Wart and Kay were sprawled across the courtyard, sweating profusely. It was a hot and humid afternoon and they had just finished a game of tag.
A shadow loomed over them. It was one of the servants. “Master Kay,” she said humbly. “Sir Ector wants to see you.”
Kay grumbled, and reluctantly followed the lady back to the castle.
Wart sat up, and tugged at his sweaty shirt. His eyes strayed towards an old man on the opposite side of the courtyard. With a smile, the Wart got up and rushed over to his teacher.
“Merlyn,” said the Wart. “I want to go on an adventure, away from all this heat. Please?”
Merlyn grumbled and adjusted his robes. Merlyn was drenched in even more sweat than the Wart and was not in a particularly good mood. “Drat,” he mumbled. “I can’t seem to remember the spell to cool oneself.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t wear such heavy robes in this weather,” suggested the Wart.
The truth was, Merlyn had not prepared lighter clothes and had come to Sir Ector’s castle without considering seasonal attires. But of course, he could not admit this. Merlyn coughed. “Anyways, you said you wanted an adventure, yes? I actually had something planned for you today.”
Merlyn waving his hands and chanting magic was the last thing Wart remembered before he found himself on the banks of a calm river. On both sides of the river was a partly-cleared forest.
The Wart looked down to see his hands had five fingers like before, except that now he had claws. His legs were now two black webbed structures, and when Wart took a step he wobbled and nearly fell over.
“Use your tail for balance,” a voice beside him instructed.
Wart discovered that he did indeed have a flat, sturdy tail and quickly learned to use it to balance himself, much like a third leg. Wart looked over at the river and had a sudden urge to dive into it.
“Go on,” said Merlyn, also in beaver form, as if reading his mind.
The two beavers plunged into the icy waters, and Wart fell into a state of nirvana. The cool waves brushing against his fur filled him with intense pleasure. He was like a baby playing with a new wondrous toy for the first time. Before he knew it, the summer heat of Sir Ector’s castle had long left Wart’s mind.
From his dream-like state, the Wart heard Merlyn say, “I have some business to attend to. If anyone asks, say you’re with Beat.”
Something hard and sharp bumped into Wart’s head, bringing him back to his senses. He looked up to see a huge round structure, made of sticks and mud. Wart saw that despite its size the dam was far from complete. On the dam were multiple beavers, either padding the dam with mud, bringing in new sticks to expand the dam, or simply lazing around.
Wart saw two young beavers playing around, and smiled at their resemblance to Kay and him. Wart decided to climb onto the dam, and upon looking around, realized that Merlyn was indeed gone.
One of the beavers on the far side of the dam spotted the Wart, and paused for a moment before saying, “I’ve never seen you before.”
Wart saw that this beaver was much larger than the rest, and was rushing at him menacingly. Wart was about to scramble back to avoid the tackle but found one of his feet was trapped between two sticks. The beaver’s charge, however, stopped abruptly at the last moment. The beaver no longer seemed angry. Instead, the beaver looked somewhat confused.
Wart remembered Merlyn’s words, and said promptly, “Beat brought me here.”
A nearby beaver who heard their conversation scrambled over. “Yes, Hark, this is Wart. He’s one our cousins from Nirv River.”
“I see. That explains the scent” Hark muttered, who then left, after one last glance at Wart.
“Whew. My name is Beat,” said the beaver. “Good thing Merlyn remembered to give you our smell. The last human he sent here had the wrong scent and needless to say, did not have a very good time.” Beat saw that Wart looked confused and explained further, “Each beaver family has its own territory, marked with its own scent. We’re the Hark Family. As you can guess, Hark is the head of our family. We don’t take kindly to intruders, and lately beavers from our neighbors, the Larks, have been intruding into our territory. That’s why Hark is on edge.”
“So we’re at war with them?” said the Wart eagerly.
Beat frowned. “No, no. This is merely a matter of self-defense. They come mainly to steal our food, which I’d like to mention we have barely enough of.”
“But you have territories. There are fights over land, too, right?” said the Wart.
“Nonsense. No sane beaver would fight for the sake of mere land,” said the Beat, who picked up a stick and held it up in front of Wart. “Why would anyone fight over this? Wart, look around you. Every beaver in this family works and contributes to this dam, to our home. Of course, this dam is incomplete but we have completed many others. Everything you see here is amassed from our family’s hard work and cooperation. We expend so much time and effort that this place is our very life. This dam is not mere sticks and mud, but a product of our soul, a tangible representation of us. You see now, there is all the reason for us to love and defend it, and no reason at all for an outsider to intrude on it.”
“But I’d like to go to war when I grow up,” said Wart. “I want to conquer many lands and conquer many knights so that I shall become famous and admired. It’ll be a fun adventure.”
“Dear boy that is a childish dream. For what exactly do you conquer when you conquer another land? That’s exactly it, land. You obtain mere land. The hearts of the people you will never conquer, and ultimately will lead to rebellion, for it is not admiration you’ll earn but contempt. After all, you have taken everything away from them- their land, their very identity, and for yourself you have gained what- dirt!” Beat laughed. “To take something away from someone when it means the entire world to them and nothing to you is the true nature of evil. Well, Wart, do you still want to go to war?”
“Well,” said the Wart. “I think I’d like to go for another swim.”