A Hard-Headed Hound
Rain. Always rain. Thunderclouds veiled a sky rent by lightning, as the water rushed relentlessly down. Gabrielle found herself wondering why the weather always seemed to know whenever they were in dire straits, and pick those times to make things worse. Apparently some god was out to give them a hard time.
The water hitting the ground faster than it could be accomodated had transformed the grassy plain into a squishy, slippery bog. Every step was clumsy toil, and the warrior's grip on her sword was precarious as she battled their unearthly foe.
The creature seemed to have much less trouble, being large and having the advantage of four feet on the ground. Raindrops hitting its coat evaporated with angry hisses, so that little clouds of sulphurous steam rose constantly from its black hide.
Like burning hot coals, three pairs of vile, orange eyes glimmered in three canine heads that wove and swiveled in their effort to get a bite in. Yellowed fangs the size of daggers glistened dangerously, drooling strings of saliva as the creature growled and barked. The thing's hot breath wafted at them, sulphur mixed with he heavy stench of decay, nauseating. This was Cerberus, guardian of the Underworld, standing as tall as the women, and he was not a happy dog at the moment. He hated getting his feet muddy. He hated getting his fur wet. But most of all, he hated obnoxious warriors trying to stick swords into him, as delicious as this particular warrior might look.
"Nice doggie..." said Gabrielle, and got three dissonant howls in reply.
"Stay back, Gabrielle!" Xena cautioned through the rush of the rain, as she delivered a wicked blow to a sensitive snout with the pommel of her sword. The left hand head flinched and yelped, while the remaining two launched a new attack that was all the more furious.
Apart from the treacherous ground and the overgrown canine, Xena faced another problem - trying to keep herself between the infernal hound and Gabrielle, who was stubbornly trying to get in a few whacks with her staff, and kept moving around in order to find an opening.
Teeth closed with a loud clack, a hair's breadth from Xena's head, drawing a rather filthy curse from her. The right head snapped at the staff Gabrielle was twirling in front of its eyes.
"I can't believe he got out again," Gabrielle complained. "Hades really should take better care of his pets."
"I don't care how he got out, Gabrielle. I do care about how we can get him back in. Any bright ideas?"
The bard deftly dodged a vicious lunge that would have cost her her face, literally, before replying.
"How about a prayer? Maybe Hades is listening," she offered.
"Yeah, and maybe some day, people will walk on the moon," Xena replied wryly.
Gabrielle very nearly stuck out her tongue. "Well, I'll try a prayer anyway," she mumbled between twirls of her trusty staff.
"Suit yourself," Xena grunted.
The warrior considered the huge canine as he stood there with his hackles raised, snarling and slavering, seemingly debating with himself which of the two morsels in front of him was tastier.
Finally, the hound decided on Gabrielle, and tried to circle around Xena in order to better rip open the bard's throat. He licked his chops, looking forward to the feast.
Xena, of course, would have none of that. In a fluid motion, she rapped the flat of her blade smartly against each of the dog's heads in turn, and while he was still blinking in mild confusion, she removed the Chakram from her belt and flung it at the three-headed brute.
At least, that was what she meant to do. However, the wet metal was slick, and it somehow slipped from her grasp as she threw it, and flew off whining into the distance. "Rats," the warrior cursed as she stared after it.
Gabrielle bit her lip. Xena had lost her Chakram. They were in trouble.
Alerted by the sound, three black heads turned to watch the flight of the circular weapon that glittered with the droplets of water that were flung outward as it rotated.
The snarls were replaced by delighted canine grins, and with a happy yip - well, three of them, rather - the huge dog bounded after the flying object.
With their jaws hanging open, the two women watched as the creature gathered up speed and finally launched himself up impossibly high to catch the Chakram neatly out of the air!
There was a bit of disappointed whining from the right and left heads who had missed the catch, before Cerberus came trotting back, proudly carrying the shining ring between his center jaws. He dropped the Chakram at Xena's feet, and stood panting, looking back and forth between the warrior and her weapon expectantly, tail wagging.
"What the...?" Xena said for the second time, eyes wide in disbelief.
Gabrielle, who recovered first, nudged Xena with an elbow. "Throw it again," she mumbled.
Xena looked at her. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, go on."
The Warrior Princess shrugged, and complied - and Cerberus once again deftly snapped up the weapon in mid-flight, and carried it back to them.
"Would you look at that," Xena said, still incredulous.
Cautiously, Gabrielle extended a hand to pat the head nearest to her, ignoring Xena's warning hiss.
Cerberus not only appreciated the gesture, but grunted happily, and within moments, he was lying on his back presenting his tummy to be rubbed, tongues lolling and his legs pointing heavenward.
"Why you're just a big puppy," Gabrielle told him as she complied with his wish, and was rewarded by a set of canine grins, and more tail-wagging. "See, Xena? He really isn't so bad..."
"See? He isn't so bad. You can pet him."
Sina, still dubious, extended a cautious hand and briefly stroked the little dog's long coat, half expecting to lose that hand in a second.
"Hey, he didn't bite," siated with the show are minhe exclaimed, astonished. "I wonder why?"
"Maybe he's really a nice dog," Gabby mused. "I suppose if you had to be around Alice all the time, you'd be a pain in the butt, too."
"Never thought of that," Sina agreed a little gruffly.
Gabby nodded sagely. "Alice'll probably be looking for him."
Sina made a face. She reached for her pink Frisbee - it now had a circular piece cut out from its middle, and the outer rim was trimmed flat to give it an almost sharp edge.
In the blink of an eye, Wilbury's Little Prince Charles bounded to his stumpy little feet and looked at her expectantly, his squashed-looking face split by his huge grinning mouth, willing her to throw it again.
"Prince? Priiiiince!" As Alice's shrill and slightly whiny voice could be heard in the distance, a change came over the small animal.
The panting mouth snapped shut, the bulging eyes lost their playful twinkle. Prince cocked his head, listening. Then he growled at the girls and barked shrilly, before turning and trotting back to his mistress.
Sina and Gabby sighed in unison. Some things, it seemed, you just couldn't change.