The Cage

The cage wasn’t quite flat on the ground… It wasn’t quite straight either.
This meant that Tsuru had to always lean or lay on the bars rather than the bottom, and if he ever fell asleep he would wake when part of him, caught by gravity, fell out through the bars, startling him.

It had been four days now since he had been caught by the trappers, and though he was in a darkened cave he knew time had passed because the trappers slept and ate but the crane didn’t eat.
Tsuru had been drinking by the side of a river when it happened, too quickly for him to understand it, they were upon him, and he was in a net.
He cried out, and struggled, but the men were deaf to him, and cared not for anything he had to say. To them he was a prize and a prize to them means two things – Either money or food, or sometimes both.

During the four days he had watched the trappers leave and return with other creatures, each time Tsuru tried to speak to them but they were simple creatures and didn’t understand his tongue. The men didn’t understand him either, because their spirits were dead and Tsuru felt pity for them because of this.
On the night of the fourth day the men started to move the creatures out of the cave. Tsuru heard them talking amongst themselves about a boat and arguing about coins. A large man came over and picked up the cage the crane was in, Tsuru fell into a corner and stayed there. He felt afraid but he knew that calling out would do nothing for him, so he kept quiet. The other animals simply panicked as they were picked up, screeching or tumbling around trying desperately to escape. Some of the men ignored them as they picked up the cages, some laughed at their faces and one man shook a creature within its cage until it lay still again.
The cages were loaded onto a boat which, as far as Tsuru could make out, sailed for one week, during which the remains of the food the men ate was given to the creatures – Although it was barely enough for a mouthful and each animal had to try and pick out what little it could digest.
During this time Tsuru could hear the other creatures crying and though he tried to comfort them it did no good. Tsuru found this very saddening, and he wondered about the world of these creatures and how alone they must feel.
The boat eventually stopped and men came to the hull. A sheet was thrown over the crane’s cage and he was carried out.

———–

He had been flying for what felt like hours, though what an hour was didn’t even actually feature in his understanding of it all – In fact nothing really featured in his understanding of anything, only that he was flying, had been flying and would continue to fly until he reached her, his ivory mistress…
… Not that he knew what ivory was for that matter, or mistress come to that; either way though he was flying and must continue…

‘Wait… What’s that, I like that… I WANT that!’

He changed course and flew towards the house, not that he knew it was a house; he just saw it… And wanted it… REALLY wanted it.

‘I really want it!’ he thought, ‘I really want to…’

Suddenly he felt a rush of air and then it was gone, everything was gone in fact… Not that he noticed, this was the end and it came as much of a surprise to him as anything.

The owl snapped his beak and gave a little shiver:
‘Hurrblurgh!!’ he thought, ‘Why I continue to eat them is beyond me.’

It had been a quiet night… The moon was out in full, which meant hunting was easy, but it also meant the better creatures to eat were more cautious, leaving only the moths bumbling around with no real idea at all.
As he flew, he passed over the edge of the city. It was there… With his keen eyes… He saw something that made his blood run cold.

‘Trappers…” he thought to himself, “those poor creatu…’

The owl’s thoughts stopped, suddenly he had seen something even more terrible… Below him, beside the docks he saw a cage and inside the cage…
“Tsuru!” cried out the owl.

The crane looked up, “Hormuncu!” he shouted, “Hormuncu!”

The owl landed atop the cage,
“Oh Tsuru, oh no… No… I’ve been looking for you for days. We had given up hope… Cat is beside herself!”

“I got caught on the eastern island while looking for the coin.” said Tsuru.

“We’ve got to get you out… Quick open the cage as a boy!” said the owl.

“I can’t…” said the crane, “The men are too close… If they see me I’m done for.”
“You’ve got to distract them for me owl.”

“I don’t know what to do!?” cried the owl, “How can I get rid of all these humans… They will surely catch me too!”

The crane looked at the owl and looked at all the animals in the cages…
“Caranaux!!!” said Tsuru, “Quickly fly to cat and find Caranaux… Tell her I understand why I planted the seed now.”

“But I don’t…”

“Just fly!” called out Tsuru, “They are coming back!”

Hormuncu launched into the air and flew; he flew faster and with more fever than he had ever flown before. Owls can be large creatures, but Hormuncu was an ancient breed of owl – He was a Tullinum, the greatest of all owls, and as he flew he thanked his birth and his stars that his wings were strong.

———–

The cat was lying on some rocks, unable to sleep, when she heard the sound. She hadn’t really slept or eaten for over a week now; Tsuru was missing and Bastet was dying from the loss in her heart. What little sleep she had came of its own accord, and what little food she had was placed there in her mouth by creatures as she slept, unable to bear to see her so distraught.

The sound was like a cry she had never heard before and all at once her hair stood up and her heart sank.
“BASTET… BAASSTEETT!!” cried out the owl as he landed beside her. “It’s Tsuru… I found him… I found him… THE TRAPPERS HAVE HIM!” he said frantically.

Bastet let out a howl, her eyes burst into tears and she fell to the ground sobbing… Hormuncu caught her with his wing and pulled her close into him.

“We’ve got to help him…” said the owl, “But I don’t know how, there are so many men and they are carrying sticks.”

Bastet just cried into the owl’s chest.

“He told me to find you and Caranaux…” said the owl, “He told me to tell you that he understands why he planted the seed!?”
The owl was starting to become upset; he didn’t understand what Tsuru had meant.

The cat looked up at Hormuncu.
“The seed…” she echoed, “The crow… Get the crow!”

Hormuncu lifted his head and let out a great call, if anything in the vicinity was asleep it surely was awake now!
“CARANAUX!” he called out.

The crow popped his head out from the top of a nearby tree.
“Mercy! Mercy!” he called out, still half asleep. He looked around tilting his head and blinking when he spied the owl and the cat.
“What are you doing!” cried the crow in horror, “Don’t eat her!”

“Wha… I’m not going to… Just get down here!” called the owl.

Caranaux flew down to them, the owl told him about Tsuru and the trappers – The crow started to cry a little but the cat stopped him, grabbing him she said:
“You have to go Caranaux, you have to go and set him free!”

“But what can I do?” Cried the crow, “How can I…”

“You can stop the men crow; you can put them to sleep!” she said.

Caranaux turned to the owl.
“Take me to Tsuru.” he said.

The ancient Tullinum owl picked the crow up carefully with his feet and took to the air again.

———–

Tsuru sat in the back of his cage, the trappers had returned and were beginning to move the other animals onto large carts.
All of a sudden he heard a sound, at first he thought he imagined it but then he heard it again, this time stronger like it was travelling towards him…
… The men too heard something because they all looked up towards the sky, and there in silhouette against the moon was the great figure of Hormuncu!
Tsuru understood the sound he had heard and covered his ears. The other creatures started crying out, terrified by the sound and sight of the owl. The men started darting around; rattling the creature’s cages, angry at their noises… Then… Suddenly… One by one… They started falling to the ground…
Tsuru looked up and saw what looked like a black falling star coming towards them!
Caranaux fell towards the earth; his wings folded back like the owl had said to do… As he fell he sang out as loudly as he could his secret song and as each human heard it they fell to the ground, knocked out and dreaming the greatest of dreams.

“WAHH AHH AHHHHH URRGH” cried out the crow as he tried to slow down, and landed with a bump.

“Oh crow… You did it… You did it!” said Tsuru.

The crow looked around and chuckled.
“I did rather didn’t I!” he said. “Come on, let’s get you out… Cat is beside herself you know!”

With all the humans asleep Tsuru took the form of a boy and opened his cage. Caranaux hopped about on the other cages trying to open the locks – The creatures inside were frantic, half scared, half sensing help was at hand.
Eventually all the cages were open, and the animals had run off into the night.

Tsuru waved to the owl and called out his thanks; he and the crow then took flight – Returning home to cat.

———–

Hormuncu sat in a tree and watched them leave the city. As he watched, a tear rolled down the feathers on his face and fell to the ground; he breathed a great sigh and took flight. Seeing all those animals in cages had made him think, they were so dumb he thought, and so afraid… Even when he tried to talk to them it made no difference. He felt sorrow for them, not because they were simple creatures and could not speak, but because they had fallen foul to greater creatures who could speak… He felt sorrow for how little their tiny lives meant to the trappers.

As he flew Hormuncu thought of the moth he had eaten earlier, a creature of very little he thought – A thing that does not even know it is a thing.

Hormuncu said a prayer for the moth, thanked him for his life and blessed him on his way back to the stars…
… If he is going to eat these creatures, the least he can do is show them respect he thought.