatever was left, were left humbled by the damage that had been done. Further away, by the river, a hidden Gudath had just managed to keep himself safe. Gudath's hiding spot was covering himself in mud, and turned out that worked wonders; not a burn on him. Still, that didn't mean the damage didn't effect him, as food was no longer easy to get. Not only that, a large branch had fallen on his back during the whole thing, though luckily it wasn't enough to burn his back. After getting the branch off of him, the Gharial Hog began looking around, and bellowing a loud squeal. Still, his calls were left unanswered ... Well, at first. Soon, he heard a strange croak noise, which sounded similar to his squealing nearby. Thinking it was another hog, Gudath went over and heard the croaking under a fallen tree. The tree wasn't too big, so getting the thing moving wasn't very hard to do for the Gharial Hog. However, the croaks were actually not from a hog at all, but instead one of the Squirrel Toads. While slightly burned, the Toad was alright aside from that.
"Thank you," he croaked out, needing a bit before he began moving to the river. Considering all the heat he had to endure, the water was a must. In a few hops, the Squirrel Toad went right into the water, which was like heaven to say the least of how it felt after nearly being burned to death.
"AH~ much better," the Toad sighed.
Farther away, Zicco's burrow was in a worse state; one of the larger trees has almost covered the hole, and Zicco had no choice but to dig himself out. Digging was something he was fairly good at though, so making the hole just big enough for him to get himself out only took a few minutes. However, that only gave him the view of the situation just outside in the twilight. Such a state to end up in, indeed. He felt the dried up earth and ash just under his paws, which didn't help the situation either. He went up on the same tree to get a better view of the landscape. Nearby, the hint of death was all around him; seeing scorched meat of dead animals that had perished in the flames. As he kept looking ...
"You whoooo! You whooo! Zicco!"
Zicco looked up and soon saw that Konna had flown back after the fire had ceased. The Owl Cat flew down, and landed on a burnt log near him. She was also joined by another flying mammal; a Bird-winged Bat.
"See you're alright. Did you see anyone else while you flew?"
"That's correct; a pair of Meadow Voles, a family of Kiwi Chickens, a pair of Turtle Ducks, and a lone Quilled Chameleon," Konna explained.
"You didn't eat any of them, did you?" Zicco asked. Normally that wouldn't bother him, but considering what they'd just gone through, desperate times call for cooperation, even for instinctive boundaries.
"Don't see why that's needed with so much scorched meat present."
"And the other birds?"
"Gone completely; most of them didn't want to stick around," Konna scoffed.
"Oh. Look; can you tell whoever survived to meet back at the shrine please? I think we all know what happens now," Zicco asked kindly. Understanding, Konna and the Bird Bat took off to get whoever was left. All Zicco did was going off back to the shrine again.
After a long while, the sun was high in the sky by the time Konna and the Bird Bat gotten whoever was left together. To Zicco, it was a hard hit by fate, but for whoever was left, it would be a perk regardless of how much.
Amongst the crowd now that had gathered up were; Tazi, Luo, Pumu and his mate, the Turtle Ducks, the Kiwi Chickens, the Squirrel Toad, Gudath with the Quilled Chameleon riding him, the Peacock Pigeons, the Meadow Voles, a set of Jackalopes, a small Sugar Glider, and a pair of Snake Weasels.
Rather sad with the large crowd turned up so little, but, it was the best he could get really. So, with a sigh, he looked to everyone there.
"Well, it seems obvious to everyone here ... We have no other alternative. It appears we all have to find a new home to live."
However, despite the circumstances, a male Jackalope went forward.
"Wait a minute you lot! Are you suggesting, that we travel for a new home together?!"
"That's what I'm getting to."
"You mean, herbivores like myself, the mice, chickens and ducks, alongside you carnivores?! You'd be setting us up for dinner, you!" The Jackalope accused. Though, Zicco can understand the doubts on the idea; herbivore alongside carnivore would only result in one outcome most of the time, and the fact multiple amounts are being put together makes some complications all the more noticeable. After glancing to the others around the place, it was actually Konna who went forward.
"A problematic situation, I'm sure of you. But, in this kind of circumstance, I do believe the best cause of action would be the reintroduction of our Senlin Oath."
"Senlin Oath? And what's that when it's atone?" The Jackalope asked. A number of the animals, including Zicco, knew of the Oath, yet not every animal was aware. Luo was one of the knowledgeable ones amongst the group on the matter.
"It's a promise towards the animals of Senlin Wood. Established to us all by Hei Bai himself. The promise states that all animals shall stick together, and protect one another from the perils of the world. In this case, we need all the protection we can get," Luo noted, looking around at the barren landscape. Soon, Luo turned to the other animals.
"Now, if you all please raise your right paw. And repeat after me. I, name of animal."
The animals repeated with their respected animal name.
"To solemnly swear."
"To Solemnly swear," repeated the crowd.
"Not to harm, or otherwise consume."
"Not to harm, or otherwise consume," the crowd followed, though not all were as pure on it as others.
"While on route to our new home. With this Oath, we all promise to look out for one another."
"Good job, Luo. Now, I know this is sudden, but, we're going now."
"Right now?" one of the animals said.
"There's no reason to stay here any longer. Come on everybody, and stick together," Zicco instructed. They hadn't decided on leaders yet, but, the other animals listened to him and started moving off. The conclusion was quick, but for sure, and with the Oath to forbid any sort of trouble, they were all sure that their trip to their new home would be a more pleasant one.
For the collective works of the author, go here.