Eldoria—A Thornclaw the War Dog Tale

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Thornclaw the War Dog

The beast watched the NoMaj as they cavorted about, laughing and joking. Some of them carried children, and some held them by the hand. No magicals were in sight. This was an ideal day to hunt. The beast would be on them once the sun dropped from the sky.

Meanwhile, in the town, it was Founder’s Day. The weather was warm but not hot like August. It wasn’t a scorcher, as the old men would call it. The people loved a good party, and the tradition of Founder’s Day was one of the biggest.

A gentle Fall breeze tickled the leaves of the giant old trees surrounding the town of Eldoria. Folks were strolling about, laughing and chattering away. Kids in T-shirts that said ‘Riverton Love,’ ‘The Queen Sucks,’ and ‘Magical’s Bite,’ were running about.

Stick-legged old men, exposing once muscular legs, rounded out the crowd. A few wore caps that read ‘BAN MAGICALS’ and ‘WE WANT GUNS.’

Ribbons, balloons, and mock-ups decorated the town square. Flags of every stripe and color flew everywhere.

A tinny-sounding band played some awful music, which was so bad it made the dogs howl.

People were streaming in and out of the local tavern, usually with a cold beer in hand. Elmer’s was the favorite hangout of the judges and lawyers who practiced at the courthouse. Seeing the prosecutor and defense throwing back a cold one with the judge was not unusual. Business was often conducted in the saloon with the sawdust floor.

There was a rare fight, but hardly anyone went to jail. No one carried guns, not even the constables. Except for those with special permits, guns were not allowed in Eldoria.

Smiling housewives and not-so-happy-looking husbands manned the various stalls and stands. Various homemade items like doilies, potholders, beads, bracelets, and knick-knacks were on sale. The local farmers offered vegetables galore.

A small, gaily-colored tent stood in the shade of one of the towering courthouse oaks. A handwritten sign advertised FORTUNES READ HERE. As the beer started to flow and tongues loosened, people wandered toward the tent. Although most insisted they didn’t believe in such things, it was fun and drew large crowds.

Billy ‘Big Mac’ McDonald, the town mayor, was a mean-spirited man who seemed to get elected in spite of his many cruelties. Bone thin, with a small nose, his brown eyes were set deep into his hawk-like face. He looked like a skeleton. His dirty blonde hair was thinning on top, and he had an unusual birthmark that looked like a duck. He hid his many cruelties well.

The mayor loved Founder’s Day, as it was a chance for him to campaign. He knew everyone by name, and everyone knew him. He slapped as many backs as possible and gripped dozens of sweaty palms. Big Mac didn’t grip the hands of the ladies because it wasn’t comely; they were, after all, the weaker sex. Instead, he would give their shoulders a little squeeze and be sure to ask about the children. Moms liked it when asked about their children.

Today, he decided he would have his fortune read by Mrs. Grace Pythia. The townspeople often laughed and called her predictions ‘crazy. ’ It was a ‘load of bullshit,’ they said. Nonetheless, it was fun, even if the ‘fortunes’ didn’t always come true. Big Mac and his friend David Rice, the town shrink, headed toward the tent.

A few teen girls had just had their fortunes told and ran out laughing and hugging each other.

“She said you would marry a handsome man one day, Lara.” Do you think she was talking about Braka Baker?” asked the local butcher’s daughter and her friend Margie.

“Oh Margie, you and your wild imagination. You know it’s a bunch of nonsense,” she observed. That old woman can’t tell fortunes any more than I can.”

“Well, she predicted Mom would marry Dad. So how would she know that if she weren’t a real fortune-teller?” asked Margie.

Ginny Bellringer chimed in:

“Everyone knew they had been going steady forever. Everybody knew they would get married.”

The girls giggled away toward the snow cone vendor, although a nice cherry vodka sounded better than a cherry snow cone.

Big Mac and Dr. David, an equally unpleasant man known for his many adulteries, strolled up and into the tent.

“We’d like to get our fortunes told,” said Rice, his breath so heavy with alcohol he could start a wildfire.

Mrs. Pythia was as one would imagine a teller of fortunes to be. She had iron-gray hair and a wrinkled face. She wore earrings like an old-fashioned gypsy and had a deck of Tarot Cards in front of her on the table. She told the two men to sit down and not to speak as she gazed at the half-drunk doctor, who was still smiling.

“Be quiet now so I can concentrate,” she said, turning over a series of cards. The old woman’s face drained of color, and her breath started coming in ragged gasps. The Devil card lay on the table in front of her, except it was in the form of a queen.

“Are you all right, Mrs. P.? Did you see a ghost?” laughed the mayor, slapping his friend on the shoulder.

“Get out! Get out now!” she half shrieked, brushing the cards to the floor with her wrinkled hand. “It’s coming for you, Bill McDonald, and soon,” she said, using his given name.

“What?” asked the mayor. “What are you talking about? What did you see in those cards?” he asked. “Was it death? Will I die tomorrow at the hands of the devil queen?”

The mayor chuckled and looked at Mrs. Pythia: “Look, Mrs. P, we all know this is a load. It’s supposed to be good for some laughs, and you can scare the kids but not us.”

“You won’t be laughing when she comes for you, both of you, and she will come. Now get out.” At that moment, a large man with a black beard and a barrel chest came in through the back tent flap. “Gram said to get out, and you better, or I’ll make your fortune come true right now.”

“Ok, ok,” said Big Mac, holding his hands out and standing up. “We came in for some fun. No harm done. Didn’t mean to upset anyone,” he said, stretching his hand toward the big man, Barley, who ignored it. “Here’s your money,” he told the fortune teller, handing her a $10 bill.

“I don’t want your dirty money, Billy McDonald; I know all about you, now leave.”

The two men walked out one after another: “What the heck was that?” asked Rice. “Damn if I know,’’ said the mayor, shaking his head from side to side. “I guess she took her work a bit too seriously. How about we get a drink? Elmer’s is right there.”

Watching from the big oak, the ravens started to caw. Mrs. Pythia glanced up and then watched the two men stride across the street. They passed Becker’s pastries and Shankley’s Shoes and headed toward the tavern. She listened and looked up at the now circling birds, a slight smile crossing her often frowning face.

The beast watched across the square, just on the other side of the treeline. Its eyes narrow slits filled with hate. The time was approaching when all in the town would be dead. The queen would be happy.

Elmer’s Tavern

Later in the day, Tango, the wolf-dog with the thick, white coat, trotted down the middle of Elm Street. He ignored the glances from the humans who were busy gobbling their ketchup and mustard-dripping hot dogs. He attracted little attention beyond a startled glance.

The residents of Eldoria knew the huge creature and had seen him for as long as anyone could remember. Some knew him as “our protector.” All knew he was magical. None could explain how the creature had been around since many of them were born, including the old men in the caps.

Billy Mac and Dr. Dave paused at the door to Elmer’s and turned to watch the magnificent creature. The patrons, quiet now, huddled around the bar. All were waiting for a cold beer, drunk and sober, eyes fixed on the dog at the door.

The big dog’s head spun around abruptly. It had sensed more than seen something and took off at a quick trot. It headed for the tree line, throwing back its massive head and uttering an ear-shattering howl. The ravens, who had been perched in the big oaks, took flight and followed the dog.

Folks wondered what was happening, making jokes about ‘musta seen a squirrel’ and resumed their celebrations—screaming at the harried bartenders for more beer. There were only four tables and a noisy pinball machine. It separated the two nearest the door and the two in the back by the bathrooms.

Ardell, a local farmer and alleged raven catcher, sat at the back table. He waved the mayor and the doctor over.

“What the hell, Mayor?” Ardell said, “That dog scares the shit outta me.”

“Me too,” piped Jim Hendricks, wearing a bright red Hat. “Dunno, it’s been here or one like it afore I was born, heck, before my mama and daddy was born.”

Attention soon focused elsewhere as the alcohol flowed. For some, it was their last beer. None knew what the dark would bring, but soon they would. Soon, they would indeed.

About Post Author

Professor Mike

Professor Mike is a left-leaning, dog loving, political junkie. He has written dozens of articles for Substack, Medium, Simily, and Tribel. Professor Mike has been published at Smerconish.com, among others. He is a strong proponent of the environment, and a passionate protector of animals. In addition he is a fierce anti-Trumper. Take a moment and share his work.
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