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Some years ago, in the midst of the Yeshin Ice Desert, there lived a nameless pup. Like the other pups, he fought for bones and scraps left aside by the nomadic humans that reside there. He learned to be vicious to survive, but his nature told him not to kill other hounds, nor to eat them should they die.
The nomads were not so discerning in their nature. They left the camps often and came back with the bodies of their own kind to eat. The pup found this to be unsettling about his human companions. They were violent and angry, with an air of something being quite off about them. Unnatural. Broken.
All the same he obeyed them, for they were higher in the order of things, or so the older hounds seemed to think.
One night, sounds of battle in the camp woke the pup. He hid under a rabbit fur cloak and waited for quiet to fall. When he finally emerged, everything was still. All his family and all the humans he knew were dead, strewn in piles for the vultures to pick at. The pup wailed and mourned his hound family, but he didn’t stay long. Fearing what hunger would drive him to, he left the bodies behind, following the only scent he could—that of the attackers.
He lingered on the edge of their camp, watching, wary. But these humans were different than his nomads. Quieter, calmer, kinder to one another. They did not eat their own dead, nor even the dead among the nomads or the hounds. There was a comfort in this to the pup, and hunger drove him forward. He thought perhaps he might be able to beg for bones as he had done among the nomads.
From fire to fire, and knee to knee, he begged. The humans batted him away gently and his hunger grew. At yet another knee, he was batted—by a human he would come to know as Morez. After batting the pup, Morez was batted by another human. This human, the pup would come to know as Grim or General.
After batting Morez, Grim took the other man’s bowl of food and placed it before the hungry pup. The pup ate in joyous confusion at such kindness, and with a full belly, fell asleep with his face still in the bowl.
When he woke, he was quite cold without his hound family to keep him warm, so he made his way cautiously to the human tent that smelled of Grim. He had never discerned how the humans managed to open and close tents, but it was easy enough for him to chew a hole in the side. After making himself a door, he squeezed in the tent and curled up next to Grim.
Over the next weeks at the new camp, the humans began to call the pup “dog,” at which Grim would promptly correct them to “Cleatus.” Morez seemed to have been moved downrank to accommodate Cleatus, despite that he was a dog and Morez a human. Somewhere in Cleatus’ mind, he fathomed that this meant these humans felt hounds were on equal footing with men, and he quite liked that notion. He didn’t understand why such a helpless pup would be promoted, but no one questioned Grim’s authority on pack rank. So Cleatus sought eagerly to earn the respect he’d been given. He trained hard, learning what was useful and wanted of him.
He found his purpose in service to Grim, feeling it his duty to represent his kind well to those who would accept his kind as equals. Even if it meant fighting his brothers who were still enslaved by the nomads, he would not falter in that duty, knowing that their obedience was born of fear, and that was no life worth living.
Thus, Cleatus, a shaggy hound of the Yeshin Ice Desert, became a noble officer in the prestigious Tarthian Army.
Yet, like his General, Cleatus found respite in the core of Tarth where battle was distant. The humans there not only respected him, but adored him. He was showered with affection by those humans who lived with Grim in his home. And on the streets, some ladies were so overjoyed by the sight of him that they would scream. Grim discouraged him from playing chase with such ladies, but few other things brought a smile to his beloved human’s face.
Then one day, Cleatus was taken on a boat across the ocean. The new land they came to was hot and humid and buzzing with excitement. There were more humans than Cleatus had ever seen—singing, dancing, and ladies with elaborate plumage filled the streets. However, Grim seemed to want him to stay hidden most of the time, especially in the Starlight Palace.
That was until a particular lady asked him directly with the snap of her fingers to show himself. And he decided that this had been the reason for the hiding, that he might be found by the right lady. The lady with the keenest senses and the most dexterous movements who smelled oddly like some of the sticks used in the fine game of fetch. Cleatus was still told to go back under the table after a while, but he knew he would see the good lady again.
If you enjoyed this silly backstory of a very good boy, feel free to review it on LibraryThing if you have an account: Backstory of the Esteemed Officer Cleatus (Starlight Jewel) by E.L. Lyons | LibraryThing
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