A dangerous friend

It was a bright summer morning, as the sun sparkled on the crystal clear waters of the lake.

"Ah! I love this lake," Delma said to herself as she bathed in the cool water.

Delma then went around to explore the lake and make sure that all the creatures there were well protected. She took her reputation as a lake protector seriously. Being one of the largest creatures in the lake, the other aquatic animals had begun to rely on her as a sensible and strong guardian.

"Oh wow!", Delma said to herself as she saw a particularly interesting rock formaion. As she probed around she heard a soft whimpering sound. It was a small, brown coloured fish.

"What happened, little friend," asked Delma.

"I...I ...am lost," sobbed the fish.

"Oh dear!" exclaimed Delma. She recalled the time she had been estranged from her dolphin family and the heartbreak she had experienced.

"I will help you find your family," Delma said with determination. "Tell me exactly what happened."

The fish explained that she had been swimming with her shoal when she wandered off to explore some colourful weeds. "By the time I turned back there was no sign of my shoal," sniffed the fish miserably.

The tiny fish's story was so similar to her own that Delma winced at the memory of her own family. "What is your name? Tell me all you remember about your home," Delma probed gently.

"My name is Pia. We all live in a cave—that's all I know. I have a large family..." the fish seemed confused and began to cry again.

"Caves...I have heard of them. Let me ask someone where they are," and with those words Delma set off with the fish. The first creature they met were Delma's three jellyfish school mates. "Hello! I need to find this fish's home. She is lost," Delma explained.

But before she could say anything else the jellyfish took one look at the lost fish and gasped.

"Its...it's a piranha," one jellyfish cried. "Oh! Is it?" said Delma. "Well, do you know where piranhas live? I need to help her find her family. She says they live in some caves...”

"We're...afraid ...we...we can't help you," stammered the trio of jellyfish in unison and fled.

Delma was amazed at the reaction of the jellyfish. Next, they bumped into Bea the beaver and her entourage of beaver offspring. "Hello Bea," began Delma urgently. "This is Pia and she has been separated from her family. Do you know where the piranhas live?"

Bea seemed thunderstruck, "A ...a ...Piranha?"

"Yes, I believe she is a piranha, but why is everyone so shocked to hear that?" questioned the dolphin, confused.

"Delma..." began Bea cautiously as her children tried to hide behind their mother.

"Why don't you just let Pia find her way back herself. I don't think you should go to her family."

"But she is too young. I know what it’s like to be lost and afraid. I want to help her," said Delma losing her patience.

"I can't understand why everyone is behaving so strangely with Pia!"

"Delma...why don't you go speak to Olly the Octopus. He'll be able to explain better," said Bea, with a frustrated expression on her face.

"Okay! I think I will go to him. Come on, Pia," cried Delma. Pia looked more upset than before.

"Please, don't be upset by the reactions of all my friends. Olly will definitely be able to help us."

When they reached the Aquatic School where Olly was the principal, Delma was expecting Olly to behave strangely with Pia too. However, if Olly was startled to see Pia, he hid it well.

After Delma had explained what had happened to Pia, Olly told Delma the location of the caves. "Delma, lead her there but don't take her inside the cave where the piranhas live....they don't like to be disturbed," Olly explained quickly.

Delma hurried off with Pia, intent to find the caves. They had a long way to swim before they made it to the inlet where the underwater caves began.

"This is it!" cried Pia happily, tears of relief shining in her eyes.

Delma bid her farewell and made her way back. She met Olly on the way. "Sir? What are you doing so far from Aquatic School."

"I was awaiting your return," said Olly. "Now that you have come back safely after delivering Pia to her home, I want to explain why everyone has been behaving so strangely with Pia."

As Delma and Olly swam back towards Aquatic School, Olly explained, "Piranha is an omnivorous freshwater fish that lives in rivers. The total number of piranha species is unknown and contested, and new species continue to be described. Estimates range from fewer than 30 to more than 60."

"But why is everyone so scared of them?" Delma asked.

"Did you notice Pia's sharp teeth?" asked Olly. "All piranhas have a single row of sharp teeth in both jaws; the teeth are tightly packed and interlocking and are used for rapid puncture and shearing. Individual teeth are typically broadly triangular, pointed and blade-like."

"Yes, actually I did notice!" said Delma.

"Well, Piranhas have a voracious appetite for meat. They are known as both predators and scavengers who hunt their prey in schools — what we can call 'cooperative hunting'. But there are herbivorous piranhas too," said Olly. "Pia's family may be herbivorous but there was no way to be sure."

"Oh! I see," said Delma. She was stunned by all this information. "Now I understand why everyone was so afraid of her."

"To tell you the truth, I was reluctant to send you to the caves too. But I prayed and hoped for the best," admitted Olly. "And I am glad you have returned safely. I'm proud of you. You have done a good deed and proved yet again that you are the lake protector."

Delma was flattered by the praise.

A few days later, as Delma lazed around at the edge of the lake with her best friends, Din Din and Dazel, Pia the piranha swam up to them. She was accompanied by her parents.

Delma smiled at the piranhas. "Hello Pia. So nice of you to come and visit."

Pia's father replied solemnly, "Delma we have heard so much about you from Pia. We want to thank you for bringing her back."

Pia's mother added, "Pia told us how hard it was for you to get her back home. We know we piranhas have a ruthless reputation. And despite that, you risked your life to bring her back."

Delma shook her head, "Please don't say thank you. It was my responsibility. I know the trauma of being lost." Pia's father said, "As a show of gratitude, we would like to make a promise that this lake will always be safe from piranhas."

When the piranhas left, Dazel exclaimed, "Delma! Do you know what your kindness has achieved? You have made this lake safe from these fish."

Din Din added, "And you have proved that kindness is always rewarded and melts the cruelest of hearts."

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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