Susi was in a panic. A darkness had taken the world, and every light she saw flickered before going out. Jack was nowhere to be found either, he was just gone! She ran through the streets of Baaaaah calling out for anyone, but no one answered.
She was alone, and it was going to get her. She could feel it stalking just outside of her sight. It was behind her and getting closer. No matter how fast her hooves were, it only got closer. And then it got her...!
Her hind legs were pulled out from under her, and she screamed as she was pulled back. Then, she was face to face with the creature. She could barely struggle as the thing loomed over her. She knew it was going to kill her, and enjoy every scream she cried.
But, something else came next as she heard...words..?
“What does it fear in the end?” It said. “For it’s flesh, or…?”
Susi couldn’t respond, how could she respond to this monster. All she could do was wish something would save her from this terrible fate.
“Murderer or victim, master or slave, fruit or creature.” It continued. “They’re lives end in time, but only one needed to know what it truly was to survive for long.” It’s glowing eyes fixed on her, causing her to yelp. “And what are you then?” It’s burning glare only seemed to intensify as she struggled to even find her voice.
Susi then jolted from her bed. Despite her panic, the only sound she made was her fast breaths. She calmed down as it became clear she was at home, it was morning, and Jack was there. Her Bedlington let out a soft bark as he climbed up to her.
“Ok.” Susi uttered in between breaths. “Another nightmare. I’m going to have to buy more coffee at this point.” Jack gave her a look. “Yes, I know I don’t sleep enough as is.” She sighed. “Let’s just get breakfast going.” She got her glasses off the nightstand and left her bed.
Now she had to hope she had something in the cupboard. Between reading at home, and her recent insomnia, she hadn’t been to the market square in a while. And, sure enough, the cupboard was bare.
“Well, could be worse….” Susi uttered to herself and Jack.
And then it did, as the quick and loud knock came to her door. Followed by an unfamiliar voice calling out.
“Hey!” The voice called. You awake in there? Uh, Susi right?”
“Just a minute….” Susi grumbled, as she hoped this was just a random sheep that needed directions.
As the door opened, however, she recognized who it was.
Sally was something of a known trouble maker in Baaaaah. Her tall, thin frame did look somewhat nervous standing at her doorstep. Like she had something to hide, even occasionally looking back and forth down the road. While her tam hat and scarf might make a denser ungulate think she’s an adventure, it was more she was well to do enough afford such.
“Look, I got enough problems this morning.” Susi said coldly with narrowed eyes. “Go away.”
Sally’s nervous smile didn’t seem fazed. “Hey, look, peace alright?” She replied. “Just here about, ya know?” Then, seeing Susi giving her another annoyed look. “You know, the thing you saw? At night maybe?” That earned her a growl from Jack.
“If you are here to joke about that, I swear….” Susi quietly uttered with clenched teeth.
“No, no, no, no!” Sally quickly replied waving her hoofs. “I believe you, really! It’s fine.” Susi sighed as she put her hoof to the bridge of her glasses. “Just...ya know, figured you saw something, and so did I ... And so did this other sheep! Maybe we can get together and...”
“Why?” Susi asked wearily. “I have to get to the market, then get breakfast going, then…”
“Hey, it’s cool!” Sally interrupted with a smile. “Bunny’s a great cook, she can feed ya.”
“Bunny?” Susi said with a quizzical look. “That daughter of the off farmer no one can understand?”
“Yeah, the same.” Sally answered. “She’s cool. So come on, I can take you there.”
Susi groaned as she looked at Jack. He gave her a shrug, then walked forward, giving a quick bark. She clenched her teeth for a moment as apparently Jack thought this was a good idea.
“Ok, fine….” Susi finally said. “Let me get my book bag.” While she felt this might be the start of a long day, at least it would start with her getting a free breakfast. She gathered what couple books were on her table in her bag and headed outside. “You know the way?”
“No prob!” Sally replied. “It’s a bit in the boonies, but I know where it is.”
“Great.” Susi added and followed the lanky fool of a sheep out of Baaaaah.
While Susi was fine with a quiet walk, Sally was unfortunately talkative.
“So, uh, you know who I am, right?” Sally asked, getting a nod from back. “You know my dad at all?”
“I know you were with Arthur X and Basil.” Susi answered in annoyance. “And you’re dad manages the windmills.”
“Uh, yeah…” Sally added, her initial cheerfulness fading in the nervousness. “Did you know my dad was kinda into books? I mean… maybe not as much as you do.” Susi grumbled. “Think he said something about a book about snakes once.”
And at that point, Susi knew this would be a long walk.
“Something about the machinations of reptiles or stuff like that, would you believe? For awhile it was all he would talk about. Me? I’m not even into that crazy stuff. If that book doesn’t even have a nice picture, you can bet it’s going to be lame. But he read that book and he…”
Susi couldn’t ever feign attention to this. It even annoyed her to see that Jack seemed to enjoy this diversion.
“...And ever since then, it’s like he’s obsessed with poisonous snakes.” Sally finished her story. One that noted that “Lord” Cedric, her father, kept worrying about snakes lying in the grass...Despite the fact the’re hadn’t been a snake in the meadow for more than a long time.
The walk to the farm had been a long one for Susi. Hearing about Sally’s father felt longer than the walk. But at last the farmhouse they were heading towards was near.
She could even see Bunny’s father, “Big Bunny” Wilson, not far from the house. The somewhat unintelligible farmer was in his field watering his crops.
The strange nickname of Big Bunny came about due to his stout size, fluffiness, and his unusual teeth. Though his fluffiness had lessened, despite the stories. He apparently had been trimming himself, while still keeping an amount of wool around his head.
“Yo, Mr. Wilson?” Sally called out to him. “Is Bunny home?”
Wilson looked up, lowered his watering can, and replied. “Oh, aye! I ‘magine she’s about in ta kitchen like. Ye ‘er for cuppa tea, then?”
“Wha…?” Susi about uttered before Sally cut her off.
“Totally!” It was then Wilson gaver he an odd look. “I mean, aye….aye that.” To which the old farmer nodded.
“Lovely day for it.” He replied. “Ye girls ‘ave nice time then.” And then went back to his watering.
Sally knew what Susi was about to ask. “Him and Bunny talk weird, I can translate.”
“Great…” Susi replied. And they walked into the farm house.
Big Bunny’s home was as modest as any farm in Baaaaah’s outskirts, what farms there were at least. All the living room had was a light bookshelf, wood chairs, and a fireplace. Meanwhile, the kitchen had much more going for it. A table, chairs, two ovens, and several shelves with items. The fact that things like flour, salt, and some dried vegetables were among them made it clear no sheep here grazed for all meals in the day.
And another stout sheep was placing fresh pikelets on to a plate, the already mentioned “Little” Bunny.
“Aye ‘oop, herd ye outside, Sally.” Bunny said, flipping up pikelets on the stove. “Ye bring ta one dear ye talked ‘bout, then?”
While Susi was wide eyed and feeling she was on another planet, Sally would reply.
“Yep, this is her.” She replied as she gestured over to Susi. “Uh….” She added as she cleared her throat. “Care to introduce yourself, maybe?”
“Susi, that’s my name.” Susi said with a sigh. “You, uh, have the same teeth as your dad?”
“Oh, aye!” Bunny replied, her buck teeth showing like a rabbit incisors as she turned around. “Can’t tell ye how his line got em.” She then walked to the kettle sitting on the other stove. “I’d ‘imagine oop north ‘round where he came froms got other sheep wit it.”
“Oop...North?” Susi asked with an eyebrow raised. As Bunny put the kettle atop a thick cloth on the table, Sally answered.
“My guess is a bunch of sheep wandered north at some point.” She said. “Couldn’t tell ya how they manage out there.” She then giggled. “I heard Big Bunny was a bigger fluff ball than the prime minister once.”
“Well, gets cold oop there.” Bunny added, finishing the table and sitting down. “Pa keeps shearing himself ta keep him cool round these warmer parts.”
With the table more or less set up, the other two ewe took their seats. At that point, Susi noticed a bulldog napping in the corner. Before she could ask about it, Sally cut to the chase.
“So, you saw it too right?” She asked Susi with enthusiasm. “What was it like? I only saw that thing at a distance.”
That question, and the answer she knew she had, caused Susi to suddenly grab one of the pikelets and stuff it into her mouth. Just the thought of what she saw was bad enough she’d rather not think hard enough to explain it.
“Oi, Sally, ye can’t just ask like tha!” Bunny chided. “Ye said she’s been frazzled from it!”
“Oh, come on.” Sally replied with annoyance. “It’s been like, I don’t know, a week or two since? I was over it in a week.” She added, gesturing to herself with some pride.
“Aye, but ye are you.” Bunny continued, pouring a cup of tea, giving it to Susi. “Not eve’ones like ye.”
Through this argument, Susi only chewed away at the pikelet, hoping to avoid any further conversation. Looking at Jack, she found him sampling something from the wood dog bowl on the floor, with that bulldog in the corner eyeing him with indifference.
She hardly even noticed another sheep entering the room.
“Morning Bunny.” Susi quickly turned to see an adult ewe that wasn’t Wilson was there.
“Marnin’ mum!” Bunny replied back, then turned to Susi. “Tha’s me mum, Molly.”
“Who’s all ye friends here?” Molly. Perhaps to Susi, Bunny’s mom felt like the most normal sheep she’d met today...or at least not crazy. “I know you mentioned Susi.”
“Oh!” Bunny exclaimed with some enjoyment. “That’s Sally, Cedric’s daughter. And this be Susi, as I said.” Bunny paused. “Oh, aye, haven’t really gotten to know ye’s story, Susi. Ye got intrestin’ family in ta village?”
Susi swallowed hard. This wasn’t a conversation she wanted any part of either. She remained quiet.
“Eash.” Sally said with a groan. “I know you aren’t mute. We spoke this morning.”
“She’s been through a lot, Sally.” Molly added calmly. “Her family isn’t a good topic. Maybe start with some of those books I hear she’s been collecting. You dears have a good time. Gonna go see how Big Bunny’s doing with the field.”
As Molly departed, Sally let out a slight sigh. “Books, huh?” She took a breath. “So, read anything good lately?” She clearly hoped it wasn’t something boring.
“Uh...I guess?” Susi replied, taking a sip of her tea. “I was into this book on some reindeer fables when….well….” She then paused, and the other ewe could guess why.
“....Then, nothing?” Sally asked with a raised eyebrow, hoping to move things along. “Er, after?
“...Mostly just re-reading some old books on plants these days.” Susi added as she took another sip. “It keeps me from thinking about it...”
“Ye into farming?” Bunny asked with interest. “Pa said he ain’t seen any sheep reading on plants in ta village.”
“My great grandpa got them from somewhere.” Susi replied, at least comfortable with this topic. “He’s kinda how I got most of my books.”
“Was he a farmer, then?” Bunny continued.
“No idea.” Susi answered, shaking her head. “I never even met him.” She sighed. “Dad said he wandered off and never came back then...well...”
“Woah, did your dad go looking for him or something?” Sally asked. To her, this sounded like an adventure. When Susi didn’t answer, she began to lose that sudden intrigue. “Uh…”
After a pause she spoke up. “...I... I don’t know.” Susi answered with a sad look. “My grandpa Rowan and mom would argue about some of his books, then he stormed off” Her eyes were now on the table. “Then… mom went looking for him and never came back.”
“Oh….” Sally said, with a nervous look. “Yikes…
“Poor dear...” Bunny added.
It was quiet for a moment. Sally felt like she had made a mess of things, meanwhile Bunny wondered how they might move to something less depressing. Though the first sound that broke the silence was a whine from Jack.
“Yeah…” Susi said as she turned to him, putting her hoof on his head. “I know. I’m not the only one who’s been miserable over this.”
“Uh, was ye dog from yer dad?” Bunny asked cautiously. “Ol’ Chester came from around where pa used to live.”
“No idea.” Susi replied without turning away from Jack. “I never really asked. Jack was around when I was a foal. And he’s all I have after dad passed.”
“Least that somethn.” Bunny added. “Ye are ah good dog, Jack?” She asked, and he barked in affirmation. “Ta’s good ta know.”
“So, uh, what are sheep from up north like, Bunny?” Sally asked, changing the conversation to avoid any further eggshells. “Is it cool up there?”
“Cold mostly.” Bunny replied, giving some humor to Sally. “Also they ain’t got a prime minister or voting nither.”
“That sounds awesome!” Sally said with excitement. “Sign me up.”
“Pa had to bury a brother an’ sister back there.” Bunny added, causing Sally to wince. “Pa said tis not easy around there.”
“Yikes.” Sally said, wide eyed. “With stuff like that, I’m surprised those sheep don’t go crazy.”
“Well, there were fellers I heard would just dig out a home underground.” Bunny said with a chuckle. “I’d imagine ye’d wonder why some hill’s got a chimney on it out there.”
For the first time, Susi had a brief laugh. “That does sound like quite a sight.” She said, now joining the conversation. “How many sheep live out there?”
“Pa said not as many in Baaaaah.” Bunny answered. “Might be forty tops.”
“Woah, with the numbers Baaaaa has, we may as well be the rabbits if that’s how things are up there…” Sally added with a silly look. Bunny laughed a bit.
“Eh, pa figures ta village’s got better grazing then oop there.” She said. “Ma even had to explain to him how ta summer works round these parts.” Bunny had another giggle. “Figure tha’s around ta time she told him to start shearing. Otherwise he’d keep gett’n too sweaty.”
“Yet he still keeps that bit of wool around his head…” Sally added. “Why is that?”
“Aye, says his chin don’t feel right without a bit more fluff there.” Bunny replied. “Not like it hides ta teeth though.”
“Which is why he still has that nickname, I guess?” Susi asked, to which Bunny nodded.
They took a break then at Bunny’s insistence. The tea was going to get cold after all. Susi was at least impressed with Bunny’s pikelets. Though, having not eaten in hours, anything made from bread was going to taste good. The warm tea even had a hint of Lavandula to it.
“This home cooking is pretty good.” Sally said after swallowing. “Might not match up with some of the stuff in town, but it’s good.”
“An’ what do they got in town?” Bunny asked.
“Well, honey bread for one.” Sally replied. “With the coins dad’s been raking in with those windmills, he’s got enough for honey and the sheep to make bread for him.”
“That why they call em “Lord” Cedric then?” Bunny said.
“Yep.” Sally said with a chuckle. “He might have a big house and stuff, but he’s still stuck with the prime minister second guessing him on everything.”
“Second guessing?” Susi asked. “He put things to the commons?”
“Well, ya know…” Sally replied with a bit of a chortle. “The “court” kinda keeps voting on the same thing, then changing its mind in the vote an hour later.” She said with a shrug. “Besides, between the windmills and trade, he’s not exactly ambitious from much else. Baaaaah’s not like Huoshan where you can find some cool looking stuff made from silk, and silver, and jade….” Her eyes then lit up, recalling one other thing. “Oh, yeah, he’s got his own library of books too.”
“Oh!” Susi exclaimed with some surprise. “What does he read about other than snakes?”
“Mostly reports and letters.” Sally said with a laugh. “I think he just collects them.”
“He ain’t even read em?” Bunny asked, wide eyed. “Why’s he get them then?”
“Maybe he thought they looked nice?” Sally said with another shrug, then taking a sip of tea. “Still, he’s even ordered some from as far as the Woodlands.”
Susi sighed as he put her hoof on her nose. “So, he’s like an average, sheep but with more money after all?”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” Sally groaned, of all things, just as annoyed as Susi was. “I think he only got that monocle because he thought it looked good on him. Anyway…” She added as she put her hooves on the table. “Can we talk about that wolf now?”
Susi flinched at that, even recoiling back a bit. Jack now looked concerned, and even Chester looked up at Sally intently. About the only person in the room that wasn’t affected by that wolf being brought up was Bunny, who merely poured herself another cup with an unflinching expression.
“Perhaps it might help if ye started first, Sally?” Bunny said. Despite her unflinching expression, she did have a stern tone to her voice. “We all got a story, ain’t we?”
“Geeze...save the best for last, huh?” Sally said with a frown. “I mean, it’s not like it was that much.” Seeing as the other sheep were now looking at her, she continued. “Ok. I was exploring when night came.” She said raising a hoof.
“Figured I find something cool south of Baaaaah, but seeing as it got dark I needed to get home or I’d get grounded.” She then had a nervous smile. “Next think I know, I see this….big thing staring at me. I mean, I guess it was big, that dark thing was under this tree with these glowing yellow eyes. For all I knew, it was hiding under it.” She became briefly tense. “Then...it looked at me…”
“So wha’d ye do?” Bunny asked. “See’in as you may as well tell Susi how ye managed.”
“Well, I figured this was it.” Sally replied with a bit of nervous smugness. “So, I figured I’d insult it.” She gave off a smile again. “Not like the thing was going to kill me any nicer, huh? Called him all sorts of things, said I could take him any day of the week, stuff like that.” She started to giggle. “It’s like the thing just stood there. It didn’t even try to come any closer.”
“So….it left you alone?” Susi asked, sounding dumbfounded. “How…?”
“No clue.” Sally replied as she scratched her head. “Think I looked away for a moment, and it was gone. I mean, it’s not like I could see it in those shadows, but those glowing eyes were gone. And it’s not like I was in a rush to see where it went.” She sighed with a sad smile. “Then I get home, got grounded over missing curfew, and dad doesn’t believe a word of it.” She then looked to the other sheep. “Next?”
Susi looked to Bunny. The difference between them was easy to see. She looked shaken while Bunny seemed unflinching.
“More tea then?” Bunny asked with a calm voice, to which Susi quickly nodded. After refilling the cup, Bunny cleared her throat.
“Ma n pa were upstairs and I was cleaning up dishes.” She started. “About then, Chester starts on something. Growling an’ looking out the window.” She paused for a moment. “Saw it out in the field. A big shadow was just standing there looking back at me with them glowing eyes. Had a look of something nasty like. Think I made a guess it were a big dog, but it looked like it was eyeing me, like we’re planning something. An, much like wit’ how Sally seemed to meet it, thing jus’ stood there as I eyed it.”
“So what’d you do?” Sally asked. “Called it a poodle or something?”
“Called up to pa, told em we had somethin’ in the field.” Susi was almost surprised to see Bunny’s lack of expression as she told her story. “Then, got ta skillet I was washing and went out to see what it was. Monster or naw, solid bit ah metal could help in a scrap if it came to it.”
“Woah!” Sally exclaimed with delight. “You chase him off?”
“Naw.” Bunny replied, shaking her head. “Thing was gone when I got out there.” She paused to take a drink. “Field was quiet as it was, but even so, Chester was eyeing every which way. Then pa was out there a minute later, told me ta get back inside. He’s a mite bit protective like tha’.”
“So did he believe ya?” Sally asked.
“I’d imagine.” Bunny replied. “Saw him search round the field with a lanturn.” She paused to scratch her chin. “Remember him looking at Chester a bit as I headed for bed a bit later on. Then, by mornin, he’s got a few bits a wood in the ground to hang lanterns from at night.”
“Your dad’s awesome, by the way.” Sally added with humor.
“Might a guessed it t’was a wolf, might a guessed it was some thief.” Bunny added. “Either way, we ain’t saw it again. Pa did tell me ta keep indoors after dark though.”
“So…” Sally started with a friendly enough smile, causing Susi to start shivering. “That leaves you, Susi. Care to share?”
Susi felt tense. She could see the other sheep looking at her, expecting her side to this story. She looked around, her hoof nervously tapping on the table. At some point, Sally put a hoof on her head with a sigh. Susi looked to Jack, who merely looked back at her as if also expecting something..
“Um….” Sally added, breaking the silence. “Guessing it was at night?” Whether it was a joke or not, it did at least break the ice in a way...unfortunately.
“It….it was a wolf….” Susi finally replied tensely. “W-wasn’t just a shadow.” She started shivering. “But, it was a shadow...and it...it just….” Her shivering got worse and she held her head. She recalled it in detail, exactly how she didn’t want to remember it.
It loomed over her as it’s glowing eyes stared through her. What other light glinted on it’s teeth from a wispy muzzle! And then it’s jaw opened...and opened. It’s body wasn’t even solid! Claws and teeth like spikes! It was going to kill her!
Sally put a hoof to her mouth as Susi trembling continued. She had deeply messed up this time.
Thankfully, Bunny was more proactive. She quickly got up, moving to the trembling sheep.
“Eh, tis fine!” She began as she put a hoof on Susi’s shoulder. “It ain’t here, an it can’t ‘urt ya here either.” She said softly. “Get some air in ye lungs, it’ll help.”
“It just stared through me.” Susi said shakily, now tearing up. “Like I was nothing to it. J-just….”
“Shhhh.” Bunny said. “It’s alright.”
“Oof.” Sally added, putting her hoof behind her head. “Guess I got off easy…” While she did get a dirty look from Bunny, she continued. “So, I guess we can agree that thing was real.” She let out a sigh. “Uh, she's gonna be alright?”
“In time, I’d imagine.” Bunny replied quietly as Susi began crying. “Think that’s enough about it for now.”
The walk back to Baaaaa had been about as long as the last one for Susi. Especially with Sally being along with her.
“Look, I’m sorry, alright?” Sally said for the upteenth time. It had been like this for awhile, mainly as Susi had not said anything the entire time. She had been looking at the ground for much of the walk. But finally, she responded.
“I know, okay?” Susi sighed, speaking only to quiet Sally. “Stop.” She paused, adjusting her glasses. “I just….don’t want to talk, alright?”
“Coulda’ just….okay.” Sally added, sighing herself. Even so, after a moment of silence, she still spoke up again. “So, uh, got plans…? I think you said you were going to the market or something?”
While there was another pause, Susi responded.
“I was going to, until I left the village and revisited something I’ve had nightmares about for the past week.” She grumbled. “Now it’s about dusk, and the markets are closed.” She held her head. “And I’ve got nothing for breakfast tomorrow either…”
“Oof, that’s rough.” Sally said, holding her chin. “Wait, if you don’t mind random vegetables and stuff, I could get some things from my dad's pantry.”
Susi raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious?” She asked.
“He’s not going to miss it.” Sally answered with a smile. “Worst case, he’ll just take it out of my allowance. I can live with that.” Whatever it was she was planning, Susi still didn’t want to be a part of it.
“I just want to go home right now, ok?” Susi added with a sigh. “I don’t want anymore stuff today.”
“Hey, it’s cool.” Sally answered with a hoof up. “I can show up with it tomorrow, that good?”
“Fine.” Susi said, and turned to walk home.
“See ya later.” Sally called after her. “Good night!”
Susi’s return to her home was a quiet one, even Jack had been quiet the whole time, like he wasn’t sure what to say either. She went inside, closed the door, dropped her bag on the floor near enough to her desk, and headed to her bed.
“This has been the worst day in my life….” She uttered grimly, and Jack barked in response to that. “Ok, second. At least in this case, I wasn’t afraid for my life.” He barked again as she trotted to bed and landed with a pomph.
She lay in silence for a moment. But, eventually, she eyed Jack looking at her expectantly. She turned her head to look at him.
“What is it?” Susi grumbled wearily. “Did you not get enough to eat?” Jack grumbled, still looking at her. “Well, if Sally does what she said she’d do, it should be fine….well, provided she doesn’t feed you alfalfa or something.” He barked in affirmation to that. “At least you have something to look forward to…”
She had to hope this would be the last bit of excitement she’d have to deal with.
Jack’s barking caused Susi to nearly jump out of her bed. Her eyes darted around the room, expecting to see something horrific, but only found it was dawn. Sunlight was shining through the window. She was just about to let out a sigh of relief when she heard loud knocks at the door.
With a different sigh, she put on her glasses and headed downstairs.
Jack was already at the door, his tail wagging in anticipation. And when Susi opened the door, she saw Sally holding a burlap sack in her mouth. Susi let her in , stopping to rub her eyes as Sally trotted by.
“Uh, what’s in the bag?” Susi asked warily. “Bread? Some kind of fruit?”
Sally put the bag down, with Jack already sniffing it.
“You were in luck!” She said with a smile. “Cedric has some of these things called “Peaches” in storage.
“Peaches?” Susi added as she cocked her head.
“Turns out he did some trade with those Longma a bit ago.” Sally replied as she pulled a peach out. “He said he’d rather have gotten local apples over these, so I know he isn’t going to miss them.” She hoofed the fruit over to Susi. “Plus, a few baked things. You don’t mind day old bread, do you?”
“Not really.” Susi said as she took the peach handed to her. While it did look like a mishaped apple, she knew enough Longma enjoyed the fruit “Do you even know how these taste?”
“No idea.” Sally answered placing the bag on the floor. “Dad just put them in storage after trying one.”
Susi was still happy enough to get groceries,even if Sally was the one to deliver them. The bag did have a few things. Other than the peaches, it had 3 loaves of days old bread, a few turnips, some potatoes, and a jar of honey. She couldn’t tell which was worth more, the local honey or the foreign peaches.
Susi decided to take a bite from the exotic fruit and quickly winced from the sweetness.
“That bad, huh?” Sally chuckled as Susi let out a slight gag.
“I feel like I just bit into a honeycomb.” She replied with her tongue out. “Are they normally this sweet?”
“Woah!” Sally added with an excited smile. “That kinda sounds neat!” And then took a bite from another peach, and she promptly winced as well. “Ugh, I think I can see why dad preferred apples…” Despite her criticism, Susi continued to eat the peach she had. “You, uh, like these?” Sally then asked.
“It’s something to eat at least.” Susi replied as she took another bite.
“Glad I started with oatmeal this morning...” Said Sally as she put her peach down. “What do those Longma see in these things?” Despite the question, Susi continued eating. “Woah! You think this is how they got over being part dragon?” She continued. “Like, maybe this is what meat tastes like?”
“I somehow doubt that.” Susi said with her mouth half full, she gulped. “With the books I’ve read, I doubt anyone tastes sweet.”
“They got books on that?!” Sally asked, wide eyed. “Woah!”
“N-not exactly that like that!” Susi replied quickly with an awkward look as she gulped. “More the point is, ah, well, uh, what’s inside is more...um, salty.” Sally continued to give an odd look. “Blood. It’s the blood.” Susi sighed. “It’s not like anyone would write a book on ungulate flavors…” She halfway joked.
“Hey, you don’t know.” Sally joked back, as Susi broke a bit of bread off for Jack. “Maybe it’s in this forbidden tome!” She said with her hooves in the air, trying to sound creepy. “Bound in cow flesh, and embroidered in the chicken bones of the damned!”
Despite the creepy tone and story, Susi didn’t flinch as she chewed her part of the bread. Meanwhile, Jack was at least happy it wasn’t clovers he was eating.
“Ah, come on…” Sally added in a deflated tone as Susi gulped. “That’s at least kinda scary.”
“You went too far with the ' chicken bones of the damned’ part.” Susi replied plainly.
While Susi was initially ready to eat in silence, seeing as she was already in a conversation she felt the reason to ask an important question.
“How did you and Bunny...uh, learn about me?” She asked.
“You remember that incident with that big eared shepherd dog?” Sally started.
That line alone caused Susi to wince, and somewhat wish to die. Even Jack would respond to this, his whimpering at her side trying to encourage her not to promptly burst into tears for feeling like the most foal sheep in all Baaaaah. Just Susi’s reaction alone told Sally that the sheep knew what she was talking about.
“Yeah…” Sally added, as she scratched the back of her head with a sheepish look. “After that freakout you had, you were kinda common gossip for a bit. A couple of sheep even said you might have some kind of phobia of dogs...you know, despite you having a dog of your own.” Susi groaned, covering her face as Sally continued. “Anyway, I guessed you saw something at night like we did. So, I told Bunny to expect guests and went looking for you.”
“...And you still asked what it was I saw?!” Susi uttered grimly, with even Jack backing away. “Despite that?!”
“Hey, I thought...well…” Sally replied with a nervous look. “If it helps, Bunny was upset with me too.” After seeing a lack of response from Susi, who was glaring at her, Sally then decided to add. “Look, I’m so…” Before being promptly cut off.
“No, you look!” Susi shouted back. “That wolf...that thing was a breath away from me, and I was scared I was going to die! It was going to eat me, maybe even eat Jack for the heck of it! It...it’s fanged mouth...I...I…” Her shouts became whimpering, with Jack quickly trying his best to keep her standing.
“Um...dolips…” Sally uttered as she backed away a bit. “I didn’t mean to make it worse, really!” She paused, unsure what to say for a moment. “I just… figured we’d band together or something. Maybe see if we can fight the thing.”
“Does it even matter?” Susi said grimly as she looked at the floor. “I don’t even know how I even survived meeting it!
“So, how...” Sally tried to begin, not wanting to upset Susi further. “If you got that scared, how’d you get away?” While Susi didn’t answer, Jack gave Sally a strange look. “I, uh, I mean…”
“I don’t know…” Susi finally replied with a sigh, at least somewhat relaxed. “I woke up at home, Jack was there with me, and I just hoped it was just a bad dream.” She said quickly.
“So how did you know...” Sally was about to ask.
“My front door was open.” Susi answered before she was asked. “I still don’t know how I got back…”
Sally was at a loss for words. On one hoof, it sounded like the most frightful story. On the other, it felt like it had a near abrupt, almost comical, end. Worse, it wasn’t like she could ask from more detail.
“Well, if you got back, maybe we got a chance?” Sally asked, but didn’t get an answer. “I mean, maybe we can find out what it is, like how it works or something, maybe something in books or…” She then realized Susi hadn’t looked up from the floor, with Jack still looking concerned at her. “Uh…” Sally begin, almost surrendering. “I can...leave if you…”
“It’s fine.” Susi replied, regaining some composure. “I just…it’s just another thing I’ve had the deal with and don’t like talking about.”
“...Like your folks?” Sally cautiously added.
“Yeah…” Susi answers. She finally acknowledged Jack, who had been trying to get her attention. “I know…” She told him. “I’m not the only one stuck like this.” And Jack whimpered back.
There was a quiet pause for a moment. With Susi rubbing Jack’s head and Sally looking awkward, struggling to find anyway to move forward. Such vague drama would have had the average sheep shrug it shoulders and find something better...or at least ask for more shouting and gosip worthy implications.
“So…” Sally finally said. “You got plans for the day? Shopping? Maybe a pub crawl?”
“Pub...why are you asking me this?” Susi replied as she stood up. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Well, you know how it is with Baaaaah.” Sally said with a humored sigh. “Not much else to do in The Meadow.”
“....Right....” Susi said with a sigh. It seemed she wasn’t getting rid of Sally anytime soon...
Baaaaah’s market square was one of the few places sheeple didn’t vote on what to do at. Though, perhaps to keep with traditions, debates on prices did occur. Amid the hustle and bustle of sheep, there were the words both kind and unkind on goods, for purchase or for barter.
And in the middle of this cacophony of sheep, Susi and Sally.
“So, what do you buy at the market anyway?” Sally asked amid the sounds of bleating.
“Turnips, dried hay, sometimes cheese.” Susi replied, unsure if Sally could hear.
“How do you live with that kind of diet?” Sally added.
“With what coins I’ve got!” Was Susi’s answer.
The shopping wasn’t much excitement, at least until Susi tried trading a few of the peaches Sally had given her for some coffee beans. In the words of the traveling donkey “It is like a party in my mouth, and everyone's invited! How many would you wish to trade, senorita?”
While all this was going on, Susi noticed Jack looking to one corner of the markets. It was then she, and Sally, saw that it wasn’t just sheep and a traveling donkey in town.
A herd of five boars were there buying food. While the shop keep looked worried at first, he calmed down when the head boar placed three gold nuggets onto the table. He then gestured to another two boars to pull a crude wagon to the stall.
“Woah, and they said cows eat big.” Sally said next to Susi. “And is that gold?”
“Looks like it.” “Susi said as she adjusted her glasses. “Maybe they’re buying for a larger herd?”
“Wot you mutton gits looken at?” Came a sudden voice behind them. The pair jumped at that sound and turned to see another boar giving them a scowl.
“Uh, er….” Was the best Susi came up with.
“Didn’t expect you guys to buy stuff with solid gold.” Sally said with a nervous smile. “Where do you guys get it all?”
“Don’t matter to ya!” The boar replied with a grunt. “We can’t eat it *snort* so you mutton sorts can ‘ave it. Now move along! We’z busy!”
The pair quickly nodded, clearing out of the boars way as he trotted up to his herdmates, who were now loading their cart. They both sighed and trotted away, not wanting any further trouble. Jack still looked worried, but relented as they left.
Soon the pair left the loudness of the market behind.
“You seriously drink the borrico brew?” Sally asked as Susi carried the bag of beans. “That stuff is bitter as all get out.”
“It keeps me focused.” Susi replied in a dry tone. “Plus it keeps me awake when I need to.”
“Why would you need to stay awake?” Sally asked innocently, earning a growl from Jack. “Ok, sorry I asked…” She added as she scratched the back of her neck.
“I used to just read books…” Susi added in a low voice.
“Believe it or not, ol’ Cedric buys that stuff too.” Sally said. “My guess when he has to look over stuff or has those long talks with Harold.”
Despite earlier reluctance, Susi decided to keep this conversation going. “Did you get anything?” She asked.
“Dad’s got a whole pantry.” Sally answered with a smile. “I don’t exactly need to shop for stuff much.”
“Must be great to be rich…: Susi said with some sarcasm.
“Eh, you’d think that…” Sally replied with a sigh. “But, ya know…” She trailed off.
As they returned to Susi’s house, they found a sheep with a sunhat and her bulldog waiting for them.
“Wha?” Sally said in surprise. “Bunny? That you?”
“Aye.” Was Bunny’s response with a slight nod as she trotted up to them. “Somthin’ going on I’d imagine.”
“Somethin?” Susi asked as she rased an eyebrow. “Like what?
“Ol’ Chester’s been barking toward a part of ta meadow.” Bunny replied with some seriousness. “Figured ye would want ta know.”
“Wait, so something is out there?” Sally said with some enthusiasm. “Cool! Where’s it at?”
“Bit north east ere’.” Bunny answered pointing her hoof. “Took a look myself, an’ saw somethin’ runnin about too. Couldn’t get a good look at it, so I came here ta tell ya about it.”
“Runnin about?” Susi asked putting a hoof to her chin. “That could be anything. We just saw some boars in town, maybe one of them is looking for the others out there?”
“Or it could be a sheep.” Sally added with a take charge tone. “I mean, they could be lost, but maybe that wolf is hunting them! We gotta find this out!”
“Uh, you sure about this?” Susi quickly asked the other sheep. “It’s almost dusk and it’s going to be night soon…”
“Hey, no prob.” Sally said dismissively. “We just head back if we see trouble. Besides, it won’t be dark for awhile yet. We should be good, right?” She added with a hopeful tone.
“Did ye forget my pa said I can’t be out after dark?” Bunny added with some annoyance. “It ye are going out there, I won’t be able ta join in.”
“Oh….” Sally replied with some disappointment. “Uh, you cool Susi?”
While Susi’s quick answer would have been a quick “No” or “Are you joking?”, Jack seemed to have other plans. He barked in some affirmation. Even if she didn’t think Sally’s plan was even a good one, it wasn’t like she could say no at this point. The sheep would encourage, or nag, her until she agreed.
And why in Foenum did Jack want her to go along with this?
“W-why….are you sure, Jack?” She asked her bedlington. To which he barked again.
With a sigh, Susi merely asked to drop off her groceries first.
Susi couldn’t believe she was out where she was. In the outskirts of Baaaaah, as the sun was going down, with Jack’s barks urging her on. The last time she followed him out after sundown… didn’t end well.
And Sally’s adventurous mood wasn’t helping how unreal this felt. The ewe was excitedly looking around, as if expecting some kind of magic trinket or other surprising find.
The meadow was a near endless field of green grass, with trees and dense plants dotting the expanse. Soon, the dying orange light would fade, and the green would soon be consumed in darkness.
“Ya see anything yet?” Sally had likely asked for the 3rd time already.
“No!” Susi answered back again as the pair of them looked around, with Jack sniffing the air. “Being excited for this isn’t helping!”
“Hey, you know how it is in Baaaaah.” Sally added with humor. “It’s this or the pub. And we might find out something cool! We could be rescuers! Or discover treasure or something!”
“Do you think this is a picnic?” Susi said in frustration. “Do I need to remind...” Both halted in their hooves as Jack started barking.
He was standing near a group of bushes and tall grass, not far from the shadow of an old elm tree. As the pair looked to see what he found, they froze. What the ewe’s discovered dashed Sally’s near irrational exuberance.
It wasn’t that they failed to find something. But to any ungulate, especially sheep, the remains of a body wasn’t something to be excited about.
“W-we should head back…!” Sally quickly said, backing away from the sight. “Oh geeze!”
“What...happened?” Was Susi’s word on the sight.
In a strange paradox, Sally was the one trembling at what they saw. Susi simply adjusted her glasses and took a deep breath.
“You think it was that wolf?” Sally quickly added, her head looking in every direction. “D-do you think it’s been picking sheep off? Maybe it’s been…?”
“I don’t know!” Susi shouted, cutting Sally off. “Just, calm down for a moment.” She added in a lower tone. “Maybe...maybe I can figure something out…” She said as he approached the site.
“How?” Sally said in a shaken voice.
“Well...one of the books was on dead bodies during the war, so…” Susi began before she was cut off.
“I really can’t stand looking at that!” Sally continued shaking her head. “I-I mean y-you can, sure! I’ll...I’ll just…”
“Keep watch?” Susi asked with some uncertainty, and wasn’t a bit perplexed to see the other ewe nod quickly. “I’ll take a look, you let me know if someone is coming.”
“I can do that.” Sally quickly replied.
She quickly went some distance from the body, more than a bit flustered. Meanwhile, Susi figured she’d put those stories she’d read to the test. As Jack watched on, she took a closer look.
No sign of decay, and the bones were broken through and hollowed out. Despite few identifying features remaining, Susi recognized the skull shape, and a lingering tuft of wool. This was once a sheep...and something killed, ate, and picked through the bones.
That passing revelation caused Susi to wince and hold a hoof to her mouth. Jack barked, calling her away from the morbid images that came to mind. She took a breath and shook her head before trotting away. Her and Sally needed to get back to town, fast!
She trotted to poor Sally, who looked more than a bit twitchy. And the new facts weren’t going to help that fact.
“So, uh, natural causes?” She asked with a nervous look. “Like, they starved to death o-or maybe ate the wrong mushrooms?”
“We need to tell someone.” Susi mentioned quickly and in a quiet voice. “Something just ate a sheep.”
“ATE?!” Sally yelped as she jumped, holding on to her hat. “But the predators are gone! That doesn’t make sense!” She shouted in panic.
“I know!” Susi yelled back, snapping Sally out of it. “We need to return to Baaaaah and...!” It was then she noticed the light fade.
Unfortunately, the orange of Bookworm Hoers had passed. Now only darkness and the pale glow of the moon were present. And the moon's light provided poor illumination to the field.
At least Sally wasn’t the only one feeling like panicking now…though she was doing the most whimpering. All they could do was make a quick trot back to Baaaaah. At least the thatched roof cottages were not hard to spot in the moonlight.
While a quick run, with optional screaming, was in order, the pair also knew running was a good way to trip on unseen rocks. Their pace was more a steady, quick trot.
It was on that path back, fearing any silhouette cast by distant light, that they heard a loud snort. Both Sally and Susi quickly grabbed each other in terror to see….a boar.
“Wuz a pair of mutton gits wandering out here, then?” He said with a chuckle. “Past ye coddled runts bed time, I’d say.”
The boar eyed them with humor, briefly letting out another snort. The ewe didn’t know why he was out there, and didn’t care at this point. Regardless, Jack was growling at him.
“H-hey!” Sally stated as Susi let go and backed away. “Think I saw you guys getting groceries in town. A-anyway, were on our way back so… see ya!.” She said with a nervous grin as she made a slow trot in the village’s direction.
“Heh, we on vacations, like.” The boar said with a toothy smile. “An’ it ain’t healthy for mutton gits to be out ‘ere this late.” He added with another snort. “What you even out ‘er for anyways?”
Jack continued to growl, but only briefly got the boar’s attention. While this was a somewhat tense situation, a scary boar with a pair of semi-helpless sheep, a new development would come to make it so much worse.
Only Susi and Sally could see it, but forming behind the boar was a growing shadow. Smokey at first, but soon with a clear form. It’s yellow eyes became visible and both sheep yelped as clearly lupine ears formed on what seemed to be it’s head.
It was only then that Susi realized Jack had stopped growling...
“Aw, come on then.” The boar laughed at their fear. “Not like I said anything threatening like.”
Now the shadow took further shape, claws that lengthened like spikes reached to the unsuspecting boar, and a mouth with glowing fangs opened in that dark fog.
At that point Sally ran away screaming, but Susi was frozen to the spot as her eyes fixed on the thing.
“Wha’s ye deal?” The boar uttered in annoyance. “Usuly they scream when...uh, what’s you lookin’ at…?” The poor fool only then realized it wasn’t him that scared the sheep now.
The spiked claws dug into the boar’s sides, and he let out a horrified squeal. And in an instant the shadowed wolf yanked him out of view, into the darkness. Susi was frozen in place as Jack’s barks tried to snap her out of her shock as the squeels continued...ended with an audible crack.
That crack was what pulled her out of that horrified trance.
“Come....come on, Jack!” She yelled as she quickly grabbed her bedlington and ran. Jack held on to her back wool as she sped off. She hoped she only imagined the chewing sounds behind her...
The dark fields of the meadow felt like an unending tunnel as Susi ran as fast as she could. She didn’t even know if she could out run the thing, but she needed to try. She ran and ran, before hitting a rock and yelling words she didn’t imagine coming out of her mouth as her body hit the ground. Wincing, she quickly got up, and was now face to face with it...again.
It’s yellow eyes stared at her, as the wolf-like ears in the dark cloud of it’s murky body perked up. Unlike before, her knees didn’t fail her, but even so she didn’t quickly flee. Staring at the dark wolf, her mouth moved, trying to speak.
She wanted to ask “What are you?” or “Why are you doing this?, but no words came out.
Susi then felt a soft something holding her chin up, eliciting a whimper from her. The yellow eyes went from indifferent to somewhat intrigued.
“You aren’t passing out this time…” A clear voice spoke into her mind. “I would call that an improvement.” The thing holding her chin left promptly, though this did at least give Susi the confidence to finally speak.
“W-what are you?” She asked.
“You know what I am.” The shadowed wolf replied. “Think back, you will find it.”
“SUSI!” Yelled a voice in the distance.
Susi turned to see Sally with a lantern running to her. She then turned back to the wolf, but saw it had dissipated. It’s dark form becoming small patches of black clouds that faded to nothing.
Susi took a few breaths to calm herself as Sally rushed to her.
“Ohmygoshareyouok?” Sally quickly said as she got to Susi’s side.
“O-one...word at a time.” Was Susi’s slower response, unsure if she could even blink at the moment.
“I...I noticed you weren't behind me, so I got the closest lantern I could and ran back.” Sally said, slightly out of breath. “You...you ok?” Susi nodded. “Cool...cool.”
“Where….Jack?” Susi added in a stumbling voice.. He quickly barked and nuzzled her leg. She quickly lowered herself and gave the dog a hug. “Oh...you’re ok!” She said. “I was so scared. I don’t want to lose you too.”
“Um?” Sally added in an awkward tone to what she just heard. “Can we please get back first?” Susi hoped the other ewe didn’t see her blush with embarrassment.
“Y-yeah!” She said as she let go of Jack and stood up. “Let’s go.”
They returned to Baaaaah quickly. While the town wasn’t much brighter than the fields, the houses were a comfort to be around. It was there the pair and dog caught their breath.
“So…” Sally began. “That sucked!” She said in a tense tone.
“Yeah…” Susi added with a sigh, but then realized something. “Where did you get that lamp?”
“Oh!” Sally said quickly. “I just grabbed the first lamp I could find and….” She trailed off as she got a look of dread when she saw a very upset sheep approach.
“Sally…” Said the elected watchsheep in a bitter voice. “I’d like my lantern back, please!” Sally let out a nervous giggle and hoofed it back to him. “I don’t care what ye two ewe are up to at this hour, but it ends now. Get ye’selves home sharpish!”
“Uh, sorry.” Sally said back. “Just, uh, needed a light was all.” The watchsheep sighed and trotted away with a grumble.
“Just go home!” He replied without turning.
With that final surprise of the evening finished, Sally and Susi could let what happened sink in.
“Ok…” Susi said as the watchsheep was out of earshot. “What now? Who do we…?”
“Who’s going to believe us?” Sally quickly answered dismissively. “That...thing we saw…!”
“But that body…” Susi was about to bring up.
“Hey, if you can get someone out there for it, go ahead.” Sally quickly replied in a quiet voice. “I’d rather not see another dead body for the rest of my life.” She held her head, groaning and letting out a slight whimper. “I can’t believe stuff got this bad…”
“Right…” Susi said with some annoyance. Even if Sally didn’t have a plan, she now did. “You better get some sleep, or...try too. I’ve got to look for something.”
“Uh, you sure you're safe at your house?” Sally said with some concern. “Dad’s house has more than enough light sources. Pretty sure you had, like, one oil lamp at your house.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” Susi answered. “I...don’t think it’s going to get us. Well, not for tonight at least.” She was uncertain how to say what she said. Then again, even she didn’t believe the creature let her go.
“How’d you guess that?” Sally asked with an odd look.
“Because we got back…” Susi added, taking a breath. “Just get some sleep for now. I’ll see if I can find some answers.”
After quietly parting, Susi returned home. Not long after closing the door behind her, she got a metal kettle for brewing coffee and quickly collected some beans from the bag on the floor. It was going to be a long night. She only paused in her preparations when she heard Jack whining at her.
“Don’t worry.” She told him. “You can get some sleep too. I’ll be fine.” Jack barked. “It said I knew what it was...it could have been lying, but I’m going to make sure.”
She knew Jack was worried about her sleep. He’d been worried about a number of things. From her dark moods, to her trauma from the wolf she saw. Though another bark, and him leading her gaze, showed her that he remembered the bag of foodstuffs and beans was still sitting on the floor as well.
She let out a sigh, remembering that she intended to put those away when she got back… she still adjusted her glasses, it would have to wait. She had some books to find.
Susi quickly awoke to the sound of a loud pounding at her door. Her head jolted up from her reading desk, nearly knocking over a cup with now cold coffee in it. Despite that coldness, she took a drink of it before checking her glasses. After that she trotted to the door.
And outside, a sheep with a monocle.
“Er, Susi, am I correct?” He asked, eying both her and her home.
“Cedric?” Sally asked offhoof.
“Ah, the reputation precedes me.” Cedric said with a light chuckle.
“Sally mentioned that monocle.” Susi said with a weary tone. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, ah...” Cedric started with an awkward cough. “By the look of you, I’d imagine you’ve had your own bad night as well. So I should hope you might be able to explain my daughter’s sudden...eccentricities this day.”
“What’d she do?” Susi asked with a groan, holding her head.
“Well, it started when she took three lamps into her bedchambers.” Cedric continued. “She still has them lit, and the sun’s been up for hours now! She’s nearly obsessed with keeping every corner illuminated.” He grumbled. “You haven’t been “encouraging” her tale about that dark figure, have you?”
Susi let out another groan. “It’s too early for this…”
“Not early enough, I’m afraid.” Cedric said with annoyance. “Though I can believe she might have convinced you of this monster of hers, if you tired form is to be believed.”
“You could say that.” Susi replied, letting out a yawn. “Need me to go talk to her?”
“If you can encourage her to stop acting like a scared foal, please do!” Cedric added. “My oil reserves are not infinite!”
“All be over in a bit.” Susi said as she closed the door. She did hear a snooty harumph outside, likely as she didn’t finish the conversation by saying “Good day.”
Jack was already up, letting out a bark as Susi adjusted her glasses and looked over the books on her table. She quickly gathered the three she felt were relevant, and grabbed a loaf of now two day old bread, breaking off a piece for him.
“Well, today’s going to be hard.” Susi told him as Jack chewed away.
With the books put in her bag, and getting a bite of bread for herself, she headed to Cedric’s home. The house was quite large for a one story building. Susi mused on the fact that, despite building windmills, the reindeer and longma had much better architecture then the sheep were ever going to have.
Thankfully, a ram-servent with a button vest was at the door to let her in and guide her to Sally’s room. Judging by his stern look, like Cedric, he wanted her to resolve Sally’s mess.
“Sally?” Susi said as she knocked on the room’s door. “Can I come in?”
“Did you find a way to stop it?” Was Sally’s answer. The servant sheep gave Susi a wide eyed stare, prompting her to shrug back to them.
“I’ll figure this out.” She told them quietly, then turned back to the door. “Please tell me you didn’t put a barricade up…”
“Would it have worked?” Sally replied back. With a grumble, Susi opened the door.
Sure enough, the room was lit by three lanterns, despite the fact that sunlight was coming from the window. That aside, the room was quite nice. Well, nice for a sheep at least. Susi closed the door behind her, the last she needed was Cedric or his servants thinking them any crazier.
“Ok, first things first, can we put these out?” Susi said, and then seeing an almost pleading look from Sally. “At least put two of them out! Your dad is already blaming me for this.”
“Hey, sorry.” Sally replied with a sheepish smile and set about blowing the lamps out. “So, how’d things go on your end?”
“Looked through a few books.” Susi said as she patted her book bag. “I think I know what this is, but I think we should get Bunny in on this too.”
“Can we talk about this outside?” Sally asked, holding the last lit lantern. “Where it’s brighter?
“If you promise to put out that last lamp outside, sure.” Susi answered.
While Sally did, she did insist on taking it with them.
On the way to the farm, more than a few other sheep were giving them looks. Most likely as neither of them looked like they’d slept. That and Sally avoiding any cast shadow taller than a mailbox.
“Did...you have any nightmares?” Susi cautiously asked.
“Ya think?” Sally said with a more nervous than usual laugh. “Definitely know what you felt like after you met that thing.” She then looked to Susi with a serious look. “Uh, so how’d you get over it?”
“I didn’t.” Susi replied, causing Sally to let out a groan. “Best I could do was deal with it. And even then...w-well…” She trailed off, there wasn’t any good answer to this situation they were in.
“So, what were those books you got?” Sally asked, regaining some of her usual cocky nature. “Magic tomes, maybe?”
“An old anatomy book, a discourse on trees, and an old wolf archaeology report.” Susi said plainly.
“Trees and what?” Sally said in confusion. “When did we do archaeology on wolves?”
“Years ago, after a past prime minister had a vote on it.” Susi added. “It ended after it was voted to have been done satisfactory ...then got left in an old drawer in the commons hall.”
“So how old is it?” Sally asked curiously.
“Layers of dust old.” Susi said. “It’s like that prime minister filed these away and the next minister forgot they existed.” She put a hoof to her head. “Even the elected records secretary had no idea about this report.”
“So did Ms. Bell let you have it?” Sally added.
“Uh...well…” Susi said briefly, suddenly not up to give an answer.
Despite her crestfallen mood, Sally’s eyes lit up with delight.
“You pinched it!” She said, before Susi shushed her. “And I thought you were just some kind of boring bookworm.” She added in a lower voice.
“She asked for a vote on letting me review it beyond the title. I said no thanks, then I had Jack distract her.” Susi said quickly in a quiet voice. “I wasn’t going to wait for several hours to read a report that I’m pretty sure she still hasn’t noticed is missing.”
“How long was that?” Sally whispered.
“Three months ago.” Susi whispered back.
“....Did you ever think to be next secretary?” Sally asked having trouble keeping a straight face. “ I think you’ve got better qualifications!”
“I’d rather not.” Susi said stoically. “I rather not deal with the commons at all.”
“Still, ain’t that a thing about Baaaaah?” Sally said with a chuckle. “Unicorns might have forgotten spell books, Longma have old treaties between nations, and us sheep have an old records on flowers or something no one remembers.”
“Two.” Susi corrected with a smile, and Sally began laughing. “The second one was a decade later, asked the same questions, and said it was the first report of its kind.” Sally laughed harder, and this caused Susi to join in.
While Jack didn’t exactly join in, he did enjoy what transpired.
The rest of the walk was uneventful. Reaching the farmhouse, they could see “Big Bunny” pulling crops out of his garden, so it stood to reason Bunny was home. And a quick knock at the door confirmed it.
“Oi’...” She said, now wide eyed as she saw Sally and Susi. “Feel I missed somthin’ bad...”
“...You did…” Sally replied promptly with a light smile. “Can we come in? Maybe have some tea cakes or something?”
“Eh, I’ll see what I can do.” Bunny added, gesturing them in. “I’ll get ta kettle on fer ya.”
Unlike the last meeting, things were much quieter. Sally and Susi wordlessly sat at the table, with Bunny joining as she waited for the water to boil.
“So what ye find?” Bunny asked as she joined them. “Ye get a look at the beast it’self?”
“Uh, why don’t you tell her?” Sally then asked Susi with a nervous look. “I like to not think about it.”
“Right…” Susi sighed, but began her explanation. “We found the remains of an eaten sheep.” She paused for a moment. Instead of dread, Bunny looked more stoic. “Then, for whatever reason, we ran into a boar. Then...well…” Words escaped Susi for a moment. “That wolf got it.” She added. “It might have gotten that sheep, but I’m kinda unsure on a few things.”
“Why ain’t ye sure?” Bunny asked quietly. “Ye unsure it et’ ta sheep?”
“Well, first off, me and Sally got back alive.” Susi stated. “I think that wolf could well have gotten us. But, well, it just let us go.”
“Can I stop ya for a bit.” Sally chimed in. “How do you even figure that thing just let us go?”
“Here.” Susi said as she pulled her books out.
The books looked old and worn. The covers were readable as those that were penned by sheep. And to the surprise of very few, were of rough make with little distinguishing marks. About the only cover image was on the anatomy book, a crude drawing of a skeleton with a gravestone next to it.
“OK…” Sally added. “And this helps how?” Then a new dread fell on her, just as the kettle started steaming. There was going to be a long talk about boring book stuff. The look in her eyes betrayed the fact she would have rather been eaten then have this explained.
“Hang on.” Bunny interrupted. “Need to manage ta tea first. Don’t get started wit’ out me.”
“No rush.” Sally said with her head lowered.
At least she wouldn’t be facing boredom tealess…
“I think I’ll start with that report on dog archaeology…” Susi begins.
“We have tha?” Bunny interrupted.
“Uh, long story…” Susi quickly added, as Sally chuckled. “Anyway...a couple sheep investigated some old wolf dens to gather what kind of culture the wolves had before they became sheep dogs.”
“Did tha’ worship this dark wolf?” Bunny asked. “Or somthn’ else?”
“Maybe.” Susi replied as she adjusted her glasses, as she flipped through pages. “Short version is they had a few wolves of odd colors, including a dark one. And, by the sketches mentioned in the report, this dark wolf was the kind of predator that killed and horrified ungulates.”
While the sketches weren’t in the book, it did have crude drawings to represent them. For the Dark Wolf, it just showed a dark figure and a skull.
“A-and it came back?” Sally asked with a bit of fear. “As in, it just arrived in Baaaaah?”
“Again, maybe.” Susi answered, closing the report. “It’s also part of the reason why I felt it might have just let us leave. Though… I don’t know why.” She added with her own dread.
“So, wha’s ta book for then?” Bunny asked, pointing to the anatomy book. “Ta book with the bones on it?”
“Well, this anatomy book was made by a sheep during the war.” Susi replied as she opened it to a few pages. Much like it’s cover, more crude illustrations were inside. “My great grandfather, Jimmy, wrote this while managing the war dead. He even heard a few stories from survivors of battles.”
“Ye great grandpa managed tha?” Bunny added, somewhat shocked. “I’d a though ta average sheep would faint dead away on first sight ah blood…”
Understandably, Sally winced at that.
“I think he took a volunteer duty and couldn't just leave.” Susi replied. “That, and a few margins were being used to keep track of his pub tab…” At that point Sally started chuckling. “Yeah, pretty sure if they got a unicorn or longma for that job it would have been done professionally, but Jimmy was the best they got at the time…”
“So how’s he tie with this dark wolf?” Sally asked, having stopped her humor. “Did he see it or something?”
“A couple veterans told stories about some...bad retreats that they suffered.” Susi answered, looking for the right words to describe it. “In short, anyone that couldn’t fly had a good chance of being brought down as they ran. Jimmy figured the wolves just moved fast enough. Most stories ended with the retreating ungulates seeing allies being brought down, with several of them believing that was why they managed to escape alive.”
“...Dark…” Sally added tensely with shiver.
“Aye.” Bunny added, letting out a slight breath.
“Let’s just say Jimmy wasn’t the only one with a tab at pubs…” Susi finished as she turned a few pages. “Anyway, seeing as this boar got...well, eaten, it might also be the dark wolf was content with just him.”
“Pa’s spoke some on boars being of a plump sort.” Bunny added, pouring herself another cup. “Ye think it might be content with em for awhile?”
“Who knows?” Susi replied. “More than a few reports told of...uh…” She struggled again to find good words for what describe it. “...ungulates left uneaten..in the fields.” Both Sally and Bunny were wide eyed. “Yeah...pretty sure there’s a reason even unicorn books don’t mention that kind of thing…”
The sound of a door opening nearly caused the three to yelp. But things quickly calmed down as it was only Wilson.
“Ye put t’kettle on, Bunny?” He asked, seemingly unaware of the tension he broke..
“Aye.” She replied promptly, with a bit higher pitch than intended. “Have friends over for a cuppa and a natter.” She finished much more calmly.
“Can see tha.” Wilson replied, but then paused when he saw the books on the table. “Ain’t seen sheep in t’village reading much. Who’s t’reader?”
“Uh, m-me?” Susi said almost stammered.
“Is it then?” Wilson said with a light laugh. “Good ta know there less daft sheep round t’village. Ye keep at it then.”
He then had a cup of tea and returned outside. During that pause, Susi had to wonder if he would believe talk of the unnatural wolf. Even so, she decided to not bring it up.
“Uh, daft?” Sally asked with a raised eyebrow. “He thinks sheep in town are cold?”
“Eh, more none to bright really.” Bunny replied. “There’s reason pa avoids the commons hall.”
“I’ve known that feeling for awhile…” Susi added with a sigh.
The three paused for a while. Between all the unsettling, if long winded, revelations the three needed a break. While Sally would have liked tea cakes, crumpets would have to do.
“So, your mom go to the commons Bunny?” Sally asked sometime after taking a bite of crumpet.
“Aye.” Bunny replied. “Nothing too major, seeing as…”
“Not much happens in Baaaaah.” Sally finished for the other sheep. “Ain’t that the truth.”
“Aye.” Bunny said again. “Been mean’n ta ask, but outside this excitement, what ye two do in ta village?”
“Have a guess…” Susi added with a dry tone.
“Yeah...kinda obvious.” Sally said with some humor. “Me, well, guess I just hang around. Well, unless dad needs me to fetch Harold for something.”
“Is that the sheep that blew his house up?” Susi asked. She had only heard the stories.
“He also maintains the windmills, believe it or not.” Sally replied. “And don’t even get him started on that flying machine he’s trying to build…”
“Flying machine?!” Susi and Bunny said at the same time. It even had Bunny drop her crumpet.
“Hey, if you want to listen to a sheep go on about ovine aviation for over an hour go ahead.” Sally said with a groan. “The guy wouldn’t shut up about it, and manages to make flying sound boring.”
“...How did he destroy his house?” Susi continued to ask. “What was he doing?”
“Not sure.” Sally replied, stopping only to take a sip of tea. “Something about distilling fuel or something like it.” She shrugged. “Either way, he’s more fun to watch than listen too.”
“‘Minds me of something pa said.” Bunny said with a humored smile. “There’s no more dangerous an animal as ah clever sheep.”
“...Or at least a crazy one…” Susi added with noticeable bitterness.
“Yeah, that’s a way to describe Harold.” Sally said with laugh, not noticing Susi’s stoic look… until she did. “Uh, not that stuff like that makes you crazy or...uh...:” Susi sighed. “Eash, what’s got you down?”
“Sheep tend to average into three groups.” Susi said plainly. “Dim, crazy, or miserable.”
“Oof…” Sally replied with a wince. “I’m...gonna hate where I rank on that gauge, huh?”
“...That’s a mite harsh, Susi.” Bunny said with a stern look and calm voice. “I know ye miserable naw, but ta don’t mean other sheep are only dim or mad.”
“Your dad said it himself…” Susi added in a deflating tone. “Not many sheep read books.”
It was quiet for awhile, though Jack did whine for a bit. While it was a bit tense then, it quickly ended when Sally noticed something.
“It’s going to be dark soon.” She said nervously
“So ye be on ye way back then?” Bunny asked. “We can get back ta…” Before Sally interrupted.
“I’m mean soon as it's dusk.” She finished. “It will be dark before we get back to town!”
Despite her earlier bleak mood, the thought of walking after dark filled Susi with dread. And by the chattering teeth Sally now had, she wasn’t alone on that.
So, kinda having doubts. I do have ideas for this story, but it keeps feeling a little dry narrative-wise. Maybe I do better with short stories? Still, Figure I'll finish posting those first 10 chapters.
While Wilson was nonplussed over the situation, he and Molly were ok with Susi and Sally staying the night. Though with old Big Bunny, he was more wondering how they were going to sleep. Unless the sudden guests wanted to help bring dried hay for bedding they would be sharing a bed with Little Bunny.
Thankfully the mattress wasn’t too bad. Neither was a dinner of porridge.
Bunny’s room was rather sparse. A bed and a small nightstand, as such the lamp Sally brought had a place, though Susi’s bag would have to have the floor. Same as the three ewe… and Jack, as they may as well plan their next move in the morning.
“So…” Bunny started. “Came to realize ye didn’t tell us about ta third book ye had. Wha was it?”
“O-oh!” Susi replied, quickly digging it from her bag. “It’s a book Jimmy wrote in the years after the war.”
“And you brought it because….?” Sally added with a hoof in the air.
“Uh…” Susi answered with a slight pause. “Well, it starts with him detailing a few trees in not just Baaaaah, but other parts of Foenum. Then, well, something else….” As she said that she turned the books pages to a part near the books end.
Sally and Bunny looked surprised, then unsettled. The book shifted from talk of a forest nectar to one sentence, written over and over again.
“The Leaves Whisper!” Repeated for more than one page. Continuing with frantic writing, the letters losing shape over time. Before suddenly shifting to “They see me! They will eat us all! I don’t want to die!”
“Oh, crud….” Sally said quietly with a hoof at her mouth. “Those… those rumors were…. Yikes….”
“Tha’s why mum said family wasn’t a good subject, eh?” Bunny added in a low tone as she looked to Susi.
Susi closed the book, returning it to her bag.
“As far as the local sheeple know, my great grandfather just went crazy.” She said. “Grandpa and Mom never spoke about it to me. Mostly as mom just wanted to distance herself from Jimmy’s actions.”
Well...that’s pretty heavy, Susi.” Sally added briefly, before realizing something. “But, wait, you think this ties into that wolf?
“It could be….” Susi said, taking a breath. “I once guessed he lost hope after his wife died, but now I wonder if he might have known something.” Almost on cue, the trees outside rustled in the wind. “After I met that wolf, I know I’ve been unable to sleep well. So it’s possible his sudden madness is tied to it.”
“Then….that’d means ta beast’s been he awhile.” Bunny said with a hoof to her chin. “If ‘e’s as dangerous as ye say, how’s ta village still standing then?”
There was a pause. Even Susi couldn’t think of an answer to that question. Even so, it made her think. From the fact the beast hadn’t killed her that one night, to the fact it spoke to her the previous night… though she had not idea how to even explain that part without sounding crazy.
“Maybe it’s toying with us?” Sally added with fear. “Like, maybe the thing’s biding it’s time…”
“Aye, but why now?” Bunny asked back. “An a big question, thought ta Prophet cleared out ta predators. How she miss somethin’ like ‘em?
Then Sally put her hoof down. “Wait, there was a unicorn penned history book in dad’s library! Maybe that’s got something!” She all but shouted, surprising the others.
“Oi, oi” Bunny said, waving her hooves. “Simmer down a mite.” She added quietly as Sally looked sheepish. “Ta’s a good idea still. We outta fetch it, see what it has.”
“C-cool.” Sally replied, somewhat cautiously. “All we gotta do is last the night and find that book. Then… uh…” She trailed off. “What then…?” Susi let out a groan.
“We’ll figure that out when we get there.” She answered as she put a hoof on her forehead.
“Aye.” Bunny said with a nod. “I say we turn in and….”
There was then a sudden crash of glass being broken. The three looked in it’s direction, and were briefly relieved to see it wasn’t the window.
“O-ok, maybe later then?” Sally said as a nervous joke. “W-what do you think that was?”
“Pa’s got lamps hanging outside, might be one of em broke?” Bunny answered as the trotted to the window. “Just calm ye self. I’d imagine it can’t be…”
That was when the three heard a scream. Each reacted in their own way, Sally covered her head, Susi ran for the lantern, and Bunny quickly looked out the window.
“Tha’s from outside!” Bunny added. And unlike the others, she wasn’t looking as frightened. “Who’s out there this late, then?” That was when a few loud thumps and hoofsteps were heard. “PA? Tha ye?” She yelled out of the room.
“Keep to ta house, Bunny!” Wilson replied outside the door. “Me ‘n Chester ‘ll take ah look!” His hoofsteps then headed downstairs.
“Oh….” Sally said with a whimper. “This is gonna suck….” She said, still covering her head and hat.
“Aye.” Bunny added quietly. “Ta’s one way ah putting it.”
For whatever reason, Susi headed to the door, still holding the lantern.
“Come on.” She said suddenly.
“You…. you aren’t going out there too, are you?” Sally asked with a muddled look. “It might get you too!”
“No, but I have a better idea.” “Susi replied almost calmly. “This thing seems to avoid light and I’d rather not see it come in the house.”
“Ye mean get more lights on, then?” Bunny added, moving to join her.
“Yep.” Susi said with a nod. “Let’s go.”
While Sally was reluctant at first, she joined in.
The three went downstairs and got to work. In a short time, they had another lamp and a few candles lit. Bunny even had time to put some tea on, as it was all but agreed they weren't going back to sleep anytime soon.
All the while, Jack seemed to look toward the outside. Either at the windows or even the door outside. It was as if he felt something was about to appear at any moment. That fact alone had the three know something was still out there.
“Ye sure lights are ta trick, Susi?” Bunny asked after she placed a candle set up near the kitchen window.
“When Sally came back with that lamp, it seemed to vanish…” Susi replied, placing the lantern on the table. “So light might be a means to keep it away.”
“How’s tha work on a wolf?” Bunny said as she joined her at the table. “Even if it’s a strange one?”
“No idea, just kinda making guesses at this point.” Susi answered, doing a quick glance around the well lit kitchen. “Maybe this dark wolf can only function in darkness?”
“So…will Pa be ok then?” Bunny asked. And almost on cue, Wilson and Chester returned.
While Chester looked as he usually did, looking somewhat grouchy, Wilson seemed more worrying. He didn’t ask why the three were downstairs, nor why the lights were on. He wordlessly walked over to the stove and poured himself a cup of tea from the kettle Bunny put on. Then sat down at the table, letting out a sigh.
“Pa?” Bunny asked in a quiet voice. “Ye alright?”
Wilson sighed again. “Sad mess near t’barn.” He said, “Ain’t touchin’ it till dawn, ‘magine thin’ might still be out thr’.”
It was quiet for a moment. Even if it wasn’t said what the “sad mess” was, it was quite obvious. Sally gulped as Susi nervously adjusted her glasses.
“Was...was it a sheep?” She asked. Wilson gave her an odd look, but relented.
“Naw’t quite, ‘magine it was ah boar.” He said, rubbing his chinwool. “Can only guess why ‘e t’was there.” He took a breath. “‘Magine ye three ought head back ta bed. I’ll, er, manage ta lights la'er.”
“Ye sure ye be alright, pa?” Bunny asked.
“Aye, ‘ave Chester, plus ta beast mite be gone.” Wilson replied, waving a hoof. “Go on then. ‘magine 'et won’t get past ta both ah us.”
The ewe returned upstairs. It wasn't like they could be the heroes of lore at that point.
“So, uh, got any ideas to, uh, past the time?” Sally said as they returned to Bunny’s room. “It’s still a long time till morning.” She was clearly still shaken.
“Best we can do is get some shut eye.” Bunny replied, giving Sally a reassuring hoof to her shoulder. “Leaping at ev’ry shadow won’t help us.”
“We’ve got a light source, and Mr. Wilson is downstairs.” Susi answered, placing the lamp back on the nightstand. “It might have left too, like he said.” While she wanted to be confident in those facts, at best Susi wished to convince herself and the others. “We just… let’s try and get some sleep for now and…”
“Aye.” Bunny added. “Sides, ye got ye dog. I’d imagine he’d see somethn’ we didn’t if it were there.”
Indeed, Jack seemed less nervous looking then earlier. The dark presence he paid attention to moments ago seemed gone, which at least put Sally at some ease. Susi would have even dared to guess her dog felt things were going to be ok.
“Uh, can I get a lullaby?” Sally then asked. Susi groaned as she put a hoof to her face as Bunny chuckled. “Uh, right...” It would be a long night, but at least it wouldn't be a fearful one.
It did take awhile, but the three would eventually get to sleep.
Morning was mostly wordless. A breakfast of some porridge and the relief that everyone was unharmed. Wilson, however, had not gotten any sleep and had gone to bed when the sun rose. While Susi would have wanted to verify exactly what had happened the night before, the stains on the grass visible from the kitchen window deterred her.
That boar died terribly. Any further insight would ruin the day.
Bunny’s mom tried to be in the best of spirits. Asking if the three were ok as she got them breakfast. But even Bunny was quiet as she could also see the “sad mess” from last night. After the meal, and Bunny telling Molly she’d be heading to “ta village”, they three ewe headed outside.
“Ye sure tha book might solve things, Susi?” Bunny asked as they were on their way to Baaaaah. “This situation ain’t looking well.”
“It might be all we have.” Susi answered, keeping herself focused. “I think? I just hope it might have something we can use.”
“I hope so too.” Sally added. “Being scared to death every time it gets dark isn’t how I’d want to live the rest of my life.” The others nodded to that. “Think maybe it’s got a spell or something? Maybe?”
“If’n it does, I’d hope ye don’t have to be a unicorn to cast it…” Bunny said with a sigh. “Oi, Susi?" She added in a worried tone. "How we even going to explain this to ta village?”
Susi sighed herself. “No idea.” She said. “Even if they do believe us, what then? Remember that Rabbit Crisis from way back?”
“Only heard the stories.” Sally said, with an almost serious look. “Most I can tell was the sheep panicked over how many of them were seen in the fields. Some of them even said the predators were responsible for it… somehow.” She finished with a shrug. “Even the Warmbloods couldn’t keep order with sheep running everywhere.”
“Yeah…” Susi continued with a nod. “I think we should keep this to ourselves for now.”
“But what if’n it tries for ta village?” Bunny asked with further worry. “Wha then?”
“Uh, maybe it won’t come to that?” Susi replied, somewhat uncertain. “Let’s just find that book for now.”
“Ah, right.” Bunny said. “Jus’ hope we don’t regret that choice.”
“Yeah…” Susi finished.
While the line up of three ewe walking to town might have been imagined to look cool, it might have likely looked sad. A tired sheep with glasses and a book bag. A tall lanky sheep with a tam hat, scarf, and a nervous look. And, lastly, a sheep that could be mistaken for a rabbit.
Suffice to say, they needed all the optimism they could get… Shame Baaaaah wasn’t the place for it.
“Goodness me!” A ewe uttered, causing Susi to turn her head. “Did that Sally get herself a new crowd of ne’er-do-wells?”
“Oh, dolips….” Sally uttered from under her breath. “That’s Polly…”
Polly was one of several daughters Mrs Dolly had. Sheep have yet to understand why all five of them look the same. Even so, it was clear she didn’t like Sally either.
“What, ye were nostalgic enough to find more riff raff after old X and Basil left ye high and dry?” Polly continued in a mocking tone.
“...We don’t need this today… got away.” Susi said, all but dismissively.
“Ye one to talk!” Polly laughed. “Heard yer line is cursed! Must by why she figured she’d have a chance… ta…” She started to trail off as Bunny trotted up to her.
“Right, ‘nuff that.” She said calmly with a scowl. “‘Nuff out ye. Begone.”
“Or what? You’ll eat a carrot or….?” Polly was quickly cut off by what may as well have been a flying foot.
Faster than any could react, Bunny had somehow bounded forward, turned in mid leap, and struck Polly with her hind legs. This knocked the bully onto her rump and left dazed from the blow. Meanwhile, Bunny had her back to Polly and quickly trotted back to the others.
“Com’on.” She said. “Rather we get this sorted ‘fer dark.”
Susi and Sally blinked for a moment, but quickly nodded, and the three were off again.
“You know she’s going to tell her mom on us, right?” Sally said, as they left the now crying Polly behind.
“Aye, tis fine.” Bunny replied in a stoic voice. “Aunt Dolly shouldn’t be raising a bully. Might see a grounding, but she ain’t bothering us soon.” Then she paused. “Also, who’s X?”
“Uh…” Sally uttered with clear dread. “Well…” She added with further reluctance.
“Let’s find the book first, alright?” Susi said, causing Sally to quickly nod.
“Y-yeah.” She said quickly. “Yeah, yeah.”
While the rest of the trip to Sally’s home was calm, that calm quickly left when they saw a upset Cedric heading out the front door.
“Sally!” He shouted in anger. “Where did you wander off too?!”
“Uh, um, ya see, uh…” Sally stammered in panic.
“Er, she t’was at me families farmhouse, sir.” Bunny quickly said as the angry ram reached them. “Couldn’t head back as it t’was dark.” While this caused Cedric to calm a bit, he still had further questions.
“And why in Foenum was she out at your farm that late then?” He then demanded.
“A book reading.” Susi answered with a light stammer. “We got a little too into it and lost track of time. Er, also, she mentioned you had a library?”
“Oh!” Cedric said, now intrigued and with a light smile. “About time some sheep gave Sally some initiative!” He then looked to Sally. “I’ll overlook it this time, but do tell me ahead of time if you are doing these sorts of studies, will you dear?”
“Y-yeah, sure.” Sally said, nodding her head. “No problem. So, uh, your books?”
“Yes, right.” Cedric finished. “All I’d ask is you girls leave my books where I left them.”
After entering the manor of Baaaaah, the ewe reached the “Library”. It was closer to a study with a several book shelves. Oh course, Susi wasn’t expecting a room filled with books in the village.
“So, where do we start?” Sally asked, seeing the amount of books to look through. “Forgot to mention I never really came in here…”
“Unicorns have a more curved writing style.” Susi said as she looked over one of the shelves. “We can narrow our search to that.”
“Curved writing?” Sally said back. “Wha?”
“Something Jimmy mentioned in his book.” Susi answered without looking back. “He said it was due to them writing with their horns. Even some Longma were a bit jealous over how smooth unicorn penmanship can look.”
“Serious case of horn envy…” Sally said before she realized what she said. Then she did and started laughing, which then infected Susi. Meanwhile, Bunny cocked her head.
“Eh, what?” She said, as she looked at them oddly.
“N-nevermind.” Sally said with a light cough. With that the three got to searching.
Cedric’s collection did feel somewhat random. The black powder of the Longma. The rise of the Warmblood’s queen. A book of Unicorn medicine. A book about the Order of Light. Farming for Bovines. Myths and legends of the Alpaka. Tales of Zebra mysticism. A discourse on Rein fashion. Snake myths. Alligators, myth or forgotten beast? And several cookbooks.
Only Susi would notice that none of these books were written by sheep...
“Found it!” Sally said as her hoof pulled a book out.
A heavy bound tome, colored in bright purple with silvery text for its title, and decorative laurels emblazoned it’s edges.
“Well…” Bunny said with wide eyes. “Somehow ‘magine horns ain’t ta only thing ta unicorns want envy over.”
“And this thing is heavy….” Sally said with some strain. “Help. Someone help please!” The other two ran forward. “Do the unicorns also take pride in how many words they use too?” Sally added as the three carried the heavy tome to a table.
Not long after the book landed on the table, Susi opened it and began leafing through it’s pages. And it was then Sally realized something.
“This is going to take awhile, huh?” She said.
“Yep.” Susi said, not even looking up as her hoof traced over a page. “We might be here for a few hours.”
“Aw…” Sally added as her face deflated.
“Maybe ask one of Cedric’s servants to get some coffee ready?” Susi said back as she continued reading.
Sally frowned and looked at Jack. “Is she always like this with books?” She asked him. Jack only barked, then found a nice spot on the carpet and layed down. “Yeah…” Sally finished with a sigh.
“Come on.” Bunny said, patting Sally’s shoulder. “Figure we can find something to do in ta meantime.”
Susi didn’t see them leave, still looking over the tome. It did indeed have several historical notes, just more than the war from years ago. Several pages later she would find the section about the conflict. It’s declaration, the unified herds, and several battles. She skimmed past them, looking for any mention of the Dark Wolf.
Then she found it.
First mentions of troops at rest being ambushed and slain to the last creature. Then talks of a darkness that kills from what few survivors. Eventually, even the Bearded Prophet herself was called to deal with this monster that killed several ungulates every night after battles.
Susi couldn’t tell if it was some kind of magic, or perhaps the fact the other two ewe had not returned with any coffee, but her eyes began to feel heavy. Her vision faded as her head met the book.
When her eyes opened again, she found herself the witness of a large army. It felt like a dream like, yet real.
Several ungulates, some in armor, had put a line together. And in the front was the Prophet herself. It was night, with several torches and lanterns illuminating the force. And that was when she saw what the army stood before.
In the dark, she could see a shape with eyes. What light reached it showed it as a towering creature standing in a sea of red. The shape opened its mouth and let out a whaling howl. Suddenly, several ungulates broke from the line and ran! The ones that still stood their ground stared in horror, struggling to hold fast.
And then that shape, mouth still open, rushed forward and more fled! And Susi realized what she saw before her!
Words failed Susi as she realized the enormousness of the foe she and the other ewe had been trying(and failing) to face. The Dark Wolf! When it charged, all ran from it!
Even so, the Prophet stood her ground, shouting to those brave enough to stand firm. All the while, the towering wolf-like creature was closing the distance! The Prophet spoke a few words as her horn glowed, and in the distance other lights glowed as well!
Suddenly, a bright flash, brighter than the sun blinded all sight.
When colors returned to view, the battle was over. The shape of a wolf, much smaller than before, lay on it’s side before it evaporated like smoke. It took a moment to realize that the once dark field was illuminated by more than the army. Magical lights now shown in the sky.
It was then Susi saw the sad frown on the Prophet’s face and turned to see what could be so disheartening.
Amid the sea of red the wolf stood on, more shapes could be seen. Even far away Susi could tell what it was. So many… Some had bright armor, some held banners, others seemed stacked atop each other. All dead, all torn. It didn’t need to pick the bones clean to send a message… the visceral remains told of his presence and passing.
“You only delay the inevitable, grass eater…” Said a familiar voice in a soft growl. “Do you think this changes anything?”
Susi’s vision began to fade again. For all she could tell she was going to wake up. But one thing then came to her mind.
“But, the Prophet killed it…” She uttered to herself. “It’s gone…” Then she felt a grip on her shoulder.
“Few wolves can return from the tree, little lamb.” It then turned her to face it. “I am one of them.” It was the Dark Wolf! Eyes glowing from the darkness and teeth that glint in shadows!
Susi jolted up from the desk and book with a gasp. Her eyes darted around the room, and she felt no relief to see it was only the afternoon outside the window. She got up from where she was seated and needed to decide what to do next in her trembling state.
Tell the others what she’d seen? Break the news that they were doomed? Or demand to know if anyone put the coffee on?
Susi shook as she trotted from the study, with Jack quickly joining her, worried she might fall down. She felt out of energy and her balance felt off. It didn’t matter, none of it did now. It was going to kill them all eventually. They were all going to die!