From the stinging swirl of snow pounded forth what seemed to be a living avalanche. It rose towering with a great shuddering roar, creating a cloud of fetid steam, splitting the stillness of the woods. In the shadow of the great ice bear a lone dwarf warrior looked up and cursed. He whipped the stout axe off his back but too slow. Black talons rent the frigid air and the blow landed square. Stout dwarvish plate armor made the mighty claws useless but the force of the blow took the warrior off his feet and he sailed sideways a few feet to crash into a lodgepole pine. Snow rained down from the shaken tree as the warrior sucked air hard, the wind knocked from his lungs. The bear paused seemingly befuddled as to why there was no steaming spilled guts on the ground before him.
Then the red rage came as it always did. The stout dwarf shook as the rage gripped him and let out his own roar of defiance as he scooped up his fallen axe and charged. The bear swung around and reared up again looking to bring its mighty weight again to the force of his blow but it was the bear’s undoing. The axe made a shimmering silver crescent overhead arc as the dwarf made a seemingly suicidal leap square into the giant bears belly. The axe struck true driving through meat, bone and gristle – a strike so mighty that the blade ended not lodged in the body but in the ground between the beast’s feet. Time seemed to stop and the dwarf looked up while jerking the big axe out of the hard frozen ground. A heartbeat past and then it seemed the monstrous bear fairly exploded – blood and guts roiled forth from the horrific wound and the dwarf could not backpedal fast enough to avoid the deluge. Then came the carcass, at least fifteen hundred pounds, pounded down on him like the bear’s final revenge.
It took him ten full minutes to struggle forth from under the hulking corpse – like the birth of some hell spawned creature. He certainly looked the part drenched from tip to tail in steaming blood. He wrenched off his helm which practically made a sucking noise as it came free – his long white hair and beard were plastered to him and he cursed himself for not binding them for war as he sat down hard in the red snow.
“What were ya doing this far south ya great lump…” he muttered at the cooling corpse as the flood of rage wicked away and in its wake flowed pain. It had been a decade since he had ranged out from under the mountain and he had to wonder if this was a freak encounter or if the great ice bears now ranged south of the glaciers of the north. He staggered to his feet and spat.
“First time in a week am warm … “ a hint of grin touched his lips as he realized he would also have a hot meal as well this eve.
“Count yer blessings my gram used to say. Now where’s that damn horse…” with that he turned and trudged back up the trail.