Hirsute

The small band of warriors kept their distance from the beast’s fallen form. Taking the moment to catch their breath gave them the chance to watch the creature take its last movements, arrows riddling its sides with the wounds oozing yellow blood.

“Shall I recover the arrows?” The youngest of their troop asked while wiping the sweat from his forehead.

The captain placed a hand on his shoulder. “Not this time. Do not be fooled by its hirsute form, the bristles are loaded with venom.” He nodded over to one of the older warriors. A scarred woman slipped a cylindrical container off her back and pulled a pair of thick leather gloves from it. Rolling the sleeves up to her forearms, she made a slow approach flanked by two spear-carriers.

The youngest member watched as the spear-carriers slipped to the sides to jab with the tips of their blades. No signs of life from the beast gave her the confidence to approach and remove their arrows. With the missiles clear she was free to begin harvesting the choice dark bristles, taking care not to squeeze the venom out as she removed them.

“Captain, why do we gather the bristles if they’re so dangerous?” He asked after several minutes spent watching. The look his captain gave him was one he knew well. It was the ‘use your brain’ look. Musing, he eyed the beast. “To use on creatures our weapons are ineffective against?”

“That is correct. There are other uses for it too, and killing a number of them now stops us from getting overwhelmed in the future.” His captain explained. “A fine balance must be maintained.”

The young man continued to watch as his fellows plundered the caterpillar for its toxic hair. Every so often the fairy’s eyes darted towards the round fake eyes of the beast, a shudder running through him at the almost alien-face marked with warning colours. That face would probably haunt his dreams that night.

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