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A note from Skwrepb

Short chapter, I need to get sorted. I'm borrowing my friend's toddler tomorrow so mine has someone to play with and I can get some work done.

That's my parenting advice. Friends make it easier! (The kids' friends, not mine.)

Dawn crested the horizon in a blaze of floral hues. Lucky, seated on the verge of the highway, watched it. His body ached and his eyes burned. Fatigue weighed heavily on his shoulders. Girl should be back in the Big House, sleeping soundly, but sleep had evaded Lucky. The cloud cover was spotty with rays of light shining through here and there, but he stared without truly seeing.

Lobo is wrong! People are good at heart, all of them. Aren’t they? Why is he being so weird?

They had been friends for such a very long time, but ever since the end came and the System initialized, he’d been acting strange. Why hadn’t he had a conversation with him? Figured out what was wrong?

He heaved a heavy sigh and shifted his back legs, curling his tail tighter around them. His fluffy fur waved in the gentle breeze and his ears twitched as the birds started their chorus. Had he failed his friend? A soft whine escaped him.

Don’t worry about yesterday’s treat. He reminded himself. The big dog climbed to his feet and shook out his long fur. A frustrated growl rumbled deep in his chest. I can’t use that anymore. I need to worry about tomorrow’s treat. Tomorrow’s treat may be even more important than today’s. He chuffed out a breath and shook himself again. For now, I will let the future worry about itself.

He was thirsty and more than a little hungry, but he wasn’t ready for company yet so he just went for the creek. The water was cold and clear, minnows fled his paws as he stepped in. As he trotted back toward his observation point, a strange scent teased his nose. There was a hint of cleaned sun-warmed fur, overridden by a tarry stench, and highlighted by the smell of overcooked steak.

He lifted his nose, drawing a deep breath through his open mouth, letting the scent play over his tongue as well as the scent receptors in his nose. It wasn’t a close smell, he put his nose to the ground, or at least not close anymore. He sniffed the ground trying to find a source. He still had his nose to the ground, trying to trace the scent, when Girl came running down the drive.

“Where have you been? I was so worried when you weren’t there when I woke up.” She said as she ran up to his side.

“I’ve been out here since you fell asleep.”

“I fell asleep and you just left?”

Lucky looked at her from under his brows, his shoulders rounded with shame. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t sleep.”

“Is this about what Lobo said? I couldn’t understand a lot of it.”

He leaned against her leg and her fingers tangled in the fur of his neck. “I’m not sure what anything he said really meant. I’m not sure what he wants me to do.”

“Why does it matter what he wants you to do?”

Lucky’s voice held a hint of a whine. “I feel like he knows something I don’t. Like he knows what’s coming.”

“What do you think is coming?”

“I think there will be more attacks.” He rubbed his cheek against her leg. “I think they will get stronger and there will be less time between them.”

Girl was silent for a while, thoughtful. “Like tower defense games.”

Lucky’s ears flicked back and then forward. “Tower defense?”

“Yeah, it’s a base building game, sort of. You build walls and towers and protect your base against enemies. They get stronger and faster and you have to build bigger guns.” She scratched behind Lucky’s ears as she spoke.

“Don’t you have people you can send out too?”

“No. Not in tower defense games.”

“It sounds like that might be an easier way to defeat the enemies. You go and hit them where it hurts.”

She was quiet for a long time. “Did you eat breakfast?”

“Not yet. I’m not really hungry. Something isn’t sitting right.”

“Like you ate something bad or something else?”

“Something else. I feel like there’s a rock sitting in my guts.”

“I’m worried too. We don’t have any idea what’s coming.”

“Something is definitely coming.”

Girl made a humming noise in the back of her throat and her brows drew together as she looked toward the highway that led to the city. “What do you think we should do?”

“I guess if this is like tower defense, we ought to build the best defense that we can.” He shook his head as he thought it over. The human gesture seemed to be rubbing off on him. “That doesn’t make sense.”

For a few moments, she looked thoughtful. Her stomach loudly protested its emptiness and she couldn’t help but smile. “Let’s go get breakfast. Or at least come with me while I do.”

“All right.” Lucky said and he let her guide him back to the Big House.

 

After breakfast, the morning was a bustle of activity. They finished building the first two towers that would overlook the stone fence. Groups of coyotes were patrolling the border, as they had promised. Most of the dogs were trying to learn how to work together in groups. The chaos of the previous day’s battle had exposed weaknesses and no one wanted to keep them.

Lucky watched over them, laying on the porch while Girl worked with Man in the house. He still felt as though there was a rock in his stomach. Something was wrong. He was missing something. A frustrated growl rumbled in his chest and he rose to his feet, ears flat against his head. He jumped down the stairs and stalked toward the gate that led toward the Hunting Camp. He couldn’t just sit. Not anymore.

His paws were heavy and slow as made his way down the winding path. The wood seemed close around him, as though they were leaning in over him. His paws hit the ground, each one felt like an earthquake pounding through his system. It felt like they were rolling through his heart and coming to rest with physical weight along with the rock in his guts. Each step added weight.

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A note from Skwrepb

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

I'd also like to take the space to thank my Patreon supporters!

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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