It is impossible to break the habit of waking early. Not that I'm complaining--it means uninterrupted time to read and write and garden.
Since last Wednesday I've read "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (G. K. Chesterson), and "The Man Who Would be King," (Kipling), "Beauty and the Beast" and have added some more to my list (Agatha Christie, etc). Why am I on a classics kick? Because--on Kindle--they are free. Free is good anytime, but especially at present. I also read a science fiction short story by Patrick Ness that I really enjoyed. When we are flush again, I will look for more of his work.
As for now--I'm headed to the garden to fertilize a few plants--providing I'm not rained out. And--
The Hound waited for the elderly Shepherd as he slowly nosed a boundary tree and leaned on it with one leg raised. Then the Hound pretended he didn't notice when the Old One sprayed his own feet and missed the tree. When Old One moved on to sniffing the ground, the Hound marked it himself.
They exchanged messages with their backs turned to one another, one with eyes on the house, the other stepping into the woods, air scenting, listening. They took turns facing each direction, moving in large, sweeping circles.
The thing in the house. The child it targeted. The milling evil.
The Small Dog had warned them. More than before, he'd communicated, closer than before, hungrier than in his lifetime.
They had taken it on board, but not seriously. The Many had come before and receded in the face of resistance. Now the dogs milled around in the aftermath, smelling the remnant filth of fear and promises of Death that the Many brought. More than before. Closer than before.
Theirs was not to divine a reason, but to find a defense, to protect, to chase the intruders down and rip their throats out if they could. Someone else was in charge of the reasons.
The Old One paused, dark ears erect, long square muzzle raised to the wind. His eyes might be glazed, but his nose was tuned to smells most others, dogs, humans, cats, did not, could not scent. This was why he remained the Alpha.
They are still near.
It's daylight. They go home at dawn.
Not this time.
A voice called from the house. The Boy. Tails wagged without bidding. The Hound spun and bound toward its source, intent on keeping the boy away until their business with the enemy was done.
The Old One took advantage of the Hound’s distraction of the Boy. Taking care to keep his back to the boy, he bared his teeth and growled the growl reserved for those whose next step would be fatal. Do you still bear the scars from our last meeting?
Nearby something sneered. I see you still limp.
The Old One knew better than to remember. Would not allow himself to recall the night he became old. How many of your children died before we were through with you?
The Old One did not notice the boy until his hand was on his collar. "Didn't you hear me, Solomon?" His voice was tinged with concern.
He wagged his tail and lowered his head, ears falling. He bumped the boy with a shoulder, clowning, intent on guiding him away.
But the boy stopped, his eyes automatically locked on some distant thought. Humans could not see the Many, but they could feel them.
"I had a dream last night. About bad shadows. "
The Old One pretended he didn't understand, just wagged his tail and jostled the boy again. Play?
The boy stared into the woods for another half second and turned away.
The dog picked up a nearby tree branch, shook it until it snapped in half, offered it to the boy, pulling it back at the last minute, producing the expected chuckle, then gamboled toward the backyard where there were no shadows.