The dogs howled.
I heard them from a fair distance, and then I heard the gunshots.
There is little that moves me quicker than the sound of crying children and howling dogs.
I broke into a run and was glad I did. As I cleared a rise, I saw smoke rising from chimneys and a church tower with a bell in it. Below that, in a small, natural amphitheater, men and dog times were gathered.
Some of the dogs pulled at their traces, trying to escape. Others lay or sat, despondent.
The men walked among them, pistols in hand and gunning down the lead dogs.
When the wind shifted, the dogs tilted their heads as one and let out one long, mournful cry.
My name came from the throats of dozens of dogs, and the Colts came out of their holsters.
The men turned toward me, expressions of surprise as they stood in the snow. One of them had enough wits to try and bring his pistol up.
He was too slow and my hate too fast.
The Colts roared, and the men went down.
The bell rang in the tower as I drew my Bowie knife and cut dogs free.
“Reload, Blood!” a husky ordered. “We’ll free our kin.”
I did as the dog bade and reloaded my Colts.
Men and women emerged from the houses, children as well.
All were armed with pistols and swords, axes and knives.
Fear and anger were stamped on their faces, but they lacked the wits to run. And run they should have.
I moved forward, boots punching through the snow as the freed dogs tore through traces. I looked for those men and women armed with rifles, and I gunned them down. Bullets flew past me, and several found their marks in my limbs, but I’ve been shot more times than I can remember, and it takes a bit more than a slug to put me down.
A great deal more.
Some of the dogs were hit, others raced past me, attacking their tormenters and dragging them down.
In the end, it was the fear of the dogs that sent the people running.
Soon, I alone stood with the dogs. I reloaded the Colts once more, and the husky which first spoke nodded.
In the stillness of the day, I wiped the tears from my eyes, walked among those dogs with fatal wounds and gave them the final mercy.