My back was against the wall as I clutched my sword tight to my chest. My eyes were closed as I carefully considered my next move.
I could hear the wretched beast snarling outside the entrance to the fortress. The heavy breathing indicated that it was desperately trying to smell me inside. I dared to take a peek through a small opening in the door. What I saw frightened me to my core.
The beast was covered in dark fur. Its large mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth and it drooled in anticipation of its next meal. I could only assume that it had chosen me for that meal. My eyes strayed toward the ground and saw the beast’s massive paws. If the thing’s teeth scared me, the claws made me feel worse.
I swallowed hard. I knew I would have to face the creature at some point. And I figured, the sooner the better. I could look forward to one of two outcomes. Either I would vanquish the beast and the fortress would remain secure or my enemy would go to sleep with a full stomach tonight. I certainly didn’t like to think about that latter option.
I took a deep breath as I looked at the people around me. They were all cowering in fear, looking to me for support and strength. I never asked to be a leader. But I was the biggest, the strongest. There was no other choice. As afraid as I felt, I couldn’t show fear in front of my people.
There was a crash at the entrance. The beast was breaking through. The time to act was at hand. I rushed forward and faced the monster head on. The cape I wore fluttered behind me as I ran to meet the creature.
The beast roared as I tackled it to the ground. Feeling the thickness of the creature’s hide, I knew my sword would be useless. I would have to wrestle the thing with my bare hands.
“Jason!” I heard a woman crying out my name in the distance. She didn’t sound as if she was in danger, so I chose to ignore her. After all, I couldn’t leave the fortress unprotected. I had to stop this monster at all costs.
“Jason!” She called again. This time she sounded more urgent. “Come here, please!”
I made sure the beast was subdued. It lay motionless on the ground, aside from the occasional twitch of its tail. I ran toward the sound of the woman’s voice.
Mom stood there with her arms crossed. She did not look happy. “Jason, I’m trying to get dinner ready before Uncle Hunter and Aunt Kathryn get here. Will you please clean up your blankets and pillows from the living room?”
“But Mom,” I began. And, I’ll admit, my voice sounded incredibly whiny. At seven, it was difficult not to whine when losing my fort. “It’s not just blankets! It’s my fort!”
“Sweetie, I know it’s a fort. But you need to put it away for now. You can pull everything back out tomorrow and protect your stuffed animals then.”
I turned back toward the living room. I was disappointed, but I refused to let the tears come. As I walked away, I heard my mother behind me, “And try not to hurt the dog, okay?”