Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart Garfinkle
Artwork by Steve English
Episode 5 – The Escape.
There had been many battles inside the Manor and around its grounds since Winefry had awoken. It seemed that even though the darkness had awoken the brave bottle, they had become enemies, with the bottle fighting against anything and everything that seemed to get worse with the darkness.
Of course, the battles had been even more intense on the nights of a full moon, and especially during the midnight hour. Yet it seemed that even though the evil grew more influential during that time, so did the power and skill of Winefry, to the point that no matter what foe he faced he was always victorious. Until all the known enemies were vanquished.
This was that night when the last enemy fell. And, as they looked upon the bodies of their enemies, the wounded Winefry and Scragg made a decision that would turn the lives of everyone upside-down. They decided that they were going to leave the Manor and its’ grounds to find adventure elsewhere. For some reason, they thought their work in the Manor was done – for now – , and they felt strangely compelled to go and strangely compelled to seek out new adventures. Where this compulsion came from, they didn’t know, but they could not ignore it. It was as if a voice was calling them and they had to answer.
When the decision was made, the two of them collected what little they had, packed it in bags that they roped to their backs and started to head out of the Manor.
But the Manor knew.
As they turned into a hallway to go one way, the corridor went another. They entered one room and came out further away from the exit than when they started. I don’t think they would ever have left if it wasn’t for Horatio and the border terriers Flannel and Spanner. For tonight, for some inexplicable reason, they seemed to have grown a very high distain for Scragg!
Typically, when dogs and cats grow up together, they tend to get on quite well – and – usually, that was the case here. It certainly was for Flannel, Spanner and Scragg. However, the night Winefry and Scragg decided to leave was the night of a cold and wintery full moon. Not just any full moon, this was once again a wolf moon. Of all the full moons, the one the border terriers felt more than any other was the wolf moon. And Horatio, who was born exactly one year before, felt it most of all.
As Winefry and Scragg went from room to room, so the time ticked away, getting closer and closer to midnight. As midnight approached, so the dogs started to change. No longer were they the lovable, adorable, fluffy terriers everyone knew, these animals were larger and wilder. Their eyes began to glow slightly green, and they could smell Scragg!
Approaching one door, a whine-come-howl erupted from just behind, forcing the bottle and Scragg to change direction at the last moment and exit through a doorway that hadn’t been their moments before. Again and again, the hapless pair were forced to change course by the approach of the border terrors. And, at each last moments change, somehow Winefry and Scragg found themselves closer to the exit of the Manor. Until as they approached the last door, the border terrors appeared as if from nowhere forcing them to make a dash for it and race for the kitchen.
The border terrors tore after the bottle and the cat. And, if they had had time to observe it, they would have seen the shadows of the border terrors being left behind, just momentarily, as the monsters they had become chased down their prey.
At the last moment, Winefry and Scragg charged into the kitchen only to find that somehow one of the terrors had made it there before them. It was standing between them, the boot room and the open back door. The border terror raised its head to howl at the wolf moon, and as it did, so Winefry and Scragg charged as fast as they could towards the terror. As they arrived and the terror (who was Horatio, but far more massive and monstrous than he had ever been before), finished its howl it looked down just in time to see them running between its legs. A look of total surprise – if not shock – swept across its face, making it look ever so slightly more like a typical border terrier again. Then seconds later, its claws scrabbled for traction on the tiled floor as it attempted to turn and chase its prey out of the Manor.
As Winefry and Scragg raced past the terror and into the boot-room heading to the open back door, so the door itself started to close. Without thinking, Winefry grabbed Scragg and threw her bodily out of the door just before it closed. Then Winefry, giving up any hope of getting through the door himself, turned to face not one, but now three border terrors all heading his way. He was ready to die to save Scragg and started to pull at his razor-sharp poker. However, he had no intention of hurting the terrors because he knew who they really were – and loved them.
But just as he put his arm to the poker, he felt a tug behind him. It was Scragg. Somehow the wily cat had managed to put a stone or something between the door and door frame and stopped it shutting. The power of the door swinging shut, and then hitting the obstacle had caused it to bounce back open, just a little. Seeing her opportunity, Scragg had raced back inside, grabbed Winefry and pulled him out of the Manor by his backpack, while swatting the stone away with her other paw. No sooner were they out and racing across the ground towards the thick forests, than they heard the door slam behind them. And as it slammed shut, the locked clinked, temporarily holding the terrors inside.
It wasn’t the terrors the caused Winefry and Scragg’s blood to run cold. It was the grumbling, rumbling and banging that came from the Manor itself that really frightened them. This wasn’t just border terrors, terrifying as they may be, this was the darkness in the Manor, leaping out to try and recapture them and make them stay. So, with just the slightest glimpse at each other, they ran for their lives. Being faster, Scragg grabbed Sir Winefry and threw him on her back, then she galloped like she had never galloped before. Scragg had been quite a lazy cat when she first encountered Winefry. Still, since that time, their many adventures and battles had hardened Scragg up so that she was a lot more agile, wiry and fast.
As the chase continued, so the time ticked on relentlessly towards midnight. The whole of the forest seemed to come alive the closer it came to midnight, things seemed to get brighter and brighter, almost as if everything had a little light of its own. The terrors could be heard howling and crashing through the undergrowth. Having been freed from the Manor they now hunted down their prey – as Winefry, riding Scragg – headed as far away from the Manor as they could manage.
It became harder to run the closer it came to midnight as the beauty of the forest seemed to want to arrest their flight and slow them down. In a moment of distraction, Scragg took a path she didn’t know and sealed their fate for the route led them to the bottom of cliffs that they would never be able to climb – at least not with the terrors and the darkness on their trail. Arriving at the cliffs, they realised the hunters were too close for them to retrace their steps. So, jumping down from Scragg, Winefry pulled out his sharpened poker. With their backs to the cliff walls, they stood side by side to face their pursuers one last time, unwilling to hurt those who were usually their friends but, for now, overcome by the darkness.
As the terrors approached, so the clock on the Manor began to chime. As it did, the wolf moon shone down, watching them all – as the midnight hour arrived.
The three terrors, eyes glowing a constant green, crossed in front of each other as they approached their quarry. They had time. The bottle and the cat were trapped, there was nowhere they could escape to. But as the clock on the Manor struck midnight, someone appeared that no-one had seen before. She must have always been there, but somehow they’d missed her. Her appearing was that of pure light, blazing in the darkness. It was almost as if the moon itself was pouring its light into her. As she shone, so the light seemed to flow off her, and the ground around her glowed brighter and brighter.
The terrors didn’t know what to make of it. Obviously, part of them wanted to run from the light lady. But another, deeper part wanted to be with her. It was that part which won, as they slowly, at first, approached her. And, with each step they took towards her – and her light, the three terrors became more themselves again. They became beautiful, fun-loving and carefree border terriers who ended up running up to the lady and demanded cuddles and tummy rubs and showered her with licks.
Winefry and Scragg just watched, transfixed by the beauty of the scene and the wonder of the light lady. They didn’t feel the same kind of fear they had felt as the darkness and the terrors had chased them, but they still felt fear – just a different type of fear, the kind that recognised that something more – something better was there with them. The beautiful borders started to play with each other. As they enjoyed themselves, the lady turned and moved towards Winefry and Scragg. But as she turned, a loud crack of thunder echoed overhead, and the sky started to turn black. The blackness was coming for them. The dogs ran to be closer to the light, content to stay by the ladies side even as the storm of darkness erupted all around them. Thunder roared, lightning flashed – all of which seemed unable to touch the lady of light.
Winefry and Scragg pressed themselves against the wall of the cliff as the storm surrounded them. They started to feel themselves being pulled up from the ground. So grabbing hold of each other and the wall – they held on for all their strength until suddenly, the raging storm fell silent, and its power faded, and they dropped back down to the ground. Looking up, they realised the lady of light had approached them. They were now within the boundary of the light that shone all around her.
‘Must you go?’ She asked. Her voice was even more beautiful than they could imagine.
Winefry didn’t know how to answer and was about to say something when, to his complete surprise, one of the border terriers responded.
‘My lady,’ started the beautiful, scruffy little dog – it was little more than a puppy – it was Horatio. ‘They cannot stay, the darkness would consume them, and we would be forced to chase them until either they or we are dead. They have saved us from so much, protected us from the vile enemies and given us hope, but if they stay now, they may never get the chance to leave again.’ Then the little dog paused. ‘Please, have mercy on them and on us, for we hate what we have become.’
‘But if they leave, then no one else will be able to, until they return.’ The lady answered the little dog. Winefry and Scragg looked at each other, not really sure what was going on. However, they knew the darkness was angry and could see and hear the powerful storm overhead and outside of the light surrounding the lady.
‘But if they stay, what will that cost us? Will we become the monsters and be forced to kill and hunt and destroy for the darkness?’ The little dog was quite bright – but I guess isn’t that surprising for a border terrier. ‘Please, my lady, have mercy on them and on us. We all know that no choice is not without consequence, but if we have any say in that choice, then please, we chose light, we chose life, we chose hope, and we trust you.’
The lady of light laughed and leaning down gave the little terrier and then all three terriers a great stroke and fuss. Winefry and Scragg just watched, unsure of what on earth was happening.
As she played with the dogs, the lady turned her head to talk directly to Winefry and Scragg.
‘So, it seems that you will leave us – and with that, you have my blessing. But know this, your leaving will cost us, the Manor, these terriers and all who live in the villages a great deal. We will be trapped until you find your way back to us and set us free.’ At this, the lady left the dogs alone and stood up. The three dogs immediately sat up and watched. ‘Your destiny has always been to leave. But it is also that you must return when you have found the key that will bring an end to all this. Only then will we all be free to return …’ At this, she smiled as if realising she was about to say more than she should. Then once again, she focused her attention on the bottle.
‘Your sharpened poker, Winefry.’ The lady asked.
The bottle looked a little surprised, but without a word, he took out his sharpened poker and with the handle towards the lady of light and bowing slightly, he passed it to her.
Taking the poker, it seemed to transform and change in her hands until it was a perfect sword.
‘Kneel Winefry, kneel Scragg.’ The lady commanded.
At her command, the two found themselves on their knees, unable and unwilling to resist the authority that came from her words.
Taking the sword, the lady of light tapped the shoulders of the bottle and the shoulders of the cat and then held the sword out in front of her, speaking to them through the sword as it were.
‘Arise Sir Winefry, arise Lady knight Scragg. Now you are bonded knights of the lady of light, and you are at my beck and call. It is my command that you leave this place and travel until you find all that is needed. That is, the key and all its parts, to set this place free once and for all.’
As she said these words, the storm roared and thundered and blazed lighting all around, while at the same time however staying in the distance, held at bay by the lady of light.
‘Although your journey will be long and hard, remember to whom you belong, for what you seek, and for what you fight. You belong to me. You seek the key and its part. And you fight, to bring freedom; freedom for all who live under the control of the darkness. My blessing will remain on you – only live up to your calling, be brave, be bold and be strong and know that someday, you will return.’
At that, the lady waved the sword towards the cliff wall. Sir Winefry – who now really was Sir Winefry and no longer pretending to be Sir Winefry, and Lady Knight Scragg (who from this point would be known as Lady Scragg) – both felt a cool breeze behind them. But they didn’t turn to look, because, like the border terriers, they only wanted to be with, and look at, the lady of light.
Then, the lady handed the sword back to Sir Winefry, who was still kneeling. Taking it, he stood up and put in back into his belt which he now realised had a real scabbard for the sword! Next, the lady turned to Lady Scragg and said.
‘Lady Scragg, I have no weapon for you as you already have formidable weapons of your own in those claws and teeth. However, I will give you my blessing, and this is what it shall be. When it is dark, and there seems to be no hope, you will always be able to find my light. When you see it, follow it and, if they are willing, lead others to it.’ As she said this, she placed her hand on Lady Scragg’s head, and a very loud purring could be heard!
They weren’t precisely sure quite how much time had passed, but as if to remind them, a loud crack of thunder seemed to intrude. The lady didn’t look up at the storm all around them, but instead gestured behind Sir Winefry and Lady Scragg and smiled. Her smile was blindingly beautiful, but the two of them, while reluctant to look away, knew what they needed to do. Bowing a low bow, they then turned to see a tunnel behind them in the wall of the cliff. With the slightest glance at each other, the bottle and the cat walked into the tunnel. As soon as they did, it started to close behind them. However, as they walked, they looked back, unwilling to leave the lady behind. And, as they walked away, the roar of the thunder grew, and the light from the lady began to fade.
However, the lady had not finished. Around her were three border terriers, who had chosen to love her rather than obey the darkness. Their lives were in danger.
Looking at the beautiful dogs, the lady crouched down and gathered them to herself. The darkness roared at this – as if it felt she had no right to gather his monsters to herself.
‘My beautiful ones,’ the lady of light started. But even as she spoke, the area of light around her began to pull back towards her. ‘Now, like me, you will be unable to leave this place until we are set free. I know that you too are being attacked by the darkness and it is changing you and wants to change you more. So, this is my gift to you. Know that for a while, you will be separated from one another, and you will not remember, but I leave you with this.’ At that, she kissed each one in turn gently on the top of their heads.
To anyone watching, this seemed like nothing. But for the border terriers or the sometimes border terrors, they knew what she had given them. It was just a tiny part of her light that made its way deep inside until it would be needed.
Then all hell let loose. A terrible scream was heard, Sir Winefry and Lady Scragg turned to look and were horrified as what they saw. Just outside the shrinking light from the lady of light stood a young girl, the same young girl Sir Winefry had seen all that time before when he first met the lady of light. Somehow the girl had been safe from the storm while the lady was in full light, but now it was fading, the girl was being exposed to the violent darkness, she was in danger.
Sir Winefry and Lady Scragg turned and ran back as fast as they could only to see the lady of light look at the young girl, the darkness and then look at them. She pointed at the wall of the cliff which started to close faster and then … well, there’s no other word for it, she exploded … exploded into blindingly incredible light. Winefry and Scragg were thrown backwards by the blast, and the cliff wall closed – there was no return. There was now nothing they could do except go forward on the mission they had been given. So, silently, and with very heavy hearts, the two heroes picked themselves up and continued to walk into the dark tunnel. They had no idea what lay ahead for them, but strangely, they were still at peace, believing that the lady of light knew what she was doing and they could trust her.
Horatio had seen it all. The young girl who had appeared outside the shrinking pool of light. He had heard the terror of her scream as the darkness found her and started to attack. He has also seen the concern and love in the lady’s eye. He had watched as the lady seemed to grow, then the light that had been fading flooded back and exploded out from her. It was as if the lady herself exploded with the light.
He had also seen in the moments before, the look of love from the lady for the girl. It was the love of a mother for her daughter – and had sat down, overwhelmed. The power of that love was so vast that no darkness could ever contest it. And indeed, the darkness had no answer. The storm and the light erupted all around them… Then, they were three borders terrors once again alone in the darkness. With eyes aglow, the monsters of the night kept no memory of what had happened. Instead, with no sign of anyone, or anything else, including the darkness, they sniffed the cold night air. Then turning, they made their way back to the Manor before the snow arrived.
As they returned, however, deep inside, all three of them knew something was different. Although they didn’t know quite what it was.