Clark Gillian

The Devious Dragon and the Fall of the Emperor


Chapter 10.
The furious watchdog.

Hurriedly, the Black Fox climbed back up along the many tunnels, looking for a place to hide from the cats and their crazy book with seven seals. Coming up into the bustling City of Stars, he immediately saw an ornate garden with a small fountain where he could dip his burnt little paw. He sneaked effortlessly through the fence into the cute little garden.

"Do they really think I'm going to burn my paw again on their crazy magical book?" said the Black Fox to himself as he stuck his paw in the cool running water of the fountain.

Meanwhile, in the streets he saw people handing over all kinds of treasures to the soldiers in exchange for coins. The treasures were loaded onto carts and brought to the palace.

"What's all this?!"

A dog suddenly barked at the Fox.

"This is not a public park, it is our own private little garden, ours alone!"

The Fox quickly withdrew his paw and hid himself behind the fountain.

"And what do you mean when you say: this isourgarden?" asked the Black Fox slyly.

"It's our own garden, part of our own house!"

The Fox stared at the dog. She had an elongated muzzle and was about twice the size of him, wearing a beautiful brown coat. But barking was all she could do, because she was chained to the wall.

"You're a Watchdog," said the Black Fox, "Do you consider this place yours?"

"I live here. It's mine too."

Hearing this, the Fox started laughing.

"This is funny. Did you buy this house then? No,theybought this house. They even bought you!"

"Yes, they bought this house," said the Watchdog, "And they bought me. So what?"

The Fox kept laughing: "They probably only bought you to guard the house."

"And what about it?" barked the dog.

"Have you ever tried… not to guard?" asked the Black Fox.

"Never!" cried the Watchdog, "That's why I'm here!"

A flicker of movement caught the Fox's eye. Cat soldiers, clad in scaled armor and wielding miniature blades, patrolled the street. With a practiced swiftness, he melted into the shadows of the fountain.

The Watchdog, his keen guard honed by years of vigil, sniffed out the Fox's hiding place. "What mischief have you stirred up now that brings the felines knocking?" he grumbled, a low growl rumbling in his throat.

"Not exactly bosom buddies with the purring lot," the Fox quipped, a sly grin playing on his lips.

"Hate them," the Watchdog snarled, the fur on his neck bristling. "Enemies. Bad to the bone." A glob of drool dripped from his jaw, momentarily diverting the Fox's attention.

"Such venom for creatures of whisker and fang," the Fox mused, casually leaping onto the fountain's ledge where a nymph eternally offered water from her jug. "Why the deep dislike?"

"No venom!" the Watchdog barked defensively, the sudden outburst almost sending the Fox tumbling. The patrol passed again, this time carrying leashed Watchdogs amongst their loot. The Fox sighed.

"Your wild brethren, the wolves, must be howling at the moon in shame at your... impressive leash skills." He drawled the last word, dripping with mockery.

"I'll rip your tail off!" the Watchdog snapped, teeth bared. "We do far more than those mangy mutts! We learn, grow, adapt to humans."

"Guard their homes, you mean?" the Fox countered, his voice flat.

"Guard their homes, yes," the Watchdog conceded, tail thumping once against the ground. "What of it?"

"And what else?" the Fox pressed, his eyes narrowing. "Do you ever think for yourselves? Or wait for your masters' approval before judging right from wrong? How terribly... dull."

Fury erupted from the Watchdog's throat. "How dare you!" he roared, fangs bared and drool flying. "I'll chew your bones and scatter your fur like autumn leaves!"

The commotion drew a curious neighbor to the scene. But the Fox, ever nimble, had vanished back into the shadows. Left facing the irate canine alone, the neighbor delivered a swift kick and a stern rebuke. The Watchdog, humbled, whimpered into silence.

No sooner had the neighbor retreated than the Watchdog whipped his head back towards the hidden Fox. "This is all your fault!" he snapped. "Now they think I'm a raving mutt!"

"Well, your barking wasn't exactly conducive to peace," the Fox countered, emerging from his hiding spot. "Besides, I was merely seeking solace for my singed paw, courtesy of the Cat King's infernal magic book. And now, your outburst adds insult to injury."

The mention of the Cat King made the Watchdog growl, low and guttural. "The Cat King, you say?"

"Indeed," the Fox confirmed, dipping his paw gingerly into the fountain. He couldn't help but notice the Watchdog's tense silence. "No Dog King, then?" he probed.

"No," the Watchdog replied, a touch of pride in his voice. "We share the human world, our loyalty sworn to them."

"As expected," the Fox sighed, shaking his head. "This explains your unwavering obedience."

"Our actions are righteous," the Watchdog countered, puffing out his chest. "We excel at what we do."

The Fox burst into laughter, a sound that sent shivers down the Watchdog's spine. "And what, pray tell, do you excel at?" he asked, amusement dancing in his eyes. "And what constitutes 'righteous' in your world?"

The Watchdog faltered, struggling to articulate his thoughts. "Every... everything!" he sputtered, frustration mounting. "Dogs excel at everything! We do things right!"

"Everything?" the Fox pressed, his voice sharp. "Everything they ask of you?"

A flicker of uncertainty dimmed the Watchdog's fierce gaze. "Everything..." he mumbled, his tone losing its earlier conviction.

The Fox, sensing his point had landed, pulled his paw from the water. He kept a safe distance from the chained canine as he spoke. "Remember, Watchdog," he said, his voice low and deliberate, "just because you do the things they ask of you well, does not mean the things you've done were good."

With that, the Black Fox turned and strolled towards the garden entrance, leaving the Watchdog to wrestle with his newfound doubt.

Empty eyes scanned the Fox, gears whirring within her canine mind as years of guarding instincts struggled to parse his words. Finally, she rumbled, "I don't get it."

A heavy sigh escaped the Black Fox's chest as he leaned against the gate, unburdened by fear.

"Fare thee well," the Fox declared, stretching his paw gingerly. "I'm through with this whole thing, burned paw and all. Thank you for the... hospitality."

"Wait!" the Watchdog barked, a flicker of desperation igniting in her eyes. "If you think the cats are so much better, just ask them why they are underground!"

The Fox's brow furrowed, curiosity battling his ingrained mistrust. He turned, meeting her gaze. "Ask them why they hide their great cat city in the caves underneath the city?"

This time, it was the Fox's turn to be speechless. Why indeed were the cats down there? What secrets did the hidden city hold?

"There's a reason we dogs don't like cats!" the Watchdog snarled, her voice laced with both defiance and a strange vulnerability.

"Is that so?" the Black Fox countered, his eyes narrowed.

"Yes!" she barked, the chain clanking as she strained against it.

He stared at the chain around the Watchdog's neck.