Short Story: The beast
By Josh Vogt (TheLorian)
He was watching, this much was a certainty. He had been watching for several miles and showed no signs of slowing down. Arak knew that he didn’t have long, not in his condition, not after that last battle between them. Arak grabbed his pack tighter, holding it in place as he climbed over a rocky pile covering the road, likely from a rock slide higher up the mountain, shivering in the freshly falling snowstorm.
He slid over the other side of the pile, tightening the cloak about his face, hoping for a reprieve from this constant storming, but to no avail. The beast was following him, and would not stop until it put him under the snow like his friend…his master and charge. He shook himself, thinking it foolish to remember that night. His master had died, and he had failed him as a guard, but he would dwell on that no longer, pushing onward.
As Arak trudged onwards through the shin-high mounds of snow now covering the path, he heard a loud, piercing howl through the night, and knew the beast was on his scent. Picking up his pace, he reached a dip in the mountain path, with high ridges on either side, perfect for an ambush. He made his way up the right side off of the path, to wait for this foe to find him, and to end this mad chase once and for all.
He found a safe spot to wait atop the right ridge overlooking the path, and crouched among a rocky outcropping, hidden for the most part from anything approaching the way he had come. The snow had gotten into his boots and gloves at this rate, and he did not look forwards to the wait for that beast. With any luck, it had been right behind him and would arrive before he froze to death in this damned snow.
A few moments later he heard something crunching through the snow at a frighteningly rapid pace, tearing across the earth after him. Perhaps he could simply let it go past, and maybe it would forget about him, leave him alone…but no, he owed his master that much, that little bit of courage he had lacked when they were attacked.
The beast stopped in the center of the path, the tall hairy creature raising its snout to the sky and sniffing for him. Its body was tall and built like a man, but with a hunched back and elongated arms and legs ending in claws. The face of it was like that of a wolf, and the whole thing was covered in thick white fur, covered in blood. As it suddenly tensed and looked directly at him, he surprisingly felt very little fear. No, what he felt now was nothing but cold acceptance and resolve he’d never known before. Whether or not he survived this was not the point. His master had laid down his life for Arak, and he would do the same now, even if it was too late to change anything.
So, as the beast charged up the rocky face of the cliff at him, he raised his blade in solemn preparation. This was for his master, for all the others the beast had hurt. He opened his eyes, smiled as he thought of that old friend of his, and then…the beast was upon him.