Cougar Moon

Below is a couple of selections from Cougar Moon for you to enjoy. Tell me what you think.

“…Finally they were released.  Master Kithom reluctantly concluded the lesson, seeming resigned to the fact they would never become astronomers.  The boys scooted from their chairs instantly, causing them to squeak on the slate tiles of the Observatory’s roof.  The pack of twelve-to-seventeen year-olds funneled down the rickety spiral staircase, through the stuffy library, and out into the night air again.  The moon, in its first quarter, was just rising, finally a broad grin again after its last cycle…

They came out of the thick trees, exposing themselves to the starry canopy above once again.  Mathew didn’t seem to notice, but Jamess craned his head to look up at the Elk Star.  It was still there, glaring back at him.

“What do you think of the Elk Star?”

Mathew groaned, “Don’t you ever get tired of school?”

“Pageos thinks it’s an evil omen.”

“Old Pageos is cracked.  You heard what Master Kithom said.”

“Master Kithom said it was just rumors, and usually nothing ever happens.  But Pageos says the Elk star never usually comes in summer, it’s always fall; and then it’s not so bright.  The legends had to start sometime.  Maybe they started because of a summer appearance.”

Jamess threw his shirt and leather case by a tree and gratefully splashed into the cool water….

A strange, wild cry suddenly ripped through the night.  The friends stopped sputtering, frozen silent.  The wail trailed off like a woman in pain.  Then the eerie scream whipped out again.

“Was that a person?” Mathew asked.

***

Isias bolted upright at the sound of fists on his lean-to and Tobbel’s voice demanding, “Where are you, you sluggish lout?”

Isias shook his head violently, “Here!” he blurted.  Light was streaming in through the cracks in the door and corners.  “I’ll be right out!”

“You should be out already!” Tobbel growled.

Grabbing his jack-club Isias stepped out into the blinding late-morning.  Tobbel stood there with his arms crossed.

“Well I hope you had a lovely sleep,” he reprimanded, “Because we’ve got a lot of work to do.”  Tobbel wore his fancy wide-brimmed hat, which made him feel important, and had the silver Constable’s insignia pinned on his shoulder.  Isias waited impatiently as Tobbel looked him up and down critically.  “You look like a mess.  Is that how you think we ought to represent the law around here?”

Isias wasn’t in the mood, “Maybe I’d look better if you actually paid me, or commissioned, or something.”

Tobbel put his finger in Isias’ face, “You watch it, boy.  I don’t have to have you here at all.  You remember that.  Now let’s go.”

 

 

There had been two murders.  Or at least Isias knew they were murders.  The Constable could only conclude they were deaths.  But the pasty white corpses bore the telltale black streaks across their bodies.  Apparently the Elk-witch killed the first man as he slept.  No one else had seen or heard anything.  But Tephan the Potter, the second victim, certainly had.  Constable Tobbel decided he must have been drunk before he died, because much of the craftsman’s crockery and pitchers had been smashed recklessly; the man’s corpse was flung against the wall with his hands covering his face.  Isias knelt by the body, remorsefully imagining the man’s last desperate moments facing the ancient curse.

As they walked away from the Potter’s house Isias slapped his club against his leg in frustration.  Tobbel would never listen to him.

Trying to be discreet he asked, “What if these people were murdered?  I mean: it’s strange that they both died the same night… of the same cause!”

Tobbel didn’t look at him.  “That’s ridiculous.  They died of the same thing Porter’s pig died of.  Besides, there were no marks on the body, and no one has witnessed anything to suggest a murder.”

They moved through town in silence, hoping to reach Maachah the Undertaker’s before any more bad news sprouted up.  Then Orbais Driftfoot called to them, “Oh Constable!  Praise Thean you’re here!”

“Of course I’m here Orbais, what do you want?”

Orbais looked worse than Isias.  The man was known to drink, but his clothes were dirty and torn, and he looked haggard.  “I saw him!” he exclaimed, horrified, “I saw him last night!”

“Who?”

“He was moving through the town like a ghost, going into people’s houses!”

“What?  Who was?”

“Something horrible!  He was half man and half animal, with antlers on his head, and a gigantic sword!” Orbais sputtered, accidentally spitting on the Constable’s vest.  “He was killing them!  He killed Tephan!”

Isias looked to Tobbel hopefully, twisting his jack-club in his hands.

Tobbel wiped his vest disdainfully.  “Orbais, I don’t take you seriously by rule, or I’d lock you up more often than not.  But this is no time to mock the dead with drunken lies!”  Tobbel pushed passed the man gruffly.

“I’m not drunk!” Orbais called frantically, beginning to wail madly, “I didn’t have anything to drink!”

One Response to Cougar Moon

  1. LA says:

    I think I want to know what happens next! 😛 Oh wait… I have a way of knowing. (I still have an early copy of Couger Moon that you’d given me sometime around 2003 or so. I’ve always loved the title. It’s intriguing. And though I can’t remember now all the details of the story, I know I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!)

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