Mastering the Test

The beast's back bulked and shook abruptly, causing Tais to lose his balance. He was tossed upwards and spent a suspenseful moment flailing his legs and arms in the air above the creature. Then he landed, luckily with his legs going on either side of the muscular body. He squeezed tightly with his heels, and grabbed as much hair as he could in both fists as the creature began to buck its back legs high into the air. The magical weapon had vanished and Vewwe was a mere shadow now, dancing to and fro against the far wall.

Tais let out a cry and hung on even tighter as the creature flung itself across the room. Moisture clung to his face from the vanishing of the halberd, and he licked his lips with a tingling sensation. He could still feel the magic's presence in the room.

Then, quite suddenly, as if someone had pointed it out to him with a simple nod, he heard something he had never heard before. Something that had previously gone unnoticed. He calmed his breathing and let his senses deepen. It was anger. The beast beneath him was radiating with anger.

"Don't let go!" cried Vewwe from the side of the room. Tais could tell from her voice that she feared the beast would notice her as soon as it was free of its rider. He grabbed for a better purchase and this time, as he reached deep into the fur and gripped the skin itself, he felt the pulse beating beneath him.

He blinked. Another clue. What must he do?

The animal ran across the room and then shivered down into a crouch, ready to pounce. Tais could feel the animal's intentions like the snap of a whip. It was going to dive at the wall and crush him into it. The beast's intention was like a compressed spring. It was obvious what it was going to do. The only way to reduce the damage would be to let the pressure off the spring, gradually and carefully.

Another clue.

Tais suddenly recognized the animal beneath him as a living puzzle, rather than as just a deathly enemy. His breathing slowed and his mind expanded. Then, like a gently probing doctor, he reached into the Orthrus and touched its intention.

It was like the lock. He could feel every individual piece within, but he just couldn't budge them. This time though, he could convince the cogs to turn and the wheel to move...because they were part of a living mind.

Tais flew from the creature's back and landed in a roll. He was on his feet in an instant, awaiting the gnashing teeth and the hot breath of the monster. All he saw was a great still shadow, sitting silently in the dark.

He peered forward, stretching his senses once more. The tension had subsided. The beast had been calmed.

"What have you done?" asked a wiry voice from behind him. Vewwe stepped into sight, a little orange globe of light between her palms. Her eyes were glazed with horror.

"The beast..." Tais said weakly, "It was angry...because we were intruding. I made sure it knew that we were of no importance to it."

Vewwe was still in shock. "How?" she uttered.

"I..." Tais was silent for a while, his entire body silently shaking with the adrenaline. "I calmed its anger."

There was a thick silence, but before Vewwe could interject, there was a hollow sound of metal, and a crack of light split the room. The door silently swung open.

"I think you mastered the test..." came a hesitant voice.

Tais shivered and ran for the door.

The End

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