“My dog!” Tiny jolted awake, gasping for air, reaching for something that wasn’t there.
I grasped his hands, and his glazed eyes sought out mine, only focusing with effort. “I’m here, Tiny We’re all here.”
Tiny’s eyes swam as he tried to look around our room. He acted as one drunk, or one who’d been struck severely upon the head. He was dazed, not quite right. I imagine that nothing smelled, looked, or sounded right. He’d spent his life sharing the senses of a dog, and now he was limited to human senses. It was like losing half of yourself, and that didn’t even account for the pain of losing L.D.
“Little Dog…” He whispered, grimacing and putting his head back down.
“Dead.” I said softly. There was no use lying to him. There were no words that could hide what had happened.
Tiny nodded, tears running from eyes squeezed shut. He writhed in agony, as if we’d twisted a knife in his heart. “Drum.” He could barely say the name.
I nodded. “Yes, he did this. We have to do something.”
“Kill him.” Tiny begged, looking at me through red, tear-streaked eyes.
“I will.” I vowed. Even if no one else would, I would take the blame for it. I would seek out Drum’s death, no matter the cost to myself.
Dog twitched his ears at me and nosed my arm. Then, he got up and settled in against Tiny, as if he could be a stand-in for L.D. Tiny’s hands clutched at Dog’s fur, and he seemed to relax. At that, Tiny rested his head back down and fell back into something that was not sleep. It was more like the rest of one near death, one whose body knew it was best to try to heal, and that could not be done if he was awake.
I looked to Killer, Face, and Legs. They were the other members of our pack. We stood together. How could we not give our wounded friend what he wanted? “We need to kill him.” I said, asking any of them to disagree, but knowing they would not.
It eased my heart when I found no such look upon their faces. Instead, they all clutched their dogs closely, imagining that it could have very well been them instead of Tiny that was suffering this fate. We sat in our dim room, huddled around our half-dead friend, and there was no escaping the horrible thing that had happened to him.
“If it were any of us, we’d want the same, right?” I asked, and they all nodded soberly.
“How do we convince the rest of them?” Legs asked. “We said we’d get everyone to approve. Otherwise, even if we want Drum dead, it won’t matter.”
“Drum wants himself dead. He has lost everything. He is ready to die. He will find a way, no matter what we do.” I surmised. “That is why he did this. He only needed a target, and Tiny was the closest or easiest one.”
“Why couldn’t he just have attacked the Emperor? Those guards would have killed him before he hurt anyone but himself.” Face shook his head, his forehead wrinkling in consternation.
“We can wish a thousand things, but it won’t change what has already happened.” Killer replied curtly. He was not one to mince words. “We will make them all see what needs to be done.”
Killer let his words sink in. Then, to me, he said, “It is your time to lead. You must make them see. You must make them agree.”
I knew he was right. This was my time to pull them all together. I had to forge them into one pack. “Call them, then, my friends. We need at least one person from each pack.” I looked to each of them and gave them their assignments, “Face, you can go get Mongrel from Chahar. Legs, go get Bull from Se. Killer, you can go get Scar from Do. Then, you can all go get someone or everyone from Yek.”
“And what about Yellow-Eyes or the Emperor? They need to be here, don’t they?” Legs asked.
I shook my head. “Not yet. They will be, but I would like to show them what we all decide. I don’t want them hearing our decision until it’s final. You heard what the Emperor said. He needs to see us come together and be united in this. Otherwise… I don’t know what will become of us.”
They nodded, leaving me with Tiny. They went off down the halls to gather the representatives from the other packs. They would see firsthand what was left of Tiny. Then they would agree to letting me execute Drum.
They had to see it my way.
National Novel Writing Month 2019: The Emperor's Dogs