The Tale of the Fluffy
by Morgan Eve Humphrey
Once upon a time, back after the creation of the original corgi, in a village far, far away, lived a colony of fierce warrior dogs. They were five feet tall on four legs, and five feet long from their nose to their tail. They had fluffy, pure white coats to blend with the cold snow and keep them warm. Every summer, when the world warmed and the snow dissolved into the ground, the warrior dogs, called the Cŵn, disappeared and were not seen again until the first snowfall.
One of these Cŵn got teased often, as, unlike the rest of the Cŵn puppies, he had been named Byr because he wasn't as tall as the rest, or as long. All the other puppies had names like Ffyrnig, or maybe Pwerus. Even being named Gyfeillgar was better, because size was often the deciding factor of how tough a puppy would grow up to be, and Byr was half the size of the other puppies his age, only a foot long and a foot high, and was a bobtail. All of the other pups had long, fluffy tails.
His mother, Harddwch, hoping desperately that her son would grow bigger, fed him more than his siblings, and his father, Arwr, made him run and exercise constantly in the attempt to make him tougher. Sadly, poor Byr remained scrawny and weak, despite the attention.
However, Byr was ridiculously optimistic and stubborn. He was always journeying off to try to hunt with the strongest of his pack. No one even noticed the fluffy white puppy bouncing along next to them, but he worried Harddwch to death. After he escaped to try his luck and glory with the bigger Cŵn members for the seventy-sixth time, Harddwch consulted the leader of the pack, Ddoeth, about what to do with her little Byr.
"He just won't stop trying," she confessed to Ddoeth (while Byr snuck silently out behind her). "He's so stubborn, and I don't know what to do with him. He's too young to start hunting, but I can't stay awake forever. He always waits until my back is turned or I take a nap, and then he scurries off to catch up with the hunters. I don't know what to do!"
"Mum," she heard her pup whimper. She turned, and there was a corgi, standing tall (as tall as a corgi can stand) and gripping Byr by the scruff of his neck. The corgi dropped Byr and looked at him in distaste before turning to the leader.
"I am Dewr. Are you aware of the dragon living on Snowdon?" he inquired, "It is destroying our homes. We are forming a hunting party and decided that recruiting a Cŵn for the hunt would be to our benefit. Do you have any that would be willing to go?"
Ddoeth wrinkled his brow, thinking hard. The strongest were away hunting and wouldn't be back for hours. Dewr's expression implied that the corgis were in a hurry. None of the puppies were grown enough to go, but maybe...
"All of the Cŵn that would be useful to you are gone hunting, but you can have any choice of puppies. I'm sorry," Ddoeth told Dewr. The corgi made a face, but nodded affirmatively. Ddoeth lead him to the tree the puppies liked playing around.
Byr was very excited. This could be his chance! He tried to follow Dewr when his mother grabbed him. He thrashed and yapped as she carried him away to their rock shelter. He could see Dewr take a look at the puppies and slowly shake his head. He yelped louder, but Harddwch muttered, "Not today. I can't lose you today. Not forever." She then dropped him and sat on him to keep him from running away, and fell almost immediately into a fitful sleep. Stress always tired her.
Byr squirmed and wriggled until he had escaped out from under Harddwch. He sat panting for a minute, and then, without a lick of regret, scampered off to Dewr. He was about to call out for them to stop, that he would come with them to defeat the dragon, but stopped at the last second. He remembered Dewr's condescending look, and knew that the corgi would simply turn him back. However, if he followed them until it was too late to turn back, Dewr would have to keep him along. Byr ran along behind Dewr's group silently, never looking back.
* * * *
When Harddwch awoke, she let out a cry of dismay. Byr had escaped again. She sighed and watched as the hunters returned. She looked around for her baby, usually prancing around at their feet, nipping them and tripping over his own feet. She didn't see him. She found Arwr, and together they searched for Byr. They asked around. And all that night and for many nights to come, their howls were heard for miles, mourning for their lost baby.
* * * *
Many months went by, and slowly the months turned to years. Byr had gotten stronger from following the corgis. His senses had become multiplied by tenfold from occasionally having to follow the tracks of Dewr's crew, though, to his disappointment, he had remained small. He didn't regret his decision, but he did miss his family a little. He wondered how his mother had felt when she realized that he was gone. What about his father? His friends? He hadn't realized how distressed they might have been until he was weeks away and the scent markings he had left along the way had been washed away by rain. He had made up his mind and couldn't change it. Byr, so lost in thoughts of his life-changing decision, stumbled right into the corgi's camp. He blinked and realized that everyone was staring at him. Byr looked around for Dewr, but then several corgis sprang into action and pinned him. One grabbed his scruff.
It was then that Byr saw Dewr. He was sitting quite still, watching him. Byr thought back to when Dewr had hoisted him into the air a few years ago. He wondered if the corgi remembered him. By Dewr's expression, he did. Byr had begun to idolize Dewr at that time. Now, humiliated and held captive, he couldn't afford to look like an idiot in front of his idol. Twisting and clawing, Byr grabbed his captor's huge ear in his mouth and bit it. The corgi yelped and dropped Byr.
"Hey!" one corgi snarled, "It's that stupid puppy from the Cŵn pack! Get 'em! Bring 'em back in shame!" The corgis growled in agreement and were starting to head toward him when Dewr let out a sharp bark.
"Let's not. It's too late to turn back, and we can't lose anyone to bring him. And Ifanc, he is not a puppy anymore. He just demonstrated that. And if he is stupid, than tell me, how did he follow us this far. Let him stay if he wants to. We did want a Cŵn, didn't we?" Dewr snarled.
"He's not a real Cŵn," the corgi Dewr called Ifanc growled, "Look at how small he is!" Dewr ignored him. "Let's keep going. We're obviously moving too slow if we can be followed for this long." He turned and started walking. The rest of the corgis glared at Byr, but followed their leader.
Dewr was serious about moving faster; the group didn't stop for another week. The mountain was surrounded by miles of fog. Finally, he turned to the group and announced, "The fog is too thick to go any farther. Now we should..."
"Look!" Byr yipped, "Snowdon!" The glorious mountain peak became clear through the fog. There was a small, almost glowing form gripping the peak. Dewr shut his mouth, turned around, and kept walking forward. There was no stopping them now until they were at the base of the mountain. Then, they'd stop to gather supplies and rest up before killing the dragon.
That particular part of the journey was full of peril. The danger wasn't direct, but was something Dewr referred to as P.P.P, the Potential Possibilities of Peril. If the dragon saw them, if the dragon had left traps of some sort around his home, if the dragon snored and scorched them. Byr thought that the unknown dangers were even more scary and harmful than the known.
Thunder rolled over the mountains. Several corgis yelped as lightning (or the dragon's fire) hit a tree a foot or so away. Byr marveled at the height of the nearby mountains, like Crib Goch and Yr Aran, but they were nothing compared to Snowdon. Snowdon was more than five hundred feet taller than Crib Goch (923 m), and more than 1100 feet higher than Yr Aran (747 m).
Byr had to run to keep up with Dewr. The other corgis were falling behind. Some stopped. Some turned back. But eventually there was a group of only five corgis hurrying after Dewr and Byr. They reached the mountain, and instead of stopping, Dewr began to jump rocks and climb. Byr was surprised, but didn't falter. Liquefied rocks fell around them like rain, and the fog was replaced with ash. The smell of sulfur filled the air, and the altitude made it hard to breathe.
Dewr hit the brakes about four hundred feet up. Everyone was panting, and the group took shelter in a nook in the mountain. Byr realized that only three other corgis were with him and Dewr. Ifanc was one. He told Dewr that one of the lost corgis had turned back because of the breathing conditions, and the other had lost his balance about fifty feet up. No one spoke after that news.
It was impossible to tell when morning came, due to the ash, so Dewr decided that they would just sleep until they were ready to continue. No one even kept watch. Byr was the last to wake. He realized that they had all been waiting patiently for him to wake for the past four hours. He felt embarrassed, but knew that they needed strength of numbers and that he would be useless without sleep. Silently, he and Dewr led the dogs off the ledge and up a trail a mountain goat would find difficult to navigate. Byr noticed that no one was objecting to him. He was being held as a leader, an equal to Dewr. In his epiphany, he almost stepped off the mountain. He dug his claws in and slowly continued on.
The group had to stop often, and one of the corgis stepped in a puddle of melted rock and had to stay behind, but eventually they approached the peak of Snowdon, three thousand six hundred fifty feet up (1085 m). The dragon was coiled around the peak. He must have sensed them, because he raised his head. "Face me!" he bellowed, "for I am the mighty and powerful Ddrygioni of Wales! My father was the cold-hearted Gruelon Tuag, and my mother was the terrifying Enaid Fwytawr! Face me and die a noble death!"
This, despite what the mighty Ddrygioni thought, did not incline the dogs to "face him." He was a dark, rusty red color, with ridged, solid scales and a misshapen head that smoked out of two holes that were most likely his nostrils. His yellowed horns stuck out of his head at awkward angles, his eyes were glowing an eerie orange, and his fangs were longer than Byr's father and mother together. Ifanc whimpered softly, and the other corgi wet himself. Byr was trying to still his trembling legs and untuck his tail. Dewr just gave Ddrygioni his very best bored and arrogant expression, walked up to the dragon's long tail, and sank his teeth into it.
The dragon froze, and Dewr released the tail. Ddrygioni whipped his head around and stared the corgi down. After inspecting Dewr, he pulled his tail carefully out of reach and poised to strike. His mouth was so big that all of them together wouldn't have counted as a crumb.
As the dragon plunged towards them, Byr lept up and attacked. Hey, even dogs do stupid things when they're afraid. Byr had jumped up high enough to bite Ddrygioni's lip. The dragon froze mid-strike. Howling, Ddrygioni shook his head back and forth viciously, and Byr went flying...
Onto the dragon's back. The dragon, thinking the small white thing was done for, reared back once again to strike. As he did so, the scales on his neck bunched up, revealing an opening to the weak part of the dragon about a foot wide. Byr squeezed in quickly, preventing Ddrygioni from moving his head any closer. Dewr noticed the dragon's difficulty and leapt up onto its back along with Byr. Byr resisted the scales flattening and pushed against them harder, opening a space of weak dragon flesh. Dewr ran in and bit the soft skin. The dragon bled to death in a matter of minutes.
Byr emerged from in between the scales. A young fay appeared on the hill, then another, until Snowdon was covered in fairies and fays and trolls. Byr, because he had been pressed right next to Ddrygioni's fatal wound, was soaked in the dragon's blood. The fairy queen came in a blinding flash of light. She smiled warmly at Byr.
"You have suffered much," she proclaimed, "and you deserve a reward. I see you with corgis. I will let the blood of the dragon stain your fur in the corgi's noble saddle pattern. Also, henceforth, you shall be an honorary corgi. You are already their size, and now their coloration. You and your progeny shall be welcome in all corgi packs."
Byr was tearing up, he was so happy. But then he realized, "What about my fur? It's so much different from other corgis."
The fairy queen just smiled. "You are right, your fur is different. But you're used to being different. It isn't in my power to change the composition of your fur or its length. I'm sorry," she whispered.
Byr didn't mind. He decided that he liked being different. He was special. And now that his mission was done, and he had proved not only to others but also to himself that he was a true born hero, he had something which he had to do.
The fairy queen, perhaps reading his mind, nodded and murmured, "You are wise, Byr. Go home."
* * * *
It was almost the snowmelt. It had been about ten years since Harddwch had last seen her baby Cŵn. She missed him terribly, but the snow was fading fast, and she and the other Cŵn had to leave. Besides, she always missed Byr at this time of year. What if he returned while they were gone and couldn't find them? Harddwch heard Arwr calling her and slowly turned to leave.
Harddwch whirled around, sure she had heard something, and squealed like a newborn pup when she saw her baby. He looked so different, after all, his fur was dyed like a corgi's. However, he hadn't grown much, and he still had the fluffiest fur ever. They nuzzled for about five minutes, and then he told her his tale in one breath.
Arwr called again. She looked at Byr, wondering if he would come with the Cŵn or the corgis. He hesitated, but he eventually promised to stay with her all snowfall. He couldn't be cooped up all snowmelt any more, though. Harddwch understood, and after making Byr swear once more to return at first snowfall, she left.
Byr turned around and wasn't surprised to see Dewr sitting behind him. He huffed. "I guess it's just you and me and a bunch of corgis hanging out and doing nothing for the rest of snowmelt, huh?" he grunted. Dewr smirked in his old arrogant way and wolfed, "Yep. That'll be fun."
The two ran off into night, laughing and howling at the stars.
Moral: Be yourself!
Enaid Fwytawr-soul eater
Snowdon- the tallest mountain in Wales
In 2013, with this story Morgan Eve Humphrey won the junior division prize of The Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of the Potomac Myths and legends Writing Contest as well as the Dog Writers Association of America writing competition in both the short fiction category and the junior writers special award category, which carried a $300 prize.
Reproduced with kind permission of the author
Graphics by: Béatrice Quinio, Animal Art