Cerne, god of the hunt (retired) lifted his head at the same time his great hound, Garm, pricked up his ears. After a few moments, there was a knock on the door. Cerne frowned at Garm. “I’m not expecting anyone, old boy. Who do you think it is?” He wandered down the hall and opened the door. He flinched as the middle aged woman in bright pink waved her arms wildly and screeched.
“O Great One! I, Madeline, beseech your aid!” She made a passable attempt at a curtsey.
“No, please stand, er, Madeline.” Cerne stared as Garm backed away. “Would you like to come in?”
Madeline looked terrified. “I would not presume, O Great One,” she declaimed loudly. “I merely come seeking a favour. I bring tribute.” She waved at the pile of shopping bags behind her.
“But let’s not disturb the neighbours,” Cerne said. Garm had retreated back into the living room.
“Of course,” Madeline said, in her normal voice. “I’m sorry.”
“And you can call me Mr Cornwall. I’m retired, but I help out where I can.” Cerne looked at the pile of bags. The morning was looking up.
“It’s my Mikey,” Madeline said. “He’s everything to me, O Great One, I mean, Mr Cornwall. He gives meaning to my life. And now he has gone.”
Cerne did not feel like dealing with errant lovers. “I’m not sure that I can help much with this,” he said. “I’m good at hunting.”
“I spoke to Dawn and she said that you were so kind with the wedding and everything,” Madeline said. “And I knew that you would be good to a helpless old woman missing her only companion, my reason for living.”
Cerne had a bad feeling about this. “I’ll do what I can,” he said. “So, tell me about Mikey.”
“He’s got the sweetest nature and is so gentle.” Madeline rummaged in her handbag. “So many people say that he is a complete angel. There’s not many that have a lovely nature like him.”
“Hey, Cerne! Have any of your neighbours lost a dog?” Taranis wandered around the corner holding a small chihuahua. “I found this lad down the road looking lost and I thought I’d ask around.”
Cerne wasn’t sure whether his old friend was going to be a help or a hindrance. “Madeline, this is Taranis, retired god of thunder. You can call him Mr Thomas.” He looked hard at Taranis. “I’m in the middle of a consultation.”
Madeline shrieked as she saw Taranis. “O Great One! You found him!”
“What?” Cerne said.
“What?” Taranis looked at Cerne.
“My Mikey, you’ve found him!” Madeline moved fast for a woman of her age. She hurtled down the path towards Taranis.
Taranis stared in horror at the large pink lady advancing at speed towards him. “Umm…”
“My Mikey!” Madeline grabbed at the small dog who leapt into her arms, his tail wagging furiously as he licked his owner’s face.
“That’s Mikey?” Cerne said carefully.
“My little Mikey,” Madeline sighed. “He’s such a good boy, except when he runs out when the nasty meter reader called.”
“I can see it’s your dog,” Taranis said. “I’m glad I found him for you.”
Madeline ignored him and raced back up the path to fling her arms around an appalled Cerne. “You are just as good as Dawn said. Thank you for granting my request.”
“I found the dog,” Taranis said behind her.
Madeline ignored him. She attempted another curtsey. “O Great Cerne, Mighty Hunter, Lord of the Forest, thank you for bringing back my lost dog, after hunting him down and rescuing him from his peril.”
“He was wandering around the petunias at Number 43,” Taranis said. “And I found him.”
Madeline stared worshipfully up at Cerne, tears in her eyes. “Thank you for making an old woman very happy,” she said, her voice breaking. “Accept my offering. And you can keep the bags.”
Cerne watched, stunned, as Madeline walked away, hugging the chihuahua close. Then he looked at the bags. “What happened?”
“I found a lost dog and you got the tribute,” Taranis said. “What is it?”
“Give me a hand,” Cerne lifted up two of the bags. “And let’s get away from the neighbours.”
Taranis lifted the other two bags and followed his old friend inside. “I didn’t recognise her,” he said. “Is she new?”
“Probably,” Cerne set the bags down in the middle of the floor and started unpacking. “I hope so.”
Garm woofed and trotted over as Cerne and Taranis unpacked box after box. Taranis rubbed the dog’s ears. “She included dog treats for you, old boy, as well as our goodies.”
“Honey cakes!” Cerne said. “I hardly ever see these. And they’re made properly, without any of this baking powder nonsense.”
“This is decent wine,” Taranis pulled out a bottle. “It’s not any of the supermarket rubbish.”
“And venison!” Cerne pulled out some more boxes. “A joint of venison with venison sausages, venison burgers…”
“This roast pork is perfect.” Taranis looked up at Cerne. “I found the dog.”
“But she came to me with the tribute,” Cerne said. He shrugged. “We split it.”
Taranis nodded. “Sounds fair.” He thought for a moment. “We can send a quick blessing her way as well. It seems only right.”
Cerne nodded. “But let’s do that before we have the wine.” He tossed a few dog treats to Garm who snatched them out of the air and crunched them with gusto. “Then we can drink a toast to Mikey.”
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