by Happy Dragon
An allegory of the Bible, packed with meaning, action, and morals.
Reshan opened his eyes. Some sort of large fly was buzzing his ear. He shooed the pesky arthropod and sat up. Warm sunlight, filtered by leaves, caressed his face as he looked around. He had been sleeping under a bush on the fringe of a grassy clearing. Besides this there were only trees, lots of trees. He must be back in the woods behind his house. But it was all different. Where's the book? Where's the nest? He was in a new place entirely.
Suddenly, Reshan's mind became aware of a smell, one that set a red flag flapping. It was smoke. Had the woods caught on fire? Leaping to his feet, Reshan sprinted a few feet towards the direction of the disturbing scent. He stopped short when he saw a neat, crackling campfire surrounded by a ring of rocks. The scene had been obscured by a large oak tree. He recognized the straight black hair and muscular frame of the man kneeling by the phony forest fire immediately.
The warrior turned, smiled, and held out a strong hand in greeting. Shaking it reminded Reshan of shaking hands with his father, before...
"Have you finally satisfied your obviously critical need for sleep?" Selodiar's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Oops. Did I oversleep?"
Selodiar's only answer was a good-natured chuckle. He returned to his campfire for a few seconds before turning and saying, "Today is your first day of training. You have a couple of, well, room-mates that will be training with you." Another one of Selodiar's broad smiles flashed as he noticed something behind Reshan. "Good timing."
Reshan turned. From separate directions came two boys. The first had startlingly orange hair, and was a couple of inches shorter than Reshan, though quite stocky. He seemed to be around twelve years old. The other boy was a creature previously unknown to Reshan. Well, he was human, or seemed to be, but Reshan had never seen so big a child in all his life. The giant, looking in the face to be about 14, stood eye to eye with Selodiar, and he was hefty and powerful, though he lacked Selodiar's impressive build. Reshan came to his senses and closed his mouth, which had dropped open. Standing, Selodiar shook the hands of each of them. "Reshan," he said, "this is Auhsor and Noxtar."
"As I was telling Reshan, we are beginning your training today. What I want to begin with is a mock fight. You three will battle each other with wooden swords and weapons while I supervise. Each of you have your own strengths and weaknesses. Reshan?"
"From what I understand, you have always felt a kinship and fascination with animals. Is this true?"
"Think like an animal. You are sturdy, yet fast. When you are fighting, are you the bull, the powerful one, in your situation? Or are you the mongoose, the quick one? You could easily fit either role. Auhsor?"
"Am I right that that you are, um, obsessed with snakes?"
Selodiar held out some sort of handheld buzzing invention to the boy, about the size of a sharpie. " This is an electrical zapper. How do venomous snakes hunt?"
"Well, they're often ambush predators."
"Right. Think like that. You have a close range, potent weapon. It is your fangs. Don't put yourself in any situation where you are head on with an enemy, unless you can rely on another weapon to get you close enough to deliver your fatal bite." Glancing at Reshan and Noxtar, Selodiar assured them, "Don't worry. This little invention is far from fatal. Noxtar!"
"You are the bull of any situation. You are so strong that you could kill a grown man with only your strength. Use that. Do not try to be the quick one in any situation. Use your strength sparingly, so as not to leave yourself open, but use it well. I also understand that you like to build and take things apart."
"There will be many weapons at your disposal. Think like you are an architect, building them as you go. They cause a bit of transition time, but can offer a great advantage." Reshan noticed a bundle of wooden weapons not too far from the fire. Selodiar retrieved it, handed Reshan and Auhsor a wooden sword each, and gave Noxtar the rest of the bundle. Reshan briefly wondered why Auhsor and Noxtar each got some other weapon, and he only received a sword. Perhaps Selodiar was right. Reshan's other weapon was his adaptability to the situation. Then the magic words exited Selodiar's mouth, "You may begin."
Auhsor backed off a few paces. Noxtar advanced towards Reshan, a wooden scythe in his hand. Reshan stood his ground, although he stayed on his toes, ready to spring in any direction. He was obviously the mongoose in this situation. It was like the mongoose against the rhinoceros. It might be difficult.
When Noxtar took a swing, Reshan tried to block. The blow nearly broke his arm, and Reshan saw Selodiar frown out of the corner of his eye. No. Mongoose. I'm a mongoose. They don't block. They dodge. Noxtar's next attack didn't prove as effective. Reshan dodged. He jumped and ducked over and over again. It proved to annoy Noxtar. So Noxtar tried harder. He extended his arm as far as it would go, and swung his scythe hard, fast. Reshan wasn't expecting it. He saw it coming, and knew he couldn't dodge it. He also couldn't block it. I'm a mongoose, he thought. Without realizing what he was doing, Reshan leapt into the air, turning sideways and spinning before landing with both feet- no, all four paws- on top of Noxtar's weapon. Digging his claws into the wood, he dashed up the handle of the scythe and leapt over the boy's head. He landed on the other side and twitched his cat-like nose before realizing that he was no longer human.
When Noxtar turned to gawk at the snarling mongoose that had just been a young teenager, he had unwittingly fallen into a trap. Auhsor had been waiting for such an opening. The boy rushed the moving mountain before him and thrust his buzzing "fang" into Noxtar's back. The zap made Noxtar grunt, and for a moment, he was even more astonished than he had been when his opponent shape shifted. He turned on his new adversary.
All this time Reshan had been wondering exactly what had happened. He had resumed his human form, and the realization hit him that he had actually changed into an animal. He had no idea what that meant. All he knew now was that he needed his sword, which had fallen to the ground before he had shape shifted. It lay at Noxtar's feet. He snatched it from the ground and pounded Noxtar's back with it. With both Auhsor and Reshan attacking him, Noxtar could not hold out. He tried desperately to get to his bag of weapons, but when he turned to advance on Reshan, who was blocking it, he received a jolt from the little electrical weapon.
Noxtar grew tired of this. Ignoring Reshan's pounding sword from behind, he turned on Auhsor. He grabbed the boy's weapon, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. The buzzing invention didn't stand a chance. Auhsor backed off, then ran around Noxtar to join Reshan in blocking the weapons. Apparently they had teamed up for the moment. Noxtar threw the brunt of his attack at Reshan, just to have it promptly dodged. Auhsor had run to the bag of weapons, and was doing his best to break each one. As his supply dwindled, Noxtar tried harder and harder to get past the annoying teenager in his path. Finally there was but one item left, a shield. When Auhsor reached for it, Noxtar bellowed an enraged roar, and charged into Reshan like a bull, leaving him on the ground with the breath knocked out of his lungs. Noxtar lunged, dropping the scythe and raising his right hand. A wooden spear materialized out of nowhere, gripped firmly in Noxtar's upraised hand, and he flung it at Auhsor, who had just grabbed the shield. The spear slammed against the hastily upraised shield, and both items broke in half.
Reshan stared at the huge boy. How had he done that? It was the second impossible event. Reshan had shape-shifted into an animal, and Noxtar had built a weapon out of thin air. Each lined up with Selodiar's individual advice. Reshan began to wonder if these events were more than bizarre coincidents; perhaps these were new powers inherited by his becoming a soldier. It was worth investigating. In the time that each boy was in a sort of shock, Reshan concentrated on his own body. He wanted to become a bird. Feathers, beak, talons, wings. Reshan closed his eyes and imagined himself as a small wren. When he opened his eyes he had no arms, and he was a lot closer to the ground. With monocular vision he eyed his own feathery chest and strong wings. It worked! He concentrated on his natural human body, and again he became a teenager. He looked at Noxtar and Auhsor. They too had been experimenting. Noxtar had a pile of weapons at his feet- both metal and wooden, and Auhsor's fingers glowed and crackled with electricity.