Winter of Man, part 6 of 6 [Realms of Pugmire]

Pugmire

“Your friend seems to be possessed,” Zola said, drawing his pistol.

“What are you doing to do, throw it at him?” Pan asked, drawing an arrow from his quiver. “Your magazine is in the paws of the big guy.” Zola swore and holstered the weapon, his eyes looking for a way past Rex.

“No,” Picassa said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Man would not allow such a thing to happen to the faithful.”

“You will not speak of the cat,” Rex intoned, as he swung his sword toward Pan. The hunter dodged out of the way, arrow at the ready.

“Don’t make me do this, Rex,” Pan said. The guardian snarled at the comment, and swung down again, cutting the shortbow in two.

“Stop!” Zola raised his paws and chanted in his strange language. A black substance that looked like stone oozed over his paws, and he pointed them at Rex. A burst of heat erupted, and Rex’s fur burst into flames. He howled in pain and dropped his sword. Pan leapt on him to smother the burning fur.

The cat raised his paws again, but Picassa grabbed him by the lapels of his coat and snarled at him. “If you have harmed him, cat, I will eat you.”
“Sister!” Yosha said. She turned away from the glass and pointed to Picassa. “I recognize this ritual, and the spirit sees your magic! I need you and Zola to stand in two circles of light for me.”

“I would rather die than work with this creature,” Picassa snarled.

“That can be arranged,” Zola hissed.

“Hey! Still dealing with a deranged Pyrenees over here!” Pan yelled. “How about—” There was a loud thud as Rex threw Pan against a wall.

Yosha touched some more squares, and two circles of light appeared on the floor on either side of her. “Hurry! I can save Rex if you just trust me!”

Picassa hesitated for a moment. “Trust? You…my lady…” She let go of the cat. “I trust you.” She touched her nose and dashed to the circle, while Zola straightened his coat and walked to the other one. Rex turned from the limp body of Pan and started stalking toward the others.

“Nanite sample one recognized,” the spirit of the tower said. “64.1% similarity. Nanite sample two recognized. 72.8% similarity. Security threshold reached. Please enter command.”

“Do not speak of the cat,” Rex said, holding his sword over Picassa’s head. She stood in the middle of her circle and closed her eyes, whispering prayers.

Yosha touched a square and spoke in Man-tongue. “Security override Uniform Sierra Alpha. Shut down all active protocols, no countermand.” She touched her nose and muttered “Amen,” just in case.

Rex dropped his sword and grabbed his head, screaming. Blood dripped from his muzzle, staining his singed white fur. Picassa ran to his side, while Yosha scampered on all fours to check on Pan.

The hunter blinked and looked up at Yosha. There was blood dripping behind his ear, but his breathing was steady. “Is Rex…?” He left the question hanging.

Yosha smiled, wagging her tail. “He still has a demon in him, but I managed to cast the right spell so that it went to sleep. The tower had an enchantment that made the demons harder for me to notice the closer they were to the tower. Once we get him to the shepherds of Pugmire for exorcism, he should be fine.”

“Why would the tower do this to him?” he asked, standing up while gingerly holding his head.

“I don’t think the tower made the demons, but it can control them to protect itself. It’s an ancient incantation that Man created to stop an invasion.” She frowned a little. “I couldn’t read more than that—I didn’t have the right security incantation, and what I could read didn’t make sense. It looked like Man was invading themselves.”

“But what about the storm?” Pan insisted. “The whole reason we’re here?”

“See for yourself.” Yosha got up and touched the large window, and it switched back to the view outside. The wind had stopped, and the sun was shining. A number on the right side slowly increased. “It’ll take a while for all the ice and snow to melt, but it should be normal weather soon.”

“Oh praise Man!” Picassa shouted, burying her face in Rex’s chest. “I can feel his heart!”

Yosha and Pan turned to the two of them, and watched as Rex petted Picassa awkwardly. “I’m fine now, Sister,” Rex muttered.
Picassa looked up, with tears in her eyes. “I lost my faith, guardian. For a moment, I thought Man had…had…”

“But I am here now. Your faith was true.”

“I would say your faith in this pug is more useful,” Pan said. “She’s the one who saved us, not Man.”

Yosha blushed. “Well, Picassa and Zola helped. Didn’t you, Zola?” She looked around, just as she saw the cat silently slinking out the door. His yellow eyes blinked in surprise and he dropped to all fours, running as fast as he could. Pan went to grab his shortbow, remembered that Rex cut it in half, and threw it after Zola in frustration. The cat darted around a corner and disappeared.

“Typical,” Pan snorted. “You never know when a cat will just run like crazy.”

“He left behind his Man-tech, too,” Rex grunted, pulling the magazine from his belt. “One day he may come back for it. But I agree with the desire to leave this tower. We are still in Korat, and outcast or no, Zola will bring other cats here.”

“Yes, we should go.” Yosha looked around the room one more time. “But it’s sad in a way.”

“How so, my lady?”

The pug waved her hand to encompass the room. “This is the closest we’ve ever come to understanding Man, but I have more questions than I did before. Why did they build this? What was it for? Why would they hide this ability to control the demons from us?”

Picassa put a paw on Yosha’s shoulder. “Man works in mysterious ways.”

  1 comment for “Winter of Man, part 6 of 6 [Realms of Pugmire]

  1. WuseMajor
    December 15, 2018 at 12:26 am

    I love this story. It’s both cute and sad in the right ways. Thank you for sharing it.

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