31 Days of Halloween #22

The Goosemother Scroll - Episode 11 Text below.

“If your majesty will permit me, I believe I can divine the message of the parchment,” said a silken voice.

The voice belonged to an ostrich with intricate designs painted upon her beak. A headdress of gold links and jewels crowned her head, her feathers were dusted with a greenish pigment, and Pyg could have sworn her eyes glowed a faint emerald color. As Pyg stared into those eyes, she suddenly found herself with the knowledge that the ostrich lady was Estruthia, the Priestess of Gol. How she knew this, Pyg couldn’t have said.

The king nodded curtly, and the ibex handed the message to the priestess. Estruthia then waved a wing over the sodden page and muttered some words in a language Pyg had never heard until a light began to emanate from the shapeless stains that had once been words.

“Little Hog’s words are true, your majesty,” said Estruthia. “This message comes from the eldermouse Longtail, who bid both hog and wolf to bring it to you. The eldermice implore you to send your army, for they believe the Sh--”

Here the priestess faltered and shuddered. She quickly recovered, however, and continued. “The Shadow Bringer,” she said, “has all but taken over the Green Lands.”

The light died as quickly as it had appeared, and the message was but a sopping sheet again. The rhinoceros king, however, laughed once. A bitter laugh. It made Pyg afraid.

“Longtail is too late,” he said. “If the Master is the Shadow Bringer, he has already covered us in his darkness. Those wretches you saw on the shore. All betrayed their kings for him. And their kings betrayed each other, and now I am one of the few left to watch over the poor beasts they abandoned in evil’s name.”

“Why aren’t you fighting him? Why are you just sitting still?” Pyg asked. She quickly lowered her eyes, afraid she might provoke the massive king. But the rhinoceros instead laughed raucously, his giant belly shaking as he did.

“What do you think we’re doing?” he asked. “Do you think I live in a tent? We march to Historious, Little Hog. The Mountain at the Top of the World. The profaner has taken it for himself and holds the eldermice prisoner below it. And make no mistake, Hoglet. We will crush him.”

The king sat upon his cushions again and, to Pyg’s relief, ordered that she and Leap be untied.

“Forgive my severity,” he said. The first kind words he’d said since they met. To Leap, he offered a stiff apology. “The wolves murdered my wife and only child some years ago, and the children of many of my friends. Your kind are no friend to me. But I will not punish you for what you did not do. I cannot say that we will be like brothers, but you will be treated as a guest so long as you are on the business of the eldermice.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” Leap replied quietly.

“Servants! Bring these two some food and water,” the king ordered. “Set up a tent for them and see that they are as comfortable as it is possible to be in this wilderness.”

After a simple meal of dried fruit and nuts that tasted to the two beleaguered travelers like a sumptuous feast, Pyg braved another question of the horned king.

“Now that our message is delivered, your highness, we had hoped,” Pyg said anxiously, “well, we had hoped you would help us return home. If you can spare a ship.”

“Return home?” the king sneered. “I think not. Even if you could survive another sea journey, I have no intention of releasing you now.”

“But your majesty,” Pyg began.

“I will hear no more of this!” the king shouted. “Let you go so that you can be snatched  by the evildoer and turned against me? Let you go so that you can lead him to me? You must think me a fool. No, Little Hog. You and the wolfling are my guests. And you will remain my guests until I do release you. And I will not release you until we have won Mount Historious back from the shadows.”