Foxhound: III

The hammock nearly tipped as the pained cries and yowls struck his ears; he wouldn’t need a sprite to tell him what was happening outside. It was a violent noise, the chains rattling only punctuated how terrible things were getting in the dark of midnight. Trying to collect himself through the haze of alcohol and other self-prescribed medications, Moslay found his feet. Stumbling through his room, he caught himself on the door frame before locating his jacket hung on the hook by his door. With trembling fingers, afflicted both with fear and withdrawals, he drew the heavy revolver. As though it wasn’t always loaded, Moslay snapped out the cylinder to check for ammo. The five smirking primers looked up at him with a joyful hate. With that iron courage in his grip, Moslay opened the door.

A mossy green moon lit his lot in a glow that only served to make the clouds look more devious and the autumn landscape more sinister. The chain rattling hadn’t ceased though some of the cries fell away as though exhaustion had set in. There was blood, too much of it for just one beast to have felt the wrath of another. Broken lengths of chain scattered across the ground from the dog houses to the road. With an almost awe-struck gait, Moslay came down the deck with his revolver raised. He had no certainty what had happened or where his hounds were, but he could conclude enough. If that fox hadn’t been the culprit, Moslay was ready to eat his whole hammock.

A blur of color caught Moslay’s eye before the rattling of chains struck his ears, he pulled his revolver up and nearly fired without a second thought. Had he done so, old Ams would be lying dead before him with only Moslay to blame. The hound came up and nearly toppled Moslay over for all his demands to be consoled. It wasn’t like the old dog to be so friendly even with Moslay, but the fact that Perc wouldn’t have beat him to it was more than concerning. Lowly, he mumbled at the old hound, “Where is Perc, boy? Where is he? What was all the racked? Where’s the trouble?”

Jerking his muzzle towards the road, Ams did all he could to inform his master where the pup had gotten off to. As for what was the issue, Moslay knew the dog couldn’t say, but the low, almost frightened growl gave him indication enough. Ams had seen all the things big and small that would tear through or wander about the Gardens and their neck of the woods, for him to be afraid didn’t bode well. But if Ams had a frightful cast to his noises, it gave away the fox well enough to Moslay. Lifting the revolver, Moslay aimed, rather shakily for a taut chain link before taking his best shot at it. To his surprise, the metal exploded as planned, allowing the dog its freedom. Giving Ams a kindlier pat than he would unless they had just made a kill, Moslay called, “Go on inside, boy. I’m gonna see where your brother’s gotten off to. And when I come back, you two can be eaten fox by dawn, I swear it.”

The remaining length of chain dragged all the way back to the cabin, against the porch steps, and didn’t cease until Ams was fully inside. It set Moslay’s nerves on edge, but that was better than having a clouded mind and an all too calm demeanor. Tightening his grip on the pistol, Moslay began out of his lot following a trail of blood and broken chain. It wasn’t far off from his home he expected to find Perc with the fox treed or possibly dead, but the noises he could hear were less than comforting. The owl’s hooting wasn’t the only troubling sound; growling and hissing roared all the way up to the path from the trees. Stumbling through shrubs and low branches, crunching leaves, and abandoned bone piles, Moslay made his way into the forest. The moon’s light was all he could see by, but as he approached the silhouettes that jerked about in the dark, he knew he had found them.

Moslay saw the limp form of something canine in the jaws of another dog-like shadow, but the features of the victor were too sharp. Even in the hazy moonlight, the old man could see that his young pup did not come out of the scrap alive. For a moment, he was frozen, despite all the horrors and bloodshed he had seen in war and times of peace. His hand shook, the revolver still firm and unmoved, but Moslay’s nerves were undone. One last whimpering cried was carried on the breeze followed with the abrupt snap the man could only wish was from a tree limb. A spray of crimson mist flowed free into the air and bathed the scene in a far more hideous complexion. The jagged ears and smartly pointed muzzle twisted in a manner unbefitting any physical creature. One white-hot point fixed on Moslay, peering deep into his soul before the fox became distracted.

It let the wet, broken body of Perc fall to the mossy stones below, as a vibrant wisp rose up from the dog. Shimmering with the light of a star, taking form, and unfolding like a morning glory in bloom, the dot of energy became so much more. A ghostly visage of power took the form of that young hound as it fixed on the fox and charged in with unbridled fury. As the cerulean current of spirit struck the blood-bolstered menace, Moslay almost cheered. His hound had failed yet found strength enough to come back, to pull on those few threads of fate that must have hung before him to cause one final blow. Perc crashed against the fox with all his hate and energy, the equal of several rifles set on one target with rounds imbued with sacred fire. The fox was engulfed in the tides of spirit, letting loose a howl that shook everything in the woods, both big and small.

Yet, as the tempest of otherworldly power ebbed, the great shadow of the fox remained, unmoved by the attempt. Moslay nearly lost control of his overfull bladder as now a piercing eye of ice appeared just beside the white pit. The jagged, dark shape began to move, turning the other set of eyes on Moslay, who could hardly move his fingers. Still, he managed to draw back the hammer and fix his sights on the beast who turned to charge then. Again, though he managed to get the hammer, Moslay found his fingers stiff as stone even as the fox neared him stride after stride. His courage shrank away; Moslay wasn’t capable of pulling the trigger. A realization that these were his last breaths hit the old man, and just as the four glowing orbs of light came to meet him, his reflexes bucked. Blazing tangerine illuminated the grim maw as the shot was released, though Moslay would not be around to see the results. Something sharp gripped both of his shoulders, digging in but not carving deep rents in his flesh. His fate was not yet decided, that much he found himself somewhat more certain of then.

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