I awoke to the rising sun shining into my hut. I sat up, excited for the day ahead. Hopping out of bed I quickly checked in the mirror to be sure my mask was straight and looked over my metallic parts and joints for scrapes or scuffs before zipping toward the door. I grabbed my pack, which was waiting for me there, and my bamboo pole and throwing disk, just as the usual precautionary defenses.
I strolled eagerly toward the village gate of Ta-Koro. It was very early and hardly anyone was up, but the guard questioned me and my business before letting me out. I crossed the bridge and soon reached the outer edge of the volcano, where I continued on at a brisk trot, heading inland. I made way through the sunlit forest and admired the beautiful trees and scenery.
Soon I reached my destination: A small river, one that ran through the middle of the forest on its way to the sea. I set my pack on the ground and heaved a contented sigh. I found a nice spot to sit beside the river, and set down my bamboo pole and throwing disk there. Then I retrieved my fishing pole and line from the pack, grabbing some bait as well.
The critters won't know what hit them. I tossed a determined and confident expression at the river. I wound up my line, attached the bait, and swung the line into the river. Then I sat back to wait.
Ah, the joy of the hunt. Matoran versus wild, I thought as I began to nod off. My pole was wedged firmly between a stone and my leg, my fingers still coiled around it.
After a fine little nap, I awoke feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Soon I also felt unsuccessful. No tugs on the pole had awaken me, but I drew in the line to be sure. Nothing. The bait was still there. By now it was all soggy, though, so I replaced it before tossing in the line again.
Now I sat, wide awake, pole grasped with both hands, and waited eagerly for my first bite. I waited patiently.
Nothing. I leaned forward and looked into the water, but try as I might I couldn't even catch the glimmer of scales nor a splash of any kind.
I sat back. They just aren't out and about today, I suppose. I reeled in the line and cast it again.
The minutes passed.
There, a ripple! I leaned forward eagerly, only to see a small nut floating in the river. Evidently it had fallen from a tree. I sat back in disappointment.
Waiting, and more waiting. Well, that's what these sorts of days are for, right? The minutes stretched into hours, and soon it was mid-afternoon.
I sighed. Well, that's a fine day, then. Time to go home, I guess. But just as I was about to reel in the line, I thought I felt a tug. It was so faint, and lasted so short a time, that I thought I must have imagined it. But there it came again, and then again with more force.
I slowly reeled in my line, and the force of the tug grew. A grin crossed my mask. This one's putting up a fight! The intensity of the pull grew still more, and soon it was a full-on battle between me and my quarry. I patiently worked the line, struggling to bring it in but taking care not to break it.
The minutes stretched on, and I felt that the day hadn't been such a waste, after all. Oh, the exhileration and excitement of the hunt!
Slowly, inch by painstaking inch, I dragged the line closer to shore. Finally the creature began to weaken, and I reeled him in with more speed. Finally, to my incredible gratification and delight, I just about had him. With a final great big yank on the line, something large erupted from the water and flew into the air!
A fish! A beautiful, scaly fish that was bigger than my head! I reveled in the beauty of it as it sailed through the air, glistening water droplets flying alongside it. What a beautiful sight, and what a beautiful dinner it would make.
What happened next still baffles me. Even looking back on it now it causes me to shake my head in wonder.
A bird came along, a big raptor with wide wings and sharp claws. It swooped down out of nowhere and grabbed the fish, my fish, right out of the air.
My shock then was no small thing. I stood there dumb for several moments before I regained my composure enough to shake my fist and yell at the bird, who passed on without even acknowledging my presence.
Nor did I give up. That fish was mine by right, and I would have it back! I instantly grabbed my throwing disk and ran after the bird. I had a hard time following him through the forest, and several times I feared I'd lost him, but finally I tracked him to a sizeable spire of rock at the edge of the forest.
I watched, frustrated, as he set the fish down on the very top of the spire. I may be too late. . . But all of a sudden he took to the air again, flying out over the forest again. What caused him to leave I would never know, but I didn't stop to wonder. I began to climb the spire, which wasn't too terribly steep. A few perilous slips and much physical exertion later, I reached the top. Panting, I heaved myself up the last foot and beheld my beautiful fish, looking just as wonderful as ever, flopping limply on the rock.
Then two things happened that made me stop dead: First I heard growling, then right in front of me I saw the angry face of an Ash Bear. My heart-light skipped a flash, and we stared across at each other. The bear's claws clung perilously to the stone.
But this was still my fish, and neither bird of prey nor Ash Bear would have it from me! He growled again and heaved himself still higher up. In that instant I made my move, and with the flash of an arm the fish was in my grasp. In the next instant I turned and the bear leaped towards me.
I was too slow, but the bear was clumsy and he crashed headlong into me. Before either of us knew what was happening we were tumbling down the side of the spire, and as we tumbled the fish flew from my grasp. The bear eagerly snapped at it with his jaws, but from his back I was able to grab it before he could get his teeth into it. Then with a kick to the stomach he loosened my grip again.
This continued all along our bumpy ride down the spire, each of us struggling vainly not only to slow our fall, but first and foremost, to get that fish!
Finally we landed in a heap at the bottom, he on top of me. There, on the ground in front of us, sat the fish. In an instant we were racing for it.
Before either of us could grab it, though, another Ash Bear suddenly appeared from the foliage and grasped it in his jaws. With a growl that sounded to me like a laugh, he ran back into the forest, but the first Ash Bear and I were hard on his heels.
Soon we reached a small clearing, where the fish-stealing bear was tackled to the ground by the larger bear. The fish flew from his mouth and into the air, where I leaped and grabbed it before landing and dashing off into the forest.
Only, now I had two ash bears after me. Oh, Taku, how do you get yourself into these things. . . ?
I sought the only way of escape that I could see, and leaped for a low-hanging branch. But I was too late, the bears were upon me. The leader crashed into both me and the tree just as I grasped the branch, which snapped off under the bear's weight. Upon hitting the ground I realized with a start that the ground here began to decline, and I tumbled head over heels down the hillside. The bears tumbled after me.
Again the fish slipped from my grasp and a bear snapped at it, only to be shoved aside by the other bear, who swiped at it with a paw. He hit it but couldn't grasp it, instead sending it high into the air. I then lost sight of it and began to wonder if I cared anymore.
The world refused to stop spinning, no matter how many times I asked. . . The bullying trees and rocks were no help, either, who seemed to take delight in beating on me.
Finally, though, the three of us came to a stop at the edge of another clearing. In that moment my only thought was escape, but just then we all caught sight of the fish again as it came sailing down out of the air and landed in the middle of the clearing. It flopped helplessly.
Suddenly many tooth-lined maws and sniffing noses stuck out of the surrounding foliage. In an instant, no less than twelve more ash bears were madly converging on the fish.
My own two friends included. In their crazed charge they shoved me along, and I found myself unable to escape. The circle of bears closed in, and the first ash bear I had met that day dragged me screaming into the mix. Finally I fell to the side just as a larger bear crashed into mine, then I was forced to roll aside as two giant paws slammed into the ground.
Another bear kicked me with its hind leg, and I found myself in the middle of a knot of bears, like the eye of a hurricane. To my incredible wonderment, the fish suddenly plopped out of the sky and into my lap. I laughed a giddy laugh of amazement.
But then dozens of furious eyes converged on me, and with a terrible cry of fear I flung the fish from my person. Rolling away desperately, I sought to escape the claws, limbs, and bodies that entangled me.
How long this continued I am not now certain, but finally I found myself flying through the air, after which I landed on the back of one of the beasts. As he turned to snarl at me, I recognized the first bear I had met that day, and I thought I saw a flash of recognition in his eyes as well.
And then wouldn't you know it? I again saw that dratted fish flying through the air, and instinctively, though I can't imagine why I did it, my arms flashed out and grasped it.
The bear and I now stood on the edge of the clearing, while the bears behind us were still fighting tooth and claw. After his initial glance at me he turned his attention to the woods and we were soon flying along between the trees.
It took the other bears a few moments, but soon they were after us, their large bodies crashing a terrible swath through the undergrowth. On we ran, until suddenly we crashed headlong into something big, metal, and hard. The something growled in response.
My steed inched back in fear as a great Muaka cat heaved his giant body and turned to see who had disturbed his afternoon nap. As he turned his head was opposite us, and he caught sight of our pursuers before us. With a roar of rage he charged them and sent them scurrying away in fear.
My own bear lost no time in putting as much distance as possible between him and the other Rahi. On and on he ran, before finally coming to a stop beside the very river from which the fish had come.
He panted and stood very still. For some reason I felt less afraid in that moment. I slipped quietly from his side and flopped into a sitting position, leaning against him and dropping the fish to the ground. Once my breath had returned, I laughed. I laughed loudly and heartily, amazed by what had happened. And to think we finally came out of it with the fish!
It's a magical world, I realized.
Somehow I was beginning to feel a little kinship toward this bear. In response to my laughing, he turned and I could have sworn that he began to laugh, too. We laughed for several moments in wonderment at our marvelous escapade before returning our attention to the helplessly flopping fish.
Our eyes rested upon it just in time to see it flop back into the river.
No! We both ran forward, but it was too late. The fish was gone. I couldn't believe it! After all that, the fish had finally escaped our grasp, right back into its own home.
When suddenly with a flash of wings, a great bird of prey, the same one as before, I could have sworn, swooped out the sky and dove into the river. I watched in amazement as the strong claws dragged the great big fish right back out of the water.
With a swoop of his great paw the bear felled the bird, who escaped with his life but lost the fish.
The fish sat between us. I stared it. The bear stared at it.
Then I took out a knife and set the tip against the fish. After a glance at the bear, I proceeded to cut the fish in half. Well, not quite half, the bear was more than twice my size, after all.
He took his chunk and gulped it down in several large bites. I held my half and watched him as he ate.
Once finished, he stared calmly at me for a few moments. Then with a farewell chuff, he turned and went off into the forest. After several more long moments I realized with a start that the woods could still be swarming with angry ash bears. I quickly retrieved my pack and gear, save the throwing disk which still lay at the foot of the spire, stored my share of the fish in the pack and made my way for Ta-Koro.
Yes, it was quite a day.