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Hunt of the Hunted

By Willow T. Underwood All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Action

Beast

Trouble stirred in the forests of Lacuna, the largest of the seven kingdoms. Amidst the evergreen forests, and winding paths, a brown-cloaked woman hummed a cheerful tune. Yet her childish voice did not match the size of her body. Though short, her body was far too mature to be a child. She sat along the path, moving her overly long sleeved hands across the dirt. Soon, her humming came with lyric and the young voice began to sing.

“Over the hills and far away, the shadows dance. The shadows play. Up the mountain, to where rocks erode, lies the shadow’s humble abode. Watch your step or you will fall… off a place without a wall. Forever more sha—” Her song was interrupted by an over-lurking shadow.

“What are you doing?” said a man. The girl hadn’t bothered to look up and continued moving her hands in the dirt.

“Iggy’s drawing. See?” The woman moved her concealed hand away and revealed a crude portrait of a bird. “Iggy made a birdy!” The man, in raggedy black clothing, inched closer, gripping a hand on a sword by his side. He clenched his teeth behind the messy beard on his face.

“You killed Benjamin?” The man asked. Iggy turned her covered head behind her, looking at the body that she had been sitting on. The corpse wore the same clothes as the man who approached her, but Iggy only shook her head.

“Oh, this isn’t Benjamin, this is Mister. ’Cause everyone is Mister if Iggy doesn’t know if they’re not Mister.” She picked up the dead man’s hand and held it into the air, “Iggy played a game… but he wasn’t very good.” She dropped the hand and turned her shadowed face to the man before her. “Iggy thinks Mister is sleeping ’cause he’s tired. So Iggy’s gonna wait ’til Mister wakes up.” With the last perky words, she tilted her head. The man felt the need to back away. His encounter was with no child, no woman… no human. Or so he thought. Her personality, her form, the corpse, it did not register to his mind.

His brown eyes widened, “What… what are you?”

The woman placed her hands at her hip. All he could see was her innocent smile, with a scar crossing over the left side of her lips. “Iggy is Iggy, sillyhead.” She giggled, “Mister is funny.”

Immediately the man unsheathed his sword held it to her neck. “Enough games! You’ve killed one of the Red Raven brothers… I will spare you no mercy!” He shouted.

Iggy chuckled, “Mister wants to play a game, too? ’Kay! Iggy’s ready!”

“I know who you are, demon!” The man pulled back his sword and swung it toward her neck. Iggy ducked and rolled and struck his body with alternating blows. Her right arm met his side. Her left arm met his chest. Her right arm met his neck. Her arms dropped at her side. The man stood, paralyzed and shocked before his points of impact began to bleed. Punctures were made, and left to slowly kill him as Iggy pushed the man to the ground.

“Worthless…” Iggy said, her voice now deep, cold and more fitting for her body. “Iggy, I’ll take over from here.” said the woman’s voice. Beneath her cowl, she looked forward and saw the many black-clad men that circled around along the path and in the trees.

“She got Nicholas!” cried one of the men.

“Get her!” cried another.

“You’ll pay for that, Alysia!” shouted a man, rushing toward her with a blade drawn.

The woman turned at the sound of her name, and changed her stance. The man ran toward her, a claymore held high above his head, but when he had gone to strike down, Alysia moved forward in between his arms. There she stood face to face, yet before he could move he felt the twisting pain of a blade pierce into his stomach. His body was rendered useless and began to fall back. Alysia grabbed the sword from his hand and spun around hurled it into the neck of another oncoming enemy.

“Kill the monster!” a voice echoed as two more men rushed toward her. Their ploy to outnumber her had failed as her agile and limber body led the two men to clash with each other rather than with her. With simple dodges, and timed movements, Alysia evaded with her life. As the two were fooled into a deadlock, she kneeled and thrust her hands into both their stomachs.

She turned her head, hearing the sounds of flying projectiles whiz by her ear. She grabbed one of the recently defeated men before he had fallen and used his body as a shield against oncoming arrows. Alysia felt the impact of dozens and dozens of arrows through the body, but none had seemed to reach the other side. Yet, one man caught Alysia from an angle and hit her in the shoulder. She stumbled backwards, releasing her only protection and was hit in the thigh. That was all that managed to hit her as the rest had strayed off course.

The arrows stopped flying. The black-clothed men approached her fallen body with swords drawn as Alysia was on her knee glaring at them through her hood. A horn blew, one that she had recognized. Soldiers, mounted and armored rushed into the scene slaughtering every man that stood in their way.

“It’s Lacuna!” shouted one of the mercenaries. “Give them hell!”

The order was in vain. Wherever the men ran, they were cut down by blue-clad soldiers. Yet this was no easy task. The mercenaries made up in numbers what they lacked in skill or weaponry. Truly it had been a bloodbath. Alysia had crawled away from the fray, leaning against a tree watching with dazed eyes as her wounds began to take their toll. Amongst the screams and clashes of metal, Alysia took concern for only herself. She gripped the arrow in her shoulder and forcefully pulled it out with a cry of pain. Taking only a short break, she did the same for her leg before resting once more. She leaned her head toward the battle.

The noises grew dull and muffled. The screams became mumbles and all the unrest was shortly ignored as she drew closer to losing consciousness. But before she could, a terrible roar had startled her and shattered her trance. It had seemed like the clouds themselves began to set the stage for what was to come. Thunder began to rumble, and lightning in the distanced illuminated the sky. But what seemed more potent than all of this was the creature that emerged from the forest. It had the shape of a human, yet prowled on all fours. Its form, large and muscular was covered in a black fur. Its hands and feet were like a bear’s claw, and flowing from its head was a long mane of black hair. A fanged mouth roared again, echoing through the forests. But the most fearful feature was its dark and narrow green eyes.

It leapt about killing everyone that stood in its way with one fatal swipe of its claws. It pounced and carved at mercenary and soldier alike, and what had been a war against two sides had now become a retreat for their lives. But none lived… not one. Only the injured Alysia, lying against a tree could witness the carnage as this monster had completed its genocide. The creature turned its gaze to Alysia and walked toward her. Her body was still, not from her injuries but the fear and terror racing through her blood. Her eyes widened, quivering with panic. The monster leaned in and reached for her face, gently caressing her cheek before a tear fell from its eye.

As soon as it came, so it left. The creature fled into the darkness of the forest, and Alysia was left stunned by her experience. The rain began to fall. The thunder and lightning grew harsh. And darkness took over. It was only moments before Alysia’s mind had shut down and she was left lying against the base of a tree.

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