In the land of the Banyan Tree a great battle was raging. An invading army was gathering its forces for a final attack and their victory seemed imminent. A spy returned to the camp with the news that the invaders would attack before dawn because their food and water supplies were exhausted and their forces were growing restless. The Emperor’s Generals all advised to hold their defenses one last time knowing that, if thwarted, the enemy would be forced to retreat and victory would be theirs.
The Emperor weighed all the options gravely as he listened to each General in turn. When the last adviser had finished he addressed his leaders:
“While it is still dark break camp and retreat out of range of the enemy. Take only your weapons and leave the food and water stores along with all your valued possessions behind.”
The Generals and advisers were incredulous. Had their Emperor lost his courage and his honor? Why hand over to the enemy everything they wanted and needed to declare victory and to survive? Surely it would be better to meet them on the battlefield and at least exact a price for their victory. One General suggested that, if a retreat was in order, at least poison the food stores and water they could not take with them. The Emperor declined the advice stating that it was pointless and too time consuming, they would suspect the poison and not consume either the food or the water until it had been tested.
The treasurer pleaded with the Emperor to take as much of the kingdom’s riches as possible in order to purchase exile in a neighboring kingdom. Again the Emperor declined, to the astonishment of all, stating they could not travel fast enough with the additional weight!
As ordered by the Emperor, while still dark the Generals had their men gather only their weapons and quietly retreated several miles to safety with neither food nor water to sustain them.
While the Emperor’s army was retreating the invaders were preparing for battle. Their Generals were inciting the army into a blood frenzy and their forces spent the night preparing for the pre-dawn attack. Just prior to first light the invaders attacked their enemy only to find the camp completely unguarded and all the stores and valuables left behind.
After the invading generals established order and had the stores tested they sent a company of soldiers out to follow the vanquished army only to discover that they had retreated far into the hills with neither food nor water.
Too exhausted and famished to pursue them in force the invading army set up camp and began their victory feast. The generals quarreled over who should be credited with the victory as their men fought one another over the abandoned riches not claimed by their leaders. Barrels of wine were opened and consumed by the victorious warriors during their celebration.
Finally satiated, the drunken and exhausted army fell into a deep slumber. Guards were posted but the victory over their cowardly enemy was so complete that soon they too fell asleep
As the invaders celebrated, a few miles away the Emperor addressed his demoralized generals and his soldiers: “We are now in almost the same position as the invaders were a few hours ago. We have no food, water, nor any of our valuables. At dawn the invaders, freshly rested and fed, will surely pursue us and put us to death or enslave us. Those who may escape will only die of starvation or thirst. The only hope for survival each of us has rests in our returning to the camp immediately and attacking them while they sleep.
And so it was, after a mighty battle, many of the befuddled invaders were slain and their disorganized army driven away by the wise Emperor’s warriors.