A small crowd had gathered in the common room to listen to the storyteller. There was usually a storyteller at the inn, weaving intricate and endless yarns that were all happy endings and generally safe for kids all day, but became darker and more adult in theme as their audience expected after dark.
I stopped to listen, as it seemed likely that I’d arrived as a new yarn was unfolding. She took a short length of beaded cord out of a pocket and held it up. “Beads on a string, about a dozen or so. A simple strand that can be joined in a loop by locking it here.”
With a practiced motion, she joined it into a ring by twisting the ends together.
“Which reminds me of a tale, that begins with a cobra.” As she spoke, she cut the ring open, and suddenly was holding a cobra made of beads. It coiled up in her palm, then lifted its head to look at the audience. The children gasped as its head moved hypnotically around giving it a good view of everyone.
“Don’t worry, I have him under control.” The cobra nodded at that.
“Besides, I’ve had his fangs capped so he isn’t nearly as dangerous as he thinks he is.” The snake turned and looked at her, obviously considering whether or not to test this notion. Then turned back and calmed down.
“All cobras,” the snake seemed satisfied to be the subject of the tale, “are magnificent hunters. Swift. Deadly. But often even the mightiest hunter has its weakness. The cobra is no exception.” The crowd were sucked in now. Even the little snake coiled up to listen.
The cobra’s nemesis is the mongoose.
She picked the snake up by its coils, and with a deft movement had the first coil locked in place.
“The mongoose knows it can move as fast as the cobra, and knows to make its target here, at the back of the snake’s head when the cobra strikes. Once caught, that is the last strike the cobra will ever make.”
She deftly locked a second coil.
“And now the deadly snake is killed, and replaced by its enemy, the mongoose.”
She displayed the little bead animal in her palm, there being no sign of the snake. She presented the animal to a child in front and swiftly passed her hat for the reward she knew she was due.