The Owlbear

He pulled his short-sword from the neck of the owlbear. Blood flowed reddish black in the glow of the camp fire’s orange coals.

The smell in the air was horrid. Maybe it was the effort, or maybe it was the sight of the knight who liked to sleep naked tucked in next to the fire. A chunk was ripped from his midsection which his guts slithered free from and lay in a slimy mess next to his corpse.

The ranger had seen death before. He was a former soldier. He fought goblins and trolls. He cut scalps from the heads of human savages when they pushed into the area a few hundred years ago, yet the mingled smells of his dead partner’s mixed with the putrid stink of the owlbear was too much.

He felt his stomach lurch. Tasting bile, a moment later he spewed everything he had eaten that day all over the ground and his boots.

Feeling dizzy, he sat down hard on a stump dragged near the fire to sit a guard rotation on. It was from here he spotted the glowing red eyes in the bushes. He barely got out a word of warning before the beast attacked. Still though, what little warning he got out aided the mage in casting at least one or two spells before taking a beak to the chest and collapsing in a huddled heap in the shadows off in the forest.

The ranger watched the owlbear eating his friend before getting brave.

He killed the owlbear.

But his friends were dead.

Still he feels prides welling up, nope, just vomit.

 

***

By morning he dressed his wounds. His arm was worthless so he tucked it in a sling. Thankfully his foot was just bruised and he could travel.

He tried digging Graves for his friends but that proved impossible. Instead he tied ropes to their ankles and hoisted them high off the ground onto a tree limb. He told himself he would be back. He promised them. He promised Corellon in a whispered prayer.

As he turned his body on the massacre at his back and prepared to trek two days back to the hovel of a town they just passed through, he thought he heard a soft chirping.

He stood still, listening hard into the tangled Web of branches and brambles they camped in, it did not sound like a bird in fact the chirping was coming from the owlbear corpse.

He turned and wiggling free from under the beast was a tiny white fluffy thing with an orange beak.

 

***

The ranger raised the animal from hatchling to adult. At a year it was a fully grown 300 stone 20 hands high behemoth. At 18 months it killed a taxman and then defended its master when the magistrate and three deputies came to arrest the ranger and kill his “pet.”

Knowing this was not going to end well, the ranger left his home.

No matter where he went, the beast followed and wherever the ranger went, the body count climbed.

It was less he trained the beast then the beast decided it would protect the ranger at all costs. The ranger could never control him. And it only treated him kindly. Anyone else got a ferocious animal bent on death and mayhem.

The ranger eventually gave up on civilization and moved to the deep woods by the northern mountains. He found a cave and lived in seclusion. The owlbear loved him. And the ranger wished the owlbear would just die or stop following him. He thought about killing it. Planned it a few times, but honestly doubted he could do it alone. He thought about taking the owlbear into a large town and letting the locals do the deed for him, but he knew the aftermath would be at least a few years in a prison cell for him and that he couldn’t stomach.

So he decided to wait it out.

They hunted together. They explored. The ranger grew rich with treasure, and eventually after 20 years the owlbear died.

And the ranger felt relief.

 


 

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         Art found on:

Filby’s Place

 


 

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Author: Bryan Aiello

I call NYC home and wish the subway went everywhere and Times Square didn't suck. I saw John Turturro once. Maybe it was him. He was wearing a yellow shirt and smiled at me like he knew I knew. I am an Army vet who writes. I like characters who want more then they deserve. I like genre fiction. I love space. I love paladins. One day I might write a paladin in space story. Just you wait. The university of South Florida spit me out with a degree in creative writing and I find myself questioning the sanity of going to a school that advertises a fake beach on its brochure ever since. I intuit grammar. I Got married in 2012 We had twins in 2015. I do a lot of cooking and dog walking and ranting about the unfairness of sentience. You can follow me on Twitter: @bryaiello Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/BryanAiello My Subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/Voyage_of_Roadkill/ My Reddit profile: https://www.reddit.com/user/Voyage_of_Roadkill/ Like my work? Become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/BryanAiello

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