Toby watched the very delectable bird fly across the sky all the way to its nest and knew that a hunt like that, especially after it had just eaten, would be more than enough to feed both him and Will for a long time. And by the time they were finished with that large bird, maybe some of the other tastier ones would come back to their home. Oh this could be something lovely to surprise his friend with. He wondered what it tasted like. It surely would be better than what they had been eating. Toby tried to think of what exactly he’d had before that might compare. He could usually tell what it was going to be like from its feathers but this one had some strange ones. Granted, he couldn’t see them that well from this distance but it was all the more reason to get closer to the thing and find out exactly how delicious it likely was. Maybe the same things didn’t apply to it. Maybe it was even better than what he’d had before. It was all so very exciting.
“I think it’s looking to go to the rock face to see the great sea bird nest,” one of the creatures remarked.
“If I didn’t know better, I would say our little friend here is looking to trap the giant,” the other replied.
“You supposed we should help it?”
“Well, if it is one of the birds that captured and ate Olga, perhaps we should,” the other creature reasoned. “After all, we are running out of slower swimmers among us and I do think that the school would be rather put out at the idea of losing everyone with the good hunting skills.”
“Yes, those ones are getting rather old,” the creature agreed.
“Well then, creature with the legs, if you are looking to help us by taking away one of our naughty predators who keeps eating our older, slower swimmers, you are heading in the right direction,” the one creature encouraged. “The rock face out that way is rather steep but it has many crevices to crawl into and most of them aren’t full of snakes.”
“Some of the snakes can talk but most of them enjoy sleeping and biting things,” the other creature added. “They make a popping sound when they were positioning themselves so if you hear something pop, perhaps you might wish to not be where you are for much longer.”
Toby motioned at the tree branches he was standing on and then carefully lowered himself so he could touch the sand to point to that as well. The creatures both seemed confused. He pointed again to the sand and to the branches and then towards the rock wall where the bird had flown.
“Oh you want to know if there’s more sand?” one of the creatures guessed. Toby clapped his paws together to try to signal that he was saying yes.
“If what you’re wanting is to be on the sand, you’ll simply keep to the line where the water comes up on the land,” the creature explained.
“If you want the branches, you’ll have to take the fork in the path ahead and go up the hill,” the other added. “From there, we cannot help you. The water never gets that far and only one of us has seen it, though that account is somewhat suspect. Hector has terrible eye sight.”
“And he was in peril at the time so I don’t think he was paying that good of attention while he was in the maw of that bird,” the first one agreed.
Toby looked towards the path that they were talking about. It looked easy enough from where he stood and if he squinted a little, he could see the fork ahead. He wasn’t certain of how safe the other path would be but he already knew that the path along the water would take a very long time and the closer he came to the water, the more his weight made it difficult to walk on the wet sand. He didn’t much care for this idea of the snakes but these two creatures has very helpfully given him a little information on them, so he felt a little bit better about the prospect of getting to the bird. He turned back towards the two in the water and hastily finished up his little net for them. He knew it wouldn’t be much but it could expand a little and if they were indeed that bad at hunting, this couldn’t hurt. They watched him curiously as he carefully created the last of the web and with his front paws pulled it out and let the wind unfurl it for them. He gently directed it down to the sand where it landed within their reach.
“Why, the clever beast has made something new,” the first creature remarked as it came closer to the edge of the net. “What do you suppose it is?”
“Looks like some of those things we see sometimes in the vessels in the deep,” the other creature said, narrowing its eyes at it. “But this one is made with that strange kelp. Do you think this is the kind of kelp that stings if you touch it? Like the strings on a jellyfish?”
“I’m quite convinced that Olga only told you to grab those strings because she was hungry and figured that it would kill you,” the first creature said, cautiously approaching the edge of the net. It looked at Toby and back at the net. “You would not eat us, would you? You are a clever creature so you would not eat the likes of someone with your own intelligence, am I correct?”
To respond, Toby carefully climbed down from the branch and showed them that he could touch the edge of the net before moving back. He was grateful that he couldn’t speak with these creatures as he didn’t much want to insult them but he was also becoming quickly appalled at their hunting skills. Perhaps it was for the best that he took this large bird away for them, or there would be none of these rather dim but still fascinating creatures by the end of the season.
“Well I suppose that settles that,” the first creature said, reasonably satisfied. “It is a rather interesting gift of kelp but what does it do, clever beast?”
“Are we sure it’s kelp, though? It does rather look like the jellyfish stringers but smaller,” the other one said, its long fingers creeping closer but twitching as it lost its nerve.
As they were looking at it, Toby spotted a small scuttling thing close by. He was pretty sure that he’d seen one of these little creatures before but he was also suddenly reminded that if it was the same little beast that he’d encountered, it was an angry sort. It hadn’t hurt him but it had become rather enamored with Will and decided to use its pincers to try to nip off bits of his spider legs. As it got closer, Toby could see that it had many legs similar to his but they were lacking in any hair and it had those nasty pincers. He remembered how rude the other one had been and while he knew it wasn’t very nice to judge all of these creatures the same way, it had been quite a number of them that had taken to Will and tried to hurt him. Toby reconciled that these much larger creatures were hungry and could likely use the small beast as some kind of nourishment and possibly keep them from becoming too many. While they continued to speculate, he grabbed the edge of the net and dragged it over to where the small beast was coming towards him, its pincers in the air. Flicking the web up so it caught the breeze, it unfurled just enough that he could lay it down on the scuttling creature. So interested in trying to kill Toby had it been that it didn’t immediately realize it was trapped until it couldn’t move its legs anymore. Toby felt less guilty as it was now clear this little beast had meant to try to eat him as well. He gathered the edges of the net and brought them together, dragging them to where the sand got wet again but backing away before getting to the softest part where he was likely to sink.
“Well isn’t that impressive!” the second creature gasped. “It has caught a morsel to eat! It’s kelp is trapping the creature.”
“Do you mean for us to have it?” the first creature motioned to the net.
Toby pointed to the edges, hoping that they would get to the net before the beast figured out how to get out of it. The second one, closer to the net but still being cautious, tapped at the edges of the net before gently grabbing them with only a couple of fingers. It dragged the squirming creature towards itself and looked impressed with how little the tiny beast could do.
“My word, look at this! Think of all the fish we could catch with such kelp!” the creature said, hold the net more confidently now.
“We could catch more fish than Hector!” the first one exclaimed.
“Maybe we could even catch Hector!” the second one added excitedly.
Toby didn’t know how to feel about this turn of events but at least he knew these two wouldn’t starve now. He didn’t really want to stay put in case they got any ideas and decided that it was best to take his leave now while they were excitedly debating the merits of whether or not they should eat one of their elders and what kind of meat he might still have on his ancient bones.
“Thank you clever beast!” the first creature called out to him as he made his way on the path.
“Good luck with the giant sea bird!” the other called after.
The thought of the giant bird filled him with excitement and he quickly hopped along the trail towards the fork that led to a rock-filled path lit by the brightening moonlight.