Some slight relief from all the tragedy. ;-) The Goosemother Scroll - Episode 5
Pyg fainted and dreamed terrors. Nightmares of strange symbols spelled out in her brothers’ blood. Of tall, hairless creatures with large, rat-like claws. Of shadows that sucked her in like quicksand.
But it was a prickly, tickly feeling that finally woke her. It felt like a dozen tiny hairs were brushing just-so against her cheek. Pyg opened her eyes to a dim orange light and saw, perched upon her nose, a mouse in a long gray robe.
“Ah! Awake at last. Good, good!” the mouse said pleasantly. His whiskers twitched as he smiled. “I was beginning to worry!”
The mouse felt around her snout with his paws as if unsure and then hopped down beside her upon the bed. How Pyg wound up in a bed, she didn’t know, but she hadn’t the will to ask any questions now. She saw that her bed was in a humble, cavelike room lighted by candles. Instead of walls, there were dull brown curtains, and she suspected by the sounds outside that her little curtained room was one of many.
“Brother Redfern!” the mouse called to someone out of sight. “I have good news! Our patient has woken up. She’ll be needing some hot dandelion tea, I should think. And bring that, uh, scrap of cloth, if you will.”
The mouse turned back to her. “Now, let’s see here. I am Father Longtail. Do you know where you are?” he asked gently and then, chuckling to himself, answered his own question. “No, no, of course you wouldn’t. You, my dear, are in the hospital of the Southtunnel Abbey.”
Pyg finally found her voice. “Are you an eldermouse?” she asked in amazement, but then a small white fox with ears like wings came through the curtain, carrying a cup of steaming tea, which he placed on the table beside her bed. Next to the tea, he slipped a torn piece of white fabric. Pyg noticed a spot of what looked like blood on it. The fox’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Father Longtail is not simply an eldermouse,” he told her. “He’s one of the Blind Brothers! The Goosemother herself took their sight to keep them from evil and in exchange granted them extraordinary wisdom!”
“Thank you, Brother Redfern, that will be all,” said the eldermouse. To Pyg he shook his head. “Bless them! The stories they tell themselves! My sight was taken by a brain fever when I was still a pup. What else is a blind mouse to do but join the safety of the abbey? The Goosemother didn’t make me a fool. Such is the life for most of us down here. We cannot, for one reason or another, serve the world above, and so we go below.”
“Oh,” said Pyg, still thinking about the cloth. But then Longtail became very serious, and Pyg feared what he had to say.
“You’re a very lucky pigling, you are,” said the mouse. “We found you on cursed ground where the Ghosts of Men are known to rise. With so much blood spilled, it’s a wonder they didn’t find you before we did. I am sorry about your brothers. They were your brothers, were they not? We have buried their remains.”
It pained Pyg to think of her brothers, but she had no tears left to cry. “I didn’t think the Ghosts of Men were real,” she said quietly.
“They are very real, and very dangerous!” said Longtail. “More dangerous than the wolves who attacked you. Their fear of the Ghosts is likely why they did not stay to kill you.”
“How did you know it was wolves?” asked Pyg.
“There is no mistaking their work, pigling,” Longtail told her. “But there was also this bit of cloth left behind. The one I asked Brother Redfern to bring. Take it, please, and tell me what you see.”
Pyg took the cloth with the blood spot and examined it up close. Embroidered on one corner was a strange insigne showing a black claw with its reverse in gray below it like a shadow.
“The symbol of the Master’s Legion,” Longtail explained, “a vast army of wicked beasts spreading across the world like a plague. They follow the orders of a king they call Master. We do not know him, but it is at his command they kill and torture and destroy. From the stories I hear, his power is increasing. Do you know the Scroll, child?”
“Then you know whom we fear has come.”
“You mean the Shadow Bringer, don’t you?” asked Pyg. She felt the hairs of her chin stand up.
“We see no other possibility,” said Longtail.
Pyg immediately threw the blankets off and sprang from the bed. She found her cloak across a chair and put it on at once.
“Where are you going, pigling?” asked Longtail.
“I have to get back home,” Pyg answered. “My mother is all alone!”
“And you think you can defend her against the Shadow Bringer yourself?” asked Longtail. “No, little pigling. You must not go home now. The way back is crawling with evil, and though you may be brave, you are but one, and you have no weapons. Not even claws.”
“But I can’t just leave her there!” Pyg protested. “I have to try!”
“Listen to me, Child,” said Longtail. “It was no accident that you survived. You were meant to come to us. Perhaps not to overthrow the Shadow Bringer yourself, but each of us plays his part.”
“My part is played at home now,” Pyg insisted. “Thank you for taking care of me, but I have to go.”
Pyg marched toward the curtain but didn’t make it far before a blood-curdling sight stopped her in her tracks. Showing through the curtain fabric was a silhouette she feared above all others. Had her throat not been choked by mortal dread, she would have screamed.