A/N: Okay this is my final chapter... I know people read this fic and the number of reviews is sad... you guys are depressing me it makes me think that no one likes it! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE REVIEW JUST ONCE EVEN IF IT IS JUST TO SAY THAT YOU LIKE IT PLEEEEEAAAAASE!!! Alright now that I am done begging nad groveling... ON WITH THE CHAPTER!! WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
"I'm a Nightingale!" she exclaimed. Shardul just grinned at her.
"That explains more than it doesn't," the princess said.
This confused Tarak, "like what?" He queried.
"Well, the people of the tribe always said I have the most beautiful singing voice in the whole tribe. What they don't know is that I would come into the jungle and listen to nightingales, in a sense it was they who taught me how to sing. It also explains how Phanishwar knew my name! He saw my animal form and called me that but in our language. He did not actually know that was my name," She explained, getting very excited indeed, "and why he called me 'little bird'."
"I see…" he replied, "Are you absolutely sure you are alright? He didn't harm you at all?" Tarak asked again sounding just a little concerned.
"Yes, yes I am perfectly fine, just a little weak in the knees." She said dismissively.
"Can you stand yet?"
"I think so," Kokila said as for the third time that night she attempted to stand, "… Yes. Oh no!" the princess cried out suddenly.
"What is it?" asked Shardul.
"My father must be worried sick about me. I have never stayed out in the jungle so late before, and I am still kind of disoriented!" Kokila exclaimed.
"Whoa! Relax," Tarak soothed as he placed his hands on her shoulders, "I will help you find your way back. What did you think I would leave you alone in the jungle again? With other hungry snakes out there?" he said quietly pulling her closer to him, he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "You don't have to worry little nightingale, I will protect you." He whispered.
Kokila blushed deeply and unsure what to say to that simply muttered, "We should probably go."
The next thing she knew there was a large tiger instead of a boy standing next to her. Shardul rubbed his head against Kokila's hand. Kokila took a gentle hold on some of his fur and let him lead her through the jungle, towards her village. As they neared the village, about an hour and a half later, Kokila could hear people calling her name. Then she heard one voice that, in the grip of the serpent, she had feared she would never hear again.
"Kokila! Where are you?" shouted Abhijat, King of the Red Bear tribe, in his rich baritone voice. A few moments later she could see him, standing in a clearing not far from the village, he looked extremely worried and anxious. When he saw his daughter come out of the jungle his face lit up but, then he saw her companion, and his look of joy turned to one of fear.
"Kokila, come quickly!" he whispered loudly and was about to call for the village.
"Father, wait! It's not what it looks like." She said earnestly.
"Kokila, come here!" he commanded as he cocked his spear and took aim.
"Father! No!" she yelled as she stepped between the tiger and the spear.
Abhijat was bewildered by his daughter's behavior, is she some how bewitched? He wondered.
"Kokila, what are you doing? Get out of the way!" he commanded.
"Father, please. Listen to me, all is not as it seems." She pleaded desperately.
"Alright," he sighed, "Where have you been? Do you have any idea how worried I've been? You never stay out in the jungle so late."
"I am sorry father, I lost track of time and needed to rest before returning to the village…"
"You rested for three hours?" he interrupted, "and that still doesn't explain why you have returned with this beast." He pointed at Shardul, who lifted his lip slightly at the insult.
"I am getting there father, please do not interrupt it is difficult enough to tell this story as it is." Her father nodded.
So Kokila told him every thing about being startled by the tiger and Phanishwar and how he had captured her with his powers.
"…He told me to trust him, he beckoned to me again. By this time I was so enthralled by his eyes and words I could no longer disobey. Soon I was only about three feet from his huge head and he began to wrap his coils around me!" At this point her father had turned extremely pale. "Then he told me how tired I must be from walking, how sleepy I was. My eyelids began to droop, but I realized what was happening and fought to stay awake. But the more he told me how sleepy I was and to go to sleep the less I was able to fight it. Then I saw a machete try to chop Phanishwars's head. The serpent released me to face a boy not much older than myself wielding a machete. He said the boy should not have interfered. The boy, to my surprise, egged the snake on and taunted it. Suddenly Phanishwar lunged at the boy and started to wrap him up and constrict him, but the boy some how managed to keep his arms free. Phanishwar was gloating, when the boy struck tree times with the machete, killed the snake, and saved my life!" Kokila concluded her tale.
"Yes, Kokila, but the tiger, what about the tiger?!" her father exclaimed.
"Alright, one moment." She replied turning towards the tiger, "Tarak can you please show my father that he has nothing to fear?"
The tiger nodded once, then its eyes began to glow, fur receded and became covered in skin, as the tiger pattern faded into it. A few moments later, the king saw, where the tiger had been, now stood a boy not much older than his own daughter, holding a machete. Abhijat's jaw dropped for a moment.
"Father, this is Tarak Shardul. He is the boy who saved my life."
Tarak bowed slightly, "Your Majesty, it is an honor. And if I may say so you have an extraordinary daughter." He said as he smiled at her.
Kokila blushed and quickly took a great interest in her own feet, her hair falling forward to hide her face, but not before the king noticed the blush.
So my little nightingale has found someone at last. I am so glad; I would have hated to make her marry Prince Sirrikahn when she obviously despises him.
"Tarak Shardul?" the king queried, "from what tribe are you?"
"The Yellow Panther, Your Majesty." Was Tarak's polite reply.
"Ah… yes, the Yellow Panther, I know the wood worker there. We were good friends as boys, and you… you are the shaman's apprentice?"
"Yes sir, that is correct."
"All I have to say is this; how can I ever thank you enough for saving my daughter's life? She is… all I have left. Also you will always be welcome here."
"You are most gracious, but you gratitude is really all I need….though if I could ask Your Majesty one thing?" Tarak asked, his face and voice did not show it but he was very nervous.
"Of coarse, young tiger."
"I would like to ask your Majesty's permission to court your daughter…" he looked at Kokila, "if that is alright with her."
The king's gaze traveled from Kokila to Tarak and back. "I can not say, it has always and will always be Kokila's decision to make. Now if you will excuse me? I must go tell the rest of the village that the princess has been found and is safe. Kokila, I will see you at home." He said as he turned and walked towards the village. After he was out of ear shot Tarak turned to Kokila. He gave her one of those heart stopping smiles of his and asked, "Well? May I court you, Your Highness?"
Kokila scowled, "don't call me Highness, I've always hated it, it is just Kokila."
He chuckled, "for such a small bird, you have quite and attitude my little nightingale."
She blushed deeply and chuckled at what he had said. "Need I point out that just because I can turn into a nightingale does not mean that I am like one in every way? Look at you! I've never known tigers to laugh so much." She stated with a grin, "as to your question…"
"Stop that, now look! Who's teasing who?" he said with an extremely fake pout.
Kokila laughed out right at that, "My answer should already be obvious, but perhaps I am too subtle for you."
"Oh yes, much too subtle." He teased and chuckled.
Kokila didn't say anything to that, she just jumped at Tarak, hugged him fiercely and gave him a quick peck on the lips, "is that a good enough answer for you?" she grinned.
"More than." He laughed, gave her another quick kiss and said, "good night my nightingale, I shall return tomorrow to check on your well fair."
"You say that as if I will get into trouble every five seconds while you are gone." She said some what indignant.
"Not so, I am simply worried about my beautiful Nightingale among all the other fierce tigers."
That made Kokila blush ferociously, which made Tarak laugh. So Tarak courted her, they often went into the jungle together and he taught her herb lore and of all the animals there. Kokila told the tribe's shaman what Tarak had said and, after checking for himself, immediately began to teach her to control her magic. One year later Kokila and Tarak got married and they loved each other passionately to the end of their days.
All names used in this story were taken from a website of Indian baby names. The whole of this story takes place in the jungle of India.
Phanishwar: King of Serpents
Abhijat: Noble, Wise
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