(1 of 1. Originally posted on October 27, 2023 for the prompt “Howls.”)
“Grandma,” Michael sighed. “You touched your castle. You have to move it.”
“So I did,” Grandma Sophie blinked, and squinted at the board as if she hadn’t already been staring at it for ten minutes. Finally, she moved her castle three spaces over, then set her king on the other side of it. “Sorry, I was daydreaming again.”
“About what?” Michael frowned at her well-guarded king. For all her daydreaming, she still had a better position.
“When I was young…” She gave a conspiratorial wink. “I was young, a long time ago. Even if I felt old at the time. Old, and stuck working every day in my father’s hat shop. I thought I’d go mad if I didn’t get away. One day I looked out the window and saw a rabbit. A little white fellow, racing into the woods like he was late for something. I followed him. No idea why. Just curious, I guess. I wanted to feel young again.”
“Where did it go?” He repositioned his queen to attack her new fortifications.
“No idea.” She slid her queen’s castle forward one rank. “He disappeared before I got out of the house. But I followed anyway, walking the direction he’d gone, deeper into the woods. I saw cats and caterpillars and dormice, but never found that rabbit. But then I heard it…”
“Heard what?” Michael castled.
“Howls.” Grandma moved her king’s castle over behind her queen’s castle. “Terrible, terrifying howls. So, of course, I ran toward them. Silly of me. But young people are silly, in general, even the old ones. That’s how I found the wolf. A great shaggy beast, caught in a trap. Carefully, I approached. When the beast calmed enough, I set it free.”
“And it didn’t eat you?” Michael moved his queen’s castle forward to support his queen.
“No. He was hurt, and angry, but he knew I’d helped him. So, he just ran off.” She moved her castle all the way across to Michael’s first row. “The hunter, on the other hand, did take out his anger on me. He didn’t appreciate me releasing his prize. He made his point clear with words and fists, knocking me to the ground. When he lifted the butt of his rifle, I thought I was dead. But the wolf leapt out of the woods and killed the hunter. From that day on, he stayed by my side.”
“What did grandpa think of that?” Michael took her castle with his king’s castle, hardly looking at the board. His wide eyes waited for the end of the story.
“Oh, grandpa Hal and the wolf reached an agreement. Once Hal came into the picture, the wolf moved back into the woods. But I could always feel him close by, keeping watch.” Grandma captured his castle with her remaining castle, trapping his king behind a row of his own pawns. “Sometimes you have to make a little sacrifice, to get the best ending. Checkmate.”
Michael stared at the board for a minute, then grinned. “Play again?”