The Carrot and the Stick Part 21

Chapter 20: This is Why You Set Out Terms of Defeat Beforehand

Just what are you afraid of?”

The first of a group of young carrots asked this of another, quite shrivelled little carrot. As it turned out, the carrot had a quite reasonable fear. He was afraid of falling, given that the young carrots were standing on the roofs of the village houses, this was a distinct danger.

They shouldn’t have been there in the first place. There was a gap between the small carrot and the wild gang of carrot children. They were on two different roofs, they had been on the same one. It had taken a lot of vegetable guts for the little one to climb up with the rest.

He didn’t jump over in the end. It was the right choice, but for the wrong reason. He should have not jumped because it was dangerous, and the wild gang of carrots were told again and again not to do such things.

He didn’t jump because he was scared of falling.

They mocked him of course, because children can be quite mean, but if anyone is going to get mocked, it would be the cowardly. They told him of their plans to explore a nearby cave. It would be an adventure. They would be adventurers. They’d find the bestest biggest loot they declared.

He didn’t follow them because he was afraid.

They came back safe and sound, not knowing that only days previously the cave had been cleared out by the local hero. If they had gone before, they could well have been salad.

That night he gathered up all of his courage and went to explore the cave on his own. It was good to be brave. Not so good for a young carrot to wander the wilds at night. He never made it to the cave. He got lost in the darkness, he would have probably remained lost unable to find the village, but then he saw a brightness in the darkness.

It was the village. It was burning.

That then, was when his first true fear was born.

* * * * *

The look in your eyes isn’t that different from how mine was” G Slayer whispered.

The old warrior touched his sundered crest and horns, eyes going a bit misty.

As one warrior to another…” he began

I’m a mage though” Ulex objected.

G Slayer glared at him, it wasn’t every day that he decided to be a kindly mentor like figure to random muscled carrots, young people these days had no idea how to accept a good thing with grace.

If you don’t beat the past, the past will beat you. Breaking promises you make to yourself is the worst”

He slapped Ulex on the back, and then got up to face his fellow goadskulls.

Well then, IT’S OUR WIN!”

The goadskull hunters cheered.

Everything being right, we should have these travellers do something for us!” he cried.

Ulex and the other adventurers frowned, but relaxed a bit. Having to do a bit of a favour after losing a fight wasn’t so bad. Especially compared to what could happen after losing in a lot of other cases.

Well, we don’t have a prize catch for tonight’s feast, now that the chahat is gone” Gemsparkle mused.

There isn’t a lot of meat on a chahat you know” Waufronk pointed out.

We mostly um, went after it because it is hard to catch” Ran the Brute explained.

That and the shamans would love us for giving them the tail” Triplefoot added, beaming.

I think Gemsparkle’s got the right idea, have them join us on a hunt” Lady Joykill said.

Seems fair” Gheel said, sensing the chance to test a chomper out while having a mass of goadskulls to protect it.

Spongy miss Chacha” Spongy said morosely.

Eadam was still comatose, and thus had nothing to say about the matter.

Ohoho, with these numbers… those adventurers aren’t completely weak” Koalaga inferred, stroking the unconscious Mad-Cackletackle’s chin instead of its own.

A sinister chuckle came from G Slayer.

Yes, with these number and these adventurers we can hunt it!”

Triplefoot’s eyes sparkled.

You mean, oh yes. We’ll be the pride of the feast for sure!”

We’ll get to eat that again, how wonderful” Ran said.

I’ve another spear this time too” Lady Joykill

I’m getting quite worried about all this, I don’t think I’m going to much like it when I hear what that is” Waufronk said.

No use plugging your ears Waufronk, let’s hear what they want us to hunt with them. Well then, what is it you want us to hunt with you?” Ulex said.

Triplefoot looked into the depths of the forest dramatically and a few leaves blew past him as a sombre look entered into his eyes. He slowly lifted a leg and pointed it into the forest.

What we can hunt now, is none other than a barkerlug!”

Gheel’s eye widened so much that one might have thought it would fall out.

No, not the barkerlug” Waufronk wailed.

Yes! The barkerlug!” G Slayer cried.

This is a bit much to ask of us” Ulex frowned.

It’ll be fine! We won’t fight it completely head on” Lady Joykill dismissed.

Waufronk pointed a quivering wing at Lady Joykill.

Y-you, that just means we’ll fight it partly head on! I don’t want my exile to end in becoming bat paste! Hey, Ulex, this isn’t what I signed up for, I didn’t sign up to become bat paste!”

Calm down Waufronk, Maybe it won’t be that bad” Ulex said, not holding much hope.

Yeah, old Jaggletusk has a ton of scars and stuff from the last few times we tried to take him down” Gemsparkle explained brightly.

Did you hear that? They named it! It has a name! Scars! They failed a whole load of times before now”

We didn’t fail that badly” Ran objected.

Oh good” Waufronk said flatly.

It only ate a few people” Ran continued.

Ulex, I’m seriously considering just flying up and leaving” Waufronk said solemnly.

It does seem a bit much” Ulex mused.

Up to this point, Gheel had been in deep thought, humming and hawing, finally he weighed in on the matter.

I want to join the hunt, Mr. McHeft. I’ve a chomper I’ve been breeding for just this sort of thing” he said.

Oh good, he has a chomper he’s bred just for this sort of thing. You know, just for huge beasts that eat trees. THEY EAT TREES! NOT JUST A BIT OF A TREE, THE WHOLE TREE AND ANYTHING LIVING ON OR IN IT. HAVE YOU GONE BATTLE-MAD, DID SPONGY GET TO YOU? AM I THE ONLY SANE ONE HERE?” Waufronk screamed.

Spongy like battles, not being eaten” Spongy defended himself.

Waufronk waved a trembling wing.

See! See, even Spongy thinks this is a terrible idea” he said.

He suddenly found G Slayer had his arm around him.

Calm my batty friend, everything will be fine, because we’ll have your boy Ulex, who can make the perfect distraction. It’ll be just like cutting down a tree!”

Waufronk took a deep breath. It worst came to worst, he could always fly away. This line of thought of course is why a lot of non-flying denizens do not trust flying denizens. It is often far easier for flying denizens to save their own skin, leaving others to their grim fate.

Alright. I’m fine now. It’s just one barkerlug, we’ll manage, we’re not that weak, and there are all of you hunters”

Yeah, he should be separated from his mate this time of day” Koalaga said.

The body of Waufronk twitched, but he managed to keep his peace.

Should we ask how Eadam feels about this?” he said serenely.

Everyone glanced at the mostly still, unmoving horse. There was still foam at his mouth.

It’ll be fine” Ulex decided.

Well then, it is decided! Today we finally slay old Jaggletusk!” G Slayer yelled.

The goadskulls cheered.

this is a terrible idea, but with how much of their stuff i’ve eaten, we should probably help them

Kepo had returned to her place on Ulex’s head after committing her petty misdeeds, there was however a reason why her inclusion was tolerated in Ulex’s party.

Well, time for you to earn your keep, you better think of a few good traps for the barkerlug” Ulex whispered to her, as they all followed the goadskulls to where the barkerlug lurked.

Author: SnowyMystic