A Man and His Dog: Original Ending
My first fiction piece for Dragon+ had been published back in Issue 9, with enormous editing help from Adam Lee (champion on D&D/R&D’s Story Team). One of his suggestions had been to preserve the key relationship between the titular man and his (blink) dog. As published, the final section ran as follows:
As he left the village, his own face now dirty with soot, Gibbet held a bundle against his mother’s old breastplate worn beneath his cloak. He passed reinforced militia making their way back to Beliard under the guide of the Emerald Enclave. Marros, now the Autumnreaver, led their patrol.
“No one left for us to fight?” they joked and asked him. “No one left for us to save? What happened to all your birds, Gibbet? What happened to your dog?”
Gibbet didn’t answer. The birds had been arrows before they’d been transformed; he felt badly that they would never fly again. But Blencan had always been his dog, and he would so anything to save him. When he cut away his mother’s armor, he’d heard a whimper from within the giant; cutting deeper, he found how Blencan had managed to blink inside the giant’s chest. The dog had bitten into Bloody-beard’s heart and refused to blink back out, if he even could, sacrificing himself. Smothered and burned by the giant’s blood.
He would need healing. The boy with the stuffed owlbear, Gibbet thought, if he could find him along the road. The boy could help nurse Blencan—the way Gibbet once helped raise his family’s dogs—at least while Gibbet went back on patrol. Catherine’s Crossing may have been avenged, but more giants stood tall in the shadows behind Bloody-beard.
After all, a boy could use a dog in a realm where giants trod. Especially a dog that took to blinking.
Now, as originally written, the ending had a bit darker tone. (Then again, perhaps it was also a hopeful tone, only in a different way.) Shauna Narciso, R&D’s Senior Creative Art Director and the force unparalleled behind all of Dragon+‘s stellar covers, preferred this ending:
As he left the village, Gibbet passed reinforced militia making their way back to Beliard under the guide of the Emerald Enclave. Marros, now the Autumnreaver, led their old patrol.
“No one left for us to fight?” they joked and asked him. “No one left for us to save? And what happened to all your birds?”
An archer without arrows, a ranger without a companion. Gibbet had already felt an obligation to resolve this new riddle himself. He owed it to Blencan. The blink dog’s pack had been slaughtered by hell hounds, but had done so at the fire giant’s commands. The hounds may have done so on their own, regardless. Still, Gibbet left the city cradling a shaking bundle beneath his cloak, held against the cavalier’s old breastplate he now wore.
He’d found the hell hound whelp in the remains of a burning building, partially collapsed during the fight. It would be a dangerous task considering its nature; but he wondered how the whelp might develop under his care, as opposed to the giant’s or even its mother’s.
And besides, Seaven had warned him away from raising a blink dog once, and that had turned out well enough.