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I ran. I ran as fast as I could, yet I feared it still might not be enough. I could hear him behind me, crashing through the burnt undergrowth, thrashing his head back and forth. If he were to catch me, I would be dead.
“Tahge! Tahge, help me!” I knew that if she heard me, if she came, it might be enough to hold him off, and I might be able to escape. Once before she had protected me against a boer, one who I had foolishly tried to hunt alone. I prayed she might do so again.
He was closer now, and my energy was dangerously low. I couldn’t keep this up much longer. “Tahge! Where are you?”
I was getting close to camp, and I knew I had to make it there before he caught me. And even if I did make it, Tahge had to be there to chase him away.
The boer was right behind me. If he wasn’t so big, I’d take to a tree, but they were weaker from the fire, and he smashed them aside easily. I could hardly spare my thoughts long enough to apologize to their souls, to busy running for my life.
Vines grabbed at my feet and face. A blackened branch got caught in my hair. Another dumped me on my face. I landed hard, all my breath rushing out of my lungs. I knew the stench of Death. It smelled of fear, of sweat, of defeat. But most of all, It smelled of anger. Anger that my life could be ripped out from under me like this. I had not yet even had a chance to bond, to find a mate, or to even find my people.
I closed my eyes as the boer burst into the clearing, his huge head lowered, so that I would not only be stabbed by his lower set of horns, but also the upper. The sun glinted painfully off of his sleek, burnished summer coat. The last thing I saw was something white glinting in the forest, bright against the charred bark of the trees.
Even though I closed my eyes, that did not stop me from hearing the powerful, throaty roar of an angry Le’era.
Tahge? I didn’t dare to hope. We were still in the hunting zone of the La’ara, so it could easily be one of them. It blossomed in my chest anyways.
Young one, run! Her tones thundered through the link, matching her snarl outside of it. I clambered to my feet, sparing a moment to glance at her before turning to flee toward our hollow.
The boer was trying to turn aside, for nothing in its right mind would hit a Le’era, even one so old as Tahge. They are the top of the totem pole in the forest. Boers are strong and dumb, but not that strong and dumb.
I didn’t wait long enough to see if he would stop, just turned and ran. I ran as fast as I possibly could, disturbing the ash that had lain like fresh dirt over a grave, baring the broken corpses of shattered trees. The ash coated everything, my body, my hair, and my face, working its way into my mouth and eyes. Tears streamed unchecked from my eyes, flushing out my anger and fear along with the ash.
I didn’t cry. Ever. I had always had to be strong. Tahge didn't tolerate anything else. But I did. And I didn’t stop the tears. They fell, glistening like the diamonds I had seen La’ara wear, like the stars in the night sky.