The Majhar Only Deals in Smoke & Lies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Fantasy Realm
Squirrel returns home to his hollow one day to find his mate collapsed on the floor. With great determination he sets out to find a away to save her, meeting the mysterious Majhar along the way.

Submitted: November 29, 2016

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Submitted: November 29, 2016

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The Majhar Only Deals in Smoke and Lies


 


 

Squirrel knew he was the smartest animal in the Forest, because he was always prepared. And it was times like this, when the Autumn wind was cutting through his fur, that he knew it for sure. Squirrel lived in the knotted brown oak tree in the clearing, and he was busy collecting nuts before the snow fell and covered the ground. Red, yellow and orange leaves littered the forest floor as Squirrel scurried back to his Hollow, mouth bursting with nuts and acorns.

He was so busy depositing his treasure he didn’t notice his mate collapsed on the floor until his second trip back. Distraught, Squirrel frantically hovered over his mate wondering why she collapsed. Her breath came slow, but steady, and Squirrel couldn’t understand what was happening. Bounding from his Hollow in the brown oak tree, Squirrel ran to the forest’s edge. There he found Bluejay perched on a sapling.

“Bluejay! Bluejay! My mate cannot move. She breathes, but is stuck. Can you help her?”

“I am sorry squirrel, I cannot,” Bluejay answered, fluttering her wings in distress.

“Who is the wisest animal in the forest? Perhaps they would know.”

“Owl is the wisest animal I know in the forest,” said Bluejay.

And with that Squirrel was off. Zipping over branch and ground, he passed by many acorns scattered along the way. They could wait. He needed to find Owl.

At last Squirrel reached where he was going. He had seen Owl a pawful of times flying through the tree canopy, and only spoken to him once. Gasping for breath he halted at the thick birch tree where Owl made his home. He scurried around, rustling twigs debating what to do, when suddenly golden leaves spotted in brown fell from the highest branches as the great snowy owl descended from his perch.

“Hooo is making all of this racket?” He accused the small red squirrel.

“Squirrel sir, from the oak in the clearing.”

“Yes, I can see that young squirrel. What is your business disturbing my sleep so?”

“My mate, owl, she will not rise-” but Owl broke in.

“Then she is dead.”

“No!” Squirrel said fighting the urge to bound in a frenzy. “She breathes steady, but will not rise.”

“Then she is not long to be then, perhaps you should spend her last moments together,” and Owl with his penetrating yellow made to turn away, but Squirrel bounded forward toward him.

“You must help me!” he pleaded, “surely you must know something to help her?”

“No I do not,” said Owl forcefully. Apparently he did not like being demanded anything for he rustled his thick white wings and shot Squirrel backward. “Nature works in cruel ways young squirrel, it is the way things are. Sorry, but I must get back to my slumber.” And with that he shot back to the top of the birch tree and more leaves fell to the ground around Squirrel.

Defeated, Squirrel wandered lost in thought. Was she fading? Should he return? Birds chirped and the tree’s rustled back and forth. Before he could make a decision he found himself looking over the Lake. No, he would find a way to save her, because he was the smartest animal in the Forest.

With new purpose Squirrel leapt under a driftwood trunk and narrowly avoided the mud to climb up a rock too survey his options. A loud thunk, thunk, thunk , thunk , thunk came suddenly from his right. So he headed to the noise. Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. He was getting closer, and he spotted Woodpecker, about to dive back into the elm tree.

The blue and white spotted bird gave Squirrel one look and then continued his work. Thunk, thunk, thunk. Squirrel tried to wait patiently, but couldn’t help hopping slightly, until Woodpecker’s red feathered head stopped.

“Hello? Woodpecker I presume?”

“That is my name. You do not live around here.”

“I come from the oak tree in the clearing, I don’t forage near the Lake often. Do you know the wisest animal in the Lake?” Squirrel asked.

“Hmmm, suppose that would be Loon,” Woodpecker said in his slow drawl.

“Where can I find him?” Squirrel jumped and asked quickly, “I must find the wisest animal.”

“Well,” he said and looked up at the Sun, “you’ve got to wait some, Squirrel, she don’t come out til it go down.” When Squirrel looked crushed, Woodpecker shook his red feathered head and added, “Not the full way down, mind you. Just til the fog come out.

So Squirrel thanked Woodpecker profusely, and found a lookout midway up a willow tree overhanging the lake. It swayed gently in the wind, and Squirrel rubbed himself wishing he was back in his Hollow. The Sun slowly sank and the Lake’s surface grew colder. It seemed like ages before Squirrel noticed the fog creeping along the shore, and heard the call he was waiting for.

“Ohoh-Ahahaha, Ohoh-Ahahaha,” silence.

Squirrel tried to shake his tree branch, but it was too thick, so he quickly climbed to find a smaller one. Trying to get Loon’s attention seemed to fail, when he heard her crazy laugh further in the distance,

“Ohoh-Ahahaha.”

His voice didn’t carry far, but he called out and shook the branch with all his might. Exhausted he slumped back to the waters edge and the thickest low branch that overstretched the black water. Without a splash or a noise, Loon hooted from the shadows under the willow.

“Keep your voice down fool, there are beasts around,” she said in a melodious voice. Squirrel quietly scampered to the water’s edge and looked at Loon. Her black feathers were spotted white and climbed to curve around her right eye like a crescent moon.

“Something his clearly troubling you young Squirrel, let it out.”

“My mate Loon, she fell down this morning asleep and wouldn’t wake up! She was breathing I made sure to check, but I couldn’t wake her,” he said with a sob. “Please, you must be able to do something.”

Instead of answering Loon stared up at the moon sliver that emerged in the last rays of light. She stared a long time, before at last she let out a mournful yodel that echoed along the Lake.

“Ahhhoooooaaa,”

Squirrel’s heart dropped and he knew what she was going to say before she turned her black beak toward him.

“I see many things in the Moon and Fog, young Squirrel,” Loon said, “but that is not something I can do. It is not something that can be done. Mates come and go young Squirrel, and the Seasons turn forever more. Winter can be cruel young Squirrel, be thankful you have your own health. It will be needed before the snows come.”

With that she was off, sliding through the black water. Loon gave one last hoot to Squirrel and disappeared into the fog. A few moments later Squirrel heard her call out to the moon.

“Ohoh-Ahahaha,” it sounded like she was weeping.


 

Night was settling in and Squirrel slowly made his way back to the Hollow. How could he have planned for something like this? How could he have prepared? Defeated he entered the knotted oak and saw his mate lying in the same position. Breathing, but not waking, and it seemed that it was all over.

“Craaa, Craaa,”came a call out in the darkness. “Craauk.”

Squirrel went to see who was calling him and found Raven, black as the night itself, perched on a nearby branch.

“Craaa, clever Raven can solve your problem.”

“How?” Squireel asked.

“I’ve heard you running around the Forest looking for the wisest animal, and I can tell you the answer, Craa.”

“Please Raven, I have no other options. Who could it be if not Owl and Loon?”

“Craauurk, she calls herself Majhar, simple Squirrel. She sees all things in the smoke, she will solve your problem.”

Squirrel thought on it, Raven called himself clever, but Squirrel wasn’t sure if he could trust him. Bluejay told him Raven hoards all shiny things, useless. They weren’t acorns and nuts that’s for sure, and wouldn’t help you through the winter. How smart could you be if you did that?

“Come now Squirrel, clever Raven will take you to Majhar, Craaaw, she will help you,” and he beckoned with a wing. “The time is right.”

What else was there to do? So with another look at his fallen mate Squirrel followed Raven out into the night. The crooked moon couldn’t penetrate the Forest canopy to reach the floor, so Squirrel had to take it slow. Raven went ahead and called out the way, as the two headed deeper into the trees.

“Where are we going?” Squirrel asked not far from his hollow.

“The Old Forest, simple Squirrel, where the wild things are.”

And so they continued in the dim moonlight, until at last Raven spoke up from a low branch.

“Craaa, ahead. Follow the light and you will reach Majhar.”

“Your not coming with me?” Squirrel asked, feeling suspicious.

“Majhar did not tell me to come, She would speak to you alone. Good fortune simple Squirrel,” and with one last call out into the night Raven left in a flutter of wings.

Squirrel had no choice, it was this or head back empty pawed to his hollow. So he mustered his courage and continued slowly through the underbrush. It wasn’t long before he spotted a faint orange light, dim through the branches and leaves. He noticed most leaves were lying along the ground, and all the branches were bare. Crooked limbs were better seen in the faint moonlight, and looked to stretch down.

The orange light Squirrel was supposed to follow ended up being a few coals of burnt log. They laid in a collapsed pile and gave off little warmth. He looked around for this so called Majhar, but couldn’t see anything. When suddenly a soft cackle turned Squirrel in alarm.

“Relax young one, I will not harm you.”

Slowly half of a white fox materialized from the night. Sinuously she slunk closer to the fire and Squirrel realized she was half white and black. Cut through the middle, but that wasn’t even the strangest thing about Majhar. Around half her head was a discarded red scarf.

Majhar didn’t look his way, but went straight to the tiny flame. With her paw she put some cedar leaves onto the coals, and breathed until smoke and light rose from the pile. She turned with a wicked smile, and Squirrel gasped as the light caught the scarf and showed an empty socket through the material.

“Humans are such careless animals,”she croaked, “Always leaving treasure behind.”

Squirrel didn’t know if he could speak, his tongue was stuck in his throat, and he half made to scurry away.

“Hmmm, do not leave clever Squirrel, how else will you cure your mate?

At last he found his courage, “I haven’t said anything about her, how could you know?”
“The smoke never lies clever Squirrel, Who do you think sent our dear friend Raven?”

To that Squirrel had no answer. And Majhar gave none aside from slowly stretching her snout toward the flickering flame and blowing it out. Smoke began to curl from the logs and cedar, and Majhar breathed deep from the pile. The smoke clung to her snout and she opened her mouth to show yellow fangs.

“Ahhhhhh,” Majhar released.

The smoke thickened and dark wisps rose from the log, twirling and folding into itself, shapes could be half seen in the pale moonlight. Squirrel felt he knew what the shapes should be, but couldn’t put his paw on it. They lingered in the small clearing and filled his vision.

“Yessssss, yes that will do.”

Squirrel coughed and made to leave, but the smoke was disappearing at Majhar’s words, and soon he found himself facing the two toned fox. The fire was gone, the crescent moon shone, and Majhar came closer.

“I have seen the answers in the smoke, clever Squirrel, would you like to know how?” She twisted.

“I will do anything to save my mate!” He said ferociously, “I’ve always said I was the smartest animal in the Forest, always prepared, but I need help for this.”

“Say no more, clever Squirrel, for the smoke never lies. I know your resourcefulness, your desire, and all your troubles are seen. The omens are strong and thick, and the smoke never lies,” she said raising a paw through some lingering wisps. “Dark omens, omens of pain, unless we follow through with our tasks.”

Squirrel slowly retreated as Majhar advanced on all fours. “A liquid I will make for you clever Squirrel, that will wake your mate and continue the cycle. But this liquid must be strong, so there are five objects I require from you. I will take of the rest.”

“What do I need to bring you, Majhar?” Squirrel asked.

“The liquid must be cunning and wise, so a single feather from Owl and Loon, will be two. An acorn split in half is the next, clever Squirrel, and I think you know why. Seven red leaves must be collected for me, we know your skill in foraging, don’t we, so that shouldn't be difficult,” she said with a barking laugh. “The last you must look for in the muddy banks of the Lake. Under the overhanging willow tree will be grasping root, bring as much of it as you can carry clever Squirrel, and we will follow the smoke’s wishes.”


 

After a sleepless night in the hollow, Squirrel rose before the sun and set off finding his items. The first was the most important in his eyes, the split acorn. So he ripped apart his stash and tossed every perfect acorn and nut out of the way. At last was one with a small gash through the middle, and Squirrel put it beside his mate tenderly and raced off into the woods.

A near maple tree had shed it’s leaves and crimson red lined the forest floor. There were a few still clinging to a branch, so Squirrel deftly slipped up the trunk and plunked seven leaves. Thinking they were probably more important, not having given up their fight. The leaves were like him, and he would never give up while he could, clever Squirrel Majhar had called him, and she was right.

By the time he had deposited the leaves back in the hollow the sun was up past the treetop, and Squirrel figured it was finally safe to look around Owl’s nest looking for a fallen feather. He would be asleep and if Squirrel kept quiet, Owl wouldn’t suspect a thing. It took a little searching, but sure enough he found one caught on a branch. Climbing trees was what Squirrel did best.

All that was left was Loon’s feather and the grasping root, and under the willow tree was where Squirrel talked to Loon the day before. That was the best spot to look for one. On the long travel down to the Lake, Squirrel’s head spun with thoughts and questions. Majhar was scary to look at, that was for sure, but she was the only animal to help him out. Owl and Loon had looked upon him with distaste and sympathy, but had offered no help.

Squirrel raced over branch and log while the sun arched past it’s zenith, until at last he was facing the Lake. Woodland sounds came from all over, but Squirrel kept his head down and looked to finished his quest. His fortunes seemed to have flipped for a Loon feather was lying basically on the willow trunk. black and white like Majhar, Squirrel tucked it away. He looked once at the murky water by the bank before leaping off the bank and landing in the paw deep water.

“Ahhh,” squeaked something in a bubbly voice, “scared the bark off me Squirrel, you did,” and out from the overhanging bank Beaver scampered out. “Woodpecker told me the news yesterday, tis a sad day. The miss and the boys agree.”

“Thank you Beaver, but I must keep busy,” said Squirrel and he began to rummage through the mud. His paw hit something and he pulled it from the water with some difficulty. A twisted thin root came free and Squirrel quickly flung it on the bank before going down for more.

“What do you need grasping root for Squirrel? It don’t taste so good, I’ll tell you that,” said Beaver still hanging around.

“Majhar told me she needed it,” but before the words were out of Squirrel’s mouth Beaver splashed underwater, and suddenly resurfaced.

“Majhar!?” He sputtered, “why in bark’s name were you talking to Majhar?”

“She’s helping me get my mate back, since no one else wants to help, only offer sympathy,” he said bitterly.

“But..but..but, the Majhar only deals in smoke and lies Squirrel. Hasn’t anyone told you that before? She’s evil!”

“She just looks scary that’s all. And I can outsmart her anyway, I’ve got a plan,” said Squirrel pulling another strand of grasping root free.

“Outsma-?” Beaver sputtered, “Don’t ever mention me to Majhar, ever, not one word, you hear?” and he was off powering through the water. And Squirrel barely heard, “might even be too late to do anything,” before Beaver ducked under the surface.

Squirrel didn’t stop digging until the sun was beginning to dip below the trees and he collapsed on the muddy bank filled with the strange crooked root. He was exhausted, but he knew there was more running to do. He was so close, so close to fixing everything, and in a burst of energy he dragged the grasping root, and Loon feather back to his hollow. It did taste awful in his mouth, but Squirrel pushed on through.

The Old Forest was on the opposite side of the Lake and Squirrel spent the last of the daylight transferring his items from the hollow to where he met Majhar the night before. The two toned fox was nowhere to be seen, but she had told Squirrel to pile everything there. The burnt logs were dark, but the smell of char was still in the air. Last to go was the acorn and Squirrel lodged it in his cheek before laying his paw on his mate, and then he was off.

The crooked moon was brighter in the sky than before, and Squirrel had memorized the way by now. His heart leaped when the orange flicker came into view as he got closer. Majhar was already there before the flames, piling the grasping root on the red leaves. It looked like a bird's nest and the smoke and flames licked the corners of the leaves.

“Ahhh, quickly now, clever Squirrel. Saved the best for last did we?” Majhar said with a smile.

“Before I give you the acorn I have to know a few things,” he said with as much courage that he could muster.

“Of course,” she answered.

“This potion you are making, it won’t hurt me, my mate or any other animal will it?”

“No, no. No hurt, no hurt, clever Squirrel.”

“Good. This will be the end after I give it too her then? No tasks, no gifts, no more trouble?”

“Yess, clever Squirrel, the end of your part and the start of mine. Your mate will be healthy, just as you ask.”

Squirrel hesitated only a moment before handing her the cracked acorn, which she snatched away from him and cast it in the nest of grasping root. The leaves were beginning to curl from the heat, and before they could catch aflame Majhar blew the fire out, and the smoke began to crawl from the heap once more.

Thick and black they rose to the moon and condensed before him. Filling the clearing once more.

“A feather from sharp Owl, a feather from wise Loon,” Majhar intoned, “red leaves to catch the fallen acorn and grasping root to hold her up.” A soft cackle rose from the smoky shadows, “And a little of me to seal the bond.” Through the thick smoke Squirrel could barely make out Majhar bent over the burning pile, as she slashed across her paw.

Flames sprung with a bang from the pile and billowed smoke into the air, Squirrel leapt back and scurried behind a close log. In the bright light, Majhar’s empty eye shone through the red scarf, and her white paw dripped blood while she poured another liquid onto the acorn and flames. It streamed off an upright log and into a small glass vial.

“Wh-What is that?” Squirrel asked.

“Water my dear, nothing more,” and the corner of her mouth twitched. “Think about your mate, clever Squirrel, the smoke never lies, and this will wake her.”

Majhar popped a piece of cork in the top and shifted towards his hiding place. She stretched out her bloodied white paw and handed him the vial.

“My good friend Raven brought this for me. A fine fellow, fine fellow. Now go clever Squirrel, for the time is nearing. Go!” Majhar barked and Squirrel was off. Frightened more than he cared to admit, he pounded through the underbrush and branches toward his mate and the hollow. In his mind he could hear Majhar’s soft cackle.

The tiny vial was hot against his cheek, and Squirrel pushed harder. The end was near, and he was going to fix everything. Squirrel climbed the knotted oak in the clearing with no more thought than breathing, and collapsed beside his mate. Spitting out the vial, Squirrel had to stop to catch his breath, but he used up his last strength to pop open the cork. Smoke crept out from the vial and it began to grow too hot to hold, so Squirrel poured it down his mate’s throat.

Squirrel could only hope it worked. Hope that he hadn’t been tricked by Majhar into making her something monstrous. But he was Squirrel and he was the smartest animal in the Forest, Majhar had assured him and he was going to save his mate.

The glass vial continued to smoke as it emptied and slipped out of Squirrel’s grasp. He had stretched himself too far, and had trouble keeping his eyelids open. Slowly he collapsed to the hollow floor.


 

Squirrel woke from the hollow floor and stretched out. Squirrel was groggy from what felt like a seasons worth of sleep, so tired. Squirrel looked down and saw a blotch on the wood, it looked like some kind of burn, but there was never any fire in the hollow. Squirrel turned and saw her mate lying prone on the ground, and rushed over. His heart was beating, but no matter how hard she shook him, he would not rise. Panicking she did the only thing a smart animal would do. Squirrel left the hollow and went in search of the wisest animal in the Forest. Somewhere in the distance Squirrel could hear a soft cackle.


 


 


 

The End

 


© Copyright 2019 Jacob Harroway. All rights reserved.

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