The SearchMature

     The room was a haze as he woke from another night's sleep, one that was gained only through the increasingly heavier doses of cloud powder. Things were still trying to focus when the small paw tugged his arm again. "Daddy, wake up!" It was followed by an all too distinctive whimper.

     Dragging himself up to a sitting position, he looked down upon the small creature before him. It was almost amusing the way he acted, a mixture of the wild and the civilized world. His ivory fur, marred by the ebon markings of his father. "What do you want Saedar?" He tried hard to put a strict tone to it, but the after-effect of the night's binge left him weary and worn, it came out as a low groan.

     The pup let out another whimper, which was soon followed by a pitched whine that sent his father's head reeling. The sound seemed to bounce off the inside of his skull as consciousness flooded through to him. A paw firmly on his head and the other steady against the wall he rose to his feet. His first step sent an empty gold chalice clattering across the stone flooring of the room.

     Seeing his father's precarious position, and with his natural instincts warning him of a threat, Saedar retreated into the corner, hackles raised. This was a side of his father he'd seen too often recently, and he didn't much like it. Whatever his father kept putting into that chalice was evil, it was making him a monster.

     Disregarding the pup for the moment, he made his way to a mirror. He'd passed out fully dressed again, even his boots were still on. His fur was a matted mess, and he reeked of cognac, cloud powder, and blood. "You look a drunkard, old man. Hardly fitting a former duke!" He told his reflection with lethargic energy. "But for a murderer and fugitive...rather suiting."

     The days seemed endless to him, but it had only been a fortnight since she'd vanished with not so much as a scent trail, and only six nights that had been spent under the influence of the cloud powder. The substance was a euphoric, often taken right before the public orgies in the larger cities, but for the old duke, its use was to stop the pain. His dosage had increased dramatically in those short nights, each time as his body fought off the poison he ingested more of it, mixing it in with smaller and smaller amounts of alcohol, the past evening he'd taken a near lethal dose that once mixed in with the cognac, had a consistency much like that of thick swamp mud.

     It hadn't helped. The pain was still there. Still burning away at his every waking moment. He'd waited for a note, some sort of ransom, or for a body to turn up....but nothing had. She'd just vanished, and covered her scent when she did. Such a task was...not undertaken accidentally or in a heated moment of kidnapping. She'd left of her own will, and been sure to hide her trail when she did.

     The first evening he did nothing, figuring that perhaps she'd decided to take a long stroll, spend an evening in the woods. Such things were not uncommon for those of their kind. But when she hadn't returned by the next morning, he'd placed a notice for the local guards and gone out to search the lands surrounding the village. When that failed, he offered up a reward, in gold, to anyone who could bring her safely back to him.

     So far not so much as a strand of fur had turned up. The reward has since doubled, and at this time bounty hunters from the surrounding cities and villages have taken up the hunt. None having any success. She'd chosen to go, to abandon him and their pups. That was the only explanation, and if she didn't want to be found, not even his old contacts back in Sahtwyrn would be able to find her, and he hadn't even their talent at his disposal, merely a rag-tag group of fortune seekers.

     The sound hurt his ears, but his nerves were too dull for him to even feel the impact as he drove his fist through the glass of the mirror and against the brick of the wall behind it. In the dim candle light he barely noticed the blood as it trickled down his paw. Moving his paw over toward the flame he could see the light reflect off a number of chunks in his paw. One by one he pulled them out, having forgotten the little pup, terrified as it curled into a tiny ball in the darkest corner of the room.

The End

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