Shell of a story 2 Pt. 4

The introductions of the companions were complete, and the companions sat nervously on the large rock. Their counterparts on the other side of the flickering bonfire seemed to grow impossibly large in the shadows, and the crackling of wood punctuated an otherwise silent night. The turtle grew impatient finally and huffed.

“Well?” He said, startling the mouse out of whatever it was thinking. It jumped and scooted away a little, only to bump into the fox and let out a timid squeak, muttering apologies as it tried to find an empty space to stand.

“Of course it would be yours, Coyote.” The raven clicked its beak reproachfully as Coyote buried his muzzle in his paws, trying to muffle his snickering.

“I don’t belong to him, and I don’t appreciate my time being wasted.” The turtle felt his heart sink a little as the Raven and the Rabbit eyed him. The Spider had so many eyes he couldn’t tell where it was looking, but suspected at least a few were on him, “And I get the feeling the favor I’m being asked isn’t to stare up at the stars all night.”

“The turtle has a point, you haven’t asked anything of us yet and I mustn’t be away too long.” The fox was next to speak up, and the mouse and chipmunk piped up in agreement.

“Such impatience. Good things come to those who wait.” The spider said, positioning itself a little more obviously in the light, “But no we have not asked you here to merely look at the stars.” He looked to the Rabbit and the Raven, but neither seemed ready to speak, “Every few years we each choose our most clever friend to help us in a… competition of sorts.”

“A test is more like,” The rabbit spoke up finally, “to see who can solve a puzzle or riddle we’ve agreed upon beforehand.”

“What sort of puzzle?” The mouse spoke up from the rock, it’s voice much louder than expected in the still night. The Coyote finally could not hold it in anymore and rolled around in the sand, laughing. The turtle frowned at him and he managed to regain control, nodding an apology despite barely contained laughter.

“Something that can only be done by a particularly clever animal. Why don’t you make yourself useful instead of giggling like a fool, Coyote, and give them their supplies?” The Raven waited until the Coyote had disappeared into the shadows and returned with a small bag to continue, “You’ll each receive a very special jar for this task, and you only have until the sun is fully risen again to complete the task.”

The Coyote carefully placed a tiny plastic jar beside each of the companions. The turtle tapped his with his foot and frowned, any task that required picking things up would prove challenging.

“And what is this mysterious task?” The chipmunk took its turn to speak.

The Raven, Rabbit, and Spider all looked at each other and then at Coyote, who was struggling not to laugh again as his bushy tail stood straight up in the air and bristled.

“Go ahead, Coyote.” The Rabbit said finally. The Coyote leapt straight into the air and landed back down on the sand, practically dancing.

“We want you to catch a star for us!” Coyote was giggling and prancing about on the other side of the fire. The companions sat in stunned silence, looking down at the tiny jars.

“But that’s impossible!” The mouse protested finally.

“It is difficult, but not impossible. We know each of you is clever enough to figure out this task.” The Raven said, glaring at The Coyote as it snickered again.

“You should all get started though, dawn will be here before you know it. Do not be afraid to work together.” The Rabbit said. The spider crawled up onto it’s head and both hopped off to the far edge of the fire to chat. The Raven flew off on his own and left only the Coyote on the far side of the fire. The other companions picked up their jars and waved them at the sky uncertainly before moving off into the desert a bit to climb on nearby objects and get higher. The fox could jump the highest but still nowhere near the stars.

“Coyote, may I have a word?” The turtle said, settling down next to his jar. The other animals were too far away to hear as the Coyote sidled up beside the turtle.

“How about cumulus? I like that one, it’s a type of cloud.” The Coyote said, barely holding back a chuckle. The turtle glowered at him and gestured to the bottle.

“This is a fool’s errand. The stars are too far up in the sky for any of us to reach, even if we stood on each other’s heads and jumped.”

“It’s not impossible, friend turtle, but it does require a bit of thought.” The Coyote patted the turtle’s shell, “Even you who cannot jump can do this. Just remember, my friend, all the lights in the sky are stars. There must be one you can put in a jar.”

“But…” The turtle did not feel very reassured, especially as he couldn’t even pick up the bottle.

“All of the lights, my friend, all of them.” The Coyote let out a sharp barking laughing, patted the turtle again and retreated into the shadows without another word.

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