Moose, Part 6

Winch woke up to the sound of screaming and launched himself out of bed and up the stairs before Moriah could stop him. Another scream went up and he ran faster to Ethan’s bedroom in time to see Ethan hovering over his bed in a panic, trying in vain to grab on to something. Winch stared at the scene, dumbfounded because he couldn’t see if anything was holding Ethan. Moriah walked in and started laughing.

“Ethan, It’s okay;” Moriah said as she moved past Winch and took Ethan’s hand in hers. “You need to calm down, Ethan. What’s happening to you is normal and I know it’s scary but you need to trust me.” Ethan panicked and kicked his legs like he was running.

“Down, I want down.” He sobbed out.

“I know you do, but you need to calm down first. Your magic is holding you up.” Moriah said with a small smile.

“I don’t have magic, my sister does!” Ethan shouted, eyes looking a little wild through his tears.

“Your sister’s magic came to you when she died, remember? The glowing dusts?” Winch said as he came out of his stupor finally and walked to Ethan’s bedside. “It’s yours now.”

“But I don’t want it! I want April to have it!” The tears were coming faster now that Ethan wasn’t panicking about being suspended in the air. Slowly, Ethan sank down and into Moriah’s arms. Winch hugged them both and sighed.

“I know, but she’s gone now and she passed it to you.” Moriah said to Ethan as she cradled him.

“I want them back.” Ethan kept repeating it over and over again like it would being them back. Winch pushed a hand through his brown hair and sighed in frustration at the fact that he could do nothing for the boy. Moriah patted his hand and smiled.

“Maybe some tea, Beau.” Winch was grateful for the exit and nodded to her before leaving the room to get the tea. Beau descended the steps and ran in to Gabe who was sitting on the steps, holding an already warm mug of tea.

“It’s time you did some story-telling, Beau.” he said. Winch’s shoulders sank and he nodded.

“There’s only so much I can tell you, but come on.” Winch said as he went down the stairs to the kitchen.

“That’s a good place to start. Now I know who’s behind the boy’s troubles.” Gabe said as he looked in to his tea mug. Gabe watched Winch make tea for the two upstairs and then took it up to them. When he came back down, his own tea was ready and he sat down with the mug.

“Werewolves. Like we fought in DuHiel.” Gabe swore and slammed the mug down.

“And just when were you going to inform the watch that they’d over taken the town? When they got here” He demanded.

“In the morning. I was more concerned about Ethan. He’s mine now. I intend to do right by him where my own father failed.”

“You father didn’t fail just you, Beau. He failed me too.” Gabe said.

“All the more reason not to fail him so soon. He’s important, Gabe. Moriah says so.” Winch said. “but you’re right. I should have told the Watch first and then come here.”

“I’ll tell them, but first I need details.”

“From my count at the attack yesterday, we’re looking at close to three hundred living and hunting in the Marsh. Blue is gone. The Keep too. I wouldn’t be surprised if himself took his griffin BlackWing out as soon as the attack happened;” Winch said, then dropped the last part. “I cannot say that he’s behind it.” As soon as the words left his mouth, Winch was overcome with a vise-like feeling on his skull. He groaned in pain and grabbed his head. Gabe waited out the episode, he knew what was happening to Winch and there was nothing that he could do. Gabe watched Winch’s eyes go pain-blind and moved the mugs out of the way. The whole thing should have lasted only a few minutes, but when it went on longer than it should have, Gabe’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. Looking around, he spotted a mirror bright copper pan hanging against the wall on a peg. Lord Baxter’s face was in the pan and when Gabe took the pan down and looked in to it, he smiled and got an odd sense of satisfaction from smashing the pan till it was a mangled mess. Gabe watched as Winch slowly took his hands away from is head.

“Bastard was watching you stuffer,” Gabe said as he held up the pan. “I took care of it.”

“Moriah’s going to kill you for smashing that pan.” Gabe laughed and Winch just gave a small smile through the pain still pounding in his head. Moriah came in then with the tea-things and looked at the both of them. She set the try down and walked over to Gabe, placing her hands on the sides of his face and murmuring a few words to take the pain away from him.

“I see he told you as much as he could, right up to the pain of the binding.” She said as she put her hands on her hips and stared the both of them down as she saw her pan. “Gabe, you idiot! That was my best pan!” Her anger at seeing the pan a mangled mess set both men off again and while they were laughing, Winch wrapped his arms around Moriah’s waist and drew her in for a kiss. When they separated, Moriah slapped the back of Winch’s head.

“You’re still not getting off the hook for smashing my best herb skillet,” She said, then pointed at Gabe. “and you owe me another.” Moriah shook her head when Gabe snickered and waved the pan at her. Winch shook his head, but he was smiling.

“How’s the kid?” Gabe asked when things had gone quiet.

“Calmer now, but he’ll have a hard time if he stays in shock. More nightmares and his magic pulling ticks like this will jolt him out of it; as much as I hate to wish it upon anyone: he needs the tricks.” Moriah leaned against the kitchen counter and sighed. “I can’t go with you to the Capital right away, Gentlemen, but I’ll follow as soon as I can.” Gabe’s head snapped up.

“I’m not leaving…” he was cut off by a look from Moriah. “Maybe I am. Who knows? The City of Steele might be good for me this time around.” Winch snickered.

“You’ll leave about noon time. You can’t forget the other boy.” Moriah said as she moved toward the stairs and started down them.

“What -” Winch was cut off by a loud banging on the door to the tower. He and Gabe collowed Moriah down and where there when she opened the door. Raife and Sam tumbled in, holding a small sandy-haired boy and covered in muck.

“We found him..” Raife stammered.

“Bloody weres!” Sam cursed.

“They almost had him.” they finished together as Winch took the boy in his arms and Moriah wiped some of the muck from his face.

“I thought he’d been lost;” Winch said. Gabe looked over his shoulder.

“Who is it?”

“Tom Julnickle. They left in a wagon weeks ago, trying to reach Millwood.”

“A Wagon? With those things out there!?” Gabe swore then and took Tom in his arms.

“Quiet! You’ll wake Ethan!” She said as she hurried up the steps with Tom and Winch. “Do not let those two in here until they’ve wiped that muck off!” She said over her shoulder to Gabe as Raife and Sam tried to enter the tower.

“Clean off and come back. I want a full report on what you saw. Warn the others at the barracks.” Gabe said. “Tell them I said to break out the silver.” Raife and Sam saluted and left and Gabe ran up the steps and nearly ran over Ethan as he was coming out of his room.

“What’s going on?” He asked. Gabe looked down and picked up Ethan.

“Another little boy was just brought in, come on. Maybe you can help.” Gabe started back up the steps, flinging Ethan on to his back.

“How can I help?” Ethan asked.

“Well, he’s about your age, maybe seeing you won’t make us seem so scary.” Gabe answered as he and Ethan walked in to the room where Moriah and Winch were working on Tom.

“Hey! That’s Tom!” Ethan said as he wiggled down and ran over to the table. “What happened?”

“He and his family were attacked by the same things that killed your family,” Gabe said as he pulled Ethan back from the table and out of Winch and Moriah’s way. Ethan was about to ask another question when Tom started screaming and bucking on the table. Moriah and Winch laid on top of him so he wouldn’t hurt himself and Tom clawed at their arms. Ethan was so startled by Tom’s sudden screaming that he unleashed a bolt of yellow magic and it hit Tom in the forehead. Tom collapsed, but was breathing. Ethan was so stunned his mouth was caught in an O and the adults were just staring at Ethan.

“Uh oh.. I’m in for it now.” He muttered. Moriah snorted out a giggle.

“You didn’t hurt him, little one. He’s fine. Come look,” Moriah said as Winch and Gabe smothered their laughter. Ethan walked over to the table and watched Tom breathe slowly. “You just hit him with a sleep dart.”

“Lady Moriah?” Ethan asked as he studied Tom’s features.

“Yes?”

“How did I know how to do that?”

“You’re instincts and your magic took over when you were startled. In this case, it helped, but you will learn to control it so that you don’t hurt someone with something far more dangerous.”

“How will I learn?”

“You’ll go to the Capital soon, Winch and Gabe will take you to the Academy.”

“You’re sure I didn’t hurt him?” Ethan asked, he was sure he was going to get into trouble.

“No. You didn’t hurt him;” Moriah answered and she patted his cheek. “and you’re not in trouble.” Ethan let out the deep breath he had taken before asking his question.

“I wish I had magic when those things attacked.” He said and the adults didn’t know what to say to him. Gabe and Winch placed their hands on Ethan’s shoulders and they watched Moriah go back to work on the little boy who was on the table in front of them.

“You can help now, Let’s go make Lady Moriah and Winch some tea.” Gabe said and he led the little boy and his sadness out of the room.

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Moose, Part 5

Winch secured the aviary netting above the paddock for Blueridge and patted his head. The Griffon chirruped and nudged his leg. Winch let out a little of his own magic and mentally touched the griffon’s mind. Thoughts floated across the connection.

The boy is going to be trouble, Beau.

“I know, but I can’t just leave him. I owe his father.”

He’s going to be trouble. I don’t mean your general trouble. Having the boy around is going to make sure you never get a good night’s rest again.

“Yes, I know. I just became a father.”

If that’s how you want to see things, you’re going to have a harder time raising him. He’ll fight you at first. He’s not going to understand why he has to hide himself or his magic.

“I’ll have to tell him the truth, then. From the very beginning.”

You’ll have to tell him more than the truth. You’ll have to show him.

“He’ll show himself the first time he gets cocky and runs afoul of the wrong people.”

And You’ll be there to clean it up. The griffin shook his head and nudged Winch.

Lord Baxter is going to kill him, the first chance he gets. The boy isn’t safe in the Capital.

“If that’s where Moriah says he has to go, He has to go there. I’ll tell you everything when I get back. Stay in the aviary. I know you sneak out.”

That stings. I always stay in the aviary.

“You’re still a terrible liar. You ruffle your feathers whenever you lie.” Winch said and the griffin didn’t bother to respond. Just ducked his head and started grooming his gold feathers. Winch chuckled on his way out of the paddock, grabbed his things and wound his way toward the tower that loomed over the town. Winch nodded to people he knew, and stopped at a stall that sold herbs. He nodded to the tower and the elderly herb seller smiled so big her eyes crinkled at the corners. She plucked a branch of horider and held it to him. Winch grinned and handed over his money to the woman. With a wave, Winch was off and making his way toward the tower again.

“Good luck, Beau!” The Herb woman called after him with a smile. Winch turned and smiled.

“I don’t need luck when I have you, Glinda!” He waved at her again as she laughed. Winch pushed himself in to a jog, saddle bags slapping on his back. The local watch Captains waved as he passed and the one with brown hair nudged his counter part and called out.

“Going to see the Lady, Winch? Better hurry, I think she had another gentlemen with her!” The two Captains started laughing.

“That boy happens to be my son, Raife, watch your mouth.” Winch stopped and said to him. Raife’s eyes went wide and he stammered out;

“My apologies, I didn’t know you had a child.”

“Forget it, Raife. I’m a little punchy. I just learned of the boy.” Winch said.

“Just learned of him?” Raife’s partner Sam asked.

“His mother and I.. ten, eleven years ago. I was still in the Watch then. You remember.” Winch said and both Captains nodded. “Anyway, She fell with the latest round of Marsh Sickness and her parents sent him to me.”

“I’m sorry, Winch. That has to sting.” Sam said.

“It is what it is. He’s gotten the sickness himself, that’s why I brought him to the Lady.”

“Good choice. No one’s better than our Lady of the Woods.” Raife said and Sam nodded his agreement. Winch waved and started walking again.

“That’s what I’m hoping for, Raife.” The Captains saluted Winch and went off on the rest of their rounds. Winch nodded to himself at his cleverness. Now the rumors about Ethan being his son would be around the kingdom by the end of the next fortnight. He knew his old squad. They were some of the biggest gossips in the land. Not even his mother could keep up with that crew. Winch set off at a jogging pace again and this time managed to make it to the door of the tower before someone caught up with him. A blow from behind stole Winch’s breath and he slammed to the door, splinters digging in to his cheek. Winch pushed against the door, shoving with all of his might. It caught his attacker off guard and gave Winch enough time to turn the tables. Grabbing the man who attacked him by the wrist, Winch flicked his hands just hard enough to break the other man’s wrist. A loud yelp came from the other man and then Winch heard,

“Damn you to the underworld, you old codger!” Winch was so startled by the voice he dropped the man and stepped back. Winch stared down at the black-haired man with a full beard that was specked with gray along his strong jaw line. The man’s gray eyes were angry, filled with pain and he smelled of alcohol.

“Gabe? You bastard! You should know better than to sneak up on me!” Winch shouted.

“Well if I knew you were going to break my fucking wrist, I’d have announced myself sooner by knocking you on your ass.” Gabe snarled back at Winch. A chuckle rose in Winch’s chest and then turned in to full on laughter when Gabe threw a rock at his head.

“Come on, let me help you get up and I’ll take you to see the Lady. I’m headed there now. My son is in there.” Winch said. Gabe was about to say something when he stopped and looked up at Winch. Studying his face, Gabe looked over Winch’s square jaw and green eyes for signs of stress.

“You’ve no son. You’re not old enough.”

“I’ll explain when we get you inside, Old man.” Winch said.

“I’m not that old, youngling. I can still kick your ass if I wasn’t six sheets to the wind.”

“Well that makes you twice as stupid for ignoring rule number five.” Winch replied as he hauled up his former Captain and helped him dust off his leather riding pants and short coat.

“You don’t have to quote my rules at me, I know them well enough. I taught them to you.” Gabe grumbled and Winch wisely kept his mouth shut. Gesturing to the front door of the tower, Winch was just about to open it when it swung open and Lady Moriah was standing there with her hands on her hips.

“And just where have you been? Ethan’s been asking about you, I’ve got supper waiting and..” She trailed off when she saw Gabe cradling his wrist. “Oh for the goddess’ sake! Haven’t you got any better sense than a mule in heat? Get in here and don’t forget to wipe that muck off your boots!” Gabe watched her storm off toward the interior of the tower and then looked over at Winch.

“You married that?” He asked. Winch slapped the back of Gabe’s head.

“I’ll let that go, seeing as how you’re drunk and I respect you. Don’t talk about my wife like that.” Winch said as he helped Gabe wipe his boots off and enter the tower. Winch cleaned his boots and strode in, only to nearly be knocked over by a 60 pound bundle of tears and anger.

“They’re all dead! How could you let them die?!” Ethan cried. Winch knelt down and held Ethan out at arm’s length.

“Because I had a duty to your father to see you to safety. He asked me to take you away. He knew what was going to happen if I left the village without you. I didn’t want to leave. Understand me?” Winch said. “I left because your father wanted you away. You and your sister. The only thing I regret is that I wasn’t fast enough to come back for her.” Ethan collapsed in to Winch’s arms, sobbing.

“I don’t want them to be dead.” he cried.

“I know. I don’t want them to be dead either.” Winch said as he picked up Ethan and patted his back. “You cry it out, it’ll make you feel better.” Gabe snorted and Winch pointed a finger at him. Gabe quieted down and looked at Moriah. She shook her head at Gabe.

“Come on, Gabe. Let’s get that wrist set properly.” Moriah said.

“Oh, Moriah. Wait,” Winch said and he fished the horider out of his pocket. Lady Moriah Cried with delight and snatched the herb out of his hand.

“Clever man! I needed this!” She clutched the herb and looked up at Winch. “You much have been to see Glinda.” Winch laughed and nodded. Moriah kissed his cheek and hooked her arm through Gabe’s, leading him up the stairs.

“You married that?” Gabe asked Moriah and she laughed as Winch shouted a rude retort up after them. Their laughter floated down to Winch as he held a crying Ethan.

“Why?” Ethan choked out through his tears and Winch sighed. Leave it to the boy to ask the one question he couldn’t answer honestly.

“Because Lord Baxter is a bad man who wants what he cannot have.” Winch said as much as he could without triggering the pact that would kill him if he revealed the truth without the death of his master. Ethan pulled back to look at Winch’s face.

“Do I call you Dad now instead of Uncle?” Ethan asked after a few moments.

“Did I ever tell you how clever you are?” Winch asked. Ethan smiled a watery smile.

“I’m nearly eleven. I’m supposed to be clever.” He replied and then wiggled down. “Moriah said I can have sugar petals if I wash my hands.”

“Maybe I’ll get them too if I wash mine.” Winch said as he followed Ethan up the stairs. Ethan stopped and looked back at Winch.

“I’m going to be sad for a while, aren’t I?” Ethan asked. A heavy sigh come from Winch and he nodded.

“Yeah, you are. So will I and that’s okay.” Ethan nodded and then continued up the steps.

Winch and Ethan entered the room at the top of the tower, four flights up, after washing their hands and Ethan left Winch’s side to go off and explore. Winch shrugged and left him to his wonder.

“Where’s Ethan?” Moriah asked as Winch sat down next to Gabe, who was scratching at the bandages on his wrist. “Stop that, you know the rules. It’s going to itch for the first day or so.”

“But,” was all Gabe got out before Winch shoved a roll into his mouth.

“Eat something, my friend.” He said and turned to Moriah. “He’s off exploring. I didn’t have the heart to make him come eat when he’s currently trying not to touch your globe of goblin blood.” Moriah flinched and hustled off to stop Ethan from breaking something she couldn’t replace.

“That was sneaky, Winch. I taught you well.” Gabe said after swallowing his food.

“She’ll forgive me and he really was about to touch that globe.” He was about to say something else when he heard them arguing as they walked back to the table.

“Was it really full of goblin blood? Why can’t I touch it?” Ethan demanded.

“Yes and it would have turned you to stone if you had broken the seal.” Moriah said and Ethans eyes went round as he sat down and stared at her with wonder. Gabe nudged Winch.

“He has the same look you had when you first met her, Winch.” Winch chuckled with his friend.

“Yes, but I got the girl.” He reached out and snatched up Moriah’s hand, turned it over and kissed her palm. Moriah smiled.

“I got the guy all the girls wanted.” Moriah said and kissed him. Gagging noises made Ethan giggle and Gabe grin. “That’s enough out of you. Aren’t you supposed to be the old, wise one?”

“Old, yes. Wise? Not so much.” Gabe said with a grin. “You know me, Moriah. I was never one for marriage, but the kids? I’m everyone’s favorite Uncle.”

“That’s because you never grew up, only pretended you did.” Winch said and shoved another roll in to Gabe’s mouth before he could say something else. Ethan giggled, then stopped and looked up at the three adults.

“It’s okay to laugh, even though they’re gone, right?” He asked and ducked his head. The adults looked at each other and then back at Ethan. It was Gabe who spoke.

“Yes. It’s okay. They’d want you to be happy, Ethan. There’s no shame in laughing to make your load lighter. Even old soldiers like me laugh though we’ve lost so many friends along the way.” Moriah nodded at Gabe when he looked at her and she moved off to the kitchen to get dinner. Winch followed her and when they got to the kitchen, he hugged her when she stepped in to his arms.

“He’s so sad, Beau. So sad and trying to hide it.” Moriah said. “I’m so sorry that he can’t stay here forever and just be a little boy who laughs at silly jokes and tries to touch things he shouldn’t.”

“I know, Joh. I know.” Winch said and he kissed the top of her head. Moriah looked up at him.

“You haven’t called me that in a long time, Beau.” She said. Winch smiled and kissed her nose.

“I know. I haven’t been around much so that I could say it.” Ethan’s laughter drifted down the stairs from up in the tower.

“It’s nice to have that sound here.” Moriah said and Winch nodded.

“Maybe we could give him a sibling next year,” Winch murmured in to her ear. Moriah sighed.

“That would be lovely.” She rose on her toes and kissed him. “Dinner now, fun later.” Winch grinned and helped her carry the dishes up the stairs where they entertained by a little boy and his new-found favorite Uncle until bed time.

Moose, Part 4 or I stayed up way too late last night and this is all you get.

Winch brought Blueridge in for a landing in the town of Millwood. He and Ethan rode the tired griffin in to the paddock and the gates were closed behind them. Dismounting, Winch picked up Ethan and carried him to a bale of hay. He set Ethan down and waved off the stable hands as they came to help. Ethan didn’t bother to look up, just sat on the bale and looked down. Winch started to say something, then shook his head and patted Ethan on the shoulder before going about removing the harness and saddle from Blueridge. Pulling off the saddlebags, Winch set them down beside Ethan.

“Ethan I need you to watch the bags, they’re important.” He said. Ethan just nodded. All of a sudden, a blue cloud appeared in the paddock and startled the griffons resting there, including Blueridge. The stable hands shouted and tried pulling away Ethan, but the boy had already been snatched up by the cloud and suspended in the air. A yellow cloud joined in with the blue and they swirled fast around the child hanging in the center of the storm. Ethan tried to struggle against the invisible bonds, shouting in pain as lances of white light flew through him. That’s when the red cloud appeared. Ethan’s head snapped back and his eyes went wide, the sight terrifying all those within the griffin roost and paddock area. More shouting went up as the red cloud funneled in to Ethan through his eyes and mouth. When the red cloud vanished, the blue and yellow clouds that had mixed together followed the red cloud in to Ethan. It took less than five minutes for the clouds to vanish. Ethan hovered in the air and just as he dropped, Winch launched himself at the boy and caught him.

“Bring Lady Moriah!” Winch yelled at the stable hands. “Bring her here now!” The stable hands scattered and ran off in different directions as Winch laid Ethan down on the bale he had been sitting on. Winch knew what those clouds meant. He prayed that it wouldn’t happen, but it looked like the goddess was not listing to his prayers and had other plans for little Ethan.

“Where the hell is Lady Moriah?!” Winch shouted. A hand on his shoulder startled him.

“I’m here, Beau.” Lady Moriah said to Winch as she knelt down. Her black hair hung like a curtain as she turned her face to him and smiled at him. Winch stared in to her violet eyes and was at peace for a few brief seconds, before he shook his head.

“The boy just inherited his family’s magic. All of it at once.” Winch said.

“I know. I saw the clouds chasing you as you landed. The poor thing,” she murmured the last part. “so much loss in one day.” Winch nodded.

“He cannot stay with me, before you ask me.” Winch started to protest, but Moriah held up a hand. “Don’t. I received a vision before your arrival. The Goddess has plans for him and he has to go to the capital.” Winch nodded and looked down at Ethan.

“May we stay the night?” He asked. Moriah laughed.

“You ask that which you already know, Beau.” Moriah kissed Winch’s forehead and picked up Ethan herself. “You know where to find me. I’ll take him there so he’ll be safe tonight.” Winch said nothing, just nodded as she walked off toward the tower at the edge of the town.

Moose, part 3.

 The village of Blue settled in to an uneasy pattern over the next fortnight. When the sun rose, they went outside of the gates to gather their things and tend to their crops. When the sun fell, they were back inside the gates of the keep, huddling together and trying their best to get some rest despite the howls outside the main gates to the town. The griffin riders were their only means of communication to the King and the outside world. There was still no sign of the soldiers the letters from King Steele had claimed were coming. Hope dwindled and the villagers were looking to Harrison and Lord Baxter for some kind of hope. The only thing that Harrison could offer was the promise that they’d make it through another night. For some that was enough. For others, they began looking for ways to leave the marsh forever.

“I don’t recommend it, Jared.” Harrison said to his friend, Jared Julnickle. Jared continued checking the horse team attached to his wagon.

“I don’t care what you recommend anymore, Harrison. I’m taking my family out of here. Millwood is a three day trip from here. If I can make it there, with my family in the wagon, I can make it to the Stone Temple. There has to someone there more trustworthy than Lord Baxter the Useless.” Jared said as he finished checking the harnesses.

“Watch that language, Jared. He’s not the only one who’s hands are just as tied with all of this. I’ve got sick people with no way to cure them. With the Blue Gruin blooming, I’ve got people coming down with Marsh Sickness every day.” Harrison said as he ran a hand through his hair. “I’m saying I wouldn’t recommend it because you never know how many of those things are still out there.”

“We haven’t heard from them in three nights. I’m taking my chances today. My wife and I have decided that staying is a death sentence.” Jared said as he looked his friend in the eyes.

“So it going.” Harrison said softly. Jared ran a hand through his hair in frustration.

“We’re taking the risk;” He said. “We are going, Harrison. There’s no changing our minds like you did with August and Maisy.” Harrison shook his head and clapped his friend on the shoulder. My the Goddess be with you, Jared. May she watch over your family and may you always have safety.”

“And you, my friend.” Jared said and clapped his hand on Harrison’s shoulder. They let each other go and Harrison stepped back, signaled for the gates to be opened. As the gates came up, Jared clicked his tongue and the horses started moving. Waving from the window of the wagon, Jane gave Harrison a small smile as she pulled the wagon windows shut. Harrison waved back and as soon as the wagon was through the gates, he gave the order to close and lock it for the night. Harrison turned and walked to the griffin paddock to talk to Rider Twig when he was hailed by Lord Baxter who was striding through the square. Harrison stopped and waited for the Lord, studying him carefully. He was a tall man, with brown hair; but the look in his eyes said he was angry.

“What’s the meaning of letting villagers outside of the gate so close to sundown?” He demanded. Harrison sighed and rolled his shoulders.

“My lord I could not and would not stop them now that they’ve decided the leave the village. The best that I could do was wish them a safe trip and see that the gates were closed behind them.” Harrison stated as he changed direction and strode toward the Keep. Rider Twig could wait. He didn’t want Lord Baxter to know what he was doing. They strode together, the Lord’s shoulders tense and Harrison’s bent down like a man who’d been bearing too much weight for too long.

“You should have thrown them in the dungeons, Mayor Smith. It isn’t good for the people to get it in to their heads to go outside of the walls at all.” Lord Baxter finally said.

“I will not deny a man his right to see his family to safety, since safety is not to be found here. There is only fear here to go with the lack of hope that now goes through your people.” Harrison said with such ferocity that the Lord stopped in his tracks.

“These are not my people, they are simply in my care.” Baxter said, looking down his nose at Harrison.

“Then you should not be here if you do not see these people as your own.” With that, the blacksmith turned Mayor of Blue strode off to make sure that his people were inside the gates and well protected for the night. Lord Baxter was left seething in the growing darkness of the village square when the first howls went up. Lord Baxter and his guards hurried up to the keep and they closed the gates for the night. The howls stayed far away from the gates that night as Harrison lay in bed with his wife. He feared the worst for Jared and his family as the guilt settled like lead in his stomach. Harrison got no sleep that night as he feared the worst for his friend. Sleep, which never came easy, was even harder to come by that night.

The dawn brought news that the wagon had not been found. The village breathed a sigh of relief with the hope that they had made it and would send back news soon. The next two nights were more of the same: far off howls and no word from the wagon. The dawn of the third day finally brought news from Rider Winch that the wagon had been found, just outside the gates of Millwood. It had been destroyed and there was no sign of the Julnickle family. The village mourned the loss of the family as they worked to keep themselves alive a little while longer.

More days passed by and there was still no word from the King about the soldiers he’d sent. Harrison was starting to worry more visibly now and this time when he had a spare moment, he made straight for Rider Winch at the griffin paddock. The man dunked his head in to a bucket of water to guard against the heat of the day and when he pulled his head out, a curl of water came off his brown hair as he flung his head back.

“Rider, a word if I may?” Harrison said as he approached the man.

“For you Mayor, always. It will be a pleasure as well.” The Rider said as he bowed, head dripping from the quick rinse.

“Not that, anything but that. Stand, Rider. I’ll not have you bow to an old Captain.” Harrison said and that got a smile from the Rider. “Are you busy over the next few days? I have a favor to ask.”

“No, his Lordship doesn’t need me and I was thinking about taking out Blueridge for a flight. He gets restless when penned up for days. What did you have in mind?” The Rider asked.

“I need you to take a letter to a friend of mine in the Capital. He promised more medicine and I’m worried there won’t be enough to last us until the next shipment.” Harrison said as he handed over a sealed letter. “Will you take this to him?”

“With pleasure. We don’t belong on the ground, Blueridge and I.” Rider Winch said with a smile.

“Excellent. I’ll have provisions sent to you and you can be off as soon as they arrive, yes?” Harrison asked. The Rider nodded.

“Yes, sir. That sounds about right.”

“Good, I’ll see that it is done then. Good talking with you, Rider.”

“And you, Mayor.” Rider Winch said and saluted Harrison. Harrison saluted back and turned to go make good on the promise of provisions from the Keep’s kitchens. As Harrison left the paddock, Lord Baxter came around the side of the stable and stopped next to Winch.

“Well, that didn’t take long. I had hoped he was smarter than that.” Baxter said. Winch handed over the letter and the Lord opened it. The writing on the page revealed nothing more than a letter for medicine. “Well, that’s surprising. He was actually honest.”

“You misunderstand him. That man really does care about these people. I’m taking that letter and getting the medicine. This is too dangerous of a game you’re playing, My Lord.” Rider Winch said as he took the letter back and refolded it. As he was putting the opened letter away, he palmed the other letter the Mayor had handed him and stuck both in to the messenger pouch, whispering the incantation to magically lock the pouch. Lord Baxter missed the Rider’s movements and frowned at his back.

“You believe this pitiful village is worth saving?”

“I believe these people are, just like he does.” Rider Winch answered as he picked up his saddle, harnesses and pouch. “You’re playing with the lives of these people for your own gain and while I’m sworn by covenant to keep your secrets, but that doesn’t mean I have to obey you.” The Lord’s frown deepened.

“I do not like that.” He stated.

“I don’t like being attached to you. You’re vile, smell of death and you wear too much perfume.” Winch waited a beat, then added, “but we all have our weight to carry; as light or as heavy as it may be.” Winch said as he strode toward Blueridge and started to saddle him.

“You’re mouth is going to get you in to trouble, Winch.” Baxter said.

“So is yours. You can’t kill me.” Rider Winch said as he stood and looked at Lord Baxter. “Those were the rules when you forced me into the arrangement.”

“You grew fat and very happy off of me in the mean time.” Baxter said.

“I’ll be happy when you’re dead.” Winch said and bowed to Lord Baxter. “Now if I have permission to leave, I’d like to get my supplies and get out of here.”

“Go, get out of my sight. When you get back, there will be no village.” With that, Lord Baxter turned on his heel and left the paddock. Harrison came around the corner with a smile.

“Vengeful little shit, isn’t he?” Harrison said.

“Yes, and he hates you. It’s lucky you wrote two letters.” Winch said as he took the saddlebags from Harrison and tossed them up on to Blueridge’s back. The griffin who until now had mostly slept through his harnessing, started to stir and he shook his golden feathered covered body. Winch mounted Blueridge and settled in to the saddle. “You have the boy?”

“I do. Ethan, come here.” Harrison said and Ethan came around the side of the stable, dressed in riding leathers and eyes filled with wonder at the sight of the griffin.

“Dad, he’s amazing.” Ethan whispered with awe filling his voice. “Am I really going to get to ride him?”

“Yes, you are. So will your sister when the Rider comes back. Now up you get.” Harrison said and he helped Ethan climb aboard with his pack on his back. Harrison nodded to Winch when Ethan was securely aboard behind Winch.

“Good luck to you, My Father’s best friend. May you still be here upon my return.” Winch said and clucked to Blueridge, the griffin ran off down the main street in town, wings pumping till they had enough lift to bear them skyward. In less than three minutes, Ethan left behind the world he knew and was gone.

Moose, continued..

Daylight penetrated the cells the villagers of Blue had huddled in all night. The storm had passed and with it, the threat of death. The soldiers of Marsh Keep in their mail and leather armor came down the stairs and opened the doors. Exhaustion hung heavy on their faces as they helped the villagers up the steps so they could check their homes and goods. Harrison led his family out of the basement cells and in to the courtyard of the Keep. Stretchers that held victims of last nights attack were lined against the wall to Harrison’s right. The blacksmith shuddered and prayed they died quickly from their wounds and did not turn.

“Harrison Smith, I presume?” Said one of the Captains of the Keep as he came walking up. His brown hair was a mess and his mud streaked face showed little of the night that had passed.

“Aye, that’s me.” Harrison answered. The Captain’s face now showed some relief.

“Good. It’s good that we didn’t lose you last night. Word came in earlier that the King himself has posted you as new Mayor of Blue. Lord Garret is waiting in his office to brief you about what is to be done.” With that, the Captain left just as quickly as he arrived. Harrison looked at his wife who was shaking her head.

“No, Harrison. You cannot refuse.” She said to him softly. Harrison sighed. “You go looking for the creatures that did this and you’ll be joining our son in the afterlife soon enough.”

“But May..” He started to say, then shook his head. He gathered her close and hugged her. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll go meet with Lord Garret.” He took her hand after May picked up April. Snagging Evan by his collar before he could get too close to the injured, they walked back in to the Keep and up the stairs to the Lord’s offices. As they were walking down the hall, two guards stopped them.

“We’re sorry, Mister Smith, they cannot go with you.” One of the guards, a young man named Hogan said.

“We’ll be happy to escort them down to the kitchens so they can get something to eat and be warm.” The other guard, a young lady named Jessie said. Harrison looked to his wife and she nodded and took Evan’s hand.

“Lead the way.” She said and followed the guards down to the kitchens. Harrison watched them go and when they were out of sight, he took a minute and rolled his shoulders to relieve the stress that was sitting on them. Rubbing his neck, he continued on his way. As he approached the door to the Lord’s office, the guards on either side nodded to him and opened the door. Harrison stepped through the door way and took a look around. The stone walls had been covered with tapestries and wood paneling. Expensive, but then again so were the furs and rugs that covered the floor. His lordship was standing by the huge fireplace that dominated the north wall and Harrison walked over and bowed.

“You sent for me?” Harrison said.

“There’s no need for that, Harrison.” Lord Garret said as he came forward and clapped a hand on Harrison’s shoulder. “It’s good you arrived so quickly. I understand that you were with the others down in the basement?” Harrison nodded and Garret continued. “Good. I’m sorry so many didn’t make it, but I’m glad the ones who did are safe. I’m going to clear out the upper storage rooms along the north wall. Until we’ve gotten a handle on just what we’re dealing with, the villagers who survived and made it safely to the Keep will be housed here. I don’t want anyone outside after dusk.”

“It sounds reasonable. I would have suggested they be kept here as well. What will they be able to bring with them?” Harrison asked.

“I’ll leave that up to you. As for yourself, I’m having space cleared outside for your shop. I want to keep you close and I’m sure you’ll want to continue working even while you’re Mayor.” Garret said as he paced. “His Majesty is sending support, but they’re six weeks over due. I sent Rider Twig back to the capital on his gryphon. He should be back in a few days.”

“Have you posted soldiers at the gates and along the walls while the villagers clean up?” Harrison asked as he wandered over to the map that was spread across the big oak desk near the fire place. It showed the village and most of the surrounding marsh.

“Yes and we’ve got the ones who were off duty helping the ones who lost nearly everything search for their goods. I’m assigning two to your family so they can start packing up the house hold while you’re here with me.” Garret said as he moved around to the other side of the desk. They both stared down at the map laid out before them.

“This isn’t going to be easy. Not even with the soldiers that make it through the pass in the DuHeil mountains.” Harrison said as he pointed to the pass north of the Keep and the village. “The ones that do will probably be down with Marsh sickness if they’re too late in getting here before those blasted Blue Gruin flowers start blooming.”

“I know. I warned the King. He was supposed to be sending Clerics and Mages along with the regiment.” Garret said. Harrison looked relieved. With those the whole village and the Keep would be ready for the spring months. That is, if the weres didn’t get them first.

“I don’t think there’s much that we can do until the soldiers arrive. Even if we did send out scouts, we’d lose far more than we’d gain in information. It’s probably best we concentrate on getting the gates secured, the storage room cleaned out and outfitted for families and supplies gathered.” Harrison said as he over looked the section of the map that held the Keep and village. Lord Garret nodded.

“Sound advice, about what I expected you’d say. You were in the Kings Army, right?” He asked Harrison. Harrison nodded.

“Yes, I was a Captain in the 5th and then lead his Majesty’s Honor Guard after the last war with the Northerners.”

“Good. I knew his Majesty was smart in choosing you.” Lord Garret grasped Harrison and led him away from the map towards the door. “Lets go over look the courtyard and see what they’re doing with the infected.” Harrison nodded and walked with Lord Garret out and to the right. They walked together in silence down the hall and made a left out the door to the walkway overlooking the yard. They stopped about midway and looked down at the injured and infected were picked up and walked inside.

“They’re taking them to the dungeons, aren’t they?” Harrison asked as he watched them pick up and move Jack Bean, the innkeeper.

“We can’t take any chances that they’ll turn tonight and come after us. They’re not going in the cells that you hid in last night, but the ones under the Keep on the other side. The heavier the bars, the less likely they’ll be to escape if they do change.” Lord Garret said as he watched the proceedings below. “I’m not comfortable locking up the people in my care, Harrison, but I have no choice. We’ll watch them carefully.” He added when he saw Harrison’s frown.

“I know. I’d do the same thing. They’re dangerous until they’ve either changed with this moon or the next. If they haven’t changed by then, then it’s most likely they won’t change at all.” Harrison said. Lord Garret stared at Harrison.

“And just how do you know that?” He asked. Harrison sighed.

“We ran in to these creatures in the mountains of DuHeil when that pass was taken over by the Northerners. We lost a few men to them. Two months we battled them and the Northerners over that pass. One day they just vanished. Left us alone with our wounded who turned on the next moon.” Harrison said as he looked out at the mountains in the distance. Before Lord Garret could ask any questions, Harrison continued; “We tipped our arrows and edged our blades in Dwarven silver. Melted down anything and everything we had. Crosses, holy relics, the Generals platemail and his dinnerware. Silver is the only thing that causes permanent damage. Everything else just heals over night.”

“Then it shall be done. Everything that’s Dwarven silver or even from the Kings own mines shall be melted down and used.” Lord Garret said. Harrison sighed and looked down at the ring on his hand. “Well take that last, if it’s necessary, Harrison. I won’t part you with your vow.” Harrison nodded and turned to go back inside. The day was almost over and he had yet to help his wife and the children do anything.

“I’m going to check on my shop. See that everything is being stored properly. I’ll send one of the men to check the gates and make sure they’re closed this time.”

“It was magic that lifted the gates last night.” Garret said. Harrison stopped in his tracks. “Not the kind that we hold so closely to our faith and our way of life, but that of Necromancy. They wormed Guard Frond’s head and made him open the lock.” Harrison shuddered. To worm someone means to take over their mind. They have no control over anything just before they die. They have to watch themselves kill or betray those that they love before the worm leaves and kills it’s host. It was a horrible death and wreaked havoc on the minds of those that saw it happen.

“Did you burn what was left?” Harrison asked. Lord Garret nodded.

“His ashes are in the crypt outside the walls with the rest of the dead. It’s locked and warded. There’s no getting in.” Harrison nodded at Garret.

“Good. I’ll be off then. I must see my wife and children safe tonight.” With that, Harrison left and made his way out of the Keep to his home.

“May? April? Evan?” Harrison called out when he got to his home and walked through the open door.

“Back in the kitchen!” Mary yelled. Harrison walked through the living space and in to the kitchen. He had one of the largest houses in the village thanks to the previous blacksmith who had 12 children and needed the space. On his left as he passed there was a large fireplace. He entered the kitchen and shook his head when he saw that Mary had indeed put the soldiers to work. They were packing meat in to an enchanted ice box for the move. The ice charm had cost Harrison a small fortune, but it was worth it now that it was needed.

“Everything going well?” He asked. The soldiers nodded and went back to packing the box. Mary pulled pots and pans down and put them in to another container.

“As well as can be expected. I have the children upstairs helping each other pack up a bag to take tonight. I’m assuming we’ll be staying there and coming here during the day?” She asked. At Harrison’s nod she continued; “Good. Then we’ll have plenty of time. I packed up the valuables that were left. We lost the lamps in the great room to those creatures while they were looking for us. Blasted, beastly things.”

“I’ll go check on the children, but I need to take one of your helpers away first. I need someone to go down to the gate and make sure it’s locked and secured for the night.” He said. One of the soldiers with blonde hair stood up.

“I’ll go, sir.”

“And your name, soldier?” Harrison asked.

“Soldier Tweed, Sir.” The man said as he saluted. Harrison nodded.

“Go. Make sure the gates are closed and secured. Come back to me with a list of those who are guarding the gates tonight. Make sure they all have a charm against a mind worm.” He ordered. The soldiers shuddered. They must have learned about what happened last night already. “Then come back here. I’ll need you to help load up the wagon.” The soldier saluted and left. Harrison kissed his wife.

“Looks like you’re back in the regiment, Captain.” She said. Harrison sighed and nodded.

“Mayor and in charge of this mess for Lord Garret. I’ll fill you in later. I’m going to go check on the children.” A loud crash and shouting came from above. “And not a moment too soon.” He said as he left.

“Be gentle, Harrison. They’ve been through so much.” Mary called after him. Harrison went to the right as he left the kitchen and up the stairs. The children were in one of the three bedrooms, arguing.

“You can’t take that tonight. Mom said small things!” April yelled. Evan ignored her and pulled his trunk towards the stairs. Harrison stopped him by putting a boot in front of the chest.

“Your sister is right this time, Evan. Clothes and small prized passions only.” He said. Even pouted.

“But Dad,” He said. “It’s my collection!”

“And it will still be here tomorrow when we come back. We are not leaving Blue. Just going to the keep at night.” Harrison said as he picked up the chest from his 6-year-old son and put it back underneath his bed. “They’ll never look under there.” Evan let out a huge sigh.

“Okay, Dad.”

“Clothes. Enough for a week, your flint and steel, your knife, bow and arrows, and Mr. Wiggles.” Evan blushed as dad said the name of his stuffed dog. “As for you my girl, same thing, only Mr. Poppy instead.” He scooped up April and kissed her nose. She giggled.

“I love you, Dad.” She said as she wiggled down and ran for her bedroom. Evan tugged on his father’s shirt.

“Dad?” He said.

“Yeah?” Harrison said, looking down at his son.

“Are we going to be safe there?”

“Yes.” Harrison said and picked up his son. “I’m going to do my very best to make sure that we stay safe. Even at night.”

“Okay, Dad.” Even said and hugged his father before wiggling down and pulling out his rucksack from one of the cabinets along the wall to Harrison’s right. Harrison watched his son pack for a minute, then went and checked on his daughter who was doing the same thing. He then made his way down to the kitchen and checked on May before heading out and to his shop where he spent the rest of his time until sun down packing his tools and getting his horse team ready to take a load and his family up to the Keep.

“We’re all loaded up, Captain Smith.” said the soldier that had been helping May.

“Good, has your partner arrived back from the gate yet?” Harrison asked as he closed the last crate. He would be working on for the night. Harrison and the soldier walked out of the shop and he locked the doors tight against the beasts for the night.

“Yes. He’s with your missus helping her and the children in to the wagon.” The solider said.

“Good, that’s good.” Harrison said as he eyed the sky. Nearly dusk. Time to go. “What was your name again?”

“Soldier Fern, Sir.” He said.

“Fern? You’d be Jacob’s boy then.” Harrison said as they walked to the wagon.

“Yes, Sir. Did you fight with him?” Fern asked.

“I did. He was a good man.” Harrison answered. They reached the wagon and Harrison vaulted up to the wagon seat and Tweed sat beside him as Fern jumped on to the back, sword drawn.

“What’s it like up there, Tweed?” Harrison asked as he clicked to the horses to get them moving.

“They’re scared, but they’ve all got charms and the gate was locked tight when I left. We hope there will be no more breeches.” Tweed said. Harrison nodded.

“Good, because tonight is going to be a long night.” Harrison said as he eyed the sinking sun. Almost dark.

“Yes, sir.” Tweed said as the first howls went up in to the on coming night. Harrison looked around him and saw the rest of the town folk hurrying up to the keep before the gates fell. Harrison drove his wagon in to the courtyard and parked it next to the stables. He would help unpack it in the morning. The ice charm on the box that held the meat was never-ending, so they didn’t need to worry.

“Lumos.” Harrison said and a ball of light appeared over his head. Tweed jumped and Harrison laughed. “Don’t worry. My Daughter got all the magic in the family. That’s the best I can do.”

“Damned useful.” was all Tweed said as he jumped down and helped Harrison unhitch the horses. Harrison passed the reins to the stablemen and went back to helping his family down off the wagon. The steady stream of villagers that were heading in to the Keep with nearly the same amount of luggage meant that everyone had taken the advice of Lord Garret and his soldiers seriously. When the last of the villagers had walked in, the gates slammed shut, the sounds ringing out in to the eerie silence. Louder howls from the creatures rose up in response to the night coming down like an iron curtain. Harrison hurried his family inside with the rest of the villagers and got settled in what were the old store rooms. They were now long dormitories for the villagers. Harrison went around and took a head count. Only eighty-three had made it to the Keep the night before. Harrison cursed softly. They had lost so many.

Within minutes the torches in the courtyard were lit and the flames danced as the last of the overnight guests hurried inside. The inner gates to the keep slammed down as the first of the wolves reached the outer gate and couldn’t get in. Their frustrated howls went up in to the night and lasted all night. No one slept easy except for the dead.

Moose

Sunset was always a dangerous time to be outside of the village, but I had no choice in the matter. I was three days late in bringing back my messages anyway and the village elders had probably written me off as dead. I pushed my horse as far as he would go, but I knew Moose’s hooves and legs were starting to hurt by the way his ears were set.

At moonrise I stopped and made camp next to a fallen tree. I removed the saddlebag, saddle and pad, dropping them next to the trunk. I rubbed down Moose first, then gave him oats in his nose bag to eat while I covered him in the netting that would keep him safe from bloodsuckers. Spring was almost here and while it might have been too cold, I couldn’t be too careful about my partner.

With Moose taken care of, I went about setting up camp for myself with a small fire, dinner and then rolling out my bedding. My weather sense said there would be no rain tonight, so I didn’t bother with a tent, just netting for myself. I crawled in to my bedding as the moon hit it’s highest point and dropped off to sleep without too much trouble.

That should have been my first warning. The second came just after sunrise as I made myself ready to go. An arrow flew out of the marsh weeds that surrounded us and hit the downed tree with a hard thunk. I took the warning and moved faster, vaulting in to my saddle and taking off just as I finished my camp chores. Looking back to make sure that I had indeed put the fire out properly, I saw something move in the marsh. Unnerved, I spurred Moose in to a canter, then a gallop when I heard someone following me.

I had just enough time to be grateful that I’d made it out of the marsh and almost to the village gates when it struck. I never saw it coming. I only remember teeth and claws and hearing Moose scream as I was pulled out of the saddle. The last thing I remember before giving in to the dark was Moose running towards the village gates.

So close.

“They have taken thirteen since we lost Rider Winch and nearly lost his mount, Moose. We need to do something about the threat in the marsh and we need to do something now!” The man who spoke slammed his fist on the table. An uproar went throughout the town hall as the Mayor tried to calm everyone down.

“That’s enough, Harrison. We all know your son was the last to be lost carrying messages from the capital. His majesty sent his regrets via gryphon last week with Rider Twig. Until the threat of the marsh is taken care of, all the mail is to be taken by sky, not ground.” Mayor Garret said as he addressed the crowed.

“But you’re not saying what is going to happen about the Marsh. We have a right to know!” Harrison Smith demanded, the crowed backed him up. Garret didn’t blame them. He was just as frustrated. They were prisoners in their little village of Blue thanks to the beasts that had taken over the marsh.

“The King is sending soldiers. We hope to see them arrive any day now. You’ll just have to hold on until then. No one is to go outside the gates after dark or in the early morning. You all know when they hunt.” With that, the Mayor left the dais and strode upstairs to his office. The crowed downstairs grumbled and reluctantly left the hall.

Garret closed the door to his office and sat heavily in to his chair. This post was turning in to a nightmare. First his oldest son, now the blacksmith’s oldest was dead. A total of twenty-seven souls they’d lost to the beasts that could only be described as werewolves. Twenty seven souls. Garret was beginning to feel every one of his forty nine years. There was a bottle of whiskey on his desk and a glass next to it that had been used recently. Garret looked around at his office and sighed. There would be no going home tonight and poured himself a glass. A knock on the door interrupted his brooding.

“Come in,” Garret said. “What can I do for you-” He was cut short by claws through his throat.

Gurgling blood, the glass fell from his hand and shattered on the wood floor. Garret saw his attacker and his eyes widened as he stared in to the dark brown eyes of a wolf. The gray fur and ears that stuck out from the side of its head confirmed his worst fears. It was a werewolf. He looked out the window and saw that dark had fallen as he was brooding. Somehow this one had gotten past the gates. An unearthly howl rose up from the creature as it threw his head back. The last thing Garret heard was the answering call from more of it’s brethren.

“Run! To the keep!” Harrison Smith, the blacksmith, screamed to the villagers near by. He carried his youngest son in his arms and snatched his wife’s hand as she carried their daughter. Together they ran through the rain and mud for Marsh Keep. Harrison looked back at his home and caught a glimpse of the beasts tearing apart Mary Wilson, the local dyer. Her screamed echoed through his head as Harrison ran with his family to the gates.

“Open the side gate! It’s the blacksmith!” Soldiers shouted from the parapet. Harrison and his family ran through a small gate to the side of the main gate. The blacksmith leaned against the wall of the Keep, well away from the gate when one of the creatures crashed in to the bars.

Snarling and growling, the creature thrust an arm through the bars and tried to take a swipe at Harrison’s wife, May. He yanked May to him and away from the gate. Their daughter April, who had been mostly silent throughout the run to the Keep, started to cry with huge sobs. Harrison’s son, Evan, wrapped his arms tighter around his fathers’ neck and shivered, trying not to cry. Rubbing his back, Harrison stared in to the eyes of the creature who was about six feet tall and covered in a brownish-black fur that was soaked with rain and smelling very much like the wolf it resembled. It howled with rage and frustration at not being able to get to it’s prey and tried to shake the bars while starting back with blatant hatred in to the blacksmiths eyes.

Soldiers pulled the family away from the gates finally and in to the keep, then down in to the basement with the others that had made it. There weren’t many survivors.

The rain had started shortly after the attack began. The howls and yips from the werewolves leading the attack sent chills through the villagers that managed to get in to the keep with the soldiers that were guarding it and those who didn’t have guard duty that night. No one knew yet just how they’d gotten in, but as the howls became louder, the villagers who took refuge in the prison cells in the basement became more fearful. Marsh Keep had never been breached in the one hundred-twenty years since the building had been completed. It would not be breached tonight, but the villagers of Blue had no guarantee of that till the sun rose to midday. For now, they huddled against each other in the cold, damp cells and prayed for morning and safety.

Vomit words, not breakfast

I scribbled this down while in the park with my dogs. The urge to write is everywhere.

Kid: Mom, Why does Superman do the things he does?

Mom: It’s his choice to use his power the way he does. The way we all do. We all choose to use the power we have to make our lives easier or harder.

Kid: But I don’t have any powers!

Mom laughs.

Mom: Oh yes you do. We all do. An athlete can decide that he doesn’t want to practice his craft anymore. This leaves the team unprepared, his coach in a trouble spot and his paycheck in jeopardy. An Actor can decide to have a snit and say he that he can’t work, which puts the whole shooting schedule for the film he’s on behind, makes the director stress out, puts people in the hospital for exhaustion because they’ve worked so hard to make the film. You can choose to hit your sister, make her cry and force me to intervene on her behalf because you’re the one that did the wrong thing. These actions are a result of the power a person wields over lives that aren’t his or her own. We all have a great responsibility to use our actions to make not only our lives better, but others as well.

Kid: But that’s not the same thing as Superman!

Mom: Yes it is. He chooses to use what he has to save people. To give people a chance to say, “Today I’m not afraid to step out my door. Today I can go to work and not be scared that I’ll get mugged, because there’s someone there to stop it.” Superman could have chosen to stay silent, to not reveal himself to the world, but he didn’t. He chose to help people. To be great.

Kid: But.. why?

Mom: Because there was something inside of him that said, “Enough. I can make it better. I can do something.”

Kid: I guess this means I need to stop hitting my sister then.

Mom laughs.

Mom: Yes, you need to stop hitting your sister. Even when she takes your G.I. Joes.

Huge sigh from the Kid.

Kid: Being an older brother is hard.

Mom kisses his forehead as she tucks him in to bed.

Mom: Being a Mom and loving you both is hard too. Even when you drive me crazy.

Kid: ‘Nite Mom.

Mom: Goodnight.