Bundled up against the cold, Mirena moved low-hanging branches out of her way as she navigated through an orchard. It was not yet winter, but it was also no longer the season for apples; the trees were wild and overgrown, the rows between them almost indistinguishable with no real path to speak of, at least not that Mirena was using.
Beyond the last row of trees, a small barn could be seen. Mirena headed unerringly for the structure but stopped when an unnatural-sounding howl broke the afternoon’s pastoral stillness. After standing still for a moment, Mirena continued, hesitating at the barn door before knocking on it. There was a pause as the muffled sounds from inside quieted and then the wooden sliding door slid just far enough to the right for a face to appear in the crack.
“Oh, Mirena, it’s you,” Abraxas noted.
She frowned. “Who else would it be, all the way out here?”
“Oh, you know,” he said with a shrug, but did not move aside or open the door any further.
Her frown deepened. “You’ve been spending quite a bit of time out here lately.”
“Oh, have I? I’m sorry, I’ll get back to the renos tomorrow.”
“That’s not,” she began, then seemed to change tactics, putting her hands on her hips. “What’s in the barn, Abraxas?”
He sighed, rolling his eyes, then stepped back, letting the door slide open slowly under its own power. As if on cue, something from within the barn started whining in a petulant kind of way. “You said you didn’t want to know, so…”
She tentatively stepped into the barn. The light just barely trickled past her form, illuminating the heavy wooden table erected in the centre of the space, and on it was a thing that shied away from what little light there was, bucking and clawing in its attempt to shield itself from what was clearly causing it distress.
It was entirely black, almost darker than the colour usually allowed for, and it seemed to steam slightly, or at least an inky blackness seemed to emanate from it. As far as shapes went it was vaguely canine. At least, it had four legs which ended in what could be described as paws, if a dog’s paw had curved talon-like claws coming from it.
It had a dog’s head, large and square, though its fangs looked more like the kind of tusks you might find on a wild boar, only pointed downward, and from those fangs dripped more of that inky blackness. Mirena shuddered. The creature somehow managed to look both massively muscled and severely underfed at the same time. It was strapped down on the table, but watching it struggle, she wondered how long that would last.
“This is what you’ve been working on?” she asked, not knowing what else to say.
He nodded, his eyes glowing with excitement over his new project. “This guy is just a prototype, but yeah. I intend to make them bigger, stronger, and fiercely loyal, and then breed them. They’ll be like guard dogs, but better and deadlier, of course.”
“You have strange hobbies,” she told him.
“It’s not just a hobby,” he countered. “It’s our future.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just imagine it, whole armies of these creatures, and more. Combine that with any who remember the call of the Avatar of the Destroyer and we can finish what we started-”
“But what about Greyson?” she interjected.
“What about him?” Abraxas countered. “He’ll be safe and protected. He’ll be on our side.”
Mirena frowned again. “I don’t want him to experience war at his age, and I don’t want to have to sit out being a mother when I should be there with you, claiming what is rightfully ours. We’ll take it all back someday, I promise, but can we just wait until Greyson is a little bit older?”
Abraxas’ expression was far away, imagining something, but eventually he nodded. “I’m going to need some time to perfect the process, then breed and train my army anyways.”
Mirena shook her head. “Have fun,” she told him dubiously. “I’ve got to get back to the house before Greyson wakes up from his nap. Just do me a favour, okay? Don’t let him see what you’re doing.”