Stanza IV: The Fable of the Paranoid Hunter

“The Fable of the Paranoid Hunter”
No Assertion of Authorship
Referenced in Eladyan literature as early as 1,407 standard cycles before the Crescendo

High in the Redpeak Mountains there lived a serpent known only as Habba.

Habba was careful to always watch his tail.

There were so many treacherous creatures in those peaks that one could never be too sure if something nasty was hiding just around the corner. So Habba always looked back, making sure that nothing could sneak up on him.

Habba was so careful, that he made an excellent hunter. The more he ate, the longer he grew. Before long, Habba grew so large that no other creature in the peaks would ever be a threat to Habba.

One day, Habba captured a tiny crag-devil. These creatures were crafty, but Habba was craftier. He bit the crag-devil just enough to poison the creature. He didn’t want to kill it, just to slow it down enough so that it couldn’t escape.

Habba always preferred to eat his prey alive.

As Habba opened his enormous mouth to swallow the creature, the crag devil said, “However did you get so big!?”

Habba, like most creatures, enjoyed hearing compliments and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to gloat. “I got so big by watching my tail.”

“Hmmm,” the crag devil says, halfway into Habba’s mouth.

“What is it?” Habba asked, annoyed, “Why did you make that sound?”

“Well,” the crag-devil said, “I’m just wondering how that’s possible since you can’t possibly see your tail from here.”

Habba dropped the crag devil and he turned to the entrance of the burrow to check. The crag-devil was right! Habba had grown so big and fat that he had not even bothered to check his tail in who knows how long.

“It’s right around the corner,” Habba said, preparing to eat the crag devil again.

“Are you sure?”

Habba slithered to the opening of the burrow and peeked into the tunnel beyond. He could see the massive ribbon of his body as it wound through that labyrinth of tunnels, but his tail was nowhere in sight.

“Uh-oh!” Habba heard the crag-devil say from inside the burrow.

“What is it?” Habba asked, showing his teeth.

“Well, if a bigger hunter grabs you by the tail—you’re dead.”

Habba knew that this was no lie. This was the very truth that had driven him to become the best hunter in the peaks. It was the reason why he had grown so large and strong, so he could not deny the power of that truth, as much as he wanted to.

But then Habba’s frown turned into a smile and the crag-devil’s smile turned into a frown.

Habba coiled up to strike, and he sank his teeth into his own body. The crag-devil watched with glee as Habba chewed through his own flesh and after a few vicious bites, he was able to separate a length of his body from the rest of him.

“Hah! Now who is the fool!’ Habba said, all color leaving his scales. “My tail is now right there, and I will never lose sight of it anymore!” His new “tail” was a mess of muscle and bone and a river of blood poured from both ends.

“This is great!” the paranoid hunter said, dying with a smile.

The crag-devil waited for Habba’s poison to wear off, and when it did, he was able to follow the dead creature’s body to escape the maze of tunnels. Eventually, he stepped back into the light of the largest star and found the place where Habba’s body truly ended. He expected to find its tail but noticed that it must have been bitten off a long time ago for it had already healed and was nothing but a large scar.

The crag-devil scampered away, remembering Habba’s advice and glanced over his shoulder as he went.