Alsatian was not at all happy with the decisions. Not only did he refuse to stay and look after the pups, but he desperately wanted to go with Buck to search the building.
“For a whole year I’ve been looking at that sorry building and hoping to see my family. I’ve had to hold back the urge to go in and look for them myself!” Alsatian seethed.
“I know how you feel” Dosi reassured.
“How can you!?” Alsatian hissed “You haven’t lost your family”. As soon as the words had passed his jowls, Alsatian knew he had done wrong.
“At least you had time with your family! Mine were killed when I was only a young pup! Or don’t you remember!” Dosi yelled. She and Pasha had been orphans for a long while. Their whole family had been wiped out by the BDZ dogs during a raid.
Before Alsatian had time to take back his words, Dosi had raced off into the dense forest around them. Not wanting to face the stern stares and possible tussle from Buster, the German Shepherd dog retreated, heading off into the bushes.
He kept on retreating until he was sure no one was following him and, in a moment of single-mindedness, decided to go and investigate the building. He followed his sense of smell directly to the place, but not before he encountered many dog skeletons and enlarged footprints crusted with dried blood. The building, hidden from the dogs view by many tall trees, loomed above Alsatian. The mere sight of it almost made him turn tail and run away, but he would not give in; he needed to find his family.
The entrance to the building was bigger than life, and unguarded. Alsatian swiftly leapt over the rotting remains of bodies and the vast collection of rubbish blocking his path. It was too easy.
Alsatian rose his head a little, confident that no one was there. Then he was thrown off balance by a large shape ramming straight into him. The momentum was immense, forcing the air out of the German Shepherd’s lungs and smashing him to the ground, where he was pinned by a slavering beast. The beast snorted with content and brought its drool-soaked muzzle closer to Alsatians, its rancid breath contaminating the air. It made a biting motion, as if to frighten the victim. Alsatian swivelled his head around so he could get a better look of the attacker. He instantly recognized the three jagged patterns on the monsters pelt that look like slash marks.
“Slash!” Alsatian yelped.
“Alsatian” the creature growled, the fact he was about to kill his brother not troubling him “give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip you to shreds?”
“I want my family safe and sound. I can give you a lot in return” Alsatian said.
Slash did not release his brother. They may have been related, but Slash cared not for his sibling or his family, and would have happily ripped his throat out.
Alsatian lay still, wracking his mind for any plan to outwit his thick brother. Nothing came to mind, until he remembered his pack. He reminded himself of how they decided what part he would play in the plan, he reminded himself of how he had been like an outcast since he had grown weaker, and he remembered with hate that his adoptive family cared more for three balls of fluff they had known for a few months more than they did for him.
“I can lead you to a great resource of prey” he grinned with malice. Slash’s lips parted in what could be explained as a smile as he witnessed his brother develop a murderous streak.
“I can lead them to you” Alsatian hissed.
It had been three hours since Alsatian had departed and there was still no sign of him. Buster hadn’t been in the least bit interested, occupying himself with the task of hunting. Buck was worried out of his mind, pacing back and forth outside the den.
Dosi had returned soon after she had stormed off, her anger subsided, she was willing to forgive Alsatian. But he was gone.
“Where could he have gone?” Dosi sobbed.
“He’s gone to the building” Buck announced. When everyone gazed at him questionably, he replied “I can feel it”.
Buck decided to go and search for Alsatian.
“I’ll come with you” Buster said when he returned empty-pawed and hungry.
“And endanger another life? I don’t think so. I’m going alone” Buck ordered.
The Beagle nuzzled all of his pack-mates as if he would never see them again; it was a possibility. Once the goodbyes were said, the plucky young dog headed into the woods, now looking darker and scarier than ever.
But still he rode on. He didn’t stop until he came across a particularly foul stench. The smell of death and decay lead him straight towards the entrance Alsatian had found himself at earlier that same day. This time there was no ambush in place, just the entrance, calling to him. Buck went straight in, ignoring the dead bodies that littered the ground at his feet. There was a feeling of darkness and suffering as Buck advanced, so thick the youngster could almost taste it.
Papillion, Husky, Russell and Sandy. Buck reminded himself of the names of Alsatian’s family. They would be the fist dogs he looked for, if they were still alive.
As he entered the doorway, the darkness and hopelessness became suffocating and Buck was barely able to stop himself from breathing too heavily. Black corridor after black corridor, Buck became lost, unable to find anything of significance.
Eventually, as if by chance, he happened across a dusty, dank room filled with cages. They were all piled on top of each other, allowing no room for the inhabitants inside. Every set of bloodshot eyes fixed on him, desperate and dead inside.
“I’m looking for either Husky, Russell, Sandy or Papillion” Buck announced as quietly as he could.
No one answered for an age. Buck repeated his question.
“Here” a voice replied gruffly. Buck turned round to face the owner of the voice. In a cage no bigger than the badger set Buster had been trapped in were two underfed, flea ridden dogs. Both looked very much like Alsatian.
“I’m Husky” the younger, yet larger of the two said “this is my mother, Sandy. She’s very ill”. Husky was curled around his mother, trying to protect her from an unseen enemy. Sandy looked so fragile she could be snapped in half. Every rib protruded from her quivering chest and her hips poked dramatically outwards, threatening to burst through the skin. Her eyes were closed, a sure sign she could not bear to observe her surroundings.
Husky looked a little better than his mother, but that wouldn’t be the case soon enough. He was obviously very cautious and aggressive towards anyone who approached, so when Buck took a few steps forward, the young Alsatian growled, showing sharp yellow teeth.
“Its okay, I’m here to break you out” Buck explained calmly “where’s Russell and Papillion?”
“Russell is dead, he died a year ago. Papillion is still in the holding area. Why do you care?” Husky hissed.
“When you were taken away, your father took in myself and two other pups. He has cared for us since we were unable to open our eye. You and I are as good as brothers” Buck explained.
“You, my brother!? You’re a mere Beagle” Husky spat.
“We came here after one of our number was taken. We found here and vowed to release every live dog here. For one year we have been planning, so show some respect” Buck ordered.
“If you’ve been here a year, why didn’t you rescue us before now? Hundreds have died since your arrival here” Husky queried angrily.
“We were unsure of what to do, then one of us had some pups” Buck said. Not wanting to delay the release any longer, Buck leapt up onto the cage where Husky and his mother were kept.
“You’ll never unlock it” Husky groaned moodily.
Buck, ignoring Husky’s protests, slid his claw along the inside of the cage, causing the catch on the lock to come free.
“You need long claws” Buck said.
“Ours are clipped off when we arrive” Husky moped.
He lifted his mother out of the age and carefully leapt off and landed clumsily next to Buck. Quickly recovering, he positioned his mother on his back so she would not fall off.
“I’m gonna release some more dogs, you go into the woods. Follow the path out of this place and turn left at the grey river, keep going until you reach a den site. My pack is there. Tell the one named Buster who you are and you’ll be safe, both of you” Buck explained. Husky obeyed immediately and set off down the dark corridors. Once he had disappeared from view, buck spun round and began sliding his claw along every cage within his reach. The first escapees, a bulldog, a Chihuahua, an Old English Sheepdog and two Dachshunds followed Buck’s orders and made their way out of the building towards Buck’s friends. Buck approached a small bundle in a cage.
It was no bigger than his head and it reminded him drastically of Tag and Tumble. The pup was on its own, without any company in his cage. Buck opened the cage and took the pup out as hurriedly as he could, calmly reassuring it. All of the dogs still in their cages turned to face a shadow in the doorway. Their eyes widened in horror as the beast lurched forward.
“Give me the pup, he is important t out tests” the beasts snarled.
“You’ll have to get through me first, you ugly freak” Buck screamed as he curled over the pup, protecting it with his body. The Beasts brought down a huge paw and sliced Buck’s back with a dagger-like claw. Buck blocked out the pain, focusing on saving the pup. Another slash tore his side open and Buck yelled in agony. Another slash forced Buck into unconscious, but still he did not move, his body tightly wrapped around that of the pup.
Pasha, Dosi and Buster were understandably very surprised when a large group of skeletal dogs came bursting in. At the head of the group was a young Husky coloured Alsatian carrying an extremely weak Wolf-faced Labrador cross breed with sandy fur. The Husky set the weak dog down and approached Buster.
“I am Husky, son of Alsatian. Buck sent us here” Husky explained proudly.
“So you’re one of Alsatian’s litter that got dog-napped” Buster said.
“It’s lovely to meet you Husky, but isn’t there meant to be four of you?” Pasha queried.
Husky’s face saddened for a minute as he remembered the death of his brother and the fact that his mother could be dead by the end of the day.
“My brother, Russell, is dead. My sister, Papillion is still in there somewhere. This is my mother, Sandy, and she is going to die if we keep on talking!” Husky hissed hurriedly.
“I’ll take her to Dosi, she’s good with injuries” Pasha said, and started retreating back into the den where her pups were “So Buck and Alsatian are still there”.
When Buck awoke, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to find himself in a cage. What worried him more was that instead of being surrounded by skinny dogs, he was surrounded by great slavering Beasts. There was not a dog in that room, except for Buck, that was any breed of canine smaller than a Husky.
As Buck looked around the room, he discovered that each dog sat in a chair and the chairs were arranged in a circle around the room, surrounding Buck. Also, he found that all of the beasts within the room had their eyes fixed upon a figure higher up than anyone else. The pointed ears and long muzzle gave it away as an Alsatian. By the way it held its head lower than its shoulders, and its legs were bent in a sign of tiredness, Buck could tell the dog was old.
By its side were two other dogs, both Alsatians. One was muscular, with sharpened claws and a deadly set of teeth within its bared, grinning mouth. The other dog looked confident, as if it had recently gained new life or energy. When it turned its muzzle towards Buck, he instantly recognised his friend.
“Alsatian!” Buck yapped, happy to see his adoptive father.
Alsatian did not acknowledge Buck’s yaps. When Buck yapped again, the muscular dog at his side did.
“Alsatian no longer wants anything to do with you, weakling!” the beast snarled.
“Hush, Slash. This pup showed great strength when he managed to withstand great pain, and he survived” the elderly dog snapped, the harshness in his voice betraying his strength despite his age “he will make a great recruit”.
Some of the dogs around the room seemed to disagree with the old dogs comment, and they made themselves heard by baying for Buck’s blood.
“Alsatian, please. Why are you with them?” Buck pleaded “you are with us, the leader of our group and you’re the closest thing I’ve ever had to a father”.
“You really believe he makes a good father figure? Even when his family is stuck here and he has bartered you and your pack for his own” Slash hissed. For a moment Buck was speechless, his tongue could not form the words he had spoken since he was young, the words his parents and Alsatian had taught him, the words the arrogant two legs could not understand.
Before Buck could speak, Slash leapt down from is chair and paced towards the Beagle. When he reached the cage, he opened his huge mouth and clamped his jaws firmly around the handle. With no effort he lifted the cage and carried away. The elderly dog and Alsatian followed. Buck stared straight into the eyes of his old friend and found the same flash of pain and grief he had seen when the journey had begun.
After what seemed like an eternity of being carried round dark corridors and past horrible rooms, Buck was finally dumped into a small room containing many half-dead dogs chained to the wall. The cage was unlocked and his paws were tied up and the chain fastened to a hook protruding from the wall. Alsatian was left to guard, obviously a test of how he could handle seeing his adoptive son about to be turned evil.
“There’s no point bartering us off for your family” Buck said after Slash and the aged dog had left.
“Why’s that?” Alsatian whispered menacingly.
“Your mate and your son husky are safe with our pack, lead Buster and the gang here, and you’ll be leading them to their deaths as well” Buck explained, both the chains rubbing against his paws and the slashes in his back hurting.
“How did they get out? No dog is let out unless another is offered in their place” Alsatian asked, suddenly interested.
“I rescued them” Buck replied simply.
“My son and my daughter are still in here” Alsatian said.
“Your son is dead, the daughter....well I don’t know” Buck retorted.
“I don’t believe you” Alsatian hissed.
“You’ve changed. Do you remember when you rescued me, when you taught me to read and hunt, when you got yourself wound up in the pound because you were looking for me and how you cared for me since the journey began” Buck whimpered “you even risked your own life to help my father”. Alsatian hung his head low, his eyes lowered to the floor shamefully.
“I didn’t save him, that’s what I wanted you to think. I killed him”.