Koru growled lowly at the scrawny goblin before him. Piktik often poked Koru with his latest crooked Puppy Poker stick and tried to steal Koru's supper. But, not today! Koru would keep his prized rabbit before him, even if it meant many irritating pokes from the goblin.
"Give me coney!" Piktik shook his stick at Koru.
"Koru's coney!" Koru snarled back at the goblin and snapped at the stick as it was waved by his head.
Frustrated, Piktik made a swipe at the rabbit in the hopes of grabbing it straight from Koru's clutches. Koru snarled menacingly, took the rabbit in his mouth, and darted away into the bushes back to his pack. He could hear Piktik scowling and cursing as he kicked up fallen leaves.
Under bushes and leaves, through ferns and grasses, over roots and rocks, Koru loped through the forest. Koru was a dark grey and white Kurach and stood somewhere between the size a small wolf and a large fox. He had raven-black wings as all Kurach did and a bushy mane down the back of his neck just as dark. Broad-chested and thick-furred, he feared the goblins the least of his pack. But he was no less irritated by them than any other Kurach.
'Must be way to make goblin leave Koru alone.' Koru chewed thoughtfully on his rabbit. His paws knew the way home well. A turn by this tree, a jump over this puddle, duck under this branch, and then in sight was the den that was dug out from under an old stump.
The alpha Nane and his mate Syri were sunbathing on the old stump. Their four fluffy cubs still in their matching youthful pelts frolicked and tussled by the den entrance. Last year's twins, Tolly and Molly, were attempting to nap away from the noisy cubs.
Koru trotted up to the cubs, dropped his catch, and jumped away as four yipping balls of fur pounced on Koru's gift. Syri opened a sleepy eye to acknowledge Koru's gift before returning to her sunbathing. Satisfied, Koru pranced over to Old Grey, the eldest of the pack.
"Goblin poke Koru with stick!" he huffed and sat down by Old Grey. Koru vented and fumed to the older Kurach of his dislike of the goblin and his Puppy Poker. "Must make goblin stop! And stop good!"
Old Grey snorted once. "Goblin no stop. Goblin never stop. Always bother Kurach, always will. It way it be."
"Must be way to make goblin stop. Must be!" Koru wailed pitifully. His ribs were still sore from the afternoon's harassment. He flattened his ears and glared at the ground in thoughtful silence, as still as a statue. Old Grey was quiet, a little amused by his young friend and somewhat irritated that he couldn't accept that which couldn't change.
"What Koru mad about now?" laughed red Tog as he strode up to dark Koru and Old Grey.
"Goblin poke Koru!" Koru said indignantly.
"Maybe Koru need it?" Tog giggled. Koru hrumphed at him and continued to glare at the ground.
Tog scratched vigorously at a flea behind his ear and then at another by his forearm. He sat up suddenly with an idea. "Give goblin bitey bug! Goblin too busy scratching bitey bug to bother Koru."
"How give goblin bitey bug?" Koru cocked his head to one side. "Bitey bug only bite four-foots."
"Umm... Walk like goblin! Confuse bitey bug and bitey bug jump on goblin instead," Tog said smartly, pleased with his cunning.
"Might work! Koru thank!" Koru wagged his tail and ran off into the forest once more. He kept his nose to the ground, sniffing for the smell of the mean goblin with the crooked Puppy Poker stick as he ran. Under bushes and leaves, through ferns and grasses, over roots and rocks, Koru hunted for the scent of the goblin. And at last, he found him. Piktik was huddled by a stream, running his long, green fingers through the water and nudging the shiny pebbles of the stream bed.
Koru tried to stand up on his hind legs and drew his forelegs close to his chest. He flared and twitched his wings out beside him for balance and took a few wobbly steps toward the goblin. Piktik heard the noisy, unstable steps and turned to see Koru staggering toward him.
"What puppy do?" Piktik asked bewilderedly.
"Koru give goblin bitey bug, so goblin leave Koru alone!" Koru furrowed his furry brow and took another wobbly step.
"Me no want bitey bug! Me poke mean puppy!" Piktik brandished his crooked Puppy Poker stick.
Koru instinctively tried to dodge the stick, but lost his balance, and came crashing down onto Piktik. Smash! And then, bonk! Piktik smacked Koru on the head with his stick.
"Puppy get off me!" Piktik cried and continued to whack Koru with the stick.
Yelping and scrambling, Koru fumbled off the goblin and ran into the safety of prickly bushes where his fur would keep him safe but the bushes would prick the bare skin of the goblin. Sulking, Koru plodded back to the den, mourning his misfortune.
Tan Lok chased and wrestled with red Tog. He stopped abruptly and Tog collided with him.
"Hey, why stop?" Tog asked grumpily.
"Koru back. Koru mad. What Koru mad about now?" Lok asked.
"Tog don't know. Ask Koru!" Tog replied and Lok loped over to Koru.
"Why Koru mad?" Lok asked.
"Koru still have bitey bug. Fall on goblin and goblin poke Koru with stick," Koru said sullenly.
"Why try give goblin bitey bug?" Lok asked.
"Give goblin bitey bug then goblin scratch bitey bug and don't poke Koru with stick," Koru said.
"Take away stick?" Lok suggested.
"No. Goblin find new stick," Koru sulked.
"Then Koru get stick and Koru poke goblin until he stop poking Koru," Lok nodded.
"Might work! Koru thank!" Koru wagged his tail and bounded off into the forest once more. He kept his nose to the ground, sniffing for the smell of the mean goblin with the crooked Puppy Poker stick as he ran. Under bushes and leaves, through ferns and grasses, over roots and rocks, Koru hunted for the scent of the goblin. And at last, he found him. Piktik was pulling rotten bark off an old log and eating beetles skittering underneath.
Koru looked around on the ground and spotted a nice, pointy stick. Holding it in his teeth, he strode up confidently to Piktik. He shook his head side to side, swatting Piktik with the stick.
"Ow! Ow! What puppy do now?" Piktik shrieked and held his hands up before him.
"Krmphu boak veen krbrm," was Koru's muffled reply.
"What puppy try say?" Piktik scratched his head.
"Krmphu boak veen krbrm!" Koru shouted through the stick in his mouth.
"Me no know what puppy say," Piktik shook his head.
Koru dropped the stick to the ground. "Koru poke mean goblin!"
"Oh, puppy no poke me! Me poke puppy!" Piktik said angrily. He took both his stick and Koru's and began to swat Koru with both sticks. Koru yelped and leapt over the rocks too steep for the Piktik to climb. Sulking, Koru plodded back to the den, mourning his misfortune.
Pale Yiki chased tan Lok and red Tog. Yiki became distracted and tripped all over Lok and Tog.
"Hey! Why crash?" Tog asked grumpily.
"Koru back. Koru mad. What Koru mad about now?" Yiki asked.
"Tog don't know. Ask Koru!" Tog replied and Yiki loped over to Koru.
"Why Koru mad?" Yiki asked.
"Koru try poke goblin with stick. Goblin poke Koru with stick," Koru said sullenly.
"Why poke goblin with stick?" Yiki asked.
"Try poke goblin until goblin no want poke Koru anymore," Koru sulked.
"Oh," Yiki said softly. She sat down and cocked her to one side and then the other. Red Tog and tan Lok sat down by pale Yiki and dark Koru, pondering and wondering how to make the goblin stop poking Koru.
"Yiki know!" Yiki exclaimed as she jumped to her feet. "Ask pretty bugs!"
"Why ask pretty bugs?" Koru asked.
"Pretty bugs make shinies. Shines make special things happen. Maybe make goblin stop poking Koru?" Yiki wagged her tail hopefully.
Old Grey snorted. "Pretty bug trouble. Cause more trouble."
But Koru was desperate and willing to try anything. "Maybe work! Koru thank!" Koru wagged his tail. He went to his favorite spot, turned around three times, and laid down. He was soon fast asleep as the stars came out. The rest of the pack settled down as well and soon began to snore softly.
The next morning, Koru dashed into the forest once more. He kept his nose to the ground as he ran, sniffing for the smell of the pretty bugs who made shinies. Under bushes and leaves, through ferns and grasses, over roots and rocks, Koru hunted for the scent of the pretty bugs. He searched and he searched, but he never found the pretty bugs. Tired, he stopped by a pond surrounded by reeds for a drink. And what should he find but the pretty bugs! He was so happy he yipped.
Frightened and surprised, the fairies scattered and hid in the reeds.
"No, no, come back! Koru nice!" Koru smiled his nicest smile and tried to look friendly.
"What do you want?" asked a sour-looking fairy with big, green wings and wild, dark green hair.
"Mean goblin poke Koru with stick. Koru want goblin to stop. Yiki say pretty bug help Koru," Koru said.
"Why should we help?" asked a fairy with slender, pale-blue wings.
"So goblin poke Koru no more?" Koru asked slowly.
"What will you give us in return?" prodded a fairy with broad, brown wings.
"Koru bring coney?" Koru suggested.
"We do not eat rabbits," snorted the fairy with big, green wings.
Koru's ears began to droop. "Koru bring... squirrel?"
"No, we do not eat little squirrels!" exclaimed the pale-blue winged fairy.
Koru thought and thought. "Koru bring... Koru bring..." He paused. Koru sighed and hung his head. "Koru have no gift for pretty bugs."
"Bring to me a mushroom," said the fairy with broad, brown wings.
"Yes! Koru will bring mushroom," Koru smiled and wagged his tail. "Where find?"
"On the side of old logs, little steps that rise to the top. Bring me three," said the fairy with broad, brown wings.
"Will find!" Koru nodded fervently and ran into the forest. He found an old log lying on the forest floor. He circled the log around and around, and found the little mushrooms that grew like little steps all the way to the top of the log. Very carefully, Koru plucked three of them from the log and returned to the fairies. He laid the mushrooms down gently onto the ground before the fairies. Koru smiled triumphantly as the fairy with the broad, brown wings gobbled up the mushrooms.
"Koru bring mushroom! Pretty bugs help Koru?" Koru asked hopefully.
"Bring to me a moss," said the fairy with big, green wings.
"Yes! Koru will bring moss," Koru smiled and wagged his tail. "Where find?"
"Under the bushes, hidden from sight, knotted like a hairball," said the fairy with big, green wings.
"Will find!" Koru nodded and ran into the forest. He found a patch of bushes, large and leafy, and with little tufts of moss peaking from between the lowest leaves. Very carefully, Koru took a clump of moss into his mouth and returned to the fairies. He laid the moss down gently onto the ground before the fairies. Koru smiled triumphantly as the fairy with the big, green wings gobbled up the moss.
"Koru bring moss! Pretty bugs help Koru?" Koru asked hopefully.
"Bring to me a pine nut," said the fairy with slender, blue wings.
"Yes! Koru bring pine nut," Koru looked very confused. "What pine nut?"
"Find the tree with thin, pointy leaves and spiky brown droppings. The pine nuts are in the droppings," said the fairy with slender, blue wings.
"Will find!" Koru nodded and ran into the forest. By now, it was starting to get dark and Koru was worried he wouldn't be home in time for bed. He hurried through the forest, searching for the trees with the thin, pointy leaves that dropped spiky brown things. At last, when the shadows stretched long upon the ground, he found the pointy-leafed trees and their spiky droppings. He choose the nicest looking one and carefully picked it up with his teeth. He snarled his lips as the spiky thing poked his nose. Koru returned to the fairies and laid the spiky thing before the fairies. Koru smiled triumphantly as the fairy with the slender, blue wings opened the spiky thing and gobbled up the pine nuts.
"Koru bring pine nut. Now pretty bugs please help Koru?" Koru asked hopefully.
"Yes, we will help you," nodded the fairy with slender, blue wings.
Koru yipped and jumped for joy. The shadows were now very, very long and he wished to go home.
Three more fairies joined them. One with broad, dark-blue wings. One with long, red wings. One with rippled, brilliant-yellow wings. The six fairies circled around him, glowing, singing strange words, and holding their hands out to one another. Koru was very excited as he began to glow too. Then, quite unexpectedly, he began to change! Taller and taller he grew. His tail and hind legs grew longer, his wings lengthened, and the toes on his forefeet grew longer! Koru tried to stand up and felt himself quite awkward. Slowly, he continued to rise until he stood just on his back paws, and was quite surprised to find he held his balance.
"What did pretty bugs do?" Koru asked.
"You can now keep the goblin from poking you with the stick," said the fairy with the big, green wings and a twinkle in her eye.
"Oh, thank you!" Koru smiled and left the fairies. He ran home as fast as his new feet could carry him, which oddly was a bit slower than what he was used to. But he pressed on and made it home before the moon began to rise.
Red Tog was quite surprised to see his friend walking now on two feet.
"Koru! What happen?" Tog asked worriedly.
"Pretty bugs helped Koru! Now Koru can stop goblin from poking with stick!" Koru said gladly.
Old Grey frowned and shook his head. "Mistake, Koru. Mistake."
Koru felt a twinge of anger he hadn't felt before. He shook his head roughly. "Bedtime, Old Grey?"
Old Grey nodded and laid his head back down. Nane and his mate Syri were curled up together with their four pups in front of the den. Last year's twins Tolly and Molly slept just beyond them. Red Tog was laying by his favorite rock. Tan Lok was sprawled across the ground. Pale Yiki and her sister soft Riki were curled up lady-like by the stump. Dark Koru tried to lay down as he always did by his favorite bush, but his body did not work the same as it used to. He managed to find a way to sleep on his belly and rested fitfully.
The next day, Koru went out to hunt. He fumbled through the bushes, tripped over roots, and made an awful racket everywhere he went. His hearing was a little duller and so was his sense of smell. Frustrated, he sat down on a rock to mourn his misfortune.
Along came Piktik, whistling and swinging his crooked Puppy Poker stick. He stopped when he saw Koru. Only, Koru was different, somehow. Bigger. And shaped something like Piktik! No matter, Piktik would poke him anyway. Silently, he crept up, and gave Koru a good poke in the ribs. Poke!
Koru leapt up with a howl and a look of anger in his eyes Piktik had never seen before. Frightened, Piktik yelped and ran away as fast as he could. Koru chased him into a goblin hole and began to dig fervently, trying to dig out Piktik.
"Go away! Go away! Me sorry! Me no poke puppy anymore!" squeaked Piktik.
Koru started and blinked a few times. He stumbled and backed away. Koru stared at the gashes in the ground from his passionate digging. Slowly, he turned, and trudged back into the forest, lost in thought. Again, he had become very angry and didn't understand why. Koru wandered through the forest, wondering and pondering what the fairies had done to him. He came to an old rock he liked to sit on. Even that did not feel right anymore. Koru sat beside his rock and watched the shadows dance on the ground as the wind high in the trees moved the leaves.
After a while, red Tog came walking by. In the mood to play, he ran and jumped on Koru. Caught by surprise, Koru growled and shook Tog off. He glared and snarled at Tog. Tog took a step back, puzzled.
"Tog... just want to play," he said before lowering his head and disappearing into the forest.
Koru felt such a sinking feeling of guilt and hurt that he cried his sorrow to the watchful clouds beyond the trees. He stayed close to the rock for a long time until he became aware of how hungry he was. He got up and began to try to find something to eat. But there was nothing he could catch anymore. Rabbits and squirrels were so much faster now. And the berries on the bushes smelled so much sweeter... He tentatively tried a berry and found it much tastier than he used to. Koru soon ate many of the berries and looked around for more. Not finding any, he began his way back to the den.
Along the way appeared the green-winged fairy who had helped him before.
"How are you faring?" she asked Koru.
"Koru... sad!" Koru howled. "Can't catch rabbits, can't catch squirrels, can't sit on best rock," he sobbed. "Can't play with Tog!"
"Do you want to go back to the way you were?"
"Yes! Please, oh please, Koru will bring mushroom and moss and pine nuts every day!" Koru gave her the most pitiful look he possessed.
"Wish for it. Wish for it very hard and think about how badly you want to go back to how you were," the green-wined fairy said.
Koru squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated with all his might. He thought of running through the forest, romping with Tog, and even of being poked by Piktik. Koru felt warm and that he was shrinking. When he opened his eyes, he found himself on four feet again. Overjoyed, he leapt into the air with a happy bark. Koru chased his tail and rolled on the ground.
"Oh, thank, thank, thank!" Koru wagged his tail.
"Don't thank me, I did nothing," the green-winged fairy said.
"But pretty bug fix Koru!" Koru was confused.
"No. You are how we made you. Should you ever become angry and frustrated again, you will go back to two feet. So long as you are happy and do not complain, you may remain on four," the green-winged fairy said.
"So... Koru can still go back to awful two feet?" Koru asked, horrified.
"You and your pups are like this forever," the green-winged fairy nodded.
Koru flattened his ears and growled.
"Koru not alpha, can no have pups! Koru not bad! Now fix Koru!"
"You will have pups in time. Good-bye!" the green-winged fairy smiled and fluttered away.
Koru snarled and snapped at her as she flew away. He felt himself begin to change and quickly calmed down. He hung his head and tucked his tail. What had he done?
The walk back to the den was both one of the shortest and longest it had ever been. What would he tell the alpha? How could he explain that he would turn on the pack by siring pups when he was not the alpha? Or worse, how could he say that he was leaving to start his own pack as many rogues did?
Koru arrived at the den and felt very distant from his family, as if he was watching them from far away. He kept to himself. He did not seek out Old Grey or Tog. He even did not curl up beside his favorite bush.
The moon rose slowly over the trees and the pack slept peacefully under her beams. All slept except for Koru. He lay awake to himself. The sound of rustling leaves drew his attention. He raised his head and pricked his ears to the noise. There stood pale Yiki. Something was very different about her. Enthralled, Koru stood, and followed her into the forest. She began a chase and lead him off into the night. They laughed and played in the moonlight all night long.
Every night Yiki and Koru would sneak away and play. They grew to be close friends. Soon Koru forgot about the trouble he went through with the fairies.
"Koru?" Yiki asked one night as they lay curled up on the riverbank.
"Yes?" Koru replied.
"Want to start our own pack?" Yiki looked into his eyes.
Koru was silent for a moment and watched as the moonbeams glinted off her pale fur. At length, he smiled. "Yes."
Yiki licked his cheek and nuzzled his neck. Koru sighed happily and laid his head over hers. It seemed so long ago that he was against separating from the pack. But now... it just felt right.
Nane the alpha didn't take too kindly to the notion of two of his packmates running off to start their own pack. Koru promised he would not fight over food or go to war with Nane. They were still his family and he could never hurt them. Reluctantly, Nane let them go.
True to his word, Koru never challenged Nane or sought to destroy his old pack. He established a territory nearby where he and Yiki had three pups of their own. At the beginning of every autumn he would lead his growing family back to Nane's territory to visit. Koru always brought food with him and continued to dote on the newest of Nane and Syri's pups.
Koru's pups had indeed inherited his "curse". Those who became too angry would stand on two feet with unnatural strength until they calmed back down. They could not even breed it out by mixing with loners who hadn't been cursed. Generations passed and it seemed as if none of the original Kurach survived. The Kurach were stronger, smarter, and the goblins no longer tried to poke them with sticks, but at the price of a terrible anger always just below the surface.
In time, Koru's descendants sought out the fae once more. Some learned to control their anger and walk on two feet at will and those were the ones who wished to learn more tricks. Koru himself even became grateful to the fairies before he died, for he never would have had a life with Yiki if he had remained a simple Kurach.
So how the Kurach came to walk on two legs and came to use magic.