I like to help my son make up stories for his toys. He does an incredible job on his own but he can’t have all the fun!
A week or so ago, I told him a story about Edna’s Stonefish Soup Recipe – based off of a Lego Toy of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. I think one night, I will tell him this story about geese.
Once upon a time, on a planet far, far away, Gudrun The Warrior Maiden stood with her wizard friend named Myfanwy and squinted against the mid day sun, looking for evidence of enemy camps. It didn’t take long before she saw smoke from their cooking fires trailing into the sky from behind the distant hills.
“My scout was right,” she declared to Myfanwy.
“Your who was what?” Her companion answered.
“My scout was right,” Gudrun shouted back.
“I can’t hear you over the honking of those geese,” Myfanwy said, yelling even louder.
“My scout was. . . Never mind.”
They had to shout because of the hundreds of geese that had flocked at the bottom of the valley, between the two opposing armies. The Geese Of The Valley migrated to that spot every spring to lay their eggs and raise their young, leaving on the first day of winter. During the day, it was nearly impossible for the army to communicate their maneuvers. They worked hard once the sun went down and the geese went to sleep, but were woken up at the crack of dawn by the sounds of the male geese greeting the rising sun.
The two friends argued twice over the fate of these birds.
The first happened when Myfanwy told her that issuing quill and paper to every solider was a waste of time. “What’s the point?” She told Gudrun. “Your soldiers are stupid! Only your generals can read.”
So, Gudrun’s army now talked among themselves using a series of hand gestures and sent clerks and priests to every unit to make sure that the language remained consistent throughout the company.
The second came after Myfanwy punished a soldier with a bolt of lightning after attempting to shoot a goose with an arrow. Gudrun got even angrier, but Myfanwy argued back. “That goose may save your life one day!” After that, Gudrun issued an order for the geese to be left alone, no matter how annoying they got.
But now she wanted to avoid an argument. She took her by the arm and walked far enough away from the honking for them to talk.
“We will never be ready,” she said to Myfanwy. “It’s taking ten times longer than it should.”
Day after day, the smoke from the enemy cooking fires came closer and closer and day after day, Gudrun’s army fell further and further behind in preparations. She tried hard to help, but even she got as tired as everyone else. It looked like Myfanwy didn’t need any sleep at all – but she was a wizard and had magical ways to stay awake.
The next day the cooking fires were on the opposite side of the valley. The enemy set their camp up along the base of the hills. Gudrun spent her whole day staring at the troops in the distance but incapable of coming up with a winning battle plan because of the incessant honking of The Geese Of The Valley. She stormed back to Myfanwy’s tent, threw aside the flap and demanded a magic spell that would make her deaf to the sounds of the honking geese.
Myfanwy sat on the floor of her tent, staring intently into the shallow water in her pedastel bowl. Before Gudrun could yell, Myfanwy put up a hand to stop her.
“You must choose someone to hear them for you,” she said. “So that you don’t have to listen to them anymore.”
Gudrun returned with Lythande, a lieutenant from the rear guard, promising him a small fortress and a small staff of squires, maids and guards to serve him. Working far away from the birds, he heard them hardly at all. He winced in pain after the spell took effect – they sounded like they were right next to his ear, honking away. Gudrun’s looked wide enough to split her face in two. She could hear everything, including the guard that was running up to the wizard’s tent.
“Come in!” She commanded.
The sentry dropped to one knee and announced they were under attack. Gudrun stepped outside to find the noon day sun blacked out by a curtain of enemy arrows. The next moment, feathered shafts seemed to be sticking out of everywhere. No person or animal had been injured but the message from the enemy was clear – they were prepared to attack at any time.
Gudrun sent Lythande back and went about setting up watches along the front of their camp to announce when the enemy approach. The rest of her army she made ready but the attack never came.
But the geese continued to honk, louder and louder, not stopping until the sun went down. This went on for three days, and each day, they attacked something else.
The first day, they killed all of the chickens and sheep and pigs with their arrows. This forced the cooks to work overtime to prepare the meat so it wouldn’t spoil.
The second day, they killed all of the horses with their arrows. This left Gudrun with no means to retreat.
The third day, they used flaming arrows to torch the wagons, destroying what supplies they had left.
Gudrun’s army could not match the same range as the enemy’s arrows. She met with her commanders and prepared everyone for a final attack.
They met at night when it was quiet and they could think. But even with that, they were tired and wanted it all to be over. But before she revealed her plan, Myfanwy came into Gudrun’s tent, Lythande’s arm draped over her shoulder.
“He insisted he come and see you,” the wizard explained.
Lythande’s cheeks had sunken and his eyes were bloodshot and he leaned on the wizard for balance. He pushed Gudrun away when she came to help.
“The geese,” Lythande said. “The geese.”
“It’s almost over,” Gudrun assured him. “Another day. Maybe two.” He shook his head. “They’re honking so loud. So loud.”
Gudrun promised him a castle and a title if he would last just a little while longer but he refused.
“Not at night,” he said. “The geese shouldn’t honk at night.”
“By all that is holy,” Gudrun declared. “He’s right.”
The she whirled around on her commanders. “Sound the alarm! The enemy is attacking!”
The wizard illuminated the air over the valley and saw that the male geese were defending their nests, wings spread wide and necks snaking forward, their hard beaks and heads slamming into the shins and groins of the shoulders of the enemy soldiers that tried to execute a sneak attack through the valley. Gudrun stopped her archery commanders order to fire arrows into the valley.
Gudrun unsheathed her sword and pointed towards the enemy. “Defend the geese!”
The wizard struggled to keep the field lit while Gudrun’s soldiers defended the valley and protected what geese they could. Where the soldiers were tired and slow because of the short, sleepless nights and the long, agonizing days of honking, the bull geese took the battle to the enemy. Gudrun accepted the surrender of those who asked for mercy and hunted down those that ran. She did not think well of deserters.
She sent message back to the king, telling him that the attack had been thwarted and his kingdom was safe. With the message, she included a picture and a request.
The picture showed a representation of a bull goose in battle stance, its wings spread wide, it’s beak open in a silent honk, its tongue lashing out like a whip.
The request read as follows, “You promised me an army of my own. I request that you refer to them as the Custodians Of The Valley and allow Lythande Whiterage to be their commander. If you have issue with this, feel free to come here and take it up with the geese.”