A TaleSpin story conceived by John Pesterfield.
Written by John Pesterfield and Bearcat. Additional story suggestions by Gidget.
TaleSpin is a registered trademark of The Walt Disney Company.
All characters used in this story are from Disney’s Tale Spin and are used without permission, with extreme respect and for totally NON-PROFIT USE. This is also the first story by these authors and is purely an educational exercise in creative writing.
The following characters in this story are part of Disney’s TaleSpin series: Baloo the Bear; Rebecca Cunningham; Molly E. Cunningham; Kit Cloudkicker; Wildcat; Dr. Bovon; Professor O’Bowens. Any other incidental characters are the creation(s) of the authors.
We thank the creative Disney talent behind TaleSpin for the creation of memorable characters and a series that has a loyal following to this day. We also thank Gidget for her reviews of the story and all her additional suggestions and input. It has been invaluable. J
It had thoroughly stained the top of the altar and had run down the sides of the stone to the floor.
“I…I don’t think that’s catsup,” said Rebecca, shuddering. Baloo held Kit’s shoulder. Rebecca was doing her best to hold back any panic --- her heart was a sticking lump in her throat. Glancing at Molly, she clenched her teeth together to keep from screaming.
“I wish I had deciphered their language further,” O’Bowens lamented. “I don’t know if these are the names of past leaders or warnings.”
“Me neither,” said Baloo.
Kit spoke up. “Professor? It looks like there are more hieroglyphics along here.”
He pointed. They appeared along the base of the altar.
“You’re right. Baloo, could you bring me one of those lanterns?”
While the professor began examining the base of the olivine altar stone, there was a bright light from behind, almost blinding him. He had to put one hand up to shield his eyes.
“Thank you, Baloo, but you don’t have to turn the lantern up that high.”
Baloo was still holding the lantern out from his side. “Uh…that ain’t me.”
“RISE! I command you.” A reverberating voice behind them made them all jump. The professor scrambled to his feet. Frantically they looked around, but couldn’t see anyone.
“Are you here because you have been cursed?” asked the disembodied voice.
Rebecca squeaked, “Yes. Who are you?”
The disembodied voice became less so. Just as the light began to fade to a tolerable level, it began to take on a solid form of its own. “I am Altaira, the goddess of Tigre.”
In one moment, a tall, regal tigress emerged from the darkness. Her movements were liquid, yet proud and stately. Her graceful beauty was such that anyone would have mistaken her for a queen of the highest order. She was, at least to the three males in the room, the ultimate ideal of female beauty, but the large dagger tucked under her belt indicated otherwise.
Her sarong reflected the light from a small hole in the altar room ceiling. The sarong’s silvery fabric reflected in the moonlight, making the entire garment glow. The light that was cast off the fabric became a twin to that heavenly body.
The blade of the dagger was dark black obsidian, reflecting the depth of the soul that wielded it. It was tainted with centuries of encrusted blood. This dagger was one of the first things Rebecca noticed. And, for a change, so did Baloo, after a moment. Skirts were one thing. Sarongs accessorized with weapons were an entirely different matter.
In one smooth, floating movement, she approached Rebecca. “You. You are the one cursed. All are cursed, but…only you have made the transformation?”
“Um…yes,” Rebecca said. Then, furtively glancing at her pilot and navigator, she added, “Just me.”
The tigress kept her attention focused on Rebecca. Her stare was so unnerving that Rebecca had to look away for a moment. Finally she spoke again, and her voice echoed across the walls of the chamber. Small clouds of dust fell from the ceiling as she spoke.
“To lift the curse you must be willing to sacrifice something of value. Something close to your heart.” She paused. “Or someone.”
“But I don't want to sacrifice anyone!” Rebecca cried. “I just want to be normal!”
The goddess then broke her gaze with Rebecca and gracefully knelt in front of Molly. “Hello, Molly. Do you want to help your mother?”
“Yeah,” Molly answered. She was too interested in the conversation to be as frightened as her mother. “Hey---how do you know my name?”
Altaira smiled and answered, “I know everything here.” The tigress looked deeply into the young cub’s eyes. In a moment, Molly stared back with a dreamy expression. Satisfied, the goddess stood up.
Rebecca didn’t like this at all. “Molly? Are you all right?” There was no reply. Rebecca fell to her knees before the child and waved a hand in front of her face. Not a blink, not even a flicker of an eyelid.
There was a flash of brilliant white light, and when it cleared, Molly was lying on the altar.
She was awake, yet unmoving. An opening near the ceiling rendered the whole room awash in moonlight. That light now came together to hover over one spot… the child’s heart.
As her imagination filled in what she knew must have happened in this room so long ago, Rebecca’s hands began to tremble.
“What have you done to her?” she shouted.
Altaira stood in front of the central tiger figure with her arms outstretched. She was heard mumbling some strange dialect that even O’Bowens didn’t recognize. Suddenly all three of the immense tiger figures began to glow white-hot. The glow only lasted a few seconds, but it was so bright that everyone, except Molly and the goddess, shielded their eyes. As the light faded, two huge tigers in ceremonial dress stood beside Altaira.
Baloo’s eyes bugged when he took a long look at the tigers. “G-g-ghosts!” His voice cracked.
Altaira looked to each ethereal tiger, then pointed toward Molly. “Bind her,” she said calmly.
“Don’t worry, Becky! Ol’ Baloo’ll stop ‘em! ” But as he only took one step toward the altar when Altaira suddenly raised her hand. A glowing green mass shot from her right paw and surrounded Baloo, Kit, and O’Bowens.
“Hey!” Kit tried to raise his feet but couldn’t.
“Holy---I can’t move!”
“What have you done to us?”
“Do not interfere.” The coldness of the goddess’s command sent terror down their spines. Molly was now securely bound to the altar with the same glowing material that made up the ghostly tigers. The tigers themselves were now standing behind Altaira --- one on each side of her and for some odd reason, looked a little like….
“Now you must act if you want the curse to be broken.”
Rebecca stared at her daughter lying supine on the olivine slab, then at the goddess. “What do you mean?” She was beginning to panic. Everything’s happening too fast. “Whatever you’ve done to my daughter---you fix it this instant!” When there was no reply, she lunged at Altaira. The goddess gave a careless wave of her hand and Rebecca froze in her tracks, unable to reach her.
The tigress looked at her. Altaira’s eyes blazed with a fiery and unholy light. Then she withdrew the dagger and thrust it into Rebecca’s hands. The dagger felt warm to Rebecca's touch. Many generations had held that blade before her and had moved toward their victims to made the proper cuts --- some waiting patiently --- and others thrashing in terror.
“Do as you are bidden!”
Baloo, Kit and O’Bowens watched in horror, unable to move. Baloo tried with all his strength to get to Molly, but it was no use. His paws were rooted to the altar room floor. Kit wanted to yell out to Molly, with a hope his voice might snap her out of the trance the goddess had her in, but he couldn’t speak. He tried to open his mouth, but it was if someone had wired it shut. O’Bowens was no better off.
He had a sinking hole forming in the pit of his stomach, a feeling of dread. It was the gut feeling that a young life was about to horribly end and he was helpless to stop it. He tried to cover his eyes, but he couldn’t move his arms. Like Baloo and Kit, he was frozen in place.
“No! I won’t!” screamed Rebecca. With rage given strength she hurled the knife across the room, and it was swallowed by the shadows. It was a short-lived victory, for suddenly the dagger was once more in her hand.
Altaira’s eyes blazed with fiery light. “Do as I command thee!”
The goddess pointed toward Molly’s chest. Rebecca regarded the dagger in her hands with horror. “You’re insane! I won’t kill to break this curse, especially not my daughter—I won’t!” With a grunt, she hurled the dagger to the stone floor. “I won’t kill anyone!”
As the dagger hit the floor it bounced back into Rebecca's hand. Furious, she used all her strength to snap the dagger in two. In that instant, the dagger vanished into thin air. Molly was suddenly standing right next to her mother…awake and unharmed.
A cold smile curved the goddess’s lips.
“Very good, my child, you are the first in almost three hundred years who did not go through with it. Those who have made such an attempt I have punished most severely.”
“Who… are you?” Rebecca whispered.
“I am known by many names, child, and I have been know throughout time.”
There was a nervous smirk on Baloo's face. “Oh great. Another gal who talks in riddles.”
The goddess glared at Baloo. “Silence!” Then, without any further warning, she turned her attention back to Rebecca.
“There is only one way to break this curse. You must endure three trials of faith. Each one you pass will bring you closer to breaking the curse. Failure of one will make your present form permanent!”
“What! You can’t do that! I’ll sue!” Rebecca knew she was losing control, but she didn’t care. “I can’t go around like this! I won’t! Stop playing games and fix me!”
The goddess sighed in a bored fashion and began paring her nails with her dagger. “Are you finished? I don’t have all day. I have an early morning visitation tomorrow and two miracles to perform later on.”
“Look, I don’t care if you’re…!”
“Becky! Eeeasy!” Baloo was shaken. “W-what does she hafta do? And-and are we supposed ta help?” He surprised even himself that he had the nerve to ask.
This time the goddess didn’t bother to turn around. She didn't even blink. Her gaze was strictly focused on Rebecca when she said, “What she must do, she will do, at the moment, alone. The moon will be full within the next four days. It will be, what you mortals call, a Harvest Moon. You must successfully complete each step before the time of the full moon.” Again she smiled coldly. “Or the curse is permanent.”
Rebecca glanced at the others, her face turning pale. Swallowing hard, she turned back toward the tigress. “When d-do we start?” she asked.
Finally the goddess opened her eyes again. “At the next twilight”. With a flash of blinding light, she was gone.
A deathly hush fell, cloaking the room in silence.
As soon as the goddess vanished, Kit, O’Bowens and Baloo found they could move again. Baloo caught both Rebecca and Molly in his arms.
“Oh Baloo, what have we gotten ourselves into…OOPH!” Rebecca sentence was cut off in mid-rant as she was suddenly lifted off her feet.
“Baloo!” But he couldn’t hear Kit or O’Bowens calling him. In one swift movement, he snatched up Rebecca and Molly, one under each arm, and began running out of the temple. Rebecca could be heard shouting at the top of her lungs.
“Balo-o-o-o, put me dowwwnnnnn!”
Kit and the professor chased them down the great hall. Past the torches and gilded figures, out the crumbling entrance and into the jungle path that lay between the temple and the village.
“Amazing how that bear can…move so… so fast.” O’Bowens was straining to keep up.
“Papa Bear, wait up!”
But Baloo kept running.
And he didn’t stop. He went down the path, through the village yelling, “Get ta the plane. Get ta the plane!” They didn’t begin to catch up with him until he was a several yards from the Sea Duck, when Baloo finally ran out of breath.
He was wheezing heavily when Kit and the professor arrived. Only then did he let loose of Rebecca and Molly. Molly slid from his grasp and landed on her feet, delighted with her Danger Woman-like prowess. Her mother hit the ground with a thud.
Kit began scolding him. “Baloo, what’s with you?”
Rebecca joined in as well, rubbing her backside. “Yeah, what is with you anyway? And did you have to drop me?”
Molly took the entire journey in stride. “That was fun, Baloo. Let’s do it again!”
“Molly, hush. Well, mister?”
“We’ve…ah…gotta get outta here.”
“You’re forgetting one little thing. I have to change back!”
“But, but she almost made ya ki…er, hurt Molly. Is that what ya want?”
Rebecca looked away. “No. No of course not Baloo, but nothing happened.”
“It almost did, lady!”
“But it didn’t and that’s the important thing to remember. It was just a test. Remember what Altaira said? I’ll have to go through three trials of faith over the next four days. Who knows what I’ll have to do?”
“If what she almost made you do is any indication…”
“Baloo! Miz Cunningham!” Kit’s shouting brought them back to their senses. “Arguing about it won’t change things.”
Suddenly, O’Bowens realized that that they were all looking at him. He shifted uncomfortably. “Um… why are you all looking at me?”
“You’re supposed ta be the expert. Where do we go from here?”
“Well…I… Maybe we should just wait until the next twilight to see what happens. That’ll be tomorrow.”
“He’s right, Baloo,” Kit asserted. “Besides, if we’re going to be here a few days we’ll need to set up camp.” Then he put a paw on his stomach. “Besides, I’m getting kind of hungry. Aren’t you?”
“With this tremendous knot in my gut, are you kidding? How ‘bout you, Becky?”
“Wait,” she said, putting her hand to her forehead as though she felt faint. “You…can’t eat? Now I know I’m in trouble.”
“Oh boy! We’re gonna have a campout!” Molly said excitedly. “Can I help?”
“Sure, kiddo.” Kit motioned for her to follow him. “You can help me get some of the pots and pans.”
“Ah…Becky, see if you can find some wood. I’ll have the professor help me build a fire pit.”
It was twenty minutes before Baloo and the professor had a well-dug fire pit. In another few minutes, the wood Rebecca and Molly had collected burned down to a usable level. Kit brought out an armful of survival tins from the Duck’s cargo hold. It was filled with canned goods --- peaches, coffee, hardtack, salt, some sugar, flour and about five cans of Vienna sausage.
Baloo put dough rolls made from water and flour around the fire to bake. Kit tossed the sausages into a small pot. The other pot was boiling water for coffee. Molly began eating first, starting with the can of peaches. Her mother noticed that while she was able to eat she was picking at her food. Well, at least she wasn’t picking her nose. Rebecca always thought Baloo would have cornered the market on that bad habit, but even he had some manners.
After dinner they sat around the fire --- everyone except Baloo. He leaned against the hull of the Sea Duck picking his teeth. Finally, the hour and the frustration got to him. He struck the side of the plane with his fist, leaving a new dent.
“Becky, I can't let you do this alone. I just don't trust that gal.”
Rebecca looked up. “You don't trust her! How do you think I feel? I'm...I'm scared stiff. What if I fail, what will happen to Molly? What will happen to Higher for Hire? What will happen to me?”
O’Bowens decided to step in and take control of the situation, nervously wringing his hat. “Look, everyone, the main goal should be getting Miz Cunningham through all three of these tests. Not what will happen if she fails. That much we already know.”
Kit, who had been silent until now, finally spoke up. “The professor's right, Miz Cunningham. You need to keep focused on whatever it is she wants you to do.”
Rebecca put Molly down and got up and stared out at the island, which was bathed in the eerie glow of the moonlight.
“Focus on what, Kit?” she demanded. “For all I know she’ll want me to prove I can chew gum and pat my head at the same time. For all I know it could be something insidious... like...like...”
“Like marrying Baloo?” he teased.
“Hey!” barked Baloo.
“Well, whatever these trials turn out to be, we'll know in about eighteen hours,” said O’Bowens.
Dawn came early, though no one on the seaplane noticed. Everyone was too tired to care. Molly, Kit and Baloo had fallen fast asleep. Only O’Bowens and Rebecca stirred.
Rebecca had dozed off a few times, as did the professor. But in point of fact Rebecca's sleep had been virtually nonexistent. Her mind raced periodically with hundreds of what ifs, and could be's. None provided any comfort to this nightmare she was living.
Rebecca glanced at the Sea Duck face clock --- it read seven o’clock in the morning. It hung on the wall that divided the cockpit from the cargo hold, and was a recent addition that she had insisted upon. She remembered telling Baloo, This should keep you on time from now on.
She shivered under the wool blankets she had huddled under for warmth. The frame of her seat rattled. It was enough to awaken Baloo.
“Becky. You okay?” he asked.
“Yes. Just a bit chilly here,” she said drawing the blankets closer. She peered at her daughter and Kit in the gloom. “Look at those two, Baloo.”
He looked over across the deck of the cargo hold toward the cots. Molly in the lower bunk and Kit in the upper. Both cubs were still fast asleep. “Yeah. Ya see, Becky? They ain’t worried, so don't you be. You'll come through this with flyin' colors.”
“You-you sound so sure.”
“You bet. Ol’ Baloo's never wrong about these things.”
He could see she was still afraid, but her fear was now tempered by exhaustion. “Ah, Becky,” Baloo sighed. “Look... if durin’ the course of beatin’ this curse thing, that somethin’ happens... I promise… I-I’ll take real good care of Molly. Kit and I both will.”
She looked deeply into his eyes and, seeing the sincerity in them, finally said, “I know you will, Baloo”.
Suddenly the entire plane was rocked by a reverberation proceeded by, what sounded like an explosion. Kit bolted straight up in his top bunk and Molly woke up with a scream. Baloo was already on his feet and looking out the starboard porthole of the Sea Duck.
“What was that?” cried O’Bowens.
From the far end of the jungle a black cloud of smoke was rising. Baloo studied it for a few seconds.
“What is it, Papa Bear?”
“Don't know, Kit. But from the looks of that cloud I'd have to say it was...” His speech was cut short by a sound. It sounded like a thunk! It was soon followed by a ping and another ping-thunk sound. Then another, and another. Within seconds it sounded like hail hitting the hull of the Sea Duck. It became so loud that almost no one on board could hear each other.
Rebecca shouted, “What is it?”
Baloo turned toward everyone in the plane. If his coat weren’t so thick his face would have been pure white.
He bellowed the only word he could:
His words were quickly followed by a bloodcurdling sound. It was screaming. Worst of all, it was coming closer.
O’Bowens shouted, “It must be an eruption. And from the sound of the screams it must be heading our way. We must get out of here!”
Baloo and Kit headed for the cockpit and within moments one of the engines began to turn. Rebecca was now at one of the side hatches looking toward the jungle. Smoke was clearly visible along with the red glow of lava. Suddenly a native ran toward the Duck. It was an elderly tiger. He was followed by two, then seven and then what seemed like fifty to sixty villagers.
Tigers, young, old and infirm, were running from the destruction. Rebecca focused on the cubs. Instinct and adrenaline kicked in.
Baloo thought he heard Rebecca cry out. “The kids!”
“Kit!” he shouted. “Go back an’ see what's going on. I'll get number two started!”
Kit ran back just in time to see Rebecca bolting through the door. He then saw Molly beginning to run after her mom. Kit made a running leap, grabbing Molly by the heels.
“Mommy! We've got to get Mommy!” she screamed.
“Molly --- stay here!”
Kit went to the hatch hoping Molly would mind him for once. He heard Rebecca call out, “Kit. We've got to get as many of these children aboard as we can. Hurry!”
“Professor --- take Molly to Baloo and help him get the plane ready for takeoff. I'm going out!”
The professor took Molly to the cockpit, and practically had to sit on her to keep her there. Baloo now had both engines running and could take to the sky at a moment’s notice.
A moment was about all they had.
Kit and Rebecca were literally tossing tiger cubs into the cargo hold. The older children were helping to settle the younger ones. It was frantic. By the time two thirds of the hold was filled with children, the lava had destroyed the village and crested the edge of the jungle. An eerie orange-red glow lit the Sea Duck. Coupled with the smell of sulfur and trace gasses, the sight was hypnotic.
Baloo got up to check on the hold. What he saw shocked him --- the hold was packed with young faces, all of them terrified. He started for the door.
“Becky, Kit... Our weight! We're almost overloaded. Get aboard --- quick!”
Rebecca didn't quite hear him as he shouted over the engines, but Kit did. He hurried back out to Rebecca and began tugging on her arm. “Miz Cunningham. We can't take any more. We can't take off if we do. Let's go!”
Rebecca grabbed one more cub and started to run for the Sea Duck. Kit was right alongside her. The lava, about sixty yards behind. Smoke was choking the oxygen out of the air.
Kit reached the hatch and climbed up. “Here --- give her to me!” He reached down for the little girl and she handed the cub to Kit. He moved the little cub toward the others, then reached for Rebecca. “Come on,” he yelled. Rebecca just stood there.
What is she doing? Kit thought as he looked back. “Rebecca, we have to go! Get aboard!” He was yelling louder now that Baloo was being to change the pitch of the props. He started to raise the RPM’s for takeoff.
Rebecca looked at the approaching lava, then cast a desperate glance at Kit. They were surrounded by the lava’s molten fingers. The heat and gasses from the flaming mass were rising fast.
“GO! Get out of here! Take care of Molly!” Kit reached up, grabbed the hatch and slammed it shut. He noticed in that instant that the lava was about only three yards away and still coming. As he shouted to Baloo, tears stung his eyes.
Rebecca stood watching the Duck carry the cubs, the professor and the three people she loved in her life away. She smelled something burning and looked down...
A bloodcurdling scream came from Rebecca's bunk. She sat straight up, her heart pounding in her chest. Wide-eyed and in a cold sweat, she blinked and scanned the cabin. Baloo was standing now beside her.
“Becky, it's okay, sweetheart. You were havin’ a nightmare,” he said putting a comforting arm about her shoulders.
She was still trying to catch her breath. “What?”
“Ya know. A nightmare, bad dream, bats in your belfry,” he added teasingly. A glare was all he got for his effort. It was quickly followed by a weak smile and a look of confusion.
“What about the volcano?” she finally asked.
“What? What volcano? Becky, whatever you saw it was a dream. Trust me. There's ain’t no active volcano.”
“But it seemed so...so real. Oh, what's going on, Baloo?”
He helped Becky off the bunk, then turned toward the hatch and called for Kit and Molly. “HEY! She's finally awake”. As he turned back Rebecca was standing directly behind him.
“What did you mean by 'finally awake’?”
He put his paws on her shoulders and said, “Becky, we've been tryin’ ta wake you up for the past fifteen hours. Ya slept most of the day. Sunset’s about a half hour from now. The professor says we need ta be at the temple by then.”
It took a few minutes to round up Kit and Molly and head off for the temple. Rebecca was still in a bit of a daze when the five of them arrived at twilight.
Baloo looked over the temple area. “Hmmph. Nobody home. That gal said twilight”. Suddenly, there was a flash and the tiger goddess was back.
“Congratulations. You have completed the first of three tasks,” she said, an ethereal glow still surrounding her form.
“What? How could I have completed anything. I just...the dream. It...it was a dream --- right”? Rebecca was completely confused, as was everyone else. How could she have passed any test while unconscious for fifteen straight hours?
The goddess again spoke. “The mind can accomplish much that the body may be unwilling to do. Through your dreams, I have seen the true compassion and selflessness you possess.”
“It is also a noble trait that you hide the most. The self-sacrifice you have shown through your dream was the first of the three trials. The next two require your physical presence.”
“Relax, Becky. Ya passed the first test --- all you need now is ta pass the other two.”
“Oh, is that all?”
He ignored her sarcasm. “And think how easy the last test was to pass, all you had to do was sleep.”
“You’re right, Baloo, even you could have passed it.”
“That's right, Becky, even I...hey!”
Altaira interrupted the argument. “It is time for your next trial. Are you prepared, my child?”
Rebecca swallowed. “Um…as ready as I'll ever be.”
“Hold on just a minute, why do ya keep callin’ us your children? We hadn't even heard of this crackpot religion ‘til a few days ago.” Baloo interrupted once again, and was rewarded with a hard stare.
“Look into my eyes, Mortal --- and behold.” With that Baloo stood transfixed as images flashed before him and words almost echoed in his head.
A rider aboard a sturdy horse in a desert and a haunting voice in his head saying, “I have been the Prophet. A man sitting beneath a tree. I have been a son. I have been a teacher many times over. I have been all these and much more. The right to call you my children is the right you gave when you first began to worship me, and you all do in whatever name you use.” All this passed by the others who only saw Baloo's fixed stare, and his sudden clarity as he came out of the vision.
The goddess turned her attention back to Rebecca. “I have taught one lesson this night, and perhaps he is wiser for it, now let us see if you will be the same.”
Rebecca looked at her pilot. “Baloo?”
His gaze remained unchanged, almost as though he was in a trance. He sometimes had a similar expression when he smelled hamburgers cooking, but this was different. Rebecca’s astonishment turned to fright. “What have you done to him?” she demanded.
“I have enlightened him. All will become clear... in time,” said Altaira. But before Rebecca could object, both she and the tigress vanished.