Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

If you ever plan on going in a journey, make sure you do so with true friends, warns us ‘The Bear and the Travelers’, a timeless fable here retold for its killer advice on always considering the bare bones of a friendship.

The Bear and the Travelers, a fable

Once upon a time, when wild animals roamed the forests in peace and people mostly kept to their villages and, when forced to travel, they did so only by horse, donkey or cart… once upon a time two lads, still wet behind their ears but eager to see the world, decided to travel together. They were good friends, they could swear by it, so they started their journey relying on one another – for fun, for encouragement, and for safety.

The path ahead appeared clear, bordered by grass and flowers, winding only near streams and shady trees. It felt soft to step on it.

The two young men were merry, their journey easy. Chatting and laughing, not noticing when the path had turned narrow, stony, and that in places only one traveler at a time could step ahead. Yet they joked still, laughed, and took turns to go first. Here and there now stood a lone tree with little shade, but mostly shrubs by now.

And the path had turned hard and felt stony underfoot. Didn’t matter, for they were two at it, two friends.

Soon enough they entered the forest; dark, cool, and quiet. So quiet, that even the lads – although happy for its shade – had stopped laughing, and they had stopped chatting too. They just looked around, listened to tiny noises. What was that? A branch snapping underneath their foot? Or something else… What? Where? And they kept near one another.

They had only taken a few steps inside the shady wood when, all of a sudden, a huge bear fell on them. Jumping out of nowhere, crashing branches with his strong arms, scratching off the tree bark with his sharp, long claws. Roaring that it echoed to the end of the forest, and back again.

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

‘Grrrr!’

And louder.

‘Grrrrrr!!’

The lads froze. At first. Then one of the boys, thinking first and foremost of his own safety, climbed the nearest tree. And before he knew it, before the bear could even spot him, he was up, as agile as a monkey.

And just as shameful. He did not look for his friend, left on the ground.

The second boy, not as good at climbing trees for this is not part of the human nature, found himself standing alone to face the fierce black, furry giant. For this is how the bear appeared to him, waving his forearms, shaking his head, and growling, ‘grrrr,’ spit landing everywhere. Even on the boy’s cheek. Yet he dare not wipe it off. He dare not move a muscle.

If he could have stopped his heart from beating, he would have gladly done so.

For what else could he do? When he suddenly remembered his grandfather’s advice: not to look the beast into the eyes, but to fall to the ground and lay still. As if dead. ‘For bears,’ he could still hear his grandfather’s low voice, and he could still see his eyes sparkling from behind bushy, grey eyebrows, ‘for bears are not clever beasts, although they might look fierce. And they are might strong. But clever, they are not, and can easily be tricked.’

So the second boy let himself drop to the ground where tried his best to lie very still. As if dead.

‘For bears are not scavengers. They do not feast on dead animals,’ his grandfather had said next.

Once again, his grandfather’s words proved golden for the bear ceased growling, fell on all four legs, and looked at the hip of a boy on the ground. He turned his head left, then right, then took a step forward – making sure he’s not too close either (big animals are not as brave as they seem, you know?) – and from a safe distance sniffed at the boy. Then the bear took another step – the boy could hear all this, although his eyes were closed tight – sniffed again and, appearing convinced that a dead body indeed lay in front of him, turned away slowly, for he was a heavy bear who took his time, and walked away.

The forest closed behind the bear, and soon all was silent. None of the boys dare speak and they stood like that, one up in the tree, the other flat on the ground, until they heard the first bird song. And knew all was safe.

The first boy, the one that had climbed the tree, was the first to jump to the ground.

He looked around, listening, his heart hammering in his ears, ready to climb back up should the bear return.

Finally, he turned to his friend who was just brushing the leaves off his clothes. He did not ask him how he was, nor did he explained his rushed and coward gesture. Instead, he laughed, yet not staring his friend in the eyes.

‘Say, that was some bear! Chatty too. It looked as if he whispered something in your ear. What was it?’

The second boy had just finished patting himself all over and was now adjusting his travel bag. Only when he was done did he caught his friend’s shifty stare and smiled.

‘The bear said that it was most ill-advised of me to travel with someone who is a friend just by name, but not by his deeds, for, look, he had deserted me at the first moment of danger.’

Moral of the story:

Mishap is the test of true friendship.

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger is a picture book inspired by true life events, the real friendship between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER.

Read more fables and animal stories on my blog here.

The Time Merchant, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 42

time merchant fiction flash

The Time Merchant follows the story-line of Ferris Wheel (1), Two of a Kind (2), and A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon (3), my contribution to fiction in a flash challenge week 42 based on the image prompt provided by Author Suzanne Burke.

The Time Merchant (4)

Dangling above the abyss, at the end of a rope, the man felt thankful that it was not tied around his neck. He would have been dead by now. And angered, for he was tied up like a cocoon and could do nothing about it, except talk.

When the picture slid down the cord and slapped his face – why everything slapped him lately? – his first reaction was to protect his eyes so he twisted his head till it cracked. Due to the human skin’s elasticity, the neck should be twisted 360 degrees twice before it comes off completely, his mind offered. But that still won’t free me.

‘Remember her?’ words rolled over his head.

‘I can’t see the picture. It’s too close to my eyes. Can’t focus!’ He dangled himself, throwing his head further back, sweat building around his receding hairline, the cord sneaking tense overhead, creaking like the voice of death in his childhood’s fairy-tales… Yet the picture, secured by a carabiner, remained glued to his face.

Despite the freezing air a trickle of sweat rolled down his temple and itched. Scratch and die.

Not his nature. He angled his head the opposite way and used the photograph to scratch his itch. It envenomed it.

Lead negotiations with a clear mind. Fresh air all around, teased his brain.

The man dangling from the rope suspended from a hot air balloon by a woman wearing a caviar-beige Channel gown and perfume, a woman with whom he shared a passion for bird-watching, that man decided to take control over his situation.

He parted his lips and made a whooshing sound expelling the little air left in his lungs. Sealing his lips he inhaled slowly counting to four, held his breath, and exhaled taking double the time. Repeated twice will have to suffice loosen his anger, allowing him further decisions with a clear mind. Time was of the essence.

‘I want to remember her, but I must see her face. And I can’t, not tied up like this,’ he spoke up.

Only the wind whooshed around, slapping the picture against his cheek, slap-slap-slap. He made no attempt to protect himself. Was his voice strong enough to carry his words? His self-assurance?

The rope groaned overhead.

He lowered his tone to the pitch of a mellow cello, ‘I want to offer you answers. You deserve them. She deserves them. For the sake of the time we shared bird-watching -‘

‘Leave that out!’

He angled his approach.

‘How long ago have you lost her?’

‘Too long to count.’

‘Was she related to you?’

‘She was my baby sister and you took her away from me! Why her?’

So many reasons that didn’t make sense anymore…

‘Let’s work out a plan so I can see her face and offer you the answers you long for. You still want to know, don’t you?’

‘NO. I’ll give you her name.’

Too many names… complained his mind, but he kept that to himself.

‘Blanche-Rose,’ she said in an agonising whisper.

Had he heard it or his mind had groped for the rolling consonants? He remembered that name, and he remembered the sweet face framed by ringlets, and the earnest, hopeful look in her eyes when she had asked him for more time. Just a little bit more time.

Now it was his turn to ask for time.

time merchant, fiction flash
Clock image by Marka Merka, Unsplash

‘It is a lengthy story. We need to sit for you to understand what happened,’ he called.

The sun was shining in his eyes by now and he began to feel like a pig on a spit. Above his head, the rope cried and cracked. How much longer will it support his weight? All that aged whiskey gone to waste…

‘There is nothing more for you to tell me! I was lost when she disappeared, confused and hopeless as if a part of myself had been torn… I blamed myself for not trying harder, I was angry at the world, I lost friends, I lost a life, my life, as I had lost hers… I prayed, and I vouched that I will not stop till I find the one, the one responsible for her disappearance. For her… death.

‘She is NOT dead! I don’t kill, I sell time. Time people need to fulfill that ONE dream. Time for THAT illicit love affair. Time to do with as THEY please. I am the Time Merchant. Now, do you know how to land this thing?’

‘What? NO, I don’t!’

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Hello everyone and welcome to the “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week Author Suzanne Burke will feature an image and invites everyone to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words. Suzanne runs a great blog as well as authoring many exciting books. WECOME TO THE WORLD OF SUZANNE BURKE

Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant who Blasted the Cape Sea Route Free

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route

For nearly four centuries the Giant of Table Mountain watched over the only Cape Sea Route connecting the Mediterranean Sea, past Cape Town, South Africa, with the Indian Ocean.

Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant Adamastor

Ancient Greece was not only a time where culture and philosophy flourished but a time of great tales too. Such were the Greek Myths, stories about gods, goddesses, and their daily rituals. According to the ancient Greeks, Uranus, meaning sky or heaven, was their greatest god, and his wife was Gaea, or Gaia, meaning land, or earth. Uranus and Gaia had many children, some being the twelve Titans who ruled the earth. One of the Titans was Cronus, who later fathered Zeus…

Zeus, eventually, with the aid of two of his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, won the war against the Titans – which were rather tyrannical uncles – and banished them to three places around the world. One such place was the dark and gloomy underworld of Tartarus. The second place was a British Island in the far west, probably the Outer Hebrides, or the Island of Strangers, or even Western Isles, in Scotland. The third place, where poor, old Adamastor was imprisoned, was situated at the southern end of the world,  at Table Mountain.

Although… Adamastor appears to be a mythological character created much later, and by the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões who lived in the 16th century and is, to this day, considered the Portuguese language’s greatest poet. Still, let’s hear his account as it explains superbly how the Cape of Storms, or Cape of Good Hope, near the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula (located in today’s Western Cape province of South Africa), received its name.

So, back to Adamastor, restricted under Table Mountain…

After a few hundred years of being locked away Adamastor was feelings rather bored. There he was, a strong giant once leading a busy life, now confined to a small stony place covered with shrubs and fynbos… not even mighty trees! So Adamastor, to give some purpose to his days, decided to take action and do something good: protect! Yet guard not only the area where he’s been locked up but the entire continent of Africa.

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route, Departure of fleet from Lisbon harbor by Theodor de Bry, 1592
Departure of fleet from Lisbon harbor by Theodor de Bry, 1592

This was around the time when the Portuguese navigators first sailed along the west coast of Africa all the way down… and Adamastor saw them arriving, out of the corner of his eye. He grunted but said nothing, did nothing, just kept an eye on them as one would with naughty children. Waiting for the navigators to do something wrong, and knowing well that they will. The Portuguese sailed on; busy on their route that took them for the first time through these foreign seas, further south they floated, approaching the southernmost tip of Africa. Adamastor said nothing, again, but grunted, rumbled and crossed his arms, I am watching you, and a strong wind swelled the Atlantic Ocean. Still, the navigators kept sailing on, their sails swelling with the gale, their ships angled. When they eventually attempted to approach the land, for fresh water, fresh fruits and maybe some eggs too, Adamastor had had it. He coughed and he puffed so much, that the waters of the Atlantic AND the Indian Ocean swelled, especially along the line where they meet, by the southernmost tip of Africa.

So Bartolomeu Dias, the first Portuguese sailor to attempt sailing down the west coast of Africa, around its tip and up its east coast, towards India – to buy the precious spices (ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, clover – the great Bartolomeu Dias dared not sail further, but turned back his ships and set his compass to home.

It was but a few years later when another Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, showed no fear. He had seen the storm approaching, so he thought, really hard, what he can do next. He weighed his options. Run for cover, or head out to open water for some sea room? If he ran for cover, the preferred choice, the danger lied in being caught in the storm closer to shore, with no room to maneuver or runoff. Smashed against the rocky shored he could end. But if he sailed away, towards the open ocean, he could very well sail towards the middle of the storm.

So when Adamastor raised the winds, Vasco da Gama lowered his sails. When Adamastor swelled the waves, da Gama kept speeding on, aiming for flat spots of sea between the giant breakers, all the time making sure he kept the land to his left, staying on his initial course of rounding the Cape.

Da Gama did a great battle with Adamastor. Storm after storm Adamastor threw at the Portuguese ships, terrifying the sailors who were already scared for they had reached the dreaded Cape of Storms and were nearing the place where Dias had given up. And although his sailors were ready to cut a deal bargain with Adamastor, Da Gama wanted to prove that he was not Dias, and he was not superstitious either.

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route, Cape Point, southernmost tip of Africa
Cape Point, southernmost tip of Africa, photo by Clayton Cardinalli, Unsplash

But Da Gama was clever, not only brave and stubborn. He promised Adamastor a better name for his southernmost rocky spot, one that will bring more visitors over, thus increasing Adamastor’s kingdom. He shall name it the Cape of Good Hope.

Finally, a deal was struck and Da Gama sailed past and reached India, thus establishing the first sailing route there from Europe, the Cape Sea Route. And Adamastor got his large kingdom, to protect.

The Cape Sea Route below Table Mountain after the Suez Canal opened

The Cape Sea Route was in high demand until 1869 when the opening of the Suez Canal provided a much shorter route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, thus rendering the long trip around Africa inefficient… Until the Ever Given cargo ship, a 400 meters long Megaship, got stuck in the Suez Canal due to strong winds (perhaps it was Adamastor?) and a sandstorm and blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, when it ran aground diagonally on March 23rd 2021.

Etymology: The name Adamastor is an adaptation in Portuguese of the Greek word for “Untamed” or “Untameable” (Adamastos) (which the Portuguese did tame eventually).

Fynbos, a small belt of natural shrub-land or heath-land vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.

I hope you enjoyed my tale about Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant who Blasted the Cape Sea Route Free.

Discover more legends and read about Cape Town and about a beloved Great Dane, the first dog to be enlisted in the Royal Navy during World War Two, in my book Joyful Trouble (available as an eBook, paperback, large print and hardcover).

Joyful Trouble, military dog WW2 novel

Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance, 100 words story

Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance 100 words story

With Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance we’ve reached the 4th century AD in our 100 words story posts along the historical timeline of Transylvania. Remember how it all began? Do you see the pattern?

A Paleolithic Murder in Transylvania
Behind the Cave Art of Transylvania
Conduct in a Neolithic Kingdom in Transylvania
Dacian Horses of Bronze Age
Echoes of a Battle, the Getae
Falx vs Gladius, Dáoi vs Romans
Greed, of the Roman Kind
Hope Has Multiple Faces

Immortalis, the Immortal

For each lad lost to Ielele, Fairies, ten wish to join Căluşarii, Stallions, in dance-battle.

The voiceless one, masked – goat and sun, death and rebirth – leads into the clearing drawing a sacred circle with his two-edged sword. In leap Căluşarii  as one, counter-clockwise, armed with sticks crossed over their bodies, red ribbons, garlic.

They pledge on their linden-poled flag then spring, their bodies twisted roots… float like leaves, bells ringing in the wind… climb their sticks… pounce across, hop, spin.
One drops dead.

They broke the spell like an earthenware jug crashing. The sick cured, Căluşarii  depart quietly.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Immortalis, the Immprtal Căluşarii Dance 100 words story - The voiceless one, masked - goat and sun, death and rebirth - leads into the clearing
The voiceless one, masked – goat and sun, death and rebirth – leads into the clearing

Immortalis, the Immortal – words, stories, and some history

Immortalis, immortale, immortal. (Oxford Latin Course, Balme & Morwood)

Căluşarii  and their dance goes back as far as the Thracians and Dacians. Was those a more peaceful time? I hope so, as the rituals developed then and involving important life stages have survived and have reached us.

Men, and by this I mean the male gender, were willingly involved in dancing ritual even before Mr Darcy’s (in)famous words:

[Dance] “has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world; every savage can dance.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

The Spartans, for once, had their pyrrhike (having its roots apparently in the exultant victory dance performed by Pyrrhus, Achilles’ son, after killing their opponent’s leader. Dancing stayed with the Greek soldiers for centuries, part of their military training, until combat rules changed and only Sparta kept the tradition alive.

Yet Greek philosopher and historian Xenophon describes in his work Anabasis (The March into the Interior – the interior land beyond the Black Sea), a Thracian war dance he witnessed. The Thracians danced to the sound and rhythm of the reed pipe.

Reed pipes stuck with resin later became the panpipes, a Romanian national musical instrument.

For me, I will never forget the Haka, the ceremonial challenge-dance of the Māori culture as it is still performed by the New Zealand sports teams before international challenges.

Back to Romanian Căluşarii  and their dance, its tradition rises from Dacian times and it still holds its pagan essence. Led by their great priest who would ask the gods for guidance, Căluşarii  would perform their ritualistic dance to fight off evil spirits, and heal the sick.

Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance, 100 words story, Calusari dance Mures

Initially, Căluşarii  were a restrictive groups of odd numbered men, between 5 and 13, sworn to stay together in celibacy and to perform ritual dances during a period of three – seven – or nine years. Their leader was the only one to know all the secrets, some passed on orally, others taken to the grave. Căluşarii  were / are feared warriors who fight Ielele, magical maiden fairies who steal the spirit and the minds of all those men who happen to see them in the forest. Ielele only dance on the night of Rusalii or the Descent of the Holly Spirit (Pentecost). Rusallile go back to the Roman celebration of Rosalia, the day of the roses, dedicated to worshiping the dead and bringing them food and roses.

Why Căluşari? Cal in Romanian language means horse, perceived as a fantastic creature. Horse, cal, symbolizes heat, warmth, summer, it even aids the sun climb atop the sky every day. As is the head of a horse, sculpted in wood, seen as a protective, positive symbol. Therefore Căluşarii are divine stallions.

horse head woodcraft positive symbol
horse head, crafted wood, seen as a positive symbol

The dance Căluşarii  perform imitates the horse’s walk, canter, and gallop, but also the rider’s jump on the horse’s back, as well the limb walk of a horse without shoe-horses. Over 100 dances, all performed to become as strong and agile as a horse, thus receiving a stallion’s divine powers and fight off evil spirits.

The costumes worn by the Căluşarii  is filled with symbology. Made of white linen with stitching to depict the geographical area they belong to, it is decorated with colorful sticks stuck in their belt to form a cross, for protection. Hand made hankies (gifted by women and girls for their own protection and fortune in the year ahead), silver spurs and bells, a leather harness complete the look while their hats have tassels and colored ribbons, white and red -sacred Dacian colors.

Calusarii dance, Hunedoara

The most important instrument is their flag, a three to ten meters long linden (oak or hazelnut) stick topped with a white cloth decorated with white-red ribbons, garlic, wormwood, wheat and salt.

There is a wealth of information and symbology behind Căluşarii, their dance still performed all across Romania. Know that since 2005 Căluşarii  are par of the UNESCO Heritage.

As always, you can find all my books on Amazon.

A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 41

ride in a hot air balloon flash fiction

Following the story-line of Ferris Wheel and Two of a Kind read A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon, my contribution to fiction in a flash challenge week 41 based on the image prompt provided by Author Suzanne Burke.
Enjoy! I had so much fun writing it 🙂

A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 41

A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon

The ballroom was a giant aviary. People’s actions, she found, mimicked those of birds. Courtship, chatter, hunt, all here. Except that birds, birds didn’t belong in a cage.

She spotted the gold-trimmed black mask the instant she crossed the doorway. Nothing ever escaped her eagle-like eyesight. Yet she pretended not to, allowing him the illusion of initiating the hunt. Men fell for that. So she stood atop the stairs, in her black and caviar-beige Channel evening gown, the perfect shade of beige. She stood, tensed, the center of his attention; him, the man with the mask matching hers. She stood; unable to enjoy what was finally coming. Feeling none of the happiness she thought she will.

Why they call it sweet revenge? She tasted bile.

 It had been stipulated in the contract. Both parties involved will be issued matching masks. Both parties will be aware that arriving at the masked-ball involved and was conditioned by, establishing contact with their prescribed partner.

He’d come. He was watching her, facing her, as she closed the distance. One step at a time, oblivious to music, and the agitation surrounding them. Aware of her dry mouth, her increased pulse, and the reason she’d done it all. To right a wrong.

For the first time since she dressed she was thankful for the mask, covering her flushed cheeks. Her lips, frozen in a sneer she hoped mimicked a smile. The pain she had harbored forever, she allowed it to escape as she took step after step. There was so much hatred that letting some steam escape, by staring at him, didn’t matter anymore.

By the time she had descended, he had closed the distance extending his hand to aid her take that final step. Her arm stiff, to mask tremor, she reached for his.

Their touch felt electrifying, and he smiled the moment he saw the specks of aged whiskey in her treacle eyes.

‘I am sorry I wasn’t there, at the foot of the Ferris Wheel’, he said, so she recognized him. Really saw him. Past the black mask trimmed with gold, past her veils of hatred. It was him, as the contract stipulated it will be, the man she wanted for her revenge, yet he was also himself, the man she had met in the park.

‘The bird-watcher!’

He smiled.

Too late. His had touched her gloved one, the double glove soaked in poison. Soon, his somatic muscles will paralyze. Her plan would have reached its climax.

~

He came through with a strange feeling, that his feet were not touching ground. And he was cold, chilled to the bone.

He was dangling.

Was he dead? His eyes were open, he thought. All he saw was blackness.

Black is the impression of lack of color, his mind offered.

He heard nothing either, only the blood rushing through his ears. He would have touched his eyelids but his arms were secured against his body, tied like a cocoon. He could wiggle his fingers though, frozen stiff.

His mouth shot open. A yell came out.

No echo. His voice just left his body – and was gone. And his body was dangling in space.

At least he wasn’t buried.

Purgatory?

He looked around again. Above, as below, he discerned specks of light. Of all sizes. Then a river of them as if someone had spilled, in the dead of night, milk across the floor.

The Milky Way!

More crumbs ablaze caught his eye in the celestial horizon. A handful of fairy lights. A city!

And his body, dangling between them.

From what?

Ignoring his stiff neck he forced it backward and stared, forcing sight. A silk glove tied around his neck brushed his cheek like a slap. After the ozone-rich air an explosion of freesia invaded his senses. It matured, denoting elegance and grace

Stop it, you old goat.

And another note, above the spring-like ones: shimmering hints of honey.

The dawn, lifting the horizon, removed the amnesia cloak too. He remembered the masked woman descending the stairs, their bird-watching, and she, his project for the night. The disbelief that slashed his heart, and the electric shock when their hands touched. Losing consciousness…

‘Why?!’ he howled at the moon.

From the height of the hot air balloon gondola the woman in the black and caviar-beige Chanel gown retrieved a picture, kissed it, and let it slide along the cord to the man dangling below.

‘That’s why,’ she raged, her scathing tone like knives. ‘Remember her?’

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Hello everyone and welcome to the “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week Author Suzanne Burke will feature an image and invites everyone to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words. Suzanne runs a great blog as well as authoring many exciting books. WECOME TO THE WORLD OF SUZANNE BURKE

What do you think of the story thus far, in its three installments? I’d love to read your impressions in comments below.