Kerry’s-Story author:differential_Sloth conflicted_fluffies conspiricy desperate_measures forest_fluffies forest_life herd_life plots text

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Kerry's Story' Part Thirty Seven

By differential_Sloth


####

When you need to use your thinkie place and look like you’re not, you walk around the safe place. It’s a handy trick, and has served you well for a long time; hopefully, this time won't be an exception. Your thinkie place has been working almost non-stop since Big Red set the feeling off; it’s been hard to sleep the past few darktimes, but you don’t care and can hardly feel the extra sleepies anyway.

Something is happening in the herd, more than hurties and saddies from the bad fluffy attack; that much you know. What you need to figure out, and fast, it exactly what’s happening; is it a danger to the herd, and is it coming from the forest or inside the safe place. You walk around a nummie den, nodding at the guards as you do, and think back to when the bad fluffies attacked. There's so much to go back over; everyone the herd lost, the bad fluffies who escaped, and the change in smarty.

What to start with, though?

‘Hmm,’

Quite a few bad fluffies escaped during the fight, and no one knows where they went. Could some or a lot of them be gathering together, getting ready to attack the safe place again?

‘Hmm,’

No, that doesn’t make any sense; the bad fluffies who ran away aren’t the kind who would or could plan that. The ones who could are all forever sleepies. Plus, it doesn't explain Big Red. If he thought bad fluffies were getting ready to attack again, you and Tree would be the first fluffies he told! Same for anything from outside the herd that wanted to hurt it. It’s hard to admit, but whatever is happening must be coming from inside the herd.

So what could it be?

Well, what’s changed around here? Some fluffies always get mad or scared when things… You're a dummy sometimes, or maybe you're thinking too hard. Still, it's obvious what's changed; the Smarty! When he first talked to the herd, a lot of fluffies weren't sure about him. Many weren't afraid to be loud about it! Most of the herd accepts him now, but there’s still a few who aren’t happy with him, like Rock.

Shivers run down your back, but you push through them; you really need your thinkie place to be clear. Ok, what do you know about-

‘Bestest tuffy!’

Snapping out of your thinkie place work, you turn to face the voice; ‘Wat Weaf wan?’

He looks at you for a short moment; ‘Dah Smawty say wan tawkies tu yu an Next bestest tuffies dis bwighttime. Bestest tuffy nu wememba?’

No actually, you don’t; ‘Yes, Bestest tuffy wememba. Teww Bestest tuffy when id gun happen. Am gun keep watchin safe pwace.’

‘Yes, Bestest tuffy,’ Once Leaf is gone, you get back to thinking.

Alright, Rock’s always been difficult to deal with; stubborn, sure he’s right about almost everything, and takes forever to admit when he’s wrong. He and the old Smarty fought over lots of things. It’s not a surprise he wasn't happy with the new Smarty, even more so given Rock is much older than him. From what you’ve learnt, he worked with the old Smarty’s daddeh. He seemed to be coming around lately, but you’re starting to think you were wrong.

Say for a moment that Rock’s lying, that he's only pretending to like the Smarty. Why would he do that? You're not thinking about it for long before a wave of cold shivers washes over your body. It's crazy, but not something that hasn’t happened before. Long ago Rock helped you, the old Smarty and others take down the old Smarty’s daddeh.

What won him over to your side was convincing him what a terrible job the old Smarty’s daddeh had done. The fluffies lost during the cold times, especially all the babbies, how the toughies couldn’t stop monsters coming into the safe place and dragging fluffies away, or deal with you for that matter. Rock has helped take down one smarty to save the herd already; it’s not hard to imagine he’d do it again.

This isn’t good.

If you’re right, it’s a big problem and hard to solve. Rock, if he’s really planning what you think he is, will be doing it because he thinks it’s best for the herd; he’ll think he has to do. And knowing Rock, there's no way to change his mind once he's decided to do something. If you need to stop him, there's only one way it can end.

But, you’re getting ahead of yourself. There’s a chance, small as it is, that you’re wrong and worrying about nothing; you owe your life to the strange feeling, but that doesn't mean it's always right. And if you're wrong about this and confront Rock, it'll cause huge problems, maybe even break the herd apart. You've got to be careful, very careful. You have to figure out if Rock really is planning to get rid of the Smarty and who else is involved.

Which, brings you to back to Big Red.

The way he was acting last brighttime might not be a bad sign, but then again maybe not. After Flower went forever sleepies and the Smarty wouldn't take care of their babbies, Big Red got mad at him; very mad. Big Red made up with the Smarty after he came back from the forest, but that was before he became the Smarty. And if you remember right, Big Red wasn't happy about that either…

It could be he was scared about what would happen with a new smarty and so many fluffies lost. Besides, Runny and his Daddeh got bad hurties in the fight. You hope that’s what it is, because if Big Red is involved and he’s decided to help Rock replace the Smarty… You shake your head. Whatever needs to be done, you'll do it. The old Smarty was your friend, and the herd meant almost everything to him. You'll deal with anyone trying to mess with the herd or give the old Smarty's family hurties.

Anyone.

####

‘How big fwuffies nee be tu twy make nyu tuffies gain?’

‘Nu nee be wots biggah, bud nee wait wongah dan dat.’

‘Wai?’

‘Cause sum wittwe fwuffies nu wan be tuffies nao; dah mawes say day nu am pwayin tuffy game.’

‘Wat am hewd gun du? Nee nyu tuffies!’

You look back and forth between the Smarty and other Next bestest tuffies as they talk, but don’t pay much attention. Looking like you’re still on the Smarty’s side is the only reason you’re here; there’s not much point in helping the Smarty when he’ll be gone soon. Sure, you’ll help with important decisions, but besides that, your time's spent planning how you'll get rid of him.

The trick is getting him out of the safe place without many fluffies on the Smarty's side coming. The herd can't afford to lose more toughies, especially not the Bestest toughie or Tree. No matter how you feel about them, they're useful. Besides, you don't have enough fluffies in on the plan to beat one of them, let alone both.

‘Maybe can make nummie findahs ow wookie fwuffies intu tuffies.’

‘Nu dummeh, hewd nee dem tuu!’

You’ve got a lookie fluffy on your side, you can probably use the same trick you used to get Tree away from Big Red. But, the Smarty would get the Bestest toughie to come along, maybe even Tree and Big Red too. Even if he comes around, Big Red can’t beat the Bestest toughie and Tree in a fight.

‘Wat boud wittwe fwuffies dat wike pwayin oda games? Can make dem be tuffies.’

‘Bud hewd newa du dat, onwy make fwuffies dat wike tuffy game intu tuffies.’

Maybe if you were close to the Smarty when the plan started, you could convince him there was no time to find the others, and you had to follow the lookie fluffy right away. Hmm, didn’t the Smarty find those big white things full of nummies? No, that was the nummie finders. Either way, it could work; tell the lookie fluffy to say he's found something like those.

‘Wat if id nu wowk?’

‘Wat if hewd nu hav nuff tuffies when cowd times cum back?’

‘Maybe Wock knu wat du,’

If you tell him to come over when you’re walking with the Smarty, and the Bestest toughie is far away, it'll be easy to get him into the forest.

‘Wock,’

But you’ll have to make sure the others know exactly what to do and exactly when to do it, that’ll be the hard-

‘Hey, dummeh!’

You look up, meaning to yell and see everyone staring at you.

‘Wat Wock tink hewd shud du?’ The Smarty asks. Uh...

‘W-wat boud?’ That wasn’t smart, now they’re looking at you funny.

‘Boud makin nyu tuffies, dummeh!’ Leaf yells. ‘Fwuffies tawk boud id fow wong time!’

‘Dat am wight,’ You glance at the Bestest toughie. ‘Fwuffies tawk boud how make nyu tuffies fow wong time, an Wock nu say anyting,’ he tilts his head slightly. ‘Wock awways tawkies boud how make nyu tuffies. Am sumtin wong?’

A knot forms deep in your tummy. The expression on his face isn't out of the ordinary, but that means nothing. 'Nu, Bestest tuffy, nuting am wong.'

‘Den wai nu tawkies?’ He asks. ‘Wock awways tawkies wots.’

‘Bestest tuffy am wight,’ Strong adds. ‘Wock nu say anyting boud making nyu tuffies. Wai?’

‘Cause am tinkin boud id, dummeh,’ you say back. ‘Maybe nu tawkies boud id cause tink id nu hewp!’ You glare at Strong, then the others including the Smarty and Bestest tuffy. ‘Yu dummehs jus tawkies, an id nu hewp!’ The quiet place goes very quiet for a few moments. A couple of Next bestest toughies, even Leaf, look embarrassed. Not the Bestest tuffy.

‘Wock wan tawkies nao?’ You look at him, hiding the sudden rush of scardies. ‘Wook wike Wock was tinkin fow wong time. Wock knu how fix dis?’

He’s doing something, but what? No, there’s no time; it can’t look like something’s wrong with you, that means more questions! ‘Yes, Wock knu wat hewd nee du.' You stand and take a breath. 'Wock tink, nee twy gain wif wittwe fwuffies.’ Everyone stares at you for a moment.

‘Dat wat Wock tink?’ Leaf says. ‘Wock say du dat befowe! Wittwe fwuffies nu wisten, nao day nu wan be tuffies!’

‘So? Ewy fwuffy in hewd nee du tings nu wan du!’ You say, feeling the knots loosen. ‘Wittwe fwuffies nee knu dat!’

‘How du id, dummeh?’ Someone else asks. ‘How make wittwe fwuffies wisten?’

‘Jus make dem du id! Teww dem boud tuffies dat fight so day nu get huwties fwom bad fwuffies! Say dat am wat bein in hewd am boud! Id nu am hawd dummehs!’ You look around, daring anyone to talk back. It’s like how you normally are in these things; at least, you hope.

‘Wock am wight,' Normally you feel happy when someone says that. Except, this time it was the Bestest toughie. 'Fwuffies du tings dat nu wan du aww dah time. Hewd nu be safe if wittwe fwuffies nu weawn dat. Tink shud twy gain.' He looks over, and you nod. Was it too fast?

‘*Sigh* Dis nu am gun wowk!’

‘Dummehs…’

‘Wai he take so wong tu-’

‘Shud up!’ Everyone shuts up and turns to the Smarty; they’re listening to him more, another sign you need to get rid of him soon. ‘Wock am wight. Does wittwe fwuffies am biggah nao, an nee weaw wat bein in hewd mean. An, hewd nee nyu tuffies,’ You take a moment to enjoy the warm buzz. It’s nice when other fluffies see you’re right. ‘Bud am gun wait tiww day am wittwe bit biggah. Dat nu be wong time.’ And there it goes. You try to remind yourself it doesn't matter much, but still…

‘Aww fwuffies undewstan?’

‘Yes Bestest tuffy,’ they answer.

‘Gud. Any fwuffy wan tawkies nao?’ You relax as he looks around the quiet place, but the knot in your tummy goes tight again when he looks back at you. ‘Wock wan tawkies gain?’

‘Nu, Wock nu wan tawkies boud anyting.’

The Bestest toughie tips his head to one side, just a little; ‘Am suwe? Wooked wike was tinkin boud wots of tings.’

‘Nu! Was onwy tinkin boud makin nyu tuffies!’

He looks at you for a moment that feels a little longer than normal, nods and looks away. ‘Wat boud Stwong? Wan tawkies?’

#

It takes all you have to act normal while you walk away from the quiet place, and a little more to stop yourself glancing at the Bestest toughie.

Damn him!

A fluffy who's lived most of his life alone in the forest, or so he says, won't be a dummy. Being big and strong helps, sure, but it won't help if you can't tell when someone's playing tricks or lying. You knew from the start it was only a matter of time before the Bestest toughie started to suspect something was up, but you hoped it would take him just a little longer!

You shake your head; never mind, it was going happen sooner or later. All you can do is carry on. What you can’t do is pretend the Bestest toughie doesn’t think you’re up to something. He's smart but more than that you can't tell what he's thinking or feeling unless you try really hard. And if you do, he'll get more suspicious.

‘Wock,’

No, not now dummy!

‘Can Wock tawkies nao?’

‘Nu. Go way, dummeh.’ You tell the lookie fluffy as quietly and calmly as you can.

‘Huh? Wat am wong? Wai-’

‘Jus go way. Tawkies soon.’

‘O-otay,’ The lookie fluffy walks away, but you don’t watch where he goes. You don’t look anywhere other than where you’re headed, and especially not behind you. You can’t know for sure if the Bestest toughie is watching you, but it just feels like he is! Come on, be calm; you're nearly there. All you have to do is get rid of the Smarty and take the position for yourself. Once you're running things, it won't matter what the Bestest toughie suspects. Even if he tries something, you can make someone else the bestest toughie, or threaten to kick him and Tree out of the herd.

It’ll be fine. You just have to be quick.

####

Something’s wrong with Big Red.

When he came out of the forest and refused to talk to you or Daddeh, your thought he was being a dummy, got scared by something or was in a hurry to get somewhere. You thought he'd be back to normal by the time you saw him next, but that hasn't happened. Even before you even started this patrol, he was acting odd. Not talking much, barely even looking at you. Out here in the forest, he hasn't tried to talk once and seems far too tense, even for a toughie on patrol.

‘Big Wed. Big Wed.’

‘Wat?!’ He hisses. ‘Nu can tawkies nao.’

‘Am Big Wed otay?’ You go on. ‘Wook wike-’

‘Am fine. Shud up,’ he says, not looking at you. ‘Nee watch fowest.’

‘Bud-’

‘Shud up,’

Alright, this is going nowhere. You also don't want an argument out here; who knows what might hear? You don't talk to Big Red for the rest of the patrol and decide to try again when you're back in the safe place. Only, he doesn't give you a chance. The moment you're back in the safe place Big Red walks away, muttering something about seeing Snow. You follow for a few steps, but give up and head to one of the nummie dens on your own. Once you have your nummies, you head for a spot near some bushies to eat, but Daddeh stops you on the way.

‘Dis way,’ he motions for your to follow.

‘Whewe am-’

‘Nu tawkies,’ he says. ‘Jus fowwow.’ You do as he says and follow him back to the den. When you’re both inside Daddeh steps to one side to let you walk past, then, blocks the way out?

‘Wat Daddeh duin? Wai-’

‘Daddeh an Babbeh nee tawkies,’

His wordies make your close your nummie place and send a chill down your back. Daddeh only sounds like that when he has something very, very serious to say. All you can manage is to nod.

‘Babbeh, yu see ow heaw anyting dat nu am wight?’

‘Huh?’

‘Babbeh see ow heaw anyting dat nu am wight?’ He says again, louder.

‘Wai Daddeh wan knu?’ Weren't you doing that a little while ago? Yeah, you were, and hardly found anything! Most fluffies who thought they had seen or heard something strange were just scared. Daddeh and the Smarty said as much.

Daddeh stares at you for a while, not saying anything. He looks over his shoulder, at the tunnel, then leads you closer to the far end of the den. ‘Babbeh nee wisten,’ Daddeh’s wordies are quiet but absolutely serious. 'Sumtin am wong; fwuffies in hewd wan make dah Smawty go way.'

Shivers run up and down your back and leggies a few times, and your tummy goes hard as a rock. ‘Wat?!’

‘Shhh!!’ Daddeh looks at the tunnel, ‘Nu be woud, dummeh.’

'Who? Who wan du dat?' Your wordies are quieter but just as full of maddies. 'Who tuffies nee giv fowewa sweepies?!'

‘Shud up, Babbeh! Daddeh say nee wisten!’ With a lot of effort, you sit back down and keep your nummie place shut.’Daddeh nu knu wat fwuffies wan make Smawty go way,’ he says. ‘Daddeh tink Wock am one, bud dewe gun be mowe.’

Hearing the name “Rock” makes you feel empty, but only for a second; burning hot maddies rush through your thinkie place and body, and it’s a fight to sit still. All you want is to find Rock and stomp his head into the ground! He’s a Next bestest toughie! How can even think of doing this?! How DARE HE!!

‘Babbeh, wisten!’ Daddeh goes on, sensing your maddies. ‘If fwuffies wan make Smawty go way, day gun du id soon. Nee knu which fwuffies an how day gun du id,’ he narrows his see places. ‘Babbeh see ow heaw anyting dat nu am wight?’

You look down, push through the cloud of maddies and put everything you can into remembering anything odd or strange you’ve seen these past brighttimes,. But try as you might, you can’t remember anything Daddeh doesn't know about too. You keep on trying but eventually, have to look up. '*Sigh* Nu can wememba anyting!'

Daddeh doesn't nod, shake his head, yell or do anything. Instead, after a pause, he asks 'Wat boud Big Wed?'

Huh? ‘Wat boud Big Wed?’

Daddeh steps forward. ‘Babbeh was in fowest with Big Wed. Wat he duin? He bein funny? Nu was tawkin?’

‘Wai askin boud-’

‘Teww Daddeh. Nao.’

‘Otay!’ You step away to get some space and start talking. ‘Big Wed nu waned tawkies in fowest, an he nu waned tawkies when back in safe pwace. He jus go an see his Speciaw fwend.’

‘He nu waned tawkies? Boud anyting?’

‘Nu. Twee jus say dat.’ You shake your head. ‘Twee nu undewstan; wai Daddeh wan knu boud Big Wed?’

Daddeh looks at you for a moment. ‘Wai Twee tink Big Wed nu wan tawkies?’

It’s a simple question, but it throws you off. ‘Uh… Maybe he, ah…’ You shake your head. ‘Nu knu. Maybe he jus bein dummeh.’

Daddeh looks at you, his face giving away nothing. ‘Maybe.’ He says at last. ‘Ow maybe he nu tawkies, cause he scawdies he say sumtin wong.’

‘W-wah? Sumtin, wong?’ What does he mean “wrong?” Daddeh, Twee nu undewstan.’

Daddeh leans close. ‘Tink, Babbeh. Nu am dummeh. Tink boud ewyting Daddeh say.’

‘O-otay,’ You put your head down again and think, this time including the stuff Daddeh told you about the plot against the smarty and why Big Red wouldn’t want to, to…

‘Babbeh undewstan?’

It starts with something in your thinkie place, like a click you hear and don’t hear at the same time. Tingles, hot and cold, pop up and run around under your fluff. Then, your tummy twists itself into all kinds of strange shapes. ‘...N-nu,’ Daddeh can’t be serious, he can’t think that… He’d never do something that! Never!!!

‘Babbeh,’

‘Nu, nu!’ You step back, shaking your head. ‘Daddeh am wong! Big Wed nu am… H-he nu du dat!!’

‘Babbeh!’

‘He am tuffy! He wan keep hewd safe an, a-an...’ Your thinkie place starts to buzz and ring, and your leggies go tingly and stop working properly. The feeling of wanting to make sickie water comes and goes over and over. The next thing you know, you’re on your tummy, shaking your head and saying ‘Dat nu am wight,’ over and over. Only Daddeh smacking you in the side of the head snaps you out of it. ‘Eee!’

‘Babbeh, wisten,' Daddeh says, but more gently. 'Babbeh, Daddeh knu dis am hawd. Knu dat Big Wed am yuw fwend. Bud…' He looks away for a moment. '*Sigh* Babbeh, yu an Daddeh am gun find dah fwuffies who wan make Smawty go way. Hewd nu get bettah if dat happen.' He stops, waiting for you to speak. It takes a while.

‘W-wat am gun du tu, dem?’

‘…Nu knu,’ Daddeh takes a breath. ‘Bud, day nu can stay in hewd. Nee make dem go way.’ For the next while, neither of you talk; the only noise comes from your breathing. ‘Babbeh,’ Daddeh says softly, ‘yu wememba when Daddeh say tuffies nee du ting dat make yu feew bad? Feew wike munstah?’ You nod. ‘Dis am wat Daddeh mean. *Sigh* Am sowwies.’ He lowers his head a little. ‘If Daddeh find oud dat Big Wed twyin make Smawty go way tuu, nee make him go way. Ow, giv him-’

‘Fowewa sweepies.’ You say, flatly.

‘Yes.’

The den goes so quiet you can hear your insides.

‘Babbeh, stay in den,’ Daddeh says. ‘Nee sweepies. Daddeh teww oda fwuffies yu get sickies.’ You nod slowly. Daddeh gives you a small hug, then walks away. You sit in the same spot of the den until he gets back in the darktime.

####

You feel sick, more than you ever have in your life. During the brighttime, it feels like you could sickie waters at any moment; sometimes, your tummy feels like it’ll crawl out of your nummie place! All kinds of horrible feelings, most you don’t have wordies for, rush around your body; they travel up your back, down your leggies, through your chest, then around again and again. The thinkie place pictures are just as bad, at times even worse. No matter how what you try, you can’t stop seeing the things Rock threatened would happen.

Fluffies attack Runny and the others deep in the forest, breaking his leggies so he can’t escape; you hear his screams and cries for help, right until the moment a fluffy stomps his head flat.

A fluffy sneaks into the den and stands on Daddeh’s neck so he can’t breathe. He struggles and fights like mad, but the fluffy is too strong. Daddeh opens his nummie place to scream, but only a gurgle comes out. Soon, he stops.

Mummah lies on her side; crying and screaming, she tries to hug your little brothers and sisters in her tummy to stop them from going forever sleepies. You can almost hear their scardie peeps, changing to screams as the nummies hurt them.

A bunch of fluffies corner Snow in the darktime, somewhere no one can see. They jump on her, and…

‘Hey,’

You nearly jump into the trees. Doing your best to hide all the scardies, you turn around. ‘Y-yes?’

‘Am Big Wed otay?’ The fluffy called Ricky asks.

‘Y-yes! Big Wed Am otay! Wai tink Big Wed nu am otay?’

Ricky looks at you a moment. ‘Cause Big Wed am jus wookin at bushie.’

‘W-wah?’ You turn back around; he’s right, you were looking at a bushie, and can’t remember why you were here to begin with…

‘Am Big Wed sickies?’ Yes, but not in the way he thinks. ‘Wan huggies?’

You shake your head. ‘N-nu. Am, fine. Nee go nao.’ You walk away without another word and head somewhere else; anywhere else. As you walk, you keep an eye out for fluffies you don’t want to talk to; Tree, the Bestest toughie, the Next bestest toughies, and especially Rock and the Smarty. So far, so good; all of them must be away doing, whatever. You don’t care.

From where you were, you do a long circuit of the safe place; you go to each nummie den, close to the safe baby place, then around the edge near the forest. It makes you look busy, so no one asks questions. You're scared if you talk to anyone for too long, something will slip out; then, Rock will find out, and everyone you love will get hurt.

You can barely stand the scardies and sickies; those, and waiting around knowing something really bad is about to happen and not being able to stop it. It's wrong. It makes you feel terrible, like a bad fluffy! You're supposed to protect the Smarty! You fought so hard to save his daddeh, and now you’re supposed to stand back and let Rock…

There must be something you can do, there has to be! But, what? If only you knew who the others were! Then, you and the Bestest toughie and Tree could get all of them at once!! Wait, what if you go back to Rock and pretend you want to be part of the plan now? You could find out who else is involved, and Rock wouldn’t be able to keep to quiet anymore! You’d get all of them!! Thinking about it makes you feel sicker, but what choice do you have? You have to take the chance.

As the brighttime passes, you plan how you’ll approach Rock; it can’t make you look strange, or scare him. You wonder if you should wait and see if he’ll come to you again, but you have no idea when Rock will start his plan. And from the way he talked to you in the forest, he probably doesn't have any intentions of trying to convince you again. You'll have to go to Rock, it's the only way.

Next brighttime nummies comes around; you plan to use the chance to find Rock and talk to him, but Snow comes over before you have the chance.

‘Pwease Speciaw fwend, wan hav nummies wif yu.’

‘Bud-’

‘Nuting bad happen if Speciaw fwend hav nummies wif Snu.’ You wish that were true. A part of you says to tell Snow you’re busy and don’t have time. You’re busy trying to save brother’s life! But even then, you can't bring make yourself say no, not after what she's been through.

‘Otay, Speciaw fwend.’ It’ll just be a little while; you can even say you have to leave early. There’ll still be time. You follow Snow to the nummie dens then go to one of your usual spots near the long water. You settle down to have your nummies, but Snow starts talking right away.

‘Wat am wong?’

A little shiver runs up your back. ‘N-nuting, Speciaw fwend. Big Wed am-’

‘Nu!’

‘W-wah?’

‘Sumtin am wong, Speciaw fwend,’ Snow says. ‘Yu nu tawkies nu mowe; awways wook scawdies an nu sweepies gud.’ She looks at you. ‘Wat am wong?’

This isn’t good; as hard as it’s fighting to get out, you can’t tell Snow what’s wrong! Then, she and your family will be in danger! ‘Am jus, sweepies.’ You tell her. ‘Nee du wots mowe cause nu hav nuff tuffies. Speciaw fwend knu dat.’ Does she believe you? Please, let her believe you.

For the next few moments, Snow looks at you quietly. A mad look slowly goes over her face, then she stands up. ‘Snu tawkies gain when Big Wed nu am bein dummeh meanie,’ she says without looking at you, then walks away; you’re sure you hear a small sob as she goes. More hurties and horrible feelings join the ones you already have.

It makes you want to lay down and cry, but now you have the chance to find Rock; best use it. After some searching, you see him walking away from the poopie place. After a deep breath, you make your approach. As you get closer, Rock meets your gaze and nods to some bushies. You head toward them, and Rock joins you not long after. ‘Wat Big Wed wan?’

‘Wan tawkies.'

‘Wat boud?’

‘Wock knu wat boud.'

He looks at you for a moment and nods. ‘Watch safe pwace in dah dawktime. Wock find yu.’ With that, the two of you go your separate ways.

#

It wasn’t hard to go watch the safe place in the darktime. For a start, Snow wasn’t in the den when you checked. Going by how she was in the brighttime, she’ll be with her family. That’s your fault, but it couldn’t be helped. Once this is over, you can explain everything, but you can’t think about that now. To pull this off, save your family and the Smarty you have to focus, with everything you have.

You pick a spot near the edge of the forest, settle down to watch for dangers, and wait. It’s not so hard for the first little while since you have the job as a distraction. Not long into it, though, the tight crawling feel in your tummy and chest starts to build. You do your best to force it away, then ignore it when that doesn't work. But it just gets stronger the more time passes.

Your thinkie place yells for Rock to hurry up, and you have to fight the erg to get up and go look for him yourself. Just as you're getting to the point where you can't stay still anymore, there comes the sound of hoofies behind you. It takes just about everything you have to not get up and spin around. You force yourself to be still and wait. The hoofies stop, behind and a little to your right.

‘Fowwow Rock,’

He walks past, into a gap in some bushies into the forest. You get up and follow him in, careful not to make much noise. Rock leads you through the forest, slowly and carefully. As you travel further, a part of you wonders if Rock is leading you into a trap. Will he and whoever else working with him give you forever sleepies? Maybe, but if they wanted to, they could have done so earlier. And besides, they can already keep you quiet.

Rock leads you behind a large tree, you think, stops and turns to face you. ‘Big Wed wan tawkies. Du id.’

You swallow, take a deep breath, and force the wordies out. ‘Big Wed tink boud wat Wock say, an… Wan hewp nao.’

Rock tilts his head a little; ‘Wai?’

‘Cause was tinkin, an Wock am wight; hewd nee nyu Smawty.’ He doesn't say anything, so you go on. ‘He, he nu am gud fow hewd, Big Wed undewstan nao. Onwy, nu waned cause he am Speciaw fwend’s bwudda. Pwease, wan hewp.’ Rock stays quiet, probably thinking about what you’ve said. Hot prickles work their way up your leggies, and your tummy finds yet another strange shape to twist itself into.
‘Big Wed wie?’ He says at last.

‘N-nu, Big Wed nu wie. Wan hewp.’

Another moment of silence passes until he speaks; ‘Wock nu beweave yu.’

‘N-nu, Big Wed-’

‘Tink Wock am dummeh? Wock be Tuffy fow wong time. Maybe was tuffy when yuw Mummah was onwy babbeh.' There are no maddies in his voice, which makes it a bit worse somehow. 'Tink Big Wed jus wan knu oda fwuffies who wan make Smawty go way, so can stahp dem.' Rock tilts his head, and you think he even smiles. 'Dat nu am bad ting, dat mean Big Wed am gud tuffy. Am tuffy dat hewd nee.'

Fighting the erg to break down and yell, maybe even stomp his head flat, you force yourself to speak. ‘Nu, Big Wed nu wie. Wan hewd hav nyu Smawty,’ you say, slowly and carefully. ‘Wat Big Wed nee du so Wock nu tink Big Wed wie?’ Rock looks away like he’s really thinking about it, then turns back.

‘Nuting,’ Rock says. ‘Id nu mattah nao; hewd am gun hav nyu smawty soon, an Wock knu Big Wed nu am gun tawkies. Bud,’ he smiles, ‘Big Wed can stiww hewp. Wock get Big Wed when am gun make Smawty go way. Yu fowwow an du wat Wock say.’

What? ‘W-wai?’

His smile gets bigger; ‘Dat am wai Wock knu Big Wed wie.’ Damn… ‘Big Wed am gud tuffy, bud am stiww jus wittwe fwuffy. Dat am otay; if Big Wed wisten an du wat Wock say, den yu weawn. Yu nu be wittwe fwuffy nu mowe.’ His smile goes away. ‘Nu nee fowwow Wock, but gud tuffies du wat Nex bestest tuffies say. Undewstan?’ You nod, slowly, having nothing more to do. ‘Gud. Big Wed wan Tawkies mowe?’ You shake your head; there’s nothing more to say. ‘Fowwow Wock; nee get back to safe place.’

You let him walk past and lead you back to the safe place. This was your best shot, and it didn't work. Unless something amazing happens, Rock will give the Smarty forever sleepies, and the most you can do is watch it happen. If you were smarter the first time, had better control of yourself, you wouldn't be in this situation. But, would Rock have tried if you were? The more you think about it, the more saddies you feel. Rock was always ahead of you; of course he was; why would he be a Next bestest toughie if he wasn’t smart? You didn’t have a chance at all.

One the way back, all you focus on is trying not to cry. If not letting Rock hear you cry is the only thing you can manage, you’ll take it.

####

Rock’s involved in what’s happening, that much you know for sure now. In fact, knowing him, he’s probably the one in charge. That’s the good news, in a way. The bad news is you have no idea who else is on his side. There’s no way one fluffy can pull of a plan like replacing a smarty; you know that, and so does Rock. There must be others working with him, but who?

Your first guess would be some of the other Next bestest toughies, but the more you think, the less likely that seems. Rock doesn’t get along well with most of the other Next bestest toughies; they don’t hate each other, but they wouldn’t work together if you and the Smarty didn’t keep them in line. Not to mention, most of the Next bestest toughies like the Smarty know. The ones who still don’t, they know enough to realise another new smarty isn’t what the herd needs. It’d be too risky to involve them.

It must be other fluffies, ones who aren’t as close to the Smarty. Unfortunately, that leaves an awful lot of fluffies, and there's no way you can go through the whole herd asking questions. It'll give everyone scardies, and warn Rock. You don't know how long you have to stop his plan, and Rock must at least be worried you're on to him. If he finds out for sure, you'll lose.

But, there’s another chance to get the answers you need; some of them, at least.

You can’t tell how involved Big Red is in all this, but what you know and what you’ve discovered the past couple of brighttimes says he’s involved. Big Red and the Smarty fought when the Smarty wouldn’t take care of his and Flower’s babbies. And, Tree told you Big Red seemed mad when he found out the Smarty was the new smarty. Big Red has reasons to work with Rock, who’d certainly want a fluffy as strong as Big Red on his side.

It gives you heart hurties, you admit, but you push them aside; no one fluffy is worth putting the whole herd in danger for, even Big Red. He’s a good tuffy, has been at least, and he’s Tree’s best friend. But if he’s trying to replace the Smarty, well, you’ve done much worse things for this herd. You’ll try and win him back, but if you can’t Big Red will have to go, either away from the herd, or forever sleepies if he's too dangerous to leave alone.

No matter what, you have to talk to him, but that'll be tricky. He’s been avoiding you and Tree and done a good job of it so. Nothing you can’t solve with time, but you don’t know how much time you have! You have to act now. The best way to get Big Red alone would be in the forest while he’s on patrol; he’s doing that a lot lately, almost every brighttime in fact. That'll be your opportunity, but there are still problems.

Big Red won’t go with you, and now that you’ve told Tree everything, you can’t send him with Big Red either. Tree’s not taking this very well, and he might attack Big Red if they’re alone too long; Tree’s still a little fluffy in a lot of ways. ‘*Sigh*’ There’s no other way, you need another fluffy on your side; someone you can trust, and who will fight for the Smarty.

A few different toughies and other fluffies pop into your thinkie place. None of them is perfect, and there's always the risk you'll approach someone working for Rock. But, it has to be another toughie; Big Red won't trust anyone else coming along with him on Patrol. Even if time is short, you force yourself to take your time; there’ll only be one chance at this, so you better make it count.

#

‘Bestest tuffy heaw anyting?’

‘Nu,’

‘Dat am gud,’ Strong says. ‘Nu wan hewd get mowe huwties.’

His wordies make you feel better about your choice; there's no way to be certain, but this is the best you can do. Strong is a Next bestest toughie and doesn't get along with Rock outside that. He's also younger, which means he'll be easier to control. The patrol continues for a while longer until you think you're far away enough from the safe place.

‘Stwong,’

‘Yes, Bestest tuffy?’

‘Dis way,’ You turn off the main path and head deeper into the forest.

‘Whewe am-’

‘Jus du wat Bestest tuffy say.' Strong nods, and follows your lead without more questions. When you think it's safe, you stop and turn to him. 'Bestest tuffy gun teww yu sumtin; Stwong nee pwomise nu tawkies boud id.'

Some scardies flash over Strong’s face, but he nods. ‘Yes Bestest tuffy, Stwong pwomise.’

‘Gud. Nao, wisten.’ You tell Strong everything you know about the plan to get rid of the Smarty; how you found out, who you think is involved, and why. When you're done Strong's hear places are down, and his nummie place is open. After a few moments, though, he shakes himself and looks back at you.

‘Stwong wan hewp, Bestest tuffy! Jus teww Stwong wat nee du, an Stwong du id!’

You let out a breath, and parts of your tummy untwist themselves. ‘Gud. Tuffies nee be fast; nu knu when Wock am gun make Smawty go way, bud id nu be wong time. Nao, dis am wat Bestest tuffy wan Stwong du.’

####

You have to force yourself to go slowly and carefully through the forest; you’ve come too far to mess up by making too much noise in the darktime. To keep your thinkie place off what’s worrying you, you think about the plan; why it has to be done, and how it will help the herd. It works well enough, and the erg to run mostly goes away.

When you arrive at the meeting place everyone else is there; that makes you feel better, but a part of you can’t help but worry one or more of them weren’t as careful getting here. No sense worrying about what can’t be helped. ‘Fwuffies wisten tu Wock,’ you start, ‘nee make Smawty go way weawy soon.’

‘Wai?’

‘Wat happen? The yellow toughie asks.

You take a breath to calm your scardies. ‘Bestest tuffy knu sumtin am wong.’ Even in the dark, you can see the scardies flash over their faces.

‘Wat?!’ The brown lookie fluffy only just stops form yelling out loud. ‘How?’

‘Wat Bestest tuffy knu?’ The yellow toughie asks. ‘How he find-’

‘Shud up,’ you hiss. ‘Bestest tuffy nu am dummeh; he was gun find oud.’ You hoped it would take longer, but you don’t share that part. ‘Wisten, Wock nu knu wat Bestest tuffy knu. Tink he knu Wock am duin sumtin, bud nu tink he knu boud yu,’ you say to them. ‘Stiww nee be fast.’

‘How dat hewp?’ The brown fluffy asks, getting more on edge.

‘When fwuffies make Smawty go way an Wock am nyu Smawty, Bestest tuffy nu can du anyting.' You tell him. Everyone is quiet until the young tuffy you talked to speaks up.

‘Dat dummeh Big Wed teww Bestest tuffy! He teww him!’

‘Shud up,’ you hiss. ‘Fwuffies make suwe he nu tawkies.’

‘How Wock knu dat?’ The yellow tuffy says. ‘Maybe Tuffy am wight.’

‘Nu!’ Now you have to stop yourself yelling. ‘Big Wed nu tawkies. If he du, den fwuffies aweady be fowewa sweepies.’

‘Wock nu knu dat,’ the yellow toughie says again. ‘ Maybe shud giv Big Wed’s Famiwy huwties!’

‘If he nu tawkies an fwuffies du dat, den Big Wed gun du mowe dan tawkies.’ You tell him. ‘Nu giv his famiwy huwties! Du wat Wock say, ow Wock giv yu fowewa sweepies!’ You stare each of them down for a long while, making sure they all understand you perfectly. Only when they all nod, do you go on. ‘*Sigh* Nao, dummehs wan tawkies?’

‘Wat am gun du wif Big Wed?’ The yellow toughie asks right away. ‘Wock waned ask him tu hewp. Tuffy see yu an Big Wed tawkies tuu.’ He looks at you. ‘Wat am gun du wif Big Wed?’

You think for a moment. ‘Am gun twy make him hewp. He am stwong tuffy, an knu how fight. Bud id nu mattah if he nu hewp; he knu wat fwuffies du if he tawkies.’

‘Maybe.’ the yellow toughie says. ‘Maybe Wock newa shud twy get Big Wed tu hewp!’

‘Nu can du anyting boud dat nao!' It was a mistake; you've known that for a while, and there's no point worrying about it. You and others just have to cope; you'll deal with it afterwards if you have to. '*Sigh* Jus wisten, dummehs.' You start again. 'Fwuffies knu hewd nee nyu smawty. Dat am onwy ting dat mattah.' You stare at all of them again to make the point. 'Fwuffies am cwose. Jus keep duin wat Wock say, an ewyting be otay.' Silence hangs around for a while, a long while. The others look at each other, and there are a few whispers between them. Finally, the brown lookie fluffy talks.

‘Fwuffies undewstan. Wock. Fwuffies knu wat nee du. Jus say when nee du id.’

You nod. ‘Nu am gun cum hewe gain.’ You tell them. ‘ Nao, wait. When Wock say, am gun make Smawty go way.’

‘Yes, Wock.’ The brown lookie fluffy says.

'Undewstan' The yellow toughie isn't so sure anymore, that much you can tell, but he's still on your side. The others agree, and with that, you end the meeting.

‘Fwuffies go back to safe pwace nao. Wait fow Wock.’

Everyone nods, and one by one, they leave and head back for the safe place. You stay for a while, though, thinking. Things are close to the end now, so close you can nearly see it. You just have to pick your moment and do it before the Bestest toughie put an end to it.

####

You open your see places and shift around in the nestie; the only good thing about Snow sleeping in her family’s den is you have more room. Though, that doesn't even behind to make up for it. At least this darktime, there were no bad sleepies pictures; none you can remember, anyway. After a moment, you get out of the nestie and stretch. As usual, you walk out of the den and head to get your first brighttime nummies.

On the way, you see a lot of fluffies you know, including Runny and Sky. She's bigger now, and it probably won't be long until her babbies come out. It's the same for a few other soon mummahs as well. Looking around, things look more like how it was; there are fewer scardies and sad looks, more talking and laughing. Things are getting back to normal, but not for you.

It feels like you see everything from the inside of, something, and it’s all from knowing about Rock's plan. Part of you wants to scream and yell, tell the entire heard what he’s planning! But Rock's a Next Bestest toughie; the herd trusts him, and they’ll never believe you. Then, Rock and the others will hurt your family.

Speaking of Rock, you see him walking up ahead. Your tummy goes tight, and cold shivers run down your back. You half expect for him to come over and tell you it’s time to help, but he just walks on to whatever he’s up to. You relax, but not enough to make you feel better. What does is not seeing Tree or the Bestest toughie anywhere. Avoiding them wasn’t easy, and it gave you heart hurties. If you could just tell them…

Without talking, you grab some nummies and head to a spot near your den, away from the others. You want to have them quickly and head for the forest so you can be alone, but only manage one of those things. After heading to the long water and the poopie place, you make your way to the edge of the safe place, only to hear a voice behind you.

‘Big Wed,’

Shivers run up your leggies, but they don’t go as far when you figure out the voice doesn't belong to anyone you're trying to avoid. Turning around, you see it’s one of the Next Bestest toughies, Strong. That gives you a few scardies back, but you manage to hide them just fine.

‘Yes?’

‘Big Wed am goin tu fowest?’

‘Yes,’ you tell him, and try to say more when he talks over you.

‘Otay, Stwong go wif yu.’

‘Bud-’

‘Big Wed, nu am safe to go in fowest awone,’ he says. ‘An Big Wed nee du wat Nex Bestest tuffy say.’

You want to argue, but that’ll get you in trouble; extra attention is the last thing you need. ‘*Gulp* O-otay, Big Wed go wif Stwong.’

‘Gud. Fowwow Stwong.’ He walks past you into the forest. Reluctantly, you walk after him. The patrol starts normally and carries on the same way, though it doesn't do much to your nerves. You spend more time on keeping them in check than paying attention to the forest, though Strong doesn't seem to notice. He looks as far ahead as he can, searching for anything that could hurt the herd. He also doesn't try talking to you, which is just fine.

As time goes by, you relax just a little. Strong never tries talking to you unless he has too, not like Tree. And other than that, he doesn't pay you much attention. It's not all good, though, since your thinkie place starts drifting to Rock’s plan and what will happen next. Thinking about the herd and what it’ll be like when Rock gets rid of the Smarty makes you want to make sickie waters. All you can do is try and get through it, and somehow keep your family, friends and Snow safe.

No matter what happens, it's going to be a horrible time, and it’ll take longer until-

‘Stahp,’ You freeze on reflex and look at Strong; he’s standing still, slowly looking around. Before you think to do the same, his head stops. You go to look in the same direction, but Strong doesn't give you a chance. 'Stwong heaw sumtin, dis way!' You follow after him; it feels good to do something on reflex and not have to think for once.

You and Strong dash through the forest; as you go, you use your hear places to try and figure out what he’s heard, but you can’t make anything out over the sound of both you running. ‘Quick, dis way!’ Strong takes a turn, and you follow. He leads you to a place with some bushies and rocks, then stops. ‘Big Wed, tink day am hewe.’

‘Wat? Wat am hewe?’

‘Nu knu, jus wook.’

Part of you wants to ask what's happening, but more of you doesn’t want to draw attention. So, you do as Strong says and start looking around; besides, there really might be something to find. You start with some bushies close by, then move on to some few rocks that look like a good hiding spot.

There’s nothing in either of them. You move on, checking more bushies and behind other rocks and again turn up nothing. The pattern continues over and over until you're pretty sure there isn’t anything here at all. Maybe Strong heard wrong, or… Wait, did you just hear hoofie steps behind-

*KICK*

You don’t feel it, not right away. The first sign something isn’t right is your leggies go out from under you. You fall to the ground, curling into a ball without meaning to. Then, the hurties hit; they explode out from your special lumps and fill your whole body. For a few moments, everything else gets pushed out, and all you can feel are the awful hurties. You open your nummie place to scream, but almost nothing comes out. Your hear places ring and buzz, so you barely notice the voices.

‘Am, sowwies…’

‘Twee, get way fwom him.’

You recognise the voices, but the hurties are too big to do anything. Something presses down on your neck, not hard, but enough to notice. The hurties from your special lumps drop enough for your see and hear places to work again, and you take a breath to scream for help. Before you can, though, the thing on your neck presses harder. Much harder.

Confused, you manage to look up just a bit; what you see fills your tummy with cold, sharp things. Next to Strong, you see Tree. Both of them have maddies on their face, the kind of maddies you have for monsters, or bad fluffies. Then something, or someone, leans in close and speaks right into your hear place.

‘Big Wed wisten,’

…It’s him.

‘Yu gun teww Bestest tuffy wat yu duin, ow yu get fowewa sweepies.’

Comments

- Reply
Fluffus: This intrigue at court arc has my full attention. Great stuff, d_S.
- Reply
Anonymous1: remember when this story was about Kerry?

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NewEraUsher: @Anonymous: It's the Big Red show now!

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dizzy99: I am begging you - please please post the next chapter asap.
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Jinzo_: absolutely brilliant writing, my heart was racing a million miles an hour the whole way through. I have to know what happens next, for the love of god!
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sadbag: Dude, it's spelled urge, not erg. U-R-G-E.