The Great MigrationFor as long as I can remember, I have always stood out from the herd.
That is to say, from the very beginning, I was different to my fellow buffalope. I didn’t really look any different to the others, and I’m sure, my habits were more or less the same as those exhibited by buffalope the known world over. But I had something that none of the others seemed to possess; an enquiring mind. It was this, more than anything else that led me to become the creature that I am today, admired and revered across the known world as Max the Mighty.
Now, I could tell you reams of stuff about the buffalope life, but really it mostly came down to this. Through the Spring and Summer, we stood around and ate grass; lots of grass; lots and lots of grass. The stuff was virtually coming out of our ears.
And when autumn came creeping in, relentless winds blasting cold rain across the hills, it was then that the great migration would begin.
It happened every year at more or less the same time. Melchior, the herd’s leader, would sniff the cold air with his nostrils. He would glance at the ancient sage bull, Lazarus, his most trusted advisor and then he would lift his head and issue a great trumpeting bellow, which was the signal for us all to stop doing whatever it was we were doing and start migrating. Countless hooves would stir into action and we would be off, with a sound like rolling thunder, across the vastness of the plains.
It was the buffalope way of life sure enough – but even at that tender age, I was beginning to be irked by the inevitability of it. I had taken part in the great migration only twice in my young life and I was already getting well and truly fed up with it. For one thing, my hooves ached, something terrible. It’s been a lifelong problem for me, one that nobody ever seems to take seriously. But I’m telling you, after days of marching across that blooming plain, they were killing me.
For another thing, it was boring going through the same routine, year in, year out. I was longing for a bit of variety in my life. There’s no harm in that, surely?
As soon as I was able to talk – which I confess, did not take me very long, I was forever asking my poor mother tricky questions. I well remember one particular day, when we were browsing as usual in the midst of the herd and I felt that I simply had to have an answer to a problem that had been perplexing me for ages.
‘Mama,’ I said ‘Why do we make the great migration every year?”
‘My dear,’ Mama said, ‘we do so because the rest of the herd do; and they do so, because Melchior, our esteemed leader, says that it is time for the journey to begin.’
‘Yes, but it’s very hard on the hooves, Mama. It’s not nice having aching legs. Sometimes I swear my hooves feel as though they are about to drop off. Why must we be forever trooping up and down?’
‘It’s just the buffalope way,’ said Mama.
‘That’s no explanation,’ I complained. ‘You might as well say, because the grass is green! Here’s an idea for you. What would happen if we decided to stay here on the plains?’
‘You’d starve to death,’ said Papa, who was a buffalope who didn’t like to use any more words than were strictly necessary. ‘Or you’d freeze.’ He was browsing a particularly lush bit of grass at the time and didn’t really want to be disturbed by my childish questions.
‘There wouldn’t be enough grass to feed an entire herd through the winter,’ added Mama.
‘Yes, but it wouldn’t be the entire herd, would it?’ I persisted. ‘The rest of them would go thundering off and we’d have whatever was left all to ourselves. There’s only the three of us, we’d be laughing.’
‘Not when a pack of lupers came after us,’ said Papa gloomily. ‘And started ripping us limb from limb.’
‘We could take care of them,’ I said dismissively, tossing my underdeveloped horns this way and that. ‘What are lupers but mutts with an attitude problem?’ I must confess that I already had a vastly inflated opinion of my own abilities
‘There’s safety in numbers,’ grunted Papa. ‘Now belt up and let me enjoy my dinner.’ He let out a great gust of wind from his rear end, just to make sure I fully understood that as far as he was concerned, this was the end of the matter.
Papa moved away a bit. Mama gave me a consoling snuffle with her nice wet snout.
‘You’re only a youngster,’ she told me. ‘There’s no reason to worry your little head over things you don’t really understand.’
I felt like telling her that I did understand, only too well, but Papa was still close enough to give me a whack with the edge of a horn, so I kept my peace. But I felt sure, even then, that I wasn’t going to put up with this migration business for very much longer.
I am so desperate for the second novel, Sebastian Darke: Prince of Pirates! I placed an order in from Amazon so hopefully it arrives safely to my uncle's place (cheaper). But lucky for one of you, because there is one up in the prize pool!
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