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A note from Skwrepb

Thank you, as always, for reading! We're climbing up in the rankings. Today, we were all the way up to #1826. I could not be prouder or more grateful for you guys. I'm not sure what affects the rankings, but I'm so freaking excited that people are LIKING my little story.

The fox chose to den in an old dog house behind the red barn. Fading white paint peeled away from the rough boards. Lucky dragged an old stable blanket from the red barn to the den so Ro and the little kit would have a safe, warm place to stay. Once he had her settled, he did a quick loop of the area around the dooryard and the Hunting Camp, checking for any sign of trouble. Lucky’s long, groundeating stride made quick work of his patrol and the big dog thought the area seemed safe enough for now.

He still had that tingle in the back of his mind that warned of danger coming, but he couldn’t pinpoint anything that he could act upon. Of course the dangers of the End were out there and whether they were coming at them now or not, they would come eventually. Hopefully, those he cared about would be well protected.

He was dozing in a soft patch of well turned soil just on the edge of Gran’s vegetable garden, when he heard the convoy of vehicles approaching. His ears perked up first before he even lifted his head, but his eyes were opened by the time anyone else heard the vehicles coming. The crunch of gravel under heavy tires tugged at his ears, but another sound caught his attention. It was a low droning whirr. He barked sharply and leapt to his feet. The convoy was coming faster than was necessarily safe on the gravel. Other dogs started filtering into the dooryard, joining their voices in a cacophony of barking.

“Be ready to move quickly,” Lucky barked. “They’re almost here.”

“There were two paws worth of cars when they left, but I hear at least three now.” Intrepid barked.

“I can smell blood!” Axel’s voice rose from near the highway.

A woman stormed out of the treeline after less than a minute of barking. Her hair, the color of ripe wheat, was tied back from her head with a cat-toy and the lines of her sharp-featured face were set in what felt like fury. “Knock that off!” She yelled, over the din.

A couple of the dogs stopped mid-sentence, updating the group with their information. Quigley’s hackles rose and he subtly put himself between the woman and all the other dogs.

“Into the treeline everyone!” Lucky’s bark was thunderous and the woman turned toward him, her mouth dropping open as he sprinted toward her. “Back into the treeline.” He called to her, switching to English as his paws pounded at the earth. “Incoming!” He called even more loudly, hoping that all the people on the farm would hear his warning.

The woman stumbled back as Lucky skidded to a halt inches from her legs. She didn’t give way though, did not retreat into the treeline. Lucky barked again, “Stay behind the trees until the cars stop moving!”

We need to figure out what’s going on and I don’t think we’ll have much time. He thought as he turned to face the drive. The woman behind him didn’t seem to understand what was coming. He watched the first vehicle almost drift around the corner from the highway onto the gravel lane. It’s back end wagged like the frenetic tail of a puppy for a moment before straightening, kicking up a grey cloud and a spray of gravel. Two more low slung crossovers made the quick turn as the first car lurched to a stop as far into the yard as it could get without hitting a tree.

They’re running from something.

Two people slammed out of the first car, engine still running, and scrambled for the house. One of them, a young man, tripped up the stairs. Even as the second set of cars came to a stop, more poured into the drive. One after another after another. Eight cars, nine, ten. It was the thirteenth vehicle, the Sprinter van, where tragedy struck. Perfect for carrying a load of just about anything, the Sprinter was made to haul. What it wasn’t made to do was haul butt. As someone steered the van around the tight corner, the top tilted dangerously, hovering on two wheels as it almost completed the turn. That droning whirr of sound was getting louder, but Lucky couldn’t take his eyes off the silver van as it toppled over on its side. The crash was titanic, but the momentum of the vehicle carried it onward. Sliding along one side, gravel flying, the Sprinter was coming straight for him and the Angry Lady.

Time seemed to slow as Lucky turned as quickly as his legs would carry him. His body tensed as he threw himself into motion. He slammed into her, throwing her out of the path of the skidding van. Throwing her out of the path, but putting himself directly in it.

Speed had bled from the van as it traveled across the dooryard, but not nearly enough. Loaded with supplies, heavily burdened and heavy to begin with, it was like a meteor blazing a path. Angry Lady was airborne, launched by a [Body Slam] from Lucky His forelegs came off the ground, hindlegs launching him powerfully into motion. For a moment, he was suspended. His right front paw touched the ground, toes digging in.

Suddenly he too was flying. It was like a brand, burning into his flank. The yelp that escaped him was almost as sharp as the agony that raced through him like lightning. His right foreleg crumpled beneath him with a snap like a dry twig. That right shoulder was the first to hit the ground and Lucky rolled head over tail before going skidding along the gravel. He heard the Angry Lady land, over near the treeline in some grasses. She screamed.

He came to a halt, on his left side, head pointed toward the drive. The van crashed into a tall tree and came to a steaming, screaming halt. A final vehicle, the length of a package truck with a narrow body and strange wide wings, hovered into view. That gleaming black vehicle was the last thing Lucky saw.

 

<<Pretend for a moment that I’m a great writer and I posted this chapter at the tail end of the last one. Pretend that I left you hanging for two whole days waiting to see what happened with Lucky. I couldn’t do that to you guys, so here’s the conclusion to the cliffhanger!>>

 

He was floating in downy soft fur, wrapped in a familiar scent. There was darkness all around him, warm darkness that seemed to sway in a slow and gentle way. Like an unoccupied swing pushed along by a gentle spring breeze. He would swear he could almost hear the creak of spent barings. Over that soft sound, Lucky heard voices. He opened his eyes, but saw only darkness.

“You should have seen him, kid. He didn’t even hesitate.”

“Not exactly something to be proud of, no?”

“Balderdash. Your champion would have run the other way, you’re just jealous.”

“Heck I am.”

“Did you see what’s coming next?”

“Not a slug’s chance in a salt mine that they'll make it without him.”

“Why would they have to?”

“Because those are the rules.”

“Rules?”

“Yes, rules! The rules. One champion each. Your champion didn’t last.”

“Oh, he’ll last.”

“Look, even here his spirit fights.”

“He was hit by a truck. He won’t last. Look, it’s coming for his people now. Let’s watch.”

The voices faded and Lucky was left with only that playground creak. Open or closed all he could see was darkness. Lucky stirred, rolling up so he could climb onto his feet. It was agony. The downy softness he had been floating in vanished, the darkness grew reddened around the edges. He could feel things shift in his limbs that shouldn’t. He got his paws under him, all four, trembling as three of them screamed in protest. He stood, body quivering like struck gelatin.

Wind stirred his fur, ruffling through the long, multicolored strands and washing over him like the warmth of a heater vent on fur dusted with snow.

“There you are, Favored Chosen of Xerinos.”

The words swept like ice through Lucky’s trembling body, bringing stronger shudders that played his agonized nerves like a poorly tuned violin. Lucky grit his teeth and braced himself against the wind. He tried to speak, but no sound left his muzzle.

“Your flock waits for you, my friend. It is time you went back to them.”

The blazing red in the corners of his vision overwhelmed Lucky for a moment, before it was drowned in a brilliant blue that swept up and over him, washing his consciousness away in its wake.

 

**DA-DING!! You have acquired the special skill Never Gonna Keep You Down!!**

The sky-voice echoed in his head as his eyes flickered open. Lucky was on his side, in the gravel, staring at the approach of the strange fan-winged hovering vehicle. He rolled to his feet, moving slowly, expecting pain. His paws settled in the rough gravel of the dooryard, he stood straight and tall, the faintest wind blowing through his fur.

 

Never Gonna Keep You Down

Special Class Skill

 

He checked the skill and found the normal message missing. The sky-color of the skill seemed to blaze in his mind. He threw back his head and unleashed an [Intimidating Howl]. The sound of it seemed to bound and rebound off the trees and buildings, reverberating through the dooryard. He could feel the sound beating through him like a drum.

**DA-DING!! You have gained +1 Intimidating Howl!!

The whirring hovercraft stopped moving forward, seeming to tremble in place for a moment. The swell of the howl reached a crescendo and broke over the hovercraft. It stayed for a moment, floating forward a few inches before spinning in place and whirring back down the drive.

Lucky watched for only a moment before he bounded over toward the crashed van. [Healing Howl] burst from his mouth with almost the same intensity as the first one. Only a few moments had passed, the airbags were still deflating. Man was driving the van, still latched into the seatbelt. Lucky bounded up onto the top of the van, the passenger’s side, really. “Girl!” He yelled. He tried to paw the door open, but even with his escape artist trait, he couldn’t finagle it open. “Someone get up here!” He called out. “Man’s in the van.”

It was Angry Lady who crawled up onto the top of the van and opened the door. “I’ll go in, Lucky.” She said, her voice calming. “It’ll be easier for me to help him.”

The big dog whined, pacing along the passenger’s side of the van as she slipped into the cabin. “Callum,” Her voice was softer as she leaned over Man in the driver’s seat.

Man’s voice is a subdued murmur, but it sounds clear enough. Angry Lady turns to look over her shoulder at Lucky. “He’s alright. Once we have a couple more people, we’ll get him moving. He’s alert and oriented. I think your healing ability has closed up whatever injuries he may have had.”

Lucky heaved a sigh of relief and looked over the dooryard. No one else was injured. The big dog looked up and took a deep breath, closing his eyes. He sent a silent thanks to the sky-voice and vowed to never send the people out without canine guards again.

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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.

 


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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.

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