Two large animals exploded from the bushes, their roars deafening.
"Run," the captain yelled.
She sprinted into the trees. Over her shoulder, she witnessed a pair of short-furred felines race after the other men. Fangs and saw-edged teeth filled the animals’ mouths. One bite would be fatal. Forgetting the trail, she jumped a fallen tree, darted between two trunks and hurtled headlong through the forest, listening to the sounds of confused shouting and things crashing through the undergrowth.
One of the felines had her scent. The animal bounded along behind her as she dodged this way and that, trying to evade it. Spindly branches whacked her in the face but she concentrated on the roots and fallen branches at her feet. If she tripped, the creature would pounce and tear her to pieces, yet there was no way she had the strength to outrun it.
Out of her eye-corner, she spotted a brown conical shape lodged on a fallen stump between a pair of trees. Dozens of bugs with red striped abdomens swarmed above it - War-blits. She couldn’t keep up the pace for much longer, and her lungs felt ready to burst. Her hastily formed plan might be her only chance to escape the feline snapping at her heels. She sucked in air and urged her aching body forward. Up close, the bugs were as large as her thumb, with wicked, black stingers on their rear-ends.
Now she was caught between a swarm of spiteful bugs and an animal about to bite her in half. It was now or never. Screaming for courage, she launched herself at the War-blit mound, praying her timing was right. She clenched every muscle, waiting for the stings to stab all over her body. The furious buzzing engulfed her as she flew through the air and over the mound.
Her shoulders hit the ground on the other side, and she tumbled over and over, smashing into a tree. Something stabbed her leg. Agony ripped through her body. Then a sharp pain on her right arm. She flailed her limbs in all directions trying to keep the bugs from her face.
The feline had landed atop the stump and crushed the mound. The air turned black as a cloud of War-blits sprayed from a hole in the stump, buzzing angrily and covering the creature like a cloak. It roared and roared, swiping them from the air with its gigantic paws, sending their crushed bodies splattering against the tree trunks.
She edged backward on her butt, putting distance between herself and the raging War-blits. With only two stings, she had gotten off lightly, but itching purple lumps were already forming on her skin. She clenched her teeth against the throbbing pain, scrambled to her feet and hurtled back into the trees before the bugs found her again. The feline’s cries grew desperate behind her. She ran long and hard, panting and clutching at the stitch in her side. Eventually, she collapsed onto a log, and sat on her hands to resist the urge to scratch the inflamed, swollen bumps.
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