The Pups of Mooneye by John R. Canter

(I don’t normally write fan-fiction, but in looking through some old folders for short stories to post I came across a tale set in the Pathfinder RPG world of Golarion, or at least one that uses its ideas and one of its deities, Abadar.  I wrote this story way back in mid-April of 2011.  I hope you enjoy it.  Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to any of the pictures in this post.)

 

Darkness receded. Lodge opened his eyes.

A bugbear must have hit him. Lurking in the shadows, even as the raid howled and frenzied all around him, the bugbears still preyed on fear through surprise attacks. Why it didn’t finish him while he was down, he couldn’t say, but he was glad to be alive.

He stood up, scratching his head, and turned to see the huge brute, morning-star knocked from his hand, on the ground. His head was dented like a bashed copper pot, struck by a stone from Crowley’s sling, no doubt. Lodge would have to thank him.

The chaos of the goblin raid on Bridgeshire screamed all about. Buildings burned, people and livestock fled, and shrieks filled the twilight air as the horrible little monsters scampered though the streets, teeth bared and hacking gleefully at anything that moved, stupidly even at each other. Lodge could smell the blood in the street, and several dogs lay dead about. Halflings use big dogs as mounts, and goblins use their aptly named dog-slicers to hack and chop at the poor pets like butchers.goblin dog

Three goblins rode past on their mounts, some giant naked rats. They had the nerve to call them “goblin dogs”. One of these generals had a bound prisoner.

“Father Cottington!” Lodge shouted. He wished he hadn’t, for a disfigured hideous wolf walked over him at that moment, paying him no heed. The giant barghest was ready to feed.

The goblin with the priest dismounted and dragged the prisoner in front of the monster. “Your excellency, we have found the pastor of this pathetic little town! We offer him as your latest feast, oh Toothy One!”

The barghest merely stared at Father Cottington. Then, letting out a terrible howl that shook the resolve of goblin and halfling alike, he descended on the pastor, tearing him limb from limb. Fangs dripped with blood, gleaming under the pale light of the waxing moon. Paralyzed with fear and horror, Lodge could only watch. Within moments, all that remained were tattered vestments.

Suddenly, the barghest seemed to contort, as if sick. It grumbled, mount agape, until its jaws split lengthwise down its body from head to tail, hide shrinking back in one disgusting pile of wrinkled furry skin and vile drippings. A larger thing emerged from the transformation.

The beast turned, a massive hell-hound with long black fur, 13 feet high at the shoulder, looming over his generals. Red eyes scanned the surroundings. Brimstone steamed from its nostrils. Finally the brute, which seemed dumb, spoke.

“Behold my true form! Having consumed the souls of the halflings, I, Blackfang, am complete! Now, my army, spread your chaos and death!”

The goblins cheered, and doubled their efforts to destroy the village. Standing tall, Blackfang surveyed the carnage and panic. A stone struck him in the eye, and he howled in pain.halfling rogue

“You wanna git out while you still can, mate. You git any biggar, I’ll hit you blindfolded!” Crowley slid down the drainpipe from the roof, and landed softly besides Lodge. “You alright, Lodge?”

“I’ve never seen a thing so terrible!” he shouted. “It ate Father Cottington!”

“Yeah, well, we got biggar problems now. Looks like I got his attention.” Blackfang’s claws, as big and sharp as daggers, whiffed through the air as they missed the fleeing halflings entirely. The two ran through the buildings, dodging goblins and monster alike.

“You got any ‘o your priestly tricks what do him up, right? Some kinda spell, me thinks?” asked Crowley.

“If I can get to the church, I can cast a spell, ask God to save us! In dark times like these, it never hurts to pray…” His sentiment was stopped short when they came upon a bugbear, huge and menacing, that spotted them.

“Right you are, mate, but I think the sweet words ‘o your book may not be enough.” Crowley hurried to ready his sling with a nearby cobblestone from the street, but the bugbear was already armed.

Suddenly, the bugbear swung his spiked club strait into his own feet, and fell backwards into a rain barrel. His fall shook the building, sliding tiles off the roof onto his head, which knocked him down and out.

“…” the halflings mused.

“You boys make quite a distraction.” A little lady, hood pulled back, stepped from the shadows. “Seeking sanctuary, are we?” she asked.

“Dyer,” said Lodge, disapprovingly, “Dyer the Hex?”

“The same,” Dyer admitted. “Sorry I don’t go to church, but I like to practice my sorcery every morning. Seems like we could use a little divine grace now, though.”

The three halflings hurried to the church. It was deserted, as people were running, fighting or putting out fires throughout the village. The sounds of panic could still be heard through the wooden walls and stained glass of the church.

abadarLodge ran about, gathering some things: a few magic scrolls, a small candle, a tiny bag, holy water, and the hair of a dog. Stressed, he repeatedly touched a brass key around his neck, a mere symbol of the Golden Key of the Lord Abadar. In a church though, a mere symbol has great power. The air lightened as if concentration mystically became easier.

The components for his spell in place, Lodge opened the scroll. Cantilating and accenting his verse with precise gestures, he called for a divine protector.

Those standing outside saw rays of golden light shine through the windows, like a lighthouse in the dark.

When the light subsided, the three halflings opened their eyes, awestruck and bewildered. Finally, Lodge said weakly, “that’s not Mooneye, the Hound Archon.”

“Them’s border collies, mate,” Crowley assessed. Indeed, five very large border collies stood with regal composure about the summoning circle. “Mind, they’s the most beautiful dogs I’s ever seen.” He broke the silence that followed, “They supposed to flicker blue like that?”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“You prayed, Abadar has answered,” one of the magical beasts said. The two halflings flinched as the animal spoke, but Dyer understood. “Though our father, Mooneye, is occupied with more dire affairs, we have descended from the ethereal heaven to protect this village from Blackfang.” Three of the blink dogs vanished, appearing instantly in front of the scout, the hex, and the cleric halflings. “Come,” the blue-eyed leader said. “We ride.”

Cautiously, the three mounted the dogs. Making formation, they charged at full speed between the pews, towards the locked doors. “Whoa –,” Lodge began, but before he could object, the world became a foggy blue. They blinked in and out of the material world, and ran past the walls through a realm where they did not exist. They continued this way through every wall, house, shop and stand, through every obstruction, as they raced across the city. Winged ghostly figures of blue light soared overhead, the sky filled with brilliant stars. Glimpses of the blink dogs’ home left them speechless.

Frequently, they covered an even greater distance, teleporting in leaps of several hundred feet. To escape the barghest the halfings ran for four minutes to the church. “We’re back where we started,” remarked Lodge, “but that didn’t take but 10 seconds. Incredible!”

“Such is the blink dog, always between this world and another,” remarked Dyer, patting her mount’s side. They dismounted. “Whenever you’re ready, boys.”

The barghest had its back turned, and was smashing buildings. The goblins, many fended off by the militia or caught in their master’s destruction, were reduced in number. At this point now most stood in awe at Blackfang’s fantastic strength as he worked to raze the city.

Lodge said, “If he gets beyond Passlane Isthmus, nothing will stop him from getting to any of the bigger cities beyond. We have to stop him here.”

“Ah, you confident, old friend?” Crowley asked.

Never having faced such a terrible foe, Lodge gulped. A bead of sweat rolled down his cheek. Finally, he said, “I can’t imagine the destruction that will happen if we can’t stop him.”

Crowley sighed heavily, pulling out his sling and stones. “Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, I always say.”

The blue-eyed dog spoke, “We shall fight Blackfang. If we can surround him, we can remove him from this world. Such is our summon.”

It was decided then. “Right,” said Crowley. “Why don’t you tend to the wounded, Lodge? Looks like them goblins just millin’ about watchin’ the show. I figure you ol’ dogs hit the big guy, we pick off the little fellows while you’re busy. ‘K?”

They nodded, and went to their tasks.

Blackfang had reared up on his hind legs, bringing down his mighty claws through the wooden walls of the halflings’ town square. His grin vanished in an instant as a blink dog appeared, teeth barred, at his throat. Shaking him off, another bit at his ankles, tripping him as he staggered and fell to the stone road. The dog’s tactics were savage, as they appeared, blinked through the monster’s attacks, landed strikes of their own, and then vanished, over and over again from every direction. Blackfang, bewildered by the multi-sided attack, let loose a terrible howl, that resonated down the streets to the terrified goblins. Distracted, one was struck in the head with a shot from the rooftops, the precision of an expert sling user. Crowley made short work of the disorganized horde.

A different goblin, sensing something moving in the shadows, crept around a corner, blade raised. Then he jumped out and croaked “Ah ha!” at surprisingly empty darkness. Bewildered, he scratched his head. A hand tapped him on the shoulder, and, turning, he saw Dyer wave her hand. She placed her other, magic-shrouded hand before his face, into which a torrent of colors sprayed forth until he was blinded and fell, dumbstruck, to the ground. Dyer nodded, smiled, and walked quietly away.

Lodge had found and carried a wounded soldier back behind some makeshift barricades in another part of the city, farther from the smashed town square. An officer appeared, and examined the soldier’s wounds. Lodge motioned for him to stay back, and answered the officer’s silent question. “He’ll be alright,” the cleric said. “He’s lost some blood and went into shock, but he’ll live. I will do what I can to make sure of it.” Entering into silent prayer he mouthed divine words and worked his hands over the undressed wound. His hands glowed with white steam, which flew into the closing gash and healed it clean. The militiaman regained consciousness, gasping as his eyes crept open. Lodge helped the halfling to his feet and went in search of more of his flock to save.

The fight with the barghest dragged on, and though skillfully evasive, some of the blink dogs had become battered in the chaos. Teeth gnashed, growls and barks rang out, and the battle raged. Suddenly, the blue-eyed blink dog leader let out a whistling call, and all of them vanished. The barghest righted itself, and turned to the end of the street. The dogs stood in formation, challenging it. Blackfang snarled and charged. The blink dogs vanished, and the leader appeared, mid-leap and glowing with a white halo, immediately in front of the monster’s face. Their skulls collided with a terrible thunder-crack and a brilliant flash. The barghest staggered, as one dog after the next appeared grabbing each ankle in turn. The leader, landing safely, regained his balance, shook his head, vanished, reappeared on the beast’s back, and clamped down hard on his neck.

The dogs glowed bright blue, and then, in an instant, they and Blackfang were gone.

It did not take long for the few remaining goblins to be found and subdued or to retreat back to the mine from which they had poured out from, and in but a few hours the fires were extinguished. By dawn the damage became visible, and the long work of reconstruction began.

It was only a few weeks later that what simple structures were destroyed had been replaced, and life had resumed as before. Though they sealed the mine tightly shut, patrols stayed on as to ensure the threat had passed. All in all, despite the significant damage, few lives were lost.

When Lodge’s work at tending to the wounded finished, some days had passed. He returned to the church, and, like he always did, prayed. Interrupted by a silent, intelligent stare, he turned and saw a border collie with blue eyes.

At first he said nothing, smiling hopefully, hands still clasped around his brass key. Then, Lodge inquired, “Did you win?”

“Blackfang’s head is now mounted on Mooneye’s collection wall.”

Lodge breathed a sigh of relief. “And he can’t come back? Some monsters can do that, I heard …” he asked.

“Fear not. Mooneye slew him personally. That is were we went, to present our father with our catch.” The blink dog winked out of phase briefly. “There are other matters to attend to beyond your small land. If ever you should need me or our pack, though, I want you to have this. Use it, and I will appear.” The dog vanished briefly, reappeared in the same spot holding something in his mouth, and walked to the waiting priest. He opened his hand, into which dropped a divine gift.

“Remember, remain loyal to the Faith, but also know that you always have friends.” The dog vanished.

Dyer and Crowley walked into the church. “Thought we’d find you here,” she said. “Come on, you’re going to miss the festival.”

The priest stood up, smiling, and joined them. Walking together, Crowley asked, “What’cha got there, mate?”

Lodge looked at the golden dog whistle, still cupped in his hand. He said, “Oh, just a gift from a friend.”

The festival began at the unveiling of a statue. A band played, beer was had, and stories were shared underneath the watchful stone visages of five divine canines, each wreathed in flowers. Looking in each direction, their eyes stood vigilant guard over the halfling town of Bridgeshire.

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