George, Sally, Steve and Hadrian peered around the stone wall and considered the field before them. Behind them, their mounts sniffed around, checking for signs of the enemy, or anything that could be eaten. Their short legs and long hair made them look like oversized caterpillars.
“Dogapillars,” George insisted. “Not any kind of cats.” He spat out the word as though it tasted of filth. The enemy mounted themselves on cats.
Steve was having trouble with his pointed hat. "Why do we wear these things, anyway?" he grumbled as he centered the thing on his head once again. “They’re just in the way. And my corgi doesn’t like it, especially when it falls off and pokes him.”
"We're garden gnomes," Sally answered. "If we didn't have the pointy colorful hats, we might be taken for mountain gnomes, or even, heaven help us, dwarves."
"They do make us awfully visible to the pixies, though," Steve pointed out. “It’s hard to hide and peek when your hat sticks up a foot above your head. And they fall off whenever we charge the enemy.”
“Well, the cats don’t like them either,” Sally said. “That has to help.”
"Hush!" said Hadrian, who was the only one actually doing any scouting. The others were letting him manage that part, while they sharpened their spades and grumbled about the hats. "I see one! They're out there.” He backed away from the wall and turned, waving an arm toward the corgis clustered behind the next hedge. “Sound the signal to mount up!"
Steve gave a loud, squawking squeeze on his concertina, and an army if gnomes burst from the shrubbery and ran for the corgis. Grabbing the long hair, the gnomes swarmed to the backs of their eager mounts. Tongues lolling from open mouths, the stubby-legged dogs charged forward almost without waiting for the gnomes, each of whom clutched corgi-fur with one hand and a garden tool-come-weapon with the other.
On the other side of the meadow a phalanx of Persian cats bounded through the tall grass, each with an evil-faced pixie astride. Shrieking like a flock of banshees, they charged forward.
Corgis barked. Persians yowled. Disaster appeared inevitable.
Then the truly inevitable happened. A squirrel darted up a tree, and many of the corgis veered off in pursuit. Then first one, then another, of the cats stopped. They sniffed about, and several sat down to wash their bottoms, dumping the pixies onto the ground. Chaos reigned, but battle was not joined. After several minutes, Hadrian sounded the retreat, as did the leader of the pixies.
Back in the garden, Hadrian dismounted and sat with his head in his hand. His pointed hat had fallen to the ground but he ignored it. His corgi sniffed at him, and he patted it absently before the dog flopped down to take a nap.
"It could have been worse," Sally attempted consolation. "At least the pixies didn't do any better, with their Persian cats. Only an idiot would ride into battle on a cat! Everyone knows they don’t take orders."
“Neither, apparently, do corgis,” Hadrian pointed out.
"No one got hurt," Steve tried a different consolation.
"But the pixies got away!" Hadrian shouted. "We can't keep doing this. We're supposed to be an army, for dog's sake!" He looked up. A half-circle of pointed noses and lolling tongues in smiling corgi mouths lay flopped on the ground, attached to the napping corgis. "Okay, he sighed. "One more chance." He looked at the corgis, then at his fellow garden gnomes, and raised his voice to rouse the sleepers. "Send those cats running and the pixies flying, and there'll be treats for everyone!”
At the word "treats" the corgis roused themselves, climbing to their feet and smiling eagerly. So did the gnomes. Or, rather, they stopped scowling and grew more interested. Several even began planning with Hadrian how best to mount their attack.
Once again, the gnomes were mounted and ready. The corgis sniffed the air, and Hadrian's mount raised his head and barked the signal. Tawny fur flew across the meadow, stubby white legs barely visible under the shag. A squirrel ran up a tree, but Hadrian shouted "Focus! Treat!" and the fur-covered steeds hesitated only almost imperceptibly before continuing their charge across the meadow toward the grey fuzz-balls.
Hadrian gave the command to deploy their most powerful weapon. “Maximum shed rate!”
Dogs and cats met in a cloud of flying fur as corgi hair filled the air. Moments later the cats turned tail, unable to see or breathe. The furballs dumped the pixies to the ground as they fled. In danger of being trampled by the flashing paws of the eager corgis or choked by lungsful of dog hair, the pixies saved themselves by dematerializing. Once gone, they could only return to their own land. It was a total victory for the gnomes and their mounts.
The gnomes encouraged their mounts to halt, and the sharp-nosed smiles turned to Hadrian. He waved them back to camp. "Cake all around!" The victory cheers were nearly drowned by the ecstatic barking, as the fur settled slowly to the ground.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2014
|Corgis, ready for battle|