Looking back at what happened next; Andrew wished he could say he stood his ground against his assailants. He wished he could say he threw the make shift torch at the dogs, and then used the sock full of coins like a club against the closest dog’s nose stunning it. He wished he could say he used his hatchet and tire iron in a brave display of martial superiority and finesse. He wished he could say he emerged victorious from the fight, rescuing the griffin from it’s bonds and then flying off into the distance like some action hero. A brave man might have done all those things, a great man might have even succeeded. However, he was neither brave nor great. Instead he was a cowardly weakling. The dogs surrounded the frightened man, and began circling him. The bird creature seeing it’s opportunity to escape, began frantically attacking it’s bonds. Looking towards the bird creature, he saw that it was looking at him, begging him to buy it time to make it’s escape.
“Now’s your opportunity to make amends,” his conscience said.
“I don’t want to die,” Andrew thought, his body freezing in terror from the dog’s massive jaws and sharp claws.
“There are fates worse than dying,” his conscience said. “Cowardice is a living death. Never truly living, just subsisting.”
“Better a live dog, then a dead lion,” Andrew retorted, his mind made up.
Throwing his weapons to the ground, Andrew pointed towards the nearly free bird creature. He got on his knees hoping they wouldn’t be too rough on him. The dogs stopped and looked back at the nearly free bird creature. Two of them pounced on it and secured it back in the net, the rest of the dogs fully expecting a fight, seemed unsure about what to do. The largest dog looked at the human with contempt, and then threw some shackles at the ground in front of him. Picking them up, he placed them on his wrists and closed them shut. The large dog satisfied his new prisoner wouldn’t resist, tied him to the net next to the now restrained bird creature. Their prizes now secured, the dogs began rooting through the sled as they barked in victory. For the next thirty minutes he watched as the dogs divvied up the contents of the sledge amongst themselves. Burning with shame, he noticed that the bird creature tried to keep as far away as possible.
“Makes me wish I could join it,” his conscience scolded him. “At least you weren’t roughed up, I’ll bet you’re really proud of yourself aren’t you?”
“Better the bird thing than me,” Andrew replied.
"You’re pathetic you know that,” his conscience said.
“That’s something I can live with,” he said.
Soon enough the dogs had each gotten their share of the spoils, with the lion’s share going to the biggest one. The dog growled at Andrew, then looked at the sled. Knowing what was expected of him; he picked up the rope and tied it to his waist. Once the sled was secured, the large dog loaded the sled with his share of the loot. The dogs began moving deeper into the caves, yelping and barking in exultation the entire time. As they progressed into the depths of the cave, lamps illuminated the darkness as they passed, then slowly dimmed when they were no longer needed. The entire time the bird thing glared at him in anger. Not caring in the least, he sighed and kept walking forward. His growling stomach, made him regret not eating more of his food when he had the opportunity earlier. Especially the jerky he had been saving. It had been the most sought after prize, and all five dogs fought bitterly over it.
After about an hour of walking through the caves, they came to a massive set of doors guarded by two enormous dogs. They were both the size of small horses, both large enough to be used as mounts capable of carrying him. Beyond their massive size, they both wore armor made from what appeared to be wrought iron. The large dog walked up to one of the guard dogs, and quietly barked in it’s ear. The guard not responding opened the gate. Walking past the sentries, Andrew saw that the cavern they were entering was gigantic. Most likely an old lava dome, the space was enormous. Carved all along the walls, were windows and doorways. Spread throughout the large cavern, many large pillars rose to support the ceiling of the lava dome.
“This looks like a large city of some sort,” Andrew thought to himself, stopping to gaze up at one the immense columns. His musing was rudely interrupted by a sharp nip to his leg.
“Grrrr… bark, bark, bark woof, bark,” one of the smaller dogs said when they saw he had stopped moving.
“Gahhh,” Andrew yelped, rubbing his tender leg. The bird thing cawed a few times in response, almost as if it was laughing at his pain.
“Serves you right for dawdling,” his conscience said condescendingly.
“Piss off,” Andrew replied in annoyance.
The rest of the trip occurred without further incident, as they walked through the bustling city. All around them Andrew saw all sorts of creatures going about their business. Most paid no attention to them. However, those who did looked at him with a curiosity reserved for oddities. Moving deeper into the bustling city, the streets became tightly packed with creatures going about their business. While they walked through the crowded streets towards their destination, he saw the bird creature sighing in despair, wearing a look of hopelessness on it’s face. Turning at an intersection into a recessed pit, he discovered why the bird creature was so despondent. Cages lined the walls, their thick bars offering no chance of escape. Descending deeper into the pit, he saw what must have been hundreds of different creatures in chains. Finally it dawned on him, he was about to be sold into slavery.
The large dog leading his captors, barked at one of the larger dogs who seemed to be running this place. With a bored look, the large mastiff barked a few times in response while pointing towards the closest open cell. Andrew was forcefully pushed inside the empty cage, while the bird thing joined him in an adjacent cage. The bird thing finally free of the net, shrieked a few times in defiance at the dogs then turned towards the human. With contempt written all over its face, it shrieked angrily a few times at him then turned it’s back, refusing to further acknowledge the cowardly human.
While awaiting his fate, Andrew looked at the different types of creatures being kept inside the cages. Most seemed to be smaller dogs, mere runts in comparison to the ones that had imprisoned him. He noticed that a few of the cages also held some of the bird things. When they noticed him looking at them they defiantly shrieked in anger, turned their backs, and refused to further acknowledge him. Apparently he was now a social pariah. Looking up he gasped when he saw what could only be a twenty foot dragon, restrained with heavy chains. It was inside a specially designed cage that fit it’s bodies contours nearly perfectly. The bars pressed tightly against it’s torso preventing it from doing anything more than breathe shallowly. The cage extended along it’s neck and all the way towards it’s head. Only it’s mouth had enough room to move, presumably so it could eat any disobedient slaves.
Looking at the other cages, Andrew saw creatures nearly identical to donkeys, zebras, and cows. Each of their legs shackled together, each of them wore a look of hopeless despair on their muzzles. While he looked out of his cage, he heard what sounded like a crying child. Turning around, he saw a tiny blue unicorn sniffing, as it lied down on the filthy straw strewn about cage floor. The creatures light blue mane was a disheveled mess, and it’s light purple eyes stared off into space as it tried silently crying. Thinking back to the ghost town he had left the day before, he realized that the town must have been populated by creatures like those he saw on the fountain.
Suddenly Andrew heard an awful racket. One of the large dogs was banging loudly on each cage door, while a smaller one slid a tray with food, and a bucket of water into each cell. When they reached his prison, the large dog pounded on the bars with his mighty front paws. When he didn’t move away quickly enough, it swiped a large paw at him. Falling backwards in surprise, he landed on the straw of his cell, allowing them to open the door. They slid a tray that contained dried meat of unknown origins, some hay, a bruised apple, and a bucket full of water into his cell. They noisily closed the door behind them, and continued making their rounds feeding the other slaves. It had been hours, since he had last eaten, and his stomach demanded to be fed.
Ravenously he fed on the apple and meat, not caring about the poor condition of the food, then drank greedily from the water bucket. Still hungry, he looked at his neighbors cages. When the bird creature saw him eying it’s food, it gave him a look that screamed, “Reach into my cage, and pull back a stump.” Obviously stealing food from the bird thing, was a bad idea, and the dog in the cage to his right had already finished it’s meal and was looking sadly at it’s empty tray. Suddenly inspiration hit him, the unicorn. It probably received some fruit like he had. Creeping up towards the back of the cage, he saw that the little unicorn foal was busy eating the hay. It not yet eaten the apple it had been given. Testing the bars, he found that they were wide enough to allow his whole arm through. Silently he slid his arms through the bars, and spirited the apple away before the unicorn could realize what had happened. While he ate, he saw the little unicorn filly looking all over it’s cell for the apple he was now enjoying. Giving up it’s search, the foal sat down on it’s haunches while tears rolled down it’s face.
The bird thing saw what Andrew had done, and gave him a look of disgust. It turned towards the little unicorn filly, and handed it a half-eaten apple, then pointed towards the human. Although he couldn’t understand the conversation they were having, he was pretty sure he caught the gist of it. The filly gratefully accepted the apple from the bird thing, while looking up at him accusingly when it saw the half eaten apple in his hand.
“Stealing food from children,” his conscience accused him. “How despicable can you possibly be?”
“That’s not a child,” Andrew replied. “It’s an animal.”
“Stop lying to yourself,” his conscience said. “These creatures are all obviously intelligent beings.”
“I don’t care, it’s the survival of the fittest,” Andrew replied.
“Just remember that, when you’re on the receiving end,” his conscience said.
Andrew looked at the half eaten apple and felt ashamed of what he had done. He grabbed the uneaten hay on his tray and approached the bars adjacent to the unicorn’s cell. When the filly saw him reaching into it’s cell, it ran into the furthest corner away from him and cowered. It looked confused, when it saw that he had left behind the hay and the apple he had stolen earlier.
“I’m sorry,” Andrew said, and then turned towards the bird thing. “Please forgive me, it’s my fault you got caught. I was afraid.” The bird thing looked up at him and gave him a hard look, bowing it’s head slightly it turned around three times before laying down on the straw of it’s cell.
Exhaustion was taking over his weary mind. Andrew lied down on the straw, his eyes heavy with sleep. Slowly he drifting off into the world of dreams, only there could he escape this terrible place.