Exploring The Den (Not What She Expected XXVI)

08 Oct 2022  C. chou  7 mins read.

Swinging himself around a branch, he fell deeper into the tree. Though he wasn’t surprised that it was hollow, it was still deeper than he’d otherwise expected. A growl of anger echoed behind him. Though he hadn’t yet found the evidence that he came for, the accidental discoveries that he’d made while traversing the length of the tree were already enough to give him hope.

Though he had already plummeted more than a few feet, the creature behind him still trailed closely behind him, following his fall via the platforms circling the outer edge of the tree’s circumference. The fact that it could keep up with him, even with the physical distance between them suggested that it had a strong sense of smell. That really complicated things. He hadn’t expected to encounter this particular beast inside the tree. Though to be fair, he wasn’t really expecting to encounter the beast again, after permanently blinding it during the previous encounter. But he never imagined the beasts, even in their blinded state, to be valuable enough to the petrification worms that they’d still care about them enough to offer them support and a protective asylum for recovery. Even more surprisingly, the total number of remaining bears couldn’t be more than two dozen. Perhaps each of the transformed bears were more important to the worms than he’d imagined? Perhaps the two of them shared a closer relationship than he’d thought? Or perhaps, the animals simply weren’t as replaceable as they seemed?

The growl came again. He cursed. It was even closer now. But if this chase continued any deeper, even the worms that were normally unable to detect his presence, wouldn’t have any difficulty picking out his location. That is if the endless pursuit hadn’t alerted them already. At this rate, he’d never be able to locate their nest. He could only pray that none of their old acquaintances will catch whiff of Xiyana’s scent before he returned.

Though his ward could keep her hidden from the worms, it mostly worked by masking her scent with his own. Camouflaging his presence in a forest environment was one of his specialties. Concealing himself in such an environment had always been as natural as breathing. But yet, these creatures were able to discern him, despite being in a tree? He hoped that being surrounded by life would help the ward mask her better than the gigantic tree could.

But with this creature at his tail, there was no chance that he’d be able to locate the nest of immature mutated worms in time. That narrowed him down to one other option. He would have to bring the entire bear with him, regardless of the state of the mutated worms it contained. He could only hope that they would be enough to convince the military of the dangers of, as well as, the need to investigate and understand the new petrification worm evolution. But to do that, he would first need to find an exit. One large enough for this creature to fit through.

C. Chou
C. Chou

A writer that loves cabbages and bamboo, but also enjoys writing and sharing fiction (particularly the fantasy genre). Find me on Medium at: https://chouxherbe.medium.com/