31 Days of Halloween #16

The Goosemother Scroll - Episode 8 Text below.

Leap lifted his head to the moon and howled. It curdled Pyg’s blood to hear it, and yet there was something almost regal about the sound. It was the sound of ages past. The sound of mystery. And, most certainly, of death.

Pyg saw the ghosts, blood-hungry even in their dead forms, pause at Leap’s voice. Then, all at once, they made horrible faces of rage and ravenousness, and they rushed for the young wolf. Pyg couldn’t watch anymore. This is the end, she thought, weeping into her hooves. And it’s all been for nothing!

She heard Leap yelp, then heard his claws scrape the deck as he ran back from the advancing specters. He howled again, louder and longer. This time was different.

Pyg peeked through her hooves, and was astonished to see the ghosts hovering in place, still, almost contemplative. Then they turned away and faded into the mist, leaving the wolf unharmed. Soon after, the ship began to turn, though there was no one at the helm.

It can’t be, thought Pyg, but the ship’s compass would confirm what she already knew. The vessel had changed course for the Elephant Lands.

“It’s all right now,” said Leap in an old wolf’s voice. Then he laughed and said, “That was a close one!”

He grinned, finally returning to his usual self, but Pyg could see he was troubled.

“I don’t understand anything,” she said.

“Father Longtail says the dead men are servants of the Shadow Bringer,” Leap explained. “If the Master is the Shadow Bringer, and he has a bunch of wolfkind serving him, then that must mean the man ghosts will listen to wolves, too. I hoped it did, anyway. So, I used the old tongue. All wolves know it. It’s how we speak to each other when we don’t want others to understand.”

“What did you say to them?” asked Pyg.

At this, Leap’s ears fell back. “I... I said I was the servant of the Master, and you were my prisoner,” he answered shyly. He walked over to her and whispered. “I didn’t want to, but it was the only way. I told them not to harm us and to take us to the Elephant Lands.”

“I can’t believe it was that easy,” Pyg replied. She wondered if it truly was so simple. After all, it was the wolves of the Master’s Legion who murdered her brothers, and even they were afraid of the Ghosts.

“Yeah! Pretty lucky, huh?” Leap laughed a little too loudly. Pyg suspected there was more he wasn’t telling her, but after the past few days, she didn’t care to ask. She just wanted to reach their destination alive. The eldermouse had said the Elephant Lands were safe, and the Rhinoceros King was a friend. She dreamed of them when at last she gave in to sleep. Her dreams were simple and happy.

But safety was not the picture that greeted her when the sun rose the next morning to reveal the elephant coast ahead. Instead she saw an imposing carpet of tall, dark trees. Before the trees was a narrow sandy beach. And on the beach stood rows upon rows of tall wooden poles bearing the bodies of a hundred dead beasts.