Once upon a time somewhere in the domains of a huge kingdom there lived a most remarkable child whose story of courage and tenacity has no comparison. I shall share one of her deeds with you.
Her name was Hippopotamus; she thought that was a big heavy name perfectly fit for a little lady of her awesome power. She was ten years old, with voluminous curly dirty blond hair decorating her circular face, big green fiery eyes, a little chubby with very rosy cheeks and always a smirk on her mouth. She was loud and a free uncontrollable spirit. Hippopotamus had infinite amounts of energy and was continuously in movement, playing, exploring, running through the fields like a wild stallion, jumping into the nearby crystalline waters and swimming like a tuna fish; there was always an exciting adventure to live, new life to discover under a rock or at the canopy of a tree. Hippopotamus was also a creative genius, she was always inventing and crafting things; a ships made of pieces of wood and leaves, entire cities of sand, even her clothes were of her own design. In particular she wore a cap she made out of pieces of leather she found in a forgotten chest from her parents; it had the form of a hippopotamus head and she wore it only in moments of great importance when she needed the totality of her focus to succeed in the critical moment of an exciting campaign, she called it the Hippo-cap. However, the creation she was most proud was what she called the Crow of Lightning; a slingshot.
But Hippopotamus was not always like that. Up until she was seven years old she was like any other kid her age, until the horrible day that would change the entire fate of her life. It was the first day of May, the day when soldiers of the kingdom are deployed throughout the entire nation to visit every house and collect the mandatory royal tax. It was required to finance the wars of conquest and other evil deeds of the king and the queen. The sun was bright and the tulips bloomed intensely red, perhaps an omen of tragedy.
Three heavily armored soldiers rampaged within Hippopotamus house, among them there was a thirteen years old boy; he was not wearing armor like the three older companions but he did wear a steel helmet. She would not forget the vicious black eyes of the boy staring at her while stabbing to death her dog, Pepep, and her little brother aged three. Such was the training of the new recruits of the kingdom’s army. Ever since then, Hippopotamus love for life in all its forms was set ablaze and had never again ceased: she swore that day to do good and protect all life at all cost, even at the cost of her own life.
Thus she thought that if she was to protect life she would need a proper defensive weapon and so Hippopotamus built The Crow of Lightning. It was almost as long as her arm and she always kept it with her in a large bag that she took everywhere she went. She fabricated the slingshot from a Y-shaped steel handle, wood, and rubber she collected one day of exploration when she adventured herself too far north. That day she was following a trail of foraging ants that seemed to go for kilometers and after walking four or five hours she found the wreckage of an old battle tank from the kingdom army. The battle tank might have been there for decades since there was vegetation covering most of it and a third of the machine was already buried underground. Her curious spirit drove her to investigate the inner parts of the whale sized monster that lay there as a reminder of the hateful hearts of people. To her surprise the wrecked tank had a lot of interesting objects, within them there was the metal handle that was used to stir the tank in movement, it had the perfect shape for a slingshot and it was decorated with the engravings of what seemed crows, hence the name.
She had spent countless days and nights perfecting her sharpshooting skills until her little chubby fingers were bleeding and cover in calluses. Her accuracy was such that she could hit the target the size of a coin within a thirty meter radius, even in movement. She had sharpened the bottom end of the metallic handle so that she could stick it into the ground; by anchoring it with her right foot and using both arms and the whole weight of her body she could send a stone flying double the distance, although sacrificing a lot of her accuracy.
Hippopotamus had never used the slingshot against any living creature including people, she was too kind and she did not want to hurt anybody. Though she wasn’t a fool and understood very clearly that not all people have good intentions: in special, the soldiers from the kingdom, who seemed to be possessed by an evil force thirsty of blood and destruction. It was not uncommon to find them patrolling around the city market that was about thirty kilometers southwest from Hippopotamus house; wrecking havoc, bothering people, and occasionally killing whoever was brave enough to challenge them. The kingdom’s soldiers were always heavily armed and in order to control rebellion of the people, all civilians were banned to carry any type of weapons at all, and whoever disobeyed was either sent to prison if lucky or would end up with his or her arms mutilated. Those were the times where Hippopotamus lived.
Maybe life is just a play written by higher deities for their personal entertainment or just call it destiny, but the day Hippopotamus would confront her fate as the ‘protector of life’ came as dark and violently as a hurricane. It was a cloudy morning the last day of October, drizzle and a strong wing swept the dead leaves of the autumn. Hippopotamus was asked by her father to take two heavy canisters of milk two the mill of Mr. Sharragan, a blacksmith that lived about five kilometers west at the shore of a wide river. The road to Mr. Sharragan was muddy and slippery and after walking already half an hour she was already out of breath, so she decided to take a break and eat an apple to regain some energy and continue carrying the heavy cargo. She sat on top of one canister looking at the enraged river flowing while daydreaming of becoming a sailor. At the same time she took the apple on her hand and just when she was going to give it the first bite she heard the murky voice of a man:
“Hey you kid, give me that apple, I’m hungry.”
She turned to see the insolent man; he was tall, he seemed almost twice her size and very muscular. He was wearing no armor, just a helmet, and on his back a two handed sword.
Fearless as she was she stood up immediately and told him:
And took a huge bite out of the apple, so big she could not close her mouth completely to chew.
The man was astonished and his jaw dropped.
Just at this moment Hippopotamus realized that the man was dragging an unconscious kid that was tied from his hands to an iron chain. The kid probably was five years old and she recognized him as the only son of Mr. Sharragan.
She knew immediately that he must be a soldier that came to take Mr. Sharragan’s son; it was a common practice to take the son of a family as a form of debt payment and transform it into a killing monster soldier for the kingdom. It was the ultimate payment or just an excuse to make you suffer and multiply the huge army that already spread like an infectious disease across a vast part of the continent.
She became red of anger, her blood was boiling: enraged she shouted:
“Release him now!”
“Who the fuck do you think you are?!”
The man answered angrily. He dropped the unconscious child and was coming for Hippopotamus. She immediately smelled death; her first reaction was to run away before he could catch her, then the image of her dead little brother flashed into her mind. She stood her ground and looked at him directly into the eye, defiant.
It all happened in a fraction of a second. He grabbed her with one arm and lifted her one meter above the ground as if she was a feather, with the other one he took his knife and placed it on her neck. At that very moment Hippopotamus recognized those vicious looking eyes; those were exactly the same eyes of that fateful day of horror. She spitted in his face.
“Is this a joke?”
The teenager boy of then was now a monstrous man, sixteen years old yet murder was for him no different than eating breakfast. He screamed of anger and instead of stabbing her he threw her with all her might as far as he could. She flew in an arch almost ten meters before she hit the ground, face first, eating the mud.
This was her only chance, there was no time to feel pain, there was no time for crying or whining. Fast as lightning she pulled out of her bag the slingshot and with a swing of her arm loaded it and shot with all her power.
Direct hit to the head but the war helmet protected him.
The soldier rapidly took his knife and threw it piercing her in the left shoulder. She could not ignore that pain this time; instead she tightened her jaw and held it together.
The evil man laughed out loud madly and said:
“You’re going to die!”
He was going for his sword but by the time he touched the hilt Hippopotamus had already stood up and shot her second stone aimed deliberately to his hand. His finger bones cracked broken: such was the power and accuracy of Hippopotamus.
The man tried to take his sword again but before he realized another stone hit him directly in the left eye and blood started flowing down his face.
“Get the hell out of here or I will make you regret right now your own existence.”
Hippopotamus said with an incomprehensible authority; then she reached to the bag, grabbed the Hippo-cap, removed the hair from her face, and put it on. But the pain of the wound was too extreme; she fell to her knees and stopped herself of completely falling flat by sticking the Crow of Lightning into the ground.
The evil man took advantage of that moment of weakness, wielded the sword and charged to her with the intention of cutting her head with one single blow; he swung it…
She could not die too by the hands of this man! She could not die! Not like Pepep, not like her brother.
There was no way she would be defeated by this evil man. And before the arrival of death, faster than the eye of a regular man or woman can see; she loaded the Crowd of Lightning, leaned backward, anchored the slingshot with her foot, and using her entire weight to stretch the rubber of her weapon to the maximum tension, she shot.
The sword cut the air just millimeters above her and the stone hit the man in the chin with such force that her jaw shattered and teeth and blood flew through the air. The man fell to his back unconscious.
She lived, it was her victory.
She took Mr. Sharragan’s son back to his father who gave both first aids and stopped the bleeding of her shoulder.
This was Hippopotamus first act of true courage; she had truly become the Protector of Life. This very same act of courage would snowball into the Wars of Justice and the last day of October forty years later—at last—the people of the vast Kingdom of Light would know true peace.