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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Little Red Robin Hood

Melissa Mead lives in Upstate NY. You may have seen her stories in DSF before. She's a member of SFWA and Codex, and her Web page is carpelibris.wordpress.com.

Once there was a girl whose name was Robin, but everyone called her Red Riding Hood because of the red hood and cape she wore when she visited Grandmother. It was a bit ratty, but the nicest clothing she had left.
Grandmother, a sorceress, had no real grandchildren, as far as anyone knew, but she liked to project a benevolent image (at least to outsiders).Everyone was in debt to Granny. She took tribute of the best of every harvest, the first pressings of the grapes, the dressmaker's finest fabrics, and anything else she wanted. She sent anyone who opposed her, including Robin's father, to the mines. Her victims didn't last long.
One day Red set out to bring Grandmother some dainty cakes and wine.
"Keep to the path and go straight there," her mother begged. "You know Grandmother doesn't like to be kept waiting."
Halfway there, Red stopped to investigate some paw prints alongside the path.
"Wolf," she muttered. "A big one, too."
"Fresh air and exercise, that's what does it," agreed a pleasant voice from behind her.
Red whirled. The biggest wolf she'd ever seen, with a magnificent silvery coat, sniffed at the basket.
"Petit fours?" it said, cocking a ear. "Hardly standard picnic fare."
"Granny's hardly your standard grandmother."
"Nor am I your standard wolf. My name is Grrr-uff-snuffle-wrf. You'd say Big Nose."
"I'm Robin. Red."
"Pleased to meet you, Robin-Red of the Hood. Would your grandmother, by any chance, live in that quaint little cottage in the clearing?"
"She's not my real grandmother, and under that cottage she's got a dragon's hoard worth of stuff that she's stolen from us!" There in the woods, Red poured out everything that she couldn't say around her neighbors. "She killed my dad! Mother Hubbard starved last winter because Grandmother magicked everything out of her cupboard. Everybody walks around on tiptoes, wondering what she'll do next."
"You're shaking, child! You weren't before. I believe you're more afraid of this Grandmother than you are of me."
"I am not!"
"Oh, you are. And yet I'm visibly dangerous." He growled, low in his throat. "I hear she wears wolfskin coats."
Red stopped shaking and smiled. "What big teeth you have. Big Nose, would you come to Grandmother's house with me?"
Grandmother stared at the wolf.
"How dare you bring that creature in here!"
"Why, Grandmother, what big eyes you have!"
Grandmother blew fiercely on a whistle.
"Why, Grandmother, what a red face you have!"
Grandmother's personal Huntsman showed up. He took in the enormous wolf and the skinny girl in the ragged red cape. He loosed an arrow.
Grandmother toppled backward.
The Huntsman took a large share of the food from the cellar for his children, and went to rescue his captive wife. Red and the wolf distributed the rest among the villagers. At first she tried to disguise Big Nose with Granny's cap and nightgown, but as their reputation spread they no longer needed it. The Huntsman taught Red how to shoot. His wife taught her survival skills. Then Red Robin Hood and her wolf moved on, looking for someone else to rescue.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
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