Disclaimer: To any of you who might actually wade through my JUNOWRIMO posts, I'm sorry! There's a very good chance that, given my 2000 words-a-day goal, I will alter what you read one night quite a bit the next day, while trying to meet my 2000 word quota and still make sense. Also, I'm probably only going to post bits and peices to keep myself from cheating. *laugh* Oh well. Here goes! (Title is tentative)
A Tale of Unlikely Magic and Wonderful Adventures
Chapter One: The Almost Beginning
The Land of Pain and Suffering spanned for miles in front of the most ugliest and most noblest girl in any world or any realm. Her name was Adele, which in fact according to her grandmother means “noble,” and she liked the sound of that, as she (like I just told you) was a very ugly girl indeed.
This very ugly, very noble girl stood at the edge of Hawk Sight Ridge, looking down and over an expanse of land so big and so wide and so far and so terrible, the kind of land you only read about it books. This land was a gray land; grayer than all the gray things you can think about; grayer than pavement and rainy skies and worn off black marker on your skin; this was true gray, the kind which leaves the mind blank and the soul, bleak. Across the Land of Pain and Suffering’s hills and valleys were fire pits and swamp and quicksand, and was rumored to be prone to cyclones and earthquakes.
Adele checked to make sure her high tops (believe me, these didn’t exactly help her cause) were tied tight and gripped the map in her hand. She knew she had to cross the Land of Pain and Suffering, and cross it on foot no cheating, in order to reach Promethia. What she didn’t know was how she was going to do that, ugly or not, or noble or not.
Just then, from the dank gray landcape slinked a large—very large, as a matter of fact—wolf. A hulking mass of bared teeth and shoulders so wide and dark they remind a person of long cold night, longer even than the expanse of the Land of Pain and Suffering, and colder than the coldest ice cubes, and a night so deep you worried for the dawn. It padded towards her. One. Foot. After. Another…and another, and another, in a line on the precipice of the ridge, until it stood before Adele. It growled. Adele shivered.
But neither made a move.
The wind blew a stench, foul with the smell of burning and mold, across the air between the wolf and Adele. The wolf twitched his long gray nose.
“Uggh, was dat you?” The wolf pulled itself to its hindfeet and stood before her, fanning its snout as his mouth formed the awkward words. The wolf figured a girl as ugly as Adele could very likely make a stink that bad, but it wouldn’t say so. Wolves, after all, do have some manners. Just not as many as people.
Adele stared at the wolf and tried to back away slowly. Unfortunately, high tops are not the sort of shoes which make for easy backward-walking, so she only made it two clunky steps before deciding to give it up as a lost cause. Ugly, yes—intentionally clumsy, no. Because you never want to trip yourself in front of a wolf, even one who speaks your language. It might laugh…among other things.
“No!” She hated how childish it sounded. But then, she was a child, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. “He who smelt it, dealt it.”
“What are you, five?” The wolf said, dropping back to its forefeet, an expression of disgust evident in his whisker twitches. “Ad it’s she, thank you very bmuch. Dnot that you bothered to ask. Dno proper bmanners at all; here you go, traipsing through bmy ridge, where bmy pups are, and you don’d even bother to introduce yourself. Let alode ask perbission,” the she wolf said, dropping her voice to a mutter and shaking her head back and forth. “Pups these days, I dell you…”
“I’m very sorry,” Adele said. She’d decided to allow the mistake about her age; just because she wore high tops didn’t mean she was five. She was a whole three years older than that, but didn’t dare correct the wolf at this point. “But the smell isn’t me. It’s coming from down there.” She gestured to the Land of Pain and Suffering.
“Oh that,” the shewolf said. “Cand you believe it, I forgot? We just mboved here, and I’ve had dis horrible head code all season long, can’d hardly sbmell a thindg. Bmy aunt’s been bringing bme her hunt leftovers for the pups…ndosy beast, she is, too. Cambe in de other day all ind a roar about some uppity little sndot with a red cape over in the deep forest….ndosy….can’t wait to get rid of dis cold….and mby aunt…ohhhh,” she huffed, “bmy sinuses.”
“I…I’m very sorry,” Adele said again. “Colds can be awful. Would you like a cough drop? I’ve got one in my pocket.”
“Will it help?” The she-wolf was told to be wary of strangers bearing candy. Especially the ugly ones. Because they carry ugly candy, the kind nobody in their right mind wants to eat, like those puffy orange peanut-shaped things.
“Probably not. Plus it tastes gross.”
The wolf sighed a snotty, fleghm-filled sigh, and stood back up on its haunches. Until that day, Adele hadn’t known what haunches were; now she did.
“Just as well. What did you say your ndame was?”
“I didn’t,” Adele admitted. “But my name is Adele.” She attempted a curtsy like her southern friend, Christine McPearson, had taught her last year. Again, the high tops. But the wolf seemed to approve.
“That’s mbuch better, young lady,” the shewolf said. “My name is Raaahhhflooooommeeeiiiiioooggrrrhhhhh. Bud you can call bme ‘Rahhh,” for short if you like.”
“Very pleased to meet you, Rahhh.”
“Very pleased to bmeet you as well, mby dear.” The wolf sat back onto her haunches and rubbed at her nose with her front right paw. “Now what is a tasty-looking little pup like you doing alode and wandering in the Early Realmb?”
Adele looked at the ground. So that was the name of this place, the “Early Realm.” Just like the map said. Well, it was now or never. Guessing that if the wolf was going to eat her—let’s face it, if any of us were in Adele’s situation, we would have guessed this—it would have done so already, she pulled out the map and began unfolding it. Nobody gets human-sized-portion hungry with a cold.
“See, I found this old map,” she began.
“Oh ndo,” Rahh interupted. “Ndot again!”
The cave where Rahh lived was really very picturesque; ferns crept shyly up the embankments to each side of the entrance, and the inside was smooth-floored and very tidy—Rahhh was a very good housekeeper, you see. There was a low wooden table with six low stools, a basin for washing, a guest bedroom and a master, and the pups slept in the very furthest reaches in their own nursery with pretty wooden cribs. Adele played “beast and huntsman” with the little pups. It seemed a lot like cops and robbers to her but with wrestling and teeth; they rolled around with each other in a jumble of sneakers and fur and squeals while Rahhh and her “ndosy” aunt Barrrooooi held a hushed conference at the mouth of the cave.
“So,” Barrroooi stated in a quiet whisper, curling her red tail so hard it touched her back (this was a sign she was about to nose up into somebody else’s business), “the map has been found.”
“It would apbear that way, yes.”
Barrroooi jabbed her long red fox snout towards the play session.
“She is very young; she will need help. Does she know the way?”
Rahhh remained silent, watching the four play happily. You've never really played happily until you get to do it with wolf pups; its a whole other matter of happiness and playing entirely.
“Does she know what the map is, what it does?”
“Does she know anything about Promethia at all?” At the resounding lack of response, Barrrooi snapped her snout a couple of times, and her tail coiled even tighter. “Forget it. I’ll take care of this.” And she sashayed over to Adele, flicking her curly tail this way and that.
“Mraa, mraa, mraaa, I’ll take care of dis, mraa mraa mraaa,” Rahhh mumbled. She really hated being sick and having to put up with her nosy aunt all at time.
“You there. Ugly girl,” Barrrooi said to the rolling pile of fur and sneakers. The playing stopped for a moment; paws were untangled.
“Adele, thank you.” Her lumpy face was sweaty and a shiny red from playing with the wolf pups. One of them chomped her shoestring while nobody was paying attention.
“Oh. Very pleased to meet you, Adele” Barrroooi’s tail went coil flick, coil flick, coil flick.
“And you.” Playing commenced once more. Two of the pups and Adele pounced on the pup nibbling the shoestring.
“How old are you?” Her tone was very suspicious. Adele disengaged from the pups, stood, and straightened herself nice and tall, as tall as an unformed and uniformly ugly girl can stand. And when you stand like that, it doesn’t matter how ugly you are, because everybody can tell you are noble. Remember that.
“Eight.” Adele’s tone was equally suspicious.
“Where’d you get this map?” The dark eyes peered into Adele’s face in the way that only the very nosy can do—it borders on creepy, even.
“I found it.” This time, Adele’s voice far surpassed Barrroooi’s in regards to suspicion.
“On my pillow.”
“Do you know what it is?” This came out quick, Baroooi’s snout snapping the words out almost before the word “pillow” was finished floating through the air.
“It’s a map.”
The eldest, biggest pup tittered. He had a very highly developed sense of humor for his age.
“Don’t get smart with me, young lady!” Barrroooi put on a stern face, looking down her long snout at Adele, as if a fox could in fact look down to something a good two foot taller than itself. The eldest pup quickly busied itself with its paws, lest he get stern-talked too. Mother didn’t like it when he was rude.
“Don’t ask stupid questions, then.” Boy oh boy, Rahhh had been right, Barrroooi was nosy.
Rahhh tried not to laugh.
“Fair enough.” Looking at Rahhh, Barrroooi moved back towards the opening of the cave, indicating with her tail that Adele should follow. “Do you know what this map does?”
“Well, I know it zaps people just for minding their own business,” Adele stated with a huff as she followed Barrroooi. “Just because they try to move something off their pillow to go to sleep! And when it zaps them they end up in the middle of some crazy weird place with talking animals. And I know that I’m supposed to go to Promethia; the map told me so.”
“It told you?
“Yup. That’s what I said.”
Rahhh and Barrroooi exchanged low looks as Adele sat onto a stool.
“How?” Barrroooi asked this without looking away from Rahhh.
“I don’t know…The words kind of just…sparkled… across the page.”
The two animals sighed—but they were not sighs of relief.
“And Adele, how long have you been in this realm?”
“How long are you going to be asking me questions? Just curious.”
“Listen here, ugly-girl—”
“Listen here, Adele: I’m trying to help you! You have no idea what danger you have exposed us all to!”
“Maybe I don’t want your help. I didn’t ask you for your help, I know that!” Adele jumped up and stamped her foot.
“Well, I never!”
“I bet that’s true,” Adele agreed, now with a left foot stamp. “Rahhh’s right; you are nosy! A big, fat, nosy beast!”
“Fat?” The fox glanced down at her coat in horror. “You think this fur makes me look fat?”
“Did you really just ask me that?” Honestly, grownups! Here the fox had been going on about danger and helping, and then becomes completely preoccupied with how many custards she’d eaten at the equinox get-together she’d had last spring! You could see it plain as day across her face as she inspected her coat.
Again, Rahhh’s whiskers twitched as she tried not to laugh; it was as though she’d known exactly what both of the other two were thinking.
“Forget it. If you don’t want my help, that’s fine. But Rahhh can’t help you; she’s got to look after the pups. And we can’t leave this journey entirely up to you; you’ve no idea what you will face! It is a long way, fraught with peril—”
“Fraught with peril?
“Dooooom! Dooooom!” Her fox voice howled out the cave opening. Adele blinked. “ Now stop interrupting!”
“Doom,” she repeated once more, for effect. It worked. Even the pups shivered. “ For if you do not return the map to the Necromancer who made it and bestowed it with powers of magic beyond all reckoning, both your realm and this will be twisted and deformed into all that is unwholesome and unnatural and evil. Life there will make the Land of Pain and Despair seem like a cake walk. But to go near the Necromancer almost ensures your death; it’s the only way. No,” she said firmly, “you cannot go alone.” Her mouth snapped shut.