Keep your friends close and your enemies closer . . .
especially if your enemies are crickets." Unknown Lizard poet.

In the Company of Lizard-Men
by Katherine Sanger ©2014

Goron, Colonel Captain of the Lizard-Men, glared about the newly conquered land.

"This is it?" he asked the underling that crouched on four legs beside him.

"Yess, ssir." Unlike the Snake-Men, the Lizard-Men's lisp wasn't as pronounced, but they still had a problem with those pesky s's.

"Where are the rocks?"

"Rockss, ssir? I'm afraid there are no rockss, ssir."

Goron turned the full malignancy of his stare on the underling who quickly changed color in an attempt to blend in. Goron licked his own eyes, tasting the dry dust that had accumulated on the clear covering.

"No rocks? Why did we conquer this land if there are no rocks?" Unlike the underling, Goron had been given extensive speech therapy and had no trouble with the s-sound.

"We -- we were told to, ssir." The underling was no longer green but a deep chocolate brown, almost succeeding at blending in with the dirt at his feet.

"By whose orders?" Goron's voice rose in decibel level. Some of the other Lizard-Men looked over, but quickly looked away when they saw the camouflage job of the underling.

"Your ssuperiorss, ssir."

Goron breathed in and out rapidly, flaring the frills around his neck. "Handy things, rocks. They get all warm from the sun for sitting on. And they can be awful handy to hide under."

When Goron waxed poetic, it normally meant that a Lizard-Man was going to get waxed, too. The underling looked like he was wishing for rocks right about then.

Goron's hand slipped onto his gun, held in its webbed holster around his waist. The holster was Goron's most prized possession. It kept his gun snugly at his side, regardless of the number of legs he was on. Right about now, he was glad he was on two, in full attack position.

"Get Brigadier General Hexigrax here now! We have to.talk."

The underling scurried away. Goron was out for someone's blood. While the underling's tail had grown back since last time, it just wasn't the same, and the thought of having to grow yet another one made him twitch. He got Brigadier General Hexigrax.

Goron stood a full 13 inches; Brigadier General Hexigrax towered an inch and a half above. Goron was a muted shade of green; Brigadier General Hexigrax was a bright verdant chartreuse. Just meeting Brigadier General Hexigrax was enough to turn a young Lizard-Man black. Goron wasn't easily impressed. Goron was an idiot.

"Goron," bellowed Brigadier General Hexigrax. "Why have you called me here to this field of battle? Did you want congratulations on your puny victory?" While Goron took speech therapy, Brigadier General Hexigrax took advanced rhetoric and calculus.

"No, sir. I want answers about my puny victory, sir." Goron didn't know he was being insubordinate. Brigadier General Hexigrax did.

"Answers? What answers do I have to provide to you?" He left his mouth slightly open, showing off his teeth -- weak teeth. All the better for swallowing his prey whole. Goron was taken aback for a moment, wondering if the stories of Brigadier General Hexigrax eating his underlings were true. His jaws did look like they were in good crushing shape.but Goron had never lost his tail, and he wasn't about to lose it now.

"There are no rocks here, sir. Why win a battle if there are no rocks?"

Brigadier General Hexigrax looked at him as though he couldn't believe his visible ear openings.

"You're questioning why you fought a battle?"

Goron's mind churned. This didn't sound good, even to him. Was he not supposed to question authority? There was something stirring in his brain about that. It definitely wasn't a good thing to do. He'd made a bit of a bad decision.

"No, no, sir, far be it from me to question you, sir. But where are the rocks, sir?"

Brigadier General Hexigrax stuck out his tongue to get a taste of air. He pressed it against the roof of his mouth, trying to get the scent from it. It helped him relax in big pressure moments.

"Goron. Your father and I are old friends. At least, he thought he was your father. Hard to tell with all those eggs lying around willy-nilly. But it's only for him that I pause now. It's only for him that I answer your questions instead of ripping your tail off in my teeth. We did not conquer this land for rocks. We conquered it for something far better."

Brigadier General Hexigrax pointed off into the distance. Goron squinted, trying to see what Brigadier General Hexigrax was indicating. He stuck out his tongue and took a taste of the air. Then he saw it -- movement. Lots of movement, all in the air.

Crickets! Thousands of them! All coming this way!

"Men!" Goron shouted to the troops that had been huddling in their tents, trying to avoid the show-down. "Tonight we feast! Food flying in!"

In seconds, the once deserted scene was covered with all shades of green and brown. The Lizard-Men rushed the open field, mouths agape. Cries of "Cricketss!" filled the air.

Brigadier General Hexigrax looked down at Goron. "Do not ever question your commanding officers."

Goron nodded, bobbing his head in acquiescence. "No, sir. Never again. May I eat the crickets now?"

"Yes, yes," Brigadier General Hexigrax waved his hand towards the oncoming black cloud.

Goron joined his troops in position, ready to extend his tongue into the fray for prime cricket catching. Then he noticed it. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. The crickets should have been getting larger as they came closer, he knew that. He had learned about perspective. But these crickets kept getting bigger, and at a much greater rate than he had ever seen before. These crickets were giant crickets!

Without question, these were the grand-daddies of all crickets. They were as wide as Goron was tall, and they were quickly descending on the field of Lizard-Men.

The Lizard-Men stood stock still, terrified into lack of movement. Goron turned to Brigadier General Hexigrax, ready for orders now that his superior was on the field. There was no rallying cry or any other sort of military direction that Goron had been expecting. Instead, something disastrous happened.

Brigadier General Hexigrax's tail fell off! It landed on the dusty ground and flipped and flopped around, meant as a distraction to an enemy that was otherwise unvanquishable.

Goron paused, realized the impact of the situation, and sounded a cry. "Retreat! To the tents! Retreat!"

Not altogether orderly, the Lizard-Men rushed the tents, some holding their tails in their hands in an attempt to keep them from falling off in sympathy with Brigadier General Hexigrax. The tents flapped closed, and the Lizard-Men cowered in groups, huddled around, all turning interesting shades of brown and grey.

Goron stood next to Brigadier General Hexigrax. The Brigadier General cringed in a corner, near to trembling. Goron couldn't believe it. The intelligence received must have been wrong. Those were no ordinary crickets out there. Those were super-crickets or something! How had the Snake-Men been able to defeat them and hold them at bay for so long? How had the Snake-Men survived this plague on the land?

Goron ached for answers to the questions that were popping into his slightly well-developed brain. But there was no one left to ask. With the dropping of his tail, Brigadier General Hexigrax had relinquished control of the troops. No Lizard-Man would take order from him again. So that meant.it was up to Colonel Captain Goron!

Colonel Captain Goron knew what he must do. He must lead the charge again the crickets. They must not lose the battle now. They must stay victorious. Especially if he ever hoped for promotion.

While Hexigrax quailed in the corner of the tent, far from the flaps, Colonel Captain Goron made his plans. He called the Lizard-Men together and gave them the word.

"This morning, we won a fine battle. We defeated the Snake-Men of Zircon 56-B. Now we face a far more important foe. For here, on this planet, we have found giant crickets, of a kind never before encountered by any of our race who lived to tell about it." Colonel Captain Goron impressed himself with his speaking. He wondered if he had somehow learned this battleground speech from Hexigrax when his tail fell off. Maybe there was some sort of release into the air? "On my command, we will attack! We will win! Wait for the signal. When it is given, we will rush from the tents and attack the giant crickets. I must go and tell the others. Hold yourself in readiness!"

Without another word, he slipped from the tent and began his rounds, entering each of the eight tents and informing the battle-scarred Lizard-men of their new plans. When he finished the last, he slid from the tent and into the clearing. The crickets chirped above him, seeming to scan the land.

"Attack!" Colonel Captain Goron cried. "Tonight we feast on crickets!"

The Lizard-Men poured from the tents, weapons at the ready. They charged, quickly decimating the unsuspecting herbivore crickets. Cricket legs, heads, and wings hit the ground, while those who maintained their flight ability quickly swarmed off into the distance.

Seeing the retreat, the men cheered. Colonel Captain Goron walked through his troops as they dismembered the crickets who had fallen. Those who still lived were quickly dispatched, then dismembered. No mercy was shown.

Hexigrax emerged from the shadows of a tent and skulked to Colonel Captain Goron's side. The lack of tail seemed to have thrown off Hexigrax off balance. He no longer walked with confidence, and while he normally towered over Colonel Captain Goron, now his bowed position made him seem shorter.

Colonel Captain Goron looked down at Hexigrax. "We have conquered yet another puny enemy."

Hexigrax nodded, bobbing his head in acquiescence. "Yes, yes, you certainly have. May I eat the crickets now?"

"Yes, yes," Colonel Captain Goron waved his hand towards the black cricket parts covering the battlefield.

x x x

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