The Cave

Author’s note: Taking a break from Outworld for an update, going back to good ol’ fantasy instead!  If you like Outworld, let me know – there’s more in the works!

The man squatted on the balls of his feet, gazing at the dark opening in front of him. He held the pose easily, occasionally rocking back and forth slightly in the warm tropical breezes.

Seagulls squawked in the distance, wheeling in the sky over the beach as they searched for tasty morsels to eat or steal. The beach was surrounded by a dense forest, which gave way further inland to the grassy foothills of a sharp cinder cone of a mountain. At the foot of this mountain, the man squatted among the swaying tall grass. His gaze was locked on the cave ahead.

The man’s meditation was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. He did not turn as the sound drew closer, accompanied by the gentle swishing of the reeds as they were brushed aside. Finally, with a clink of metal on metal, the newcomer laboriously lowered himself into an awkward kneel.

“In there, huh?” the newcomer asked. No greetings were exchanged. They had worked together so long that the words were largely unnecessary.

The squatting man nodded. Reaching up, he unshouldered a short bow, unwrapping the oilcloth looped protectively around the string. He lifted a single arrow from the quiver at his waist, running long fingers along the shaft to check for any damage or splitting. Judging it adequate, he nocked it carefully.

With this ritual complete, the squatting man finally glanced over at his compatriot. “Ready?” he asked.

The other man hauled himself to his feet, reaching up over his shoulder. With a grunt, he unsheathed a massive steel greatsword, holding it up on one shoulder like a baseball player at bat. “Ready,” he replied, sidling carefully through the grass towards the cave.

Holding the bow in one hand, the squatting man withdrew a small plastic instrument. He flicked it a few times with his thumb until a small, flickering flame appeared. He held the lighter up to the gauze tip of the arrow until it erupted it into flame.

Once the arrow was alight, the man rose to his feet as he drew back the bow in a single, smooth motion. He sighted in on the dark hole and loosed the arrow. Both men watched it fly into the darkness.

With a whooshing noise, the interior of the cave burst into orange flame. The crackling of the fire was accompanied by a guttural roar.  A dark shadow briefly crossed in front of the deep glow, and then a massive figure came rushing out of the hole in the ground.

Both men were ready. Another arrow pierced deep into the center of the beast’s chest, while the greatsword swung around to cut through the neck as if it was smoke. The howl was cut off suddenly as the lifeless body tumbled to the ground.

The knight readied his sword again. “Another?”

The archer shook his head. “Nope. This one’s a bull male. It would have killed any others.”

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