happy hunting

Dark Calling CoverThis is only the second episode in my current series written from the point of view of Max, and I have two things to say about that:

1. It’s a lot of fun writing from a dog’s perspective. So much fun, in fact, that when I come back to this series and begin working on a second draft to prep is as a proper novel, I’m seriously considering adding more of Max’s insights.

2. That said, it’s also challenging writing from a dog’s point of view, especially when trying to be brief. There was certainly more I could have (even should have) covered in this story, but the word-count would have been far too high. Maybe in draft 2. Vye was quick to remind me that, for now, continuity and baseline are what I’m shooting for. There’s more to fill out with this entire series, but that will have to wait for future drafts. For now, I’m just trying to get the basics down. (And there, folks, is your incentive to buy the book some day when it’s been published in a non-free format!)

If you’re new to my website, you should know this story is just one part of a longer series. You’ll want to read the other parts before jumping into this one. Just click here. The posts will display starting with the first, so you can kick back and read them in order.

happy hunting

There were so many smells. Had Max not grown up in the mountains, frequently taking walks and hikes with Sidney, and more recently, Arawn, he would have been overwhelmed. As it was, his instincts kicked in in high gear and it took more than a small amount of self-control to keep himself from scampering off into the woods to investigate everything from trees to small game and, he believed, at least one black bear that had passed his current position less than 2 hours before.

But Max was focused. He understood the importance of this test, and the Pull was very strong. It was still a mystery to him, the forceful sense of loyalty and desire to please Arawn that he felt to his very core, but he’d long since given up understanding it. After all, he was a dog. Dog’s are not typically deep thinkers, so it was no fault of his that he simply went with the feeling of it rather than further examining its nature.

When Arawn spoke a command, he longed to fulfill it. And even more, to fulfill it in such spectacular fashion that Arawn was proud.

That morning, he was on the hunt, but not yet for prey. For the pack. Arawn had told them to meet him here, near the base of a people trail, and he could smell them on the wind. Normally, he would bark and they would bark back, but he couldn’t afford the luxury of such a loud search, per orders, so he would have to follow his nose. It took him less than 10 minutes.

The pack was tucked into a small cleft, six dark forms waiting. They were all mutts and strays. Some had been quite ratty when Arawn found them, but they were now well-feed, even if a little tired. They murmured softly in acknowledgement of their Alpha’s arrival.

Max told them the mission.

Of course, Max couldn’t talk, and even if he had been able to form words, he could not have described the manner of his communication with the other hounds. It was telepathy in its purest form–pictures, impressions, feelings and desires. In truth, it was much faster than verbal communication could have ever been. In less than a minute, the entire pack understood fully the nature of their errand. Two minutes later, they knew Max’s plan, as well.

There were only 2 females in the pack, and neither of them were terribly desirable. Max hadn’t yet found his bitch. Because he didn’t have any sense of attraction to these two, and because they were the weakest of the pack, he had ordered them to play the roles of scout and lookout. They would not participate in the kill. The remaining 5 males, plus Max, would handle that, and Max, himself, would deliver the killing blow.

Everyone, however, would eat. Max felt strongly that all should be allowed food to develop their strength.

He sent the pack further up the mountain, paralleling the people trail. Max took his time, following them and looking for Arawn along the way. The trail zigged and zagged, following a winding pattern that made it difficult to stay out of sight. He was able to keep to the left of the trail most of the way, but there were times when he was forced to cross the trail in order to remain concealed. Of course, this meant being in full view of anyone on the trail for a short period of time, so he had to be both fast and silent.

Finally, he found Arawn standing beside a log that had been fashioned into a bench. Arawn whistled and, thankful he’d spotted him before the signal, Max trotted from the brush onto the trail.

“The pack is ready?” Arawn asked.

Max grunted quietly to let his master know that they were in place.

“Good,” Arawn said. “Keep pace and listen. You know your task, and you know the gravity of this test. Do not disappoint me. Truly, I do not wish to disciple you.”

Max didn’t like the sound of that. The very idea of disappointing Arawn was enough to make Max want to whine in pain. That would be punishment enough. However, Max knew the nature of Arawn’s disciplines. He’d seen them played out on the pack, though he, himself, had never earned one. But today, the actions and success of the pack fell on his shoulders. If even one of them under-delivered, they would all fail, and he would suffer lashes for it.

“I will not look for you,” Arawn continued. “It is your responsibility to be in position. Go now, and fail me not.”

Max grunted again, putting the horrible idea of punishment out of his head, and then retreated into the trees. From his hidden vantage point, he watched as Arawn lazily continued up the trail.

He followed him for a while, ghosting behind, the the right or left, always within 50 yards of Arawn, but never visible. The master passed a man on the trail. The man was carrying a lot of bags and a small, black box that hung from around his neck. The two talked for a moment, but Arawn did not give the signal. Instead, the stranger continued down while the master pushed upwards.

There wasn’t much snow or ice on the ground, but what little there was made Max’s paws hurt. He was tired, but then considered how tired the pack must be. They’d run all night to make it to the rendezvous point. Whatever exhaustion he felt, they felt ten-fold. He hoped they were up to the task.

Max had been on this particular people trail several times with Sidney, in spite of the no dogs rule. Once, she had been reprimanded for it by a man who wore brown clothes and spoke with authority. That was the last time she’d brought him here. Even though that had been more than a year prior, he remembered the trail well enough to know when Arawn was nearing the top, and that made him nervous. The last bit of the trail was a narrow rock path barely wide enough for one human to walk. There was no easy way up the final incline apart from it, and it wasn’t particularly easy, itself. There were handrails jutting from the stone to make it easier for humans to ascend. Max, himself, had found that part of the trail challenging, and he’d never been on it in snow or ice.

If Arawn waited until he was past that part of the trail and all the way to the lake to give the signal, it would be nearly impossible for Max or the pack to succeed. He might not even see the signal, let alone act on it in a timely manner.

Max could smell the pack nearby. The scout was further down the mountain, holding a position where they could easily hide their kill. The rest of the pack were just past Arawn, nestled in a small outcropping of Aspen. And, coming down the trail in Arawn’s direction, were four people–two adults and two children.

A family.

Arawn spoke to them lightly, much like the man he’d passed with the bags and the black box. They all laughed, everyone in good spirits. Max could faintly hear Arawn’s words, though most of them meant nothing to him. But not all.

Just before turning and continuing on the trail, Arawn clasped the man on the shoulder and said, “Happy hunting!” Both men laughed and continued on their separate ways. Max waited until Arawn was well out of sight, and then he surged forward, toward the family.

He would take the man down first.

About AR Martin
AR Martin writes dark fantasy and horror. He has a thing for classic monster legends, Egyptian and Nordic mythology, coffee and sarcasm. He is currently working on multiple books.

2 Responses to happy hunting

  1. tristdagon says:

    I am not sure how I feel about this. I really love Max but now I have to fit the thought if adorable dog and child killer together in my head. And then you start thinking is it okay to be mad at a dog?
    As always I cannot wait for next Friday! Keep it up!


    • dex says:

      Well, I understand your mixed feelings. I have them, too.

      But remember, Max is under Arawn’s spell. What he does in that state is really more about who Arawn is than who Max is.


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