The moonlight filtered through the leaves of the forest trees, casting interesting shadows on the mossy ground. The nocturnal wild life was going about their normal business, unaware that danger was quickly approaching. A family of Tula birds were scrounging for seeds on the ground when a dark shadow passed over. When the shadow had passed, two of the five chicks were gone.
She had been hunting her quarry for several days now. She was not sure when her prey would present itself, but she knew that she was on the right track. She could smell him. He was close.
She wanted to get this job over with. She hadn't eaten very well since she had left the Hallway, the two small birds that she had snatched in passing had done little to assuage her hunger. The collar she had to wear when she was away from the master hurt her neck.
The master had been very upset when the Ogres had reported that the quarry had escaped them. This meant that the man that they had been sent to destroy was now on the run. It was for this reason that she had been sent out. To track down and dispatch this individual. She didn't know what offense this man had performed for the master to want him dead, and it wasn't her place to ask questions (even if she could). So here she was on a literal man hunt.
Her lithe feline body moved silently through the trees. He was close, she could smell his fear. He must know that death was approaching.
As the sun began to rise, she found a shady place to lay down and sleep. She was definitely in need of a rest after hunting all night. She wished she was back at the Hallway where she could curl up on the nice soft moss bed that the master had grown for her. The tree hollow where she was taking shelter for the day was very uncomfortable. Not to mention she was hungry. She hated the wild.
She arose as the first of the two moons was beginning to rise. The second moon had waned new, so it would not be showing tonight. That didn't matter to her. She could see as well in the dark as she could during the day. As she climbed from the hollow tree, she stretched, yawned a toothy yawn, and set out on the hunt again.
She had been searching for about an hour when she had a break through. She happened upon a roughly hewn trail through the underbrush. It was apparent that whoever had blazed this trail had been in a hurry. The man's smell was very strong here.
She turned down the trail and hurried along.
After an hour of following the trail, she came across a clearing with a fire burning in the center of it. A simple camp had been quickly thrown together. Sitting on the far side of the fire was her quarry. He did not look the way she had expected him to look. He was thin, as if he had not eaten well in several weeks. His long blond hair was wind-blown and there were grass and twigs sticking out of it. His clothes must have once been very nice, but they were now torn and dirty. His face was scratched and his hands were bleeding. Had these been any other circumstances she would have almost felt sorry for him.
Without a sound she stepped into the clearing. She slowly stalked towards her prey, preparing herself to pounce. She was nearly a yard away when he looked up. His pale face drained of the little color that it had left. Quickly scrambling to his feet, he began to back away.
"N... Nice kitty." He stammered.
She hated it when people called her a kitty. Kitties were those disgustingly cute little domesticated animals that people fawned over. She liked kitties. She thought they tasted good roasted over a fire. She was no kitty, she was a tiger.
A growl began to emanate from deep in her chest. The smell of fear permeated the clearing as he prepared to run. She crouched low as she slunk toward him.
He turned and ran.
She was excited that her prey was going to let her play with him. She bounded after him, quickly closing the gap. She swiped at his leg, her claws cleaving his calf muscle with ease. He fell, screaming, to the earth. Blood spurted from his leg, coloring the ground scarlet. The smell was nauseating to her.
With a single claw, she slit his throat to end the screaming.
A quick investigation of the camp yielded some cooked scraps of meat, a pack of clothes that he had brought, and a small four pointed star that appeared to be some kind of weapon. She quickly devoured the meat and shredded the clothes. She dug up some fresh dirt, flinging it onto the fire, it wouldn't do for the fire to burn the forest.
Curiosity got the better of her and she decided to examine the little star. It looked as if two S shaped pieces of gold had been fused together to form the star. A crystal blade extended from each of the four points, each glowing a different color: yellow, red, blue, and white. Several precious stones shifted randomly along the golden surface circling a larger diamond that pulsed with a regular rhythm.
As she pawed at the strange object, a warmth spread from her paw, up her leg, and into her head. The sensation scared her, and she ran out of the clearing.
She did not notice the star rise from the ground to follow her.
It took her a day and a half to reach the familiar surroundings of the Hallway. The hallway was a grove of Taltha trees that had grown so closely together that the trunks had fused themselves together forming walls. The leafy canopy overhead was so thick that the inside of the structure was cast into as constant state of twilight. Even when it was dark, the glowing trees caused a twilight like effect.
"Narissa, you return." Dareth said cheerily. "Were you successful, kitten?"
Dareth was the one person that Narissa did not mind caller her kitten. He had raised her for as long as she could remember.
She purred in affirmation. The sound echoing off the walls.
He smiled broadly. "I knew I could count on you. You have never failed me. Come, let me remove that collar that you so strongly dislike."
Dareth waved his hand over her neck, and the black collar that had been bound there disappeared.
"There, isn't that better?" Dareth asked.
As the collar disappeared, images began to flood into Narissa's mind. A burning cottage. A screaming woman. A boy lying dead on the ground.
As quickly as the flood of images had begun, it stopped and all memory of it was wiped from her mind.
"Welcome home, kitten." Dareth said sweetly. "I have missed you dearly."
Narissa walked over to where he was sitting and laid her head in his lap. She purred as he absently stroked the fur on her head. This always made her tired, so she stumbled to her mossy bed and fell into it. A glint of multicolored light briefly caught her attention. She thought about going to investigate, but she was just so tired.
"I'll look into it later." She
thought to herself before drifting off into a deep, dreamless, sleep.