Quele moved silently through the undergrowth, feet almost gliding along the ground. It was nearby. She could smell its musk. Her hand tightened around the shaft of her spear. In the clearing up ahead, a dark shape. A shadow of a tail slithering along the ground. A golden gleam as the beast raised one paw. She was so close.
For months, she had been on a quest to find the legendary Gilded Quather, a feral creature whose gold tipped claws were said to possess unnatural powers. Powers that might help in curing the plague that had spread throughout the village. It was the only thing on her mind; even in her dreams, she tracked the elusive beast.
At last, during her latest stop at a small village near the Forest of Ancients, while having a drink at a local tavern, she had received some hopeful news. The beast had been spotted in the forest. A couple of thrill-seeking villagers had been killed, spurring the men of the village into action. Quele set off at once; she had to reach the Quather first and kill it. It was doubtful the villagers would give up the claws easily if they got them. Gold tended to trump altruism in those parts.
She had found the Quather near a stream, its jaws still wet with blood. The beast caught her scent right away and pounced. She rolled out of the way mere moments before it struck her, and thrust her spear at it. The beast yowled as the sharp stone tip pierced it in the flank, just above the shoulder. It batted at Quele with one massive paw, knocking the wind out of her, and ran off.
And now she had found it again, in the clearing. This time it would not escape her. She just had to drive her spear straight through its heart, and it would be done. She could claim her prize and save her village. What was left of it.
A twig broke under Quele’s boot. The beast looked right at her, seeing her clearly outlined amongst the leaves. It puffed itself up, leaning back on its hind quarters, and let out a mighty roar. Then it leapt into the air and disappeared among the tree tops.
Quele cursed under her breath. Her quest would continue.