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Chapter 1: Beginnings My name is Ares, Dog of War. Yes, that is my full title; my human has an odd sense of humor, although unwittingly he was quite accurate. I am a warrior, one of a handful of mans best friends, sworn to protect humanity from evils both real and imagined. And yes, I am a Pekingese. It was discovered over a thousand years ago that due to our position of trust with the Emperor of China, and our mystical origins, that Pekingese would be the leaders and front line warriors against the agents of darkness. Pekingese are the scion of the great lion, empowered by Buddha with powers and abilities that mere people cannot fathom. The dictionary describes Pekingese as stubborn yet loyal. Many people even assume we are dimwitted, due to our record setting stubborn streak. We are not dumb. We may play the fool, but behind these protruding eyeballs, we have the intellect of the human Einstein, perhaps even greater, although no Pekingese has ever attempted to further expound upon his theories. It is easier to play the fool, as it allows us greater movement, since no Pekingese could ever be thought of as conniving or sneaky. My first memory as a knight came shortly after I was born. Knights are typically given their powers at birth, usually from their mother. My mother was Monkeyface, and among her many great deeds, she saved her owner from none other then Jack the ripper. Although technically it was the demon that possessed Jack, but since most mortals cannot comprehend demons and spirit beings, it’s easier to just refer to it as Jack. But I digress. As I was being weaned, my mother confided in me about our proud lineage, our powers, and our responsibilities. As a new warrior, I was overwhelmed with such knowledge, just as I was overwhelmed with the bouncy ball running around. My attention span has never been the greatest. As my weaning was nearing an end, she imbued me with my powers. Powers that cannot be discussed but suffice it to say, they are incredible. At three months, I was sent out to be discovered by my humans. Unbeknown to them, powers were put in place to summon them to me, and to veil me from others to ensure I was placed where I was destined to be. As I sensed them enter the store, I dropped my veil and performed the helpless runt routine. I was instantly adopted and carried to my post, prepared to begin my defense of mankind. As I grew up, my knowledge and power began to grow. Things began to happen around me as accidents occurred, and I had to scramble to provide excuses to maintain my cover. My first mission was, well, memorable. Word reached me through the usual methods of a large cheese formed demon that was loose in the world. Yes, you read that correct. A cheese formed demon. As some may or may not know, typically demons or entities cannot enter a person without invitation. However certain drugs can allow them access to mortal people. And animals. Yes, the drugs given to animals to help them grow acts as a catalyst and a conduit of all types of entities. Not to mention they are bad for your general health. I began my observation of the cheese demon at once. Precisely at midnight, every night, every fridge in the neighborhood would open, and the demon would summon pieces of itself together. See, when it possessed the cow, due to pasteurization, the demon was split many times. It had enough power to pull itself together at night, when all evil things are out, and began its plan to create a summoning portal to bring more of its kind into this world. Typically cheese demons are a pawful, but this one was quite new, and had not begun to mold yet. After a week of observation, after the demon had gathered its necessary components, I made my move. During the ritual, the demon was focused on gathering its power, and therefore at its weakest. I gathered my armor, and crept out of the house. Down the street I crept, nary a sound from my paw. I observed the demon in a field, a large almost comical looking monster made of cheese. Apparently it had Swiss cheese for the head, because it forgot to watch for interference. Drawing my sword, I muttered a word of power, sheathing it in a holy blue light. Head down, sword blazing I covered the ground in seconds, dirt flying beneath my mighty paws. Leaping, a woof of power I attacked, and was promptly knocked on my rear. My sword fell out of my mouth with my woof, alerting the demon to my presence. Waddling quickly backwards, I prepared my defense, pulling my shield off my back and sliding it to my paw. The demon muttered a phrase, and well, green molded cheese flew towards me. Nimbly I leapt to the side, tripping over my shield and face planting in the grass. I heard an evil chuckle, and over my shoulder

the demon moved closer, glowing yellow with its moldy power. I was up cookie creek without a kibble. My weapon lay useless behind the demon, my shield to my left. All I had left was my inborn power, and my wits. We began circling each other, when it struck savagely at me. Lowering my head, I charged underneath the blast, sinking my teeth into its leg, and oh my. Oh my. The taste, the cheese blood of the demon, it entered my veins, creating a thirst, a desire, an inhuman desire for cheese. As I stumbled, trying to shake the blissful sensation from my mouth the demon screamed. Of course! My saliva was magic, just as the rest of me was. My bite inflicted my cleansing power through the demon. It turned; limping away, beginning to disperse and I knew I had to strike now. Leaping forward, I scooped my sword up, darting forwards; I ran it into the demon. Blue fire erupted from the demon as it began to die, its energies blowing up a transformer. I held on with all my power, watching it burn with a fire purer then any on this planet. A final flash lit up the night sky. As my vision cleared, one piece of cheese was loose, and running. I knew I had to stop it; else it could reform with enough time. Sacrificing my belly, I lunged after it, swallowing it whole. Time slowed down as the demonic cheese flowed through my belly, and I floated along. Stumbling I headed home, as doors began to open, and people appeared talking about the blown transformer. I barely made it inside, woozy, as my humans woke up. Looking at me, they assumed I was frightened from the explosion. A gentle pat, and a "poor baby" later, I had curled up to sleep. This adventure, for now was complete.

Chapter 2: The Fiendish Feline Since written word and before, evil has stalked the earth. All manners of ghouls, demons, spirits and supernatural predators have threatened mankind. Of course, if mankind is threatened, dogkind is as well, mostly due to the fact that we don't have opposable thumbs. Over the years, we knights have protected humanity from these evils, sometimes with help, but mostly by ourselves, in the shadows, unappreciated, yet loyally defending our territory. Of all the fiends and devils I have encountered, of all the nasty things that go bump in the night, the ones that cause the most trouble are those who take the appearance of cats. Naturally cats and dogs do not get along; therefore common people do not think twice of seeing a dog and a cat fight. Also, due to the very nature of cats, people are not surprised to see them act peculiar, run around at nothing, and generally act irrational. Many spirits take the form of a cat to easily perpetuate the population and hatch their evil plans. Also, due to the inborn animosity between dogs and cats, it is the perfect camouflage to hide from us knights. Are we reacting to an evil threat? Or merely reacting to a cat. The morning began like any other, near my 6th month of duty. I awoke early, inspected the house, meditated, and checked both physically and metaphysically for any new threats. I watched my people leave to do whatever it is they do that provides me food. Oh, and I guess they work for more then just my needs, but I try not to think about that. Lying in my favorite spot in the floor, feeling the cool morning air on my tummy, I began to smell a stench. A breeze blew into the room, and Aeristolite began to whisper in my ear. Now Aeristolite is a wind spirit, a messenger of sorts. They speak all the time, but only a few know how to understand them. Cocking my head slightly, I listened to the implied warning. Something crossed over this morning during the time between times. Something evil. Something with a desire for destruction. Something in the form of a grey cat. Sighing I rose up, trotted over to my wall compartment, waved a paw and the illusion disappeared, revealing my sword and armor. Glancing around, I looked for my secret stash that I always used when dealing with this type of entity. I noticed I only had a pawful left, so I carefully gathered it, packed it into a bag, then slipped it under my shield. When dealing with cat spirits, one could never have enough tricks or be prepared enough. That whole 9 lives thing? Yeah, it’s because of the spirit. Mortal cats only have one life.

Waving my paw again, I completed the illusion of the wall, effectively hiding my, well, hiding spot. Yes I know, confusing, but it’s magic. Don't ask questions. I laid out my sword and armor, checked for scratches, cracks, blood, cheese, and any imperfection, no matter how slight. Bowing my head in concentration, I ensured the magical protection was still there, still valid, and still strong. When dealing with spirits, one must make sure one is protected. When dealing with spirits that take the form of cats, with claws that can shred even titanium, it's even more necessary. Arming myself, I went to my exit, and let myself out. I despise moving about in daylight, for some reason mortals could not understand seeing me in my armor with a sword. A brief whisper of power and a slight illusion covered me, looking like wind, and grass. I am not powerful enough yet to make myself invisible, but I can blend rather well. Or considering what I am stalking, I could end up looking like I was in a blender. Heh. Sniffing the air delicately, extending my senses I got a whiff of spoiled milk and rotten fish. Following the stench, I began to unravel the trail which would lead me to the spirit cat. Trotting through the weeds, the stench became over-powering, indicating I was getting near. I slowed down, re-enforced my illusion, tightened my sword and crept forward with the stealth of a natural born hunter. Peering from under a brush, I found my prey. Sitting in the middle of a circle was the cat. It was on its back paws, swaying back and forth, surrounded by....mice? That's, just not right. A cat using mice as its thralls? Well, it’s not unheard of. Several hundred years ago a scourge of cat spirits controlled the rat population of Europe, spreading a disease in an attempt to destroy mankind. It appeared to be the same situation again. However who knows what germ, or disease it was attempting to create and spread this time. I inspected the mice visually, keeping my power tight against me. The mice had a vacant look on their face, their eyes blood red, small marks on their body, with a black swarm surrounding them. Fleas. Why did it have to be fleas? Unconsciously I began to scratch, phantom flea syndrome I believe it’s called. The cat spirit summoned the mice through magic, and contaminated them with a disease. The disease then produced a scent that fleas found impossible to resist. Voila, instant army. The mice attract the fleas, the fleas bite the mice, receive the disease. The fleas bite people, animals, and it spreads. The black plague all over again. I sat back and pondered my options. I can take out the cat if I am fast enough, but the mice would be broken free of the spell, run rampant, attracting fleas and spreading the disease. If I attempt to take out the mice then I leave myself open to attack from the cat. Either way, bad things are going to happen. I slowed my breathing, attempting to search my inherited memories for any idea. Well, this is a magic disease, so it should respond to magic. A plan began to form, one that was full of risk, but one that could work if I could pull it off. I would have a minuscule amount of time to pull this off, but, it’s my job. Drawing my sword, I pulled my illusion tighter around me, and began to trace a circle around the grove, ensuring I was encircling all the mice, and the cat. Walking in a sun-wise circle, I drew the circle in the ground, focusing on stealth, but keeping my magic as quiet as possible. I paused before closing the circle, knowing as soon as I did the cat would know what had happened. I would have to be quick; I would have to be perfect. Unleashing the small pouch I had carefully packed, I prepared to toss it at the cat. Reaching deep inside, to my store of power, I pulled it to the surface, empowering me with the might of Pekingese gone before me. The cats head snapped around at me, and every mouse turned as well. It was creepy. I tossed the bag at the cat, a bag full of catnip. Yes, catnip. It drives mortal cats crazy with lust. With spirit cats it’s even worse. The part of them that is cat is drawn towards it. The part that is spirit tries to rebel, causing a split second pause as the two sides battle for supremacy. As the bag flew towards the cat, I closed the circle, barking a simple word of power. "HUO!" I woofed and the circle exploded into blue purifying fire, immolating the mice and fleas. At the last second the cat spirit realized what was happening and hissed a word in ancient Egyptian. Clear force surrounded the cat protecting it from the fire. I went to one knee, momentarily drained, having poured more power out then I have ever done before. I looked up and the cat was in mid air, twisting and spinning with claws extended. I dropped back and took the brunt of the attack on my shield, strapped across my back. The cat was quick, barely landing it hissed again and pure power hit me, throwing me back into the brush. I pulled in my focus

and brought up my illusion, momentarily giving the cat pause as I vanished from sight. I scampered to the right, my sword in my mouth, dropping my illusion I charged the cat, my blade nicking his skin, opening him up slightly. The cat screamed in pain and rage, and waved a paw at me, unleashing more energy at me. I was ready this time, holding my sword upright to split the energy, and darting forward again, my enchanted blade cutting the cat again. I turned when landing and observed the cat crouched, eyes wary as it observed me. I was panting, my energy and power was failing quick. I had to finish this and fast. I had wounded it twice, but it appeared to not notice the wounds. I needed a plan, and fast. The cat, sensing my desperation, or my weariness, smiled, showing its teeth. Vanishing from sight, it charged me, invisible death hurling towards me on 20 pointy claws. Dropping my sword, I grabbed my shield strap, angling the shield in front of me, just in time for the cat to impact it. The collision threw the cat back, and I followed, shield low and used as a battering ram. I nailed the cat between the eyes with the edge, and with a sickening crunch, penetrated its skull. A loud hiss and sigh, and the spirit was wrenched out of the fake body, screaming as it was pulled back to where it came from. Sitting, gasping, I realized how lucky I had been. Collecting my sword, re-adjusting my shield I went back to the grove, to make sure all mice and fleas were dead. Casting about my magic senses like a net, I determined it was all clear, and humanity was spared 1000 fleas infesting their groins. Slowly I limped back to the house, ready for a good afternoons rest, and hopefully, a cookie when the humans got home.

Chapter 3: Ancient Evil Rising My morning had not been great. Not only was there a chilly frost covering the grass outside, but I stuck my paw in the water bowl, spilling it into my kibble. This garnered a glare from my humans, and a huff of irritation from Bricky, the elder Pekingese in the house. Bricky is a kind soul, wise and fiercely protective of his family; however, he is not a Knight. Knighthood is typically passed on from parent to pup, but I figure the line has to start somewhere? The humans had left for their day of work, or shopping, or whatever it is they do. I am not sure how the whole pay for work thing actually works. But then, I live off their generosity so I won't complain. Until the kibble bowl runs dry, then I might huff and stomp my paw. Once Bricky settled for his morning nap, I began my routine of checking for evil. After twenty minutes I had concluded there was no evil in either the cookie jar, or the large cheese storage box in the food preparing room. I roamed outside for a few moments, listening to the wind and other elements without any resulting evil. Maybe my luck was changing and the day would be a relaxing one. I padded back to my bed, curled up beside Bricky (a low snore coming from his nose caused a grin to break out on my face) and lay down to take a nap. As I began to doze, a low rumble of magic began pulsating from the TV room. I jerked my head up, senses alert trying to feel out the disgusting ooze of magic I felt permeating every pore of my being. Something old, something evil and something powerful was coming into this dimension. Slowly I crept over to my hidden compartment, waved a paw, breathed a word of power and unveiled my hidden compartment containing my armor and Knighting equipment. I quickly put on my armor, slung my shield over my back, and sheathed my sword under my shield, in ready reach of my teeth. Waving my paw again I hid the compartment (it wouldn't due for a mouse to get in there) and hid myself using my illusion magic. It’s not great, but I am getting better at it. I glanced over at Bricky, and of course he was still sleeping. I swear he could sleep through the Apocalypse. Pleasant dreams buddy. I peaked (ha-ha) around the corner looking for the disturbance. In the center of the TV room, a swirling dark portal was forming, growing larger, and pulsing as if alive. I cocked my head to the side, and stuck out my tongue. No, I wasn't attempting to be cute, it’s a traditional canine expression that the Knights utilize to taste the type of magic they encounter. Instantly I gagged, almost regurgitating the cheese, cookies, kibble,

and last nights swiped meat. I had never encountered, nor heard of this type of magic. I briefly pondered my options. I could gather all my power, and strike now before it entered the world, hoping to disrupt the portal and delay it. The downside of course is I would be spent, and if this entity was as powerful as it appeared, it probably would be able to retry immediately. I could wait until it was in this dimension, and attack physically and magically at the same time, hoping to land a sucker punch. That will probably be my best bet. I waited, hidden behind my illusion, gathering all the power I could. A shape began to appear, and my heart stopped cold in my chest. It couldn't be, not yet, not here. A glowing red form began to appear, a fiery stead emerging, with a rider on its back. Well, stead in the form of a badger. Glowing red, with red eyes, red bridle in its mouth, red saddle, and upon its back, wielding a sword easily twice the size of mine was the creature whispered of in legends. The second horseman of the Apocalypse, War. Sheathed in red armor, steam rising off the armor as if on fire, the beaver of War looked upon me. Turning his badger stead, he faced me, calmly, seeing through my illusion as if it wasn't there. I quickly searched my memories for any information on War. Obviously being a beaver was a shock, as was the mount, but the old text never are really specific. Besides, it could appear as it chose, being War and all. Unbeknown to most people, beavers are quite warlike. What do you expect from creatures that flood rivers, use their teeth to make spears, and hunt all the time? "Knight, I bid thee, thou must move from my path, and depart, or thou shalt surely die", rasped the voice of the beaver. Lowering its sword, it muttered a word, and pure power hit me, through my shield, knocking me back over the soft seat thingie into the wall. Shuddering I rose up, looking at War. That ancient gaze looked me, emotionless, cold, and empty. Raising his sword again power surged towards me and ripped through the wall, barely missing me as I darted to the right, my sword in my teeth, my magic flowing through me giving me speed. Head low, legs churning I skidded across the linoleum in a tight turn, launching myself at War's left side, my sword gleaming blue. War casually flicked his sword at me, deflecting my attack, and then sent more energy at me, destroying the front door. Man was I going to get it. Well, at least if War kills me, I won't have to explain to the humans what happened. Nudging his badger into a trot, War charged me, sword held low, a blur of red as he approached. Rolling to my left, I managed to get my shield up, taking the blow and re-directing it towards the ground hoping to cause him to become hung in the floor and dismount. It almost worked. Instead of dismounting, he merely ripped a furrow through the floor. The second he was past me though, I was on my back paws, sitting, my front paws weaving the gesture to bring my magic in a pure blast of power. I woofed mightily, energy blasting from my paw, causing the floor to buckle in front of me. War merely reared on his badger, contemptuously brushing my attack to the side. I collapsed, trying to recover any power I could. I had burned most of my energy keeping myself shielded from Wars power, and spent the rest in that blast, and he shrugged it off as if it was nothing. Gritting my teeth, I balanced my sword. I guess I had one attack left in me, and it was going to be purely physical. War grinned, showing his over developed teeth, and charged me again with inhuman speed. I prepared my attack, knowing it would be my last. Crouching low, I prepared to pounce, when a brown and white blur hit War's badger like a freight train. The red badger crashed into the wall, nearly dismounting War. I turned, curious as to what happened, and witnessed Bricky standing there, paws angled out in a classic defense posture, lips pulled back over his teeth, and glowing with blue energy. Blue energy? But, I should have sensed it! War righted himself, adjusting his armor and sword and looked at the both of us. "One Knight, or two Knights, it doth make no difference to me. I shall slay thee both, and thy deaths shall fuel my power". Bricky never batted an eye, but bounced forward twice and hit war again with pure mystical energy, dazing War slightly. Looking at me, he gave me a fierce glare, and pointedly looked at War. I understood on some level, I couldn't explain, what I was to do. Bricky moved forward, faster then I ever saw even War move, and moved into position. War retreated a step, to prepare his defense against Bricky. I channeled all my remaining energy to the tip of my sword, and lunged into War's now unprotected back. My blow was

mighty, and as War was falling forward, Bricky plowed over the badger, shattering bones. We moved side to side, staring at War, as that ancient beaver stood up. "I hath not enjoyed my self this much in eons,� he rasped. "But all things must come to an end, and my time here is nigh. I doth travel to the land in turmoil, where I shalt feed off war, feed off death. But mark thee well my words Knights, soon my three brothers shall break free and enter thine world. Upon that time, neither Knight, nor human shall stand in our way." Balancing on his tail, muttering, a red glow appeared, removing him and his badger from sight. They did not leave this dimension, but moved elsewhere. I stood on shaky paws, and looked over at the Peke I thought I knew but did not know at all. He merely looked at me, ancient wisdom in his eyes, turned and woofed twice. A deep resounding woof, setting my teeth on edge, and I watched as the damage from the battle repaired itself. Slowly he padded back to his bed, curling up and going to sleep, leaving me to wonder what other secrets he held. I would let him sleep for now, but there would be a questioning later. Shaking my head, I went to disarm and re-hide my equipment. After this experience, I need to send a messenger to the Knights monastery and inform them that War has been loosed in the world.

Chapter 4: The Banshee of K-Town I have spent the past two weeks, licking my wounds after my confrontation with War, the second horseman. I know, at the core of my being that without the assistance of Bricky, my house brother and former Knight, I would not be here today. It is quite a sobering thought to be reminded of ones mortality. A Knight can wield tremendous power, with enough experience, skill and preparation. I have power a plenty, but I used it up quickly, not used to my enemies surviving the initial onslaught. This time, I was caught with my fur parted. As I was on my last legs, Bricky attacked, and together we stalemated War, forcing him to withdrawal. Or rather, he chose to complete his mission, rather then risk injury at the paw of two Knights. I have no illusion that we would have been injured or worse if the fight would have continued. Since his departure, War has taken up residence in the Middle East, south of the ruins of Babylon. The Knighthood has been gathering information on his activities with help from the Camel Brotherhood, and the Stirling Stallions. At this point, as powerful as War has become, it will take more then just the Knighthood to defeat him, we will need all the help we can get our paws on. In preparation for that, I have repaired my armor, changed the design of my shield, and engraved runes in the blade of my sword, to help better focus my energy. No small feat (hah!) when the one doing the forging has no opposable thumbs. This evening was the same as most, begged some cheese and cookies from the two legged ones, and then waited on them to go to bed. While out for my evening break, I was visited by Aeristolite, a spirit of the air. A messenger of sorts and one friendly to the Knights. This evening the news he brought was dire, tales of a fog and mist, screams, and localized insanity. Upon leaving, he left me two strands of broken grass. I could use the strands to link to the grass still in the ground, and use portal magic to transport myself there. The distance was approximately five miles away, so porting was necessary when one is as short as I am. I patiently waited for the humans to go to bed, and watched as Bricky trotted along behind them. He paused, gave me a knowing look, woofed lightly, and then trotted down the hall. I gave them a few minutes to go to sleep, then put on my armor, my shield, and sheathed my sword on my back. I placed the two blades of grass on the ground, raised to my back legs, and bounced around the grass in a circle three times, making sounds in my throat. To those not in the Knighthood, it sounded like whimpers and whining, but in reality it was a strain of syllables delicately pronounced to summon the power of the portal. After my third circle was complete, I brought my front paws down sharply twice, summoning my power and creating the portal. Taking a breathe I plunged through the portal. I emerged on the side of a hill, overlooking a field with an old barn in it. I cocked my head to the right, and slipped out my tongue, tasting for magic. I was rewarded with an old musty taste, with a hint of liquor to it. A banshee. And not the third generation American banshee, but an ancient Irish Banshee. One of the originals. As I tried to remember all that I knew of Banshee's, the mist began to form in the field, and a cold damp feel permeated the air. I quickly pulled my power around me, in a barrier to protect me from what

was coming next. With scant seconds to spare, the wail split the air, and the Banshee began to form in the mist. It was composed of wind, with the appearance of a woman who had skipped months of food. Her hair grey and blowing in the wind, her eyes hollow and empty. She began to turn on the spot, skeletal arms moving in mystical patterns and a pool of swirling liquid formed at her feet. Ah ha! The Banshee was creating a scrying pool, but what for? I woofed a word of power, covering myself in illusion, and began creeping closer. If I could see what she was looking for, I could gather a better understanding of how to handle her. I witnessed ancient shapes and swirls forming in the water, and heard the Banshee's tone change as she focused on what she was looking for. The words began to make sense, and my blood froze in my veins. In the pool, a book began to come into focus. Brown and old with age, marked with intricate swirls, the center covered in an endless knot of Celtic origin. And a word repeated over and over. She was looking for Annwfn Geimhreadh. A book of ancient magic thought lost for generations. A wizard of great power wrote down not only his incantations, but ones learned from druids, shaman, wise men, and sorcerers from many cultures. Bound in a book, warded with Celtic protective spirals, and powerful beyond imagination. And a Banshee was looking for it. Banshee's have magic of their own, but a book like this, in the hands of a Banshee would cause irreparable damage to the world. I was still moving while contemplating this, and my paw stepped on a twig, making a small breaking noise. With no hesitation the Banshee turned, screaming and hurling power from both hands. Yikes! That's new and unheard of. I moved to the right, unsheathing my sword as I ran. Slamming the sword into the ground, I spun around; back paws kicking dirt towards the Banshee, and a word of power from my mouth creating a deluge of hardening mud. It covered the banshee from head to wispy toes. It began to open its mouth to scream, but I scuffed blades of grass in the air, sealing its mouth. I padded closer to it, her eyes glaring murderously at me. I looked at the Banshee, and she began to change, forming into a human of such striking beauty it had to be an illusion. My mud and grass fell to the ground at her feet and she laughed gently at me. "Dear Knight, you are quick and powerful, but are messing in matters that do not concern you," she purred. "The book will be mine, I have looked for it for ages, and there are those who will pay heavily for one with these skills." She cocked her head at me, peering intently. "I see ancient power has wounded you. Are you he who fought the Red Rider?" I merely stood my ground, but my mind was churning furiously. Apparently this was a sorceress of some power to be able to so conveniently impersonate a Banshee. And she could tell by the wounds on my chi that I had fought War. I cocked my head looking at her, sticking my tongue out trying to taste the magic again. "I'll save you the trouble little dog, I am Morgana Le Fay, sorceress of the High Sidhe, and what I am looking for I will have, and will kill you if you interfere". Outwardly I maintained my tough Peke attitude, but inwardly I began to shake. Of all the sorceresses on the planet, it had to be her. I pondered my options of how to handle this. Magically speaking, she was more then my equal. She fought Merlin to a standstill many times. She was the cause of the downfall of Camelot, responsible for various conflicts through time. But, she was vain. I could use that against her. I sat down on my rear, raising my front paws in the air, as if I was begging for a treat. She smiled and laughed, and in that second, I brought power to bear in my tail, flipping heads over tails, and released thirty pieces of fur from my tail, sharpening and hardening as they flew straight for her face. As I expected she brought her hands to protect her face, and I lunged forward, paws churning the ground, my sword unsheathed gouging a circle at her feat. I slammed a paw down, pouring energy into the circle, barking a word of power. At my bark, she began to waver, then vanish. I sat down, panting heavily. High sorceress she may be, but even she will have problems getting back from the top of Mt Everest. Which was where the metal for my sword was mined, allowing me to always have a place to channel my portal for. Of course, I did do it hastily; I can't guarantee she didn't materialize even higher up then the top. Regardless, she was gone from here for now.

There would be a price to pay later, she would remember me, and she would be able to re-create her trail to the book. But, I had a lead on it as well, I recognized some of the surroundings, and would forward the information on to the Knighthood for the researchers to track it down first. Power such as that, in the hands of Morgana, or War, or any of the other various nasties in the world is a scary thought. I placed a square piece of carpet from home on the ground, to create my portal, and go home for some much deserved rest. Although, I will admit that I handled this better then War.

Chapter 5: A Knights Power Tested After a fierce morning's training session, I was looking forward to a relaxing evening doing what Pekingese do, sleep and eat cookies. My wounds were almost healed, and I felt much more my normal bouncy self. Having fought War, and Morgana Le Fay over the past month, I think I deserved a little down time. The warm late spring sun was baking down in the backyard where I lay, the breeze gently blowing, and the sky clear. I rolled on my back, absorbing the sun, since Pekes are solar powered. Pure bliss. My sensitive ears picked up a slow, deliberate tapping on the fence, and I rolled over to investigate. I padded over to the fence, listening intently. Realization dawned on me as I realized it was another Knight, tapping in code for me. I waddled over to the hidden panel, pressed a paw against it and opened my escape route to the neighborhood. Veiling myself I trotted over to the where the other Knight was tapping. He turned and looked at me, grinning and tail wagging. We sniffed one another, in the traditional Knight manner, then bounced on our back paws in formal greeting. Polyson, an elder Knight, held out a paw, and a blue orb formed between us. An information orb. Interesting. To receive communication in this manner meant there was a lot to be absorbed. I bowed my head, allowing the orb to flow into my head. Upon delivery, Polyson nodded, woofed, and vanished. Presumably off to his next stop. Concentrating I began to browse the orbs information. As I did, my heart fell. Proditor, one of the most powerful Knights, has turned rogue. The information available to the Knighthood was limited, but he apparently snapped, killed his apprentice, and two other Knights before vanishing. Rumor had him in the Middle East briefly, but it was unsubstantiated. I padded back inside my fence, thinking so deeply I didn't notice Bricky standing at my exit, watching for me. I raised my head, sorrow in my eyes. And I focused my power, producing an orb of my own, and floated it towards him. He may be retired, but he deserved to know. I walked inside while Bricky absorbed my orb. I heard an awful howl and stopped in my tracks, turning and looking back at Bricky. His eyes were glazed over, tears falling from his eyes. He trotted over to me, placing his right paw on my shoulder. His voice reverberated in my head. "Proditor was a close friend, we trained together, fought together, bled together. This is a great loss for the Knighthood, please excuse me" he whimpered. I watched him leave, disturbed in more ways then I could articulate. I gave him a moment then followed him back in the house. I ate my cookie, drank some water and settled down to try and nap, process some information, and try to decide how to help. I awoke from my nap in the middle of the floor, realizing everybody else was asleep. A green mist was swirling outside the door, and incredible power began to form outside. I darted to my hidden compartment, grabbing my sword, shield and donning my armor rapidly. I recognized the power, but it was different, almost greasy, and tainted with something else. A stout form began to appear outside the door, black armor, with red lines of power glowing around it. It was Proditor, but different somehow. He had garnered more power then was typical for a Knight. Worse, I recognized it. He had somehow gained some of the same evil power that War used. I trotted outside, paws spread staring at him. A voice formed in my head, Proditor was talking to me without contact! Unheard of!! "Little Knight, I regret this, but I will kill you, as I have killed many others." "Why? What do you have to gain?" I thought back. "Power. War is here, the end is nigh, and it is foolish

for the Knights to think they can stand against the darkness. Power is granted to those who know to ask, power to reshape this world. Power to destroy it." I stepped back, unsheathing my sword, its Runes sparkling with the blue power of a Knight. A gentle woofing came from his mouth, as he unsheathed his sword, black with red swirls engraved in it. We charged each other, paws churning, blue magic meeting red with a fearful clash. His sword ripped through my body, splitting me in half. Or, so he thought. The illusion had held long enough for me to leap in the air, coming straight down on his back. He rolled at the last second, my sword barely bringing blood. He turned, surprise evident in his face. I spun on my paw, flinging tail hairs at him, and hardening as they flew faster and faster. He woofed and a barrier appeared, shattering my hairs. My mind was racing furiously. I would have to outwit him, I couldn't stand toe to toe with him, not even if he didn't have some of the power of War in him. He woofed again, and a wall of pure energy raced towards me. With no time to dodge, I held my sword up, power flowing through it, splitting the wall of force. He followed it up with a sword thrust which I barely avoided, then turned it into a side slash, which I absorbed on my shield. He was all over me, sword slashing, thrusting, and power flaring from his paws. I dodged, parried, jumped and tried to avoid everything. I stumbled back, panting, as he stood looking at me, hardly any strain showing. I felt him channeling power, and knew something big was coming. A ball of blazing red power exploded from his paw, rocketing towards me. I woofed a brief word, spinning on the spot, trailing energy from my body into an angled tube. His power hit the tube, then circled back towards him. I vanished moving with all the speed of a natural born predator to his right side. He sidestepped the ball of power, and impaled himself on my sword. Twisting he squirmed free, blood spurting out of his wound. I rose on my back paws, woofed twice, and two blue circles of power exploded from my paw, encircling his front and back paws. Magical Knight cuffs if you will. I darted forward, knowing they wouldn't hold him for long, and focused all my power on the Knighthoods chamber, transporting us both there simultaneously. A twisting feeling and we vanished and re-appeared in the Knighthoods main chamber. Several Knight Guards rushed forward, binding Proditor with more and more power. I collapsed, exhausted from the effort, the fight, and my injuries. Polyson padded over to me, with two medics St Bernard’s. I passed out from my injuries, a huge beer keg being the last thing I saw. I awoke some time later, feeling rested and healed. An information orb was sitting on my bed side, which I quickly absorbed. Protidor was in a cell, magically warded, and being interrogated. I paused, absorbing that bit of information. Knighthood interrogation could be cruel, but given the circumstances, understandable. I rose, looked around, and teleported myself home, ready for some rest, cookies and cheese.

Chapter 6: Danger From Beyond Rolling over on my back, I shook my dazzled head, trying to clear the stars that were appearing before my eyes. With a split second to spare, I jumped out of the way of the downward slash of a sword. I pirouetted on my tail, woofing out balls of energy from my paws, barely missing my foe. With blurry eyes I looked for my sword, my shield lay cracked on the ground beside me. Finally! I spied my sword and darted towards it, my body blurring in and out of sight as I pulsed veiling magic around me. Scooping the sword up in my jaws, I back flipped over my opponent, skimming the sword across their back. Black flames exploded across the back at the point where my rune etched sword touched, and an inhuman howl erupted from the wererabbits mouth. Yes, a wererabbit. Landing awkwardly on my paw, I spun again, shooting tail hairs at the beast, hardening as they traversed the air. The wererabbit bounded over my tail attack and turned to run. Now that I was not under a sneak attack, the rascally rabbit knew it stood no chance against a Knight. I lowered my head and gathered my power and launched myself at the beast. Catching it by the tail I shook it viciously, throwing it up into the air, and sending a woofing blue flame after it. Bits and pieces of the beast fell to the ground, a stank stench filling the air.

Shaking my head I moved to gather my shield up, sighing at how much work it would require to fix. Blacksmithing is extremely hard without opposable thumbs. My jaws ached for weeks last time I performed any forging. I sniffed around for any trace of dark magic, or rabbit pellets. This was the third wererabbit this week, and I had no idea where they were coming from, or who was infecting them. Bouncing on my back paws, I performed my teleportation spell to return home, where I hoped for some cheese, some cookies, and a good nap. As my spell took hold, and I felt myself begin to leave, a violent, nauseating twisting sensation took hold of me. Spinning madly through space and time, losing all sense of direction I flailed my paws helplessly. Without my shield in one piece, it flew off my back, disappearing into the nether regions. Landing face first in a pile of disgusting ooze, I slowly drifted into unconsciousness. When I awoke, I was restrained, my sword gone, my shield was who knows where. I was suspended upside down, the ground covered in some sort of disgusting muck, the air rank with dark magic. I looked around best I could, but even with my large eyes, I could see nothing. I tried to summon a small portion of power, enough for a light but at the slightest twitch of power, agonizing current swept through my body, rending me back into unconsciousness.

Chapter 7: The Breaking Thirsty. Hungry. Dirty. Hanging restrained with chains designed to nullify my awesome power. I have lost track of time, I have lost track of everything. In all the time I have been here, I have seen nor heard nothing of my captors. Or Captor. More then likely captors. For the second, or the hundredth time, I flex my body, trying to find a weakness in the restraints, hoping to find something I have overlooked. Nothing. I now know better then to try to use my power to contact help or break free, as the past 20 times I have tried, I have been rendered unconscious as my powers fed back into me. Well, Pekingese are stubborn. Not stupid, just stubborn. A blinding light suddenly filled the room, or it appeared blinding to me. Having been deprived of even light, it was more then I could handle. Blinking my protruding eyes rapidly, I began to see two forms appear in the door, hearing gruff guttural voices, of which one sounded eerily familiar. “Well, the little Knight that could. How’s it hanging furball.” Rasped the familiar voice. My blood ran cold, shivers ran down my spine, I recognized the voice. The dread beaver, rider of the red badger, second horseman of the Apocalypse, War. I turned my head, and observed War, tall for a beaver, extra developed front teeth, clothed in red armor, glowing with sigils of power. “Nothing to say? Ah yes, you cannot communicate without your power” he laughed. Beaver laughter is not a pleasant sound, more like sawdust being filtered through a mesh screen. And his, was worse then normal. Turning, I looked at his companion. Withered, dressed in black, skeletal in appearance, the fourth rider of the Apocalypse, Death strode forward. Much taller then War, yet skinnier, the rider had the appearance of a skeletal sloth. Which makes sense I suppose. Or as much as anything in the magical world ever makes sense. Striding forward, War approached me, with Death a little behind him. His hand blurred and my head rocked back in agony. Blood trickled down my neck from the wicked beaver claws. Death calmly stood there, waiting patiently. Turning to Death, War muttered “This is not quite as fun, without him being able to talk or cry in pain.” Waving his hand, I felt my power rush back into my body. Instinctively I began to pull it in, when two swords appeared at my neck. “Now now Knight, this is for communication only. Attempt to flee and we will strike you down. Attempt to attack us, we will kill you.”

I raised my head and projected my thoughts out in affirmation. Sheathing their swords, they looked at each other, War calm and cocky, Death cold and withdrawn. With a smile, Death reached out a skeletal hand, stroking my front right paw. Pure agony erupted through my body, as my paw began to wither. A cold feeling crept through my body, I felt like I was dying. With a creepy smile Death removed his hand, and feeling began to return to my paw. I was furious. There was nothing I could do at the moment. Except, a little bit of magic I could attempt deep inside. I checked my mental wards, making sure they were secure, and gathered small, tiny pieces of power in my blood stream, spreading it through my body. It may work, or it may not, but I had to try. War grinned at me, and back handed me casually, knocking my head sideways and almost cost me my focus. “We will be back little Knight, and then you will know the true meaning of pain.” He slammed his overdeveloped tail down on the ground, re-securing the bindings on me. However this time, because of the small power scattered through my body, they didn’t stick. I had created a layer of me, over me to which the bindings stuck. I watched them leave, and once gone, I pushed my power up under my false layer of me, then exploded it outwards, shattering the bindings, and the chain, and part of the wall. Oops. I had no time to lose, I had to get out of here. But now, I was free, and had my power back. This should be a piece of cheese!

Chapter 8: The Escape Free. Finally, I was free of my bindings. I knew I had scant seconds to escape from wherever I was being held. What with the destruction of the wall, the release of magical power, and of course the noticeable cries in the distance of the guards coming for me. The guards of course didn’t worry me, I had to skedaddle before Death and War returned. One on one I was no match for either of them, together the odds of survival would go from none to some negative value. Thankfully math was never my strong point, so calculating my odds would be pointless, so we will just say it would be bad. I sent out a pulse of my power, searching for my sword. The runes I etched into it would respond and allow me to find it, no matter where it was. Concentrating, my nose in the air, my tongue rolling out of my mouth, searching, searching. There! I found it, and not to far away. A brief woof of power and I veiled myself magically, darting out of my cell and down the hall to where my sword was being held. I was straining myself hard, using my power to hide myself and augment my speed. I kept trying to hold some in reserve, because I knew I would not escape without a fight. I also knew I must get out of this facility before I could even attempt to teleport home. War and Death have this place locked down tighter then a congressman’s bank account. And to top it off, the other two riders could be here as well. That’s all I need, War, Death, Famine and Pestilence after my bouncing furry butt. I approached the room where my sword was held and detected a quite complex layer of wards surrounding the room. No life forms inside, but multiple presences coming down the hall towards me. The time for stealth was over, time for Knight Power to take over. I dropped the veil, and began pulling in my power, while at the same time analyzing the wards around the door. I brought my power to form a long, shining blue beam, and powered it through the upper hinge, bringing it straight to the ground. The wards followed my beam, electricity sizzling the air as it exploded from the door, and straight into the ground. Cool. A puppy magical lightning rod. The door fell off its hinges and I was through in a blur of fur and teeth. Snatching my sword I spun around to face the first of the guards that had arrived. Four wererabbits exploded through the ruins of the door charging me. I had no time to deal with this riffraff. Spinning I exploded tail hairs, supercharged with Knight Magic at the beast, splitting them in half instantly. Sheathing my sword in my collar, I veiled myself and accelerated as only a true Knight can, paws churning, head down. Using my magic I found the closest exit and charged for it. Unfortunately, Death was waiting for me

there. I sensed him a second before I rounded the corner, and decided to use speed, stealth and brute force to get through him. War was on the other side of the complex, and coming fast riding that freakish mount of his. I rounded the corner, still veiled and unsheathed my sword. I brought all my Knights power to the tip of the sword, dropped the veil and exploded the power out in a thin line of pure power. It hit Death square in the chest and knocked him to the side. I followed up with a side slash and a thrust, scoring a hit on Deaths shoulder. I side jumped spinning my tail hairs and my rear paw claws at him, supercharging the attack with my dwindling power. Death attempted to shield, and stopped the tail hairs, but the claws punctured his shield and embedded in his chest. Grinning, I woofed a word of power, and the claws exploded, rending Deaths chest open and dropping him like a rabbit drops, well, droppings. Without waiting I burst through the outer door, summoning my power. Two hops and a woof and I spun through the nether, arriving at Knights headquarters. Surrounded by my brothers, I went to the elders and told my tale, warning them of Death and War now being loosed on the Earth. The council began immediate plans to deal with this threat, and messengers were sent to our allies. I was allowed a brief leave to return home and check on the humans that were my responsibility. And, some much needed rest, cookies and cheese.

Chapter 9: A Brewing Storm Of all the times for the power to go out, it had to be when I was forging a new shield. Of course, to be honest, I shouldn’t be shocked with the storm that was brewing outside, both magically and mother naturely. I sighed, magically sealed my forge off from human eyes, and decided to go play the scared puppy routine to garner a cookie or slice of cheese. As usual, it worked, and I curled up in the floor nibbling some cheese, my eyes and ears watchful. Outside, I could hear the spirits of the air crying warnings to those who could hear it, and I strained to hear them better. Bricky, the aging, retired Knight I lived with padded over to me and bumped heads in an affectionate seeming way. In reality, he sent a short burst of information to me. I wagged my tail, stuck out my tongue (how we knights sense magic) and bounced up and down a few times in the manner of a playful puppy. Bricky mimicked my actions, and the humans laughed at our antics. There, I sensed it too. With a quick glance at Bricky I made a playful pounce, and we took off running around in what the humans had endearingly called Peke tag. In reality we were setting wards up around the house for protection against what was coming. We settled by the water bowl and I waved a paw over it, woofing a few words of power out into the water bowl, turning it into a variance of a scrying pond. As the mist parted in the waters, we saw enchantments hanging over the air spirits, draining their power, causing the elements to go wild, fueling the storms. A powerful enchantment, not one I was sure I could break. We watched some more and noticed that as the power was drained away; it was being funneled into a dark swirling portal. One I had seen before, one that the Horseman uses to work their spells. I woofed again, waving my paw over the bowl and the images disappeared. Such spells had to be worked carefully, simply because an experienced user could use the scrying pool as a portal behind the wards. I glanced at Bricky and he nodded, looking towards the humans briefly. We placed our heads together, drew in our power, and created an image of me which could last for a short time. I had to reach the Knighthood and report my findings. A quick woof, two hops and some power and I was in the Knighthoods main Headquarters. A glance around revealed the situation was pretty bad somewhere, as there was representatives from the Camel Brotherhood, the Stirling Stallions, and the Hooters Club. Yes, the Hooters club, apparently the founding owl had no idea how that would change over time. I padded over to the elderly Woofy (his humans suck) to give my report, but before I did, I received several intel balls floating near me. I stuck a paw out and absorbed each one. Apparently all around the globe, minor spirits were being drained and their power being funneled somewhere. I added my intelligence to them, plus my speculation about the horsemen being behind it. As the information was sent among the representatives, a silence hung over the room, and one thought echoed through our heads. The two

horsemen were trying to bring through a third. If all four horsemen were unleashed on earth, it would literally be the end of times. A brief flash of thought raced through our heads, sent from Woofy to prepare ourselves. We depart within the hour to fight. I quickly ported home, downloaded information to Bricky, poured a little more magic into illusion me, and prepared myself. Prepared myself for the fight to save all Earth.

Ares: KotP Chapters 1-9  

Collected work of the Ares Exploits chapters 1-9