The shadows in the room seemed to jump out to snatch unsuspecting victims. The boy's eyes drifted closed as he fought to stay awake. He leant back on the rough hewn straw, and promptly sneezed, the hay scratching at his nose. Light flooded into the room and voices could be heard.
"The hunting group" muttered the boy.
Panicking, he hastily burrowed deep into the straw so that only his face peaked above the heap of unbound hay. He listened, careful not to reveal his presence to the men.
"We need to solve this problem." boomed one man's smooth, rich baritone. The boy started, he recognised the voice as that of his uncle, the leader of the hunting group. "What problem are they trying to solve?" he thought. His question was soon answered when a gravelly voice stated
"The destruction of the town is imminent. However, we should try to find out why it's angry before we take action."
"No" A sharp voice exclaimed. "We should kill it"
Murmurs of agreement rose from the crowd, although some people looked unconvinced. Then, from the back of the room, a small voice spoke
"Perhaps we should hold a vote to decide what we should do."
All the hunters nodded their heads in agreement with the suggestion. The boy looked on in awe at the authority with which the situation was handled. The boy's uncle spoke above the fray.
"It is decided. We shall have a vote to decide on the fate of the creature. Who believes it should die?"
About 20 men raised their hands at this.
"Who thinks we should postpone the killing of the creature until we can discover why it is so mad?"
The rest of the men, above 11 people, raised their hands.
"It is decided" announced the boy's uncle. "We shall embark tomorrow at 7 o'clock sharp from the clearing 7 kilometres from the town."
The boy left the barn late that afternoon, determined to follow the men in the morning.
The next morning, around dawn, the boy launched himself out of his bedroom window, determined not to be caught. He glanced back at the small, unobtrusive cottage he had lived in his whole life and he sighed. Then he turned on his heel, slung his old, worn bag over his shoulder and began the 7 kilometre hike to the clearing.
As the boy approached the clearing, he heard voices coming from behind him and quickly scurried up a nearby tree, careful to avoid dropping anything. Suddenly the forest went unnaturally quiet. He held his breath as the hunters walked underneath him, worried that they might hear his breathing over the eerie silence that washed over the forest. A screech ripped through the air from the centre of the forest and everyone looked up in astonishment.
It flew on great golden, fiery, feathered wings. It soared high above the tallest trees, a harbinger of fire and death, folding its delicate wings flat to its golden side. Each wing was a sail, a glorious spread of crimson and gold, belying the havoc that was caused, surrounded by a halo like a massive glowing sun. Each leg was a mass of bone and wiry muscle, tipped with knife-like talons. And from the great chest of this magnificent bird sprang a multitude of brilliant colours, which might blind a person with their intensity, while the talons reached out in search of prey. And the head itself, a gleaming mass of soft feathers, swivelled on the elegant neck. Its beak snapped closed, creating a loud bang like the ricochet of a gun. Its eyes gleamed, black pearls, filled with a mixture of anger and pride. It glared at the forest below with clear disdain. It attacked, its taloned feet extended through the air. Its wings crashed through burning vegetation, knocking down charred branches whenever it flapped them.
The men screamed, terrified of the mass of destruction coming towards them. The bird's massive head snapped towards them, it's beady eyes glaring. It swooped, intent on its prey, talons extended and the men ran. The boy looked on in awe at the massive fiery beast, beautiful even in its anger.
The boy heard a scream and looked to see one of the men sliced all along his left side, bleeding profusely, by the beast's razor sharp talons. The bird soared high before wheeling around to attack once more. The boy felt tears running down his face as the bird massacred the hunting group. He shut his eyes, unwilling to see the havoc that such a beautiful creature caused. He sat frozen for about 3 hours, unable to move for fear the bird would come back and decide to finish him off. Finally, when he was able to move again, he scrambled down the tree, half falling in his grief. Then, he began to run.