Ten times the rains had come and gone. Bagheera would often visit the wolves to see how the mancub Mowgli was doing. He had become a beloved member of the pack. Bagheera himself had come to care for Mowgli as his own family. Yet, one day, he knew that Mowgli would have to return to his own kind.
One hot day, the animals of the jungle were gathered at the watering hole. For it was the final three days of the Water Truce. Each year when the dry season came, the Peace Rock would be revealed, and the animals could meet at this river in safety. On this day, the rock had almost submerged beneath the water.
Bagheera watched as Mowgli played with Grey, the youngest of the wolf pack, as Mowgli was on his back saying “oh, you got me, Grey. Good job, brother!”
Mowgli walked down to the river, where the other animals of the jungle had gathered. He grabbed a bowl made of leaves, that he himself had created, and cupped it into the water.
"Mowgli!" Rama said to get the boy's attention, as Mowgli said "yes, father?"
"Put it down, son. What did Akela say?"
Mowgli sighed and, having heard this before, said in sync with Rama "no more tricks, no more inventions. It's not the wolf way."
"There's a good boy." Rama said as he went to Raksha, who said "Rama, you know he can't resist."
"I know. Believe me. It tears me apart to talk to him like that. But he can't use those... contraptions, in the jungle. He must learn to live by the ways of the pack."
Suddenly, a ear-bursting roar echoed throughout the jungle. Bagheera looked up, sniffing as he sensed a familiar scent, as four vultures circled the sky above. “Impossible." Bagheera said. "Raksha! Rama! You must hide Mowgli at once!”
“Why? What is it?” Raksha asked.
“Shere Khan!” Bagheera snapped, before Rama said “Mowgli! Come here, now!”
“What’s wrong?” Mowgli asked, before Raksha said “Mowgli, go with your father.”
As Rama lead Mowgli behind a rock, a silhouette appeared in the sun above the Peace Rock. The figure slunk across the hilltop, the sun casting the creature in shadow as he walked down into the watering hole. The tiger looked around, his ruffled fur striped black over orange as the animals stepped back. He said “good morning, everyone. Bagheera, old friend.”
“Shere Khan.” Bagheera greeted as he nodded in respect. Shere Khan then turned to the animals and said “so, how is everyone on this lovely summer’s morning? I sensed not much has changed since I’ve been gone. Though, I can’t quite help but notice a strange odor today. I’m not sure what it might be. It seems... familiar?”
Mowgli hid behind the rock, his eyes looking at the tiger from across the river as he said “what is it now? Is it a wolf? No, a monkey? I hope not... why, it almost smells like a... like a mancub.”
Shere Khan turned his head, seeing two small eyes pointing from behind a rock. The tiger growled and began to walk down to the river. As he reached the end, an old wolf stood on the rock in front of Mowgli. Shere Khan looked at the wolf, and said “Akela. What are you doing? Protecting one of... them.”
“Mowgli belongs to my pack, Shere Khan.”
“Mowgli? Then you’ve given it a name, have you? Forgive me for not being with the modern trends but... when exactly was it we came to adopt man into this jungle?”
“He is just a cub.”
“And does my face not remind you of what a grown man can do?” Shere Khan said as he turned, revealing the left side of his face. The front of his nose was scarred, with a patch of fur missing from his burned flesh. His left eye was clouded, and sat lifelessly on his face. Shere Khan growled and said “it seems you only need to shift your hunting grounds for a few years, and soon everyone here forgets how our law works! Well, allow me to remind you. A mancub becomes man, and man is forbidden!”
“You will not have my cub!” Raksha said as she stood on the rock and growled. Shere Khan looked at her, saying “well. Raksha, the little demon. Ha ha, the last time I saw you, you yourself were practically a cub. Oh, but look how you’ve grown. Dangerous. Violent. A force to be reckoned with. But I’m afraid I cannot allow your son here to inherit your traits.”
“The boy does not know the ways of man, Shere Khan.” Rama said. “He follows the Law of the Jungle, as any other animal would.”
“Ha ha ha.” Shere Khan laughed to himself, he crawled to the rock beside him. He said “you think that is my concern? You still think this is about what happened to me all those years ago? No, if the mancub stays here, he poses a threat that even he cannot stop!”
Bagheera looked down. He knew exactly what Shere Khan meant, as the tiger continued.
“There are some in this jungle who would do anything to get their hands on man’s tools! Should this boy ever learn to create those tools, the jungle would be destroyed, and everyone in it! He cannot stay here, which is why we must kill the boy.”
"You're wrong!" Bagheera said as he stepped down from the tree and walked towards the tiger. Shere Khan turned to Bagheera and growled, saying "so, you sacrifice yourself for him too?"
Raksha and Rama looked at Bagheera, who then said “you’re wrong... and you’re right. You’re wrong, in that we don’t have to kill the boy. But you are right, in that he must not stay here. He must.... he must leave the jungle."
“My son is not going anywhere!” Raksha said. Shere Khan stepped back, and said “very well, Bagheera. Your reasoning and wisdom keeps the boy alive. But I won't wait forever. You have until the Peace Rock disappears to remove the boy from the jungle. Two sunrises... three sunsets... but if I return here on the third sunset, and the boy is not gone, I will destroy him.”
Shere Khan looked at the boy’s hiding place one last time, before walking up the hill and back into the jungle.