Sparrow understood the woods and the many things, natural and otherwise, that inhabited them. He understood people and their proclivity to ruin the grandeur of the forest with lakeside mansions far less.But, he reasoned, if Aren was somewhere in the miles upon miles of mountain wilderness it would be amidst the steroidized cabins.
The mosaic pathways around them were designed for retirees and rich heiresses in heels. Sparrow navigated them easily, searching for a sign of his friend’s whereabouts.
After an hour of it Sparrow was beginning to get frustrated. He frowned up at the latest monstrosity complete with white parapets and multi-tiered balconies. Every ugly lodge and personal dock looked the same to him. Nothing screamed ‘perfect place to keep an ensorceled billionaire’.That was of course until he caught the heavy smell of sulfur and the low growl behind him. Sparrow froze. He’d found the place.
The thing about hellhounds, he observed as the beast looked up at him and chuffed angrily, was that they didn’t seem to be hounds. Hounds, being canines, generally didn’t climb trees. This animal was making excellent vertical progress up the elm Sparrow had pulled himself into.
Great strips of the trunk curled under its black claws and the creature’s eyes flashed crimson in the dark only five feet under Sparrow’s branch. “Are you a hellbear?” He wondered softly. Sparrow would have liked to get a closer look, an opportunity the hellbeast was intent on facilitating, but he also didn’t want to get mauled, something which the hellbeast also seemed keen on.
On the plus side, he reasoned, if the infamous hellhounds were in actuality hellbears, they were inclined to be solitary. If Sparrow could get away from this one he’d be unlikely to encounter another infernal ursidae family member in this swath of forest. This was a little disappointing, but fortunate for his current purposes.
And on that note, Sparrow reminded himself, there would be time to read up on the classifications of infernal fauna later. Someone had summoned a hell something. Time was of the essence. Also he had somewhere to get and black claws were now batting very close to his hiking boots.
He stood, balancing on the branch and slipped off his backpack. It was sturdy thing, reinforced steel canvas weave with thick straps. This was the difficult part, alongside not falling and not getting a chunk of his calf torn out. Sparrow breathed in, lined up his aim, and dropped the loop of the backpack strap over the hellbear’s head.
The significant weight of the pack fell, yanking the creature’s head back. Sparrow’s branch cracked as the hellbear snapped at the new weight pulling it down, fury and confusion bright in its red eyes. Between maintaining its hold on its perch and attempting tear free the heavy something pulling against its throat, Sparrow was momentarily forgotten.
He maneuvered himself over to a branch that wasn’t about to come hurtling down alongside infuriated hellbear. With a wrench of bark, it did exactly that. The hellbear skidded down the trunk and hit the ground, rolled, and scrambled to its feet blinking. Sparrow’s backpack still hung around its neck.
That was short lived. The beast proceeded to tear the offending backpack into steel reinforced shreds. Sparrow waited, admiring the predatory zeal, until the hellbear finished, huffed in annoyance and then wandered off. Canines were difficult to get away from once they had your scent, bears could be distracted.
Sparrow counted minutes, letting the beast have ample time to wander far before making his own careful way down the tree and up the path.
Part 2 can be found here.