Tales of Good Dogs [Realms of Pugmire]

Realms of Pugmire

Bow-wow! Are you a good dog? Good dogs in Pugmire read bark-tastic stories, like the ones found in Tales of Good Dogs. Edited by James Lowder, this anthology is a collection of eighteen short stories written by established authors such as Maurice Broaddus, Cassandra Khaw, and Jackie Cassada, as well as up-and-coming storytellers like Felipe Real and Katie Harwood.

Today, we’re pleased to share with a preview from “The Retriever”, written by Christine Morgan. 

Wolfhoundton Hall loomed large and imposing. Under other circumstances, it could easily be an impregnable fortress, but with the sun nearing zenith on another ordinary day, the immense reinforced gates stood open, the portcullises raised. Dogs of all types came and went on various business, from humble workers to well-dressed nobles. Bedraggled mutts and even a rat or two begged for scraps of food or plastic. Guards occasionally chased them off. On the corners, pups hawked trinkets, sprigs of flowers, and fresh-baked biscuits. Uniformed couriers rode sturdy, shaggy little ponies. Horse-drawn carts and wagons rumbled by on the cobblestoned streets. Carriages disgorged visitors.

A lightweight half-coach drew to a stop beside one of the hall’s arched side gates. It was a nondescript piece of work upon cursory glance, though a keener eye might have noticed its sleek lines and strong wheels. A keener eye still might have noticed the clever design of its suspension and deduced this was a coach meant not only for speed and smoothness, but for taking quick turns.

The harnessed team was likewise easy enough to take as nothing particularly special: a matched pair of mahogany mares. But, again, these too on closer inspection revealed themselves to be things of sleekness, swiftness, and strength.

The open seating compartment was upholstered in leather, and currently empty. A lone dog sat in the driver’s box, holding the reins in a casual-seeming grip. He wore a smart, black doublet over a white, high-collared shirt, with black breeches. His short fur was a pale champagne blond, shading to golden brown on the ears and muzzle.

His gaze flicked toward the sun. It was at zenith. High noon. As arranged and agreed.

Somewhere within Wolfhoundton Hall, a commotion erupted: barks of alarm, yips of pain, the rapid thump of running paws. Five dogs — two boxers, a dachshund, a basset, and a terrier — charged down the passageway. They had crude cloth masks tied over their faces, and each carried a bulging sack. Bowling over startled bystanders, with baying guards in pursuit, they burst through the gate and scrambled for the waiting coach.

“Go, go, go!” yelled the terrier, as the rest clambered in after their burdens.

The coach did not move. The horses stood still as statues. The retriever, reins still held in that casual-seeming grip, did not turn his head.

“The arrangement,” he said, “was for four dogs.”

“We needed extra muscle!” The terrier’s stubby tail and pointed ears twitched with urgency. “Go!”

“The arrangement—”

“So change the arrangement!”

“You don’t change the arrangement. High noon, side gate, four dogs, as far as the covered bridge.”

“Fine, we’ll pay extra!”

The baying grew louder, closer. A broad-chested wolfhound bellowed orders.

“That’s not how it works,” the retriever said.

A knife appeared in the terrier’s paw. “Drive the scat-kicking coach!”

Impassive, the driver said yet again. “The arrangement was for four dogs. Taking the added weight into—”

The blade pressed through short golden fur. “Then jump off and I’ll drive!”

“The horses only respond to my commands.”

Wolfhound guards were almost upon them in a ferocious pack. Town constables had converged. Sentry archers swarmed into position, drawing their deadly bows.

“Nyaaaargh!” The terrier whirled, flipped the knife, caught the tip, and flung it. The blade embedded itself hilt deep between the eyes of the larger of the two boxers. The big brindled body stiffened in a surprised jerk, then crumpled.

Whatever the others thought, they kept to themselves as they heaved the corpse over the side and into the street.

“There!” Lips skinned back, fur bristling, all but foaming at the mouth, the terrier spun back to the retriever. “Four dogs!”

“Better hang on,” the retriever said, calm as ever.

To finish reading “The Retriever” by Christine Morgan, check out Tales of Good Dogs! Coming soon in multiple formats.