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“Hello, Sister,” said the other pig.
“This is a trick!” said Pyg, but deep within her, she knew the Master was Dawnsong, the brother taken in her stead on the night of their birth. But how did he know her?
“This is a trick!” she repeated as if to convince herself. “My mother said Dawnsong was dead!”
“Dawnsong? Is that what I was to be named?” said the Master. “I am named Strangeborn, but no one calls me that anymore. Your mother - that is, our mother - never took the trouble to find out what became of me. For that I can’t blame her. Who is a pig against the wolves?”
The Master’s voice dripped with sarcasm. Who, indeed, was a pig amongst the wolves? Why, himself. The leader of the worst of them.
“Our mother wouldn’t have become a murderer to make peace with other murderers,” Pyg spat.
The Master ignored this remark.
“I was taken, along with so many other newborn babes that night, by the persecuted,” he explained. “Our deaths were to be revenge for the wolves’ ill-treatment at the paws of the so-called ‘good folk of the world.’ Many of the young did, in fact, die, but a few of us were shown mercy. I was raised by such a merciful wolf - the only mother I have ever known. I grew up faster than most pigs my age, I think, because of this."
“And then you grew up to become the Shadow Bringer!” Pyg interrupted. One of the Legion growled in warning, but Pyg hardly cared. Brother or not, this swine was responsible for the deaths of everyone she loved. He should be able to withstand an insult.
But the Master looked wounded by this charge.
“You think I am the Shadow Bringer?” he said. “No, no, Sister. That can’t be. You see, I was raised upon the words of the Goosemother Scroll. I was raised to believe the Shadow Bringer was the source of all my wolf family’s pain. I despise the Shadow Bringer. I’ve made it my young life’s work to seek him out and destroy him! To stop him from ever becoming! Him or her.”
“But don’t you see?” Pyg gasped. “In all you have done, you’ve made the prophecy come true yourself! It’s your shadow that covers the world. It’s you who’ve brought hunger and death and betrayal!”
The Master shook his head.
“What are the Three Laws?” he asked her.
“No beast chooses himself above his herd,” Pyg recited. “No beast shall take more than he must to survive. No beast eats of his own kind. You’ve already broken the first two. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve broken the last. And here you stand on Mount Historious, using it for evil. That makes you the Profaner.”
“Ah,” said the Master, “but you are wrong. All I have done before, I have done to better the world for future beasts. As to the Third Law, I eat no meat and never have. But there is something you have not considered.”
He gestured to his guards, who seized Pyg’s companions and led them silently away. All, that is, except for the Priestess.
“Where are you taking them?” Pyg asked.
“To a safe place for now,” said the Master, smiling. Safe for them or for you? Pyg wondered, but she was hardly in any position to fight for them now. She also wondered about the Priestess of Gol. Why had she not been taken with the others? Her question would soon be answered.
“My thanks, Estruthia, for bringing her to me,” the Master addressed the ostrich. The priestess bowed her long neck low and then turned to Pyg.
“Your arrival to this place was shown to me in a dream,” she explained. “I regret that I could not stop the tragedy you have seen along the way, but it was necessary to lead you here.”
Pyg’s blood rushed to her ears. “You LIAR!” she screamed. Had she not been held by a Wolfguard, she would have attacked the Priestess. But a voice whispered inside her head.
Quiet now, swine child! said the voice. I am still your friend! But he must not know! Not yet.
Pyg’s head swam with confusion. Who was whom and who had been betrayed? She wished the earth would swallow all of them up and be done with this whole nightmare for good.
“Sister,” the Master said. The word made Pyg feel ill. “Have you never wondered why it was me who was taken?”
“Of course I have,” said Pyg.
“Because I was meant to end the blight that is the Shadow Bringer. I was the small one and The End Will Be Small,” said the Master. “But you, Sister. Your path has been so very different from mine. I had not imagined this twist of fate until you arrived in the Elephant Lands and survived against all odds.”
“What are you saying?” asked Pyg.
“I have seen your past in my dreams, swine child,” said the Priestess.
“The first law: you broke it when you let our brothers die for your safety,” said the Master.
“That’s not true!” Pyg cried.
“What did you do to defend them from the wolves? Nothing!” said the Master.
“They were your wolves!” Pyg insisted.
“And I regret that,” said the Master, but he went on. “The second law! You broke it when you took those soldiers with you. You did not need them in order to survive, and you knew they might die along the way!”
“This isn’t fair! This isn’t fair!” Pyg sobbed.
“The third law,” said the Master.
“I have not eaten my own kind! Never!” Pyg gasped.
“Not so,” said the Priestess. “When you traveled with the rhinoceros king, you ate as he did. The meat of his enemies. There was a boar...”
“I didn’t know!” Pyg protested.
“And you didn’t ask,” said the Master. “How many have died trying to save you? How many have even known you and not suffered some terrible fate? And for what end? You have no noble mission. To think your dear friend, the wolfling, sold his soul to control the dead for you! Do you know what else he did? They say the Shadow Bringer rules the Ghosts of Men. That’s a power I don’t have. But when your friend barred the dead from any claim upon you, he unknowingly bound them to your command. You may not know what you are, but it is what you are, nonetheless. The Shadow Bringer. My own lost sister! And now that I have brought you close to me at last, I must perform my duty. Then you will never grow to darken the world. None will suffer on your account ever again!”
The guard who held Pyg drew his sword. In panic, Pyg looked to the ostrich priestess whose voice filled her head in rapid whispers.
Call them! Call the dead! The Master spoke truly, they are in your command. Call them and free yourself!
“Leap! Help me!” Pyg cried without even thinking, and the mountain began to rumble. A white mist arose from the rocky earth. It seemed as if it happened very slowly, but it happened within a few short breaths. The dead took their form and, led by a ragged wraith wolf, slew the guard, the Master, and all who served him.
Pyg felt a chill across her heart as she heard the howling of a thousand anguished wolves. But she felt no remorse. For the first time she could remember, she was in control of something. Her enemies would all be gone soon. Those who were left, and all they loved - she would seek them out and crush them. And after that, she would destroy all the small things that might get any ideas about ending her new dominion.
When the Master’s forces were destroyed at last, Pyg turned to the Priestess.
“There are those of us who serve you, my dark lady,” said the ostrich. “Who have always served you from the dark places of the earth. We have waited, your majesty, and we will help you take your rightful place. You have only to look to the shadows, and there you will find your servants.”
“I will find them, and I’ll make the world what it ought to be,” Pyg said softly, “but you I can never trust again.”
As the priestess’ lifeforce faded away, her final words entered Pyg’s thoughts.
I knew you would come... I knew you would come... I knew you would come...
Pyg smiled strangely. She knew now why she had never been given a name by her mother. Her name had already been written in the Goosemother Scroll eons before she was born.