We had a week of peace, and most everyone got along. Scar was easily the most difficult person left in our wing, but he was only openly hostile if you bothered him. Left alone, he mostly just shot ugly looks at you from across the room. Then again, that might have just been because his scars made it impossible for him to actually smile.
Drum, on the other hand, was the type that sought out conflict. His pack had actually been pleasant for the week he was gone. And they’d been pretty agreeable they week prior to that, I’d also heard, but I’d been in my cell, so I couldn’t actually vouch for that.
When Drum was finally given medical clearance to leave his cell, we couldn’t help but wonder how that was affect his pack and the social climate of all the packs at the Kennel. He didn’t make us wait long to find out.
Drum strolled into the gates, already spitting angry. Unlike my return, he was not greeted by his pack mates. They were not eagerly waiting for his return. He also did not return as a victor but as a disgrace. He entered the halls of his former home after two weeks, finding no one there to greet him.
He had to walk past our room to get to Chahar’s room, and he caught a glimpse of Face sitting among us. His mouth fell open, and vile words failed to come at first. I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought, seeing us all in our clean, new clothes, gathered around tables. What a change it must have been, after having lived here for months on end, wearing rags and sleeping on piles of straw or old blankets.
“Just keep him. Worthless anyway.” He finally snorted.
Face looked at us, and we looked back at him. We collectively shrugged, and the five of us went back to talking about a stones game we’d played the day before, ignoring the swearing that slid from Drum’s mouth as he continued up the hall.
It was only a few moments later when we heard a commotion from Chahar’s room. The noise spilled out into the hallway, swearing and lots of shouting echoing for all to hear. It should have been expected, but it was still a surprise somehow.
I scrambled to my feet. I didn’t exactly like Chahar’s guys, but they were actually tolerable without Drum. I had a feeling they might even turn out to be decent, given enough time away from their feisty leader.
“What do you mean I’m not your leader?” Drum screamed, trying to push his way into the room.
Nose and Hound were holding him back. Mongrel wore a triumphant look. “You’ve pushed us around too long, Drum. You can take your place at the bottom of the pack, or you can go sleep in one of the other rooms. Maybe you can start your own new pack? Pack Sefr maybe?”
I blinked in surprise. They were throwing him out? I’d offered to step down, but my pack had kept me on. Chahar was ousting Drum, even threatening to throw him out entirely. This wasn’t the sort of thing that Drum would take lightly.
Tiny muttered something, completely amusement. “Pack Zero, eh?”
“Is that what Sefr means?” I wondered. It was not a word I’d heard before.
“Nothing. Zero.” Killer agreed.
“That’s pretty cold.” Face almost looked sorry for Drum. Almost.
“Who’s going to replace me? You, Mongrel?” Drum laughed haughtily.
Mongrel crossed his arms and lifted his chin proudly. “And what if I am?”
“I could take you apart where you stand.” Drum said threateningly.
“Maybe you could. The difference is that we’re not all fighting each other for your approval any more. Now, the four of us stand together, and the four of us can certainly take you down if Go could do it by himself.”
Drum’s whole body filled with rage. He flashed a look my way, sensing us in the halls, not that half of every pack wasn’t in the halls anyway. “You motherless sons of…”
He never got to finish his insult. Nose and Hound threw him backward into the wall. He rebounded and dropped to his knees. Drum had never been the largest boy, and he’d just recovered from a flogging. Now, that weakness was made apparent. He looked so small huddled behind his dog, who growled defensively.
Before, he’d always stood behind his massive dog and ruled with fear, but he couldn’t just run his mouth and stand behind his dog any longer. His pack wasn’t going to put up with his bullying and abuse.
“Get out, Drum. Stay in your own room. Maybe we’ll let you in tomorrow, if you beg.” Mongrel was a little too smug in his reply, and Drum, beaten or not, had some pride left.
Drum threw himself forward, and Bear followed. Drum tackled Mongrel to the ground and started pounding at his face with his fists while Bear took Mongrel’s mutt in his massive mouth and shook. The brown mutt yelped in pain, and when Bear shook him loose, the smaller dog sailed into the wall.
The remaining members of Chahar fell upon Drum, while the three dogs struggled to put up a fight against Bear. It got ugly. There was a lot of frustration and hate in that group, things that had festered too long. I longed to jump into this, but it was not my place. They needed to work it out.
In a short while, all five of them were beaten and bruised, but none worse than Mongrel’s mutt and Drum. Drum and Bear limped away to an empty room, beaten once more. For once, he was wordless and dead-eyed, except for the look of pure malice he shot my way. I’d been the one to first illustrate his vulnerability, and since then, things had certainly gone from bad to worse for him. Clearly, I was the one he’d blame most for his downfall.
“Welcome back, Drummy!” Tiny taunted as Drum retreated into his new room.
Drum paused to nod at Tiny, laughing hollowly. I shot Tiny a warning look, but the words were already out. Tiny had just made himself a target for all that hate, and he was a lot easier target than I was.
The rest of Chahar gathered in their room to tend to Mongrel’s mutt, who was in a bad way. I knew this wasn’t over. Drum wouldn’t let this be. It was just going to get worse, but I had no idea just how bad it would get.
National Novel Writing Month 2019: The Emperor's Dogs