PAPERBACK BOOKS
THE PLEDGE


 

What if animals understood the human language but chose not to talk? How would mankind react to such a reality? Would this realisation destroy the natural harmony the kingdom already has? 

The pledge is an eternal oath handed down to all creatures the moment mankind divided the kingdom. This act split the kingdom into two – the kingdom of man and the kingdom of animals. The animals vowed to keep silent, never to speak to humans, because in doing so would completely shift the balance of nature which has already begun. The beginning of this shift has been long forgotten before recorded history, only to be spoken of now in folklore and mythology. 

The animal kingdom has been pushed too far, and now they’re telling us!

In Store Price: $AU23.95 
Online Price:   $AU22.95

ISBN:   978-1-921574-07-8 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 177
Genre: Fiction
/Children's

 

 

Author: Chris Panas
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English


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CHRIS PANAS was born in Wollongong on the South coast of New South Wales, Australia. After working in a variety of different jobs – from public servant to real estate agent – the inner call to serve his true artistic nature was never far from the surface. He has two spirited young sons and a large extended family of Greek heritage. Composing cinematic film score music is also an integral part of his artistic connection with story writing.

PART ONE

1. The Eternal Oath 

 

The eternal oath is a pledge handed down to all animals the moment mankind separated from the kingdom. This act divided the kingdom in two; mankind, who went out to create a civilised world with all its disorders and artificial struggles, and the animal kingdom having to deal with its own set of natural struggles. The knowledge of the split has been lost by mankind many millennia before recorded history, so the animal kingdom to this very day has never broken the pledge – it is their eternal oath to remain true to the kingdom.

There is only one person left on earth who is a direct descendant from a lineage of wise initiates that had knowledge of the pledge from the time of separation. His name is the cave dweller of great wisdom; he spends most of his time reading ancient texts and anticipating the ever-present threat between the two kingdoms, as the closer they become, the less they have in common.

For centuries, he has waited to pass on the knowledge of mankind’s lost heritage, and to give them their rightful place within the kingdom once again. But as long as mankind refuses to acknowledge even the remote possibility of a connection between the two kingdoms, the cave dweller of great wisdom has no choice but to wait until such time the human race is ready to accept it. Keeping silent and never speaking to humans is the only way for the animal kingdom to save it. If it were ever to be discovered that animals could talk and reason on a human level, the kingdom would be lost forever.

On the east coast of Australia, the morning sun began to bathe backyards, parks and reserves setting the stage for all its inhabitants. At the local city zoo, a father and son spend the day examining the wonder of the animal kingdom.

“Why don’t animals understand us, Daddy! Why can’t they talk to us?”

“Listen here, son, we can talk to them but it would look a bit silly if we all laughed like chimpanzees or made elephant-like noises.”

“I can do it – it’s not hard, see!”

At the zoo works an energetic, intelligent young lady named Natalie, who was near enough to have heard the touching conversation between father and son. She is a zoologist with a degree in animal science. Working with animals ran in the family, as her father chaired the Australasian Wildlife Fund. This was her third year at the zoo, and her reputation for being exact and impromptu had caused tension with her colleagues, but respect from her peers.

“You know how many times I have heard that sort of conversation and not just from kids either!”

“I don’t know Natalie, but you’re about to tell me anyway; you know it’s feeding time for the lions don’t you?” said Marcus, who was part of the zoo’s new feeding program personnel, and could never escape a philosophical argument with Natalie.

“I wish I could have told that kid what he wanted to hear, but one thing I have learned in this job is that mankind is not that separated from the animal kingdom; we just refuse to believe it.”

“Don’t start with all that again, Natalie, it’s an impossible dream.” “Yeah, I know the lions are waiting!” It was late afternoon and the crowds started to wane, which gave Natalie a bit more time to feed the animals.

She had just fed the lions and was making her way back to the office when her incredible zest for animal interaction forced her to stop by and check on her favourite bird, a majestic golden eagle. The golden eagle would always come over and stare into her dark brown eyes with a noble look.

“You’re looking well today; look what I’ve brought for you.” To Natalie’s surprise, the golden eagle flew back to its original position and turned its back on her. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you this is your favourite fish and this is the fifth time this week you have done this. What has got into you?” The golden eagle turned back around and stood there motionless just peering into her eyes. What she was about to witness would change her reality forever. The golden eagle stretched its giant wings directly out in front and positioned them straight at her. In her years out in the field, she had seen different forms of communication, but this had something uniquely strange about it. Impressed by what the gesture might mean she approached the huge enclosure grabbing the metal bars firmly.

“What do you want? What are you trying to say? Come here, come closer.” Without warning the golden eagle took off straight towards her, which instinctively made her back away even though she was well protected.

To her surprise, it skilfully pulled up and headed straight for the canopy. It hit the canopy with such force the noise sent neighbouring birds scrambling for cover. Natalie became extremely intrigued as to what could have caused the golden eagle to react like that, as it again perched itself back where it was as though nothing had happened. Just as she was about to leave, three men in black suits looking quite distinguished walked towards her.

“Good afternoon, we have heard much praise about your work with these magnificent birds.”

“This is the one, look at its size!”

“Could you be quiet, you fool! Excuse my colleague, his manners are rather obtuse, oh by the way, my name is Victor and I assume you are aware that we will be acquiring this formidable creature.”

“What did you just say!” said Natalie, with a shocked tone to her voice.

“Well it seems as though you have not been informed yet; this bird is now the property of my organisation.”

“That’s not possible, you must be joking!”

“I assure you I am not, here, take a look at the paper work,” said Victor, with a smile. Natalie grabbed the papers out of his hand; she could not believe that the zoo’s management could do such a thing. “This is so wrong, these birds require specialist care!” Victor tried to calm her down, but to no avail as she stormed off. He told his trusted aide, Hans, to keep tabs on her – even though the transfer was legally binding. Hans agreed without question as they walked away.

Victor was a shipping magnate with connections in all aspects of life around the globe, especially on the African continent. He fought in the Egyptian/Israeli war and was a decorated hero of the Egyptian army. Collecting exotic animals had become an obsession for him – to the point where he had become an agent, dealing in the trade of live animals. Hans on the other hand was a thug, a mercenary for hire. If it weren’t for Victor, he would be fighting in some war torn third-world country. He’s the type that never gets involved in politics or ethical discussions, and has no scruples especially when it concerns financial reward.

The moment Natalie got back to the main building she barged into her supervisor’s office and demanded to know why they were getting rid of the golden eagle. “Do you know what I’ve just been told, Jack?”

“What? And don’t raise your voice; you’re causing a scene, Natalie.” Jack was expecting this to happen.

“Whose idea was it to sell off the golden eagle? You know how hard I’ve been working with it – all the time spent with the rehabilitation program, who is responsible? Who?”

“Settle down, grab yourself a cup of water and I’ll explain it all to you. A consortium from Africa approached us with an offer too good to refuse.”

“What kind of offer?”

“They are willing to give us – in exchange for the golden eagle – a pregnant black rhino. Can you believe that! Do you know what kind of publicity and how many visitors this will attract to the park? You know more than anyone that visitor numbers at the zoo are at a record low. I’m sorry, Natalie, but this goes way above my head.”

“Jack, this whole thing stinks. God knows what kind of people we’re dealing with here.”

“You will have to come up with something quite extraordinary to persuade administration not to go through with it. Look I’m sorry, but there is nothing I can do.”

“Yeah we’ll see about that!” Enraged with the whole concept she went home to have a hot bath and try to put some perspective on what appeared to be a clear-cut attempt at animal exploitation. The cold winter afternoon had turned grey, while heavy rain held the city to ransom. On her way home, Natalie decided to pop into her local market to do her weekly shopping early, as an attempt to distract her mind from work. On the way out she was in such a mad rush to avoid getting wet from a sudden deluge, she lost her footing and dropped all the groceries she was carrying in the process.

“Here, let me help you, that was quite a spill,” said a foreign looking gentleman.

“Oh that’s very kind of you,” she said, as they both tussled with one another to put the shopping back into the bags.

Once she regained her composure, she turned to thank the man and suddenly felt an eerie sensation as she took a closer look at his face. The man was Victor’s trusted aide, Hans, who had an intense smirk on his face as he left. That was enough to make Natalie rush back to her car and head straight home.

Just outside the city, the real plot for the golden eagle began to unfold at Victor’s estate. His organisation, an animal welfare and refuge company, was a front to a more sinister entity. The real nature of their business was to sell exotic animals to private collectors, knowing that sometimes it meant death, to the innocent animal. The organisation had a worldwide web of contacts, with poaching as its core business. Victor sat in his office, going over the final details for the shipment of the golden eagle – which he had planned for the next day. His office was adorned with all sorts of relics, paintings and a host of stuffed animals, including a silver back gorilla. He had a pet leopard that roamed about the place, which made Hans and the rest of the team a bit edgy.

“Tell me, Hans, did you taunt our little lady friend and find out where she lives?”

“Let’s just say she has been spooked.”

“Very good. That just might put her off the scent, because her type of attention is the last thing we need right now.”

Natalie couldn’t sleep at all, the humidity after the rain and the chain of events at work made her restless. It was enough to persuade her to take a drive to a spot near the zoo, where she would always go to reflect and find inspiration when times were tough. She parked the car and walked to the spot that had given her so much solace.

While pondering the situation, she decided it might be a good idea to check up on the golden eagle on her way back home. When she arrived, she called out to get its attention. Getting no response, she walked inside the enclosure, trying to be as quiet as possible, hoping she wouldn’t spook him. Once through the thick undergrowth she came close to the end of the cage and could see the shadowy outline of the golden eagle with its back to her.

“I had a feeling you would come, Natalie, we will all be prisoners until mankind returns,” said the golden eagle.

“Who’s in here? This is a restricted area, and it’s not funny either!”

“It’s me, Natalie; you of all people deserve to know the truth.”

“Wow, now this is crazy who’s saying that! Listen the joke is over and I fail to see the humour in it, where are you?”

“Natalie, do not be afraid, come closer to me and you will see. Come now,” said the golden eagle with a luring voice.

Besides being spooked, she was intensely intrigued. As she moved closer to the golden eagle, she could see the glint in its eyes, as it stood still with a noble posture. She stopped several feet away and they both eyed each other, not moving and not making a sound. “This is no figment of your imagination, Natalie; you look utterly surprised, but not shocked I feel.”

“Oh my god this is incredible!”

“Natalie, I can understand how you feel, but we have much to talk about, Natalie are you listening?”

Natalie kept pacing back and forth with her head in her hands trying to assess the monumental significance and fallout of such a discovery. “I knew it, wait until Jack hears about this!”

“You will not be telling anyone about this, now calm down, look at me and listen!”

Natalie looked back in astonishment as she watched it speak.

“You cannot tell anybody about this. I let you know, because I feel the time is near, and eventually the knowledge of this will come out, but aside from that, we have mutual respect for one another. Your heart is in the right place and your desire to save the kingdom is why you have become privy to a time honoured pledge.”

“There are so many questions I want to ask you, but the first thing that comes to mind is, does this mean that all animals understand us?”

“The answer to your question is yes, but there is more you need to know, and most importantly you must accept the pledge.”

“The pledge? What do you mean accept the pledge – what is it?” By this point Natalie was impatient to hear more, like the excitement of a child listening to a bedtime story.

“No grudges held, no scores to settle, and to obey the laws of nature, this is part of its meaning. The most important part of the pledge is that the animals in the kingdom do not speak with mankind.”

Natalie thought the last part was very strange, why would they not want to communicate with us?

“As hard as it may be, you must not tell a living soul about this, Natalie.”

“They wouldn’t believe me anyway!” She felt quite uncomfortable about that; could she possibly keep such a secret?

“What are you saying, can I call you golden eagle or do you have some other name?”

“We have no need for names in the animal kingdom, it would only divide us. You must understand, Natalie, that the kingdom is a wonderful place and yet very cruel; just like the one you live in.”

“So you mean to say that mankind has created some sort of second kingdom?”

“Regrettably, yes. You know more than anyone, the current rate of extinction faced by many animals; the kingdom is at threat as long as mankind refuses to acknowledge they came from our kingdom,” said the golden eagle.

“You must remain here more than ever now; they must not take you away.”

“I know the kind of people you’re faced with, Natalie; they are smart and would have covered their tracks well.”

 “I don’t care, you’re coming with me now. I’ll take you to my uncle’s farm where we can work something out.”

“You are a brave woman and a true defender of the kingdom, I was right to give you this knowledge.”

Before she had time to respond to that last comment her adrenalin began racing when she heard a group of men approaching. With her emotions highly charged she made her way back to the entrance only to see a group of men carrying a large wooden crate nearing the entrance of the bird enclosure. As she approached them they too were a bit startled.

“Stop! This is a restricted area, where do you think you’re going?”

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t our meddling lady friend, remember me!” It was Hans.

“How could I forget a face like yours,” said Natalie sarcastically.

“Authorisation for the removal of this bird has been cancelled,” she said clutching at straws.

“Are you playing us for a bunch of fools? Do you honestly expect us to fall for that?” said Hans, with an air of pomposity.

“I know who you people really are, you don’t fool me.”

“Well my dear girl, it looks like you’re the one with mud on your face, so I suggest you stop this Mother Teresa of the animals’ crusade and let the men do their work.” She became even more enraged grabbing a firm hold of the crate, and trying to stop them from entering the enclosure. They quickly brushed her aside and began the arduous task of trying to put the golden eagle in the crate with minimal light. Natalie knew there was nothing she could do and waited for them to come out.  

She could hear them coming closer and mumbling with one another. As they walked past she could clearly see the golden eagle was extremely stressed and at their mercy.

“Look I know what you’re up to and don’t think you’re going to get away with it,” she said as she stormed off. Hans and his men laughed at her as they continued loading the crate onto a truck that was heading straight for the shipyards. Natalie was so determined to free the golden eagle she too followed the truck, knowing exactly which container terminal they were headed for, as she had read the labels on the crate. Luckily, Natalie had a customs animal quarantine pass which would enable her to access the terminal. At the port, Natalie patiently waited for the truck to go through the gates, before following at a discreet distance. She parked her vehicle and watched their every move. To her surprise they boarded the crate onto a huge luxury yacht that was unsurprisingly named ‘Victor’s Booty’. She quickly began to conjure up scenarios that would get her on board without suspicion.

She thought her best option would be to convince Victor she had a connection to the majestic birds and that she would gladly visit their setup in Africa to work as a volunteer, if they would provide accommodation. She approached the yacht beaming with confidence and determination, signalling to a crewmember for attention. The crewmember came over to the side of the boat and walked down the gangplank asking what she wanted.

“I’d like to speak with Victor please, it’s very important.”

“Who’s asking?” was the reply.

“My name is Natalie. I’m a local zoologist and I have an offer for Victor.”

A few minutes had passed and her nerves were at breaking point as she rehearsed a spiel to give to Victor. He suddenly appeared from the bridge. Curiously he looked down upon her as he instructed one of his men to let her board. As she walked up the gangplank she put on a warm smile whilst trying to conceal her fears.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, a peace offering maybe?”

“It’s about the golden eagle and a proposition I have for you.”

“Well come inside and let’s talk.” Victor gave his men a distinct nod to be on the lookout.

Natalie was totally overwhelmed by the exquisite interior of the yacht as Victor walked her through a sunken lounge, inviting her to take a seat.

“So, you really have me intrigued. What is this proposal you have for me?”

“As you know, working with these exotic birds is my life’s passion, in particular the golden eagle you now have.”

Victor interjected before Natalie could continue, “First I have not bought it, and secondly it’s part of an exchange program which will benefit the zoo, especially with a pregnant black rhino.”

“Victor, what if I was to come and work for your organisation? I could be a great asset for the care and research of these animals.” Victor paused for a few seconds thinking there must be a catch to it, but even so his love of intrigue and power play, especially when there was a pretty woman involved, was his greatest vice. “Now, having someone of your calibre on my staff list could be advantageous, but would you really give up your city life for a life in the untamed – it’s a big sacrifice.”

Natalie could feel her plan was unfolding exactly how she wanted, and Victor was buying her willingness.

“I’m more than ready. I need a change; a new path in my career and this is the one!”

Victor still wasn’t convinced, but thought if she posed a risk she would be dealt with properly.

“Alright, I’ll accept your offer on one condition, that you be loyal to me, because disloyalty and contempt have no place with me.”

As he filled his glass up with more whisky Natalie’s heart swelled in anticipation; the first stage of her plan had worked.

“We leave for Cuba tomorrow. If you’re capable of being uprooted on such short notice, we can wait till the afternoon and you can join us on the yacht.”

“Tomorrow is a bit short notice, I will have to tie up some things here first. I would have loved to join you on the trip, the boat’s unbelievable!”

“Come here tomorrow and I’ll finalise the arrangements for you to join us shortly. It will be a wonderful trip, it’s a shame you’re not coming; there are so many gorgeous unspoilt islands in the Caribbean. You would have been enthralled by such beauty. Now that it’s settled, I welcome you as part of our team.”

They shook hands and Natalie stood in utter disbelief that she had actually pulled it off. Even so, she still had to get the golden eagle out of there.

“So now that I’m part of the team, could I be as bold as to check up on the golden eagle?”

Victor didn’t seem at all surprised in her enthusiasm and driving approach, but yet something inside him was reluctant to let her start now.

“You do trust me Victor, don’t you?”

With a glint in his eye he succumbed to her charms. “How could I not with your overwhelming attributes.”

Natalie was given permission to go down to the storing facility where she was kept under constant supervision. Once in there she spotted the golden eagle finishing off his meal.

“What is the food like here?” she said, while slowly approaching the huge enclosure. The golden eagle was quite surprised to see her, and knew that she had put herself in great danger for its sake.

She asked the crewman to give her access into the enclosure telling him a thorough examination was needed. The crewman told her nobody was allowed in the cage unless they were authorised personnel.

“Look, Victor has just appointed me a new member of your team, and just for the record I’ve been doing research on birds for the past seven years, two of those on this bird in particular. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Victor.”

Reluctant as he was, he finally gave in, but decided to hang around much to Natalie’s annoyance. She hoped he would get bored and wander off, but instead he stood there watching patiently with an air of interest. By this stage her patience began to wear thin as she tried to look busy and calm.

“Look what’s your name?” she said.

“Steve.”

“Look Steve, with all due respect, you wouldn’t like it if someone kept a constant vigil on your work, would you?”

“Alright, I get the picture. I’ll be on the bridge if you need me.” Natalie’s heartbeat was now in overdrive as she had to move quickly.

“I never thought I would see you again, but I am pleased you have come. You have put yourself in a dangerous situation by coming here; you can do more for the pledge out there, than die as an unknown martyr here. Do you know these people know all about the pledge too?” said the golden eagle.

Natalie didn’t really know what to say but realised just how ruthless Victor must be; to know about the pledge and yet exploit the animal kingdom as such.

“So Victor knows he can keep pushing life in the animal kingdom to breaking point, but the animals won’t give up the pledge, they would rather suffer in silence?”

“That is so, Natalie, but not all the animals; some are working with poachers to better their position on the food chain and are beginning to relinquish the pledge in great numbers as we speak.”

“The pledge might always be privy to a certain few, but that’s not stopping me getting you out of here.”

“Please leave Natalie, while there is still time, leave with the knowledge you have and hope one day mankind will find their way back to the kingdom, now go!”

“After what I’ve just become aware of, leaving you here is not an option. Getting you out is vital.”

The golden eagle knew she had her mind set and decided to take a chance and do it. Natalie opened the cage door and stood aside as the golden eagle virtually overshadowed her petite frame. They made their way up to the bridge, all the while anticipating being seen. To their surprise it was empty. Victor and the crew were at the rear of the boat enjoying food and drinks, as it was a mild and pleasant summer’s night.

Once they got to the open deck they were instantly spotted by staff patrolling the pier. As soon as the alarm was raised, Victor knew his better judgment was right all along, even though he had been looking forward to having someone with Natalie’s experience on board. But all that changed as he and the crew raced to the front of the boat. Summoned to freedom by the open sky the golden eagle was reluctant to take off, realising its advantage over Natalie, with her not able to fly.

“Leave golden eagle now! Don’t worry about me I’m an excellent swimmer.”

“Remember the pledge is now part of your life. The kingdom awaits you.”

With the sky pitch black the golden eagle was cloaked in darkness. Natalie had dived overboard and quickly reached the other side of the pier. Victor and his crew were left high and dry, squabbling amongst themselves. In his mind Victor kept saying there was nothing he could do about the golden eagle, but getting square with Natalie would be something his neurotic nature will thrive on.

Natalie realised that this incident would never go away and knew her only option was to go into hiding.

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