The Helfain soldier screamed when the grey & white dog’s fangs tore out his throat. Growling, the dog shook its head trying to ignore the command to kill the enemy. Another man crossed her path. The man waved an axe to scare off the dog. Undaunted, Elke snapped her jaws and grabbed the weapon. She tossed it aside and went for another kill. Heartsick, she ducked when the corpse fell beside her. She tried to run off the field but a jolt of pain forced her back. Her master, Tyroline, called her to his side. “I saw that, Elke. We’re not done here yet.”
The mercenary army won the battle against the Helfain regulars. Elke’s master was praised for his work with her. Tyroline received a handful of silver while Elke was given a beating for her disobedience. Tyroline tied her at his campsite. He set a rabbit to cooking and went to care for his horse.
Elke waited until he was out of her sight. She worried the knot holding her to a stake in the ground. It took a little time, but she managed to loosen the rope enough to get free.
Elke found a thicket and pushed through the brush. She turned in a circle to tamp down the leaves and undergrowth. The grey and black Sheppard sank to the ground and licked a paw. How long can I hide here before Tyroline finds me? I don’t want to fight anymore. I hate killing for him. I have to get away and live my own life. The dog scratched at the brown leather collar stamped with runic symbols. Are there others like me? What happened to my real family? Are they shape shifters, too?
“Adalwin, have you seen my dog? She’s broken her tether and ran off again.”
A dark haired, grizzled warrior tied off the thread on his spare shirt. “No, Tyroline, I haven’t. Did you look over by Sir Walter’s campfire? He has a new hound. Maybe Elke is there?”
“I haven’t but I will...thanks.” Tyroline found his way to the knight’s spot. He was brushing a black hound. He looked up at the approaching mercenary. “Missing something?” It didn’t take long to find the missing dog. He tightened the loop around her neck and yanked the dog to her feet. Using the extra length of the lead, he whipped her twice. “Stupid, bitch! My dinner is probably burnt while I’ve spent my time tracking you down! Come on!” He pulled her after him. “That spell is weakening if you can run off. Thankfully, the geas won’t let you go too far. Guess I’m going to need to take a couple of days and see a witch to renew the spell.”
Elke’s tongue lolled from her mouth as she kept up with her master’s grey gelding. The horse had been loping for over an hour through a little known road through the Wrewynt Forest on the way to the Sorcerer, Lady Elizabeth of Gweirvon. Tyroline hoped to convince Elizabeth to enhance the spell on his dog. Elke was famous for her work in battle. He couldn’t afford to lose the silver his canine partner earned.
The trio cut through a copse of tress to enter an open area. Just ahead was a small castle surrounded by a ten foot thick wall of brown stone bricks. Guards walked on top, ever mindful of strangers. Tyroline pulled up in front of the closed iron portcullis.
“Who are you and what do you want?” asked a man who held an arrow ready to fly.
“I am Tyroline of Brisane, a mercenary. I need to see the Sorceress. I can pay...”
“Very well. Walk your horse slowly and control that dog else I order it shot.”
Tyroline waited with Elke in the Great Hall. A handful of men spaced themselves in close proximity, in case the stranger attempted to harm their mistress. Elke was tired after the journey. She lay down next to her master. I’ll never be free of his cruelty if this witch casts a new spell on me. I have to find a way to stop her from bewitching me.
Lady Elizabeth glided in the room followed by her ever-present Knight of the Silver serpents, Sir Lander. The two stared at the man standing before them. Elizabeth knew right-away that the beast was a shifter. The pleading displayed in the dog’s brown eyes tugged at her heart.
“Speak your request, Tyroline of Brisane.” she said to the warrior.
“My Lady, I seek to have a control spell renewed for my dog. Elke is headstrong. Without the geas, she would not obey my commands in battle. Many men depend on me & my dog to protect them and find hidden enemies. Can you help me?”
“Dog, before I answer him, tell me if this is your wish. Tell me about your master.” Elizabeth said mind-to-mind to Elke.
“Lady, I am a shape shifter. This man has me trapped in my canine form with a combination of a geas and a spelled-collar. I regret my actions under his direction. I wish to be free so that I may seek out my family. Please help me.”
Elizabeth considered the man’s request and the dog’s answer. Before Elizabeth lived in Witcenogra, in Thaelia’s world, she was a modern woman in the USA. She hated seeing animals abused. Elke was not a real dog, which made it even worse in her eyes.
“Give me the creature and I shall see what I can do.”
Lady Elizabeth took the dog’s leash. “Wait here, Tyroline.” She led Elke out of the main room to a private solar.
“Can I trust you not to attack me?” she said with a twinkle. Elizabeth unlatched the collar and threw it on top of a blazing fire burning in the fireplace. She waved her hand once and the dog was replaced by a young woman in her 20’s with short blonde hair and chocolate brown eyes. The Sorceress was unhappy to see bruises in a rainbow of colors on the girl’s exposed flesh.
Elke ran one hand along her other arm. She wiggled her fingers. “Thank you, Lady. I hope you won’t give me back to him.”
“No, I should think not. That ogre doesn’t deserve a dog. I think I’ll give him something else instead. I have a rat in mind. A temporary spell and the rat will run off and change back to its usual self. Tyroline won’t know the difference. You are freed, Elke. Please stay here with me until your wounds heal.”
Tears leaked from Elke’s eyes as she replied “Goddess Bless you, Lady. I promise; I will fight no more unless my life is in danger.”