Friday, February 19, 2010

"The Tiger and the Hare" -- Act III

"The Tiger and the Hare" -- Act III

In honor of the Chinese New Year (and thus the beginning of the Year of the Tiger), today I’m finally posting Act III of “The Tiger and the Hare”. The last time this story was visited was way back in July, 2009 when I posted Act II on July 24th.

It's been a long time coming. Now here it is.


~ Charles


"The Tiger and the Hare" copyright 2010 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.


BY THE MOON POND: Wherein Lung Ti Chen Chiang is Born, Destined to Become a Warrior; Muruku Meets with Vibol Walid; The Hunters Become the Hunted; Tiger Chiang Grows Restless



In the hottest, wildest part of the world mortals took up arms to hunt and kill the great tigers of the Korrawi Jungle, to strip from them their marrow and bones to be ground into alchemical hermetics. All manner of mortals hunted the tigers until their numbers were few. Once had the great tigers counted themselves in many tribes, had kings and queens that ruled vast lands. Yet after the hunts only a hundred or more remained, coming together to fight against their wicked predators.

Seeing his people suffer and die, witnessing the survivors on the verge of giving up hope, Macan the Eldest called together all tigers and spoke to them.

"What is needed," he said to his people, his aging face slow to move with the strain of speech, "is a hero. Now is the hour we make our final stand. If we do not find someone willing to fight, willing to kill voraciously our enemies, we will be wiped clean from the world. This may well anger the gods, but we cannot depend upon them wholly for the preservation of our lives. We must step forward, we must take the fight to our hunters, and we must have someone we trust, one to inspire us into battle, to lead us with hope."

The young, bold, brash Muruku stepped forward, his head adorned with a headdress of peacock feathers and said, "Have I not served well enough as your hero? Have I not lead my people into battle?"

"Yes," agreed Macan. "But not all of us. We need every tooth, every claw in this fight. While no one could argue your passion or ferocity, Muruku, you are also careless in battle and that inspires fear as much as it inspires hope. And fear will curtail our efforts. We must leap headlong into the fight without doubt. You, dear Muruku, create as much doubt as promise."

"Lies!" Muruku cried, offended, growling at the elderly Macan. At his growl, a pair of young cubs nearby scurried behind their mother, hiding.

“You see,” spoke Macan as he stood, his aging frame creaking with pain, and walked near the cubs. The young tigers came out of hiding and looked adoringly upon Macan the Eldest, looking upon him with awe and respect. “You frighten Kairya and Nutoos, they who are bold with youth and lack the knowledge of true danger, they who have yet to see the brutality of battle, cringe in fear of your growl. While I trust your loyalties are with your people, your paw is much too heavy. You would likely lick the fur right off your own progeny, Muruku.”

Muruku growled again, but pathetically. He looked around and as Macan continued to speak, he slunk to the back of those gathered, ashamed.

“What is needed,” spoke Macan, “is a hero. One that can challenge those that hunt us. He must be strong enough to fight and to kill, yet wise enough to appeal to our predators that outnumber us.”

“Where would we find such a hero?” asked T’salina, mother and warrior for the tigers. Her legs were decorated with three peacock feathers apiece tied by sun dried vines above the joint.

“We would not find such a warrior,” replied Macan. “We must make one. We will take the strongest and wisest amongst us and together they will make a child. And as the mother carries her babe within her belly, I shall conduct a ritual, an ancient ritual, the evokes the spirits of our ancestors to ask them to aide in strengthening this child.”

The tigers looked to one another with wonder, whispering to one another which of them would be chosen as mother and father to this proposed hero-child.

Once more Muruku strode proudly forward. He said, “I am the strongest of all gathered here. I pledge my strength to this child.”

“You see only your own pleasures,” an unknown tiger called out, causing a ripple of giggling from the others.

Muruku growled at them.

“This time,” commanded Macan, “Muruku is correct. He is the swiftest, wiliest, deadliest warrior we have. He would make a fine father.”

Muruku purred happily at Macan’s words.

“Now, for his mate,” Macan considered the collected tigresses.

T’salina stepped forward. “I would be a wise choice, though I immediately regret my choice of mate.”

A few more tigers struggled to contain their laughter. Muruku scowled at them.

“You are a deft and mighty warrior, T’salina, but an improper choice. What you have to offer the child, Muruku already offers. What is needed is a wise and honorable, a nurturing and respectful mother to counter Muruku’s lack of tact and worldly knowledge.”

T’salina bowed out from the center of the circled tigers, relieved in a way she would not have to mate with Muruku.

One of the young tiger cubs bounded forward. He looked up at Macan, in awe of his age and size. He spoke with excitement. “The one you described sounds very much like Mother. She is wise. She knows everything! Every day I ask her about any little thing and she knows all about it. I’ve learned so much from her. And she is always fair with us. She treats everyone as family and has us call them auntie or uncle though we know there is no real relation between us. And she is always telling us to be kind and respectful! Who more closely resembles the tigress you seek than my mother?”

Many of the gathered tigers smiled at the cub’s exuberance and his offering up his mother for rather adult matters he most likely did not fully understand. His mother smiled, blushing and slightly embarrassed.

Macan scowled down at the cub. “You know the rules: no cubs are allowed to speak at these gatherings. You’ve not earned the right.”

“Perhaps the child is out of turn,” said Dal, a nearby tiger and long friend of Macan, “but he makes a valid point. If you will not accept his suggestion, Macan, then I will make it in his stead.”

Suea, mother to the outspoken cub, was a beautiful tigress. She loped languidly towards her child, unhurried, unafraid, gracefully. She shooed her child from out of the center of the tigers. She bowed to Macan and apologized for the interruption. As she rounded to return to her place where her cubs now sat, Macan stopped her.

“Suea, please, wait a moment,” said Macan. “What Dal suggests is true. You would make a wonderful mother to our hero. I understand you’ve currently 2 children, but we would all help to raise the hero-child. Would you be so willing? So obligating? Would you help out your fellow tigers?”

Suea considered Macan a moment. She chose her words carefully. “Do you all feel this way?”

A general agreement was sounded.

Suea looked to Muruku, then to Macan. “I will do what must be done for our people. I will do this as an investment in the futures of my children. I will bear you your hero-child.”

The tigers roared with delight.

The following night, Suea left her cubs with T’salina.

“I do not envy you,” T’salina admitted to Suea.

“Why? Because of Muruku?” asked Suea.

“And for no other reason,” responded T’salina.

Suea smiled, a little timid, and said, “He’s not so bad. You trust him in battle.”

“In battle he is fierce and treacherous. I fear he may be similarly inclined as a mate.”

Suea shrugged, “It’s for one night only.”

T’salina nodded.

“Behave for your Auntie T’salina,” Suea called to her cubs. She then rounded and walked to the Moon Pond where she met with Muruku.

Muruku sat by the small shore, eying the reflection of the moon in the dark waters. Suea walked near, sitting beside him.

“It’s quite a lovely night,” Muruku surprised Suea with these gentle words.

Suea agreed that it was a lovely night.

A frog jumped into the pond nearby, croaking. The water rippled, breaking the image and spell of the moon.

Muruku looked to Suea.

Suea eyed Muruku.

Many days later, Suea began to show with child.



Came the night when Macan evoked the ancestors. He called upon Suea to meet him by the Moon Pond. There he lit a fire, burned incense and awaited her arrival. When she appeared, he had her lay on her belly beside the fire.

“Will this hurt much?” asked Suea, afraid for her child.

“Not at all,” soothed Macan. “I must merely chant, calling upon our ancestors to bless this child.”

Suea nodded with understanding, lying her head on the cool dirt.

Macan began to chant. Suea recognized him calling out the names of particular ancestors and heroes from tiger lore. With this, she felt the weight and importance of matters. She sighed a deep breath.

The moon shone down into the still pond. Without a frog’s jump, without a creature’s stirring, the pond began to ripple. The reflected image of the moon broke and from its depths rose pearlescent mists that formed into ghostly tigers. These were the spirits of ancestors that had long ago passed. They walked upon the water and came to Suea’s side. She looked upon them both with fear and wonder.

“How powerful the chants of Macan,” she whispered.

As more ancestors rose from the pond came forth, those all ready by Suea’s side broke into mist once more. These mists flowed gently before Suea’s face and entered her nose as she naturally breathed. She felt no pain from this, though she feared the affects. But as the spirits filled her body she could feel them place loving paws and blessings upon the child growing in her belly and she was relieved.

More ancestors came forth, first tens then a hundred.

Finally, out of the broken reflection of the moon came a final shape, a final form. He walked upon two legs across the waters of the pond. He stepped upon the shore and Macan recognize this spirit to be that of a man in a hunter’s clothes and not of a tiger. Macan called out, “Halt! You’ve no purpose here.”

“Oh, but I do,” spoke the ghostly man.

Macan eyed him. “What is your name?”

“Once I was called Sartemon.”

“What purpose have you here, Sartemon?”

Sartemon hesitated before answering. “Once I hunted your people and I was quite proficient at it. One of your warriors, the father to this child, killed me in battle.”

“Muruku killed you?”


Macan growled and hunched his back. His whiskers wavered with fury. “I’ll not let you take your revenge upon Muruku’s child!”

“I am not here for that,” said Sartemon. “I am here to bless the hero-child.”

This confused Macan. He was uncertain he should trust the man’s spirit. “Explain yourself, hunter!”

“Once I hunted your people. Now I know this to have been wrong. My one sorrow is that I’d not learned this prior to my death. When I learned of Muruku’s child, I had to come to bless him. It is the only way I can find peace.”

“You knew of this child? Of my plan?” asked Macan.

Sartemon nodded. “All that is dead spies on all that is left living.”

Macan was yet uncertain. “What do you plan to do with the child?”

“I can bless him in ways your people cannot. I will imbue within him all my skills, all my knowledge. He will know what men know and will do what men can do.”

Macan was yet wary, but trusted the Cosmos in having purpose for this man’s spirit. He nodded to Sartemon, “Watch yourself. I do not know how to harm a spirit such as yourself, but should you harm that child I will find a way to do so.”

Sartemon nodded. He walked to Suea’s side. He knelt near her and pet her. His form then dissipated and Suea was able to breathe him in and inside her belly she felt the man’s hands gently caressing the babe there, blessing him. A moment later, she felt her child change.

“Macan!” she cried.

Macan ran to her. “What is it, Suea?”

“The man… he changed… something’s happened!”

“What? What’s happened?” asked Macan, afraid he had chosen unwisely.

“I do not understand quite. Something’s different about my child, though. I can’t understand it, though.”

“Search, Suea. Feel your child. Is he harmed?” Macan commanded.

Suea closed her eyes and felt her child. She could yet feel his heartbeat, his movements. “I-I don’t think so. There’s simply something different.”

The ceremony done, Suea and Macan walked back into the deep jungle. As they went, Suea asked Macan, “Has the man hurt my child?”

Macan sighed. He refused to lie to Suea as she was their hero’s mother. He said simply, “I don’t know.”



Suea’s belly swelled within weeks. She became very ill and was constantly exhausted. Macan began to suspect their hero-child had been cursed. He did not admit this, however, to anyone but himself. Nor did he share the tale of the ghostly man he and Suea has seen.

With a breath and immense pain, the cub was born seven weeks from the hour of conception. Suea lived long enough to gaze upon her child and clean him. But the pregnancy had been too much for her and that night, as she lay sleeping, she drew her last beleaguered breath before passing on.

The next morning, the tigers gathered round the stump of a tree. Muruku came forth, the cub in his mouth, and placed the would-be hero upon the stump.

Macan pawed the ground, sad. He spoke low, yet still with command. Said he, “Suea has passed. She now rests with the ancestors. This cub before us is not orphaned. Not only has he a father but a hundred of his people to raise him. We must raise him. No matter the personal sacrifice, we must care for this child, train him and raise him.”

With this, Macan stepped forward and mounted the stump. He then sat next to the cub, yet struggling to look at the world. Macan looked to him, saw his elongated legs and man-like hands. He worried for the child.

“Though fur covers his form like the rest of us, though he has a tail and whiskers and face like us all, this child has not been born quite like us,” spoke Macan. “He has the paws of a man, with a thumb that helps him to grasp. And his hind legs are longer. I suspect he will walk on those legs much like a man.”

The gathered tigers whispered, rumbling with rumors.

“Please, please,” called Macan. “I may have a reason for this. The night of the ceremony, Suea and I were visited by the spirit of a man. This spirit had died hunting our people. He confessed he had seen the error of his efforts much to late and requested to bless our hero-child.”

“You shouldn’t have allowed him! Now our hero is deformed!” called an angry tiger.

Macan held up a paw to quite the tigers.

“Perhaps you are correct. It has since been the heaviest question weighing upon me. But what is done is done and we must deal with this child as he is.”

“Let’s kill him!” yelled another tiger.

A few other tigers agreed.

Again Macan raised his paw for silence. “We cannot kill one of our own. Our numbers are so few as it is.”

“He is an abomination!” yet another tiger yelled.

“Perhaps! But he is our abomination! We created him! We all agreed to create this child and now we must raise him as our own!” Macan growled ferociously. The gathered tigers quieted. “Perhaps he will still be of use to us. Perhaps he may yet be our hero.”

“There’s a lot of ‘perhaps’ in your current train of thoughts,” spoke Muruku. The warrior-tiger joined Macan on the trunk. He said to the rest, “But this is my child, for good or for bad, and I will kill any of you that lays even a single claw or tooth upon his neck.”

Macan eyed Muruku. He whispered so only they may hear, “Thank you Muruku.”

Muruku whispered back, “Give your great orations. Give those gathered here reason to help this child.”

Macan nodded. He spoke to the tigers. “With this cub’s form we may be able to better communicate with our predators. But then, we may not. What I know is that you all loved Suea. She was the most beautiful of our kind. She was the kindest, gentlest tiger in all our numbers. To do anything short of loving her child is to forget her entirely. We must raise this cub as our own. We must raise our hero correctly.”

And though not all the hearts of the tigers were committed to caring for the cub, all had silently agreed to never attack the cub.

Macan looked upon the cub scrambling to stand, yet falling. The elder breathed deep and addressed the tigers again, “Now we must name this cub. What shall we call him?”

Muruku was the first to speak. “I had thought we might call him Lung Ti, after my grandfather.”

Macan nodded at this. He said, “It is a fine name, but might I also suggest he needs a leader’s name, a royal’s name? He should be called Chen.”

Muruku nodded at this.

T’salina stepped forward and said, “As our hero, he should have a name as enduring as we need him to be. We should call him Chiang.”

Looking about, Macan saw no one else offering a name. He said, “It is settled then. This cub’s name will be Lung Ti Chen Chiang.”

All nodded in agreement.

That night, many of the tigers lounged together. Macan placed the cub in T’salina’s care. As Kalavata flew overhead, Muruku excused himself.

“Where do you go?” asked T’salina.

“There are many of us here,” said Muruku. “It would not do well to be ambushed by hunters. I will walk the area on patrol.”

T’salina accepted this lie and curled to sleep next to Muruku’s child.

Once out of sight from the rest of the tigers, Muruku turned and padded north along a small creak. He walked a good hour before coming upon a makeshift encampment. He sat watching for some time, watching for the man he had come to see.

Vibol Walid was a portly man. But as big as his belly was, so was his chest. His beard was a blend of anarchy and symphony. His eyebrows were as thick and black as his mustache. His hair was long, tied and wound into a bun atop his head. Though he was a wealthy merchant by trade, he wore a simple blue sarong embellished with gold and a blue shirt.

He was escorted by three men into a private courtyard enclosed by a bamboo fence. Muruku was just able to look over the fence while seated atop a small hill. Two men together carried a long table as high as Vibol’s chest. The third man carried a tray with three overturned bowls resting atop it. Vibol pointed and the two men carrying the table set down the table and disappeared into other parts of the encampment. The third man carefully , with every effort towards caution, slid the overturned bowls onto the table. He, too, then escaped into some tent. Vibol was left alone.

Vibol removed his shirt to reveal a giant cobra tattooed upon his chest in purple and deep blue. Tied at his waist by a red silk sash and under his shirt was a single curved blade within a scabbard. He then grabbed a thin stick. He walked with the stick to the table and pulled each bowl from off the table and flung them, one by one, onto the ground. As Vibol turned each bowl and threw it to the ground, Muruku could see under each bowl sat a coiled cobra.

With each cobra now exposed, all the bowls on the ground, Vibol took to lightly smacking the cobras about the head with the stick. Each cobra, in turn, grew agitated and fanned out its hood, taking a striking position. When Vibol was happy that each cobra was sufficiently angry, he rid himself of the stick and stepped forward.

Vibol raised his hands, palms out, his left palm extending farther out than his right. His eyes leveled on the cobras. He stood motionless a moment before striking out. With each strike he reached out to touch, to tap lightly, the side of the hood of each cobra. In turn, each cobra would lunge to counterstrike only to find Vibol hand pulled his hand away and the cobras bit at phantom air.

Muruku was in awe of the swiftness of the large man. He stood and padded down the hill to beside the bamboo fence and to growl there.

Vibol did not take his eyes from the cobras, but he did cease his martial practice a moment. He spoke lowly, “Come.”

Mururku appeared at the edge of the fence and deftly flowed into the private courtyard. He sat nearby, watching Vibol as he continued with his practice.

“You are quick,” Muruku commented.

Vibol grunted. This time he reached out to grab one of the cobras by the neck and hood just below the head so the cobra could not bend low to bite the hand that grabbed him. Vibol pulled him off the table and with his free left hand grabbed his short sword. He placed the edge of the blade below his right hand holding the cobra and cut the snake in two.

Vibol said with some authority and drama, “I can also be proficiently deadly should I chose to be.”

He then threw the severed cobra’s head into a corner of the private courtyard. It bounced against the bamboo fence, its mouth closed and opened and venom spewed from its teeth.

“Do not go near that head,” warned Vibol. “They are just as dangerous dead as they are alive.”

Muruku eyed the head and nodded.

Vibol replaced his sword, picked up two of the bowls and placed them over the cobras once more. As he did this, he said, “You should not have killed my hunter recently.”

“If you were not so stubborn and informed them of my plan, they would not come after me so fiercely. And if your hunter had not come for me so fiercely, I would not have needed to kill him to preserve my own life.”

“We cannot tell them of our arrangement. If they knew, their greed would propel them into convincing you to lead your people to slaughter. Once your people are killed off, my business would see an end. I must keep myself between them and the tigers to maintain my business… perhaps for the rest of my life. My partners and hunters must remain in the dark about many things.”

Muruku said, “And in turn my people little often meet with death. It is an awkward but appropriate balance.”

Vibol asked, “What news have you from the tigers?”

“A new cub has been born.”

“Good. It’s about time. I’ll need a whole new generation to replenish the alchemical supplies of my clientele.”

“This cub is rather different.”

“Oh?” Vibol placed his shirt on once more.

Muruku nodded. “He will stand as a man and has hands like a man instead of paws like a tiger.”

Vibol considered this. “How can this be?”

“Our leader Macan devised to create a progeny, an offspring groomed to be a hero to stand against your hunters.”

“Hmmm,” Vibol said, thinking. “We cannot have your people fighting back. That would never do.”

“No. Many more would die,” reminded Muruku.

“Yes. My clientele doesn’t need to be so greedy. They can suffice with me taking a single tiger here and there.”

“Well then, when this new tiger is grown, allow him to be the first to slip by your defense, allow him to be separated and left alone like the others. I and my men will come for him and do away with him.”

Muruku considered this. He wondered if he could allow his son to be sacrificed for the safety of all his people. He said, “He grows swiftly. I suspect it will not take much time for him to come of a size satisfying your needs.”

“Good. Do you need more from me?” Vibol smiled.

“No,” Muruku said. He left the courtyard as quietly as he had entered.

Muruku walked the jungle, pondering Vibol’s desires. He came to the collected tigers, many of which were sleeping. He eyed his people, asking himself if his choices were correct. He then padded over to T’salina. His cub slept soundly nearby. Muruku lowered his head and smelled at his cub.

T’salina awoke momentarily. She looked up at Muruku and asked, “What’s the matter?”

Muruku looked to her. “Nothing. I’m checking on our hero.”

T’salina lowered her head and slipped once again into slumber.

Muruku looked down upon his child. As the moon traveled its course across the night sky, he felt the tug of fatherhood upon his heart.



Lung Ti Chen Chiang, called simply Chiang by the tigers, grew swiftly, far more swiftly than imaginable. In six weeks he learned to walk on his hind legs, to grab up sticks with his pawed hands and even began to hunt with Muruku. Six weeks more proved greater growth for Chiang. He now stood taller than a man and had shoulders wider than the largest horse. He was told at least once a day the purpose for his existence.

He hunted with Muruku and T’salina and others. They taught him to leap upon his prey, to grab at the neck to break the spine with his teeth or choke the life from the prey. He soon realized that Muruku and the other tigers, while they could teach him to use his many senses, could not teach him to fight for they knew not how to fight in a Man’s form. Chiang came to Macan with this dilemma.

He knelt before Macan. He had come to love and respect the elder tiger and saw him as his grandfather. He said in his thunderous, growling voice, “Grandfather Macan, Muruku and the others do well to teach me the ways of the tiger. Yet I am not solely a creature in a tiger’s form. I have the features of a man and I must learn to fight and to hunt as such, as well. What can I do to remedy this matter?”

Macan thought this over. He thought back to the many times he had witnessed men fighting his people, thinking about how they fought. He said, “First, they use their hands almost exclusively and often with weapons. We must first teach you to use your hands to grasp at your enemies.”

Chiang agreed.

Macan asked Chaing to follow him to the Rainbow River, which took half a night’s hike to reach, and together they sat by the water’s edge. Macan said, “The salmon are spawning here now. Sleep now and at first light, I want you to awake and catch our breakfast using nothing but your claws.”

Chiang did as he was told. He slept the rest of the night and the next morning he awoke, treaded water to the center of the river and there began swatting at fish. He found the river’s current difficult to stand in, but soon his legs strengthened against the water. Chiang swatted at a fish, then two more. The salmon went flying through the air to crash upon the shore where they flopped around some before they died.

Macan called out, “Your striking ability is good, but it is not enough! I want you to reach out and grab hold of the fish!”

Chiang tried this as Macan ate the three salmon upon the shore. He found grabbing at the squirming, swimming powerful fish far more difficult than swatting at them.

“Can I not simply claw at them?” asked Chiang.

“No!” Macan denied him. “Any tiger can do that! Grab them! Grab them and once you’ve got a hold of them throw them ashore!”

Chiang breathed deep, determined to grab at least one fish. He watched the fish swimming against the river’s current. He waited and when one fish leaped from the waters, Chiang reached with terrible swiftness and grabbed the fish. He was stunned by his newfound ability. He cried out, smiling at Macan who sat on the shore and held the fish high to him.

“Throw it here!” called Macan.

Chaing did this. Macan inspected the fish and found that Chiang’s claws had dug deeply into the fish’s sides. He ate up the fish and called, “Do it again, but this time watch your claws! Do not spear the fish with your claws!”

Chaing understood what his elder meant, that he must learn to use his hands without his claws as a man might. He waited patiently and when two fish jumped from the water simultaneously, Chiang – without thought – grabbed at and caught them both, one in each hand. He held them high over his head to show Macan and hooted.

Again Macan called to have the fish thrown upon the shore. Chiang did this, Macan inspected them and was happy to find both fish unmarked by claws.

Macan commanded Chiang to shore. Chiang did this and was allowed to eat these last two fish.

“Now,” said Macan, “Grab a large stick and sharpen it with your teeth.”

After eating, Chiang grabbed up a branch from nearby and bit off the end to a point.

Macan commanded him back into the waters where he spent the rest of the day practicing at spearing the fish with the branch. By late afternoon the was a small mountain of fish upon the shore next to the lounging Macan.

The elder tiger called Chiang ashore and commanded him to make a large basket out of banana leaves. He new that Chiang must take care to not allow his claws to tear at the leaves lest he start over again. Chiang made the basket rather deftly and loaded the fish into the basket, then placed the basket upon his back.

Macan and Chiang came back to the rest of the tigers at nightfall with the basket of salmon and they had a feast in his honor. After the night’s mean, Macan came to Chiang and said, “I know not much else of Men. I can teach you no more.”

“And I have done well to teach you what I know,” said Muruku.

“You are ready to fulfill your purpose,” said Macan.

Chiang growled. He said, “Then I will go tonight.”

“No!” yelped Muruku. “You are… are most tired, son. You have trained all day. you must rest now.”

Macan agreed with this. Chiang begrudgingly agreed to sleep that night. “But my morning’s first light,” he swore, “I will lead an army of our people against those that would hunt us and put an end to their ways.”

Muruku, worried, slipped from the tiger encampment once more that night. He made his way once more to the hunters’ encampment where he met with Vibol Walid once again. In the soft torchlight of the makeshift courtyard they spoke.

“The cub has grown larger than a man,” warned Muruku. “He has received training from Macan and plans to attack your people at first light.”

“His growth has been incredible!”

“It has,” agreed Muruku.

“Can you stay his desire?” asked Vibol.

“I fear I may not be able to,” answered Muruku.

Vibol’s eyes narrowed. “What is this odd cub’s name?”

“He goes by Chiang.”

Vibol nodded, stroking his beard to a point. He paced the courtyard a moment before stopping, looking to Muruku and stating, “Let this Tiger Chiang come. We will be ready to put him down.”

Once more, on the long walk back to where the tigers gathered, Muruku considered the fate of his son.



At first light the next morning, Chiang lead a small army of tigers including Muruku, T’salina and Macan.

“I refuse to stay behind at this hour,” defied Macan. Yet he allowed Chiang to lead the way.

As the tigers flowed through the jungle, they came upon two men. One was short and wiry while the other was tall and muscular. Both men wore the skins of tigers over their chest and about the waist.

“Identify yourselves,” Chiang demanded of them.

The short man laughed maniacally. He said, “I am Yowghan and this here is my comrade Boita. And together we will be your killers!”

The tigers growled, but it was Macan who stepped forth. “Stand down, all of you. I’ll take them.”

The tigers melded into the woods, remaining nearby to watch and be ready.

The two men circled Macan. The elder tiger stood sideways, showing his length to appear larger. His back arched. He growled furiously.

Yowghan produced from under his tiger skin a pair of short knives. Boita cracked his fists and rolled his head to stretch his neck.

Macan leaped at Yowghan, teeth bared and claws out. Boita ran at Macan, punching the old tiger in the side with both fists and knocking him to the ground.

Macan stood from the ground. Yowghan laughed hysterically. “You cannot defeat Yowghan and Boita! We are supreme tiger hunters. You will only die. Run, little cat, run into the jungle to hide. All we desire is the hide of your leader, the tiger called Chiang.”

Macan’s eyes grew wide. “How do you know about Chiang?”

Yowghan laughed once more. “We know everything! We can outwit you tigers many times over.”

Macan growled.

Chiang stepped from the jungle. He eyed Yowghan and Boita a moment.

Yowghan laughed. “Yes! We were told he would be a special tiger, a standing tiger. Look, friend Boita. It is the magical Tiger Chiang. This is the one we were meant to kill.”

Chiang looked to Macan. “Stand down, Grandfather Macan. I will fight these two.”

Macan did as Chiang said. He crept into the jungle, watching from shadows there.

Chiang bare his claws. Said he, “Come, hunters. Come impale yourselves upon my claws.”

Yowghan laughed with delight.

Boita ran at Chiang, who dodged to one side. Neither noticed Yowghan throw one of the knives. The blade sank into Chaing’s left shoulder. He roared with the pain, but moreso the anger at himself for not watching both his attackers.

Boita landed a two-fisted punch upon Chiang’s chest, knocking him back. Yowghan came to Chiang’s side and, with a leg sweep, toppled the giant tiger.

Once more Chiang roared with fury. He quickly removed the knife from his shoulder, dropped the knife to the ground and rolled up onto his feet.

Yowghan laughed. “We have you outnumbered and outsmarted, tiger. Give up now and your death shall be painless.”

Boita frowned.

Yowghan saw this frown upon his friend’s face. He said, “I lied, comrade. We will make his death painful no matter how he leaves this world!”

Both men laughed.

Chiang jumped, aiming for the taller and slower Boita. The tiger’s swiftness proved too much for the man. Both fell to the ground, Chiang’s hands slipping up under Boita’s arms, his claws sinking deep into the ribcage there. Boita cried out.

Yowghan jumped sideways, rolled, picking up the knife Chiang had left behind and stood. He threw the knife once more, but now Chaing expected it. When he heard the quick whip of the sharpened steel biting air, Chiang rolled to bring Boita atop of him. The knife sank into Boita’s back, causing him to cry out in pain.

Yowghan’s smile left his face as his enjoyment of the fight disappeared. He scowled, angry with the deceptive and skillful tiger. He screamed.

Chiang placed his hind paws upon the wide chest of the large Boita. His legs, the very legs that withstood the strength of a raging river, pressed out while his claws pulled in. Chiang severed Boita’s chest, mincing it into ugliness upon the frame. His hind legs launched Boita into the air, flying some ways before he hit the ground, unconscious and left to bleed out until dead.

Yowghan ran to and knelt by Boita’s bleeding body, horrified by the clawed chest. He fondled the remaining knife in his hand. He looked upon Chiang who now stood, waiting.

“Run now,” spoke Chiang, “and live a life free from hunting tigers. Or take to your feet and die beside your friend.”

Yowghan stood screaming, charging, brandishing the knife. In his fury, he did not see nor did he care that Chiang sidestepped the attack. Chiang’s claws gripped Yowghan below the neck, the tiger’s palm gracing the entirety of the small man’s chest. Chiang flexed, his claws digging deeper into the chest until they killed the man and Chiang’s furred hand ran red with blood.

Chiang let go of Yowghan’s body, letting it fall limply to the ground.

The many tigers appeared from the shadows, all in awe of their hero and ready to serve him to the end of their trials. Indeed, even Muruku so wished this.

Chiang looked to his people. He did not take the time to clean his claws or fur. He said to them, “We must press on, but we must expect more hunters waiting for us to pass by.”

The tigers agreed and followed.

As they padded through the jungle, they were unknowingly stalked by Lie Ren the Huntress. So skilled a hunter was she that, without notice to herself, she had witnessed the fight between Yowghan and Boita and the tigers. She was noticed only when she wished to be noticed, only when she sent an arrow through the jungle to slice into the tiger Muruku, its finely sharpened head entered behind the shoulder at an angle to dig deep into the chest were it pierced the heart and a lung. Muruku toppled instantly. He gave no yelp, he bolted not from the pain. He merely dropped where he had been walking.

His breathing was instantly shallow, labored. Chiang knelt to his side. The other tigers spread out to hide in the woods.

Chiang heard the huntress in the trees behind him. he turned and leaped, yet she was already gone.

“Show yourself coward!” demanded Chaing.

Lie Ren did show herself, with yet another arrow. Yet Chiang was ready for it, listening for it. He turned, cupped his hands before his chest and fell to the ground. The arrow dug into his forearm, its intended target his heart. As he fell, he looked along the path the arrow had come and there found Lie Ren.

Seeing him finding her, Lie Ren dropped to the jungle’s floor. She stood, her longbow made of yew in her right hand. She wore a poncho of hand-woven green leaves and leather pants. She was fair, even pretty.

When she spoke, her voice was soft yet commanding. “You’ll not get far,” she told Chiang. “Besides me, there are a half dozen other hunters waiting in ambush not far from here. But your people will have to go on without you for I will kill you now.”

She nocked an arrow from the quiver at her back and readied herself.

Muruku gasped. Chiang, ignoring the huntress, stood and walked to his father’s side.

“I'm a here, father,” said Chiang as he gently caressed the dying tiger’s forehead.

“Father?” Lie Ren whispered. She lowered her bow.

“When they tell my tale,” gasped Muruku, “let it be known I chose to defend my people to the end.”

Chiang nodded.

Muruku heaved once and died.

“He was your father?” asked Lie Ren.

Chiang carefully closed his father’s eyes, stood and nodded to Lie Ren.

She considered him before saying, “I was sent to kill you, but I chose to first kill Muruku for he had killed my father. I’ve dedicated my last few years to hunting your father. Now it would seem I’ve only done so to take another’s father from them. For this I am sorry.”

Unawares and in thought, Lie Ren did not notice Chiang flex his legs and leap until he was mid-air and closing on her. She tried to leap back, but the tiger’s clawed hand caught her against the side of her left shin. With such force did Chiang strike at her that, had his claws not touched her, the result would be the same. Her leg was torn in half below the knee, her shin and foot and femur shattering into fragments surrounding a larger chunk of meat that fell away from her.

Lie Ren fell backwards onto the ground. She leaned forward, looking upon her missing limb in horror.

Chiang bent low and grabbed the bow from her, throwing it aside. He knelt beside the fallen huntress, asking, “Who rules the hunters?”

“A merchant by the name Vibol Walid. He has many powerful clients that would like to see you dead, many would use your bones and teeth as aphrodisiacs and other hermetics.”

“If I should find you’ve lied to me,” spoke Chiang, “I return here and take the rest of your limbs so you can watch me gnaw on them.”

Chiang called to his people, “Come, tigers. Follow me. Let this one alone. She’ll no longer be a threat to us.”

As each tiger passed by the fallen Lie Ren, ignoring her or turning up his or her nose at her.

Before Chaing was out of reach of her voice, Lie Ren called to him. “Tiger Chiang!”

Chiang halted his progress to look back.

“The day will come when you will want vengeance,” she said to him. “I know this well. When that day arrives, find me and I will give you the satisfaction you seek.”

Without another word passing between them, Chiang and Lie Ren parted ways.

Lie Ren was not a liar. Soon the tigers were ambushed by six hunters waiting in the jungle for them. Everyone was required to take part in this battle. Tigers and men spilled blood alike. In the end, all six men were killed as were eight tigers and four mortally wounded so they could not go on. Chiang ordered them to remain behind and await their return.

After their long travel through the jungle made longer with the battles, the tigers came into the hunters’ encampment a little after noon in the day. There they were met by two dozen more hunters, most armed with spears or bows.

Chiang halted his people. He eyed the hunters and spoke to them. “I’ve come only for your ruler, I seek the one called Vibol Walid. Bring him to me and I will spare the rest of you.”

The hunters laughed in unison at this. They had long hunted tigers and though Chiang was different, they assumed he was not much different, that they could easily put him down.

“Where is Vibol Walid?” Chiang demanded with a roar. A few of the hunters now jumped and cowered a bit.

“He is not available upon your request, filthy tiger,” said one of the hunters.

Chiang’s claws reached out, his arm arcing so to streak through the afternoon sky. Claws dug into the temple and face of the hunter that had chosen to speak. The force of the blow was similar to the blow Chiang had delivered unto Lie Ren’s leg, and with similar effect. The hunter’s head was torn from its base and was sent hurtling unevenly through the air at the other hunters. The headless corpse collapsed to the ground beside Chiang.

The rest of the hunters now shook with fear, whispering superstitions and refusing to look Chiang in the eye.

“Give me Vibol Walid!” Chiang demanded.

At last a door on one of the makeshift houses slid sideways, opening onto a room made for lounging. In the door appeared two men carrying Vibol Walid upon a pillowed chair. They set him down just outside the door. He smoked a long, curved pipe filled with tobacco. He looked at Chiang carefully.

“Are you Vibol Walid?” asked Chiang.

Vibol nodded.

“I’ve come for your life.”

Vibol smiled at this. He said, “Then you are a damned fool. I am the hunter, not the hunted. Are you too stupid to know this? Tell me, Tiger Chiang, where is Muruku?”

Shocked the man knew his father’s name, Chiang said, “Some ways back, lying dead. How do you know him?”

Vibol smiled. “How do you think we knew of your coming? Of your name? Of how to so effectively hunt your people long before you were born?”

“Your lies are ineffective weapons! Come, Vibol Walid! Fight me!”

Vibol shook his head and said, “No. I have others for such a task.” Vibol’s eyes narrowed as he yelled, “Get him!”

The hunters were hesitant, but finally three stepped forward.

The tigers growled en masse. Chiang said to them, “Stand down, friends. But remain close, they may choose to run.”

The tigers spread out evenly around the encampment, placing themselves at vantage points to watch every move Chiang would make.

The three men lunged.

Chiang struck out, first left then right, then left again. The first hunter fell after hit with claws to the gut. The second ran into the corner of the encampment to fall unconscious after his left arm was ripped from his body. The third fell to the ground, claw marks across his face spewing blood and gore.

Chaing said, “Fight me, Vibol Walid!”

Vibol sighed. He took a deep drag from the pipe, held the smoke in his mouth a good long time before blowing it out, handed the pipe to one of the men nearby and stood. His eyes never left Chiang during all this, nor did they flit in any direction as he removed his shirt to show his cobra tattoo. He stretched his shoulders a moment, shaking his arms to loosen his muscles. He then approached Chiang.

“You will prove most valuable to my clientele, Tiger Chiang. And the more you fight, the more I’ll charge them for my troubles,” said Vibol. He smiled and added, “Let us make this a good fight, then.”

Chiang scowled, his throat grumbling with the desire to roar.

The two paced each other a few moments, sizing one another up. At last Chiang grew tired of this and struck out, but Vibol easily dodged the claws of the tiger.

Vibol smiled. “Your not as fast as a cobra,” he taunted.

Chiang frowned. He struck out again and again, unable to connect with an attack as Vibol dodged everything. Chiang’s claws bit the air once more and Vibol this time, though he was out of range for the attack, stepped into it a bit to block the tiger’s blow with his forearm. Vibol’s arm then slithered, snake-like, up the arm of the giant tiger, winding around it some to hold it there. Vibol was now under Chiang’s arm, his hand making a snake-like head and striking out with two fingers for fangs to pinch at the nerve in Chaing’s shoulder behind the clavicle.

Chiang yowled with the sharp, quick pain that immediately disappeared into numbness. He stumbled backwards, out of Vibol’s grip. The hunters cheered their leader. The tigers hissed their displeasure.

Chiang regained his composure though he still suffered some numbness in his right shoulder and arm. He made a fist and shook out the odd feeling there. He knew then his enemy was most likely better versed in fighting than he and that he had to outsmart, not outfight, Vibol with the few skills he had.

Chiang went on the defensive. Vibol struck out, his fang-like fingers puncturing the tiger’s skin here and there. The wounds were small and, alone, inconsequential. But when Chiang received three such blows in the left chest and arm, he realized their combined effects could cripple him as his left arm was now weaker than it had been before. He had to be swift with his ideas now.

Vibol struck again, this time to Chaing’s right. The tiger thought of his training. He thought of the hunting skills his father and T’salina and others had imparted to him. He thought of the salmon and the river Grandfather Macan had taken him to. He let go of his desire to kill Vibol Walid. He shifted his concern to catching him.

Vibol struck out with his left hand.

Chiang grabbed Vibol by the wrist. He did not handle the man with care, as he had with the salmon, instead digging his claws deep into Vibol’s wrists.

Vibol, somewhat shocked but not yet concerned, struck out with his right.

Chiang once more caught up the wrist as a salmon leaping from the waters. His claws dug into flesh once more. Vibol now became worried. He tried to shift his weight to free himself of Chiang’s grasp, but failed. Chiang tried to remember his training, all of it, and finally thought of the killing blow all tigers learned.

Chiang leaned forward, his neck outstretched and head turning sideways, his maw coming up beneath Vibol’s head. Chiang opened his mouth wide. He did not want to kill Vibol instantly, so he did not suffice to snap Vibol’s neck with his long teeth. He instead engulfed Vibol’s neck and part of his head with all his jaw and clamped down with his smaller teeth upon the throat, first closing then crushing the windpipe there, causing Vibol to suffocate.

Once dead, Chiang let go of Vibol, allowing his body to tumble awkwardly to the ground.

Chiang then turned to the remaining hunters and spoke these words, “Leave this jungle and never return to hunt another tiger, lest you be hunted yourselves.”

The remaining hunters fled in fear, leaving behind everything within the encampment. The tigers cheered as they burned the encampment to the ground.

Chiang remained with his people two years more. In those years, he watched as his people grew in numbers and the fear of hunters fled their hearts. He also grew restless, weary.

Macan knew this one night came to sit at Chiang’s side by the Moon Pond and asked his grandson, “What bothers you so, dear Chiang?”

Chiang sighed. He confessed, “I was brought into this world with a purpose, Grandfather Macan. It has now been two years since I’ve fulfilled that purpose and I find myself questioning my usefulness. I cannot help but feel… well, rather out of place with my own people. I am not quite like them nor do they any longer need me.”

Macan nodded, saying, “I understand.”

They watched the moon’s reflection in the pond a moment before Chiang then said, “Grandfather Macan, I feel I must leave this jungle to find a new path for myself.”

Once more Macan nodded, saying, “I understand.” The elder tiger wanted to ask Chiang what he thought he might do outside the jungle, where he might live, but he knew the young tiger would not have an answer to these questions. He felt, however, he should say something and so insisted, “Chiang, wherever you go, whatever you might do please never forget your people.”

Chiang shook his head. “I could never forget my tigers of the jungle.”

Macan nodded at this and said, “Make certain you don’t.”

The following day, Chiang’s leave-taking was announced and prepared for. A feast was held in his honor. Many tried to persuade him to stay, but found their efforts fruitless.

On the day Chiang left the jungle, all the tigers from all over the jungle walked with him a long ways, saying their goodbyes and getting their last words with him. Macan and T’salina were the last to walk at Chiang’s side. When they came to the edge of the jungle they stopped. Chiang looked at them. He lowered himself to kiss T’salina gently, lovingly. He said, “You’ve been like a mother to me. I’ll miss you most of all.”

Nearing tears, T’salina expressed her love for Chaing before running off.

Macan and Chiang watched her disappear into the jungle.

Chiang asked, “Do you think my father was a traitor, Grandfather Macan?”

Macan thought it over. “I cannot say,” he confessed, “but he did not die as one. He died in our midst on our great day of liberation. And that is how I will tell his story to the cubs.”

Chiang liked this and nodded his approval.

“Fare well, Great Chiang,” said Macan.

“Take good care of the jungle for me, Grandfather Macan,” answered Chiang.

A lone tiger stepped from the jungles that day and into the rest of the world.


I hope that was worth the wait. ;)

Tune in next week for Act IV of "The Tiger and the Hare"!

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