Aderes jammed the torch into a crack and held her spear in both hands. The weapon was ornate, yet sturdy. There was no point in carrying a purely decorative weapon after all.
Jonathan withdrew his dagger. He had a bit of an idea about how to cast magic now and hoped that would be enough to keep himself from dying.
The two humans watched as the beast stopped at the edge of the light thrown off by the torch. Its large canine body was all muscle, bound in reddish fur. A long tail swished behind the beast slowly and the muzzle was darkened by dried blood. Each paw was the size of a large dinner plate from the Imperial Palace.
“Don’t get close,” Aderes warned.
“I know.” Jonathan just hoped the girl wouldn’t backstab him and run away now that she had found a good replacement chew toy for the beast.
The beast glanced between the two of them, ignoring the defenseless horse. It went for the one it had already wounded before, following the scent of blood.
“Now! Help!” Aderes shouted as she ran.
Jonathan thought of forest fires and gestured towards the beast. The crystal in his hand lit up. A tongue of flame shot across the cave and burned the lupine creature on the flank.
It snarled at the two humans then rolled over to extinguish the fire that had caught on its fur. As the cave was dry, the fire took longer to put out.
“How!” Jonathan yelled back in frustration and it showed. He was fed up with this situation already. “You threw a magic rock at me and taught me how to use magic thirty seconds ago!”
Aderes frowned. “Use rock or water!” She advised. “Those are best for-”
Jonathan didn’t hear the rest as adrenaline shot through him. The beast was lunging towards him, irritated from the magical attack before. He picked his blanket up from the cave floor. Reflexes, he reminded himself. Don’t think about where you need to move, just act. It’s just like avoiding a sword when fencing.
The beast’s vision was blocked by the blanket. It threw its front paw out and made contact, but failed to grab onto Jonathan. The beast shook its head to get rid of the blanket, but was already too late to attack again.
Jonathan had unfortunately dropped his dagger when avoiding the attack, but he still had the crystal. His shoulder hurt. He caught his breath for a moment, keeping his eyes on the beast. He had the urge to argue more but the situation wasn’t great. He would wait until after they killed or drove off the lupine creature to interrogate Aderes.
The beast was far more wary. It started circling near the two humans, constantly watching them. Every few seconds it would inch closer.
“You said earth was something I could do, right?” Jonathan waited for the girl’s nod before trying to imagine earth and how he could cast magic with it. He didn’t want to close his eyes due the beast prowling ever so slightly closer to them, so he didn’t. He kept his eyes open this time. He settled on thinking of Earth, the planet. Then, he went to think about how to use it. The crystal in his hand glowed and stone from the cave floor wrapped around the beast’s paws, trapping it in place.
The beast howled in rage. It wiggled and bit at the stone around its front paws. The stone was already cracking.
Aderes drew back her arm and threw her spear. It landed accurately, right through the beast’s eye.
The creature shuddered and then slumped to the floor. Some of the stone restraints fractured fully and fell apart.
Jonathan sighed in relief. Being torn to pieces would be a terrible death. He also didn’t want to risk being transmigrated a second time by dying in some tragic way.
Aderes threw a rock at the beast to double check that it wasn’t still alive somehow. After both had no response, she pulled her spear out with a grimace. The feeling of a blade cutting through flesh was not pleasant, nor was feeling the sensation of flesh holding on as you tried to retrieve your blade.
Jonathan went over his saddlebags and pulled out some of the medical supplies he had. He sat on the thick winter blanket he had been using to sleep on and started to work on his injuries. It was mainly a claw mark on his shoulder. He passed the medical supplies over to the young woman when she came over. “I’m Jonathan.”
“Aderes, as I said before.”
Jonathan stood up and went to calm down Biscuit. The mare had frozen in terror at being enclosed in a small space with the lupine beast.
“Where are you travelling to?” Aderes rolled up her sleeve. There was a bite mark on her arm, with a deep wound from one of the beast’s incisors.
Jonathan finished brushing Biscuit and fed her a treat. He picked up Liam’s dagger from the floor. “Further West into Lembroke. You?”
“Lembroke as well. Do you mind travelling together?” Aderes hesitated and added, “I have enough money on me to pay my way and I can help with supplies as well.”
“That’s fair enough.” Jonathan sat down and gave back the crystal. It had noticeably gotten smaller after three uses. “How common are monsters like that?”
“What type of question is that?” Aderes scoffed, surprised. She wrapped her arm in bandages and tied it off. “We’re in Lembroke. The deeper you go the more likely you are to find some. It’s just been weird lately for some reason. No one knows if the beasts have been sneaking over the borders up North or if Nu drove them over the border.”
“Ah. . . I’ve only really lived in Pinscher,” Jonathan lied. He started packing back up the medical supplies.
Aderes nodded. “That explains a lot. You’re a Pinscher city boy.”
“This one is my blanket,” Jonathan stated firmly. He was not giving himself weird flags by offering to share or something like that. “You can use the other one if you want.” He wasn’t using it himself; it had slobber on it.
“Take it or leave it.” Jonathan warned, “We can catch a few hours’ sleep, but that corpse is going to attract more predators. I’m leaving early tomorrow morning.”
“. . . Fine,” Aderes reluctantly agreed. She was exhausted enough to pass out pretty much anywhere at this point.
A little bit more of combat and the introduction of magic.