[1]: Bear Hunt

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Hello, good morning, good day, and welcome!

Before we get started, I do need to warn you of something; you may have seen that 'Team Crafted' is one of the tags of this book and while they are involved, I will only be focusing on one or two members of Team Crafted, and the rest will mostly hang in the background. Just so you are aware.

Frequent updates are coming back, I'm very very excited, I've got some new ideas in here and I've bought back a few old ones and hopefully, we'll all have a bit of fun.

And without further ado;

Onto the story!

It was a cool day, cool enough for the boy to shiver a little in his short-sleeved shirt. The stiff breeze rustled the leaves of the trees that loomed over the boy, casting shadows on the rough and tangled forest floor that he stumbled over. His stomach growled as he trod, head down and arms crossed on his chest to hug himself, his caramel-coloured hair dangling into his face. His feet were sore and hot and heavy and each step was harder than the last.

The boy lifted his head enough to see through his bangs. "Hello?" he called, brown eyes searching the forest. His tone was empty and hollow. "Anyone?"

He didn't expect an answer, and he didn't get one. The leaves in the trees rustled and the birdsong halted for a moment before continuing, but no one answered his call. Goosebumps on his arms prickled as he looked over his shoulder, blinking blankly at the unidentifiable forest behind him, his footprints invisible among the grass and dirt covered in a mulch made of long-dead leaves. Spots of warm sunlight tracked his path as he trudged onwards, hugging himself tighter as the wind picked up, pushing him from behind as if urging him on.

If he had remembered the way back to his village then he would have been fine when he was returning from his little walk in the forest, but he had already lost all hope of finding it again, now relying purely on luck to get him home. He had been walking for hours. Maybe he was just curving a huge circle and would stumble back on it at some point. Maybe he would never find home again.

So lost in his thoughts, with a mind made numb by exhaustion and the heavy heat in his feet, it was a few crucial moments before he heard the snuffling and shuffling behind him and a moment more before he realised what it meant. Fear made his heart leap into his throat as he spun around, mouth open and eyes wide as the predator behind him halted, tilting its head at the small creature now frozen in its tracks.

The boy ran his frightened eyes over the beast; it was huge and on all fours, at least three times as big as an adult human, covered in long shaggy black hair that seemed nearly glossy in the pinpricks of sunlight. Its eyes were black but not void of intelligence as it rose onto its hind legs, long claws dragging up clumps of dirt and grass as it growled and then roared, spit flying from between its sharp, stained teeth.

The boy screamed and ran.

His feet pounded on the soft, loose dirt as he stumbled and tripped over tree roots and dead branches and rocks, panic driving him into a headlong sprint as he heard the bear thumping after him, easily navigating the forest floor, getting closer and closer until the boy imagined that he could feel the bear's breath on the back of his neck-

His foot caught on a branch and his ankle twisted but the branch didn't let it go. The boy gave a shout and came crashing down, frantically pulling his leg to try and get free as his sticky hair flicked in his face and the bear loomed over him, baring its teeth, claws drawing back to deliver the killing strike. The boy shut his eyes and looked away, crying in terror.

He heard a grunt and then the furious roar of the bear as something gave a horrible ripping sound that rang again, instantly followed by another roar and the heavy thumps of the bear's paws. The boy peered up enough to see someone standing over him, facing the bear, protecting the boy from death. In his hand was a long sword flecked with fresh blood that was close enough to the boy for him to be able to see strange markings etched into the blade, sitting near the hilt.

The boy's eyes were ripped from the markings as the bear roared and the man standing over him gave a shout and charged forward, ducking under the bear's swipe and jabbing with his sword. The boy tugged again at his trapped ankle, still frantic and terrified, his ears filled with the crashing roars of the bear. The root refused to yield and his ankle became more and more thoroughly wedged until each tug made it burn and the boy's vision grow blurry.

A heavy thump paused his actions and he looked up through fluttering eyes to see the black bear spread out flat on the ground, leaves that were thrown up at the impact fluttering down around it. The boy's rapidly dimming vision faintly saw the man withdraw his sword from the beast and then there was a small, faint flash of white light and then nothing.

His ankle was sore and stiff when the boy drifted awake and the sun's light was at an odd angle, the sky a bright blue with orange and pink tinges. The boy winced and covered his eyes as he sat up, a thin blanket slipping off his shoulders as he did so. He didn't recognise where he was, which wasn't a surprise given that the forest was indistinctive and unremarkable at best, but he didn't remember making the small fire that smouldered beside him. In fact, he didn't know how to make a fire at all, and although his memories from before his unconsciousness were sketchy at best, he knew that he hadn't had a blanket. His ankle ached as he slowly stood but when he took away the bandage that had been wrapped there, he only saw a few light bruises.

Mere minutes after he woke up, he heard sets of footsteps treading lightly in the forest and he whirled around, rapidly peering into the forest and noticing the small band of hunters before they saw him. He didn't move as they entered his small camp, and he resisted shuffling on his feet as they looked him up and down, noting the blanket that was on the dirt and the dying fire and the lack of... well, the lack of anything.

"Are you with someone, son?" one of the men asked kindly.

The boy swallowed nervously, dropping his gaze. That was an answer enough for the man, who stepped away from his group to approach the boy. "Are you lost?"

The boy sniffed and nodded, crossing his arms to hug himself. He was tired, he was hungry, and he just wanted to go home and sleep in a real bed in a place that he knew.

"What's your name, son?"

The boy wiped his face and finally looked up, meeting the man's concerned gaze. "Mitch."

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