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Fractured History

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“I am willing to do a favor for a favor, Ms. White. No tricks attached,” Mr. Stix grinned, crossing one leg over the other politely. “I just want to see my little pup. In return of freeing him from his frozen ‘prison’, he and I will work under your and King Cole’s supervision. You know that we both have abilities that can seriously aid you in your jobs. I can foresee it working out very well for the both of us. ”

Snow White straightened her posture and held her head up high. This little deal with the man they call… well technically, he has many names: Mr. Stix, The Devil’s Messenger, and Right Hand Man just to name a few. “With your history and occupation, I’m not so sure that we can trust you enough with an important role here in Fabletown’s office. Your current and past.. um.. ‘career’, is to twist people’s words around to benefit you rather than your client,” she pointed out, eyeing Stix carefully.

“Oh yes, I do not blame you for being so cautious. Don’t be fooled by my brothers’ nature, I am not like them. I am the big man’s right hand man for a reason. I’m trustworthy, reliable, and a very good worker; and so is my pup that you’re holding captive.”

Snow rested her chin in her palm, contemplating Stix’s offer. They could really use his help since they have a shortage of employers. But, is it really worth the risk? What if Mr. Stix decides that he doesn’t feel like keeping up his end of the bargain anymore? Or what if he runs Fabletown into the ground just for a sick sense of entertainment?

“Mr. Stix, I don’t think it’s a wise decision to make a ‘deal’ with you and employ you here. I’m sorry, but I have to refuse your offer.”

Mr. Stix was silent for a moment, then smiled and stood up.

“It was my greatest pleasure meeting you Ms. White. Thank you for having me. I will be on my way then.”

He gently bowed and turned to leave the Business Office. With one hand, he pushed open the door and then turned to face Snow.

“If you change your mind,” Stix picked a business card from his pant pocket and snapped his other free hand. In a flash, the card that was in his grasp only a few seconds ago was now sitting in the middle of Snow White’s desk. “-give me a call. I feel that you will be needing my help very soon, so keep that close by. Have a good afternoon.”

Stix left the Business Office and proceeded to exit the building. It was dark outside, maybe around 1am. Mr. Stix descended the steps, but had to stop midway. Something, or rather someone was blocking his pathway. Smirking, he pulled out a small flip phone and called up Ms. White due to the little predicament on the steps.

“Salleus Stix, 908 *******,” Snow read outlot. She tossed the card in the trash bin and stood up. The idea of hiring a being like him was ludicrous. How could Crane waste her time with this?

“RING, RING, RING” Snow’s office phone rang. Sighing, she swiftly picked up the device to her ear.

“Fabletown’s Business Office. Excuse me? Oh my… I’ll be on my way!” She immediately hung up and rushed her way up to room 204, Sheriff Bigby’s apartment. Snow knocked furiously on his door until he answered.

“Bigby!”

“Snow?”

“Come with me,” Snow began to walk back towards the elevators before Bigby could even ask what was wrong.

“Snow,” Bigby asked quietly, strolling quickly beside her. When that didn’t get her attention, he tried again and even louder.

“Snow!”

“What?!” She huffed, but quickly stopped herself. “ Sorry… What is it?” Snow didn’t mean to snap, but what she heard on the phone from Mr. Stix was… concerning.

“What happened?”

“I just can’t get into it this second. We need to hurry to-” Another tenant from down the hall passed Snow and Bigby.

“Hi,” The man said politely.

“Hello, good morning… or evening,” She stumbled on her words. Snow couldn’t think straight.

“Ha. Yeah.” Thankfully, the man didn’t continue the conversation and simply went along his merry way, allowing for Snow and Bigby to continue into the elevator.

“These walls are paper thin… We need to be careful. We’ll talk outside.”

The elevator stopped at the 1st floor and Bigby and Snow marched outside.

“Hello, there. I shut the gate and covered her for you,” Stix’s black blazer was laid over some lump on the middle step of the stairs.

“Thank you, Mr. Stix..” Snow fumbled distastefully and watched as Bigby slowly kneeled over the lump. He lifted the blazer off the mass. His eyes grew wide at what he saw.

“No..” It was the head of a fable he had met earlier that day.

“You… knew this girl? Is… she’s not a mundy… right?” Snow covered her mouth quietly. It was a lot more gruesome up close than she had initially expected. Bigby shook his head. “Who was she? I thought I knew everyone in Fabletown. She looks familiar. I can’t place her though.”

“Just a working girl. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to chat,” Bigby explained. “The woodsman. He attacked her, I stepped in. Then he threatened to kill us both.”

“No… you don’t think he…”

“I don’t think anything yet. Just gimme a second.”

“It’s just… terrible,” Snow sympathetically frowned.

“Were you the one to find her?” Bigby asked Mr. Stix, lifting his head to look up at the formally dressed man.

“Yes. I came out to leave the building when I saw the poor soul out here. I laid my jacket over her and closed the gate so nobody could come in and get scared to death. Such a poor dear…” Stix nodded. “I called Ms. White to see what she could do. I’m assuming you’re the Fabletown Sheriff, yes?” He didn’t need an answer; he already knew who Bigby was.

“Yeah, I am,” Bigby answered. “No one else was with you?”

“No. I didn’t touch her.”

“Oh god.. Bigby, did one of us do this?” Snow folded her arms over her chest uncomfortably.

“There hasn’t been a murder in Fabletown in… a long time,” Bigby glanced back at her.

“All the more reason we shouldn’t start a panic before we know what’s going on. Have a look around,” Snow walked up to the front gates to make sure no one was planning on walking in. “We don’t have much time before people will be coming through here.”

Bigby turned back to the fable’s head and closed her eyes. It was a young woman looking around the age of her early twenties. She had heavy makeup on and had clusters of blue and purple veins popping from the stump of her neck.

Stix circled around Bigby to get a better glance at the woman. “This cut looks like it was done with either magic or something very sharp,” he hinted.

“Yeah..” Bigby mumbled. He examined the large incision, determining that Mr. Stix has to be right. Woody’s axe couldn’t have made this clean of a cut on someone. “You can see that she was placed here with some care,” Bigby noted to himself.

“Looks like there’s something in the girl’s mouth, Sheriff.”

Bigby gently opened up the fable’s lips and pulled out a long purple ribbon with a ring tied to it.

“It’s… her ribbon. There’s some kind of symbol here.”

“Hm.. looks like a family crested ring to me. It has to have her family’s symbol on it. Means she is or at least used to be royalty. Doesn’t make sense if it’s the killer’s ring; it would lead right to them and they probably wouldn’t want that. Do you know her name?” Stix asked.

“No, I didn’t get the chance to catch it,” Bigby stood up and glanced over at Snow. She was pacing around the gate, worriedly looking out for passerbyers. He looked around the perimeter of the building and found trails of blood on the sidewalk and on the spikes of the back fence. Looks like someone hopped over, injured themselves, and left the head there. But why? Bigby picked up a small scrap of denim fabric that was caught on one of the spikes on the fence and brought it over to Mr. Stix, trying to see if it was a match. It wasn’t; Stix was wearing a black tux, not denim. It didn’t match Snow’s skirt either.

“We don’t have much time. We should… move her… before anyone shows up. We’ll find out more at the Business Office. She’ll be in the books. I’m sure of it,” Snow urged.

Stix covered the head back up with his dirty blazer. At least the fabric of his jacket was dark: you can’t see stains as easily.

“Bigby… Do you have any idea what’s going on?” Snow questioned.

“Someone brought her in from the outside.”

“That makes sense. There’s no signs of a struggle. But how do you know?”

“I found blood on the fence back there,” He pointed. “Someone hopped over.”

“Okay good. That’s solid. So someone from the outside… At least they didn’t come from inside the Woodlands.”

“Also, that Stix fella said that the ring on this ribbon is family crested,” Bigby lifted the ring out of his pocket.

“Yes, it means that she came from a royal family,” Stix repeated from behind Bigby.

“I’m going to have to tell Crane about this. As long as King Cole is gone, he’s acting Mayor. He needs to know. And he’s going to find out anyway, so we may as well get in front of it. It’ll just be worse if he finds out we held it from him,” Snow said.

“Do what you have to do.” Bigby knew that either way, Snow was going to tell him. They brought the head to the coroner and walked up to the Business Office to alert Crane of the news.

“You’re going to have to come with us. You’re a witness,” Bigby ushered Mr. Stix back inside the building.

Stix was fine with that. This was another chance to wedge himself back into becoming employed in the office. He can sway Crane into giving him what he wants. He needed his pup out and free again. That poor thing has been encased in a solid mass of ice for centuries, now protected by the witches on the 13th floor of the building.

Ichabod Crane wasn’t in the office when Stix was there talking to Snow about his proposition, but now he was back and furious.
“Ms. White, where were you? I strictly told you that you must be present during the noon hours!” Crane roared, standing from his desk and walking over to her. “You have worked here long enough to know that the calls double at this time of day!”

“Yes, I know. But I got a call about a fable’s dead body that was laying out in front of the building,” Snow defended herself.

“What? First, you skip out on your job and now you’re telling me there’s a killer on the loose? You two were tittering behind my back and ceased to notice that somebody dropped a body at our doorstep!”

“I know, but there was a witness and I needed to make sure that no one else came through those gates!” Snow’s forehead wrinkled as she frowned.

“The last thing I need with the Mayor Cole away is a hysteria. You are trusted to keep things running smoothly around here and you let this happen? What a disaster. Who else here is to blame but you?” Crane pointed at Snow, implying that this catastrophe was all her fault.

Bigby intervened the bickering between Snow and Crane, “Instead of trying to assign blame, maybe we should figure out how to catch the fucker who did this.” Stix covered his mouth with a palm to harbor his grin.

“Oh, is that how you see things?” Crane snapped. “Sheriff, you are the one charged with protecting the citizens of Fabletown. Your failure to do so cost someone their life, and the safety of the entire community! Tell me you have been doing something. Are there any leads? Suspects? Anything? Anything at all? Because right now I have half a mind to fire the both of you!” He sat back down at his desk, folding his arms impatiently in front of himself.

“Actually,” Stix spoke up. “I can do something for this case. For this entire community.” This sparked Crane’s interest.

“Well, what is it? It better be good because my patience for everyone here is running very thin.” Both Snow and Bigby glanced back to eye Mr. Stix carefully.

“Earlier today, I spoke to your secretary, Ms. White,” Stix sat in one of the chairs in front of Crane’s desk, folding one leg over the other. “I offered a proposition, but she sadly turned it down. It was a very good one at that. I was thinking that maybe you could hear me out instead. I promise it is not a waste of your precious time.” Snow scoffed quietly. She already heard his spiel before. Mr. Stix was going to be turned down yet again, and this time by her boss.
“Come out with it then.”

“You know of my nature. I can make many things happen and a good deal is one of them. I will work under you for a whole two years. That will give enough time to solve this little predicament you have here. In return, I want you to crack open that little block of ice you store on the 13th floor in one of the witches’ apartments. My dog is in there. We will both work for you. He’s a very loyal pup-” Stix was cut off by Crane’s obnoxious voice.

“You want us to release the hellhound? How preposterous! That thing will kill us all the minute it steps out of the ice!” Crane slammed his palms on the table rather dramatically. “You must think I’m a fool!”

Well, everyone actually thought Crane was a coward, but that works too. “No he won’t. You must not understand the nature of such creatures then. I am the owner of him, he will not disobey my orders or act without disregard. As I stated before, they are loyal to the grave. Not to mention, they are great at snuffing out souls that act out a bit, such as that killer you’re currently hunting for,” Stix kept a calm attitude. Crane was just scared. He could easily coax him into his compromise. “I can help Fabletown rise up and heal. I know all the tricks to do just that. The only price you have to pay is to hand me my pup back. “

“You want us to let a demon dog run loose on the streets? The mundies aren’t blind enough to not see a 5ft dog on fire running at them,” Bigby closed up on Stix, certain that this man was lying through his teeth. The deal will fail and this demon man thing will run New York-no-the entire fucking World into damnation. The hairs that stood up on the back of Bigby’s neck every time he saw the guy only increased his wariness towards this man.

“Bigby’s right,” Snow piped up. “This is incredibly dangerous. You can’t trust this man. It’s like trusting Lucifer himself.” She crossed her arms over her chest. However, despite everyone’s obvious distrust towards Mr. Stix, Crane on the other hand fancified the idea. Maybe he wanted this to simply annoy both Bigby and Snow White, or maybe, having Stix employed in the office could guarantee protection for them against other worldly beings. It would be like dogs pissing on their own territory so other dogs knew not to fuck around the area. That same gross philosophy could apply to demons too, right?

“Enough with the squabbling! I’ll make the deal with you as long as you keep that dog of yours under control with the lycanthropy stained knife,” Crane stood up from his desk. “And if you guarantee us all protection from those other.. beings,” he quietly added.

“What?! You can’t be serious!” Snow protested loudly.

“You must be out of your damn mind!” Bigby roared.

“What’s done is done.” Crane reached over to Mr. Stix’s outstretched hand and gave him a handshake to complete the deal between them. “Ms. White, please lead Mr. Stix to the 13th floor. You know where to take him. And when you’re done..” Crane looked away for a second out of embarrassment. “Call Vivian and let her know I’m coming in early for my massage.”

“I.. I will.” Snow felt that her earlier efforts to stop Mr. Stix before were for naught.

“Where’s the bottle of wine you were to purchase?” Crane then questioned. Snow was still for a moment, unsure as to where it had went. She knew she had bought a bottle of wine for Crane earlier today and left it on his desk, but it was now missing.

“Oh, bother. Forget it. Can’t do anything right.” Crane then left the Business Office.

Stix stood up and straightened his tie. “Glad this went smoothly.”

“Smoothly?” Bigby growled. He wanted to kick this man’s ass and scare him away from Fabletown, having for him to never return ever again. Bigby closed in on Mr. Stix until they were chest to chest, but Stix just smiled innocently at him. “I’m going to keep a close eye on both you and your fucking dog. You’re not going to be allowed to even take a shit without me knowing about it,” he promised.

“Hm, I don’t doubt you, Sheriff,” Stix chuckled.

Snow sighed and walked towards the exit. “If.. you’ll come with me, I’ll guide you to the 13th floor.” She was in no way happy about this arrangement. Mr. Stix smirked and happily followed after Snow.

“I’m coming too,” Bigby came along for the ride to make sure that this dipshit didn’t do anything stupid. As far as he knew, Crane wants to bust the demon dog thing out of the block of ice protected by the witch, Mr. Grandours and have the dog stabbed with the lycanthropy coated knife? That instrument can turn any man into wolf and any wolf into man. Does that thing even work on dogs? Well, either way, Mr. Grandours and him can ensure that if the knife doesn’t work, Snow will be protected at any cost.

Snow guided the two into the elevator and pressed the button labeled with a crooked “13” over it. The doors shut and up they went. The silence between the three was awkward as all hell. The tension in that tiny enclosed space felt almost suffocating.

At last, their torture ended when the elevator stopped at level 13 and opened the doors for them, allowing for fresh air to waff in. Well, as fresh as it could be considering that every single room on this floor had disgusting ingredients for spells, such as frog tongues and cow piss just to name two.

Snow lead Mr. Stix and Bigby down to the very last door to the left of the hallway and gave a few gentle knocks on Mr. Grandours’ door. “Mr. Grandours, it’s me, Snow White. We have an order from Crane for you.”

A few seconds of still air hung around before the door swung open. “Ms. White,” He looked over her shoulder to see the rest of the posse. “And Wolf and…”

“Call me Salleus Stix or Mr. Stix for short,” Stix grinned, reaching out from behind Snow to give Grandours a firm handshake. Snow let out a quiet grunt of annoyance, but Bigby was the only one to notice this.

“Strong grip, buddy. Come on in.” Grandours opened the door wide enough for everyone to shuffle inside. “Welcome to my home.” He mainly addressed this to Bigby and Mr. Stix since they have never been inside of his apartment before.

“Nice place you got there,” Bigby commented sarcastically. This place looked like a dump: there were jars of things he would rather not think about scattered throughout the room. Some containers were even left open on top of furniture and window sills. How neat. Then again, his place wasn’t so spectacular either.

He popped a cigarette out of his Huff and Puff package and lit the end of it. Bigby took a big inhale of the cigarette so it could desensitize his nose to the disgusting smell of this place.

“Thanks,” Grandours returned with some humorous sarcasm. “So what are you here for?” He walked over to his fridge and poured himself a glass of orange juice.

“We need to see the hellhound that is in the block of ice. Crane wants us to break it out of there and then.. stab it with the lycanthropy coated knife,” Snow explained. “You are in charge of having those two things in your possession, correct?”

“Correct indeed, Ms. White,” He gulped down the orange juice straight from the carton until it was empty, then tossed it into the over-capacitated trash bin. “But I need to ask why you want to free it?” His tone suddenly went to complete seriousness in a matter of a short few seconds.

“Crane made a deal and the demon dog is apart of it,” Bigby explained for Snow, tipping the excess ash off the end of his cigarette. “Does the knife work on dogs?” He then asked. Hopefully not so that they can break off the deal with this bastard and continue to actually do their damn jobs. There was still a killer on the loose and Crane chose to make this a priority instead. What a low-life.

“Well, it was never used on dogs before..” The witch pressed a thumb to his bottom lip in thought and began pacing the room. “But.. wolves and dogs are a closely related species. Wolves are the ancestors to dogs and they both can breed and create offspring together without problem. So i’d say that this has a high probability of working.” Grandours picked the lycanthropy coated knife from a drawer and stuck it inside one of his belt loops for quick wielding.

“Good!” Stix clapped. “Then let’s get onto it shall we?”

Snow and Bigby shared an apprehensive glance. Grandours happily nodded then got into business. He walked to the opposite side of the room and opened up a large closet door and stepped inside. “Come with me.” Grandours seemingly disappeared into the wardrobe, but Snow knew better.

“It’s an enchanted closet to make it bigger on the inside than it is on the outside,” She explained to Bigby as she followed after the witch.

“Like in the Business Office?” Stix asked.

“Yes.. Like in the Business Office.”

Bigby kept the closet doors open with one of Grandours’ random shoe in case they needed an escape once the demon dog was released.

“It’s right over here.” Grandours walked over with a skip in his step over to a large rectangle object near the corner of the room. It had a huge purple blanket covering the ice so that nobody would suspect he had a frozen dog popsicle inside his apartment.

“At least this room looks a bit.. cleaner,” Snow murmured to Bigby.

“Not by much.” Bigby distinguished his cigarette by tossing it onto the floor and stepped on it.

The four circled by the ice block, but kept a little bit of distance between themselves and the dog. Well, all of them except for Mr. Stix.

Grandours reached up and pulled the blanket off, showing the hideous beast. It was so much bigger than both Snow and Bigby had anticipated. It was at least nine or ten feet long and five feet tall. The fur had red splotches in the mostly black color of the dog. Bigby gave a sniff and smelt a hint of metal which confirmed his theory: those red patches were indeed blood.

“There it is!” Grandours gave a small sing song voice. “Okay.. I’m going to pour-” he reached over and grabbed a half full container of some yellow liquid that looked like piss. “-this on it, and that should melt the ice.”

“Mr. Grandours, what is that in its chest?” Snow asked, pointing to a long white object jammed between it’s ribs.

“The condarian dagger,” Stix answered instead. “They are one of the few weapons that can be used to injure both demons and hellhounds.”

Bigby glared over at Mr. Stix. “Nice to know.”

“Okay, okay, enough arguing. You might want to stand back. You know, for protection.” Grandours stood on the tip of his toes to pour the yellow liquid on top of the hound’s prison. The room soon filled with frosty fog with bubbling and sizzling like noises as the ice was forced to melt.

“How has this thing not melted during the summer?” Bigby asked, not really phased by the loudness of the ice breaking down.

“It was done by witches,” Grandours answered, as if Bigby should have known this already. “This ice does not melt, no matter how hot it can get. But this right here,” He pointed to the rest of the liquid he did not use that was leftover in the container. “This is hydrobromic acid. This can melt the ice.”

Mr. Stix was grinning from ear to ear. Finally, after all these centuries, he can free his hellhound and swipe that little dagger there for himself. Those two can up the chances of his survival. After all, these days everything was getting more fucked up by the minute. Even the shit down in what the mundies refer to it as the “afterlife”.

Black mangled fur began to show through the cracks and gaping holes in the ice. Bigby protectively brought Snow behind himself, preparing for the beast’s arrival. Minutes went by, and finally, the hellhound was free.

Chapter Text

Mr. Stix was the first and only one to walk up to the beast. “You may look deep into the Black Shuck’s red eyes only three times: once for joy, twice for protection, and thrice for death within one year.” He placed his palm upon the hellhound’s freezing snout in good faith. The naturally high core internal temperature of the creature slowly increased, causing the body to warm up and release steam. “But that’s just superstition.. if either of you believe in that.”

Bigby backed Snow away from the hellhound, glaring at the back of Stix’s skull. “Grandours, use the knife now...”

“Don’t have to tell me twice, Mr. Wolf!” Mr. Grandours wielded the lycanthropy coated knife, pointing it towards the beast.

“Put that away,” Stix spoke, but never broke eye contact with the Black Shuck. “They always have such a bad reputation… Their role in this World is to protect the souls of those who wander. They’ll guide lost home and the dead to the afterlife.”

The ice that the hellhound was encased in prior sure made the dog seem much smaller than it actually was: it was in reality the size of a full grown adult horse. It’s entire body was covered in black matted fur with dried, flaky patches of old blood. It’s foul odor was so unpleasant it almost caused Snow to retch.

“Oh, God…” She covered her mouth and swallowed the bile that had rose up her throat.

However, Bigby had a completely different reaction. To everyone else in the room, the beast smelt like rot and sewage water. All Bigby detected was a mixture of blood, the smell of smoke from a fire, rain water, and the dog’s natural scent. For some odd reason Bigby couldn’t determine, the dog’s scent smelt really good to him. Appetising even. The Black Shuck’s pheromones danced and swirled around in Bigby’s nostrils, wafting around the air around him without rest. Fuck… the aroma entranced and paralyzed him into a mesmerized state of mind.

“May somebody hand me a cloth or blanket? When he turns into man, it won’t… have any clothes. So please be prepared for that,” Mr. Stix slowly held out his available arm. Grandours picked a large yellow colored cloth off the ruins of his floor and passed down the fabric along with the lycanthropy knife.

“As if..” Snow retched in her mouth once again. “-him being naked is worse than the smell. Please.. tell me that after he showers the stench will leave.”

“Yes it will, now please be quiet..” Mr. Stix placed the flesh of his forearm in between the jaws of the beast. “Take a taste, may my flesh seal the deal between you and I-” Blood gushed from the bite the beast took from his arm. “I will not waste your age, so please grant me the power of ownership that shall last 730 days,” The beast swallowed the soft muscle and bowed his head. The creature gave Stix permission to borrow him for the full two years. “Now, I will bestowal you the lycanthropy coated knife.” Stix then dislodged the Condarion Dagger from between the Black Shuck’s ribs and replaced it with the lycanthropy coated knife in one swift movement.

The hellhound was nervous and confused as to where it was. The last time it was conscious the dog was in the middle of a predicament with a large group of pagans. The Shuck growled in agitation from the sting to his side, but did not put up a fight. After all, this was a gift from the demon. If there was a demon here... then it means he was supposed to be here. The Shuck also caught whiffs of a wolf and a few other humans in the room which put up it’s internal alarms.

The havoc of this entire ordeal finally awoke Bigby up from his trance. “What-”

Cracks and pops secreted from the hellhound’s bones that at which point, was now reforming into the proper osseous matter that a man has. A bright beam of light extruded from the dog’s body and blinded everyone in the apartment. After an extensive amount of silence passed, the sound of rough and jagged panting broke the dead air. A humanistic creature was now curled backside up on the floor where the hellhound once was. Mr. Stix placed the yellow fabric over the man’s body, covering the skin from the back of his neck along the rest of his form. Providentially, considering that the Black Shuck had just created new cartilage and fleshy human properties, the wound that was caused by the Condarian Dagger stationed between his ribs was at once healed.

“Rivin… is his name.” Stix ripped some of the excess yellow cloth off Rivin’s figure and tied it around his own injured right arm. He then inserted the Condarion Dagger into the crevice of his pocket, his movement undetected by the others

“Uh…” Snow and the rest of the group remained speechless. The huge frame of the hellhound had decreased to a smaller and much more.. fragile build. Yet, Snow had experience with the knife and how it operated. Many many years ago, when she first used the weapon upon Bigby Wolf, his body’s reflexes and reactions were left dawdled. Muscle and more bodily tissues built up over time of course. It won’t take too long, most likely a day or two at most for Rivin’s personage to develop properly. Hell, Bigby had the muscles of a healthy athletic man within days of being plunged by the blade.

“Let’s get you both down to Swineheart,” Bigby cleared his throat. His head still had a fuzzy-like feeling lingering around, but he had a job to do. “Come on.” He stepped over the random junk that still lay on Grandours floor and stared down at the hellhound that now bore a proper name: Rivin.

Rivin’s neck quickly darted up to meet the gaze of Bigby’s. The man had long, black strands of hair that stuck to his forehead and neck like glue due to his excessive sweating.

“Jesus, kid..” The Sheriff half expected to see crimson eyes reflecting back at him, but that wasn’t the case anymore. They looked like any normal pair of brunette irises, even looking similar to his own. The only “animalistic” trait of the hellhound characteristics that was left behind was the thick mane on his head. “Get up..”

Snow straightened her posture and retrieved the knife from off the floor. “Here you go, Mr. Grandours. Thank you for helping us.”

“After owning that thing for-” The witch scratched at his head. “-I can’t even recall how long, this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this. It’s refreshing to experience something new.” Grandours slipped the blade back into the drawer he usually kept it in and lead the four to the exit of his apartment. Rivin wasn’t completely stable on his feet at first, so Mr. Stix was used as his crutch along the way.

After all these years, Bigby was finally witnessing the change from a canine into a human being from another perspective. He only now realized how gruesome it looked. Bigby didn’t even remember much of how it went down for his own transformation besides that it hurt like a motherfucker. “Snow, can you get them taken care of? I have to start working on the case.” Bigby lit a new cigarette once he stepped outside the apartment and kept his gaze fixed on the smoke that emerged from the butt of his tobacco product.

“Sure. I’ll come back to you once I’m done on the phone,” Snow agreed and lead everyone back inside the elevator. She watched Rivin and Mr. Stix’s interactions with one another as they helped steady each other. Snow thought she’d be more anxious about the presence of the hellhound more so than Mr. Stix, but it was actually quite the opposite. Stix sent her inner instincts running laps out of stress.

Bigby then pressed the button for the fifth floor for the Business Office after everyone got inside. They could place the two injured ones on Cinderella’s carriage or something until Dr. Swineheart arrived to look at them. The total 60 seconds that they were stuck inside the crowded elevator felt endless. Even the cigarettes that usually dulled up the pungent smells around him couldn’t completely block out the scent of Rivin. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation.

Snow noticed this behavior from Bigby and frowned out of concern for him. What if seeing the lycanthropy coated blade in action again sent Bigby into some sort of PTSD episode? It looked painful for both Rivin and Bigby to experience so she wouldn’t be surprised if it left an impression on him. Damn.. she’ll confront him about it later.

As soon as the doors slid open, Bigby rushed out and quickly made his way to the Business Office. At least once he starts on this new case, he’ll probably spend most of his time outside this building and away from Rivin. That boy just came into his life today and has already left him agitated. Bigby held the door open for Snow and the two stumbling lads behind her. “Put them in Cinderella’s carriage or something.” He didn’t really care where they went. He just wanted peace.

Snow sighed. Bigby was in a mood. Then again.. all this happened so suddenly. She couldn’t possibly blame him. Even she herself had to learn to get used to this whole idiotic ordeal. “Yeah, ok.. Come on.” She slowly guided the two near the magic mirror where the carriage resided and helped them inside. “Stay here until Dr. Swineheart arrives. He’ll be here shortly.” Bigby tossed his cigarette onto the floor and stepped on it to out it out. He then picked it back up and threw it out in the trash. Snow always fussed about him leaving a trail of cigarette butts wherever he went.

“I don’t need a doctor, deary. And neither does my pup over here. Just fetch him some clothes and he’ll be good enough to work with you on this case. He’s a very good detective. You know, with all the senses,” Stix pointed to his nose and ears. He then shuffled his way out of the carriage and began looking around the room to see if there were any sort of articles of clothing around.

Snow simply ignored Stix and walked back to her desk to start dialing the number for Vivian, Crane’s personal masseuse. “Bufkin, please get the books for Bigby.”

Bufkin had been on top of one of the wardrobes in the room, surveying the two newest members to the office that he had never quite seen before. He flew in from behind the furniture with a blue bottle of wine and landed on Crane’s desk, tilting his head back and taking large sips of the alcohol. “Hello, Ms. White. Which ones?”

Snow gave the monkey a dirty look after noticing that the bottle that had been missing from Crane’s desk earlier was now in Bufkin’s grimy hands. She walked up to him after her conversation with Vivian on the phone and placed her hands on her hips glaringly. “Where did you get that?”.

“It was by Mr. Ichabod’s desk.”

“Then don’t you think it probably belongs to him?”

Bufkin sheepishly grinned, “Maybe.” Snow grabbed the bottle and corked it, taking it away from the monkey. Bigby just watched quietly before glancing over at Bufkin with a cocked eyebrow. “How are you today, Mr. Bigby?” Bufkin changed the subject.

Bigby sighed. “I’m fine, Bufkin. Thanks for asking.” He was actually extremely on edge and pissed off.

Snow returned to Bufkin, once again asking him to “Get the books.” Since there were hundreds upon hundreds of fables lives documented on those shelves, the monkey just gave the both of them a look of confusion. “You know, the ones with all the fables in it?” She continued.

“I’m not sure that was any more specific,” Bigby scratched at his stubble, looking over at Snow through the corners of his eyes.

“Bring the first three,” She restarted.

Bufkin nodded and took off to the back. “Oh, hello there… um..” He had spotted Mr. Stix snooping around the area.

“Call me Salleus Stix. Can you help me find some clothing?”

“Sure! They’re right that way!” Bufkin pointed to his left. Stix thanked him quietly and stumbled upon a large bin of mixed apparel. They were clothes left over from fables that couldn’t care less about what happened to them. Like a donation box. He picked out the simplest outfit he could possibly find: a white button up, boxers, slacks, and some shoes that looked like it would fit Rivin.

“Get dressed into this,” Stix held out the clothing towards the man. He covered Rivin with the yellow blanket until he was done dressing himself and then observed how the dog now looked. Eh, good enough not to be easily picked from the crowd. “Okay, that looks fine. Rivin, over there, that’s Snow White and Bigby Wolf,” he pointed out. Bigby was talking to the mirror and Snow was organizing some of the paperwork on her desk. “-you will listen to them as well. Your job is to help solve this murder case we are currently on. You’ll get more details about it shortly.” Stix brought Rivin over to where Snow was and brought his hand to Rivin’s shoulder, showing him off as if he were a shiny trophy. “Ms. White, I think it will be helpful that Rivin should accompany Mr. Wolf on this case. Where ever Mr. Wolf goes, Rivin will follow and aid. After all, they have similar talents and senses, so the outcome should be swell.”

“I.. I would have to check in about that with Bigby..” Snow answered. Bigby would most likely decline anyways so this didn’t concern her too much. “Where did you get that?” She suddenly noticed the new pair of clothes that Rivin abruptly called ownership over.

“Mr. Bufkin,” Stix answered. “If you’re unsure, I will ask your boss then.” Mr. Stix brought out his flip phone and dialed, placing the cellular device on speaker for Snow to hear as well. Before Snow could swipe the phone from the demon, the call had already been answered with a bothered “Who’s this?!”.

“This is Salleus Stix. I’m calling to inform you that the transformation process had worked very smoothly regarding my pup,” He paced towards Rivin and held the phone to his ear. “Say hello to your boss.” Stix wanted Crane to be really assured that everything was all fine and dandy.

Rivin cocked an eyebrow. “Hello?” he spoke into the receiver.

“That was my pup, Rivin. I was thinking it may be good that Rivin accompanies Mr. Wolf with his duties. They’re both canines so I think it will work out splendidly,” Stix grinned. “Okay.. okay fine! Now leave me be! Then you can help Boy Blue with his clerking duties!” Crane thence abruptly ended the call. They both heard a woman’s voice at the end of the call however, but naturally assumed it was Vivian. Whatever, he got what he wanted. “You heard him,” the demon smirked.

Snow crossed her arms whilst nodding her head and muttered “Well… We can’t change things now I suppose.” Just then, Bufkin came crashing down from the weight of the three books that he was attempting to carry all at once.

Bigby quickly looked over his shoulder on instinct and then walked away from the mirror to help Bufkin pick up the books. He displayed them across Snow’s desk and opened up the thickest book. It had many pictures of different fables all together on the open page. Rivin glanced over one of them and tilted his head curiously. “Who are these people?” Only a certain few of characters on there caught Rivin’s attention: the woman that was holding a red, bitten apple surrounded by nasty looking gnomes creatures, the woman that was crouched over on the bottom of the page that was clothed in what looked like either a mule or a donkey’s hide, and finally, the large dark colored wolf that was challenging a lumberjack character that was protecting a woman covered in a red fabric.

“They’re all fables,” Snow answered. “If you want to during your free time, you can ask Bufkin about them or read their stories.” She didn’t have the time to explain them.

However, while everyone else was crowding the novels, Mr. Stix decided to slip past the exit doors unnoticed. He wanted to inspect the interior of the building for his own gratification and to satisfy some of his curiosity. After that, he plans to find Boy Blue and chat him up about those “clerking duties”.

Meanwhile, Bigby pointed to a king that had a strange symbol on his clothing and brought out a purple ribbon with a ring tied to it. “That symbol.. It’s on this ring,” he indicated. Bigby opened up a smaller book on the table and began to flip through the pages. The writing inside the book did not seem to be penned in English, however. “Great..” He groaned. “I can’t read any of this shit.”

Bufkin looked up at the wolf then bore a small grin. “I can help,” he offered and looked down at the booklet.

Bigby pointed to the page with the same symbol that projected the ring that he had in his possession. “This one. What is this symbol from? What family?”

“That’s an odd one. A family name? All-lier-lie-rau,” Bufkin attempted to pronounce. “I’ll go look it up.” He then took off towards the book shelves to find a some sort of translator.

“Allerlierauh… means ‘every-kind-of-fur’ in German,” Snow spoke up.

Bufkin scratched at his head and began to read from the second book of fables. “Donkeyskin girl, A.K.A Donkeyskin, A.K.A.-” He then suddenly burst into laughter. “Ass’ skin-” a few more chuckles escaped. “-prefers to go by the name Faith. Poetic!”

“Bufkin, we don’t need the commentary,” Snow butted in.

“The story of Donkeyskin: There once was a great king with a beautiful queen. The queen grew ill and had her husband promise to only marry the most beautiful girl in the kingdom. After a long search, it became clear that the only woman on the land that could match her beauty was..” Bufkin’s expression suddenly saddened with remorse. “... his daughter… Faith.” Snow, Bigby, and Rivin’s eyes widened in dismal. “She had a magic cloak made from the skin of her father’s prized donkey that would hide her beauty so she could escape his kingdom. Eventually she married a prince who could see past the magic cloak and knew her true beauty… and they lived happily ever after.” Bigby and Snow looked over at each other, quietly taking in the information. Bufkin picked up a rectangle stamp and hesitantly hovered it over Faith’s page in the book. “Should I... mark it, Miss Snow?”

“Yes. Please.” She looked down at her hands that were now folded together. Bufkin stamped “DECEASED” printed in red font over her story. “And what’s her husband’s name?” Snow asked.

“Lawrence… Prince Lawrence,” Bufkin read aloud.

“Guess we found what we came for,” Snow tried to find something positive to focus on. “Her name’s Faith and she was married to Prince Lawrence. I mean that’s more than we-”

Bigby turned around and cut Snow off, “Her name was Faith.” He twisted around for a second in thought and rubbed at his forehead before speaking up again. “We should talk to the husband.”

To Snow, this implied that Bigby suspected that Prince Lawrence could be Faith’s possible murderer. “You think he did it?” She questioned.

“Nothing would surprise me, at this point. We can’t rule him out.” Bigby headed towards the magic mirror. Curiously, Rivin followed closely behind. “Mirror mirror, blah blah able… blah blah blah about this fable,” he nonchalantly chanted. Rivin cocked an eyebrow at this, confused as all hell as to one: why he was attempting to rhyme if he didn’t care to give the effort to actually try, and two: why rhyme to a mirror?

Without warning, green swirls of light flashed brightly inside the mirror before a large green head appeared. “Of which fable do you wish to know?” It answered.

“He’s a Prince I think. Show me Prince Lawrence.” The mirror set out a new image after Bigby’s request. From what Rivin and Bigby could see, it was a dimly lit apartment with a man slouched backwards on a couch. Strewn across the carpet floor was a blood covered dagger with a pool of blood to accompany it. A TV seemed to be the only light source there was in the room. You couldn’t see Prince Lawrence’s face, but he didn’t seem to look to be doing too well. “... what’s he been doing? Where is this?” Bigby asked.

Snow lifted her head from a pile of open books. “Where’s what?”

“Do you know where Prince Lawrence lives?” Bigby restated.

“If he’s a prince..” Snow walked over to the two of them. “-probably relocated in the South Bronx. Yellow building, red window shutters?” She verbally visualized to help jog Bigby’s memory.

Bigby nodded. “Red frames,” he recalled.

“Yes, that’s the one. I could take us ther-” Snow stopped herself. No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. She has a feeling that if she leaves the Woodlands unattended with Stix taking the reins, it would not end very well. But, if he’s going to be working alongside Boy Blue with simple clerk duties.. He can’t cause too much of a fuss, right? No, Bigby can handle being with Rivin just fine. Probably. She’ll decided to stay here and make sure operations run smoothly. “I can give your driver instructions on a piece of paper,” Snow corrected herself. She took a blank piece of copy paper off her desk and scribbled down some quick instructions. “Here you go. You’ll be working alongside Rivin on this case,” Snow handed Bigby the slip of information. “Crane said so. I can trust that the both of you won’t cause any unnecessary trouble, right?”

Bigby’s brows furrowed in confusion. “What? You’ve got to be kidding me,” he crossed his arms. “He’s passing a child to me to babysit?” Bigby continued to complain.
“He’s probably a few centuries old..” Snow attempted to lighten the situation for Bigby. Rivin nodded at Snow in confirmation, but that didn’t ease Bigby’s vexation any less. “Think of it like.. an extra guard to help keep a crowd tamed,” She tried to reason. Snow didn’t completely believe that having an additional “Sheriff” like figure for Fabletown was an absolutely terrible idea. Of course she’d rather hand pick them herself instead of having Crane hire some random aid. But Snow was trying to make it an easier pill to swallow for Bigby.

Rivin walked up to the two and slipped a hand into his pocket. “I’m sorry that this pairing up thing isn’t in everyone’s best interest, but I plan to work to my fullest capabilities,” he piped up. Bigby glanced over at him, but said nothing. He only sent a discouraging glare his way. That damn pungent scent of Rivin’s… bothering Bigby once again.
“Well, I hope you two can get along out there,” Snow politely smiled. “You don’t have to be best friends.. just.. don’t bicker. Or fight.”

Bigby sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Not making any promises.” He then raised his arm and flicked his wrist forwards to motion a “follow me” and began to walk towards the exit to go on over to Prince Lawrence’s apartment. However, the phone began to ring just as the two were about to leave.

Snow picked up the phone and held it over her ear. “Hello? Woodlands Business Office. Yes. I-he is. Hold on.” Snow beckoned Bigby back over and handed him the phone. “Bigby… it’s for you.”

Bigby held the phone up to his ear and listened. “Bigby! It’s me, Toad. You there?” Toad’s voice was a bit muffled. “Toad. Got your glamour yet?” Bigby asked.

Since Rivin had no idea what the hell a glamour was, he asked Snow “What’s a glamour?” behind Bigby. Bigby glanced over his shoulder to scold with a hateful stare to scold Rivin for talking when he was on the phone. In response, Rivin shut his mouth and stood still. This action seemed to please the Sheriff as he stopped glaring at the man to continue the conversation on the cell.

“Glamours are spells that can change someone’s appearance. They’re used for non-human fables to pass off as human in the mundy world,” Snow answered. Rivin had no clue what a “mundy” was either and cocked a brow. “We fables call normal humans ‘mundies’.” Rivin then made an ‘o’ shape with his mouth and nodded in realization.

“Yeah yeah yeah. It’s fine,” Toad said over the phone. “Bigby! Shit. Listen, right? There’s a bloke upstairs, going through all the Woodsman’s things. Get over here, Bigby! Before he -- wait. Hang on,” A few crashing noises sounded in the background of Toad’s end of the call. “Oy! Shit, hey!” Then the call suddenly ended.

Bigby put the phone back down and scratched at his stubble. “What was that about?” Snow asked.

“Hard to say,” Bigby answered. “Something’s going on over at Toad’s place.”

“What about Faith’s husband?” She then inquired.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t really tell… but he could be in trouble. And I should go there anyway to search her apartment. Toad might have to wait.” Bigby headed out towards the exit, holding the door open only for himself to pass through. The door slammed shut in Rivin’s face, causing him to have to reopen it himself and trot after the fuming Sheriff.

They both left the Woodlands building and trudged approached the front gates.. “So, that Toad guy..” Rivin looked over at Bigby. “Did he say who was at his apartment?”

“I don’t know. Whoever it was, it didn’t seem like Toad was happy to see ‘em.” Bigby answered after a minute of silence.

“Well.. then maybe Prince Lawrence can wait?”

Bigby nodded and pushed open the gates. “Yeah. Let’s head over to Toad’s.” His tone was gruff and bothered. He didn’t want to talk to the small mongrel beside him so they both trudged in silence. Bigby chose to walk over to Toad’s building instead of hailing a cab since it wasn’t that long of a journey. Also, Bigby actually knew where it was, unlike with Prince Lawrence’s apartment. He brought out his pack of cigarettes from his pocket and lit one up.

It was now early in the morning; around 8am. The sky was bright blue and there were very few clouds in sight. Subsequently after the short chat-less 3 minute walk over, Bigby tossed the cigarette onto the ground in front of Toad’s superstructure and stepped over it to put it out. “Woah.. what the.. what is that?” Rivin pointed at the smashed yellow vehicle parked close by. He has never seen a car before, or even other inventions such as a simple lamp post. He was used to candles and lanterns to light everyone’s way. Horses attached to dark carriages were a common transportation option, not whatever those vehicles were.

“It’s New York, cars are everywhere,” Bigby lazily responded. When Rivin wasn’t getting the clue, Bigby sighed and just went with a “It won’t kill you. Probably. If I get into one, just follow-”. Rivin immediately cut Bigby off as he noticed someone in the building that may not supposed to belong there.

“Someone’s up there,” he pointed towards the hole in the wall. A rather pot-bellied man in a yellow shirt was snooping around the room. Bigby stayed quiet and surveyed the stranger as he disappeared further into the room. With Bigby’s odd reaction, Rivin assumed that the man they saw indeed didn’t belong there, and began to chase after him. He ran up the flight of stairs and entered the room, finding it to be empty. “He was just here..” Rivin scratched at his head, completely dumbfounded. He can still smell the man and the scent of cigars that accompanied him up in the air.

His coworker’s loud footsteps carried themselves towards his direction and stopped at the doorway. Bigby scoped the area with his eyes to make sure it was all safe. When he found that the room was clear, he sighed at his partner and sniffed around the area some more. “Shit..”. He shuffled towards the break in the side and looked out to see if the man had possibly escaped. He didn’t see anyone at all on the sidewalks. Bigby then glared at Rivin and grabbed at the back of his shirt to pull him over. “Don’t run blindly into anywhere without my say-so. I don’t feel like babysitting you so just do what I say,” He growled at the man’s face to display his dominance over him.

“I’m sorry!” A child’s voice from downstairs broke their brawl. “That’s enough, alright! Just shut it!” A man’s voice quieted the kid which was then followed by a bunch of sobbing belonging to the child. Who the hell..?

Rivin was silent as ever, only watching Bigby with defensive eyes. “I don’t even remember half of this shit,” Bigby commented to himself, regarding to the fight he had with Woody last night. He let go of Rivin’s shirt and felt over the couch he broke only hours before.

Rivin walked off and sorted through some of the items the apartment owner had in his cabinet before going back downstairs to confront Toad and his son.

“Toad.. you in there?” Bigby asked from behind Rivin and pushed the door open. It swung agape effortlessly due to a busted lock. Inside lived a 3ft tall toad and a smaller 2ft toad sobbing close by (his son probably). When he heard the name “Toad”, Rivin just assumed it was some weird nickname, but he didn’t think his name corresponded to what species he is. They even wore clothes like people and spoke like them. Toad and his son must be some of the non-human fables that Snow was talking about.

“Bigby! And…” Toad stopped when he saw an unfamiliar man walk in after Bigby.

“Rivin,” He introduced himself.

“What’s this dodgy bloke doing here? I called you not him,” Toad looked Rivin up and down skeptically.

“He’s working with me. Now Toad, tell me what happened here,” Bigby was quick to cut to the chase.

Toad scratched the back of his head and nervously chuckled. “You surely didn’t come all the way here just for my bother..”. Bigby crossed his arms and impatiently glared at him. “Sorry, Bigby. It’s embarrassing to have to admit, but, eh, I thought there was someone in Woody’s place.” His son was frightened under Bigby’s intimidating presence and turned around as to not have to face him.

“Actually,” Rivin spoke up. “There was someone in your place.”

“Oh, well he’s gone now then,” Toad folded his hands behind his back innocently. “I’m sorry, but nothing’s going on, Bigby.. The problem is all over then. Just a false alarm. No worries.”

“Don’t bullshit me, Toad. Just tell me what’s going on,” Bigby asked again with a bit more sternness to his tone. Rivin went off on his own deeper into Toad’s apartment to look around the apartment. The place was a goddamn mess. Items were strewn across the floor, and not only that, but Rivin kept getting whiffs of blood hanging in the air.

“Oy! You can’t let ‘em sniff around me private belongings!” Toad shouted. His son was scared shitless from this whole situation and escaped to the closest door, shutting it behind himself.

Bigby growled under his breath and reached over to drag his coworker back by his arm. He was rough enough with his movement to leave a red imprint on Rivin’s skin. “Stay here. Don’t touch anything or move anything. Just stay still.” Bigby was growing more and more impatient with this dumbass by the second. “Now Toad, tell me what happened here. I’m this close to losing it,” he made a pinching gesture with his hand, allowing the slightest bit of space between his thumb and index finger. Rivin wasn’t too scared of Bigby, but he was certainly growing annoyed by him though.

Toad visibly gulped and folded his arms behind his back, rocking on his heels. “Ha ha, Bigby. It’s a thing of the past. Nothing here to see. Now get out of my apartment.” He was extremely nervous now; even more so than before. Bigby huffed and began to search around the room without Toad’s permission. “Nothing’s going on, Bigby.. Truly. False alarm is all. Sorry.”

“I’ll leave when I’m ready,” Bigby riffed through the fable’s belongings and crouched on the floor to examine a smashed lamp. “How’d this happen?”.

“Fuckin’ hell. Damn thing must have fell off the table.”

Bigby smelt bullshit. “Uh-huh. The lamp just fell off.”

“Or the boy was faffin’ about, playin’ sods n’ swordfish. Who knows with the lad?”.

Talking about Toad’s son, Rivin hasn’t seen him in a bit. He checked the door closest to himself and found the small frog looking over a tiny black box. He glanced at Bigby for permission to enter, but the wolf just stared back at him wordlessly. Rivin took that uncommunicative-ness as a “yes” and walked inside, closing the door after himself. If he couldn’t help Bigby search around the place, he should might as well do something else.

“Hi, I’m Rivin,” he crouched down to the smaller croaker’s height. The frog avoided eye contact and closed the box he was holding, pulling it closer to his chest.

“I’m TG,” he answered quietly.

“Those adults over there are a bit much, yeah?” Rivin chuckled light heartedly to try and cheer TG up. TG didn’t answer, so Rivin continued the conversation by himself. “Hey, what’s in that box you have there? I bet it’s something really nifty.”

“It’s a flower mantis. It can camouflage itself to look like flowers to get food.” TG opened up the box to reveal a mostly grassy green mantis with large, colorful wings to resemble a butterfly’s ailerons.

Rivin laughed a little. “That’s quite awesome if you ask me,” he glanced over to find a dozen more black boxes. “Are those other bugs too? Can you show me?”

The short toad nodded with glee and grabbed another box. “This one is a goliath beetle. It eats dog and cat food.”

Rivin leaned over to get a better look at the insect. The beetle was huge; about four inches long. It was glossy and covered with a black and white striped pattern “Wow, like pets do! Where did you get all of these? I’m quite jealous of your insect collection here, TG,” he grinned.

TG could see how sharp and pointy Rivin’s canines and molars were when he smiled which frighted him a bit. “Are you.. are you a wolf like Sheriff Bigby, too?”

Rivin tilted his head and shook it. “Nope. I’m a… I’m like a dog.” He wanted TG to be comfortable around him. After all, Rivin had no reason to intimidate the poor kid. He has had past experiences with lost children and guided them back home or to the afterlife. Rivin was gentle with them; with all people actually. Well.. mostly if they were his acquaintances and not foes.

“Really? So you eat dog food?” TG asked.

“Never tried it.”

“Hey, look at this one,” TG brought out another box and opened it. “It’s a hummingbird moth!”

“Woah,” Rivin gawked. The moth had a fat little body with large wings. It looked pretty fuzzy too. “I think I like this one the best.”

Brashly, a SLAP like noise sounded loudly throughout the apartment.

Rivin turned his head towards the door where the noise originated from and opened it. “Bigby, hold on!” Bigby was growling and shaking the damn life out of Toad. Rivin stood up and pulled Bigby away from Toad. “What happened? I thought we were just gonna look around.” TG ran over to his dad and hugged him. “You’re bleeding.” Rivin sniffed the air. The scent of metal was even stronger in the air presently than it was before. Since Toad’s back was now turned to them, he noticed a steady stream of blood pouring from underneath the croaker’s hat. “Bigby.. I don’t think we’re supposed to do that..”

Toad pressed his palm to the bloody spot and lowered his shoulders in defeat. “It wasn’t Bigby..”

“Take off the hat,” Bigby ordered, crossing his arms.

Toad lifted the hat from his head and showed the slit made on the back of his cranium. “It was that… butcher, a Tweedle. Dum or Dee. You gotta strip em’ down to their johnnies before you could tell which is which,” he sat down on a small stool behind himself and held a hand over his wound to help stop the bleeding. “He came bargin’ in, screaming about something the Woodsman had, or thought he had… I don’t know,” Toad sighed. “He tore up the place, beat me up when I said I didn’t have it. And if you hadn’t taken your sweet time coming here, maybe he wouldn’ta had the nerve to strong arm me boy,” Toad glared primarily at Bigby.

Rivin glanced over at TG empathetically. “How awful.”

Bigby turned his head over to Rivin and scoffed at his reaction. This dog was very bad at faking concern.

“What does he care?” Toad glared daggers at the wolf in front of him. “It’s always the same with you, isn’t it, Bigby? If i’m in trouble, need help, if I call about somethin’, you always take the live long day to get here. What if he’d done somethin’ worse eh? I’m tired of feeling trivial, mate. A lot of us are.” His tone switched from irritated to dismaled. “I tried to go out the window..” Toad continued. “But he pulled me back in. It’s been a hard mornin’, I’ll tell you that.”

Bigby then asked “Do you know where the Tweedle went?”.

“He mentioned somethin’ about Prince Lawrence’s… I don’t know if he’d already been there or was going there… but he said something about it,” Toad stood up. “I would’ve told you-- I wanted to, I really did,” he then grievously looked up at Bigby. “But he said if word of this ever got back to him, if he ever thought you knew, or Miss White…” Toad hugged his son tightly. “-he’d come back and kill me boy. I even tried to give the bastard her coat. He wouldn’t take it.”

“Who’s coat?” Rivin tilted his head and folded his arms over his chest.

“The girl.”

TG unexpectedly spoke up. “Dad borrows things from people who live here..” Toad then glared at TG chidedly. “..Uh… sometimes?”.

“Borrows?” Bigby scolded Toad.

“I don’t steal nothin’,” Toad defended himself. “The turnaround here would astonish you, mate. I merely.. repossess what’s been left behind.”.

Rivin scratched at the back of his head. “Well.. can you give us the coat? Maybe we can give it to her family or husband?”.

“Alright. Fetch ‘em the fur,” Toad agreed and had TG walk over to the fireplace. He pulled out a donkey’s skin that was imperfectly stitched together to make out a cloak or cape.

“Fine bit of dress it is..” The frog commented. Rivin trotted behind TG and held up the cloak for better view. “-though I wouldn’t wear it outside.”

“Hey.. there’s an envelope,” Rivin picked a letter out from beneath the mussel of the animal. Bigby came on over and took it from the canine’s paws to examine it.

“Fuckin’ hell, of course there is,” Toad cursed. “With my luck it’s a map to some bloody dubloons.”

Bigby read the front of the envelope and cocked a brow. “It’s addressed to Prince Lawrence.” He slid his thumb under the folded opening and spread out the message. “I’m sorry. Faith.” Bigby thus read aloud.

“Was she sorry for something? If so… what was she sorry for?” Rivin was puzzled.

Bigby shrugged and pocketed the letter. “Maybe Prince Lawrence does.” He walked up the step that connected the hallway to the living room and approached the busted doorway.

“It’s been quite a surprising day for all of us hasn’t it? I’d see you out, but i’m afraid of drippin’ anymore blood in the place,” Toad verbally jabbed at the Sheriff.

Rivin folded the donkey skin and picked it up. He then kneeled over by TG and smiled warmly at him. “It was fun talkin’ to you, TG. I’ll see ya later.”

“Thanks.. Uh, see you later,” TG scratched bashfully at the back of his head.

The hellhound got back up and schlepped after Bigby, closing the door behind them after they left. TG ran up to his father worriedly, seeking for some sort of assurance that they would indeed be protected from the Tweedles by both the Sheriff and his partner. Toad just pat his son’s head in unsure silence.

Chapter Text

Sniffles and soft cries echoed throughout the Clachan Bridge that connected the west coast of Scotland to the small island of Seil. Residing amongst the river was a young lad around the age of ten, left abandoned under the eyes of nightfall. The frost was beginning to bite at his fingers and nose, leaving a black kiss upon his skin. The tears wouldn’t stop dripping and spilling over his cheeks, despite how many times he would wipe them away.

Feelings of dread filled up the child’s tiny, shivering body. He detected sharp eyes watching from within the icebound lake, but he saw nothing at all. The boy glanced back down at his shaking fists and attempted to warm them up with his breath.

A snort and a splash unexpectedly rippled along the sluggy water underneath the bridge, drawing the boy’s attention. With fear, the child looked up and screamed at the monstrosity that sloshed around in the lake. Around the bear sized dog, the frost seemed to melt underneath its gaze. It’s fur was blacker than black. No moonlight reflected off the shaggy hair unlike a living dog’s. It howled a mighty roar and scared the boy off, sending him running through the barren brushes and trees. The mutt scampered after the child, but did not chase him: he only stalked behind every other tree to spy over him and keep a watchful eye.

It stopped tracking him when they reached the lights that belonged to a small village. The boy knew this territory very well and knew which streets would lead him to his house. He can take it on from there.

A slap to the back of Rivin’s head brought him back to reality and in turn, startled him. “What the hell!” Why was he suddenly recalling that insignificant memory? Why now?

“Crane didn’t send you here to daze off and fantasize about god knows what,” Bigby snarled, crossing his arms disapprovingly at his useless partner. “Fuckin’ do your job.” He then looked over the red shutters of Prince Lawrence’s apartment and walked up to Lawrence’s window to peek inside. The body inside the living room had moved from the cushy chair to the floor. There was a lot more blood staining the carpet presently than what the mirror showed Bigby earlier. He brought his arms up and lifted open the window to crawl inside.

“Something’s off..” Rivin muttered as he scaled the window. He detected partially fresh blood and ammunition powder. The latter probably belonged to a gun. As Bigby knelt over Prince Lawrence, Rivin took several deep inhales. There was a trace of cigar smoke in the apartment, but Rivin didn’t see any cigars anywhere. The place wasn’t exactly what would be considered Prince-worthy. The damn apartment was falling apart. The walls were cracked and peeling, the air was littered with swarming flies and the overwhelming fumes of death and decay. The tapestry looked centuries old and the furniture was covered with some concerning brown and yellow stains.

Bigby turned Lawrence upright to get a better look at the damage that was done to his body. A gunshot wound clotted with blood was planted to the right side of his chest and upon closer inspection, it seemed that the corpse also contained a large gaping wound on the left side of his cranium. The surrounding hair was matted and knotted with brain matter and chunks of his skull. Looked like the wound was already starting to rot even though the blood was still fresh and wet.

“His eyes just opened,” Rivin pointed out, kneeling on the opposite side of Lawrence. The Prince’s eyelids unfurled, but the pale blue irises themselves appeared completely devoid of emotion and life; any one person could have been easily convinced that Lawrence was concrete proof that the dead could once again walk the Earth as a breathing corpse.

Bigby scratched at his stubble, entirely unmoved by the current situation. “I’ll go get Dr. Swineheart, you just stay with him-”

“No!” Prince Lawrence shouted, slapping away at Rivin’s approaching hands. “Let me go… Just let me go..” he rasped. Despair and sorrow laced Lawrence’s words like a lethal poison. Rivin had only ever heard this tone of voice from those suffering with suicidal thoughts. Those wounds on his body must have been self inflicted. Rivin’s heart ached for the Prince as he witnessed death eating away at the man’s being with never a ending hunger. Rivin softly lifted Lawrence onto his lap and held a hand underneath his head for easier breathing and comfort. He could feel blood and cerebral fluid leak and drip over his palms and onto the rough carpet. Lawrence coughed and gasped for air, well knowing that his efforts were futile for self preservation. He incoherently mumbled and whispered invisible words, unable to form even the simplest of words on account of his spasming lungs.

Rivin wiped away the saliva dribbling from the withering soul beneath him. “What is it that you’re telling us?”

“Wa..water..”

“Bigby, go get some water,” The hellhound ordered.

Bigby erected himself off floor and calmly trudged to the cramped kitchen to pour a glass of water. The liquid inside the cup swirled and clouded up, mixing with the dust and dander that lined the inside of the glass. He glanced over his shoulder and noticed a yellow note stuck to the sticky surface of the fridge. “L- Pay the rent next week. Pizza in the fridge. Please don’t look for me. Goodbye,” and then signed at the bottom was the initial “F”. Must be handwritten by Faith. There is only a certain kind of anger and hurt that can cause someone to run away. However, Bigby had no clue what had pushed Faith to run off and hide from her husband. Since she was a prostitute, it could be possible that her pimp could be responsible for this fear.

“Hey, Bigby, did you find some water yet?” Rivin called from within the living room. Lawrence was slipping fast from this world; they didn’t have much time to spare. Bigby walked back over and kneeled alongside Lawrence, gently pouring some water past the Prince’s trembling lips. “If you need to ask him something..” Rivin glanced over at his partner with a bit of hesitation. “You should ask him now.”

Bigby stared into Lawrence’s fading eyes. “What happened here?” His question was not met with an answer however as Lawrence’s head lolled further back against Rivin’s palm. He gave a mild convulsion and then with his last dying breath, uttered his wife’s name.

Rivin closed Lawrence’s eyes with the pads of his fingers and sighed. Seems they were too late to save him. Maybe they should’ve came here first. “Well.. I believe that this was a suicide. No signs of a struggle.”

Lawrence never saw the letter that Faith wrote to him, so Bigby stood up and placed the crudely opened envelope onto the Prince’s bloody chest. “I’m going to take a look around.” Bigby didn’t even acknowledge Rivin’s theory before sniffing around the apartment. He discovered a bullet lodged into the wall behind the chair that Lawrence had previously sat in and pocketed the bullet.

“There were only two words in that letter. Such a shame that Prince Lawrence died without seeing them,” Rivin spoke since Bigby refused to share his thoughts with him. No response at all came from his partner though. “Hey, why don’t you talk to me? If we have to work together, we should might as well be on the same page about everything. I can’t tell what you’re thinking.” Rivin sulked. He was starting to grow impatient with the Sheriff’s coldness towards him.

“I didn’t ask to work with you. I don’t work with anyone actually. I’m trying to do my job and I need silence so if you open your mouth again i’m going to break your fuckin’ face. Got it?” Bigby kneeled next to the Prince’s corpse and picked up the bloody knife that the mirror had shown him back at the Business Office and examined it. Next to it was a gun and another bullet; luckily, the pellets he found matched the caliber of the gun. Ontop the coffee table was a bottled prescription of Rozerem sleeping pills. If Rivin was correct about Lawrence suffering from depression, it’s not uncommon for the depressed to have sleeping issues.
Rivin scoffed and brought a hand to the Sheriff’s shoulder to turn him around so they could talk face to face. “I only want to finish my job and that means I have to finish working with you. Just make it easier for all of us and comply.”

“What did I tell you?” Bigby grabbed Rivin’s arm and twisted it to the side to handicap him for a moment. “If you open your mouth again-” He pushed Rivin against the shuddered wooden closet of the apartment and latched onto the hellhound’s jaw. He began squeezing it until it cracked. Bigby then started to slam the back of Rivin’s head against the closet over and over again. “-i’ll break your fucking face!” Bigby had been bottling up his anger for the past few days and he finally broke. It’s not like Rivin couldn't handle the abuse though; he was a damn demon dog for god’s sake! He can stand to take a few bonks over the head.

Rivin clutched onto Bigby’s forearms and dug his nails into his flesh, growling and roaring out in both pain and surprise. The force from his skull crashing against the rickety closet broke the wooden surface inwards and caused the both of them to fall inside. What they didn’t expect to land on was a large breathing body. The man inside the closet looked similar to the person Rivin found scavenging around Woody’s apartment, except this man wore a white shirt and was covered in blood.

“Shit!” The man screamed and pushed past the two dogs laying on the ground. He darted out the apartment and ran towards the street in a panicked frenzy.

Bigby cussed under his breath and quickly followed after the person, leaving Rivin alone in a room with a corpse. Rivin’s entire head throbbed and pulsed with hurt, but he couldn’t simply just wallow there in pain. He had to chase after Bigby and the man. With shaky legs, Rivin stood up and forced himself to run into the alley where he could still sense Bigby’s natural musky scent. He held his jaw with one hand and pushed open the swinging door to an apartment he witnessed his partner race into with the other. Soon enough, he spotted Bigby chasing their suspect up the stairs and pushed him out of the way to get to the man first. A couch was thrown in front of Rivin’s path by the stranger ahead, so he climbed underneath to get through. Bigby wasn’t too far behind however; he jumped on top of the couch which crushed Rivin below, and continued pursuing their suspect into a hallway with two closed doors.

“Fuck-” Rivin climbed out from underneath the furniture and shoved Bigby against the wall so that he would be in the lead once again. He was now stuck in the same predicament that Bigby had been in not too long ago: which door did the man go through? The door’s room number to Rivin’s left were swinging, so he went to that door. He got there just in time to see their suspect jump out the window and onto the balcony below. Luckily, Rivin’s frame was small enough to squeeze through the opening of the window and allowed for him to chase after the man. He jumped from balcony to balcony, his speed only increasing out of worry of Bigby catching up to them.

“Leave me the hell alone!” The man shouted before hopping into a dumpster down below. The porch Rivin was currently on suddenly shook as Bigby crashed onto it.

Fuck, he caught up, Rivin thought. Bigby got back onto his feet and thrusted Rivin over the platform and into the dumpster so he could have something soft to land on. With the heaviness of two bodies, their suspect was trapped underneath them and couldn’t escape.

“You sonuvabitch..make me.. run after you..” Bigby huffed and grasped the back of the man’s blood stained collar to lift him out from underneath Rivin’s body. “Why did you run?” He tossed him out of the garbage and corned him at the end of the ally. Bigby had his hands on his hips and was pacing around, trying to catch his breath.

“Ease up, Bigby. We’re on the same side here.” The man put his thick hands out of defense, smiling worriedly.

Rivin’s body was aching all over from both wrestling Bigby and chasing after this asshole. He slowly climbed out of the dumpster and rubbed at his head, leaning against the side of a building littered with advertisements. The hellhound grabbed at his lower jaw and swiftly pushed it back up to the top of his upper jaw to reset it.

The man’s eyes darted back and forth from Rivin to Bigby. He had witnessed Bigby rough up his partner in Lawrence’s apartment and was hoping that he wouldn’t receive the same treatment for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“What were you doing back there?” Bigby glowered.

“I have the same question for you. What were you doing fighting a fable at Larry’s flat, eh?” The suspect cocked an eyebrow. Bigby’s icy glare sent him gulping. He stood up, pressing his back against the wall and chuckled weakly. “I had a few questions for Larry,” He finally spoke. The man then paused and sighed. “-didn’t think it’d go how it did.”

Rivin stretched his limbs out and hobbled over. “A man’s dead. Don’t you think it’s pretty suspicious that you happen to be hiding in a dead man’s home covered in blood?”

“I know how it looks, but I had nothing to do with that!” The stranger bellowed in defense.

Bigby pointed accusingly at the man and shouted “Bullshit! You’re covered in blood.”

“Look who’s talking, Bigby! You beat on him for no reason!” The suspect was turning the discussion back at the Sheriff, hoping that perhaps this could stir up another fight between Bigby and his partner so he could get away.

“We’ll talk about that later,” Rivin glared at the back of Bigby’s neck and then turned to narrow his eyes at their suspect. “You’re the one we’re questioning right now, not the other way around.”

“Look, I was just asking him about the girl! That’s all! When I mentioned her being dead, he freaked out. I figured someone’d told him. How was I supposed to know?” The newcomer briefly looked behind the accusing men, hoping that someone would notice the abuse and maybe help him out.

Bigby took in the information and blew some air out of his nose. “Shit..”

“Fucker shot himself right in front of me,” Their suspect looked down at his shoes, eyes glazed over for a moment. “I couldn’t stop him, man.” He breathed in and regained his composure. “You’re looking for the Woodsman, right? I know where he is. My guy says he’s holled up at the Trip Trap. We can go over there right now. The three of us. My employer’s looking to ask him a few questions, too.”

Rivin stood next to Bigby and tilted his head. “Who’s your boss?”

“I can’t tell you that. It’s confidential, sorry,” The man then directed his eyes to Bigby. “I’m sure you understand.”

“Nope,” Bigby shook his head. “Can’t say that I do. Come on. You’re coming with me.” He grabbed the strangers thick forearm and tugged to get him moving, but the man stood his ground.

A sigh escaped the newcomer. “This could have been easy,” he tsked disapprovingly.

“It’s still easy, just come with us,” Rivin piped up and went to hold onto the man’s other forearm. The arm was whipped away from Rivin’s big paw.

The unfamiliar stranger licked his chapped lips. “Dum.”

Bigby cocked a brow. “Dumb? Yeah it is,” He reinforced his grip. “Look, i’d be much easier for you to-”

Bonk! A large fist smacked Rivin in the back of his head hard enough to knock him unconscious.

“No, I’m Dee,” The man pointed towards himself with his thumb. “He’s Dum,” Dee nudged his head at a man that looked creepily similar to himself. The only difference between them was their choice of clothing.

Bigby turned around to see what the hell Dee was talking about, but was met with a fiery fist to the skull. He was greeted with the same fate that fell over Rivin. They were both lying down on the concrete, Bigby’s body overlapping his partner’s chest. Just for the trouble that the two caused Dee, both Dee and Dum indulged themselves to kicking at the comatose men on the floor.

Chapter Text

“Uh, I’m Miss. White’s assistant,” Boy Blue scratched at the back of his head. “Are you sure Mr. Crane hired you because I do not see your name in any of these files over here.” He tapped his finger on top of the pile of file folders on his desk. “These are the new files, Mr. Stix. Business is piling up and we need to move some things along,” Boy Blue guided Mr. Stix towards the exit door of the filing room. “Thank you for coming in, though. Our door is always open.”

“Ah, ah, ah, wait a moment, Mr. Blue,” Stix turned back around towards the boy. “If you want some assurance, then you can ask Miss. White. I am here to help with the filing and lift some of your duties off your shoulders,” he grinned and clapped his hands together.

Boy Blue could have sworn that he had seen a red glint around Stix’s eyes when he smiled. Fucking creepy bastard, Blue thought, and wiped some sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. “I would ask, but I really would not like to bother her.” At least not with this stupid little scenario. “Now shoo. Go on,” He waved Stix out his office.

Mr. Stix dusted off the area of his suit where Blue had touched him and exhaled. If nobody would let him touch anything in this building, then he should might as well make himself useful elsewhere. He was a very busy man and needed to get a few errands done with that little handy Condarion dagger he swiped off of Rivin earlier. Stix headed out the building and went to the Finger Lakes around Central New York to recruit a few more working dogs like Rivin. It’s always good to have some extra backup if anything goes wrong. It’s better to be safer than sorry.

Time sure flew by back at Lawrence’s apartment as it was already late into the afternoon; around 4pm or so. Surprisingly, even though Rivin had several cerebral injuries that Bigby had kindly gave him, he was the first one to wake up after being knocked out by Dum.

“Oh.. Oh fuck..” he groaned and rubbed at his forehead. His skull was pounding and his brain felt like it was ready to explode any minute. Rivin kicked the unconscious wolf off of himself and sat up to survey his surroundings. Still the same dirty alley they were in before, so nothing much has changed, just the time of day. The sun was a lot higher up in the grey sky. The thick and heavy clouds looked like they were ready to release some rain any moment now. The view reminded him of how the weather was like back in Scotland: always dark and cloudy out, no matter the time of day. Bigby started to stir and groan, letting out a hefty grunt as he gradually gained consciousness. “Mornin’, sleepyhead,” Rivin smirked, glad that Bigby finally felt the same aches and pains that he did.

“You can fuck right off,” Bigby hissed. He massaged the bridge of his nose, attempting to ignore the dull twinging in his ribs. The Tweedles must have kicked the crap out of him when he was knocked out.
Rivin gave a soft huff as he stood up and stretched his legs a bit. “I think the man named Dee said that the ‘Woody’ man you were looking for would be at the Trip Trap?” He glanced back down at his partner and offered a hand down to him to help him up, but Bigby refused the aid and stood up by himself.

Bigby rolled his shoulders and scratched his nose. “Yeah. I’m going to call a cab.” He lead himself out the alley towards the streets and lifted up a hand to wave over a taxi.

Rivin trotted after Bigby and titled a head confusedly. A what? The fuck was a cab? Everything he saw around him was so brand new. He couldn’t even comprehend how the hell the cars on the street worked. They really freaked him out and so did those telephone booths. Rivin only remembered everything up until the late 19th century. He was put under ice for the rest of them.

A wide yellow taxi pulled up to the shoulder of the road and stopped to allow the two men inside. Bigby jerked the car door open and crawled inside the back of the vehicle. Rivin was hesitant to follow after Bigby; he felt like the taxi would swallow him up whole and never let him go.

“I’m three seconds away from leaving you there,” Bigby warned.

“Yeah.. coming in.” Rivin took a big gulp of air and carefully climbed besides Bigby and closed the door after himself. When he took his seat, he clutched onto the peeling faux leather by his thighs and sunk his nails deep into the cushions with wide eyes. Who would’ve thought that a huge demon mutt that could massacre an entire village within minutes would be so petrified of a car? Bigby cocked a brow at Rivin’s odd behavior, causing the mutt to release his claws from the cushion. “Just wanted to test.. how firm this seat was..” He stammered nervously. “It’s very firm..” Bigby stared at him in silence with a blank expression. “I’ve never been in a.. a this thing before,” Rivin gestured towards the entire vehicle.

“Uh huh.”

The driver of the taxi turned back towards the busier part of the road after the Sheriff requested to go to the Trip Trap Bar. The jolt of the moving car provoked Rivin to cling back onto the torn seat of the vehicle and induced motion sickness in him, turning his face into a pale green color.

Believe it or not, Bigby actually understood how Rivin felt. Hell, Bigby was shit with all this technology stuff as well; he was lucky he knew how to work the toaster in his apartment.

“So, uh, who do you believe killed Miss. Faith?” Rivin quietly inquired to not only keep the conversation going but to also keep his mind off of the moving vehicle. Ever since they began working together, they haven’t had one nonviolent conversation.

Bigby scratched at his stubble and looked out the window. “The Woodsman was the last person to see Faith alive so he’s the only lead we got. Getting some answers from him will start to clear things up.”

“I know this is an absurd question but.. since I didn’t see the corpse, I was wondering how it was found. Was it burned? Drowned? Stabbed?”

“Her head was cut off. This ribbon was found inside her mouth.” Bigby pulled the dirty purple ribbon from out of his pocket and dangled it towards Rivin. The fabric had crumpled folds all over it and reeked of death, strong perfume, and human saliva. There was a little bow tied into it on the center.

“Did the ribbon originally belong to her?”

“Yes.”

Silence filled up the car like a thick and heavy smoke. There wasn’t enough tension to suffocate everyone inside however. It was just.. utterly quiet. Rivin could hear the gears of the car creaking and the honking of cars all around them. Everything was so.. foreign to him. He felt completely disassociated from this entire brand new society. It was almost like the Earth and Heavens had forgotten about his existence and left him to rot and scavenge for himself. This new world was horrible and too bright. Too many lights that lit the streets and alleys. He was used to becoming one with the shadows and now he had nowhere to hide. The lights were shining upon him and he couldn’t run away like he did in the past when he was discovered.

The sun in the sky slowly lowered itself to slumber and allowed the moon to switch shifts. At least the sky never really changed itself for society. Well, except these days because there’s way too much damn pollution in the air.

The taxi slowly stopped at a rather shady looking street littered with people smoking together and people in groups huddled around fires. Bigby stretched his arm over towards the driver and gave him his pay. Rivin swung open the car door and sharply inhaled some outside air. God.. he felt like he was trapped inside of the car for ages, but it’s probably only been a few minutes. Bigby crawled out after Rivin and shut the door.

The Trip Trap was located underground and had a set of stairs leading down deep into the street. Bigby opened up the door and walked inside with Rivin trailing not too far behind. The place was pretty nifty, Rivin thought. The nice soothing music of some gentle acoustic notes softly playing throughout the bar. A flickering set of multiple color christmas tree lights that light up the ceiling really set the place up for an amazing atmosphere. There was a pool table towards the back of the small room and a dart board was hanging on the wall amongst many other poster ads for the ‘Eggman Diner’. He’s been seeing that ad everywhere. Maybe he should try it out some time since its name keeps popping up.

The woman being the counter widened her eyes and froze up once she spotted Bigby. The only other person there was a man sitting in one of the stools hunched over, avoiding eye contact with the wolf. It seemed like everyone really did not like Bigby. He could totally see why though. He could still feel the hand shaped bruise on his jaw that still ached and throbbed every once in a while.

“What do you want, Sheriff?” The bartender asked. Her tone was slightly hostile like she was forcing herself to be somewhat polite.

“I’m looking for the Woodsman,” Bigby stated rather blandly. Quick to the chase. No bullshit. That’s how he works, Rivin observed.

“Well he’s not here, so I guess you can go now,” she crossed her arms.

Rivin walked past Bigby and gave a soft smile. “We just want to ask him a few questions. That’s all. I’d be really helpful if you knew where he is.”

“What are you working with him, now? If I were you, I’d quit while I still can.” Holly chuckled a bit amused, nodding her head at Bigby. The glare Bigby sent her in return got her back onto the defense. “He hasn’t been here for a few weeks.” The man that was sitting in the stool gave her a small shake of his head and then looked away to avoid being caught by Bigby. But of course, the wolf caught that. “No.. maybe? I don’t know,” she stammered. “But yeah, he hasn’t been here in a while if he’s been here at all which is… I.. I don’t know.”

Bigby placed his hands on the counter. “Does he tell you when to close, too?”

“Nope,” The bartender scowled. “And he doesn’t tell me when to tell you to fuck off,” she smirked.

Rivin groaned out of frustration. Why the hell was Bigby being so childish with her. This sounded like an argument between two five year olds. “Miss, please tell us what you know about the Woodsman’s whereabouts. We’re not asking for much trouble here. We would like the information and then we will leave your place alone. Sound fair?”

“Tch, that’s if she isn’t hiding him here,” Bigby glared. Hell, they could both smell the same scent that they found in Woody’s apartment: Woody himself in the blood and flesh. They both knew he was here. Bigby walked over and sat in the stool to the left of the only other person in the bar.

The man glanced over at Bigby with irritation and groaned a low “Lotta stools in this place..”

“But only one next to you,” Bigby starred in return. He ran out of fucks to give decades ago.

Why wasn’t Bigby getting the Woodsman? Rivin could smell him behind the door with a sign nailed to it. Rivin was illiterate however, so he had absolutely no idea what it said. He smelt some fecal matter behind the door… which meant that the Woodsman was going to the bathroom. In the wild, defecation was the most vulnerable an animal could possibly be which also meant that this was the best time to catch the Woodsman by surprise. Rivin then walked up to the door, feeling everyone’s eyes fall to him.

“Can’t you read the sign? Bathrooms are for paying customers only,” the bartender pointed at the sign, putting an emphasis on the word “paying”.

“I can’t read,” Rivin confirmed and continued to approach the door. He placed a hand on the wooden door and gave a firm knock. “But I can smell the Woodsman in here, miss.”

“Smell?” The man in the stool commented. He had been mute up until this point. “What do you mean by smell? You a fuckin’ dog like the Sheriff over here or what?” He was hoping to avert Rivin’s attention from the door to himself.

“Rivin, go and sit down. Let Woody in there finish his crap so he won’t shit himself when he comes out and sees me,” Bigby spoke up, nodding his head towards the vacant stools in the bar. It was better for the Woodsman to be surprised than to stay huddled over in the bathroom to avoid questioning.

A muffled flush came from within the washroom which silenced the entire room. The bartender and the man’s eyes connected in tension. Hell, the bartender even began to physically sweat. They were both as stiff as a board.

Innocent whistling came from the bathroom and door finally opened up. It was the Woodsman. He reeked of cheap cologne and alcohol. He was at least a whole two heads taller than Rivin and quite a stocky man, but you could tell that a lot of that build was strong muscle. Hell, Rivin had to tilt his head back until it touched the beginning of his back just to look the man in the eyes.

The Woodsman stopped mid-whistle as he noticed everyone’s eyes on him, including the Sheriff sitting at the far end of the counter. Bigby gave him a feigned smile as they made eye contact, but Woody didn’t show fear. Instead, he wiped his face of all emotion and took a calm seat at the opposite end of the counter from Bigby to continue nursing his unfinished beer. “It’s all yours,” Woody told Rivin as he had knocked on the bathroom door and assumed he had to piss or something.

Rivin cleared his throat and turned to Woody. “Actually, the Sheriff and I have to ask you a few questions. It’ll only take up five minutes of your time, sir.”

Woody snorted and looked down into his glass, smiling a bit sadly to himself. “We all know what that means.” Yeah, it never stops after a few questions. Ever. The next thing you know, you’re thrown into the cellar to be beaten until you spit out the information the wolf is looking for. And even then it isn’t over. The wolf will always keep an eye out for you, always watching from a distance.

“Well, you can always just cooperate. Not sure you knew that was an option before,” Bigby replied from across the room. Woody chugged down the rest of his beverage. “You’re in luck, I decided to switch seats,” he decided and stood up to walk over to the Woodsman. However, the man that sat in Bigby’s way stopped him with a hand to his shoulder. “Last fella that put his hand on me ended up with an axe in his head,” Bigby warned, glancing over at Woody that currently had a bandage wrapped around his head.

The man peered back up at Bigby to accept his challenge. “Last fella I put my hand on ended in the ground,” he smirked.

“Ey,’” Rivin growled, stalking up behind the man. “You sure you want try that?” He bared his tapered teeth and placed a hand over the man’s shoulder. If this guy was willing to fight Bigby, then he had to fight Rivin as well. They both came as a packaged deal now. The man turned back to face Rivin and for the first time, he was seeing this dude’s face. He was covered in piercings and had a blind eye. Fuck, if he thought Woody reeked of cologne, this guy takes the entire fucking cake; he was covered from head to toe in aftershave. Like damn how much does one guy need?

Thankfully, Woody spoke up and calmed down some of the tension in the atmosphere by telling the man to calm down. “It’s okay, Gren.” After that, Gren took his hand off of Bigby and starred back down into his drink and tuned in.

“It’s funny..” the Sheriff took a seat right besides the Woodsman. “Just a minute ago, no one seemed to know who you were.”

Woody sighed and took a sip. “Yeah.. Well everyone knows you. Big Bad Wolf. Now I’m the bad guy and he’s the Sheriff. What kinda fuckin’ world is that.”

Big Bad Wolf? That sounded like a silly name to Rivin. Hell, even a bit childish. But despite the name calling, the beef between these two did seem a bit serious though. He could tell by how tense and stuffy the aura around them was; deadly and threatening even.

Bigby sighed finally, pushing all of the bullshit aside. “Come on Woody, why’d you do it? No bullshit.”

“Same reason a lot of people do awful things: for money. I’d walk past her place for weeks… She didn’t look like it, but she had money. I was sure of it. And she wouldn’t put up any kind of fight..” Woody began to talk effortlessly. Rivin was surprised by this. He didn’t he would get this kind of information so easily, but look at him spill. “I was gonna rob her. And the night I finally get up the nerve to do it.. there you are. Fuckin’ things up for me. You were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“So.. this was a robbery?” Rivin inquired.

“Yeah, her and her grandma.”

Bigby and Rivin scrunched their eyebrows in unison. The fuck? “Her grandma? Wait.. what are you talking about?” Bigby asked, looking as lost and confused as Rivin was.

“Red Riding Hood,” Woody answered. “Her grandmother. I was there to rob them… when I showed up, you were already lying in the bed.”

“Excuse my language, but what the fuck are you saying? I don’t understand any of this,” Rivin was shaking his head in confusion. “Red Riding Hood? A grandma? Bigby in a loft? What?” His head was spinning around in circles. He surely couldn't have heard the Woodsman wrong.

It seemed like it was national ‘Ignore Rivin Day’ though, because no one else in the bar answered his questions. Woody just kept on talking. “I only saved her ‘cause I thought she would give me some reward… but I didn’t get shit. ‘Cept a bunch of people thinkin’ I’m somethin’ I ain’t. I played along as long as I could. Only thing I managed to get from it was a free drink now and again… huh, lotta good that did.”

Bigby didn’t need to hear his whole spiel; he only came here for one thing and one thing only. “Did you kill Faith?”

“What? Faith? Who’s that?” Woody blinked.

Oh my god, Bigby thought bitterly. Woody had to be shitting him. “The girl you were beatin’ on this morning,” he reminded.

“No, no, no, no,” Woody’s eyes widened in realization. Holy shit, Bigby thinks he killed the hooker he had this morning. Hell, he was a big guy, but he wouldn’t do something like that. He can clog a toilet three times in one day, yes, but not kill someone! “I was here, I swear!”

“It doesn’t look good when a girl you were just smackin’ around earlier turns up dead hours later,” The Sheriff growled. If Rivin thought the air was tense before, then shit just got so much more real.

“She’s dead?” Woody shook his head in disbelief. Nobody told him about this! “Bigby listen.. I’m a piece of shit, okay? I know that.. I hit that girl. I did. I shoudn’t’ve but.. I didn’t kill her. You believe me, right?” He was begging for his life. Woody knows that he has done many, many bad and shameful things in his life, but killing Faith wasn’t it. He knows he shouldn’t beat on women, but he did anyway. Hell, even if he was drunk, that didn’t mean that his humanity had shrunk so much that he would fucking kill another living person. “They’re gonna sting me up, Bigby. Like you said, it looks fuckin’ bad… it really looks bad. But I didn’t do it.” Woody looked ready to spill tears.

Gren loudly took a shot of whiskey and put it back down on the counter. “He was here.” It sounded more like he just wanted Woody to stop blubbering than anything else. “That’s the fuckin’ truth, Sheriff.”

“You see?” Woody gesticulated and continued to beg Bigby for mercy. Instead of looking like Bigby was eating up Woody’s pleading like the wolf he was, he was actually growing more and more pissed off.

“Woah, Bigby,” Rivin cut Woody off mid-sob. “I believe that Mr. Woodsman didn’t murder Faith.” Woody smiled pathetically and was about to thank Rivin, but he cut him off once again. “I don’t see any of the telltale signs of lying. I don’t smell any odd pheromones coming from him either.”

“Oh yeah?” Bigby glanced back. “And how many years have you been doing this for?” He stood up and puffed out his chest as if challenging Rivin. “The normal mundy cop gets to retire after twenty to forty years. I’ve been on the job for more than two hundred years,” Bigby forcefully jabbed at Rivin’s chest. “You woke up from under the ice just today, so back off. Watch and learn or I’ll might just break your jaw again,” he threatened.

“Hey, stop! This isn’t what I want!” Woody yelled, standing up to tower over the Sheriff and his partner.

Gren slammed his hands on the table and stood up as well. “Shut the fuck up, Woody! Shit ain’t just about you.” He turned his attention from the Woodsman to Rivin and Bigby. “It’s about this fuckin’ lap dog. Only comes around sniffin’ this part of town when the rich fucks in the Woodlands need a shakedown. Ain’t that right, Bigby?”

At this point, Rivin didn’t know what the hell to do but to brace for impact. He wasn’t sure if Bigby or Gren would be the first one to swing a punch.

Chapter Text

“Lap dog? Really?” Bigby turned his attention to Gren, seeming almost offended by the nickname. He was anything but a lap dog. A jerk? Hell yes. An isolated hermit? Check a yes off for that too. But a lap dog? Hell no.

“Holly’s sister goes missing and no one gives two shits about her. Paperwork, waiting rooms, and that bitch Snow White looking right past me and usherin’ me out the fuckin’ door,” Gren bared his teeth. Bigby turned right around when he heard Gren curse Snow out and socked him right in the jaw, causing him to stumble over a stool and fall onto the floor with a “Augh!”. Gren then flashed a cheshire grin and snickered at the wolf. “That all you got?”

“Seemed to be enough.”

“Mr. Wolf,” Rivin ran over to guard Gren’s fallen stature and held up his arms in preparation for another attack. “Like you said before, we came here for one person and that’s Mr. Woodsman. I think it would be better that we just take him in for questioning-”. A bright green light shined over the entire bar in an instant, so fast that if you blinked you would miss it. Heavy, warm puffs of air heaved over the back of Rivin’s neck, bringing him to whip around and witness the monster that Gren had become.

He was massive and had white leather like skin that stunk of sweat and body odor. Gren didn’t look like a human, but rather something straight from a child’s nightmare. His eyes were so clouded with white cataracts that Rivin wasn’t even sure if Gren could even see out of them. The pungent stench that waffed off the creature made Rivin feel sick and queasy. Maybe this is why Gren doused himself with so much after shave; his body odor was choking the life out of him.

Instead of showing any fear, Bigby seemed to be used to these kinds of transformations. He didn’t seemed fazed at all, but rather kind of excited. Like he was just waiting to fight and tear something apart. “Oh. Good,” Bigby commented and cracked his knuckles.

Gren’s joints and bones crackled and popped as he began to trudge towards the two canines. “Should’ve walked outta here when you had the chance.” Know what? Rivin would have loved to just have everything go smoothly but Bigby insisted on provoking everyone he saw today. He would have gladly skipped out of the Trip Trap with Woody behind him, but no, things never come easy do they?

“Hey, you’re scaring the lady,” Bigby pointed out, but all hell broke loose as the bartender mutated right before their eyes into yet another Gren-like creature. How wonderful.

“Don’t worry about me,” Holly smirked.

Gren had slapped Bigby forwards with his ginormous forearm and Rivin stumbled back to grab at the heavy looking beer glass to throw at Gren, but Holly moved to hold the glass right where it was. Bigby was hauled up by the back of his collar and thrown overtop the pool table. The wood spliterned and the green table emitted a loud “Crash!” as his body landed on a few pool balls.

Fuck, this shit was serious, Rivin thought, and snarled loudly to grab Gren’s attention. Luckily, Gren bit the bait and turned around towards Rivin to try and attack him as well, but Rivin launched up into the air and jumped onto Gren’s back. He roared and began to scratch and grope at the monster’s neck to allow Bigby enough time to regain his composure.

“Dammit, why aren’t my claws coming out?”, Rivin thought to himself in frustration as his nails barely managed to make a scratch against Grendel's skin. These insignificant human nails weren’t doing any damage whatsoever! Why couldn’t he transition? What is going wrong with his body?

As Rivin was attempting so vigorously to “transform”, Gren peeled the mutt off his back and slammed his body violently across the floorboards over and over again. Rivin’s heart was beating so fast and so wild; he could feel the blood pumping in his ears and throughout his veins. His chest and limbs were taking quite the beating, not to mention that his nose was crushed by the floor and was spewing dark brown blood everywhere.

“Hugh!” Bigby grunted as he smashed a wooden chair over Gren’s head and kicked at the monster’s knee to get him down on the ground.

Rivin was having an internal crisis and was close to hyperventilating. Why couldn’t he change back into his old body? This new one sucked ass and he couldn’t imagine being stuck with a human body for the rest of his life; it was too complicated to walk with only two legs and gets bruised too easily. He had to collect himself and help BIgby out right now, he can find out whatever the fuck is happening to him later. Rivin looked around the bar for a weapon to use against Grendel and found a tall, golden coat hanger. Perfect. The tips of the hanger were sharp enough to stun the beast. He lifted up the pole and held it like a spear, aiming it towards Gren’s face afore propelling it.

“Aagh! You bitch!” Gren let out a shrill scream as the edges of the coat hanger plunged into his cheeks. Bigby grabbed the end of the hanger and pushed it further into the face of the monster and pinned him against the wall with it.

“Sit,” Bigby commanded, talking to Grendel as if he were training a dog. He slammed his heel against Gren’s chest to keep him pressed to the wall, and began pulling at the monster’s right arm. Finally, he can indulge himself and allow his inner beast to shine. His teeth had sharpened to a point and his facial hair and nails have grown and thickened in a matter of seconds. Amber irises glared down at Grendel dominantly, and Bigby tore his claws into Gren’s right arm and began peeling the muscle away from the bone. Shrieks and cries rang throughout the bar as Bigby ripped the creature’s arm right off and held it up for everyone to see. “I’m the lapdog, huh? Go fetch,” he tossed the appendage across the room, having it land near Rivin’s feet.

Woody audibly gulped at the sight and had to contain the bile that began rising up his throat with a hand. “You fucking monster!” he screamed. The Woodsman had known Bigby for a very long time. He has witnessed the wolf do extremely gruesome and stomach churning things throughout his life. Except, that was the former Bigby he knew, the Bigby in the Old World before either of them came to this New World in New York. Since then, things have changed and hell, Bigby even became the town Sheriff while the Woodsman went ahead and began drinking himself to death and remained a nobody. Bigby was helping people out and fought to keep peace between the Fabletown community. Woody thought he had changed for the better, but this proved that he couldn’t have been more wrong. Bigby did not change one single bit; he was still the blood thirsty animal he has always been: a wolf. He had only built up the facade around the Sheriff’s badge he was given. A monster will always remain a monster. No matter how tight you chain them down, they will always break free and give into their selfish and savage desires.

The whole room fell silent as Gren wept for his lost limb, rocking back and forth whilst cradling the gaping hole by his collar bone. Blood spilled all over the floor while small fibers of muscle clung underneath Bigby’s nails.

Rivin licked his lips and cleared his throat. “Please come with us, Mr. Woodsman,” he spoke quietly. He couldn’t apologize on Bigby’s behalf, that wouldn’t be right. Hell, this entire situation is just so morally fucked up, but he was used to all the violence and gore. He had grown up fighting against unruly beings and had to even turn towards cannibalism because he was so fucking hungry. Both the Earth and the afterlife did not treat him well and he was used to this kind of blood shed. To him, this was just another day serving his duty.

Bigby had walked up to the counter of the bar and demanded that he have a whiskey. Out of fear, Holly began to prepare Bigby a shot of the alcohol, but Bigby needed more than just a small shot glass. He smashed the glass to pieces and made himself a bit more clear. “Double.” Once the drink was poured for him, he downed the glass in one chug and started to feel a bit better. Even a bit calmer perhaps. His racing pulse had slowed down to a soft beat and the wolf like features had faded.

Gradually, Woody began backing away from the pair of dogs and attempted to retreat into the bathroom, but Rivin’s acute ears had picked up the sound. “Please stay right there.” His voice was quiet and gentle like cotton. Rivin needed to thin out the tension in the air and get Woody out of here and into questioning as soon as possible to avoid further conflict.

“Is this the kind of treatment I can expect if I let you take me in?” Woody stared icily at the Sheriff.

“He started it,” Bigby nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders.

Rivin sighed and shook his head at how childish Bigby was. Was this man a toddler? Because he certainly acts the part.

Woody had stayed silent, staring down at the floor. He can already feel his stomach churning and twisting in anticipation of what’s to come.

The bell besides the door of the Trip Trap let out a tuneful “Ring” as a man walked in, swirling and swishing a purple lollipop in his mouth. “Alright, I got a hundred bucks for the first bloke that can tell me something about a girl named...” The man stopped mid sentence, mouth agape as he paused in front of Grendel’s weeping, shaking frame. “Oh shit..”

Bigby languidly turned around to face Tweedle Dum as a snarl escaped from within his throat. That bastard thought he could get away with striking him in the back of his head with the fucking butt of his shotgun. He will thoroughly enjoy taking his time with Dum when questioning him, Bigby mused to himself, and went barrelling at the Tweedle without question.

If Bigby was going to catch Dum, then Rivin was going to attain Woody. He went to approach the Woodsman, but Woody had freaked out and ran into the bathroom and barricaded himself inside, knocking over an ashtray and cigarettes onto the floor as he went. Rivin jiggled at the handle of the door before forcing his way in. He pushed Woody against the floor to get his hands behind his back, but Woody had landed awkwardly on the ground and ended up face first in a urinal that still had droplets of urine in it. The Woodsman loudly groaned out his feelings of repulsion and began to thrash around underneath Rivin. “My apologies,” Rivin quickly vocalized, and lifted Woody up by the arms. “Let’s go.” He walked the Woodsman out the bar, keeping Woody’s arms behind his back to better navigate him around.

Woody was gagging and spitting the piss taste out his mouth. He could feel the bile burn its way up his throat as he then vomited on the sidewalk out of pure disgust.

Rivin was blinded by the flashes of red and blue lights as he walked outside and instinctively tightened his grip on Woody. “What’s happening?” He didn’t know that the lampposts could change colors. Rivin walked further down the sidewalk, using Woody almost like a human shield out of self preservation.

“Cops by the Woodlands?” The Woodsman commented without thought. Why the hell would the police be surrounding the Woodlands? It was practically code that Fables shouldn’t get mundys involved in their personal lives, nevermind having the police sniffing around the Woodlands where their main operations took place. What terrible thing could have occured to have to involve the mundy police?

Bigby was just as curious as Rivin and Woody, and handcuffed Tweedle Dum to a post to keep him still while he checked out the situation. “Stay here and don’t move,” he said and quickly moved on to investigate the scene.

Rivin was stuck babysitting the two suspects by himself without an extra pair of cuffs to chain Woody to the post like Dum over there. So he stood around and merely held onto the Woodsman, looking around the area to pass time. Only when he got a better view of the land did he notice that the bright colors of light weren’t coming from the lamp posts, but the cars instead. How odd.

Dum starred up at Rivin and then at Woody and met eye contact with him. He nodded his head at Rivin who was too busy studying the cops to observe the silent conversation between the two men. “Hit him then free me,” Dum mouthed wordlessly, and when Woody didn’t get the message, he mouthed it a bit more obviously to get the news across.

“Oh,” The Woodsman nodded, but took a moment to think this through. If Rivin was working alongside Bigby, then that must mean he is at least a little powerful, right? How else could he deal with the wolf’s hot temper? Maybe he could hit the guy in the groin, and make a run for it. Screw Tweedle Dum. Everyone knew he was shady as hell. The Woodsman took a deep breath and quickly slammed his leg backwards to strike him where it hurts most for a man.

Rivin let out a guttural groan as he immediately went to cover his crotch and double over in pain. God, he has never experienced this sort of pain before! His stomach hurt so badly and he felt like his guts were twisting around themselves. He couldn’t make out any words as pitiful whines came out one after the other whilst he was immobilized on the floor.

Woody took his chance and sprinted down the opposite side of the sidewalk, darting as fast as his legs could carry him. He could hear Dum cursing him out from afar, but the Woodsman didn’t give any fucks. Not while he’s running free and away from the wolf’s jaws. Woody had hid out in some other bar a few blocks down since he had highly overestimated both his stamina and how fit he was. Maybe when he’s not being chased down by Bigby and his pal, he should eat a few salads or something.

As Bigby walked up behind the large crowd of mundy police officers, he noticed white tape covering up the grand gates of the Woodlands displaying in all capitals “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS”. Beast had ran up to see what was going on, but was stopped by multiple officers and told to stay back. Bigby furrowed his brows and stepped over the tape to walk inside.

A cop sitting in his car had noticed Bigby stroll pass and jumped out of his seat to yell “Hey, this is a restricted area not available to the public! You have to stay back!”

Another guard had walked out of the building while covering his mouth to hold back the vomit that was forcing its way up his throat.

Was the scene that horrendous? This had only made Bigby more curious. He treaded past the gate and looked over the shoulders of the crowd of patrolmen huddled around the scene. Bigby had stopped breathing and stood frozen in place after witnessing the crime that had been committed.

There sitting upon the steps was Snow White’s head. Her pale white skin was drained of that lovely rosy pink blush that she always dusted on her cheeks. Instead, bright blue and green veins took its place all over her face and neck. Her eyes lacked any and all life that was once there. They were now dull and lifeless, clouded with milky white cataracts that had never been there before.

Bigby could feel the goosebumps rush up along his neck and arms and he began to feel sick. Just a few hours ago, Snow was up and about, but now... He took a few steps back and pressed a palm to his mouth, closing his eyes in disbelief. Bigby had loved Snow White and he made that quite obvious to her. Many times he had made excuses to be closer to her, whether it be him traveling to her desk to tell her that he needed more paper for his typewriter instead of simply calling her to ask Boy Blue to bring him some, or offering to escort her back to her apartment in the Woodlands even though it was only a few floors above the Business Office.

Tears were pushing their way out, but he wiped them away. He didn’t want to make a fool out of himself in public. He was better than that. Bigby had no time for crying. He now had to catch the person behind Snow White’s death and make them suffer. Bigby didn’t care how long it could take for him to find the killer. He’ll wait years if he has to. As long as he is the one to ensnare her murderer and wring the life out of them with his own hands.

Chapter Text

“I’m detective Farhan, nice to meet you,” the officer outstretched his arm across the wooden table to shake Rivin’s hand.

“I’m Rivin,” Rivin smiled politely and returned the gesture.

He cleared his throat and then neatly began shuffling through his work papers. “Now, I would like to show you this picture.” Detective Farhan slowly slid over a picture of Snow White’s decapitated head. “Do you know this woman?”

This was the first time Rivin was hearing about Snow White’s death. After Bigby had ran off to see what was going on, he remembered being kicked in the crotch and everything else was a bit fuzzy. He didn’t know where the hell Tweedle Dum went; maybe he somehow got out of the cuffs or was released. Either way, he was alone by the time that the police had started to search around the Woodlands for any clues. They found him on the floor, groaning in pain and decided to take him in for questioning. After all, he could be a potential witness. “Yes, that is Miss White,” he answered, taking in all the colors of the picture. Rivin couldn’t imagine that Snow’s skin could get any pastier than it already was.

“And how do you know her?” Farhan tilted his head and retrieved the photograph. He clicked his ballpoint pen and began taking note of Rivin’s responses and body language for future reference.

“Miss White is my boss.”

“Oh? What’s your job then?”

“I am the Sheriff’s partner. I help him with his investigations and peacekeeping of the town,” Rivin answered vaguely. He knew that the cop was a mundy which meant that he couldn’t expose the Fabletown community to him. Rivin was hoping that if he responded with ordinary answers then they shouldn’t expect anything too fishy happening under everyone’s noses.

Farhan pushed up his aviator glasses with his index finger and furrowed his brows. “The Sheriff? Do you mean Sheriff Bernston in the Bronx?” he asked, completely puzzled. Sheriff Bernston was the only local Sheriff around. He looked after several large areas in New York and worked alone. Bernston had no partner, so what the hell was Rivin talking about?

“Oh no, the Sheriff I work with is somebody else. Not Bun-stun,” Rivin attempted to re-pronounce. It looked like detective Farhan was about to correct Rivin, but he was having some trouble talking. Farhan covered his ears and started to emit what sounded like dying animal noises as blood began dripping down his nose. “Do you need a napkin, detective Farhan?” Rivin asked as he went looking around the table for a tissue.

“No-” Farhan shook his head, gripping the sides of his skull so tightly that his straining knuckles started to turn white. “Just make it stop! Please!”

Rivin wasn’t sure what was going on. First, Farhan’s nose bled and now he was acting like he was currently undergoing the worst migraine of his life. He was deeply worried and in a haste, used Farhan’s work papers as a substitute for tissues to absorb the bleeding. Rivin held the papers up against the detective’s nostrils and was taken by surprise when Farhan passed out on the table. “Sir?” He moved his palm out from under the detective’s face and jumped when the exit door burst open. It was Crane, Mr. Stix, and Bigby. “This man is unconscious-”

“We have to go. Now!” Crane shouted, carrying what seemed to be a box filled with files and documents containing Snow White’s information.

Rivin furrowed his brows and tilted his head in confusion, but did as he was told and left the room with the three men. Of course, he swiped the photograph of Snow off the table as well. Can’t leave any evidence behind; better to be safe than sorry. “What’s going on?”

“It’s just a memory wipe spell. Very expensive, but it works. The whole station will forget the last 24 hours and everything they saw at the Woodlands,” Crane explained as he quickly made his way out the hallway. As Rivin passed by, he couldn’t help but to notice numerous police officers either knocked out cold on the floor or leaned up against the corridor walls, drooling as their head lolled to the side.

Rivin glanced over and Bigby and saw that the corners of his eyes looked red and puffy. Almost like he had been crying. He had never seen Bigby look so distraught. Even though Bigby wasn’t speaking a word or looking at anyone, he seemed to be troubled. This was quite uncharacteristic of Bigby, Rivin thought. Perhaps Miss White had meant something to the wolf. As the four stepped out of the police station, Rivin saw that it was light out already. The temperature was still boiling hot like yesterday, but luckily, Rivin wasn’t too bothered by it. After all, he had more things to worry about than the hot summer heat.

Crane climbed into the driver’s side of his car and Bigby slipped into the passenger side, leaving Mr. Stix and Rivin to take up the back seats. “So how are things going for you, Rivin? Any progress on the case? I’ve heard about Miss White’s death. Between you and me, it’s quite hilarious,” Mr. Stix quietly murmured to Rivin, covering his snicker with a hand.

Rivin tensed up as Crane started up the engine, cueing his immediate despair. God how he hated these cars. “Whatever do you mean by hilarious?” he asked, turning his attention from the beige leather seat to Mr. Stix. “Mr. Wolf looks upset by her death.”

Bigby crossed his arms and slumped back against his seat, closing his eyes to better pay attention to what the two were whispering behind him. To be honest, he had been crying earlier and therefore, rubbed vigorously at his eyes. But that didn’t mean that he was now harmless because he displayed some emotion. After crying, he felt emotionally drained and didn’t possess enough energy to take his anger out on Stix and Rivin. Instead of lashing out, he listened which was usually extremely uncommon. If anything, people should consider themselves honored when the wolf listens.

“Well, after I finished some duties I had to take care of, I’ve heard that they are storing Miss White’s body near what I believe is called the witching well. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but when you examine her with the others, you’ll know that something is off,” Stix grinned. Well, that was if Bigby and Crane respected Rivin enough to actually let him do his job. When he was around Finger Lakes, he had found some hellhounds lurking around and decided to claim distant ownership over them. That way, if he ever needs a helping hand, he’ll know who to call.

“Huh?” Rivin tilted his head. “Something off? With the body?” Rivin trusted Stix’s hunches. Both hellhounds and demons had better senses than those of other species. Especially demons; that’s what makes them so dangerous. They know almost everything; how to play their cards and handle situations elegantly without breaking a sweat. Rivin began thinking about the possible oddities that Snow White’s body could have. Obviously, he knew that her head was separated from the rest of the body. Maybe it had that purple string in her mouth like Faith did.

Crane cleared his throat, trying to clear up the silence throughout the car. Unlike Bigby, Crane couldn’t hear Stix’s and Rivin’s private conversation. “We, uh, found Tweedle Dee chained up to a post,” he spoke awkwardly. “That was your doing, correct?” Crane glanced towards Bigby.

“Yeah,” Bigby sighed.

“Well I don’t know why you detained him. Dee was at the Trip Trap when Snow was left at the Woodlands, so he couldn’t possibly be involved in this mayhem. Bluebeard is currently interrogating him…”

Rivin snorted. “Not involved in this mayhem?” he quoted Crane. “I’m sorry sir, but Mr. Dee and Mr. Dum are always carrying weapons with them. Shotguns… knives too, probably. I’m sure they’re up to something, whether it’s connected to this case or not,” he said, and then paused for a moment when he realized he might have spoken out of place. “Sir,” Rivin finally added.

Bigby actually agreed with Rivin for once. “He’s working for somebody,” he chided. “And whoever it is wants him snooping around every crime scene I’ve looked at.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re involved in the murders,” Crane argued.

Silence flooded the vehicle once more as Crane stopped at a red light at King Street where Prince Lawrence’s apartment is located. Rivin peeked at Lawrence’s window and exhaled as he remembered the Prince had died in his arms. Once again, Rivin was used to this, but everything felt so strange and foreign to him lately. Not just all the new fancy buildings and lamp posts, but the people in general too. The way they spoke and walked felt different from this new point of view; the point of view from a human body. “Mr. Stix, I have a question,” Rivin lowly inquired.

“Go ahead, my boy,” Stix gesticulated.

“Earlier, I tried to morph back into my, um, well, normal form,” Rivin tripped over his words slightly. “I tried really hard to become myself again, but it wouldn't happen. Why?” At the Trip Trap when he attempted to attack Grendel, he gave it a go and failed at transforming back into his black shuck form.

“Interesting.” Stix pressed a thumb against his lower lip and stared out the window in thought. Well, the lycanthropy coated knife worked for both man and wolf. But, Rivin was neither; he was a dog. Not exactly a wolf, so Stix wasn’t surprised that the ritual had a few shortcomings. “I believe the knife was used on the Sheriff. Maybe you could ask him for some assistance?”

Bigby’s interest was peaked once more as he heard his name mentioned in Rivin’s chat. Yes, he did remember Rivin fucking up their little fight with Gren. He was still pissed at him for that. But… hell, the kid probably needed a point in the right direction. This was a whole new world to him and everything is alien to him. But it isn’t his job to make Rivin adapt to these changes. Rivin will have to learn like he did: forcibly. If he was thrown into the body of a man and enforced to walk and talk like those humans without any help whatsoever, then Rivin does too.

“I doubt it,” Rivin answered and sunk into the leather seat. Oh well. He could change back to a mutt if he tried hard enough. Eventually. He was just hoping that would happen before his dissociation and body dysmorphia took over him completely.

Crane sighed and then turned to face Bigby for a moment. “I know what you’re thinking, Bigby. It’s been one full night and a slice of morning, and I already miss her, too.” He glanced back at the road solemnly. Crane cleared his throat, shaking his head softly as he tried to rid his mind of thoughts about Snow. She meant a lot to him. More than anyone else in this god forsaken city.

“Are you going to drive?” Rivin broke Crane from his thoughts as he noticed everyone moving once more as the light turned green.

“Oh, uh, yes.”

Bigby stared at Crane, processing everything he had just said, but didn’t believe a single word the man uttered. Crane didn’t miss her. Not one bit. He treated her like absolute garbage; always making her redo her work three times in a row, yelling at her for every little thing, and always belittling her… For fucks sake, he treated her like a fucking maid! Crane didn’t understand Bigby’s loss one bit. Bigby closed his eyes with a frown glued upon his features and held his tongue. All he wanted right now was some peace a quiet, just for a few minutes.

“You know, I never get more homesick than when one of us dies. And now… for it to be Snow… I’ve never been good with these sorts of things,” Crane continued. “I just can’t believe this is really happening.”

Rivin had taken notice of Bigby’s sudden absence in anger. He hadn’t spoke much since Crane sneaked them out of the police station. Rivin was fretful for Crane. He had a feeling that if he didn’t stop talking, Bigby would explode on him. “Um, Mr. Crane? I think it would be best if this were to be a quiet ride over to the Woodlands. It’s been a hard day for everyone I think,” Rivin quietly requested on Bigby’s behalf.

Crane didn’t catch Rivin’s hint, however. “I don’t know why I’m asking you, but did she give any indication as to what she was thinking-”

Rivin knew the hellfire that would spew from Bigby if Crane kept this up, so he reached over and covered the man’s mouth to shut him up. “Please, sir.”

Mr. Stix had snickered beside Rivin and clicked his tongue. “I think my mutt is right, Mr. Crane.”

Crane angrily threw Rivin’s paws off him and huffed. “Excuse me, Mr. Stix! Keep your savage dog in check!”

“Ah, of course…” Stix crossed his legs and told Rivin to simply stay put.

Rivin couldn’t help but to let the small grow of annoyance hum throughout his throat. Fine, ignore his warning. He looked out the window with a scowl on his face, and watched as the Woodlands building came into view. As the car slowed to a stop, he threw open his door and practically leaped outside.

Crane sighed before turning to Bigby one last time. “I don’t know what else to say, Bigby. We have to -- have to put an end to this. It’s been two murders in this many days. If we don’t unearth our culprit soon, there will likely be another on our doorstep tonight.” He shut off the engine and stepped out of his car.

“I’ll get it done,” Bigby mumbled as he opened up the passenger side door and climbed out.

“Please, Bigby. For Miss White-”

“I got it!” Bigby slammed Crane’s door shut so forcibly it cracked the window. Crane stood back in disappointment at Bigby’s display of hostility and furrowed his eyebrows.

“I told you to be quiet…” Rivin reminded Crane, and trotted after the Sheriff inside the building.

Stix came up to Crane and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not your fault,” he whispered. “But I suggest you don’t go down to the witching well where the body is.”

“What? Why not?” Crane asked.

“I’m not going to spill the beans as they say,” Stix grinned comedically. When he didn’t get any laughter from Crane, he pursed his lips together before continuing. “Not one for comedy, huh? Alright. Well, not to offend you, but you don’t seem like the type that is the best at acting, so I’m not going to say much about it. Just know that your eyes can deceive you is all.”

Crane placed a hand over his chest and took a step back from Stix. “What do you mean by that?”

Stix sighed. “Nevermind, Mr. Crane. Now, let’s enter the Woodlands, yes?”

Chapter Text

“So you said Mr. Dee was being questioned?” Rivin asked Crane as he walked into the lobby of the Woodlands Luxury Apartments.

“Yes,” Crane nodded. Stix strolled behind Ichabod with his hands folded behind his back in a care-free fashion whilst whistling to himself.

Rivin followed Bigby into the elevator and pressed his back up against the wall. “Alright, if we approach calmly I think Mr. Dee might be more cooperative-”

“You’re not going,” Bigby interrupted. He waited until Stix and Crane walked into the elevator before pressing several buttons; the basement floor and the Business Office. “While I interrogate Dee, you’ll be waiting in the Business Office. I don’t need you slowing me down even more than you already did.” The elevator door closed and began its descent downwards.

Rivin stared back at Bigby with an insulted expression. “Mr. Wolf, I understand you are going through your grievances, but please do not take your anger out on me.” Seriously, Rivin was getting tired of the same old bickering between them.

Bigby crossed his arms over his chest and scoffed. “You say you don’t slow me down but you couldn’t even take down a troll. You sure you’re a mutt?”

Ichabod nervously fumbled with his thumbs and gave Stix a ‘please stop them from fighting or they’ll kill each other’ glance. “I’ve got this,” Stix reasuredly patted Crane on the shoulder. “Men, men,” he cleared his throat to gain the dogs’ attention. “Mr. Wolf, you bring up a good point. I’ll see what I can do with my pup while both you and Mr. Crane go and see Mr. Dee. I’ll take care of this little concern of yours swiftly. Does that sound good to you?”

Rivin cocked a brow at Stix as he basically took Bigby’s side. What the hell did he mean by “taking care of this concern”? Back in the car, Stix seemed both baffled and intrigued by his lacking in the ability to morph.

“Just get the problem fixed,” Bigby sighed. The elevator finally dinged and opened up its doors. The wolf trudged his way into the basement while Crane haphazardly jogged after him to catch up. The doors shut and once again started its journey upwards towards the Business Office.

“Are you really going to fix me? Can you fix me?” Rivin asked Mr. Stix, looking up at him with apprehension in his eyes. “I fear I may not be able to change back… And the thought of that makes me feel… ill.”

Stix chuckled and rubbed Rivin’s head like a person would do to a dog. “I’ll see what I can do with you. By the way, where did you get that bruise from?” He asked, pointing to the delicate healing bruise around Rivin’s jaw.

“Mr. Wolf.”

“Ah. I’m not surprised,” Stix clicked his tongue. “I assure you one day that they will let you do your job. I hate to say that they’re treating you like a pile of rubbish.”

Rivin shook his head with a small chuckle. “Yeah well, I can’t say that I was treated any better than before. At least people aren’t trying to throw buckets of ice water at me.”

“Ha ha, you guys hate the water!” Stix laughed. “It’s entertaining seeing you mutts squirm and whimper when the villagers would chuck snow at your snouts.”

“Dogs of fire usually don’t do too well in negative celsius water, Mr. Stix.” Rivin stated the obvious.

As the doors separated themselves for the two to enter the Business Office, Stix blocked the doorway for a quick moment with his arm. “Remember, to gain respect you have to-”

“-be useful,” Rivin finished. “I know. It’s what all you hellions tell us.”

“That’s my boy.” Stix moved his arm to let Rivin go ahead. As they both walked inside the astronomic room filled with antiques from Fabletown’s Old World, Bufkin craned his head back to view who had just entered.

“Oh, Mr. Rivin and Mr. Stix! What brings you here today?” Bufkin asked.

Rivin let a small smile grow upon his lips as he noticed Bufkin attempting to hide his wine bottle underneath the desk he was standing on. Nothing got past him.

“Hello, Mr. Bufkin,” Stix greeted and walked up to the fable. “Do you have any books on the lycanthropy coated knife? I need some information about it.”

“I think we do in the back. I’ll go get it for you.” Bufkin’s chartreuse wings opened up to life as he flew towards the back of the room to gather some books.

Rivin decided that since he was already here, he might as well go and snoop around. There were so many curious things to discover that were littering the desks and floors. Hell, even the never ending ceiling was covered with hanging commodities.

On the desk that carried the books of fables that hasn’t been put away yet, Rivin found three cards. He picked them up and examined them, not understanding the words written on top of the pieces of sturdy paper.

“Those are tarot cards,” Stix came up behind the mutt. “They supposedly can tell you about your past, present, and future; your fortune. Would you like me to read you your fortune with these cards, Rivin?” Mr. Stix offered with a sly smile.

“Sure.” Rivin passed his three cards over to Stix to examine.

“Ah, what an interesting few you have,” Stix noted. He then showed Rivin his first card. It had a picture of a man taming a grey wolf. The wolf looked very protective of the man, as it was growling at somebody. “This card is Strength and represents your past. Your strength is balanced and you have both mental strength and physical endurance. This inner strength you have may lead you to explore the potential of your abilities.”

Rivin pressed a finger to his lip thoughtfully. “Sounds interesting.”

“Indeed,” Stix nodded and showed Rivin his next card. This picture was of a woman falling from a degenerating and flaming tower. “This card is called The Tower and represents your current present. A conflict is coming to a head in your life. Relationships will be reevaluated and restructured in order to maintain balance in your life.”

“Really?” Rivin was soaking in all this new information. If these cards could really tell the truth and future, then he was going to experience some rough waters very soon.

“Your last card is the Ten of Swords and represents your future.” Stix held up Rivin’s final card. It was of a man that was laying face down on the floor adjacent to a placid river. He had ten swords embedded into his back and was covered in blood. Such a vicious image it painted. “Assess the direction you are headed. Beware following the opinions of others, as this may lead you away from the truth. Seeing the world through pragmatic eyes will balance your optimism.”

Rivin could feel the dread in the atmosphere. His bones rattled with unease and goosebumps ravaged his skin. He didn’t understand how a few cards could cause so much turmoil within himself. “Sounds dandy.”

Mr. Stix grabbed Rivin’s hands and placed the three cards in his palm. “The Ten of Swords shows a sudden ending or a negative outcome in some endeavour in your life. It could mean failure, ruin, or your mortality being compromised. That could be accompanied by feelings of depression and feelings of being broken and crushed by the weight of your new world. Be careful, my mutt,” he finished with a child like grin.

“Mr. Stix, I found a book on the lycanthropy knife!” Bufkin landed on the table and held up the rather thin book. “This is the only one on that topic. I hope it helps you.”

“Thank you,” Stix took the book from Bufkin and pulled out a chair to sit on. “Oh, and Rivin, don’t think too hard about what you have just heard. Tarots are something that the humans like to mess with for fun. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” He then crossed his legs and opened up his book to begin reading.

Rivin simply stood there, mouth slightly agape. Not worry too much about it? How could he not worry when Stix told him that he could possibly die? He closed his mouth, took a deep breath, and straightened out his shirt.

“Mr. Rivin, you look bothered?” Bufkin tapped Rivin’s arm to get his attention. “Want some wine?”

“Oh, no. I don’t drink that. Thank you for your offer, though,” Rivin politely rejected. Suddenly, an idea popped into his head. “Wait, Mr. Bufkin, may I ask you something?”

“You just did.” Rivin stared at Bufkin in silence. “I’m joking!” Bufkin held his hands up in surrender and nervously laughed.

“You have books on all the fables, correct?”

“Well, yes. Why?”

“Mr. Wolf is a fable too, right?”

“Yes. Where are you going with this, exactly?”

“Do you think you can find me a book on Mr. Wolf?” Rivin scratched at the back of his head skittishly.

“Um, yes, I can. I’ll go look for it right now.” Bufkin took off once more and left Rivin with stillness in the air. Rivin heard Bufkin shuffling through some items near the back, and even heard a few things fall over as well before the monkey flew over with a few books in hand. “I have the mundy version of his tale and the original.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bufkin,” Rivin smiled and took the books from Bufkin. “Do you think… you could read both of them to me if it’s not a hassle for you? I’m illiterate, so I can’t really do that,” he chuckled.

Bufkin gave Rivin a genuine smile and nodded. “Of course! Let’s start with the mundy one then.” Rivin was one of the few people that was actually pretty nice to him. He had never once shown him hostility, so Bufkin thought it was only fair that he would do the easy service of reading to the dog. “Once upon a time, there was a little girl. Her grandmother gave her a red riding hood, and the girl loved it so much that she wore it all the time. So everybody started to call her Little Red Riding Hood. One day mother told the girl her grandmother fell ill. Because she lived alone deep in the woods, she would probably be happy to get some food. Then mother gave her a basket with food and a bottle of wine to Little Red Riding Hood and told her: "Don't stray from the path!" The girl promised, but soon forgot about her mother's warning. After a while, she met a wolf in the woods. He asked her where she was going and she told him about her granny's bad health and where she lives. The wolf tricked her to stop walking along the path and to instead pick some flowers. While she did that, the wolf ran to the granny's house. The wolf, pretending to be her granddaughter, entered the grandmother's house and ate the grandmother. Then he dressed in her nightgown and waited for Little Red Riding Hood. When she came in, Red Riding Hood mentioned how much bigger her granny’s eyes, ears, and teeth were. After that, the wolf ate the girl and took a nap. Soon after, a huntsman came by the house and heard snoring. He entered cautiously, and saw the sleeping monster in granny's bed and guessed what had happened. He opened the sleeping wolf's stomach with a knife. Granny and Red Riding Hood were pulled out and helped the huntsman fill the wolf's stomach with stones. When the wolf woke up, he tried to run away, but the stones were too heavy. The huntsman picked up the wolf filled with stones and threw him into a river, where he sank down and died. The grandmother, granddaughter, and the huntsman lived happily ever after.”

“Wait, but Mr. Wolf isn’t dead! He’s alive,” Rivin asked confused.

“In the story, he died, but in reality, he wasn’t dead. What actually happened was that centuries ago in the Homelands, the North Wind fell in love with a blazing white she-wolf named Winter Wolf. Taking canine form, he courted her and stayed by her side for two seasons, but due to his temperament, he was drawn back towards his castle, leaving Winter heartbroken. Soon after her lover fled, Winter gave birth to a litter of cubs in the Black Forest, including the one that would become the Big Bad Wolf of legend. As the runt of the litter, Bigby was often teased and mockingly called the "Big Bad Wolf" by his brothers, who soon shortened it to "Bigby". However, his mother loved all her sons equally and tried her best to shield Bigby from his brothers’ bullying. Watching his mother die of sadness and unrequited love, young Bigby grew to hate his father and regarded him with little respect. When his mother did finally die, his elder brothers left in search of their father while Bigby remained behind to protect her corpse from scavengers and carrion eaters. Unfortunately, he proved unable to defend her remains due to his small size. Fueled by his loss, Bigby personally swore vengeance against the capricious North Wind, vowing to eat something bigger as each day passed until he became large and strong enough to confront his father. Bigby had set his sights on three anthropomorphic pigs; while they were not the largest pigs he hunted, he thought by eating all three at once he would technically still be honoring his vow. By the time he actually hunted the three little pigs, he had discovered some of the peculiar gifts he inherited from his father; he apparently failed to kill the pig brothers, seeing as all three survived throughout the Exodus. After this, the first humans he hunted and ate were Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. And as you now know, the Woodsman cut him open while Bigby was sleeping, and pulled Red Riding Hood and her grandmother out of his stomach. The two had some magic to them and thus survived his assault. The Woodsman sewed rocks into his belly, and threw Bigby into a river. He survived by holding his breath for three weeks; another gift from being the son of the North Wind, and passed the stones until he could manage to swim to the surface. Following that incident, he swore to only hunt humans. As Bigby began eating humans, he grew unnaturally large. He soon grew to gargantuan size and regularly devoured entire towns, defeated armies, and even killed a dragon. Once he felt he was of sufficient strength to confront his father, Bigby journeyed to North Wind's castle seven times to kill him, and seven times he was proved no match for the elemental might of his father. Accepting defeat, Bigby swore to think no more of his dead mother or loathsome father, instead burying his hatred and grief.”

Rivin was extremely surprised that Bufkin didn’t have to take a breather even once during his story telling. “So that’s Mr. Wolf’s story…” It was so amazing and legendary! If only his own story could have been more interesting. But then again, Bigby has suffered many losses. Especially his poor mother.

Stix had loudly shut the book he was reading and stood up. “Well, there isn’t anything in here that I don’t already know,” he sighed. “Oh well. Seems you’ll have to ask Mr. Wolf how to transform.” Stix handed the book back over to Bufkin and dusted off his pants.

“Oh. Alright, then…” Rivin nodded.

“So i’ll be putting these books away then?” Bufkin asked the both of them.

“Yes, please. Thank you for reading to me, Mr. Bufkin,” Rivin thankfully bowed to the monkey.

Bufkin couldn’t help but to blush at the gesture. “It was no problem! And you can call me Bufkin.” He picked up the books and flew off to put them in their rightful places.

Rivin’s ears perked up as he heard the unmistakable sound of Snow White’s heels click clack down the hallway. He straightened himself up when he heard the voices of Bigby and Snow.

“I don’t think it’s about you. There’s something else going on around here,” Bigby said.

“Maybe…” Snow had quietly replied.

“Do you hear that?” Rivin asked Stix. “I hear Mr. Wolf and Miss. Snow. I thought she had-”

“Died?” Stix finished.

“Yeah…” Rivin bit his lip. “I don’t understand. I saw the picture of her decapitated head.”

“Remember what I said in the car? That something was off?”

“But I didn’t think you meant that she wasn’t actually dead!” Rivin argued. When Stix responded with a smirk and a shrug, they both quieted down and listened again to Snow and Bigby’s conversation in the hall.

“So, what’s our next move?” Snow asked Bigby as they walked closer to the Business Office.

“We just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Bigby sighed. “We do our jobs.”

“And I’m supposed to do what? Sit around the Business Office twiddling my thumbs? Waiting for the Big Bad Wolf to solve all my problems?” Snow interjected.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Well what did you mean? I told you, I’m tired of sitting around! I’m not going to be an errand girl for Crane anymore!”

Mr. Stix had laughed softly at their argument to which Rivin jabbed at Stix to keep silent.

“I just want you to be careful. I almost lost you once-” Bigby was cut off by Snow’s angry voice.

“I’m not yours to lose!” It was quiet outside for a moment before Snow continued. “I’m sorry. I know it’s dangerous, but i’m not helpless. I can take care of myself.” There was another pause. “I’ve been doing it for centuries.” Her voice clammed up and it almost sounded like she might cry. “TJ’s waiting inside. He was so freaked out last night, he wouldn’t tell us much. I heard that he just stopped talking altogether.” Snow opened up the door and walked inside the Business Office with a dejected Bigby behind her. “Where’s TJ and Mr. Toad?” she asked Bufkin as she noticed neither of the toads were in sight.

“They didn’t show up yet!” Bufkin called from the back.

“Great,” Snow sighed. “Like we need anymore wasted time.” Snow suddenly stopped talking and sniffed the air. Something smelt putrid and vile. “Oh god, something-no-someone smells awful!”

Rivin rolled his eyes. It was him. The stench of rot always clung to him no matter what. “I’ve been told.”

“Oh, sorry, that’s not what I meant-” Snow recalled pointing out the Black Shuck’s smell earlier.

“Did Mr. Tweedle Dee tell you anything?” Rivin asked Bigby to change the topic.

“Faith had stolen something that his boss was after. And that he and Beauty know each other,” Bigby answered.

“Alright,” Rivin cracked his neck and took a deep sigh.

“If Mr. Toad and TJ don’t get here in 10 minutes, we’ll go down to the witching well to see the body,” Snow spoke up. “I’d… want to be there.”

Rivin remembered what Crane had said about the body. Even though everyone already knew that the body was a fake Snow White, he should still be careful. Something else might be questionable about it.

The door swung open and as if on cue, Mr. Toad and TJ walked inside. “I would’ve gotten here a lot faster if somebody didn’t wreck my car,” Mr. Toad glared at Bigby.

“Yeah,” was Bigby’s only reply.

Toad scoffed at the wolf and waddled TJ up to Snow. “Go on. Tell her what you saw.”

Chapter Text

“TJ!” Rivin piped up as he saw his little friend walk up to them. TJ looked immensely uncomfortable being in the center of attention. He fidgeted with his fingers and refused to make eye contact with anyone. Toad gave TJ an encouraging push towards Rivin, Snow, and Bigby, but all it did was make him more upset. “Hey,” Rivin cooed. He knelt down to be more eye leveled with the toad and flashed a soft grin. “Tell me what happened. You’re safe with us. You can tell us anything. It won’t take long.”

TJ slowly looked Rivin in the eyes and hesitantly nodded. “I go swimming at night sometimes in the river. I wasn’t doing anything bad, I promise.”

“Of course you weren’t,” Toad patted his son.

Snow joined in. “We know you’re a good kid, TJ.”

“We’ll talk about that later,” Bigby shoved his hand into his pocket.

“I was there… under the big blocks. And I heard noisy feet. And when I hear that, i’m supposed to go underwater and stay real still and quiet,” TJ continued. “Then I saw… I saw the lady.” A few whimpers and sobs bubbled from his throat.

Toad took a step closer to TJ and gently pat his back to comfort him. “It’s okay, son.” That was the first time that Rivin actually saw any sort of fatherly support from Toad. He looked like the kind of dad that would yell and demean their kid without any real reason. Rivin was also quite surprised that Bigby hadn’t told TJ to hurry up his story so they could continue on with their investigation. That was considered character development in his book.

“The lady... fell in… but she didn’t have her head on!” TJ blubbered. “I thought… I thought she was gonna pull me down too. ‘Cause she had rocks on her feet. And she kept falling down in the dark parts.” He was full on weeping at this point. Rivin reached over and touched TJ’s shoulder sympathetically.

“Cinder blocks tied to her ankles,” Snow deciphered to Bigby. “Is there more, TJ?”

TJ looked up at Bigby with a hint of fear in his eyes. “Is it true… you know when people are lying? I heard you could do that. That’s why you’re the Sheriff.”

Rivin glanced over his shoulder and up towards Bigby. Judging from what TJ just said, that meant that anyone that could sniff out lies could take on the Sheriff’s role. With that logic, a lot of people could be the chosen one to herd Fabletown. Or at least, that’s what Rivin deduced.

“Please tell the truth,” Bigby sighed. “Is there something else?”

“Please, don’t be mad,” TJ begged everyone.

Snow furrowed her brows. “What is it, TJ?”

“I… I didn’t stay under the water.”

“What?” Toad bursted with disapproving hands on his hips.

“I know i’m supposed to, but I was scared, and I went to the top again. I couldn’t help it!” TJ defended himself.

“I gave you very specific rules! You have to stay quiet and out of sight or bad things can happen. I told you!” Toad reprimanded.

Stix covered his chuckle with a hand. “What a very disobedient child you have.”

“You shouldn’t have lied,” Bigby agreed.

TJ sniffed. “I’m sorry…” he repeated.

“We’ll discuss this when we get home,” Toad crossed his arms.

Rivin stood back up. “So you didn’t stay underwater…”

“I didn’t know… if anyone saw me, but someone said, ‘Stop laughing’,” TJ voiced shakily. “And then I was scared and went under for as long as I coud.”

“Wait,” Snow interrupted. “You heard someone?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell us before?” Toad asked.

“Did you hear anyone laughing?” Bigby questioned next.

“No.”

“Do you know whose voice it was?” Bigby pressed further.

“No!” TJ’s voice was starting to crack with whines.

Rivin turned over to Bigby and made a throat cutting gesture at him to tell him to stop asking the kid anymore questions.

Thankfully, Bigby took the hint. “Okay, TJ.”

“I’m sorry. After I came up again there was no one there and I ran home. That’s all. I promise!” TJ finished as he wiped a tear with his hand.

“Okay, you can go home.” Bigby finished up their interrogation.

“Thank you, TJ,” Rivin grinned and handed Toad’s crying son a tissue. “You did very good.”

“Call us if you remember anything else,” Bigby said as Snow guided the two outside.

As Snow was gone for a moment, Rivin used this opportunity to talk to Bigby for a second. “You did good with TJ. You didn’t rush him along.”

Bigby glanced over at Rivin and shrugged. “Yeah well… he’s a kid.”

Rivin hummed with a small smile. The sudden resurrection of Snow White was affecting Bigby positively. He could smell sweet puffs of dopamine radiating off of the wolf’s body. The aroma tickled his nose in such a good way; it drew shivers down his spine. “You look a little more… relaxed than usual. Is it because of Miss White?”

Bigby didn’t answer. Just as he was emitting odors of his own, Rivin’s fragrance drifted through the air as well. He still had that musky earthy scent of pine and oak. Bigby still couldn’t believe that everyone else smelt decay and death around Rivin when he detected the opposite. It was a calming tang of essence Rivin possessed. It blended beautifully with his own scent.

“Alright…” Rivin recognized that he should probably stop prying. Doesn’t mean that he would. “Do you… do you fancy Miss White? I can tell by how you smell when you’re with her.”

That’s right, Rivin could detect smells just as easily as Bigby can, hell, maybe even better since he wasn’t as subjected to the New York car fumes as he was. “Don’t go around sniffing me.”

“I apologize.” This was a huge level up from before: Bigby wasn’t swinging his fists at him when Rivin got up in his personal space.

“Let’s go down to the witching well,” Snow announced as she walked in.

Bigby tightened his tie and nodded. “Let’s go.”


“How delightful!” Stix clapped. “The water didn’t do too much damage to her.”

“You can leave you know,” Bigby huffed, noticing Snow’s discomfort towards Stix’s comment.

Rivin scrunched up his nose as the scent of mold, mildew, and rot clung in the air. The bloating of fake Snow’s body certainly did a number on it; he wasn’t sure why Mr. Stix was this excited about seeing it. The body was raised up on a stone table that was illuminated by a few convenient lanterns. The pitter patter of water dripping from the ceiling reminded Rivin of home in Scotland as the land was always dank and filled with rain.

“Wow… I didn’t realize…” Snow looked almost scared to be in the same room as the body. The hair… the wardrobe… everything was identical.

Bigby glanced over at Snow worriedly; a look Rivin had only noticed Bigby displaying when he was with Snow. “Are you gonna be okay? You don’t have to stay,” he asked. His voice sounded soft and genuinely kind like feathers.

“I want to stay,” Snow reassured Bigby. “I’ll be fine it’s just… a little strange.”

“Strange seems to be the new normal these days,” Rivin mused.

“Yeah…” Snow agreed.

“Well let’s open her up, shall we?” Stix clapped his hands together.

Bigby had enough. “Alright, you’re leaving. The exit’s over there,” he pointed.

“Jeez, touchy, touchy.” Stix’s smile spread over his face lazily. “Rivin, if you find anything weird, explain it to them for me. I’m sure you’ll know what they are,” he winked before making his way out of the witching well.

“What did he mean by that?” Snow asked cautiously.

“Honestly, I’m not really sure either,” Rivin shrugged.

“Should we start?” Bigby asked to Snow in particular. He didn’t want her to become too upset. This whole glamour thing involving her body… Anyone would be shaken up by it.

Snow sighed and crossed her arms apprehensively. “Just do what you need to do.” She knew she had to power through this and put on a brave face. “Check her mouth?” Snow suggested. “There might be a ribbon in there… like before.” Bigby grabbed ahold of the cadaver’s head and opened up her jaw. “Anything?” Snow asked.

“Nothing.”

“Can you…” Snow shifted awkwardly. “Close her mouth?” It was like the corpse was staring straight at her; those blank eyes boring into her thoughts and reading her like an open book. It was creepy to say the least, especially with that gaping mouth leaking cloudy saliva.

Understandingly, Bigby followed Snow’s request and gently lifted up the fake Snow’s chin. “Hey, there are marks on her legs,” Rivin spoke up. There was a set of purple dots running up the inner thighs of the body and on her ankles were tight rope markings. “Looks like ropes on her ankles. Not sure what those are,” he pointed to the dark colored spots.

“Track marks,” Bigby hummed.

“She used mundy drugs?” Snow furrowed her brows.

Rivin tilted his head confusedly. “ Track marks? Mundy drugs? What are those?”

Luckily, Bufkin was perched on the altar near the body, ready to assist. “Mundy drugs are mental stimulants used by the common folk. Track marks are made with needles and IVs to insert… well heroin.”

“Oh, so kind of like what are in tobacco pipes? But you inject it instead?” Rivin questioned. He was used to seeing men smoke tobacco out of pipes and whatnot. He hasn’t had much experience with any of the new age drugs like marijuana, heroin, and ecstacy. Rivin had no clue about any of those. Damn he was old.

“Um… sure?” Bufkin laughed weakly.

“I hear they only go for the legs if they’ve used up all the veins in their arms… or if they’re trying to hide the marks. Anyway, it’s not a perfect match,” Bigby scratched at his stubble. He then paused and slowly glanced over at Snow. “Unless…”

Snow scoffed and shook her head. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Bigby couldn’t help but to picture Snow shooting herself up in the thighs. A princess with a mundy drug addiction. A funny thought indeed, but he couldn’t say the same about some of the other princesses he knew. “Maybe she was trying to compensate with that perfume,” Bigby wondered.

“Wait,” Snow cut Bigby off. “If the glamour is supposed to make her look like me, shouldn’t it be concealing things like track marks?” She looked over the entire body once more and noticed a few other things that were out of place. “I don’t have this brooch…” Snow unclipped the horseshoe pin and held it up for Bigby and Rivin to see. “This jacket also has an extra button… I’ve never seen one this sloppy.”

“It might be a cheap one. Just to get the job done,” Bigby thought aloud.

“The witches upstairs know what they’re doing, that’s why they cost so much.”

“What if it isn’t done by any of the witches here,” Rivin pondered. “What if this glamour was done by a witch in secret?” Simply talking about witches made him nauseous. They were the reason he was put under the ice. Those assholes.

“So someone is making glamours illegally?” Snow inquired.

Bufkin raised up a finger and grinned in a ‘matter of factly’ manner. “Technically, it’s not illegal, Miss. It’s not encouraged, for sure, but there aren’t any laws specifically forbidding it.”

“So there’s some sort of black market for glamours?” Bigby assumed.

“Well, back when I was… well up and running before the ice, I know that many witches in fact did a lot of black magic under everyone’s noses. No one knew who it was and everything was under wraps. It’s not like a black market for magic is a new thing,” Rivin shrugged. He recalled that many witches were burned alive; some of them weren’t even guilty. Most of them were actually innocent and were killed in cold blood because the people’s fears were controlling them. They threw morals right out the window and pointed fingers at anyone that looked even slightly suspicious.

“I imagine anyone with access to the proper books and training could theoretically produce a glamour,” Bufkin agreed.

“Yet another thing to worry about,” Snow rubbed her temples. “Black market or not, it’s a pretty good match.”

“Hey Snow, I wonder…” Bigby suddenly declared, but quickly gave up the idea. “It’s nothing, forget it.”

Snow knew what he was going to ask, however. She understood they needed to keep going on with the investigation and to do that, they needed to check every inch of this body which meant they would have to… open the coat. “Here…” She swiftly unbuttoned the jacket and allowed the flaps to uncover the navy blue blouse underneath. What was more bizarre was that the fake Snow had a pink lacy thong strap covering one of her exposed hips. The thing was, she didn’t own any thongs.

“Well I certainly hope you’re behaving yourselves,” Crane came strolling in. “What have you found out?”

“Her glamour’s defective,” Bigby answered with crossed arms. From the look Bigby was giving Crane, Rivin could deduce that Bigby didn’t feel too kindly towards his boss.

“Defective?” Crane snorted.

“We’re thinking it’s black market,” Snow continued.

“Thanks to Rivin!” Bufkin blurted and gave Rivin an obvious wink.

Rivin stood quietly as both Bigby and Snow glared at him, assuming that he was stealing all the credit. “Good job, Rivin. At least someone is doing their job,” Crane hissed and glared at the others. Great. Now Bigby was going to be pissed at him again. Just when things were starting to cool down between them.

“We should keep going,” Snow changed the topic.

Bigby began searching inside the inner pockets of the coat and brought out a pink perfume bottle with a large pearl on the top that acted as a cap. “(Use this)” was written on a strip of masking tape that was sprawled across the front of the bottle.

“What is that?” Crane scrunched his nose. Rivin noticed how nervous Crane looked; his forehead was perspiring and his eyes were wide and darting all over the place. Being skittish seemed to be a trait of his, but for some reason, this was a red flag for Rivin. He wasn’t sure why, but something was off.

“She had the perfume with her,” Bigby commented and gave the bottle a sniff.

“It’s Miss White’s perfume,” Rivin answered for Bigby. Snow reeked of this smell so it wasn’t exactly a secret that she wore the same fragrance. “Maybe somebody had given her the bottle to use; to be more like the authentic Miss White.”

“So she was given instructions,” Snow concluded.

Bigby stretched out his arm and searched in another pocket before pulling out what looked like a small wooden tube. Rivin recognized it immediately and swiped it from Bigby’s paw. “This was crafted by a witch. It’s a trinket,” he examined.

“A what?’ Bigby stood puzzled.

“The witches made these out of sacred magical trees… I thought they all burned down…” Rivin began pacing around the altar as he caressed the professionally carved images on the tube. “They would make these for spells and put in locks of hair or fingernails or teeth to bind the spell to the person using it.”

Bigby scratched at the back of his head. “How do you know all of this?”

“I’m wondering the same…” Crane muttered suspiciously.

“None of you know about hellhounds do you?” Bufkin asked as if Crane and Bigby were stupid. “Everyone knows that they were the most abundant during the witch trials period. After all, they were the ones to retrieve the witches’ souls after they died and return them to the great lord!” he spoke enthusiastically.

Snow rubbed her temples in circular patterns, finding Bufkin’s fanboying quite annoying. “Not to the ‘great lord’ as you put it, but rather to the ones they sold their souls to,” Rivin corrected.

“So this is a glamour tube that was definitely made by a witch?” Bigby asked with vexation.

“Yes,” Rivin nodded. “But I can’t open it.” He tried prying the cap off of the bottle but it wouldn’t budge. Rivin didn't want to add too much force and risk splintering it.

“Give it over,” Bigby demanded and took the glamour tube from Rivin. After a moment of looking it over, he found that the entire bottle itself was a puzzle that needed to be solved in order for it to open.

Crane swallowed loudly and decided to let his worries known. “I don’t think it’s wise to fool around with that. It’s some kind of black market magic, who knows what it could do?”

“You worry too much, Crane,” Bigby mumbled. He held the object up to his ear and gave it a small shake to hear the contents inside it rattle. “Hmm.” Bigby held the tube out and began to fix the distorted sliding picture puzzle rings. When he was done, the image was of a white tailed deer with trees behind it. The cap popped off with a “click” and fell into Bigby’s palm.

“A deer… What does that mean?” Snow pondered.

“A deer?” Rivin walked behind Bigby and looked down at the wooden deer picture. “Oh, deer are like patron animals to many witches. I bet this witch used the deer to aid in her craft. I’ve also heard some witches use deer to honor their families too.”

“What, you used to do witchcraft? Is that how you know these things?” Bigby snorted comedically.

“No?” Rivin shook his head with perplexion. “I had paws. I couldn’t grab or hold things.”

“Can’t take a joke,” Bigby noted and dumped the items out of the cramped glamour tube and onto the altar. There was a lock of Snow’s hair and a small picture of her.

Snow stepped back in shock. “Is… is that…?”

“Your hair.” Bigby pinched the hair between his fingers and gave it a sniff. It was hers alright. He then unrolled the photograph and handed it over to Snow.

“Someone must have taken this from my apartment,” she sighed and began to canter around the table. “I noticed it was missing, but I didn’t think…” Bigby followed after her, noticing her distress. “This was the last picture of Rose and me. My sister and I don’t talk much anymore.” Snow looked over at Bigby sadly. “Who did this, Bigby?”

“Oh no…” Rivin mumbled as the corpse emitted a green light, much like the light Holly and Gren gave off during their transformation into trolls. Before everyone’s eyes, the fake Snow turned into a dark violet colored troll.

“She’s a troll?” Bufkin shouted.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me…” Crane joined.

Bigby walked up to the troll with a fair-mind. “Yeah she’s a troll. Can we move on?”

“Who is she?” Snow asked.

“Wait,” Rivin held his hand up for silence. He noticed something on the body that hadn’t been there before: there was a tattoo on the corpse’s right calf. It looked like a christmas berry plant. “She has a new mark on her leg now.”

“Who do you think she is?” Snow questioned Bigby. “I don’t know many trolls i’m afraid.”

“We do,” Rivin pointed to Bigby and himself. “Miss Holly and Mr. Grendel from the Trip Trap bar. Maybe they know her?”

Snow placed a palm over her mouth at the sudden recognition. “Oh no. It’s Holly’s sister, Lily. She was reported missing, but I guess it just slipped through the cracks.”

“We have to go tell Holly,” Bigby insisted.

“Yes, I believe so as well,” Rivin agreed. “Even though her soul is gone. It must have been collected.” He sensed no soul left behind; only an empty shell.

“Collected?” Crane spat. “What do you mean by that?”

“It has passed into the afterlife,” Rivin acknowledged. The answer made Crane’s bile bubble up into his mouth.

“We should go,” Snow interrupted. “Maybe Holly knows who Lily was seeing.”

“You can’t go out there!” Crane panicked.

“Why not?” Snow challenged with fire raging in her belly.

“It’s too dangerous. Someone tried to kill you! Bigby, you can’t let her go outside with you.”

Bigby stayed silent for a moment in thought. On one hand, Snow’s double was already murdered, meaning she might be a target. On the other, she was like his boss. Telling her no was something he couldn’t do. But the urge to keep her safe and know that she will be okay won his inner turmoil. “Crane’s right. You should stay here.”

“What?” Snow raised her voice.

“I’m sorry, but it’s too dangerous out there for you.” Bigby beckoned Rivin to follow him out the exit. “We’ll be back soon.”