Continuing the serialization of my epic fantasy novel, Tickling Butterflies.
The River and the Tigress
(Containing the surprising appearance of King Charming the Fourth.)
The River was always jealous of Kate the Catty.
Like Kate the Catty, the River also had a son, a small brook called the Bamboo Brook. But the seasons were dry after John the Cute was born. The Bamboo Brook dried up, and River believed she had lost her son forever. She did not realize that when it would rain, there would be water in the brook again, and her son would return.
Whenever Kate the Catty brought her young child to the River for a picnic, the River would always be jealous.
And so, when John the Cute was merely three years old, Kate the Catty accidentally dropped her son into the River, and the River quickly swept John the Cute away.
In less than a second, Kate the Catty’s arms were in the water. But her son had already been sped away by the River.
Kate the Catty at once sprang into action and ran in the direction of the River.
Her son’s face appeared, bobbing on top of the water, already at the horizon.
Kate the Catty ran alongside the River after her son, reaching the speed of the River. The River, seeing her prank was taken seriously, put a roar in the water, and the torrent of the stream grew faster. Running along the side of the River, Kate the Catty reached the speed of a tigress, matching the River’s speed.
The River, afraid of being caught, threw a Knife Fish out of the water at a nearby tree. The Knife Fish cut the branch it had landed on. The beehive on the branch broke, and all the bees, angry and upset, set their anger on Kate the Catty, which had just leapt over the branch.
Without giving it a second thought, Kate the Catty sprang into the River and began to swim underwater. Following her, the bees were confused and stung the River instead of Kate the Catty.
Now the River set a hippopotamus, an alligator and two piranha fish on Kate the Catty Without stopping for a second, Kate the Catty poked the hippopotamus in the eye, bit the alligator in the tail, and ate the two piranha fish. She continued on her way, slowly gaining on her son.
Now the River was truly frightened. She began to fashion massive waves and dangerous whirlpools in an attempt to stop the angry mother. Kate the Catty suddenly stood on her two feet and roared a roar so powerful and so frightening, that it was heard in three continents, one of which was on the other side of the Land of All Legends.
The roar quieted the River into submission. All at once, the River was calm, and the water in it had stopped running. Kate the Catty looked around. A white-haired man in his fifties, regal and charming, stood on River’s river bed. The man was wearing a crown. In his hands, he held the young John the Cute. At once relieved and in awe, Kate the Catty knew she was facing King Charming the Fourth. She bowed before him.
“Is this your son?” King Charming the Fourth asked Kate the Catty. “I had pulled him out of the River only seconds ago.”
Kate the Catty stepped out of the River and bowed again. “Your highness. My son fell into the water and was carried away. I have been fighting water, bees, wind, a hippopotamus, an alligator, and two piranha fish in order to get to him.”
King Charming the Fourth smiled. He liked strong women. “Rise,” he said. “What is your name?”
As per the king’s orders, Kate the Catty stopped bowing. “Kate the Catty, your highness.”
“And what is your son’s name?” asked the King, as he was about to give John the Cute back to his mother.
“John the Cute, your highness.”
King Charming the Fourth froze in place, the child still in his arms. “This is John the Cute?”
“Yes, your highness.”
King Charming the Fourth gave the child to his mother.
“You cannot have heard of him,” Kate the Catty said.
“I have. More than twenty years ago, when I inherited the throne from my father, King Charming the Third.”
Kate the Catty looked at her three year old son. “Twenty years ago?”
“There was a prophecy,” the King said. “For my ears alone. One day, it said, a man known as John the Cute would save the entire Land of All Legends, when no other could. It said that I would meet him four times and four times only.” King Charming the Fourth stared at the child. “I suppose this is the first time.”
Kate the Catty said hesitantly, “I have also heard a prophecy… before my son was born. It said that John the Cute would become king at the age of eighteen.”
King Charming the Fourth was surprised. “Instead of my son, Prince Charming the Fifth? Or instead of me?”
Kate the Catty shook her head. “The prophecy did not say, your highness.”
King Charming the Fourth looked at the child again. “Well, I must go. I suppose we will meet again, John the Cute, since this has been only our first meeting. Perhaps the next time, you will be mature enough to talk.”
King Charming the Fourth climbed on his horse, which had waited just out of sight. The king addressed Kate the Catty, “Allow me to leave you with this, mother of John the Cute. According to your behavior today, I decree that your name shall no longer be Kate the Catty. Henceforth, it shall be Kate the Tigress.”
And with that, King Charming the Fourth rode into the sunset.
This has been the surprising story of how Kate the Tigress got her name and of the first meeting (out of four) of King Charming the Fourth and John the Cute.
(To be continued on Sunday…)