Authors: Michael Broad
Table of Contents
oody Brown and Sooty Black darted along the riverbank, diving in and out of the water, and laughing as they raced each other home. The otter pups had spent the whole day chasing fish and skimming stones, but they were still full of energy.
“I wonder what our mums will be preparing for dinner?” asked Woody.
“Crayfish, I hope!” replied Sooty, drooling at the thought. “They're tricky to catch with those big snappy claws, but our dads fishing together usually grab enough for everyone, without getting a single nip.”
The Brown family and the Black family lived together in a large old beaver lodge on the bank of the river. The two families had moved in as rivals and competed in the first-ever river races to decide who should stay, but they got on so well that they finally agreed to share. Pups, teens, parents and grandparents, eighteen otters in total, lived on a luxury island of twigs and branches called Cottonwood Lodge. With so many animals living under one roof, every mealtime was a big fishy banquet.
“Wait!” whispered Woody, stopping so suddenly Sooty almost crashed into him. The brown otter pup reared up on his hind legs and sniffed the air, twitching his whiskers.
“What is it?” whispered Sooty. He knew it had to be something important for his friend to stop so close to home, especially as it was almost dinnertime.
“I think someone was here a moment ago,” said Woody, frowning and scanning the muddy ground. “But it wasn't an otter. Look at those strange tracks!”
He pointed to two long trails of flattened mud that led down to the water. It was as though whoever left them was dragging something flat and wide behind them, to cover their paw prints.
“Over there!” gasped Sooty, as he spotted two furry heads emerging from the river. The intruders were facing the other way, so the otter pups leapt into the bushes to hide and watch. The rust-coloured heads turned to reveal bulging cheeks and large front teeth that gleamed in the light of the setting sun.
“Beavers!” said Woody and Sooty together, peeping through the leaves as the strangers swam towards them. The beavers clambered up on to the bank and appeared to study the river. One was large with a huge flat tail and enormous yellow teeth, while the other was smaller and appeared to be the same age as the otter pups.
“Well?” said the big beaver gruffly. “Tell me what you think.”
“I don't know, Papa,” the young kit shrugged, awkwardly.
“Don't know?” grumbled his father, licking a claw and holding it up to the breeze. “What are your tingling teeth telling you?”
“Er, it's nice?” the youngster replied.
” the elder beaver exclaimed. He snatched a few leaves from the bush and tossed them in the river, watching their movement as they sailed downstream. He then surveyed the surrounding banks and high tree-line and took a deep breath.
“It's perfect!” he added gruffly. “Now come along, or your mother and sisters will be wondering where we are.”
As the beavers dived back into the water and swam upstream, the two otter pups scrambled out of the bush, dusted off their glossy coats and frowned at each other.
“What do you think that was all about?” asked Sooty.
“I don't know,” replied Woody. “But I think we should tell our parents about it when we get home.”
Cottonwood Lodge was just round the river bend and when the pups arrived they hopped out of the water on to the mooring pad and scurried through the main entrance. This led to a large central chamber with wide tunnels leading to smaller chambers, all bustling with otter activity.
Papa Brown and Papa Black had returned moments earlier and were busy dragging a basket filled with the day's catch to Mama Brown and Mama Black.
The Brown twins, Nutmeg and Chestnut, were playing tag with the Black twins, Storm and Shadow. They were darting in and out of every chamber, making as much noise as possible.
Coco Brown and Berry Black were in their room, which was an oasis of calm because the young female otters spent most of their time grooming and weaving flowers into jewellery.
In the central chamber Grandpa Jack Black and Grandpa Bruno Brown were telling tales of their youth as boxing champions, while young surfer, Jet Black, quizzed them on their many sporting achievements. Grandma Maple Brown was there too, but she kept quiet as she didn't like to encourage the old otters, even though she was secretly proud of her husband's heavyweight boxing titles. The younger pups, Beanie Brown and Coal Black, were listening to the boxing stories too, while bobbing on their backs in the indoor pool and munching snacks from lily-pad plates.