The Dull Colored Peacock
Once upon a time, in a kingdom healthy and happy and filled with flowers and fruits, there existed within the walls of palaces and temples massive flocks of peacocks and peahens. The peacocks did not bother themselves with the politics or meddling of men, they groomed only for the attention of their beloved peahens; the peahens on the other hand were terribly curious about all forms of politics and what men were up to and thus would only pay attention to the most showy of peacocks.
It was into this sort of world that one day, during the hatching of a particular peahen's brood that a small, fluffy peachick was born. There was nothing out of the ordinary at first, he was a healthy little brown and yellow chick who demanded his mothers attention as much as his three sisters and only brother. He didn't fight when his siblings and when they were old enough, they all followed their mother to learn how to eat.
However it became all to clear that he was not a normal peacock; during the time when all peacocks shed their fluffy chick down and trade it for long, luxurious feathers, his feathers did not come in bright blues or sharp greens, nor did he have large eye spots or shiny feathers at all. Point of fact, he looked exactly like a peahen. His mother worried and fussed and worried some more about the state of his feathers, she accused him of not eating all the beetles she had pointed out and worried that she hadn't fed him enough of the right ones and eventually made her way to the oldest peahens in the flock to ask them about her son.
The dull brown peacock didn't seem to notice, bright colors were for males who wanted the attention of females and he didn't. He was contented to sit with them under windows and by doorways to listen in on what the humans were up to. Often the females would ask why he didn't dance or sing or put on showy displays to which he would always reply: "Who would gaze upon a male who looked like the very dirt he danced in? No female would even see me amongst the leaves and ground."
His mother, always down-hearted to hear her son talk so, would try to sit as close to her hen colored son and could often be seen draping her wing over him as though she feared he might become the dirt he claimed to look like. None of the females were insulted, females didn't dance or sing, they were dirt colored to protect their chicks; the did pity him though, a male without color might as well be no male at all
It was really not until the dull brown peacock laid eyes on the most beautiful peacock that he had ever seen that his eyes envied the color. The rich blues shown and sparkled, the green was the most beautiful iridescent and the eyes on his tail seemed to shine like beacons. The dull brown peacock had never seen anything so beautiful in his life, all he wanted was to go and sit next to the beautiful peacock but his own nerves would not allow it.
After spotting the beautiful peacock, he tried to sit near the edge of the peahens, in hopes of being seen, even if he was mistaken for one of the peahens and the beautiful peacock danced mistakenly, the dull brown peacock thought he might die happy. But he never saw the beautiful peacock dance and he never heard him sing and he wondered if he knew how beautiful he was or if he just didn't fancy any of the peahens.
The attention the dull colored peacocks so discreetly paid to the beautiful peacock did not go unnoticed by his mother, who, on one early morning, sought out the beautiful peacock. She was to old now for more laying, so her approach was not taken as another female walking purposely past him to entice him to sing. "You are a very beautiful male, yet you never dance or sing. Do none of the peahens attract you?" She asked, an old air about her that spoke curiosity rather than accusation.
"I am ma'dam, I know. I will never sing and I will never dance for no peahen has the rights to attract me." He said in a soft way as he sat upon the ground, his tail folded neatly behind him. Soft black eyes stared up at the older peahen. "Does it bother you?" He asked.
"Oh no, certainly not. But I have heard the younger peahens talking of you and one in our group cannot resist watching as you pass despite that you never dance and you never sing." She answered cleverly. "What sort of right must a peahen have to attract such a beautiful male then?" She asked, sitting across from him in a delicate swoop.
"Oh, a peahen must be smart. If I must be required to look so hard for a peahen that will blend into the earth, I want one smart enough that I may find her again." He said thoughtfully.
"Smart? There are plenty of smart peahens, sure that is not your only requirement." She edged forward.
"Soft spoken, I would not want an obnoxious peahen ruining my mornings with loud screaming and calling." He furthered.
"Soft spoken and smart? Still, that does not limit your choices much. What else would call a peacock of such beauty?" She tilted her head.
"Soft feathers, I want someone to nestle against in the winter who is warm and comfortable. I do not want rough feathers against my own delicate ones." He answered.
"Well, that sure is a specific list, but even still, I can think of no less then five in our flock who fit that description. Truthfully, you must still have more conditions for your peahen." She encouraged.
"I should like one that is comfortable and does not need to pry into the world of men as I do not need to dance and sing for any peahen I see." He answered.
"Ahhh, so that is the great problem is it? Gossiping peahens." She let out a soft laugh and stood. "I think I understand beautiful peacock, however, I wonder… If no such peahens exist, what then might you do?" She asked, a clever sparkle to her black eyes.
"My dear ma'dam, I would do nothing. As I have been doing, no peacock rivals my beauty but no peahen catches my eye. I should do nothing but sit and wait and watch your flock. Perhaps one will lose interest in the courtships of men." He answered.
The wise peahen nodded. "Yes, I see the truth now, and I think… You shall be very lonely for a shorter time then you anticipated." She spoke before wandering off, leaving the beautiful male very confused.
The next day, the old peahen sent her dull colored son on a task, one that would send him across the beautiful peacock's path many times while she pulled the attention of the peahen flock away from the business of the humans long enough to talk to them about her scheme. "Ladies." She addressed them, standing at the head of their circle like the master of a parade.
"You all know my dull colored son. We allow him to sit with us because he will not dance or sing like the other males and he is quiet." She started, all the peahens nodded. They did enjoy the company of her son and often forgot he was not a peahen himself.
"My son has found himself infatuated with the most beautiful male." She announced. There were a few gasps, but over all there were understanding nods; the most beautiful male was not a hard peacock to become infatuated with. "I went to talk directly to the beautiful peacock yesterday and he told me he has many requirements in a peahen."
She then leaned her head down and in, as if discussing the most important part. "My son, would you all not agree, is smart, quiet, soft feathered and generally uninterested in the actions of men?" She asked, tilting her head to the side. All the peahens nodded. "Then, I should like all your help in decorating my son. He was born without his beautiful plumage, but if the beautiful peacock will not dance for a dull colored male, perhaps he will dance with a brightly colored one." At the thought of making the dull colored peacock a fine new look to perhaps find him happiness, the other peahens began cheering and calling and quickly discussing what sort of things they should use.
The dull colored peacock, looking much like an ordinary peahen, set about his mothers task. She had charged him with choosing three different colored flowers, two kinds of berry and a pearl swallowed by a toad near the pond. Why she wanted such things he had not asked, he had simply set out to get them. The first time he set for the flowers, he found the beautiful peacock sitting near the multicolored bushes and was so frightened to be close to the object of beauty, that he spent a great deal of time wandering the garden and looking for another bush of the same kind to retrieve his mothers flowers.
Eventually, the beautiful noticed the strange pacing of the dull colored bird he perceived to be a peahen and called out. "Are you lost?"
The dull colored peacock started and stared for a moment before speaking nervously. "O-oh. No, I am right where I want to be.. Although, I need three flowers." He explained.
The beautiful peacock was equally startled by the distinctly peacock voice that came from the peahen. He had never seen such a dull colored male before. "Three flowers? There are dozens here." He said, curious as to why it was taking so long to choose.
"Oh yes, I know." Replied the dull colored peacock. "But I need three of your flowers.." He said, indicating the bush beside which the beautiful peacock sat.
The beautiful peacock turned his head to gaze at the bush. "Well by all means, please take them. They do not belong to me, I simply sit here for the view." He spoke honestly.
The dull colored male quickly walked over to the bush, he reached up and with his beak delicately pulled off one yellow, one orange and one gold and red flower. He bowed his head in thanks both to the bush and the beautiful peacock and quickly walked off. He set the flowers in his mothers nest and went to find the berries next.
Of course the dull colored peacock knew exactly what kind of berries were his mothers favorites. She didn't use them to eat, of course, they ate insects, but she had used them to dye and stain the ground to attract insects to a particular point when one of the other peahens was feeling sick; they were easier to eat if they flew or crawled right up to a sick or injured peafowl.
Again though, the dull colored peacock found himself staring at the beautiful peacock, this time he was eating his own meal… Right beneath the tree that had his mothers favorite berries. The dull colored peacock, loath to interrupt someone while they were eating, flew up into a nearby tree to wait until the beautiful peacock was finished; he didn't look, however, before flying up into the tree and found himself face to face with four, much larger, much showier peacocks who all cocked their heads down at him. "Hhmmm… Aren't you the bonded ones brother?" Asked one, eyeing the dull colored peacock with one large black eye. They bonded one, that was what they called his brother, his brother was one of few peacocks who had chosen to live with only one peahen rather then attract a different mate each season.
"Yes." Answered the dull colored peacock warily, suddenly regretting his mother sending him on so many errands.
"What are you doing here? You should be with the peahens. This is peacock grazing territory." Warned the largest. Few of the peacocks would tolerate his presence, his dull colors made him unattractive as a mate but his proximity to the peahens still made him a threat.
"I was sent for berries." He answered, slowly backing his way along the branch he had landed on.
"For berries? Peahens don't eat berries, peacocks don't either. Are you neither little dirt bird?" Asked the one to the far left.
"No, I am a peacock. One of the peahens must not feel well, berries attract food." He defended. His mother was a wise woman, he would not be mocked for her keeping the flock healthy.
One to the right scoffed. "You are not a peacock. You are a dirt bird. Peacocks have long tails and bright blue faces and lovely green feathers. You are the color of mud."
"With moss." Added the one to the farthest right, after all, he was colored just like a female and he had the dull green face.
"Dirt birds do not belong in trees." Puffed one of the males who leaned out and pecked harshly at the dull colored peacocks neck.
The dull colored peacock let out a surprised cry and fell backwards out of the tree. He moved quickly and managed to flip over and dampen his fall, but it had still hurt.
The attention of the most beautiful peacock, however, had once again been drawn to the dull colored male. He looked over as the brown male gathered himself back up, still shaking slightly. "Are you alright?" He called out from a few trees away.
Once again the dull colored peacock was startled and quickly looked over, his eyes softened when he saw the beautiful peacock and he nodded, embarrassed that he'd been seen by someone so beautiful. "Yes.. I.. I'm fine." His chest hurt but he imagined it would be sore for a few days yet.
"What are you doing here? I've never seen you come to graze before." The beautiful peacock watched as the dull brown peacock made his way towards the tree.
"I'm not allowed to come here to eat since my brother bonded, but I still come to fetch berries for my mother." He answered, looking up at the tree the beautiful peacock was beneath.
"Berries? Peahens don't eat berries." The beautiful peacock responded in a confused manner.
"No, but my mother will scratch them into the ground near a sick or injured peahen to attract food. It speeds recovery if they don't have to move." The dull colored peacock replied.
"Oh, that makes sense. Are they from this tree?" He asked, following the dull colored peacocks gaze upwards.
"Yes, will you mind terribly if I go and get some from the tree?" The dull colored peacock asked as he got near enough that he could reach a branch if he started flying.
"No, of course not. It won't bother me." Answered the beautiful peacock, intrigued by this male he had already seen twice today.
"Thank you." The dull colored peacock flew gracefully up into the tree and collected a small branch with a bundle of berries; he flew back down to the ground, bowed his head to the tree and then again to the beautiful peacock before quickly leaving once again.
The dull colored peacock also took the berries and put them in the nest as there was no telling where his mother was but she would certainly come back at some point to find the berries she had asked for and take them to the sick or injured peahen in their flock.
Finally, the dull colored peacock headed for the pond in search of the toad that had swallowed a pearl. He knew which pearl it was too; last mating season his brother had gone through great lengths to steal pearls for his sisters, his mother and his mate, the one for their youngest sister had been eaten by a toad who had a foul disposition. The nasty toad had disappeared during the dry season, but it was wetter now and he had reappeared again. On his way to pond, the dull colored peacock unknowingly caught the eye of the beautiful peacock, who curious about where the dull colored peacock was off to now, decided to follow him discreetly.
It didn't take long for the dull colored peacock to find the toad resting in the warm shade on a mossy rock. Unknowing of the beautiful peacock some distance off who watched him, the dull colored peacock walked right up to the toad and sat down in front of him; the toad cracked an eye and looked at him. "What do you want, peahen?" He asked, irritated at being interrupted from his rest.
"Now that you have called me peahen, I want a favor." Said the dull colored peacock cleverly.
The toad sputtered indignantly. "P-peacock? What's an ugly thing like you want a favor from me for?" Asked the toad abrasively.
"Now that you have called me ugly, I should have two favors from you." Replied the dull colored peacock slyly.
The toad sputtered again and danced with his front feet in an angry sort of way. "Favors! Favors! What a horrid thing you are! How did you come to want favors from an old toad?" He asked sharply.
"Now that you have called me horrid you have given me three insults handsome toad, and I you a compliment. I demand the pearl you stole and ate from my sister." He said firmly, turning his head to stare at the toad with one great black eye.
The toad sputtered. "I did no such thing. What would a toad do with a pearl?"
"Mistake it for an egg and eat it. It was an honest mistake noble toad, I have now paid you two compliments, please return the pearl." Demanded the dull colored peacock.
"I would never! Toads do not eat pearls!" Asserted the frog, eyeing the dull colored peacock with an air of distrust.
"Well clever toad, I have given you three compliment and you have given three insults, what will it take for you to give me my sisters pearl back?" Asked the dull colored peacock.
"Something you don't have, wretched peacock." Answered the toad sourly.
"And what would that be? Charming young toad?" Asked the dull colored peacock who rather wanted to peck the annoying and stubborn creature.
"I want a long, soft feather, with a bright green eye." Said the toad smugly.
The dull colored peacock looked very put out. It was possible that he could get his brother to give up a tail feather, but the ones that were dropped were quickly picked up by humans and it was not a pleasant thing to pull one out, especially not to simply get a thief to give back what he stole.
From behind the dull colored peacock strutted up the most beautiful peacock who stared down at the obstinate little creature. "Well toad. You have done a marvelous job indebting yourself to the gentle peacock." He accused, startling both parties and causing the toad to let out an unnerved croak; the beautiful peacock curled his body and stretched his head, he plucked one of his fine feathers from his tail and laid it in front of the rock. "I have paid your fee, now give up the pearl or I will step on you." Warned the beautiful peacock.
The toad quickly threw up the pearl, grabbed his feather and hopped away.
The dull colored peacock looked over at the beautiful peacock and worried after his tail. "You didn't have to do that, he was asking to much." said the dull colored peacock as he turned to inspect the site of the lost feather. "Now you're bleeding, please hold still." The dull colored peacock took a piece of moss from the rock and cleaned it in the water with his bill before walking back over and placing the moss carefully over the wound. "Thank you…" He said softly, not looking directly at the beautiful peacock.
"It wasn't to much. The pearl is for your sister isn't it?" The beautiful peacock inspected the newly mossed wound. "Thank you, how did you know to do that?" He asked curiously.
"Mother taught me, one benefit of living with the peahens is I learn everything they know." He said softly before snatching up the pearl. He wouldn't allow another amphibian to come and gobble it up all over again.
"You are very clever." The beautiful peacock praised.
The dull colored peacock flustered, thanked him and quickly ran off to find his sister. To embarrassed by the compliment to stay around.
The dull colored peacock tried to find his sister, but none of the peahens were anywhere to be found. Thoroughly confused, he searched under every window and at every doorway; eventually, the dull colored peacock brought the pearl back to the nest and set it inside one of the flowers for safe keeping.
The dull colored peacock wandered out into the sunny garden to sit in the bush with pleasant smelling flowers. If the peahens were gone, he would just wait in the garden until his mother came to get him. His mother was not, however, who found him first. The most beautiful peacock found the peacock he found as such a curiosity. "So, after collecting so many things, you haven't rejoined the peahens?" He asked, tilting his head to one side.
"I cannot find them." Answered the dull colored peacock.
"You did not want to listen to the humans alone?" He asked, turning his head to face the other peacock with one large black eye.
"I don't take an interest in human activities. I just like the company." He answered, pulling his neck back. Although the most beautiful peacock had yet to be unkind, but the dull colored peacock hadn't had a good record in dealing with other peacocks.
"Oh?" The beautiful peacock seemed intrigued. He wasn't able to expand further though as the mother of the dull colored peacock came over.
"Excuse me, excuse me, my dear son, I found all the things you fetched for me, such a good son." Her eyes sparkled as she took notice of the beautiful peacock. "Oh, hello beautiful peacock, I see you have met my son. Have I interrupted something?" She asked, that wise sparkle in her eye.
"No, no, of course not." The beautiful peacock said, stepping back to allow the pea mother to her child.
She stepped forward. "Well in that case, my dear son, please come with me. I and the other peahens have made a surprise for you." She said slyly.
The dull colored peacock stood up. "Oh?" He looked to the most beautiful peacock. "Please excuse me then. I hope to speak with you again some time." He bowed his head and followed after his mother.
His mother lead him around to the back of the wall that surrounded the palace; there the entire peahen flock stood, waiting. It made the dull colored peacock a little nervous to see them all standing there, looking at them. Usually most of them were paying attention to the humans and only greeted him in passing.
"My dearest son, nothing can be hidden from your mother. I have seen how you've moved to the outside of the flock, to watch a particular peacock." Her eyes sparkled. "He does not want a peahen, so, we've made you a new attire." The flock separated and two of the peahens lifted a long silk garment that the dull colored peacock thought they must have stolen. "Turn around." Instructed his mother.
The brown feathered male turned and allowed the females to drape the long blue to green garment over him. It covered along his wings and hung over the length of his tail and then some; they fastened it in the front and on his head they placed a grown made from the three flowers his mother had sent him to fetch.
The dull colored peacock had to admit… In his color and splendor… He felt lovely, he felt handsome and he wondered if that was what all peacock males felt every day. He squeezed his eyes shut and before he knew it, a loud, long, song like cry erupted from his throat; the sound was quickly followed by the calling songs of the peahen flock.
The dull colored peacocks mother nudged her son. "Go find him." She encouraged as the peahens sang and called, proud and happy of the silken feathers they had adorned on their favored peacock.
The decorated dull colored peacock ducked his head and lifted his tail so the trail wouldn't get dirty as he walked. It didn't take him long, the beautiful peacock had been curious about the surprise; the dull colored peacock only had to round the corner and he came face to face with the beautiful peacock.
The beautiful peacock was taken aback by the lovely colors and dressing that adorned the once quite odd and dull peacock. "So.. That was the surprise?" Asked the brightly colored peacock.
The dull colored peacock nodded, to embarrassed to speak. He tilted his head away, afraid that the beautiful peacock might now find him a threat with the gift he'd been given; instead, the dull colored peacock was shocked.
The beautiful peacock lowered his head and let out a low, swooning call, he sided his wings and lifted his tail, spreading the fan and shaking the feathers to make them shine. He continued his swooning, calling song. Performing a song and dance for the only peafowl he had found that suited his tastes.
The dull colored peacock was to shocked to answer for a solid minute, but finally he lowered his head and offered his own soft answering call. He rose his tail and spread the fan, the silk fanning along it and allowing him to match beauty.. At least to human eyes.
They danced together for five minutes, surrounded by cheering peahens; when the dance was over, the dull colored peacock moved hesitantly towards the beautiful peacock. "Are.. You sure?" He asked softly.
"You are smart." Answered the beautiful peacock. "You are soft spoken." There was a kind of amusement in his eyes as he stared at the silk strewn over the other males back. "You're feathers are soft." He leaned his head in and plucked the flowers from the top of the other peacocks head. "You are not interested in human affairs." The beautiful peacock stepped in and rested his head against the dull colored males. "I am sure. There will be three peacocks in this human territory that are bonded for life."
The dull colored male nearly collapsed, he curled against the beautiful male and allowed himself to just sit, happy and beautiful and with such a lovely bond.
His mother and the other peahens cheered and indeed, from then on, there were three peacocks who bonded and the dull colored peacock always wore his gift when going to eat with his bonded in the peacocks territory.