Inari darted through the dense thicket in front of Nienna, his red tail disappeared, only to reappear under a fallen log.
Her heart was pounding, sweat ran down her forehead burning in her eyes. The sun twinkled through the tall branches and orange-red leaves. She loved everything about it.
Over a rock, through a muddy stretch, sliding down a log, across some earthy smelling mushrooms and through the underbrush, a last jump over a shallow river and there she was.
The arrow seemingly missed vital organs, as the deer lay dying in the clearing. It put up a valiant flight. She approached slowly, looking out for animals attracted to the wounded prey. Everything seemed calm, so she knelt down at the deers head, slowly gliding her dagger out of the sheath.
“Forgive me, for my aim was not true. Now rest, you will provide us with food for many days.”
She finished with a short prayer and cut the deers throat. Blood soaked into the wet soil, a curious scent of pungent spice and iron.
Inari seemed uneasy. His eyes fixed on a nearby copse.
“What is it?” Her eyes looked for movement, but instead she heard a muffled, rhythmic pounding. A few moments later she felt it resonating in her guts.
“Not now, by the gods. Run!” She went back the same direction, over the shallow river, the slippery log. Faster, faster, her heart pounding, ready to burst.
Behind her the trees parted. With long lumbering strides a twisted oak moved quickly towards her, its nose a gnarled branch, its beard moss, its eyes milky amber. She could not tell how it moved, as its limbs bend and cracked with each move, yet didn’t burst, but it moved.
Down the hill and past the old beech, along the stony path and there it was… the cave. Long gnarly claws grabbed at her, but failed to reach.
In she went, her heart still pounding, blood rushing through her ears. All she could see were amber eyes glowing in the dark…