Little Red Hood
rating: +5+x

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, perfectly fit for baking cake. So good was the cake her mother made that Blanchette suggested taking some to her grandma. Her mother agreed and quickly prepared a basket with a few slices of cake, a bottle of wine, apples and pears. Blanchette took her favourite red hood and the basket and went out.

The birds were singing; the breeze was whispering, and the sky was cloudless and clear. The earth was covered in green grass with patches of white or blue flowers sprinkled about. Blanchette's red hood stood out in the greenish forest, its golden embroidery faintly glowing in the sun's rays. This favourite red hood of hers was a dear gift from her grandma, who was rumoured to be a witch. She was on the usual path to her grandma's house, a path blessed by the fairies so no one could be hurt while on it.

When she was a fourth of the way there, she met with Bailey the old boar, a friend of both her and her grandma.

"Greetings Little Red Hood, going to your grandma's - snort- ?"

"Yes. My mother made a delicious cake that I want to share with her," she said, lifting the basket.

"Why, that's wonderful to hear," half laughed, half snorted the boar. "But," the boar looked Blanchette in the eye, "Be careful, a trickster has been causing trouble as of late," he said in a somber voice.

"Thanks for warning me, I will be careful." She nodded cheerfully.

"Alright, have a good day still."

"Be seeing you."

She walked on, admiring the red and yellow flowers, the blue butterflies, the occasional golden butterfly until she was two fourths of the way to her grandma's house. Among yellow and red flowers she saw a glowing white flower, taller than the others. She approached it with timid curiosity. When she was closer, a bee jumped from it. It stood there for a second before spinning in the air and turning into a little fairy with bee wings.

"Hello Little Red Hood. Where to?" asked the fairy while buzzing around the girl.

"To my grandma," said the girl while showing the basket. "May I ask you something, little fairy?" said Blanchette with a slight frown. "Do you know of any tricksters causing trouble recently?"

"Hm." the fairy stopped in the air. "In this forest lives but one trickster, a fairy known as Jack Goodfellow. He's a servant of the King, he wouldn't just cause trouble for anyone." The fairy brought her hand to her chin. "I hope he's not gone mad like his father."

"Hmmm, thank you." Blanchette had a worried expression. "I should get going now."

"Be safe!" said the fairy before going back into the flower.

When Blanchette was three fourths there, a black werewolf appeared in her way. Its fur was like the night, its teeth were like the moon, and its eyes were like two red stars.

"Good day, dearest Red Hood, what brings you this way?" asked the wolf while smiling.

"I'm going to my grandma's. Do I know you?" she asked with a slight frown.

"Oh, that sounds lovely." said the wolf, as he sized her up from feet to head. "Lovely enough to eat whole…" he thought.

"So, where does your grandma live, anyway?" he asked with a toothy grin.

"Not very far from here, under three old oaks. Why? Do I know you?"

She tightened her grip on the basket.

The wolf almost frowned. "I won't hold you any longer."

Blanchette went on her way, at a faster pace than before.

The wolf went into the woods and walked a shortcut only the fairies should have known about and reached the three oaks earlier than Blanchette. The house was brown with a red roof. It was not huge, but it looked warm and comfortable.

He went around the house looking through the windows and saw no one. He knocked on the door, once, twice, thrice. No answer came. "Good." thought the werewolf. He opened the door with the same magic with which he'd discovered the secret paths of the fairies.

He hid inside and waited for either the grandma or Little Red Hood to come. He wouldn't have minded eating both.

Blanchette's father, the hunter, had returned home. His dear wife welcomed him. He embraced and kissed her and was ready to eat something but wished to see his daughter first.

"She's gone to my mother's." said the wife while walking into the kitchen.

"What!?" the hunter frowned.

"What? She knows what path to take." Concern was growing on her face. "What is the matter?"

He took his rifle back and put his boots on. "There is a dangerous werewolf out and about." He checked his knife. "I almost caught it a couple of days ago. Damn trickster almost took my eye."

"Oh, oh!" the wife went pale "Go then, may the fairies make your path easy, and may they also keep Blanchette safe."

The hunter hurried into the forest.

Blanchette reached her grandma's house and knocked cheerfully. "Grandma, It's me, Blanchette."

The werewolf dampened his voice as well as he could. "Yes, dearest, just come in, the door's open."

"Oh my, grandma, are you alright? You sound unlike yourself."

"My throat is sore, that's all. No need to worry."

Blanchette stared at the door for a second before slowly opening it. She peeked inside. The wolf forcefully opened it and pulled her in by the wrist.

"You're not grandma! You're the wolf," cried the girl.

"Yes, dearest and I haven't eaten in almost three days." said wolf while smiling and licking his lips. For every step forward he took, Blanchette took a step back, until she hit the wall. By that point she was trembling and almost in tears.

"Please don't eat me. You can have the basket, please? There's food in the basket." she said with a shaking voice and tears in her eyes.

"I don't care for the basket, dearest but I do hope your grandma's kitchen is well equipped." He smiled and took three large steps. He grabbed the red hood first. Blanchette cried for help while covering her face by instinct. The wolf howled in pain and jumped back. The hood had burned his hand.

Blanchette dashed for the kitchen while the wolf was examining his torched hand. From outside came a loud knocking followed by a thick, clear voice. "Blanchette!? Are you in there? Are you alright?" The hunter yelled louder, "Answer me…please."

Blanchette cried in response "Help me, please… I'm scared." On the last word her voice became shrill.

The wolf grumbled some curses and entered the kitchen, where Blanchette had taken hold of a knife. She was pointing it at the wolf when he entered.

"Don't come any closer." she said with tears flowing down her cheeks.

The wolf snickered. "How cute." and took an oven mitt with his unwounded hand.

The hunter was kicking the door with his foot when he heard Blanchette scream again.

"Damn sturdy door you are!" he said before kicking harder.

He took a few steps back and charged right trough it. He almost fell on his face on the other side. He saw something blackish in the kitchen door. In one instinctive movement, he pointed the rifle at it. But between him and the wolf was Blanchette, now without her red hood and at knifepoint.

"Move out of the door or I will slit her throat." threatened the werewolf.

The hunter hesitated for a moment but did as he was told. They kept equal distance between them until the wolf was within reach of the door. He shoved Blanchette toward the hunter, obscuring his aim, and dashed out into the woods.

The hunter caught his daughter. He spared a second to look at the door before dropping the rifle and embracing his sobbing child.

"It's alright, my Little Red Hood, it's alright. Your father is here, and the wolf is away. It's alright, you're safe now." He kissed her on the forehead and hugged her even tighter.

By the time she calmed, the grandma came back home.

"Oh my, why is my door down?" asked the grandma frowning.

The hunter got up first and began telling what happened. Blanchette also told her side of the story.

"Oh my!" cried the grandma and rushed to hug Blanchette. "My love, my Little Red Riding Hood, how did this happen? Oh my, I am so sorry, I should have known… I should have known the hood wouldn't be enough. I will give you something more useful as fast as I can, I promise." She was almost crying.

The grandma realized something. "My dear son-in-law, how do you suspect this wolf could have gotten here faster than Blanchette? There is only one way, the Fairy King's Path," said the grandma with a raised brow.

"I do not know. Magic perhaps? You and your daughter seem to know plenty of it. Why wouldn't a wolf such as this know as well?" The hunter shrugged.

"Hmm… I think I know how to catch this wolf."

She turned to Blanchette.

"You stay here. You needn't see the wolf anymore." She kissed her on the forehead.

"What about the door? He opened it, somehow."

The grandma breathed in. "I'll put an enchantment on the door." She sighed. "This forest was supposed to be safer than the outside."

The lock was badly damaged but no normal object can be stronger than a good enchantment.

The hunter and grandma went outside. The grandma had a plate with a slice of cake in it. She went to one of the oaks and raised the plate.

"Elder Oaks, I seek counsel with the fairies who protect this forest from the darkness outside. This slice of cake is my offering to them."

After a moment, the old oak's trunk split and opened. From within it came a proud king. He had a white crown, was dressed in white and green cloaks, had white rings on his fingers and a blue jewel at his neck.

"Ah, It's been a while since we last talked, dear friend." He took the plate and tasted the cake. "Hmmm, delicious cake!" and he took another, bigger piece. "Well, you may speak."

The grandma crossed her arms. "I thought you were supposed to protect the forest."

The King frowned. "I am." He continued eating cake.

The grandma raised an eyebrow. "Then, why did a wolf almost eat my granddaughter?"

The king almost choked on a piece of cake.

"Also, he seems to be using the secret paths…"

The King closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

The grandma brought her hand to her forehead. "Oh my…"

"Don't worry!" said the Fairy King with a forced smile. "This is easy, I know just the person." he said while snapping his fingers.

At his hand gathered golden butterflies. "Bring me Jack Goodfellow." whispered the King.

The butterflies scattered into the forest.

"Just a moment. He's the best trickster in this forest, he'll surely be able to catch this werewolf." said the King while bringing another spoonful of cake to his mouth.

After he finished the cake he looked into the splitting of the trunk from which he came. "Can't the Goodfellow hurry up, for fate's sake?" he asked in an annoyed tone.

From the trunk answered a hurried, panicked voice. "Your Majesty, I am coming. I am almost there." A golden butterfly came out of the trunk. It spun a few times in the air before transforming into a young man dressed in glittering silver and gold. He bowed to the king deeply.

"I am sorry for being late, Your Majesty. Truly sorry-"

"You're here now." interrupted the King "And you have a werewolf to catch."

"Yes, your Majesty." said the trickster.

The King nodded and looked at the grandma "Do as he says and the wolf will be caught in no time flat." he said pointing at Jack.

The King entered the trunk and snapped his fingers. It began closing up and soon became as it was before.

Jack breathed out and wiped the sweat from his brow before turning toward the old lady. "Well…" He smiled. "I could tell you where the wolf is right now but-" He brought his hands together. "I need a bucket of water, another of honey and quality rope." He took a step forward. "Enchanted rope actually," he said with a wink.

The werewolf was in a dark, hidden part of the forest. Reachable only by the secret paths. He was plotting his revenge against the hunter when he heard a loud bang. He jumped to his feet and looked around. "The hunter? But it can't be, only fairies-" a bullet exploded against a trunk barely half a meter from him, interrupting his thought.

"There you are, you beast!" cried the hunter.

The werewolf thought no more and jumped into another trunk, onto a secret path. Jack Goodfellow welcomed him.

"Just in time!" he said, and he threw the bucketful of honey into the wolf's face.

The wolf stumbled backwards and fell on his bottom at the base of a tree. Jack took another stone and felt it's weight. He aimed for a beehive somewhere in the tree above the wolf and threw the stone so hard the hive cracked open. The bees swarmed around him and stung him over an over again.

He started screaming for help and flailing his arms to scare the bees.

This display greatly amused Jack, and he would have allowed the bees to kill him then and there had he no better ideas.

He threw the bucketful of water into the wolf's face, washing away the honey. The bees dispersed and he tied the wolf up and dragged him through the forest. The wolf growled all the way there but didn't dare speak one word.

"You better get acquainted with the worms, werewolf." said Jack Goodfellow as he dragged him back to the grandmother's house.

The hunter and grandmother thought of how to best punish him.

"I ought to shoot him." said the hunter.

"No, I ought to turn him into a pathetic worm." said the grandma.

"Now, hold on a minute." interrupted Jack. "He is caught." he said while pointing at the wolf. "But this forest has laws about how criminals ought to be punished." He looked at the grandma and then at the hunter. "I know he tried to do something bad to you." He took a step forward. "But he did bad stuff to others before you." He smiled. "Let me take him. I promise he'll get a deserving punishment."

The hunter and grandma looked at each other.

The grandma spoke first. "Fine, I just want my family to be safe."

Jack took a deep breath and nodded. "Neither you nor your family will see him again." He grabbed he rope. "I promise."

He winked and left with the wolf. When they were farther away the wolf spoke for the first time since he'd been caught.

"Why don't set me free?" asked the wolf. "One trickster to another."

Jack didn't respond but kept dragging him by the ropes. His fur was covered in mud and hunger was really starting to affect him. He could've eaten rocks were they edible. In reality, worms had become somewhat appetizing…

"I'll remain in your debt… " said the wolf. The shine in his eyes dimmed. His hopes of freedom diminished with every step the fairy took. "Please?"

As he was dragged the scenery became worse and worse. The trees became old and crooked and the sun was wholly obscured at times. He started struggling against the ropes, his breaths became shorter and shorter and he started sweating. "Freedom? Forget freedom! Why is he dragging me so deep into the forest?" He began begging and crying.

"Please. I am begging you! Please…" said the wolf with a shrill voice. "What is it you mean to do to me?" he screamed, almost choking on his tears.

But Jack Goodfellow ignored him still. He stopped only when they reached the darkest, most hidden part of the forest. He forced his jaws open with a thicker stick and fed him rocks, one at a time. The Goodfellow's gaze as he fed the wolf rocks was cold and distant. His smile was no more. The wolf's pained and desperate howls echoed trough old branches and were eaten by the darkness. His stomach finally burst and the fairy buried him deeper than any grave.

"I hope you acquainted yourself with the worms," said Jack Goodfellow before leaving.

The End

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