(Based on the drawing “Lepus constellation”)
Chapter 1: The Moon Glen
She prowled beneath the massive wolf’s chest, crouching on her knees and elbows. The caw of the Black Crow snapped her into high alert. Slender, pale, and naked, covered by nothing but her long, flowing chestnut-blonde hair and a small pelt of rabbit’s fur, Lepus Luna felt safe beneath the sinewy beast. She sensed the warmth flowing from his thick, dark fur furl around her like a heavy cloak.
The Wolf pointed his ears in the direction of the screech to gather information. His long snout carefully drew in clues from the still air. He did not fear the Black Crow. He thought only of his singular devotion: to protect the gentle being hiding below him. Standing seven feet high while on all fours, few monsters posed any threat to the Wolf, but the phantoms that called the Immortal Forest their home used many tricks to capture prey.
In the distance, the caw of the half-bird, half-man poltergeist bounded over trees, carried on by the graying skies, to reach the Wolf’s ears a second time. The whimper of the delicate forest nymph cut through the guttural sounds coming from his throat. He snorted.
She stood up, standing behind the Wolf, staring past his bared teeth in the direction of the sound. Her tiny heart beat like the flap of fairy wings. Bright, blue eyes widened with fearful anticipation. Few times had Lepus Luna heard the call of the Black Crow, but each time marked the death of a woodland being.
The Wolf nudged her face with his long snout. Sensing his thoughts, she grabbed onto the fur around his neck, pulling herself onto his back with great agility. Her body sank into his thick coat, completely covered except for her face, which she held up, staring in the direction of danger. The Wolf sped away, anticipating the forest rather than seeing it, jumping over fallen trees and avoiding overhanging branches. The pair fled to a safer part of the woods, but soon, such a thing would not be found.
Lepus Luna sprang off the Wolf as it skidded to a halt near the hills of the Moon Glen—miles from where they heard the Crow’s call. Bright green moss and grasses covered the mounds of dirt and shale prominent in that part of the forest. Some of these formed large hills, peppered with oak, ash, and cherry trees, as well as unknown species native to that region. Paths and trails cut through bushes and undergrowth, which the pair now followed toward the brook that split the glen in half.
Tiny, white bunnies sprang out from the grasses as Lepus Luna glided by. They bounced beneath her, vying to touch her gentle skin. The Wolf ignored his desire to snatch them into his greedy throat. A bulky, green mound, the size of a cabin confronted them, and the girl put her hand on it. The grass around her hand sensed the warmth of her skin and stretched like tendrils toward it. Lepus Luna closed her eyes and muttered soft words that few could understand.
The hill awoke. The ground moved and quaked. Surrounding mounds of dirt and grass dislodged themselves, trees still rooted to their backs, revealing the underbelly of the glen. Eight legs of rock and soil lifted the wilderness, like a mountainous, earth-spider carrying a chunk of nature on its back. The mound Lepus Luna touched now formed part of what appeared to be a head, staring down. The glen shuddered, then roared at the visitors, sending the tiny rabbits scurrying beneath the Wolf.
The pair did not flinch. They watched as the mass of earth stood, revealing a shallow indent in the ground that the brook filled with diverted water from its stream. The water took on a silvering glint, yet it reflected nothing. The girl and the wolf walked toward the tiny pool, waiting for the surface to settle into a sheet of glass. Lepus Luna jumped in. The Wolf followed.
The world around them turned an amorphous white and gray. A cool breeze blew across the plain landscape, shifting the pale colors that hung in the air like strands of hair. Nothing recognizable appeared—no sky, no ground, and no forest. The Wolf and the girl marched through the nothingness. In the distance, a form, like a descending bird, appeared.
“Luna,” the form said as it took the shape of a woman clothed in gray.
At the sound of the woman’s voice the Wolf shrank to the size of a pup. A bunny that had somehow managed to stowaway in its fur jumped off in fright, multiplying in size until it landed with a thud as if a boulder hit the ground. It bounced away on massive hind legs. Lepus Luna, who had worn nothing but a tiny pelt of fur across her back, now wore a metallic, flowing dress. A thin tiara crowned her fragile, beautiful head.
“We heard your cry, Luna. What torments you?” asked the woman with a voice like a choir.
Luna watched the figure approach. It seemed as if the edges of her shape fluttered whenever the cool breeze strengthened.
“Madame Magdala, I heard the call of the Black Crow again today. I heard it twice,” said Luna. Her voice shimmered in the space between her and the lithe figure.
“From what direction, Dear One,” Magdala responded.
“From the North,” said Luna. “You must come help. I fear the Crow-Men have finally gotten what they have been after.”
“You know we can no longer take form in the Forest. The Black Crow has seen to that.”
“Then help us find the White Horse and his Rider. He shall rescue us.”
“Do not be so naïve, Lepus Luna,” said Magdala sternly. “They have not known our world in ten thousand years.”
The timbre of Magdala’s voice sent the pup-Wolf scurrying beneath Luna’s dress.
“But you know how to reach them,” coerced Luna.
“Speak no more of that. You shall find the place from which you heard the Black Crow and follow their tracks to the Moby. Steal back what they took from the Bloodless Ones.”
“But Madame, no one has ever penetrated the Crow-Men’s nest.”
“We do not need you to tell us what we already know. Follow our command, since for that reason you exist. When you have retrieved the Opal, return here at once.”
Magdala’s form took the shape of a cyclone. She moved over Luna and the tiny Wolf who whimpered loudly. Luna shielded her face from the harsh wind, closing her eyes and falling to her knees. The wind suddenly stopped. She felt the grass beneath her and the heavy sound of the Wolf’s breathing beside her. They were back in the Moon Glen.
Luna rose, feeling a gentle touch of light rain on her exposed skin. The silvery dress had vanished and the Wolf returned to his typical stature. Around them, the glen appeared untouched, as if nothing had occurred. Some of the bunnies returned to play around Luna’s feet, birds sang mating songs in the canopy, and the brook gurgled a spell of peace, but none of this beauty registered in Luna’s mind.
She grabbed the Wolf’s mane and pulled herself up once again. She turned her head toward the North. Danger lay in that direction. If the Black Crow had managed to penetrate the temple of the Bloodless Ones and stolen the Opal, then no creature would be safe. The Opal held the power to transform—to create and destroy life. Not even she, a messenger of the gods, would have the strength to restrain its reign.
Somewhere deep inside Lepus Luna felt the returning desire to ignore her obligations. She shook her head and sighed. Uttering an imperceptible, high-pitched sound, the Wolf sprang to life, dashing past blurry green and brown shapes. They would arrive at nightfall.