5 min read

Clove & Moose 3: The Galloping Goats

Clove and Moose is a serial fiction story. While there is an overarching plot, each episode can be enjoyed on its own without reading what came before. However, if you want to get caught up, click one of the buttons below.

Previously, on Clove & Moose: After the mysterious Cataclysm dried up the earth and its magic, Clove left home to search for pools of corrupted magic left behind in the Cataclysm’s wake. Along with her cat Moose, she’s on a mission to find the corrupted magic, reverse its effects, and leave the world a better place.

The town was smaller than Clove had expected. There wasn’t so much as a town square. The place consisted of a single pair of crossed streets lined with houses and a few small shops for a few blocks in either direction. The streets led into rolling fields dotted with farmhouses and barns.

She approached with some trepidation; small as the place was, it was the largest settlement she’d entered since starting her journey. The few folks she’d come across in her travels had all dealt with the Cataclysm in different ways; they ran the gamut from fear to greed to kindness to fanaticism. She wasn’t sure what she would find here. 

She needn’t have worried; there was nothing to find. All the shops were closed. She didn’t see another soul anywhere: no one walked through the streets, no one worked in a garden, no one sat on a front stoop. It only took her a few minutes to search the entire village, but she didn’t see or hear a single person anywhere.

“You smell anyone?” she asked Moose.

He laid down on a sunny patch of dirt and rolled over for tummy rubs.

“You’re no help,” she sighed, bending down to acquiesce to his wishes. “I should have gotten a dog.”

When Moose was satisfied, there was nothing to do but move on. As strange as it was, if there was no one here, she likely wouldn’t find any answers to her questions, either. There was no point wasting more time over it. 

Clove walked out of the town, away from the forest and down a road that wound through the fields beyond.

She had been walking about ten minutes when she heard the first shout. Startled, she began to speak the words to a shield spell before she remembered magic didn’t work any more. She glanced around for the source of the sound, but didn’t see anyone. 

She continued walking, staying on her guard, and soon heard more yelling. It grew louder as she continued on, and she soon caught sight of a group of figures running around in a field ahead of her.

“What’s going on over there?”

Moose didn’t answer.

Clove kept her eyes on the group as she drew closer. There were a few dozen people there, which might explain where everyone in town had gone. They looked to be chasing after something, though she couldn’t quite make out what the dark shapes running through the field were until she was practically on top of them.

“Grab that goat!” a man yelled. The animal was running straight for Clove, its eyes wild and sides heaving. It lowered its head to charge at her.

Despite the man’s instructions, Clove jumped out of the way. Goats were mean at the best of times and this one looked especially bad. 

Moose, on the other hand, leaped toward the goat, landing on its rump. The goat stopped running and began jumping wildly, trying to buck the cat off. Moose clung on for a minute until finally jumping away, tired of the game, and landing gracefully in the tall grass.

The man had caught up to the goat by this time, and tossed a lasso around its neck. The goat jumped and the rope pulled tight. Even then, the goat kept trying to run, though it was panting from the exertion.

“Who are you?” the man asked, glancing away from the goat only for a second.

“Clove. I was just passing through when I heard the commotion.”

“I’m Ralph,” the man said, straining with the effort of holding onto the goat’s rope. “Well, at least your cat was helpful. If you want to chase some goats, I’m sure we can set you up with a meal.”

“That’s not necessary,” Clove said, following him back toward the others. “What happened? Did they escape the barn?”

“Got out of their pasture,” he said. “I don’t know what happened. One minute they were grazing peacefully, the next, they were trampling the fences and rampaging through the fields.”

Clove had a suspicion she could fill in some blanks. “I don’t suppose you’ve noticed any glowing orange areas lately?”

“Huh. After the sky went all wonky a few weeks back, one appeared down at the back of the property. Wasn’t much we could do about it so we’ve just been steering clear.”

“If someone can point me toward it, I think I can help with both your problems.”

He looked her up and down. “You a witch or something? Thought the magic was gone.”

“All but these corrupted bits left behind. I think that’s what got to your goats. All I can do these days is try to clean them up.”

“Hey, Carl!” Ralph shouted, and an almost identical man ran over. “Can you take this lady down to that weird orange spot behind the pond? She says she can help with the goats.”

“Sure thing,” Carl said, leading Clove away without question while Ralph–his brother, Clove could only assume–led the frantic goat back to the barn. She and Moose followed Carl past a large farmhouse and a bright red barn, toward the point where the fences converged.

She caught sight of the magic before she ever saw the pond; it pulsed and swirled across the field.

“Oh.” Carl stopped in his tracks. “I’d swear it was a lot smaller when we found it.”

“They grow,” Clove told him. “All the ones I’ve found so far have spread.”

“Sweet lord. How many of them are there?”

Clove shrugged. “Hundreds. Thousands, probably.”

“And you witches are taking care of them?” He looked hopeful. Clove wished she had better news for him.

“I haven’t seen any other witches since I started. I can only hope they’re doing the same as I am. For now, let’s get this one taken care of. Keep an eye on the cat for me, would you?”

“You got it, miss.”

Clove took a couple steps forward, up to the edge of the corruption, and quickly spoke the words of the spell. Behind her, the human shouts and bleats of goats quieted. She held her position, waiting until the crystal grew warm and then cooled again, ensuring all the magic was sucked up. 

“That should do it,” she said. 

“Incredible.” Carl shook his head. “It’s gone for good?”

“As far as I know. It should be easier to round up those goats now.”

Clove wasn’t much help with the goats, as it turned out. Try as she might, they always dodged her at the last moment. Moose didn’t have as much luck as he had the first time, and Clove ended up chasing him, trying to stop him from getting trampled. Though the goats weren’t as mad now that the curse had released them, they were still goats, and they were confused and angry and didn’t want to be corralled.

With Moose firmly in hand, Clove retreated to the farmhouse, where she found a crew inside preparing a feast for the goat catchers. Her skills were more suited here, and she spent the rest of the afternoon peeling potatoes and listening to the local gossip.

Her work earned her a seat at the table, a couch to sleep on, and a special gift from Ralph–a tiny harness made of soft silky rope. “Should keep him out of trouble,” he said gruffly, “in case you run into any more rampaging livestock.”

“Thank you,” Clove said. “That’s more likely than you might think.”

“After today, I’m willing to believe anything.”

The next morning, Clove fitted Moose into the harness despite his yowling protests, and led him away from the farm and across the countryside, onward to their next adventure.

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Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find her on twitterinstagram, and tumblr.