The Legend of the Goat Festival

By Nofret Hrist

August 2000

[Disclaimer: I placed this in non-fiction, but please remember that the non-fiction section does -not- necessarily mean that the book is official.]

In the beginning, there were no goats in River's Rest. The goats that are there now are descendants of those brought to town for an experiment, an experiment that was visited on the goats because of the following legend:

Many, many years ago, in the time of the Kannalan Empire-what a bard would call 'Once upon a time and long ago'-a town named Faoin, which was famed for the cheese and wool its goats produced, learned that a special brigade was coming to invade and overrun the town. The folk of the town were greatly distressed, and knew not what to do. But a wise old sage shook his head and told the people, "Ye need have nothing to fear if ye but look to the goats."

Three days later, as the goats were grazing in the pasture above the town, the brigade started moving toward Faoin. But swiftly as the brigade moved, the goats were swifter, and by the time the armed men arrived before the gates of the town, the goats had made their way down to the gate and were bleating a loud and insistent warning to the townsfolk.

A rash soldier tried to maneuver past the goats, slashing at them wildly with a scimitar. The goats, outraged, kicked and bit and butted and trampled the men of the brigade, and when all was done, ninety men were dead and the remainder were forced to retreat.

The Commander of the forces was shamed that his men had been defeated by mere goats. Angrily, he ordered another assault on the town the next day, near the granary. But the goats caught the alien scent heading in the direction of their food stores and heard the clanging of the weapons, and swarmed toward the brigade. Their sharp hooves struck the soldiers again and again, like cudgels with a cutting edge, and their yellow teeth chomped on the callused hands that held swords and halberds. Their horns smashed into the abdomens and legs of the soldiers, rending and crushing them. And with all this, the goats raised enough of a racket to cause some of the townsfolk to scurry from their homes and batter at the soldiers with pitchforks and axes. When all was done, three hundred and fifty men were dead, and most of those who had retreated were less than whole.

The Commander was utterly humiliated by now, and, maddened, swore that he and his men would take this town if they had to fight to the last man. He was not going to be beaten by goats!

But the final assault was little more than a rout of the Kannalan Empire's forces. The goats had learned by now what tactics were most effective against these men and which were not, and the Imperial brigade was very quickly butted, bitten and battered into submission, if not death. Moreover, the villagers heard the commotion this day, as they were waiting for the bleating of the goats to alert them, and the villagers rushed at the soldiers, intent on destroying those who would have destroyed their homes and their freedom. This time, five hundred and fifty-five men died, one of them the Commander. Only five survived, and they fled, telling all whom they met of the demonic, determined and unconquerable goats of Faoin.

One day, many centuries after this, a necromancer who dwelt in River's Rest chanced upon this ancient tale in a tome of history. The tale intrigued him, for he had never suspected that goats had such strong hearts. He had long since been experimenting to see if he could extend life by transplanting the heart of a strong creature into the body of a weaker one...the hearts of orcs in roltons, the hearts of trolls in kobolds. He had been successful to a degree, extending the lives of his subjects, as well as strengthening them for a short time. But so far, none of this experimental creatures had quite fulfilled their promise. Yes. Perhaps the goats were exactly what he needed.

So he traveled to Faoin, where he stole a goodly number of goats, and then to Vornavis, where he captured an equal number of tapirs--animals reputed to be as strong as a goat, but infinitely more placid. Then, after bringing them back to River's Rest, he commenced his experiments.

He tried valiantly, using every kind of heart imaginable-ogre, krolvin, kiramon. He even tried transplanting a tapir's heart into a goat and a goat's heart into a tapir. But every time he tried to place a new heart in a goat, the goat died. And every creature he put a goat heart into--mongrel kobolds, blood eagles, brown spinners, grey orcs or krolvin warfarers--grew rebellious and uncontrollable, a passionate, unshakeable foe.

Eventually, he grew to realize that he was transplanting some of the goats' essence with their hearts, and that in doing so, he had created a mass of beasts who hated him and who would have cheerfully torn him to pieces. He locked himself in his tower and studied, searching for an antidote--something that would allow him to master the goats and the beings with goat hearts he had created. But there was nothing.

Conversely, the tapirs lived placidly in their cages no matter what was done to them. And the mongrel kobolds and grey orcs and krolvins with tapir hearts took after the beasts themselves--soft, calm, easily tamed, with no love for freedom or independence in them--only a lust for comfort and a willingness to endure captivity of body and soul to gain luxury and safety.

Soon, the tapir-hearted krolvins began to cower from the ferocious goat-hearted ones, and the tapir-hearted orcs withdrew and hid when goat-hearted orcs drew near. At length, the tapir-hearted creatures could bear the presence of the goat-hearted ones no longer. They withdrew from the woods and riverbanks of the Rest to the less threatening wilds around Fairport. The meeker townsfolk soon tired of battling the savage goat-hearted beasts surrounding the town, and they betook themselves to Fairport, where they settled peaceably into life as the most loyal and dedicated of Imperial citizens…willing to endure the iron fist of tyranny if that only meant that they would be safe, comfortable and well-to-do. Eventually only the most stubborn and independent people remained in River's Rest.

As the town aged, it soon became apparent to the Empire that those of River's Rest not only honoured goats, but had something of the goat in their natures, for they were fiercely opposed to the Empire in any form. This angered the government of the Empire, for they did not see that it was a question worth arguing over. The people of River's Rest were too stubborn, too unreasonable to accept the Empire as civilized people in Fairport did.

And at last one of the Emperors realized the worth of River's Rest--that it was somewhere for rebels to go, rather than stewing in the major cities of the Empire. There, in River's Rest--that maddeningly independent town--they could be free (that is, undisciplined and anarchic, in the Imperial view), without danger to themselves or the Empire.

So the Empire let the town of River's Rest alone, and it grew from a small town to a fair-sized city, where all of the people possessed stubbornness, determination, perserverence and independence which would be the envy of any goat. In this town, they could butt heads on any subject they wished without censorship or arrest. And the folk of the Rest have thus from that day to this. That is why the goats and the tapirs in the Citadel zoo are carefully kept, so that folk may see and remember the strength of River's Rest, and despise the calm acceptance of domination that thrives elsewhere in the Empire. Over time, a celebration ensued.

For many years, the Goat Days' Festival was celebrated with great honour. But then, as holidays do, the day became less infused with meaning and more an occasion for merchants, till the folk of River's Rest all but forgot about it, and the reason for the zoo. However, the recent influx of Turramzyrrian pride that is sweeping the Empire has caused the folk of River's Rest to look back at their own history and remember this, the most original of celebrations--the Goat Days of Summer...

[Note: This story was part of the River's Rest Goat Festival on August 4 & 5.]

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