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A note from Skwrepb

This chapter is brought to you by insomnia and a Resident Evil marathon.

It split the sky like a shattered mirror. Lightning. The color of flames, of blood, of metal too hot to touch. The subsequent crash was absolutely cataclysmic. The growl of sound in the dooryard was drowned out. Lucky’s heart jolted, felt like it was still, his breath clogged in his lungs, his ears felt like they had exploded.The ground beneath his feet seemed to tremble. The jagged lightning left fuzzy afterimages on the backs of his eyes.

A second strike crawled across the sky shattering it along different lines. It struck a tall pine tree just on the other side of the wall. The tree lit from within, jagged lines springing to life that raced around it. If the first thunderous roar had been cataclysmic, this one put it to shame. The tree exploded, sending burning splinters of wood in every direction. The sound felt like it had been shredded. A hot wind blew over Lucky’s face, his ears flapping and his fur swept back against his skull.

He couldn’t move.

It felt like his paws had been rooted in place. All of the heavy weight that had settled within him seemed to have dragged him down and locked him in place. The dooryard was nearly empty. It only took seconds for the wind to die again, leaving the scent of charcoal and ozone to burn away at his nose. It was almost painfully sharp.

“Lucky!” Girl yelled from behind and to the left as the wind died. “We have to get inside.”

He turned his head. The move felt so slow, as though an eternity passed between looking toward the devastated tree and turning toward Girl. There was a sensation in his head like tearing as he turned and chimes rang out.

**DA-DING!! You have gained +1 Dangersense!!**

**DA-DING!! You have gained +1 Dangersense!!**

**DA-DING!! You have gained +1 Dangersense!!**

The pain was overwhelming. Girl was standing with her arm outstretched, one foot planted on the ground and the other pushing off as though she were halfway through a step. His fur stood on end. His body moved without conscious control, paws gathering under him, shoulders following his head as he turned. He lunged, gravel kicking up behind his feet. His head went down as he barreled toward Girl. One stride, two. His shoulders lowered for a moment, his body ducking under her. He stood tall, arching up his back and knocking her off her feet. She yelped, arms grasping at his fur as she fell onto his back.

Lucky was a big dog, but he wasn’t big enough for this. Girl was just under five feet tall, maybe a hundred pounds. But Lucky was a ninety pound dog. A ninety pound dog fueled by adrenaline and system-enhanced strength. Even so he nearly stumbled when she fell across his back. His paws scrabbled at the gravel, digging for traction, sliding under the weight. He tried to keep running, but he lost most of his speed. He had made it only a handful of steps, struggling against gravity, when it suddenly felt as if his entire body was drawing him backward, toward the place where his limbs had frozen. He pushed onward, stubbornly struggling to place one foot down after another.

A few more steps and Lucky went down in the gravel of the dooryard. One of Girl’s legs tangled with his as he took another step and he tripped, sprawling them both into the gravel. Girl screamed as she slid across the rough ground, landing in a heap next to a parked car.Lucky’s momentum carried him head over heels, his back scraping along the ground before he landed in a heap next to her. Pain bloomed along his back.

He tried to whine, but the breath was still caught in his chest.

His ears gave him no clear sounds, only an unceasing high pitched whine.

The air around him shuddered and a hot wind washed over him. The heat faded, but the wind remained, blowing across the dooryard with sudden intensity. It howled as it washed over the fence and around the buildings like a tidal wave. With it came the overwhelming scent of ozone and blood. He gasped, breath pouring at last into his starved system. The claws on his right forepaw dug into the gravel as he pulled himself up onto his stomach. His legs were a little shaky as he rose, but he managed to stand. A few steps and he stood over Girl. She was breathing, her eyes were open and wide with fear, but she wasn’t moving.

He threw back his head and grabbed the [Healing Howl]. It clicked eagerly into place and he unleashed the warm howl. “Are you okay, Girl?” He asked, sniffing at her face once he had finished the howl.

“What the heck happened?” She asked, rolling to her back to stare up at the cinder sky.

“Lightning. I think. Blew up a tree, hit the tower.”

“Why were you standing out here?”

Lucky’s brow furrowed and he glanced back toward the sky. “It’s like something is calling me. Do you feel it?”

She still didn’t sit up. It probably wasn’t comfortable laying on her back on the rough gravel of the dooryard, but she stayed, arms spread out to either side, watching the sky. The red lightning continued to dance back and forth across the cloud riddled sky. “Everyone started running for the storm cellar. Everyone, but you. That’s why I came out.”

“Storm is definitely coming.”

She snorted. “Our luck, it’s a tornado.”

He gave a panting laugh. “Don’t jinx us.”

“It’s a little late for that. I’m pretty sure we’re jinxed.”

“Nah, we’re the Lucky ones.”

She gave him a narrow eyed look. “That was terrible.”

“Terribly awesome.” He countered, ducking down to swipe a lick up her right cheek.

She laughed and shoved his face away. Another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, they couldn’t see where it hit though, when the crash of thunder followed the storm broke over their heads. Fat drops of warm rain started falling.

“Feels nice.” She said, closing her eyes and letting the rain wash over her.

“Feels wet.” Lucky said, dropping his head to nose against her cheek. “Inside?”

“In a while.” She said, “I wish we knew what was going on. What is Nalzhur? Why are they here? Why do they want us dead? I have so many questions and no idea how to find the answers.”

He chuffed out a breath and sat on his haunches next to her. “The answers aren’t going to just come to us.” He said. “I think we have to go find them.”

“Yeah, but where do we even go?”

Lucky tilted his head to one side, brows wiggling. “That is an excellent question.” He said. “That I don’t know the answer to.”

Girl held one hand over her face, palm up, to catch the rain as she opened her eyes and looked askance at Lucky. She met his gaze for a long moment before she shook her head. “We need to figure out a way to answer that question. And soon.”

“Soon?” Lucky cocked his head the other way.

“I feel like the longer we let this go on before we know what’s really going on, the harder it’s going to be to get to the bottom of this. I feel like there’s a lot more going on than we’ve even realized yet.” Her eyes closed again and she put her hands behind her head. “You’re the [Favored Chosen of Xerinos], right? And Sugar is the [Favored of Shamyr], right? I’m sure there’s more than two of them. Do you suppose they control the System? They have some influence on it, if nothing else.”

“When I got hit by that car, I heard several voices. I’m not sure how many, but I never saw anything. So I’m positive there are more than two of them. If that was even all of them.” He laid down at her side, letting the fat drops of rain land on his fur. “Whether they control the System or not, do they control the things from Nalzhur?”

“What even are the things from Nalzhur?”

“Another good question.” He answered, resting his head on her stomach.

“There’s so much we don’t know. None of us are soldiers or investigators. None of us have any experience in these kinds of things.”

“Then we’ll have to fake it until we do. It seems like the System reads the intent in your actions and lets that guide your growth. Maybe the System will help us learn what’s going on.” He said.

“Can we trust it though? Can we trust the entities? If they’re behind the System…”

“We can’t really trust anything except our people.”

She heaved a sigh. “We’re going to need more people. Maybe that’s what we should do first, go recruiting.”

“Why?”

“It seems like the Territory levels up when we add more people to our group. If we want more territory upgrades, we should probably recruit more people.”

“I spoke with Rachel today.” He said, “She’s very angry.”

“Her husband died in the Wind.” Girl was quiet for a moment, but Lucky could tell she had more to say, she kept opening her mouth to speak and then closing it. Finally, she said, “He had cancer, he’d been fighting it for a long time. They thought he was finally winning. They were going to celebrate at the end of Summer, when his doctors were satisfied it wasn’t coming back. I can’t imagine how she feels.”

Lucky sighed. “I can imagine it. She’s angry. Very, very angry. Not that I can blame her.”

“I don’t know that there is anything we can do to help her.”

He snorted. “I’m not sure there’s anything we can do for anyone.”

“Oh, don’t be like that Luckadactyl. Stay positive, or we’ll never get anywhere.”

The wind was starting to pick up and Lucky lifted his head, eyes squinting against the wind-driven rain. “It’s a heck of a storm, Girl. I don’t think it’s going to be a tornado though. Just a strong storm.”

“I guess rain is a good thing.” She sang the last few words and Lucky snorted.

A sudden chill ran down Lucky’s back that had nothing to do with the rain. He leapt to his feet, his eyes automatically looking towards the southeastern corner of the fence. “Something’s coming.”

She rose slowly to her feet, one hand resting on Lucky’s head as she looked in the same direction. “What, do you have some kind of spidey sense or something?”

“[Dangersense].”

“I forgot about that one.”

“I think it’s been going off all day. I didn’t realize what it was at first, and then I thought it was the lightning. It’s something else though. Something’s coming.”

“You said that already.” Her voice shook, just a little.

He couldn’t hear anything over the rain, couldn’t see anything past the stone fence. It was out there though, whatever it was.

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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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