31 Days of Halloween #12

The Goosemother Scroll - Episode 6 Text below for the readers.

A wolf. Here in this so-called safehaven. A wolf walking through the curtain at that very moment! And no one screamed or ran. Father Longtail was saying something to Pyg, but she couldn’t make sense of his words at first. All she could think was run. She must have been a frightening sight to behold, for the wolf’s ears fell back, and his tail ducked between his legs.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I’ll...  I’ll come back another time.”

Somehow Pyg got her legs working again, and she scrambled to the only place she could think to. Under the bed.

“Oh my,” said Father Longtail. “Perhaps you’re right, my boy. Let us give her a bit more time.”

It was only when Father Longtail returned hours later, promising her the wolf was gone, that Pyg came out to curl up wearily in the chair.

“I am sorry for the shock,” said the eldermouse. “Leap has been with us for long enough that I sometimes forget he is wolfkind at all.”

“You mean, he lives here?” Pyg asked in horror.

Father Longtail smiled. “Not every wolf is bad, my dear,” he said. “Some are, yes, but just as many are not. You lost much of your family to the very bad ones, I know. You may be surprised to learn that Leap did as well.”

Pyg remained silent, but she was listening.

“In fact,” Longtail continued, “he was brought to us near death in much the same way you were. Terrified. Alone. Having watched his parents die by the tooth and claw of the Legion. And like you, he is still a child! Even so, he has recovered remarkably well! He is too young to become a brother, but he helps us track the Legion and find survivors in their wake. That is how we came by you, my dear.”

Pyg felt very ashamed and agreed, after being assured of no ill feelings, to meet the young wolf again.

“It’s all right,” Leap assured her, tail ever so slightly wagging. “I’m sorry for scaring you. I just heard that you wanted to go home, and I thought... Well, I thought maybe I could help! I can run pretty fast and Brother Jackalbeard says my teeth are as strong as any he’s ever seen. He’s seen all kinds of teeth!”

He grinned, showing ferocious fangs. Pyg gulped and smiled nervously in return.

“That is very kind of you, Leap,” said Father Longtail, “but I’m afraid no good will be served by sending either of you back that treacherous way. I certainly cannot stop you, but if you must leave the abbey at all, I would much rather you go another way. It will not take you to your mother, little pigling, but you will be much more helpful to her and to all beastkind if you will hear what I have to say.”

The eldermouse invited the wolf and pig to sit, and when they did, he began to explain. The Shadow Bringer’s forces grew greater by the day, he told them. His soldiers left a trail of blood wherever they went, and soon the world would drown in it. A few kings had tried to rise against him, but they had been defeated, and now many had given up their authority to join with him. But far across the Wide Sea lay the Elephant Lands where the mightiest of beastkind lived. It seemed they had not yet been touched by the evil of the Master. Longtail and the other elders wondered if they knew of the strife in their lands at all.

“The Rhinoceros King has always been a friend to the order,” said Longtail. “If we could only reach him, his army and those of his allies might stand a chance against the evildoer. But we cannot trust the gulls to carry our messages anymore. Too many of them have betrayed us.”

Pyg swallowed hard. “You want us to deliver a message,” she said.

Longtail shrugged. “We need someone to. Only... no one has been brave enough.”

Pyg looked to Leap. “If it would mean the end of the killing...” she said.

“I’ll protect you no matter which way you choose to go,” offered Leap.

And that was how wolf and piglet came to find themselves together on a tiny sailboat in the dark of night. With only a lantern, some fresh water, and some turnips to live on, they sailed alone for the Elephant Lands. They knew not what they would find, but hope for what lay ahead was far better than the dread of what lay behind.

Until a dark, hulking figure appeared through the mists on the moonlit horizon. It was massive. A behemoth of rotten wood and rags. Despite a gaping wound in her starboard side, she raced, tall and threatening, toward them. Ragged sails hung lifeless from skeletal masts, but the ship was alive. Alive with the Ghosts of Men.