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The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13] 
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Post The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
It's been over a year since Duke, Bailey and Zara made their escape from the clutches of the warlord Usaid Rasshim. In that time they've risen through the ranks of the US Marines K-9 Corps, blazing the trail for future K-9 soldiers. But now, with their tour of duty at an end, they can finally return home, to live in peace once again. Meanwhile, in an unusual nation half a world away, unrest is brewing.

A secret war is about to break out. And the dogs of war are bound to be right in the thick of it.


-----

[/dramatic intro]

When The Dogs of War ended back in early February, I promised that Duke and company would not be gone for good. Now, a little over two months later, I'm ready to make good on that. Ladies and gents, Tooth and Claw - aka The Dogs of War II. The inspiration for the this sequel originally came from the content of a post Rick made about his NaNoWriMo novel, back in 2010. Specifically, a small bit at the end. "There is a coherent, technologically capable nation of leopards in the middle of the African jungle." I'll let that speak for itself, for now ...

As the title of this thread says, Tooth and Claw will be rated PG-13. I'll be using The Dogs of War as a reference point of what I can get away with, so the violent content shouldn't exceed what you saw there.

Also, I'd like to thank GunRacer for his help with ... just about everything, actually!

The intro will be up tomorrow. It's about time to get this show on the road. :3

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(☞゚ヮ゚)☞ Tooth and Claw
Sequel to The Dogs of War~

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Last edited by Coatl_Ruu on Sat Jun 02, 2012 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:20 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
I look forward to reading this.

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Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:57 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
It's been a privilege to help, Ruu. Thanks for the opportunity.

This is gonna be epic, guys and gals. The Dogs of War-- good as it was-- looks positively amateurish when compared to Tooth and Claw.

Stay frosty.
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Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:01 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Sounds Great! Dogs Of War was awesome, but this sounds Really Good! Can't wait to read this! :D

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Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:35 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
WURF!
Can't wait to read it!!! :D :D :D :D :D

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Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:59 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
And very quickly, the wait ends~



Introduction

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Buwara is a small nation located just north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a population of just over 3 million. It is the only nation in recorded history to be inhabited entirely by a non-human predator species. Panthera pardus, the leopard. Though Buwara was officially recognized by the U.N. in 1982, the country's inception can be traced as far back as the early 1900s ...

-----

The Congo
August 1911


Ronald Robinson took another swing at the dense undergrowth with his machete, grunting as he cut aside the thick, crawling vines. He reached out with his free hand and pushed aside the loose foliage. The lean, dark-skinned man serving as a guide for their small party nodded in his direction and fell in beside tall, skinny Robinson. A few others followed behind them; three hunters in khakis, with a hunting dog for each of them. As soon as Robinson and the guide were sure the others were following, the two forged ahead, blazing a trail ahead.

What they were doing out here wasn't exactly 'legal', but the hunters paid their guides well.

The heat and humidity were unbelievable in that African jungle, and seemed to have stifling, oppressive weight. With the sun at its zenith, it was like they had been thrown into a sauna. Robinson envied their guide – he seemed to be dealing better with the heat. It probably helped that he'd taken off his shirt a mile back.

The three hunters were talking amongst themselves, but the pair of scouts paid them no heed. Instead, the guide hacked away at a thorny branch and turned to Robinson as they trudged along. “I still say that it is foolish to come out this far,” he muttered darkly.

“Well, no matter what tales you've heard, Sir Remington isn't likely to change his mind about this expedition,” Robinson said quietly.

That hardly seemed to put the guide at ease. “They are organizing like never before. Not just into packs, but something greater. I've heard rumors of outlying villages raided by leopards carrying the weapons of men.” He cast a reproachful glance back at the large, swarthy hunter who had hired him. “You might get more of a fight than you bargained for. And I might not be getting paid enough to do this.”

“They're cats,” Robinson said. “Big ones, to be sure, and they don't give up their pelts easily, but I don't expect them to give them too much of a problem. You can't believe all the tales you hear.”

The guide just shook his head. “I say only what I have heard. All the same … if the rumors are true, Ronald Robinson, we had best proceed cautiously.”

The pair moved forward through the dense jungle for nearly an hour with that specter of doubt hanging over their heads.

It had been nearly an hour before the expedition's native guide called a halt. The man crouched down in the dense vegetation, next to the thick trunk of an immense tree, and raised his fist. The hunters grouped in the rear of the group dropped their voices to a whisper. Robinson crouched down at the man's side, doing his best to avoid even breathing too loudly. The only reason the guide would have stopped them was if they were nearing their target. Or if there was danger ahead. But Ronald Robinson preferred not to think about that option.

Look, the guide mouthed, pointing ahead through the thick foliage. Robinson squinted, trying to see past the bright green leaves that obscured his view of the clearing beyond. Through the occasional break in the wall of green, he first saw a few tongues of flame, surrounded by stones, in the clearing's center. As the leaves shifted in the wind, he caught a glimpse of one, two, three small huts and one long, low-set building that curved about a third of the way around the far side of the clearing.

“What am I supposed to be seeing?” Robinson whispered.

The guide grabbed Robinson's shoulder and pointed urgently back into the village. "Look," he said again, more urgently. Robinson looked. And looked. The hunters behind him were growing restless.

Finally, he saw it; a red standard erected over the entrance to the low-set wooden hall across the clearing. It was emblazoned with a black paw print. "Oh," he said, flatly. Very suddenly, Robinson was thinking back to all the things their guide had told him as they made their way through the jungle. He felt an eerie prickling sensation on the back of his neck. “We should probably g-”

But the guide wasn't listening. He was staring over Robinson's shoulders, slowly raising his hands above his head. With an awful feeling of foreboding, Robinson turned around.

“ … Mother of God.”

'Surprise' wasn't really a strong enough term for what Ronald Robinson was feeling. There was a kind of deep, existential shock that came with turning around and seeing an animal, one that moments before you had considered to be no more than a target in your hunt, aiming the barrel of a rifle at your head. For a few moments, Robinson only stared. He opened and closed his mouth, but words failed him.

Fortunately for the humans, the tribal-painted leopard holding a rifle to Robinson's head wasn't especially concerned with words. With the barrel of his gun, the tall, muscular cat nudged the machete the man was holding. Robinson took the cue and dropped it to the ground. A second leopard walked by and snatched the tool up from amongst the dead leaves on the jungle floor, almost seeming to glide over the ground for all the sound she made.

As the leopards exchanged a few clipped sentences worth of conversation, Robinson glanced back at the hunters he and their guide had been paid to … well, guide. By that point another group of leopards had relieved the men of their weapons. Robinson almost wanted to laugh aloud. Back at camp, these were men who claimed they could take on the world. A few big cats seemed to be on the verge of sending them all crying home to their mothers.

Abruptly, a paw clamped down on Robinson's shoulder and started to pull him up. The skinny man grumbled and shuffled to his feet. “I can still stand, you know ...”

There were fifteen leopards. Each of them stood roughly five feet tall, though a couple were closer to four. The group had them surrounded. Robinson gulped. Not a single member of their hunting party had noticed this pack until they were right on top of them – literally, in the case of a hunter who'd tried to get off a shot from his rifle.

Most of the leopards were armed only with spears and small blades, but a few, most likely the leaders, carried what looked old hunting rifles. They stood at the same height as the tallest of the human hunters, and had bold, red insignias painted onto the fur of their chests and foreheads. War paint. The one who had dragged Robinson to his feet jabbed the hapless man lightly in stomach, barking out a single harsh command.

The guide glanced at Robinson, then looked over at the other hunters. “They are telling us to go back the way we came,” he said, raising his voice. “If we leave quickly and do not come back, we will not be harmed. If we attempt to resist, or bring other humans back with us, well …” The guide made a slicing gesture across his throat. “Bad things.” The hunters cringed, looking at the circle of predators with considerably less defiance than they had originally.

A few minutes later, the leopards split into two groups. One surrounded the hunters and nudged them very firmly back the way they came. The other stuck around on the clearing's edge.

As the silent cats sent the disarmed humans on their way, Robinson took one look back through the trees at the leopards that had stayed behind. They were inspecting the equipment they'd taken from the hunters. A few machetes, knives, one revolver … but the three rifles were their main focus. Those were the center of attention. The leopards assigned to carry them held their new rifle as though they were transporting a holy relic.

And maybe they are, Robinson thought. They had only three before. Now they have six. Twice the firepower. Twice the odds against hunters like us.

Though even Robinson couldn't quite tell at the time … the revolution was already underway.

-----

Over the course of the 20th century, Buwara gradually consolidated its territory, a midsized area directly to the north of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the nation was accepted into the UN, several western member states, including the United States and Great Britain, opened trade deals with the Buwarans. In many cases, the leopards received technology or knowledge in exchange for their goods. The first Buwaran university opened its doors in 1961. From there, the manufacturing industry took off. By the late 1980's, many major cities had running water, electricity, and even some automobiles. An airstrip was installed just outside the capital city in 1991, though aircraft remain a rarity in Buwara at the time of this writing.

In short, over the course of the 20th century, Buwara went from a small group of allied leopard tribes to a fully industrialized nation. Since the end of the second world war, they enjoyed a long period of uninterrupted peace. That changed in 1998, with the beginning of the Second Congo War. Due to its location, so near to both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Buwara was caught in the crossfire between two advancing armies ...


-----

Southern Buwara
October, 1998


Hell on earth. There was simply no other way to describe it. Clouds of choking black smoke rose over the treetops all around and swept over the landscape, burning the eyes and throats of friend and foe alike. Tongues of flame licked hungrily at anything that could burn; trees, houses, fallen soldiers. Gunfire echoed through the air, sounding like a cacophony of rolling thunder. Still, it did nothing to mask the screams of the wounded and the dying.

Captain Ma'amir Ikinya ducked back below the edge of the trench they'd dug in the clearing, clutching his FAL battle rifle tightly in one paw. He glanced left and right down the ragged line the other leopard soldiers made. His unit was in sorry shape. Of the fifty young soldiers he had commanded when the battle began, only a score remained. Half of those were wounded, and all of them were dirty, battered, tired, and above all, afraid. They clutched their weapons like they were life preservers keeping them from being swept out to sea. The ones nearest to their captain looked to him with widened eyes. New blood, Ikinya thought. Basic training doesn't prepare you for THIS.

Without warning, a burst of machine gun fire swept overhead. Shouts rose up from the jungle beyond - the enemy was about to attack again.

Captain Ikinya took in a deep, raspy breath of noxious air and called out an order to his troops. "Come ON! Return fire!" The grizzled leopard's voice echoed, rising over even the sounds of death and destruction all around. The young leopards all jolted back to attention. Training took over. They rose and rested their rifles along the trench, some loading a fresh magazine. A bullet caught one cat in the shoulder, sending him sprawling back against the damp earth behind him. The captain barely flinched. His eyes were scanning the treeline.

Now where was that machine gunner?

Without warning, a group of the human soldiers burst from the cover of the trees, dropping to one knee to open fire on the Buwaran line. At the same time, a burst of machine gun fire raked the trench, sending the leopards diving for cover. Ikinya frantically scanned the dense vegetation, trying to see just where the gunner was. There. He caught a glimpse of bright orange muzzle flash from behind a section of crumbling wall, just a few feet into the jungle. And then it stopped, most likely so the operator could reload.

He had an opening. “Suppressing fire!” the captain roared, pointing in the direction of the human soldiers in the clearing. Bullets rained down on their position, forcing the men to retreat back into the jungle. At the same time, Ikinya set aside his rifle, leaped up onto the edge of the trench, and hurled a grenade in the direction of the machine gunner. He was back behind cover by the time it went off … but the machine gun remained silent. “Got 'im.,” the captain muttered.

For a few moments, the fighting had stopped. Ikinya took advantage of the brief lull to start barking out orders. “Jallah needs a medic! You, Naro, get him out of the line of fire! Back to the village.” Ikinya replaced his weapon's magazine with a fresh one. “Daboro! Get over here.”

The young leopard soldier, hearing his name, crouched below the level of the trench and quickly jogged over to his commanding officer. He was a thin, wiry cat, normally energetic, but the battle had taken its toll on him, just like everyone else. Dirt and blood soiled his dark green uniform in equal measure, and his eyes betrayed the fatigue that he didn't want to show to his captain. “Sir!” Private Daboro said, making a quick salute. Unfortunately, saluting involved standing up straight, above ground level. A bullet shot past the young leopard's head, putting a neat hole through his left ear.

Captain Ikinya grabbed Daboro and dragged him behind cover. “Get down, before someone puts a bullet through your fool head!” He gave the younger leopard a light tap on the cheek. “Now listen. Do we still have that RPK we picked up off one of the humans yesterday?”

Daboro nodded. He still didn't seem to notice his perforated ear. “Yessir.”

“Bring it to me.”

“Understood, sir.” Daboro leaped back to his feet, quickly ducked his head below the wall, and dashed off to follow his instructions. Ikinya went back to a 'firing position' on the dirt bulwark. Automatic fire from the jungle rained down on their position. At the same time, a squad of about fifteen others burst out of the forest on the Buwaran unit's right flank. Captain Ikinya shouted out orders, directing his soldiers to focus on the squad trying to flank them. The sound of gunfire filled the air. A few of the leopards fell back, wounded, but still more of the humans were hit. They beat a hasty retreat back to the cover of the jungle.

By the time Daboro returned, carrying the big brother of the AK slung over his shoulder, the humans had been beaten back yet again. He handed the machine gun off to Ikinya, who tossed his FAL to the side and flipped out his new weapon's bipod. Perfect. “We got 'em running! Time to finish them!”

It was almost a minute before the human soldiers made their final charge. They came out of the treeline from all directions, guns blazing. The Buwarans returned fire, Ikinya opening up with his new light machine gun. The sudden onslaught forced the humans to halt their charge and dive for cover.

Aside from a few fallen trees, cover was a scarce commodity. The human soldiers were exposed and disoriented, giving the leopards the upper hand. It was just seconds before the enemy fell, broke, and ran, leaving behind nearly half their number lying in the mud of the clearing. A few final shots followed them into the jungle, and the Buwarans slumped back against the wall of the trench that had protected them.

Well, protected some. The medics would be overworked when they returned to camp. Ikinya's twenty remaining soldiers had been decimated. Only five were entirely unscathed. Of the rest, he quickly determined, seven were wounded, and eight … where they had gone, no medic would be able to give them aid. The captain felt an awful weight settle into the pit of his stomach, but there was nothing to be done for them now. All he could do was ensure that the village shaman gave them the proper rites, to lay their spirits to rest.

An eerie silence fell over the land, seeming horribly out of place compared to the hellish racket the had covered to earth just minutes before. Ikinya's five able-bodied soldiers looked an awful lot like the ones who hadn't been so lucky; they were slumped back against the wall, trying to stave off fatigue, staring off into space with dull, listless eyes. Private Daboro had taken a seat next to Ikinya. In a voice that was barely more than a whisper, he asked, “Now what?”

“Now,” the captain said, “we go back to the village. We get aid for our wounded. And we prepare.”

Daboro took in a deep, shuddering breath, and let it out. “Right,” he murmured. “Let's go. I'll help with Jalloh.”

The clearing that Ikinya and his soldiers were defending was just a few hundred feet outside a midsized village, one that had just happened to be in the way of the advancing war machine. It had been caught in the middle of two armies, forcing Buwara into a conflict that it didn't even understand, much less have a stake in. The military was overworked, trying to protect the civilians from the murderous human armies. In some cases, the enemy soldiers would pass by the Buwaran villages, content to leave them in peace.

The village Ikinya and the others had been sent to was not one of the lucky ones. The fighting had raged for the past two days. But now it seemed the humans had finally given up.

Of the seven wounded, four could still walk. The others had to be helped along, or, at the worst, carried. The village was only a few hundred feet away … along a narrow, ill-kept path, with several hundred pounds of dead weight slowing the survivors down. So what would have been a minute long walk, if that, on any other day turned into an agonizing ten minute affair.

It took them ten minutes to reach the village. But after five, they could already smell the smoke. Six and they could see the flames.

Ikinya's heart sank.

They stepped from the jungle to look out on a smoldering ruin. The village had been razed to the ground. Not a single building still stood, and all around the debris had been set aflame.

One of the younger leopard soldiers - Daboro - was the first to speak. “They … they must have gone around us, come from downwind … taken the garrison by surprise.” He let out a noise that was somewhere between a sob and snarl. His ears lay flat against his head as he looked helplessly at the scene before him.

One by one, the remnants of the the other squads were returning to the village they had failed to defend. Ikinya looked on them sadly, with a heavy heart. Only a third of their company had survived the battle, and half of the survivors were wounded, some so badly they couldn't even walk unassisted.

Ikinya caught a glimpse of himself in a puddle of muddy water. He could barely recognize the leopard he saw staring back. His matted fur was colored a dull grey by mud, dust and smoke; his dark green uniform was torn and bloodstained. The captain had once worn a red beret, but that was probably lying trampled into the dust ten miles away by now. Sighing, he brushed himself off as best he could and looked around at the soldiers still milling about. “Alright, boys. Fan out, search for survivors, but make it quick.”

All the uninjured leopards moved to explore what was left of the village, though without much real hope of finding anyone. Daboro, however, lingered in the village center with Ikinya, peering under the fallen wall of a tiny shack. The captain looked curiously at his subordinate and walked over. “Daboro? What is it?”

Daboro didn't look up. “I … I think there's someone trapped under here, sir. Could you help me lift it?”

Ikinya nodded sharply, and went to grab one end of the fallen wood construct. When Daboro grabbed the other end, the both heaved, lifting the slab of wood and flipping over onto the muddy ground.

A high-pitched mewling filled the air.

“What in the ...” Captain Ikinya's voice trailed off. The sole survivors of the villagers that had stayed behind were lying curled up at his feet; three leopard cubs, none of which could be more than a day old. Two, one apparently male and the other female, looked like twins, sharing the same light orange fur and white bellies. Even the dark spots that dotted them seemed to be in the same pattern. The fur of the third was black as night; a black panther, a rarity among the leopards of Buwara. None of them had even opened their eyes. The spirits smiled on these, I suppose …

“Get a medic over here,” Ikinya said finally. “Get these three to the transports.” A few soldiers rushed to obey their orders. Daboro, however, stood still, staring down at the cubs. “The only ones left...” Ikinya heard him whisper. The captain walked over and put one paw on the younger, smaller cat's shoulder. “I can't honestly say that they'll have an easy life, young one … but it's a blessing that they're still alive.”

Daboro looked up at his commanding officer, his eyes glistening and obviously fighting back angry tears. “Their parents are dead … their packmates are dead … “ Daboro's voice faltered, and he shrugged Ikinya's grip off in a sudden rage. ”Why!?” he said through gritted teeth. The tears began to flow freely. “Why did they do this? This isn't our fight, we aren't their enemy. Why … why ...”
The leopard's shoulders slumped, his ears drooped. The rage seemed to boil out of him in an instant.

Ikinya put his paw back on Daboro's shaking shoulder. This time, the young soldier made no move to shake it off. “Im'ra Daboro … I wish I knew.”

He looked to the others, the soldiers left under his command. “When the trucks are packed and our wounded have been treated, we fall back to the city,” Ikinya called out. “The other companies may have fared better than we did. Expect to encounter civilians on the way.” He looked around at the smoldering desolation that surrounded them, before adding, “May the spirits smile on us.”

Ikinya left the village without waiting so see if his orders had been carried out. He needed to be alone for a while, before they moved on.

Before the next battle of this awful, bloody war.

-----

The ferocity of the Second Congo War caught Buwara entirely unprepared. The military was simply unable to cope. As a result of the threat, the Buwaran parliament moved to both increase government control and institute a draft, one that would nearly double the effective strength of army. In addition, the premier, Da'kino Moro, was gifted with a number of emergency powers. These measures were widely supported, with few dissenters within the both the upper and lower echelons of the legislature, and were greeted with applause from a body of citizens who wanted their safety guaranteed.

The military was brought up to its full strength within two months, and in the months following the deployment of the fresh recruits, along with new artillery support, fighting was diverted away from Buwaran borders. The leopards gained a reputation with soldiers on both sides of the war: it was simply too costly to attempt to make a shortcut through Buwaran territory.

It was only when the war left their borders that the real debate began …


-----

Buwaran Parliament Building
August 21st, 2005


The office of the premier was filled to capacity. Fifteen of the highest ranking advisers and members of parliament were seated cross-legged in a semicircle along the cool plaster walls of the room. Each was clad in a long, brightly embroidered cloak that hung loosely around their shoulders, advertising their high rank. Above them, a long, narrow window opened to the light of the mid-day sun. The floor of the room was covered in a wide, dark orange carpet, and each of heads of state was seated on a padded mat over that.

Before the semicircle sat the premier of Buwara, Da'kino Moro. He wore only his ceremonial knife belt, having let his cloak fall limp behind him. The tip of his tail twitched intermittently as he looked from one leopard to the other, waiting patiently for the drone of conversation to end. One by one, the others fell silent and turned to their leader with various gestures of deference.

Da'kino took a deep, slow breath and began to speak. “I've called you all here today to discuss the state of our nation. Fighting in this war has dropped to an insignificant level, at least within our borders. No doubt due to the new strength of our military -” an aging leopard whose cloak marked him as a general inclined his head “- and the speed with which we all reacted to the situation. Many live were lost, it is sure … but many more were saved. For that, I must thank you all.

“But. The time as come to choose a new direction for our nation's future.”

The General cut in. “I think it's obvious that we cannot drop our guard. Some human nations may have shown us a bit of kindness, but the ones closest to our homes demonstrated their unending brutality. The borders must remain closed to outsiders. Unless we want a repeat of this slaughter.”

A female to The General's left – some administrator of security – spoke next. “I agree with General Kimombo. Safety is paramount. Contact with the humans has given us nothing but sorrow.”

“Not entirely true,” said the Minister of Something-or-Other. “We can't entirely disregard the contributions made by the United States and Great Britain to our technology programs.”

“In exchange for a truly generous supply of trade goods,” a Minister of Trade and Commerce said flatly. “Really, they made out on that deal. They weren't interested in helping us. They were, however, interested in our gold. Though I can't quite fathom why.”

“It's a good conductor,” the Director of the Institute of Technology said.

Blank stares.

The Director sighed. “Nevermind,” he said, and started to polish his glasses while the talk continued.

“The risk is too great. Letting humans in after what their armies did would send the citizens into a panic.”

“But we've rebuilt, and we have no fight with the Westerners!”

“Do you think anyone will be able to tell the difference?”

“The benefits hardly outweigh the risks!”
“The risks aren't as great as you think.”
“Do you know how many died, Miria? How much land was razed to the ground?”
“He makes a good point, you know.”
“No one asked you!”

On and on it went, and all the while, Da'kino Moro sat in stone-cold silence. The leopard premier just slowly traced a circle on the pommel of his long ceremonial knife as he watched his chief advisers and political allies leap at each others throats in a debate that dragged on for nearly an hour. Finally, Da'kino slid the knife from its sheath and stabbed into the floor before him, leaving it stuck quivering in the wooden boards. “Enough,” he said in a low growl.

The assembled states-cats wisely chose to close their mouths.

Premier Moro was done beating around the bush. “By a show of paws. Based on what you know of the war, of the continued fighting just a few tens of miles from our borders … should the emergency measures be relaxed, now or in the foreseeable future? All those who say yes, make yourselves heard without fear of retribution.”

Not a single paw strayed from its owner's side.

“Should we open our borders to humans?” A few stirred, but still, no paws. “Perhaps in a limited degree, in the future?” Finally, a few paws went up; the Director, the Minister of Something-or-Other, and the Trade and Commerce director were in agreement.

Da'kino stood, leaving his knife stuck in the floor. “Then when parliament reconvenes tomorrow, I expect you all to be able to end this squabbling. Dismissed.”

The semicircle of leopards gradually disintegrated, as each of the room's occupants stood and filed out open doorway. Da'kino Moro was left standing alone in the center of his circular office. When the sound of footpads on the wooden floor faded into the distance, the premier did an abrupt about-face, turning to look out the wide windows at the back of the office. They provided an excellent view of the capital city, all low-set buildings of wood and brick with colorful tiled roofs, stretching out for over a mile in every direction. Thick groves of tropical trees stood in patches throughout the urban sprawl, looking like islands of green from the premier's perch atop the Capitol building. It wasn't too long ago that Da'Kino Moro had looked out this very same window and seen the jungle beyond set aflame.

“I led this nation through the war,” Moro murmured to no one in particular. “For that, at least, I'll be remembered.” He spun on his heel a second time and stalked off toward the door. “Whatever else happens, I shall have that.”

-----

In the years following, the political situation in Buwara deteriorated. The premier and his advisers won out in the beginning, but factions rose to oppose them.

It is now April in the year two thousand and thirteen. With a newly elected regime ready to take power, tensions are higher than ever. Buwara stands on the brink of yet another war.

The world watches and waits.


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Autuor's Nose: Phew. And so it begins. I debated splitting the intro up into a few smaller segments, but in the end I decided this would be the better format. Hope it's not too long for anyone! Anyway, the introduction basically serves to establish the history of the Buwaran nation, in a way that's non-boring. The italiczed 'encyclopedia entries' are a holdover from my original, much more boring plan for exposition.

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(☞゚ヮ゚)☞ Tooth and Claw
Sequel to The Dogs of War~

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Last edited by Coatl_Ruu on Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Apr 12, 2012 6:18 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
This is very, very interesting for a start. :D :D
It was a good idea setting it in the immediate future rather than synched with current timeline. This will allow for references to be corrected and treated without breaking the storytelling. 8-)
Your idea is already giving me some inspiration...watch out... :ugeek:

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Hehe, I'm glad the intro caught your interest! If you liked this, I think you'll enjoy Tooth and Claw... very much so. x3

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
That was a very interesting beginning. I mean it was fantastic and very action packed for most of it. This looks like it will be a very exciting story or season. I was just wondering(you don't have to answer me), Are you going to stay with a few characters or with a large group? How much action and political scenes will be in this story? Will those 3 baby leopards ever come back in play? and will any characters that are not leopards be in the story?

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
I'm pretty sure this is going to involve Duke and other dogs from his Dogs of War fic, so it likely will be just as focused on action as that was. and Chekov's gun would suggest those cubs are going to be back, but he could be ignoring that.

I liked the Minister of Something-or-Other, he sounds like a very important leopard. :lol:

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Hey, I'm glad you guys are liking this. I can't answer all of those questions in detail without giving something away, BUT!
1) There will be a larger cast of characters than in The Dogs of War.
2) Action scenes and underhanded politics will definitely play a role.
RandomGeekNamedBrent wrote:
I liked the Minister of Something-or-Other, he sounds like a very important leopard. :lol:

So important, in fact, that no one knows what he does. xD

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Very well written, an interesting style, and nearly perfect breaks. This shaping up to be better than you previous awesome fic. Cannot wait to see where you go with this.

I love how practical the leopards are. No value in Gold except as a conductor. They have no idea how much power they could have with it! :lol:

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
1-1: Homeward Bound

December 23rd, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan


When Duke's dogs got back from patrol, it never took long for people to notice.

The instant the pack of military dogs opened the door to the rec room and started filing in, the sound level jumped up by a good 20 decibels. Half the group was talking a mile a minute, the other was laughing or barking or shouting or just generally making noise. Only the nonexistent third half was entirely silent.

The few human marines in the room decided it would be a good time to vacate the premises. A couple of Dobermans took their seats almost the instant they left, each sending a little plume of dust from their fur into the air, and picked up a game of Texas Hold'Em where their human counterparts had left off. The other dogs milled about, chatting amongst themselves. The Dobermans hadn't been the only ones to pick up a little dirt. Matted fur and dusty sand, as far as the eye could see. One had to pity the poor sap stuck doing cleanup after they cleared out.

Recently promote Sergeant First Class Duke Walters hopped up on a battered couch and waited for the other K9 Marines to settle down a bit. When that didn't happen, he tried shouting. “GUYS! Listen up!” The dogs stopped in their tracks, and the sound level dropped off in an instant.

Bailey MacNamara let out a low whistle as she looked around at the motley crowd. “Dang, Duke, you should'a been a drill sergeant.” The Shepherd standing on the couch grinned. “Anyway,” he went on. “I just wanted to say two things. First, we did good out there today. All of us. You guys make me proud, you know that?” For a moment, the barking and cheering drowned out even Duke's voice. He raised both paws in the air and gestured for silence. It took a few moments to restore order. “Second,” he said, finally, “I'm sure everyone already knows this, but tomorrow's the 24th. You know what that means?”

The two Dobermans in the back broke out into an off-key, bass rendition of 'I'll Be Home For Christmas'.

“Dang right!” Bailey cut in with a laugh. “We're all on the next flight outta this pit. Just think of it: ten hours in most comfortable seating the United States Marines Corps can provide!” A chorus of groans circled through the room, but they weren't serious – they were bound for home, after all.

“After tomorrow, it'll be a good long while before we meet again,” Duke went on. “But I propose we make this night one for the record books.”

A few of the newer dogs looked confused, so Bailey leaned over to them and said in a loud stage whisper, “Psst. Guys, your CO just authorized you to get drunk and party.” In a normal tone, she added, “By the way, anyone got a case of orange soda under their bunk?” A few of the dogs shrugged and scratched their necks uncomfortably. “Ah, come one. I know it's contraband, but no one's gonna care tonight. Speak up.” Finally, a Dalmatian in the back of the crowd raised his paw. Bailey snapped her fingers and pointed to him, grinning toothily. “Ladies and gentledogs, the man of the hour!” Another round of barking and cheering filled the small room, as the two Dobermans walked over and hoisted the Dalmatian up on their shoulders, before heading for the door.

The squad of military dogs moved out in their wake like a pack, and in a few moments, Sergeants Bailey MacNamara and Duke Walters were left alone in the room. Duke hopped down from the couch and looked around. Even in such a short period of time, the other dogs had managed to turn the rec room into a torn-up ghost town. He could almost imagine a tumbleweed rolling lazily across the middle of the linoleum floor.

“Hey, Duke,” Bailey said. “I'm gonna head back to the barracks.”

“Alright, I'll be right with you,” the Shepherd replied. “I just promised Zara I'd meet her first.”

“You told her that everyone would be fine with her coming, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, I did. She said she'd rather sit this one out.”

Bailey shrugged and started for the open door. “Fair enough, I guess it's her call. Just don't take too long, or I might look the other way when the others break out their own stashes.” She singsonged the last bit, and Duke could see her grinning mischievously. He rolled his eyes. “Just make sure everyone'll be able to walk in the morning, alright?”

“Hehe. No promises, Dukey.”

Duke groaned and slapped one paw to his forehead, slowly dragging it down his muzzle. He was about to say something else to Bailey, but the Boxer was already gone. She was quick for a big dog. “Well, cross that bridge when we come to it,” he grumbled to himself. “We'll just say that Bailey was in charge tonight.” He would have liked to go check up on the party himself, but in all reality, Bailey would probably do a good job of keeping things under control. That dog had a wild side, to be sure, but she also knew where the boundaries lay. Usually.

Besides, Duke had a date to keep.

He found Zara lounging on the roof of the abandoned K9 barracks, sharpening the small knife she'd kept with her since long before they had even met. When the lithe female jackal heard him coming up the ladder, she cast a small smile in his direction and set the whetstone aside.

“Well well, you remembered,” she said. English wasn't her native language, but by now her accent was only barely detectable. A few months spent almost exclusively around English speakers tends to do that. Duke grinned and took a seat at her side. The jackal snuggled up to him, still slowly turning the knife over in her paws. “I was worried I would have to come and remind you.” She slid the knife back into its sheath. “Lovingly.”

Duke put his arm around her shoulders. “I've never missed a chance to be with you before. I saw no reason to start now.” Zara leaned over gave him a brief peck on the cheek. Even that was enough to make the Shepherd blush a bit. Zara pretended not to notice his reaction, but there was still the sly glint in her eye.

They sat in pleasant silence for a few minutes, looking out at the landscape beyond the walls of the base. Though the sun was low in the sky, it still lit up the desert sand with its bright white radiance.

"So," Duke said. "Are you coming with us? Tomorrow, I mean."

Zara shifted to look him in the eyes. "Do I have a choice?"

"Of course you do. No one's making you leave."

"Well, actually, ... " Zara held up a finger. "One: your owner 'adopted' me. Two: outside the base, there is a pack of other jackals who would like me dead. Three: you want me to come. You are going to give me the 'puppy dog eyes'. And that is cheating."

Duke crossed his arms over his chest. "Excuse me, I've been a K9 Marine for over a year now. Since when do I do 'puppy-dog eyes'?"

Zara rolled her own eyes and punched the Shepherd playfully in the arm. “Oh, I am kidding, dog. There is no need to be so serious. Of course I will come. It certainly beats the alternative, and I think I would like to see America.”

“Ow, hey now,” Duke said, rubbing his arm. But he couldn't keep the grin off his face. “So, I suppose I'll be seeing you at the airfield tomorrow? The convoy leaves at oh-nine-hundred.”

Zara laughed. “For the last time, yes, I will be there. Now be quiet for a minute, please. I was enjoying the silence before you came along.”

“Meanie,” Duke grumbled, though still smiling. He snuggled closer to Zara and fell quiet, enjoying the jackal's company, looking out at the world below … and thinking. Thinking about those who hadn't been there to share this final day with him. Sergeant Anselmo had gone home on leave two months ago, safe and sound. Others hadn't been so lucky.

Sebastian and Achilles, the other two members of Duke's squad. They'd been out on a routine patrol, when their column had been ambushed. The two dogs had been cut off from the rest of the unit and forced to run for cover. There had been a roadside bomb hidden in their path. Achilles saw it. Sebastian didn't. Achilles knocked Sebastian out of the way at the last second, probably saving his life, but they tripped the IED in the process. It went off, with both of them caught in the blast.

Sebastian, strictly speaking, had gotten the worse end. He nearly lost both his leg and his life. Only quick intervention had allowed him to keep both, though the doctors assumed he would never walk normally again. Achilles escaped serious injury … save for one of his eyes.

Duke squeezed his own eyes shut, trying to force the memories down. That had been a day right out his nightmares. Three dead, and his squad-mates amongst the casualties. For a while it hadn't been clear whether they would join the dead.

Duke was suddenly aware of Zara stroking gently down his back, and the memories dissolved into mist. Zara leaned in close to nuzzle at the base of his neck. Duke blushed slightly, and warm shivers ran down his spine. “Calmness, dog,” Zara murmured. Duke let out a little giggle, his dark thoughts forgotten. "H-hey, that tickles."

Zara raised an eyebrow and nipped lightly at the nape of his neck. "Oh?" she said, a sly grin on her face. "Would you like me to stop?" Still acutely aware of the heat rushing to his cheeks, Duke rested his head on top of Zara's. "Let's not be hasty now," he said with a grin.

By 1800 hours, Duke's commanding officers would come looking for him. Lazing around after that point could have consequences. But that gave him a full half hour to spend with Zara, and he intended to make use of every last second.

-----

It's been about three months since that day. Duke returned to his parents, bringing Zara with him to their new home, a fifteen minute drive outside a little town known as Babylon Gardens. Bailey took the long ride back to her home out in the country, promising before she left to come visit her ol' squad-mates. They all knew that it was only a matter of time before their next tour of duty, but even just a few weeks of leave would have been well worth it.

For the time, life is good.

----------

Autuor's Nose: Though this technically marks the start of chapter 1, it's really more 'setting the stage'. Duke and company might be taking the back seat for just a little while. Also, I know this is the second entry in less than a week, but that's only because I have a bit of a buffer built up. Please please please don't expect updates this often. I'm terrible at keeping a schedule. xD
copper wrote:
Very well written, an interesting style, and nearly perfect breaks. This shaping up to be better than you previous awesome fic. Cannot wait to see where you go with this.

I love how practical the leopards are. No value in Gold except as a conductor. They have no idea how much power they could have with it! :lol:

Thanks, Copper! And yeah, civilization is still a bit of a new thing for Buwara. In general, the leopards are more concerned with the practical use for things, as opposed to aesthetics.

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Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:36 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
You sure know how to set the scene. This is interesting, to say the least.

Poor break for Achilles and Sebastian, though... :(


A little advice. If you have a buffer, set a schedule and don't update as fast as you can, but keep to the schedule. Then updates are regular for a little while and you have time to write and build on the buffer you have.

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Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:55 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
NOOO! Not Sebastian and Achilles! *stupid war grumble grumble mope mope*
Glad to see the core team back, tho! Can't wait for developments :D :D

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Thanks for the advice, Copper. I've still got some writing built up, so I should be able to use that time to plan out and write. Who knows, maybe I'll actually be able to maintain a schedule this time around!

As for Sebastian and Achilles ... that kind of thing happens. I didn't feel like I could realistically write a story involving war without showing some of the consequences (well, within the PG-13 rating).

Anyway. I'm glad you guys liked this! The next few updates should move beyond establishing background. :3

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Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:32 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
You know, as long as it isn't too gory, you can have deaths from war. The issue of war will always toe the line, but you can show a little more than injury from it. :P

Hooray for more of a story! Can't wait to see what this is really about...

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Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:46 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Oh, I'm well aware of that. There have been deaths in other fanfics - Keith in Projectiles of Protection, for one. (not sure if that's really still a spoiler, but better safe than sorry).

Also, yay! Positive feedback. ^_^ *scurries off to write more*

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
1-2: Three Days...

April 8th, 2013
Northern Buwara


The sun hovered just above the jungle trees off in the distance, casting long shadows over the airfield just outside Buwara's capital city. Lieutenant Im'ra Daboro stood on the side of the runway and looked to the south, his paws clasped behind his back. He was dressed in standard camouflage fatigues, with a black officer's beret resting on his head and a handgun holstered at his hip. A few other leopard soldiers stood behind him. Aside from that small group, the airfield was pretty sparsely populated. A cargo plane had just come in for a landing and was being unloaded. Mechanics were working on a pair of helicopters outside one of the two large hangars. It was a slow day, to say the least.

Daboro's tail flicked restlessly. Waiting. Waiting had never come easily to him, especially when the waiting lasted longer than expected. So when the first sounds of a helicopter in flight off in the distance reached his ears, he all but let out a sigh of relief. The low drone of a helicopter grew gradually louder as it came in from the south. Daboro turned to the leopards standing at his back. “The southern warden is about to arrive,” he said. “Go and make sure his escort is ready.” The soldiers saluted and offered muttered affirmatives, before jogging off toward the air traffic control tower and the radio transmitter located there.

Once it passed over the jungle canopy, the helicopter came rapidly into view. It was a dark green Mil Mi-8 “Hip”, a military transport helicopter, Russian-made. Daboro started walking toward the landing pad. As the roar of the Hip's turbines grew and the craft began to descend to the ground, the downdraft from its powerful rotors sent strong winds gusting out and all around. In just a few moments, Daboro felt like he was in the middle of a miniature cyclone. The leopard soldier had to grab hold of his beret to keep it from being swept off of his head.

With no more than a light thump that was lost in the sound of its engines, the Mi-8 touched down. As the engines began to power down, the doors on the side of the helicopter's cargo hold slid open. A tall, elderly leopard in a cloak of dark red cloth stepped down onto the tarmac. The dwindling downdraft caught the edges of his cloak, causing it to billow in a rather dramatic way. A few armed Buwaran soldiers followed in the old leopard's wake. Daboro let his stoic facade slip, and grinned just a bit. The scene was one that could have been right out of the movies.

The older leopard straightened his cloak and strode lightly across the tarmac toward Daboro. The soldiers saluted as he passed, before going around to the cargo hold in back of the helicopter. Lieutenant Im'Ra Daboro saluted as well when the cloaked leopard approached him. “Governor Bokara. It's an honor, sir. Your flight went well, I hope?”

The governor of Buwara's southern province let out a little dry, wheezing laugh. “Long, loud, and a bit uncomfortable. But no one blew us up, so I suppose I'll count this one as acceptable.” He looked over his shoulder at the soldiers attending to the Hip's cargo, before turning back to Daboro. “Lieutenant, I'm sure I'll drowning in reporters and government officials as soon as we enter the capital, but for now, I'm alone save for you. Why don't we take a walk?” It wasn't a request. Bokara started off toward the nearest hangar, and Daboro followed in his wake.

Though the lieutenant probably outweighed his new companion, the Governor stood a good few inches taller. His fur seemed to have started to gray, and he seemed to be on the border of being underweight, but he still had the sharp eyes of a true predator.

The instant they were out of earshot of the soldiers by the helicopter, Bokara leaned toward Daboro and asked, “Has everything gone according to plan?”

“So far,” Daboro murmured. “Parliament reconvenes in two days. No one seems to suspect a thing.”

"Excellent." The Governor continued walking at a brisk pace, his expression giving no hint of his emotions. He seemed to want to keep their conversation brief, speaking in short, quick sentences. "So far all the others have managed to evade the heightened security measures?"

"As far as I know," Daboro replied. "In any case, I didn't hear of any major arrests. We seem to have gotten off easily."

Bokara nodded in approval. "Good. Good. Now, there's the matter of the city's garrison. What do you have to report from that front?"

"There are about 1,500 troops on the base. Lieutenant General Kaird directly commands more than half of them, and he's come over to our side."

"So all goes according to plan, so far," the older leopard murmured. “We can only hope our streak of good luck keeps up.” By now, the hangar stood less than fifty feet away. Bokara quickened the pace, and Daboro had to rush to keep up. “Everything is in place. Now we just need to make sure it stays that way.”

The two leopards walked through the cavernous open doors of the hangar, into looming shadow. Outside, the sun had finally dropped below the horizon. Within the spacious concrete hangar, a few fluorescent bulbs had been lit, fewer than a human would have preferred. A leopard's excellent night vision made anything more than a token attempt at illumination unnecessary.

The hangar's vast square footage wasn't exactly crowded. To the left of the pair of leopards there was a line of three mottled green turboprop aircraft: A-29 Super Tucanos, manufactured in Brazil, mainly used for close air support. Despite looking like something that belonged in the second world war, they were entirely modern combat planes; the computer-guided bombs being loaded under each wing attested to that.

Further back, a haphazard array of cargo crates had been stacked against the wall. An old forklift sat idle nearby. The Governor stepped off in that direction, and Daboro followed in his wake. Their footsteps barely made a sound on the concrete floor.

The older leopard didn't speak again until he stopped next to one of the shipping containers, a light blue one that stood about eight feet high and wide, and about 20 long. “Well, Lieutenant,” Bokara said, “you got us the General. Now I'd like to show you what I brought to the table.” Bokara produced a small key from a pocket inside his cloak and used it to open the padlock holding the large doors of the container shut. He pulled the lock aside and nodded to Daboro. They each grabbed one of the pair of steel doors and pulled. The pair of metal doors swung outward with a low creaking to reveal an interior filled to the brim with enough firepower to level a small village. Missiles and rocket pods were packed into racks stacked to the ceiling. Crates filled with machine gun ammo filled an equally large area.

“A lot of this is for the helicopters we have available,” Bokara said in a tone that one would use to discuss their weekly grocery list. “The Hip I came in on has four hardpoints for various weapons, very versatile. But we've also brought mortars, a few sniper rifles, a pair of .50 caliber machine guns …” The Governor grinned. “Well, Lieutenant Im'ra Daboro? Will it be sufficient?”

Daboro was speechless for several long moments. He took a few steps into the container, surveying the massive arsenal that lay before him. It was more than he had dared hope for. “This is … how did you get all this?” he said finally.

“Trade secret,” Bokara said with a sly grin.

Daboro shrugged and continued his inspection. He was willing to accept that. In a few days, it wouldn't matter where any of this had come from, anyway. “We'll want to avoid collateral damage, of course, so those rockets might only see use against a limited number of targets.” The leopard soldier shook his head in amazement. “Still. This is excellent.”

“I always deliver, Lieutenant,” Bokara said with a self-satisfied grin. He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of engines, and Daboro followed his gaze in time to see three armored Humvees pull up on the darkened tarmac, dim headlights casting a watery circle of light around the opening of the hangar. “Anyway,” Bokara continued, “I believe our escort has arrived. Would you care to accompany me?”

“Of course, sir,” Daboro said. He would have preferred to have more time to inspect and possibly distribute that weapons cache, but a request from the Governor wasn't really a request. You were free to refuse, of course, but there were always consequences. The pair walked in silence to the waiting convoy, where a Buwaran soldier saluted and opened the back door of one of the armored vehicles. Bokara entered first, and Daboro followed him.

The interior was surprisingly comfortable – well, the only addition was some additional padding on the seats, but even that was a big improvement for a utilitarian military vehicle. This was probably an executive model or some such. Both leopards took a seat. Daboro remained upright and alert, while Bokara lounged back, absently picking his teeth with one extended claw. The Humvee's engine rumbled to life, and the trio of armored vehicles started to move.

“Three days,” said the older leopard. “Three days until the show can begin.” He was rummaging beneath the seats as he spoke. “A year of planning, about to be put in motion. It will be our finest hour. Future generations will tell tales of our valor. Ah, here we are.” He pulled a bottle of wine and two glasses from under the seats. “Fermented fruit juices. I hear the humans are partial to it. Tends to be unkind to feline digestion, but it fits the occasion. “ He popped the cork out of the bottle and poured into the two glasses, handing the first to Daboro before filling his own. “Cheers.”

Daboro looked down at the dark red liquid, shrugged, and took an experimental sip. It tasted odd, to say the least, but he went along with Bokara's celebratory toast.

After all, it wasn't every day that one plotted to spark an armed revolution.

----------

Autuor's Nose: Wow. This took way longer than I expected it to. School and my new job got in the way ... as well as the fact that I wound up rewriting this chapter about three times. And I don't have that much to show for it. More exposition, yay(?)! But eh, it's a necessity.

Anyway! I'll try to update a bit more regularly in the future.

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Last edited by Coatl_Ruu on Wed May 09, 2012 6:11 am, edited 1 time in total.



Tue May 08, 2012 9:22 pm
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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
'Trade Secret'... The Devil's clause in soul bargaining. This old leopard has a very nasty secret.
Also, couple of notes:

1) uniforms make no sense for furry creatures, unless talking about protection jackets like the ones Military Working Dogs wear. IMO, of course.
2) camo may be good in another environment, but in the jungle a leopard has no better camo than his/her own fur.

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
The uniforms are probably to denote rank and out on an air of professionalism to outsiders more than anything. PLUS, YOU NEED POCKETS.... :lol:


Another excellent update. I always love what you put out. I hope you have luck on your new job!

Hmm... revolution in the air. I wonder if the triplets come into play soon.

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Post Re: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Thank ya, Copper, I always aim to please. ^^ Anywho, I'm enjoying my job. Cart pushing is great exercise, and my fellow 'lot attendants' are all pretty cool. Now, if only this didn't interfere with my already near nonexistent update schedule..

On uniforms: Copper hit the nail on the head. If Buwara wants to be taken seriously on the global stage, their military probably needs to look like an actual (read: human) military. It hasn't been mentioned yet, but a good majority of Buwara's population doesn't bother with clothing. Unless, I suppose, they need pockets. x3

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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
1-3: The Ambassador

April 8th, 2013
New York, New York


Delegates of over one hundred different countries were filtering out through a set of double doors into the lobby of the United Nations. It looked like a sea of black suits. They came in twos and threes, speaking in hushed tones amongst themselves. But slowly, the flood slowed to a trickle, until the assembly room was completely vacant and the lobby was completely packed.

One last, lone ambassador strode out through the double doors. Like all the rest, this one was clad in a suit.

Unlike all the rest, this one had a tail.

Daro Kamira stood roughly five and a half feet tall, just a bit above average for a leopard. He was a prime specimen of his species, and had a build that any athlete could have been proud of. Of course, that was just the product of evolution.

The ambassador clasped his paws behind his back and walked out into the lobby, his bare pads nearly silent on the tiled floor. He didn't bother with shoes. Pawpads had worked for his ancestors just fine in the jungle for hundreds of thousands of years, and there was no reason why they couldn't work in New York City. Of course, broken glass bottles typically didn't appear in the jungle. Nor did snow. But the leopard had more of a “cross that bridge when we come to it” attitude when it came to those.

Daro strode calmly across the lobby, ignoring the stares he got from the occasional tourist and making his way to the corner nearest the exit. Waiting there were a a hulking mountain of a man dressed in a black suit and a pair of sunglasses, like some colossal MIB agent, and a white cat garbed only in a black collar and satchel. The leopard grinned when he walked up next to the pair. “Mr. Lockwood and Miss Glacie,” he said in faintly accented English. “I certainly hope I didn't keep the two of you waiting.”

The cat smiled faintly and dipped her head in greeting. “Not at all, Mr. Kamira,” she said. “We've only just arrived.” Mr. Lockwood the bodyguard said nothing. He might have nodded as well, though it was hard to say for sure. That man could have been made of rock as far as Daro was concerned. Both of them were under the ambassador's employ; Glacie as a personal secretary of sorts, while Mr. Lockwood was there for protection. He would have preferred a pair of Buwaran guards to that massive human, but there was really only so much he could get away with. People tended to ask fewer questions when there was a human with the leopard walking down the street.

Daro tugged uncomfortably at the cuffs of his suit coat. Blasted monkey suit. “Well, then I suppose we should be off,” the leopard said. “We wouldn't want to keep anyone else waiting, now would we?”

“No, sir,” Glacie said. “We have a car waiting outside. We should arrive a few minutes early if we depart immediately.”

“Excellent!” the Buwaran ambassador said. “Feel free to lead the way.”

The car, parked in the street out in front of the UN, was a jet-black, four-door SUV. Daro wasn't especially surprised by the choice in color – black seemed to be the color of choice for important humans. And this was a vehicle meant for more than looks: half-inch thick bullet-proof glass windows, bullet-proof armor in the doors, and an engine that wouldn't look out of place in a race car – also armored. Though he was good at what he did, Mr. Lockwood wasn't the best of the best, but the car was one thing that the Buwaran government had spared no expense on. Daro got into the back seat with Glacie, and Mr. Lockwood took the wheel.

The traffic was about as bad as one would expect for New York, but their destination wasn't too far away. About five to ten minutes later, the black SUV pulled up outside an upscale restaurant. Its name, 'Naya Bistro', was displayed in red cursive letters on a sign above the entrance. They had missed the lunch rush by a good few hours, but there was still a healthy stream of people going in and out of the glass double doors. The trio exited the car and strode across the sidewalk, making their way quickly to the entrance.

They attracted the staring eyes of just about everyone they passed. There is a reason, Daron thought, that we usually conduct meetings in private. But those he'd consulted said that for this one particular meet-up, it would be beneficial to do in public.

Daro and company walked into the front lobby of the restaurant. The leopard inhaled a deep breath of savory scented air as he approached the maitre d'. The man peered at him with disdain over a pair of spectacles, his face drawn into a perpetual frown. “Hello, my good man,” Daro said cheerfully, ignoring the icy stare. “We have a reservation. I'm here to meet with a few others.”

The middle-aged, balding man looked at the trio, and finally back at Daro with a condescending smirk. “I'm terribly sorry, 'sir', but we don't serve pets here,” said the maitre d', in a tone that indicated he wasn't sorry at all. “Or ferals. Especially ferals.” Glacie grimaced and took a few slow steps away. She did not want to be too close when the sparks started to fly.

Daro's eyes narrowed. All the warmth seemed to disappear from him in an instant. “Excuse me, 'sir', but I am no pet,” he said flatly. “And I am no feral. I am an ambassador from the nation of Buwara, to this fine country of yours. I am a fully fledged citizen. And I expect to be treated. As. Such.” He poked the man rather forcefully in the chest with each of those last words. “Are we clear?”

The maitre d' was unfazed. “Right. And I'm best friends with the president. Isn't it fun to play pretend?”

Daro's glare held the threat of painful retribution. “Glacie,” he said quietly. “Please hand me my bag.” The cat obediently walked over and handed the shoulder bag to the leopard. “Thank you.” Daro opened the bag's clasp and started rifling through its contents. By now, they were drawing stares. A leopard in a suit, a bodyguard the size of two UFC fighters put together, and a cat, standing in the lobby of an upscale restaurant, arguing with the maitre d'. A few tourists were even taking pictures.

Daro pulled a small bundle of papers and documents out of the satchel. “There!” He started slapping them down, one by one, on the maitre d's podium. “Passport. ID. Birth certificate. Visa. Signed letter from the secretary general of the United Nations.” He glared at the spectacled man in front of the him, who was peering at the various documents with a scrutinizing eye. “I don't suppose you'd like a like a blood sample, too?”

The maitre d' had to take a few seconds to regain his composure. He straightened out his glasses and nodded slowly, an embarrassed flush creeping onto his cheeks. “No, sir. Terribly sorry, sir,” he murmured, looking defeated. “You said that there was a table your party had reserved, correct?”

“Yes indeed.”

The man tapped at the open planner in front of him. “And what name would that be under, sir?”

A toothy grin spread across Daro's face. “The name? Ah, of course.” He leaned in very, very close to the maitre d'. “Gottschalk,” he whispered. The only sound that escaped the man's throat was a little cough of shock. He looked like he was watching his life flash before his eyes. Gottschalk. The leopard he'd just insulted was buddies with Gottschalk. His eyes flicked rapidly to the door. Maybe if he started running now …

A paw clapped down on the maitre d''s shoulder, causing him to very nearly jump out of his skin. “Relax, my good man, relax,” Daro said lightly. “It was a simple misunderstanding.” He lowered his voice. “If the food is exceptionally good, I may even convince Gottschalk to let you keep all your appendages.” The man's eyes went as wide as the pair of plates being carried by a nearby waiter. Daro waited a few short moments, before tapping the man on the shoulder. “I do believe this is the part where you're supposed to show me to my table, no?”

“R-right this way …”

Glacie and Daro followed after him. Their bodyguard stayed back, but still in sight. The pair of felines made their way through the crowded restaurant, attracting the attention of everyone in the wide room. Conversation petered out and died as Daro passed, the patrons having been reduced to staring open-mouthed at the leopard - in a business suit, no less - who had just passed them by. Yet again, the cell phones came out and tourists started snapping pictures. Daro just grinned, eating up all the attention. Glacie, however, sighed and kept walking, looking like she felt rather out of place.

The maitre d' escorted them along a path threading between crowded tables and through an arch into a separate dining room in the back. All the tables in the midsized room were empty, save for one booth that already had two occupants. One was a muscular German Shepherd. The other was none other than Herr Raimund Radulph Gottschalk. The man's tall, gaunt visage dominated the scene. When he rose to shake Daro's paw, the Buwaran ambassador had flashbacks to a showing of Dracula he'd attended as a cub. "Ah, Mr. Daro Kamira," Gottschalk said. "I'm so glad you could join us today." The leopard returned the handshake with an amiable, toothy smile. "The pleasure is all mine, sir. It's an honor to meet you." He turned to the Alsatian now standing to the right of and behind Gottschalk, clasping his paws behind his back. "And am I correct correct in assuming that you are ... Gauss, no?"

The dog nodded. "Must've done your homework."

"Heh, that I did." Daro gestured to the white cat standing at his side. "Oh, this is Glacie Lockwood, my personal assistant and guide in this country." Glacie smiled politely and nodded to both Gottschalks. "The large gentleman standing by the door - "

" - is Mr. Len Lockwood, her owner, who is in the employ of the Storm Five private security firm." Gottschalk smiled. "I've done my homework, too. And I've found you to be a rather interesting individual, Mr. Kamira."

The leopard bowed . “I'm honored, sir. And I could say the same of you.”

Gottschalk chuckled. “Many have, amongst other things. Anyway, let's get down to business.” He seated himself and gestured for the others to do the same.

Daro took a seat opposite Gottschalk in the booth. The white cat at his side seated herself as well, nodding primly to both the man and the dog across the table from her. Before any of them could speak again, a flustered-looking waiter strode rapidly into the back dining room – if Daro had to guess, he'd witnessed that bit of business with the maitre d'. He stumbled over his own feet and came to an abrupt halt at the head of the table, straightening his bow tie awkwardly and smoothing down the front of his apron. "Good afternoon, gentlemen," the waiter began. Daro coughed and pointed at Glacie. The waiter's eyes widened. "Oh! Ah-heh, my apologies, miss." The leopard drummed his fingers patiently on the table and flashed the waiter a very wide grin. The poor man gulped and went on. "What can I get all of you to drink?" he asked apprehensively.

"Water, please," said Glacie. Gauss requested the same. Herr Gottschalk asked to see a wine list, which the waiter managed to produce from one of the pockets of his apron. The leopard toyed with the idea of asking for 'the blood of your children' or something equally cliché and gruesome (could you imagine the look on his face?) but thought better of it and went with the majority in ordering water. The waiter jotted a note down on his pad, bobbed his head once in their direction, and hurried toward the exit, clearly glad that he had other places to be.

When the man was finally out of earshot, Gottschalk chuckled, looking with a thin smile over his menu at Daro Kamira. "Poor man looked like he'd seen a ghost. Or a large, angry feline?"

The ambassador shrugged, not looking up form his own menu. "Oh, I tend to have that effect on people." He glanced up and grinned toothily. "Though I've been known to milk it a bit if they're uncooperative."

Gauss Gottschalk let out a short bark of laughter at that. "Intimidation gets results. Can't argue with that."

"No, no, not intimidation, persuasion. Negotiator's phrasing. Sounds so much more positive that way."

"Doesn't matter what you call it, kitty, so long as it works."

Daro was about to contest the fact the he had just been referred to as a 'kitty' when the waiter materialized at the head of their table with a small tray of glasses and a pitcher of water. After setting out and filling the glasses, the waiter again pulled out his pad and pencil. "Are you all ready to order?" the man asked. They went fairly quickly: salmon for Glacie, fillet mignon for Gottschalk, chicken for Gauss. Daro ordered steak. “And how would you like that done, sir?”

The leopard grinned. “Not at all, please – hey!” Daro massaged his side where Glacie had just elbowed him. The waiter gave him an odd look, but wisely chose not to comment. He finished scribbling down all the orders, bobbed his head at the group, and departed.

Daro gave Glacie an indignant look. “What? Am I not allowed to order my steak ultra-rare in this country?”

The white cat rolled her eyes. “It's generally frowned on to order raw meat in a restaurant, sir.”

"Bah. You said the same thing when I asked to see the cow I was going to be eating at the last restaurant we went to. Is nothing sacred, Miss Glacie?"

The snow-white cat let out a dainty little sigh and shook her head slowly. "It's all baby steps," she muttered.

Daro pouted. "Well, I didn't ask about the cow this time."

Across the table, Gottschalk cleared his throat rather loudly. "Excuse me?" he cut in. "Still here."

"Right!" Daro exclaimed. "My apologies. Shall we get down to business?"

"Let's." Herr Gottschalk rested his arms on the table and leaned in, one eyebrow raised on his gaunt face. "I understand that your government is interested in a trade agreement of sorts with my company. Enlighten me."

Daro Kamira nodded. Very suddenly, he was all business. "Since the war, my country has devoted most of its attention to national security and military buildup. We sealed off our borders and doubled the size of our standing army. Safety was assured, but isolationism has its costs. It's lead to over a decade of technological stagnation. No meaningful progress has really been made." The leopard leaned back and clasped his paws under his chin. "Well, it's time for Buwara to enter the twenty-first century. The newly elected regime has a more liberal view on opening our borders. And we've discovered rather extensive deposits of gold in the northern parts of the country."

"Open your borders, sell the mining rights to the gold deposits, put a decent tariff on every shipment out of the country, and use the massive profits to fund a surge into the digital age." Gottschalk raised an eyebrow. "Does that sound about right?"

Daro nodded again. "Basically, yes. Foreign access is going to be limited at first, but we're still going to be able to make a massive profit off deals like that. And it's only going to grow from there." The leopard was about to go on, but out of the corner of he saw the waiter walk in through the doorway, carrying a large tray laden with plates. The mouthwatering scent of broiled meat filled the air.

When everyone had been served, Daro, with a sidelong glance at Glacie, picked up his knife and sliced into his steak. The inside was still bright red and dripping, though warmed by the brief searing it had been given. The leopard had to restrain himself from drooling.

All four of the diners tore into their meals, with Daro showing a bit more restraint than he might have otherwise - Miss Glacie's sharp elbow let him know when he was doing a bit more ripping and tearing than strictly necessary. Still, red juices were soon dripping down his chin, soaking into the white fur under his muzzle. The cat at his side seemed to be resisting the urge to face-paw. Still, the conversation continued unabated. "Basically, Mr. Gottschalk," Daro said through a mouthful of meat. "I wan' to make both m' country and your company wealthier. Th' specifics of the deal - " (chew, swallow) " - the specifics of the deal are still up for discussion, but we'd like a focus on communications and medical technology. Those are areas we're severely lacking in."

Raimund Radulph Gottschalk nodded very slowly, chewing on a forkful of salad. "We will need to negotiate, of course, but you've caught my attention, Mr. Kamira." He set his fork down on the table and steepled his fingers a few inches in front of his face, looking intently at the leopard across the table from him."Now ... you are authorized to make this deal, I trust?"

... With a given definition of 'authorized'. "Of course, sir," Daro said aloud, grinning. "I wouldn't dare waste your time."

"But, at the moment, you have no specifics for me."

" ... Not as such, no," the leopard admitted.

"Then I suppose our official business is at an end."

Lunch went on uneventfully. The odd quartet switched from business proposals to small talk, and after a short time there were four empty plates sitting on the table. Bellies full, the four moved to get up, Gottschalk handing Daro Kamira a small, laminated card as he did so. "A visitor's pass to Terrace High," he explained. "When you've got a plan to present, call the number on the back and ask for my secretary. Tell her who you are, and she'll be happy to schedule a second meeting. " The man grinned. "I do believe we have a bright future ahead of us, Mr. Kamira. I trust you won't disappoint me."

"I wouldn't dream of it, Mr. Gottschalk." He shook the man's hand and gave Gauss a short salute. "Until next time." As Daro stepped out of the booth, Glacie followed in his wake, nodding politely to both the Gottschalks.

The pair of felines left through the restaurant's back door, the same way they'd come in, and headed down the dim, narrow alley back to the main street where their ride was waiting. Daro brushed off his jacket and looked down at Glacie with a self-satisfied smile. " I thought that went rather well," he said cheerfully.

"Aside from your abominable table manners," the white cat grumbled. "You were eating steak, not a gazelle carcass."

"Bah," Daro growled. "An unfair stereotype. I'm no feral."

Glacie rolled her eyes. "You certainly eat like one."

"Eh. Minor details."

The ever-silent Mr. Lockwood was waiting for them beside the SUV. In what looked like, and was, a practiced drill, he opened the back door for the two cats to climb in, before squeezing into the driver's seat himself. The man's head was almost touching the roof of the car. He turned the key in the ignition, and the engine came to life with a low roar. And then the human statue spoke. "Where to?" he asked in a calm tenor - hardly the tone you'd expect from a man who could break another person in half without much fuss.

"Back to the hotel," Daro said. "I need to make a call home."

Lem Lockwood stepped lightly on the accelerator and pulled out into the maze of New York traffic. None of the SUV's three occupants noticed an inconspicuous white sedan round the corner and start trailing behind them.

----------

Autuor's Nose: Agh. Between work and school, I was left with almost no free time. Thus, this chapter took way longer to get out than I would have liked. Ah, well. Anyway! With Valerio's approval, I decided to make use of the fact that The Dogs of War is now loosely tied in with his fanfic. Most of the story will be set far, far away from his, but some of his characters are too interesting for me not to work them in. ^^

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Last edited by Coatl_Ruu on Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:23 am
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Awesome story, Coatl! And, allow me, you make me feel SO proud! LOVED the maitr d's reaction :mrgreen:
(one side note, tho: Gauss and Curie are strictly trained when it comes to formalities: Gauss will get a stern reproach, in private, for addressing a foreign ambassador as 'kitty')

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Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:39 am
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
good work. I loved Daro.
NOW SUSPENSE

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Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:18 pm
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Great atmosphere. Sounds like sharing a meal with Daro would be... uncomfortable. Ya gotta love the pointy-toothed-smile-as-negotiating-tool tactic, though.


Sat Jun 09, 2012 7:22 pm
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
I was worried this chapter would turn out to be a bit lackluster. Glad to see I didn't disappoint!

Valerio: Yes! Seal of approval get. ^_^ I'll also keep the bit about Gauss and Curie in mind. It may turn out to be pertinent information further down the line.

GunRacer: When you're a big predator, the pointy-toothed smile is a key element of any negotiation. :3

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Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:53 pm
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
This was another great update with great and endearing characters.

I hope that white SUV is not part of the upcoming coup...

Gottschalk would become rich off all of that gold. Lucky the Buwarans found it.

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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
1-4: Reunion

April 8th, 2013


Duke Walters was a dog on a mission. He charged forward over the fresh-cut grass like he had a rocket strapped to his back, ducking and weaving through trees, branches whipping past his face, drizzling rain dripping into his eyes. A flurry of leaves drifted through the air in his wake. He was panting heavily, but ignored his fatigue in single-minded pursuit of his goal. Stay on target … His mental targeting computer zeroed in on a patch of shrubbery. There it was. He moved to make a final leap -

- and a second furry missile swept past him, ducking into the bushes before he could even do so much as blink. Duke came to a screeching halt and stood there, panting, as Zara popped out of the bushes, leaves sticking in her fur. She had a worn tennis ball held tight in her paw. “I win,” the jackal said with a sly grin.

Duke raised an eyebrow. “Not yet you don't.”

“Really now?”

It was the German Shepherd's turn to grin. “You've still got to make it back to base.”

Zara giggled. “Try and stop me, pup.”

The two canines circled each other, slowly, each poised to move. A bird chirped nearby. A car rolled past, off in the distance. But in the clearing amidst the trees, silence reigned. A cool breeze swept through, stirring a few wet leaves on the grass beneath the canines' feet.

Without warning, Zara was off like a shot. She feinted left, took a single step, then bolted in the opposite direction. Duke stumbled in the direction she had first gone, slipped on the damp grass, and nearly fell flat on his face. The big Shepherd caught himself before he hit the ground, immediately bounding after Zara on all fours. The jackal was already a good ten yards away, and that distance grew every second. Duke sprinted after her, spraying clods of wet dirt and grass behind him as he fought for traction on the moist ground.

“Too slow, Dukey, too slow!” Zara called out in a singsong tone as the gap between them widened. And then she made the mistake of shooting a taunting grin over her shoulder. No longer looking ahead, she didn't see the tree root, thin and serpentine, that caught her foot. The jackal tumbled forward, but managed to roll with her fall. She leapt gracefully back to her feet and kept running

Well, that slip-up had bought Duke time. He very ungracefully tackled her. They both went down with a thud, skidding forward through the wet grass. When they came to a halt, Duke had Zara pinned to the ground with one paw. In the other he held the tennis ball. “Gotcha!”

Zara giggled. “Oh no! You have gotten me.” Her eyes narrowed and she flashed the Shepherd holding her to the ground a sly grin. “Or have you?”

Duke only had a moment to widen his eyes in surprise before Zara … began to tickle him. In an instant, the tables were turned – Zara quickly had him pinned down, the big Shepherd laughing uncontrollably as the jackal tickled his belly and sides. The tennis ball dropped from his paw and rolled off to the side, forgotten, as Duke tried to squirm away. Zara grabbed grabbed the ball, jumped to her feet, and dashed away. Duke struggled back up, panting and giggling. “Hey! No fair!”

“No rules!” Zara called back as she turned left and disappeared behind some foliage. Duke grumbled and got to his feet, jogging after her.

When Duke caught up, Zara was in the process of tossing the old tennis ball over to a tall boy. “Alright, you win this one, Zara,” Duke called out, leaning over and resting his paws on his knees. “Looks like it's gonna be a tie, Danny,” he went on, this time looking at the tall boy with whom they'd come to the park. Danny Walters was Duke's thirteen year old “brother”. He was tall and lanky for his age, standing now only a few inches shy of his dad. His hair looked like it hadn't seen a pair of scissors in a lifetime – or a comb, for that matter. The drizzling rain wasn't helping matters. “Aw, man, it looks like it's gonna pour,” the boy grumbled.

Duke held out his paw and glanced up at the foreboding, overcast sky. Dark gray clouds roiled overhead, threatening to burst at any second. A single fat droplet splashed right into his palm. “Yeah, we should probably head for home,” he agreed.

Duke, Danny, and Zara left the park in a hurry as what had been a light drizzle began to increase in intensity. By the time they reached the rusted park gates, water was already dripping off of them. Danny had to keep wiping rivulets of water out of his eyes. Puddles were forming on the sidewalk. Zara opened her mouth to speak. “Perhaps we should -”

Zara's voice trailed off as white-hot bolts of lightning tore across the sky, raking the ground on the horizon from the clouds above. Moments later, an earsplitting crack of thunder echoed over the land, shaking the very earth with its intensity. And then, as if the sound had set off an avalanche of water, the downpour came. Sheets of rain swept over the ground with a loud hissing sound, instantly soaking the boy and both canines to the bone.

Without another word, the trio dashed off down the sidewalk toward home, splashing through ankle-depth puddles while trying to shield their faces from the lashing rain. The Walters house was only a few blocks away, and they covered the distance in record time.

But by the time Danny, Duke, and Zara were just a few houses away from the front doorstep of their own, the rain had begun to trail off, what had been torrential downpour rapidly slowing back down to a light drizzle. “Figures,” Danny grumbled.

Duke wiped a patch of damp fur out of his eyes and glanced over at Zara as they trudged down the sidewalk – after all, there was no point in running anymore. Danny stood in between them. The Shepherd tilted his head toward the boy. Zara grinned, and nodded.

One, Duke mouthed. Two ...

Danny looked from Duke to Zara with confusion. “Hey, what're you guys -” And then Duke got to “three”. On cue, the Shepherd and jackal shook themselves vigorously, sending a fresh torrent of water spraying right in Danny's direction. “AUGH!”

When the Walters' household was finally visible beyond the massive hedges their neighbors had planted years ago, Duke and Zara were still grinning – and Danny was still dripping water with every step. “Hoo, boy,” Duke said with a lopsided grin. “You should have seen the look on your face. Didn't see that one coming at all.”

Danny shook his head back and forth in an effort to remove some of the water from his scraggly hair. “Heh, you guys don't look so hot either. Two drowned rats!”

“And what do you think that you look like?” Zara said with a faint grin. This time, the boy just laughed.

Duke just grinned as they came down the front walk, looking around and taking everything in. Home. It had been more than four months since he'd left Afghanistan with Zara in tow, but he was still glad to be back. The rain-soaked patch of wilted grass that passed for a front lawn, the tulips that were just now beginning to sprout. In the driveway, the familiar blue SUV that Duke's mom usually drove was parked. At its side there was a pickup truck that Duke didn't recognize. That gave him pause. Hm. Visitors?

As the came up to the front doorstep, Duke glanced to his right. A the small octagonal sign was planted firmly in the mulch bed beside the front door that proclaimed “These Premises Protected by GSD Security Systems.” There was a silhouette of a German Shepherd just below that.

Then there was the front door itself, its red paint faded from years of exposure to the sun. There was a sign here too, with bold, black lettering. This one was a bit less subtle:

Attention, Burglars: Our guard dog is in the Marines. You have been warned.

Duke was about to reach for the doorknob when the front door opened, and a middle-aged woman stuck her head out. Her hair was short, curly, and dyed a vibrant orange color. She was dressed in a tie-dye shirt and a pair of sweatpants, and from her expression, it was clear this wasn't something out of the ordinary. She stood in the doorway with one hand on her hip and the other resting on the wooden doorframe, looking expectantly down at the trio standing on the from walk.

“Heyyy, mom,” Duke said sheepishly.

Laura Walters rolled her eyes. “Oi,” she grumbled. “You kids are soaked. And where have you been? You were supposed to be home half an hour ago.”

“We lost track of time in the park,” Danny added in.

“Don't you have a watch?”

“The batteries died.”

“Of course they did.” Mrs. Walters sighed. “Well, nothing to be done about that now. Guess I'll just go grab some towels so you can hurry up and get in here.” She flashed Duke and Zara a knowing grin. “Bit of a surprise for you two.”

Mrs. Walters retreated back inside the house, and Duke gave a second look to the pickup truck parked next to the Walters' SUV. It was a bright cherry red, though the paint was beginning to chip in places, and it seemed to be in dire need of a good wash. But what really drew Duke's eye was the US Marine Corps bumper sticker that had been affixed to the rear, with a lopsided black paw-print at its side. That sight set his tail wagging. Bailey?

It wasn't long before Mrs. Walters returned with a handful of faded towels. She chucked them out the door at the dripping trio. "Danny, go change. Fuzzbutts, get in here. I'll find the blow-dryer later. We've been waiting on you." She flashed them that same grin and stepped back inside, disappearing from view around the corner as gales of laughter burst forth from a room nearby.

Duke and Zara exchanged glances and decided to forgo the towels. "Danny," Zara said with a faint smile, "duck."

This time, the boy made it behind a stunted shrub before the canids shook another few gallons of water from their fur. Then they brushed the towels briefly along their pawpads - mom would not be happy if they tracked in mud - and dashed through the foyer and into the den. There, occupying the couch and an armchair were three humans and a dog. Phillip and Laura Walters sat side by side on the gray couch, in the middle of a conversation with a big, broad man lying back in the armchair. He was dressed in a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt. His curly hair and trimmed beard were both a fiery red, and when he laughed, the whole house seemed to shake. Dear dog in heaven, came the first thought to Duke's mind, I've found Santa's skinnier Irish cousin.

Perched on the wide, cushioned arm of the recliner was none other than Bailey MacNamara, laughing along with the rest of them. “And then,” she was saying in between fits of laughter, “and then, they put on the fake eyelashes and lipstick … and he went out on patrol like that. I kid you not. Hoo boy. But I haven't even gotten to the – Hah!” Bailey looked up and finally saw Duke and Zara as they careened into the room. “Speak of the devil! Get over here, fuzzbutts.” The Boxer hopped down from her seat and pulled both Duke and Zara into a bone-crushing hug.

“Oof! That's Sergeant Fuzzbutt to you.” Duke returned the hug with a grin anyway, as did Zara. When Bailey finally released them, Duke shook his wet fur again and asked “When did you get here?”

“About fifteen minutes ago. We were passing through anyway, so I asked if we could call ahead and stop off here.” Bailey hiked a thumb over her shoulder and pointed to “Irish Santa”. “And when I say 'we', I mean me and my dad. Duke, Zara, meet Malachi MacNamara.”

Malachi got up from his seat and walked over to the jackal and Shepherd. They had to crane their necks to make eye contact – the man stood six feet tall, at least. “Nice to meet y'all,” he said in a faint Southern accent, grinning. “Trust me, I've heard allll about the two o' ya.” He held out a wide, callused hand. Duke took it in his paw and shook. Zara moved to do the same. “Good to finally meet you too, sir,” Duke said.

“Ayup!” Malachi grinned. “Ah, Duke and Miss Zara. The happy couple, or so I'm told. Firm handshakes, the both of ya. I'm expecting some strong mongrel pups in the future!”

Duke's eyes widened, and he felt an awkward heat rush to his ears. That made Malachi let out another burst of laughter, one that everyone – even Zara – shared in. The man clapped Duke on the shoulder (the impact would have knocked a weaker dog flat on his face) and roared out “Bah, I'm just playin' with you, boy.”

Duke grinned faintly, scratching the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Ah-heh. Yeah, I … I knew that. Anyway, it's really cool that you guys could stop by.” He paused for a moment. “Why don't we take a seat?” As he and Zara were hopping onto the couch next to their mom and dad, Duke couldn't shake the feeling that he was forgetting something. And then it hit him. “So … what were you guys talking about when I we got here?”

Phillip Walters took off his glasses and started to polish the lenses. “Oh, nothing much,” the man said with a knowing grin that Duke didn't particularly like. “Bailey was just telling us a few war stories.”

Bailey and Malachi had taken up residence in the recliner again. “Your folks didn't seem to care for the ones that ended in you getting shot, so I went with a few of the lighter ones.”

Laura Walters giggled and looked at Duke with a raised eyebrow. “Apparently our boy lost a few interesting bets overseas,” she said.

“What I wanna know is where they got that skirt from,” Malachi laughed. Duke could feel his ears resuming their function as miniature space heaters. All the while, Zara was smiling her little smile. “Bailey, you will have to tell more about that one someday … but you should not be forgetting that Duke has plenty of stories he could tell about you.”

“Oh, I'm sure,” Bailey said. “Alright, alright. Glass houses and all that.” Though out of the corner of his eyes, Duke could swear he caught a glimpse of her mouthing "I'll tell you later."

"Anyway," Duke's dad Phillip said after a brief moment of silence. "In between Bailey's frankly hilarious stories, we were discussing the possibility of Bailey and Malachi staying here overnight. We've got the guest room all freed up. Duke, Zara, how do you guys feel about that?"

Duke grinned. "That sounds great!" Zara nodded her agreement.

"I know Bailey's been dying to come visit y'all," Malachi added. "And I'd be fine with staying over for a little while, so long as it's no trouble for you folks."

"Ah, not at all," Laura said. "Who knows, maybe getting the old trio back together'll keep these two out of our hair."

Phillip Walters clapped his hands together and got to his feet. "Alright then, it's settled. Bailey, Malachi, do you have any luggage you'll need to bring in?"

Malachi MacNamara stretched and stood up as well. "Just a couple of duffel bags. We travel light. I can get 'em myself."

Phillip shrugged. "Ah, I'll give you a hand anyway. Wouldn't want to be a bad host!" Malachi laughed again. "Suit yourself, Phil. C'mon, this'll just take a second." Both of the men headed out the front door, with Malachi in the lead. The screen door swung shut behind them with a soft click, leaving Laura Walters in the den with the three canines.

"Well, Duke, Zara?" she asked. "Want to show our guest around?"

"Sure!" Duke said. He turned and headed for the stairs, gesturing for Zara and Bailey to follow after him. "We'll start with the upstairs, show you where the bathroom is, the guest room - that's where you'll be staying ... oh, and my room is up there too."

"Our room, I think you mean," Zara said in a teasing tone as they started up the steps. Duke scratched the back of his neck again. "Ah-heh, right."

"Maybe my dad wasn't so far off when he started talking about puppies," Bailey giggled. Without turning around, Duke was sure that she was trying not to burst out laughing. "Not cool, guys," the Shepherd groaned.

Bailey punched him lightly on the shoulder as they reached the landing at the top of the steps. A small window looked out on the back yard. "Ah, I'm just playing with ya, Sarge. Now, come on, let's go take a look around." She paused for a moment. "Say, you got a TV up here somewhere?"

"Yeah, there's one in the guest room."

"Perfect." Bailey grinned. "I picked up a used Xbox with some games at a flea market a while back. Zara, you ever played Mortal Kombat?"

The jackal cocked her head to one side. "I ... cannot say that I have."

Bailey grinned toothily. "Then shall enjoy kicking your tail at it. I mean, teaching you, of course."

Zara raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? I am betting that I could learn to play this 'Mortal Kombat' better than you before you and your human leave."

"Is that a challenge, sandydog?"

Zara looked at the Boxer with a sly grin. "I suppose it is, mutt."

"Oh, it is so on." Bailey glanced back down the stairs. "I left the game in the car. Race you there." And with that, the two tore off down the stairs, leaving Duke standing on the hardwood floor. He could swear there was a dust cloud floating where the two females had just been. He sighed, rolled his eyes, and followed after them. They'd been like that ever Zara had been inducted into the K-9 Corps as a "private contractor" (a handy loophole that the Lieutenant General had found for them). Bailey's initial dislike for Zara seemed to have morphed into a sense of over-competitiveness. Zara was more than happy to play along.

"Well, at least it's just a video game this time," Duke said to no one in particular. " 'Sides, they never cause any real harm." Well. At least nothing permanent.

In any case, these next few days promised to be interesting.

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Autuor's Nose: Oh look, more new characters!

... I have not much to say beyond that, heh. It's been a while since the last update (the next one should come a lot sooner). In any case, though I think I've said it before, thanks again to GunRacer for helping to edit this. ^^

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(☞゚ヮ゚)☞ Tooth and Claw
Sequel to The Dogs of War~

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Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:27 pm
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
DAWWWW! This was so sweet! Slice of life, that's what makes a ficcie interesting when you talk about THE DOGS OF WAR :D
Everything here was cute, from our best couple, to the original group reunited, and to the human side of the family -heh, Matt would get a hert attack only at the sight of the Walters family :mrgreen:

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Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:55 pm
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
I enjoyed this update muchly.

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Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:08 am
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Very good update indeed. I always love your character portrayal and development. Nice and smooth.

I do believe this bet will turn into another good story.... :roll:

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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
valerio: Slice of life indeed! The dogs of war aren't always out kicking butt. Everyone needs some downtime, and I thought that would be nice to show. ^^

Copper: Oh, I believe it shall. x3

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1-5: The Night Market

April 9, 2013
Nji Khalimar, capital of Buwara


Dusk in Buwara was like dawn in the human world. Dusk was a time of shadows, a time when the nocturnal leopards reigned supreme. Dusk marked the moment when the stifling heat and oppressive humidity of day gave way to a cool, invigorating breeze that brought the big cats out into the street.

In the wild, dusk marked the time when a feral leopard would leave his den to hunt. So it stood to reason that dusk was the time when Buwara's capital city, Nji Khalimar, came to life.

Lieutenant Im'ra Daboro walked the warm brick streets of the city, not as an officer of the military, but as a simple cat going for a nightly stroll. His uniform was gone now, replaced by a simple choker necklace made of iron links that served to identify him as a soldier. He also carried a leather satchel, well-worn and covered in scuffs and scratches. As he walked, he passed by other leopards; short and tall, thin and large, with fur patterns ranging from the typical to the unusual – the latter group representative of panthers and albinos. Some were dressed in embroidered cloaks and others in more practical many-pocketed shorts and vests of the working classes, while many simply wore nothing at all.

Some recognized the lieutenant. Most didn't. Daboro was perfectly fine with that.

The lieutenant walked on toward the heart of the city.

Eventually the low-set buildings lining the street opened up and gave way to a wide-open expanse of cobblestones. At least, that's what Tala's Square was supposed to look like unoccupied, though Daboro had never seen it anything less than bustling. Welcome, the leopard mused, admiringly, to the Night Market.

When the sun set on Tala's Square, it was like an invisible switch was flipped. Leopards, inhabitants of the city and travelers from the furthest reaches of the nation, converged on the big stone plaza. Even as Daboro walked through the wrought-iron arch with the river of furry traffic, he could see that vendors had been busy setting up long before he arrived. On one side of the entrance, fresh meat hung from hooks beneath bright red tents, the butchers shouting out the price and quality of their product. Nearby a fire roared in a wide stone pit, and a whole pig turned on a spit above it.

Different-colored paper lanterns hung over the square like a dimly glowing spider web, swaying gently on the breeze and casting a rainbow of colors onto the leopards below. Though the lights would have appeared dim to any human observer, the night vision of a leopard gave the market a positively festive look.

Daboro walked on. Rows of crafters had set up their own tents, where baubles of metal and glass glittered in the light of the fire. One leopard displayed cloaks and other clothing, a second leather gloves and bags, a third belts and pouches. And it went on. Shamans hawked vials of bright powder and dried, strong smelling leaves, promising that a cure for any ailment could be produced from the herbs before them.

And still the market sprawled on. One tent had attracted a large crowd with its display of what were purported to be ancient relics of a time when the ancestors of the Buwaran leopards had lived and fought alongside the great empires of Mali and Songhay. Bronze spearheads, ancient gold coins, even an elaborately wrought leopard skull mask, cracked down the middle but embossed with swirls of gold and silver. The merchant running the show wore a pair of round spectacles and walked with a cane, which he used to point for emphasis as he ran through his routine. On the other side of the aisle, a more martial-looking panther dressed in a pair of camouflage cargo pants was setting up a display of old firearms. Revolvers and bolt action rifles sat on display atop crates of ammunition. In the back of that tent, Daboro caught a glimpse of a few AK's.

Above the whole square towered a thirty-foot tall bronze statue of a female leopard wielding a spear and shield. She cast her dispassionate gaze on all that surrounded her. Around the statue's feet were an array of little offerings – coins, trinkets, jewelry, even the occasional morsel of food. Incense burned in bronze censers suspended above the ground on chains, filling the air with a fragrant haze.

Daboro dropped a few square iron coins by the statue's left foot and moved on. With the crowd as thick as it was that night, it was slow going. Ordinarily, that wouldn't have bothered the lieutenant, but he had a specific destination in mind, and it was rather far from the entrance. With a mumbled apology, Daboro dodged a merchant carrying a heavy-looking crate, ducked under a fire-eater's torch, and kept moving.

Daboro had made his way deep into the maze of tents and displays that made up the Night Market when he rounded a corner and almost ran directly into a leopard coming from the opposite direction. He came to a stumbling halt, as did the other. They nearly wound up crashing into each other anyway. “Sorry about that,” Daboro said, and made to sidestep the other leopard … but at the last second he paused. The graying fur, the long scar across one cheek ... it reminded him of an officer he'd served under so many years ago. Is that … “ … Colonel Ikinya?”

The older leopard grinned and clapped his paw on Daboro's shoulder. “No, not 'Colonel' anymore,” he said, raising his voice to be heard above the background noise. “Got my honorable discharge a few years back. Still feel like they forced me out, but I really can't say I'm complaining. It was time.” He shrugged. “What about you, young Immy? How's the military been treating you?”

Immy? Now that's a nickname I haven't heard in a while. “I've been doing fine, sir,” he said aloud. “They promoted me up to lieutenant about a year back. But for the most part, things have been quiet.”

Ikinya let out a little grunt of laughter. “Heh. Don't count on it staying that way, Immy. Things have been heating up behind the scenes for months now. With the southern delegation in town, I can't imagine it's going to get any better. The whole system is under more stress than it's been since the war, and if you ask me, something's about to snap. Blood's gonna be spilled. No getting around it.”

Daboro grimaced. If you only knew … “They actually have my unit assigned to provide security for Governor Bokara.”

“Good!” Ikinya laughed. “Bokara is a snake. Don't turn your back on that cat, and only trust him about as far as you can throw him. Believe me, he's up to something. I'm just glad we've got you keeping an eye on him.”

“I'll do my best, sir.” Inwardly, Daboro cringed. The words left a bitter taste on his tongue.

“I'm sure you will, boy.” Ikinya glanced around them. The crowd was all around. “We seem to a be creating a bit of a road block. What do you say we find a place to sit, catch up a bit more?”

Reluctantly, Daboro shook his head. “Sorry, sir, but I need to get going.”

“Ah, fair enough. Some other time, then.” Ikinya turned to move off into the crowd, pausing only for a lazy salute. Daboro returned it with a strained smile, and moved on as well. The seed of doubt that he'd been harboring had just sprouted. Was he doing the right thing? I am about to aid in plunging Buwara into a civil war. People will die. Lots of them. And for what?

Daboro began to walk more quickly. For better or worse, he was about to get answers to those very questions. He hoped.

The leopard came to a halt at the end of a row of tents, near the back of the square. The crowd grew thinner the further from the entrance he went, and now it was almost nonexistent. Only a few other leopards had bothered to come this far back, and none of them looked like casual patrons of the market. Daboro gave them a wide berth, though he wouldn't have to be around them much longer. He'd reached his destination: a large tent at the end of the 'alley'. It was constructed in the shape of a dome from a patchwork of red, gold and black fabric, all of which looked worn and faded. From below the flap covering the entrance, a strange, shifting light seemed to flow. Slowly, Daboro stepped up to the entrance, and moved to lift the flap.

A breeze from inside the tent swept it aside before he moved an inch closer. “Enter,” a soft voice commanded. With a small amount of trepidation, Daboro ducked down and moved into the tent.

The interior was barren save for a collection of small urns and a low-burning fire. A couple of rough-spun mats had been lain down beside the flames. Though Daboro hadn't noticed a vent in the tent's roof, the air inside lacked any sort of smoky haze. The strangeness made the fur on the back of the lieutenant's neck stand up a little. This is the place alright, he thought.

“Come closer,” the same voice murmured. “Sit near the fire.” Cautiously, Daboro did as he was told, all the while searching the tent for the source of the voice.

Something touched his shoulder. “Boo.”

The leopard nearly jumped out of his pelt, slashing wildly at the air right next to his head with extended claws. A faint, high-pitched laugh came from nowhere in particular, and Daboro noticed something move across the tent. On the other side of the fire, a large raven alighted on one of the clay urns. She ran her beak through her feathers, preening as she looked at Daboro with mild interest. “Oh, I'm sorry,” the raven said mildly. “Did I frighten the little kitten?”

Daboro gritted his teeth and ignored the jibe. “I'm here for the shaman's services.”

The raven spread her her wings in a sweeping gesture. “You're looking at her.”

Daboro cupped his chin in his paw and craned his neck, looking around the tent. “Is she hiding behind you?” he said finally.

“Haha. The kitten is a comedian.” The rave hopped down from her perch atop the clay urn and flapped over to Daboro. “I am the shaman Kha. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Lieutenant Daboro.”

Daboro frowned. "But I didn't tell you my - " He paused for a moment. "Oh."

“You see … magic.” Kha swept her wings dramatically. “Or, you know, the fact that you were in uniform when you came to see my apprentice. A uniform which includes a handy little name tag.”

Daboro grimaced. “Ah. Right.”

“So!” The raven fluttered back to her perch on the other side of the fire. Daboro could have sworn that the fire burned brighter as she passed it by. “You wanted to see me, and here you are. I trust you've brought the standard payment?”

The leopard nodded and opened the leather satchel at his side. He rummaged around and pulled out a small handful of square iron and gold coins, as well as a few small vials filled with crushed leaves of some kind. Kha gestured at one of the clay urns, and Daboro dropped the items inside. “Good,” she said, staring at Daboro intently. “Now the blood price.”

The lieutenant met her gaze and pulled a small knife from his bag. Unflinchingly, he sliced open his left paw, letting his blood slowly drip into the fire. The flames grew with each drop, hissing and spitting as though the fire was somehow feeding off Daboro's blood.

“That will do,” Kha said softly. Daboro pulled back his paw, clenching it tightly shut. He noticed, with some dismay, that he'd cut a bit deeper than he'd meant to. That one was going to need some bandages. “Or will it?” Kha said with a faint grin. The leopard felt an odd tingling sensation along the line he'd sliced in his flesh. He opened his palm in time to see the wound, along with the blood staining his fur, vanish in a puff of steam. The flames hissed.

“How -”

“Unimportant.” Kha reached into the urn with her talons and plucked out one of the glass vials that Daboro had given her. As she was pulling the cork stopper from it, she asked, “Now, you came to me for prophecy, not parlor tricks. What is it that you would like to know?”

The lieutenant sat in silence for a few long moments, drumming his claws on the woven rug that covered the ground. What did he want to know? And how could he ask without implicating himself in treason? "Tell me, Kha ... can you keep a secret?"

The raven spread her wings wide. "Whatever is said within the circle, stays within the circle. You gave your blood to the fire."

Daboro frowned and looked around the perimeter of the tent. Sure enough, there was a white chalk circle drawn upon the ground, just an inch less in diameter than the tent itself. The orange glow of the fire flickered off the line, making it seem to glow. "Good," he said finally. "Because what I'm about to tell you concerns the future of this nation."

Kha ruffled her feathers in a gesture that Daboro could only assume was a shrug. "Many things do. Speak on, Lieutenant." She raised the glass vial over the flames and became to slowly pour its contents into the fire. The powdered leaf drifted down, igniting the instant it was licked by the flames, turning the fire a glowing green. Everything within the tent took on a sickly pallor, and the shadows grew deeper. The fire seemed to be pulsing now, and Kha was staring right into its depths.

Daboro took this new oddity in stride. After all, wasn't this the kind of thing he'd come here for? "In two days," he began, "the government of Buwara will come under attack from within. It's going to happen as parliament reconvenes, and I'll be right there. With the rebels." He paused for a moment, sighed. "The rebels have discovered proof of corruption deep within the ruling body of this country, but they don't think they can remove it through democratic means. Sometimes, violence is the only option."

"Your question, then?"

Daboro stared into the ghostly green flames as well, drumming his claws on the ground. "Am I doing the right thing?" he asked finally. "Will this rebellion really make things better?"

Kha shook her head. "Those are very broad questions. Are you sure that is what you want me to search for in the flames?" Daboro nodded. "Very well." Kha raised her wings once again and flapped once. The downdraft seemed to fan the flames, and the fire rose, its hissing and crackling slowly turning to the sound of a screaming crowd in Daboro's ears, as though heard from miles away. Kha perched upon one of her clay urns and stared into the depths of the flames like one entranced. The reflection of the flames in her eyes made those black orbs seem to glow green. The light began to pulse like a beating heart. Strange voices whispered in Daboro's ear, the words just barely too soft to make out. Twisted shadows flickered across the patchwork fabric of the tent, dancing a mad dervish all around them. Daboro looked around nervously, his ears flat against his head and his teeth bared in a snarl.

And then Kha began to speak. “I see a knight,” she whispered. “He rides across plains of red and gold, toward a storm cloud on the horizon. But the winds repel him, and the lightning daunts him. But is does not retreat. He charges on, only to be repelled each time.”

The whispers grew louder. “I see wheels turning. A machine, old and yet new, runs as it has for millenia and a single day. But the gears are grinding, pistons failing. Everything comes to a stop, save a single wheel of stone.”

“I see armies clashing, locked in mortal combat. They are only shapeless hordes, but points of light shine out among them. The number, I cannot tell. One or a million, or maybe both.” Daboro peered into the strange green flames, but all he could see were drifting shadows.

“There will be blood,” Kha hissed. “I see blood. Blood stains the stones, the grass, the earth. Everything is covered in a crimson tide, and from there is nothing but darkness. Uncertainty.” The raven shivered, her feathers ruffling out. “But this world is just one of many. I see another, just barely removed from this one. And in that world, I can see only … only … it ends … it ends in-”

But before Kha could say anything more, the fire roared out of control, tongues of flame lashing out in what could only be described as blind fury. Daboro flinched away, claws bared. The raven screeched and tumbled back, landing amidst her urns and books and incense. The green light died; the twisting shadows began to fade. By the time Daboro was sitting upright again, the fire had returned to its subdued, orange glowing state. Only a few green embers drifting to the ground served as evidence that it had ever changed. "Kha," Daboro whispered. ... Why am I whispering? "Kha," He said again, louder. "Are you alright?"

"Ugh," the raven grumbled, squirming out of a pile of refuse. Her feathers were ruffled and smoking, and she had a dazed look in her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I must have strained the connection too much. They tend not to like that." Daboro got up and went over to help the bird escape from the pile she'd found herself under. He decided not to ask who (or what) "they" were. Once Kha was safely perched again, preening, he decided to ask a different question. "Before ... that ..."

"Feedback reaction," she said offhandedly. "It happens."

"Fine. Before the … 'feedback reaction', you were about to say something about what would happen 'in the end'. What were you going to say?"

Kha laughed. "Oh, I haven't the foggiest idea. I tried to look too far ahead, and it didn't work." Her expression sobered. "Though, I caught a glimpse of something else, before I lost the connection. A glimpse of what might happen if you and your separatist buddies don't start this war."

Daboro looked at the raven intently. "What? What was it?"

"Fire." Kha said flatly. "I looked into the fire, and in that future, I saw only … well, fire."

Daboro nodded slowly. "So. Thus far you've told me about a knight, and armies clashing, and something to do with a future that's nothing but fire. "

"Sounds right."

"And ... a machine and a wheel turning?"

"Correctomundo."

"Well." Daboro groaned and smacked one paw against his forehead. "That's remarkably unhelpful. Why do all prophecies have to be cryptic nonsense?"

"Hey," Kha grumbled indignantly. "I warned you that you were asking a broad question. Broad questions get broad answers. And besides." She laughed. "I like cryptic nonsense. It would be soooo boring if I just gave everyone who came through here a straightforward answer!"

"Of course it would," Daboro said wearily. "Well, Kha, this evening has been nothing if not interesting. I mean, this whole venture was a colossal waste of time, but let's look on the bright side! At least it wasn't boring for you." Every word was dripping with sarcasm. He slowly got to his feet, brushing ashes out of his fur.

Kha flapped her wings a few times and perched awkwardly on Daboro's shoulder. "I'm sorry this wasn't the magical cure-all you expected it to be, but think about it. You're leaving knowing more about what's to come than when you walked in. It's not much, but it's something."

"I guess," Daboro muttered.

"And another thing ... " Kha glanced down at the crackling fire. "The other vision I saw. The one where this war doesn't happen. Or if this war is lost. I'm not sure which. But just remember: That ends in fire. Nothing but fields of flame."

Daboro growled in frustration. "But what does that mean?"

"I wish I knew," the raven whispered. She and Daboro sat in silence for a few long moments. Then, Kha cocked her head to the side and gazed at the flap of patchwork cloth covering the entrance to the tent. “Enter,” she said. The cloth moved aside, and a shadow walked through the opening, a black silhouette against the colored lanterns of the Night Market. When the shadow moved closer to the fire, it was revealed to be an adolescent panther, carrying a large pack over his shoulder.

“I've packed the things you asked me to, Miss Kha,” he said softly, bowing his head.

“Thank you, Jori,” Kha replied. “I'm with my last client now. It won't be much longer.” The young panther bowed again and backed out of the tent, letting the cloth fall back in place as he slipped away without a sound.

Daboro watched shaman's apprentice leave. “Going somewhere, Kha?” he said, turning back to the raven.

The black bird ruffled her feathers. “Please, lieutenant. Do you really think I was totally unaware of what was going to happen in this city before you told me? You came here because I'm one of the best. Give me a little credit.” Kha started to flap awkwardly from one clay urn to the next, rummaging briefly through contents of each. “True, I had no idea what exactly would happen, but I could certainly tell that in a few days, this city won't be the safest place to be.”

“With the plans we have in place, collateral damage should be minimal.” Daboro tried to sound confident in that statement, and was met with only partial success.

Kha laughed. “Really? Don't you military types have a saying … no plan survives contact with the enemy?”

“Something like that.”

“Well, lieutenant, you'd best keep that in mind.” Kha drummed her claws on the clay urn with a slow, rhythmic tapping. “Anywho, I believe our time here is done. You've gotten your prophecy, and I have a ride to catch. I could always fly, but I prefer to keep an eye on my things.” The raven fluttered across the tent to the door. The fire was burning down, the light fading to a murky gray. Daboro rose and followed after her, pushing the tent flap aside and stepping out into the cool night air. Kha flapped past him like a winged shadow.

“Remember, Im'ra Daboro,” she called back. “The fire doesn't lie!” And an instant later, she was gone. Daboro was left standing alone in a back alley of the Night Market.

“Well,” he said aloud. “Great.” In the distance, a bell tolled out midnight. Midnight already. How time flies.

Less than two days until zero hour.

----------

Autuor's Nose: Woo! I got this one posted in at least a moderately reasonable time-frame. Let's hope I can keep that up.

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Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:21 am
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Aw, this is so sad and ominous.
Okay, also EPIC.
Can't wait for the next installment...

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Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:29 am
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
So awesome. can't wait for more.

question: do you already have planned what every word of that prophecy means?

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Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:43 am
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Every word? Mmm... I wouldn't say that. I never plan out the whole plot of a story beyond a basic, overarching storyline. Things tend to evolve as I write, and my plans change accordingly. The Dogs of War, for example, turned out very differently than I had initially planned. Tooth and Claw I've put more thought into, but nothing is ever set in stone.

Anyway, there'll be more to come soon enough. I'm buckling down and putting my summer free time to work. x3

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Sequel to The Dogs of War~

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Thu Jul 26, 2012 1:15 pm
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Post Re: The Dogs of War: Tooth and Claw [PG-13]
Well, this was an interesting update. Quite the set up. Let us hope it all comes out away from the flames... :?

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Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:49 pm
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