Corr and Allon in Nursery Canyon
[This is the first of a series of stories from the World of the Tsaeb that I created for young readers.]
Corr Syl’s parents had brought a picture to their new residence in Nursery Canyon. His father had explained, “Long ago Corr, when creatures first learned body control, warrior rabbits grew long tails. They carried two swords, just as warriors do today. This rabbit could be one of your ancestors, Corr—a very famous one.”
After that, Corr carried two sticks as he and his friend Allon explored the canyon. One day, Allon found a rusty iron bar sticking out of a debris slope, swung it about, and stuck it under his belt.
That bar… does Allon still have it?
The rabbit and lion were the only children in Nursery Canyon, and the only ones under five years of age in Wycliff District.
When freed from their lessons, they roamed the canyon together. The canyon held a small stream bordered by twin ribbons of grass, shrubs, vines, trees, and jumbled boulders at the foot of vertical sandstone walls. Exciting sounds, movements, thoughts, and scents of flying, walking, swimming, and burrowing creatures filled the canyon.
“Most of them are gleaners,” Corr’s father had explained. “They tend the plants and soils. Like us, some of them descended from rabbits.”
And the sticks? Are they still in the cave?
Corr had discovered the cave behind a boulder not far from his front door. The boulder had calved off the canyon wall and hadn’t yet rolled or melted down the debris slope. Once, while waiting on Allon, Corr had squeezed behind the boulder and found a shallow cave, a perfect hideout for a small rabbit, especially cozy on a rainy day.
A year after Corr and Allon moved to the nursery, a bear family arrived. One morning, their child, little more than a furry ball with hands and feet hurrying to catch up with Corr and Allon, tripped, rolled, and bumped into the back of Allon’s leg. Allon jumped and emitted a high-pitched squeak. After that, Allon occasionally shoved the bear to see whether it would roll. Sometimes it did, but usually it just stumbled and skidded.
The first few times Allon tried to roll the bear, the children laughed. Before long, the bear quit laughing. Corr wanted Allon to stop, but the lion couldn’t get enough of bear rolling. Once, the bear dodged Allon’s hand and said, “Stop it.” And that was when Allon first struck someone with his bar.
Allon never gave up on bear rolling. Another child came to the nursery and Allon shoved it too. Corr began to hate Allon’s treatment of the other children. He wanted to stop Allon, but instead he began spending more time indoors or in a little cave that had become his hideout. Allon sometimes looked at Corr as if he wanted something, but Corr did not know how to respond and always turned away. I shouldn’t have, Corr thought. Allon needed me.
On Corr’s fifth birthday, his family followed custom and returned to their ancestral home. Corr and Allon exchanged letters, but when Corr turned seven, he began training with one of the district’s warriors and wrote less often. Strength, speed, endurance, genetics, sensing, anticipation, pain, fear, thirst, hunger, and technique, technique, technique—these filled Corr’s days and nights.
Four years passed and Allon returned, having not completed his training. Then, about the time Corr completed his training, he received the stunning news that Allon had committed a murder. Murder? he had thought. Impossible!