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Sunday, May 27, 2007 To Trap a Hunter (Part One)

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The Pope’s murder has set the entire Continent of Aurelia in an uproar. Almost everybody talks about it. Not an hour passes without a word of ‘Pope Killer’ or ‘The Pope is killed’ filling the air, not only in towns and cities, but in villages, too.
Noises also come from the coastal plains near Vochaux, Arcadia. But these are different kind of noises: battle and screams. The screams are mostly eerie and inhuman, band we can be absolutely sure when we come closer to the spot.
There, we see a man fighting against two large beasts. The beasts are bear-like. They walk straight on two hind legs. Their ears are long, wide and furry. Bugbears, what we usually call them, are real tough monsters to fight against. No ordinary weapon can actually hurt them. They seem to ‘suck’ the weapons into their extra-thick fur as though they’re wearing rubber armors. And beware of their special attacks, the Bear Hug, the Bugbear Terror and the Sitting Bear Drop, because you can no longer feel your bones after you got any one of them.
It seems the unlucky man who encountered the two blokes is certainly going to be bugbears’ dinner with bones crushed into powder. But actually, the bugbears are the unlucky ones, because he is our hero, Robert Chandler.
‘Why so?’ you may say. ‘Look, he’s a bloody mess already. His shirt is soaked with blood.’ But then, just look again. Look hard. It’s not only Robert’s blood on his leather armor. He suffers a number of wounds, yes, but the bugbears’ blood is on him as well. As he unleashes his combined moves of Sleeping Dragon Curls Up and Rising Dragon Uppercut Slash, inflicting enough roasting cuts on his target bugbear, making it stumble and fall.
But it’s too early for Robert to rejoice, because right then the second bugbear slaps Robert’s back with such force, throwing him forward. Robert hits the ground face-down, with three long scratch marks that ripped his armor and blood coming out of the spot. It seems... Robert is dead! He, a Vadis’ champion who defeated Zal’fira and Omegron, met his demise by a bugbear! He didn’t suppose to die that easily, right?
An ordinary, unprotected human being will surely die, ripped open by bugbear claws. But Robert is protected by his studded leather armor plus the fire aura on his body, so he only suffers a minor scratch wound.
Wasting no time, Robert gets up, still staggering from the pain. The bugbear rushes towards him again, leaps real high and dives with Sitting Bear Drop to flatten Robert. Feeling a tremendous pressure on top of him, Robert quickly rolls aside. The butt drop misses Robert completely, but the impact force sends him flying. Robert lands on the ground. He stoops a bit, and using the pressure from the fall Robert springs forward, twice as fast as before. With the Dances of a Myriad Dragons, he inflicts deep cuts into the bugbear. The white great beast stumbles and falls.
Now we see two bugbears sprawling immobile on the ground, in agony between life and death. They’re twitching and shivering. Their blood, a greasy brown substance keeps coming out from the wounds on all over their bodies.
Robert is also weakened from his own wounds, but he can still move. Although once again he proves the saying: ‘Brain over Brawn’, he doesn’t collect his reward by finishing the bugbears off.
Instead, he takes out his healing salve, examines the bugbears’ wounds and dabs the salve on them, bit by bit. After he treated the wounds, the bugbears become quiet and calm. Robert looks at his salve, there’s not much left. He sighs a bit and shoves it back into his pocket. His heart smiles although he doesn’t show it.
They attacked me and bugbear blood is worth two months of good meals, I never kill anyone powerless and begging for my mercy. It’s a loss, honestly, but it savors my heart. This is the first time I’m happy during my two weeks on the run.
The bugbears indeed have a marvelous ability to heal very quickly, thanks to their special mud-like blood. The bugbear blood on Robert’s body also helps heal his wounds. His expended salve pays off after all. After only two hours, the bugbears are up and about again. Robert also gets up, and faces them with his hand on Grimlock.
Unexpectedly, the bugbears fall flat on the ground. Robert doesn’t show surprise on his face. He doesn’t know full well about bugbears’ nature, and wondering what their actions are for. And the answer readily becomes clear to Robert as the bugbears come close and rub their faces against Robert’s feet, purring like cats.
Robert perceives this as their way to express gratitude to Robert for saving their lives and mending their wounds. He still doesn’t move, but he stands easy now, still cautious, anticipating the beasts’ next move. Seeing that the beasts are still flat on the ground, Robert tries to bow too, lower to the ground than the bugbears.
Then the bugbears get up slowly. No sudden moves there. Robert follows suit. While doing so, suddenly Robert’s stomach grumbles. The bugbears are startled by it and stare at Robert. However, Robert doesn’t look panicked. He just pats his belly and points at his mouth, signifying that he is just hungry.
Instead of being furious, the two bugbears go away hastily. Robert looks at them and shrugs.
Strange creatures, bugbears are. The first minute they attacked us, the next minute they kneel before us, and then they go away just like that. Beasts’ mind... so simple, so pure. I wish humans can be like that, but then we better don’t. Humans must take care of this world with Vadis’ and Enia’s guidance.
Robert is still deep in his thoughts when the bugbears come back. They bring honeycombs and a few fish on their laps and put them in front of Robert. The silver-haired hunter can’t hide his surprise and shows them his rare smile of admiration. He bows low to honor and thank them. The bugbears growl merrily in response and slowly walk away.
Fascinating. Intelligent beasts, they are, just like Chiel, Carol’s micha. Maybe I camped too close to their lair and they attacked me because they felt threatened. Ambushing me before I hunt them, that was a very good strategy. Oh well, enough thinking about bugbears. Better fill my stomach and walk on.
I’ll sneak into Vochaux and board a ship bound for Lore. That’s the plan.
He sets up a campfire and roasts the fish on it. He eats them all but spares the honeycombs for later. Robert’s heart is full of gratitude to Vadis for providing him with food for perhaps the longest journey of his life.

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