Stalking Prey

Welcome to a new week=) The idea for this story came to me from my six-year-old niece. Gotta love the creative mind of a child.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy.

Stalking Prey

No sound warned her. Nothing moved to catch her eye or snapped a twig to reach her ears. But the trees were hushed. The squirrels had fallen still and the birds fled to the sky, leaving only the wind to rustle half dead leaves.

Tension built a shiver between Moyra’s shoulder blades. She gripped the hilt of her knife in her sweaty palm as she scanned the woods, trying to place the predator that stalked her.

It could be a bear. They had yet to retreat to hibernation and she’d seen one scruffy male just two days previous. But she doubted it. Bears didn’t usually stalk prey.

A musky odor, heady and thick, wafted on the wind. Moyra’s shiver traveled her spine.

Mountain lion. She’d seen a few in her time. Old Tyner even had the skin of one that he wore across his shoulders with the ears sitting on one shoulder like the round tufts could still hear. She’d stared at that pelt for hours listening to the old man spin tales.

But she’d never been close enough to smell one. Old Tyner’s description fit it perfectly though. The musk stuck in the nose like wood smoke and body odor.

Moyra gripped her knife until her knuckles felt close to popping. She hadn’t brought another weapon. The walk from the house to the butcher wasn’t far, and she hadn’t figured she’d need an actual weapon.

The short knife felt inadequate. It wouldn’t stop a lion, not by a long shot.

Moyra stopped scanning and moved forward with light, tense steps. Stories always said you only saw the lion when it was too late.

She wasn’t sure she believed it but there was no use wasting time looking for the feline when it was unlikely she’d find it.

The trail was clear with soggy dead leaves to deaden the sound of her steps. Moyra felt like a deer, ready to bolt but scared to trigger an attack.

The musky smell stayed strong in her sinuses the whole way to the butcher’s. Moyra couldn’t tell if it was simply imprinted in her nose or if the feline was pacing her. Knocking on the rough wooden door of the shop was a relief.

“Miss Moyra! Here for some chickens?”

“Yes, Sir,” Moyra answered Master Ryan as the thought of carrying squawking chickens home with a mountain lion made her shudder.

Master Ryan noticed.

“You don’t like chickens?”

“Oh, it’s not that.” Moyra glanced over her shoulder as she entered the shop.

“Something else?”

“I…” Moyra hesitated. Was she imagining things?

Then, remembering the smell, she pushed on and explained her unease.

“Lion, eh? All you got is that knife?” Master Ryan pointed a large hand at the hilt she grasped above her belt.

“It’s all I brought,” she admitted with a sheepish grimace.

“Well, that won’t do, let me get Layin’s bow and long knife.”

Moyra opened her mouth to protest but he was out of the room before she could speak up.

Layin was Master Ryan’s daughter but Moyra had never met her since they were several years apart in age. She had some misgivings about borrowing from a girl she’d never spoken to.

Maybe she could buy a better weapon from Master Ryan instead of buying chickens today. The chickens could wait. With that idea in mind, she moved to follow where the large man disappeared.

She ended up traversing the shop into the house behind and exiting through the back door into the yard where Master Ryan had several fires going to smoke meat.

Stacks of wood lined the yard. By one of these stood a slim girl chopping wood. Although she was slim, she was five years Moyra’s senior.

Moyra hesitated. This was the first time she’d seen Layin up close. Considering her father, she was very slight but she had his dark, curly hair.

The girl glanced up as the door swung shut and paused.

Moyra smiled but the expression froze on her lips.

Tawny fur with rounded ears moved on the stack of wood behind Layin.

Sound stuck in Moyra’s throat. A squeak escaped but it wasn’t loud enough to reach the girl.

The cat’s muscles bunched.

Where was Master Ryan? Moyra couldn’t place him but it was too late for him to be of help.

Layin sensed the danger. She started to turn with the axe half raised just as the lion leapt from its perch.

The stack of wood wobbled under the force exerted from the feline’s rear legs. Several pieces fell with soft thuds.

Moyra stepped forward, sound finally leaving her throat. “Down!”

Layin dropped with the axe swinging over her in a defensive ark as Moyra pulled her knife.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

It didn’t feel inadequate now. It didn’t register that all she held was a six-inch blade. It felt solid, the wooden hilt sliding through her palm in a move she’d practiced for fun millions of times. The flat of the blade slid into her waiting fingers. Moyra stepped again, rocking forward at the same time the knife left her hand.

The knife made a soft hissing sound like steam escaping a kettle before it boiled. Neck out stretched and jaws open, the cat’s head jerked as the knife slid home into its glittering eye.

Layin cried out. Her axe narrowly missed the fur on the lion’s belly. With a thud, axe and cat hit the ground with the girl berried beneath.

Moyra’s muscles wouldn’t move. Hearing the door behind her, she glanced back to find Master Ryan standing there, mouth and eyes wide while he held a bow and long knife in his hands.

“Layin!” he dropped everything to rush to his daughter.

Moyra held back, afraid of what he’d find.

Shoving the large cat off his daughter, Master Ryan flinched back as the cat jerked. It wasn’t alive though. Morya stared at the one good, open eye. There was no life in that glassy gaze.

Someone coughed and Morya jumped, relief flooding through her as Layin sat up. Master Ryan enveloped her in a hug. He looked at Moyra over the girl’s curly hair.

“I believe you can have chickens free for the rest of your life,” he announced.

Morya chuckled and collapsed to the ground, her muscles finally relaxing. At least she could go home without worrying now.

The End

Blessings,

Jennifer