Justin Greystone in Caverns of Chaos (6_105)

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Little Red Cajun Hood
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Little Red Cajun Hood

Justin Greystone

by Anna M.C.


Once upon a time, deep in a coastal region of Aperans which looked suspiciously like the Louisiana bayous, there lived a not-so-little-girl (all right, she was technically a pretty tall woman, but there are narrative conventions to be dealt with here) named Little Red Cajun Hood. Well, actually that was not her name, per se; everyone just called her that on account of the obnoxious scarlet hood her Evil Old Aunt had sent her one year as a cheap and tacky Christmas gift. She *hated* that hood, and had tried to burn it several times, but her father wouldn't let her. Unfortunately, her Evil Old Aunt was a Blackpool cousin twice removed, and it didn't pay to piss off the Blackpools over something as trivial as bad fashion sense, or else their executioners were likely to leave you in a state where any sort of headgear would be pretty superfluous, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, one fine day Little Red Cajun Hood was walking through the swamps with a basket of goodies to take to her Evil Old Aunt. There were at least 8,974 things she'd rather be doing, including removing her own fingernails one by one with tweezers. However, the Evil Old Biddy had insisted that she was feeling poorly, and only bourbon and jambalaya would cheer her up. So there was poor Little Red Cajun Hood, traipsing alone through the swamps with her fragrant basket, basically looking like one big tasty Gator Magnet. To top it all off, this was the Voodoo Witch Bethel's territory, and she'd heard that wolves had been spotted prowling around the bayou, too. "I hope the Evil Old Witch chokes on this stuff!" she announced to the swamp in general.

She didn't expect the swamp to answer.

"So that's a special delivery for the Voodoo Witch Bethel, I presume?" a voice drawled laconically just over her left shoulder. Spinning around, she brought the basket up and out in a roundhouse swing that knocked the unseen speaker off the path and into a tree.

In case you hadn't noticed, Little Red Cajun Hood was *not* your typical hapless fairy-tale heroine.

"Ow . . . good arm. I like that in a woman." The speaker clambered to his feet and sauntered back over to her side, flashing her a charming, toothy, roguish grin. "Justin Greywolf, at your service." The grin widened even further, followed up by a wolf-whistle which left no doubt as to just what sort of services he had in mind. "So what's the red hood for, darlin'? A sort of 'Warnin': Hot Stuff?'"

Yep, he was a big, bad wolf, all right.

Little Red Cajun Hood regarded him suspiciously. Sure, he was cute, but wolves were all the same: only interested in your basket of goodies. Besides, she was in a *nasty* mood. "Shut up about the damn hood, if you know what's good for you. And no, the basket's not for Bethel, it's for my Evil Old Aunt. Hands off."

"Surely just a nibble wouldn't hurt . . ." He reached out teasingly with one paw, only to be rewarded with a sound bop on the head by the heavy basket.

"Oh, yeah, a nibble *will* hurt. Hurts pretty badly, doesn't it?" With a toss of her head, she stalked away down the path.

Justin Greywolf was smitten, and not just by the basket.

Bounding away into the bayou, he took a series of plot-convenient shortcuts and arrived at the Evil Old Aunt's house in a jiffy. After trying for a few unsuccessful minutes to jimmy the lock with one claw, he gave up and knocked. "Hallooooo . . . . ."

"Who is it?" the Evil Old Aunt whined. "Little Red Cajun Hood? Is that you? Took your sweet time getting here, didn't you? Your voice sounds funny. Probably got a cold while you were out messing around in the swamp, and now you're bringing your germs to me. Lazy good-for-nothing family I have . . ."

He listened to the tirade in some bewilderment, wondering how to get a word in edgewise. "Um . . . Candygram."

Muttering angrily, she flung the door open. Justin Greywolf snarled, poised to spring, and . . . yikes! He swallowed hard, staring in misery at the repulsive form of the Evil Old Aunt. No way in Aperans was he eating *this* tough old bird. Time for Plan B.

Bounding back into the bayous, he knocked at the door of the Voodoo Witch Bethel's cottage. "Hey, there, darlin'. I've got a favor to ask you. A little magic charm, nothin' big . . ."

"Go stick your head in a gator." Bethel moved to close the door, still peeved about the disappearing act he'd pulled after their last tryst.

He swiftly wedged himself into the open space, refusing to let her shut him out. "Why, Bethel, I'm surprised by your lack of hospitality. Last time we howled at the moon together, you and I seemed to get along just fine. I'm sure Dirk would be surprised to no end to hear about the details . . ."

"You blackmailing little weasel." She grabbed him threateningly by the scruff of the neck. "You're bluffing. He'd skin you alive."

"You have a point. All right, then, how about a little game? A nice round of poker. I win, you give me what I want. You win, you get what you want. Deal?" He brought his tail around to tickle her beneath the chin with its furry tip, a wicked wink insinuating that he was pretty sure he knew just what she'd want.

She grabbed the tail and pulled, hard. "Deal. You'll make a lovely rug."

Justin Greywolf looked decidedly nervous. "Now, now, Bethel, I don't think --"

"Yeah, that's just the problem. You *don't* think. Now get in here and put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Fuzzy, or I zap you where you stand." Unfortunately for Justin Greywolf, it was That Time of the Month for Bethel -- although, by and large, it was often hard to tell the difference.

So poor Justin Greywolf entered the cottage, trying to avoid looking at the pelts decorating her walls, and played for his life. Thanks to luck -- and judicious cheating -- he won. Nimbly catching the magic gator tooth charm she threw viciously at him, obviously aiming for his eyes, he bowed, winked, and took off back into the bayou.

Knocking on the Evil Old Aunt's door once more, he braced himself for the now-familiar litany of moaning and complaining. "Who is it? Little Red Cajun Hood, if that's you trying to annoy me, you're really going to regret it."

"What, are you planning on giving her an entire ugly dress next Christmas?" Justin Greywolf muttered under his breath. Tapping his tail against the doorframe with impatience, he listened to her shuffle to the door, slide back the deadbolts, and open it. "Here! Catch!" With a yelp of surprise, the Evil Old Aunt reflexively caught the magic gator tooth he tossed to her, her shriek of shock gradually morphing into the grumpy bellow of an old gator. Grabbing a broom, Justin Greywolf prodded the gator out the door and into the swamp.

With business taken care of, now it would soon be time for pleasure . . . Rubbing his hands together eagerly, he settled down in the Evil Old Aunt's bed to await Little Red Cajun Hood and her tasty treats.

A few moments later, his patience was rewarded by a reluctant knock upon the door. "Who is it?"

"You know who it is. I've got your food. Let me in before I'm gator chow. I've already had one run-in with a wolf, you know. Talk about meals on wheels."

"It's unlocked."

"What? You never leave your door unlocked, you paranoid old -- I mean, um, never mind." Resenting the chafing burden of Blackpool-induced tact and diplomacy far more than the burden of the basket, Little Red Cajun Hood pushed the door open, lugging the goodies to the table. "You want me to heat it up for you, too, I presume?" she grumbled irritably.

"Oh, I'm sure it's more than hot enough already." The throatiness of the growl made her turn, startled. He quickly fumbled for a recovery. "Spicy, I mean. You know. That wonderful jambalaya of yours. Ahem." He flashed a far-from-innocent grin at her.

"Wait a minute." She narrowed her eyes at the shadowy corner the bed was in, squinting to make out her Evil Old Aunt's features. "You're not sounding . . . or looking . . . quite yourself today. What big eyes you have."

"All the better to see your jambalaya with, darlin'."

What? Her aunt never called her "darlin'." She advanced towards the bed cautiously. "What big . . . hair you have."

"All the better to . . . what? Hey, look, is it my fault hairspray's in fashion right now? That's a low blow."

"Not at all. *This* is a low blow." Grabbing the broom, she whacked him until he scrambled out of the bed and into the light, howling. She pursed her lips into a smirk, obviously savoring his discomfiture. "And what a big . . . tail you have, too."

He blushed beneath his fur. "All right, that's definitely not in the script."

"So sue me. Everyone else does." Little Red Cajun Hood crossed her arms and cocked her head. "So where is my Evil Old Aunt, then?"

"Well, I ah . . . sort of . . . well . . . turned her into a gator?" He watched her anxiously for a reaction, keeping out of Broom Range.

"Hot damn!" Tossing both broom and hated hood into the fireplace, she gathered up the startled wolf into a huge hug.

At that moment, another knock sounded at the door. "Who is it?" she and the wolf chorused, hardly enthused about the interruption.

"It's Erik Greywood, the Heroic Woodsman. I heard there might be a helpless damsel in need of rescuing, so I . . . wait, what's this gator doing . . . hey! Ow! Hey! AieeEEEEeeeeee!"

"Sounds like it could be a happy ending all around, Little Red Cajun Hood," Justin Greywolf grinned wickedly, wrapping the tip of his tail around her wrist. "How about some of that bourbon and jambalaya, then?"

She leaned in for a kiss. "Only if you call me CJ"

So Justin Greywolf and CJ moved to the paradisiacal tropical island of Kiribati and lived their jambalaya-intensive lifestyle happily ever after.

And Erik Greywood was never seen again.

And about a month later, the Voodoo Witch Bethel added a stuffed alligator to her taxidermy collection.



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