“Very well,” said the king. “I’ll send for a specialist. It may take him a few days to get here, but he will deal with the Shadow, as sure as I am king.”
And do it was that Kinga turtle sent for the specialist. A few days, he said, and for those few days the Shadow made regular appearances, which tended to be about the same times each day.
Just as mid-morning was clawing its way toward high noon, the Shadow clawed its way across the kingdom.
As noon came and went, pushing the light toward the horizon with it, so came the Shadow, pushing aside the clouds like some ruinous force of nature.
And finally, just as the once-friendly shadows of the trees grew to terrible lengths and flapped in terrible unison as darkness crept in, so came the Shadow creeping along from patch of light to broken patch of light, this time longer and more threatening and even more serious than any dared to admit.
After the first day of the Shadow, the sunning spots and gathering holes seemed to be off no more interest as more and more turtles stayed home. Those who were out as the Shadow made its rounds seemed to suddenly grow weary, slowly tucking themselves deep within their shells for a quick–and fortunately timed–nap.
On the second day, many began to wonder how much longer the king’s specialist would be. Today? Tomorrow? Would he really be able to rid them of the Shadow and the terrible Beast it belonged to? And how? But the king had never given them reason to doubt, so they waited as patiently as fear would allow, every day seeing fewer and fewer turtles about as the Shadow’s time drew near.
Finally, as the Shadow’s third round neared on the third day, the king appeared on his favorite pedestal. The day was clear, and the sun has yet to sleep behind the lowest trees, but everyone knew that King Turtle was not simply sunning. He was waiting for the specialist.
A crowd began to form warily around the pedestal. Many cleared their throats and clapped their fins, but the king seemed to be sleeping as he waited.
The shadows grew grievous and frightening, and many turtles decided to wait for the specialist in the comfort of their shells, but still the king said nothing. Didn’t he know that the Shadow would soon come? Many wondered if, perhaps, the specialist wouldn’t come today after all. Perhaps the Shadow took care of the specialist rather than the other way around.
And then it came. From the far side of the kingdom. Slower and more sincere than ever before. As if it were hunting for the last corners of light to snuff out.
The Shadow meandered through the kingdom hunting out the light. Turtles all around the king hid deep in their shells, thinking the king would do the same, but still the king did not move.
“My king, hide!” some shouted, although not too loud lest the Shadow take notice. “The Shadow has come!”
“Where’s that specialist when we need him most?!”
“The Shadow comes for the king! We are doomed!”
But still the king did not move. He did not speak. In fact, he looked to most as if he were simply taking in the last ounces of sun on any given day without a care in the world.
The Shadow–having made its way through the kingdom– finally approached the king’s own pedestal and seemed to stop. It had seen the king!
Now turtles cried out in fear not fit themselves but for their king.
The shadows grew. And grew. And grew, as if to devour the king.
The Shadow grew as large as the king. Turtles shouted and cried out. But still the king did not move.
Now the Shadow grew as big as the pedestal. But still the king did not move.
Now the Shadow grew larger than the pedestal, its edges making their way to the turtles nearby who scurried out of the way as quickly yet silently as they could. But still the king did not move.
And then the Shadow was too big to define, and with it came the Beast, its legs thick and muscular. The Beast was a terrible sight to behold, and surely the king would have hid in his shell if only he would wake. But still the king did not move, even as the Beast landed on top of his shell and tapped its terrifying claws on the edges.
Finally the king stirred. The Beast would see the eyes of its prey before it feasted. It tapped its razor-sharp beak on the king’s shell once, thunderous and final. No one could move, and more than most eyes closed tight within the green and brown shells.
But not the king’s. No, King Turtle did not flinch in fear or even think twice. Instead he smiled and blinked a friendly blink at the Beast.
“So you’ve made it,” he said. “I think they’ve learned.”
Learned? Was the king talking to the Beast? Heads began poking from shells to see if they had heard the king correctly, and what they saw was both unbelievable and wondrous.
The king sat atop his pedestal with a great eagle on his back. The eagle could easily have lifted the king away with one claw, or crushed the king’s shell without a thought, but instead the great bird hopped off and nudged the king affectionately.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the king said, “may I introduce the specialist, a dear friend of mine!”
“Greetings,” said the eagle. “I hear you’ve got a Shadow problem. Tell me, how can I help?”
No one knew what to say, so they said nothing at all, only looked at their own shadows feeling guilty for jumping to conclusions.
“No?” asked the king. “No more worries about the Shadow? Well then, good. Instead, let’s have some fun!”
And so it was that the kingdom met and honored and loved the great eagle who was not a Shadow nor a Beast, but just another creature making its way across the land looking for friends.