The nights are getting cooler the deeper into October it gets, and though the stone of the mill holds some of the suns heat within it, by the time the moon is high in the sky it has gone quite cold. Luckily Dixie has her thick fur and a heavy blanket to keep her warm on her straw bed, curled up with her raven resting in the rafters and the gentle sound of the windmill turning lulling her to sleep.
But tonight, even the blankets can’t keep the shiver from her as she tosses and turns within a nightmare. The squeaking of the windmill turns into the creaking of leather, the soft rattle of the fan becomes the sound of a flintlock being twirled and tapped by nimble fingers. In the darkness of her dream a single eye glitters from beneath the brim of a hat and the soft laugh from the figure shrouded in shadow makes her whimper as she steps backward with every step forward it takes toward her. Her rump hits the trunk of a tree and she covers her face with her hands, eyes welling with frightened tears. “I don’t have anything!” she yells at the creature stalking her, keeping to the shadows of the forest so that all she can see is one glowing eye and the silver of a weapon. “Leave me alone!”
The figure advances further, just enough for a shaft of cold moonlight to illuminate half of its face- lagomorphic, long whiskers twitching up in a cruel smile and black ears standing up tall. “You don’t have anything?” The hare scoffs. “Yes you do. You have these creatures trust. Why is that? Appearing one day so sudden, and they all love you…isn’t that a little strange, pup?” Dixie huffs through her tears and bares her little teeth at the jackalope.
“Because I don’t STEAL from them!” Dream-Jack lifts a little higher up on his paws, feigning a look of surprise.
“Oh, you don’t? Strange, I thought living in their buildings for free was stealing. Or selling their own crops to them, or smiling at the Ranger whos suddenly compelled to buy you a whole handful of sweets…” Suddenly the hares nose is right against hers and she gasps, too afraid to move. “But you’re too cute for them to stop you. Do you think that’s normal? Do the other foals get treated this way? No, of course not. So why you?”
Dixie may have been alive for longer than it appears, but the fairy spell didn’t seem to let her advance past a certain point. As such, she’s struggling to put together the point that Dream-Jack is making for a moment. But when she does… the tears come back with a vengeance.
“Because I’m cursed… like you.”
“Because you’re cursed like me.” The jackalope pulls his weapon from the holster on his hip, twirling it around his finger and examining it in the moonlight, watching the fine engravings on the silver glitter as he speaks. “Just in a different direction. They’ll finger it out eventually, you know. And they’ll get rid of you. Just like every other poor creature that’s ever tried to help you.”
The little canitaurs legs fold under her body and she collapses to the forest floor, burying her head in her arms and sobbing as the nightmare apparition laughs over her. “See, you know it well as I do, mutt. I’m gonna get away with it. You won’t.” He leans in closer and lowers his voice. ”Fast as fast can be…” The wind through the branches picks up…and there’s nothing but a cloud of swirling black smoke drifting away.
”They’ll never catch me.”
Dixie wakes with a start, throwing her blankets off her flanks and jumping to her feet, looking around. She’s….she’s still in the windmill. Pine Nut croaks a drowsy sound from the rafters, hearing her startle, but remains at his post. The moon is high and light is coming through the window, but… they’re alone. She wipes her cheeks with her paws where her fur is wet with tears and dries them on the corner of her blanket, slowly laying back down on the burlap cover of her straw bed. The chubby little raven flutters down next to her, and carefully climbs onto her forelegs, pressing his warm little body into her chest. She takes the offer and gently wraps her arms around him burying her face into the soft feathers of his back as more tears fall.
Nightmares are not a new phenomenon for the pup, but rarely do they leave her so shaken, he thinks. She hasn’t slept well since the encounter on the road, and though he’s been close to her side and watching, he hasn’t seen the new raven the others had whispered about… but nobody saw what chased *them*, either. He clicks his beak and makes a low, throaty sound to soothe her, gently preening her fur with little nibbles of his beak until her grip on him starts to go slack with sleep once more and he pulls out of her arms, tugging on her shirt until she lays back down beneath the blanket. He fluffs his feathers and settles them into a roost beside her pillow. He’s no knight, he thinks. But he’ll defend her from her nightmares… and whatever else may come.
Queen Herouin walks quietly through the fields, sliding like inky shadow among the softly rustling dry stalks. It’s been a quiet evening. Nothing unusual and no one that shouldn’t be around.
Herouin had been uneasy the past few days, feeling a presence around the far edge of her small forest. She decided to take the chance and scout through the new lands and deep forests around her new home. A distant yelp catches her keen ear. Stopping, Herouin turns her head, unsure of what she heard. Hearing a muffled, almost stifled bark to the left of her, Herouin walks across the small valley towards the mill, sniffing the air.
The familiar sweet, earthy scent of her tiny friend, along with her rotund companion comes to her as she nears the stone building. Walking softly up to the door, her pupils widen as her eyes easily see the small curled form on the floor, the open space in the sill of the door wide enough for her to see into. Herouin makes a mental note to come by and fix the framing of the door if this is where the sweet pup is sleeping. Maybe she can convince her to settle at her house, or on her property, as winter will be cold here in this little valley and the stone will not be kind.
As these thoughts cross her mind, Herouin notices the wee pup moving in her sleep. About to turn away quietly, Herouin freezes as the pup jumps up. Avoiding her strong desire to enter and scoop the terrified pup up, Herouin realizes that Bryte would recognize her by scent alone. Herouin didn’t wish to intrude upon nor frighten her friend. With her small companion settling her down, the pup curls up again.
Herouin silently slips back again into shadow and moves toward home. Her heart hurts for the little pup. Nightmares are no stranger to Herouin. Herouin decides she won’t bring this up to Bryte unless she does first, as explaining what the normally giant clumsy taur was doing … looking.. she sighs… no. The few here she has friended know the gangly dark-legged druid by her ink stains and shimmering bottles of mead and that’s all for the best.