Wally licked his lips and slunk back into the woods. A witch isn’t one of his favorite meals but he had done it for the boy and his sister. He had principles after all. ‘An oven, for crying out loud! What could the hag have been thinking?’ He slumped against a white birch and closed his eyes.
“Oh, my! Oh, my! I’ve really done it this time. I’m going to end up in the dungeon for sure.”
Wally snapped to attention. A woman hurried down the path towards him carrying luggage in each hand. She was dressed in a stained, white dress. Her bright red face was sweating profusely.
The wolf confronted her on the path. The woman dropped the luggage and screamed. “Oh no, it’s the big, bad wolf. Apparently God thinks the dungeon’s too good for me.”
“Wally, the wolf, at your service, Ma’am.” He cleared his throat. “What’s wrong?”
The woman’s mouth fell open. “You talk!”
“Well, not very often. I don’t do speaking engagements or anything like that, if that’s what you mean. What’s the trouble?”
“I lost my temper this morning and cut the beards off the five dwarves while they slept. They’ll be in a deep sleep until their beards grow back.” The woman slumped to the ground. “I guess I just cooked one too many tiny pancakes. I couldn’t do it anymore.”
“Five dwarves, did you say?”
“There were originally seven but two ran away last week.”
“I see. What’s in the luggage? Your clothes?”
“Let’s open up and have a look.”
“I will not! It’s private!”
The unexpected voice startled them both. “Gotta run! Gotta run! Gotta run, run, run!” Wally recognized the familiar refrain. “Over here, Munch. What’s the news from the forest?”
The stranger ran up and saluted. “I covered 25 miles this morning, Chief. Overtook three pigs about ten miles back heading this way. And there’s a little girl dressed in red carrying a basket. She’s still about a mile out. I also spotted a young boy and girl headed in the opposite direction.”
“Good job, Munch. Three pigs did you say?”
“Right, Chief. And don’t forget the girl in red. The basket might be contraband.”
“I know the girl. She’s harmless.” Wally pointed to the woman and explained the situation. “She claims her future’s in the luggage.”
“You hold her, Chief, and I’ll take a peek.”
Wally grabbed the woman before she could react and pinned her arms. Munch opened the luggage. Both bags were filled with gold coins.
“There’s no future in greed, Ma’am,” Wally said.
“The dwarves won’t need it anymore. It’ll be years before their beards grow back. When they regain their strength, they can mine for more.”
“You know the Ten Laws of the forest and you know the punishment for breaking them.” Wally whistled and two trolls appeared. “Take this woman to the mines. She’ll be doing the dwarves work until they can do it for themselves. And oh, see that she gets a daily ration of tiny pancakes.”
The girl struggled to get free. “You’re nothing but a big, bad wolf. You have no authority. Wait! Let me go! It’s the prince’s fault not mine. He should have married me three years ago, the slug.” The trolls dragged her away screaming.
“Here’s what were going to do, Munch. We’ll give half the gold to the little girl in red today and I’ll take the other half to the boy and his sister tomorrow. I’d do it tonight but I’m expecting three guests for dinner.”
“Right, Chief.” The little girl rounded the bend swinging her basket and chattering to the birds. Suddenly, she saw the wolf and broke into a run. “Wally, Wally! She jumped into his arms and gave him a hug. “I’ve missed you, Wally!”
“Listen, sweetie, I want you to take Munch to your home and help him carry this suitcase. There’s enough gold there to feed and clothe your family for a long time. We’ll have a proper visit next time you come.”
“O.K., Wally. C’mon, Munch.” She grabbed the gingerbread man by the hand and led him back down the path.
Wally yawned and curled up underneath the white birch just inside the woods. He sighed. Justice was different here in the forest than in the outside world but it was still justice after all. He glanced at the sun. ‘Four hours till dinner.’ He closed his eyes and grinned sheepishly. ‘Big bad wolf, indeed.’
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