Signs of a creature living there were obvious. A dozen scarred and cracked trees oozed sap. It must have rubbed itself on them, stripping them of all branches on the side of the tree several metres up, using another tree each time. The ‘nest’ was more of a scorched slight indent in the ground, where the creature heated the ground afore sleeping each night.
The group of men slowly entered the clearing, looking around. Their quarry was not there, which was of some relief to the five hunters. The hunters searched the area and, plants aside, found not a single living thing.
“Come, let’s get going now. We know the reports were not exaggerated in the slightest. Perhaps even understated. Let’s go get reinforcements and take down this creature,” a blonde man suggested, apprehension evident in his voice.
“Good idea.” Rylan started walking back the route they had come. I’m going to ask for a raise when I get back, he concluded. Bump… bump… bump; his sword had been bumping repetitively on the side of his leg over their entire journey through the forest. Infuriated with is, Rylan looked down, fastening the belt as he walked.
“Rylan! Look out!” came a panicked shout from behind, causing Rylan to stop and look towards the others, several metres behind him. He realised that the other hunter had been warning him about something in front of him, the moment that something knocked him flat. It was a solid blow from behind, knocking his head hard and he felt a tearing sensation from his left leg.
His head ringing, he dully heard a thunderous roar. He caught glimpses of shimmering sapphire blue. Part of a scaly tail, whipping through the air, stronger and more beautiful than armour inlaid with jewels. A membranous wing beating the air, the glow of sun through them. Razor sharp claws digging into the ground, enough to make grown men run for their lives.
His mind hardly forming coherent thoughts he instinctively outstretched his arms, raising himself from the ground. A hand grabbed his upper arm and helped him up, guiding him towards the green and brown of the forest. He looked towards the source of the aid and saw it was a person, but his vision was fuzzy and he couldn’t see who it was.
He had could hardly feel his limbs, especially his left leg. Guided by the other hunter, he ran as fast as his damaged leg would allow. He heard muffled words as he limp-ran, only making out one “…bleeding.”
As the world came back into focus, he slowly became aware of what was happening. They were sprinting through the forest. Five humans running from a terrifying creature chasing them.
Branches and leaves slapped him, stinging, but that did not stop him. He only could see well enough to dodge trees, yet the mad dash continued. All he could hear was his heartbeat and own ragged breathing, yet the sprint for survival continued.
Eventually, no matter how desperate to survive, one must run out of energy. Rylan’s legs gave way and he fell to the ground. He lay in the bushes and grass, gasping for air. After he caught his breath, Rylan stood and upon realising that the thing was no longer chasing them, he looked around, searching for the others. He saw them some distance off in the direction they had all been running, also recovering. Rylan half walked, half crawled, to them. They too seemed to have made it far, despite their injuries and now being completely lost.
The heavily wounded and panting leader of the hunters stood up and glanced at the others and said loud enough for Rylan to hear, “How are we still alive? It seems to have let us live… We will have to return with more men and drive it from our land. If it is still there. Damn smart fiend…”