Rikki-tikki-tavi 2 RISING TIDES Dark waters, slowly rising. New dangers, quite surprising. </br> Even if you have won the day, </br> Will you continue here to stay? Rikki-tikki-tavi, when it seems there is peace at last….. Beware of an old enemy from your past. When at last it seems you’ve won…. Beware, your troubles have only just begun! This story tells of how Rikki-tikki-tavi fought against the wicked Nagasta and saved the garden once more. Though others like Darzee and his wife helped, Rikki-tikki once more did the real fighting. It tells of the rise of Nagasta, The Heartless Cunning One#, who would later become the dreaded Cobra Queen of the Jungle. It tells of the first encounters between Rikki-tikki and Nagasta and her wicked husband Karistan and how Rikki-tikki and Nagasta became archenemies. Rikki-tikki-tavi, a young mongoose, had beaten two cobras, Nag and Nagaina, and a dusty brown snakeling named Karait four months before. The family that had taken him in hadn’t seen any cobras since then. However, there was something to preoccupy them even without the threat of snakes. The rising water, the same water that had separated Rikki from his family, was rising in the river near Rikki’s family’s home, not only keeping him from returning, but also slowly moving toward his new home as well. “Heard about the rising water?” Rikki asked his friend, Darzee the tailorbird. “Yes. It seems to be rising quite fast too.” said Darzee. Rikki started#. He thought he heard a noise. It said “Enjoy your time while you can, humansssss! We will get you soon!” “What?!” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. “Pardon?” said Darzee’s wife. “I thought I heard something.” said Rikki, a little uneasy. “What?” said Darzee. “It almost sounded like a…. nah!” said Rikki, laughing and raising his forepaws forward and swiping the air. “They’d never come near here. Not if they’ve heard of Nag and Nagaina. I must just be tired. You know how light of a sleeper I am.” “Aren’t all mongooses?” said his friend Chuchundra. “Still, I think I’ll have a look.” said Rikki-tikki. “I have nightmares sometimes about Nag and Nagaina. I have to make sure there aren’t any others.” He gets up and heads out of the garden and into the jungle. He doesn’t find any cobras or any other snakes, but he does hear a scuttling in the grass and follows it. By the time he gets there however, he only finds two dead frogs. “Odd.” said Rikki. He brings the two dead frogs back to the garden in his mouth. “Eating frogs now, eh Rikki?” said Chuchundra’s cousin, Chua. Rikki spits out the two dead frogs. “These don’t look like the bites of a mongoose. They like more like….” said Darzee, a little fearful. “Cobras.” said Rikki solemnly, finishing his sentence. “So I’ve got to stay here for a while. I can’t attempt to go back to my family now. Not now that the flood is here, even if there weren’t danger.” “Danger?” said a tailorbird friend of Darzee’s. “Yes. Apparently Nag and Nagaina weren’t the only of their kind in the area. The garden isn’t safe anymore. I’ve found some dead frogs, and they were definitely killed by a snake.” said Rikki-tikki. “But why did it run….?” said Darzee’s wife. “Well, since the Coppersmith proclaimed the death of Nag and Nagaina for miles around, it’s bound to have reached their notice that there’s a mongoose in the garden!” laughed Chuchundra. “No cobra is coming here!” The other animals, except Rikki, and Darzee’s wife, who possessed a good deal of sense and didn’t believe in the invincibility of the garden, cheer. “Well, those two over there don’t seem to have listened very well to the Coppersmith, now have they?” said Darzee’s wife, causing all of the others to turn around. Rikki’s heart leapt into his stomach. More cobras. Just what he needed. But he knew what to do. “Go away if you know what’s good for you!” he said, barring the way of the two approaching cobras. “Who is this mongoose who dares interfere with our designs?” hissed the nearest. “My name is Rikki-tikki-tavi. And might I ask who you are?” he said to them. “I am Ragiva and this is my brother Kinsta.” said Ragiva. “Be careful. I am Death!” he said, bearing his teeth. “Get lost, if he knows what’s good for you. Our Mother Nagasta only wishes to harm the humans. She’s not come to fight with you. And we’re not afraid to fight you!” hissed Kinsta. “I’m not afraid of you or your mother! And tell her that an attack on the family here is an attack on me, so she’ll have to deal with me if she dares come near this place.” said Rikki. “You look a little young to be going on killing missions.” “Our Mother fears that the man there has a bang stick! She thinks we‘ve a better chance of avoiding its fire.” said Kinsta. “I‘m sure she really loves you. Sending you possibly to your deaths like this.” said Rikki sarcastically. “Well he doesn’t know about us, does he?” said Ragiva. “No.” said Rikki, realizing that she was right. “But that can be changed. I can always get him and have him get you with his gun! That is if I don’t get you first!” said Rikki, jumping at Ragiva, who moves out of the way and slithers off in anger. Kinsta moves at Rikki, who backs up just in time to avoid being bitten. “We’ll be back and you’ll be sorry you messed with us!“ hissed Kinsta before slithering away as well. “I’ll be waiting!” said Rikki-tikki. “Why didn’t you chase after them? Now they‘ve gotten away and they‘re pretty mad!” said Darzee, a little angrily. “Only a stupid mongoose takes on two cobras at once if he can help it. I wasn’t fighting for my life. Anyway, maybe they’ll stay away, though I doubt it. At the very least, Teddy and his family should be alerted to the new cobras here.” said Rikki. “And I think I’ll do that myself. “ he said again. He picked up the two dead frogs in his mouth and ran into Teddy’s bedroom and dropped them next to the sleeping boy. Teddy woke and stared at Rikki. “What are you doing here fellow?” he said, rubbing Rikki’s fur. Teddy stares at the dead frogs. “Thought Father said you guys don’t eat frogs.” said Teddy, a bit confused. He went off to show it to his father. “Most unusual.” said the big man. “Never thought a mongoose would…..” his eyes widen. “Get your mother!” he said again to Teddy. “So, I think our mongoose is trying to warn us of more snakes. That’s definitely what killed these frogs. I can see if from the teeth marks. Those are from fangs, not the bites of a mongoose. I’ll keep watch tonight.” said the big man, heading for his gun. “That aught to slow down this Nagasta.” said Rikki to himself, slipping out an opened window unnoticed. “So, did it work?” said Darzee’s wife. “Yes. He’s got that thing in his hand. His gun that killed Nag. Well, finished him off anyway. And nearly got me too!” Rikki shuddered. “I don’t fancy their chances against that. Anyway, I have a favor to ask from you and Darzee.” he said again. “Anything.” said Darzee’s wife. “The garden is once more at war. Go across the rising stream and tell my family, in case I don’t come out of this alive, that I love them. Tell them I’m fine right now. They must think me dead by now.” said Rikki. Darzee and his wife leave and come back a few hours later. “I found them. Lovely family. They were simply overjoyed to hear that you were still alive. Thought you have been drowned or killed by a king cobra.” said Darzee. “Not yet.” said Rikki. “I miss them terribly. Once this flood is over and the cobras are all dead, as it should be, I can come back to them. But I think I’ll stay here. I love it here. We can all live here.” said Rikki longingly. “Well, that would do us all good. With a family of mongooses, no cobra will dare come within ten kilometers of this place.” said Darzee’s wife happily. “Well, let’s hope not.” said Rikki. “But in the meantime, we need to find out about this Nagasta and if she has any more children and who’s her mate.” he said again. “Could you follow some of these cobras if you spot them. Follow them to this Nagasta and her mate. Then report back to me. I want to know what I’m up against.” he said. “Sure thing.” said Darzee’s wife, flying off. “I hope you haven’t sent her off to her death.” said Darzee, ruffling his feathers a bit. “I really hope I haven’t either.” said Rikki, uneasily. She is gone for several hours and Darzee begins composing a lament for his wife, thinking her dead. When he reaches the most touching part however, she returns, though with a grim face. “You’re alive!” exclaims Darzee, ending his song at once. “Well, I’ve got bad news. There’s 27 of them. And she’s a fiercer cobra than I’ve ever seen before, even Nagaina I reckon. Something about her looks familiar, but I can’t figure out what from that distance. And her mate is nearly as frightening as her. I spied on them for hours and she tried to get me. Something about her voice frightens me. She said ’Come down nosy bird! Come down!’ and I foolishly looked down at her, surprised that she had noticed me, and I saw her eyes. I was paralyzed with fear. I actually fell out of the air from terror. She moved over me and licked me with her tongue. I begged her to let me live. That I had a husband and two children. Then she said ‘Of course little bird.‘ and I thought she actually might let me go and I started to thank her for her kindness but then she laughed wickedly and said ‘After I’m done eating you, I‘ll make sure to eat them too so they won‘t be lonely.’ I thought she’d be eating me for her lunch, but in desperation I closed me eyes and was able to blindly fly away from her. She called after me saying ’Fly away little bird! I’ll find you, you nosy little bird, and I’ll gobble up you and your family all the same!’ She’s evil I tell you! Very evil!” she said grimly. The others tremble, looking to Rikki for guidance. “Well, I’ll have to outwit them. I can’t overpower that many. No mongoose, not even the oldest and most powerful, can handle that many at once.” said Rikki-tikki. “We‘re doomed!” said Darzee. “I’ve got an idea.” said Rikki, heading away from the others. “Where are you going?” said Chua. “Hunting.” said Rikki-tikki. “Hunting?” said Chua. “You’re not going cobra hunting, are you?” “No. Actually mouse hunting.” said Rikki. “Mouse hunting. Very odd, but I guess if you’re hungry…” said Darzee, not wanting to think about eating mice. “Oh, it’s not that, though I haven’t eaten as the humans forgot to feed me in their haste to prepare for the cobras. But, and I’m going to need your help/”, he said to Darzee and his wife. “I can’t do this with my teeth. They’ll never fall for it.” said Rikki-tikki-Tavi. “In the meantime, call the Coppersmith. Tell him to spread the word. The garden is once more in danger.” said Rikki solemnly. “Ding-dong-tock! We’re under attack! Ding-dong-tock! They’re coming back! There’s more cobras! Ding-dong-tock!” cried the Coppersmith. All around, frogs are running to shelter and birds are flying as high as they can in the trees. Rabbits are hopping into their holes and ants are running into their hills. “I haven’t seen such a panic since Nag and Nagaina and Karait came to the garden!” said Darzee, very frightened. “I wonder what Rikki’s going to do with all of those mice. Thought he said that eating a lot would make him a slow mongoose, and that’s not want we want. Especially now.” said Darzee’s wife. Just then Rikki comes back with several carcasses of dead mice. Darzee and his wife give Rikki a fearful look. “You’re on our side. I know that. But still, you’re a little scary at times.” said Darzee. “Anyway.” said Rikki, belching. “Pardon me.” he said. “I’ve got an idea. I’ve eaten out the insides. And we’re going to fill them with tiny little pebbles of different sizes, then you’re going to use your special skills#. You guys are going to use small vines and stuff, not that big, to put back the skins so they don’t know they’ve been tampered with.” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. “We’ll do it. Though personally I’d rather be eaten by a cobra.” said Darzee, causing Rikki and Darzee’s wife to laugh. The two birds do the task, though they wash their beaks out in a nearby creek once the task is done. “Nice.“ said Rikki, admiring their work. Just then, several cobras approach them, heading toward the garden. “Tailorbirds.” said Kinsta. “Haven’t had one since this morning. Love their taste.” “The poor thing.” whispered Darzee’s wife. “Not as much as I do.” said Rikki, startling both the cobras and Darzee and his wife, causing the tailorbirds to collide in midair and fall to the ground next to Rikki, startled. “Who’s there?” hissed a cobra. “A friend.” said Rikki, causing Darzee and his wife to stare at him, dumbfounded. “Show yourself then, friend!” hissed another cobra. Rikki comes out a few feet from behind the tree clump that he and Darzee and his wife had been working on their project behind. “You’re Rikki-tikki-tavi! The mongoose who said he’d attack us if we came back.” hissed Ragiva. “Yes. Though I can assure you, I no longer care what you do to the family. In fact, I’d almost like to see what you do to them.” said Rikki. “Didn’t their taking you in mean anything to you?” said Darzee, falling for Rikki’s charade. “Yes. But they left me for a while without food, once they found out about the cobras. Kicked me out to fend for myself. I’ve had to sustain myself on….tailorbird eggs.” said Rikki coldly, staring at Darzee and his wife. Darzee’s wife gives Rikki a fake cold look. “You little weasel#!” she said in fake anger. “Actually, I think I‘ll eat these two, who by the way were glad to see the end of Nag and Nagaina, two cobras who rightfully should have controlled the garden, and would love for you all to die, preferably at my hand, with all of my effort, while they sit and watch.” said Rikki, pretending to be disgusted with Darzee and his wife, “Seeing as they were about to find out about my egg eating anyway. So now with them dead, I can go and eat the rest of their children.” he said. “So, that’s how it’s going to be? After all we’ve done for you!” said Darzee in fake fury. “Oh please.” said Rikki in fake disgust. “You’ve known where my family was all along. You’ve told them I’m dead and told me the garden was in danger from snakes for a while because you’ve been too afraid I might not be there to be your slave in case the real thing came along.” said Rikki, starting to lick his lips. “Leave me to my lunch. In the meantime, I’ve left several mice as a peace offering for you and your mother. I hope you can forgive my rudeness earlier. For now, I’ve got some birds I’ve got to attend to.” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. Darzee and his wife whimper in mock fear as Rikki pins them down. “Rikki, we’re your friends. Please don’t eat us!“ said Darzee. “Tell you what Darzee. Since you’re my friend. I’ll eat you first!“ said Rikki. The cobras leave to go eat the bobby trapped mice and, as soon as they are out of sight, Rikki begins chewing on a stick, pretending to be eating Darzee. Darzee cries out in mock agony while Darzee‘s wife pleads with Rikki to stop. Darzee goes silent, pretending to have been eaten by Rikki. “Delicious!“ said Rikki. “You heartless monster!“ screamed Darzee’s wife. “Don’t worry, I have room for seconds!“ said Rikki. “No! Don’t!“ screamed Darzee’s wife in mock fear. She cries out and after about a minute goes silent, pretending to have been eaten too. “Did you actually eat them?” said Kinsta’s voice, coming nearer toward them. “I’m sorry about this Darzee.” whispered Rikki. “Sorry about what?” whispered Darzee. His question is answered a second later as Rikki quickly bites, not hard, into Darzee’s left wing, drawing blood. He then pulls out a few of Darzee’s feathers and quickly sits on the two tailorbirds to hide them from view as Kinsta comes into view. He notices the blood on Rikki’s lips and the tailorbird feathers next to him. “Darzee and his wife. Two tailorbirds that would have stood in our way. Now all they’ll do is be digested in my stomach!” Rikki and Kinsta laughed. “They had two live children. I’ll throw them down to you…er…later. Just let me have the eggs. I love eggs. In the meantime, enjoy the mice I’ve brought. Killed them myself.” said Rikki. “Wow. Won’t Mother be pleased at this? With Rikki-tikki-tavi, not only refusing to help the humans or the birds anymore, but actually befriending us, we should make quick work of the humans. And maybe eat more of those tailorbirds.” said Ragiva, coming near the stuffed mice. “Yeah, those tailorbirds over there sure got it. I expect they’d have been happier to meet us than him.” hissed another, picking up a stuffed mouse in her mouth. “Especially nice of him to kill these for us.” she hissed, swallowing the stuffed mouse. “Mmmmmm…a lot of meat on that one. We’ll have to tell Mother and Father to let him have his pick of the garden creatures once we rule the garden.” she said, belching. About three-fifths of the others eat the remaining mice. “Delicious! Praise be to Rikki-tikki-tavi, our new mongoose friend!” hissed a cobra. “I don’t feel so well.” said Ragiva. “Come on, Ragiva, we all know some mice give you gas, but we don’t mind. Quite good and fat mice too.” said Kinsta. Ragiva suddenly sways, her stomach rumbling with painful indigestion. She moves a bit, then hits the ground, then lies still and doesn’t move again. “Ragiva! Ragiva!” said another cobra, moving next to her. “She’s passed out.” he said. “Tricked! Tricked! Tricked! Rikk-tck-tck!” chuckled Rikki, coming toward them, with the very much alive Darzee and his wife. “Why use brawn when you can use your brains? I hope you cobras love to eat rock!” he chuckled, quickly scurrying away from the cobras with Darzee and his wife flying away behind him as fast as they can. At the edge of their vision, he calls back, as more cobras pass out from indigestion, “Rikki-tick-tck! You sure all look sick! Send my love to your mother.” he laughed, before leaving them. “They’ve been gone far too long!” said Chuchundra. “I’m back.” said Rikki. “Did you eat those cobras for lunch?” said Chua. “No, I’ve eaten mice.” said Rikki. “And us.” laughed Darzee and his wife. I didn’t hurt them…..”he laughed, “at least not that much.” Several animals stared at him in horror. “No, no. Nothing mean. I promise! I pretended like I had seen the error of my ways. That the humans had neglected me and I had…in my hunger…eaten Darzee’s eggs. Well, these cobras weren’t the brightest lamps in the bungalow, so they didn’t question me. I then told them I was going to eat Darzee and his wife, before they could tell everyone how I eat tailorbird eggs. We all made it look really convincing. I’d given them mice, as a ‘peace offering’ to them and their mother. Well, those foolish cobras ate them. Thing is, Darzee and his wife and I stuffed them with some stones. We figured they’d like to eat rocks.” he said as the others laugh. Meanwhile, the cobras who didn’t eat the mice make their way back to their mother and father. They approach Karistan, a tall and dark green king cobra. Their mother, Nagasta#, has a figure very similar to Nagaina’s but cold unfeeling eyes like that of Nag’s. She has patches of dark green and black on her. “So, are the humans dead at last?” she hisses. “Er, no…but half of our siblings are knocked out from indigestion.” said another king cobra. “What?! How? What were you eating? I told you guys not to eat those mushrooms! They don‘t help with gas!” she hissed angrily. “That mongoose Rikki-tikki-tavi!” said one of her children. “I am not going to believe” she hissed angrily “that one lone young mongoose knocked out at least 10 of my children! she said. “No, it was him. Him and the tailorbirds. He pretends he hates the humans, that he ate the tailorbirds’ eggs and then said he’d eat the tailorbirds. He must have bitten them to drawn blood and fake their deaths. He offered us a peace offering of mice, which he and his bird friends must have stuffed with stones. The others ate those without thinking and got sick and passed out. We never thought much as he did of a pretty convincing job of pretending to eat those tailorbirds and they did a pretty good job of pretending to be eaten, especially the female with her curse on him for eating her husband.“ “You never thought much! You didn’t think that much at all!“ she hissed angrily. “Then Ragiva fell down and passed out and then Rikki-tikki-tavi came out chuckling ‘Tricked! Tricked! Tricked! Rikk-tck-tck!’ and then headed away after saying ‘Rikki-tick-tck! You sure all look sick! Send my love to your mother.’” said one of her children, continuing. “Well, I’ll settle him now too! I’ll strike him down!” she said, suddenly striking up and attacking a bird that had been flying too close and not paying attention to her. “Yes” hissed Karistan “and I’ll see to those two nasty tailorbirds. I haven’t eaten anything in three days.” “I wish our children could be as resourceful at getting in to the garden as this mongoose has been at keeping them out.” said Nagasta, eating the bird. “At least he‘s not dangerous. A proper mongoose would have killed them all. It‘s what I would have done.” she said, swallowing the dead bird. “I think I’ll deal with him personally!” “Still no sign of those cobras.” said Teddy’s mother. “Our mongoose must have chased them off.” said Teddy’s father. “We haven’t fed him today, have we?” said Teddy. “No, I’ll go feed him now! I’m so glad we’ve found him!” said Alice. The partying over the defeat of the cobras continued into the night in the garden. Rikki had grown tired of explaining over and over how he had managed to knock them out without having to fight them head on. “Look. I’m getting tired. I….” he said, pausing and hearing a rustling in the grass. It sounded familiar. None of the others had noticed this. Had he been younger, like he was when he first entered the garden, he surely would have been killed, but he knew, or at least suspected anyway, and jumped into the air just in time as Karistan came flying at him. Rikki manages to bite him in the tail but, because Rikki-tikki didn’t have a chance to get a good hold, he easily breaks free and scurries out of reach. “So, you are cleverer than we thought, and faster too it seems.” said Karistan, looking at Rikki as though hoping to kill him with his stare. “And who might you be?” said Rikki. “I am Karistan! A very dangerous king cobra! You were most foolish to harm my children!” he hissed darting at Rikki who keeps jumping out of the way, causing Karistan to hit his head on vines and trees and the ground. “And your children were most foolish to eat mice filled with stones.” chuckled Rikki. “You’ve attacked your last cobra!” hissed Karistan, swaying left and right and narrowly missing Rikki several times. “I know a ripe subject for my next one.” said Rikki, swiping back at Karistan. Rikki jumps out of the way as Nagasta, Karistan’s evil wife, comes hurtling at him. “Nagasta I presume.” said Rikki, getting back on his feet. “Well, I admit you’re stronger than I thought. I thought for sure we’d get you.” she hissed. “Sorry to disappoint you.” said Rikki. “Why isn’t our mongoose back? He always likes to sleep in here.” said Teddy. “Oh, all right, I’ll go get him.” said the big man. He heads outside, then, noticing Nagasta and Karistan, heads for his gun. Rikki, Karistan, and Nagasta see him coming. Nagasta, in one of her own clever ideas, hides behind Rikki, he fails to strike at her as she passes. Karistan slides away into the grass. “Aren’t you going to stick around? You’ll make a nice addition to the rubbish heap.” said Rikki. The big man lowers his gun, unwilling to risk hitting Rikki. Rikki, whose eyes have turned red, stares straight into Nagasta’s eyes. He at last understood why birds were terrified when looking into the eyes of a king cobra. He held his gaze, though he couldn’t help but think that there was indeed something familiar about Nagasta. But what? She was indeed evil. And he felt a strange emotion for a mongoose. One he had never really felt much in his life, certainly not this much, before: fear. Nevertheless, Nagasta was also shocked that somebody could stare her down. Nobody, not even the other cobras, save her own family, could stare her down. “I like you Rikki-tikki-tavi. You are very clever and quick. In fact, I respect you enough that I’ll let you stay in my garden once I am queen of it, if only you will back down.” she hissed. “We’ll never have you as Queen!” shouted Darzee. “We’ll have no more Nagainas!” shouted Darzee’s wife. “Well, if it isn’t the little bird who spied on me. You are a brave one, little bird. However, if you and your mate here give me anymore grief, I promise you you’ll miss dear old Nagaina once I am queen!” hissed Nagasta. “That isn‘t going to happen!” said Rikki. “I’d love nothing less than to strike you dead where you stand!” she hissed angrily. “Well, come and fight!” said Rikki, still staring into her eyes, though really wishing he could look away, but knowing full well that doing so would be the death of him. “I find it a pity that such a wonderful creature as yourself should be wasted so needlessly.” she said, moving her head toward him. “What use could I possibly be to you?” he asked, following her head carefully with his eyes, “I know that you can move fast. You could easily subdue the garden for me. We’d let you have power only less than Karistan and myself. Someday, I’d like to rule the jungle. And you could be my right hand man. Think of the power you could have!” she hissed. “Yes, far more than these stupid humans could offer you!” “You’d make a terrible queen!” he said, bearing his teeth. “You’ve hurt my feelings.” she hissed, moving nearer to Rikki-tikki. “Come closer and I’ll hurt more than that!” he threatened. “How very brave of you.” she hissed. “A few mongooses, on separate occasions, have all tried to kill me. They were dead within two minutes!” “I’m not afraid of dying.” said Rikki. Though I’d prefer not to. he thought. “You’re so young. Why die for a bunch of stupid humans?” she said. “They are my family. And you won’t be able to harm them!” he said, leaping at her. She moved aside and struck at him. He barely dodged her. Wow, she wasn’t kidding! he thought. “Since I respect you, Rikki-tikki, I’ll grant you a quick death.” she said, moving at him several times and swinging back to avoid his counterattack. “What will your family say when you don’t come home? You appear all alone. Why aren’t your mother and father here?” she asked. “We, er, got separated. I hope to meet them soon.” he said. “No chance of that happening by deciding to fight me, Nagasta The Powerful and Terrible.” she said, hitting him in the head with her tail. “Nice name. Your mother give it to you?” he chuckled. She paused, then seemed to become even angrier. “I’ve waited a long time for this moment! I’m not going to let a little pesky mongoose like you get in my way!” she hissed, darting at him. Somehow, he could never explain it as long as he lived, he moved away just in time and was able to kick her, causing her to fly backward and away from him and into a tree. “Ready for more pain?” he said. “Aren’t you going to be busy?“ said Nagasta evilly. “Your tailorbird friends will be dying to meet Karistan. In the meantime, I think I’ll leave. I don’t fancy my chances against that gun. But rest assured, O Rikki-tikki-tavi, you and the big man and his family will soon be dead and the garden will be ours!” she hissed, sliding away as Rikki ran toward Darzee and his wife. He’d come not a moment too soon. Karistan had managed to reach the top of the tree, two of his sons right behind him. Rikki decided what to do in a second. “Wicked tailorbirds!” hissed Karistan. “Did you think you were funny, attacking my children? And what will yours do when you are dead? Perhaps me sons can have them too. Now see what happens to those who befriend mongooses and humans!” he hissed, about to strike Darzee. “Grab the kids and go! I’ll hold him off!” shouted Darzee to his wife. “How very touching.” said Karistan. “What would you give for one of your children?” said Rikki. Karistan turned, allowing Darzee to fly toward his wife and kids. “What did you say Rikki-tikki-tavi? I was just about to eat your little friend here.” hissed Karistan, now turning to stare at Darzee and his wife, who are shielding their children. “Let them live, or I’ll bite him in half!” said Rikki, coming toward Karistan with one of his sons trapped in his mouth, unable to bite Rikki and too afraid to do so, lest he be bitten in half. “Let him go!” snarled Karistan, jumping at Rikki, who spits out the cobra, causing him to fall a few feet and recoil angrily. Rikki and Karistan collide. Both hit the ground and are separated by the impact. Suddenly, the big man’s gun fires off twice, narrowly missing Karistan‘s two children, who slither off, alarmed. “We’ll meet again, Rikki-tikki!” he hissed, moving past Rikki and into a hole and under the garden wall. “That mongoose has saved us again.” said Teddy’s father. “You won’t let anything happen to us, will you fella?” said Teddy, stroking Rikki’s fur. Rikki and Teddy went to bed. Rikki felt he really needed rest as he would need his wits about him to keep protecting the family from these new intruders. He lay awake for a while though, trying to think of what looked so familiar about Nagasta, but couldn’t think of anything. He suddenly heard something in the distance. “Oh big man who did me wrong!” a voice hissed, “stay still. I am not ready yet. Wait a little. If you come for me I strike, and if you do not leave, I will soon strike. Oh, foolish people, who did me wrong!” It was Nagasta. Almost like Nagaina. he thought. Just what I need! Looks like she’ll be coming back soon! But she won’t come tonight! I know she won’t! he thought, before falling asleep. “Rikki…oh you’re asleep.” said Darzee. “I was.” said Rikki, getting up and yawning. “Sorry.” said Darzee’s wife. “Any news on the cobras?” said Rikki eagerly. “Nothing. However, the flood water is rising. We went to visit your family and they were just leaving your home. The water’s coming in too quickly. They’re going to try and come here, but they will probably have to wait for the water to go down. Several of Chuchundra’s friends have had to move their nest banks to avoid the rising water. If this keeps up, the water could be near here.” said Darzee solemnly. “Well, that just caps off the day, doesn’t it?” said Rikki gloomily. “I’m trying to stop a bunch of cobras from threatening the garden and now I have to worry about a flood.”’ he said. “Thank you for saving our lives.” said Darzee. “Oh, you’ve saved me countless times from those cobras. It’s the least I can do.” said Rikki. “Because of you, our children can have a future.” said Darzee’s wife, suddenly hugging him. “You’re welcome.” said Rikki. “Now, I need my sleep. I can’t go fighting those cobras half-asleep, now can I?” he said, lying back down and closing his eyes. “I wonder what Nagasta and her friends are up to know.” said Darzee. “Something sinister no doubt.” said his wife. “I’m trying to sleep!” said Rikki, irritably. “We’ll be quiet.” said Darzee as he and his wife flew out of the room. Rain starts to pour outside. Rikki, annoyed at the new source of noise, sticks his head under a pillow to drown it out and falls asleep again. He is woken up the next morning by Chua. “What?” said Rikki sleepily. “Chuchundra, he’s just got caught in the flood! Oh what are we going to do?” said Chua frantically. “I’ll go get him!” said Rikki, jumping out of the bed and waking Teddy. “Where are you going fella?” said Teddy. “Stay here.” said Rikki. Rikki runs out outside the garden and sees a horrible site. Twenty feet from the garden wall and coming nearer is a large wall of rapidly rising water. Chuchundra is out at least five feet deep and is starting to be pulled under. “Swim for it!” yelled Rikki-tikki to his friend. “I’m almost out of strength!” said Chuchundra. “I’m coming!” said Rikki, diving into the water. Rikki manages to reach his friend, who, in a panic, starts to pull him under. “Stop it Chuchundra! I’m trying to save you!” said Rikki, taking in water. “Help, I’m drowning!” yelled Chuchundra, pulling Rikki under again in his attempt to stay afloat. Teddy, noticing the commotion, comes by and climbs on a tree overhanging the water. “Come on fella!” he yells, grabbing Rikki‘s head. Teddy manages to rescue them both, though nearly falls into the water when the branch breaks as they are heading down. “That was close.” said Chuchundra. “Thank you Teddy!” said Rikki gratefully. “Teddy, what are you doing?” said the big man. “I just saved our mongoose.” he said proudly. “Well, be careful next time.” said the big man, leading his son inside. The rain continues as the tree where they had been is swept away by the rising waters. “And so, what do you plan to do exactly Nagasta?” came a voice nearby. “Nagasta!” said Rikki. He and Chuchundra creep toward the sound of the voice. “Well, I think to get even, we should kill the boy and his mother. Leave the big man all alone, without his wife or son. But don’t worry, I’ll settle him too. Then I‘ll be the rightful queen of the garden, as I should have been. Anyway, the water will soon have them trapped. They‘ll be dead before the big man can get to his gun. And I‘ll be out before he can load it.” she hissed. “Over my dead body!” yelled Rikki, springing toward her. She turns and glares at Rikki-tikki. “I should love to see that! Oh silly me! I’d forgotten what to do with you. How kind of you to come to me so that I can finish you and not have to worry about you later.” she hisses in mock sweetness, advancing toward Rikki. “Kill him Tivía!” she hisses. “I am Tivía, a powerful snake that has killed five mongooses! You’ll make my sixth one!” Tivía hisses. “I‘ve killed more snakes than five!” said Rikki. Rikki, his eyes red once more, fights Tivía while Nagasta watches, eagerly. “What are you at about? Trying to kill the human family?” said Chuchundra to Nagasta. “Oh, another one?! Wait, you’re only a muskrat. Not that it will make any difference for you. I know where your loyalties lie.” she hissed, advancing toward Chuchundra. “Rikki, I need help!” said Chuchundra, starting to run. Rikki and Tivía are at the water’s edge. Tivía nearly bites Rikki. She corners him against the water. “Trapped! Silly fool, to think you could kill me!” said Tivía . “Well, I killed Krait, Nag, and Nagaina.“ said Rikki. “What?! Impossible! They were too powerful and Nagasta spoke so highly of them…“ she was cut off as Rikki, on instinct, seizes her head in between his paws and pulls her head under the water until Tivía has drowned. “Have a drink.” said Rikki. “Come on Nagasta! Care to join her?” said Rikki. “I don‘t prefer to drown!” she hissed, staring at the water. “However, if you continue to oppose me, you will most certainly meet your end!” she hissed before fleeing. “Nice one Rikki.” said Chuchundra. Rikki headed back and rested for the rest of the day. The water comes to within five feet of the garden wall. “Nagasta wants to kill Teddy and his mother#.” said Rikki to Darzee and his wife upon waking up that evening. “Why?” they said in unison. “I don’t know. To get back at the big man for something. What’s even stranger is that she seems to think she’s the rightful queen of the garden.” said Rikki. “I don’t know what she’s like, but I hated it when Nagaina was queen of the garden.” said Darzee, not wanting to think about those days. “Well she’ll never be queen of this garden as long as I’m here!” declared Rikki boldly. “She ran from me after I killed her friend. Said she’d rather face me alone. That and she didn’t like the idea of possibly being washed away by that rising water, a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with.” said Rikki. “That stupid water separated me from my family. If it hadn’t, well life would have been so different.” he said, almost wishing things hadn’t happened the way they did. “There’s got to be a reason you got brought here.” said Darzee. “Was it a good one?” said Rikki. “You killed Nag, Nagaina, and Karait” said Darzee’s wife. “I risked death for what…to be worrying about Nagasta!” said Rikki. “But your family will be here….once the water has gone down.” said Darzee, trying to cheer Rikki up. “If they don’t drown” said Rikki, “and if Nagasta hasn’t cleaned the people out here before they get here.” said Rikki. “What do you mean?” said Darzee’s wife. “I’ve seen that kind of hatred before. It was the same look Nagaina had before she tried to kill the big people.” said Rikki. Darzee and his wife shudder. “Also, that‘s another odd thing.” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. “What?” said Darzee. “Nagasta must have known Nag and Nagaina. I don‘t know how she knew them, but Tivía says that Nagasta spoke very highly of them.” “Great, another Nagaina fan!” said Darzee‘s wife. “She means killing. Tonight I fear.” said Rikki-tikki again. “Are you certain?” said Darzee. Teddy and his father are sandbagging the area inside the garden wall to prevent the water from coming in if it gets that far. “Yes. And I think she plans to kill me in my sleep.” said Rikki. “She’ll never be able to do that. You’re such a light sleeper.” said Darzee. “Hopefully my family can finish her if she gets me.” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. “Don’t say such things!” said Darzee’s wife. “Then again my family doesn’t know about her, unless you’ve told them.” said Rikki. Darzee’s wife shakes her head. “She could lay a trap for them. They think there are no cobras nearby. With her cobra friends, she might be able to overwhelm my family if it came to a surprise attack.” said Rikki. “Yes, she’d lose some of her cobras if she attempts it, but if done cleverly enough, she could kill them all in the end anyway.” said Rikki in response to Darzee’s open mouth of astonishment. “Mongooses aren’t invincible! It was sheer dumb luck that saved me from Karait and Nag. And even greater luck that saved me from Nagaina.” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. “So you’re going to fight her?” said Darzee. “Better than lying here and waiting for her to bite me in my sleep.” said Rikki. “And” said Rikki-tikki, “she knows that you’ve helped me attack her children. What’s stopping her from coming here at night and crawling up the tree to get your children? You’ve moved your nest to a lower branch after Nagaina’s death . She can reach up there, you know.” said Rikki. Darzee’s eyes widen as he realizes the same thing. “Our children are nearly grown. We’ve already lost one to Nag. We’re not losing anymore!#” said Darzee’s wife. “What would you do?” said Rikki sarcastically. “Peck out her eyes?” “If I have to.” said Darzee. “My kids will be able to fly on their own in a week and then the cobras can’t get them.” “She’s coming tonight!” said Rikki, feeling that they weren’t taking him seriously. “That’s enough Teddy.” said Teddy’s father. The two head inside. “I’m going to defend them. She’s coming tonight I tell you!” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. He walks toward the garden wall and climbs up a tree and then jumps to the top of the wall. “Be careful.” said Darzee’s wife. The sun sets and four hours later the rest of the creatures go to bed. Rikki sits, awake and alert on the wall. After about an hour, he notices the water two feet from the wall. “She’ll never be able to come from over there.” said Rikki, noticing the fast moving current blocking all paths heading toward the garden. However, while climbing around on the wall, he notices, on the side opposite the garden, a small dip in the land that has been blocked from the water thus far by a large pile of boulders. “Aha!” he said to himself and jumped from the wall, heading toward it. He waited till midnight and then heard two voices in the dark. “I’d like to do this personally. It’s me that they’ve wronged. Not you.” said what was clearly Nagasta’s voice. “You’re my wife. They’ve wronged you. They’ve wronged me.” said what was obviously Karistan’s voice. “I was right!” muttered Rikki under his breath. “You can eat them. Once they’re dead I’ve no use for the bodies. And there’s always Rikki-tikki-tavi. I’ll bite him in his sleep. He’ll be dead before he wakes up!” hissed Nagasta proudly. Not if I can help it! Rikki-tikki thought. “May the great god Brahm, favorer of our kind, protect you.” said Karistan, turning and leaving. “This will make easy work!” hissed Nagasta, heading across the valley. “Nice night, isn’t it, eh Wrinkle Skin?” said Rikki, revealing himself to her. It starts to rain and thunder rumbles nearby. “Rikki-tikki-tavi, I presume?” said Nagasta casually. “Yep. Turn back or die Nagasta!” said Rikki, his eyes changing to red. “You will not stop my revenge!” she hissed, raising herself to her full height and raising her hood. “What do you have against them anyway?” said Rikki-tikki. “And what do you care about Nag and Nagaina?” “The humans killed my family.” she hissed. “What do you mean?” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. “The big man shot my Father Nag and he must have killed my Mother Nagaina too! Yes, Nag and Nagaina are my parents, meddlesome fool! He smashed all my siblings’ eggs. I found Father’s body on their rubbish pile and the bodies of my siblings and of his friend Karait. The foolish garden crier dared to cry out their names. Everyone seemed to be pleased they were dead. I never found Mother but they clearly said she was dead. I waited till the little beasts were asleep, and, knowing they might be too on the alert for cobras at the time, went off, all alone and looked for friends of my parents. I was able to tell them about their deaths, how the big man had murdered them. Foolish man! He didn‘t get my egg! Now I can get back at him! Now I will kill his son and wife!” said Nagasta, moving toward him and starting to sway. “What?!” said Rikki. You’re Nag and Nagaina’s daughter?!? he thought. No, it can’t be! Can it? He has a flashback. “What price for a snake’s egg? For a young cobra? For a young king cobra? For the last — the very last of the brood?” said Rikki. “Give me the egg, Rikki-tikki. Give me the last of my eggs, and I will go away and never come back,” she said, lowering her hood. “Yes, you will go away, and you will never come back. For you will go to the rubbish heap with Nag. Fight, widow! The big man has gone for his gun! Fight!” Rikki said. Nagaina rushes forward and takes the egg to her den. The scene flashes forward to a later scene between Nagaina and Rikki. “And once you are dead, I shall make short work of your muskrat friend and your bird friends and especially” Nagaina hissed gleefully, “those human vermin! At last I’ll be Queen of the Garden!“ Never!” yelled Rikki, charging at her and causing the egg to fall out of her mouth and roll several feet away from the two combatants. Now he realized his blunder. Nagasta was “the very last of the brood.” It hit him like the lightning bolts starting to fall around them nearby. He hadn’t destroyed the last egg! “No, it can’t be!” said Rikki-tikki-tavi, still in disbelief. It can’t be. It can’t be. he thought. “Yes! You’ve heard of Nag and Nagaina; I trust your tailorbird friends have told you about them. They were glad to see them gone, I expect. But I’ve had the last laugh! Those humans failed to destroy my egg! Now I shall destroy them!” hissed Nagasta. “Now, out of my way or you will die!” she hissed. No, I killed your family! he thought. And hopefully you’ll join them tonight! Should he dare tell her#? No! he thought. She’ll only be all the madder at me. Anyway, those boulders won’t hold out much longer. Best let the water finish her, like I should have done months ago! he thought. “I know about your family! And they will all die as will you if you do not get out of the way now!” she hissed, again trying to strike him. “Well, you can’t get to them with this flood!” said Rikki-tikki defiantly. “True. But I was going to get my cobras to ambush them after I was done with my errand!” she hissed. “You’ll never be going back to them!” said Rikki. “You’ll be dead before sunrise!” he said. He let out his war cry, “ “Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk#!” “More and more cobras are joining my cause every day! Young fool!” she hissed, trying several times to bite him and narrowly missing him. “Now feel the wrath of the daughter of Nag and Nagaina, true king and queen of the garden!” she hissed, swaying like crazy and driving Rikki back toward the garden wall with her many swipes at him. Oh boy! he thought. She’s worse than Nag or Nagaina! It’s now or never! he thought, starting to swipe at Nagasta with his claws and trying to bite her and punching wildly at her, driving her back down the hill a bit toward the valley. The last aim he manages to claw her slightly and draw some blood, but her fangs come so close to him that he can feel her hot breath and the venom drips onto his skin, burning it slightly. Was this the end? Was he going to die defending the garden from Nagasta, the last vile child of Nag and Nagaina, who had escaped him? Would his family be safe? he thought. “It’s over Nagasta! You’ll never be queen of the garden!” he said, knowing he had very little chance of killing her. He moves left and right, dancing to avoid her. He swings at her and she is hit, but not hurt that much. This is getting nowhere fast. he thought. This little pest is stronger than I thought! thought Nagasta in her purely evil heart. Confident as she was of her superior abilities over the young, foolish mongoose, deep down, she was slightly afraid. However, the battle seemed to be going her way as she drives Rikki several feet away from the boulders and down the valley. So this is how I die. thought Rikki. I’ve got to make one last attempt! I owe my family and Teddy’s family that much! he thought. As he prepared to make a suicidal leap at her in a desperate attempt to kill her, the boulders gave way and the water started coming! “Have fun drowning Rikki-tikki! I’ll be back to claim my garden someday! We‘ll meet again!” she hisses, fleeing and swimming over some rising water. Rikki runs with all of his strength and manages to reach the garden wall. The water is right behind him. Am I going to escape her only to drown? he thought miserably. He leaps into the air, hoping to grab onto the ledge, but he hasn’t jumped quite high enough to reach it. Suddenly two paws reach out and he grabs them and they pull him up over the wall. He is staring at an adult male mongoose who resembles Rikki in some ways. “Father?” he says in astonishment and joy. “What were you trying to prove by taking on that cobra? We managed to get past her. What was she on about? We didn’t quite hear her. The rain is too loud to hear anything from very far. She nearly killed you!” said his father. “She was after the family that lives here.” said Rikki. He didn’t feel like going into the story of how he’d failed to destroy the last egg at that time. In fact, he thought, no need to worry Darzee or the others either. Nagasta wouldn’t dare come within miles of the garden now that his family was living there. But still, he thought of her words. More and more cobras are joining my cause every day! “I think she will come back someday. Anyway, she’s after the wrong people. It wasn’t the people that did it.” said Rikki. “Did what?” said his mother. “I can’t say. No, it’s not just that I don’t think you can hear it without being frightened” said Rikki at his mother’s confused look. Darzee will hear it and then it’ll be only a matter of time before the Coppersmith is shouting it out to the whole garden! Panic everywhere. I don’t want that right now.” Karistan, Ragiva, and Kinsta were sleeping. They suddenly heard a movement in the grass and slithered toward it. “So, are the humans dead?” said Karistan. “No!” said Nagasta. “Perhaps I should have come with you. What went wrong?” said Karistan. “The little red-eyed pest. It seems we’ve underestimated him!” hissed Nagasta. “Send out our friends. We’ll deal with this pest!” hissed Karistan. Near dawn, about a dozen cobras move toward the garden. They notice the mongoose family and retreat. “So is he dead?” said Karistan. “No. There are five of them!” said one of the cobras. “Five. Hmmmm. And eleven of you! A little cowardly, aren’t we?” hissed Karistan in disgust. “Never mind! I’ll kill the humans in the end all the same! In fact, I think we’d all be better off without humans altogether! Go to every part of the jungle. Get our kind to unite. We’ll drive the humans from this jungle and get rid of the mongoose vermin too!” hissed Nagasta. “It shall be done.” said a cobra. The rain stops. The next day, the water starts to slowly recede and within two weeks, is nearly back to its normal level. Nagasta must have gotten word that my family has managed to get past her and come here. She’s nor any of her cobras have shown up. Rikki thought joyfully, though he knew in the depths of his heart that she would certainly be back someday. “We have a whole family of mongooses now!” cheered Darzee. “They’ll never come here!” said Chua. “Not for a long time.” said Rikki. Nagasta would come back, he was certain. But in the meantime, he would spend the next several months with his family, unbothered by snakes. “Did you kill her?” said Darzee. “No! I was lucky she didn’t kill me!” said Rikki-tikki. “Are you going to finish her off?” said Darzee. “Sure.” said Rikki-tikki-tavi. “I think I’ll use you as live bait to lure her to her death.” he said. “You wouldn’t do that!” said Darzee. “Perhaps I might if you don’t shut that big beak of yours! I don’t want praises! Frankly, I don’t deserve them. I can tell you’re about to compose some song about my fight outside the garden with Nagasta.” he said, as Darzee stares at him, astonished. “Please don’t. Otherwise I might have my family bring back a live cobra for you to play with.” he said, laughing. His sister and brother ran around the house, exploring every bit of it. Rikki sat in the sun, trying not to think about Nagasta. I am the true Queen of the Garden! Those humans failed to destroy my egg! Now I shall destroy them! Well, come and take it then! he thought. I, the true killer of Nag and Nagaina, will be here to protect them! He rested for a while and then was awoken by Dindac, one of Darzee’s children. “Mr. Rikki. Sorry to bother you. But is that cobra coming back? Dad thinks she’s going away.” he chirped. “She’ll be back. I know why she wants to kill the family. I can tell you she’s mistaken.” said Rikki. “About what?” chirped Dindac. “I‘m afraid it‘s me. I‘m the actual one who‘s done the things she blames the humans for.” said Rikki. “What‘d you do?” said Dindac. “I can’t say. You’re safe for now. That’s the important thing.” he said. “Rikki, who are your friends? And this tailorbird seems to have wild stories about you. Imagine you killing three cobras and a dusty brown snakeling. You haven’t even witnessed a fight#. Surely he’s a bragger.” said his mother. “Darzee. Yeah, he’s a bit of a featherbrain. But he’s telling the truth. Also, that part about the stones inside the mice was true.” he said. “Nice one, Rikki. Killing cobras at your age!” laughed his brother. “Laugh all you want! I saw Nag and he was dead! Karait too!” said Darzee. “Surely this is a joke.” said his sister. “I’m afraid it might be the truth.” said his father. “I’ve seen him at it with that cobra. You were too busy talking to your brother to notice. And your mother was too afraid to look. However, I couldn’t have survived her. She’s got plenty of strength and skill.” he said. “Far more than Nag or Nagaina.” said Rikki. “So, it’s really true?” said his mother. “Yep. Lucky I didn’t die.” he said. “You must be a natural.” said his father. “I’ve pretty much always had help, except against Karait, the dusty brown snakeling. Darzee and his wife helped a lot especially.” said Rikki. “Can we keep the mongooses?” said Teddy. “Of course. I just hope we have enough to feed them all.” said the big man. “Care to go mouse hunting?” said Rikki’s mother to Rikki. “Later maybe, Mom. I’ll eat here. Anyway, I’m tired.” said Rikki-tikki. As for right now, he was going to rest in Teddy’s bedroom, after first getting some food. He knew the garden war wasn’t over. In fact, it had only just begun. But for now, Rikki-tikki-tavi was happier than he had been in months. He would fight future battles. Battles greater by far than any he had ever fought before. Greater even than his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great grandfather had fought in fact! But right now he was content. Not bothered by anything, not even Nagasta.