Man and beast stared at one another. Franklin was frozen in surprise as the true nature of the predator and prey he had been tracking was revealed and the weir was standing in apparent confusion that anything could have the gall to interrupt its dinner. Franklin was the first to recover and he lunged, bringing all of his weight into a downward slash across the grey beast’s chest. The blow rattled his joints and if his eyes hadn’t been telling him differently, Franklin would have assumed he had missed the beast and hit the solid rock behind it. However, he saw the reinforced blade bend against the weir hide before it sprang partially back, ripping the hilt from his hands. The blow hadn’t even made the monster bleed. The only effect of his attack was a little shaved hair and an angry opponent.
Franklin scrabbled backward over the bear’s remains as the howling beast lunged toward him. A crossbow bolt came whizzing from above and shattered into splinters on the monster’s shoulder. The blow knocked the weir off balance and caused it to miss gutting Franklin. It had to settle for sending the bear’s bulk tumbling into him instead.
Franklin’s rolled in a heap with the corpse. He felt pain tear down the back of his left shoulder but all he could see was black fur matted with blood. His right hand closed around his spear shaft and he pulled on it with the strength of desperation. He stopped when he felt the snap that meant that the silver spear head had broken off in the bear’s ribs. He was unarmed and helpless.
“Cookie! You remember this toy now don’t ya. Some part of ya has got to remember what happened to the last weir what saw it.”
There was a snarl and Franklin felt the weight on top of him lessen somewhat.
“That’s right. You jist back off and run away long enough for yer buddy Earl to reload his crossbow with a bolt that will actually do something to ya the next time ya show yer ugly mug.”
Franklin heaved and the bear rolled far enough that he could see again. Earl stood on the rock above them brandishing his short sword and the weir was glaring at him and gnashing its teeth but slowly backing away. Franklin wormed the rest of the way out and backed up against the stone, ready to sprint if the weir changed its direction. It glanced once more at Franklin, anger burning in its semi-human eyes, and then turned and stalked off down the hill and out of sight.
“Everything O.K. there Frank?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“Ya sure? Ya got blood all over ya. Ya better check closer. I’ll be right down.”
Franklin felt himself over and winced slightly as he touched his left shoulder. He wasn’t bad, in fact he felt more alive than he had in a long time. That was the closest he had ever come to death, and the rush from surviving hadn’t dissipated yet.
“It’s just the bear’s blood, mostly. My shoulder got mashed up a bit when I fell but I’ll be fine.”
Franklin was trying to force his bent blade back into his scabbard as Earl rounded the boulder beside him.
“Good, good. Thought he had ya there, glad that ya were just a bit roughed up.”
Franklin settled for sliding the ruined weapon through his belt. It was amazing that Earl was in such a great mood. He’d fully expected him to burst into rage when it had become evident Franklin hadn’t the experience to take down a weir on his own. Earl handed him the short sword.
“Here keep a lookout for Cookie while I load the crossbow with a silver quarrel.”
Franklin turned his attention downhill and held the sword at the ready in case the creature returned.