TEVERIUS - Gifted Demon Dogs
Northern Netherwood, Netherlands (Exiled for a decade)
Serdephe giggled raucously, gripping fur at his shoulders while his heavy paws crossed an extreme amount of ground. He huffed as he loped through trees, leaping logs.
He was careful to appear black and brown. He slowed to check on her. Tossing his head twice, he stopped. Remember to hold on.
She knew the words he so often told her.
I’m forever warning her to be careful.
“I am remembering.” She said in a solemn voice knowing the wolf’s look she met it, peering over his shoulder.
He rumbled in his throat.
“I am holding on! I am being careful!” She slammed down her makeshift staff, a long stick adorned in leaves and flowers they’d made. To make her feel she rules these woods.
It helped her get over the fears she’d had after the night she’d nearly become Sarabi food.
Shaking his fur, he jumped into motion again, hearing her squawk.
She gripped his neck so hard his breaths turned to rasps. “Oh, I love you, My Wolf! When I’m grown, I shall have dogs big as you!”
Dogs as big as me? The words echoed in Tev’s mind as he returned to his lair. A ramshackle hut constructed in a massive tree. Windowed on all sides so he could hear or smell anything intending to sneak up on him.
After crossing the broad deck, he pushed the door open. Forced to dislodge a large ugly beast lounging on the dirt floor with the door. He stepped over it. Always blocking it.
“Groomsman. Must you sleep directly before the door?”
He lifted its fanged head and met Tev’s look in answer.
“Driver.” He patted his leg. The bigger animal climbed from the fur rug before the fire and loped to Tev’s side. Tev looked around and quickly spotted the other four boys. Pitch, Slate, Gray and Bleak.
None of them beauties to look at. Had he not known better, he himself might’ve thought they were Cimmerii. Still belonging to Radix.
But not these.
“Come Beasts.” A jerk of his chin had him leading them from the cottage. Shocking even himself. It had taken him decades to train them.
Still, she needs them more than I. If she’s going to survive in the Netherlands.
He left them at her door. When she opened it and saw them, she shrieked and fled back in the shack. Calling to the crone.
He was drawn from his hiding place to join them on her stoop. Laughing uproariously.
Of course, she’d be scared.
They are rough to look at. The fur coating them looking more like dense vines wound so tightly it was nearly armor.
“Serdephe. Serdephe!” He called softly.
“My Wolf, is that you?” She cracked the door. One turquoise eye peering out.
“Yes.” He whispered. “Did you wake her?”
The old crone.
“No. I tried. But she sleeps like the dead.” Serdephe frowned. “Wh-what are these?”
“They’re Demon Dogs. Vicious hounds for hunting.”
“Are…they going to…eat me?”
Of course not!
“No.” He laughed softly. “They’ll protect you…If you love them.”
“Can they be loved?” She eyed them askance.
As much as anyone.
“Surely!” He patted the back of one. Nearly level with his chest. “Any animal is as good as you raise it. These have been trained for decades. They’re good beasties.”
Serdephe glanced over her shoulder furtively before whispering. “She’ll never let me keep them.”
“There’s no need.” He whispered back. “They’ll await you in the woods. Long as they can find food they’ll always return here. And when they’re out nibbling on rabbits or squirrels or in hiding, they can look different.” His voice lowered.
“Different how?” She whispered conspiratorially.
“Like a normal wolf. Something that’d blend more easily with these woods.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “What-what do they eat?”
“These ones are trained to eat evil.”
“But they’ll settle for rodents or birds.” He smiled.
The girl scoffed. “Then they’ll find plenty to eat in the nearby village. They’re horrid people!”
True. He instantly remembered the boys shoving her into the mud puddle.
“I think you’re likely right.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “These hounds will keep you safe.”
“Then I will love them.” She straightened. A smile brightened her face before her gaze fell to their thick black skin again. “Even if they’re ugly.”
Ugly things are often kinder than pretty things.
“Don’t ever be tricked by looks.” He warned.
“I won’t!” She assured. “Can I touch one?”
She reached for one. “See how he is browner than the others? His name is Groomsman. He’s the nicest.” Tev’s voice dropped. “But also, the most indolent.”
The dog grunted and twisted to look at him over its back.
“Don’t look at me as though I betray you.” He patted it on the back. “It was a compliment all in all.”
The dog grunted but took a step forward to bump it’s nose on the girl’s slowly outstretching palm. Slinking under it he worked his back against her small hand.
“Lazy.” He corrected.
“He’s soft.” She said in surprise.
“He is now. But when in battle his skin turns to steel. Nothing can get through unless he is softened for a touch.”
She giggled at that. “I like him.” She eyed the others. “That one is huge!”
“That’s Driver. He leads the rest. He’s not very social.”
“Oh.” Her head fell a little.
“But he’ll warm to you.” Tev assured.
“Surely?” She beamed again.
“Most surely. They will keep you safe if you keep them with you. On one condition.” He said cryptically.
“What? What?” Her question was urgent.
“You must keep them a secret. Never tell anyone.”
“But you know.”
“Yes, I know. But they must remain our secret.”
“Okay, My Wolf.”
He smiled at the nickname.
“See you tomorrow.” He ducked his head in a bow as he backed from her stoop.