All was quiet in the elephant graveyard. Here, the bones of the ancients lay scattered, huge and broken, like ruins of a once great city.
“Is it really all right for us to be here?” Pyg whispered to the ostrich priestess.
“It is an honor,” the priestess answered. “An elephant’s invitation to a graveyard is their way of introducing you to their ancestors as a friend. Her majesty is not only paying homage to the ancients but asking them to protect us.”
Pyg nodded and watched as the queen and her soldiers wandered wordlessly among the bones, picking them up, curling their trunks around them. Weeks ago, Pyg would have thought it a peculiar custom. But weeks ago, she would have read about it in a book before a fire while her mother knitted and her brothers teased one another or bickered about something trivial. Everything she had known to be familiar and safe had been taken from her since then, and so she took comfort in what was meaningful in another land.
But something was not right.
“I think we are not alone here,” the priestess whispered, narrowing her eyes.
A thin fog that lurked among the bones had rapidly grown quite thick. Pyg thought she heard faint whispers, but when she looked for Leap to ask him if he’d heard them, he looked so strange that she forgot her question. His ears were back, and he was shivering terribly.
“Leap? Are you all right?” asked Pyg.
He didn’t say anything, but the priestess glared at him as if he had. Leap shrank back when the ostrich approached him, but soon he was transfixed by the glow of her eyes.
“What are you doing to him?” asked Pyg. “Leave him alone!”
But the priestess continued her fearsome gaze until she suddenly gasped.
“No!” she cried. “Wolfing, you do not know what you have done!”
“What’s going on?” Pyg demanded.
“I had to,” said Leap in a voice barely above a whisper. “It was the only way to make it across the sea. But I hoped I’d be alone when they came for me.”
“When who came for you?” Pyg asked. “What do you mean? Leap, answer me right now!”
Meanwhile, the priestess was running and shouting, shouting to the elephant queen and her army to leave this cursed place at once.
“The dead are rising!” she shouted. “We must turn back! The ghosts of men are among us!”
“What does she mean?” Pyg pleaded of her friend. “You… you said you told the ghosts you were the servant of the Master! You said they helped us because they must obey him!”
“I didn’t want you to know the truth,” Leap said, his head hung low.
“What truth?” Pyg cried. “Leap! What truth?”
But the Ghosts of Men were coming up from the earth now, and through the vapor of their rising shapes, the elephants ran. They could not run fast enough. The dead took form. Not simply men, but dogs and lions and other spirits, too. All of the beast ghosts walked upon fours, and the men were their masters. One of the men sat high upon a spectral horse, and he commanded the horse with unseen reins though he, himself, had but a stump upon his shoulders in place of a head.
“Come on, Leap! We have to go!” shouted Pyg, but the wolf would not move.
Suddenly the priestess was beside her.
“Run, swine child!” she told Pyg. “Your friend is beyond saving. He has made the Unspeakable Oath!”
Behind them, a terrible scene took place. Some of the elephants were strangled by the ghosts. Some were devoured whole until only their bones remained. Still others fled in crazed terror until they fell upon the ancient bones and impaled themselves. The queen herself was dragged below the earth until her roars of pain and fear were silenced forever.
Someone living dragged Pyg away. She would never remember who. But she remembered Leap’s last words to her.
“They can’t hurt you!” he called after her. “That was my price!”
Then the headless horseman descended upon Leap and snatched from him what the dead had bought in the young wolf’s abominable bargain.