The Runic Fable Hour (An Animal Adventure)

Rune

Once A Fool
When the Lord of Spring came thieving

part one

Come, gather round and hear the tale of how the Lord of Spring came thieving and Dog and Turtle brought back what he had taken. It happened in the early spring, when all things seemed new and young. Turtle was spending a pleasant morning down by the Pond, lost in prayer and meditation. About this time, the serenity of the morning was disrupted by the coming of Boy, riding in a toy saddle affixed to Dog’s back. Turtle almost laughed at the ridiculous sight; Boy’s feet nearly dragged the ground as Dog galloped along.

A moment later, her mirth was replaced with concern, for Boy had fallen off of his trusty mount and lay on the new grass, bloodied and crying. Dog whimpered and leapt to Boy’s aid, but his affection was rebuffed. By this time, Turtle had reached the Boy and invoked an incantation of healing for the lad. Boy, now no longer hurt, sat bewildered for but a brief moment, and then quickly climbed back into his saddle again.

Alas, Dog had carried him no further than the length of the Pond before Boy tumbled off, once more. This time, there would be no reparation. Boy stood up and ran all the way back to the House, where he disappeared from view. Dog’s distress was great, but passed quickly. His friend, Turtle, was about, and the day was beautiful, so the two decided to take a walk into the Wilderness.

Dog had marked out some small patch of territory in the Wilderness and, so, placed Turtle gently in the saddle, still strapped to his back, and the two spent a pleasant day out of sight of the Farm. At last, however, the day was done and dusk came to herald the coming night.

Dog and Turtle returned to the Farm to find the Hen-house in an uproar. While they were away, it seemed, all of the eggs had been taken from the Hens, without their notice. Dog, whose duties included guarding the Hen-house, was ashamed at his absence on this hapless day and immediately set about to sniff out the thief, but he could not smell anything amiss, except that a presence seemed to have materialized and then vanished. There was nary a trail to follow.

Dog and Turtle determined to keep watch through the night, but all else seemed in order. Yet, when the next morning came, Songbird wailed in dismay from down in the Orchard. It was soon discovered that the New Buds on the Trees were gone. Again, Dog could smell that a presence had come and gone, but left no trail.

Dog and Turtle both assumed the disappearances to be related to that of the eggs and went to wake Grandfather Owl, to seek his wisdom. Once they had gotten past his initial irritation, they were able to convince Grandfather Owl that the Young Things on the Farm might be at risk. Grandfather Owl told them that he would spend the night keeping an eye on the Garden, lest the Sprouts vanish. Dog and Turtle decided to keep an eye on the Caterpillars down by the Pond.

Once again, however, the night passed, seemingly without event.

But, in the morning, all was not well. In the House, there was hysteria, for Boy was gone.
 
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Rune

Once A Fool
part two

Shame and Failure overcame Dog and he sent a mournful howl to the heavens. Turtle was already on the move. Turtle was right, of course; Dog stirred himself to action.

“It’s the Witch, I bet.” Dog’s voice was set with certainty.

Turtle nodded. It seemed likely.

“We’ve got to go back!” Dog’s voice was strong with conviction.

Turtle nodded. She did not look forward to the encounter, but it would have to be done.

“We need some help.” Dog’s voice hinted at some plan.

Turtle nodded. Dog’s plans were always…intriguing.

“If we get Songbird to sing, it may keep her out of my head.” Dog’s voice was barbed with fury.

Turtle nodded. Dog’s point was startlingly poignant.

“Let’s go!” Dog’s voice was eagerly enthusiastic.

Turtle nodded.

They found Songbird in the Orchard, whistling a dirge for the Orchard-buds. Now, Songbird had sung many a ballad of heroism in his day, but he was not, himself, a hero, nor ever aspired to be one. Nevertheless, something in Dog’s pleading whine turned his heart to the quest at hand and he agreed to accompany them to confront the Crooked Woman.

Once again, as the group made their way through the Wilderness, Crow appeared from the leafy shadows and taunted them cryptically, “Kaaaw! What brings Turtle, Dog, and Songbird deep into the Wicked Wilderness? Do you even know what it is you seek? Kaaaw ha ha!”

This time, they just ignored Crow and continued on.

After a while, the Forest opened into a little clearing and there an inviting little Cottage stood. The Crooked Woman stood upon the doorstep, awaiting their arrival. Songbird took his cue and began to sing a Song of Focusing, but the Crooked Woman did not call upon Dog’s Truename, as they had predicted.

What she did was entirely unexpected.

She spoke to them, in the animal tongue.

Taken completely off guard, they could do nothing but listen in awe. Even Songbird had fallen silent.

She told them that she knew what they sought, but, she claimed, she did not do it…and, yet, if they would only go back home, all would be well, again. If she was wrong, she said, they could simply return to her. That voice, so thick and sweet, was so pleasantly reassuring, that they could hardly argue with her logic.
 
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Rune

Once A Fool
part three

Dog and Turtle returned home and Songbird went on his way. The Moon rose, full and heavy over the dark Pond. It was golden and unusually large this evening…an unsettling omen. Dog and Turtle determined to brave the forbidden interior of the House, but how?

In the end, Dog created a distraction to give Turtle a chance to slip inside. He started barking, excitedly, “Come quick! Come quick! Come out! Come out!” Quite soon, he had forgotten that his excitement was merely a ruse.

The Humans came out, but with annoyance, rather than exuberance. It was time enough for Turtle to crawl inside, for Dog kept up his clamor for quite some time. Alas, however, Turtle could not traverse the hallway in time to discover if Boy was, indeed returned, before she was discovered and put outside by Woman. Dog and Turtle decided that they do not have time to attempt the trick, again.

In the morning, all seemed well. In the Hen-house, the Hens had Eggs. In the Orchard, the Trees had Buds. And, in the House, the Humans had Boy. They did not even seem to have missed him. It was as if Boy was never gone, at all.

But, something smelled wrong to Dog. It looked like Boy, but it was not. Dog was certain.

Therefore, Dog and Turtle and Songbird returned to Crooked Woman to explain that she was wrong. The Crooked Woman considered them for a moment before speaking. “It was not me who did this deed, but I think I know, now, who could do this thing. But, ere I say more, you must agree…to gain my aid, you must pay my fee.”

“And what,” growled Dog, “would that fee be?” (Turtle rolled her eyes, wondering if the rhyme was even intentional.)

“That, I cannot say,” replied Crooked Woman sweetly, “until time has come for you to pay.”

Dog was disinclined to agree to these terms, but they needed to know what had happened to Boy. Before Turtle could voice any objections, Crooked Woman began to chant. Her words had a sense of inevitability, an ominous finality. They followed Dog and Turtle long after they had left the Cottage.

Ah, but what had they gained? Witch spoke of a Doorway to the World of Fey. When the orange moon shone full into the Pond, the two must enter, then. This very night, the moon was full and great and golden. Once it rose high into the night, the Pond showed them its doppelganger. Turtle began to swim to the center of the Pond and Dog leaped in after. For a moment, nothing, and then…

The world they emerged into was lush and vibrant. Light streamed down between the net of leaves spread out to catch the sky. A Butterfly flitted by and Dog attempted to question it, but accidentally tried to eat it, instead. Turtle calmed him and the Butterfly settled down, out of reach. At this time, they saw that the Butterfly was not a Butterfly, but was a Sprite. What a strange and wondrous place this was!

What were they after?
Seek the Lord of Spring. Oh, yes. They must find this fey entity! Turtle asked Sprite where this Lord of Spring could be, or if it had seen a Boy pass this way.

“How sad you must be to have lost such a thing! I cannot help you, I fear. I do not pay attention to sad things.” With that, the little flighty person flew away. A passing Squirrel chanced by, as well, but was no more helpful.

With nothing better to do, Dog started to mark the nearby Trees, until one such Tree took offense to this practice. “STOP THAT AT ONCE!” it bellowed in an oaken voice. Dog, startled, paused with his leg still in the air. After the initial shock, he slunk away with his tail tucked into an exclamation of shame.

“THAT IS BETTER!” Tree intoned. “I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TREES YOU ARE USED TO DEALING WITH, STRANGER, BUT, AROUND HERE, WE DEMAND A MODICUM OF RESPECT!”

Turtle begged his pardon and Dog whined in agreement. “NOW, MY BRETHREN SAY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THE LORD OF SPRING. WE SHALL POINT THE WAY!”

With that, Tree bent its limbs to a single direction; he pointed to another Tree. That Tree also bent its limbs toward another, and that to another. Dog and Turtle followed from Tree to Tree until, at last, they came to a Palace woven from living thorn and vine. Within, a Man--or perhaps a fleshy twig--awaited.

“I know why you have come," it said, "but do you? I will show you what you seek, if you wish it, but why don’t you leave well enough alone? The Young are happy. The Parents are happy. Everyone is happy--except for the two of you. Why are you not happy? You should be happy and leave well enough alone.

The words seemed right, but the substance wrong. Turtle and Dog both declined the invitation. True to his word, the Lord of Spring took the two to see Boy playing in the sunlight, clearly in bliss. They could also see the stolen Eggs and Buds basking in the light. "Will you not," said the Lord of Winter, "leave them to this bliss?"

Not a chance. Dog looked at Turtle with a mischievous grin. He ran up to Boy and yipped, while Turtle gathered the Eggs and the Buds.

Boy was ecstatic at the sight of Dog and began to chase him about the field. Once Turtle had accomplished her task, Dog retrieved her and led the Boy into the woods in a merry game of tag, all the while, leading him ever closer to the pool, whence they had come. At the last, he leaped in, and Boy leaped after.

All was well, again. Boy was back. The Orchard-buds flowered on the Trees again. The Hens had their Eggs, as well. The world was set right as if the Lord of Spring had never come thieving.

But, sometimes in the depth of night, the wind spoke the words of the Crooked Woman: When the year is old, but the moon is new--when one of you has yielded two, I will come to claim my due…
 
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Rune

Once A Fool
When Little Black Bear found his Courage

part one

Come, gather round and hear the tale of how Little Black Bear found the courage to stand up for himself and for his friends. It happened in the Early Summer, when Boy had been sent on a journey to a mysterious place, called “Camp.” The nights were getting shorter, but were deep and dark. Sparks of starlight broke the blackness, and all would have been serene, but the normal sounds of Summer night life had, for some time, now, been disturbed by the periodic call of Wolves across the night.

Haunting as the nights could be, the days were pleasant and peaceful. Dog and Turtle had taken to walking out into the Wilderness by day--or, rather, Dog would walk and Turtle would ride upon his back. On one such day, they came upon a peculiar thing. A low and long rumble came to them from along a stream. RAAAWWWWWWAAAAARRRRAAAAAAHHHHHHHH What could it be? Dog‘s sharp ears could tell that it was some beast, but the breeze conspired to keep its scent away and Dog could only wonder what it was.

“Let‘s check it out!” he urged and trotted forward eagerly. Turtle was not so eager as Dog, but, as she was currently riding on his back, had little choice but to go with him. The closer they got, the louder the roar became, until it filled the air around them with its might. RRRRAAAAARRRRAAAAWWWW AAAAARRRRAAAAAAAHHHHHHAAAAAAARRRRRRAAAAAWWWWAAAAAAA RRRRRAAAAAARRRRRRRRAAAAAAAHHHHHHH AAAAAARRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

Undaunted, Dog advanced, until, at last, they came upon the beast. There, by the stream, Little Black Bear stood, rubbing his back contentedly against a tree. “Little Black Bear!” Turtle exclaimed. “We can hear you throughout all the Wilderness!”

Little Black Bear looked at her guiltily. “You don’t suppose They heard me, do you? I didn’t mean for Them to hear!”

“Who’s Them?” Dog’s excitement could scarcely be contained. A mystery! But his cheerful barking gave way to an angry growl when he heard Little Black Bear’s answer. “The Brothers Wolf have been harassing me. Running around, taunting...and always out of reach.”

Now, when Dog was but a little pup, he had first met the Brothers Wolf. They had come down out of the Wilderness to steel away the Sheep. Puppy Dog was a tiny thing and there was little he could do, but he had never forgiven himself for his failure to save Sheep’s Daughter from the Brothers Wolf. He had never forgotten, and neither had they.

Dog saw the opportunity for some small measure of atonement and told Little Black Bear that he would help him out. The first thing to do, Dog deemed, would be to mark a defensive perimeter. The three traveled up stream a while until the came upon one of Little Black Bear’s favorite spots for relaxation.

Since the day was pleasant and the stream was cool, Little Black Bear decided to try to catch a fish, but after an initial failure, gave up and curled into a nap, instead.

But Little Black bear had barely settled down before Dog caught the scent of the Brothers Wolf, just before the attack.
 
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Rune

Once A Fool
part two

The Brothers Wolf closed in upon them.

“The time of reckoning is come upon you!” howled Dog, but they were not deterred. One of the Brothers charged Dog while the other lunged at Little Black Bear. Bear’s massive paw swatted down his tormenter before he reached him, but Dog was wounded in the attack. The setback was brief, however—Turtle touched him with a soothing word of prayer, and he was renewed.

Then, thinking to get Turtle into the fight, Dog took her in his mouth and threw her at his attacker. Turtle tucked herself into her shell and hit the Wolf square on the head, bounced into the air, and landed on her feet behind him. The surprised Wolf shook his head to clear it, then bit into Dog, with a kindled spite. The other Brother Wolf, meanwhile, was back on his feet and leaped, once more, toward Bear, only to be swatted down again.

Even though Turtle and Dog both now flanked their Wolf, neither could land a snap. For his part, Brother Wolf gloried in his seeming invincibility and delighted in tearing into Dog twice more, after which, Dog was perilously close to death. Bear, also, had finally been bloodied by the other brother, but retaliated with such a mighty blow that the assailant could only flee, lest he be slain.

Bear decided not to pursue, turning, instead, toward the assailant who had so grievously wounded Dog. Brother Wolf, seeing his odds drastically dwindle, took the opportunity to join his sibling in flight.

The three enjoyed their victory and the warmth of a beautiful afternoon. All was well.

But, such serenity could not last, while the wicked still roamed free. Later that night, when Dog and Turtle had returned Home, the evening's peace was sundered by the constant conversation of Wolves in the Wilderness. The words were lost in the wind, but the tone cut across the darkness with menacing clarity. The night passed restlessly.
 

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