Fiction

Lending a Helping Paw

By: Jaide Lin

The Kingdom of Felines was alive with whispered rumors of a three-legged dog that arrived at the gate of the fortress, bearing the royal seal. Peering over the parapets, frantic guards immediately rushed to arrange an escort for the canine to the royal castle. Curious, excited onlookers emerged from every corner of the land to catch a glimpse, a sea of ginger, mottled, black and white pelts coloring the ramparts and sidewalks of the small kingdom.
“O, honorable Dog, what brings your species here?” one imperial official inquired with a graceful wave of his tail.  

Despite his haggard appearance and missing paw, the canine refused the offer of a seat and instead stood on his three legs, his white pelt muddied from the precarious journey. “I am Nanook of the Canine Kingdom, and I have come to request an alliance with the felines! For months we have not dared to tread outside our borders for fear of the humans’ growing power. At last, I was able to venture outside our territory with a group of our warriors and arrived here. Her Royal Highness of the Canines sees that a joining of forces will best ensure our mutual survival.”

There were quiet mews of assent, but a high-pitched voice rang out amidst the crowd.

“As if,” the unknown cat snarled, “we would ally ourselves with this disgrace! This pestilence!”

Nanook’s coat bristled. “My vanguard and I have fought tooth and claw to make it to the Kingdom of Felines. The other night, an ambush of humans caught us off guard, and I lost one of my front paws in the attack. The Human Empire grows stronger every hour. Your army may be far more advanced in technology and fighting force, but you cannot hope to survive the mass invasion the humans are plotting without us.”

“I would rather lose to the humans than ally myself with your kind!” the voice called once again.

Nanook was about to growl a response when a wave of the Feline King’s paw stopped him. Wordlessly, the ancient cat rose stiffly from his throne and approached the ruffled dog, placing a dried stalk of catnip before him. A symbol of peace. There were a few murmurs of surprise, but the King silenced them.  

“We are not like the humans,” the King rumbled lowly. “We shall not succumb to such petty quarrels. Be it dog or cat, we have been locked in an endless battle against the Human Empire for far too long. Take our honored guest to the medical ward and fix up his foot, and I will consider your proposal.”

Before the surprised dog could utter a word of thanks, he was immediately whisked away by a crowd of tabbies to the castle’s hospital facility. Deftly making adjustments to a few of the metallic prosthetic models, a bespectacled Siamese cat set to work crafting a steel replacement for the missing limb.

“For goodness sake, stop fidgeting and be still!” the Siamese cat growled, laying out his measurement tools on the hospital cot as the dog began licking at his wounds. Relaxing under the care of surrounding felines, Nanook quickly made arrangements for a cat messenger to contact his vanguard. He quietly growled a prayer that they wouldn’t return empty-pawed to the Canine Kingdom, having failed to establish an alliance.

The metalsmith cats worked quickly while the King continued to deliberate over Nanook’s offer. On the third day of the dog’s arrival, the prosthetic was nearly complete. Just as the tabbies began adjusting the fit of the metal paw for the canine, a tortoiseshell cat messenger burst into the throne room. In a breathless meow, he blurted out: “Humans! They’re attacking!”

A muffled explosion jolted the room of royal officials into action. Despite his graying muzzle, the King stubbornly ignored his stiffening limbs and strode out of his quarters, wielding a shimmering royal sword.

“Ready our troops for the second line of defense!” he yowled, “This is a battle we cannot afford to lose!” As the King quietly meowed his final prayers and prepared to join the fray, a metal paw stopped him from exiting the throne room. It was Nanook.

“Your Highness, we need you in order to see the alliance through. Do not worry, I have long since sent for my canine vanguard. We will defend your kingdom from the humans. Just you wait.” The dog assured, his metal prosthetic foot gleaming in the afternoon sunlight as he stood confidently on all four legs.

“Perhaps I am right to entrust our kingdom’s strength with your species,” the King remarked thoughtfully. “Let us see this battle through first, and I shall determine if I can persuade the more stubborn members of the royal court to consider your proposal fully.”

“No matter what, let us approach this challenge paw in paw.” Nanook agreed confidently as another explosion rocked the castle.

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Categories: Fiction

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