Greetings, Loyal Reader!
It was only a bear. But that was like saying the sun is only a bright light. Or the Great Eastern Ocean only some water. Lumbering along on all fours, it stood six feet tall at the shoulder. Its fur was deep purplish-black with a pattern of white spots on the back. Its ears were the size of garden spades. Its snout was unusually long, more wolfish than ursine, and slick with fresh, red blood. A torn sleeve of rich fabric containing a fleshy arm hung from its mouth.
I knew I could not reach the girl before the bear did. Waving my sword, I shouted to divert the monster’s attention from her.
“Hey! Giant bear! Over here!”
The beast swung its massive head around and regarded me with baleful orange eyes. It growled a stone-rattling warning and rose to its hind legs, stretching its enormous body up, up, up, until it reached a full height of more than fourteen feet. No bear had a right to be so big. The girl cowered beneath it.
This would not be easy. But perhaps I could cut the fight short with a single accurate thrust to the bear’s heart. I would have to jump to make the shot, and risk a swipe of those platter-sized paws. But it was worth taking the chance if I could take down the bear with one blow.
Then again, a bear this big might have a spare heart near its spleen. You never knew. Dragons have three hearts, making them especially hard to kill. Why not overgrown bears? That was just the kind of natural history trivia that could trip you up.
Well, if I had to stab twice, I’d stab twice. Sword ready, I trotted toward the bear, gathering speed for my leap and thrust. Ignoring the girl, the beast dropped into a half crouch. Dagger-like claws extended from its massive paws.
I rushed on, zigzagging to confuse the animal. Closer came the moment of truth. I steeled myself to spring and strike.
Then a strident voice behind me commanded, “Don’t you dare hurt that bear!”