Cazador, Pt. 7

Iohan stood with his sword raised, one hand on the hilt and one on the blade itself near its tip. If the beast attacked again, he’d be prepared. Swinging his sword through the air would take too long, would be an impractical movement if it grabbed him, but a quick chop might be enough to deter the creature. He could fight with the beast’s paw around his throat, he was sure. He had fought with broken limbs, with open wounds, with a beast’s claw embedded in his flesh and the monstrosity snarling in his face. It wasn’t a matter of fighting an entire battle while incapacitated; it was simply a matter of making the creature unwilling to fight and then regrouping.

Jimeno had drawn his sword, at least, even if he was holding it unsteadily. His eyes scanned the branches of the trees methodically, his ears cocked and listening for an indication of what the beast would do next. Santi, meanwhile, had dropped his blade in his fear, and had not yet bothered to retrieve the damned thing. He looked for all the world like a frightened animal. At least he had stopped screaming.

“Is it gone? Is it gone?” the boy asked, his voice far too loud, doubtless giving his position away to the beast up above.

“Santi,” Iohan hissed through clenched teeth. “Shut your mouth and pick up your sword.”

“It’s gone, right? Oh, gods, it’s gone and it took Bartolome with it.”

“What do we do, cazador?” Jimeno asked.

“What are we going to do? Bartolome’s gone. We can’t even bring his body home to his family.”

“Silence, Santi!”

“I want to go home! I want to–”

Bartolome’s body fell from the branches mere feet away from Santi. The beast’s hands followed, fingers entwining around Santi’s neck. The boy fell backwards, the creature struggling to pulling him into the trees. Jimeno rushed forward with his sword drawn. Iohan pushed him aside.

The boy was too young, not yet trained by spilled blood and the passing of time.

He would try to save his friend. That was a mistake. The first and only goal was to slay the beast.

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