The pair of small, polished-iron shields jiggled on the dog’s collar as it limped through the watchhouse breakroom. The sound was like the squeal of a wounded rodent, only serving to draw the attention of lurking predators.
“Iric!” Sergeant Vott screamed from the opposite side of the room. “What is that mutt doing in my watchhouse?”
Iric’s first naïve instinct was to ask “How is it your watchhouse?”, but he decided having skin would be preferable to clarity. The sergeant did strut around the place like the resident rooster, and Captain Steele usually let him get away with it.
The young watchman settled on a different response. “She’s not a mutt, Sarge. This is a finely-bred shepherding hound.”
“Not that I can tell the difference,” Vott said. “It’s bad enough that I have one disagreeable animal at home. I don’t need to deal with that here.”
“She’s not disagreeable. She’s actually quite friendly.”
“I will take your word for it,” Vott said with a grumpy frown.
“Did you give her a name yet?” Pyri asked, coming up behind Iric to pet the salt-and-pepper fur of the dog.
“No. I can’t think of a good one,” Iric said.
“What about Lucky?” Pyri suggested. “Since, you know, it was lucky not to be killed by you?”
Vott laughed audibly.
“Yeah, I think not,” Iric said.
“Hey, I got an idea,” Vott said in a sarcastic tone. “How about you take that mutt out on patrol with you. Like now. This place is starting to stink like dog and I’m about to have my lunch.”
“Whatever you say, Sarge,” Iric said, leading the dog to the door. It limped visibly, but the creature’s face was pure contentment.
Iric meandered his way towards Market Street, his usual patrol area. The dog stopped a few times along the way to inspect invisible scents, or to leave some of its own. People on the street eyed the pair curiously, but kept their distance.
“Good morning, Iric,” one of the owners of the various market stands along the road said to him. Things were becoming routine for Iric; people recognized and talked to him now on a daily basis. He enjoyed it. He enjoyed the feeling of welcome the city gave him.
He pushed his way through the throngs of people on the main avenue, stopping occasionally to greet shop owners, merchants and other people he recognized. The dog was only too happy to receive the smiles and pets that came her way.
The young watchman’s pleasant mood was spoiled when the dog began to growl. Iric glanced down at the animal; it was staring off behind him. Iric traced the creature’s line of sight until he locked eyes with a young woman in a hood, stuffing her hands into her pockets. The woman paused for a moment, staring back at Iric, motionless like a prey animal. Then she took off, shoving her way through the morning crowd. A standkeeper, caught unawares, shouted after the thief. Iric groaned and started running.
“Stop! City Watch!” he shouted.
Ahead, he saw the woman shoving people aside recklessly, market stands jostled, contents scattered to the ground. Iric needed to take more care through the crowd, since his heavy breastplate would make any direct contact with passersby potentially dangerous. The thief was taking full advantage of this concern.
“Out of the way!” Iric pleaded.
The rogue took a sharp corner to the left. Iric grabbed the side of a heavy cart and used the anchor to help with the turn, letting it build his momentum. After a few dozen more feet, the thief took another left turn. The path was turning into an confusing circle.
Iric was losing ground. Something needed to happen. Something significant. And soon.
Just then, a shadow sprang out of a dark corner. It slammed into the thief, knocking her to the ground. Iric could hear the sounds of snarling and frantic voices as he approached. The thief’s arm was caught in the jaws of Iric’s watchdog. A smile crossed his face as he caught the dispirited girl’s eyes for a second time.
“Good girl,” Iric said to the dog, pulling it off the whimpering rogue. He knelt down and rubbed the animal roughly around the neck; it licked his hands in return. “What a nice catch. I think I’m gonna call you Hunter from now on. Do like that?”
Hunter yelped her approval.
*Previous volumes of “The Adventures of Iric” can be found here: