Clark Gillian

The Devious Dragon and the Fall of the Emperor


Chapter 12.
The lid on the well.

A hush fell over the Cat Capital's grand square as the Black Fox strode in, leading a fearsome Watchdog on a leash. Cat nobility gasped, their fur bristling in disbelief. "A dog!" shrieked the Cat High Priest, peering down from the balcony next to the throne room. Fainting ladies and outraged gentlemen craned their necks, aghast at the unprecedented sight.

"Unthinkable!" boomed the Cat King, leaping from his throne and rushing to the balcony. "Why in the seven lives do the guards allow such a creature within the castle walls?"

The High Priest, his voice laced with apprehension, pointed down. "He walks freely, Your Majesty. He who unlocked the book's first seal holds sway even over our vigilant hounds."

The King, grim-faced, conceded the point. "Indeed. Let them approach."

The throne room doors creaked open, revealing the Black Fox and his canine companion. A chorus of hisses erupted, claws extending reflexively. Undeterred, the Watchdog bared her teeth in a silent growl, flecks of warm drool splattering the polished floor.

"Perhaps restrain your drooling tendencies in the presence of royalty," the Black Fox quipped, a hint of amusement in his voice.

An expectant silence descended. "Your Majesty," the Black Fox began, his voice echoing in the cavernous hall, "I anticipated a warmer reception, considering my recent sacrifice for your precious book. However, a far more disturbing truth about your kingdom's history has come to light, one that sheds light on your peculiar request. In fact, this tale surpasses all others in its sheer..."

The Cat King, a picture of controlled composure on his throne, stood in stark contrast to the simmering outrage of his feline subjects. The Black Fox's words hung heavy in the air, promising a revelation that could shake the very foundations of their society.

"And what tale might that be, friend?" The Black Fox released the leash, sending ripples of hisses and shrieks through the feline crowd. Unfazed, the Watchdog mirrored the King's composure, settling beside the Fox with unwavering focus on the royal figure.

"Why should I assist you further in unlocking your bizarre relic," the Fox drawled, "if you've been waging a clandestine war against dogs since time immemorial?"

Fury contorted the cats' faces, their laughter morphing into a cacophony that grated even on animal ears. "War? Against...dogs?" The King roared with laughter, the sound laced with disbelief. "Nonsense! We hold no interest in such a trivial conflict. Dogs are of no concern to all!"

The Watchdog bristled, a low growl rumbling in its throat. The Fox's calming paw quelled the outburst.

"Indeed?" the Fox arched an eyebrow. "Yet my esteemed companion informs me the very root of your animosity lies here! Hidden deep within these tunnels, guarded fiercely to keep it from canine grasp."

The King's amusement faltered. "That is true, yes."

"We merely safeguard peace, not wage war," the High Priest interjected, his voice laced with piety.

The Watchdog sprang to its feet, its bark echoing through the chamber. "You hoard what rightfully belongs to us! Return it!"

"Let's simplify," the Fox cut in, his voice firm. "Restore what you stole from the dogs, and perhaps...coexistence can be achieved."

The Watchdog's growl deepened, mirroring the hisses erupting from the feline ranks.

"As it stands," he declared, "locking it away ensures tranquility. We are the guardians of peace, do you understand?"

"If you say so, Your Majesty," the Fox drawled, his gaze unyielding. "But whenever I witness the animosity between your kind and the dogs, 'peace' seems a distant concept."

"There's a reason for everything," the High Priest purred, his tone laced with veiled secrets. "Your presence here is a sign. Join us, friends, place your paws upon the book's seals. If you truly desire to release what it holds, this is the only path."

A wry smile played on the Fox's lips. "Convenient timing, wouldn't you say?"

The King, clearly troubled, leaned closer to the High Priest, their hushed meows swirling through the throne room. After a tense exchange, the King straightened, a newfound resolve in his eyes.

"Black Fox, Watchdog," he boomed, his voice carrying newfound humility. "I humbly beseech your aid in fulfilling my duty."

With a surprising gesture, he descended from his throne, bowing low before the Fox and the Watchdog, his forepaws neatly extended in deference. All the cats in the room, as if by an unspoken command, mirrored their King's posture, a sea of bowed heads filling the chamber.

"Fine," the Fox sighed, resignation tinged with suspicion. As the High Priest presented the seven-sealed book, the Watchdog eagerly pressed its paw onto one, its gaze unwavering. The Fox mirrored the action, but a deep frown etched itself onto his muzzle. With a resounding crack, the button he touched shattered, showering the room with metallic fragments.

A collective gasp rippled through the feline court. The High Priest, his brow furrowed in surprise, examined the mangled seal. "The trembles."

His observation became prophecy as the ground shuddered, a low rumble echoing through the chamber. Moments later, the Watchdog's seal began to melt, transforming into a viscous black liquid that stained the leather and dripped ominous pools onto the floor. The Priest leaned in, inhaling the noxious fumes. "Poison," he declared, his voice heavy with apprehension.

Whispers erupted among the cats, theories and anxieties swirling like dust motes in the air. The King, his usual composure shaken, exchanged frantic murmurs with the High Priest.

"Well?" the Fox finally snapped, his patience wearing thin. "Have we earned our reward, or are you reneging on your bargain?"

The King hesitated, a heavy sigh escaping his lips. "We need time," he mumbled, his voice barely audible.

"Time for what?" the Watchdog barked, its frustration mirroring the Fox's. "We held up our end!"

" evacuate," the King revealed, his gaze filled with a sorrow that sent shivers down spines. "All cat families, all communities...they must leave. Take what you can and flee, immediately!"

His words hung heavy in the air, disbelief etched on every feline face. The Fox, his ears twitching in confusion, managed to force out the question that echoed in every mind: "But...why? Why flee our own city?"

A grim smile played on the King's lips, a ghost of the familiar regal charm replaced by a chilling resolve.

"Because," he declared, his voice echoing in the hushed hall, "we must release the monster."