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The Writers' Block #12 - Theme: quest

He grabbed his trusty bollock-knife, crawled on his belly and peered over the hilltop. Callum could smell them. They were close. For a moment, as the vast marshy plain opened up, the scale of the journey ahead swamped his mind, but one of the repugnant beasts in the foreground moved.

It turned and looked right at him.

Fear poured through him as it opened its bat-like wings and screech to its comrades.

He never had time to call his friends before the ground around him vibrated with their thundering footsteps.

Aware of a shadow above him, he held his breath. A clawed foot as large as his head squelched into the soil beside his him. Callum’s upside-down view focussed on the sharp beak that stabbed down just as he rolled away. Close to, they were huge. He could hear its cackling, feel its warmth, smell its breath. Another stomped foot prevented his escape. The wings stretched out to envelop a kill. But Callum knew their weakness and he was up with a jump, his free hand grabbing it and taking a strong hold of the fur. The creature tried to back away to relieve itself of this parasite. It shook so violently that Callum almost dropped his knife. He knew he must seize his chance but it was bucking so ferociously, screeching so loud. The long venomous beak almost reached him, the skin-slicing claws flicked his clothes, but he was too close to be dislodged. Finally, it calmed a moment; long enough for Callum to take aim and stab at the heart. In it slid, forcing a gush of blood all over him. The bird struggled with renewed vigour but he held fast and jabbed again. With eyes and mouth closed, his frenzy of stabbing picked up pace until, finally, his foe slumped.

Gasping for air over the horrid smell consuming him, Callum wretched and fell to his knees. He shook with the enormity of it all, feeling he had been fighting the whole day whereas, actually, it had only taken a few seconds. For now the other beasts arrived.

One was running at him but suddenly dropped, felled by Shenagh’s arrow. Another was in the act of dying from Oona’s sword. As he turned, Callum saw a fourth sliced by Caitlin’s axe.

Thinking it was over, Callum began to stand, but a claw smacked him in the back and he lay face down expecting to die. The fifth was standing over him, sniffing the air. Growling, it lowered its head and touched his cheek with the very tip of its deadly beak.

The women yelled and teased, waving their arms to scare it. But it never moved, seemingly thinking. Callum realised that, covered in all this gore, he didn’t smell human. It wouldn’t kill one of its own.

It snorted, pulled away and ran.

‘You stink something rotten,’ Oona said, as she lifted him up. ‘Come on, we’ve got to leave here. Now. Shenagh - get your arrow back.’

They walked in silence for some time, gathering their thoughts. The first truly scary battle had occurred and they had survived. The enormity of their quest began to sink into all of their hearts, but their adventure was now well and truly underway...


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