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How the Storm Tribe Met the Goose

- by Mark Galeotti

- as told by Eorkan No-Clan

Grohonka's Rune This is a tale of how a common animal spirit, one of the less powerful and more cantankerous of Vrimak’s sons, made mock of mighty Storm gods, and won Kolat’s patronage and Orlanth’s approval.

Once in the Storm Age, Orlanth’s tribe were gathered in a great clearing, much like this one, but wider, in a great gallt, much like this one, but thicker, amidst great rocky hills, much like these, but higher. Ernalda was hungry, and wanted white meat. Lhankor Mhy sought a fine feather, for he was experimenting, as he always did, with some new ways of scratching his signs upon things. So Eurmal, who could be a clever and sharp-eyed sod, for all his tricky ways, pointed out a big white bird, waddling to the nearby pool.

‘Look at him, holding himself like he thought he was the king of this place’, said Eurmal. And was there a cunning glint in his eye? ‘I doubt he thinks anyone can master him.’

Now this was enough for Hedkoranth, who even then tended to shout first and think…rarely. (Some say he also took a little shine to Ernalda, and wanted to impress her, but such people have no shame.)

‘Thinks he’s a king, does he?’ boomed Hedkoranth. He puffed himself up to his full height, hands on hips, and bellowed out to the bird, ‘Ho! Come here, the true King and his people command your attendance!’

The goose – for such it was – ignored him, his wide bottom waggling as he drew up to the water’s edge.

‘Our Feathered King appears to think it more important to get to the pond’, observed Eurmal casually.

‘Oh does he!’ yelled Hedkoranth. His mighty Thunder Stone he whirled and let fly. It smashed into the river, splashing all the water into the air, leaving only a dry bed. Hedkoranth observed his handiwork with smug satisfaction, apparently oblivious to the cries of dismay and irritation as half the rest of the tribe were soaked. Lhankor Mhy held up his sopping, running parchment with dismay. Issaries quietly began hawking his latest consignment of rain-cloaks.

‘Now listen to me, you feathered freak. If one of the Storm Tribe tell you to stop and attend, you stop and attend. If one of the Storm Tribe deign to eat you and another to take your feathers for quills, you count yourself blessed. If one-‘

At that point even Hedkoranth fell silent (‘already a hero’s feat’, slyly observed Vinga), as the goose deliberately crapped where he stood and then arched that long white neck around so one beady, vicious little eye was looking at the Thunder Brother.

‘No one can make me do anything.’

Eurmal sniggered.

With a roar of outrage, Hedkoranth reached out both meaty hands to seize the goose and wring its extended neck, but found himself buffeted by muscular wings, pecked savagely by a sharp beak (that always seemed to find his softest bits) and deafened by a discordant honking and hooting. Proud Hedkoranth, the hero who had torn the wings off the Big Bad Griffolope, single-handedly fought off Gagarth’s Three Unborn Sons and hurled his Thunder Stone so far once that it had smashed into the back of his own head (Vinga says that explains a lot, but I’m not quite sure what she means), momentarily stepped back, dazed and unsettled by so much resistance from a mere bird.

In the moment’s silence, the goose looked at him again, hissed, and added ‘violence is always an option.’

Lhankor Mhy nodded approvingly, despite himself.

Once again, this time speechless with rage and shame, Hedkoranth raised his Thunder Stone, which pulsed and roared with power. Quickly realising that at this rate nothing edible or usable would be left of the goose, Odayla stepped forward, beckoning Yinkin to his side. ‘No, no, brother’, he said. ‘This mouthy bird is not worthy of Great Weighty. Instead, you stand here, arms outstretched, ready to seize it and kill it if it tries to go past you. I shall stand on one side, Yinkin on the other, so that it cannot get away. Then we shall close in on it, catch it, kill it and have it plucked and roasting on a spit before you can say cumulo-nimbus.’ Yinkin licked his lips in assent, Hedkoranth reluctantly put away his Stone.

In they closed, warily ready for the goose to run. By now, the whole tribe was watching the spectacle and Eurmal and Issaries were taking side-bets.

A step, then another step. Yinkin’s hindquarters gathered, Hedkoranth took a deep breath, only Odayla seemed to give no warning – and they pounced!

Only for the goose, with a clumsy and frantic flapping and a raucous and blaring honking, to leap into the air. The three slammed into each other, Yinkin yowling and Hedkoranth swearing loudly enough to create a small blue Imp, who fluttered away to join the others forever in Hedkoranth’s wake.

‘There is always another way!’ honked the goose, triumphantly.

Below, chaos reigned. Odayla was calling for his bow, Yinkin licking a paw Hedkoranth had sat upon (he was probably playing it up a bit – I suspect he had designs on Bevara and wanted to win a little sympathy). Hedkoranth was waving Great Weighty with one hand, while alternately appealing to Humakt to strike the goose down and Vangarth to follow him up. Ernalda was plaintively saying that she wasn’t that hungry. Vinga and Eurmal had their arms round each other – not a sight you see that often – trying to hold themselves up, laughing fit to drop.

And then came a sound to silence the whole tribe. Orlanth laughed. A great laugh, bellowing like the storm in a mountain valley, booming like the thunder in the heavens. Behind him, even Grim Kolat allowed himself a wintry smile. Orlanth threw out his arms and everyone remembered why he was their king.

The goose landed, and began ripping at the rough grass, one bright little eye on Orlanth.

‘So’, he began, ‘who is this bird who can so vex my tribe, and yet who knows my laws?’

‘A challenger!’ interjected Hedkoranth. ‘Prey’, said Odayla. ‘Anser nevilis,’ corrected Lhankor Mhy. ‘Lucrative’, murmured Issaries. ‘Fun’, laughed Eurmal.

‘Grohonka!’ honked the goose, loud enough for a moment to drown out the clamour of the tribe.

‘Well, Grohonka,’ chucked Orlanth, ‘you have reminded us that it is possible even to defy the gods – if you have spirit aplenty.’

‘And,’ rumbled Kolat, ‘such spirit is too rare to be wasted in such times. You are welcome at my stead, as I doubt my enemies would dare face you.

‘Besides,’ he added, ‘your temper is so bad, I doubt my kin would face you, either.’

And Grohonka the Great Snow Goose’s honk of pride and acceptance for a third time silenced the Storm Tribe.

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January 18, 2001

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