The Manticore awoke, stretching his muscular legs and yawning. Licking the blood of yesterday’s meals off his claws, he felt his stomach grumble. The huge lion-like body joined by a bulging neck to a human face belied the aggression in his heart. His strong tail curled making the venomous spines stand straight and 3 rows of sharp teeth completed the look. For the Manticore was a killer. Without mercy he would hunt and eat, never going without. 1000 pounds of bad attitude ensured that.
He left the cave, leaping to the top of the cliff and wandered into the forest. Hearing a bleat, he thought a lamb would do nicely for breakfast.
His cat-like instinct made him pause behind a bush, listening. He could hear a man talking and laughing. Although he feared nothing, he hesitated to attack man, they always fought back. Usually with a weapon which could inflict harm. He heard a strange sound, like a little human and realised that the man wasn’t alone.
Changing his mind about the lamb, he turned and froze as a horrible scream rent through the air. It was the man. Crouching he peered through the leaves to see him being attacked by 2 men. He watched until the man’s cries stopped. Each man grabbed a sheep, quickly leaving the area.
The Manticore stepped forward fully intending to now help himself as the man wasn’t moving. Then he heard it. Low sobs of the little human. He knew the little one wouldn’t be any threat to him and slowly moved forward to grab his prey. The little human stopped and stared at the huge cat, her eyes widening. Getting up she ran to him and threw her little arms around his neck, to the horror of the Manticore.
His first thought was that she looked tasty, but really wasn’t worth eating, she was just too tiny. He easily shook her off and scanned the herd. Bleating, they waited for the man to protect them, but of course he couldn’t. The little human attached herself to the Manticore again, surprising him. No human had ever been this close to him and he wondered that she wasn’t afraid.
Growling in the back of his throat he asked ‘little human, what do you want?’
‘My mommy’ she answered.
‘Go to her’.
‘I don’t know where the house is.’ Fresh sobs forced compassion into his heart and he realised he would have to wait for breakfast. Sighing, he lifted her onto his shoulders and turned towards the closest village. The little girl, still sniffing, clung to his mane, he barely felt her weight on his back.
Cautiously he approached the village, its not like he would be welcomed but didn’t want to leave the child in the forest. He went as close as he dared.
‘Get down. Someone here will help you.’
‘Mommy?’ she called.
‘Where is mommy?’
He cursed the decision to get a lamb, he now had a responsibility he didn’t want.
He walked out onto the road, immediately feeling exposed. Manticore’s kept to the shadows, but he had no choice. Crossing over, the village loomed closer and his apprehension grew. He could easily kill one or two men but a whole village….
Without a sound, he padded into the square, keeping to the shadows. Several villagers were busy, sweeping, selling wares, talking.
‘Get off human’ the Manticore looked around, ready to flee. A scream ran out as someone spotted him. Quickly he crouched using the tip of his tail to push the little girl off. The villagers stared, some picking up hoes, another a sickle. They stopped dead when the little girl came into view. She threw her arms around the Manticore’s neck yet again and he looked down.
‘Milly?’ A concerned looking woman was slowly walking towards them.
‘Mommy’ the little girl ran, bursting into tears.
The Manticore took flight, not looking back, sure that the villagers were following with weapons. He stopped just long enough to pick up a sheep in the field, sparing barely a glance for the man.
From then on, once a month he would find a sheep leg, goat head or whatever the villagers could spare, placed in the area where the man had died.
Life was good.