They had gathered in the tavern's common room; they were discussing Ata. No one wanted to admit that he was missing, but he was long over due.
Garmund shrugged his broad shoulders idly strumming his lute, "Ata is strong paladin with big sword he will live."
"Besides, he has 'Rook' with him," Shela gave a derisive snort.
Aera shook free a twitch that set all the fine feathers around her head and shoulders out of place. She didn't know the boy well, but leaving him alone in the wilderness didn't seem to be the best course of action for anyone.
Mikhail fluttered about, if he'd been human one would think he was pacing; but the source of his agitation was the bottle Moria was nursing and not their missing friend. Aera bobbed gently focusing on settling each mussed feather, "No one is concerned I shouldn't be either." she thought to herself.
As if on cue their quiet reprieve was broken by the sound of something crashing through the undergrowth mere yards from the tavern. Rising as one they raced out the door to confront the source is disruption. Readying weapons and spells as they ran, Garmnd was already beginning a bolstering beat, each prepared for the worst.
The sight that met them was not the monster they expected, but Ata himself. A little rough around the edges, covered in superficial scrapes and bruises.
Garmund barked a laugh and went to clap Aera on the shoulder (catching her elbow instead). "See? What I tell you, just fine!"
The group's adrenaline quickly faded into laughter and easy smiles as they heartily greeted their wayward friend.
But a louder crashing froze them in their tracks as two large eyes shoned out from the trees. Slowly a very. large. bear. lumbered out of the under growth. She was taller than Aera at the shoulder, with long gracile legs that ended in large wicked claws.
Moria checked her notes, "a Giant Short Faced Bear," she muttered to the others. "I thought they were extinct."
The bear continued her slow advace stoping just feet from Ata and reared into an upright stance. Upright, the bear was nearly 12feet tall, a massive wall of fur, muscle, and claws.
Ata's easy smile faded to confusion. Why were his friends so afraid, why were they going to attack?
"Wha, what's wrong? Guys you've got to come see! I learned a new trick!" he smilled again, the biggest one he could trying to reassure his friends. But he stopped finally feeling the pressence behind him.
Sheila was readying her lance to knock Ata out of the way; Mikhail was flying in closer to harrie and distract the new foe as Garmund tried to coax the blasted lackwit out of harm's way.
The bear stopped and surveyed the scene below and with a soft huh dropped back to all fours. Ata's face split into an even wider grin casting his confusion back onto the rest of the group.
WHY WASN'T HE RUNNING?
The she bear huffed again, softly dropping her head onto Ata's shoulder, he reached up idly scratching her jowls as if she were simply a big dog. "Guys, she followed me home! Can you believe it?" He cooed, wrapping his arm up and around her head hanging from her neck, swinging back and forth as she turned her head watching the rest of the group.
"She says her name is Ayla, I'm going to keep her!"