In the beginning there was an idea, and the idea was goodSacred Chronicles Ch.1 V.3
Gilb continues along the Whiteheaps Walkway which is busy with grouse and weasels making their way to market. Gilb had enquired about Pililidip’s First-Egg ritual because of his concerns that Snut’s young cock Moat, a most disagreeable grouse, will be looking for a First-Egg hen for his own ritual. Gilb does not like the idea of Moat fertilising Pililidip’s First-Egg. Such a mix of seed would be a disaster for Pililidip’s first chick. Pililidip and her mother Clumpletum, have already suffered enough in recent times thanks to Clumpletum’s mate Scratchit, who was so intoxicated when he took flight as a Distraction Team member, that when he was shot, he burst into flames and fell to the ground like a fireball. This resulted in an extensive heather fire with the loss of thirty-five dens, the headquarters of the Broken Grouse Recovery Team and a Landrover owned by one of the human lords.
The ant farm is situated close to the really-big stone several bundles of millifeet from the Central Hub. The really-big stone has been a feature of the ant farm for many bundles of cosmic cycles making the ant farm one of the most productive in all grousedom. ‘You have a nice view from here,’ says Gilb as he stands on top of the really-big stone. The farm’s manager Blibble points out that Whiteheaps Dam can also be seen from the high vantage point. ‘And you can see the road from here, making it a good place to stand and get a glimpse of the human lords when they arrive for the shoot.’
The spleenwort fermentation vats are ready for first use and are waiting to be officially approved by the Patriarch. A long purple ribbon has been tied around them. Gilb clears his throat and begins his speech. ‘Here in Nookton we don’t settle for old technology, we are always trying to seek better ways of manufacturing the products we rely on to help us maintain a happy life. Here at the ant farm, under the skilled supervision of the farm’s manager Blibble, technology and the farm coexist contemporaneously. These vats will provide all of Nookton with cheap fermented spleenwort. We will all enjoy the festive season better now that we are assured of the supplies of our favourite seasonal snack.’ Gilb cuts the ribbon with his beak. The grouse in the small audience cluck with satisfaction. Weasels clap. Gilb looks towards the five weasels that stand proudly smiling. Gilb is suddenly overcome with the desire to say something that is not normally said.
‘I would like to add,’ says Gilb, lowering his head slightly, ‘that none of this would be possible without our weasel friends.’ The audience falls quiet. Weasels look at each other and grouse immediately stop their tail-wagging. ‘We often forget that without hands we could not write our books or advance our technology. Without hands we could not build the walkways we have and the dens we live in. And yet we forget that our hands don’t belong to us. Our weasel friends do the things for us that we could only dream of doing without them.’
There is a moment of silence before the weasels clap. This is followed by a single cluck from a grouse in the audience. Blibble steps forward. ‘I often wonder who benefits more from our divine arrangement with the weasels. We have the skills of invention and design, weasels have hands and a desire to serve. This is how the order is wrought from chaos. It is how the Cosmic Flower made us.’
Gilb notices that a weasel has his hand in the air as if he is waiting for permission to speak. ‘Do you have something you’d like to say?’ says Gilb. The weasel nods. ‘We also give our lives to protect you from our own, from the savage weasels who remain locked in the darkness of chaos, who cannot see the benefit of cooperation with our grouse brothers and sisters.’
Blibble and Gilb lower their heads. ‘Maybe it’s true and we don’t say these things enough. Maybe we take the cosmic order for granted,’ says Blibble. The audience begins to disperse. ‘For those of you who have attended this opening ceremony, I have some fermented spleenwort discount vouchers to give away.’ The grouse begin to wag their tails again. Blibble leads them into his office where he hands out discount vouchers.
When all grouse and weasels have gone, Blibble looks at Gilb and then shakes his head. ‘I’m not sure that went well. In fact I’m pretty sure it didn’t. A grouse should never question the order of things, you know that. You are Patriarch it is true, but that does not give you the right to challenge the way things are done. You may get reported to the Upholders and I will be too. Old Coralip was in the audience and she loves nothing better than a good gossip.’
Gilb is distracted momentarily by a large, juicy ant that scurries past him. He quickly pecks it from the ground and swallows it. Blibble gargles unpleasantly. ‘The ants always manage to escape if I’m not watching them. I need to get back to my farm duties. Since losing my mate on the last shoot I’ve had to do everything on my own.’
As Gilb walks back to his Old Heather Den, he decides to take an alternative route along the Beldon Walkway which branches off from Whiteheaps a little north of the Central Hub. It is not long before Gilb has to traverse the bit of road where his mum was flattened. Before crossing, he lowers his head and whispers a short prayer. As he finishes his prayer, Gilb sees a young rabbit springing about in a state of sheer happiness and contentment on the road near to the place that Pintip met the van’s wheel. Gilb is not proficient at speaking bunny-tongue, the language spoken by rabbits, but warns the young rabbit that the road is a dangerous place to play. The rabbit looks at Gilb. Gilb tries again. ‘Playing dangerous road is very please.’ The rabbit approaches the Patriarch and looks closely at him. Gilb takes a deep breath. ‘Dangerous. Not burrow road under you bunnies, why?’ Suddenly, Gilb realises he has had a good idea.