This is the fourth story about one of the true legends from Brockenborings, the fabulous sheepdog Ruff!
Of course, ter enjoy this story, it helps ter have:
- Read the first story, about how Ruff was born and raised
- Read the second story, about how Ruff started guarding them sheep
- Read the third story, about how Ruff met the lovely sheepdog lass Aurora
- Sung along to the Ruff song
Story no 4: When Yer Gaze Into The Abyss
One late summer morning, many years back, the male sheepdogs in Brockenborings woke up and yawned. They sniffed the fences as they went about their morning duties, then had a hearty breakfast. As the sun rose, they started jostling and playing with each other. To the hobbits in the village, everything looked normal.
Inside, though, them male sheepdogs were simmering with anger. They were raging, I tell yer!
Because of the lovely sheep dog lass Aurora, who had just moved to town. Because she wasn’t interested in any of them, oh no. Because she only had eyes fer that scrawny feller Ruff!
Oh, the unfairness! Oh the humiliation!
It was all so horrible that a proud sheepdog should throw away his marrow bones and go skulk in the shade, it was. Instead, them males started plotting. It was about time ter deal with that lousy rotter Ruff, they whined. Sure he was clever and tricksy, and oh he might be kind and everything to them sheep, and he had a real loud and impressive bark. But the fact of the matter was, he was a small and scarred pup, and he had run away with the prize catch of the north. And that wouldn’t do, oh no. So them males whispered and wheezed and plotted horrible plots as the day grew warmer.
Ruff, though, he didn’t know any of this. Instead he was working hard to lick and gnaw on that scrawny fur of his. Because, see, Ruff was planning ter go visit Aurora again. They had agreed ter meet beneath the windmill at noon, ter go play with the sheep in the fields. And he wanted his fur ter be all slick and shiny and somewhat impressive-looking. But gnaw and lick as he might, nothing helped, he just looked his ordinary scrawny self. So when his scheeming brothers came over to him, Ruff looked sad and a little dejected.
“What are yer moping for?”, his brothers asked him as they sniffed around the yard.
“Oh, I just can’t make me fur look all shiny and grand”, Ruff sighed. Them brothers eyed each other, a naughty and mean twinkle in their eyes. Finally, his oldest brother tried his most caring and kind growl.
“Yer know, Ruff, there is somet that might help yer. Yer want to go to that ravine near the edge of Bindbole Woods. The mud on the edge there should be real good fer yer fur. Roll around a bit there, and yer fur is sure ter be slicker and shinier than a well-gnawed bone.”
Ruff pondered on this. “Ooh. But that ravine is dangerous. If a pup falls down into them holes below, there is no way back up.”
“Aww, worry not”, said his brother. “I’ll come with and stand guard over yer”. Ruff tilted his head and raised an ear, then barked happily. “That’s kind of yer, brother. Let’s go right now.”
So off them two sheepdogs ran, to the ravine on the edge of the woods. The ravine was steep, and the slope was right slippery, because of the rain from the day before. But Ruff’s brother found a branch nearby, and dragged it over. “Here”, he growled, “bite on that end, and I’ll bite on the other end. And then yer can roll around all yer want there on that muddy edge, without any danger of falling below.”
As said, as done. Ruff bit on the branch, then happily rolled around on the edge of the ravine. Soon his fur was all slick with the mud, so he stopped rolling and tried ter claw his way back to firm ground. Try as he might, though, the mud was so slippery, he couldn’t quite get a grip fer his paws. He looked at his brother, nudging his head towards the firm ground.
The look in his brother’s eyes was colder than a frosty yule morning.
A low growl. Seconds felt like hours. The brother let go of the branch. Ruff scratched and clawed, but couldn’t stop. With a howl he slid down the ravine and into one of the deep, deep holes below. Then, no sound. All was quiet, and nothing could be seen.
Upon returning to the village, Ruff’s brother went straight to the windmill, where Aurora waited. “Hullo there”, she said, “have yer seen Ruff? He promised he would meet me here today.”
Ruff’s brother sighed, then tilted his head. “I am not quite sure how best ter say this. But Ruff left town.” Aurora’s eyes went wide as the brother continued. “Aye, he said the town was getting too small fer him. Especially with yer badgering him every minute of the day. So he ran off, he did. Wanted ter see the world and everything”
Aurora’s eyes glistened, a hurt whimper left her throat. Ruff’s brother went over and sniffed her behind her ear. “But worry not, dear Aurora. The rest of us will take right good care of yer. Yer can be sure of that…”
He had ter fight hard ter stop his wicked chuckle.
In a small open space below ground, a small muddy heap moved. Ruff opened his eyes, but he couldn’t see a thing. He sniffed the air. It was a strange, furrin smell, nothing he was used to from back home. He got up and moved around. He kept banging into dirt walls.
Panic near took him. There was no way out!
He was about to let out a loud bark, when he stumbled into an open tunnel. He could feel something stir in front of him. A pair of twinkling lights hovered in the air ahead. The lights blinked slowly. A loud humming sound filled the tunnel.
And the lights crept closer, closer, ever closer…
And so ends the story about how Ruff was tricked into the ravine. But I am sure I’ll have ter tell yer the follow-up to this some day soon!
Picture copyright: Throttler at en.wikipedia.