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Man's Best Friend Edit

Gilan and I were traveling to Halt's cabin for some joint training. I wasn't exactly excited about it but Gilan insisted that it would be good for me to learn from others who are learning as well. 

We traveled on for a while. Passing through villages or climbing steep hills. Storm treaded on confidently and stubbornly. She did nothing to slow her progress. I didn't say anything or give her any command. She was just determined to reach her destination. She was a strong horse. Gilan was waiting at the top of one of the hills when we arrived. Gilan waited until I was right beside him, and then gazed around at his surroundings. He pointed to the bottom of the hill at a stretch of open land. 

"We'll stop there for a little bit. Better to be closer to cover." He added as if showing that he knew what he was talking about. I just nodded in agreement. This side of the hill wasn't as steep so we just rode on down the hill. We still tried to be cautious in case we did slip and tumble down the rest of the slope. Luckily, no such tumble did occur and we got to the bottom of the hill with safety. We climbed off of our horses and let them graze in the clearing. Ranger horses didn't need to be bound or anything. They kept at close range for their masters. Once I touched the ground I stumbled because my legs felt like jelly. When I got in control I stood for a long time staring at the sky. Wisps of white clouds swirled far above in the atmosphere. A gentle summer breeze blew by cooling the warm weather in the area. When my legs couldn't carry me any longer, I collapsed on the ground, and sprawled out in the grass. Gilan stood beside me and looked over me with a chuckle. 

"You look comfortable." He commented. 

"I am. The grass is soft, the breeze feels nice, and my legs don't have to do anything." I said. He shrugged as if saying, "Point taken". He chose to join me and stretched out on the ground a foot away from me. The only annoying sound there was the horses munching on the dry grass. Other than that it was rather relaxing. Gilan told me that we couldn't relax for very long because we needed to get to Halt's cabin before lunch. 

We relaxed for only a few minutes before a weird growling sounded from the forest. Before I could ask if it was Gilan's stomach, the Ranger sat up and held out an arm to stop me from getting up. He slowly reached for his bow and an arrow in his quiver. He got into a crouching position, with an arrow nocked in his bow string. I began to sit up but Gilan shot me a glare telling me to stay put. I stared at him completely shocked. Did he think I couldn't handle an animal? I was about to disobey his silent order when the bushes rustled and a figure stepped out. 

"Aw, it's a dog!" I cried jumping to my feet. I stepped around Gilan who was trying to stop me from nearing the little furry animal. 

"Neri!" He hissed. But he stopped when the dog's tongue lolled out and it hopped to me. I knelt down and the dog attacked me with cuddles and loving wet kisses. I hugged the dog all the while laughing. 

"Aren't you a sweet heart? Oh my stop!" I cried as it continued lick my face. I gently pushed it away and looked to Gilan laughing. He was frowning.

"Why the sour face? Is it because the dog likes me more than you?" I grinned. The dog yipped in agreement as it wagged its tail. Gilan raised an eyebrow.

"That is a small fraction of how I feel." He muttered. I giggled and hugged the dog lovingly. The dog had thick brown fur with a lighter underbelly and paws. Its spine, muzzle, and mark of its shoulder had darker fur. It looked almost like a wolf but was no doubt a dog. Maybe it had wolf ancestry. I ruffled the dog's fur and felt around its neck. No collar. I looked around and saw no sign of anyone following after the dog. Maybe it was a stray. I threw my arm around the dog's neck and looked to Gilan trying hard to look innocent and adorable. Much like the furry creature beside me.

"Can we keep him, Gil?" I used his nickname hoping that would also help. His eyes widened slightly as he gazed at both the dog and me. I smiled trying to look innocent for as long as possible. Gilan placed his hand over his mouth then massaged the bridge of his nose and then ruffled his hair. My cheeks were beginning to hurt from the smiling. Gilan groaned. 

"Fine! We can keep him!" He shouted to the sky. I jumped to my feet in excitement. I ran over and threw my arms around his middle.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" I squealed. He didn't hug me back because he was too annoyed with me. 

"But, if we find that he has an owner, he's gone." He muttered. I pulled back and nodded still smiling. Ever since I was 5 I wanted a dog. I had played with many of the stray dogs who had been fortunate enough to wander into the courtyard. Some of them weren't very friendly and that came along with some biting and sobbing. But this dog was obviously a friendly creature. I glanced at the dog then looked back to Gilan.

"To show my appreciation you can name it." I said. He shook his head and backed away.

"No thanks. I don't want anything to do with-" He didn't finish. 

"Oh, come on. I'm not even good with names." I said pulling him closer to the dog. The dog looked up at both of us with curious pale green eyes. It wagged its tail and tilted its head at Gilan. Gilan studied the dog for a moment, staring at it for a while. I waited patiently. Finally Gilan spoke. 

"Hugo." He muttered. I looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

"Where did you get that name?" 

"My childhood friend had a pup named Hugo. After I became an apprentice I heard that it had unfortunately passed away. I always liked the name." He explained. Then he turned to me with a skeptical look. 

"Do you not like it?" He asked. I raised my hands.

"No, no. I like it. I just had never heard of it. It's nice." I admitted with a smile. He grunted in response then looked up at the sky. 

"We better get going. I want to get there as soon as possible." He whistled and two horses ran toward us. We saddled on. Hugo watched with interest at the giant horses. Storm inspected the dog for a moment before snorting. Hugo shook his fur in response. I kicked Storm's ribs and we rode forward. Hugo, surprisingly, followed us. He chased after us and then walked beside us. He did whatever he could to keep up with us. Gilan kept glancing back at Hugo to check if he was catching up with us. And every time he did he would notice me smiling and quickly look away. I knew he was pretending to not care about the dog but I could tell that he actually liked the dog. Storm and I padded up to his side and I gave him a side long glance with a smile. He frowned at me.

"What?" He muttered. I shrugged. 

"Oh nothing." I replied still smiling. He raised an eyebrow not satisfied with the answer but continued on without another word. I looked over my shoulder to see Hugo slowing down. 

"Come on boy!" I called. He perked up and ran towards me. He barked several times which made Gilan chuckle. I shot him a smile once more. He sighed.

"Alright you caught me. I love the dog. But we still might not be able to keep him for a long time." He pointed out. I shrugged. 

"That may be true but you don't have to be a downer about it." He frowned.

"Who says I'm being a downer?" I raised my eyebrows like it was obvious. 

"Me. I just said so. Didn't you hear me?" I grinned as if that was the best joke I came up with. He rolled his eyes with a groan. 

"You are just so maddening!" I looked at him for a moment before shrugging. 

"Swine." I muttered running ahead before he could process what I said and run after me. I was laughing when I heard him yell something at me.

Written by: Nerida Treaty