Canine jaws snapped at the air as Corwin bit at his attackers. He used almost human hands as he hefted the broken shaft of a spear to deflect an attempted sword swing at his head. His one good eye stung as black icor drooled from his attacker onto his face as the lupine struggled on the ground. There was a pained whine from his throat as he felt his strength give.
A goblin-like creature yanked the broken bit of wood from its opponent's feeble and fading grip before snarling gurgled half-words to call for its compatriots.
Another canine-esque whine from Corwin as he saw the invaders flanking the his master's core. Once strong and radiant green light flicked fitfully as the goblin-things stood at four corners around it. They had his master beaten. Why weren't they ending it?
Another goblin marched up to him and shoved what had to be a gag in his mouth. Whatever it was tasted bitter. sharp, something he would sick up if they hadn't followed the gag up with a boot lace tied around his muzzle.
How had it come to this?
His master had fought with Midori for years. Their border was a known quantity.
A bout of dizziness made Corwin lay back, looking at the vaulted ceiling of the throne room his master had carved for himself beneath Damala's monument to self aggrandization. From here they were supposed to spring out and up, consuming the lands above after the delvers had managed to do away with the black tyrant. It wasn't a plan he particularly liked, as it reeked of cowardice. As much as Damala was hated. No. Because Damala was so hated, he deserved open opposition. Not this skulking about and picking at the bones of an advisory that should have been felled by their hand.
Instead here he was, watching more of the enemy in his master's heart room. He saw Lun and Celest gagged much as they gagged him. Except now he could see what they shoved in their mouths, and by extension his, some sort of mush they took from shoulder bags. Their grey skinned black veined hands forcing mouths open with spindly fingers. His stomach lurched in sympathy to the two warrior women of his pack when it was forced in their mouths.
Damned them. Traitors let them in. All was well. Reports had signaled a quiet for the past month. Ever since when Kronos where surely ate that upstart cemetery dungeon. He managed a moment of regret. Such a promising thing. One his master had expressed hope to meet in honorable combat, one where they could become amicable advisories to keep each other sharp, but no. Kronos swallowed that one like it swallows everything else. there was no other explanation that made sense. Not after his scouting parties saw that stone abomination Kronos kept as a pet patrolling the caves beneath its sanctum.
They had expected an attack from Midori, but this? Why weren't those sickly goblin-things striking the killing blow?
<Because I want you to.>
Corwin's eyes were pinpricks at the intrusion. the voice had come with a command his body fought to try fulfilling. Yet he managed, if only by whispers and whiskers, to resist this perverse compulsion. His hands clawed at the bindings and he heaved, choking and hacking until the last of that gods-forsaken mush was free of his throat.
<if it will not be you. Then I shall have another hound by my fire.>
Yet as he was on hands and knees he saw his companions, his right and left hands ,when coordinating with the master's denizens, slowly and unwillingly rise. Celest took her place between two of the sickly rotted goblin-things as Lun took her place between the two others.
His heart soared as each tore into the wretched invaders. Too-pale flesh tore apart, putrid black and sickly green vicera spilt on the stone floor of the audience chamber. Corwin laughed as he rose. For a moment he thought himself free. that he had managed to push the intrusive commands from his mind. that his pack had managed, once more, to snatch victory.
As he approached the pair to kneel in the same spot he had so many times before there was a warning voice in the back of his mind. Yet it was too late, and his strength too spent even if it had registered.
Corwin. Lupine commander of the Cold Rocks dungeon. He who had been there when the dungeon was barely a pup fighting to survive in the woods, and who was there in the great flight to sneak his master and as many of his servants to the caves ahead of Damala's advance. He who had failed to see the orc's betrayal and defection to Midori's banner until it was too late.
His jaws closed around his master's core.
The hot rush of Mana washed through his body. Moreover. A wash of memory coursed through his mind. With one last lingering thought as the sensation faded.
I forgive you old friend.
There was so much more. Sensations. Drive. Impulse. But his master's final words echoed in his mind as Corwin's head tipped back and he gave one last mournful howl.
⁂ ⁂ ⁂
A month has passed since Corwin has been leashed. Now he looked from a three story building to the activity going on at Kronos's cemetery. Notes were written. This wasn't to give a report to his new master. He knew Midori was watching, exploiting his senses to look carefully at their enemy.
Unbidden, a growl escaped his throat. Kronos was many things However up til now it had been honest. Til now it hadn't stooped to pretending that it wasn't in command. The stream of delvers were deluded and had fallen for base deception.
There was no way the pup of a dungeon had carried the day.
As he leapt to the ground he spared a thought. With as much hatrid he held in his heart for Midori, at least Kronos would die.
He stopped, looking at himself in a puddle. Once-neatly trimmed fur was ragged. Once bright eyes dull. Black veins spiderwebbed through his gums as he sniffed the air. Midori twitched the poison that was rotting away his insides and he ran. Not to his new master's court. oh no, that would be too merciful. He ran across the overland of Midori's territory to it's opposing border.
It was when he saw the gaunt forms of Midori's Orcs, those same orcs who's betrayal Corwin had thought of their own will, engaged in battle against the pale elves of the westwood, the dungeon that had taken his master's holdings when they fled.
Corwin's teeth bared as he leapt into the fray. Here he could let himself forget the poison of Midori's command, the theft of minions from rival dungeons. Here he could forget the wrongness and wickedness of the world that is, and bask in the thrill of the hunt.
Here he was with Celest and Lun.Here, he was free.Yet part of him hated himself for reveling in that feeling. For al lthe superficial trappings of his old life, his old command, and his old pack.
He was a Slave.
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