A children's book for grown-ups by Jon Evans

August 20, 2007

34. Siva

Zelina began to run across the room.

"Zelina, what are you doing?" Patch cried out, appalled, but she did not stop.

After a moment he raced after her, intending to intercept her before she reached the big cages. But to Patch's surprise she could run much faster than he. By the time he caught up with her she was standing in front of the cage of the immense cat-thing, which lay coiled miserably on the ground.

"Who are you?" Zelina asked. "What are you?"

"My name is Siva," came the reply, "and I am tiger. Who are you?"

"My name is Zelina."

Patch, hanging back a little behind her, approved of her diplomatic omission of 'Queen of All Cats.' It did not seem right to imply to a terrifying cat-thing big enough to eat a human that it was in any way a social inferior, even if it was in a cage made of steel bars the size of tree branches, and sealed by several devices far larger and more solid than those that had imprisoned Patch and Zelina.

"I beg of you to carry a message for me," Siva said. "I beg of you to find my human brother and bring to him a ball of glass. That will tell him that I live."

Patch was amazed by this extraordinary request, but Zelina seemed to take it in stride. "Where can we find your human brother?" she asked.

"All I know is he will be among animals, for he is a great kabooti man."

"A great what?" Zelina asked.

The word triggered a memory in Patch. "Did you once ask a pigeon to find him?"

Siva turned his gaze on Patch, and Patch quivered beneath its strength and immensity. "Yes," the tiger said. "From time to time pigeons find their way into this room, and I charge them with my mission. I learned to speak Bird long ago, in the jungles in which I grew. But I fear they forget my words as soon as they find the sky."

"I think I have seen your human brother in the Kingdom of Madness," Patch said. "Is his skin dark? Do flocks of pigeons follow him?"

Siva leapt to his feet, hissing with excitement, and Patch shrank back.

"Yes!" Siva said. "Yes, that is him! You must find him again! You must bring to him a ball of glass!"

Patch said, "I can't go back to the Kingdom of Madness. I have to go home. I'm sorry."

"Please. Please, little squirrel. I beg you. Please."

After a long moment, Patch swallowed and said, "When I can, after I get home, I'll try to have a bird carry your message. That's all I can tell you. I'll try."

After a long moment Siva said, "Thank you, little squirrel. Your words give me hope. I have been so long in this place of cages and killing that even hope is a gift beyond measure. Please remember, little squirrel. Please remember and do as you say you will."

"I'll try," Patch said again.

He was relieved when they finally left the tiger in his cage, rejoined Talis and the freed squirrels, and began to search for a way out of the mountain.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

aw, i was hoping they'd let the tiger out to play. :D More tasks for Patch, he's got so much to do, the poor ickle squirrel. hee, and I was wondering what the guy with the pigeons was about, i'm glad that's explained. :D

you're right to be proud of this bit, this is the MOST fun!

August 21, 2007 at 1:00 AM  

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Jon Evans is the award-winning author of the thrillers Invisible Armies, Dark Places (aka Trail of the Dead), and The Blood Price. See his web site rezendi.com.

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