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The Dog Park Will Not Harm You [IC]

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Grim didn't reply directly, at first, instead kneeling down to direct one of his own at the footprints. It in turn immediately took command of the two others, the whole lot of them snuffling at the earthen floor before turning their attention, as one, deeper into the maze. "Yeah, they got it," Grim noted - though just about anyone could have guessed that much, the way they were milling about and trying to lead the group onward, featureless, burning eyes turning back to implore the others. "Sic 'em."

 

And they were off, heroes in tow - at least, any who chose to follow. Any plus two, in fact: they'd barely set off when Grim's shadow deepened, a final pair of hounds casually loping out of it to run at his heels as if they'd been there the entire time. "Just keep your guard up. There's a lotta smells in here, and we don't like any of them."

 

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The hounds raced ahead, merrily loping through the darkened maze, the scent of other dogs drawing them forward. They raced around a nearby corner, letting up excited barks... which soon turned to loud growls. And they weren't alone.

 

As they rounded the corner, Grim got a good look at the source of their fervor through their eyes. A pack of dogs lay waiting on the other side, clustered tight. Between the relative darkness and the swirling mass of fur, it was hard to distinguish numbers; he could guess maybe half a dozen. One raised its head from the scrum, revealing ruby eyes and blood-caked lips. At the center of the mass, Grim's dogs could see - and now smell, as if the dogs were eating up the scent itself - a bloodied wreck, of something that like but not entirely like venison. 

 

And then they broke, as one, from the fresh kill, charging towards Grim's dogs with fangs bared. 

 

Cannonade gestured the others forward when he heard the din. He did not want to shout himself, and he didn't quote know what Grim's dogs were like... but he didn't like the idea of leaving them behind to get devoured by whatever was making all that barking. 

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...aw, hell.

 

Crow, as a rule, liked animals. Dogs, cats, even some birds. He'd let a whole host of rooks take roost above his turret room at Parkhurst, and he'd actually been working on familiar bindings - bird spies and friends? Yes, please.

 

Crow, as a rule, did not like Hedge animals. They tended to be large. And mean. And hungry. And prone to trying to eat him - moreso if they were abused by the denizens of the gaps between the world; the servants of the Tuatha, the Fae, and their ilk did not treat animals terribly well. Especially their hunting beasts.

 

Without a shift in his expression, he whipped his arm forward - a small stone shooting between Cannonade and Grim, impacting on the ground in the middle of the attacking dogs. Black, thick, choking smoke just burst around it, engulfing the blood-soaked monsters, and he vanished from view - landing in a careful balance atop a tree branch high above the melee. The mask lit the outlines of the faerie dogs in red, Grim's and his allies in blue; Talons popping into existence between his knuckles, and wire around his wrists.

 

This was going to be trouble.

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Woodsman worked his crossbow's lever and fired from the hip - and seemingly missed! The bolt buried itself in the ground just ahead of the charging dogs, its shaft hissing and sparking. Woodsman didn't look bothered, though, in fact he was nearly expressionless as he tucked and rolled behind a particularly large tree. 3...2...1- The blast came with a sudden, shocking flash of light and noise, a small fireball erupting outward and battering aside the last three dogs of the small pack, giving them just enough to yelp in surprise and pain. When Woodsman peeked out from behind cover, half the dogs were down, their fur singed and smouldering, some twitching and some not moving at all. Woodsman had been hunted through the Forest Primeval by too-smart wolves that spoke to each other in yips and howls as they chased men into traps and lures. Woodsman didn't like animals at all. 

 

Good. They bleed. He put up his bow, knowing there wouldn't be time for a second shot (plus he'd only had the one bomb), and pulled out his hatchet. 

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Grim's dogs were...laughing? The noises they made were unmistakably dog-like, but also entirely too close to laughter for comfort, wheeling about a bit until their master let them off their metaphorical leash.

 

They'd either gotten their signal by the time of Woodsman's explosion, or they simply felt they didn't need one anymore; two held back to protectively circle their teenaged overseer, but the other three nearly stumbled over themselves as they rushed to enter the fray, biting and snapping at one of their fey counterparts - not with enormous success, but at least one of them found purchase in the fray, digging its teeth into one of the Cu Sidhe's legs in an attempt to drag it to the ground.

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The fey hounds were not nearly as ebullient about tangling with the black dogs. They snarled and barked as the hounds of death danced among them. Two of the ones that remained standing were too graceful - almost unnaturally so - dodging out of the way of their counterparts. The last, however, got hit head on, slamming directly into the hound's flank. It hit the ground, tangled and on its back. Its compatriots charged on, seemingly uncaring about their pack mate's distress. 

 

"Lots of talk about loyalty in dogs," said Cannonade. "Looks like that's crap here." He charged forward, meeting the dogs as they raced ahead. He brought his fist down on one of the hounds, surprised by the crack it let out. Twisting with the blow, he lashed out with his foot, driving a size 12 boot into the other hound's jaw. It went off its feet, slamming right into the thorn wall and not getting back up. 

 

"Anyone else feel like donating to the ASPCA when we get out of here? Just on general principle." 

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"You don't even know." Grim was in the fight on the heels of his own hounds, giving them just enough time to break their way into the enemy pack before he ran in himself, beelining for the one that had been knocked down. Dark smoke gathered around his fists as he struck out against it...only to miss, the creature twisting out of his way.

 

Its agility was rewarded by the sharp teeth of one of Grim's hounds, which dug into a leg to yank it back into the path of a follow-up punch, which was significantly more successful in finding its mark. "They aren't even mine and I still feel bad about it. I'm gonna have to give belly rubs all around after this, or somethin'."

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Grim's dog was extremely successful in latching on. Not only did it manage to catch the fae hound off ground, it managed to catch it in mid-leaf. The black dog was able to seize the advantage, hurling the dog with great force and sending it flying into the thorn wall. The hound hit like a side of beef slamming into a brick wall, then slid to the ground, unconscious. In a matter of seconds, the leafy matter of the ground seized it. It didn't so much tear the hound apart as it... subsumed it, back into inky gossamer and dreams of sharp teeth. 

 

Which, to most of the group, looked like the dog had effectively been broken down into its component parts for dark mulch. 

 

"Okay," said Cannonade, "someone tell me this place isn't a giant leaf-based woodchipper." His eyes landed on the bloody wreck that the hounds had gathered around. "I mean, in the sense that ain't metaphorical." He stepped forward tentatively, trying to get a look at the kill, hoping it wasn't human. He was relieved to see the gnawed and cracked hooves amongst the mass of meat... only to be focused by the broken, solitary horn extending from a head that - even mostly flensed of flesh - looked fairly equine.

 

"All right. Been a while since I read Harry Potter, but I remember this kinda thing being seriously bad luck..." 

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Hyper-alert, Woodsman walked slowly through the green, his eyes scanning forest and grass alike for any signs of movement. When the dog's body dissolved, his gaze flashed to the scene, taking in its destruction immediately. "Best to move on," he said shortly. "Dogs came from somewhere. Better find it." If they'd come from somebody's kennel, that would help - if they were a wild pack, finding where they rested would give them clues too - and a chance to make sure that the pack didn't spread. He'd seen wild packs loose near people before. As he spoke, he knelt over the corpse, looking singularly unaffected by the carnage of the hunt. His bow balanced across his legs, he tried to see if the dogs had actually brought down the animal themselves or if they'd had help. A hunting pack loose was another problem entirely - because it meant the owners would be coming soon. 

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"It depends on who you ask, Cannonade."

 

Gabriel hadn't had a chance to do much during the fight, the others reacting so swiftly and with such...energy...that the sound-controller had ended up being something of a rear guard. He was now kneeling near the corpse, his outfit carefully held so as to not gather up any blood.

 

"This looks to have been one of the....well, I don't know if I'd say 'more friendly', but 'less monstrous' sorts of unicorns. The kind you hear about prancing around near virgins and decorating children's notebooks. But...well. As I said earlier, things are never what they seem with the Fae."

 

He stood, his spear still shedding light around them. 

 

"As for the things we fought...considering the prey they may have tracked in times past, I cannot stir much sympathy in my heart."

 

Which is kind of surprising for anyone who has heard of Gabriel at all.

 

"Woodsman is right. We should keep moving. These beings were not the source of this...intrusion."

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The fighters in Grim's pack did a little victory dance, pouncing around the dissolving foes before shaking themselves off and - nipping at each other's heels - wheeled around to join the others, all grins and playful barks...right up until they saw the unicorn remains. There was a genuine canine sorrow, then, a too-smart recognition of something that had been lost.

 

"Yeah, me too," Grim said to no one in particular, before he got up from his crouch at the bones and shook some plant matter, real or imagined, off his pants. "Nothin' we can do for it now, though. Dunno who reaps fairy souls, but I hope they're good at their job. As for, uh, sympathy, you probably don't need it. I don't think those things died, 'xactly. They just kinda...went away? Just gotta hope they don't...un-go-away."

 

He shook his head, tapping his dogs with one foot. "C'mon, mutts. Let's go see what else this place can throw at us before we make it go away, too."

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