Old Dogs, New Tricks
“The town used to have dogs,” said Mahani, sliding down to sit against the same rock as Glig.
“That’s why it’s called Houndworth. Dozens of these majestic, well-behaved shepherd breeds. Sleek pastel coats. They guarded the town, killed the rats, kept the children from wandering too close to the river. Nobody owned them. But we all took care of them, fed them, named them. Pepper. Opey. Stallion. Feglin. Talley. Saint.”
Mahani looked down at her hands. “I was doorstepped by nomads at age five, but the weird thing is, I don’t remember anything before those dogs. They raised me, in a lot of ways. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Jude was the one who took me in, fed me, mentored me, let me live with him all those years in his magic shop. But he wasn’t much of, you know, a father. He was distant. Always nervous around me. Around everyone. Couldn’t relax enough to be close to anyone. So the dogs. I mean they basically were my family.”
She picked up the glove, held it. “Jude had already taught me magic. Basic hedge mage stuff. Luck charms, love potions, wards, healing. Practical stuff you can actually make a living with, you know? He was getting older, and going senile early too, so I was pretty well set up to be the town’s only working spellcaster.”
“Then one day a summoner came through town,” Mahani said, running her thumb over the stitching on the glove, “He rode in on an astral stallion, surrounded by a flock of plasmatic birds and flanked by bodyguards straight from Primordia. I saw the way the townspeople looked at him. A sort of, awe and reverence. Maybe a little fear. They had always looked at me with pity at best, disgust at worst. Nomads don’t have a great reputation in this region, you know? But this summoner, he was a foreigner, too! And it didn’t seem to matter. He had earned respect. Basically tore it from the outer planes with one of these.” She handed it over to Glig, got up, and put another piece of broken canoe in the fire.
“So that became my obsession. I read the books. I made a glove. I lit the candles and ground every silver I earned curing warts and selling snake oil into dust for my summoning circles.” She paused to reposition the wood in the fire. “I brought a chicken through first. A chicken. I’m not kidding. I remember it had a purple beak and black feathers. I hadn’t learned how to send anything back yet so Jude just had it for dinner. Not kidding. He was sick for a week.” She laughed, sitting back down. “Then I brought through a couple of those blue snakes you saw in my place. Again, didn’t know how to send them back, so I just kept them. Bred them. Milked the venom, used it to cure bigger warts.” She laughed again, but her voice was already shaking. Glig smiled a bit, too, even though he knew what was coming. He watched her work the words up.
“The demon I brought through…” she choked, shielded her face from Glig, stifling the tears. She was still so young. Just a girl really. She cried just like his oldest did while confessing to stealing wine from the cellars with some other kids.
Glig put his arm around her and gently rubbed her back.
You can help this extremely light hearted and fun story be really popular by sharing it or clicking this little heart. Thanks!