Jimeno might have been more clever than Bartolome, but Bartolome was the greater warrior. Had the dead boy been the one the beast charged, he would have had the wherewithal to raise his weapon and strike the creature. Whether he was frightened, too slow, or lost in his head as he tried to remember what to do, the boy stood motionless as the beast slapped at him with its paw. The blow was effortless, but it launched the boy through the air. He didn’t even scream. All he could do was grunt as the air was forced out of his lungs, as his ribs splintered, as he smashed into a stout oak. The beast leaned forward and roared its triumph at the boy before moving in for the kill.
And then Iohan drove his sword into the creature’s side and its cry of victory turned into a howl of pain. It’s not Pol, he thought. Not Maria, either. Neither of them would have been that careless.
The creature tried to stagger away, but Iohan twisted his blade and planted his feet. He and the beast pulled and struggled against each other, their steps turning into a macabre waltz over the corpse of the fallen novices. At last, the creature seemed to remember that it was the stronger of the two by far, and it began swiping at Iohan with its blood-soaked paws.
The cazador dodged the beast’s blows effortlessly. Time seemed to slow down as the beast struggled in vain to slay its aggressor, but Iohan’s defenses were perfect. One didn’t survive as a cazador if on were anything less than perfect. Iohan pressed the offensive, using the gaps in the creature’s defense to pull his sword free and slash at the monstrosity in earnest. Blood the deep color of a clot poured from the creature’s wounds. The stench of death and disease filled the air. Just as Iohan was certain that victory was within his grasp, he saw something he’d never seen before.
Fear. There was fear in the beast’s eyes.