“Shhhh.” Owen hissed at Kallan. “They’re right ahead.” He held his bow in one hand, and three arrows ready in the other. The two boys were crouched at the edge of a large meadow, dusted with fresh snow. It had been snowing lightly since they reached the foot of Beartooth Mountain, and Owen had to continuously dust off his bow and arrows. He was glad he had brought his woolen cloak, as it protected his pack and kept him warm.
About one hundred paces from where the boys were crouched, 3 does and a buck grazed quietly. It was a long shot, and a risk Owen wasn’t willing to take, especially when he had found something this early in the hunt. He looked over his surroundings carefully. The meadow was long, shaped like a V, and sloped downhill into one of the small valleys that surrounded Mount Beartooth. The two hunters were about halfway down the V, and so were the deer. The deer were in the worst place to get a shot off, but there was a large pine about 30 paces uphill from them.
Owen put his bow over his shoulders, than began to crawl toward the pine. The grass was fairly tall, so it covered him somewhat, but the snow was beginning to weigh it down, so he was less hidden than he could have been. He watched carefully to make sure the deer were not watching him as he crawled towards the lone pine. He was glad for the gloves on his hands to keep the cold off. Kallan stayed behind, kneeling behind a tree.
Finally, Owen reached the tree. He pulled his bow off his shoulders, careful not to show it around the tree trunk. He strung an arrow, and pulled back the string, leveling it at the place right behind the shoulder of the largest doe. The deer’s breath came out in long puffs, and he could see it clearly. He prepared to release the string, when suddenly a roar echoed from the woods.
The deer bolted, streaking across the clearing into the woods. Behind them, another loud roar shook the trees. A giant cave bear ran out of the woods, blood streaming from several large wounds in its side. Owen crouched as it ran towards the other side of the clearing, blinded by rage and pain. Suddenly it stopped, sniffing the air. It turned, walking toward where Kallan was hiding. It growled a long, low, growl, baring its massive teeth. Owen didn’t think twice. He drew his bowstring back to his cheek and let fire an arrow, directly into the monstrous bear’s neck. It roared with pain, and then turned toward this new threat. It’s small, pig like eyes looked directly at him and charged.
Owen was ready. With a twang he let loose another arrow into the bear’s chest, but it kept its course. Owen pulled out another arrow, swearing, and shot it again in the neck. This time it stumbled, but it stood up again and leapt at him. Owen cursed again, and then realized that he did not have time to fire another arrow. The bear swung one huge paw at him, and he dodged, pulling out his dagger as he did. The bear swung again, and this time skimmed Owens side, he grimaced as the sharp claws dug into his flesh, but managed to stab the bear deep in the paw.
It roared again, and then struck out with lightning fast speed, smashing Owen against the large pine. He crumpled to the ground. He looked up as the huge jaws bore down on him, when suddenly a silver blade protruded from its mouth. It fell on top of him, and everything went dark.
“Owen! Wake up! Owen!” Owen grimaced as pain blossomed across his side. He opened his eyes and saw Kallan looking down on him, fear and concern on his face. He pulled himself to a sitting position against the large pine tree. “I thought you had gone on!” Kallan said with relief. Owen looked over Kallan’s shoulder, and saw the giant bear, its blood staining the snow. Memory flooded back to him. He attempted to smile, but the pain was too much, and he grimaced.
“What….. What happened?” Then Kallan’s sword caught his eye, protruding out of the bears head. “Your sword? You…….”
“I threw it.” Kallan nodded. “I don’t know how I did it, but I threw my sword into the monsters skull.” He stood up and walked over to the massive corpse. He grabbed the hilt of his sword and pulled. It was stuck in the skull. He pulled harder, until finally the blade scraped free.
“First time I actually use it, and I have to throw it.” Kallan laughed. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing after all that you made me this thing, even though everyone thought there wasn’t much point.”
He grabbed a handful of snow and rubbed off the bloody blade, then wiped it on his tunic and put it back in its sheath. Owen stood up, using the tree to help himself, and slowly hobbled over to where the bear lay.
The bear was huge, measuring about as tall as the town hall. His paws were the size of Owens head, and the bear’s massive head was as long as Owens arm with teeth longer than his fingers.
“How’d you get him off me?” Owen asked, looking over the monster.
Kallan looked at him. “I’m not sure exactly. I grabbed a big stick and shoved it under him, then heaved him off. It was probably mostly the thrill of the moment, and my fear of you being dead.”
Owen nodded, but something bothered him about the injuries on the bear. Three of the arrow wounds were his, he knew, but two were not. He pulled out one of the strange arrows, looking at the black feathers and rough metal tip.
“These aren’t my arrows.” He said with a frown. He began to examine the bear more closely. The arrow that Owen had shot into the bears chest was broken, shattered by the bears massive weight, but the other two were in fine condition. He slid them into his quiver, and then put the two strange blackened arrows in as well. The arrow wounds weren’t the only ones that the bear had. On his side and neck were long jagged slashes, as if someone had hacked at his neck with an almost blunt sword, or another massive animal had sliced him open with its claws.
“What could make a bear run in terror?” Owen said, partially to himself, but Kallan looked at him with fear. “There’s someone else out here!” Owen looked over at him seriously. “That’s how it looks. I would say this big fellow came along them, they shot him, and he charged. They were more than enough of a match for him though. Look at this wound.” He pointed at one of the cuts, where pus had began to ooze out and the edges were turning a sickly green color. “This is poison of some type. And these wounds are fresh.” He hobbled over to the tree and picked up his knife where it had fallen, shoving it back into its sheath. “We need to get out of here.”
© Aidan Moon 2012