The Archer and the Behemoth Chapter 2

This is based on a story prompt provided by the Story Engine. It’s pretty cool. I will not reveal what I drew until the story is done.

Being a captain felt like a lifetime ago, though it had only been a week. The city long ago left their view, and even villages were sparse. They were too far out, and too many monsters roamed the night.

“It’s nice being out here with you,” Claire said.

The Abomination laughed. “Is that so? The solitude? I’m guessing you don’t like talking much.”

“I don’t care much for fighting. None of the things out here seem to want to get close to you.”

It snorted with satisfaction. “This is true.” Its chest puffed out. It made Claire smirk.

A village off in the distance bolstered a half dozen houses and a tavern. “I’m going up ahead. Will see what I can find out or buy. Keep going south to that cliff and I’ll see you tonight.”

The first time she did that, it became anxious. This time, the Abomination just snorted and walked off. The relationship was strengthening faster than she thought, and that pleased her. Soon its power would be hers.

At the village, the tavern smelled horrific, though most did in the country. The keep was missing an eye and a leg. His beard was long, but scraggly, and he was balding on top. It looked like he rolled out of a hay pile. It smelled like he swam out of a cask.

“What do you fer?” He looked her up and down, though she couldn’t tell if it was because he liked what he saw, or he was trying to figure out what he saw. The way he squinted, tongue flapping out of his mouth, made her come to the conclusion he was basically blind.

“Some food. Do you have bread or cheese?”

“Oh. A lass. Hmm. Yeah, I can do that fer ya.” Definitely blind.

She placed coin on the table, and he ran his fingers over it. “Rufus, get ‘ere now, boy. Check the coin.”

A kid came by, looked at it and fingered the pieces, then licked one. “They’re fine, pops.” Then he ran off, taking one of the coins and playing with the kids.

“Little scamp. Couldn’t get by without him, but at the same time, would love to cane his ass every day.” His laughter came out as a wheeze. “I’ll be back.”

He made his way off, opened up a door, and climbed into a cellar with such grace that Claire was sure he would fall and snap his neck, leaving her poorer and hungry. She prayed to the Saint that he would survive at least this one last journey into the cellar, and sure enough, up he came, with cheese and sausage.

The food was placed on the counter, and he said, “Dare. You good, then?”

It was far more than what she paid for, but she wasn’t about to argue. “Thank you, sir.”

“Ah, no. Thank you, lass. Don’t get many young things in here.”

Claire blushed at the compliment, then recalled there was no way he had any idea what she looked like.

The food was shuffled into her sack, and she left the tavern for the cliff.

The sun was still up, a sliver of hope in the darkness, by the time she reached the Abomination. This was a great blessing, since it meant she wouldn’t have to worry about the beasts.

“Did you find something good, human?”

“Yes. Cheese and sausage. More than I paid for. And you?”

It nodded, then leaned down and ripped a leg off a deer. “This is my third. These lands are almost untouched. The plague of humanity is too small from here to affect it.”

Instead of engaging, Claire ripped off a chunk of cheese and munched on it. Glowing eyes took over the fields, remaining out of the small town. Soon after, though, the people went inside, barring their doors. Only the cities were safe enough to allow the doors to remain open, and had the resources to keep lights on all night.

“Why live out this far?” It asked. “The monsters pick them off anyway.”

“No one can tell them what to do. I don’t agree with it, but it’s why they do it. No king is going to send a small army out here to enforce his will. He’ll forget these people exist. But it goes two ways. No one is coming out here to impose on them, but no one’s coming out here to help them, either.”

“Hmm. I can see the appeal. I look forward to being home.” It rested its head on the ground, then gave a deep exhale. “My brothers and sisters playing in waters and forests. Eating the bounty of the earth, while protecting it against those things.” He nodded. “It is a good life.”

“You’re one of the monsters, though. You’re the Abomination to be Slain by the Saint of Eastern Pallor.”

That made it huff again, but definitely more annoyed. “Sure. A mindless monstrosity feasting on the flesh of men. Definitely me. Did I eat one of yours when captured?”

“The texts say you devoured men by the dozen.”

This elicited a laugh. “Does it now? No. You taste disgusting. You’re also sentient. What type of monster would inflict such evils on a sentient being?” The Abomination glared at Claire, though the implication was easy for her to shrug off.

After the silence hung for quite a while, with Claire about to fall asleep, the Abomination asked, “How much longer until we’re there?”

The woman opened her eyes and looked to it. “It’s about two months. We have a long way to go.”

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