Two years after the last, here is the fifth story about one of the true legends from Brockenborings, the fabulous sheepdog Ruff!
Image credit: salpics32 / 123RF Stock Photo
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
- Read the fourth story, about how Ruff ended up in a deep nasty ravine
- Sung along to Sheepdog Known as Ruff
- Sung along to His Name is Ruff
Please note that this fifth story continues from the fourth one!
Story no. five: A Song of Badgers and Shrews
In a small open space below ground, a 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…
Ruff couldn’t help himself. He tried to let out a large ruffing bark. But try as he might, all he was able ter do were small puppy yelps. The squeaky yelps echoed down the tunnel.
The humming noise stopped. The lights froze. Then slowly, carefully, they got closer still. Now accompaniet by a soft snuffling sound. A badger came wobbling down the tunnel, eyes glinting in the dark. It stopped and tilted its head. “Ho there”, said the badger, “whatever are yer squealing for?”
Ruff calmed down. Now badgers, he knew, them were grand creatures. After an intense round of mutual sniffing, snuffling and light jostling, Ruff told the sad story about how he had ended up in the tunnel. The badger tilted its head again, then nodded slowly. “Alright. Come this way, and we’ll try have yer sorted out”.
Ruff was led through an amazing maze of underground tunnels. He soon lost his sense of direction, but the light humming sounds of the badger calmed him. He soon found himself humming along. Up ahead, more humming echoed down the tunnel, growing stronger. After many a twist and turn, the pair ended up in a large underground cave, lit in a gentle glow.
The cave was full of badgers, humming softly to each other. Some of them came over to Ruff. They licked his wounds and gave him fresh water and berries. Ruff soon felt better, and his moods picked up considerably by being around the friendly badgers. However, he couldn’t help but feel that they all seemed a bit distraught. It was as if something lay heavy on their minds.
“Right”, said Ruff’s new companions. “Yer looking for a way out? Normally, yer could just walk down this way, turn right at the oaken root, straight ahead past the old well, up, down and around the goblin skull, then left/right and up/down for a while… and yer would have been halfway there. However, at the moment, that’s not quite possible.”
Oh dear, thought Ruff.
“The problem is that we are currently facing a rather nasty infestation of shrews in our tunnels, and we just have ter chase them off. Wicked creatures, them shrews. Eating the farmer’s apples, scaring the sheep, and what have yer. And now, they want to force us out of our home.” Ruff, having had many a run-in with shrews himself, found himself growling at this.
“So, you see, we are gathering to chase off those horrible creatures. But we find ourselves in a rather worrying predicament”. How so? said Ruff. “See, we badgers let the power of music aid us in our endeavors. Songs and melodies have always made our work easy, our search for food successful, our relationships with each other warm and comforting. But try as we might, we just can’t find a song suitable to fight those pesky shrews.”
Ruff listened to the soft hums from the cavern and agreed. This was no fighting sound, oh no. At the very best, this was a soft late-night lullaby.
A lullaby that was pierced by a guttural wheezing laughter from the tunnels ahead. The badgers all stirred and hushed, listening closely. A young badger came wobbling into the middle of the cavern, shivering and yelping.
“The shrews! The shrews attack!”
The song died out. Darkness fell on the cave as the badgers closed their eyes in unison, accepting their inevitable doom. For up ahead, sharp white teeth glinted in the darkness. The wicked laughter of the shrews filled the cave.
Ruff took it all in. His scrawny fur bristled, his very bones shook. Not from fear, but from anger. Anger over his wicked brothers. Anger that he was far from Aurora. Anger over the shrews. White rage because his friends were in danger.
He ran into the middle of the cave. Summoning all his strength and courage, he barked out a loud “RUFF”!
The tunnels shook. Sand and stone fell from the earthen walls. As the shrew army came tumbling into the cave, Ruff launched his frail body headfirst into their leader. Desperate shrieks as sharp teeth found fur, bones crunched, blood splattered on the dirt walls.
The deafening roars from below echoed across the Greenfields. In Brockenborings, hobbits stopped and listened, worried that the ghost of Golfimbul had returned. The sheep startled and brayed. Ruff’s cowardly brothers hid in bushes and under beds, whimpering.
Only Aurora, eyes still glistening from tears, sat up. Through the muffled roaring sounds she heard a familiar voice. A voice once friendly and loving. A voice now agonized and desperate. Ruff’s…
She ran for the door, into the yard, towards the gate to the fields. A shadowy creature jumped in front of the gate, growling, standing tall in front of her. “Going somewhere?” Ruffs older brother said. “Now that won’t do”. He closed in on the shaking lass.
And so ends this part of the story of how Ruff met the badgers of the Greenfields. But I am sure I’ll have to tell yer the follow-up rather soon now?
Yer can read all of me stories here in me story book!