“All in favour?”
Seven of the crabs snapped their claws.
Two, who had not snapped, scuttled away, retreating across the sand back to the sea.
“The motion carries. The turtles will be given occupancy rights to two thirds of the eastern beach for the mating season, with boundaries to be clearly demarcated, provided that they don’t encroach or disturb the nesting pools already established thereof.”
Crablord surveyed the scene with pleasure. For the first time in a few days he had managed to host a council on the issue. He had formed one prior, but he could not achieve a quorum of councillors, preoccupied as many of the crabs were with their own mating rituals. But the issue with the turtles was pressing; their appearance had led to conflict, and so Crablord was determined to have things straightened out.
With his business thus attended to, he stood and walked up the beach back to his makeshift hut, constructed as it was from leaves and dry driftwood. It kept the beating sun from his skin — a godsend in weather such as this; interminable summer for as long as Crablord had known.
Crablord was not like other crabs. He was taller — much taller, in fact. Several feet so. He had less legs that usual; some of the other crabs had wondered if he had lost them in battle, perhaps with some lobster. His outer shell was in fact not shell at all, and he had a soft and squishy exterior. Any shell he had, the crabs supposed — if he had any at all — must have been buried deep inside. His claws were useless at snipping, though they could achieve a limited amount of snapping.
No, Crablord had not arrived on the island in quite the same way as the other crabs. For those who now served on his council, Crablord’s appearance had come as something of a surprise. He had appeared out of the water one day, as if from nowhere, washing up onto the beach like a whale. Indeed, he was much a whale to the crabs as Crablord was to a whale. And yet, unlike a beached whale, Crablord had regained consciousness. Unlike a beached whale, he had found himself much better suited to life on land. It was his sojourn into the sea which had been unpleasant and unexpected. In many ways he was something of a reverse whale, and his beaching was really a return to normality.
Normality on the small island had taken some time to establish. It was a lawless wasteland, devoid of any civilisation until Crablord made his appearance. Though he was unsure of quite how he got there, he had determined to make the best of his situation and bring order to the chaos. He had transformed the island into a civil state, forming its council, electing its members, and duly appointing himself as the benevolent leader. The crabs, for their part, seemed enthused by the project. They investigated their new leader with much curiosity, and took part in civil life as vigorously and enthusiastically as any ruler might hope his subjects engage.
Others had not been so keen on this visiter’s style of leadership, looking at him with fear and hesitancy. The gulls had flown away when he walked towards them. The iguanas and lizards had similarly fled. But the crabs had been more acquiescent, accepting his leadership without much resistance. And so it was that the crabs, under their fearless leader, came to rule the small island, with its small wooded area, rocky outcrop, and stretching sandy beaches. It was they who laid down the laws, and they who enforced them.
Crablord lay in the shade under the great leaves that formed the roof of his shelter. He took a sip of water from the gourd he had fashioned into a bottle for himself. He was lucky that there had been some freshwater on the island, really. He contemplated his good fortune as he lay in the shade, tempted to have a siesta after his hard work leading the council this morning. But he resisted. There was still more work to be done.
“Rawk,” said Jasper the parrot, who sat perched on the windowsill, staring inwards towards Crablord. Jasper was Crablord’s chief adviser, one of the few birds who dared approach him.
“Quite right,” Crablord replied, closing his eyes. “But I don’t know what can be done about them. The seals often persist in running the iguanas away from the rocks. But the iguanas never come forward for help. How am I suppose to launch an armed intervention into the Rock Lands without an invitation from the aggrieved party? Otherwise it’s just an invasion.” The iguanas, suspicious as they were of Crablord — doubtful as they were of his claim to authority — preferred to suffer alone than invite some unknown force into their land. What would stop Crablord from leaving once he had driven the seals away? Better the devil you know, the iguanas believed.
“Rawk?” Jasper replied.
Crablord sat up and looked at the parrot. “Launch an invasion? Are you mad? What legitimate claim would I have to power, should I do this? Why should the iguanas accept my authority?”
Crablord sat thoughtfully, scowling at a spot on the wall as he threw the idea around in his head. “So you’re saying that the very presence of chaos in the Rock Lands is evidence that the iguanas are no longer fit to rule themselves? My leadership would no doubt improve their lot — it would be crime for me not to intervene.”
“Interesting… interesting…” Crablord stood up. “But how can I convince my soldiers to risk laying down their lives to bring order to some god-forsaken part of the island?”
“The rock pools? Yes, yes… new homes, natural resources…” Crablord paced around his small hut, nearly knocking it over in his excitement. “But before we can launch an invasion, we need to lay some foundations. The people will not accept blind adventurism into a foreign land. Spread dissatisfaction — get word out to the other parrots.”
The birds of the island were the vessel through which information spread, and with Jasper by his side, Crablord had ultimate control over this media machine.
“We need the crabs to become dissatisfied with their lot… we need them to think that the grass is greener — that the rock pools are clearer — in the Rock Lands. We need to breed resentment against the iguanas. We need them to hate that the iguanas are squandering this gift that they have been given, allowing the Rock Lands to become desolate as a result of their inability to defend it from the seal menace. Yes — go now, spread the word.”
And with that, Jasper flew off, his bright green wings flapping, his blue and yellow tail — which matched his blue and yellow head — disappearing into the distance. It would take some time for Jasper to layer the new agenda into the channels of information. He could not introduce the ideas into the news cycle all at once — the people would become suspicious. No, laying the foundations for military intervention would take time. Crablord would call a council meeting on the issue shortly. Once the people had been primed, then he would put forth a motion for war. Then he would extend his reach beyond the beaches he ruled, beyond the woods he called his home, and across the whole island. The Rock Lands: the last outpost; the last region where Crablord’s influence did not yet reach. He would rule it soon. But he could not do so without the support of his followers. Until such a time that they could be brought on board, he had earned himself a nap.
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