Friday, 23 November 2012
Day 23 NaBloPoMo - Will the real red riding hood please stand up!
*APOLOGY / DISCLAIMER*
You may want to put the kettle on and grab a snack before you sit down to read this post, my Red Riding Hood re-visit ended up being a lot longer than first anticipated (try about 1,000 words longer, I was aiming for 300-600. Oooppps, hehe). Anyway, it's the weekend so sit back with a cup of something warm and enjoy (or at least I hope you will!)
Last week I set a little challenge for you all to sink your teeth into and I promised to go away and work on a re-write of my own. Deb at Kicking Corners has been posting hers in instalments for most of the week (think I should have taken a leaf out of her book!) and has at least me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it ends, here is part 1, I always think it is best to 'begin at the beginning' (it's an Alice thing).
In the spirit of beginning at the beginning here is a link to the Brothers Grimm version of the tale. I am sorry that I can't hand you one of my copies of this story, especially the really old version. Reading them from paper seems to make them more magical for me.
I sort of opted for a 'what happened next' version, with a few extras. I hope you like it.
The Hunted Turn Hunter
Maddi sat watching the torrent of water moving and gurgling as cut through the earth, gathering pace and mass on its journey to the Cascades. If she closed her eyes she could hear the thunderous roar from here, they were heading in that direction but she knew they had at least a day’s hike before they reached the village and more to get to the Cascades.
The noise brought with it a flash back to the day Skathi saved her, or dammed her, after all these years she still wasn’t sure which it was.
She was young, naive and completely taken in by the handsome stranger. She could still remember his syrupy voice, how he made her feel like she was the centre of his universe and then the physical pain as his betrayal hit. It was like a square on blow to the stomach how he used her to take the one thing that mattered to her.
Her Grandmother was the matriarch to the village, as was tradition she lived in isolation so the Seers could converse with her. Only the purest member of the family was allowed in her presence to tend her needs. Fen used her to get to her Grandmother, he changed before her eyes into a wolf of monstrous proportion, the sight of his bones breaking, twisting and reforming froze Maddi to the spot and she watched helplessly as he ripped her Grandmothers throat out. His attention then turned to Maddi but mid pounce there was a yelp and he landed on top of her. Wounded but not dead Fen had beaten a hasty retreat with an arrow in his back.
“Maddi we need to move out” Skathi shouted from the tree line
Coming out of her reminiscence Maddi collected her bow and Quiver and started to jog after Skathi, throwing them across her as she went; they had much time to make up. Last night’s storm had delayed them; they could only hope it had delayed Fen too.
As darkness descended they decided to sleep just outside the village; Hunters, dressed in leather and carrying weapons, were easily recognised and very rarely welcome in villages, especially this one.
Being so close to home brought back so many memories. Staring into the flames the clearest memory was of her first transformation.
Fen may not have been able to complete his attack but he still ruined her life with just one scratch. She had had no idea why he held such a magnanimous look in his eye as he made his retreat, not until the burning pain of her insides twisting and reforming. She watched her life slip away as the disgusted look dawned on her mother’s face looking at the half breed she was now faced with.
“It is no daughter of mine, take it, burn it. It will pay for the disgrace it has brought on this village. Let us hope the Seers accept the sacrifice”
Hot tears burned down Maddi’s face as she remembered the words that cut through her soul, the heat of the flames as they reared around her feet. In that moment she wanted to die, in that moment she wanted the Seers to take her and punish her.
It had taken Skathi ten years to make Maddi see that she was needed, that she saved her from the flames because she had a purpose. Ten years for Fen to rear his head again. This time they were two, this time she had a new weapon, this time she had Maddi.
“Get some sleep Maddi, you’re going to need it.”
Maddi woke startled from her sleep. Her training kicked in before her brain did, she surveyed the tree line crouched and arrow poised. She could smell something, something out of place. Slowly Maddi moved, almost crab like to where Skathi was sleeping and nudged her. In moments they were back to back arrows aimed into the shadows of the trees, waiting, breathing.
“When I saw him come through town I had a feeling you wouldn’t be far behind”
The sound of that voice was enough for Maddi; she lowered her bow and stood up straight as Artur stepped out of the shadows. The gangly young boy she knew was all grown up, it took Maddi a moment to remember they weren’t the same age any more, the last time she saw him was the way she had always thought of him. This young man with his copper hair dropping down over his beautiful hazel eyes was not the boy she knew.
“Missed me, yeah I know I missed you too”
“Couldn’t come back, yeah I know! Now shut up and come here” As they closed the gap Artur scooped Maddi into a bear hug, whispering into her red curls, “Still wearing red I see”
“The wolves can’t tell the difference” Maddi replied.
“Ok, reunions will have to wait a while, Fen is massing a pack and he is coming for the village”
“We know” Skathi replied in her usual curt manner
“So when do we leave?”
“Artur there is no we” Maddi said, not wanting to leave so soon after finding him again, “You can’t come”
“I’m sorry; you’re thinking you can stop me?”
“We don’t have time for this, we have to go” Skathi turned and started her harsh pace into the woods. Maddi had come to appreciate her emotional distance.
“Whatever, if you can keep up and be silent, oh and won’t be watching your back” With that Maddi started after Skathi.
“What the hell happened to you?” Artur muttered as he set off at the same pace.
To Maddi’s surprise Artur actually managed to keep up and didn’t even seem to need any recovery time. Maddi didn’t have any time to reflect on that right now. From this vantage point they could see the pack camped on the banks of the river that the Cascades fed into. Dawn was just breaking, sending shots of pink and orange across the thin clouds punctuating the sky. The pack were still sleeping, but the more Maddi looked the more she was sure Fen was not down there.
Just then a twig broke in the shadows behind them, when Maddi turned she saw a figure standing there.
“This is impossible” Maddi exclaimed, taking a step forward.
“Hello my dear” came a frail voice from the dark
“Grandmamma? How? I...” it felt like the world was moving, like a rug being pulled from under her feet. Maddi had to grab for the nearest tree to regain her composure.
“Madder, it has been a while” There was a syrupy tone to this voice that Maddi just couldn’t put her finger on.
“I always wondered what Maddi was short for” Artur whispered to Skathi
Maddi moved slowly and tentatively closer.
“Grandmamma, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see you with my dear, though I am old and my sight is failing. Step closer so I may see the woman you have become”
“My, Grandmamma, What big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear you with my dear, though my hearing is not what it was. You must come closer you are speaking so quietly”
“And what big teeth you have, Fenrir!” Maddi straightened and aimed her bow as Fen revealed himself with a mighty howl, waking the pack below. “You think me so easily fooled”
“Well you were last time” Fen smirked
“I have grown since then Fenrir”
“Oh, I can see that” There was an undertone to Fen’s voice that Artur wasn’t much liking.
“Don’t talk to her like that” Artur raged
“Or what pup? What will you do about it?”
Just then the sound of the wolf pack baying came from the forest, distracting Maddi for just a moment.
In that moment Fen leapt, pouncing towards his prey, moving through the air toward Maddi. In that split second Artur threw his axe and Maddi watched as it buried its self deep in Fen’s chest. He dropped, mid-pounce, right at Maddi’s feet.
Skathi was at Maddi’s side in a split second, “This isn’t over Maddi. You know what must be done!”
Hanging her head, Maddi inhaled deeply, she could smell the forest and the wolf pack just in the shadows, waiting to see what would become of their Alpha. She looked towards Artur, with a tear in her eye.
“Please don’t watch this” she begged.
With that she dropped her weapons and fell to the floor as her insides burned and twisted like an acid coated hand was trying to rip them out, but she was fighting back. Slowly her body reformed into the slender wolf that was the other half of her.
Maddi stalked over to Fen, whose broken body lay gasping in the dirt. Artur moved forward and removed the axe from his chest and looked directly into her green eyes, the same green eyes he had grown up with. That look conveyed everything Maddi needed to go through with what had to be done. That look that said he understood.
With a low guttural growl she sank her teeth around Fen’s jugular, ripping a gaping hole in the broken wolf’s neck, making sure he was incapacitated. Then she turned her attention to his chest, using her teeth and claws she ripped at his chest until his beating heart was visible. In one final manoeuvre his heart was in Maddi’s mouth and then gone forever. Maddi sat on her haunches; her muzzle bloodied and finally let a tear slide down her fur. It was over, after ten years of hunting he was gone.
A moment later a howl rippled through the pack and in the bright sunshine of the early morning the wolf pack presented themselves in submission to their new Alpha. Even the copper coloured wolf that stood separate to the pack, next to Skathi.
Maddi let all her anguish and tiredness go in howl to rival the noise of the Cascades, echoing down the valley. Red Riding Hood was home.