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Contest! Finish "All the King's Men" 
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
I didn't expect to see a King and Joey friendship story. But it was very well done! It also tied up nicely to that strip where Joey tried to make King play D&D

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Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:01 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
I didn't actually expect to win, but I started this horribly canon-incongruous piece nonetheless just for the fun of it.

Also: Some people call it character derailment, I call it artistic license.

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Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:50 am
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Mr. Sunshine
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
That's a pretty funny and unexpected story there, A-coro! :lol:

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Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:29 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Liam wrote:
I didn't actually expect to win, but I started this horribly canon-incongruous piece nonetheless just for the fun of it.

Also: Some people call it character derailment, I call it artistic license.

Pridelands LARPing tournament...I am intrigued.


Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:36 pm
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Smiley McSmiles
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Yay! It's done! :D
OK, please tell me where I can improve, because it feels a little rushed to me sometimes. I'll probably edit this bad boy a few times, but it's DONE, and I wanted to get up here for feedback.
Oh, and Rick, please tell me if any of the character interactions seem off, especially Bill, cause I don't have a lot of material on him.

2.
Receiving no reply to his slow-witted question, even Kevin began to feel the awkwardness and after a bit of glancing around and nervously fidgeting, slinked away. What followed was a tangible silence in the room.

Thoughts of all colors, shapes and sizes whirled through King’s head, but none of them were sticking. He couldn’t think, couldn’t even breathe. Then the thoughts began to merge into one powerful, sweeping movement.

Get out!
Hurry!
Now!
Run!
Go!


But no matter what he was thinking, King was glued to the couch, motionless. He could feel the weight of their gaze on him.

This is it, he thought as Fido began moving a paw to his mouth.

“Ahem!”

A slight pause followed where everyone slowly found their motor skills again and tried to inconspicuously look away.

King’s panic was settling into a dull ache in the pit of his stomach. His mind wound down as he realized the stupidity of his remark, the stupidity of having been there in the first place. Why hadn’t he just gone home instead of hanging around police dogs where he was bound to screw up sooner or later and give away the obvious fact that he wasn’t used to being a dog and . . .

“Sorry,” said Fido, “we shouldn’t have stared like that, and . . . um . . . Ralph and I need to go . . . check on Kevin. Right?”

“Oh! Right,” replied the startled sergeant, “before he breaks something or . . . something.”

“Wait, I wanna know what’s going on!” cried Spo as the dogs left.

“Hush,” replied Fido.

And they were gone.

And King was alone in the room with the one canine he most wanted and didn’t want to be alone with.

The dull ache was still there. While the situation was definitely going better than anything he had been thinking about, it was not going to be easy from here. Not at all. He was sure they knew something was off, but . . .

“Hey, King?”

The corgi glanced nervously up toward his friend, his support, his hope, his fear.

It was enough of a reply for Fox, who gently took a seat next to the visibly frightened dog.

“Look, we’re sorry we stared. Even if that did take us by surprise we shouldn’t have . . . Do you want to talk about it?”

No! Yes! No! Yes!

“I . . .”

You can’t keep up the lie! You can’t leave him without an excuse!

“I-I . . .”

No! Yes!

“It’s just that . . .”

NO!

“Just . . .”

YES!

“Fox, I . . .”

You’ll expose too much! You need a friend! “I just . . . I don’t wanna be alone again.”

Wow. A sincere answer. It surprised King as much as it did Fox who slowly smiled.

“King. No one’s going to leave you just because you’re an oddball. But I am curious.” He eyed the little dog, “You have some weird social behaviors.”

Not good.

“You’ve told me your owner doesn’t physically abuse you, but I can’t say I like him. He’s definitely got you a little messed up.”

Wait, this actually was looking good. Fox’s natural instinct was to blame it on Pete. Well, that worked, since as far as King was concerned the whole thing was the stupid bird’s fault anyway. And he didn’t have him a little messed up. He had him a lot messed up. Pete had messed up his whole life. But, while he couldn’t mention that part to Fox, he could shift the attention to Pete and get himself out of the hot seat for a bit.

“Well, he’s . . .”

Except he didn’t really have anything to say. Pete was . . . a jerk? Yes. A bully? Yes. Mentally traumatizing? Yeah, sort of. But nothing he hadn’t already told Fox when he’d first learned that most pets were treated far better than he was. And certainly nothing that would excuse his lack of canine sociability.

But Fox took his dropped sentence to mean something a bit different. “You don’t have to defend him. What your owner’s doing may not be illegal or anything, but it’s still not right.”

King didn’t even want to think about defending Pete’s actions. But as he was about to get indignant over Fox’s mistake, he saw the genuine concern on the husky’s face, and it startled him out of it. He’d grown into an attitude of mistrust for the world, where he stood up for himself and relied on no one else to stand up beside him. So it was that a small spark of happiness set off inside the corgi for just a brief moment.

“Sorry.”

“Huh? Sorry for what?” The husky arched an eyebrow.

“For screwing up your party. I’m just . . . I keep not knowing what to do with myself, and I’m . . . sorry.”

Fox smiled. “Hey, it’s fine. All we want to know is that you’re okay. You keep scaring us with all your little outbreaks, and all we want is for you to feel welcome. I know it’s gotta be tough being the new dog, and with an owner like yours, eugh.” He shivered for effect. “Look, none of us knows what happened in your past to make you so uptight, and you’re pretty shut up about it,” continued Fox, beeping King on the nose light-heartedly, “But we’re gonna try our hardest to break you out of your shell. So what do you say we get back to the party?”

There were still reservations that made King pause. Just knowing that everyone was genuinely concerned for him and genuinely wanted to include him and genuinely did not hate him with every fiber of their being didn’t put him at ease. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known that all along. It was just so deeply ingrained in him that the fear and paranoia were almost subconscious.

King looked to Fox again. For some completely bizarre and outrageous reason this husky had chosen to befriend him. He had picked him up out of the darkness that he had found himself unceremoniously dumped into, and shown him the light. It had occurred to him to wonder what Fox could have seen that drew him to a stubby corgi tumbling from one depressing cycle of anger and pain, and into another. He didn’t think he’d ever know the answer, but he still felt like he could somehow see it, plain as day, written on the face of this strange friend of his.

So he smiled, and nodded his smallish head, and wagged his stubby tail.

Not that King became the life of the party. In fact, his subconscious was playing such havoc with him the whole time that he barely left Fox’s side.

Apparently Bill had finished the burgers because there was a single mass of dog attacking the table as the two walked into the dining room. King was fairly certain that no one could have looked on that massive scene of carnage and not felt like running the other way, so when he stayed put he felt like he deserved a Nobel Prize for something or another, even if his legs were wobbling like jelly.

And he was sure no one could blame him for squirming as they discussed the still missing kidnapper, and carried on about how much they wanted to ring his neck . . . and use what was left as a chew toy. And when all two hundred and fifty pounds of Bill started ranting, and Fox finally turned to ask him if needed to use the restroom, he thought that no one could possibly think any less of him for saying, “Yeah, gotta go!”

But the day actually got a little better when Ralph suggested they move the party outside for a snowball fight. King began to worry a bit when Kevin started yelling, “Tackle Snowball!” But it was unanimously voted down because there’s really no point in adding tackle to a snowball fight.

The teams were divided, and there King sat behind his team’s fort wall. Dogs make snow forts really quickly. All they have to do is start digging, and lo and behold, a bunker appears! But King’s mind was not focused on the fort, his numbing fingers from digging in the snow, the many snowballs he was making, or even the upcoming fight. No he was busily processing one thought: Fox was on the other team. And that thought just didn’t seem to want to register.

The corgi’s hands were diligently making snowballs, but his mind was whirling just short of panic. He’d been in paranoia mode the entire party. It wasn’t like he didn’t realize how irrational his fear toward the K-9 unit was. But every time he saw Ralph, he thought of the long ride to the police station dreading the future and regretting his past. When he saw Fido, he thought of the moment the handcuffs went on and he knew his life was over. When he saw Kevin . . . well, Kevin was on the other team, so he’d just stay away.

Yet somehow Fox, even though the husky was inextricably tied into the ordeal as well, Fox was a friend. King had been an accomplice to his kidnapping and near murder, yet he still welcomed him with open arms. Or, rather, a face full of butt. Still there was something the corgi couldn’t quite get a grasp on, despite being an entirely new being, it seemed like Fox should still hate him, and maybe he would almost prefer that in some twisted way, but he just couldn’t . . .

“Hey, King, we’re starting.”

And there was Fido.

“Aah! Sorry!”

“Whoa, calm down! It’s fine I just . . . Wow that’s a lot of snowballs!”

King turned to look at his pile. Apparently his hands had been hard at work because that was an impossible amount of snowballs. He couldn’t even fathom how he’d managed to make them all.

Aha ha ha ha. . . yeah, that’s a really . . . true thing . . . that . . . yeah . . . lots. Aha.”

Fido got a sort of puzzled, sort of deep look on his face that just gave the already nervous corgi a case of the fidgets.

“You know, you always act like everyone’s about to beat you over the head if you do something wrong. And I don’t know where you picked up this whole . . . attitude toward . . . everything, but . . . if you’d just try to let it go, I think you’d find that everyone here just wants to have fun, and they want you to have fun too.”

At that moment a few snowballs went sailing past, mere inches from Fido’s head.

“Gotta run! Just . . . be yourself, and have some fun.” And with a little smile on his face Fido turned and charged out into the fray with another dog that King didn’t know following a moment later.

“The fearless warriors plunge into the fray!” shouted Spo hiding behind Fido’s ear.

Be yourself

Now that was just about the biggest oxymoron King had ever heard in his life, considering the current circumstances.

But it still struck a chord somewhere within him. And for a second he thought it all seemed like it made sense, or something. Then when a snowball landed almost in his lap he jumped up and gave a battle cry of his own, and the whole conversation was forgotten. For now, it was war.

Throughout the game, as snowballs whizzed past his head. He found himself thinking less and less about the world, his life, and all the other junk that he’d been dealt recently. It was as if there was no reason to think about it, just to be. To run, to play, to laugh. Oh, to laugh, a real joyous laughter such as he hadn’t laughed since times long past. Just to be in the moment. With everyone around him experiencing and enjoying life. And it all seemed so natural. Like it was meant to be.

No one was aware of the passing time, and no one really cared. There was no score to keep and no rules to follow, what was time in a game like that?

King had charged out with his little arms full of snowballs and upon discovering he couldn’t throw as far as he remembered, became even more determined. Having to get closer to the dogs before throwing a snowball meant his aim was rarely off, and it forced him to become nibble and light on his freezing toes. Though he still got pelted a number of times; he weaved and dodged throughout the canine crowd blasting away when he found an opening and giving about as good as he got. In fact, he was so absorbed that it took him completely by surprise when he ran out of snowballs. And left him open for a snowball directly to the face.

Which he shook off and charged back to the fort and his large stash of premade snowballs. This would only surprise him later, the fact that he hadn’t woken up from whatever spell he was under and back into the cold reality he had been preoccupied with only moments before. But no, he was enjoying himself and not even the terrifying fray of canines at war was going to shock him out of it.

He dove behind his team’s fort wall and into the bunker as two snowballs sailed over his head. Being small quickly became an advantage as the corgi was able to pop up and fire off a snowball without exposing much of anything to strike back at. A fact which he reveled in, except when he kept forgetting where his ears were while ducking a snowball. They got nicked a lot and were just starting to go a little numb when he popped up to find Fox about five inches from his face. The slight shock of seeing the husky was quickly replaced by the realization of something hovering over his head: namely a large armful of snow.

“Oh cr-”

King popped out of the large heap of snow he suddenly found himself in, spluttering and shaking all the mush off of his head and out of his ears. He glared up as Fox laughed lightly, then lunged quickly to tackle his friend into the snow. They both laughed and rolled about wrestling for a good position. Fox had the advantage of size and strength, but King was small and flexible, and the husky couldn’t hold him for long before the little dynamo would wriggle out and latch on again.

The snowball fight came to a halt as the rest of the group crowded around shouting encouragements to the two wrestlers.

“Get ‘im Fox! Hold ‘im still!”

“That’s it King! Get his ankles!”

“Pin him down!”

“Look out!”

“He’s slippery!”

“You got him!”

“Hurry! Get up!”

Fox was on his back with King holding onto his legs, but then he managed to flip King up and over his head. The poor corgi was so disoriented that Fox had a chance to pin him down, and there just wasn’t enough wiggle room to free himself.

“One! Two! Three!”

Shouts rang out as the match was declared over. The victorious husky reached down and helped the defeated corgi to his feet. King was panting, exhausted, numb all over, but he had a smile from ear to ear. He hadn’t felt so light since he could remember.

“Hey, Fox?”

“Hmm?”

“Thanks.”

“Heh, you got it, buddy.”

3.
Not long after the great snowball war the party began winding down with the onset of twilight. One by one the members of the K-9 unit started home. Some got picked up by their parents and owners; others were easily within walking distance of Officer Bill’s house.

King hadn’t left Fox’s side since their wrestling match. He was at least kind of smiling a little and said good bye when the dogs left, but he still wasn’t comfortable being around them. It was like a little itch that just wouldn’t go away. Try as he might, the corgi couldn’t bring himself to leave the relative safety of his friend.

When all the guests had left, King let out a little sigh of relief. No more police dogs to keep him constantly on edge. He felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Like the sun had finally come out from behind the clouds. He heard someone entering the living room and turned to greet Fox, instead there was all two hundred and fifty pounds of Bill. The sun was gone definitely gone again.

King’s mouth sort of flopped open as if to say something, but nothing was coming out. Maybe if he’d known it was going to be Fox’s dad and not Fox, he might have been able to at least put on a happy face and pretend nothing was wrong. As it was, it took all he had to keep from letting out that wild scream he had given when Kevin tackled him earlier. All thoughts were focused on one thing:

Calm down! No panic! All’s well! Don’t die!

Fortunately Bill didn’t seem to notice. “So, I guess your that King guy Fox keeps talking about. Put ‘er there, man.” And, thus saying, he stuck out a hand that King thought was surely as big as his head. The poor dog couldn’t have moved his paw even if he’d wanted to, much less stick it into that giant, meaty mitt to shake.

Again fortune smiled upon him as Fox entered the room. “Dad, would you quit scaring my friend?”

“Ah, sorry ‘bout that Fox. I keep forgetting how big I am compared to the little dogs. Sorry there, squirt.”

And, finally regaining motor control, King was able to slowly nod his head. His mouth, however, remained in the complete shock position.

“Daaad, you broke him,” said Fox, indicating the slack-jawed corgi.

“If only the perps would freeze like that with just one look at me. Ha ha!”

Fox rolled his eyes good naturedly while King slowly found the muscles to close his mouth. He was about to try laughing along with Bill’s joke, but the officer continued, “Well, I’m just glad Fox found someone to hang out with other than Bino. You seem like a nice guy.” King started leaning back as Bill leaned close, “Break Fox’s heart, and I’ll break your face.” With that he turned around chuckling, and Fox pushed him out of the room.

“Come on, dad. Seriously.”

Despite the fact that it was a joke, mostly, Officer Bill’s warning had given King a rather unpleasant image. And it was quite similar to the one he had when Bill had first pulled him over, and he learned that the dog he had helped kidnap belonged to the rather scary individual in front of him.

When he had gotten his dad out of the room, Fox returned to find King in the same position he’d left him. He sighed, “He means well, but he tends to come off a little intimidating.”

King was trying to find a way to respond, but through the recent fear and his desire to give the right response his mind was drawing a blank.

Aha ha ha, yeah, er no, I mean, I wasn’t . . . heh.”

Fox paused. Then he finally decided to get to the heart of the matter, “Why do you keep doing that, King? Can’t you just say what you’re thinking?”

No!

Oops, was that out loud?

“I mean, uh . . . It’s nothing, nothing’s wrong. I just . . . aha . . . L-Look I’m sorry! Can we just . . . do that over or . . .”

The rush of emotions running through King was overwhelming him again. Beating himself up for the slip of the tongue, upset that he was ostracizing himself from his only friend, unsure of what Fox was thinking: and it all was adding up to a great worry and fear about how everything was going to turn out.

Then Fox opened his mouth to speak, and King had this nauseating feeling that the next words were going to decide a good portion of his future.

“Look, King. I understand if you don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine . . . But I was kind of hoping that . . . since I’m your friend, maybe you’d be willing to confide in me a little,” he quickly added, “I mean, if you don’t want to that’s fine, just . . .”

But King’s emotional cocktail was turning an angry red. “What am I to you, a charity case? You go around fixing people’s problems like you can just do whatever you want? You don’t know me! You don’t know the half of it! I don’t need anyone else trying to fix my screwed up life! Got it?”

“What? King-”

But he wasn’t listening. And with that he marched out to the foyer to get his scarf leaving Fox in the living room looking stunned. He passed by Officer Bill on the way who started to say, “You know-”

“You stay away from me!”

King continued his march to the foyer with tears just starting to form in his eyes. He began wrapping the scarf around his neck, when he heard, “Fox doesn’t treat friends like that.”

“What do you know? What do any humans know about dogs? Especially their owners!”

The door opened and slammed shut on Bill’s final words to King. He didn’t know if the dog even heard.

A lone corgi trudged through the snow, silhouetted by the moon. It was quiet. He didn’t say anything the whole way home. Home. As if anyone could call it that.

He really didn’t want to deal with the oversized bird in a bowler cap, so he quietly opened and close the door to his house. But since he was actually dealing with a magical, oversized bird in a bowler cap, he wasn’t really surprised to find Pete waiting for him as he tried to slink to his room.

“So, King, have a good time at Fox’s today?”

“Don’t you start with me!”

Pete looked mildly surprised and smiled in that oh so annoying way of his. “Oh? Had a falling out I take it.”

King’s indignation flared again. “Look, I don’t need you poking your . . . beak into my business! You’ve already made my life miserable! Thank you! I don’t need you adding to it!”

“Big falling out.”

“Oh just shut it! I don’t need friends like that! I don’t need anyone’s pity! I can take care of myself!”

And there was that condescending smile again. Jeez, that grated on King’s nerves like nothing else.

“Yes, you were doing such a wonderful job before I found you. Surely you are perfectly capable of handling your own affairs.”

King was calming down a bit. This was becoming one of their normal jousting matches. Each trying to one-up the other, and despite the fact that King never won, he was settling into the normalcy of it all. And it soothed him ever so slightly, even while it riled him up even more.

“Look, you over-stuffed turkey, life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, okay? But I was at least making some sort of progress in life before. Now I’m stuck in this stupid body with stubby arms and legs where I’m some sort of weirdo if I don’t sniff people’s butts! And wipe that stupid smirk off your face!”

“Well, I’m glad to see you’ve figured this whole dog’s life out. Clearly it’s the miserable existence you’ve always assumed it was.”

If that smile got any bigger, King was sure Pete’s face would split in half. He wanted to punch the stupid bird right in the kisser. If only he weren’t capable of doing whatever the heck he wanted in retribution. It made King so frustrated that he had to put up with this on top of the mess his day, no, his life was turning into.

It wasn’t like he really needed friends. He’d pretty much been a loner in his life as a human, and he was sure he could do it again. Especially if the so called “friends” he made were going to treat him like some social project to fix up. He didn’t want pity. He wanted . . . something else.

“Whatever.”

“Well, I certainly hope you’re going to mend your relationship with Fox.”

What was this? Pete wanted him to make friends? Wait! There was that whole “teach you a lesson” stuff. Were friends supposed to be part of that? The wheels in King’s brain were spinning wildly, trying to fit this into the model of what he knew about his new life.

Apparently his expression displayed his thoughts because Pete answered his internal question, “I want you to make friends in this community, and Fox seems just about perfect. You can’t be a lone dog forever, it won’t work.”

“This is all part of that learning my lesson and becoming a better person stuff, isn’t it?”

“What, you thought your scars were just going to magically heal if you stayed a dog long enough? Friends are important in the healing process, and in your case, dog friends are especially important.”

Well, in a way that made sense, as much as King hated to admit it. But it didn’t change the fact that “friends” like Fox were not going to take any part in his life. Not if he still had a say in his actions, which he wasn’t quite sure of when it came to Pete. He still hadn’t figured that bird out.

“Important or not, I’m still not going back to be Fox’s little project. I’m sure there are a thousand other pets that he can help out of whatever pit they’re in. He can get his self-worth or whatever from them!”

“Yes, clearly you’re the victim here.”

Pete’s response was as biting as usual, but its implications caught King by surprise. Fox was the one who was using their “friendship” as leverage to make King talk, right? How was he the victim?

The little corgi opened his mouth to make a brilliant retort, when he remembered the last words Officer Bill had said just as he was slamming the door shut.

Fox doesn’t treat friends like that.

What do you know? What do any humans know about dogs? Especially their owners!

. . . I’m his dad.


He’d dismissed that earlier. It was just what some pets called their owners, it didn’t really change anything. But what if it did?

He’d been a friend to his pets when he was a kid, but his parents definitely weren’t his pets’ parents. In fact, the humans of this neighborhood treated their pets better than his parents had treated him.

I’m his dad.

What did that really mean? Then, all of a sudden, he remembered something else. A tiny detail. Barely noticeable. But there it was.

So, I guess your that King guy Fox keeps talking about.

Keeps talking about


So, wait, Fox had been talking about him to his dad? What was there to talk about? All they’d done was fight over a squeaky bone or wrestled a bit or talked or walked, just . . . stupid stuff like that. Did Fox just tell his dad about the stupid stuff they’d been doing?

Look, King. I understand if you don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine.

Yeah, but then he’d gone and used their friendship like King owed him for it or something.

Fox doesn’t treat friends like that.

What did he know anyway?

I’m his dad.

King wished it would just stop. He didn’t want to think about it.

All we want to know is that you’re okay. You keep scaring us with all your little outbreaks, and all we want is for you to feel welcome.

We’re gonna try our hardest to break you out of your shell.


What if he’d been wrong? Then what? King felt a deep dread wash over him.

Hey there, new dog, wanna fight over a squeaky bone?

The first words he’d ever heard from Fox, as King at least. Before the husky had known anything about him, he’d come forward to make him welcome. To be a friend.

King’s ears dropped and he felt a little whine well up in his throat.

He rushed to the front door and threw his scarf on.

“Going to see Fox, I take it.”

“Shut up! I’m just going for a walk.”

“It’s past nine.”

“I like walking in the dark!”

“Mm-hmm”

“Shut up!”

“I didn’t say anything at all.”

SLAM

Pete was smiling to himself about who knows what. “Definitely important for you to make friends, King. Otherwise, there’s no reason for me to go to all this trouble.”

King had never felt so unsure in all his life. His feet were making the journey to Fox’s house, but his mind was a million miles away. He was replaying all the memories he had of him and his friend. Why hadn’t he stopped to think about that before blowing his top?

“Stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

And what was he even going to say?

Oh, hi Fox, it appears I yelled at you and probably hurt your feelings. Can we be friends again?

Yeah, that was going to go over well. Oh, and Bill too.

Hello Officer Bill, it appears I have severely angered you. Could you please not tear me limb from limb?

Maybe he should just head home again. Not that his legs were listening. They kept plodding along, one foot in front of the other, step by step, to the house of Wow What A Screw-Up.

Oh, and there it was. That seemed awfully fast . . . Now what? Just ring the doorbell at whatever past nine? And then what? Get the everlasting stuffing beat out of him?

“Brilliant, King. No plan, just come over.”

Then the most extraordinary thing happened. The door opened. And there stood Officer Bill. King couldn’t make out his expression because the light was shining from behind him. It made him look scary . . . if he hadn’t looked scary before.

There was a pause where King didn’t know what to say. Then he heard, “I suppose you’ve got something to say to Fox?”

King nodded. His eyes nervously darting about.

“Well, get in here before you freeze to death.”

The corgi didn’t respond, simply walking inside. Bill closed the door behind him, but he just stood there unsure of what to do.

“He went to his room after you left. I’m glad you’re man, or . . . dog enough to come back, so get on up there.”

King sniffed a little. Then nodding his head, he went up the stairs. There wasn’t much running through his mind as he walked up the steps and down the hall. He wasn’t really sure what to think. So he just walked. Fox’s room was the only one with the light on. He knocked on the open door.

“Dad, I’m fine. If King wants to take it that way, that’s okay. I’ll figure something out and talk to him tomorrow.”

If King’s ears could go any lower.

He still wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, but he cleared his throat a little. It was enough to get Fox to turn around and look at him. There was a moment of surprise. Then Fox simply said, “Oh, hi King.”

It was an awkward pause. The corgi was quite certain it was his turn to say something, but he didn’t know what to say. He’d never been able to come up with anything good on the way over, and he wasn’t sure he could come up with something on the spot.

“I’m sorry.”

King looked surprised. Fox was apologizing to him.

“No, Fox, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I mean . . . I just thought you were . . . you know, and I just . . . went off, and I really shouldn’t have. I just . . . I don’t know what to do, Fox.”

And there was Fox, standing in front of him. He knelt down and hugged his friend close. “It’s okay, King. I’m just glad I didn’t completely ruin our relationship. I shouldn’t have used our friendship to get you to say something, I knew it was stupid the moment I said it. But you’re so funny about your past.”

“Yeah.”

Fox chuckled. “Look, if you wanna keep it to yourself, that’s fine. But at least let me be a friend.”

“Okay.”

Then Fox stood up. “What time is it?”

“Um . . . I left a little after nine.”

Fox smiled. “Hey, you wanna spend the night? It’s too late to walk home now.”

“Sure, I guess. Though I don’t know if Pete’ll let me . . . Unless . . .”

“Unless what?”

“Well, if your dad called to ask, I don’t think he’d be able to say no.”

Both Fox and King laughed at that, then went down to coerce Bill into making the call. Sure enough, King got permission. And as they went to bed, several hours later cause that’s just how guys are, King turned to Fox and said, “Thanks, Fox . . . for everything.”

Fox smiled, “That’s what friends are for.”

And the lights went out in the house letting the moon shine bright on two friends.

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Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:16 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
So many entries. So many good entries... Help Me!!!

I Will Win!!!

I did see a few mistakes, but it was just name switching or forgetting to put a letter at the end of a word. Nothing serious.

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:19 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
if there were any mistakes, I didn't see 'em. Too busy looking at how awesome the whole thing was!


Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:13 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
I meant for all of the stories posted in the last few days. Again, there was nothing major. These stories were pretty awesome. Rick is gonna have a hard time trying to decide who gets the runner-up prizes.

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:17 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Yeah, the winner's an easy choice--me. Anyone else just has to fend for themselves for the runner-up title. :P

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:54 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
copper wrote:
I meant for all of the stories posted in the last few days. Again, there was nothing major. These stories were pretty awesome. Rick is gonna have a hard time trying to decide who gets the runner-up prizes.

Totally this^^
This latest post was full of awesome, fun and sweet. I never read do many variations of the same theme and find them equally enjoyable. :D :D

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:03 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
copper wrote:
I did see a few mistakes, but it was just name switching or forgetting to put a letter at the end of a word. Nothing serious.

I guess you meant me! :oops:
But, thankfully they were corrected. There were too many great stories. For me it doesn't matter who wins, All I want is to see another arc with King in it.

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:18 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
copper wrote:
So many entries. So many good entries... Help Me!!!

I Will Win!!!

I did see a few mistakes, but it was just name switching or forgetting to put a letter at the end of a word. Nothing serious.

In all subobjectivity, you're fanfic is still the best for me. :mrgreen:

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:22 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
I just read obbl's. That's a placer for sure. That one and Gamecobra's are my favorites. I'm not guessing who's first or wherever I'll end up. But those two? Those are awesome.

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:38 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
this writing stuff is hard

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:10 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
No kidding...

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:14 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard

I prefer 'funny' :D

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:31 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard


you can say that, like another 500 times

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:02 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
angelusbr wrote:
copper wrote:
I did see a few mistakes, but it was just name switching or forgetting to put a letter at the end of a word. Nothing serious.

I guess you meant me! :oops:
But, thankfully they were corrected. There were too many great stories. For me it doesn't matter who wins, All I want is to see another arc with King in it.


There were actually a few stories that I was referring to. Again, none of those mistakes were anything big, and they more than likely won't be counted against anyone.

Foldo wrote:
copper wrote:
So many entries. So many good entries... Help Me!!!

I Will Win!!!

I did see a few mistakes, but it was just name switching or forgetting to put a letter at the end of a word. Nothing serious.

In all subobjectivity, you're fanfic is still the best for me. :mrgreen:


Aaahhh! Thankees! I hope that I win. Tha Housedog cannot beat me! He just can't!


Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard


Says the best writer in the forum... :roll:

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:54 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
copper wrote:
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard


Says the best writer in the forum... :roll:

D:
I actually don't care that much

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:57 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Teh Brawler wrote:
copper wrote:
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard


Says the best writer in the forum... :roll:

D:
I actually don't care that much


Search your feelings, you know it to be true!
Sorry, but I've wanted to use that since forever!

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Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:00 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Awesome fic there Obbl.


Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:55 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is easy

Fix'd. The story is the real difficulty.
copper wrote:
Says the best writer in the forum... :roll:

You mean me?

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Sinder wrote:
So then Max can't snort catnip off Grape's chest? :(


Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:01 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard


Gets easier when you add Dragons.

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 3:35 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
GameCobra wrote:
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard


Gets easier when you add Dragons.

Win. That comment is made of it. Everything's better with dragons! :lol:
In all seriousness, though, there's only one day left of this. I can't wait to finally read the ends of any unfinished ATKM stories and hear the results! :D

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 3:42 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
GameCobra wrote:
Sinder wrote:
this writing stuff is hard


Gets easier when you add Dragons.

Y'know, that's actually true. *cougheragoncough*

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Sinder wrote:
So then Max can't snort catnip off Grape's chest? :(


Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:55 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
the good news is that this will get finished

the bad news is that it might not be today

friend of mine apparently wants to drag me outside today, and if that happens, then I won't be able to work on this, and will probably miss the deadline

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:37 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Sinder wrote:
the good news is that this will get finished

the bad news is that it might not be today

friend of mine apparently wants to drag me outside today, and if that happens, then I won't be able to work on this, and will probably miss the deadline

Aww...missin' out on a good read, then.

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 3:09 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Hey, I made it past the first elimination! I'm so happy!

I hope I win! It would be a new experience for me. I wonder what it feels like...

HA! Tha Housedog will not beat me as long as I'm still in the running! :lol:

lol = just kidding

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 8:19 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
yeahhhh, I'm not gonna make the deadline.
I have never hated my procrastinating personality so much.

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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
*frantically works to try and meet the deadline*

I WILL NOT FAIL MYSELF! ARGH!

*Four hours remaining until the 25th Rick's time...*

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 8:51 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Gimme about 2 hours, and I'll have the rest in.

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:06 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
story incoming

expect it up before the comic

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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Story incoming...hopefully...

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Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:29 pm
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
copper wrote:
Hey, I made it past the first elimination! I'm so happy!

I hope I win! It would be a new experience for me. I wonder what it feels like...

HA! Tha Housedog will not beat me as long as I'm still in the running! :lol:

lol = just kidding

I'm in the running, too! :D
Also, I rarely even win anything, either. We're in the same boat, Copper. :)

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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Okay, so, I got it done. I'm not expecting a first place with this, but, hey, I got it done on time, and I think I did... okay, at least.

This "All the King's Men" prequal type story (err, so it might not qualify for the contest; that's up for Rick to decide), takes place in between the third and fourth pannels of This comic, from the arc, "A Wonderful Dog's Life." It's very heavily dialogue based, and I was aiming to bridge the gap in between those two panels.

Word Count (with the bits borrowed from the comic): 3,203 words.

Oh, and the italic tags etc are hopefully optimized for Wordpress, hence how they look. I can change/fix that easily, so don't mind it.

Enjoy my last minute entry, everyone! XD

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All the King's Men Prequal: Some Good 'ol Dogs

"...Ah, you don't have to make a blockbuster production out of it. You're a good dog! In fact, you should come hang out at the Good ol' Dogs Club; everyone'll love you," Fox said.

King's ears perked up, and his face brightened. "I guess it couldn't hurt!"
______________

"...So... this is the clubhouse?" King was staring at what seemed to be an old style backwoods cabin, sitting distinctly apart from nearby suburban houses. It was also about three feet shorter than the nearest one story house.

"Yeah," Fox replied, "Our owners got tired of letting us hold the meetings at our houses, especially after what happened to Jeff's house when Fido returned... So, they finally built us a clubhouse for the meetings."

King watched as other dogs entered the open doorway to the clubhouse in packs. King has heard this was a "Pet Friendly Community," but he wasn't prepared for... this many animals. There were dozens filing in, and this was only the <i>dogs</i> in the neighborhood. His ears suddenly became plastered to the back of his head.

"Ermm, um," King started stammering, trying to change the subject and get his mind off the massive amount of dogs around. "When...um, who returned?" King now also had a death-grip on his scarf.

"A good friend of mine. He's a co-founder of the Good 'ol dogs club, but I think he might be busy tonight. So, Bino is going to run the meeting again instead. He'll try to run though a couple of topics, then we'll all just mingle and we can- King?"

"<b>What!?</b>" King jumped a bit.

Fox smiled at him. "Relax a bit. Nobody is going to hurt you."

"You could tell?" King's scarf was about to rip due to his own nervous death-grip.

"Just a guess, King," Fox said, noting King's ears and scarf. "Com'on, everyone's just here to have fun!" Fox put his hand on King's shoulder, and the corgi felt slightly more at ease.

"Well then..." King said, "I guess I'll try and-"

"<i>Just</i> FUN?!"

King was interrupted by a loud obnoxious voice from behind. Fox sighed slightly and turned around.

"Hello, Bino. Ready for the meeting?"

"Yes, as long as dogs aren't blowing it off as <i>just fun</i>," Bino shot back at Fox, "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee all have serious matters to discuss!" Bino near yelled, pointing his finger angrily at Fox. "It's <i>this</i> very club that keeps us all in good order, it's <i>this</i> very club that ensures fairness among us all, and it's <i>this</i> very club that-"

King was already tuning Bino out, semi-hiding behind Fox, wondering how many more times Bino would shout, "and it's this very club that."

<i>'Is he going to shut up anytime soon?'</i> King wondered to himself.

"...And who's the shorty?! He hasn't even been <i>listening</i> to any of this!" Bino motioned behind Fox, to King.

"S-Shorty?! King stammered again, still nervous, yet peeved at the same time.

Fox came to the rescue. "This is King," he said, introducing him. "He just moved in a few days ago, so this is his first meeting. Cut him some slack," he said, staring down Bino.

Bino stared back, annoyed. "Fine, but he had better have some <i>good</i> contributions to tonight's discussion! It's <i>extremely</i> important, and it more than applies to Shorty, since he's new here. It's the third thing on tonight's agenda; here, take a good look...and... um..."

King watched curiously as Bino dug around his neck, under his collar, as if scratching away fleas.

"Where did it go?! I know I put it in the third pocket with my wallet!"

"You have a <i>wallet</i>?" King asked, knowing that his old pets never got an allowance. "Pets get that much money?" Fox peered at King oddly, but Bino reacted quite differently.

"Yeah," Bino answered with a smug grin, "All the <i>awesome</i> pets have at least seven dollars on them, like me. What, are you so poor you can't even buy a biscuit, Shorty?"

Fox interjected before King could respond. "Hey Bino? I think a cat found your wallet," he said while pointing to a black cat sitting on a nearby roof. The cat was waving around a brown square, and now with Bino's attention, pulled out a piece of paper, and slowly began to rip it half. The cat was wearing a bell collar and had a telltale bite mark in his ear.

"MAXWELL! GIVE THAT BACK!" Bino frantically ran down the sidewalk towards the house the cat was on. "GET DOWN HERE WITH THAT OR I'LL-" Bino's threat was cut short by slipping on some black ice and faceplanting into a snow bank. The cat on the roof howled with laughter.

King chuckled.

"Com'on," Fox said, putting his hand on the corgi's shoulder again, "Let's get out of the cold and meet some <i>good</i> 'ol dogs."

The two filed into the clubhouse and were greeted to the sight of dozens of dogs, like King noted earlier. And, much to his dismay, every single one of those dogs were much, much taller. Usually by about a good foot or so. The room was a-buzz with chatter, the pets talking about... about...

King nearly froze mid-step. What <i>would</i> pets be talking about? They're <i>pets</i>, what would they have to talk about? He started eavesdropping on some of the more chattery pets.

"...and then a blue shell came out of NOWHERE, I tell you, and flipped me off the track! I was THIS close to a perfect race! That game cheats sometimes, I swear!"

"That's nothing compared to the one time with that banana peel. I mean, it bounced off a goomba and landed right on me, while I was going around a turn! Went from first place to eighth place in one stroke of bad luck!"

Wait, were they talking about... video games?

"Pfff, I still prefer the older game," A muddy colored dog, with a dollar bill for a dog-tag, jumped into the conversation and made his opinion known. "You know, the one that actually RESPONDED to you when you moved the stick? And you could actually steer your racer? Not, 'oh I'm flailing about and I can use the bikes as easy mode!' Pfff, it's not Mario <i>Kart</i> when there's BIKES!"

"Hey, why won't anyone listen to me? I'm telling you, Mario Kart has nothing on this old game dad calls 'Half Life 2...' it's looks really cool! There's also even a part where you're racing around on this hoverboat thingy! He says it's his least favorite part of the game, but..."

"Your dad lets you watch him play the violent games? COOL!"

King paused a moment. If he didn't know any better, they sounded like kids back when he was in... middle school, maybe? But he didn't have much of an idea as to what they were talking about, since his family never had enough money to spend on things like gaming consoles. He'd heard of the games, of course, but never played them. Feeling slightly left out, King turned his attention to another conversation, between a Border Collie with blue eyes and a matching colored collar, and a Black Lab who's brown eyes were hidden behind square glasses.

"...And then his new Frisbee flew off the deck, and, of course, he dove right after it, caught it in his mouth..."

"And he belly flopped?" The lab asked.

"He belly flopped!" The collie said laughing, "Like, an epic belly flop too! The kind of belly flop where you cringe when you hear the slapping noise, right? He got some sunbathers with the splash too."

This sounded a bit more normal for pets, King thought. But they still sounded like... like... well... kids. Teenagers talking, even. He kept listening in on conversations around him...

"...Ah, man, after the meeting, I needa show you this new ball... it tastes like tripe and meows when you bite it! I swear it's-"

"Hey! Hey everyone, did you see my new frisbee?"

"-And then I snuck around the sniper, but there was a heavyweapons around the other corner, so that didn't end well, then my team-"

"So my mom got me on this new flea powder, even though I don't HAVE fleas..."

"Yes, we've seen it, only about five times!"

"I wish I had some of those new shoes, you know, those booties like the Husky sled dogs get! I hate snow."

"Tough luck, man. At least you don't have to wear a flea-collar though..."

King was getting overwhelmed, yet was still listening intently. The conversations sounded the same, like normal banter, chatter, but... with a slight twist. A pettish twist. Was pettish even a word?

"King? Are you okay? You're spacing out again."

King snapped back to whatever his reality was now from Fox's voice.

"Uh, yeah, I'm...fine. I've just...never been in a large gathering... like this. Before."

"Just relax! Like I said, everyone here is friendly. Bino aside." Fox added the last bit with an annoyed look.
"HEY! Fox!" The collie that King eavesdropped on before called out to them. "You got a new friend you can introduce to us?"

"See? They're friendly," Fox said. "Let me introduce you." Fox walked King over to the collie and the lab.

Fox didn't even need to introduce King to the collie, who enthusiastically greeted King. "Awesome! You must be new here!" He started sniffing all over King's frontside. "My name is Rusher! Um, are you okay, little guy?"

King slightly backed up, trying to avoid Rusher's sniffing. "I, uh, well..." King decided to just hold out a hand, instead. "I'm King. I... just moved here a couple of days ago..."

Rusher peered back at King oddly for a moment, but quickly brushed off the look before he put on a bright smile, vigorously shaking hands with King. "Ah, so, first meeting yeah? Nothin' to be afraid of! Everyone's friends here! Though I'm sure Fox has told you that plenty." Rusher turned around for a moment, digging into his collar, and turned back with a baggie out. "Wanna welcome biscut?"

"Slow down, you namesake," the black lab jabbed at the collie, "You're going to overwhelm King. He just got here." The lab directed his attention to King. "I see you're not much of a sniffer, huh? So I'll just introduce myself and shake hands. Pardon the cliché name; I am called Shadow," he said, extending his hand. King graciously accepted Shadow's hand, and then Rusher's biscuit, and sat down next to them along with Fox.

"So, didja move in well?" The collie asked.

"Uh, well, I got carsick on the way, but, otherwise, it was a really quick move-in..."

"That's great! Less time unpacking, more time having fun! Oooh, I hope you were able to get your toy box first! What's your favorite ball? Mine's the 'Super Extra Bounce' version of the Collide ball from Derrek Toys!"

"Um...well... my owner hasn't gotten me any toys yet. I've never really played much with dog toys before..."

"Dude, wait what, <i>really</i>? Lemme give you my cell number after the meeting, and we can meet in the dog park later and I can show you some of my best Frisbees!"

"Uh, it's fine...Wait, you have a cell phone?"

Rusher nodded. "Yup! It's even got 4G and a touchscreen!"

"Rusher, I've said it's best not to brag about that," Shadow said, "Not <i>all</i> pets get mobile phones like that. Some are lucky just to get an old flip-phone... if anything at all." Shadow adjusted his glasses while looking at King, as if knowingly. It honestly gave King a really creepy feeling.

"ALL RIGHT EVERYONE! I HEREBY CALL THIS MEETING TO ORDER! WOULD YOU PLEASE LISTEN UP?!"

That obnoxious voice again. Bino. He held up at slightly soggy piece of paper that had crudely been tapped back together down the center.

"We have three things to cover tonight, then we'll have the potluck, if one of you remembered the kibble this time. First on the agenda! Our annual Christmas Eve GODC Secret Santa is approaching fast! If you're a deadbeat and haven't picked a name yet, you had better get a name quickly, because time is running out to get a gift. Talk to... Fox for a name if you haven't gotten one yet. Remember the rules: No gag gifts; we don't want another problem like that whole bathtub incident two years ago, and no gifts less than a dollar!" The pets around the room collectively groaned. "Stop whining! It's to make sure that everyone is ensured a good gift!"

Bino's announcement about the Secret Santa reminded Fox. He had to add King's name to the sack! He'd make sure that King would get a slip for someone too.

"Next up," Bino continued, "our lost and found is getting overfilled. It's going to be cleared out soon, so make sure you find your extra collars and winter jackets. Now, we move onto the most important thing, which will be the discussion for tonight's meeting..." Bino knocked his fists against the podium and looked over the agenda paper.

"<i>Zoning.</i>"

More groans came from throughout the room, and several of the dogs facepawed as well. A couple of the dogs in the back of the room stood up and snuck out.

Fox was facepawing and sighing. "Oh, not <i>again...</i>"

"Ungh, a total snorefest," said Rusher under his breath.

"I did say that Bino was running this meeting, and that we should have sat in the back, Rusher," Shadow responded quietly.

King didn't take much of a hint. "What could be so bad about zoning?" King's mistake was asking loud enough for Bino to hear.

"What is WHAT?" Bino angrily stepped down from his podium. "Who said that?! There is nothing BAD about zoning at all! It's our one most important issue among us dogs! It lays down the boundaries, our territories, and defines some of the only things that belong to us! I don't know about any of you, but I like knowing where I can peacefully relax and feel at home away from home; I like knowing where I can take a rest stop without being bothered by another dog! And <i>someone</i> here marked in my territory! AGAIN! This is unacceptable!" Bino was ranting and raving, flailing around. "Was it you? Or was it you?!" Bino started randomly pointing at the dogs in the seats, seats that were quickly emptying as pets started to leave.

*sniff sniiffffff* Bino scented the air, and spun towards King. "You know what? I think it was <i>you</i>, shorty! You peed on my tree, didn't you?!"

So that's what this is about. This was about dogs peeing on trees and marking territories. And apparently, this Bino fellow flew off the handle about it.

And now, King was getting quite annoyed.

"So what if I peed on your tree?! My owner wouldn't let me use the indoor restroom, and I had to go! Am I supposed to hold it until I find a fresh tree?! Nature might be calling, but that doesn't mean I want to go exploring out in deep snow! How was I even supposed to know it was your tree?! I'm not going to bend down and sniff first!"

Bino stepped back as if slapped in the face, his paws curled, drawn towards him. Had Shorty really just done that? Some pets that were leaving stopped and turned. Others called some that had already left back to the clubhouse.

Bino grit his teeth and tried to argue back. "Oooohhh, so your saying anarchy?! Anyone can take anyone's stuff?!"

"Bino, calm down!" Fox stood up, trying to quell the argument. "He didn't mean anything by-"

"I'm saying if I need to go, I need to go!" King said angrily, interrupting Fox. "If you really want some private property, use a dang sign or something! And I could have sworn the tree I went to was in my owner's backyard! How can you claim that?!"

Fox's head snapped to the smaller dog. "King! Please!"

"Tell that to the wolves, Shorty! They've been marking territory like that for decades, and we should continue that time honored tradition! Smells mean everything! Why should we change it now?"

"Tell that to the <i>humans</i>, loudmouth! They own the trees and they don't care about pee! They'll cut it down faster than...than...I donno, faster than something... unless, say, you have an actual building on it or by it! Like a doghouse or treehouse!"

Murmurs were quickly going though the crowd, with many of the pets wondering just who this dog was. Nobody was ever stubborn or hardheaded enough to go up against Bino, and yet, here was a dog a good foot shorter knocking heads with the GODC heavyweight. Even better, King was becoming more confident as he heard some of the crowd cheering for him. Then Rusher and Shadow, maybe... maybe Fox was right. Maybe these animals really could be friendly. However, the wrestling referee was about to call a penalty on both of them, and handing them red cards to boot.

"Both of you, calm down!" Fox yelled over them, "You've both made points enough! Bino, you've brought up zoning dozens of times. I thought we already put that to rest! And King is new besides; how would he know anything about that problem? King, I don't want my friends yelling at each other, and you're not making the best first impression!"

King's ears drooped a little. "Mmmph. Fine, sorry," he said, a little bit annoyed.

"Pah, whatever, Shorty. We'll take this up next meeting after the Christmas party, if you even show up to that meeting. Forget this... EVERYONE, MEETING ADJOURNED! Someone had better had brought toilet water... all that yelling..." Bino muttered, walking away.

"...Can we go now, Fox?"

"Soon," Fox said, sighing. "To be honest, King, I never liked his zoning problems."

"And you're friends with him?"

"That's a long story. What do you say we find the dogs who haven't picked out a name for the Secret Santa yet? I know for a fact that Bino hasn't yet. Late again, like last year... But, are you sure you want to skip the potluck, King? I think someone brought some leftover ham from a resturau-"

"<b>Real food?!</b> King dashed off, knocking away surprisingly large pets given his size, and even stumbling a large grey bulldog with spiked collar. Fox would have to ask why King was so attracted to any event that had real food, but for now, he had some slips to pass out. Shaking up the sack, Fox went for his first target: Bino.

Fox walked up to Bino and tapped him on the shoulder. "Bino, you're late for picking your Secret Santa like last year! There's only so many names left. You don't want it to end up like <i>last</i> year, do you?"

Bino spun around. "Heck no! There's no way I'm getting another present for a cat-lover!" Bino stuck his hand into the sack and pulled out a name. He suddenly had his best "You have got to be kidding me" look on.
_____________

<b>Christmas Eve</b>

*KA-PLOWIE*

"HA! Gotcha good, didn't I, Shorty?!"
_____________________________

I hope you enjoyed my little fic. Best of luck to all the entrants!

_________________
Retired RP Character List (Sorry guys)
Richardson Valley: Venison and Ochen
Brookshire Meadows: Trinket
Oasis Towers: Jaxeh and Klack


Sat Dec 25, 2010 12:21 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
(Due to length, this chapter has been split in order to better balance the existing parts of the story. As a result, a new section has been added to chapter two, located here; readers should re-read the end of that chapter before beginning this one.)

III.

King was reluctant to make the trip into the woods for two reasons. First, there had been a heavy snowfall in Babylon Gardens the night before, which had blanketed the ground in a crisp, pristine blanket of white; it granted the neighborhood an air of peaceful winter serenity, and King was hesitant to disturb it. Second, due to his short stature, snow that only came up to the knees of other dogs reached roughly to his waist; he didn't walk so much as wade through it, the dampness soaking through his fur and chilling him to the bone.

And yet, there he was, trudging through it alongside Fox, his arms wrapped around his sides, and his teeth chattering. The meager scarf around his neck did nothing to protect him from the cold that encompassed him on all sides. The walk to Fox's house had been long, but it had at least been tolerable; the city sidewalks had been shoveled and the streets had been plowed, which made the route much easier to navigate. In contrast, there was no path leading into the woods except an old hiking trail, which even now was completely hidden by the snow itself. They were surrounded by trees, and to King's eyes, they all looked alike. He had no idea where they were going, let alone how to find his way back should they get lost.

Fox, however, was faring much better. The husky almost seemed at home in the cold weather--he certainly wasn't shivering and struggling with every step like King was--his eyes alert and his tail straight, sniffing at the air as he looked around, his ears swiveling back and forth atop his head. He appeared to possess an instinctive knowledge of where to go, although he still paused long enough to ask, just to be certain. "It's this way, isn't it?"

"Yeah, just a bit further," Fido replied. He was also accompanying them. That was just one more reason for King not to go; he had tried to object, but Fox had insisted upon bringing him along. They didn't know exactly what Peanut was planning, Fox had said, and Fido was both a police officer and trained in first aid; he could supervise the procedure, whatever it involved, and would be good to have on hand just in case something went wrong. King was trying his best not to stare at him too much. It had been one of the other dogs, the one who insisted upon tackling everything, who had actually taken him down after he had helped to kidnap Fox, but it was Fido who had placed him under arrest; he could still clearly remember the anger in the dog's voice when he had accused him--or rather, his partner--of trying to kill his friend. King shivered hard, and not from the cold.

That seemed to draw Fox's attention; he looked back over his shoulder at the trembling corgi. "Are you all right?" he asked. "I said I'd carry you, so you wouldn't have to walk."

"I'm fine," King said, growling the answer through his teeth. He wasn't fine, of course, but he felt that walking upright was one of the few privileges left over from his human life, and it was one that he intended to keep; he would sooner freeze out here in the tundra than suffer the indignity of being carted around like an infant in a stroller.

Fox's eyes lingered upon King, uncertainly, before they drifted over to Fido. "I'm sorry for dragging you out here like this, what with the party and all."

"Don't worry about it," Fido said. "Knowing Bill, he'll be grilling long into the night, anyway. I think that man actually looks for excuses to eat meat."

"Still," Fox continued. "I know that you probably have better things to do than freeze your tail off out here with us."

Fido chuckled. "You'd be surprised," he said. "The other guys in the department tell me that it gets pretty quiet around here during the holidays. That suits me just fine, personally, but some of the boys get restless when there's nothing for them to do. There are exceptions, of course, like when the Arbelt boy went missing last year, but other than that... anyway, I want to help you out, if I can. It's my duty to serve and protect... and besides, I used to be the new dog too, if you'll remember."

Fox smiled. "Yeah," he said, "I remember."

"Remember what?" King asked. The corgi jogged through the snowdrifts as best as he could manage, hurrying to keep up with his companions. "What are you guys talking about?"

Fido glanced at Fox. "You never told him?"

Fox merely shrugged. "It never came up."

Fido gave an amused snort of breath, and looked down at King. Fido's sunglasses were very dark, appearing to King as little more than a pair of black voids set within his face, and they to make the already much taller dog look even more intimidating. "My family moved to Babylon Gardens when I was only a pup. Bino was even younger than I was, and Joey hadn't even been born yet. My Dad got a new job out here, and that meant moving into a new house, in a new neighborhood, with a new school. I didn't know where anything was, and I didn't have any friends. On top of that, the obedience school year was already in progress, so I had to join after classes had started. I felt singled out from day one. I was a real teacher's pet, always studying hard and volunteering to answer questions. I also needed some tutoring to catch up on the lessons I'd missed at the beginning of the year, and that was just another reason for the other kids to pick on me. I was completely miserable. All I wanted was to go back home, to our old home, I mean."

King listened with rapt attention. He was all-too-familiar with the scars of his own childhood, but he had never imagined that Fido, being the paragon of canine virtue that he was, would have experienced any kind of self-esteem problems. "What happened?" he asked.

"Well, one day, this other pup came up to me out of the blue and offered to let me play with some toy of his... a tennis ball, I think. I didn't even know his name. He couldn't have known who I was either, but that was just it: he didn't care. He didn't care that I was new, or that the others made fun of me, or that I always did my homework and had to stay after class sometimes. He just wanted to be my friend... and he has been ever since." Fido turned to look in Fox's direction. "Fox and I were inseparable, right up until I left to join the academy. We were always getting into trouble together..." King saw the edges of Fido's mouth turn upward into a grin. "... although I think he got into a little more trouble than I ever did."

Fox clasped his hands together behind his head and stuck his tongue out in retaliation. "Aw, you just didn't know how to have fun, that's all," he retorted. "You looked like you could use a friend, so I gave you one. It seemed like the natural thing to do."

Fido turned his attention back to King, that smirk remaining upon his lips. "Maybe so," he admitted, "though it seems like you've made a habit of it."

"Don't criticize," Fox said, wagging a finger in mock admonishment. "He's a work in progress. And besides, you turned out pretty well under my tutelage, didn't you?"

Fido looked back at Fox, and his smile broadened. "That depends," he mused. "Have you ever forgiven me for introducing you to Bino?"

At the mention of that name, Fox's demeanor immediately changed; he lidded his eyes, and his arms fell to hang limply at his sides. "Ugh," he deadpanned, "I'll have to get back to you on that."

King couldn't help but be fascinated by the interplay between them, and he smiled in spite of himself. They were so casual, so comfortable with one another; it was obvious that they had been friends for some time, and had developed a strong rapport. It reminded him of the bond he shared with Fox himself, and the similarities between Fido's story and his own experience had not been lost upon him; perhaps the husky was simply an extrovert, and eager to make friends. In any case, being around the two of them, watching them laugh and joke with each other, somehow made Fido seem less frightening, and certainly helped King to feel more at ease. Maybe if--

"Hey, we're here!"

The sound of Fox's voice derailed King's train of thought. The forest suddenly opened up into a large, oval-shaped area that was completely devoid of trees. However, there was no shortage of snow; it covered the ground in a thick, unbroken sheet of white, its surface glimmering in the light of the cold winter sun overhead.

Fido gave a low whistle at the sight. "It's kind of a pity, really. After next week, this whole place will be a wreck. We'll be picking toilet paper out of the trees again. It'll be worse than one of Bino's Easter egg hunts."

"Yeah," Fox agreed, gleefully wringing his hands together in anticipation. "It's gonna be great." He lifted a hand and pointed toward the clearing. "Look there."

Peanut and Joey were standing together in the middle of the glade, their heads bowed over a clipboard that Peanut held in his hands. Peanut waved as they approached, and was smiling broadly. He was no longer wearing the glasses that he had been using to read, but a crimson scarf was draped around his neck, hiding his collar from view.

"Welcome, gentlemen!" he jovially greeted them. "Now that everyone is here, we can begin!"

"Begin what, Peanut?" Fox asked. "You still haven't told us exactly what it is we're doing out here."

Peanut was grinning from ear to ear. King still thought that the transformation was remarkable, a dramatic change from his earlier, rather sour manner; he supposed that when Peanut was genuinely interested in something, his attitude brightened considerably. "I'll let Joey explain," he said. "We've been brainstorming some ideas together. Joey?"

King still thought of Fido's youngest brother as being a little odd; he always looked jittery, and fidgety, as if he'd drunk too much coffee--or whatever it was that dogs drank--and had a nervous habit of tapping his fingertips together when he spoke. Despite that, out of all the dogs in Babylon Gardens, he was also the one that King felt most comfortable around, apart from Fox; Joey was only slightly taller than King himself, and was one of the few dogs whom he could manage to look in the eye.

"Right. So, um," Joey began, "King thinks that he has bad luck, and we want to change that, right? Well, luck is really just a measure of probability, of calculating the odds. It's all just numbers, the chances that something will or won't happen. Luck acts as a modifier on that number, making it higher or lower, and making the odds better or worse. It's kind of like rolling a savings throw... you're presented with a situation, and when you take action, how high or how low your numbers are determines the outcome." He then fell silent, as if he was waiting for all of that to sink in.

"Go on, Joey," Fido gently prodded. "We're listening."

"Right!" Joey said, drumming his fingers together. "So, uh, it turns out that testing luck is actually kind of hard, unless you're Gladstone Gander. It's dependent upon a large number of variables, and sometimes there are too many for us to take into account. In other cases, the odds are stacked so high in favor of a given outcome that luck makes no difference. If you jump out of a plane without a parachute, then you're probably going to hit the ground, no matter what."

King suddenly felt the blood drain from his face. The prospect being shoved out of an airplane in the name of science did not appeal to him.

"We've been trying to design an experiment that depends upon random chance, without being too random," Joey continued. "That will allow us to observe how luck affects the outcome. Ideally, we would be trying this under real-world conditions, like playing a slot machine or something, but-"

"But gambling is illegal in Babylon Gardens," Fido said, flatly.

"... correct," Joey said. "So, we've been forced to improvise." He turned to the dog at his side. "Peanut?"

"We came up with a few ideas," Peanut said, tapping the clipboard he held with his index finger. "At first, we were going to pick a random number, and ask King to guess it. The problem is that his handicap is too high; even if it was a number between one and ten, his chances of failure would still be 90 percent. In addition, we'd have to repeat the test about a hundred times in order to have a proper sample size, and that would take forever. Then we were going to flip a coin and have King guess whether it would come up heads or tails, but the odds for either choice are 50 percent. Those are better odds, but they're also mathematically locked; every coin flip has a 50-50 chance of being either heads or tails, and we don't think luck will change that. And like the previous test, we'd have to perform it over and over again before we could begin to analyze the results. What we need is a scenario where the odds are slightly biased against King, so that we can slowly tilt them in his favor, and see if our efforts to change his luck are having an effect."

And then, like Joey, Peanut went quiet. No one said anything; there was no sound, save for the winter wind whistling through the trees.

"Well!?" King asked, impatiently. "Did you come up with anything, or did you drag us all out here for nothing?"

Peanut and Joey exchanged an uneasy glance. "We think we may have hit upon a solution," Joey said, "but you're probably not going to like it."

King's ears drooped. He was suddenly sorry he asked. He watched as Peanut reached down to the ground and picked up an errant branch that had probably been blown off one of the surrounding trees by the wind. Peanut approached the spot where he, Fox, and Fido stood, and drew a long line in the snow, just in front of them.

"There we are," Peanut said, mostly to himself. "King, if you'll come with me, please?"

King looked to Fox and Fido for reassurance, but they both appeared to be just as puzzled as he was. With a sigh, he followed Peanut's lead, trudging through the heavy snow. They moved a short distance away from the others, and then came to a halt.

"Very good," Peanut said. "That should be fine." He walked back toward the others, and gestured to the lonely spot where King stood. "Fido, about how far would you say that is?"

"About 15 or 20 feet, I guess."

"Good, good." Peanut bent down where he stood, scooping a handful of snow into his palm. "Do you think you could hit King with a snowball from here?"

"Huh?" Fido briefly sized up the distance, and gave a short nod. "I suppose so, why?"

King, however, wasn't nearly as agreeable. "Hey!" he yelled. "What the Bicycle Repair Man!?"

Peanut ignored him, slowly rolling and molding the snow in his hands into a sphere. "Most of the time?"

Fido squinted. The distance was one of only a few yards, something that he would routinely run several times over during a game of fetch, but the corgi presented a small target. "I think so, yeah."

"I didn't come out here to be used as target practice!" King shouted.

"But you could still miss?" Peanut asked.

"If my aim was off, or the sun was in my eyes, or something, sure," Fido replied. "Peanut, what's this all about?"

"Hey! Are you even listening to me!?"

Peanut lightly tossed the ball of snow he had crafted into the air a few times, caught it within his open palm, and nodded in satisfaction. "Joey and I have devised a simple way to test King's luck," he said. "At this distance, a snowball thrown at him will be considerably more likely to hit him than to miss, but won't be guaranteed to hit him all the time. This means that we can improve his chances. We've brought a few good luck charms with us, and after each throw, we'll give him one to see how it affects the next attempt. When we miss, we'll know that we've changed his luck for the better."

"Wait a minute," Fox said. "Lucky charms don't make people lucky, they are lucky. Once we take them away, won't he start having bad luck again?"

"Not necessarily. We plan to use several items simultaneously, so the effect will be cumulative, and will give him an 'overdose' of good luck. Our theory is that the combined luck of multiple charms being used all at once will permanently rub off on him, like a piece of metal that's been magnetized. We don't think it will hurt him."

"You don't think?"

"Well, I've never heard of anyone having too much good luck, have you?"

Fox looked out toward his friend; the corgi was stomping around the small area that he had been assigned, ranting and raving to himself about the situation he was in and how no one cared to hear his opinion of what should be done with him (as usual), uttering a string of obscenities that Fox didn't dare to repeat. The husky's ears splayed back. "Well... to be honest, I think he could use a little," he said.

"Don't worry," Peanut said. "The best part of all this is that the experiment poses absolutely no risk to King. He'll be completely unharmed. Observe." He handed the snowball he had created over to his fellow researcher. "Joey?"

Joey nodded, took the proffered snowball, and promptly hurled it in King's direction; the icy globe struck the corgi's chest with a harmless paf, although the impact did cause him to stop dead in his tracks. Fox swallowed; he got the distinct impression that if looks could kill, then judging by the way King was glaring, he would have murdered the whole lot of them.

"There, you see? Nothing to fear," Peanut said. "Now we have a baseline reading. We know that with no luck-enhancing items at all, snowballs will hit King, just as we expected. Do you have the first charm, Joey?"

Joey nodded again, reached into his scarf, and dug out what appeared to be an old penny; Fox could clearly see that the coin was more green than brown, covered with grime and worn down from years of use.

"I took a look around the house after you called," Joey said. "You were right, I found one lying right on the floor."

Peanut smiled. "No better standby than a lucky penny," he said. "Take it out to the subject, if you would, please."

Fox watched as Joey ran to the spot where King stood, stone-faced, and held the precious penny out in offering. King wordlessly swiped the coin from his grasp, sending Joey scurrying back to the safety of the group.

"All right, we're ready to begin," Peanut said. "Fido, would you care to do the honors?"

Fido shrugged, and bent down to scoop some snow into his hands, just as Peanut had done before. He condensed it into a ball, and looked out toward the visibly irritated King. Fox watched him wind up like a major league pitcher, and could almost hear the sound of a weapon cocking as his arm drew back. Fido's arm wasn't a gun, after all, but it might as well have been; the snowball exploded from his grasp like it had been shot from the barrel of a cannon, rocketed straight toward its target, and caught King flush in the face, catapulting him off his feet.

The corgi dropped to the ground like a rock, and disappeared amid the surrounding snow.

~

"Completely unharmed, huh?"

Fox's voice. It was far away, and distant, like he was hearing it through a tunnel. He sounded annoyed.

"Actually, I'm rather impressed. That should have been physically impossible."

That was Peanut. Closer than Fox, but still somehow warped, distorted.

"Look, I think he's coming around."

Darkness was slowly replaced by light, blurred and hazy though it was, as King blinked his eyes open. His heart was seized by a flash of fear as he found Fido kneeling over him, the police dog's face scant inches from his own, and his brow furrowed in concern.

"There we are, easy does it," Fido said, helping the corgi to sit up. "Are you all right?"

King blinked groggily a few times, rubbing a hand across his face. "Nnn... what happened?" he murmured.

Fido looked crestfallen. "I'm afraid I beaned you," he said, apologetically. "I studied marksmanship at the academy, but they don't train us to miss, you know."

King took a moment to examine himself, flexing his fingers and toes experimentally to make sure they all still worked. He didn't appear to be injured--in fact, he felt no pain at all--and guessed that the snow must have cushioned his fall. That thought would have been comforting, were it not for the unpleasant side effect; the snow itself had worked its way into his fur, and left him feeling significantly colder than before. Walking through the snow was one thing, but actually lying down in it was another matter. "Don't worry about it," he muttered, trying to keep himself from shivering. Out of all the gruesome fates he had imagined himself suffering at the hands of Fido and the other members of the K-9 unit, he supposed that taking a snowball to the face was getting off relatively lightly.

Fido, however, did not appear to be satisfied; the worry he felt was evident in his face. "I guess I don't know my own strength," he said. "I'm really very sorry."

"Speak for yourself, I thought it was hilarious."

The small voice drew the attention of both King and Fido; Spo was peering out from his nest atop Fido's head. King thought he must have been seeing things, given how tiny the mouse was, but he could've sworn that it was smirking at him.

"That was the funniest thing I've seen all week," Spo continued. "I'm glad I didn't miss it!"

"Spo," Fido said, in a weary tone, "I thought you were napping."

"I was," Spo replied, "but it's hard to get any rest with you dogs yapping all the time. But that's okay, if I'd known that you guys were gonna spend the afternoon pelting Tiny here with snowballs, I wouldn't have wanted to sleep through it anyway. I bet you weren't even going to wake me up, were you?" The mouse actually managed to sound offended at the notion.

He wasn't the only one. "Who are you calling tiny, fuzzball?" King said, rising to his feet.

"I'll have you know that I'm very tall for a mouse, shorty," Spo replied, haughtily. "Notable height happens to run in my family."

"You don't look so big to me," King retorted.

"Oh yeah? Why don't you come up here and say that?" Spo challenged, gesturing to his perch. "Oh wait, you can't, cuz yer short!"

That drew a growl from King, who had actually begun to advance toward the mouse before Peanut stepped in between them.

"Gentlemen, please," he said. "We're all on the same side here, and we can't afford to let petty disputes impede our progress. Besides, we have a lot more work to do."

"More work?" Fox said, incredulously. "You want to keep going?"

"Of course. We've only just started the experiment, and if we stop now, all of our preparation will have been for nothing. We owe it to ourselves to continue. And as you've seen, King is unhurt."

"Unhurt?" Fox was aghast. "He was knocked out!"

"A slight miscalculation," Peanut said, making a dismissive gesture. "Fido is a trained police officer, and is accustomed to using more force than is required for our purposes. The simplest solution is to have someone else do it, and so I will administer the remaining tests myself. Fair enough?"

Fox was not at all convinced. He turned to King, kneeling down and resting his hands upon the corgi's shoulders. "It's your choice. You don't have to do this if you don't want to. We can leave right now. Do you want to go on, or not?"

King was still glaring at Spo, who in turn was making a variety of crude faces at him, tugging down one of his lower eyelids and sticking his tongue out at the canine. He then turned his attention to Fox, and felt a sudden rush of guilt at the concern that was evident in the husky's navy blue eyes; he hated making his friend worry. "Why not?" he said, feigning a smile. "I mean, I'm probably going to end up with my face in the dirt sooner or later anyway... it might as well be for a good cause."

"Then we're agreed," Peanut said, clapping his hands together. "Once more unto the breach. Joey, bring me the second item."

Joey obediently fetched a burlap sack from its spot upon the ground, from which he withdrew a large, curved, metal object. Peanut took it in his hand, looking upon it with obvious admiration.

"A lucky horseshoe," he explained. "A little souvenir from my uncle's farm."

"Aren't you supposed to nail those things above a doorway?" Fido asked.

"Quite true, Fido, but I'm afraid that we don't have any doorways handy at the moment. But no matter. Do you still have your lucky penny, King?"

King looked down at his hand, and found that he was indeed still clutching the moldy old coin within his grasp. He was surprised that he hadn't dropped it when he fell. "Yes."

"Good. Now, take the horseshoe in your other hand. There you go. Hang on to both of them. Now, the rest of you, follow me back to the line. We'll see if Uncle Reuben's gift makes any difference."

As the others walked away from him, King lifted the horseshoe, testing its weight; it felt heavy in his hand, and certainly seemed more like just a hunk of iron than a mystical talisman.

"Now I'm certain this was a bad idea..." he muttered to himself. He looked up and saw Peanut carefully forming another snowball within his hands, handling the white orb with a kind of reverence, as if it had to be the perfect size, shape, and weight. Peanut nodded in satisfaction, drew his arm back, and then let the icy projectile fly.

King even caught a glimpse of it speeding toward him before it struck him cleanly between the eyes, and just as Fido's had done before, sent him toppling to the ground like a tree felled by a lumberjack.

Fox's jaw slacked open where he stood. "How did you do that?" he asked.

Peanut smiled sheepishly, cupping a hand against the back of his head. "I, uh, play a lot of video games," he said. "Good hand-eye coordination, I guess."

The last thing King heard before he lost consciousness was the sound of Spo's squeaky voice yelling, "BOOM, HEADSHOT!"

~

"All right," Peanut said, brushing the snow off King's shoulders. He had approached the corgi alone this time, to personally inspect the damage he had inflicted. "Now we're making some progress."

"Progress?" King said, flatly. "That's what you call this?"

"Of course," Peanut replied. "Every piece of data we collect is valuable. Knowledge is power. We can learn something even from our mistakes, and use that information to reach a better conclusion."

"You wanna hear my conclusion?" King grumbled. "I don't think this is working."

"Come, come, keep your chin up," Peanut said, a wry smile upon his lips. He reached into his scarf, and gingerly withdrew a small plastic bag. "Here, this is the next charm," he said. "Please be careful, it's quite delicate."

King took hold of the proffered bag and held it up to the light to examine its contents. "A four-leaf clover," he murmured. "Where did you manage to find one of these, especially with all the snow on the ground?"

"It's from before the snow," Peanut said. "Grape found it while hunting for mice a few months ago. She gave it to me. I keep it under my pillow, next to--" Peanut abruptly stopped himself, and for a moment, King thought that he saw the dog's cheeks redden. "Well... I keep it in a safe place," he finished.

King nodded. "Grape is your sister, right? Will she be joining us today?" He didn't think it particularly likely that a cat would be hanging out with a bunch of dogs anyway, although that hadn't stopped her from showing up to their cookout in July; besides, if she was going to make an appearance, then he thought it wise to have a little advance warning, so that he could at least keep his distance from her.

However, King regretted speaking the words almost as soon as they left his lips. Peanut's expression suddenly changed; his eyes narrowed, his jaw tightened, and his lips curled back to bare his fangs.

"No, she will not," Peanut said, tersely. "She's busy with Maxie today... again." He spoke the name with such venom that it made King shiver.

As Peanut walked back to where the others were waiting, King began to feel, with an increasing sense of dread, that he had said something wrong, although he couldn't imagine what it might have been. He thought that perhaps short tempers might have run in the Sandwich family, although that didn't make sense, considering that Peanut and his sister weren't even the same species.

Peanut was moving differently now, taking long, stalking steps, gathering up snow with a fierce swipe of his arm; the practiced, leisurely crafting that King had observed earlier was replaced by angry packing and mashing as he worked it into a ball, drew back, and--

King thought that maybe if he closed his eyes, the impact might have stung a little less.

It didn't.

~

His vision was blurry, and his limbs felt stiff. He still felt cold, but somehow not as cold as he had before. He wondered, idly, if perhaps he should take that as a bad sign. He could dimly remember hearing somewhere that warmth was one of the symptoms of hypothermia.

Fox was leaning over him, his head poking into view against the gray, overcast winter sky.

"Listen, uh, King?" he said. The tone in his voice wasn't exactly worried... he sounded more embarrassed than anything else. "That last hit, um, knocked your scarf off, and uh... we can't find it. We're not exactly sure what happened to it. So you just sit tight for a second, and we'll keep looking, okay?"

He nodded. Somewhere, from behind Fox, he could hear the sound of Spo's high-pitched, cackling laughter.

He closed his eyes.

~

"Three strikes," Fox sighed. "We're out."

"Now, now," Peanut chided, "it's not as bad as all that." He was carefully scrutinizing the clipboard he held. "While I admit that our early results have been... discouraging, I don't think the game is over quite yet. There are still a few more things for us to try, and--"

"HEY!"

The outburst drew the attention of all the dogs present; King was standing before them, looming large despite his height, his fur ragged, his fists clenched, and his teeth grit together.

"If you guys are just gonna knock me on my butt again," he said, panting for breath, "then why don't I just take all your little trinkets now, so you only have to do it once?"

The other dogs looked to Peanut, who appeared genuinely taken aback by the suggestion.

"I guess we could," he said, slowly. "In theory, there's no reason why it shouldn't work..."

Fox blanched. "Do you mean we could have just done that to begin with and avoided putting King through all this?"

Peanut shrugged. "I suppose so," he said. "We'd intended to slowly increase his luck and stop the tests as soon as it reached a certain threshold, but as I said, you can technically never have 'too much' good luck, so... there was really nothing stopping us from using all the charms on him at the same time."

Fox cupped his palm against his forehead and groaned.

"Well, no matter," Peanut said, cheerfully. "That just means that we have less work to do now, and we have more than enough data from our previous runs to conduct a final test. Did you bring any lucky items with you, like I asked?"

King, who had no luck to begin with, did not. Fox, however, stepped forward, undid the yellow kerchief from around his neck, and began to affix it over King's collar, in place of his lost scarf. King cradled the soft fabric within his hands, looking down at it uncertainly.

"Your bandanna?" he said. "Fox, I can't take--"

"Save it, buddy," Fox interrupted him. "You're not taking it... you're just keeping it warm for me, okay?"

King looked up at him, swallowed a lump in his throat, and nodded. Joey was the next to approach him; he handed King a small, surprisingly heavy cloth bag. King shook it a few times, and could distinctly hear a number of small objects rattling around inside. "What are these?" he asked.

"My lucky D&D dice," Joey said in hushed whisper. "They were a gift to me from Gary Gygax himself. Please... take care of them."

King lidded his eyes. "Right," he deadpanned. Fido was the last; he reached up, closed his eyes, and slowly drew his sunglasses off his face, before placing them upon King's head.

King wriggled his nose at the extra weight upon it. "Your sunglasses?" he asked.

"My lucky sunglasses," Fido corrected him with a grin. "Why do you think I never take them off?"

"Because they're a chick magnet, that's why."

Both Fido and King turned their weary eyes to Spo.

"It's true," the mouse continued. "All the girls want my main man Fido, and you know why? The glasses. Girls like bad boys, the kind who look like they don't care, and that's what the glasses do for him. 'He looks just like Jack Nicholson', that's what they say. Of course, I doubt they'd have the same effect for a stubby little runt like you. Size does matter, you know, and--HEY!"

Spo's diatribe was cut off in mid-insult as Fido lifted the ranting rodent from between his ears, and carefully set him down atop King's head.

"Come to think of it," Fido said, "why don't you take my lucky mouse, too? I think this would be a good learning experience for him."

"Fido, wait!" Spo cried, running to the very edge of one of King's ears, and nearly falling off it. "Fido, I've always liked you! I didn't mean to nibble holes in your vest! I was hungry! Whatever it was, whatever I did, I'm sorry!"

But the mouse's pleas fell upon deaf ears; the other canines all walked back to the line in the snow, leaving King by himself once more, carrying a penny, a clover, a horseshoe, and a bag of plastic dice, and wearing a neckerchief, a pair of sunglasses, and--last but not least--a weeping mouse for a hat.

"I feel like such an idiot," King murmured.

"That's okay, shorty," Spo opined, "'cause you look like one, too."

King turned his eyes upward, although he couldn't see Spo, and in spite of himself, and everything that had happened to him today, he smiled.

"Your mother was a rat," he said.

There was a horrified squeak of a gasp, followed shortly after by Spo's shrieks as he flew into a rage. "YOU TAKE THAT BACK, YOU SON OF A--"

King was almost relieved when the snowball struck him in the face, and the mouse's furious voice fell silent.

"Why did you agree to help us, anyway?" Fox asked.

Peanut shrugged. "I was bored."
~

"Well, how disappointing," Peanut said, dejectedly. "I really thought that was going to work. His case of bad luck must be particularly severe."

"So we're done?" Joey asked. "There's nothing else we can try?"

Peanut sat in the snow, flipping through the pages of his clipboard. "I took notes on a few home remedies and pieces of folklore that were listed in my books, but some of them are pretty outlandish. I'm not sure they'd do us any good."

"I'm not sure we should subject King to any more of this," Fox said. "It can't be good for him. We could end up giving him a concussion or something."

"They're just snowballs, Fox," Fido mused. "You'll probably take harder hits than that next week. Go ahead and read a few of them off to us, Peanut. Let us know what we're dealing with here."

"Okay. First up is, uh... letting a baby puke on you. That's supposed to bring good luck."

That brought a chorus of "Ewwww!"s from all assembled, except for Spo; the mouse had fallen into the snow after the last volley, and didn't tolerate being buried in it nearly as well as King did. He was currently sitting perched on Fido's shoulder, wrapped in the edge of the dog's scarf, his teeth chattering, and his fur more blue than gray.

"Yeah," Peanut said. "They really don't get much better. Even if we wanted to try it, I don't know of any kids that young living in the neighborhood anyway. Next is... swinging a dead cat over your head by the tail in a graveyard at the stroke of midnight."

"No," Fido sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Just no. I can't even tell you how many laws we'd be breaking."

"Yeah, okay, I didn't think so either. Then there's, uh... pouring warm urine into your ear."

King merely stared at Peanut, his eyes lidded.

"Right, right," Peanut said quickly, flipping through the pages more rapidly. "Look, guys, these are just what I read, it's not my fault they're all disgusting. And we've already tried everything else, except for..." Peanut's eyes scanned the list in front of him, and he winced. He lifted his gaze to the others, and looked mildly ill. "... a lucky rabbit's foot."

Silence fell over the group. They all looked at one another, uneasily. It was Fox who finally spoke up.

"Where are we gonna get one of those?"

~

"You're sure I don't have to do anything?"

Zach's nose twitched and his whiskers trembled; Peanut supposed that it was in a rabbit's nature, as a prey animal, to be nervous, especially with so many dogs around.

"I promise," Peanut said. "All you have to do is stand here, like we discussed. You don't have to move an inch. Okay?"

Zach's nose twitched once more, and he still looked uncertain, but he nodded nonetheless. "Okay," he said. "I think I can do that."

"Good." Peanut turned to King. "Just, uh... hold his hand, or something, all right? You have to be in physical contact with him, but it doesn't really matter how. Oh, I almost forgot. Zach, this is King. King, meet Zach."

"'Sup," Zach said, wiggling his fingers in greeting.

"Hi," King muttered, bluntly. He grasped the rabbit's hand within his own. "Let's just get this over with."

Peanut nodded, and jogged back to the line in the snow where Fido and the others were gathered. "Okay," he said, panting, "this is it. After this, I'm afraid I'm out of ideas."

"Are you sure about this?" Fido asked, skeptically. "I thought we only needed a rabbit's foot."

"That's the beauty of it," Peanut said, grinning. "We've got a whole rabbit. I figure he's got to be about ten times as lucky as just one foot." He knelt down to get a handful of snow, when Fox stopped him.

"Let me do it this time," the husky said. "Maybe I can hit him in the body and avoid giving him brain damage, like you guys."

King's breathing quickened as he watched Fox bend down and scoop the snow into his hands. He didn't know why he felt so anxious; he was sure that this time wouldn't feel any different from those that had come before, although that didn't mean he was looking forward to it. As Fox wound up, King squeezed Zach's hand more tightly, closed his eyes, and--

PAF.

King opened his eyes, first one, then the other. He had clearly heard the impact of the snowball, and yet, he was still standing. He looked down at himself, checking to see if Fox had caught him lower on his body, but as far as he could tell, that was not the case; it appeared that Fox had missed him entirely.

"It worked," he whispered. He smiled, not quite believing it himself, and said it again, more loudly. "It worked! Hey Zach, it--"

King turned, only to find that his rabbit companion was nowhere to be seen. He looked down at the hand he was still holding within his own, and followed it to find the bunny who was lying prone in the snow beside him, a fresh snowball embedded squarely in the middle of his forehead.

"--ooh. Ooh, hey... hey, Zach?"

~

"So, how do you feel?"

King glanced at Peanut as he walked along the edge of the glade. The taller dog was smiling broadly, apparently satisfied with the results of his grand experiment. His tail was wagging behind him at a mile a minute.

King, however, did not feel quite so joyous. "Okay, I guess," he murmured. "How's Zach?"

Peanut looked over his shoulder; Fido had managed to sit the stunned bunny up, while Joey was using his clipboard to fan him. "He'll come around in a minute," he said. "I've been a little shell-shocked before myself, it's not that big a deal."

At the very least, Peanut expected a smile from the corgi, but instead, he merely cast his eyes down toward the ground as he walked; he got the impression that if King had pockets, both his hands would be jammed firmly inside them.

"What's the matter?" Peanut asked. "You wanted to change your luck, didn't you? I thought you'd be happy."

"Yes, but..." King sighed. "Look, I appreciate what all of you guys tried to do for me..." He rubbed his hand across his face, still able to feel the sting of the snowballs there. "... I guess... but to be honest, I don't feel particularly lucky."

"Really?" Peanut tilted his head to the side. "Would you like us to try again?"

"No!" King almost screamed the word, holding his hands up in a defensive posture. "No, that's okay!"

Peanut smiled faintly. "Mmm... you know, there is one thing we haven't tried," he said. "Something that I read about a long time ago. It's not very scientific, I guess--not that any of this has been, I suppose--but you might find it helpful. I don't know."

King was almost afraid to ask. "W... what is it?" he said, hesitantly.

"A while back, I took a correspondence course in Akkadian." That drew a strange look from King, and Peanut merely shrugged. "I was bored," he explained. "Anyway, one of the things I learned was that the ancient Babylonians had a special prayer for dogs. They called it 'The Master's Blessing'. I always thought that was kind of neat, and so it stuck with me. I still remember it."

King's ears perked. "A prayer, huh?" That sounded simple enough, and relatively harmless. "How does it go?"

"In English, it reads, 'The Master's dog, the king who cannot be rivaled'." Peanut closed his eyes, his brow furrowing in concentration. "In the original Akkadian, it's 'Kalab bel-im, sar la sanan'."

King glanced back toward Fox, who was helping the still-disoriented Zach to get his bearings. "That's a mouthful," he said. "Could you say it again?"

When King looked back, Peanut was gone.

The corgi stopped in his tracks. He looked left, and then right; indeed, Peanut was still gone. The other dog had vanished. King looked all around himself; Peanut was nowhere to be found. He wasn't with the others, and King couldn't see him anywhere else in the clearing. They were near the treeline, and so he may have gone into the forest, but King's attention had been drawn away for only a moment, and he hadn't heard the sound of the snow crunching beneath Peanut's feet as he'd walked away. Besides that, he had given no indication of going anywhere, and although King didn't know him very well, he didn't seem like the sort who would leave without saying goodbye.

He had simply... disappeared, into thin air.

"Huh," King said, rubbing the back of his head with his hand, "where did he go?"

~

Peanut opened his eyes and found that he was not in Babylon Gardens anymore.

For that matter, he was not exactly certain where he was. He was standing upon a platform of some kind, and the ground beneath his feet appeared to be some variety of cobblestone. But there were no streets, no buildings, no structures of any kind. There was... nothing. Nothing, all around him. Blackness that seemed to expand in every direction.

Not darkness. In the dark, there would have been stars, like the kind he gazed at so often. Here, in this place, there were no stars, nor any clouds to hide them. Just the black, everywhere. Everywhere except the light.

A single street light rose above the middle of the platform, casting down a beam of light under which he now stood. It was the only indication of any civilization, that anyone had ever been here. It was an old-style oil lantern, like the kind Peanut had read about in history books. He didn't know they still made them like that anymore.

His head hurt. The light was warm upon his face, and felt comforting, but it didn't extend very far beyond the lamp itself; beyond it, there was nothing but the blackness, on every side, as if the ground he was standing upon was floating by itself in the middle of some vast void.

"Hello?" he called out, his voice echoing into the empty space.

No answer.

"Is anyone there?"

Silence.

"GRAAAAAAAAAPE?"

Nothing.

He took a small, hesitant step out of the light; he was reluctant to leave its protection, but he couldn't simply wait here for something to happen. He had to find a way out of here... wherever "here" was.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you. If you wander off, you might never find your way back."

Peanut spun around toward the source of the voice. There was a man standing under the light. Peanut was certain that no one was there a moment ago. The man was well-dressed, wearing a brown suit and slacks, fancy shoes, and a bowler hat atop his head. A thick, white mustache rested just beneath his nose, but the edge of his hat was tipped down over his face, and Peanut could not see his eyes. He gripped a wooden cane within his gloved hands, lightly tapping it against the cobblestones.

"I must apologize for bringing you here," the man continued. "I'm afraid that the protective seal I have in place does not make a distinction between counterspells and other, more benign incantations. A small failsafe against those who would seek to interfere with my plans. It has been a long time since I last heard The Master's Blessing. You speak it quite well."

"Huh?" Peanut said. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "Who are you?"

"My name is not important," the man said, "and besides, you would not be able to pronounce it in your language."

Peanut squinted at the man, trying to better discern his features, but he was finding it difficult to concentrate; the man appeared to be fuzzy, in flux, his shape constantly shifting and changing, like static on a television set. "You look familiar," he said, rubbing his temples. "Do I know you?"

"No," the man replied. "But I know you... in a roundabout fashion. I borrowed your shape to speak to the other one, in her dreams. She was part of my design, but you are not. I must say that I did not expect you to find your way here. Most interesting."

Warning bells were going off in Peanut's mind, but it was difficult to hear them. His headache was getting worse; he knew that he had seen this man somewhere before, but the memory was dim, clouded, struggling to find its way to the surface. "I... I can't remember," he said.

"You do not belong here," the man said. "You are disoriented. This dimension is not suited to you lesser creatures. You lack the number of senses needed to properly perceive it."

"I... I want to go home."

"As I said, it was not my intention to summon you here. And yet..." The man paused. "... and yet, now that you are here, you may be of some use to me."

"What do you mean?" Peanut held his head within his hands; something about this place made him feel sick to his stomach.

"You see, I too would like to leave this place, and I have been waiting patiently for the proper opportunity to do so. And now, thanks to you, I believe I may have found it. I wonder, would you be willing to help me?"

Peanut lifted his eyes to the man, although they felt heavy, and reluctant to open. "If I help you... can I go home?"

Peanut thought that he could see the man smile, although his vision was so blurry, and the man's mustache was so thick, that he couldn't be sure. "Yes," the man said. "If you agree to help me, then you can go home."

Peanut ignored the muffled voice of caution in the back of his mind and nodded. Right now, he wanted nothing more than to leave this place. "Okay," he said. "What do I have to do?"

"Excellent," the man said, tapping his cane against the ground once more. He gestured with it toward the base of the street light. "All you have to do is look in here."

Peanut peered at the spot the man had indicated; he was pointing toward a small wooden bucket that sat upon the ground. Peanut didn't remember seeing it there before. He knelt down in front of it, and leaned over the open container. It was filled with water, and despite his hazy vision, he could clearly see his reflection in the surface. He could also see the reflection of the man behind him as he leaned over Peanut's shoulder. There was a glimmer of yellow light from somewhere beneath the man's hat, and then--


~

"Hey, King!"

Fox ran over to the spot where the corgi still stood, scratching his head and looking around in bewilderment. King smiled as his friend approached, but the confusion he felt was clear upon his face.

"Hey, Fox. Have you seen Peanut? He was here a minute ago, and now he's... uh... not."

"Peanut?" The husky paused, and shook his head. "Nah, he probably took off right after we got finished. He's always busy, moving from one thing to the next. And besides that, we've been out here in the snow all day. I wouldn't be surprised if he just wanted to get home and warm up for a while. That's what we're going to do, anyway."

"Huh?" King blinked. "We are?"

Fox nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure Dad is still grilling, so the rest of us are going to head back to my house and eat a few burgers. Well, except for Zach, I guess, maybe Dad can fix him a salad, or something. Do you want to come?"

"Sure," King said, nodding slowly. He looked back over his shoulder, hesitantly, as they left the snowy clearing, and made their way back to the street.

"So, how do you feel?" Fox asked.

"Peanut asked me the same thing," King replied. "You know, at the time, I didn't feel any different, but now that you mention it... I do feel a bit better. Maybe my luck really is changing."

Fox's shoulders slumped. "Well, actually... I have a confession to make."

King canted his head. "What is it?"

"On that last throw, I kind of... fudged the test. I missed you on purpose."

"You missed me?" King stared at him. "... and so you hit Zach?"

"Well, I didn't mean to!" Fox complained. "I got tired of seeing the others knock you down, and I didn't want to hurt you, so I threw it wide, and... and it caught him right in the face! I'm sorry!"

King's mouth twitched as he tried, and failed, to suppress his laughter. His body shook with surprising force for so small a dog, and he doubled over where he stood, clutching his sides and gasping for air between each guffaw.

"Well, I'm glad you're amused," Fox said, wryly. "I still haven't told Zach yet, and I'm not sure if I want to. I'd hate for him to think that I dislike him, or something."

King took a moment to catch his breath, straightening his posture and smiling at his friend. "It's not that, it's... jeez, I dunno, Fox. You know, for a long time now, ever since I got here, I've felt like I had a pair of eyes on me... like I was always being watched. And now, for the first time, I don't have that feeling. It's like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, like those eyes are looking somewhere else."

"Aw, you're just being paranoid," Fox said, dismissively. "You also made a lot of new friends today. Fido, Zach, Peanut... we all take care of each other. That's what the pets in Babylon Gardens do. So stop worrying and let us watch your back for a little while. You should be thinking about what you want on your burgers, because I know my Dad is gonna ask the minute we walk through the door."

King licked his lips at the thought; he was hungry, and the thought of a juicy burger or two--his first real meal in recent memory--was not an unappealing one. However, one thought still nagged at him, and he cast a lingering glance back toward toward the forest; if he really had made a new friend today, then he was only right to be concerned. King could not help but wonder, now that those ever-present eyes were no longer watching him, just where they had turned their baleful gaze.

~

"Peanut, I'm home!"

Grape blew in through the front door to the Sandwich household with a chill winter breeze, shivering as she shut it behind her. The sudden rush of warmth from inside the house was a feeling she relished; it made her fur stand on end, creating a slightly ticklish sensation, one that made her giggle. She unraveled her scarf from around her throat and tossed it onto the rack by the door, making her way into the living room. She could see the back of Peanut's head where he sat upon the couch, looking toward the crackling fireplace.

"Sorry I'm late. Maxie and I were picking out the things that we each want for Christmas this year. I haven't gotten you anything yet, so you need to let me know what you'd like, okay? Anyway, we were in the PetMart, looking at cat toys, and I saw the cutest little catnip mousie. It was red, and it would squeak when you squeezed it! Not that there's any such thing as red mice or anything, but you know that's my favorite color. So Maxie offers to get it for me, and I just laugh at him and remind him that they don't sell catnip to pets, right? And he tells me not worry, and that he'll just tell his Dad to get us both one for Christmas. So then I ask him if he doesn't already get enough catnip for Christmas anyway, because his parents buy it in these huge bags that--Peanut?"

Grape paused to stare at him. He hadn't moved a muscle, let alone acknowledged her presence. "Peanut, are you okay?"

She crept closer to him, slowly, moving soundlessly upon the floor. He sat perfectly still, as rigid as a statue.

"Peanut?" she repeated, feeling a vague, indescribable fear rising into a knot in her stomach. "You're not mad at me, are you?"

There was a sudden, jerking movement from him, as if her voice had startled him. He turned his head slightly, enough for her to see that his eyes were closed. "Oh, Grape," he said. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you come in. I must have dozed off."

Grape sighed, allowing the tension to leave her body along with it as a wave of relief washed over her. "I'm sorry about leaving you alone today," she said. "You knew that I had plans."

"S'okay," he said. His voice was barely above a whisper. He reached out, patting the spot at his side with his palm. "Come sit with me?"

Grape smiled, and walked around the couch, crawling forward upon the cushions. She stretched herself across his lap, as she was accustomed to doing, resting her chin upon the armrest of the sofa; he bowed his head forward, rubbing his nose between her ears, and stroking his hand down her back, all the way from the nape of her neck to the base of her tail.

"Mmm," she purred, rubbing her head beneath his chin, "you're being affectionate tonight."

His fingers idly scratched the back of her neck. "Is that bad?" he whispered.

"No," she sighed, resting her cheek upon the armrest, soaking up the warmth of his body, as well as that of the glowing fire. She lidded her eyes, looking into the flames, watching the dancing shadows that the light cast upon the room. "Have you just been sitting here by yourself all day?"

"I solved a problem today," he said, rubbing his palm between her shoulder blades. "I feel like I accomplished something."

"Mmm... nothing too serious, I hope?"

"Nothing that I couldn't handle."

"Good." She nestled closer against him, yawning, and allowed her eyes to drift shut, his familiar closeness and warmth making her feel pleasantly groggy. "I don't have any plans for tomorrow," she whispered. "I thought we might stay in and play some games together... is that okay?"

"I'd like that," he murmured, resting his chin atop her head, between her ears. His arms held her close, as they had many times before. "After all..."

Peanut's eyes cracked open, gazing into the fireplace. From where she lay, Grape could not see the fanged smile that spread across his face, or how his eyes glowed in the darkness, a gleaming, golden hue that shone even more brilliantly than her own.

"... you know how much I love games..."

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Last edited by Sinder on Sun Dec 26, 2010 9:55 pm, edited 9 times in total.



Sat Dec 25, 2010 12:37 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
I've re-updated my previous entry with the rest of my story. I'm so glad I managed to get it in on time...

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Sat Dec 25, 2010 12:46 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
muffins and cookies I shortened the story and still didn't make it on time. Oh well I'll post the shorten version in a moment for the heck of it, and then the real version.

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Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:01 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Forgot to mention i just logged in shortly before the comic and got a notice about spacing in my submission. Put in anything else i might've been missing regarding to spacing in my submission and i hope it still counts. >_<

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Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:32 am
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Post Re: Contest! Finish "All the King's Men"
Even though I missed the deadline, here's hoping that some of you might enjoy my story This is a shortened version that I was working on, I do plan on finishing the original later tomorrow, but I still like this one a bit. (Note: Has not been edited so please forgive me for any mistakes, though do point them out so I may fix them at a later date. Also constructive criticism is much appreciated):




All the King’s Men
Part 2

There are those rare times in one’s life where they find themselves in a situation that can’t possibly get any worse than it already is, and yet, against all odds, it manages to do just that. King was in one of those situations. The small Corgi had once been a human being who had made some bad choices in his life, but then a magical griffon named Pete decided to teach him a lesson or, more likely than not, was just bored and wanted to torture him for kicks. So King had to live the full life of a dog filled to the brim with vet shots, dry kibble, and the indignity of having to use the bathroom outside in the cold. This was the first problem, and the direct cause of everything else.

Just as he was about to sink into despair, another dog named fox saved him by extending a squeaky bone of friendship. Unfortunately, his new found friend was one of those bad choices from his past. King had been involved with a plot to kidnap and set Fox free in the wild (an idea that Fox himself was not to fond of), but they were quickly found out and arrested by the police and K-9 squad. Fox got to go home, while King got a trip to the state pen. King was eventually freed by Pete, but that only started a massive manhunt for his human self. The fact that his former captive was free didn’t bother Fox in the least; instead he was hoping human King would show up so he could throttle him. So his new friend, which was the only reason King was still sane, wanted to kill him. This was his second little problem.

King and Fox spent most of their free time playing together, developing a close friendship between the two. So it was no surprise when King got invited inside for a party at Fox’s owner was throwing one day. Not being one to turn away free food (one can only handle so much kibble before tiring of it), King didn’t so much accept the invitation as rocket towards the buffet table. Listening to his stomach cost King dearly though, the party was being thrown for the K-9 squad, the same exact one that had arrested him before. He would have left as fast as his little furry feet could carry him, but Fox was very adamant about him staying and socializing, so much to the point that he had physically dragged King into the other room to join in a parlor game. These were problems three, four, five, and six.

Surrounded by the police who had arrested him when he had been human, King’s paranoia shot through the roof. Even though he was trying to socialize, he couldn’t help but to reveal his lack of knowledge about dogs. Still he believed that he could get away with it somehow, that is, until he revealed that he had never sniffed another dog’s rear end in the game ‘I have never’. All the other dogs just sat there and stared at him in shock. This was the final problem where all the others accumulated to make King’s life horrible. At least things couldn’t get much worse in King’s mind…except for the fact that an overly energetic Doberman named Kevin was about to tackle the leader of his squad. And guess who was in the path of the collision.


****


Time seemed to have slowed to a snail’s pace. King could feel the suspicious gazes of the other dogs looking at him. He had blown it. His secret was now revealed. Any moment now they would surround and beat him half to death, before throwing him back into jail for the rest of his life. The large Doberman known as Kevin said something, but King couldn’t make it out. He had been struck deaf by fear. Fido turned to say something back, but it was too late, Kevin was already moving. Much to King’s surprise though, Kevin wasn’t coming towards him, but was moving towards Sergeant Ralph. Unfortunately, Ralph was sitting right next to King, whose small legs just wouldn’t obey him anymore. Time returned to its normal pace as the world turned upside down, the sound of a large crash rebounded off the walls, and a large weight pressed itself against King’s chest. Then everything went dark.

“No, bad Kevin!” Fido yelled. “I said no tackling!”

“But nobody said anything, so I thought it’d be okay.” Kevin whined.

“I was going to, but you had already started running.” An exasperated Fido retorted.

“Can you two continue this conversation after, oh I don’t know, KEVIN GETS OFF OF ME!” Ralph practically roared loudly, it seemed those days training to be a sergeant had not gone in vain.

Kevin looked down at the commanding officer sprawled out beneath him. Ralph had been knocked flat on his back, and couldn’t get up since Kevin had taken seat upon his chest. At least Ralph was almost flat, there seemed to be a small lump under him, but Kevin couldn’t quite make it out.

“Sorry, forgot you were there.” Kevin said sheepishly as he got to his feet. Ralph responded in kind with a cold stare as he too stood up.

“Wow, you two actually killed the little guy.” Spo’s small voice sounded from atop Fido’s head. Everyone’s eyes fell on the small Corgi who had somehow ended up on the bottom of the dog pile (groan).

“King!?” Fox yelled as he ran to his friend’s side. “Are you okay?”

King slowly sat up as his breath returned to him. He opened his mouth to speak, but then he remembered that he had blown it. They knew his secret. His eyes grew wide as he scooted as far back as possible from the others.

“Great he’s broken.” Spo said.

“He’s not the only thing.” Ralph replied gesturing to the broken heap of junk that had once been a couch and the chairs that had been knocked over.

“Opps” Kevin muttered.

“This is why we don’t tackle others Kevin!” Ralph began to lecture for what had to be the umpteenth time, although King was a bit preoccupied by the two other dogs

“Are you alright?” Fido asked leaning in close to King.

King stared at Fido flabbergasted. Okay? Of course he wasn’t okay. He had just been attacked for the second time that day. Fido leaned closer trying to get a better look, but King shrank back further. It was a trick, he just knew it. Fido was just trying to get close to make sure that King couldn’t get away.

“King, you need to hold still so we can make sure you’re not hurt.” Fox said coming to his side.

King gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. This was it. There was no place left to run. He felt them grab onto him as he was lifted into the air. They were taking him back to jail.

“Come on King, don’t be a drama queen. You’re perfectly fine.” Fox’s voice whispered into his ear. King opened one eye to see a worried Fido on his right giving him a small smile. Meanwhile, Fox was to his left with his familiar grin. King breathed a sigh of relief; it seemed that he had just over reacted once again. He tried to turn towards Fox so he could say so, but he couldn’t. Fox and Fido each had one arm and were holding him up in the air. King’s paranoia came back with a vengeance.

“Um…could you guys put me down now?” He asked, afraid of the answer.

“Oh yeah, sorry about that.” Fido said as he and Fox put King back down. “It just made it easier to look you over.” King nodded numbly as he glanced over at Kevin and Ralph. The two had been joined by Fox’s owner Bill, who didn’t seem that upset about the furniture.

“Well I should be able to fix the couch without too trouble, and the chairs seem to be fine. They just need to be picked back up.” Bill noted as he inspected everything.

“I’m really sorry about this sir.” Ralph said elbowing Kevin.

“Yeah, me too” Kevin chipped in.

“It’s okay boys. Nobody was hurt and that’s what’s most important.” King couldn’t understand it. How could Bill just let them off like that? If it were him, he would be furious. He remembered back when he was a kid, his parents would beat his pets for the smallest thing.

Fox patted his shoulder, “Don’t worry. Dad’s not going to blow a gasket about this. He’s pretty easy going, and good at fixing things.”

King nodded numbly. It seemed that everyone had forgotten about what King had said due to Kevin’s little addition to the game. Thank goodness. He might just be able to get out of there with his tail attached at this rate.

“Man how many freaks are at this party?” A familiar voice asked from atop Fido’s head.

The mouse! King thought in horror.

“Spo!” Fido reproached.

“I’m just saying. I mean, I knew all dogs were weird, but this is just ridiculous. There’s the mutt that can’t go thirty seconds without tackling someone and then there’s the midget that doesn’t like to smell butts. Not that I blame him, but I thought it was some weird thing that all you dogs did.”

“That’s enough!”

Spo glanced down at Fido, “Don’t worry, I find you less weird then the rest.”

“Thanks for that.” Fido replied pushing him back down. “I’m going to check and see if I can help Officer Bill.” He said to Fox and King, before leaving as quickly as possible so Spo wouldn’t have the chance to open his mouth again.

King blinked in shock. He had been so close to getting away with it, but the mouse had ruined everything. He glared at the back of Fido’s head and swore to have his vengeance on it no matter how long it took.

“Hey you okay?” Fox asked. “You have a weird look on your face.”

“Uh….ah….yeah,” King stuttered trying to catch his self. “Just still a little shook up.”

Fox gave him a comforting glance. “Well I have some news that might just make you feel a little better. It seems that the food’s done.” King smiled as best as he could, but the paranoid part of him was still screaming to run, that they knew his secret.

****

All of the dogs had lined up in front of the buffet table eagerly waiting their turn, but not even the delicious smell of the freshly cooked meat could lift King’s spirits. They knew. They all knew. All the other dogs were avoiding him. Every time he looked at one of them, they would instantly turn away. They knew he was human. So why hadn’t they arrested him yet? King just couldn’t wrap his mind around it. There had to be something that he was missing.

The line continued to file down, and it was finally King’s turn to serve his self. Not that he was particularly interested in food right at the moment. It was a weird sensation. He hadn’t had a decent meal since his transformation into a dog. He just wasn’t hungry.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” Fox asked with a concerned look on his face.

King nervously added anything he could grab onto his plate. “Ah…yeah. It all just looked so good, I didn’t know where to start.” He said with a nervous laugh. Fox gave him a smile before going to find a seat with his own plate.

King heaved a sigh of relief. His nerves couldn’t take much of this. He glanced down at the food on his plate thinking about Fox. If he knew that King was the same human that had once kidnapped him, then why was he so worried about King getting something to eat? It didn’t make any sense, unless….Unless the food was poisoned! That had to be it. There was no way they could prove that he was human, so they were going to kill him.

King glanced towards Fox, who was having a conversation with Fido while casting nervous glances at King. When they noticed that he was frozen in place, fearful eyes staring at the two of them, they hurried over to him.

“Is something wrong with the food?” Fido asked.

“Yeah, if you don’t like it I can get you something else to eat.” Fox added.

“NO THAT’S OKAY!” King exclaimed raising his arms high in the air as if they were going to arrest him. Unfortunately, he had still been holding onto his plate when he did this, sending food flying across the room. Most of it landed harmlessly on the ground, but one mustard covered hamburger found its way to a familiar English Spaniel, who was hit right square between the eyes. The Spaniel slowly removed the piece of meat from his yellow stained face, and fixed King with a glare. Without saying a word, he grabbed something from behind him and chunked it right at King. King quickly ducked and scampered out of the way. Whatever it was made a splat noise as it hit Fido. King glanced up expecting to see a rock, bullet, or something. Instead what he saw was a Fido covered in potato salad.

“FOOD FIGHT!” Someone yelled from somewhere. Instantly the place became a battlefield where dangerous gobs of meat and cheese rained down from the heavens. Everything quickly became covered in mustard and ketchup. It was every dog for himself. Friend turned against friend, brother against brother, and in one case, a mouse against a dog, when said mouse upturned a glass of punch on his protector’s head. He then proceeded to sample some of the potato salad from the dry recourse of the shoulder. It was potato salad. The fight lasted a good twenty minutes, and by the end, everything had been soiled.

****

Fido glanced around at the chaos that had been caused. All the dogs needed baths, food covered everything, and the couch was still broken. The place was a total mess. Fido couldn’t help but smile, “This went a lot better than last time.”

“I still don’t see why it couldn’t have been tackle food fight.” Kevin replied. Everyone groaned in response.

“Hey as anyone seen King?” Fox asked not able to see the little guy.

“No, I haven’t seen him since the food fight started.” Fido replied. “Do you think he might have gone home?”

Fox didn’t answer. Instead he scooped up a hamburger that was mostly clean and hightailed it out the door. Fido was about to follow him when Bill gently stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Leave it to Fox.” He said. “Besides, you guys have some cleaning to do.” Everyone groaned once again.

****

King shivered as he shuffled towards his home. The cold air had brought him back to his senses. The food hadn’t been poisoned. None of the dogs knew that he was human. In fact, even if he told them he was human, they wouldn’t believe him. Nobody would believe such a crazy story. He should have just played it calm, but no, instead he had to have a nervous fit and make everyone think he was crazy. Even the only friend he had. Now he was all alone again, well, almost alone. There was still Pete, yet, somehow that didn’t really make him feel any better.

King sighed as he continued his trudge back to his prison. “This has been the worst day ev-“ King never got to finish his statement. Something had hit him from behind and knocked him down into the snow.

King looked up to see Fox sitting beside him grinning ear to ear. “Hey who said you could leave the party early?”

King quickly averted his gaze, not able to look Fox in the eyes. “I couldn’t stay there. I ruined everything.”

Fox gave a hearty laugh. “You didn’t ruin anything. Hell that party was one of the better ones we’ve had. You should see what we do during Easter.”

“Yeah bu-“

“I know we kind of freaked out when you came forward with the whole butt sniffing thing, but we didn’t mean to. It was just surprising.” Fox said interrupting King. “So what if you’ve never sniffed another dog’s rear end? Sure it’s a very weird thing, but as one annoying mouse once said, all dogs are a bit weird. It doesn’t mean you have to leave.”

“So you still want to be my friend?” King asked.

Fox held up a hamburger, tore it in half, and handed a piece of it to King. “Of course.” The two of them sat there out in the cold night air, which didn’t seem that cold for some reason, and shared the most delicious hamburger that either of them had. Though it was a bit rare.

_________________
And then God saw the havoc that humanity had wrought upon the earth, and he said unto them 'muffins and cookies kids, get off my lawn'


Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:46 am
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