The court of the dogs met in a pack, in a circle in woods at the edge of the world where the night falls off into distances of infinite wild smells: pine, and water ever-running, and that sharp unshadowy tang of borders unbraided. There were huskies pale-eyed, and tall stern poodles, and German shepherds, and other dogs besides, including a beagle with his tricolor coat. Although the velvet blackness was pierced through with stars and stirred with luminous nebular drifts, there was no moon.

The beagle bayed at the absent moon, once and twice and thrice, and the other dogs took up the chorus. The first time no moon rode to silver the woods, nor the second, nor the third. Crickets quieted; frogs went silent. They knew.

“There’s no question,” said one of the German shepherds. “She’s slipped her leash one time too many.”

“She has to face the consequences, then,” the beagle returned. He had a quiet voice, but they heeded it well, in the court of the dogs. “She can’t claim ignorance, and it’s no excuse anyway.”

The dogs didn’t fear the dark, which wasn’t absolute in any case. They knew what it was to hunt for mice and voles and sleek fast rabbits in the woods; they knew what it was to follow scent-trails like smoke-knit puzzles. But the moon was the crown of the hunt, in her way. It was not proper for her to miss her allotted days in the sky.

“Summon her for the sentencing, then,” said a small fierce corgi, head craned back as far as it would go to peer up into the sky’s forever depths.

The beagle bared his teeth, although it was clear that it wasn’t the corgi bitch he was irritated with. “Summoning it is, then,” he said. He bayed again, and the chorus of the court of the dogs resounded through the void with its empty expanses, its glimmer of constellations.

Faraway, the moon heard the summons, and was chastened. She rode back upon feet of wind and winter and smoke-ghost longings, of hunters’ oaths and lovers’ cries, of the crisp last curls of nighttide. She came before them a hind of white and gray, of mist-colored eyes.

“You’ve neglected your duties,” the beagle said to her. “Do you have any defense to offer?”

The moon moved restlessly upon her hooves, leaving a scent-trail of violet shores, the violence of colliding stars, the dead devouring knots deep in the hearts of galaxies where everything went to be stretched dead. “Nothing,” she said, “except that I wanted to see–” The longing in her voice was unmistakable. “–I wanted to run the way prey runs, and see the way prey sees, in this universe where everything from entropy to the everywhere hand of gravity is a predator.”

“You’re right,” the beagle said, and his voice might have been a little gentler. “It’s not a defense. But it is a reason. And perhaps we’ve leashed you too tightly. It’s not much of a hunt, after all, if only the hunter can run.”

From then on, they kept the moon leashed, but gave her a span of darkness to run in, so that she could weave in and out of the month, chased–but not only caught–by the dogs at their hunt.

For CO. Prompt: law; dogs (beagle).

Although I’d get a cat if I were to get a pet, I do like dogs.  It’s just that I wouldn’t have the energy to keep up with one.

Also, little-known fact: I technically have a New York state bowhunter’s license and I was taught the theory of how to hunt a deer.  In real life, I doubt I’d manage to get near one even if I tried.