General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms

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CHAPTER 7

PREPARATIONS

I

We consulted the birds of the sky. They were willing to participate. We needed them to scour the land, looking for suitable areas where the battles could take place.

The Crows reconnoitred the Western Land. This was the easiest job as we were looking for a suitably positioned hill. The Eastern Land also was not difficult. This was the responsibility of the eagles and hawks. The Southern land was more difficult as the battleground had to be at the edge of a suitably distributed forested area. Our scouts here were the cranes and falcons.

This mission was top secret. At all costs, the vultures were not to know of our battle plans. We did not trust them. It was in their interest to have a battle fought, but a feline victory was also in their interest. Everyone knew that if the felines won, the subsequent retribution would perpetrate the blood shedding to the vultures’ delight.

II

Our airborne scouts were satisfied with the territories chosen. General Jack whittled down the compiled short lists. We selected the three battlegrounds. We now turned our attention to the formation of a grand battle alliance. There was plenty of good will around.

We recruited the sapping animals: the moles, the meerkats, the groundhogs and the weasels. These excavated an extensive network of deep parallel trenches at the mouth of the U- shaped border of the forest in the southern battlefield.

The monkeys, apes and gorillas were delighted to be our artillerymen. Their brief was to convert the U, V, W or Y shaped trees into catapults for long-range firing. They were also to construct platforms in the trees flanking us. On these platforms, they had to stockpile any ammunition they found. True to their nature, they relished the prospect of this battle.

Next, we had the unsavoury task of approaching the slimy snakes. They were eager to play a part in this battle. The vipers, cobras, rattlesnakes and pythons volunteered. They had to occupy the camouflaged trenches into which the charging lions were expected to fall. The snakes could not wait to dig their fangs into the dreaded enemy. They would be proud of their grisly trophies.

We recruited three reliable white doves who were each to bear a giant green leaf that would serve as the Signal in the Sky for battle commencement in each battlefield.

Finally, various birds donated differently coloured feathers. A large multi-coloured standard was constructed. We mounted this flag on the highest tree at the eastern border of the forest in the southern battleground. It was to serve as the reference point for the opening gazelle-led run.

III

The role of espionage naturally fell to the cats of the Union Jack. They were to operate as double agents. The cats furnished us with valuable accurate information about the state of the enemy including their plans, numbers and attitudes. Conversely, they provided the Feline Overlords with unreliable intelligence. The Union Jacks deliberately underestimated the size and composition of the allied army. They withheld from their Overlords vital information about the deployment of concealed units in the Western and Southern armies. The cats exaggerated the low morale, discord and incompetence of the allies.

Their most important operation though on the day of battle, was to act as the Overlords’ scouts. The cats had to steer the three enemy armies into the disadvantaged areas of the respective battlefields that General Jack had reserved for them.

IV

General Jack insisted on repeated rehearsals on the battlefield until he was happy that everything went smoothly. The most difficult manoeuvre to get right was the bifurcating gazelle-led run around the trenches in the Southern Battlefield.

We completed these training routines to the General’s satisfaction. We were proud of our endeavours.

The military commanders reconvened in what was to be the final Council of War. The commanders were excited and optimistic. D-Day could not come a day sooner for them. General Jack alone remained silent and gravely thoughtful.

I took him aside and asked, “What’s eating you, General?”

“I’ve got this gnawing feeling,” he replied.

I retorted, “Surely, after all this, nothing can go wrong. After all the hard work and these rehearsals! I would imagine that we have won the battle before it even started. The rulers have no inkling on what is happening. They will be unprepared, tired and surprised as soon as they set foot in the different battlefields.”

Jack slowly replied, “You’re not comparing like with like. Simulation is one thing. The battle itself is another. You cannot simulate true battle conditions in a training session. In the heat of battle, anything can happen. Everything is decided in a split second. On the battlefield, everything is done through instinct. You have to improvise accordingly. The problem is that we do not have one animal instinct in our army but countless different types of instincts.”

That said, we reached the final lap- the official declaration of war.

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