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Chapter the First -- Section 1

The wind blew a strange and evil tiding that pushed past the screen and billowed the curtains into the room.  Little Schlepp stepped carefully past the other stuffed animals and quietly hopped off his shelf to scurry across the darkened bedroom. 

He only paused a moment beneath the window before he leaped up.  He managed to grab the window ledge on the second try, after remembering to lift with his breath on the inhale.  With a huff he pulled himself up onto the window and looked out across the yard to the south.  Strange clouds scudded in front of the gibbous moon. 

He could imagine Lightfeather snug in her nest in the mulberry and Terrance burrowed in among the humus beneath the Vinca.   Something was not right and his friends were outside with it, unaware and unprotected.  With a shove Schlepp pushed the screen out just enough to slip through and drop softly into the periwinkle bed below.  Even with the strange clouds blocking the moonlight, the furry one was able to make his way over to Terrance's burrow. 

Tap, tap!  Schlepp's paw rapped on Terrance's shell. 

“Huh?  Wha?  Who's there?”

“Its me, Schlepp.  Wake up.  We gotta find Lightfeather.” 

Yawn.  Terrance stretched his neck and turned it to and fro to get the kinks out. 

“What time is it?”

“After midnight.  Come on, let's get Lightfeather.” 

“Are you crazy?  I can't climb her tree.  I know where her branch is but you'll need Louie to get up there.” 

Crash!  A large shape suddenly appeared next to Terrance.  Schlepp's heart leaped to his mouth.  Terrance disappeared in a flash into his armor. 

“Somebody mentioned my name?” said Louie in his soft New Orleans' drawl. 

Terrance slowly peeked out again, blinking.  The monkey's silver fur gleamed even in the faint moonlight. 

“Jeez-o-petes, Louie, you scared us to death!” Schlepp exclaimed.  “How'd you find us?” 

“Schlepp, you bears just make too much noise opening windows.”

“Well now that you're here, let's find Lightfeather.  Something's not right and we need to make sure she's okay.” 

 Terrance sighed, “A turtle can't get a decent night's rest around here.  Come on, it’s this way.” 

 A few moments later they stood at the base of the mulberry tree as Louie disappeared along the branch towards Lightfeather's nest.  Minutes passed and then Louie's voice came to them in a loud whisper tinged with desperation, “Schlepp!  Terrance!  Lightfeather's gone!” 

 “Whadda ya mean ‘gone?’  She can’t fly at night.”

 “No, she’s gone, like kidnapped.  No blood.  No feathers.  There’s just this green goop on the branch and an empty nest.” 

 Schlepp had known and now he knew for certain something evil was afoot.  Time for action.  “Terrance, get Big Schlepp.  Tell him we need to mobilize the Brigade.” 

 With that Terrance rumbled into high gear and vanished into the night, muttering, “Get Big Schlepp.  Get Big Schlepp.  Mobilize the Brigade.  Get Big Schlepp.” 

 “Louie,” Schlepp called up into the tree, “bring that green stuff down here.  Don’t get it on your paws – use a stick or a leaf.”

 Minutes later Louie swung down out of the mulberry with a leaf under his arm.  Curiously, Louie glowed with a soft golden light and little sparks occasionally popped off the top of his head.  They carefully rolled it out and the vile phosphorescent green goo glowed dimly. 

 “I feel all tingly, Schlepp.  I might float away if a gust of wind comes up.” 

 “I don’t know what it is, but Big Schlepp’s gotta see this.  He’ll know what to do.”