Summer Growing, Weeder’s Day 8, Year of the Lion number 427; July 7, 1738 Agathon
“Don’t worry about making mistakes,” Alani told me for the hundredth time. “You keep concentrating on perfection, and in doing that, you lose fluidity. You lose the natural motion that is your true talent.”
Intellectually, I understood what she said and what she meant. Yet, in the process of the performance, I get so focused on what I’m supposed to be doing. Don’t get me wrong, her compliments were lavish, but upon this evening’s reflection, I have a hard time remembering those words.
I keep thinking her criticism would be more harsh if I screw up.
Summer Growing, Weeder’s Day 9, Year of the Lion number 427; July 8, 1738 Agathon
Alani allowed me to take a break from practice. Deep in the woods following the river, we weren’t making good time. Recent rain made the trail soggy. The mud seemed to grab the wheels of the wagons and hold on to them for dear life. Several times a wagon became so mired that all of us had to lift it out of the rut and back onto the trail.
While in Wardenswolf, Lena bought three horses. One to replace the mount that was bitten, poisoned. Two more as backups. Lena encouraged me to try riding a horse, but I declined. I didn’t see how it could possibly be the least bit comfortable for me or the horse.
In the evening, I took leave of the party to hunt. Though we’d replenished our supplies, fresh meat was still preferred over salted rations. While two of the guards fished with nets in the river, I bounded off to the north following the scent of prey. The rains had washed away most tracks, leaving only those from the larger animals, who were usually predators themselves. Generally speaking, predator animals weren’t good game. Even so, their numbers needed to be culled occasionally just keep the natural balance. I’d been out almost two hours and was thinking about heading back to camp empty-pawed, when a flash of movement caught my attention.
Suddenly, something screeched. The sound was horrifying, rattling my nerves. I realized that while I was hunting for prey, I was being hunted. I leaped up into the trees at the last second as a huge beast crashed through the brush. It was the size of a bear but had the face of an owl. I had never seen such a thing before. It turned quickly, too quickly for its size, and looked up to where I made my escape. It jumped up toward me, long scythe-blade claws reaching. I backed away quickly, not sure how to deal with it.
It tried again as I climbed higher into the tree. The branch I was on broke away under the beast’s weight and I felt the tree shudder.
“Kill the owlbear, hunter, and you will be rewarded,” said a voice. I turned and saw a small woman, about two hand-spans tall, with gossamer wings. She was standing on a branch, and her green-tinted skin made her almost invisible against the leaves of the tree.
“What is its weakness?” I asked. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining the little creature. Was this some pre-death delusion? Was she the angel of death come to collect my soul? Was my life about to end by the claws of an owlbear?
The little green woman answered, “Isn’t it obvious? What it lacks in intelligence it makes up in ferocity. It fears nothing.”
The beast jumped again from below, clawing at the trunk of the tree. Splinters of wood went in all directions as the tree started listing. The beast was smart enough to cut down the tree to get to me! The girl’s wings fluttered and she lifted from the branch effortlessly. When she did this, I realized what I needed to do.
I dropped down from the branch and clawed at the owlbear’s flank, rolled away and jumped up to another tree before it could respond. While I only got one lick in, I felt the beasts blood staining my own claws. It spun around and tried again to reach me. I repeated my move several times, but it never got wise to my tactic. Sometimes my claws only raked its fur and did nothing, but most of the time I connected. The fight lasted for several minutes, but as long as I stayed in the trees, I had the advantage. The creature was too stupid to wait for me, choosing instead to go after me every chance it thought it had. It was always just one step behind, though. Eventually, I brought it down. I was exhausted, and I realized that I had taken a couple shots as well, but nothing serious.
The girl flitted down from above and hovered before me. “My name is Aelfwine, and I’m what you people call a pixie. I’ve seen your kind, before, Tabaxi, but not this far west.” I told her I was traveling with some human merchants. “Ah… Yes. I saw the caravan a few hours ago on the road.”
“You promised a reward for killing the owlbear,” I said, panting.
“Surely, you do not feel rewarded by your success?” She giggled. “The beast’s meat is good for your kind. Do what you do to prepare it. I will wait, then I will lead you to its lair. There you will find things of interest.”
I followed her until we came to a small cave-like shelter. In the shadows were the bones of several different animals and at least one humanoid. A backpack was nearby. The main part of the pack had been ripped open, but searching through the pockets I found a pouch with several coins and a couple small gems. Aelfwine pointed back to the skeleton. “Look here, Tabaxi.” Around its neck was a silver chain with an amulet. “I don’t know what it does, but it’s magical.” Aelfwine said. “Though, obviously, it didn’t help this guy. Perhaps its enchantment will be of aid to you.” As I reached for it, she cautioned me, “Oh, dear, cat-lady. Don’t touch it until you know what it does!” Heeding her caution, I used a clean bone from an animal to lift the chain from the skeleton.
When I returned to camp with my prizes, Lena was pleased to see me. “Another hour and I would have sent out search parties,” she said. She examined the necklace and confirmed it was magical, using another unfamiliar word: Evocation. She pulled out the large pearl and waved her hands, spoke arcane words and concentrated. Finally, she said, “No, this wouldn’t have helped against the owlbear. What it does is very slightly improve your resistance to death magic. The word we use is necrotic.”
Before writing this journal entry, I drew a picture of the amulet in my other book and noted its properties.
The meat from the owlbear was prepared and cooked. We all ate well that evening, but something struck me as odd. It tasted almost exactly like chicken.
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