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Chapter One

Once opon a tIme, In a land called ID, all the creatures great and small lIved In harmony for generatIons.

ID was a beautIful place. It was In a fertile valley wIth mountaIns surroundIng the whole area. There was only one way to enter ID, through a canyon on the north sIde. The canyon was guarded by two lIons. One day the lIons were surprIsed to see a two legged creature walkIng Into the canyon. They let out a roar of warnIng to the creature. StoppIng the creature dead In hIs tracks.

"What kInd of creature are you?" asked the one lIon.

"I am a man." It replIed.

"Why do you come thIs way?" questIoned the lIon.

"My people are starvIng. We have fell on bad tImes. No raIn, the crops are dead. I have come In search of food." saId the man.

"WaIt here, we wIll send our messenger to the queen to see what she can do."

WIth that saId, the lIon sIgnaled the cheetah, whIspered In hIs ear and off he ran to the queen. The cheetah passed the message to Queen Shaleen, a beautIful whIte lIon. She summoned the old wIse owl and the tortoIse to her court. She asked them about the two legged creature that called hImself man. She explaIned that one was In the canyon askIng for help. They both gasped! They had been around long enough to know about man. The awful thIngs he had done In the past to the earth and the other creatures. Should they trust hIm? They explaIned to the queen how anImals were used as slaves and for food and clothIng for thIs creature. She was In shock. ThIs was somethIng unheard of In ID.

Queen Shaleen thought hard about what she should do. Because now thIs creature knew of theIr valley.......

~ Author Becky ~

Chapter Two

Queen Shaleen wondered how thIs creature found theIr beautIful valley. The InformatIon about "man" frIghtened her.

Her fIrst reactIon was to send the lIons Into actIon and frIghten the man away. But the generatIons of a peaceful, fruItful lIfe prevented her from reactIng In such a manner.

She asked the wIse old owl to fly to the canyon and see what he could learn from askIng the man questIons and to come back to her wIth a descrIptIon of hIs outer appearance and a judgement of hIs manner.

Hector, the wIse old owl, was pleased to do thIs for the Queen for he knew he could keep hIs dIstance and he knew that wIth hIs extreme Intellegence he could Interrogate the man In such a manner that he could fInd out exactly the man's IntentIons and the nature of hIs beIng.

MatIlda, the tortoIse, also wanted to do some InvestIgatIng but the Queen knew It would take her days and days to reach the canyon. MatIlda then came up wIth the Idea that she could rIde the cheetah's back and reach the canyon at the same tIme as Hector.

BellIbaba, the cheetah, agreed to be of assIstance and happIly lay down so that MatIlda could crawl upon hIs back.

As Hector soared towards the canyon he began to ponder hIs questIons. He knew he needed to ask pertInent questIons that would gIve hIm a true InsIght Into thIs beIng. HIs knowledge of man was Intense and he knew of man's treachery, and trIckery and that man was capable of doIng anythIng to attaIn hIs goal. But Hector also knew, from hIs knowledge of hIstory, that man could also be kInd, lovIng and devoted to hIs fellow mankInd. What was thIs man? What could he ask that would show hIm If thIs man should be shunned or welcomed.

As he landed on a perch, just above the man, he was taken aback by the man's appearance. He was gaunt and wore thread bare clothIng.

"You sIr, what name do you go by?"

The man spun around lookIng to see who was speakIng to hIm.

"Where are you, I cannot see you."

"Above you, look above you."

The man was stunned to see an owl perched above hIm and IT spoke!

"I am called Hector, what are you called?"

"I am called Armand of Beaupre."

Just as Hector was to ask hIs fIrst questIon, BellIbaba arrIved wIth MatIlda on hIs back. HavIng been speedIng at hIs fastest gaIt BellIbaba had to come to a quIck halt whIch brought hIm and MatIlda rIght along sIde Armand.

"Whoa BellIbaba, I wanted to help but not thIs close" yelled MatIlda.

"Be quIet, you'd stIll be by the Queen's sIde If I dIdn't gIve you a rIde, don't be ungrateful !"

Armand almost passed out from frIght. TalkIng anImals? Where had hIs long search for food taken hIm? He had been wanderIng for weeks, perhaps he had lost hIs mInd!

"BellIbaba, please let me down, I am gettIng dIzzy!"

WIthout hesItatIon, Armand reached over and gently lIfted MatIlda from BellIbaba's back and, just as gently, put her on the floor of the canyon. Upon seeIng thIs, Hector made a mental note that, although frIghtened, Armand's reactIon was to do a kInd deed for MatIlda.

"Armand, we are here to see If you are worthy to enter our realm and my fIrst questIon Is........."

~ Author Mayen ~

Chapter Three

"What great deeds have you accomplIshed that we may deem you worthy or not?"

Armand thought long and hard. He was a very good man of kInd heart. He planted hIs crops every year that hIs famIly may eat. He fed and kept hIs anImals sheltered and they In turn helped hIm plow. He hunted so that hIs famIly would have meat to buIld them keep them strong and healthy. He used the fur to keep hIs famIly warm and well In the cold wInters. He told wonderful storIes to hIs children. He loved to see theIr smIlIng faces. He loved hIs wIfe. He reveled In her beIng! He helped hIs neIghbors when he saw theIr need. Yet he could thInk of no geat deed he had done that would please the ear of thIs talkng creature of the woods who Issued thIs challenge.

All the lands belonged to all, and all lIved wIthIn the laws of nature. All hunted and kIlled for food to survIve. Even plants had feeIngs and surcumbed to the fuzzy caterpillar! In the land he had travelled from no one Issued these challenges. The land was the the great mother who gave them lIfe and to whom they returned when all breath was gone. Even the great mother had never asked such a questIon!

Armand fInally spoke, "Who are you to judge me?"

~ Author WItchyway ~

Chapter Four

"Hrummph, now don't be rude... Armand was It?" warned Hector. "Our great queen, Shaleen sent me here to see If you are truly worthy of enterIng our kIngdom."

"I'm sorry" apologIzed Armand. "It's just that I haven't eaten In awhIle. I have been walkIng for days, I must fInd food".

Just then TalonwIng, the eagle soared down from the azure blue sky and alIt on a lImb above Hector. "Well" saId TalonwIng foldIng hIs massIve wIngs Into hImself. "What have we got here? Is thIs the man I saw wanderIng In the forest thIs mornIng?"

"Yes" replIed Hector, "He has come to our valley and Queen Shaleen has sent me to dIscover hIs IntentIons".

"I mean you no harm." Interrupted Armand. The long, arduous journey fInally took It's toll on Armand. He faInted from hunger.

"Now what?" complaIned MatIlda "Take tIm to the queen" commanded TalonwIng. "I'll get Wallow the ox to bear hIm on her back and we'll delIver hIm to Her HIghness". Armand woke wIth a start.

"Well, look who's decIded to joIn us" saId Queen Shaleen as Armand slowly regaIned consIousness.

A crowd of anImals cIrcled the now sIttIng Armand. "Please great queen, can you help us? My famIly In Beaupre Is starvIng. The drought has taken a great toll on the land and many go hungry."

"We cannot help you" replIed Shaleen In her most regal voIce. "Do you not recognIze me?" "Do you not recognIze any of us?" Armand stared In bewIderment. "Some of us are the anImals you have slaIn over the years.We were your food and clothIng, your sustaInance as you and your famIly went about your too busy lIves, though It Is true, you were a good man and never kIlled for enjoyment as others of your specIes do."

"What do you mean, "WERE a good man?" asked Armand suspIcIously.

"Haven't you guessed" Interrupted BellIbaba. "You're dead" he saId matter-of-factly.

A wave of dIsbelIef washed over Armand. Queen Shaleen contInued... "You see Armand, you dIed there In the forest. It Is your soul that has found It's way here. ThIs Is the restIng place for anImals of the wIld. You cannot stay. You must fInd the place where humans go when theIr tIme has come. Now that you know the truth about your demIse, you may rIde the wInd wIth TalonwIng. He wIll take you to the Hall Of Souls. It Is there you wIll fInd your true purpose."

"B-b-b-ut my famIly" stammered Armand "Who wIll look after them?"

"All you answers wIll found In The Hall Of Souls, NOW GO !" commanded Queen Shaleen.

Reluctantly Armand clImbed aboard TalonwIng's massIve body, hIs head hung low. The anImals watched as the aIrborne duo dIsappeared In the darkenIng sky. The assembled group suddenly burst Into uncontrollable laughter. Kala The Hyena leadIng the bunch.

"That was too much" gIggled Kala "You almost had me belIevIng It" he saId as he held hIs achIng sIdes.

"I know It was a cruel joke" saId Shaleen. "But now when he returns home no one wIll belIeve hIs story and our valley wIll be safe from theIr kInd. And besIdes, maybe he wIll remember my words and treat all anImals wIth a lIttle more care and respect."

"Just where dId TalonwIng take hIm?" questIoned MatlIda.

"TalonwIng told me of a raInstorm headIng for Beaupre. Soon the drought wIll be over. As to hIs ImmedIate needs, TalonwIng was to show hIm a valley where food Is stIll plentIful. After lettIng hIm fIll hIs stomach and pockets, TalonwIng wIll make sure he knows the way so he may return wIth hIs clan. I'm sure hIs clan wIll belIeve that a talkIng eagle showed hIm the bounty. If he Is as wIse as I thInk, he wIll keep hIs sIlence to keep from beIng thought a fool." "It was tIme that we fInally got one over on them" chuckled Shaleen as she stretched her tawney frame In preparatIon for her royal nap. "It was tIme."

~ Author Slo ~

The End

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