A Dog of Her Own
Andromeda kicked the dirt and crossed her arms over her thin chest.
It wasn’t fair.
She was bored and lonely. A dog would fix both.
Of course her grandmother didn’t want her to have one. She never wanted Andromeda to have anything nice. Laverra was still mad Andromeda had survived being born and angrier yet Andromeda’s father protected his daughter.
Andromeda glanced back at the upper windows of the gothic manor house looming behind her. It blocked out the faint trickle of sunlight that escaped the overcast sky and shrouded the grounds in gloom. The wards around the compound protected Andromeda from the outside evil, but they did nothing to protect her from what was inside.
She’d seen only six summers, but she already knew one day soon she’d have to protect herself.
Another reason for her to have a dog.
Her grandmother would be resting now, preferring to sleep during the day when her magic was weakest.
Andromeda snorted. Magic didn’t care if it was day or night, but her grandmother’s magic was fading. Laverra had deviated too far from Uzakiel’s path, and Rashalee had snared her in a web of lies, greed, and envy. The old woman would soon need a powerful blood sacrifice to appease Uzakiel.
She’d go after Andromeda’s father.
Andromeda wouldn’t let that happen, nor would her dog once she got one. Her father was the only one ever kind to her even if his studies absorbed so much of his time that he didn’t notice her most days.
She kicked the dirt again.
One of the human guards spotted her and hurried away, pretending he hadn’t noticed her.
Andromeda was used to it. She’d always been an ugly child with her too-big blue eyes and golden ringlets. But her father loved her, and people were nice to her because they didn’t want to anger Lord Wrakar.
One day, they’d be nice to her because they didn’t want to anger her.
The thought cheered her as she skipped down to the crypts. Dysentery had killed two human servants earlier in the week, and her father’s apprentices had laid out the bodies in the prepatory chambers with the flesh-eating beetles. Her father had no work for zombies at the moment, and after another week or so, one of her father’s apprentices would raise them for kitchen duties.
Fresh skeletons made the best house staff, and the apprentices needed the practice.
Andromeda liked the skeleton staff better than the human one. The skeletons never called her ugly, her father awful, or her dead mother stupid. And they always did what she told them.
Her grandmother wished Andromeda would be as well-behaved as the skeletons. Laverra could keep wishing.
Sitting on the edge of the mausoleum, Andromeda swung her legs. The crypts were quiet, like they always were. Like the manor house was. And the courtyards. And the workrooms.
She blew a golden curl from her eyes. Sometimes, she wished people would laugh. Smile. Even yelling would be better than the constant silence.
She wanted a dog. Needed it.
The crypts were situated in the most ancient parts of the family compound, and their family was one of the oldest in Oskelez. Andromeda wondered how old the bones moldering in the crypt were.
A smile teased over her lips as she thought of a way to ease her boredom.
Magic filled her, and she sunk it into the ground. It filtered over the bones of servants, then past the dust of her ancestors. Their presence intensified her own magic, and she giggled as a surge of power washed through her.
Harnessing it, Andromeda pushed the magic deeper. Burial sites from long forgotten wars lay further beneath the crypt. Deeper yet were the bones of peasants from a failed uprising.
Sweat beaded on Andromeda’s brow as she gathered the power of the dead to her, bolstering her magic and delving deeper.
Past the bones of noble knights and valiant priests who served gods she didn’t know. Deeper yet to the dust of slaves who’d built Oskelez and the bones of their masters.
What is the seven hells were these creatures?
Things of nightmare. Things of…
Wait. Were those the bones of a dog?
A smile lit Andromeda’s face as she ripped the magic from the ancient dead surrounding the dog and funneled it into the beast.
Sweat trickled down her cheek as the dead fought her, resisted her.
She balled her tiny fists and locked her jaw. She was a necromancer of clan Xyrenia.
The. Dead. Would. Obey!
She tore the magic from them and slammed it into the dog. Her dog.
The ground beneath the crypt shook, the dry earth cracking and tearing as a howl ripped through the silent afternoon and echoed off the magic wards.
Bone paws the size of caldrons punched through the ground, followed by two large heads and a massive body. The creature of nightmare stood taller than a man, and it tossed back both heads and howled.
Red pinpricks flickered in its eye sockets as it turned toward Andromeda.
She crossed her arms and waited.
The abomination studied her then lowered both of its heads to the ground at her feet.
Andromeda clapped her hands together in delight.
“I’ll name you Orthul, and we’re going to be the best of friends.”
She skipped back to the house, her new companion at her heels.
If you liked this story, you might like to check out a free copy of my debut novel, To Love a Prince.