website design software
Story 3

Ethan Nahté

Ethan Nahté works for a conservation organization and has also worked with animals for many years. This is his second submission to and first publication in 4StarStories.

You can contact Ethan at

Greed will reveal the nature of one's true self. The question is "Can one learn before it is too late?".

-- Ethan Nahté

The author has said it all. So sit back and enjoy Forest of the Golden Acorn.


"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."

     "We are…."

     "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 right."

     "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 caw 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 elm so 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 process.

     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 drop it."

     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 prize.

     "Cawgghhhh! Cawgghhhh!" Ström's caw was more of a choking noise 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 would unfold.

     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 to 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 silence as 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 got worse.

     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 field mouse.

     "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 placed 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 young rabbits.

     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 air.

     The animals that could not fly ran or hopped as fast as they could along the ground. The field mice grabbed hold of the squirrels, 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 acorn down.

     "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 whiskers twitching.

     "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 stream.

     "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 gesture.

     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 the forest 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 blissful.

     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 possibly could.

     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 active throughout 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 down simultaneously.

     "What gives?" shouted the operator of the forestry cutter.

     "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.

The End


[Index] [About Us] [Stories] [Story 1] [Story 2] [Story 3] [Story 4] [Guest Art] [Editors Write] [Archives] [Contact Us] [Links]