Heads were pulled from the underwater pastures, some iridescent, some brown. Beady dark eyes turned as ripples and wavelets disturbed the surface of the pond. The Family knew. A quiet call and the ducklings fled to their mothers wings. Beyond the reedy shore, the witches held their assembly. The witches were the opposite of duckness. But the Family watched. The Family defended. As long as there were ducks, the pond would be safe. Then one of the ducklings quacked. The old round rock that had been lying on the bottom of the pond for as long as ducks could remember, surfaced. The pool was draining.
The witches came three years before. The ducks at first were cautiously optimistic about the new inhabitants of Mallard Pond. But their optimism was quickly replaced with fear as strange things began to happen. Barely three months after the arrival of the humans, Tommy Two-Fingers, the local amphibian mob boss, disappeared. Hurby Half-tail, a muskrat who lost a chunk of his tail in a battle with a skunk, and Lyle, a salamander with a macho attitude, went to look for him. They were both members of the MPPD, trained in search and rescue, and they followed the trail to the witches' hut. The pair found a disturbing scene and were forced to return to the pond with grim news. Tommy's legs were seen in a glass jar on a shelf, floating in a cloudy liquid. The rest of him was no where to be found.
The news of Tommy's untimely demise spread quickly. Fearful discussions took place in the local cafe and rumors spread that the witches would return for the rest of the village. The mayor of Mallard Pond, a fiesty snapping turtle named Bob, tried to keep the nervous townsfolk from overreacting. He insisted that it was an isolated incident and played on the fact that Tommy was a well-known criminal who had plagued the small town for years.
Another six months passed without incident and the town gossips quieted down to the dull roar they maintained before Tommy's disappearance. Until a cold day in December, when Lily Loona was found by one of her many daughters, slaughtered in her cozy nest. Her eyes had been plucked out and her chest was torn open, her heart missing. The town wept for the loss. Lily was a chatterbox, leader of the gossips, but she would never harm a fly. Her children gathered at her nest and held a vigil, their red eyes spilling cold tears onto the blood-stained ground.
The town reached a consensus. This atrocious act was not the work of one of their own. It was clearly the evil-doing of humanity. The Family, unofficial leaders of Mallard Pond township, called the community together for a meeting a month later.
"I thank you all for joining us here today," Mallory, head of the Family, greeted the attendants. "It is not with pleasure that we called you for this meeting. Some awful, unspeakable acts have been committed in the last year. We cannot tolerate this anymore. If the witches refuse to live peacefully with us, then they will feel the wrath of our retaliation."
Cheers and shouts went up through the gathered crowd as suggestions were thrown out on how to punish the witches. Mallory raised her wing for silence.
"No. We have a plan already. We have been working with the MMPD and the mayor and have come up with a possible solution. For now, this meeting is adjourned. Billy, Roland, will you please see me in the back?"
Mallory left the stage and returned to the mayor's office in the back. She waited with the mayor and several members of the MMP, including Lyle and Hurby. Shortly, Billy, a sleazy-looking rat who was despised by most of the town's inhabitants, and Roland, a water snake who had taken over the Mallard Pond Mafia after Tommy's death, entered the room.
"Took you long enough." Bob popped his feet back out of his shell, pushing himself to a standing position. "We need your help."
Billy sneered. "Of course you do. Isn't that how it always is? Hate on the rat, but when the algae hits the fan, you come running for his help. And why should I help you?"
Lyle stepped forward, cutting off Bob's biting reply. "When Hurby and I were at the witches' hut, Tommy's legs weren't all we found. They had jars of stuff. Bat wings, cat whiskers, alligator teeth." He paused for effect and stared straight at Billy. "And rat tails. Dozens of them. All in that goopy liquid." Lyle looked over at the snake, who was slithering silently toward Mallory's back. "Snake scales, too, Roland. So you better knock it off or you'll end up on their shelf, with my help."
Mallory, warned of the attack, turned and snapped at Roland. He slipped away, but she nicked his skin, causing him to jerk in pain momentarily. The slimy snake glared at the duck before turning to the lizard cop.
"What do you want from me?"
"We want you and Billy to sneak in at night. One of the witches is old and weak. You should be able to take her out easily with your venom. Billy, we want you to free the animals we saw in cages. I'm sure most of the ones we saw are dead by now, but they likely got new ones. Get them out of there and bring them back here. If we can't get them back to their homes, we'll give them a new home here."
"And what do we get out of the deal?" The rat was picking at his teeth with a pointed claw.
"I won't kill you!" snapped the turtle.
Mallory held up a wing. "You will be forgiven your crimes. The trials you have coming up will be dismissed, and Billy, we'll drop your probation sentence. We'll also give you each 5,000 quackers."
The two criminals pretended to think about the deal, but each knew they would never get a better offer.
"Fine," Roland hissed. "Tell us what to do."
The group laid out a plan, and the rat and snake slunk off into the night.
The next morning, a racket could be heard from the witches' hut. The MMPD went to investigate. The oldest witch, the one with the most knowledge, had died in her sleep. A leg was hanging off the bed and she had two small puncture wounds on her ankle. Lyle peered around the hut. All the cages were empty but one. It had two cats who were hissing and spitting at a witch who tried to approach. Lyle smirked. The rat had done well.
Two months later, the witches retaliated. Several members of the Family went missing. Their remains were found spinning over a fire at the hut. War raged between the ducks and witches for nearly two years after. Both sides suffered casualties. The witches lost two more, but others took their place. The ducks suffered tremendous losses, much worse than the witches. Their numbers were not as easily replaced.
The town joined in the ducks' battle, refusing to let their friends fight alone. Some were killed and left where they fell. Many went missing. The MMPD kept tabs on the witches' movements and the contents of their hut through scouting expeditions by Lyle and Hurby. After one dangerous mission, Hurby didn't come back. Lyle came back without his tail. They had been spotted, and both were nearly captured. Hurby was lifted into the air by an invisible force and could not escape. Lyle was nearly done for when a witch reached out her black boot and attempted to crush him. She got just his tail. He struggled as she cackled, reaching down to pick up the tiny lizard. With her fingers bare inches away, the salamander's tail broke free from his body and he was able to scoot through a crack in the wall.
A rescue party was formed. The townsfolk, two dozen strong, advanced on the hut days later. The witches were gone. A scout who had been instructed to watch their every movement reported that they went into town for supplies. The group raided the witches hut, freeing all the animals, including the two extremely irritable cats and an emaciated wolf. Animals jumped up onto the shelves, knocking the awful ingredients to the ground. When the prisoners were freed and the supplies destroyed, the hut was cleared. Hurby, tortured and abused, took a twig from the fire and set it under a bed. The townspeople watched from a distance as the hut went up in flames. The witches' angry screams that night echoed through the trees.
The sun rose hot the next morning when a strange sound began emanating from the burnt clearing. Heads were pulled from the underwater pastures, some iridescent, some brown. Beady dark eyes turned as ripples and wavelets disturbed the surface of the pond. The Family knew. A quiet call and the ducklings fled to their mothers wings. Beyond the reedy shore, the witches held their assembly. The witches were the opposite of duckness. But the Family watched. The Family defended. As long as there were ducks, the pond would be safe. Then one of the ducklings quacked. The old round rock that had been lying on the bottom of the pond for as long as ducks could remember, surfaced. The pool was draining.
Fear fell over the townsfolk. The pond was their lifeline. Without the pond, more than half the members of the town would be without a home, and the other half would be without much-needed water. Panic began to spread. Suddenly, a new noise joined the witches' chants. A beautiful, eerie noise. The howling of a wolf. It was joined by another, and another. The inhabitants looked at each other, curious. They had never seen a wolf out at sunrise, and it was rare that wolves ventured this close to the pond.
The chanting turned to screams as the witches fled from the angry wolves. The stone fell back into place, sending deep ripples through the pond. The wolves gorged themselves on the flesh of the wicked, not a witch remained. When all was done, the wolves came to the pond. They dipped their blood-soaked muzzles in the water and washed themselves clean. One wolf, the emaciated wolf, raised his head and stared at Mallory. She stared back, refusing to show fear. He gave her a brief smile and a nod before turning and leading his pack back into their own territory. That night, the town celebrated, free of fear for the first time in three years.
**Origin of story: Somehow the topic of ducks and witches came about during a discussion in SL. We all decided it would be a fun story topic, so one of the girls wrote up a little blurb (the bit at the top before the ***). We all wrote stories based off that. This is my creation.**