This piece of crazyness inspired by a once-upon-a-time lover having returned from backpacking round Equador & Peru. She had read about an essay writing competition to create the worst short story opening paragraph. A session in the pub had us penning the skeleton of this tale until we were too helpless with laughter to continue….
The Aztec prince gazes down onto the plains below from his mountain stronghold. His noble brow furrows on what should be another morning in paradise; the cause of his dismay is readily apparent. Hordes of the foreign invaders are encamped on those plains,
horses tethered around the tents.
He had had hardly any sleep the night before, now he holds his haggard head in his hands, hiding the horror of the host below. Hammering his hand on the hardness of the wall, he understands, suddenly, the first hurdle he has to overcome is his hijacking by the letter ‘h’. With a vigorous shake of the h-h-h-head, the offending letter falls on the ground with a clang and is ground into the earth by his boot. A servant scurries out …
‘Sire, something seditious serves to surprise your serenity?’
‘Ah just the old language thing again, got it now, and away with your sibilant seduction of speech with a scurrilous substitute slinking into my senses’ the prince deftly tweaks the ‘s’ away from the man’s grasp and hurls it over the wall.
Free of distraction now, the Prince gazes again at the invaders, by now mounted on their beasts, many of them galloping away over the plain. How had they managed to invade his lands so quickly? Undoubtedly the advantage they wielded lay with the speed of their horses, an animal hitherto unknown in these lands.
How did they move so fast? The legs of the creatures were a blur as they sped across the landscape, their tails feathering behind them in the wind created by their motion.
A flash of realisation hits the warrior prince. What if… just what if …. the tail flaring out behind the beasts is not a consequence of their phenomenal speed….but the cause of it… … propelling the beasts forward through the air like the wings of birds. Certainty follows his realisation, he smiles as he summons the servant and arranges a raiding party, to sneak into the encampment after dark to the lines of tethered horses.
Many hands and sharp scissors would be needed.
The will of the Prince was the law; he led a raiding party that very night, the light of the gibbous moon just sufficient to show the way. Silently infiltrating the outskirts of the camp then flashing scissors soon snipping away, great swathes of horsehair falling to the ground. Just as they were halfway through the job, one of the party overzealously clipped a little high… the loud neigh of complaint from the beast had aroused the guards! They could hear them tramping nearer. No choice but to halt the operation for that night and slink off into the darkness.
The next morning the Prince gazed from his mountain fastness with anticipation. At least they’d managed to immobilise half the horses. He grinned with satisfaction, ‘see my theory was correct!’ for sure enough the horses milled aimlessly around; the riders goading, kicking, whipping but the horses just wandered about.
Our attention now shifts to the Spanish camp (for as you have guessed it was indeed the Spaniards intent on conquering the land). The Commander strode around frustrated at the turn of events. ‘They’ve only lost their tails, what’s going on, bring the grooms’. The grooms came, pushing forward a clearly unwilling man before them, ‘Sir, this is Juan, he has the gift with horses, if anyone can understand what has happened to them he can’. Juan had always been uncannily able to communicate with horses (we would call him a ‘horse whisperer’) intuitively understanding what their needs and problems were. His ability had been significantly increased when a raiding party had brought back, from a local village, pannier loads of the shaman’s mind altering herbs and powders. Juan had taken heroic quantities of a hallucinogenic plant and found he could enter with ease the parallel world that horses inhabit.
Juan wandered among the beasts, now bending his head to listen to subtle messages, now looking a horse straight in the eye. After a while he went back to the Commander. Blinking through eyes with massively dilated pupils giving them an unnerving depth of blackness, he haltingly explained what he’d heard. ‘Sir, it’s not the horses without the tails that are the problem. It’s the others.’
Well to cut a long story short, Juan had discovered that horses are actually very vain animals. The tailless horses had achieved fashion icon status in horseworld; the others were refusing to carry on until they too had the new look tails. Now we compress the next few days into just a few lines my readers, just so you see the whole strange story unfold like a tapestry of crazyness. The commander agreed, mad though it sounded, so the other horses had their tails clipped. Next morning, same story, more milling around. ‘What now!!!’ the Commander felt his grip on reality slipping as he waited for Juan to report back. ‘Er… sorry sir… the horses want to try having their manes clipped short, they think it’ll make them look much smarter, and for you Sir I’d say they’ll probably go a bit faster… you know … less weight, less wind resistance…. and anyway the fact is, you can’t make a horse go if it doesn’t want to. We have to do what they say.’
‘DO IT!!!’ screamed the Commander, muttering as he strode off ‘anyone got any of those drugs, lets just go hog wild and turn this into the most bizarre war of invasion ever fought’.
Ok …. you’ve guessed it…. next morning…. more milling about. Juan tentatively coughed before entering the Commander’s tent. A muffled ‘what?’ from the table. ‘Sir, seems on a previous campaign the horses have seen the opposing army’s horses with brightly coloured blankets under the saddles. They refuse to gallop unless they get the same.’
A choking small voice from the head in the hands, ‘do what you have to’.
Juan left quickly. To see a battle hardened warrior crying into his wine was not a vision to linger over. Now to negotiate with the local villages they’d only recently plundered.
Many hands and quality embroidery skills would be needed.