High Branda makes land on the rocky west beachhead of Muskellunge Cove. The fabled claw, still clenched in her beak, opens and closes with a soft click as it catches every exhale the goose releases from her spent, burning lungs. Her legs are wobbly, her wings feel like hot slush, and a frightful tremble envelopes the very fibres of her being – never before has Branda been in such grave danger, her life has never been so firmly laid on the line. Then again, she has never had to escape imminent death like she did today, so perhaps her exhaustion is something to be proud of.
Yes, perhaps it is.
Anyhow, the anxious wobble seems to have worked its way deep into the joints of her knees and ankles – she cannot stand up straight for much longer and she’s far too engrossed in physical exhaustion to fly over a distance. When Branda planned to come here to settle she hadn’t anticipated The Beast, nor had she anticipated the effort she’d have to put into her wingflaps in order to escape the Wanaque Res’ with her life. What’s more, she hadn’t even considered the likely possibility that both of Monksville’s islands may be inhabited, may have been inhabited for cycles now. It may be dangerous to so much as make an approach… fine then, the islands will be a last resort.
In the distant past, when the last flock of geese finally fled The Basin to make a new life for themselves in the vast and unexplored territory beyond the beavers’ dam, a secret thruway hidden by the forest was used to make the journey to the Southern Expanse without having to cross through the Northern Leg and risk attack by the defected dayguard. Branda was just a gosling back then – as far as she knows today, the miscreant gullflock has moved on entirely from the Monksville Res’, or perhaps they went back to identifying as Birds of Lake. Or better yet,mayhap they came to their senses and stopped messing around with the divisive idea of factions amongst wingflappers, wouldn’t that be a treat! She doesn’t want to have to fight them if they intercept her with the intention of causing trouble, but by the razor edge of the claw she now wields in her beak, Branda will if she has to.
The channel opens to Branda and Branda alone. ‘So it’s back to The Basin then; the cycle shall continue. Very well.’ The channel closes again. The wobble has begun to leave her legs and she believes – yes, Branda truly does believe – she has the strength to fly across Muskellunge Cove to the sandy east beachhead. From there she’ll take to the trailways and foot it as far as she can, allowing her wings to rest. If all goes well, she should stumble upon the empty dirt field where giants are said to store and launch their hollow trees long before today’s shineset. It’s funny, High Branda was in such a hurry to cross the Southern Expanse and find a moment of safety that she didn’t even look down to see if the giants really uphold that strange, arcane practice; she had always loved to receive tall tales from the geese who migrated late to the Wanaque about how the giants would float in their logs and whip the air with slender shaven branches to draw ‘breathers up from the lake. Such wonderful stories. What a time…
All right, enough recovery – High Branda can rest and relax all she wants and then some when she has a proper nest to roost in again. She flaps wing and flies low over Muskellunge Cove, passing by one of the giants she had missed on the flight in. He sits alone in his tree – the tales were true, then! – floating solitary in Muskellunge Cove, grasping his shaven branch with a hand of the same color as Branda’s feathered head: a sleek cormorant black, like the plumage of the brave High Dopper. He will be missed by all Monksville’s denizens, weather they walk on land, flap their wings, or breathe the lake; yes, Highest Dopper will be missed sorely by all. He was a good denizen, a good cormorant indeed. Perhaps the very best.
Branda lands on the sandy east beachhead not a flap too soon. Her wings are spent – there’s a good chance she won’t be flying again until the great shine begins to set – but her legs hold strong and her webbed feet are warmed by the heated sand beneath them. The fabled claw opens and closes as she catches her breath, clicking upon every exhale. The footpath awaits.
This has been the ninth subchapter of the fourth chapter of the book The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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