The Carrot Is Mightier Than the Sword
by Nidhi Singh
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
On the morrow, as Carrotta had predicted, the Godzillas returned. Perched on the willow, ready to heap burning coals upon their heads. His armies too, out in full heraldry and badges, shouldering muskets and pikes, had assembled ready for the sparring.
Pavisiers and cross-bowers oiled their wares and cracked their knuckles, and gunners winched down catapult beams, carrying bushels loaded with carrots, slate, and magma. The cavalry commanders, wearing orange surcoats and blue helmets with coronets, their mounts in caparisons decorated with the national vegetable, the carrot, hoisted the colors.
The tribunes, ever and anon, blew their olifants to summon retribution; and solemn the misery pipes wailed. The hares took defenses behind a long line of iron ties joining blocks of stones together, and once the paeans had been sung, the frontlines began to march unwaveringly into combat. The monsters hissed and seethed, and battle was joined.
Flying arrows carpeted the sky; the silver sun blacked out completely. Mounts leaped and scurried, and flames in the winds of death shivered incessantly. The armies marched, the fires blazed; the armies fell, the lusters died. Again the glows returned, the lands burned, and down the red-hot valleys the armies marching went.
Embers blinked and lives crumbled in hell’s furnaces; bodies shone and dusked in fitful glows; red tongues darted and snaked in the smoky air, fields and hills lay black. One could taste the burning grass. Next season’s bud was roasted, her larvae toasted, the lichen cooked brown, soot on its stem, writhing half-dead.
In the pandemonium, the leftmost flank began to sound their bugle, and Carrotta knew the enemy of his enemy had arrived. Upon his order to the guards, a trusty messenger streaked through the battle order, barking his king’s command to the captains and commanders. The rearguard turned about, hoisted its colors, and began to march in orderly retreat. Slowly, the flanks opened up, letting hollering man and feisty dog into the heart of battle, till only the frontlines in contact remained to face certain death.
Along with them, many a man, taken aback with the violence and mayhem, perished, but not before many an enemy had been shot to the blazing ground. Valiant Carrotta, himself badly wounded, made away with most of his army, while the monsters lost most of theirs.
The men would return, he knew, with many more, for retribution, and that would be the end of the invaders. Many lives had to be lost, but land would be restored to its pristine glory.
* * *
In the Hares’ camp the war council, joined by the bear, the gray, the goose, the owl, and the weasel, and many more, had gathered again, huddled in dialogue. The silent King lay in agony, his end near.
“What is to be done next, King dear?” asked General March.
“You did well today, my general. I leave a proud man.” He beckoned the general with a painful paw, bandaged in moss and carrot mash. The general walked over to his bed, and held his hand to his wrenching heart; tears welled up in every eye.
“I leave this kingdom in your able charge, General March. Lead our brethren, every living soul that walks the earth, or swims in its waters, or flies in its skies, every blade of grass and leaf and fruit that sustains life, unto everlasting peace; this I command, nay implore you, will be your holy grail, the reason for you to prevail.”
“No, my king, come morning, and you will be upon your paws, proud and doughty, showing us the way,” the General cried.
“Promise me this” — the King clasped his General’s hand, and implored him with dimming eyes — “promise me now!”
“I promise, my Lord.”
* * *
The curtains of the royal tent flapped and a messenger stepped in. “Hail the king! My Lord, a most unlikely visitor has appeared at the gates; we have him detained at the tower. He asks your audience.”
“And who might this intruder be? An informant... a spy... a laggard... an envoy? Who dares to vex when we are in council?” asked the head priest.
“It is he — T-T-Terex — in p-person!” the messenger bowed.
“It’s a trick!”
“A double-dealing treachery!” The assembly roared. “Dispatch him at the gates. Finish the lying villain.”
“Wait,” the King rasped. “Take me to him.” He waved aside the protests and howls and bade his guards to carry his palanquin to the tower.
Terex, his feet chained to a turret, sat crestfallen on the ground, his shoulders hunched, his wide plume spiritless and flagged.
“How do you want me to treat you?” asked Carrotta.
“The way one king treats another,” said Terex.
“Free him at once,” Carrotta commanded. “What is it? What trickery assails your manner now?” he asked when the raptor had risen on his feet.
“I know I’m not worthy of your trust, mighty Hare, but like you, I was only saving my kind. Alas, that strange insertion of man and his wily ways into the fracas did us in. As I look back, I see friend and foe, family and fellowship, perished. I repent mocking you. What valor, what sacrifice, what discipline your ranks showed today. I salute you and this land. I am at a crossroads, my troops have no more stomach for battle, I know man will return tomorrow and annihilate us with his devices. Tell me, O king, what must I do?” he wailed, his giant frame wracked with sobs.
“Return to your forest, raptor, save the last living of your kind. Shrink, sprout wings, change into a bird or something. Adapt, learn patience, and you will be fine.”
The raptor nodded, he knew change was upon them and they had to learn. “Hail! Take care, good friend,” he said, and fluttered away.
“What should we do now, my lord?” asked General March.
“Return to the old ways. What man or hound could ever catch a fast hare?” He winked. “Man has a short memory. He will never have any dearth of hunt and sport as long as this land lives. Till then, good runnings, my friend.”
His general nodded in agreement and gazed up at the skies. The freezing stars had begun to twinkle again as the smoke and haze of battle started to clear. It was quite some time before he realized his king’s hand had gone cold and lifeless in his grasp.
Copyright © 2016 by Nidhi Singh