Chapter 13 - Punching through


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“Mark, follow me, we’re going to try and draw the big one away! Fire shots at its legs or exposed skin but keep your distance!” Liz watched as her dad fired a shot at the giant thing that was charging towards them. As Mark and her dad pulled away leading the giant creature off the carriage she was gripped by anxiety. It was the first time she was out in the crazy without her Dad and she now had the responsibility of getting Bob and Etta home safely.


Her brother and dad kept the giant beak bear’s attention with their covering fire and shouts. She wasn’t surprised that Mark was able to distract the thing; she knew just how good he was at being annoying. She hoped the added mobility they had on the horses would keep them safe. The giant beak bear whipped around the corner and Liz allowed herself a brief flickering of relief. Alarm for her family’s safety quickly replaced it and it was completely dashed when she noticed the smaller beak bear charging towards the carriage.


Bob was whipping the reins in an attempt to pull as much speed as possible out of the gelding, but the angle of the hill prevented them from getting much acceleration. “The thing is going to catch us!” Bob’s nerves were clearly frayed as he focused on doing everything he could to get the carriage moving faster.


“I help push!” Biscuit chirped happily noticing their plight. A slight glow covered the wagon and it lurched forward. Biscuit whinnied again as the light quickly faded but the momentum they were able to gain allowed them maintain a bit of distance. The sudden lurching had unbalanced Liz though, and she had to reset to get her bow to ready.


Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she pulled back her bow and let fly. The arrow struck true and hit the beast in a fleshy part under its beak. While annoyed, it didn’t seem inclined to let them go this time around and redoubled its efforts to catch up. “It’s gaining on us!” Etta cried in alarm as she looked back to check on the situation.


Focus. She needed to focus. Liz took out the next three arrows in smooth practiced motions and three feathered shafts bloomed along the body of the beak bear. It still wasn’t enough. The creature seemed hell bent on catching the thing that had annoyed it and nothing was going to stop it. Etta shrieked in horror as the thing finally caught up and swiped at the back of the carriage. The force of the impact threw Liz onto her back, landing awkwardly on the luggage in the footwell of the carriage.


“Bob do something!” an alarmed Etta shouted. Liz knew there wasn’t much Bob could do and it was on her to come up with a solution. She quickly jumped back up and looked to see what she could be done.


The impact had actually launched the carriage forward a bit, stalling the momentum of the big beast. Liz shuddered to think what a strike like that would do to her body, and figured it would be best if she never found out. Blood was running down the beak bear’s legs and it was clearly injured by the numerous arrows, but it still persisted in its chase.


Fortunately for the group, they just crested the hill, and started to pull forward rapidly as gravity no longer was working against them. The sudden burst of speed caused Liz to wobble, fouling her shot. On the plus side, the carriage started to gain some distance as the injured beast loped onwards, but Liz knew she would probably have to put the thing down if they wanted a clean escape. She lifted her bow to make a shot but several unfortunate things happened at once.


First, as Bob continued to push the gelding to it’s limits, a huge roar sounded from nearby. The gelding spooked at the noise causing it to lurch the carriage forward and throwing Liz towards the back of the carriage. Secondly, immediately after the lurch, Bob swerved to avoid a corpse of something on the street, causing Liz to fall further off balance. Lastly, the rear wheel of the carriage didn’t quite clear the carcass, and the bump was simply too much for Liz and caused her to tumble off the back of the carriage to the ground.


She felt the fall coming and rolled to absorb the impact as much as she could. She recovered as quickly as possible and immediately set into a kneeling firing position. The beak bear roared in excitement as it saw its prey on the street. It began to pick up speed and Liz realized she would have just one chance to stop it.


Bob at this point had noted with horror that Liz had fallen, and he tried to arrest the momentum of the cart. Liz appreciated the effort, but knew it would be too late to do anything other than pick up her corpse if she didn’t do something right now.


“Focus. Focus. Focus.” She repeated the mantra in her mind as she attempted to stay calm as she prepared to take her final shot. Adrenaline coursed through her veins and she felt as if her heart was just moments from bursting free from the feeble confines of her chest, but she persisted. She focused. She put everything into this shot.


As the world narrowed in on the point of her arrow, Liz pushed past her fear and anxiety and found a strange sort of calm. Time slowed. Her focus improved. She felt like her entire being was condensing into her arrowhead. Energy flowed through her and she felt an odd coldness that started to bite at her consciousness. Had she been paying closer attention, she would have noticed that the energy was coming from the pocket where she had placed the mana cores they harvested earlier, but such details were lost to her at the moment. Twenty feet, fifteen feet, ten feet, the beak bear seemed to be walking through water as it slowed to a crawl in it’s approach.


To the Carlson’s, it didn’t appear this way all. The only thing they saw was the daughter of their friend crouched with a bow standing against a monstrosity twice her size careening towards her at a breakneck pace. They could only shout in horror and despair knowing nothing they could do would make a difference for her now.


Liz was beyond worry at this point. There was her arrow and the target. The rest of the world had faded away, grey and blacks replacing the vibrant colors that were previously there. Pushing the last bit of strength she had into the arrow, she lined up her shot and released it.


She kept her eyes on the path of her arrow, watched it leave the bow, and followed it as it moved towards the center of the beak bear. She had seen arrows bounce off the hard beak, but she knew this time would be different, had to be different if she were to survive.


Her lips pulled into a grim smile as the arrow sailed straight, punching through the beak, through the head, through the body, and out of the back of the beast. The creature’s momentum carried it forward, but its legs had stopped working and the corpse of the thing slid to a stop just a few feet in front of her.


For a moment, the only sound she could hear was her own ragged breathing. Slowly the world regained its color and returned to a normal speed. The Carlson’s had managed to stop and jump down from the carriage and were rushing to her side.


“I freakin rule.” they heard Liz whisper as they just barely manage to catch her before she blacked out.

A note from rykov00

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