Nothing happened. No pain. No teeth and claws ripping into her flesh. She slowly opened her eyes. She was on a ledge, far above the ground. She inhaled and swayed. The creature grabbed her arm, steadying her. She’d never been this high up before; it was frightening and beautiful. The forest laid out below like a painting in one of her books. The Tracker nudged her toward some boulders behind them and then shoved her between the rocks. She wiggled backwards. The farther she could get from the Tracker the better.
It turned its back on her and squatted, focusing on the ground below. Three Guards scrambled around searching the woods. According to her dad, Guards varied quite a bit in appearance. If they hunted for the Almightys then they were long and rangy. If they guarded the Almightys then they were solidly built. These were definitely hunting Guards although one was quite muscular. That one raised his head and sniffed the air, exposing his clean shaven face. She stifled a gasp. All Guards wore facial hair, except Benedictine’s Lead Guard. “The hairless Guard,” she whispered.
The Tracker stood, its large, muscular back blocking her view. She swallowed around a lump in her throat. She should have kept quiet. The Tracker motioned for her to come forward. She shook her head. Maybe, it couldn’t reach her between the rocks. She eased back a little more. The creature narrowed its eyes and in a flash pulled her from her hiding spot. She opened her mouth to beg for her life when the Tracker spun around so that its back was to her front and then leaned against her, smashing her into the boulder. It arched its spine, rubbing along her length. What is it doing, tenderizing me? She struggled to get away but there was no room to move. The musty, pine and herb odor of the Tracker transferred to her clothes with each rub. She turned her face, wrinkling her nose. It wasn’t an unpleasant odor, but it was weird having this thing ooze scent onto her.
The Tracker turned around so that they were facing each other again and pushed her back between the boulders. “Cover you smell. Smell like me. Little bit.”
She nodded slightly, trying to be pleasant. Was it protecting her, or did it not want to fight three Guards for its dinner?
It squatted and resumed staring at the forest. An owl hooted and another answered, signaling safety.
“The Guards are gone,” she whispered, not sure if she was relieved or scared. Now, it was just her and the Tracker.
“No. They wait. Quiet like us. I kill them but Gaar-Mine said Mirra no kill Guards.” It glanced back at her, lips pulled back in a grin. “Unless Guards try hurt Mirra. Then Mirra kill.” The Tracker fell silent, its muscular rib cage expanding with each quiet breath.
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