The Killing of Wolves

Thief and (suspected) murderer Red Riding Hood joins with poor boy Pip on an unexpected journey to kill the Big Bad Wolf. Along the way, they run into a host of fairytale characters and dangerous challenges that they must overcome so Red can have her revenge on the wolf and Pip can go back to the life he used to live. But they uncover more than they thought they would, scandalous secrets straight from the heart of the Royal Family. All of a sudden, they realise the Wolf is not all it seems. Nothing will ever be the same again. Not once the truth is revealed, once and for all...

It's just a draft, so any tips or critisicm would be appreciated. Also, thanks to the Fuzz for making the amazing cover.

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2. Pip in the Imperial Palace

“You’re not to go near them woods, d’you ‘ear me? They’se dangerous and I’ll ‘ave no child of mine muckin’ about there all through the bleedin’ hours of the day. D’you understand?”

“Yes, Ma.”

“Then repea’ it.”

“I’m not to go near the woods.”

“And why’s that?”

“’Cause they’re dangerous.”

“Good boy.” Ma’s demeanour softened as her face broke into a broad smile. “Got everything?” she asked innocently.

Pip nodded solemnly, as he picked up the reins that the cow tugged. Sensing his reluctance, Ma placed her hand upon his shoulder. “’S alright” she consoled. The cow’s head pushed against Pip’s palm, trying to make him feel better. Pip and Gertrude were chums, the best of friends, and the epitome of inter-species companionship. Pip didn’t want to have to sell her in the market, but it was necessary if his family were to eat on a regular basis. His father was prone to gambling in the seedy under current of Grimm, where murders and thieves roamed, and his addiction got so out of control that it was all that Pip’s mother could do to stop him from betting his own son to Rumpelstiltskin, a shadowy stranger who disappeared almost as quickly as he’d arrived when confronted by Ma. They were practically penniless, so extreme measures needed to be taken; extreme measures, that is, like selling Gertrude the cow in the market.

   What Ma didn’t mention to any possible buyers was that Gertrude the cow, after seven bountiful years, was barren and could give no more milk. Gertrude’s best years were behind her and though she appeared healthy, in reality she was aging and fast. This was one of the reasons for selling her- the other being there was no room for her in their tiny pit of a cottage and they most definitely did not need another mouth to feed. In fact, the only member of the family (Ma, Pa, Pip and another nine children whose names, most of the time, Ma couldn’t remember) with any emotional attachment to the creature was Pip. Pa saw her as a possible gambling token, Ma saw her as a source of food for the starving family but Pip saw her as a true blue friend with whom he spent most of his time.

   Many of his older siblings teased him for his unusual choice of companion, but Pip did not really care. It even began to worry his mother after a while, although instead of boxing his ears like she would for the other children, she just watched the relationship between the inseparable pair. Truly, she did hold a special flame of care and love for Pip that she didn’t feel when she looked at any others of her brood; nothing close. Understanding and accepting he was different was something Ma had done reluctantly and gradually, but instead of alienating him because of it she believed it was a sign he was extraordinary and would go on to do extraordinary things. What those things were, Ma did not know, but she never failed to accept it as true.

   Ma was a stoic woman with lungs of brass and a no-nonsense approach to life that often marked her as a force to be reckoned with. She had tried to sell Gertrude to a local private farmer or herder so Pip might be able to visit his friend occasionally, although this became impossible when Bo Peep refused to take the cow. She only dealt with sheep and wanted nothing to do with creatures of the bovine kind. It fell upon Pip’s shoulders to trade Gertrude in the market. It had worked for that Jack lad down the street, although Pip had strict instructions not to come back with beans, magic or otherwise.

   And so, Pip set off to the market in the town square and Ma gazed after him, wishing, oh so wishing, that she could go stop her son from giving up his best friend. Instead, she watched him go, a longing rousing within her. Oh, Pip, she thought.

 

Pip walked along the cobble stoned streets, pulling the cow along with him. Without much acknowledgement for his surroundings, he passed familiar Grimm scenes: the ivy entwined tower in which Rapunzel was imprisoned, the bakery on Drury Lane that had sired the speedy Gingerbread man (who had recently vanished from the headlines) before arriving at the one place Ma had forbidden him from: the woods, the setting for his nightmares. They were grand, looming and covered in mossy green bark with veils of mist filtering through, boding evil. Pip knew the stories that surrounded them; children from the poorer parts of Grimm, bored, strayed to the woods and never returned. Pip could practically feel the wickedness surging through the soil and the low, threatening growl of the rumoured wolf rising from the hanging silence like a grave yard.

   He felt tempted to take a detour through the woods but then remembered about Gertrude and what his mother had said only a short time ago. With that thought firmly in mind he continued to walk. The cold air bit his cheek and he knew that the cow felt the same due to the mooing that she did loudly from time to time. Pip was convinced that Gertrude was being melodramatic to make her soon to be ex-owner feel so guilty that he’d turn around and not sell her to some shady butcher. Pip couldn’t do that. He wanted to. But he couldn’t.

   After a long haul, when Pip and Gertrude finally arrived at the market, they were rather put off by the silence that was all around them. The square was usually filled with haggling over the objects being sold in the market, of children running around and of the general babble that was associated with life in Grimm. Instead, today was different and through the silence emerged a different noise than they were used to.

   Trumpets blared in a mourning way, almost as if they were the death knell that rang from the cathedral north of the market, which was visible at that precise moment, every time someone died. It was not uncommon to hear the bell ring at least twice a week, if not more. But Pip and Gertrude could see that the bell was motionless and soon after that they could distantly hear the sound of hooves trotting upon the cobble stoned streets. This sound grew nearer until a pair of ivory horses, (adorned with black plumage attached to their foreheads to give them a refined, regal quality) appeared, pulling behind them a carriage which was followed by what seemed to be the entirety of the Fifth Kingdom. They marched nearer and nearer to the cow and her boy in a funeral-like procession.

   It was then that Pip remembered. It was the Princess’ birthday. The whole affair was denoted with a parade in the girl’s honour, which required everyone who lived in the Fifth Kingdom to join in and ‘celebrate’ the coming of another year in the Queen’s daughter’s life, despite the celebrating falling flat when every single person there was as miserable as anything.

   There was irony in calling it a celebration, too. Pip had never truly realised it before, but there was such loathing towards the Princess and her privileged life that it didn’t seem right to call it a festivity. It was unlikely that Princess Adelaide even knew how much her mother’s subjects hated her, but they did. It was also no wonder to Pip that he didn’t know of this particular day’s significance- Ma had done her very best to shield her son from the other side of the social spectrum in the same way the Queen had done for her own daughter.

   All of these thoughts circled around Pip’s head and he was so pre-occupied with them that he couldn’t feel Gertrude pulling his sleeve to get him to the side and away from the direct path in which the carriage was heading i.e. right for him. Dazed and confused, the only thing the boy could see were the intricate details of the royal carriage in which Adelaide sat as it advanced towards him. It showed no sign of stopping and Pip almost felt as if he was paralysed, unable to move a muscle.  

   BANG! The carriage collided with him. The horses reared erratically, and it appeared as if the carriage would keel over. This disaster was narrowly avoided by hurried guards who rushed over and pushed the vehicle back into a safe position. A few of the guards dashed over to Pip and grabbed him aggressively, raising weapons only inches away from his face.

   “No!" A high voice, which tinkled like the wind chimes that Pip had heard before in the market, shrieked. It was strained, with a sense of urgency that puzzled Pip. Princess Adelaide emerged from her damaged coach, bedraggled yet still beautifully composed at the same time. “Don’t hurt him. He has other uses.” And with that, Pip was forcefully escorted through the streets towards the Palace in which the Royal Family lived, bemused with a cow in tow. He had an audience with the Queen.  

 

The palace was unlike anything the desperately poor Pip could ever have imagined.  Turrets twisted into the opaque clouds that littered the grey sky, as the majesty of the place awed the boy. It was massive and cast a shadow over what seemed to be the whole kingdom. The splendour that emanated from the palace was intoxicating and left Pip feeling almost drunk with the grandeur that surrounded him. He crossed the bridge apprehensively and entered the palace, while being flanked by gruff guards who seemed like they’d prefer chopping off one of his body parts rather than be pleasant to him.

   Inside, the whole place was lavish, with exquisite furniture and interior décor that made everywhere else that Pip had been before look cheap in comparison. Chandeliers illuminated the palace and he was led into a vast room that was a flurry of activity, as short elfin women ran about trailing behind them ribbons of alabaster silk that they then wreathed them around a manikin wearing a wedding dress. Amongst the hustle and bustle, the Queen sat petulantly on her throne, presiding over the room with dominance. Her beady, malign eyes scanned the room before stopping on Pip. This pompous woman- who had never before seen anyone of a lower class than herself- was disgusted at the sight of the grimy boy who trod mud on her expensive floors and was an accost to her delicate nostrils.

   “Who is this, Adelaide?” she asked imperiously, not taking her eyes off Pip. The Princess rushed over to her mother’s side, the veil which covered her face billowing in every direction.

   No-one had ever seen the face of Princess Adelaide but her mother, although it was said that she was so beautiful that the first man who gazed upon her had ripped his own heart out of his chest to appease her. Her beauty was often spoken of, but never seen and her mother wanted it to keep it that way. There had been many marriage proposals from many foreign, wealthy merchants, aristocrats and princes however she’d accepted none of them. That was, until a little-known prince emerged from a little-known place and, upon seeing the Princess, proposed on the spot. Unlike the others, Princess Adelaide saw something in his eyes. A charismatic twinkle, something passionate, something oddly… charming. It was convenient that this prince could help sustain peace between Grimm and other realms, although the Queen assured her daughter that her marriage was more about ‘love’ than it was a political move and it wasn’t as if Adelaide ever dared contradict what her mother told her.   The Wedding would be celebrated as a kingdom-wide festivity, which meant that the townspeople would have to pretend to look pleased while they watched the Nobles rejoicing and revelling in impressive fashion as they were left out in the cold.

   “This is the one, I think, Mother,” she replied. The one, Pip thought. Whatever could this mean?

“Where did you find him?” the Queen asked.

“He got in the way of my carriage.”

She chuckled languorously. “Fate. Serendipity. How else is it possible to explain such a thing?”   

The Queen made a vague beckon with her slender fingers for Pip to come over to the throne. He advanced and she coughed gently when she thought that he was close enough. This was the signal for the soldiers to come over, tinder soldiers heavily armed to protect their Queen.

“Show me your face, child,” she demanded. He lifted his chin and she studied his every feature, which made him feel very uncomfortable indeed. “Answer me this; if your family were giving a loaf of bread, split into five pieces although there are six of you, who would go without one?”

   Pip suspected that this was a trick question, but he decided it was better to answer than not. “I would throw all six away,” he ventured nervously. “Because if one person were to go hungry, then everyone else ought to as well. It’s only fair.” 

There was silence for a moment and Pip worried that he’d gotten the question wrong. Instead, the Queen smiled slightly and began to speak again. “Well done. You have proved yourself and now you must do one more thing for me, then you may go home and have all the riches you could possibly want.”

 “But first…you must kill the Big Bad Wolf.”

Pip did not understand the weight of these words for a while, but Adelaide seemed shocked from behind her veil, and the tinder guards stood down from their positions to scratch their heads in bewilderment. The Queen persisted. “Can you do this for me?”

   What was Pip to do but nod? The Queen was delighted, or as close to delighted as her pinched face could ever show. “Good. I’m glad. Now go from here and return when the moon is full then begin on your quest. When you come back, you will have an accomplice to assist you. I think we have just the person. Goodbye and good luck!”

   And then Pip left, with the pressure of this task resting on his shoulders and his mind full of thoughts concerning beautiful princesses, tinder soldiers, dominant queens and foul wolves. On his way out, however, he accidentally caught a glimpse of Princess Adelaide removing her veil and a pair of striking orange eyes glowing back at him, mysterious and beguiling, twinkling in every corner of his mind with the aching beauty.

   But then he quickly hurried away, to tell his mother of his eventful day, with Gertrude by his side, as she always had and always would be.

 

 

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