"Forest of the Golden Acorn"
by Ethan Nahté
"Come on. We can take 'em. There are a dozen of us
and only a pair of them."
"Get off my shoulder," Jacques hissed at Elqua.
"There might only be two of them, but they can fly and
dive bomb. We just duck and cover, or run
like…like…well, like squirrels."
"I know what we are. That's why I said it.
Regardless, Elqua, we need a diversionary tactic so I
can grab that golden acorn."
Elqua's fur puffed up. "Why do you get it?"
"Well, there are a dozen of us and only one acorn.
As the natural leader of the scurry, it is mine by
"Leader? Who made you leader?" The two began to
bark at one another and dizzily chase each other around
a large Weymouth pine tree. The blue jay couple screamed
in their general direction, not because they were
worried about the squirrels, but simply because they
were not in the mood to hear what they considered to be
tree-climbing rats squabble.
"Chester, go get that acorn," said Azure, the
female mate of the bird pair.
Chester looked at the shining little nut. It had
just fallen from the majestic and ancient white oak,
landing with a particularly odd thud that sounded
throughout the whole of the vast northern woods.
He and Azure had flown to see what could've made
such a sound. The sparkle of the golden acorn quickly
caught their eyes as they had flown over. They circled
back, landing in the lowest branch of the oak, an oak
they had perched upon many times before. Never had they
seen an acorn such as this. Within seconds of their
arrival they saw the rambunctious squirrels amongst the
branches and dashing across the forest floor through the
carpet of multi-hued leaves.
Chester swooped down just a yard from the shiny
morsel and began hopping forward. He was just inches
away when the squirrels raised a raucous alarm. Swift
shadows cluttered the ground, and the sun became a
strobe light of flapping wings and black silhouettes.
The murder of crows landed with a noisy rustle of
feathers and the heavy beating of their wings. Chester
suspected they flapped loudly even after they were on
the ground just to intimidate.
The squirrels leapt back behind trees or jumped and
quickly climbed to the safety of an overhanging branch.
The blue jay couple fluttered out of the way, close
enough to keep an eye on what was going on, but at a
safe enough distance to dart off in case a crow decided
to come at them. The crows may have been bigger, but
they were slower getting into the air.
Ström eyed the golden acorn and gave a hearty
to the other crows. They clacked their beaks and
strutted about the perimeter, keeping the other
creatures wary as Ström hopped in a bit closer.
Chester and Azure began screeching. Jacques and his
group increased their barking; chastising the large,
black bird for his boldness. The crows screamed back as
a retort. Their combined racket began garnering the
attention of other animals throughout the forest,
bringing in a host of small field mice, a red fox, a
small herd of rabbits, and a doe and her pair of fawns.
The noise was so great it even woke Maerissa, the
wise old horned owl, happily dozing away in the safety
of a hollow in an old hickory tree acres and acres away
from where the troublesome acorn had landed. She awoke,
the light of the day first blinding her. She blinked
twice to adjust to the overabundance of light. Because
she was a nocturnal creature, she wasn't accustomed to
the brightness of the day. She listened intently,
catching pieces of conversations -- more like arguments
-- taunts and jeers from a variety of animals. She was
able to pick out the words "golden" and "acorn" a
talonful of times. Her mind began whirring as she
searched the depths of her memory to recall the old
legends passed down from her mother, and her mother's
mother, and her mother before her and on and on.
Curious as to what all the ruckus was about, she
flew in the direction of the assembly. Maerissa soon
spotted the unruly gathering. It was a mishmash of
creatures looking on in curiosity, observing the three
main parties involved in the verbal sparring. She
circled overhead and glided onto a high branch of a dead
that her view wasn't obscured by a bunch of leaves. She
quietly watched and listened.
Ström took a final leap, dark wings spread, landing
right over the golden acorn. Its magical glimmer
radiated off his broad, black chest. Both Chester and
Azure cried out in rage, darting in at the acorn, but
not before Ström was able to snatch the nut up in his
powerful beak. He beat his wings furiously, buffeting
both jays about the head and keeping them at a distance.
He clamped down tight upon the acorn in an attempt to
crack it open. He almost cracked his beak in the
The animals looked on, noticing that the powerful
crow leader was unsuccessful in snapping the glowing nut
in two. Ström dropped it then quickly snatched it back
up with a talon, raising it to his beak in a different
position and tried to crack the acorn open once more.
Again, it nearly broke his jaw as he clamped down.
"See," Azure squawked, "it's not meant for you. So
Ström, feeling a bit embarrassed by his inability
to open the acorn, as well as infuriated by the female
jay, leapt high and came down nearly on Azure's head. He
was angry and wanted to take it out on someone. He
strutted forward a few steps then tossed his head back,
swallowing the golden acorn in its entirety. He wasn't
about to let one of these "lesser" creatures have his
"Cawgghhhh! Cawgghhhh!" Ström's caw was more of a
than his standard call of authority. He gagged, dipping
his head forward, attempting to cough the acorn up.
Surely it must have gotten lodged on the way down,
he thought frantically as he attempted to dislodge it.
His fellow crows put up a din, not sure what to do
but trying to warn the other animals to stay back from
their leader. Meanwhile, the menagerie watched in
anticipation…all except the blue jays, happy that
something horrible was happening to the greedy intruder.
But even they fell silent as Strom's shiny black
wings and tail feathers transformed into the shape of
the leaves of an oak tree of some sort -- only black and
reflective. Ström's body became wood-like, looking like
the surface of a log charred in a fire that had
smoldered and gone out before being totally consumed.
From his head sprouted dark branches like blackened
tendrils reaching out in every direction.
He couldn't turn his head because the lower part of his
neck had become wooden, but he could still see and talk.
The rest of the woodland creatures looked on in
shock and amazement, unsure what to think or do.
Maerissa remembered the ancient legends and lore. The
memories were powerful and began crashing back in
magnificent waves, powerful and enlightening all at
once. Yet she remained silent, curious to see how events
A strong gust of wind whipped through the trees,
overpowering the wooden figure of Ström, bowling him
over upside down. One of the other crows flew up and
then landed solid upon Ström's hard belly. Somehow, the
pouncing crow was able to jar the golden acorn loose,
and it rolled out of Ström's beak, coming to a stop in
front of Jacques.
"Proof that the treasure was not meant for you,"
Jacques taunted. "Your kind are too dark and believe
that you are too cunning in comparison to the rest of
us. Your constant abuse of strength and size combined
with your pride cursed you."
Ström said nothing as his body reverted to its
normal self. He flipped over, remaining silent as he
took a step back out of the circle. He wanted nothing
more to do with the object he had so
valued just moments ago.
The rest of the squirrels gave an encouraging cheer
Jacques as he too tried to open the shell around what
must be the most succulent and precious meat in the
world. He chomped down, feeling a shock course through
his head and all the way throughout to his bushy,
reddish-gray tail. He wasn't sure if he had come closer
to breaking his teeth or simply shoving them back up
into his skull. One thing was certain, it hurt and he
wasn't about to try that trick again.
"Huh," he said, trying to cover the sudden awkward
the cheers petered out when the acorn didn't crack.
"Must be covered in some sort of dryad magic."
With that he popped the golden acorn down his
gullet with haste, if only to save face and show that he
wasn't afraid of anything that a tree nymph could do to
him. The other squirrels picked back up their cheering
for their self-proclaimed leader. The crows and blue
jays stared at him with contempt. The rabbits weren't
certain if they should be hopping along in case matters
Maerissa looked on, observing the reactions of each
and every one of them. Jacques began spinning around
like a small, furry dervish -- white, red and gray
circulating so fast no one could tell the difference
between his head and his tail. The spinning, tumbling
figure bounced around the perimeter of the circle,
scaring youngsters and parents alike.
"Momma, is he going to explode?" asked a small
"I'm not sure," she said, pulling her four
youngsters close to her in a tight embrace.
The color of the whirling dervish was no longer
red, gray and white. It had turned to the same golden
color of the acorn, reflecting the setting sun in a
splendid manner. When Jacques began slowing down,
everyone noticed that not only had he changed color, but
shape. He looked like a larger version of the golden
acorn, an acorn the size of a squirrel.
The blue jays and the crows all began to cry out,
preparing to snatch the overgrown acorn up and haul off
with it. Of course it was too large for any of them, but
the greed and lust in their eyes told the story to
Maerissa as she continued looking on.
"Don't eat me," Jacques cried out in alarm. A mouth
and eyes had popped open on the smooth surface.
"Aaaahhhh," Elqua screamed before passing out. A
few of the other squirrels went to her side. One of the
squirrels went over to Jacques and nudged him with a
forepaw. Jacques rolled forward, his eyes and mouth
heading for the ground before rolling past. He reopened
his eyes to find himself laying on his side and looking
straight at an anthill.
"Okay, no more of that," Jacques demanded. "I am
not a play thing."
A couple of the younger squirrels, the mice
children and the young rabbits all snickered. Maerissa
also chuckled silently to herself then lifted quietly as
a soft night breeze and floated down to a branch in the
white oak above all the commotion.
One of Ström's warriors flapped his way over and
pecked the side of the Jacques acorn very hardily with
his bill. Jacques went into another spin from the force,
away from the crow. Within moments the small acorn had
popped back out of the spinning form and tumbled across
the dirt and grass, landing at the feet of Chester. He
a clawed foot upon the acorn to take possession but kept
his eye upon the squirrel to see what would happen to
him. The squirrel transformed from being sort of oval to
looking once again like a squirrel. Still a bit dizzy,
Jacques practically crawled on his belly, making his way
to Elqua who was just coming to.
"Squirrels! HA!" Chester looked at the sickly
Jacques with disdain. "You are nothing more than rodents
and unworthy of something so magnificent as this gift
bestowed upon us from the forest." He puffed out his
chest in a haughty manner before rolling the acorn from
beneath him and taking a sharp peck at the nut. His head
rebounded quickly. He felt a twinge of pain in the back
of his neck, but held his tongue to not let on how badly
it had hurt.
He fluttered the brilliant blue of his wings a
couple of times then picked up the acorn in his bill.
Imitating Strom, he threw his head back, swallowing the
golden morsel whole.
Immediately he began to gag. He wobbled back and
forth, his balance thrown off. He could no longer stand
flat as he tried and tried to cough up the acorn. Roots
were growing out from his claws at uneven lengths,
rooting him to the ground. The more he fought, the
longer and thicker the roots became, digging deep into
the soil until he was firmly planted.
Azure, panicking, flitted into the air, gained some
altitude, then dive bombed him. It was a tactic the two
of them had done to
so many other creatures when they wanted to run someone
off from a nest or a food cache. She nailed him squarely
in the tail feathers. He let out a high-pitched cry that
was two octaves higher than any he had ever expressed in
all of his life.
The unharmed acorn cannoned out of his mouth,
pegging the tree it had fallen from before ricocheting
back to the original location where it was first found.
No one made a move to go anywhere near the accursed nut.
They had seen enough.
As Chester regained his normal body, Maerissa spoke
up, making her presence known.
"Ahem…if I may? I have been observing this
interesting display of pride, greed, and jealous acts of
chauvinism. While doing so I was able to recall an
ancient legend told many moons ago. So long ago that
these giants of the forest," she said as she stuck out
her wing and pointed to many of the large trees, "were
naught but seedlings."
"What is the legend?" asked Calestia the fox.
"It is said that the protector of the forest had
planted a special seed, an acorn, the day that man first
came into the forest. He understood men's need for
resources to survive, but could not understand their
greed for taking more than they could use. The special
seed would become a great tree. When the tree could see
encroaching danger from its high point within the midst
of the forest
it would drop a golden acorn."
"This is that acorn?" asked Daskel, one of the
Maerissa softly laughed, "Yes, I believe this is
the acorn of that legend."
"So what do we do with it?" Ström asked with a
doubting tone in his voice.
She replied in her genteel manner, the same way she
had been speaking all along, not letting the crow's
abrasive manner get to her. "Its purpose is to sprout in
the middle of the forest and provide a magical barrier
an equal distance all the way around. Man will still be
allowed to enter and walk freely, but his machines or
tools will not be allowed to do any harm."
"The problem is that this tree is no longer the
center of the forest. One side has been lost more than
the other to the depravations by mankind. Their
buildings and pavements have covered over a tremendous
area that once was woodland."
Striykaa, one of Ström's female members, spoke up,
"We fly above the forest on a regular basis. We can show
you where the center is now located." Striykaa's wings
beat the heavily, lifting her into the air for the
center of the forest.
"Then we shall follow your lead," Maerissa replied.
She gently picked up the acorn with a talon and took to
The animals that could not fly ran or hopped as
fast as they
could along the ground. The field mice grabbed hold of
riding upon their backs as the squirrels leapt through
the trees from branch to branch.
The blue jays and Maerissa followed the crows. The
owl circled back on occasion to let the animals below
maintain a visual contact so they wouldn't be left. She
believed it was important that they all take part in
what she hoped would be their salvation. She noticed
that along the way, as the sun began to set, some of the
other nocturnal creatures began following. The bobcat,
skunks, raccoons and opossums picked up what they could
of the fantastic story from the rabbits and Calestia.
Before long there were animals of all shapes, colors and
sizes making their way to the center of the forest, all
for a common goal.
Striykaa cawed and the other crows followed suit.
They fluttered down to an open spot amidst the trees and
bushes. The others gathered around within a few moments.
Maerissa landed in the midst of them and sat the golden
"Would one of you fine creatures be willing to dig
me a hole about here?"
Daskel quickly hopped over to Maerissa, not even
considering what his mother or anyone else might say,
and began to furiously dig a hole just a few inches
deep. He worked so diligently that he never heard five
of the crows take flight. He hopped back and looked up
at the wise owl with a large smile on his face, his
"Such a fine job," Maerissa
complimented him. She picked the golden acorn up once
more then dropped it into the hole. Daskel pushed with
his forepaws and nose to cover the hole with the dirt he
had just removed. He used his large back foot to tamp it
down and make sure it didn't escape somehow.
The crows on the ground began to caw once more as
they looked up into the pink and orange sky. There, with
the sun disappearing over the horizon, the crows that
had taken flight were returning. They landed next to the
newly buried seed, opening their mouths and letting
water spill out that they had brought back from a nearby
"Good thinking," Chester said, offering up a rare
compliment. Ström gave him a passive look then slightly
bowed his head in acknowledgment. Chester returned the
Suddenly, the ground began to shake. At first it
was a low rumble, but it grew and grew until large trees
were vibrating so hard that the animals feared that the
forest was going to come down upon their heads. They
took shelter under logs and low rock overhangs. The
birds flew up into the air and circled, unable to land
in the shaking trees.
A golden yellow and whitish glow erupted from the
spot where the acorn had been planted. The light burst
into the dusky sky higher
than the canopy before spreading out across the crown of
into a warm glow of colors ranging throughout the
spectrum as the waning rays of ultraviolet light from
the setting sun reflected off the seemingly invisible
cloak. It washed out to the borders all the way around
and encompassed the woodlands in a cover of protection.
In the surrounding cities the human population felt
the shudder and looked into the sky. Kids stopped
playing. Drivers stopped their cars. Even criminals
paused in their actions to take notice. Some people
believed the shaking and glow might be aliens, but most
simply thought it was the aurora borealis putting on a
magnificent display. For a few moments the world around
the forest was pleasant and peaceful, quiet and
The golden acorn sprouted, quickly became a
seedling, then a sapling, which rocketed upwards and
became full grown in a matter of a few minutes. The
birds landed within its branches; the other animals came
out from hiding, getting as close to the tree as they
The humans could no longer sense anything related
to the event, but the animals could. They could see
their environment securely blanketed. For the rest of
the evening they sat in camaraderie, enjoying one
another's company and forgetting any quarrels or whether
they were generally considered sworn enemies. Even the
diurnal creatures, who normally slept at night and were
the day, stayed up for the festivities. They enjoyed the
companionship of the nocturnal creatures whom they
rarely ever saw.
When the light erupted, all the power cut off. A
bulldozer, a log truck and a forestry cutter all shut
"What gives?" shouted the operator of the forestry
"Who cares?" yelled the foreman. "It's getting
dark. We'll get a fresh start in the morning and make
quick work of a few acres."
The departing crew never heard the low growl that
came from the depths of the darkening woods. A protector
watched…and patiently awaited their return at sunrise.