In the garden of darkness, a panther waits within a high tree. A puma softly treads the leafy floor below, searching for some place to rest.
"Poor lad, do you know where you have wandered?" asks the panther to the puma.
"Oh, sir, panther! I have strayed far from my land. I know not where upon my head should rest for solace. Please direct me to the nearest inn or vacancy of such kind that I may purchase an evening rest. I am forever in your debt, good sir for such a small but valuable transfer of neural networking. Query?"
"You talk in such befuddling verse, puma. Dare I suggest you have come from the north? Query, indeed."
"Oh, quite right you are, my friend panther. I am a northern puma, named Paladin. I am Paladin Puma, at your service, sir, here to slay the dragons or other foul lizards that may infest whatever land I happen to be paid to protect. Have you need of such service?" The puma's shoulders gallantly triumph into the air, propping his chest high and mighty, as if load bearing columns of a great warrior.
"No lizards here, friend. I have eaten all but one and that one is afraid of coming out of his hiding place, lest I tear his limbs as I have done to his siblings and ancestors. There is no need here of a hero."
"Then you are a knight errant, too...?" Paladin Puma asks in the kind of inquisition that wreaks of withered disappointment. He lowers his shoulders in sad, reflective thoughts of inadequacy. There is no room in this world for a knight errant and Paladin Puma is learning more of this truth in each place he visits.
"Oh, friend Puma..." the Panther says with a wicked grin, showing his massive incisors, clean and white. "You have no reason to be so distraught. This land welcomes and consumes all creatures who bear the mark of fur."
"That is good news and I am in such need of it. Please, show me where I may rest. It has been such a long journey from fro and to, far to near and there to here."
"If you insist... follow my path--although, you may remain on the ground. I will traverse the trees as I am born to do so."
Paladin Puma scampers along the ground, beneath the panther, looking up at his new friend and failing to watch his path carefully. Within seven steps, he falls deep into a hole, which had been masked by humans, not so cleverly, with twigs and leaves.
The panther continues to leap from branch to branch, leaving Paladin Puma in the dark, inescapable hole to be found in the morning by men and killed for his fur. Before fading from view, the panther whispers into the still quiet night, "Be a good lad and scream, friend."
The Puma remains silent.