By Tan Loc
It was a night like any other at the Naia pit. Furres were talking to one another, listening quietly, or dozing by the heat of the fire. Amma the butterfly princess sat at the fire too, humming quietly to herself. It was then that the silence was shattered by a loud screech. Down the stone steps leading to the coffeehouse a Raukor came rushing. Some of the newer arrivals sat up with a start, but those furres who came to Naia often knew the bird.
"Tan" Amma said with a smile, patting the ground next to her.
"Princess Amma" Tan, who called himself Tan Shapetaker, replied, laying down on his belly next to the princess.
"What's the ruckus all about?" Amma asked.
The large bird quorked softly as she carefully stroked his backfeathers.
"The furres speak of strange new arrivals" Tan answered.
"Really? What kind of arrivals?"
"The furres mention folk who walk on their hind legs, like you. Except they have huge bushy tails, apparently."
"We've seen huge bushy tails before. Remember when the panookis first came? We all thought they looked silly."
The Raukor's beak fell open, expressing amusement "Of course I do, my princess."
The memry of the panookis arriving was a good one. The curious creatures were benign tricksters, loving little more than relaxing by the fire and eating fine foods. Their tails, however, had made quite a splash. Rarely had a creature with a tail that bushy walked Naia than the panooki. Amma knew this full well, as her magic allowed her to take on shapes, just like her friend Tan. Although her shapeshifting magic was not as strong as Tan Shapetaker's, the princess knew enough to make her a decent shapeshifter. As a result, she could be seen snuggling up to her very own bushy tail quite often.
"Maybe they are like the panookis?" Amma mused, idly stroking her friend's head with slender fingers. When they found fur instead of feathers, her eyebrows raised in question and she turned her head to look at her friend. She found a panooki staring back at her, a friendly face grinning at her from behind a large bushy tail. Laughing, Amma shook her head and withdrew her hand.
"Who knows?" Tan replied, "I'm just interested in taking their shape."
It was then that a young fennec sauntered over to the fire from the falls, his fur a light purple, wearing glasses that made him look pretty smart, as he liked to say himself.
"Hi Rebbit" Amma and Tan said at the same time, grinning at each other for it.
"Hey Amma and Tan" Rebbit replied, laying down by the fire and curling up into a comfortable-looking ball of fluff.
"Have you heard?" Amma said. "There's strangers afoot."
"Oooh, I hope they're dashing" Rebbit said, making Amma laugh.
"All we know is that they have really big, bushy tails" Amma said.
"That's it? How about we go find out?" Rebbit suggested. His inquisitive nature often got the better of him and today appeared to be no different.
"But where do we go?" Amma asked.
"We'll just have to be thorough" Tan said, shifting now into a large cat. "Hop on" he suggested.
And so it was that Amma and Rebbit rode on the back of a very large gray leopard, traveling through the lands. Their travels took them from Naia to Meovanni, to Allegria and even onto high-above Zephiroth, where they briefly exchanged their terrestrial forms to winged ones in order to visit. They were about to give up when, while traversing The Wilde, suddenly, an arrow embedded itself into a tree nearby. An old veteran of combat, Tan Shapetaker immediately took on his fiercest form, a massive werewolf with flaming eyes, and pushed his two companions behind him. When nothing else presented itself, he sheepishly grinned at his friends.
"Just in case" he explained himself.
"I know. Thank you Tan" Amma said.
Rebbit mumbled his agreement but was already heading towards the tree with the arrow in its bark.
"I wonder..." he muttered, taking a piece of paper that was attached to the shaft off it and unfurling it. Sure enough, it had a message on it, which Rebbit promptly read out loud.
"To find those of the bushy tails
you must travel a little longer
To meet the new heroes
You won't need to be stronger."
"A riddle? What do you think it means?" Amma asked rhetorically.
"We don't need to be stronger? Do you think they're friendly?" Rebbit added.
"I suppose so" Amma said, considering the words.
"Or they may be trying to lull us into a false sense of security" Tan countered, not quite liking the entire situation.
Amma decided to play to Tan's pride.
"If they are up to something, don't you think you can take them on?" she asked.
Tan knew what she was doing but could not back down.
"Yes, I can probably take what they throw at us" he begrudgingly admitted.
"Then it's settled" Amma said, to which Rebbit nodded in agreement, "we're going to carry on!"
And so they went onwards, following a long trail of arrows with messages.
Every message had a little rhyme on it, making Amma more intrigued with every one they found.
"The butterfly princess comes to us
her smile a thing of beauty
her friends, the wise fennec
and the cat with sense of duty."
This put even easy-going Rebbit a little on edge.
"They've been spying on us" Rebbit said indignantly, peering at this latest note over the rim of his glasses, tail twitching nervously.
"Maybe they are bad folk" Tan suggested. It was not so much that he was scared. He was worried for his friends. Although they were tougher than people thought, he was still loath to even risk harm coming to them.
Amma put a hand on both of their friends' shoulders.
"I'm confident they won't hurt us" she assured them, smiling.
"Well, if you're sure.." Rebbit ventured.
"I'm sure you'll forgive me for being careful" Tan said, eyes flitting to and fro constantly.
And so, in spite of their misgivings, Tan and Rebbit followed Amma, who confidently pressed on, always humming softly, her coloured hair bobbing with every step she took. Tan shared none of her confidence, but his loyalty to his friend made it impossible for him to leave now.
Another two hours passed when they found another arrow. Rebbit spotted it quickly as it had a different color from the previous ones.
"You have made it to the final arrow
This path is all you need to follow.
If you want to meet your new friends
then pass into this hollow."
Sure enough, beyond the trees that that were slowly giving way was a small valley where at the center was a large bonfire. From where they stood, the three friends could see a group of furres dancing and making music as they played around the fire. They had finally found the bushy-tailed ones. In spite of the din one of the bushy-tailed ones had heard them, or sensed them, or something of the like. He peeled off from the others and strode over to the three friends.
Tan inched forward slowly, putting himself between the bushy-tailed one and his friends as he had before when the first arrow surprised them.
"It's alright, friend" the bushtail said, smiling disarmingly.
Tan wasn't so sure. The other was wearing light armor and had a bow strapped to his back.
"It's okay, Tan" Amma echoed the sentiment. "Would anybody having that much innocent fun be dangerous?"
Tan was about to reply when a group of the bushtail's companions came over, dancing and whirling like a dervish, and swept both Amma and Rebbit along with them. Screaming with pleasure as they were taken into the dance, Tan's friends were whirling around the fire before long, obviously enjoying the song and music fully.
"Come now, friend Shapetaker. Stay a while and you will see we are fantastic friends!"