Tundra (2)

For a moment all the world was cast in shadow, but then the darkness passed.

Nin craned his neck, he could only just make out the silhouette of a winged figure circling far above him. It turned slowly beneath the sun; large, hideous wings cut the air. He squinted, and soon recognized its form to be that of a hawk. Nin could feel its eyes upon him.

He started into the burrow, but realized it would do no good. Either the hawk would dig him out immediately, or simply wait until he expired from lack of food and water.

Nin laid down by the mouth of the burrow, closed his eyes and calmed his mind. Fear tugged at his heart, he resisted its pull. Only cunning could save him now.

He felt something land beside him. He opened his eyes but saw only darkness and shadow. “Such a sad thing you are, to come to my domain,” said the shadow. “This is a barren place at the end of the world, ruled by sorrow, fit only for the wretched. Why have you come here?”

“Spare my life, and I will repay you a thousand-fold,” said Nin.

There came a terrible laugh: “You will repay me with the lives of a thousand rabbits?”

Nin shook his head. “That I cannot do. But I will give you all that which I have the power to give.”

The shadow loomed closer. “And what power do you have, little dying thing?”

“I am a prince, my power is vast,” said Nin. He spoke with a cadence which made his nobility clear.

“A prince is it?” replied the hawk. “You have no subjects, you have no power here, you are nothing, Prince of Nothing. If you are a prince, then by the grace of god, I am a queen.”

“A prince is a prince, even onto the ends of the earth.”

The hawk stared at the rabbit, thin and sick and on the verge of death. “Why have you come here?” it asked again.

Nin coughed. “My throat is parched, bring me some water, if it pleases you, and I will tell you of my pilgrimage.”

“You presume to order me?”

“From one noble to another, I ask for clemency.”

The hawk made a noise of indignation, then another sound of protest and finally a sigh of resignation. “I will fetch water,” said the hawk, “only because it pleases me to. Take no further meaning from it.”

And when the hawk returned it carried not only a thimble of water, but also a twig of berries.