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16+ Violence

The cruelty of Aspen

by dragonight9


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.

This is a bit of a longer story as well as being a way for me to practice writing a… well, there’s no good way to put this. A torture scene.

I wanted to practice pulling a reader’s heart strings and showing the depths of cruelty a character can reach. This was hard to edit and coming back to this I hesitated. It amazed me how a writer can be scared to read their own work. So if you are squeamish at all please consider avoiding the true torture scene. It should be obvious when it’s about to begin.

This also involves terrible lies about good people and may impact you a lot, but in the ending there is also a recovery scene so please read it if you are depressed by anything in this story.

I hope as a reader you are not too impacted by the words of the cruel people of the world. Know that you are cherished, loved and strong. You don’t need the approval of others to do good deeds and you are NOT weak for helping them at your own expense. In the darkest of nights light shines even brighter. The darkness can never overcome the light, so don’t hide your light. Let it brighten the world for those around you.

Now, if you are ready, let’s begin.

Aspen

The choked cries of a capybara rang out in the early jungle morning as Aspen the hypno-snake held it right at the edge of being swallowed. All that could be seen of the tiny creature was its head just poking out of the serpent’s mouth.

This was Aspen’s favorite part.

When his prey knew there was no escape and no hope yet continued to plead for their life. Their last desperate cries muffled by his mouth closing over them and sealing their fate. He could still feel the weak struggles of the tiny fur ball all the way down his body slowly getting weaker and weaker until it stopped altogether.

Aspen licked his lips. No interruptions this time.

His satisfaction momentarily soured by the memory of the wolf cub that had escaped him, and even more recently his family’s complete dismissal of his claim that Nassir was helping prey instead of hunting them.

Even if he was a cowardly snake, Nassir was still a predator and that meant he ate prey like that foolish little wolf cub. Aspen was just blaming others for his failure as a predator. At least, that’s what they thought.

Aspen just knew that if Nassir hadn’t helped that cub, he would have recaptured it. He loved the fear in his prey’s eyes when they were caught, and he had noticed that if he caught his prey and let them think they got away, their fear was twice as strong when he recaptured them. They already knew what was coming and feared him all the more for it.

Aspen smiled as he closed his eyes with a smile of cruel satisfaction, imagining the fear that wolf cub would feel if he ever saw Aspen again.

He would first see Aspen’s dark crimson eyes then slowly make out his black mouth as his red tongue flicked in and out. His eyes would widen in fear as he followed the mottled navy blue and black body only able to see it at all thanks to the thin blood red streaks along his back. Then he would bring up the bright red tip of his tail which he used to lure unsuspecting prey and beckon him with it.

He would obey of course as his fear dismissed all other options other than pleading for his life. Then Aspen would let loose his red and blue spirals to ensure the little wolf cub’s helplessness. He would fall so quickly. They always did the second time, and he had never given any prey the opportunity to have a third.

As he daydreamed Aspen heard a soft thud and felt a vibration in his tree. He turned to see the only ‘friend’ he had. A female panther named Shamon. She was not quite full grown yet but still too big and agile for Aspen to trouble himself trying to catch. For some reason she enjoyed watching him play with his prey, so she kept him company from time to time.

“You are late if you wanted to watch Shamon. I’ve already eaten my prey for tonight,” Aspen hissed in a bored voice as he laid his head down on the small lump in his coils.

“How unfortunate.” Shamon sighed.

“I certainly would have enjoyed the show, but that is not why I have come to see you tonight,” She whispered in a secretive way.

Aspen looked at her with the snake equivalent of a raised eyebrow.

“There is a rumor that one of your kind is living next to the man village.”

Aspen’s head raised at this news.

“Yes, and man has not tried to drive him out yet. He must have done something for them to allow him so near to their village. Don’t you think? It just seems wrong for a jungle creature to side with humans doesn’t it? Why, if anyone were to find out, they might think hypno-snakes were becoming easy prey,” Shamon finished with mock concern as she flexed her claws.

“It must be Nassir. That coward. He probably let himself become some human’s pet just so he didn’t have to hunt for himself.” Aspen grumbled to himself.

Then he looked up suspiciously at Shamon.

“Now why would You care to tell me about this? I thought the escapades of cubs and prey was beneath you.”

Shamon smiled innocently.

“Oh, I’m just concerned that a proud jungle creature such as you could be given a bad reputation. I would hate for our relationship to end so soon. After all, I can’t be associating myself with a relative of the human’s pet.” She sighed sadly, before a sly smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

“And perhaps I want to see you constricting a snake in your coils instead of just the occasional capybara. I’m sure it would be quite entertaining… for both of us,” She purred suggestively as she leaned in close to Aspen’s head.

“And perhaps you’d like to be constricted in my coils as well.” Aspen hissed in annoyance as his tail darted forward. Shamon nimbly leapt out of the way and onto a nearby branch.

“Perhaps some other time Aspen. If you do want to teach your foolish brother a lesson in how a proper predator behaves, then you’ll find him near the pool just outside the man village. Oh, and please let me know when you are going. I’d still like to watch,” Shamon called, turning to saunter away.

“Why wait? I’ve been wanting to teach Nassir a lesson for a while now. But remember Shamon, if you ever try to lure me into a trap, you’ll be the next prey I eat.” Aspen hissed threateningly. Then he slowly uncoiled from his tree and began slithering from tree to tree towards the man village.

“Of course,” Shamon purred as she leapt gracefully to the ground and back up into the next tree to follow him.

Ramir

Unknown to Aspen and Shamon, there was one other creature who had been listening in on their conversation. A hypno-snake named Ramir.

He had come to calm Aspen down after loosing his prey, and maybe ask where he had seen Nassir. But now he was shivering in fear for his foolishly empathetic brother.

Everyone in their family knew how cruel and sadistic Aspen could be, and both he and Nassir were only about half his size. If Aspen got Nassir in his coils there would be no escape for him.

Ramir knew he had to warn Nassir, but he doubted he could get there before Aspen since he didn’t know the way to the man village from here. He watched as his older brother glided through the trees with such speed and ease that it seemed like he was swimming thought the jungle canopy.

With that Ramir came to the conclusion that his only option was to follow them and hope he and Nassir together would be enough to fight off Aspen. Or rather, inconvenience him enough to make it not worth the trouble for him. Taking a deep breath Ramir slithered after Aspen.

Aspen

Aspen moved through the trees even more easily than the ground. He could feel as each limb flexed under his weight and pushed him forward. Nassir was going to pay for helping his meal escape and staining the reputation of hypno-snakes.

He had often wondered what it would be like to crush another snake in his coils, but never had the opportunity. Now he would be sure to enjoy every squeal, every plea for help and cry for mercy. The feeling of straining muscles and bones pushed to the breaking point and beyond.

He wasn’t sure if he was going to kill that sorry excuse for a snake, but he didn’t really care if he died or not. It wasn’t like anyone would miss him anyway. That’s when his forked tongue picked up a smell he wasn’t expecting.

“Hmm. Perhaps there is someone who will miss that coward,” He chuckled to himself.

“How unfortunate for him that the wind has blown in my favor for once. Hm, hm. That gives me an idea. Why risk trying to hunt Nassir so close to the man village when I can simple have him come to me? For a snake to sympathetic for his own good, he won’t be able to resist saving someone.”

Aspen smiled evilly.

“Especially if that someone is his own brother.”

Ramir

Ramir was starting to pant as he struggled to keep Aspen’s tail in sight. The sun’s rays had only just started to brighten the forest canopy. Normally, he would just follow him by scent, but the wind was blowing in the same direction as he was moving and carrying Aspen’s scent away.

He had to keep Aspen’s tail in sight or he might loose him. For a moment Aspen’s tail hesitated before continuing its path.

Ramir groaned. He had hoped Aspen was stopping to rest for a while. A few minutes later the tail started speeding up. Aspen poured all he had into slithering which meant he easily missed the pair of blood red eyes watching him from above. Aspen fell on Ramir like lightning and had him completely coiled in only a few seconds.

Ramir cried out in terror, not sure what had grabbed him, but after a few seconds of struggling Aspen’s face appeared before him. As soon as he saw who it was Ramir stopped struggling.

For one thing he knew there was no chance he could possibly escape, and for another he knew that trying to resist would only make Aspen want to hold onto him more.

“Well, well little brother. I am very curious to know why you are following me. Though I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I just had a wonderful idea and you’re going to help me with it. Whether you like it or not,” Aspen hissed with a sadistic smile.

“Wait! Please, Aspen. Nassir is our brother. Don’t hurt him. I’m sure he’ll apologise and make up for whatever he’s done wrong.” Ramir pleaded desperately. However, this only made Aspen smile wider.

“Good. If you already know what’s going on it saves me the trouble of explaining it to you. And don’t try to lecture me about us being brothers or I’ll give you the same treatment Nassir’s about to get!” Aspen hissed.

Ramir’s eyes widened in fear, and he shrank back as much as he could in the coils surrounding him. He couldn’t help but imagine all the terrible things Aspen might do to his gentle brother.

“Oh, act like a predator. If you can’t stand to watch his punishment, I’ll choke you until you are unconscious.” Aspen hissed in annoyance.

“Don’t worry little snake. I’ll watch for you.” Shamon’s voice came from above as she leapt down to a nearby branch.

“The man village is not too far away from here. Why don’t I invite Nassir to meet you here? Then you can punish him without man getting in your way,” She offered.

Aspen considered it for a moment.

“Very well. Go fetch that failure for me. And tell him that I’ll be entertaining Ramir in my coils until he arrives!” He hissed. Shamon nodded and leapt back into the trees.

“Now, why don’t we get a bit more comfortable?” Aspen hissed in Ramir’s ear.

Then he slowly and painfully moved Ramir into a better position so that most of his body was free to set his trap while keeping Ramir bound tightly. He made sure to keep a coil around Ramir’s snout and neck to keep him from talking while they waited for Nassir to arrive.

Nassir

Nassir had just woken up and was swimming in the small lake at the base of his tree as the morning sun shone through the leaves. He sighed in contentment as he floated in the crisp and clear water.

“Someone seems to be enjoying themselves” A voice purred. Nassir flipped around quickly to see a panther in the trees above looking down at him with a sly expression.

“So? Can’t a serpent enjoy a swim occasionally?” Nassir replied in an annoyed tone. Truthfully, he was embarrassed that someone had caught him with his guard down. He had to admit that living in relative ease and safety near the man village had dulled his senses a bit.

“Hmmm. I suppose so. But you really should stay away from here if you know what’s good for you. True jungle creatures shouldn’t mingle with humans.” She said with a hint of disgust.

This annoyed Nassir a lot more than he thought it would. As if Amaya was somehow a lesser creature just because she lived in the man village.

“Regardless…” Shamon continued. “I’d hurry south of here if I were you. Aspen wants you to meet him there.”

“And what if I don’t want to meet him right now?” Nassir shot back. On the surface her was just annoyed but deep down he was nervous about what his cruel brother could possibly want with him. Then his worst fears were confirmed as Shamon shrugged.

“I suppose that’s up to you, but I should mention that he has another young snake in his coils. I believe he said his name was Ramir? Anyways, Aspen said that he was going to entertain that little snake in his coils while he waited for your arrival.”

Nassir felt like his chest had seized up. Aspen had Ramir?! Ramir was one of the few snakes who he’d gotten along with. They had become good friends as well as brothers.

“You should probably hurry up.” Shamon called over her shoulder. “I’m not sure Ramir is going to enjoy Aspen’s ‘entertainment,’ but I will.” She laughed as she bounded back into the jungle.

Nassir hissed angrily after her but didn’t give chase quite yet. He left his lake and curled up on the path nearby to dry and warm himself. He knew that if Aspen wanted to meet him and he was threatening Ramir to lure him in, he’d have to be ready for a fight. He needed to be warm so he could move as fast as he could.

As he warmed himself Amaya came down the path from the man village.

“Good morning Nassir!” She called with a cheery grin. “Did you go for a swim?”

Nassir nodded. “Yes, I did, but now I have to go.”

“Why?” Amaya asked, a bit disappointed.

“One of my brothers wants to meet me south of the village.” Nassir began.

“That’s great! Could I meet him too?” Amaya interrupted excitedly.

“NO!” Nassir shouted before controlling himself.

“No. He is probably the last snake you’d ever want to meet. I’m sure your father told you about Kaa, but Aspen is much worse. Right now, he’s probably torturing one of my other brothers for his own amusement. He’s much stronger and a more skilled hunter than me, but I’m going to stop him,” He finished determinedly.

“Please don’t go Nassir. I don’t want you to get hurt.” Amaya sniffled as she hugged her snake friend.

“I have to. Now go back to the village and tell Mowgli what I told you. It might not be safe out here for a while. Please don’t worry about me. Aspen may be a cruel hypno-snake, but we are still brothers. I doubt he will kill me. Just have some food ready for me when I get back, ok?”

In that moment he considered using his hypnosis on her. Not only to help calm her, but to ensure that she wouldn’t try to follow him. In the end though he simply squeezed her hand a bit and slithered away. Mowgli would keep her from following him, he thought.

As Nassir slithered through the jungle he tried to prepare himself as much as he could. He knew that Aspen would be waiting for him, and trying to convince him to let Ramir go was a hopeless endeavor. There were only two options he could think of that might allow them both to survive.

One was trying to fight Aspen, but that was unlikely to work if Ramir was already secure in his coils. The second would be to submit to whatever punishment Aspen had in store and hope that in didn’t result in his death. Aspen enjoyed when his prey struggled so he would likely loose interest if Nassir didn’t fight back. Then again, he might also want Nassir to fight back since it would be more entertaining for him.

Trying to free Ramir was also an option since Aspen probably wouldn’t bother going through the effort of recapturing him once he had Nassir. In the end the best idea would be to fight back and try to free Ramir before giving in and letting Aspen have his fun. Hopefully he would be satisfied with that and leave them alone.

“Say now. What do we have here?” Aspen’s mocking voice called from somewhere ahead. Nassir couldn’t see him yet, but Aspen must have smelled him coming.

“Is that a hypno-snake I smell? No. I don’t smell a predator or even a true jungle creature. Just a human’s worm with no pride at all.” Aspen continued, his voice dripping with sarcasm and contempt.

Nassir could see his scales hanging from one of the trees ahead. It took him a moment to realise that there was a bundle of coils at the tree’s base and Ramir’s colors were mixed in with them. He searched for Ramir’s head and found it nearly covered in Aspen’s scales.

“How nice of you to join us.” Shamon’s voice surprised Nassir. He glanced over to see her lounging in the branches of a nearby tree.

“I am here older brother. Now, why did you want to meet me.” Nassir called. Aspen was strung out all throughout the trees, but Nassir couldn’t see his head anywhere.

“You have been giving hypno-snakes a bad reputation little worm.” Aspen hissed as he dropped down from the tree where Ramir was coiled. “And you helped my prey escape me after I let him go only so I could hunt him down again.” Aspen hissed in annoyance.

He must have been talking about Onchu. Nassir could barely hold back a smile at the memory of Aspen’s face as he got smacked by that fruit.

“You lost that wolf because you didn’t listen to Kaa when he warned us not to use trees where fruit could fall on us.” Nassir shot back.

Shamon failed to suppress a giggle at the implication. Aspen hissed angrily at both of them.

“And I was going to recapture him if you hadn’t interfered. You made me miss out on playing with my prey. So now I’m going to play with you instead.” Aspen smiled as his coils flexed causing Ramir to groan in pain.

“If you want me, then let Ramir go. He didn’t do anything to you.” Nassir hissed as he prepared to launch himself at Aspen. He could see the coil trap that awaited him closing in.

“Why have just one of you when I can have both!” Aspen laughed as he sprang his trap. Nassir lunged forward just in time.

“That’sssss not happening!” He cried as he landed at the base of the tree and quickly pulled as many coils as he could off Ramir.

Ramir was able to free most of his body but the coils around his head and neck clamped down making it impossible to breathe. Aspen smiled in amusement at Nassir’s attempt to free his brother.

Suddenly Aspen released the coils holding Ramir in place and instead used them to wrap around Nassir. Suddenly freed Ramir bolted away from them as fast as he could. But just as he was about to get out of Aspen’s reach Shamon pounced.

Nassir was now locked in Aspen’s coils and could do nothing but watch as she pinned his head to the ground before grabbing him by the throat. His already deprived lungs couldn’t suck it air and he quickly began losing consciousness. His eyes began emitting hazy colors as his mind faded. His mouth gulped for air while his body twitched ineffectively. Shamon smiled down at him before loosening her grip just enough for him to take in a few choking breaths.

“Oh, don’t fall asleep just yet. The fun is only just starting. Why don’t we watch together? I know you didn’t want to, and your eyes look so pretty when you are about to loose consciousness, so I’ll tell you what. If you don’t want to watch anymore, I’ll choke you again until you fall asleep. But until then let’s watch your brother’s punishment together.” She said happily as she leapt into a tree with Ramir’s head in tow. The rest of his body hung limply below.

“I think it’s about time we got started Nassir. Try to entertain me for as long as you can little worm.” Aspen hissed with sadistic laughter.

Except for a few coils holding him in the tree, Aspen had his entire length wound around Nassir. He could manipulate every inch of Nassir’s body easily.

First, he squeezed Nassir until he cried out in pain. His cry quickly became a wheeze as his lungs were cut off. For the second time in his short life Nassir was being crushed by another snake. The first being the queen of snakes whom he had foolishly insulted by accident.

Last time the pain had been dulled by the trance she had put him in, but this time he felt every joint in his body grind together as he gasped for air. If this was what prey felt like in Aspen’s coils, then he sincerely wished his brother would starve before he ever caught another.

Then Aspen moved the crushing pressure in waves down Nassir’s body. Having each part given brief respite only to be crushed again was somehow even worse than all of it at once. At least now he could breath periodically. Then suddenly Aspen bent him backwards. One of the few directions hypno-snakes couldn’t bend easily. Nassir tried to turn so his body could bend like it was supposed to, but Aspen’s coils kept him firmly in place. Aspen’s head lowered into view. The sight of his cruel smile made Nassir want to strangle him.

“Oh, good. I’d have been even more disappointed if that was all it took to break you.” Aspen hissed in a mockingly satisfied tone before continuing his torture. He never used the same method twice and all the while he whispered insults and lies in Nassir’s ear.

“You are worthless and weak. You are no predator. No one would care if you disappeared. None of your family did. You are no true hypno-snake. You can’t even kill prey. Even those who pretend to like you don’t really believe you can do anything. You know it’s true. No one will save you because you have no one. You are all alone. Despair and die little worm. At least by becoming my meal you will have done something to make up for your worthlessness.”

Nassir tried to shut him out, but his words slithered into his mind like the cruel serpent they came from and called up all his own self doubt and fears. Was he truly a worthless predator? Did no one really care about him? He truly was an insult to true hypno-snakes. No one really believed in him.

His despair grew along with his pain and after only a few minutes Nassir was desperate for an escape. Something else, anything else was preferable to this. Then Aspen bent Nassir back again, so that his head looked up into the canopy, and leaned over him once more. Aspen looked down on his brother as if judging some fruit for its ripeness. Then smiled as if satisfied and leaned in so his head was next to Nassir’s ear.

“I think I’m just about done with you.” He whispered. Nassir knew it was a trick, but he couldn’t help feeling hopeful that it was nearly over.

“Just one last game to play.” Aspen hissed as he slowly retreated. When his face came into view Nassir realised what he had meant. Aspen’s eyes had become pulsing waves of red and blue. Nassir knew that those eyes meant he was about to experience the full brunt of Aspen’s cruel and sadistic nature, but he couldn’t look away. His body and mind were so desperate to escape the pain that his eyes pulled in spirals with every wave. At first the pain lessoned as his mind lost touch with his body.

He could feel all his fear and pain building up in the back of his mind. Aspen laughed evilly and his eyes widened expectantly, but just before Aspen commanded Nassir to feel all the fear and pain in his life all at once, something cut him off.

The pain and pressure around Nassir’s body and mind vanished as Nassir fell to the ground. The release of all that pressure in a single moment was too much for Nassir’s mind to handle.

He was unconscious before he hit the ground.

Ramir

Ramir had been watching the everything through a haze of confusion and pain. He had tried to abandon Nassir the moment he was free, and the more his mind recovered from lack of air, the more he was crushed by guilt. He couldn’t even find the strength to fight back against the panther that was now forcing him to watch his brother’s torment.

He remembered her offer to make it so he didn’t have to watch, but he couldn’t bring himself to take it. It was all his fault Nassir was stuck like this and he didn’t deserve to escape into unconsciousness. His eyes were so blurry with tears it was hard to make out what was happening. He glanced up at his captor to see her expression and felt disgusted. She was actually staring with a longing smile at the grotesque scene before them. Her expression was almost lewd with the ecstasy she seemed to experience watching Nassir’s pain.

How could she and Aspen enjoy this?! Nassir was the nicest brother ever. Too nice even. No other snake would share his prey with Ramir when he couldn’t hunt his own. His survival instinct was practically non-existent.

Yet Ramir wished Aspen had picked on any snake other than him. He looked back at Aspen to see him lean down and whisper something to Nassir before activating his spirals. Ramir tried to call out, but his throat could barely make a raspy cough.

Aspen started laughing as Nassir’s eyes began emitting the same colors as his. Then Ramir noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. Something was storming towards Aspen but both he and Shamon were too focused on Nassir to notice.

Amaya’s small fist slammed into Aspen’s snout as hard as she could.

It was a lesser known fact that hypno-snakes had sensitive noses due to the organ that gave them their hypnosis powers. Aspen was no different. The same blow anywhere on his body would have done little more than irritate the cruel python but the surprise and pain in his nose sent Aspen reeling.

“Stay away from my friend!” Amaya cried.

Both Ramir and Shamon were frozen in shock that such a tiny and frail human would dare punch a massive snake like Aspen. The first thing Ramir thought was that even she had more courage than him. Then, how she was just as foolishly brave as Nassir. And lastly, how he doubted she would leave this clearing alive.

Aspen

Aspen quickly recovered from his initial shock and hissed furiously at his attacker. Then he realised who his attacker was, and he almost laughed at how ridiculous it was that a little girl had attacked him. Then he leaned into Amaya’s face his hypnosis going full bore.

“You must be even more stupid than Nassir little cub. Now just- argh!” Aspen was cut off as Amaya punched him in the nose again.

“Go away you big mean snake!” Amaya cried as she stomped on the tip of Aspen’s tail which was laying nearby. Another painful spot.

Now thoroughly enraged Aspen lunged at Amaya with a furious hiss. Amaya barely dodged the first strike. In his rage Aspen lunged strait at her again and again. Amaya ducked and rolled just in time, but now Aspen had collected himself and narrowed his eyes at her. He wouldn’t miss again.

Then out of nowhere a burning pain engulfed the right side of his face. Crying out in agony Aspen retreated into his tree.

Suddenly a man pack burst out of the bushes whooping and yelling. Aspen hissed at them in fury, but he was smart enough not to try his luck against so many at once. With another hiss of frustration Aspen turned and fled deeper into the jungle.

Ramir

Shamon dropped Ramir and fled as soon as the man pack burst into the clearing. Ramir was barely able to keep his head from slamming into the ground, and as he laid there, he saw Aspen hiss at the human pack before fleeing deeper into the jungle.

Something seemed off about him though. His left eye had a bright red scar across it from just above his nose to the back of his head. Ramir could hardly believe it. Aspen had lost an eye!

For most hypno-snakes the loss of an eye meant they couldn’t hunt properly and might even die of starvation, but Ramir couldn’t imagine Aspen having much difficulty surviving, even if he lost both eyes. He was much to strong and smart for that.

He may have been an arrogant and cruel snake but his skills as a hunter and predator were the greatest out of all their siblings. It might be an inconvenience for him, but he’d survive. Ramir just hoped they wouldn’t see him again for a very long time.

Before he could think about the matter any further, he noticed an adult man coming towards him. Ramir immediately remembered what Kaa had told them about those in the man village eating and skinning any jungle creature they came across. He tried to slither away but his body still wasn’t working right, and the adult man was fast. He grabbed Ramir by the tail and dragged him towards the rest of the pack. Ramir tried desperately to escape but the man quickly grabbed his head and dragged his body back to the pack.

Hopelessness crashed over him yet again but as he was being dragged, he noticed the limp form of Nassir laying on the jungle floor. Beside him sat the girl cub who had first attacked Aspen, and an adult man that watched over them both. The adult man noticed Ramir and waved at the one who was dragging him. For some reason the man let him go, but this time Ramir wasn’t going to run away. He would protect Nassir. Then the other man who was standing by Nassir spoke in the language of jungle creatures.

“Who are you snake and why are you here?” He growled. His voice reminded Ramir of a pack of angry wolves he had once met and made him flinch. But he wasn’t about to cower like prey.

“My name is Ramir. I am here because I failed to help my brother Nassir, but if you want to hurt him I-”

“You are Nassir’s brother?” The young girl cub interrupted.

Ramir nodded. The girl’s face brightened.

“He’s not a bad snake daddy. I remember Nassir said he had a nice brother named Ramir that he went on adventures with,” She said looking up at her father who sighed in exasperation.

“Remember Amaya, not all snakes who seem friendly are nice. Most of them just want to hypnotise you and eat you.” He cautioned.

“I know daddy but this one is nice,” Amaya replied. With another sigh her father walked away to join the other adult men searching the area.

Ramir was about to ask how this girl cub knew Nassir, but Nassir started to move and groaned as he regained consciousness. Ramir rushed to his side to watch him wake alongside Amaya

Nassir

Nassir groaned as he woke. Everything was dark, fuzzy and hurt. It felt like waking from a nightmare into a dark world after falling out of a tree and rolling down a rocky cliff.

He heard voices but nothing was making sense. Words bounced around inside his head and it hurt to think. Slowly his mind cleared, and he grimaced as he realised just how much pain he was actually in.

He heard the voices again. This time he recognised them. One was his brother Ramir and the other was Amaya. Oh, how he wished he could curl up in her lap right now so the pain would go away. Then he realised it was strange to be hearing both of them. His curiosity helped him focus on what they were saying.

“…got the life squeezed out of him. I still haven’t recovered from that. We should just let him rest for now.” That was Ramir’s voice.

“Oh, ok.” That was definitely Amaya. She sounded sad for some reason. Then Nassir noticed something warm and soft that had been resting on his belly disappear. Was she leaving?

“No…don…don’t go…please.” Nassir whispered. His voice was raspy and hurt but he was much more afraid of being alone than the pain.

“Nassir!” Amaya exclaimed in a relieved whisper. She cupped his head in her hands and lifted him slightly. The movement made him grimace.

“Be careful girl cub.” Ramir cautioned.

“Right sorry.” Amaya apologised. Nassir couldn’t help but smile even if it hurt.

Then he sighed as he relaxed. For some reason the warmth of Amaya’s hands seemed to dull the pain. It felt good to know someone cared about him. In his mind’s eye he saw a light enter his world of loneliness, pain and fear showing him the way out, but Aspen’s lies had left a lingering fear and broken trust which made it hard to fully accept such an offer of love, kindness and comfort.

He didn’t think he deserved it, but after a few moments he desperately leaned into it even as he feared betrayal. But this time there was no change, no trick, no cruel game.

In that moment his broken trust, his heart and his mind began to heal. He was able to truly rest for what felt like the first time in an eternity. Much later in his life Nassir realised, though he never admitted it, that the lingering lies, hopelessness and fear left by Aspen had gone deep into his mind due to his hypnosis, and if no one had been there to pull him out of his despair, he could have easily given up on life and died.

Ramir

Nassir slept for a full day after that and was even allowed to stay in the man village until he was healed. Ramir decided to wait for his brother to recover so he could apologise to him. He stayed nearby and Amaya visited him whenever she could.

Ramir refused the snacks she brought and never let her close enough to touch him, but they did talk. Ramir was impressed by the foolish bravery Amaya possessed, but he hated the way she treated him as an equal when she was clearly weaker than he was.

She seemed to have little respect for jungle creatures, unlike her father. Mowgli visited Ramir a few times as well. Mostly just to make sure he didn’t harm Amaya and to confirm Nassir wouldn’t either. Ramir got the sense that he knew the ways of the jungle and respected them, though he never realised who he truly was.

Then came the day when Nassir finally left the man village. Amaya came with him to meet Ramir and they spoke under the tree Ramir had been living in while he waited.

“Hello Nassir! How are you feeling?” Ramir asked as he lowered himself to greet them.

“Hello Ramir. I feel terrible but I’m recovering.”

“Hi Ramir!” Amaya said cheerfully. Ramir nodded to her before turning back to Nassir.

“Listen, Nassir. I’m sorry for running away. I was afraid and acted like prey. I should have helped you fight.” He apologised. Nassir smiled slightly.

“Don’t worry about it Ramir. Aspen would have just captured us both anyway so I’m glad you got away from that at least. If you want to make up for it all you have to do is help me as much as you can next time. I mean, if I can do it, I know you can.” He joked.

“Oh, and please don’t eat any humans you come across either.” He added.

“Yeah, next time.” Ramir muttered. “Don’t worry about me eating humans either. At least not cubs. If Amaya is anything to go by I doubt they’d taste good at all.”

“That’s mean. I bet I taste sweeter than anyone else.” Amaya pouted before breaking into a smile.

“So, what are you going to do now?” Nassir asked..

“Please stay.” Amaya pleaded. “We can all play together, and I’ll even bring you treats.” She offered. Ramir cringed at the idea. He was a fierce jungle predator. He didn’t play around and eat treats. That was for lazy bears and monkey kings. And maybe soft empathetic hypno-snakes.

“I’ll go back to the hunting grounds. Aspen won’t try to get revenge on me there. You should stay close to the man village for the same reason Nassir.”

Nassir nodded but Amaya was confused.

“But I thought we beat the big mean snake,” she said. Worry creeping into her voice.

“We hurt him, and he ran away for now, but that only made him hate us more. He will probably want revenge but this time he’ll be much more careful.” Ramir warned.

“But as long as we stay near the man village he won’t come after us. He is patient, cunning and intelligent. He won’t fight those he cannot easily crush. He’ll wait for us to leave the man village or give him even the slightest opening. Then he’ll strike. So, we should be safe so long as we are cautious.” Nassir reassured her. Ramir nodded.

“Yes, well. I’d better get going. I’ve stayed here too long already waiting to apologise.” He said as he uncoiled from his tree.

“Please come back to play some time,” Amaya waved.

“It was good to see you again Ramir,” Nassir said sincerely.

“You as well Nassir,” Ramir replied as he slithered back into the jungle.

Aspen

After escaping the man pack, Aspen had fled to one of the many trees he had selected to live in. Once there he had fallen asleep from the exhaustion of staying awake all day and playing with two snakes before slithering for his life.

He woke late that night when the moon was high above the jungle. He hissed at the pain in his left eye and tried to open it, but his vision stayed dark. He quickly realised that his eye was open but not seeing. He left it closed and half hissed half yelled at the sky in anger.

Man had taken his eye from him! He remembered the puny one that had dared strike him. Did all men have no survival instinct? Perhaps that’s why they sided with Nassir. He was more like them than a snake anyway. Helping others and looking at prey with such compassion. 

It made Aspen sick.

Yet both of them had stolen something from him. How DARE they try to be anything more than the prey they were. He was the greatest predator of his generation. Nassir and his human friends needed to learn their place.

Next time he wouldn’t play around and let his guard down. He’d wait until they were alone. Far from any help or interrupting fruit. Then they’d be his.

No prey escaped Aspen twice. 


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1004 Reviews

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Tue Feb 07, 2023 4:00 pm
vampricone6783 wrote a review...



Oh boy…Aspen is probably going to be more threatening than he was before. I don’t know how much longer Nassir and Amaya will survive together. I don’t think that they’ll be safe for long. Aspen may have lost an eye, but it will only be a matter of time before he strikes again and goes in for the kill. For now, they are safe.

I wish you a fantastic day and night.




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Mon Feb 06, 2023 5:41 pm
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RavenNaal wrote a review...



This was a really good and interesting short story! The characters and theme are really well thought and fun to read. Its execution is near flawless! It was very creative to have the main characters within this story be snakes and panthers rather than the obvious human. You tackled the point of view of the different characters well and made them really seem like snakes. The way the characters family and friend dynamic is well done as well. I enjoyed the ending the most with the wrap up of the story as well as the prelude to a second part, or at least we can imagine what the next part would be like because of the ending line, "No prey escaped Aspen twice." Overall a great story. The only issue I had with it was it was a little hard to tell what species certain characters were without it being explicitly said. Amaya and Shamon were the hardest to tell. Hope you get something out of this review and well done! This story has also inspired something im going to write soon.





No man or woman who tries to pursue an ideal in his or her own way is without enemies.
— Daisy Bates