Hooter Hornbuckle and Barnabus
Hooter Hornebuckle, a well respected member of the forest community, had been offered the post of forest warden, a position which carried an enormous amount of prestige and, had been loath to refuse.
As the spring swept majestically into the forest clearing once more, Hooter. now in his ninth term of office was having some serious doubts about his decision.
Things were not going as smoothly as they should. The sudden disappearance of three of the forest folk’s children had badly shaken the community. Then there were those strange creatures; the Stoatlings, who had set up shop in Jeremiah’s old premises, on west side, coupled with the fact that; Alibi Bin Baz-ar’s beetle train had recently arrived; from those mysterious lands which lay far to the east.’ Were they somehow connected?
Hooter plans a midnight raid on the shop and in doing so unearths a vile plan of corruption and child trafficking .Three children are rescued, but before long others disappear and Hooter decides to enlist some very special help…
There was a time, somewhere between the passing of the dinosaurs and the coming of humanity, when a multitude of diverse and beautiful creatures roamed far and wide over our world.
Winter finally relinquished her freezing hold over the land and spring began her benign duties of awakening the flora and fauna, which had lain dormant throughout winter’s severe reign. Deep within the earth, small mammals, instinctively sensing the change, stirred restlessly within their burrows, then cautiously leaving the safety of their dens, they ventured outside into the welcoming warmth of the sunshine.
The birds, having fluffed out their feathers to stay warm, and daring to brave the freezing cold, had somehow survived; and nourished now by the sudden abundance of food, they filled the forest with their joyful melodies once more and began to look for mates. Meanwhile, a whole host of flowers, pressing relentlessly upwards through the earth and finally breaking through into the bright spring day, reached up into the clear blue sky and embraced the sun’s life-giving, warm caresses.
As all of these wonders unfolded before them, magnificent lofty trees swayed gracefully in the gentle spring breezes and nodded approvingly. Then, stretching their cramped and ancient limbs, they grew splendid leafy coats of emerald green.
The arthropods, or insects, some of which were minute, began their short lives, struggling urgently to escape the confines of the eggs to emerge as perfect tiny replicas of their parents. For others it would be a rebirth, the result of a complex series of metamorphoses, which would eventually lead to the emergence of fully formed adults.
These tiny organisms were a wonder to behold, employing diverse methods to move about: some crawled, others walked on multiple pairs of spindly legs, some simply hopped, and others even had the gift of flight!
‘She’ became aware of her existence a little after sunrise; that is to say, she supposed it was sunrise because, as the intensity of the light began to change outside her little world, the word ‘Sunrise’ had slipped into what was to become her conscious mind. Moreover, with only scant memories, indistinct fragments of a previous existence still lingering within her, how else would she have known?
Much later, when she awoke again, she sensed that her little world had become ‘Warmer’, though not unpleasantly so. In fact, she found it to be a welcome change after the long, dark period; it was, in fact, quite soothing. She hesitated for moment, realising that new words had stealthily crept into her consciousness once more, but she was no longer troubled by them, nor was she concerned by the slow, yet precisely measured changes that were gradually taking place within her, except that it made her feel drowsy, and so she slept once more.
Understandably, the local residents were gathered in the clearing for the occasion and, quite naturally, all of them wanted to be as close as possible to the Sacred Stone, to witness the forthcoming event at first hand. Inevitably, there were several heated discussions going on throughout the clearing as to who had actually got there first…
‘Order…! Order!’ Hooter’s deep voice boomed out across the clearing. Just to reinforce his status, he launched himself into the air and, flapping his great wings several times, he swooped down low over the gathered assembly;,then, in one fluid movement he turned gracefully in the air and returned to the tree from where he had been watching.
Settling himself once more on the leafy bough, he smiled to himself. In fact, he thought, it’s the part where I swoop down on them that actually shuts them up in the end. He chuckled quietly to himself as the festive spirit returned, once more, to the forest clearing.
There were crickets and, field mice in profusion, tinny shrews and several families of weasels, who scampered playfully in and out of the trees and bushes. Seven or eight families of squirrels who chattered incessantly with their offspring, frogs, wet backed toads and, beetles of every sort. Families of dark brown, velvet coated moles were, as you can imagine, popping up everywhere, and there were armies of small brown ants, all of whom seemed to be marching backwards and forwards in lines for no reason, rabbits, hares in abundance and, recently emerged from their winter hibernation, sleepy-eyed hedgehogs. There were five pairs of courting otters, up from the river for the day, as well as mayflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and daddy-long-legs, and so on… The list was endless; in fact, the only creatures missing were fox’s and wolves and that, in itself, was a blessing.
Several rather large spiders were busy erecting cosy hammocks in the shrubs and grasses nearby, thus providing themselves with original and comfortable views of the forthcoming ceremony; a family of ladybirds looked on, giggling like children as the spiders graciously offered to share their accommodations with passing flies, mosquitoes, and such like; but none of them was so foolhardy as to accept the thinly-veiled offer of hospitality!
Many small birds, drawn both by the excitement and the anticipation of a free lunch, and yet painfully aware of Hooter’s menacing stare, looked on greedily from a safe distance.
Earlier, Hooter had told the gathered assembly of forest folk to be there around noon.
‘And do keep the noise down,’ He warned them, ‘especially during the naming ceremony. We don’t want to alarm her now, do we?’ Then he had looked down from his lofty lair and said, ‘Oh, and by the way, if you must bring gifts, please remember she won’t be in the least bit interested in pieces of moldy corn or grain,’ looking accusingly at two little field mice. Then, addressing a group of dung beetles, he had said, disparagingly, ‘And, on no account whatsoever, is she to be offered whatever that is that you roll around in front of you all day!’ He then added, ‘I understand that she will locate these odious commodities for herself later. Okay!’
Hooter was a spotted brown Timber Owl. He had managed these special events in the forest for quite some time and this was just one of the duties he had taken on in his retirement. In general, his work dealt with the security and common welfare of the forest community; the most important of these were to warn the community of danger in case the arrival of predators and such like represented a threat, or that a gathering storm may become violent and that they should take cover; or for the registering of births marriages and deaths. Finally, he was responsible for the daily news – or gossip, if you prefer.
Of course, there had been other contenders for the position. Mickey Magpie, or Chris Crow, for example, could have done the job, but they tended to exaggerate to such an extent that, instead of relating a simple item of interest accurately to the community, the original content became so muddled that in the end nobody knew what was going on anymore… Then there was Reginald Raven… well, he could have done it, he was certainly loud enough; but, alas, he was rather arrogant and a bit of a bully.
And so the job had fallen to Hooter and, consequentially, due to his wisdom over the years, he had earned the much-revered title of ‘The Most Honorable Hooter’, though ‘Hooter’ would suffice if you were acquainted. Understandably, he was extremely proud of his title, so much so that, to address him simply as ‘Mr Owl’ would, without doubt, invite a most withering stare.
By midday, the clearing was packed.
‘I just can’t imagine where they’ve all come from!’ said Reginald , as he and Mickey Magpie alighted at the edge of the clearing together. ‘Most of them don’t seem to have two seeds to rub together,’ he continued distainfully as they hopped towards the crowds, adding, ‘If you ask me, they’re probably just here for the grub!’
‘Nevertheless, Sir,’ said Mickey stiffly. ‘Today is a very special day for them. They’re good and gentle folk and I can vouch for each and every one of them. And I should tell you, Sir, that The Most Honorable Hooter would be sadly grieved if he were to hear you speaking that way!’
‘Yes, yes, well I’m sure you’re right, err, Mickey isn’t it? So, let’s get on with it then, shall we? And we’d better see if we can’t knock some sense into this band of ruffians, what do you say?’
Before replying, Mickey paused, drawing breath in an effort to remain calm…
‘If there’s to be some knocking done,’ he said, speaking slowly and precisely, ‘Mister Reginald, Sir, it’ll be me who’s doing it. And it won’t be, to them there folks neither… if you get my meaning… Sir…’
Reginald Raven and Mickey went to work immediately acting as marshals for the day. They hopped and bounced from one disorderly group to another, organising them into reasonably quiet rows of well-behaved spectators. At the same time, they were trying to maintain a passage through the middle of the clearing so that, when the time came, the gift-bearers could approach the stone unheeded.
With feathers the colour of midnight and flashing black eyes, Reginald Raven presented a redoubtable image as he instructed the crowd as to where they should stand and, where they should not.
‘Great heavens, man!’ he squawked. ‘Get your family together, will you! And join that line over there!’
Mickey Magpie, in the meantime, looking like a head waiter in his iridescent blue suit, long black tail and white shirt, strutted back and forth, gently shepherding the crowds into position. ‘No missus, not this row, the one behind it if you would. Don’t you worry now, missus, I’ll bring the little ones along for you.’
Eventually it was all sorted out and, after a while the folks in the front row, and closest to the stone, became aware of movement from within the chrysalis and they passed the word excitedly to the row behind that the awakening had begun. Before too long, a multitude of curious eyes were firmly fixed on the luscious, green broad-leafed plant, which grew from an ancient fissure in the stone, to where the oddly shaped, grey-green chrysalis was attached by strands of pale beige silk. ‘Look Issy,’ said one of the river Otters to his girlfriend. ‘It moved then, did you see it?’ ‘Nah, you’re seein things Brian,’ she replied, ‘I was watchin as well you know, I didn’t see anything…’
Frequently flying between Hooter and the marshals, reporting on any new developments with the preparations, Chris Crow, Hooter’s liaison officer, was looking extremely sharp that morning in his tight and shiny, blue-black feathers.
‘What’s the situation then, Chris?’ asked Hooter as Chris Crow alighted on the bough next to him.
‘In a word, Boss… chaos!’ replied Chris, shaking his wings so that they folded down comfortably and, after pecking rapidly at an annoying little mite on his back, he said. ‘But don’t you go worrying yourself now, Boss. We’ll be ready on time!’
‘Any idea when it’s likely to begin?’
‘Half an hour at the most I’d say, Boss.’
‘Have the cracks appeared then?’
‘Yes, Boss, some time ago actually. A couple of large ones to begin with; running from end to end, but now there are smaller ones, and they’re appearing every five minutes… That’s why I’m here, Boss, thought you should know.’
‘Quite right too, Chris! Then I suggest you get back down there and let me know the minute she begins, if you would.’
‘No problem, Boss!’
© 2012 James A Bresco
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