Into the Woods (7)

“Leave me alone, will you Ruffy!” Dean kicked at the end of the bed and pulled the cover higher, completely covering himself with it. His feet were tapped again, softly and he grumbled, throwing the cover off in rage. “What, Ruffy, What? You gotta go outside to pee again, you stupid old dog?!”

It wasn’t exactly Ruffy, the aging old Husky with one blue eye and one brown eye who had been nudging his feet the last few minutes. It was Dean’s uncle, Uncle Vargus, a slightly kooky old man Dean had the pleasure of leaving with ever since his parents vanished without a trace in one of their Arctic research mission, some ten years ago.

Uncle Vargus was technically not Dean’s uncle, but his Dad’s, somehow. Something about twice removed or other that Vargus had tried to explain one night over way too much sticky Port.

“What is it, Uncle Vargus?” Dean asked, worried that the man was loosing it more each day. Uncle Vargus held up a finger against his lips and shushed Dean. He was wearing something strange over him and Dean reached for his lamp, but before he could, Vargus was upon him, pressing a finger to his lips.

“Don’t make a sound. Don’t turn on the lights, or they will see.”

“Who, Uncle Vargus? Who will see us?” Dean sighed. The old man was probably having one of his psychic attacks again. Dean couldn’t explain it, but some how, some days Vargus eerily managed to predict things that would happen hours, days, weeks or months from now.

“They are here!” Vargus grabbed Dean’s arm and pulled him across the room. “Keep you’re head low, boy, your mouth shut, and follow!”

Dean sighed, doing as he was told. He was already awake and freezing so he may as well play the game. “Lead on!”

“Shush.” Vargus moved surprisingly quickly through the dark house, knew exactly where to step to avoid the wood creaking, and deftly worked his way down to the basement where he finally turned on the weak light after Dean was through the door and it was shut behind them.

“What is going on, Vargus? It’s the middle of the night, and I was trying to sleep.”

“But you weren’t asleep yet,” he replied, grabbing Dean’s arm again and pulling him quickly down the stairs where a huge packed trekking bag was ready.

“What is this? Are you going somewhere?” Dean asked. He knew he was a challenge to look after some days but he never that Vargus would leave him one day. “I’m sorry if I’ve done something, Vargus. I’m sure we can talk about this.”

“I’m afraid we’ve run out of time,” Vargus whispered and reached into what looked like an emerald green cloak. It looked rather warm actually and Dean didn’t mind having one of his own. “Here, take this, it will give you passage at the inn. Ask for Firebreather!” He slipped a cold fat coin of some sort made of solid gold.

“Is this gold?” Dean asked in utter surprise. “Are you handing me gold, Vargus? You’ve finally lost it, haven’t you?”

They heard a creak of the woods out on the porch and Vargus clamped Dean’s mouth shut with his hand. “Now listen carefully. You still remember your defense arts?” Dean nodded. “Good, you might need them. I haven’t got much time to explain things,” the front door was opened above them and Dean’s head shot up.

Through clamped mouth he still managed, “Do we have intruders, Uncle?”

Vargus nodded and let go. He reached in his pocket and took out a small parchment while signaling to Dean to keep quiet. Above them, boots walked about on creaking floors, small dust falling on them like snow below.

Vargus placed a small bit of dried mushroom in the middle of a strange spiral on the parchment and held Dean’s hand in silence. The spiral whorled and the room began to get windy, and from the middle a toadstool mushroom that was moving and talking popped up.

Persei sighed at the sight of Vargus. “Not you too! Second one for tonight.” He stared at Dean, up and down. “Well come on then, I haven’t got all night.”

Vargus pushed Dean forth till he was on the parchment. “Get him to safety, Persei!”

“You’re not coming, I suppose?” Persei asked, his moist spongy hand grasping Dean’s. Dean felt a little queasy. It was as if he were hold a mushroom, if a mushroom had a hand.

“Vargus,” Dean began, but his uncle thrust the packed bag at him and gave him a rather awkward hug. “Go on, go with Persei. I’ll join you as soon as I can. Go on.”

“I hear something,” a voiced boomed from above and a pair of feet thumped the floor on purpose. “I think there is a room underneath.”

Vargus turned sharply to the pair. “Now, Persei! Now!”

Persei sighed. “Very well then,” and he snapped his finger once. The last thing Dean saw was the sight of Uncle Vargus’s green cloak swooshing in the wind like the red flag of a matador as he vanished quickly up the stairs, in silence.

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