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Tylor Kranyak
Author of Legacy of Krazatan
Predators
     The tiger paced around her, watching and waiting for an opening. A deep rumble emanated from its chest, a sound that vibrated through the ground and into her toes. Its lips curled back to bare fangs the size of daggers, which were likely just as sharp.
     Sarah had left her camp to gather timber for their fire, and maybe something to eat if she was lucky. She had walked a few minutes away from the others before she heard the crack of something heavy on a fallen branch, then the unmistakeable weight of eyes staring holes into her back. She barely had enough time to skirt out of the way before the massive cat pounced at her from the brush. Now it circled her, watched her with emerald eyes filled with an insatiable hunger. She was too far from camp for the others to come to her aid, and even if she wasn’t she dared not call for help. Any sudden movement or sound would encourage the cat to make its move before she could defend herself. For now, she was on her own.
     Sweat from the intense jungle heat poured down her brow, threatening to drip into her eyes. She spared a slow, careful move of her arm to wipe it away; the last thing she needed right now was to be blinded. With her brow wiped dry, she reached next for the hilt of her sword. She twisted her weapon as she withdrew it from its scabbard, scraping the raspy blade against the rim in the process. The feline continued to pace, unfazed by the sound. Sarah pointed her blade at the tiger and began to walk a circle of her own. She was not prey to be hunted and fed upon, and this dance of death would prove who was the superior predator.
     They continued to pace for what felt like an eternity, neither one of them taking their eyes off the other. The tiger flexed its front claws with each slow, calculating step. Sarah occasionally swept her foot across the ground to move loose rocks and branches out of her way so nothing would hinder her when the final chorus began. The giant cat’s tail flicked with irritation, an irritation that grew with each passing second. The moment was drawing close, but the finale would start on Sarah’s terms. She waited to catch the beast during its off-step, then, with the same sweeping motion she had been using to brush the ground, she kicked a pile of leaves.
     Time seemed to pause as the leaves fluttered through the air. Beyond the mess of browns and greens she saw the striped mass of the tiger turn and pounce. Having used the leaves as a distraction, Sarah feinted right as the massive cat bounded toward her. With a clever flip of her wrist she raked her thin blade across the animal’s face, and felt a pang of satisfaction at the beast’s howl of pain. She had only a moment to appreciate the sight of the long, bloody gash across its face and through its eye before she backed off to dodge the swipe of a claw. The cat snarled as it leapt forward again, but Sarah moved left this time and scraped her sword across its long, lean body.
     White-hot pain surged through her back when those enormous claws raked through her shirt and into her flesh, but she forced herself not to stumble. She spun to face her partner, but in her desperation she failed to see the protruding root behind her. Her heel smacked against the limb as she tried to dance away from another swipe, causing her to lose her balance and fall. She struggled to suck in air after the winding impact against the ground, when she saw the tiger tense. She brought her legs up just as the feline pounced, and when the beast soared on top of her she planted her feet into its gut, and plunged her sword into its chest.
     She put all of her might into her legs and pushed, using the beast’s momentum to flip it over and away from her. She was forced to release her weapon, still stuck in the animal’s body, or risk breaking her wrist. Dirt and branches flew into her face when the feline slammed into the ground just past her. Ignoring the pain that tore through her back, Sarah scrambled to her feet to survey the damage. She let out a deep, relieved breath when she saw her sword buried hilt-deep into the tiger’s lifeless body. She took a few moments to catch her breath before marvelling at the sight of her feat. It seemed cat soup was on the menu tonight.