By some strange coincidence it was high noon in high summer when the stranger hit town. The riverfolk were dozing or chatting lazily in the shade when a creature they had never seen before broke through the bushes. He was about the size of a badger but with a fluffy coat and a long stripey tail like a cat. Dog Otter raised on his hind legs and sniffed. “Male, almost badger, not otter, not know.” He moved closer to protect his mate, just in case.
The stranger sat on his hind legs and pressed his long-clawed paws to his nose. “Y’all goddanny waaaaaadur?”
The animals of the river by the small village looked at each other in bemusement. Accustomed as they were to not speaking each other’s languages fluently, this new fellow was incomprehensible. Taking charge of the situation as their Bard, Otter fixed the newcomer with a bright eye and spoke slowly and clearly as to mole or dormouse.
“Where your home? Nest? Den? Holt?”
The new creature scratched his head and replied “I guessin I dun comfrum de petstore”. This not being much more intelligible than his first request, they held a conference. Farmcat, through her contact with humans had a wider vocabulary than the others and said.
“Pet! You pet, like dog?”
“Yess’m xeptin my hoomuns dun gondaway. Ize guessin I ain’t no pet nomomre.” With more consultation they asked him “No human, not pet?”
The stranger nodded and replied, “Dey dungonon vaykayshun.” This didn’t help very much either but being at heart helpful and compassionate creatures they wanted to help the poor soul who was obviously lost. Hedgehog, who had a very limited vocabulary indeed, understood that the only things in life that mattered were food, water and nice long naps, so he nosed a big juicy slug over to the odd creature. “Eat.” Sniffing the air and with a shout of “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaadur” the animal with the black mask over his eyes bounded over to the riverbank where he proceded to wash the slug before chomping on it as if half starved.
“Rum sort of bloke” Dog Otter observed. “Wonder what he is? Most like a badger…”
“Oh it doesn’t matter what he is, poor soul is lost and doesn’t seem to have a home,” Otter replied briskly, joining the stranger by her favourite mudslide which he was demolishing with his claws in his hunt for worms and grubs.
“You. No home. You stay.” She instructed, still using her “talking to foreigners” voice. “You what?” She asked.
The eyes twinkled in the black mask.
“Well ma’am. I guess Ize just me.”
“His is a ME” Otter announced, still completely confused. The stranger finished washing his lunch and sat up on his hind legs again, holding out a paw like his owner’s children had taught him to do.
“Pleeztameetcha, name’s Rocky.”