It had rained for what felt like weeks in the Alder forest and sunlight was a welcomed change. It had finally peeked from the clouds in the evening just as the setting sun cast beams through the hazy autumn dusk, deep in the misty woods.
Through the tops of the trees a large raven deftly danced through branches with vigorous pace. As it moved through the wooden web, it cawed and flapped its pitch-colored wings mere inches from jagged fingers.
“Og-hur!” it croaked. The bird came to a perch on a tree and scanned the fogged forest floor erratically. “Og-hur,” it said again and took flight in a slightly different direction.
Gwyn held out his leather-wrapped arm as the bird landed; the gale briefly blowing his long white hair into a mess.
“Og-hur,” the raven cawed; its head bobbing
Gwyn took out some seeds from a pouch on his side and fed the bird some seed. It will be night soon; I need to find this beast. He stared hard at the animal and spoke softly, “Where?”
The raven turned and leapt off Gwyn’s arm and flew to a branch only a few paces away and perched. It hoped backwards and awaited Gwyn’s approach.
“Og-hur,” it cried as it fluttered its wings. “Shhh,” Gwyn motioned a single finger to his lips and silenced the bird.
The raven leap from the branch and landed at a near-by tree awaiting its master. Gwyn stalked with a stealthy precaution and slowly unsheathed his dagger and sword. The blades glistened with a milky-amber shine as the sunbeams collided with their steel.
After a few paces Gwyn picked up on the foul scent; an odor that was unlike anything else. Ogre. Rotten stink and swampy musk assailed his nostrils. I hate ogres.
He came to a large oak and peered around it’s trunk to see the beast. It was hunched over itself in the middle of a destroyed camp with embers scattered around what was a campfire. The ogre gorged itself on the remains of whoever occupied this camp, by Gwyn’s guess. Humans. With a sickening crunch, the ogre discarded a half-eaten torso, unmistakably female. It landed grotesquely at the base of a tree surrounded by the remains of the others.
Gwyn’s stare narrowed and he clenched his jaw. He gripped his blades tight and placed a foot forward to advance towards the hulking abomination. As his foot fell, a twig broke and he froze instantly. The ogre ceased its meal and jerked his head to the right, the motion rippling the skin and muscle on the monster’s neck and back. It sniffed, turned its head again, and paused for frightening moment before continuing its meal.
A bead of sweat dripped from Gwyn’s brow. That was too close, too careless. He inched forward again and picked up speed to close the distance. The ogre paused its feast, noticing a presence and began a guttural growl, but Gwyn was fast. Now! Gwyn leaped through the air onto the monster’s back, driving his dagger deep into the back of its neck until he felt bone.
The ogre let out a roar as its hands went flailing at its back. Gwyn let go and kicked off to a safe distance. It stood as quickly as its stubby legs would permit and wrenched the dagger free, flinging it into the sea of leaves. It turned and roared as it began charging. Gwyn readied his sword and ran towards the beast poised for attack. The ogre clumsily lurched forward and raised its arms to pummel the man. At the last second Gwyn slid feet first under the beast, savagely slicing its thigh with a flash of steel. The ogre wailed and stumbled forward, unable to stop under its momentum. It crashed into the oak tree, snapping it in half with the loud pop of splintering wood. The ogre remained stunned for a moment under the fallen oak.
Gwyn stood up and began to strafe, sword raised in his hand. He was breathing heavily and drenched with sweat, his heart was racing yet his eyes were still narrowly focused on the monster. Come on you bastard. The ogre began to get up and ripped the debris off of him in a howling rage. The beast stood and began to charge again, emboldened by its fury. Gwyn stood still, awaiting the ogre’s approach.
As the ogre swung, Gwyn dodged to its side and buried his sword into the beast’s flank. The sword wedged deep into the meaty flesh and Gwyn could not pull it free. Before Gwyn had time to react, the ogre’s massive arm backhanded him with enough force to throw him through the air. He abruptly landed on his shoulder and a fiery pain shot through his arm. Fuck me, I’m getting sloppy.
Through gritted teeth, Gwyn tried to stand but he was overwhelmed by the intense pain in his arm. The ogre roared, exhaling a foul, noxious breath and charge. Gwyn kicked at the leaves and dirt furiously to gain a footing but failed. The ogre reared and raised his hand to obliterate him under its gargantuan fist.
A black flutter of feathers swooped in at the ogres face, clawing at its eyes and darting away only to turn in and press an attack once more.
“Og-hur!” The raven cried again and again as it ferociously thrashed at the ogres face, weaving about the creature’s slow arms.
Gwyn hesitated for moment as he starred at the ogre try in vain to swat at his raven. I’ll have to thank that bird. There was a sudden shimmer of steel under some leaves only a few feet from Gwyn. He awkwardly hobbled towards the glint while the ogre was preoccupied with the raven.
He grabbed the hilt off the ground and gracefully wrapped his fingers around the grip until the leather creaked. The dagger fit so perfectly in his hand that it felt like anther limb. Gwyn felt the revitalizing confidence of his blade and stood to rush the ogre.
The ogre noticed Gwyn’s sudden movement and turned his attention away from the bird. Gwyn feinted to the left, then jumped to the right and narrowly missed the monstrously huge fists as they slammed into the ground. He leapt into the air and thrust the dagger under the beats jaw, driving the blade upward into its skull.
Like an extinguished flame, the ogre went limp and its eyes rolled backwards, inches from Gwyn’s face. The force of Gwyn jumping off the ogre’s chest sent it falling backwards, hitting the ground with a deep thud.
The raven flew up to Gwyn’s shoulder and perched. “Vi-per,” it cawed.
“The Viper,” Gwyn thought. I have always hated that name. He reached into his pocket with his good arm and pulled out some seeds for the bird. He wiped the trickle of blood from his temple and approached the corpse. He wrenched free his sword, but had to place his foot on the beasts head to free his dagger.
Gwyn wiped them clean and placed them back in their sheaths. He began pacing towards the nearest town with his arm in a makeshift sling over his shoulder.
There will always be monsters. Gwyn didn’t know why, but he had an awful feeling that something much worse was lurking around the corner. It usually was.