The party was still going strong when Obtuse and
Pokee left the Sky Tower. It was very early in the morning, and
the sun rays had only just begun to leak into the dark sky. A few
Tonkas were standing by the entrance to the tower, faces sad as
they murmured blessings for the travellers. "May your feet
never grow tired, or your mouth go dry or your belly be empty…
May you find helping hands, and open houses; may you see the wonders
of this world and be joyful always."
Gratefully Obtuse and Pokee accepted the blessing as well as the
offerings of food, and then thanking their tiny hosts, turned and
left. As usual, Pokee rode in his little sack on Obtuse's back.
Looking behind, he waved to the Tonkas until the trees of the forest
blocked them from view.
The travellers were on their way again.
They decided to head west; as Pokee slept blissfully
on Obtuse's back, the apprentice guru strode along, making steady
progress. Around noon, Obtuse stopped by a stream, and without waking
the dreaming porcupine, settled down to a meal and a little nap.
Rising after an hour, he set off again. In his sack, Pokee had not
moved so much as a quill. Now porcupines are by their very nature,
animals that prefer the night. They tend to avoid the blazing sun
and will instead go looking for food under the gentle light of the
moon. For most of their travels Pokee had been unable to stick to
his usual routine, something that his companion knew well and was
determined to remedy.
And so it was that the little animal slept all day and woke only
when it was time for Obtuse to retire. The stars were twinkling
in a friendly fashion and a naughty breeze played with the leaves.
Obtuse had set up camp under a huge tree and was now resting against
a comfortably broad trunk. Soon his eyes had drooped shut and Obtuse
was snoring gently, curled in between two gigantic roots. Pokee
hung around for a little while and then wandered off looking for
something to eat.
In the hours that followed a contented Pokee discovered many a tasty
treat. He loved to wander around in the dark, sniffing out tasty
leaves, digging up roots and bark and gnawing on the occasional
bone. In fact everything was going just fine and dandy, right up
until the moment something rustled in the tree above Pokee. It was
a large Banyan tree sporting long, rope like roots. Instantly he
was on guard as his mind conjured up visions of a spotted leopard
or coiling snake inspecting its prey from a branch. (Like any other
animal, Pokee intensely disliked the thought of becoming someone's
dinner and would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it.)
Shuddering, he let his quills rise as he slowly backed away from
Once again the leaves rustled. And then the
most unexpected thing happened. Someone (or was it something?) shouted
"COW-A-BUNGA!!" and leapt into mid air! Disbelieving,
Pokee watched as a porcupine first grabbed one root and then swung
on to another. He was followed by yet another porcupine and then
a third! To say that Pokee was amazed would be an understatement.
He had never even heard of such a thing! Porcupine acrobats!!
His astonishment held Pokee immobile for a
few seconds by which time the three acrobats had already changed
roots several times. Then determined to make their acquaintance,
he shrugged off his paralysis. Rushing after the trio he caught
up with them in a clearing just past the Banyan tree. As soon as
they noticed the intruder, the three porcupines were immediately
on the defensive. They immediately turned around, so that their
powerful tails - their main weapon - faced the lone porcupine. The
threat was clear - come any closer and we'll turn you into one big
Quickly assessing the situation, Pokee decided that he had better
introduce himself before anything regrettable happened. "Err...
hello, my name is Pokee Poynt," he started of hesitatingly,
"I think we just may be cousins." This news seemed to
intrigue the strangers. Pokee found himself gaining confidence,
"I'm from the brush tailed porcupine family, as you can see,"
he said, "I'm travelling with a friend."
All this information seemed to have the desired effect. Slowly,
the three strangers turned around. Coming forward, they inspected
the new comer, walking around him slowly. As they inspected him,
Pokee inspected them. They were Common Porcupines, easily distinguishable
by the black line that ran up the middle of their tails and expanded
on their lower backs. And even if one didn't spot that, there was
the patch of white on their heads to give them away.
After a moment it seemed that they had made up their minds. "Hello
cousin!" said one, "they call me Jumper, and these are
my brothers - Hang and Swing - we're all porcupine acrobats!"
(They obviously knew this was a most unusual profession for a porcupine.)
It soon became apparent that they were willing to take Pokee at
face value. They invited him to come home with them for a light
snack. And Pokee who was quite curious about his strange relatives
went along quite willingly.
It was on their way over that the 'incident' happened.
The matter was simple really and it involved an animal called a
fisher-cat. Now Fishers are quite horrible. Using their sharp, long
claws and sharper teeth, they will not hesitate to attack animals
bigger than themselves. The lot of them are simply passionate about
meat, and there's no meat they like more than that of the juicy
porcupine. As you can imagine, dear reader, to eat a porcupine is
no easy task - especially if you don't want to swallow a bushel
of quills. But fishers were wonderful hunters - agile and quick,
they would flip a porcupine over and devour its defenceless stomach.
All while the animal still lived!
But the young of any species are very rarely threatening; in fact
they can be downright adorable. So, it is understandable that when
Pokee saw two little fisher pups about to be eaten alive by a gigantic
bandicoot, he rushed in to protect the little lives. The bandicoot
did not take too kindly to having his prey suddenly defended and
turned ferociously on Pokee. Teeth gleaming and eyes glittering
the hungry rat slowly circled the porcupine, looking for an opening
through which to attack. He was angry now and determined to kill
the runty little porcupine if he could.
Now Pokee Poynt was not by any means a coward, but this did not
necessarily make him a good fighter either. He knew that his best
chance would be to make sure his enemy could not get at his face.
However, there was one thing that neither the porcupine nor the
rat had counted on and that was Pokee's newly discovered 'cousins.’
You see, when Pokee rushed in to defend the young fishers he was
unaware of how the fishers and porcupine in this part of the jungle
simply did not get along. Understandable really, particularly as
hunter and prey are rarely the best of friends. That was why initially
Jumper, Hang and Swing, were tempted to remain uninvolved…
why risk one’s life and limb for the enemy after all? But
when they saw Pokee in real danger they had to quickly re-think
their strategy. One couldn't simply sit by while another porcupine
battled for his life… even if he was being a bit dumb.
So in they leapt, all ready to give the nasty bandicoot a fight
he would remember till the end of his days.
There is a ritual Common Porcupines go through
before fighting. When they believe that they are about to be attacked,
they always face their back to their enemies, looking over their
shoulder to see what his next move is to be. If he still looks like
he wants to take a bite out of them, they issue a second warning.
They allow their teeth to click and chatter together for around
half a minute - a warning which they will repeat many times. As
if this weren't enough you should know that a porcupine can produce
a strong, pungent odour, one that is so strong and so icky that
it can make your eyes and nose to water.
It is only if all this fails that a porcupine will erect its quills
- as Jumper, Hang and Swing were doing now. Watching his cousins
prepare for battle, Pokee suddenly remembered the name the ancients
had called his species. It meant "one who rises in anger."
Almost proudly, Pokee addressed the terrible bandicoot, and this
is what he said: "You don't want to mess with us, buddy."
The next few moments unfolded in slow motion. First
the bandicoot lunged, teeth bared in rage at Pokee, who by ducking
his head and erecting his quills forced the rat to swerve away.
In the meantime, Jumper, Hang and Swing were not idle, they had
positioned themselves carefully. Just as the bandicoot turned they
hit him hard with their tails - driving their short, sharp tail
quills deep into his chest.
Responding instantly to the great rat's body heat, the microscopic
barbs on the end of each quill expanded and became even more firmly
embedded. Blood gushed from the points of entry. Terribly wounded,
the bandicoot backed away from the porcupines. Before he could move
more than a foot away, he collapsed and did not move again. And
as simply as that the fight was over.
There was still the matter of the two little fisher
pups to be dealt with. The animals traditionally lived in little
holes in tree trunks, and Jumper was sure there nest would be up
the trunk that was closest. He was also sure that their parents
would be here pretty soon. It would not be a good idea, he told
Pokee, for them to be caught here. But having defended the little
pups, how could they once again abandon them to a forest full of
The only solution it seemed would be to stand guard and hide in
the bushes till the parents returned. So this is what they did.
Waiting somewhat impatiently in the bushes, they kept a watchful
eye on the little pups. The two young ones seemed to understand
what was required of them, and waited quietly, resting against the
Not half an hour had passed before the mother returned. When she
saw her children, she let out the strange keening cry that was characteristic
of the fisher-cats and rushed towards them. Within a moment she
had ascertained that they were alright and had found the carcass
of the dead bandicoot - filled with porcupine quills. Ignoring the
whimpers of her children, she took a deep breath, sniffing the air
for scent. It was immediately apparent that she knew they were there.
Looking straight at their hiding place behind the bush, she seemed
to nod her thanks. Then grabbing her children by the scruffs of
their necks, she scrabbled up the tree trunk and vanished into a
Walking towards home, Jumper, Hang and Swing could
not stop talking about what had happened in the clearing. They had
never heard or even seen something like that before. A vicious,
cold-hearted evil fisher actually not attacking a porcupine!! If
they hadn't been there themselves they would never have believed
Only Pokee was quiet. Somewhere, inside him, he felt warm and happy.
Not all was wrong with the world after all - good things still happened.
And besides he had a feeling about that fisher cat. He thought they
just might bump into each other again sometime soon.
He was right.