Lore: The Nara and the Jubhawk/Golden

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The Nara and the Jubhawk

It was in the days when every animal prepared for the long winter. The haan gathered rocks and mud for its dam. The bushelk collected hay to spread about its den. The nara curled up the tallest trees seeking nuts to store in its hole.

One day, the Nara climbed a particularly tall tree—a task it disliked very much, for the climb was difficult and the branches often treacherous—when it came upon a jubhawk lounging in its nest.

“Where is your store of food, Master Jubhawk?” said the nara. “Do you not prepare for the winter?”

“I have never had need,” the jubhawk said with a great shrug of its wings. “But the idea intrigues me, for I see all the creatures of the forest floor running to and fro for days on end.”

“So we must,” said the nara with a flick of its tails. “Else the winter will claim us.”

“How charming! Oh, not for those poor souls claimed, of course, but all your hard work delights me very much. Perhaps you might be interested in an arrangement. I can see how much you dislike climbing my jub trees. Your body is more suited for swimming, yes? Perhaps instead of nuts you could bring me a particular worm, one that makes its autumn home deep within the droper caves. If you were to bring me, say, a hundred of them, I would happily gather the nuts for you from every tree in this grove.”

“I can do this!” The nara straightened in delight, for it hated climbing the jub trees very much. Swimming in the pools of the droper caves was much more to its liking. “I will make this deal.”

Eagerly, the nara slithered into the caves, slipped into the cold pool, swam through an underwater passage, and entered a dark chamber where the only light was the glow of the caveworms the jubhawk desired so much. There were hundreds upon the walls, and the rock was easily scalable for the nara—much easier than the cursed jub trees. “This will be simple,” she thought. “It would require a full week to gather all the nuts in the jubhawk’s grove, but this will take me but a day. With the jubhawk’s help, I can begin my winter’s rest early!”

But the task proved more difficult than the nara had thought. For the worms clung tightly to the walls, and they wriggled and slipped from her grasp during the swim to the outside. By the evening, she had gathered only half a dozen. “Oh, it shall take me weeks to get them all! I must speak again to the jubhawk.”

But the jubhawk was not as understanding as she hoped. “A day’s work, and this is all you have achieved?”

“You did not say the worms adhered to the rock nor that they would squirm away at the first touch of water. It takes a great deal of time to bring even one into the sack.”

“I have never noticed these problems. Perhaps you simply need to try harder.”

The nara hissed. “I’m sorry, Mr. Jubhawk. Even with the nuts you gather for me, I cannot complete this task and be ready for the winter.”

“But we had an agreement.” The jubhawk scratched its underfeathers with one long claw. “How about this? I will gather even more nuts—all that you need for the whole winter—but in exchange, you will collect every worm in the cave. Can you do that?”

The nara flicked its tails as it calculated. The request would be difficult, but all the nuts she needed for winter? Troublesome though the worms were, they were far less trouble than climbing the jub trees. And she would still save time besides. “Yes,” she said. “I will do this.”

And so, she returned to the work. One at a time, she pried each worm from its wall and towed it through the water, until she was too tired to do more and brought what she had for the Jubhawk that day. After a week of this, she began to dislike the work but reminded herself that she got to spend her entire day swimming in the cool of the cave rather than the heat of the forest, and her work would be done with days to spare.

“All without climbing a single tree,” she thought. “And perhaps the jubhawk will enjoy the worms so much that he will make the same offer next season. Then I could begin winter’s rest even earlier.” And with that pleasant thought ahead of her, she smiled and continued her work.

The days grew colder, so too did the cave pools. The work became slow and difficult. Each sunset, the nara brought a sack before the jubhawk and redid her calculations. No longer would her winter rest start early, but with the jubhawk’s help, she would survive the winter. And perhaps next season she could start earlier.

She noticed another thing however. “Where are the nuts, Mr. Jubhawk?” For surely he should have gathered some by now.

The jubhawk waved a casual wing in the air. “I can gather more in a day than you can in a fortnight. It will be done.”

“But,” she said, her slender body quivering with anxiety, “the nuts will not remain forever. They must be gathered before they fall.”

“Dear nara, which of us lives in these jub trees?” The jubhawk’s feathers puffed out as it took offense. “Perhaps you should spend more energy on worms than misgivings. For this deal pleases me, and it would be nice to do it again next year.”

The nara smiled at that and slipped away. The jubhawk was right, of course. He knew his trees better than she, and next year, she would be even faster. In any case, it was too late for the deal to change now. There was no time left for her to collect the nuts she needed by herself.

With the jubhawk’s words in her heart, she returned to her work with even greater fervor. And by the time the first winter clouds loomed on the horizon, she returned with the final sack and placed it at the foot of the jub tree. “Jubhawk!” she called. “I have the last of them—every worm, as promised.”

The jubhawk flapped down, clutched the sack in its talons and flew it back to its nest without a word. The Nara waited, but he did not reappear.

“Mr. Jubhawk?” said the nara, a shiver of worry niggling at her tails.

The great bird poked its head from its nest and looked down. “Of course, I apologize! Thank you so much, dear nara. This arrangement has been quite a pleasure. I look forward to continuing it in the future.” And he dropped a small bag from above.

The bag landed nearly on the nara’s head and spilled forth a mere handful of jub nuts—hardly enough for a week let alone the winter. The nara hissed in agitation. “Where are the rest, Mr. Jubhawk? You promised all I need.”

The jubhawk walked out onto a great branch with a sad look upon his face. “I am sorry, dear nara, but I flew here and there all day—every jub tree in every grove—and that is all I could find.”

“All day?” the nara said. “What of the other days?”

The jubhawk did not appear to hear her. “Here,” he said, “take a few of my worms, for I surely do not need them all.” And he dropped the sack that the nara had brought him that day.

The nara scowled. “I cannot eat worms!”

But the jubhawk had returned to his nest already and disappeared. The nara called until the clouds rolled in and the sun set, but the jubhawk showed not a feather. She returned to her burrow with the scant nuts the jubhawk had given her.

Even eaten sparingly, those nuts were gone within the month. It was too cold to gather more, but the nara had little choice. She slithered far and wide in the snow, searching for any food that she could eat. But all the food had been frozen or gathered and all the animals holed up for the winter.

The snows fell, and the cold worsened. And the trusting nara froze to death before she could even return home.

Moral: Trust is for fools.