The gas lamps hissed softly from their sickle moon sconces. The light cast a yellow-green glow on the masked faces of the Brotherhood of the Wolf.
The Fenrir in his black carved throne said, "The Rider has been spotted in the western wilds."
The Brother of the Thorny Thicket spilled his sherry in a dousing splash at the words. "But it’s the age of the wolf. We hold the night. How could she be so close?"
Behind his mask, the Brother of the Waxing Moon rolled his eyes. "The Rider is constantly being spotted. I expect someone will bring word that she’s standing in this middle of the room next."
The Fenrir growled. "We must keep vigilant. There was another attack on the rail line through Darken Moors."
The masked brotherhood turned to look at the Brother of the Darken Moor. He whined. "It’s difficult to keep safe. I send a pack to one spot, and the Sisterhood appears somewhere else. They constantly dynamite my tracks and slip into high moors. It’ll be impossible to keep the Nu-Voltic station charged if this keeps up. " At the Fenrir’s growl, the Brother said, "We’ve been killing Moor ponies as you ordered."
The Brother of the Waxing Moon leaned over to the Brother of the Untouched Snow and whispered, "Ponies?"
Fenrir’s lips curled. "Enough!" He howled at the silver moon painted on the ceiling and the Brotherhood howled with him until the walls shook.
Meanwhile, there was a Little Red Riding Hooded rider. She was not on her horse. She was horseless, which made her twitchy and annoyed. She was little, but that was height. Not youth. But she still wore her bright red cloak with its deep red hood. She carried a basket full of delightful things for her Grandmother Loon. She picked her way slowly along the switch backs of the western crags. In the distance, she heard the call of a train engine, a long mournful cry to the eternally winter night sky.
The track came to a gatehouse. It was a tiny thing, not much more than a hut. A bored young Brother of the Wolf read a yellowed dime novel inside. The cover had a lurid picture of a young woman in a red cloak with an unlikely amount of top heavy cleavage fighting a wolf man with long claws. Red Riding Hood suppressed a smile.
The brother looked up and saw her. Far away, the train continued to clatter down the track. His eyes grew wide as he saw her. His clawed glove trembled around his old service revolver. It was rusty and poorly kept. It was almost as red in some places as her cloak. For all of that, he tried to pretend that he didn’t recognize her. "State your business."
Red Riding Hood blinked up as small and helpless as a horseless rider could be. "I’m going to my grandmother’s house in the woods."
He swallowed. "And where is that?"
Red Riding Hood smiled as weak and defenseless as a horseless rider could be. "Down this track. At the fold where the night blooming jasmine spills over the river."
He trembled and his dime novel fell to the dirt floor with its cover crumbled. "You may pass."
She continued down the track as scrabbling sounds came after her. Shale crumbled not very subtly onto the path over and ahead of her. She smiled inside her cloak and pulled it’s warm wool tighter around her.
She came to the Silver House of Grandmother Loon. It glowed in the night like the moon, which made a certain sense. She went inside without knocking. Grandmother Loon sat in a rocking chair by the heater knitting. There was a click-click. The young Brother crouched on her Grandmother’s bed. From somewhere, he’d gotten an old blunderbuss that was even rustier and more ill kept than the revolver had been. Red Riding Hood said, "My, what a big gun you have."
Grandmother Loon rocked back and forth flickering silver knitting needles in the white light. She laughed. It was not a comforting sound. Grandmother Loon was not a comforting woman.
The young Brother gripped his blunderbuss. "You’re under arrest."
Red Riding Hood pushed back that hood and grinned. "I suppose I am. I expect that you should take us into the belly of the beast now." She held out her wrists.
"Uh," The young Brother scrabbled off of the bed. "Wait. Throw your cloak in the fire."
Grandmother Loon muttered something about the smell of burning wool stinking up her house, but Red Riding Hood did it anyway. She picked up her basket and Grandmother Loon kept her knitting. The young Brother gestured with his gun at the trail they should follow. Grandmother Loon’s silver dress gleamed softly under the dark overhanging trees. Red Riding Hood, who now had neither hood nor horse shivered, but not from the cold. She was never cold. Not even when the wind howled snow from the west. She let down her red hair to flicker over her thin dress, which had a distinct lack of heaving bosom. They walked a long time in the dark, but, of course, the sun never rose and morning never came.
They came to the station house. The young Brother took them past security with a yipped password. He took them up the stairs and to the top. The grumpy Skoll sat at his desk with a steaming cup of something.
The young Brother said, "I caught Red Riding Hood. Her and Grandmother Loon."
The Skoll didn’t look up from whatever he was looking at on his desk. "Yeah. Yeah. Third one this week. I know you girls think it’s a good way to meet a Brother of the Wolf, but," he looked up. His eyes grew wide behind his mask.
Grandmother Loon placidly clicked at her knitting.
"You didn’t take their," which was as far as he got before Red Riding Hood shot him and the young Brother beside with the revolvers in her basket. They were not rusty and ill kept. She kept them very well. Grandmother Loon took the Pack Leader’s keys and they made their way up the narrow stairs to the Nu-Voltic station. White light chased itself around between the wires and under the enameled symbols of the moon and stars and winter.
Grandmother Loon went to work while Red Riding Hood guarded the door. "Come on. Come on."
"Can’t rush genius," said Grandmother Loon, who paused in her fiddling with wires and tubes to clean some grease, because she did hate filth, bless her.
There was the plinking sound of gunfire up the stairs, which Red Riding Hood thoughtfully returned. Brothers always aimed high some reason. Not that she was complaining. Still, she yelled, "Come on."
"Almost," gears clicked, "got it." With a hiss the white light died away. On the far horizon, a splash of red painted the sky a burnt ember red. Below, there the sound of more gunfire. A steady stream of loud bangs and sharp plinks as bullets hit wood and metal and flesh.
Red Riding Hood pulled out a rappelling rope. "Now for the fun part."
"Please, no. That thing is filthy." Grandmother Loon stabbed a knitting needle into the window frame. She fiddled with a small device and simply stepped out the window to float gently to the ground.
Red Riding Hood grinned. Grandmother Loon did love her toys. Red Riding Hood set the one minute fuse on her basket full of goodies and rappelled in a controlled free fall. She and Grandmother Loon ran past a pack of Brothers and hit the ground as the world went hot and red and things fell from the sky. This would be where they kept running under covering fire from the woods.
In the trees, Hunter tossed Red Riding Hood a red riding hood. She said, "You look naked without it."
"Flirt. Flirt. Flirt." Red Riding Hood put on the cloak and swung up onto her horse. She laughed to the Sisterhood of the Horse. "Let’s get out of here."
Grandmother Loon got on her motorized bicycle, because the day that she got on a horse was the day that the positive side of a magnetic something did a something-something. It was a bit indistinct what with the noise of the motor and the riding fast into the mountains. When they were far enough away, Red Riding Hood slowed the pace. She looked back at the burning buildings in the valley below.
Hunter said, "A good nights work." She looked at the horizon.
"Good night’s work you say." Grandmother Loon perched on her cycle, her skirts gathered up with cords. "My house is going to smell like burnt wool for a week."
The Sisterhood laughed. A golden sound full of wickers and neighs. Soon followed by a whirring nose as Grandmother Loon’s silver house walked over the ridge on long motorized chicken legs.
Red Riding Hood said, "I’m sure you’ll think of something." She headed up the track, but called back, "Tomorrow night?"
Grandmother Loon sniffed, "It’s always night. So by some temporal standards, it’s already tomorrow night." She was still muttering as she went into her house to invent something to take care of the smell.
The Sisterhood laughed all the way into the deep hills. On the horizon, the sun glowed a burnt ember of almost dawn.
Until, by some temporal standards, the next night.