Any expert will tell you that there are things you should never say to a gurzzle. They are unusually touchy animals and tend to respond to any form of offense—intended or otherwise—with quick, decisive and invariably violent action. If, for example, you were to criticize the shape and size of their ears, the particular shade of their fur, or the fact that they are the only animal known to science to have three limbs, they would probably feel inclined to shoot out their two, prehensile tongues, wrap them around you until you couldn’t move, and devour you in two or three bites of their very sharp teeth.
And they really wouldn’t care whether or not you were a princess.
Sym found this out the hard way. She and Pryor had been exploring Harold’s Wood, the large semi-enchanted forest on the edge of the kingdom, when they had heard the strange sound from which the animal gets its name:
“Gurrrrzzzzzle,” it said, sounding like a purr, a gargle and a low roar all at once.
“Is that…?” asked Pryor. But before he could finish his thought, Sym was away. She, too, had heard the sound and wanted to see a gurzzle firsthand. She had never seen one before, except for pictures in books.
It was sleeping when they found it. Sym and Pryor crouched behind some convenient rocks and saw it wrapped in its two great arms like it was giving itself a hug.
“It’s beautiful,” Sym breathed.
“Are we both looking at the same thing?” asked Pryor. All he saw was a mass of teeth and fur with a nasty reputation for killing and eating people.
“Hand me your lightbox,” said Sym.
Pryor’s eyes widened. “You want a picture of that thing?”
“Why else would I be asking for your lightbox?”
Knowing it was pointless to argue, Pryor reached into his bag, pulled out the wooden box with its various lenses and other components which he didn’t understand but which very clever men and women had concocted to create lifelike images on small slips of paper and handed it to Sym, who held it to her eye, unable to believe her luck.
“Hurry up,” Pryor insisted. “It could wake up at any second!”
“Wouldn’t that be bril? It’d make a much better picture if it was awake.”
“I’m being serious, Sym.”
“I need to get closer.”
Pryor simply could not believe his ears. “You…you what? Sym, that thing is dangerous!”
“Yeah, for now.”
“Just hush up! I’ll be right back.”
Deaf to Pryor’s protests, Sym inched closer to the sleeping gurzzle. Fortunately, her years of training had made her exceptionally light on her feet and she could move silently. By rather stark contrast, Pryor was having a great deal of trouble keeping quiet, even while holding perfectly still, as every fiber of his being wanted to yell out to Sym to stop doing the enormously stupid thing she was now doing.