The Fable of the Toll Cores

June 24, 2009
By
More by this author
Have you ever wondered where the names of the Toll Middle School cores came from? Well, here is the story.

Long, long ago, long before any of your grandparents’ great-great-great grandparents were born, back when today’s mythological creatures still roamed the Earth, a circle of friends lived in the mountains just north of where today’s Toll Middle School stands. They were: the Pink Panther, the Tangerine Tiger, the Golden Eagle and the Silver Wolf. Together, they lived in the mountains. At this time, they were quite young. Animals like these could live for hundreds of years. The Pink Panther and the Tangerine Tiger were like brothers; and they were very close. However, being younger, they were more adventurous and often did not listen and heed advice. The Golden Eagle, with her powers of flight, acted as a mother and protector to the younger two animals. And, ahhh, the Silver Wolf. Now, she was the oldest and wisest of the foursome. Already, she had traveled and explored the world. The Silver Wolf was an intelligent, quiet creature who knew many things, despite her relatively young age.

As this happened a long time ago, there was still no fear of global warming and few people. The oceans were at normal sea level, there was plenty of clean air for everyone to breathe, and the climate was nice and cool. Often, the Tangerine Tiger and the Pink Panther would go down the mountain and romp around for a while. This time, they came back after only a few hours, terrified. Selina the Silver Wolf was at their cave when they returned.

“How come you guys are back? You look awfully scared,” said Selina.

“We- we- we’ve seen a terrible thing, stuttered Henry, the Tangerine Tiger.

“Well, what was it?” prompted Selina, when both seemed to be at a loss of words.

“It seemed to be some kind of two-legged animal. This animal, I suppose, could not fly or even walk very fast. But it had some type of long stick. And the animal pointed it the sky, and the stick exploded with lots of smoke and noise,” whispered Michael, the Pink Panther.

“Amazing, but very odd,” murmured Selina, half to herself. “I’ve only heard of this once in all of my travels.”

“What is it?” inquired Henry.

“I think, but I’m not sure, that humans have discovered this valley,” answered Selina.

“Huh?” exclaimed Henry and Michael together, equal looks of surprise and astonishment upon their faces.

“Humans are people. They walk and talk and do the other things that we do. That stick that exploded, I think that’s called a gun,” explained Selina.

“A gun?” gulped Michael.

“Yes, a gun. They are very dangerous. The arrival of these humans is very bad news. About how many were there?” asked Selina.

“Oh, roughly fifty or so. After the human fired the gun in the sky, many more came running,” answered Michael.

“This is not good. When the Golden Eagle comes back from her hunting, we shall consult her about what we should do,” said Selina.

All of a sudden, the Golden Eagle, whose name was Jennifer, plummeted out of the sky and landed with a crunching thump on the ground. The huge bird moaned and turned over. Selina, Michael, and Henry all gasped. One of Jennifer’s wings was mangled and one of her talons were bloodied.

“What happened?” exclaimed Selina, going over immediately to the wounded Eagle.

“No, no, don’t shoot me!” shrieked Jennifer, writhing about on the leaf-covered ground.

“Oh, she’s delirious. Blast it!” Selina muttered. “Hurry. Help me to carry Jennifer down to the stream,” she directed Michael and Henry.

Frightened, the three helped the large Golden Eagle to the clear stream, where Selina began to take care of Jennifer. As she splashed water on Jennifer’s face with her paw, she couldn’t help but think “Why?”

Selina continued to try to revive Jennifer. After a long time, Jennifer finally stirred and her eyes fluttered open.

“Wh-where am I?” gasped Jennifer as she lifted her head and tried to rise up. “I-ugh, my wing! My talon! What happened?” she shrieked.

“Lie down, Jennifer,” said Selina firmly. “You’ve been terribly hurt.

“What could do this to me?”Jennifer whispered, gazing numbly at her injuries.

“While you were out hunting, Michael and Henry reported the fact that there were humans in the valley,” Selina explained grimly. “There arrival is most unfortunate and means potential danger to us.”

“Why have they come? Why?” murmured Jennifer, unconsciously echoing Selina’s own thoughts.

After a while, Selina stood up and stretched her paws. She stared into the river, watching the reflected moon in the water.

“What can we do?” she thought.”Jennifer is hurt, Michael and Henry absolutely terrified of that bloody gun, and here I am at the top of this mountain with humans in the valley!” Selina gave a deep, drawn-out sigh. “This is it. We will have to move. Here we are unprotected and any day, those people will come exploring up here and discover us,” said Selina. “But we will probably have to wait a couple more days until Jennifer is strong enough to travel. If we can wait that long, that is,” she continued, half to herself.

Jennifer began to moan as she woke from her troubled sleep. How are you feeling old friend?” inquired Selina.

“My wing is killing me, but other than that, I guess okay, after considering what happened to me.” answered Jennifer.

“Excellent,” sad Selina. “This means that we can travel, albeit very slowly. She continued to herself, “If we take the path by the river, it will probably take longer, but easier and safer.” The bushy tail of the Silver Wolf swished back and forth as she thought out a plan.

“What are we going to do?” whispered Henry to Michael.

“I think Selina has a plan,” answered Michael.

“All right, everyone. Listen up. Here’s what we’re going to do. With Jennifer injured and humans in the valley, I believe it’s time for a visit to the sea. We’re going to take the river path,” Selina announced.

“Oh boy,” shouted Michael, temporarily forgetting the danger. “Does this mean we’ll be visiting the Blue Dolphin and the Navy Seal?” he asked.

“Well, that will be part of our trip, answered Selina with a faint smile. “I will have to ask the Blue Dolphin’s advice.”

“So when will we be leaving for the sea?” asked Jennifer.

“As soon as possible, of course. The longer we stay here, the chance that the humans will discover us becomes greater,” stated Selina in a matter-of-fact voice.

“What will we need?” asked Henry, excitedly.

“Well, let’s see. We can find berries and such on the way; water from the river, and, well, I guess all we really need to do is cover up our tracks here,” said Selina.

“Why?” asked Michael.

“Humans,” answered Selina darkly.

“Oh, I see,” exclaimed Jennifer. “That way, our home will hopefully remained undiscovered.”

“Exactly,” muttered Selina as she brushed away the tracks leading to their large cave. “Exactly right,” she repeated.


A few days later, the four friends started on their to the sea. Selina had investigated the valley below them, and discovered more humans and weapons. Now, they had to leave. Michael and Henry, twin streaks of pink and orange, adventurously lead the way down the river path, dashing along. Selina supported Jennifer as she slowly hobbled down the trail. Frequently, Jennifer stopped to drink water from the stream.

“Honestly, Jennifer. How do you feel?” asked Selina anxiously.

“I’m fine. Quite all right. Really, I’m feeling better. Much better,” answered Jennifer with a small smile.

“Okay,” said Selina, still sounding doubtful. “If you say so.”


Suddenly, Michael and Henry came dashing to Selina and Jennifer. “Which path do we take when the trail forks?” asked Henry.

“When the trail forks? But this path doesn’t fork,” said Selina, puzzled.

“Are you sure? Because this one does fork,” stated Henry stubbornly.

“Selina, do you think... do you think that this could have something to do with... with the humans?” gulped Jennifer.

“Anything is possible,” Selina said, her mouth set in a hard line. “Quick. Tell me what you saw,” she snapped.

“Well, there was the path. And one trail went in a westerly direction, while the other path appeared to curve around the mountain,” answered Michael.

“Any scents?” asked Selina.

“Kind of. There were some unfamiliar smells, but we thought that they were normal for this part of the mountain, you know, never having taken this road before,” said Henry.

“Selina?” Jennifer’s voice echoed in the stillness.

The Silver Wolf said nothing. Her face was clouded and her eyes were stormy. She was thinking.

“Okay. Everyone, listen up. You two especially,” Selina said harshly, pointing her snout towards the Pink Panther and the Tangerine Tiger. “Stick together. Got it? That means no fooling around and no scouting ahead,” she said firmly. When they reached the fork in the path, Selina cautiously sniffed around. Apparently satisfied, she strode forward, beckoned to the others with her paw, and started trotting down the trail heading west, toward the ocean.

After a long day of hard travel, Selina stopped the group and said, “We’ll rest here for the night.” When they had all settled down for the night, Selina sighed and stared at the moon.

Tentatively, Jennifer asked Selina, “Why are the humans so bad?” When Selina did not respond, Jennifer said, “Errr... sorry.”

“That’s okay,” said Selina, blowing a long, hard breath through her nose. She gazed into the distant sky. “I was just thinking,” she continued. “I used to live far, far away, and I had a great big, family. There were about thirty of us Silver Wolves.”

“Wow,” whispered Jennifer, never having seen such a large amount of Wolves.

“We traveled together, hunted as one pack and protected each other. But one day...” Selina’s shaking voice trailed off into the still night air. “But one day,” Selina continued in a stronger voice, “the humans came. They came and shot us. And they laughed. Laughed!” The powerful Wolf quivered with anger. “Those vicious creatures killed every Wolf among us, except for my older cousin and I. We had both been shot at, and both bullets found their mark: one in my cousin’s heart and the other in my own leg. My cousin’s wound proved fatal and his dying words were: “Hunt them, Selina.” Thank the heavens, my leg soon healed and it is now fully functional, with the exception of a long scar. I buried my cousin, for the human hunters had taken away the bodies of all the other Silver Wolves.”

Selina paused and Jennifer sighed.

Selina’s voice took on a hard note. “I hate those humans. I will hunt everyone of them down and revenge my pack, just as I used to do with my fellow Silver Wolves.”

The next morning, Selina rose early and woke her companions. “Come on, you guys. We have to go,” Selina called.

“Mmmrrr-grrr-umphhh-go-go away-gerumph,” muttered Henry.

“Ditto,” grumbled Michael, barely turning over.

“Oh... all right. If I must, I must.” With that, Selina started up a mournful howl.

Henry leapt up as if scalded. “Who’s dying? What’s happening?”

Jennifer batted the Tangerine Tiger playfully with her uninjured wing. “Oh, really. It’s only Selina’s built-in alarm clock,” she explained, smirking.

“Very funny,” groaned Michael, glaring at Selina, who was chuckling at their reactions.

“Well, now that we are all awake, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed, maybe we can get a move on,” announced Selina.

“Awake, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed, my fur. Honestly, what does she think we are?” muttered Michael to Henry, who was giving an enormous yawn that showed all of his teeth.

“Well, come on. What are you pups waiting for?” asked Selina impatiently.

“Hey, Selina. Can we take the day off?” Henry called out sarcastically.

“Are you bloody crazy?” Selina barked. “Do you not understand that those humans are dangerous? They are the reason why we are being forced to go to the sea.” Selina growled low, “Now listen carefully, you young rips. I do not intend on listening to your complaints for the rest of this journey. So shape up and pull yourselves together. That goes for both of you.”

Henry opened his mouth as if to say something, but Jennifer cut him off with one sweep of her feathery wing and said, “Shut up!” The large Golden Eagle continued, “Just listen to Selina, okay?”

“Wow!” muttered Michael to Henry. “That was... She was...”

“I know what you mean,” said Henry. “I’ve never seen her so mean, or wild, even when Jennifer was injured.”

“Guess we’ll really have to watch our mouths from now on,” said Michael with a sigh. “But I would like to know what made Selina so bitter against the humans.”

“Maybe we don’t want to know. She’s never scared of anything,” started Henry.

But Michael interrupted and said, “I know, I know, but it wasn’t fear that she was showing; it was something different. Like anger, except times ten.”

They trudged on in silence until Selina called back, “Hurry up you two; we are not going to wait all day for you!”

“See what I mean? That’s not nervousness, and besides, I can’t even smell the humans anymore. So why should we hurry?” said Michael.

“I see what you’re talking about. I understand. But we’d better get a move on before we get our tails bitten off,” answered Henry. The lithe Tangerine Tiger yawned and then trotted up behind Jennifer and Selina with Michael next to him. The four friends traveled in this manner for quite some time. About nine hours later, they finally stopped to rest in some shade by the narrow path.

After a while, Selina said, “Let’s continue.”

Jennifer groaned inwardly, but said bracingly to Henry and Michael, “Come on, up now. Let’s go. If I can travel with my broken wing and whatnot, then you can do it too.”

“Speaking of which, how is your wing Jenn? You haven’t complained at all since we started this trip,” said Selina in a concerned voice.

“Oh, it’s healing. A little stiff, that’s all,” answered Jennifer with a slight flap.

Together, the Tangerine Tiger, Golden Eagle, Pink Panther, and Silver Wolf traveled west, the slapping of their paws and claws creating a steady rhythm.

As the sun set, their pace began to slow down, until about an hour after dark, Selina let them stop.

The next morning, they all rose early and the day proceeded much as it had the day before. When they stopped after dark this time, Selina said, “Okay everybody. I know I’ve been pushing you hard, so I think we’ll rest for most of tomorrow.”

“Finally,” said Henry and Michael in unison.

“My legs are killing me,” added Michael.

“Ugh,” was all Henry could manage before he drifted off into a deep sleep.

Jennifer and Michael soon fell asleep as well, but Selina felt restless, stretched out and lay on her stomach, gazing at the twinkling stars. It was all very peaceful, but for how long? How long? The question echoed around in her mind until she finally fell asleep too.

Jennifer woke first the next morning and decided to try flying. It had been at least one week since her wing had been injured, and truth be told, she was rather tired of walking. Golden Eagles were meant to fly, she thought to herself as she wandered about, searching for an open space where she could try out her wings. After ten minutes, Jennifer found a suitable spot and, flapping her great wings, she lifted off. She could fly!

Oh, thought Jennifer, it’s wonderful to be back in the air, as she soared on the air currents. I have missed it so much. Something caught Jennifer’s eye. A big something. Smoke. And where there’s smoke, there’s probably a fire, Jennifer thought grimly to herself. She flew back to camp and landed, slightly clumsily.

“Selina, Selina, come on you guys, wake up!” shrieked Jennifer.

“What is it, Jenn? What’s happening?”asked Selina sleepily, as Michael and Henry roused themselves.

“There’s smoke over there,” said Jennifer, waving her wing in an easterly direction. “I think it’s a fire. A big one,” she added.

“How do you know this?” asked Selina, now wide awake.

“Well, I woke up early, and I was kind of bored, so I went to find a place where I could try to fly. I can do it now, by the way,” explained Jennifer.

“Okay. You guys coming, or not? Hurry up,” Selina ordered, taking charge, as Michael and Henry scrambled to their paws and followed Selina.

“Follow me,” cried Jennifer and leapt into the air. Selina, Henry, and Michael sprinted to keep up with Jennifer, who was flying quickly towards a large, distant forest. As they neared the smoke, they found that it became harder and harder to breathe.

“What the heck are we gonna do?” spluttered Henry.

“Excellent question, old boy. What say we go and enlist the help of those woodland chappies?” gagging slightly. He pointed at the line of small animals that had begun to peer out from their hiding places in the underbrush.

“What are you guys waiting for?” shrilled Jennifer, dropping slightly.

“Don’t worry. We’re getting help,” called Henry. Jennifer made as if to call back to their younger companions, but when she caught sight of the small figures on the ground, she flew on.

“Okay, everyone. How many of you live in that forest? The one that’s burning down now?” gestured Michael. There was a flurry as dozens of small paws shot up into the air.

“All right,” said Henry, snapping his paws together. “Where’s the nearest source of water?”

“Right this way, sir,” answered a small, tan rabbit.

“Lead the way,” said Michael to the rabbit. To the other creatures gathered around them and milling about, he said, “Follow us, or find bowls or something that we can use to transport the water.” The animals scattered and went in two different directions: towards the river to find water or to look for objects that could be used to carry water.

Michael and Henry followed the little rabbit as she led them to the flowing river. When they got there, the Pink Panther asked sharply, “Which way does it run?”

“This way,” pointed the little rabbit with her paw.

“Hmmm...” muttered Henry. “It does seem to run in that direction. Which way to the fire, Michael?” he asked his companion.

“Well, can’t you see it? It’s right over there. I think that the real question is, how on earth do we get the water from here to there?” said Michael.

“That’s true,” answered Henry.

A few minutes later, several breathless creatures scurried up to Henry, their paws full of objects.

“This is what we have,” squeaked a chipmunk. “Some kitchenware, bowls, and pans, and he found the giant leaves that can be arranged to hold water.” The chipmunk pointed to a racoon, who brought forward the fronds the chipmunk had mentioned.

“Okay, good. Take that stuff and follow me,” said Henry as he took some of the leaves and clamped his jaws around them. Michael followed suit and loped after the Tiger, while the woodlanders gathered up their various items and scampered off after the larger creatures.

Reaching the part of the forest that was closest to the forest fire, Henry and Michael cupped their leaves and filled them to the brim with water. Then, slowly, carefully, the Tangerine Tiger and the Pink Panther trotted into the smoky forest. About four hundred yards into the forest, they encountered some huge, old trees that were being consumed by the fierce, licking flames. In the smoggy distance, they could see shadowy figures moving about. Quickly, the two dumped their water onto the trees, which sizzled as the fire went down.

“Well, back again to the jolly old river, right?” asked Michael.

“Absolutely correct,” said Henry, who was sprinting back to the river. “And repeat the process,” he added to the chipmunks, squirrels, racoons and other small animals that had come along.

All of them worked together to put out the fire. Back and forth, back and forth they went. Over the next few hours, they traveled the little trail from the river to the burning forest at least one hundred times, each time going in a little bit farther and putting out a little more of the fire.

Finally, after about three hours, Michael and Henry met Selina, panting and streaked with soot and smoke.

“Thank goodness you guys are all right,” Selina exclaimed, relieved. “That is an excellent idea. There are still a couple more smoldering embers that we ought to take care of.”

“What did you do? I see that the fire is practically completely out, but we didn’t even reach the opposite side of the forest,” asked Henry, confused.

“Oh, simple. Jennifer rounded up a few of the local birds, hawks, eagles and such, to fly over the fire and beat their wings heavily. That, along with the fact that myself and some deer were on the ground, stamping our paws on the flames, caused the fire to go out,” explained Selina with a small smile.

“Sweet,” yelled Henry.

“Excellent job,” added Michael, clapping Selina and Henry on their backs.

“But still,” Selina continued, “bring that stuff over here and put it on the embers. The last thing we need is for this whole forest to erupt into flames again.”

The three walked to the smoldering fire, where Jennifer was watching with an eagle eye. She said nervously, “Selina, I don’t know, but I really don’t think that this fire was natural. See, you would need something big and powerful, like lightning, to start such a blaze of this enormous size.”

As Michael and Henry poured the water on to the embers, safely putting the fire out, Selina mused, half to herself and half aloud, “Yes, I understand what you mean. Yes, I see. Do you think that the humans would do something like this?”

“By accident or on purpose?” inquired Michael.

“I think,” Selina paused, and finished slowly, “deliberately.”

As the four friends walked slowly out of the forest, the small, tan rabbit, along with some other woodland creatures came up to them and said, bowing low, “Thank you very much, kind sirs and madames. Without you, our homes would have surely burned down.”

Selina smiled and said, “Why, you are very welcome.”

The little rabbit spoke up again. “Madame Silver Wolf, a couple of days ago, there were some weird two-legged animals that passed through our forest.”

Selina shivered and said, “Thank you.” The other three waved good-bye as they followed Selina, who had gotten back to the river path that they had been traveling before the fire, once more going west. The four friends slept deeply that night, and awoke the next morning, well refreshed.

“Okay, everybody. It is time to get up,” Selina called to her companions. The others slowly roused themselves and drank some water to clear and to soothe their still-parched throats. “Don’t dawdle so much. Come on, if the fire truly was the work of humans, then we had better get moving,” stated Selina. Ten minutes later, the friends started out on their long journey to the sea, following the ever-winding stream.

After four hours of trotting and flying briskly, Selina allowed them to slow down. Jennifer fluttered down and walked next to Selina, while Michael and Henry fooled aroun up ahead. “Selina?” Jennifer asked cautiously.

Selina responded, “Um-hm?” and waited.

“Uh, Selina,”the words came out in a rush now, “what are we going to do when we get to the sea? I mean, I know that visiting the Blue Dolphin is one thing, but what else?” asked Jennifer.

The corners of Selina’s sharp mouth twitched upward slightly, and then curved into a grin and she answered, “Well, of course, we’ll visit our friends there. But I also want to know if she’s heard anything from any of our other correspondents, acquaintances, and friends.” To the Tiger and the Panther, she shouted, “Let’s go!”

For more than a fortnight, the four companions traveled west, only pausing to eat and drink, and at night, to rest and sleep. Selina urged them on, her own steps never faltering on the hard, packed dirt of the river path.

Finally, finally, finally, Michael claimed he could smell the sea, and Selina, taking a deep sniff, agreed. “All right, everyone. Listen up. Hopefully, the humans have not yet come here, so I think that we’ll stop here for now, rest here, and continue onto the sea tomorrow. How does that sound? Okay!” Selina exclaimed as the others chorused “Yes.”

After a while, Jennifer, Henry, and Michael fell asleep, but Selina stood sentry and loped around the surrounding woods, reviewing in her mind what she was going to say to the Blue Dolphin. She heaved a great sigh, heavy enough to stir the leaves of nearby trees, and then went back to the clearing where the others were sleeping, and rested with one eye open.

As the sun peeked its bright, sleepy face out of the puffy white clouds, Selina wakened the others, and proclaiming that it was a beautiful day, which indeed it was, suggested that they get moving. Michael and Henry, excited about seeing their good friend the Navy Seal. Jennifer flew about up ahead, keering delightfully. Selina followed along at a stately, more mature pace, ever alert and watchful, though secretly relieved that they had arrived safely. At long last, they had reached the sea!

Selina and Jennifer caught up to Michael and Henry, and they walked down to the sandy shore to the deep blue sea together. Suddenly, there erupted a series of high-pitched squeaks, and a long, slim, blue-grey snout with a wide, toothy grin poked out above the water.

Selina laughed and said, “Come on, Madison. You know how much trouble I have speaking Dolphin.”

The Blue Dolphin chuckled and said in normal English, “Selina, my friend, you know how much I love to annoy you like that. Even though I’ve been trying to teach you how to speak Dolphin for years, your pronunciation is really quite horribly awful, if I do say so myself.”

“And it sounds like you do say so yourself,” said Selina, grinning.

Madison, for that was indeed the Blue Dolphin’s name, called out behind her, “Matt, come here! You’ll never guess who’s here!”

A sleek body shot through the clear water, and the small, furry head of the Navy Seal slid out of the water. The Pink Panther and the Tangerine Tiger roared with delight at seeing their friend once again as they splashed through the water to greet him. Jennifer swooped into the air and trilled for joy. Selina smiled, although it was a sad smile, for she knew in her heart that the humans would change everything.

While Jennifer, in the air, kept an eye on the three playful figures below her, and for any sign of trouble, Selina and Madison strolled down the shore, Madison in the shallow water and Selina trotting next to her.

“So tell me, Selina. What worries you so much?” asked Madison.

“How do you know this isn’t just a pleasure trip?” countered Selina.

“My friend, we’ve known each other too long. When you come here without sending any word at all, Jennifer with bullet wounds yet unhealed, and a frown on her forehead, I believe I can figure out that something is wrong, or at least, amiss,” answered the Blue Dolphin.

“You’re right, of course,” sighed Selina. The large Silver Wolf continued, “It’s humans.”

“Ahhh... I see,” said Madison.

There was a long pause, and Selina sighed again. “Yes, they came to our mountain. Lots of men, with big guns. They shot Jennifer, and as a result, she could not fly for days after. And you know what flight is to a Golden Eagle.” Madison nodded and Selina continued. “I decided that it was not safe for us all and we left soon after. I figured that the best thing to do would be to come over here and ask your advice on what we should do. Oh yes, I almost forgot. As we were traveling here, there was a huge fire. We managed to put it out, with the help of the locals, but afterwards, it occurred to us that no fire should spread that fast, so it must have been set deliberately, by the people,” she finished miserably.

Madison answered, “Yes, we saw the smoke, but we thought that it was a natural fire. Also, we’ve heard about several odd, two-legged animals in your area and thereabouts.”

“Well, what do you think we ought to do?”

“You can’t go back to your mountain now,” said Madison.

“Correct,” Selina said.

“You ought to stay here for a while,” continued Madison. “And then, well, I would like to suggest that you go and visit the Grey Gryphon. She is extraordinarily wise, you know.”

“You’re right, of course,” Selina answered. “We’ll go when we’ve rested a bit. Is she still in that cave of hers? Up in the mountains?” Selina asked.

“Yep, and still as spry as ever,” chuckled Madison.

“You think that they should come too?” said Selina, a questioning note in her tone, nodding towards the flurry of water that was Henry, Michael, and Matt.

“No, you can leave them here,” the Blue Dolphin stated confidently. “They’ll be fine. Quite all right.”

“Are you sure?” started Selina.

But Madison just blew a spray of fine mist from her blowhole, and said, “Just go, my old friend.”

Selina waved her bushy, silver tail and headed towards the faraway mountains to the northeast. She trotted through thick forests, over sandy beaches and flat plains for days, finally coming to an enormous, long mountain range. She trotted through the mist, for as she climbed higher in the mountains, it became foggy and cooler. After a few days, Selina slowed down, for she remembered how sharp the Grey Gryphon could be at times. Suddenly, a breathy voice said “Hmmm, a Silver Wolf. Selina, might it be?”

“Yes, it is me. I’m surprised that you still remember me,” Selina said, flabbergasted, having only met the Gryphon once, and that had been some while ago.

“In general, I do not forget. It would a highly unusual, and possibly grievous, occurrence if that did happen,” the Grey Gryphon said.

A great Grey Gryphon glided out of the dense, shadowy trees. Her ageless face seemed to hold untold wisdom. Selina was very impressed by her, and felt respect.“So, what do you want, Wolf? Why do you come here?” the Gryphon asked, a calculating look in her shrewd eyes.

“Well,” Selina started, then paused. How could she say this? “Remember the mountains where I live with the Tiger, Panther, and Eagle?” The Grey Gryphon nodded, and Selina continued, “One day, Jennifer was shot by humans. When she healed, all four of us left and came to the sea. I went to Madison and she told me to come here to you. I took her advice and came here. So here I am.”

The great Grey Gryphon sighed, as if the weight of the world were upon her shoulders.

Suddenly, Selina remembered something from their journey. She added, “And as we were coming here, there was a large fire. It was all over, all at once, so we suspect humans.”

The Gryphon smiled sadly, saying, “My dear, your deductions are absolutely correct. The humans have come here.”

“Here?” gasped Selina.

“Yes,” said the Gryphon. “They came, fishing, with their loud voices and guns.” she sighed deeply again, looking upwards at the light blue sky, lightly sprinkled with clouds. “Sometimes, I wish...” The Gryphon paused, trapped in faraway memories. “There used to be a lot of us gryphons. The eldest were exceptional healers. Others had different talents. And now, I am the last of our kind. As are you, I believe.” The last comment was directed at Selina.

Selina nodded in agreement and murmured, “What are we going to do?”

The Grey Gryphon answered encouragingly, “For one thing, stay strong. If we are going to defeat the humans, then we must work together, for alone, the humans will surely finish us.” As Selina nodded, the Gryphon went on, “Come now, we must get started.”

Selina blinked in surprise as she said, “You’re coming?”

The Grey Gryphon chuckled. “Of course I am coming. After all, is it not my fight too?” she said. The Gryphon loped off, back down the mountain, but using a different path than that which Selina had taken up to the cave. Selina stretched and followed her.

Together, they ran for two days, hardly stopping. Gradually, they slowed down. Selina looked around, absorbing the beauty of the world around her. She asked her companion, “Gryphon, what is your true name?”

The Grey Gryphon stiffened, then relaxed. “I suppose it does not matter anymore,” she said. “A time ago, we never disclosed our true names to anyone but other Gryphons. That was a while back,” her airy voice suddenly heavy. “My name is Grace.”

“Grace,” Selina repeated, gently.

“Next, you will be inquiring what my talent is, I suppose,” the Gryphon said knowingly.

“How did you know?” asked Selina shocked. “You’re right, of course.”

“Wolf, Wolf, please,” said Grace. “I know many things. And I possess a vast knowledge covering a variety of subjects.” She continued, “Now, about my talent. As I said before, every Gryphon had a talent, though we kept this unique ability to ourselves. But, I will make an exception and tell you mine, for I have a feeling that I ought to share mine with you. I have the power to store memories. Hundreds, even thousands of years of knowledge and memories of Gryphonkind are held within me.

Selina said nothing, but gazed at the Grey Gryphon with an expression filled with awe for a long while during the silence that followed as they continued traveling. She was quite surprised when she realized that they had passed the base of the mountains, the thick forests, flat plains, and sandy shores. They were rather near the part of the sea where the Blue Dolphin and the Navy Seal lived.

“How did we manage to do that?” Selina asked.

Grace grinned and said, “Quite simple, actually. I know this land as well as I know my own worn-out paws.” She winked.

They lengthened their stride and went on. However, as they neared the beach, there was a great deal of smoke and noise in the air over the sea. Suddenly, a flash lit up the dusk sky.

Selina gasped. “What the heck was that?” A loud boom echoed around the mountain.

Grace glanced around, shook her head, and said, “I do not know. But my senses tell me that whatever it is, it is something foreign.”

Selina broke into a sprint and called, “Well, come on! Let’s find out!”

The Wolf and the Gryphon rushed down to the shore at a breakneck pace. They both skidded to an abrupt stop when they saw what was happening at the sea. The sun was setting. There were humans. A score of them. Attacking the others. The Golden Eagle was making charges from above, the Blue Dolphin and the Navy Seal were fighting back from the water. The Pink Panther and the Tangerine Tiger were defending themselves on land. But they were still losing, for the humans had their guns.

“Damn,” Selina swore. Grace cursed.

“Time to fight?” asked Selina.

“Absolutely,” growled Grace. “Fight!”

“An excellent idea. It has been nice knowing you,” said Selina.

“And the same to you. Good luck,” said the Grey Gryphon. Together, they charged down, the light of battle in their eyes.

Selina leapt onto the first human she came to and ripped his neck, leaving him bleed to death. She whirled about and looked for her next victim. But it would be harder now, much harder, for she had lost the element of surprise. The next man tried to protect his neck. But the Wolf’s long, snapping jaws were too much and he too lost his life at the vicious paws of a Silver Wolf seeking revenge for her pack. Suddenly, she noticed that the humans were ganging up on the Pink Panther. Recalling the Gryphon’s words about staying together, Selina let out a long, mournful howl, and the Tiger, Eagle, Dolphin, Seal, Gryphon, and Wolf charged together. The Gryphon lashed out at a man who had come too close. She slashed at him, leaving deep claw marks in his chest. Working together, Madison and Matt dragged another human out to sea and drowned him. Jennifer swooped in and her claws raked a human’s head, leaving long trails of blood as the man dropped to the ground. Michael and Henry attacked together, one from behind, and the other from in front.

But, Selina was beginning to have difficulties of her own. Already, she four bullets in her, though she ignored those and continued to fight, killing another man. There were only a few humans left, but these few people, after having seen what had happened to the other men, were becoming more desperate. The guns were wreaking havoc among the animals. Slowly, ever so slowly, the tide began to turn and the creatures succeeded in defeating the humans in that battle.

However, they had paid dearly for the victory. All had received wounds, though Grace and Selina were the worst off. Each had gotten at least half a dozen bullet wounds and were bleeding profusely. They lay there, the last two survivors of their kind, their life slowly ebbing away, with the tide that lapped at their footpaws.

“Oh, please, don’t die, don’t go,” wept Madison and Jennifer. Michael, Henry and Matt were sobbing, their tears mixing with the sea.

The Grey Gryphon murmured, “You will remember us, right? Like I did for the Gryphons. Good.”

The Silver Wolf said clearly, “Listen very carefully to me. Look up. Into the sky. What do you see? Tell me.”

“Stars.” They all said the single word together.

Selina said, “When we fade, watch the sky. Two shooting stars, representing two fighting spirits, gone to rest in the starry sky. That would be us.”

Together, the Grey Gryphon and the Silver Wolf faded and their friends gazed up at the sky. Two majestic, fiery shooting stars arched across the sky. Each blossomed into a great constellation: one a Gryphon, the other a Wolf.

The friends whispered “Good-bye” to each other.

Time passed, and in turn, the Blue Dolphin, Golden Eagle, Navy Seal, Pink Panther, and the Tangerine Tiger, faded and joined their friends in the starry sky.


And now, we remember these brave creatures in our cores at Toll Middle School.





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