White clouds form over Isla Meeney as Branda flaps wing in approach. They darken to a rocky gray when she hears the first honk; Monksville’s waters begin to tremble when she hears the second. She knows what those raw guttural honks signify, she knows from what wingflappers they resound, but the goose continues her approach regardless; there is no home for her in The Basin nor on Dino Island; Isla Meeney is Branda’s last option. She will nest there, or she will die trying.
Both honks combine as one and the gray clouds spoil a sick black. Whirlwinds whip up and a small maelstrom forms at the shoreline of the tiny island. From the dense thicket of trees growing along the island’s edge pokes out a slender white head with a beak as orange as the great shine upon setting. The rain begins to fall in troves when the second head joins the first. Lightning strikes as they spread their wings; a booming clap of thunder announces their takeoff. High Branda’s eyes widen as the swans fly towards her with a living whirlpool following obediently beneath them.
Branda has made a terrible mistake.
A brash bank to the left spares Branda suffering the opening strike. From behind her the swans honk again, this time in unison; the untamed force of their deuxhonk splinters one of the bones in Branda’s left leg, but she does not falter – home or no home, she will retain her life on this day.
Turbulent winds whip Branda back and forth over the middle of the Southern Expanse, the rushing of the air in her ears cacophonous to the point that she almost doesn’t hear the splash – almost. Craning her neck down, Highest Branda sees the whirlpool spinning faster, rising from the surface into a waterspout. Whatever giants were floating on the lake in their hollowed-out trees have long returned to the shoreline. The wooden cave of the vulture flock is clamped tightly shut (though Branda has no knowledge of its existence) and all lakebreathers have taken refuge in the deepest of waters. Another raw deuxhonk pierces the storm and the swans explode out of the liquid tornado, backs pressed together and necks extended, dispatching the twister and raining heavy mist down on the reservoir in quantities that could be described as raindrops. Their wings are folded, but they need not flap to fly; the swans have executed the flying white torpedo. They’re heading straight for Branda’s heart.
With the winds whipping and swelling as they are, an idea sparks in Branda’s spinning brain. The cove east of South Cove, the very bend in the lake which the giants know as Lure Cove (named for all the innumerable lures that wash up on the shore cycles after Mother Monksville originally claimed them) is curved in such a way that it captures thermal winds and boosts them up to launching capabilities. Branda is no lightweight wingflapper – not by any stretch of the imagination, especially not with the fabled claw still clenched in her beak weighing her down – but were the bloodthirsty pair swans to blast through Lure Cove first, the speed of their furious spin should push the winds to a gale force and Branda should – should – be able to mount the thermal and take a ride clear past the snowcapped mountain and into The Basin. Making such an entrance would surely ward off any hawks wishing to take her life, and as for the osprey? Well… if he was going to do anything, surely he would have done it back in the woodland tunnel.
Branda leads the swans towards the cove, and though her wings burn hot like the great shine above she keeps flapping, she does not relent. She cannot relent – her life quite literally depends on it. Branda can rest when she’s either safe or dead, and she ain’t go’n’a die today. Another deuxhonk booms from behind her and suddenly, she no longer cares about the outcome of this battle. She just wants it to be over.
Flapping with the speed of a screaming eagle, Branda hugs the shoreline and follows it perhaps a quarter of the way through. When she feels her tailfeathers being pulled by the force of the swans’ rotation, she lurches her feet forward, fans her wings at full span, and dumps every inkling of speed she has flapped so hard to attain. It works like a charm – the swans burn right past her, the heat of the flagrant spin evaporating the thick mist which hangs perpetually around them, and they crash beak-first into the garden of cattails sprouting from the shoreline. Seeds heated dry entire seasons before their time rise into the air in plumes, and Branda, taken by the pull of the wind, sails around the curved shore and shoots clear over the snowcapped mountain. She does not flap once until she crosses the bridge built by giants between the Northern Leg and The Basin, and that flap only serves to slow her down and give her a descent unlike that of the swans.
Hawks shriek faintly in the distance as High Branda touches down on the grassy eastern shore of The Basin, the very shore where a certain pair eagles hunted game on the daily before their lord the osprey betrayed them. The hawks may come for her, hell the osprey may even make an attempt, but none of that matters to Branda. Let them come – she has escaped the swans, the most feared wingflappers in the entire keep of the mighty Monksville. She deserves to take a rest. Perhaps she’ll go east, follow Beech Brook inland, or perhaps she’ll feed the queen of the hawks. Only time will tell – you’ll have to draw your own conclusions, for it is here we leave Branda the goose. She bested not only The Beast on this day, but also the pair swans and their earth-quaking deuxhonk; what’s a flock of hawks to Monksville’s second greatest escape artist?
Yes, High Branda is but the second greatest escapee to frolic in the waters of the Monksville Reservoir; as for the first, well, that is yet to be decided. The contestants are in place, the shores of Dino Island are more than a just quick swim away, and The Mink’s eternal hunger is matched only by Vorcolt of the Klaww’s dire need to see his family again.
Let the battle begin.
Whatchu know ’bout the deuxhonking swans of Isla Meeney???