Advertisement
Remove

A note from Skwrepb

A bit of a cliffhanger on this one, sorry!

 

Girl and Gran went inside to continue working on the evening meal. Feeding so many people was going to be increasingly important as the End continued. It was Lady who called all the dogs over. Once they were all sitting or laying before her, looking up at her with varying degrees of interest, she looked down at Lucky. “How shall we go about this?” She asked.

Lucky glanced over the other dogs and then tilted his head as he returned his attention to Lady, meeting her pale eyes. “Maybe we could work with some sort of cards or something and practice reading and speaking English at the same time. You can say the English word and show them the card and I’ll say it so they understand. It didn’t take me long to pick up the language, but I think there was something hinky with that. Maybe being Chosen helped me. Otherwise, they’d all have the language already.”

“That could make it harder.” Lady conceded. “You don’t suppose they aren’t able to learn it?”

Lucky’s ears drooped at the thought. “I hope not. That wouldn’t be heckin’ fair. If they can’t read the System, they can’t really use it.”

“That’s a fair point.” Lady said. “Well. Let’s get started with some words while I draw up the letters. Maybe we should focus on recognizing those first.” The hand that gripped the black pen was stiff with arthritis, but Lady made no complaint as she carefully penned capital letters.

Lucky discovered that teaching dogs to read was tedious work. They spent the entire afternoon going over letters and words, with Lucky acting as translator between the two. In all that time, not a single dog picked up the language, though most of them were making good progress recognizing letters and words in English.

After training, the dogs dispersed and Lucky went inside to find Girl. She was shaping loaves of bread and setting them in prepared bread pans. The kitchen seemed almost like an assembly line with bread in various stages of completion and several large pots filled with a thick and creamy chicken soup. Lucky settled down on his haunches near the breakfast nook and out of the way of everyone.

“Teaching is harder than I thought it would be.”

“You’re not kidding.” Girl said, glancing over her shoulder with a smile. “Learning isn’t easy either. Gran is trying to teach me how to bake bread properly. It’s a process.”

“I finished marking the boundaries of the territory this morning. There’s a new section on my attribute screen.” He pulled up the screen so he could fully describe it to her.

 

Lucky Lachlan

Primary Class:

Howling Shepherd of the Flock

2

710

Miscellaneous Canine

Secondary Class:

None

--

--

Attributes

Base Resistances

Territory

Strength

29

Physical

24.725

Granny Lachlan's Farm

Endurance

31.9

Magical

21.98

Claimed

100%

Dexterity

20

Mental

18.25

Rank

1

Reaction

18

Enchantment

23.67

Citizens

48/50

Intelligence

14

Wisdom

15

Special Resistances

Willpower

26

None

Charisma

30

 

“I’m not sure if 48/50 means it can’t hold more than 50 or that the next rank comes after 50. Or maybe something else entirely. Nothing shimmies when I look at it, so I can’t drill down any deeper into territory yet.”

“It seems like the System is doling out information in bits and pieces.” Gran said from her spot at the counter kneading a ball of stiff dough. “Though I suppose it’s not like any of this comes with an operator’s manual.” She blew a stray strand of hair out of her face and smiled over at the dog. “I’ve got [Cooking] at 3 and [Baking] at 4 already.”

Lucky’s eyes widened. “Wow, I don’t have any skills at 4 yet. My highest are both 3, [Scent] and [Parkour].”

“Yeah, but you have a ton of skills.” Girl said. “I only have a few.”

“What do you have?”

“[Cooking] 1, [Baking] 2, and [Persuasion] 2.” Girl said.

“That’s pretty good, Issa.” Gran said. “You should try to get a nice broad swath of skills like Lucky did, maybe it will influence your classes when you get that far.”

The dog hummed a bit, considering the possibilities. “We really should see if we can guide people toward roles we need.”

“What roles do you think we need, Lucky?” Gran asked.

“I think we need hunters and farmers to keep our food supply going once we run out of preserved foods. I think we need scouts and guards to keep our borders safe and find others that survive the End to bring back. I think we need a leadership council, or just a leader, to make decisions and judgements. I think we need a mechanic and an engineer. A healer or doctor would be great. I have [Healing Howl], but I don’t think it’s enough. It heals over time, but major wounds will just be too much for it.”

“Those are all sound suggestions.” Gran’s smile was proud. “I think you’re missing a carpenter and perhaps an architect or something. We have plenty of land to support quite a few people, but we don’t have enough homes. The bunkhouse is fine for a little while, but before long those people are going to grate on each other. Beyond that, there’s the possibility that we might eventually have to claim more land. You seem fairly determined to gather up as many survivors as you can.”

“It’s a terrible thing to know you can do better for someone and then not to.” Lucky said.

“If only all of humanity thought the same as you, Lucky.” Gran said.

“You’re a good dog, Lucky.” Girl said, “A good dog.”

Lucky’s tail wagged happily as he watched the two work. “Thanks.” He would have blushed if he were human, but dogs have no sense of such things. “What about you two, what roles didn’t I mention that you think are important?”

“I think we need a scribe. Someone to keep track of events and to copy down what we learn about the System. If this really is the End…” She trailed off, hands methodically working the dough as she thought about the possibilities. “If we can survive the End we may be able to earn a new Beginning. We should make sure we’re able to pass down what we know.”

“Good point, Gran.” Girl said, setting the last loaf she had into a bread pan and leaving it to rise. “I don’t think we should just consider humanity.” She began. “I mean, Lucky can talk to anything. We should recruit every living thing we can. The animals fled before those things last night, surely they can be persuaded to fight against them at our sides.”

Lucky’s brow furrowed and he lifted his right hind leg to scratch at the itchy skin under his collar. “You’re definitely not wrong. I’ll see what I can do. I haven’t scented any big predators around here.” He tilted his head sharply to one side so he could scratch gently at his chin. “I think after we have our discussion tomorrow, we should see who we can gather as scouts and do a thorough survey of our territory and what’s directly adjacent. The better we know our surroundings, the more easily we can defend them.”

“Mr. Hardison and the others should be back by dinner time and they can tell us what the city is like and whether we can afford to go on more supply runs. The more supplies we can bring in, the better off we’ll be in the long term.” Gran said.

“Are you really okay with all these people invading your farm?” Girl asked.

“Oh, Issa, I’m happier than you know.” The older woman said, “I’ve been lonely since your Grampy passed. It’s nice to have the bustle about. Now Lucky, what can you tell me about the dogs that are staying in the house with us?”

“Quigley, that’s the black and white one, he’s a stray. He’s been around the neighborhood for years now. He’s a good dog. When I caught scent of him while we were gathering the people, I asked Girl if we could bring him with us. He had others with him. Axel, the big one, he’s another stray. From what he said it sounds like he had a bad person and left them behind.” Lucky’s ears flickered back and forth as he spoke. The idea of bad people made his heart hurt. “He says he’s not much of a people dog, but we’ll see if now that he’s around good people that doesn’t change. The rest of them had people before the winds came and they lost them.”

“That’s a terrible thing. Losing someone you love.” Gran said. Her eyes were shining a bit as Lucky met them. The dog couldn’t help but hope that he’d never have to experience that loss. He climbed to his feet and padded over to Gran’s side, leaning against her and offering comfort. She smiled down at him, her eyes still shining. “You're such a good dog.” She said, “Such a good dog.”

Lucky’s tail wagged happily and he snuggled up against her leg for another moment. “I had better go show the dogs the rest of the territory and see what we can sniff up.” He said at last. “There’s so much to accomplish and I don’t know how much time we have before we’re attacked again.”

“Hopefully at least a few days.” Gran said.

“Hopefully.” Girl echoed.

 

Lucky trotted down the steps and lifted his head to do another [Healing Howl]. This one, though, served two purposes as he called for all the dogs to meet him at the bridge over the creek. He trotted in that direction as he felt the warmth of the howl flow through him, easing the last of the stiffness out of his muscles. The other dogs were moving more easily as well. Lucky waited until they were all there.

“Alright. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and I’d like to be back well before dinner so we can all catch an afternoon nap.” He started loping north along the west bank of the creek. “Remember, once we get to where the creek heads east, we follow the signposts west along the northern border of our territory. I marked it all this morning and you all should mark where you feel comfortable. This is our land.”

“Isn’t it your land, Lucky?” Axel asked gruffly as he loped along in the center of the creek. “You’ve claimed the territory, right?”

The multicolored dog chuffed out a breath. “I claimed it, yes. Someone had to, but I claimed it for us. For the people and all of us. You’re my pack. It’s our land. Gran’s land, really. If you want to talk about human levels of ownership. I guess according to the system it’s mine.” He chuffed out another breath. “It’s complicated, I suppose.”

“Simple enough. It’s yours and we live here by your leave.” Norman said. “You’re our leader.”

Lucky’s paws fell out of rhythm and it was a moment before he got it back. “I’m not a leader.”

Axel snorted. “You are. Want to be or not, you’ve gathered up nearly a dozen dogs and led us to this place. You’re our leader.”

“I didn’t mean to lead.” Lucky admitted. “I just want everyone to be safe.”

“You were chosen,” Lobo said. “It makes sense that you’d be leading us. Something chose you for a reason.”

“I’m no more special than any of you.” Lucky protested. “I’m just a dog.”

Panting laughs broke out all around him, but no one bothered to respond to his protest. It wasn’t long before they reached the northern border of the farm and turned left to follow the line of signs westward.

“There’s a maple grove and a sap shack in the northwest corner of the farm. You can smell the syrup even when it isn’t active. It’s a good way to know when you’ve reached the border. The maple grove is entirely on the farm and it’s all pines to the north, so if you go past the sweet maples into the pines, you’re too far.” He stopped talking about boundaries for a moment and switched to English, pointing out things like the creek and different kinds of trees and brush. It was an excellent way to expose the dogs to more English words.

They were just entering the maple grove when the voice spoke to him.

**DA-DING!! You have taught Vinny Pidgin English!! You have gained 10 experience and gained the trait Linguist!!**

**DA-DING!! You have taught Axel Pidgin English!! You have gained 10 experience!!**

The voice continued speaking in his ear, but he didn’t pay quite as much attention as he looked into his new trait.

 

Linguist

You have made a habit of both learning and teaching languages.

Students who learn a language from you have a faster rate of acquisition.

 

“I got it!” Allegro barked happily. “Pidgin English.” A chorus of barks answered her.

“That’s great!” Lucky answered with a happy bark. “When we get back we’ll explore some of your screens. If only we could show them to each other directly.”

“Some of the people said that maybe we shouldn’t share the information on them.” Intrepid sounded hesitant.

Lucky’s brow furrowed. “People don’t always trust each other, but I trust you guys. I’d show you all my screens if I could.”

They came out of the maple grove to the west onto a wild prairie that rolled away from them indefinitely. Lucky turned to face north west, more north than west and scanned the horizon. “There,” He said at last. “Do you see Grandfather Oak?”

The dogs followed his gaze to an impressively large tree. It was easily as tall as an eight storey building and nearly as wide if you laid it on its side. “That tree is Gran’s. It’s impossible to mark the exact border on the Prairie, because it borders nothing so there’s no fence, but I reckon it’s straight from here to Grandfather Oak.”

The dogs spread out in a fan, loping toward the massive oak and enjoying all the wild scents of the open Prairie. A bright scent, tainted with the metallic tang of blood, caught Lucky’s nose about halfway to the tree. “There’s something at the tree.” He said. “And it’s injured.” He thought for a moment before adding. “Wait here. I’ll check it out.”

He kept his pace to an easy lope, not trying to be quiet. He didn’t want to startle whatever injured thing that was waiting under the tree.

Advertisement
A note from Skwrepb

Thank you so much to Kieran Pierce for the absolutely wonderful cover.

Please take a moment to rate or review! For those of you that have, thank you very much! I've been enjoying the heck out of writing this story and I'm grateful that you are enjoying reading it.

If you want to get a better idea of Lucky's looks, check the spoiler.

Lucky is based on three dogs that I've loved throughout my lifetime.

His coloration comes from Patches, an Australian Shepherd.

His eyes, ears, and tail come from Stormy, a siberian husky/german shepherd mix. (Though one of his ears has fallen and looks like Patches'.)

The final dog, Prince, I don't have a photo of because it was a very long time ago, but he was a Great Pyrenees. I found a good picture on this site . I don't own the image, but here's where Lucky gets his fluffy coat and large size.

Large white dog on a snowy field.

 


Support "The Dog at the End of the World"

About the author

Skwrepb

  • Iowa

Bio: Hi! My name is Skwrepb (pronounced Jen, I swear). I'm a stay at home mother of three with not enough time on my hands. I've been writing since I could hold a pen and I have so many stories to tell!
I'm an avid reader and The Wandering Inn is what brought me to Royal Road. I have been devouring stories here ever since.

Achievements
Comments(16)
Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In