It was the largest bear Finn had ever seen, easily triple the size of a polar bear. It had brown fur, with dark green stripes running down its arms and legs. Its teeth were so long, that they protruded out of its mouth even while closed.
Even without fighting, Finn knew there was absolutely no way they could defeat such a monster. However, that didn't mean he couldn't scare it off.
Glancing at its claws that could likely rip through steel plating, Finn began channeling power into his throat.
Bryn watched as the bear lumbered into the clearing, seemingly without a care in the world. Its actions could be described as lazy, as if it was on a casual stroll.
That was, until it started sniffing the air.
All at once, it became noticeably more animated. Sweeping its head around, it caught sight of the delicious source.
Bryn locked eyes with the massive predator, his brown eyes staring into the bear's inky black pupils, like gazing into the abyss.
The bear let out a deafening roar, and began to charge. However, before it could make it more then ten feet, a bright beam of light shot across the clearing, startling it.
The beam impacted the bear square in the chest, and it let out a scream of pain, before collapsing from its momentum. Its fall actually shook the earth a tiny bit.
Bryn started cheering, thinking it was over, but Finn knew better. The signals of danger coming from the massive bear started increasing in intensity. That blast wasn't nearly enough.
Finn yanked Bryn by his clothes and hurriedly tried to scoop him on his back.
We need to get out of here now! Finn knew time was of the essence. Bryn struggled against him, still not fathoming how much danger they were in.
"Finn, you got it! That's an ironhide bear! An incredibly tough magical beast that grows naturally to rank four. It must be only a rank two since you managed to kill it..."
Definitely not! It must be at least a rank three. It wouldn't be giving me such a bad feeling otherwise... Finn wasted no more time and stuck his head underneath Bryn's legs, swooping him up and onto his back.
"Hey! What gives Finn? You already shot it! It must be dea-" Bryn's disgruntled voice faded suddenly as they both glanced at the downed bear. A thick, greenish energy was slowly enveloping it as it began to twitch.
The signals of danger radiating off the bear turned up in intensity. From Finn's perspective, it was like a beacon of death.
He prepared another full powered blast. The bear started moving again, beginning to stand up, its growls like drums reverberating through the duo's skulls.
Before it could fully recover, Finn fired once more. A brilliant beam of intense light flew across the clearing, hitting the bear on the top of the head. Only, it didn't actually hit the bear itself.
The beam with the power to burn clean through several thick trees made contact with the thick green fluid-like energy radiating off the bear's body... and was completely absorbed.
The only noticable effect was that the green energy surrounding the bear thinned slightly.
My most powerful attack only managed to weaken its energy? Finn turned tail and ran. He had already used two of his three most powerful attacks with no appreciable effect. There was little else he could do now.
Bryn was, for once, on the same wavelength. He had seen what Finn's blast could do. To have absolutely no effect, this beast was much more then they could handle.
How is this possible? How can such a strong magical beast be this close to the edge of the border woods? Bryn held close onto Finn's back as they sped away, cursing their bad luck.
It made no sense! Unless... Bryn thought hard about what his father said so long ago when they were investigating the source of the earthquake.
Could it be after all this time, the residual energies of whatever powerful beasts fought here still haven't faded? Bryn had read somewhere that the stronger a person or magical beast is, the more potent their energy.
Perhaps, even after all this time, it was still enough to attract lower level beasts... Bryn felt the wind whistling through his ears with how fast Finn was moving.
Ba-dump! Ba-dump! Ba-dump!
Even with the wind hindering his sense of hearing, Bryn could hear loud impacts resounding behind them. Feeling a chill down his spine, he turned his head.
He squeaked in fear.
The massive ironhide bear was gaining on them! If their lives weren't in mortal danger, Bryn would have been impressed with how fast such a large beast could move.
As it panted, large puffs of steam were shot out of its mouth, its drool leaking from its oversized fangs. Bryn could see the anger in its eyes...
It was pissed!
Seeing how it was gaining on its prey, the bear let out an ear shattering roar and increased its pace.
Finn wasn't looking behind him, but he didn't need to. Alarm bells were ringing in his head over and over, pushing him to go faster.
So far, he had been running in a straight line, weaving around trees like how water flows around rocks. Unfortunately, after a couple minutes of being chased, the ironhide bear was right on his tail.
Bryn was shaking with fear, completely relying on Finn for his survival. There was no way he could possibly run away fast enough on his own.
Finn could practically feel the beast breathing down his back, each leap it took sending tremors that he could feel with each step he took.
The sounds of its growls as it came ever closer fueled the terror that drove him to run faster. Alas, despite his strength, Finn just couldn't outrun the massive bear.
Damn it! I can't recover... Finn felt a sense of despair. With him running for his life like this, he couldn't muster enough focus to absorb and channel energy to fix his fatigue. In other words, he was growing tired.
Even with my wisdom and foresight, I'm still so foolish... Only now as he ran for his life did Finn realize he never tested his own limits.
This was precisely the wrong time to discover that he lacked the skill necessary to focus his energy under pressure.
Move! Move! Finn could feel the strain on his legs. For the first time in a long while, they were beginning to feel the burn. Finn let out clouds of steam with every breath, which were quickly whisked away as he ran.
Not good, I'm reaching my limit! Finn clenched his jaw as he felt his body reach a threshold. It was forcing him to slow down. He couldn't maintain his sprint any longer!
Seeing its prey suddenly slow down, the ironhide bear felt a surge of adrenaline. It increased its speed, opening its huge jaws to bite down...
"Ack!" Finn felt a searing pain on his tail. The beautiful protective scales were useless as the bear's powerful jaws cut through them like hot knives through butter.
With a grip on its prey, the bear slowed down, forcing Finn to slow down with it. Finn's claws scratched in the dirt as he tried to find any purchase to get away.
"Finn!" Bryn shouted in a mixture of fury and horror. Looking at the bear behind them was like staring up at a mountain, but he would not just stand by and watch as his buddy was killed.
Gripping the poleaxe that had been anchored securely to the saddle, Bryn focused all his remaining wind energy through the metal, which began to glow blue.
Extending the weapon out far to the side, he twisted himself and swung as hard as he could. The large poleaxe covered with wind energy hummed as it reached the snout of the ironhide bear and sliced neatly through the green protective layer.
The bear roared and released its grip on Finn's tail, a thin line of blood leaking from its snout. Although it barely cut the skin, it was enough to cause the bear to release its grip. However, just as quick as it was cut, the green energy reformed like a liquid.
Wind energy was especially known for its cutting power. Focused into a blade, Bryn had managed to barely slice through the bear's protective layer of earth energy, but it came at a cost...
Bryn nearly fell off of Finn. He struggled to both breath and hold on as Finn took off once again. That was it, Bryn was completely spent.
All my energy and I barely left a cut... Bryn could only despair at his own weakness.
However, he had given Finn a chance!
Finn, his strength renewed from the pain of having his tail crushed, ran off once again, gaining a small distance before the bear resumed the chase.
Finn knew though, that the adrenaline he was feeling would not last long before he tired once again. When that happened, he would be run down, killed, and eaten.
So would the boy... It wasn't just his own life that he needed to save.
I have to keep Bryn alive! Finn had already lived one full life, and he felt it would be a tragedy if this stubborn, foolish boy didn't get a chance to live his own.
The terrifying thuds of the bear's steps got closer and Finn felt the panic building. He had to think of a solution!
Trees kept zipping by as Finn ran full speed, his weariness slowing his ability to think clearly.
Spotting a particularly thick bunch of trees off to his right, Finn made a sharp turn and headed towards them. Bryn nearly fell off, yelling as he held on for dear life.
The bear had to slow down in order to turn to follow, creating large hills of dirt with its paws as it changed directions suddenly.
When Finn saw the trees, he had a similar thought to when he was just born. Comparing his size to the large bear's, he could easily weave through those trees while the bear was much too large to do so.
Made it! Finn rushed through the tight packing of trees. He spared a moment to glance back as he ran, only to feel his soul nearly leave his body.
Instead of slowing down, the bear actually sped up!
The glowing green energy grew thicker and greener as the bear focused it on its front, just before it reached the trees...
The bear smashed through the trees with the force of an explosion. Splinters went everwhere, showering the forest floor with debris.
The unfortunate trees collapsed as the bear looked almost completely unaffected from the major collision.
The chase resumed. The only noticable result of the that maneuver was that Finn had gained a slight lead, as the bear now had to regain its momentum, but it wasn't nearly enough to make a huge difference.
There was little hope at this point. Finn continued to run, unwilling to resign himself and Bryn to death.
However, nature was cruel.
Finn could not keep up the pace necessary to outrun the chasing beast, his legs and lungs burning. The shadow of death loomed over them both. Finn felt a sense of clarity through the exhaustion.
There is only one good choice here... Finn felt his emotions calm down. With little choice, he slowed down, and the bear was almost within reach of grabbing his tail again.
Just as he was about to be caught, Finn darted quickly to the left, narrowly missing the jaws of death that were aiming for his bloodied tail.
Unable to slow down, the bear lost its balance and tumbled, knocking down several trees in its path.
This is my only chance... Struggling to catch his breath, Finn headed over to a tree a good distance away from the confused bear. Reaching behind his back, Finn grabbed Bryn with his teeth and threw him off his back.
In the same manner, he used his sharp teeth to rip off the saddle and bags that he was carrying, tossing them next to the stunned boy.
"Finn? What are you doing?"
Finn could hear the fear and denial in the boy's voice. Right now more than ever, Finn wished he could speak. He wished he could tell the boy that everything would be ok, even if it wasn't true.
Children shouldn't ever have to fear for their lives... Finn wished he could hug the boy.
There was so much Finn wanted to write down, but simply no time to do so. He did the only thing he could do with the time he had left.
Finn pressed his head to Bryn's, who grabbed it out of instinct. Licking the boy once on the nose, Finn jumped away, and headed in the other direction.
"Finn! Wait!" Bryn tried to stand up, but found that he couldn't. He really was completely exhausted, that one strike of his enough to leave him completely defenseless.
The boy watched as his friend ran in the opposite direction. He understood... He understood immediately what Finn was doing.
"Stop! Finn, don't go!" Bryn tried to plead. A sense of immense guilt overcame him. If they were to die, let it at least be together.
Finn ignored the boy's pleas, and started gathering energy in his throat. The enourmous bear was stirring. Like a mountain rising from the dirt, the bear rose from the pit it had dug itself into in its fall, growling menacingly.
Before it could reorient itself, a scorching beam of energy struck its hide once again, absorbed by the layer of green energy the bear had kept formed ever since the first sneak attack.
However, some of the heat made it through, singing the fur and slightly burning the bears skin.
Finn watched once again as his most powerful attack had no effect except to piss off the bear more. That was it, his internal energy was completely spent.
However, his intention was never to hurt the bear, but to grab it's full attention.
Blinded by rage, the bear started running towards the annoying lizard that had hurt it, unaware that the lizard now lacked a passenger.
Sparing only a brief second, Finn glanced one last time at the boy in the distance, who was trying to stand.
Bryn's face was filled with unwillingness as he watched Finn turn and run full speed, drawing the bear away from himself.
Noooooooo! Bryn felt an anguish that ate at his soul.
Why am I so weak? Why am I so useless? Bryn watched as the figures of Finn and the ironhide bear faded into the distance.
Memories of all the times Finn had helped him popped into his head. All of his choices had led them to this moment, where Finn was sacrificing himself to save him.
Tears started to flow from the boy's eyes. He pounded the ground in his fury.
Why do you keep saving me? Bryn wailed as he mounred the loss of his friend. The now empty surroundings offered no comfort as the boy vented his misery.
As the adrenaline faded and his emotions overcame him, Bryn lapsed into unconsciousness, leaning on the tree where Finn dropped him.
The surroundings had become tranquil once again.