Hello All!

It's been a while and I know this is not "Inner Wolf, Inner Warrior" but it does have dogs! This story is a special present for the amazing Mrs. Chandi Gilbert, one of the greatest mentors a writer could ever have. Thanks for everything you've done for me.

Also, I know many of you have been following my music career, and whether you've watched the covers I've posted or not, if you've got the time and have any interest about my musical aspirations I urge you to take a look at this on my Youtube channel: watch?v=I8oANGlKthk&t=5s

I hope you enjoy the story.

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Hello there traveler, please come sit. There's plenty of fire here and I'm just an old man, surely not a threat to an adventurer like yourself. Not many people come to these old roads anymore, they are all too afraid of the old ruin just up the path.

Ah, so you seek to go there? Tell me, do you know how that castle became a heap of rubble that even the crows fear to go near? Well, it is an exciting tale!

It is a story of greed and revenge, and perhaps is even a lesson that can be applied to the present as well. I promise it will be worth your time, and it will make my old bones smile to get it off my chest.

Shall I tell it to you?

Roars and screams split the air like thunderclaps as the massive Ogre army charged against the gates of the castle. Their massive bodies absorbed arrow and bolt and stone as they slammed into the walls like living battering rams, causing the age-old stone to shudder and crack beneath the feet of the defenders.

"RELEASE!"

The cry from a guardsman, punctuated by a massive horn blast, signaled the release of gallons of hot oil and flaming rolling logs. The massive timbers fell from their supports on the walls, smashing into the thick ogre hides. Caldrons of hot oil followed them, the liquid inside boiled enough hot to hurt even the ogre forces.

The large monsters screamed and flailed as the boiling liquid caused their thick skin to burn and blister, and the flaming logs proved to be a beacon of death as the large timbers crushed any who stood in their path. The defenders let out a ragged cheer, lowering their tired arms and weapons, hoping that the fire had brought them some form of respite.

Their hopes were shattered when, the ogres who had not been harmed by the fire saw red at their injured comrades, raising their weapons and charging forward with screams and roars of vengeance, trampling their own brethren as they charged the walls, ramming into them again.

This time, the walls cracked and buckled.

The stone screamed and upheaved like a living being, the wall shattering and sending the defenders flying as the horde charged into the castle. Ogres swung their crude axes and hammers at everyone in sight, sending the armored men and knights who charged to meet their challenge into the air.

Despite countless human swords being raised against the monsters, and men swiftly surrounding the giant ogres with weapons raised high, their blades were shattered with a single smash of a mighty ogre club and then the men themselves were pulped, crushed, and broken open with mighty fists and stamping feet.

The massive beasts trampled about the courtyard, the efforts of the human defenders doing very little to stop their rampage. But before the Ogres could turn their small brains to breaking into the main hall of the castle, the ringing of a massive bell stopped them.

Every Ogre glanced up at the massive clanging sounds coming from the top of the castle, where two lone figures stepped onto the ramparts above the main hall. One was a human, armed with a heavy two-handed sword that flashed in the moonlight, wearing armor that shone silver and covered his entire body. The second was a massive wolfhound, its coat black and white as its fangs snapped with a mighty bark, its hackles raising as its master shifted into a combat stance.

The assembled ogre army stared up at this man and slowly, a massive laugh began to build through the horde. The rest of the humans had proven to be nothing but annoying insects, their stings useless against the thick ogre hides. What would this human morsel do to them? Some of the ogres even turned red, with their ugly green skin turning an even uglier crimson as they sat down, tears streaming down their cheeks like waterfalls.

The torrential laughter was cut off by a roar, and several of the giant ogres in the wall were hurled aside by an even larger ogre. This one was the chieftain, and he was huge, easily towering over his brethren with a face that not even the kindest soul could find loveable or even tolerable. Warts and battle scars dotted his skin as he marched forward, obviously confused as to why the attack had faltered.

Then the human began to smile and the hound raised its hackles in anticipation. They had found their prey, and a great rage grew in his heart as he watched the trinkets that dangled around the beast's neck and on his belt. Human armor and blades, dwarven axes, animal hides, and elven woodwork, all worn like perverse jewelry.

This beast would walk the lands of man no more, and with a mighty cry he hurled himself down into the horde, the hound following him. Thunder crashed above them in the cloudless sky, as if the heavens themselves granted this warrior victory, and then the massive sword was swung.

Instantly ogres screamed in pain as the massive blade slashed at their heads, cutting through the thick skin as the warrior ran along ogre heads and shoulders, causing the massive beasts to charge at one another in rage when the blows to dislodge him missed.

As the massive monsters tore at one another, the violence spread to the rest of the invading army, and the warrior and his hound were on the chief before he could attempt to restore order. The massive wolf tearing and scratching at the ogre chief's skin while the man plunged his sword into the chief's neck mere moments before the massive hand of the monster closed around him.

No warrior knew what happened to the man or his hound in that battle, as most of the human defenders had run for cover once the fragile unity of the ogres shattered, and the roars and sights of the fighting monsters blocked all view of the lone human on the battlefield. All that they did know was that during the battle, the sound of a loud crash shook the ground and caused the whole area to shudder.

As the sound reverberated through the ground, the ogres screamed and retreated, leaving their quarrels behind as they fled the battlefield in droves, leaving behind only the massive corpses of their dead. Including their chief.

The chief's upper body was covered in wounds, and the hilt of the human's sword was buried deep in its face, obviously having pierced what accounted for the ogre's brain. However, in the monster's massive hand was the body of the mortally wounded human, his injured and battered hound by his side.

….

Ten days after that titanic battle, Lord Ranful the second held a large feast in the ruined castle. Thanks to backbreaking labor and more than a little magic, the ogre corpses were gone and the wall, while weakened, was repaired and showed no signs of the hole.

If not for the large coffin in the entryway of the castle and the mournful dog beside it, many newcomers to the feasting hall would be hard-pressed to find evidence of a battle at all as the castle's inhabitants ate and drank their fill, acting as gluttonous as the ogres they had just seen beaten.

The Lord smiled at his subjects, before raising his glass and tapping the side with a spoon, the sound carrying through the great hall and instantly causing all conversation, music, and merriment to cease as everyone turned to face their lord.

"My loyal subjects, we have once again survived a crisis thanks to the sacrifice of a brave hero. One who hurled himself into the invading ogre hordes and slew their chieftain at great cost to himself. A toast!" He called, lifting his goblet of wine to the hero who had saved them all.

As his subjects followed his movement, Lord Ranful gestured to the hound, who had refused to leave his master's side throughout all of the arrangements. "And a second toast to the hound who stood by the hero until the bitter end, no man could ever ask for such bravery! And I intend to keep this brave hound in service to my court, so that we may remember the hero's sacrifice."

Cheers filled the hall as the Lord of the castle sat down and the chatter and merriment restarted, as a palace guard stepped over to him. "Pardon me milord, but the hound of a hero must always be returned to the Houndmistress, the ancient legends state-"

"The Houndmistress is a legend as ancient as the world itself and that hound battled an ogre chieftain and survived. Think of what having that hound would do to my renown and what power it would bring my army! No, it shall be mine. Seize it and lock it in the dungeon, or I'll find someone who will." The Lord snarled, keeping his voice low, but the threat in his tone was still there.

"Yes, sir." The guard answered, bowing low as he watched several of his fellows exit the main hall and close the heavy door behind them with the feasting guests none the wiser.

It took some listening, but over the clatter of dishes, the minstrels' music, and the sounds of the feast, the faint sounds could be heard.

Grunting, snarling, and screaming filled the air as the guards found out the hard way just how powerful the hero's hound was. Only the mustached guard seemed to the listening to the sounds from beyond the main hall, as the lord had buried himself into a roast pheasant. Finally, the thwack of a spear haft on flesh signaled an end to the fight and only then did the guard slip away from his post.

He saw his fellows carry the dog towards the jail cells, almost all of the men suffering some form of bite or scratch, and he shuddered.

The wrath of the Houndmistress was nothing to be taken lightly, and soon she would come for her pet. Then, even the men who had stood strong against the ogres would most certainly know fear.

….

In a small forest grove, there was a cave that lead to a hole in the ground. It wasn't found on any map, and often times most travelers simply fell onto it by accident. Then those travelers simply moved on, thinking it was nothing.

That was how she liked it.

The pale bare feet of the Houndmistress walked forward across the dirt floor and onto the slightly dewy grass, her dogs following her every step of the way. Well, at least some of them, but hundreds more played, slept, and relaxed in the massive hidden land that was their home. A stream of clear water flowed down from a spring above, as did sunlight, beaming down through the leafy trees.

The trees and the cave hid their little slice of paradise from the outside world, and that was okay. Her dogs were the lost, the abandoned, and the unloved… the outside world didn't deserve them anyway. The brown eyes of the Houndmistress twinkled as she watched three puppies try and coax an older dog into playing with them, while two larger dogs played tug of war with a stick, and a third group seemed to be having a contest to see which one among them could catch their tails.

A light chuckle filled her throat at the sight as she crossed over to a slab of stone and sat upon it with a smile, drawing her robe closer as her hands reached out to shower the closest dogs with pets. The Houndmistress traveled the world, collecting all the strays and unwanted dogs before bringing them to her cave and showing them all equal affection and love.

Every so often a special dog was found, between the normal huskies and greyhounds and spaniels and mongrels and mastiffs, and a fire was lit in its eyes. This dog wanted to fight, wanted to be brave, and wanted to save the world from the evil that it had encountered at a young age.

So with a little magic and some training, she turned those special dogs into a security force, enabling them to do things no ordinary hound could do. These dogs could bring down a man, run faster than any elf, and tunnel further than any dwarf. They were her heroes, and they kept the grove safe from any outside threat.

The Houndmistress giggled as a dog hopped beside her on her stone, its tongue out as it showered her with kisses. While her hands returned the affection, her mind turned to why her eyes were locked to the cave entrance.

Every so often, heroes came to her realm. Mostly during a great evil, such as when Orc tribes launched an invasion or dark elves unfurled the banners of their ships and sailed forward towards the mainland, there were even a few times when the underworld spat up its demons to attack the world above. While these dangers didn't threaten her or her magic, they did need to be stopped.

These heroes came to her realm, and even though she was still concerned about how these men and women were finding her grove, they all came asking for a wardog to aid them in the coming struggle. So she appeared to them, dressed in a hood and robe, before peering into their hearts.

Often she liked what she saw, and then a hound chose them, on the condition that the hound would be returned to her once the hero died.

Then she got to watch the war hounds she had raised help save the world, and then the heroes returned them to her. Sometimes the dogs died during their service, and only their spirits made it back to her realm, and other times the hero returned the dog personally.

There were almost too many ghostly dogs running around the grove these days, and the evil seemed to only get stronger. Thankfully she'd only sent one dog out on a mission to stop an ogre rampage, which was relatively minor as far as missions went.

Where are you, my loyal friend? She thought, reaching out with her mind to sense where the dog was. Maybe he'd gotten distracted, or was still keeping vigil beside his dead master…

A horrible scream pierced the air, coming from her mouth like a wave as her mind snapped back into place. The sound caused all the dogs to look up as it flew out of the grove, the sound echoing out into the wider world and giving all who heard it uncontrollable shudders.

She fell forward, her hands collecting fistfuls of the dew covered grass as her body broke out into shudders. Instead of sensing the warm sun on her pet's skin or even the emotions he would feel as he kept his vigil, she felt cold spread in ripples across her flesh and more pain than any dog should have a right to feel.

Her breath came out in gasps as she struggled to regain control of herself, forcing her body to rise. The Houndmistress's eyes flashed with rage for a brief moment, and her nails dug into her palms. Some arrogant mortal dared to keep one of her hounds as a prisoner!

The Houndmistress flung her hood back over her head, containing her rage for it to be released later on those who dared harm her subjects. She knew of the tales the humans spoke about her, and almost all of the heroes who had seen her in her hooded glory spoke endlessly of her beautiful smile. Some even said that the smile was all she was, and she wanted to leave a smile on the faces of anyone lucky enough to become a companion to her dogs.

But she wasn't smiling now, and soon the world would quake at her wrath.