06 February 2010

The Saturday Issue, vol. 2

Missed the first volume? Find episode one here.
Mockin’bird stood absolutely still; watching the circle of animals around her, mind flicking desperately through the spells she might be able to use. 'I haven’t been trained for this – heck, I’ve never even been to Faerie before! What can I do, what can I do?!' Spells of protection she knew by heart only that morning were now disjointed shreds on the pressroom floor of her brain. The leader of the pack circled in closer than the others, testing the air with his nose. He opened his enormous mouth, ringed with yellowed teeth.
“Passport, please,” Mockin’bird blinked.
“What?” she asked faintly. The wolf eyed her severely. At least, Mockin’bird got the impression he was being severe, and not – at least not intentionally – terrifying.
“No passport, huh? Well, that’s unlucky for you.” Mockin’bird gulped as she saw the other wolves licking their chops. Their manner was downright suggestive.
“Wait,” she tried, going up on her toes in an effort to get the words out fast enough to keep the lead wolf’s attention. “I’m not here of myownfreewill!” The wolf looked at her again and his nose twitched. “My cousin was tricked into accepting a dampener short-circuit charm, and when I tried to stop him, I was sucked in, too; we came here together,” she looked around helplessly. Ending rather weakly, she said, “Except he doesn’t seem to be here now.”
Mockin’bird tried not to flinch as another wolf, smaller than the first one but, oh goodness, still large enough, came up and sniffed her hand. It turned and said, “I smell it on her, Captain; she’s telling the truth. Also, I have the scent of the other human fixed.”
The Captain nodded. “Then all of you begin searching; it will be dark soon. If you need me, I’ll be escorting this one to Dyre Hollow.” Without a word, the other wolves turned and left, leaving nothing but the sound of their paws beating on the snow, soon fading into the wind. “Come on,” said the Captain, wheeling and heading off at a purposeful trot. Mockin’bird hurled herself through the snow drifts to catch up and blurted out, “What was that? Wh-who are you?”
“Border Patrol.” The wolf glanced sideways at her and asked, “Is that the new Sigil mach IV you’re wearing?” Mockin’bird touched her dampener, which was disguised as a choker necklace. She was already out of breath from trudging through the snow, so she just nodded.
Taking a few quick, short breaths, she added, “Gully… wasn’t, though. His is still… on order.”
The wolf nodded. “That’s why you got separated. The short-circuit charm wasn’t nearly as effective on the mach IV – in fact, if you had accepted it instead of your cousin – Gully, was it? – the charm probably wouldn’t have gone off at all.”
“So he was sent further in than I was?” Nodding curtly, the Captain said, “That’s enough talk; we need to make faster tracks. Get behind me and walk in the path I make.” Not daring to disobey, Mockin’bird did as she was told. It seemed like forever before she finally decided to pause and invoke a dry sock charm she had stored ready to use in her dampener. After she again hurried to catch up, it seemed like another forever until they finally got to what the wolf had called Dyre Hollow. Snow was once again beginning to dump itself all over the landscape as they entered the clearing, and Mockin’bird had to squint to see. Lining a path that crossed the open space were snow covered garden beds, visible by their outlines, and some small livestock sheds off to one side. At the other end of the hollow was a house that sat on two long poles. It was surrounded by a white picket fence. The wolf waited for her by the gate. At first she hurried, thinking of the warm things waiting for her inside the house, but halfway Mockin’bird slowed to stop. There was something wrong about the fence – and come to think of it, the poles of… the house…
“That’s Baba Yaga’s house! You brought me to a witch who eats babies?!” Mockin’bird turned and tried to stumble off into the woods, but the wolf was too fast for her.
“Listen! She does not eat babies. She could be persuaded to eat a little girl, even an agent of AAPIF, if she got angry enough, but the wolves out there that aren’t bound by the oath of the Border Patrol; they won’t need to be angry enough, just hungry enough. They’re – always – hungry.”
Mockin’bird stood still, thinking. The wolf paused, too. The wind and snow swirled between them. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that as dusk was falling the lights in the window of the house began to seem even more welcome than they had before - if you could just forget the bone fence in between. “And you’re sure she doesn’t eat babies?”
The wolf laughed, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. “Come on, little one,” he said as he trotted toward the house. Reluctantly, Mockin’bird followed. TO BE CONTINUED…

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