The Mighty Morg

Part IV 7. Getting her Goat

In Berla’s nightmare, a pack of grizzled wolfmen were combing the mountainside in search of prey. Their menacing howls echoed back from a hundred stone glottises. The leader of the pack was none other than the town trapper, Brisbain. Berla had always felt like a cornered animal when he entered the bakery and fixed his rodent eyes on her. Now that feeling was magnified tenfold. His necklace of bones and claws made a sound like a rattlesnake as he loped along. His patchwork coat of animal carcasses cavorted about him like a woodland grotesquerie. He reeked of sour mead and rancid sausage.

The grisly muzzle of the wolfman-trapper appeared above the lip of the pit, baring white teeth and red gums that dripped a foamy slaver. Berla backed away but stopped short when another wolfman appeared on the escarpment behind her. Goatee worked himself between her legs, seeking refuge in the tatters of her dress. Now there were wolfmen all around, ringing the walls. With nowhere to hide, she retreated to the center of the pit, calling out for her protector. But the dragon was nowhere in sight.

With a rattle and a shumping of padded feet, the wolfman-trapper leaped down into the pit. He landed on all fours then stood up to swagger forward on short, bowed legs. Slaver dribbled from his bared fangs. In each forepaw, he held a jagged knife. Two more wolfmen dropped into the pit behind him, glowering and slavering as they came.

“Give me the goat,” snarled the wolfman-trapper.

“The goat, the goat,” echoed the others. “Give us the goat.”

“Never!” she shouted defiantly. “You can’t have him. He’s mine!”

Berla awoke trembling and alone. Cold air prickled her skin like icy nettles. Where was Goatee? The goat had only wandered a short distance away where it was busy scraping off chips of lichen from a boulder with its chisel-like teeth. She clutched him tightly to her chest as the ice-black sky melted into an amber dawn.

Later that same day, when the wind was yowling away like a lost soul, Berla was sharply reminded of her dream. “Goatee, get over here!” she whispered urgently. But the goat had other things on its mind. Having discovered its reflection in the tortoise shell, it was eagerly trying to make its own acquaintance. It touched its nose to the cold surface then leaped back in surprise.

Berla sneaked up and grabbed the goat around its mid-section. She glanced anxiously around the pit, but her dream was only too accurate on that score; there was nowhere to hide. The voice sounded out again, louder this time. She huddled low in the wall’s shadow, hoping whoever it was would just go away. “Shhhh!” She tried to silence the baying goat. “They’ll hear you!”

The sound was distinctly human now, low and despondent like a shepherd calling out for a lost sheep.

“Aneebodee down theeere?” it said. “Anneeee-bodeeee theeeeere?”

Goatee nipped Berla in the hand, causing her to lose her grip. “Goatee, come back!” She scrambled after him, but the goat was in no mood to be wrangled. Treating it like a game, it bounded from one side of the pit to the other, scattering golden dishes and cutlery as it went.

“Anybody down there?” came the low, raspy voice. A wizened face appeared above the rim-wall followed by a skinny, wrinkled neck poking out of a frazzled ruff. The effect was more scrawny buzzard than ravenous wolfman. With a flash of recognition, she realized she knew him. It was the old hermit that lived in the hills. Known for being a disagreeable crank, he had always showed special kindness to Berla. On the rare occasions he came into town, he made a point of dropping by the bakery, to which Benko made a point of visiting the privy. He would seat himself at the coin table and request a loaf of her softest bread as he plied her with questions about her grammy and the little cottage they shared in the woods. Afterwards, he would give her a shiny gold coin for her troubles. Despite this, Berla was not very happy to see him. At the moment, he was just another person who wanted to get her goat.

Tip: You can use left, right, A and D keyboard keys to browse between chapters.