Branda, upon receiving Braten’s Fuck you, promptly sent ignorance into the channel and closed off her mind so she would receive no more. She now floats in the dirty rising water, the lone claw held tightly between her folded wing and her right flank. Fine, the Reservoir has filled again; fine, Branda no longer has any hope of participating in The Hatching and finally fulfilling her dreams of rearing a flock of goslings all her own; fine, her nest built in the best location throughout the entire what was a desert is now sunk and forever lost; fine. Fine fine fine. Branda will keep this claw, she will hold it in her wing and in her beak when she flies; she will bare this claw for the rest of her days, and if Braten dares show his traitorous head in her presence again? She will wield it to slice at his wormy snake of a neck. Uppity wench, unbelievable!
Well, at least the other geese seem to be happy, and look there! There’s even a little flock of mallards floating in the dirty water. She’s received of them before, this band of Early Birds who flocked to Monksville before learning of how difficult it is to live amongst Birds of Prey. As far as High Branda is concerned, any Bird, whether of Prey or of Lake, is a Bird through and through, and all Birds must look out for one another. Even if her fellow Birds of Lake wish nothing but grisly misfortune on High Branda, she still holds their best interests in her heart. Somebody has to get first pick at the nesting grounds – in fact, it’s often a very divisive issue amongst geese, an issue which she solved for everybody! Her family flocked to this Reservoir a long many cycles ago, before any of them even knew of this magical place where freedom is sung like the songs of the smallbirds; who else should get first pick? Feathers of the last flock to arrive? Please.
From the east Branda hears a terrified honk and must stop herself from flapping wing and losing her new claw. It’s Braten’s honk, no other goose honks with such force and confidence, but this is not a pleasant honk. This is not a honk of celebration nor gratitude, but a honk of deepest, darkest fear, a honk of dire warning, a honk of utter doom clutching on the tailfeathers of certain death. The other geese pay it zero attention.
Braten flies over High Branda’s head and lands deep inland, safely past the treeline. He continues to honk but no goose makes a move – they’re too busy wetting their legs for the first time in as long as they can remember, far too preoccupied with sending and receiving thoughts of bliss and oblivity through the channel. Perhaps if Braten were to send thought over the channel they would un–… wait, perhaps he already is. Branda opens her mind and receives the last string of thought she would ever want to receive:
‘Dopper the dipper duck and his dozen daring divers are dead! They’ve been slain by The Beast, it comes for us next! Quickly, everybody out of the water!!’
As Branda wrestles with the acceptance of this most terrible grim news, she watches with newfound horror as her fellow geese, one after the next, are pulled ferociously beneath the surface. Four geese must die before the rest take notice; as they begin to fly, The Early Birds are taken in twos, and then the unthinkable happens. The Beast, a ghastly toothy maw perched atop a slender serpent of a neck sprouting from its terribly fat and scaly hide, leaps high out of the water and snatches geese clean out of the air. Its landing splash grows larger with every goose it takes and its speed is matched by none – not one single goose escapes this massacre, save for Branda, who joins Braten behind the safety of the treeline.
The channel, wide open but shared by only two (as far as those two are aware), trembles as the souls of geese passed flit through in search of safe passage to The Void so they may take their long dark rest. At first neither of the survivors send a single thing, both of them caught in a petrified tremble as the water falls off their feathers in slow, solemn drips.
Then, Branda breaks the silence. ‘My claw, it’s gone! I must go back!’
‘Branda, what are you thinking?!’ Braten sends, but it is already far too late. Branda has breached the treeline.
This has been the fifth subchapter of the fourth chapter of the book The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~