Kara looked through the brush she was hiding in. She could not remember what made her start hiding in the first place, but she knew that she needed to remain unseen until the final moment. She understood that her getting spotted was the difference between life and death – satiation or starvation. She was on the hunt.
The scents of the forest made their way past her. A mixture of dew, moss and dirt mixed with a slight musky scent. The musky smell held her attention. It had the taste of the hunt, the taste of meat. Food. Beneath it was something that she needed to focus on, but was savory enough to hold her attention. It was the taste of fear on that musky scent. It was the taste of prey, of food.
Crouching lower she peered out the direction of that smell. The wind was traveling towards her from that smell, so her scent was not going to reveal her. It also meant she would be able to tell if her prey inexplicably went the other direction even without any warning of the impending ambush. And an ambush it was.
A warmth began to flow over her. Pressure flowed across her chest, her legs, her bladder. Excitement made its way through her veins on the rivers of her blood. Adrenaline was coursing through her as she lay in wait. She could feel it in the coiling of her legs, the stillness of her breath, the twitching of her tail.
That thought caught her for a moment. Since when had she possessed a tail? Not to mention, where was her bow if she really was hunting for wild game? With the full farms in the edges of Nexus she didn’t really need to hunt for the wild game. Rebecca always made sure she was fed before and after her shift at the inn, but something about this was different.
She looked down her snout towards her hands for her weapon, but all she saw was her second set of legs – her front set of legs. Staring at the paws she wondered if she was dreaming again or if something even stranger was going on. Stranger events than this have been popping up in town over the last couple of years.
These strange occurrences have been seen as bad omens to some, a blessing to others. More and more townspeople have been calling for exploration outside of The Shield. Exploration before the people of Nexus overstretched their consumption beyond their resources. While the farms were currently holding the stockpiles up enough to feed the people of Nexus, there was rationing.
People were living longer, which everyone agreed was a good thing. The problem with that is that people are using up resources for longer that way as well. Food was not the only one – just the only one Kara was currently concerned with.
The thought of food brought her back to the task at hand. The thought of it, and the smell of it strengthening with the slight snap of a twig and rustle of some leaves. Her ears twitched on the sides of her head, popping up from where they had lay low against the back of her head.
The rest of the forest had gone quiet. A slight ringing sounded off in her ears, but around that she could hear the approach. A quiet, nearly inaudible thumping sound came from downwind to her. From the direction of the smell of food.
Thump, thump, thump… then quiet. Thump, thump… pause… thump. She knew that sound as Kara the innkeeper’s assistant. As Kara the hunter she not only knew that sound, but now could place that smell. The smell of meat. The smell of fresh venison.
With the second set of thumps from between the trees the adrenaline in her body began to course with a renewed fervor. She could feel her legs starting to twitch with anticipation. She tried to calm her tail from its frantic twitching, but the trap was near being sprung. She could almost taste the meat on her lips. The emptiness of her stomach told her to hold steady and not scare off the prey.
At first she might have thought it was the branches of a tree swaying in the wind, but then the branches made their way out and she saw them for what they were – the rack of a rather large buck poking through to a small clearing where she had set up her ambush. The small spring-fed pond was the best place in this section of the forest. The animals all had to make their way here eventually to drink. That was the reason the human law prevented them from hunting there as humans.
The buck made its way slowly across the clearing and towards the pond. Kara could no longer hear the thumping though. The only thumping she could hear now was her pulse ringing in her ears. The sound of the springs her legs had turned into coiling to the point of almost snapping.
As the buck lowered its head to drink, the springs that had been her legs released and she flew towards the unaware deer. His head came up too late, as she raked both of her front claws across his torso, dropping him to flop on his side like a fish. He was only vulnerable for a moment. In the span of a breath he would spring his way up – even if it was a bit wobbly – and then this would become more of a fight. More of a fight, or more of a race. Either way, she needed to take advantage now.
Lunging forward, under the swing of those deadly antlers she snapped shut her powerful jaws. Jagged, dagger-like teeth bit in and tore on either side of the buck’s throat. The fight was over. All she needed to do was hold on until he stopped fighting. All she needed to do was make sure that he did not get a chance to skewer her with those antlers of his.
Several seconds after the deer stopped twitching she stood up from the ground at his side. Her feet were covered in mud. She looked down at her hands to see them covered in blood. The blood on her hands seemed almost as alien as the fact that she had hands.
Standing there – naked with the blood of the deer on her, in her mouth – she felt as if she were finally whole. That bit of her deep inside that seemed to be missing every night she went to work at the inn was filled. She felt more full than she ever had before and she had not even eaten yet.
“Now you know who you are,” she heard echoing in her mind.
“You know who you are,” the echo continued, “And you know me. Now you know the blessings of Melora. You are one of my children and must come to see me. You must come to see me soon.”
The calm of the forest folded in on her. “Now wake.”
Kara woke with a start in the forest, but the pond. To her surprise and relief she was not covered in blood and not really naked.