The creatures of the dark were getting bolder. Where once they slumbered and hid until true night had descended, they now lurked in the shadows when the wild side first began to gloom. The wild creatures inched closer to the spaces between sides, the barrier thinning with the waning of the elves’ magic.
The Great Guardian stood peering into the blackberry bush. The bramblebok had retreated into its burrow underground and the bush was still. And if there was one this close to the barrier, there were more. The Great Guardian lowered his neck and shoved his antlers in the bush. With a great wrench he tore the bush up from the roots, exposing the hole beneath. Five brambleboks tore from the hole, howling and screeching. The largest stopped and hissed until the Great Guardian reared, bringing his hooves down sharply and flinging the bush off of his antlers, aiming at the bramblebok. Yelping, it scrambled away.
Shaking the last of the branches and brambles off, he turned toward the tree against which the elf had rested. Her bow lay in the dirt, forgotten in her skirmish with the bramblebok. With a huff of self-amusement, he kicked it away from the tree into a tangle of roots and brambles. He understood the two-legger’s diet was their choice, but he did not need to make it easy for them, for even he could see the well-worn wood showed a weapon of great comfort and usage, its loss an adjustment the huntress would need to make to continue hunting successfully.
The Great Guardian walked deeper into the heart of the forest, the thick blanket of night settling around him. The silver mist and shine of his coat gleamed like a beacon in the darkness. Yet, none disturbed him. Very few creatures would dare to challenge him outright. At least, thus far, that had been the hierarchy of the wild side. That thought gave him pause and stopped him short under a thick tangle of trees. As the creatures grew bolder, would they grow braver? Would they dare to threaten the protectors of the wild side?
In silence he stood in the deep shadows of the ancient trees. As he stood listening, sensing, searching, the noise grew, only a little at first. The few predators in the area knew the Great Guardian had little to do with them and would not interfere with their hunts. Owls winging overhead and snakes slithering through the brush, resumed their nightly activities, though they moved away from his presence, respectful of his protection over all creatures, including their prey. With their leaving, the small and vulnerable began to cautiously scurry through the undergrowth. Small shadows caught in the glow of his coat. And still the Great Guardian stood and waited.
There. A subtle shaking in the trees ahead. The Great Guardian circled the tree, the shaking subsiding. He suddenly kicked the trunk with his back hooves. The tree shook, and large, red eyes opened in the leaves above him, just out of range of his antlers. The eyes narrowed into slits, locking onto his for one drawn-out minute before closing. The Great Guardian heard a slight creak and leapt away from the trunk. A branch crashed down where he had stood. A frantic rustling came from the treetop above before traveling down the line of the forest and disappearing. Once more all was still.
He did not know if the branch fell from his kick or from some malintent of the creature. He did know that in times before, no creature of the dark would have lingered so long once its presence was discovered. Even if the branch falling was not of the creature’s doing, the fact remained: the fear was waning with the waning of the magic.
At first light he would call forth the other guardians.
Brittanie Maccarone reconnected with writing in a creative writing class at her alma mater. Since then she has been writing short stories and poems in a variety of genres and has had works published (print and online) by Longshot Island, Medusa's Laugh Press, Burnt Pine Magazine, and a local literary magazine. When not writing she's working in the Circulation Department in her local library (because what writer wouldn't love that!).