Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

What is that I see up that tree? Better bring in those weird women in masks that I've never seen before to check it out.

The old woman, who had been a nurse all her life, made for the tree to console the woman crying on the lowest branch, but Sanderon held her back. Spotting Ragna's masked and armed berserkerettes approaching the tent, he motioned them to circle the tree. Then, he spread his arms and intoned "Stabilitas!"

Color by Jeroen Jager.

While Jodoque comforts Kel and Kel returns to normal shape, a nude redheaded woman is brought in.

At least Kel was awake, and had recognised Jodoque. He sat at her bed, not saying much but holding what was probably her hand. Just as he was about to mention that it seemed to be turning back to normal, Sanderon and Ragna bustled into the tent, pushing a red-haired woman in front of them.
"Look what dropped into our laps!," quipped Sanderon.


Color by Drooling Fan Girl.

Masked berserkerette restraining nude redhead, causing commotion.

"My memory isn't what it used to be," said Sanderon, "but I do remember seeing this woman's face in my crystal ball yesterday, when I was calling you. Raven?. Is that her name?"
If the girl had been upset before, she was beside herself now. Struggling to get free of Ragna's grip, she let out a strangled cry, which was joined at once by Fay.

"She doesn't look like a Raven."

Color by Smilodon.

Raven Corby is naked, red-faced and crying. Jodoque is not happy either

Jodoque gave his would-be fan a long, cold stare. "Did you..."
"Jodoque," said Sanderon, "She was with you when I called you. She couldn't have poisoned Kel. You, on the other hand, have some explaining to do. How did you get involved with this woman?"
"He wasn't involved with me!" spoke up Raven Corby. "I failed! Again! Poor dumb Raven Corby! And now I've spoiled everything!"

"Did any of that make any sense?" asked Sanderon, as Raven followed up her announcement with another bout of uncontrollable sobbing.

Original colour by Drooling Fan Girl. Recoloured on February 21, 2011 as part of the remaster project, because DFG's colour files were lost in the mists of, of, of, mists. The recolour is more consistent with the standard colour palette for this sequence, at the expense of some of DFG's original touches.

Jodoque's shamefully confesses to having drinks with Raven Corby.

Jodoque brought Sanderon up to date on his after-work activities.
"... and that's it. All we ever did was drink beer together. In fact, whenever she tried to tell me anything personal, it sounded like she was working from a memorized list of Things Raven Corby Does, or rather, like she was trying to say what she thought Kel would say."

Kel was now wide awake. "She doesn't look a bit like me."

Color by Jeroen Jager.

Carrots again! There are always carrots! Green-snouted creatures are somewhat rarer.

"Poor dumb Raven Corby! " said Sanderon. "Tried so hard to be someone she couldn't be, huh?"
Kel sank back. "I think", she said, "I can handle the rest of the story". She looked at Ragna. "Or maybe not. Am I hallucinating?"

"Kel, it's me! Ragna!"
"Whoo!" Kel sat up to embrace her, then went green and slumped back.
"Sanderon," she moaned, "...bucket..."
There were carrots.

A crying, naked figure sits in the tent. Sanderon the Great will make her listen.

"She'll be allright," whispered Sanderon. "but we're still looking for someone to feed the baby until the poison's left her."
"Look no further," said Ragna.
"Hold on to that girl," replied Sanderon. "It will be instructive for her to hear the rest of the story."
"No!" whined Raven Corby. "Please..."

"I'll have you know that I have ways... to make you listen!"

Originally colored by Jeroen Jager. Unfortunately, during the 2009-2011 remaster process, it turned out that Jeroen's colour files were lost, and the existing files could not be upgraded to the new size, so I have recoloured this page and made some minor improvements.

Sanderon recollects some more. Fifty years earlier, he is naked and playing with demons.

"Where were we?" asked Sanderon.
"Corvinus Corax had bailed out of your little group," prompted Kel weakly.
"Oh yeah. And the three of us - Bess, Atra and me - summoned demons in the hope of getting them to help us track down some Ancestor's Bone. That was quite a task in itself, lemme tell you. Most true necromantic knowledge was well-hidden, and many of the rituals, uh, involved doing distasteful stuff to chicken entrails and suchlike.
When we got the hang of it, though, we were confronted with another problem: demons were invariably untrustworthy, crazy and stupid. Most of them couldn't understand our instructions even if they did want to listen to them."

Scenes from prehistory. Also, Kel's complexion is still pallid.

Jodoque had a question. "What is this Ancestor's Bone?
"Elvish lore," answered Kel.

"We believe that many thousands of years ago, an ape-man walked into a cave to investigate an eerie, eldritch light. When he came out, he was a changed ape, and begat many children who were also strange."

Kel narrates, the Shrine of the Ancestor with the creatures that guard it.

Kel continued: "The bones of the Ancestors - some versions of the legend say it was a large family that walked into the cave - are kept in a shrine in the Gnomian capital. This shrine is open to the devout, but well-guarded by elves, gnomes and demons - any manner of creature they could get."

Sanderon, Atra and Bess try to handle a slimy monster, then squabble, then discover something about the kitchen

"Indeed," said Sanderon. "We even contacted some of these guards, but to no avail. After a year or so, Atra and I were getting fed up with having to deal with these foul creatures. We took a break from the project, and it was during this break that Bess noticed something about the cottage."

"Despite months of neglect, the larder was spotless and in perfect order."

"Once we realised what was going on," recollected Sanderon, "we quickly learned to spot the small figure dashing away from the hearth or hiding in the broom cupboard."

"Taking advantage of what folklore told us, we devised a trap."

A small, naked purple faerie swearing like a sailor.

"This perturbed the creature considerably," remembered Sanderon. "It yelled at us in language that was as purple as the creature itself was."
"'Foul cloot-sack! Sack-washers! Tacky-wives! Choke the murder, you cunthexes! Rot up! Walk to the pump, boor-lump and boor-cathies! I mean you, you licked-off canker-whore and one clootless acorn."
Sanderon shrugged. "I still have yet to figure out the meaning and origin of some of those words. Life is so short... there's always more to do than you have time for. What else did she say? Oh yeah, 'Get crabbed, you fat sow, old pie and you blond-tressed weenie rosewater!'"

Kel sat up. "This faerie... was she tall, human-looking and haughty?"

Enter the small purple faerie. Kel explains the Rite of Serfdom to Jodoque

"No... " said Sanderon. "As I said, she was small - lanky, mind, but small. And she had big faerie ears, wings, fangs... and she was purple. Not all that human-like. But she may have changed her shape later.
"She completed the Rite? After you caught her?" asked Kel.
"Rite?" asked Jodoque.
"Rite of Serfdom. A year of voluntary slavery..." Kel briefly fell silent.
"That was a big crime, you know. Many of us would have killed you for that."

Sanderon paces the room, with Raven, Ragnarok and Jodoque watching

"I know," said Sanderon.
"We went down that path one small step at a time. In fact, Corvinus... but I'm getting ahead of myself."
We calmed her down, insisting that we meant her no harm... and that we had more interesting things for a faerie Servant to do than wash dishes.
... and she was all ears!

Ottar has been listening in, and he's put two and two together

Outside the tent, something else was all ears. Ottar, who had been sent to keep an eye on the unpredictable Raven Corby, had been shocked at the breach of ritual that Sanderon had confessed to, and intrigued by Kel's barely-expressed suspicion that Bess' fay Servant might have been the same person as his mentor.

Sanderon continued.
"She was from an old clan of woodland faeries and had expected to serve her Rite at the shrine instead of out in the sticks. But she'd got on some Shriner's bad side."

The purple faerie explains some history, conjuring up visions of naked slave elves

"And guess what?", continued Sanderon. "She just loved the idea of robbing the shrine! She even had a good idea how to do it! "
Some of the watchfolk are Fire Elves. For many an age they were for slavedom bred by the Douards. And the Douards... changed them. Wrought a curse on them that passed from father unto son. The Douards are now outdied, or nearlike so. But the Fire Elves when they see Douard-garb, will be unpowersome not to heed its commands.

the purple faerie is very persuasive, but Bess is not in fact persuaded

Sanderon went on:
"The faerie added: 'I am somewhat of a chronicler. With your leave, I can fetch my book the which I am penning. It has a fulsome drawdown of Douard-garb.'
We let her out of the circle. She fluttered off at once, saying 'Hold on. I shall be rightsome to-back.'
'And that's probably the last we'll see of her,' I recall Bess saying."

Wythllew brings a book

"But," said Sanderon, "a few hours later, after I'd gone home, she knocked on Bess' bedroom door, brandishing a book. It must have been riveting bedside reading! The next morning, both Bess and Atra looked like dead women walking."

"I read it myself a few days later. Interesting stuff, but it didn't revitalize me like it did with Bess and Atra. Little did I know that Bess was also taking an interest in some other things the faerie had mentioned: the multi-generational curse, and mind control."

Corvinus Corvax holds up traffic.

"A week or so later," Sanderon continued, "I was on my way to Bess, to bring back the book, when I was stopped in my tracks by Corvinus!
"He had changed. In a way, at least. He'd gone off the mad alchemist look, but was as theatrical as ever.
"Sanderon!", he said. "How much further are you willing to go? To the elves, what you're doing now is blasphemy."
And, "Don't trust your new accomplice! She's a bad influence on you. Especially on Atra."
"How do you know about her? Have you been spying on us?"

a dramatic meeting between Sanderon and Corvinus Corax

"Does it matter?" asked Corvinus. "I wish to-"
"Your wishes are irrelevant! You're out of our group! The rest of us have decided to go on!"
"Really? Are you sure Atra wants to go on? Talk to her alone, when Bess and that faerie aren't around!"
"Sure! If you say so!"
I went on my way. I was so angry, my hands were shaking as I handed back the Wythllewe Boke to Bess...


Ottar makes the bambi eyes

"Wythllew?" chorused Kel and Raven. Something outside the tent stirred. A small green figure appeared in the entrance.
"Do on-go," said Ottar. "All of me is ears."
"Ottar!" yelled Raven. But before she could utter another word, Ragna, quick-thinking as always, silenced her.
Ottar was likewise possessed of a great presence of mind. "Unlucksomely, I cannot for-tell an ye would order me for to get ye out hereof. As ye hark this elderman's tale, would ye have me fetch your clothings?"

Tension is diffused and Raven Corby is allowed to speak.

The pleading look in Ottar's eyes was too much for Raven.
"Mfl rfghf," she said. In the interest of promoting good articulation, Ragna took her hand off the redhead's mouth.
"All right. I shan't order Ottar to bail me out of here. Ottar, fetch me my clothes, and maybe a drink would be a good idea."
"Okay," said Sanderon. "You both know Wythllew?"
"She's bad news," said Kel.
"Friend of Leroukh's - my brother's. Gave us Ottar last Yule." said Raven.
"That Ottar seems to be a bright sort of chap. You're fond of him?"

Raven Corby gets dressed - it's a strip tease in reverse

"Tell me about your family. That Leroukh - is he scary? Swarthy?"
"A little. He spends most of his time in-"
"- his crow form?"
"Yes. He's intense. But.... we stick together."
"He's your brother... you're Corvinus' grandchildren?"
"Is he mean to you? Your brother, I mean, not poor old Corvinus"

Wythllew tries her hand at spinning; Sanderon leaves Bess's cottage in a state of confusion.

Said Sanderon: "Sounds like Corvinus. Hard on the outside, soft on the inside. I should have listened to him..."

"Well, anyway. We spent many months putting together the Douard costume. It had to have a dozen different characteristics that would trigger the Obedience Hex that the Dopkalvar had put on the Fire Elves, or else it wouldn't be any use at all. We weren't helped by Bess' insistence on doing everything ourselves, in complete secrecy, or by the fact that none of us could spin worth a damn. Lemme tell you, faeries aren't all they're cracked up to be. Couldn't do shoes either, come to think of it.
"Where was I?"

Sanderon was lost in thought for a moment, then picked up again. "Strangely, whenever I left the cottage, I would start to feel that the idea of playing dress-up for the Shrinekeeper was silly and wouldn't work. And that Atra did look a bit nervous. But I'd come back the next day feeling really committed to the project anyway."

Sanderon makes a house call but is rebuffed with an excuse.

Sanderon continued:
"One morning, Atra stopped me at the door.
"'Bess is sick today,', she said, sweating and avoiding my eyes. 'Come back tomorrow.'"

"But as it was, Bess was sick for a week, and by the end of that week, I no longer had any intention ever to set foot in that cottage again. I wrote to Corvinus, asking him to get in touch, but I heard nothing."

Flashback continues: Sanderon bumps into Atra

Sanderon next recalled:
One market day, I bumped into Atra who was buying some unspun wool for the disguise. She didn't look too good - worn out, methought. I asked her how she was doing, and she said "not too bad."
"Not too bad?", I asked.

"I'm scared, Sanderon! We're getting closer, but... she wants to send me to the Shrine!"

Atra looking tired; Sanderon offers help; Kel is still naked in the bed

At that point, Sanderon had come to his own conclusions about Atra's behaviour: clearly, Atra was under some kind of mind control spell. But the spell was not so strong that Atra was entirely unable to resist it. Bess's "sickness" had been the result of a fight in which Atra had knocked her down.

He continued: "That had weakened Bess' control somewhat, so Atra was now becoming more and more dubious of the whole undertaking. I offered her my help."

Drama in the market square

Sanderon continued, recalling Atra's response:
"'What?' she said, 'and stop now?' And then she turned on her heels and left! I wrote to Corvinus again, and a week later, he showed up, bringing his son Craigg with him."

Sanderon gets visitors.

Sanderon continued his tale of the theft of the Ancestor's Bone:
"I'm sorry I couldn't make it earlier," said Corvinus. "My other son was sick." He said it in a tone that told me not to ask. I knew that they had just buried the child.
I brought Corvinus up to date, apologising for not taking him seriously earlier. He was very concerned about it all.
"The three of you have let yourselves get used to one crime after another."
I had to agree.
"Now, with the mind control in place, Bess will find it easy to push Atra towards... that other crime. Let's hope that Atra takes her time bringing back the Ancestor's Bone."

Sanderon talking; a Douard lording it over naked Fire Elves with their butts in the air.

Sanderon sighed.
"But in fact," he said, "as I would find out only a short while later, Atra had been to the Shrine and back that same evening, using an illegal Transportation spell and wearing the disguise. It had worked, too. Looking and sounding for all the world like a Dark Elf, she could order the Fire Elf guards to do anything no matter how vile.
They had gone as far as to chase away all the other guards and hand Atra the box of bones, from which she took two.

Scenes of a grave being exhumed

Sanderon said: "And later that night, which was the evening before Beltane, Bess, Atra and Wythllew were out on the graveyard, picking the freshest grave."

He looked up at the other people in the tent.
"And that was the night the cottage went up in flames. I wasn't there when it happened, but I think it happened something like this."

The obvious conclusion and its consequences.

"Corvinus must have gone back to his youngest son's grave with Craig," said Sanderon. "He must have found it empty and drawn the obvious conclusion...."

"The two of them dash to Bess' cottage, where they find Bess finishing the potion. Corvinus, or his son, comes to blows with Bess. In the scuffle, the kitchen catches fire... and the potion is spilled over the Coraxes. Bess then uses the multi-generation Curse on them, that she learned from Wythllew."

The curse takes effect immediately, and turns out to be hereditary.

"The curse stuck to all of Corvinus' offspring," said Sanderon. "Perhaps before washing off the potion, he put his hands on his other children's shoulders, or something like that. He had... at least one more daughter, right?"

"Aunt Revena," said Raven. "And another son after he remarried. The first person born with the curse." Sanderon nodded.

"Excuse me?", said Kel from her bed. "How did we get from that terrible story to your lot poisoning me?"
"Yeah," said Jodoque.

Sanderon asks Raven why the Corbies went after Kel. Raven answers. Zooming in on a portrait of Craig Corby and Ethelfried.

Sanderon had no choice but to agree that that was a good question, perhaps the most important question of the day, and put gentle pressure on Raven to answer it.

She replied: "My father, Nutcracker Corby.... Craig, as you knew him, became a master armorer and siege engineer, married a Saxon Adventurer woman and died a wealthy man. He would sometimes change into a bird, but my mother had seen stranger things in her life. They could cope."

Raven Corby talking; the monks worship Kel; Kel notices stuff.

Raven explained further: "Those of us who were born with the curse had a tougher time. We couldn't fit in. We hid in the forest."

"But some of us could and did find work. My sister and my cousins Mags and Jay work as spies for ... someone at the court.
"A year ago, they came across ... her. And the old witch.

"We figured the old one must have been one of those who caused ... you know. But the younger one saw things that the old one didn't."

Remastered with captions below the comic added on January 30, 2011. This episode suffered visually from removing the original lettering, so that is retained even though the original lettering duplicates the caption content.

ust a bedraggled traveller seeking succour. But if it was suckers you were looking for, it wasn't going to be us. Entry reconstructed on November 27, 2010.

Raven Corby continued: "And then all of a sudden, you show up on our doorstep! Asking for help, no less! Just a bedraggled traveller seeking succour. But if it was suckers you were looking for, it wasn't going to be us. We decided to keep an eye on you! We listened to you talking on that ball thing, and then when you stopped talking, you had fallen asleep. And suddenly, when we checked up on you again, you were gone!

"So we weren't fooled. You had spotted us, tracked us down to our cottage and whatever else you had in mind, it couldn't be good."

Note: this was yet another missing entry that was recently found on my backup disks. It was restored to the archives on November 27, 2010, with new captions as the old captions had vanished from those locations where I was able to find earlier missing entries.
On August 16, 2002, I pre-empted the daily installment to announce that I was moving to Modern Tales which was then being launched as a subscription site, according to The Web Archive. This may have something to do with the disappearance: possibly I never got around to posting the scheduled comic, or I posted it the next day and never copied it over to the Modern Tales archive, picking up the giant archive move with the comic for the Monday afterwards. I don't remember. At least it is now back after eight years.
Note no. 2: and on January 30, 2011, the image was resized for consistency with the other remastered pages here.

Raven speaking; The Corbies watch Kel and Jodoque kiss, Kel and Ragnarok ride off to Leppiainnen's sauna, Kel bathing with Ragnarok and Jodoque. They have an emotional conversation with Ethelfried.

"You were a threat!" said Raven Corby. "So we worked to learn as much about you as we could. And we started working to get you out of our lives!
"We persuaded my mother to go to the bath house to spy on you. When she came back, she was very upset, but she had somehow managed to drive the fat man and the tall woman away from one another-"

Bristling with rage, Ragnarok interrupted Raven.

The green-ballooned monster strikes again.

"That worn-out mattress is your mother?" sneered Ragnarok. Raven Corby counted to ten in her head.
Perhaps unwisely, especially in the light of her own past prior to meeting Jodoque, Kel added fuel to the fire. "That's another thing that runs in the family", she quipped, causing Raven's boiling rage to seethe and bubble to the surface. "Hey!" said Jodoque as Raven growled.

Raven could not take it any more. She was not the kind of person to commit violence on a woman who was ill, but she still pounced in Kel's direction and wagged her finger. "I do not have to take this, OK? Ottar, we're leaving!"

"Yie!", uttered Kel.

Remastering note (January 29, 2011): The remastered version of this episode has both word balloons and captioned text. My policy during this remastering process is to eliminate word balloons in The Corby Tribe as much as possible, and to add captions where none previously existed, so that the format is more consistent than during the original web publication. However, this particular episode suffered visually from the removal of the word balloons, so they have been restored. The captions have been retained for consistency and searchability, even though they duplicate the dialog in the word balloons.

Kel runs out naked after Raven Corby

Still seething inside, Raven marched out of the tent, with faithful Ottar in tow. From her sickbed, Kel watched her leave, as did Jodoque, Sanderon and Ragnarok. But where Sanderon merely pinched the bridge of his nose and Jodoque quickly returned to minding his baby daughter, Kel was gripped by thought.

Ah well. It wouldn't be the first time she had been seen dashing naked through a festival ground while under the influence of a harmful witchy concoction. Surely it wouldn't be the last either, and in any case, the idea that had just gripped her could not wait. She threw off the covers and ran after Raven.