Decisions, decisions

Sergeant Esben had noticed the witch Khoreia liked to shelter in the captain's tent during the hottest half of every day. Stopping midday was inefficient, her hunt for Prince Drakon conducted so might lead them on many more months, perhaps even until winter, but this was Khoreia's will, and her tactical catastrophe suited Esben's purpose just fine. Trotting ahead of him past the troopers, and that dozen, all resting beneath shading beeches, Calla, the good dog, evidently also familiar with her afternoon habit, led the way directly to the greatest beech of the bunch hereabouts, and to her curiously lightless bower.

Pushing snout and wagging tail inside through the open flap and announcing his doggie presence, like he belonged there, it came to Esben that he was a guest here, and in this conniving dog's domain. She had made herself comfortable here, too. The captain's tent was spacious enough that four corporals, or a corporal and two sergeants could crouch over tactics, and not block the captain swinging his arm about in his bedroll against the back wall. The captain lay, still as a corpse, uncovered, sweating in his shirt on his bedroll. Before him, and essentially undressed, because of the heat of the day, Khoreia lounged, her legs and feet bare and glowing.

She aimed her smile and eyes at the man, though addressed the dog: "Where've you been sniffing, my pup? I've wanted your counsel."

"Hunting, my Lady. Away by a river."

"Good hunting, pup?"

"A rabbit, my lady."

"A...rabbit."

"Soldier vittles don't agree with my doggie gut. And my Lady marching her army about scared far away all I might eat, but for an old and tough rabbit, who unwisely thought himself safe in his hole under a tree. By a sweet-tasting river..."

Raised voices outside interrupted: the singsong of sentries challenging and, oddly, thought Esben, the answer military and proper.

"That would be the Scarlets, my Lady." said Calla.

Esben stared down at him, but the dog was intent on not meeting that staring.

Lightly, the witch said, "I had wondered if you might have sniffed out more. More than your dinner."

"Sniffed them, skulking by the river, my Lady. Possibly one of them drowned." Calla added, rather quickly, Esben noted.

Noisy and panting with the effort of sprinting over, a shadow darkened the tentflap "Sarge. Scarlets. There's this perfumeried townie, mehbe. Can't say I like the look of him. And that boy we killed before."

He had this turn to handle first, Esben decided. He would punish the dog later "Stand up our boys, Corporal. Scarlets will be looking about for walls to hold up. Show 'em how it's really done."

"Aye, Sarge."

"I sniffed them circling our sergeant near the river. Our sergeant led them to me." said Calla. "I believe we might make good use of them, my Lady, in our hunt."

"Excellent, my loyal advisor." — and Khoreia rocked forward onto her knees, took the dog's head in her hands, and kissed him between his blinking eyes — "Come. We shall welcome my lucky brother."

She lept past and outside. The dog was quick to turn. Esben was quicker, and caught the mutt by the neck in both his hands.

"Explain, again, Dog, why I should trust a word you speak."

Lifting those soft eyes, the mutt matter of factly said it: "More eyes here mean fewer eyes out there, Sergeant."

The realization shot a shiver up Esben's spine. He released Calla, and muttered, "Clever dog."

"We should join our guests, sergeant, and bear witness."

The End

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