The Boy & The Magic Marmot

The Boy & the Magic Marmot
By Amar Bains

The Boy & The Magic Marmot

In a land much different than ours, a small Mongolian boy named Chuulun lived with his loving mother and sister. They lead a quiet life in a simple time. They were famers of their village, but times are hard because of the long winters. Most of the village had turned to more modern work, like welding and mining. Many young men were abducted and taken to march in the great Imperial army. Few remained, Chuulun being one of them. Here the story begins… A low rumble startled Chuulun from his peaceful rest. Frightened, he called for his family, thinking the yaks were on a stampede. Charging out of his family’s dwelling, a small yurt, he yelled, “Get to safety, find cover!” Chuulun’s calls were quickly drowned out by the shrill sound of a trumpet. Puzzled, Chuulun looked over and realized the source of the sound that so rudely awakened him. Standing in tight formation, in the village square were the emperor’s solders back from a battle, a group made up of about five hundred armed men, all fully clad with armor and weapons. An entire troop was made of archers. A man stood at the front of the ranks holding a roll of parchment out in front of him. A dark green silk robe, with blue embroidery lining the fabric, hung from his shoulders. Addressing the crowd, the man called out, “His majesty, the emperor decrees that the village of Zuunmod shall throw a grand celebration because of their splendorous victory.” An excited murmur passed through the crowd. “And we owe all of our thanks to the loyal Batukhan!” Chuulun’s stomach suddenly felt very cold, as the warrior Batukhan stepped from his legion. “Batukhan! It had to be him.” Chuulun thought. Raising his bow above his head in a triumphant gesture, he surveyed the crowd. Noticing Chuulun’s eyes on him, the cruel Batukhan smirked at him. In a commanding voice Batukhan announced, “During the festival I shall allow any man or boy to challenge me in a shoot-off, and if he would beat me I would give my own bride to him as prize.” A gasp of astonishment surged through the crowd. “I deserve to be chosen for the emperor’s personal guards, and anyone who thinks otherwise shall be defeated by me.” Chuulun himself wondered, “Why would he risk his wife?” In Zuunmod a man’s honor is much to do with his partner. Batukhan’s wife just so happened to be the beloved Kushi, Chuulun’s greatest love. “Foolish Batukhan,” Chuulun thought, “though he has the right to boast, no one could ever beat Batukhan.” He wasn’t many things, but one was a strong competitor.

The Boy & The Magic Marmot A strong shove pushed Chuulun to the front, and a startled shout escaped from his mouth. Now, standing there in front of the entire village and merciless-looking solders, Chuulun shrank to a quivering little boy. “Well, well, well, looks like we have a challenger!” announced the robed man. Chuulun’s heart sank to his gut. He was doomed! One doesn’t simply refuse a challenge; it was something the village still held dearly. Batukhan spoke loudly, “Bring on the competition!” Batukhan’s cold dead eyes stared down Chuulun. He felt bare and exposed in Batukhan’s eyes, vulnerable. Pushing through the crowd Chuulun charged home. In the distance the crowd’s cheers of admiration for the imperial solders, were heard all throughout the village. Chuulun had envied them himself ever since he was a boy, watching the royal archers practice for many hours, showing off their perfect aim, and immaculate bows. Chuulun always dreamt of owning his own bow, but sadly a boy of his lowly standard would never be able to become a respected archer. “I would never be able to defeat Batukhan anyway, but the urge of being partnered with Kushi would be a wonderful prize,” thought a hopeful Chuulun. “I know why you’re sad,” spoke a small voice. He turned to find his beloved little sister Houlun standing at his doorway. “You want to win over Kushi, and get back at Batukhan for the bullying, all the cruel names and fights, right big brother?” Smiling Chuulun replied, “Smart as ever little sister. Now run along don’t let my troubles burden you.” “You know, the legend of the golden marmot may help you,” spoke Houlun smartly. “What golden marmot?” asked Chuulun. “You know! The story! Mother used to tell us, about the magic rat with powers to grant a person of pure-heart one wish.” In a huff, Chuulun exclaimed, “Houlun, how do you expect me to base my dreams on a fairy-tale?” Chuulun said this because the belief of magical creatures long-since ceased throughout the land, though he did remember the story fondly. “Well, you need to trust things a little more,” and with a wink she was gone. “So young, yet so naïve thought Chuulun. “Though what is the harm in trying? Houlun may be right like she always is,” said Chuulun. And with that he decided, why not try?

The Boy & The Magic Marmot That same day, Chuulun stood in the plains surrounding his home. It was a place that Chuulun liked to go to think. He stared open-eyed across the endless plateau, his eyes tracing the thin cracks in the hard packed dirt. They were long arrows stretching out in front of him. Leading all the way to the mountains. An impenetrable wall of rock, stretching into the clouds above. The white capped mountains seemed so ominous to Chuulun. The dark peaks seemed closer than they actually were, like they were reaching out to him. He realized that he was the dry and lifeless plain, and Batukhan was mountains, so vast and powerful that all bowed to them in awe & fear. “Well, what do I have to lose?” Chuulun thought to himself. “Legend says to summon the magical beast you must recite an ancient saying in three times, though the story also says that only the nicest and most deserving people are blessed with the animal’s help,” Chuulun thought aloud. And with a loud clear voice he spoke in Mongolian, “Marmot come serve me, I am your master, come and grant my wish!” At first nothing seemed to happen, but then a faint tremor occurred at Chuulun’s feet. In front of him a split formed in the hard-packed land. A hole formed with brilliant light spilling from it, and from it a beautiful creature rose, golden rays spilling from its fur. “I am Mönkhbat!” exclaimed the marmot. “I have come to grant you one wish, now speak kind man. What do you desire? After a moment’s hesitation Chuulun spoke in a hesitant voice, “I wish to be able to beat Batukhan in the archery competition at the festival… please?” With a smile, showing off his shining buck-teeth the Marmot replied, “Your wish is my command!” The marmot clamped his jaws shut and wiggled his furry behind and then, was gone. There in Chuulun’s hands appeared the most magnificent bow he had ever laid his hands on. The wood of the bow came from an unfamiliar tree, though it was strong and dense like any other bow should be, and it shined as if polished daily. The bow string was thin and taunt. Then feeling the weight in his back, Chuulun saw the sheath hanging from his torso. Un-slinging it he gazed at the gifts. Pulling the arrows from their resting place, Chuulun gazed upon the jade tips. “Arrow heads of jade!” exclaimed a jubilant Chuulun. An arrow itself cost more then his whole family would make in a lifetime. Caressing the shaft of an arrow he noticed wrapped around the shaft,

The Boy & The Magic Marmot was a long golden strand of hair. The string was a glowing snake, coiled to strike “For good-luck” Chuulun though. Grasping his bow & arrow firmly, he notched it as he had seen so many other archers do. With a look of steely confidence, he pulled the bowstring back and took aim. “Thwang!” The bowstring almost roared as the arrow sailed in a perfect line, flying far out of Chuulun’s vision. It was like a dragon’s breath erupting from its gullet He started after the arrow to retrieve it, with a spring of his step. “I have a chance,” though Chuulun The day of the festival arrived. Chuulun paced anxiously. A great stone of nervousness sat in Chuulun’s stomach; it was wearing away his courage. He had only received his magnificent bow one week before, and had little time to practice. Even then, he dared not extend the string to its full length, fearful of damaging it. Still, he could feel a power of sorts just lurking inside the bow, like it was alive itself, waiting to be unleashed. “You don’t have to worry,” spoke a voice, startling Chuulun. “Silent as ever, huh Houlun?” Turning to face his sister he saw the fleeting shape of a smile from her lips. Chuulun stared into his sister’s large caramel eyes. “I know you’re going to win,” she announced confidently. “How can you be so sure?” Chuulun replied inquisitively. “Because, you’re my brother, and you deserve Kushi, you know she is fond of you,” Houlun said knowingly. Blushing, Chuulun replied, “How can you be so sure? Kushi is beautiful & smart, so why would she ever want me?” Houlun said, “Because I know you. Besides, I don’t even think she deserves you.” Smiling, Chuulun said, “You always know what to say, Houlun.” Houlun then commanded, “Now go out there and beat Batukhan into the dirt!” Chuulun’s spirit deflated; yeah now he had to beat Batukhan “I can’t, he is trained! He will destroy me!” Chuulun cried. “Well,” Houlun said, “can’t go back now.” And with that she took Chuulun’s hand and lead him out the house. Outside Houlun wrapped her arms around her brother, and in a whisper she said, “Good luck.” A faint glimmer of hope broke through the rock in his stomach. “I may win; after all I have a magic rat’s powers on my side,” Chuulun thought.

The Boy & The Magic Marmot Chuulun stepped into the village fairground, where the festival was being held. Instinctively he tucked his bow and sheath into his small bag. The center square was full of people, surrounding the different stands. Booths full of scrumptious festival foods and others full of merchants showing off their numerous wares. This was indeed a special occasion. Usually a festival took place to celebrate yet another great deed of the emperor. Nowhere in his memories could he recall having an event with entertainment. A flood of dread coursed through him. He realized he was the entertainment!” He was going to be humiliated in front of the entire village. He and his family would become the laughing stocks of the village. He had to win for his own honor, his family, and of course for dear Kushi. Suddenly, Chuulun noticed a flash of gold in the corner of his eye. Mönkhbat his little helper was here to help him. This greatly helped him ease his nerves. Chuulun did not expect anyone to support him, so when a hand grasped his shoulder he nearly leapt out of his skin! He turned to find Kushi herself, with her beautiful pure blue eyes staring right at him. All the anxiety he felt melted away at the sight of his beloved. She gave a small wave and said, “Hi.” He was lost within her eyes; he always had imagined the sea to look exactly like them, such brilliant color surrounded by bleak gray. With great effort Chuulun took a breath and managed to force out, “Hey, how are you?” Perplexed, she replied, “Umm fine…” Her tone quickly changing to a level of seriousness, she asked, “There are rumors that Mönkhbat the Magic Marmot helped you somehow. Is it true Chuulun?” In her voice even his name sounded magnificent. “Uhhh,” was all Chuulun could say. “Well, I hope so, and I hope you reign victorious, Chuulun.” She gave him a quick hug and then disappeared into the crowd. Chuulun's body tingled with warmth, giddily thinking, “Kushi! Kushi wants me want to win.” His smile quickly transformed into a stern look of steel as trumpets rang through the courtyard, silencing the entire village in seconds. “About time,” Chuulun thought. Chuulun stood besides the archery knew how a proceed. Each would be shot at a single fifty meters distance. and Batukhan each other on range. Everyone shoot-out would participant allowed only one target placed away, quite a Whoever landed

The Boy & The Magic Marmot closer to the center, won. As tradition mandated the defender would go first. Batukhan stepped up to the line and, with a grin, drew his arrow back. His bow was polished wood, shining even in the sunless weather. The muscles in his arms bulged. Glancing back at Chuulun with his cold dead eyes he let his arrow fly. Faster than Chuulun could follow, the arrow sailed to the target and struck the dead center with a dull, “Thud!” Chuulun did not falter. His mind and heart focused only on Kushi and his family. He would win no matter what. He stepped up to the line and drew back his bow to its full length. His heartbeat thundered in his ears, drowning out all other distractions. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a familiar figure: Houlun in the crowd, her large eyes. Staring right at him, she gave him a small nod, and in that moment he knew. He saw the tiny dot that was his target, before he could discourage himself he strung his arrow, took aim, and let his arrow fly. The projectile seemingly sliced through the air. Before he could even worry about whether or not his shot would be true. His arrow, an extension of his own spirit struck the target. Splitting Batkhan’s arrow in two, Chuulun shot his arrow through his opponent’s! The crowd erupted into screams of outrage and surprise. Before anyone could move Kushi rushed into his arms. With a whisper she said, “Now our lives together can begin.” With a smile on their faces, they walked, hand in hand, back to Chuulun’s yurt. None of the screams rivaled Holon’s scream of victory and praise. She strode up to Batukhan, hands on her hips, she raised her chin to him, and with defiance in her eye she said, “That’s what you get, ya big Meany,” and with her tongue out she and her mother followed the new hero of the village home. *One year later Chuulun lay awake in his bed, his beautiful bride asleep next to him. Throughout the house he could sense the quietness. No one not even Houlun was making noise now. Grinning to himself he thought, “It all did work out.” He was quickly startled by a flash of white outside his window. Swiftly leaping out of bed to investigate Chuulun found Mönkhbat outside his window. The marmot gave a small nod and disappeared. With a smile he spoke a quiet, “Thank You.”

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