Author's note: Moving on with our story and again I must thank u Nagabe-sensei, author of The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún for being such wonderful inspiration for this story, and Miyazaki-sensei, for being my best teacher of storytelling. We walk a little deeper into the woods and find out what hides inside.

16. Mother

Joris was sure that nobody would stand on his way to claim the head of the Wolf God as he ran towards Paris, with all his followers behind him. What he didn't knew was that the so-called Big Bad had more than one trick up his sleeve, and more loyal followers than the tiny man. The Wolf deity howled and thousands of ravens began to take upon the skies, forming large black clouds over the heads of the Parisians and threatening to fall upon the oncoming beasts. Joris didn't get it. Why was the god angry? Wasn't he making the forest a favor?

Anne, Jehan, Pierre and Quasimodo saw the birds too, but that wasn't the only thing coming out of the forest. Gigantic boars, bears and other monsters were walking into the first lights of day. The war that Joris had started between the capital and the woods, had also started a burning fuse. No god would just sit and wait for the soldiers to come and burn their trees. The hunchback didn't understand. Wasn't there an only god? What was happening? And Clopin? Was he all right?

"Long ago, before Christians came to this land, older gods lived here. Celts and other tribes respected them. The gauls knew there was a Wolf God living in the woods and feared him like the Devil himself. Our city name was Lutecia, 'land of wolves' or 'land of Lugh', who was a Solar and a War god among other things. When we began to build churches and cathedrals, those deities hid deep in the woods. We forgot their existence and that was a mistake. That strange little man thinks he's doing something right, but he's not. Those gods were happy in their forests, in their solitude, bringing the rage of the soldiers is a mistake" explained Jehan. Quasimodo looked at the man. "Unlike my brother, Frollo, I have always liked to know things about our origins"

"Your brother?" the hunchback was in awe.

"I know how you feel about him, lad, and I want nothing of it. We might not be friends, Quasimodo, but I know my brother was unfair to you. He maybe was right about your mother, your blood mother, but not about the rest. You cannot let that stop you now, or we are done for" the judge spoke slowly and gently. Anne listened and smiled. "If I'm correct, there is still hope for us. Big Bad is one of the most important gods in the woods, but there is another and he won't like it when he sees what is happening"

"What other god?" the bell ringer asked. Pierre blinked in amazement.

"Is not a he or a she, though some call it 'Mother'. It's a River spirit, a Life and Death God just like the Wolf, his brother, who brings the rain. I had read things about it, never actually had seen it although there are rumors in court. I'm sure her Majesty has heard about it in the hunting days. A large deer with a tree as his antlers, silver fur as the moon and sun, making no sound when walking and said to be able to walk straight at night" explained Jehan.

"I recall the story. My father told me about it, and both my husband and his father have offered large rewards for whoever took it to the palace, brought his head, an antler or a blood sample" the Queen knew the story. "I never gave it too much credit"

"Stags are symbols of god, if you think it through" pointed out the judge. (Rock fact, people)

"But he's not here yet, where is he?" Quasimodo couldn't see any animal resembling the mythical stag.

"If the legends are true, he's still 'walking' around his forest. When the sun rises, it returns to its more discreet appearance" they rode on towards Paris. "I just hope it's not too late"


Clopin wasn't sure. His vision had suddenly went black and his legs gave away. He knew that he was facing the greatest threat of them all, but his body refused to move from the ground. The Roma opened an eye. The Dark god was poised over him but keeping some distance between them. Why was he doing that? Clopin saw part of the answer standing next to him. Piccolum was caressing his muzzle and the dark bone wolves of Big Bad were looking into the depths of the forest, as if they were waiting for someone to come. Their heads made out of cattle skulls, birds and deer heads. The gypsy breathe deep, not sure of if he was going to be able to move, when he noticed a figure walking towards them.

Birds were chirping gently and even rodents were approaching. Before Clopin could say, there was a magnificent stag standing before him. In his antlers, many animals found refuge and flowers grew, but his face wasn't that of a deer. Those ears were more of a wolf or a fox, his eyes two silver coins in the ocean and it had no hooves, but paws. It spoke not, but gently rubbed the Roma with its nuzzle. It was happy to see him after so long. The stag moved its ears, knowing what was taking place in the road to Paris but it didn't rush nor run. It just walked towards the ruins of the village and breathe. Little by little, the buildings reappeared and the whole hamlet was soon standing as it did before. Piccolum smiled and climbed to the rump of the wolf. Sitting on the limits was Fronsac with his two hounds. The wolf herder did his best bow and the stag did another, before moving towards the edges of the woods. Clopin got up slowly and walked towards his old friend, who caressed him gently.

"Why is it that I never find you in one piece, hu? Good to see you again. This is how we first met, remember? You had a bad run with some hunters, dressed up like a wolf, no a fox! And I took you to my cabin. Good times" smiled Gregoire while his hounds licked the Roma. "I believe we have an appointment, right?" Fronsac put Clopin on his horse along with Mebh and they moved towards Paris. "Mother will meet us there" they rode towards the city. Clopin gazed upon his friend and the old man spoke slowly. "When I saw Joris, I didn't know he was one of your brothers. He turned up one day and said that he wanted revenge against all those who enslaved others. I agreed at first but not when I saw what he was up to. You and I know, and he should too, that the past is a learning step not a burden. We are what we do, what we believe and say. And this forest has a lot to say about that, hence why I never asked why the gods were here. After all, Mother always helps me when I'm doing my rounds and Big Bad too with his wolves. If I hunt a rabbit for lunch, I offer part of it to my furry friends. Because that is how this world works, or so do I think. The skull must be restored so that the Balance can return and a lesson can be learned"

I have always respected Nature and all animals, for many reasons, but I never have forced others to follow my lead. All creatures are valuable and forests are sanctuaries, hence why I think that before talking about becoming vegan and so on, it's important to learn how to appreciate those wonderful places like Fronsac does. And you don't need much to do it, really, just learn to walk quietly, talking in low voice, leave the fauna and flora live (they are not your live show), breathing the air, listening to what's around you, staying in the paths and picking up any thrash you have or see. And that's it. You don't need anything else. It's the easiest list of all but nobody does so.

Again, I'm not going to go all Greta and tell you what to do (I can't stand her for several reasons). I have been going to the forest and the sea for holidays since I was a baby and I will do it for many years to come, as the scout I am and because I grew up with people who worked with the woods (like an uncle who studies bats and who taught me that all creatures have a purpose). I hope you enjoy the story, because we are entering the last part.

See you soon!

Next stop: The Shishi God