Lookie, a story published while the sun is still out! At least in my corner of the universe. Today’s word prompts are from the husband, and features him and the pups.
May 4, 2015
Word prompts: Tripod, Squeak, Yellow
‘Don’t get distracted.’ I kept picking my way through the thicket, leather armor getting scratched from thorns. Talulah wasn’t far from me and, at my admonishment, began moving again. We emerged from the wide forest barrier. I picked a couple of burrs off my vest while Talulah shook her head, long ears flapping loudly in the quiet.
‘I smell her. She’s not far.’
‘What about him?’
‘No. Her smell is too strong.’
I nodded at the dog’s words and we started into the forest. Dim puddles of light dotted the ground. The forest canopy was thick with age, making the sun struggle to cast its rays through it.
As I climbed over a fallen tree, I reflected at how my wife would probably kill me once she discovered we’d gone. We don’t take the dog on a hunt by ourselves. Never have. It was agreed upon when we received her from the village council. Sharing thoughts with a canine was rare enough, but when it was discovered that we both heard Talulah, and she us, it became clear that she was meant to be part of our family. So why was I out hunting a dragon without my wife?
The tripod was an Australian Shepherd who was found wandering near the village one day. His front right leg broken, mangled and bleeding, we took him in after his surgery. We provided a safe, comfortable place for him to recover, and ended up keeping the pup they’d named Bo after he and Talulah became inseparable.
Bo wasn’t a hunter like Talulah. A mixed breed of Boxer and Hound, she had a keen ability to track and a love of doing it. He loved to herd though: Talulah, our cats, people, and especially my wife every time she wanted to leave our cottage.
That morning, the dragon my wife and I had been hunting for over a month flew over the village. Bo, who happened to be outside, jumped the split-rail fence in his excitement to follow, which brings us ‘round to why the boxer and I were traipsing through the forest.
Soon, I could smell it. Sulfur and ash. The dragon wouldn’t be far.
I halted watching Talulah’s trotting figure disappear among the trees. A minute or two passed and I realized that all I could hear were the sounds of my breathing and the creaking of my armor as I shifted. “Damn it, Lu,” I said softly, and started in the direction I last saw her.
I saw the imprint of her paws in the dirt, followed until I emerged into a sun-filled clearing. Everything was gone. Burned away. The edges of the clearing charred and blackened. An enormous rock face rose opposite, and I could make out a cave entrance.
‘Talulah! Where are you?’
Nothing. I closed my eyes and concentrated, trying to feel past my growing desperation. I caught a glimmer of her rapid heartbeat and breathing, and took off toward the cave. I almost made it to the first tiny mountains of rocks when a set of teeth caught my forearm and yanked me off-balance. I tumbled to the ground and rolled on my back, my weapon digging into my spine, while Talulah pounced atop my chest.
‘Quiet. She’s in there.’
‘You didn’t have to knock me down.’
‘You were running like a maniac. Sorry.’ She gave my face several licks before hopping off of me.
I got to my feet, and patted her back before unsheathing my sword. I looked down at my loyal companion. ‘Ready?’
She snapped her jaw in a near silent gesture and we headed to the cave. We did not get far. Both of us stopped ten feet from the mouth, staring at the sleeping dragon. She was curled up, dark yellow scales glistening in the light. It took me a minute to realize something was moving beneath her translucent wing—dragonlings. Three of them.
‘We should go.’ Talulah nudged my hand with her wet nose.
I started to take a step back when I heard it. The unmistakable pattern of Bo’s three-legged gallop. He came from my right, and slid to a stop right in front of the dragon’s nose.
“Bo! Come here!” I hissed, forgetting to project my thoughts. The dog turned his head toward me, and I could see red sticking out from both sides of his mouth. ‘Don’t you dare, don’t you dare, young man!’
He let out a yip and worked his jaw around the leather bladder that served as a toy. The air hissed out before he let up, allowing it to inflate, and then he bit down. Squeak. Squeesqueesqueeeaaak. The sound woke all three babies. They started chirping, and worked their way out from beneath their mother’s protective wing. Bo started chomping on the bladder again, excited at the sight of the baby dragons, and he dropped it as the dragon shifted and opened one deep, jewel-green eye. Bo barked at her. The high-pitched shepherd bark resounded through the clearing. She grunted in reply and raised her head a fraction to stare at Talulah and me.
‘Your mother is going to kill us all if we get out of this alive.’
‘Yep.’ Talulah pressed her side against my leg, and I could feel her body tensing, ready to spring.
Bo let out another short bark. He darted forward, licked the dragon’s nose before bouncing away to land among her children.
The dragon let out a long, stinking sigh, and went back to sleep.