She made her way through the bushes, stalking the prey she had been tracking. Her footsteps replacing the hoof trails of the deer, she slowly followed, making sure that the creature couldn’t hear the crushing of the snow approaching it.
The deer found a decent patch of grass it could feed on, looked around, looking in the direction of the dark hooded predator that lay in the bush immediately behind it. I’m too close, he’ll notice, she thought. Looking through the branches, she saw the large rack of antlers lower themselves as the animal began to graze, clearly oblivious to the danger that surrounded it. Oh, praise Ymir. This deer was large enough to give the entire village a few good feasts, a true gargantuan. Since it was winter, this was especially valuable since there would be less crops and berries to feed everyone. She readied her knife, moved herself to a position where she could properly see the underside of the prey's neck, the place she knew the knife would be most effective. This was when she began to charge her magic up, it was an odd sensation that she hadn’t felt in a while, but it was necessary to feed everyone. She felt lighter as she called a light wind to her feet, here we go. She pulled more wind and leaped using both magically enhanced body strength and the wind she had summoned. The deer turned at the sudden snapping of branches from her direction and began to run. I can make it, she summoned more wind and charged it for a mid-air pounce. Once the second jump was ready she looked up at her target, to see it get slashed in half. From the bushes in front of the deer it came, a giant panther shaped creature with fur as white as the snow stuck inside of it, pale reptilian wings and scarlet eyes that matched the colour of the tainted snow it’s fur should have matched. She used her wind to hop backwards and toward the bush she initially started in. She landed and before she could fully absorb the landing the creature let out a roar that knocked her backward, her eyes facing the sky. She scrambled to get back up but as she sat up the scarlet eyes dove through the bush, the large fangs revealed themselves to greet her to the endless pit of the creature's mouth.
She gasped as she leaped to a sitting position from her bedroll. Her breath leapt out of her mouth with her to combat the cold, predawn air. I’m not ready, She thought to herself as she put her hand to her chest, bringing her breathing and pulse under control. ‘Yah ready, kiddo?’ a sarcastic voice said from a slightly elevated position to her right. She turned to see Finn sitting on a log, facing her with a smirk plastered on his face. Although she was keeping her breathing under control, the tension of fear within her was still there, she couldn’t keep it hidden from her face. “Ahh, try not to worry, there hasn’t been much beast activity around here recently,’ he stated, taking a more serious and concerned tone. She remained silent, loosening her face as it became easier to keep herself under control. ‘Besides, it’ll be nice to have you back hunting with us, Astrid. It’s been so boring without you, we haven’t had an impressive catch in a while.’ he smiled gently before shifting his gaze to the frozen lake that lay down the hill in front of them. She turned her head to look straight ahead with him. ‘Yeah, I noticed,’ she said in a provocative tone, ‘You guys really can’t do without me can you.’ She smiled smugly.
‘Hey!’ Astrid yelled as a snowball collapsed in her rough hair. She leaped out of her roll and quickly kicked snow up at Finn, replacing his giggling with hers. Finn stood up now, creating another ball of snow before lifting his arm, ready to throw. As he brought his arm down he was hit in the cheek with a ball, the force enough to make him stumble, causing him to miss his shot. They exchanged a few more shots, snickering amongst themselves, when they suddenly heard an explosion of snapping twigs fill the soundscape, followed by the wailing of a moose.
Another one of their group, Felix sat up at this sound, eyes widened with surprise and excitement when his eyes met those of the other two. They all silently threw on their fur hunting coats, boots and gloves on, put their bows on their backs and weapons into their sleeves before heading into the direction of the sound. ‘I’m surprised one of those things actually worked.’ Astrid whispered as they trudged through the snow. ‘I know right, don’t think I’ve ever caught anything with one before,’ Felix responded, a huge smile leaking through his greying beard. He hopped over a log with a grunt before continuing, ‘Man, Karl is gonna be so mad he slept through this!’
‘He’s too old to be out with us anyways, sleeping through something like that? He should retire soon’ Finn responded as they slowed down, they were nearing the spot. ‘Don’t be a fool, what else is he gonna do? He’s a hunter. One of our best, if we are to carry on feeding everyone we need someone as experienced as him.’ Felix rattled on defensively. They both silently agreed to put a stop to their slight bickering once the hole in the ground came into view. The trio crept toward it. As they approached, they saw that one of the pikes had blood on it. Finn looked at the other two excited, only to be ignored by the pair, whose entire focus was on the hole. They were about a foot away from the hole when they could peer into it to see the animal perfectly caught by the trap, lifeless.
‘Good, now let’s get this thing out.’ Felix rumbled. He took ropes out from his coat and handed it to Finn and Astrid before edging himself into the hole. Astrid and Finn chucked their ropes into the pit for him to tie around each pair of limbs. He then wiggled through the spikes before finding himself facing the animal's spine. He looked up at the pair and nodded. Using enhanced strength he strained as he pushed the animal off of the spikes, blue vein-like patterns glowing through his skin as he did so. The pair up top also pulled with as much force as their bodies would let them, Astrid avoiding her magical reserves to keep the balance with Finn. When they managed to get the animal off of the spikes the pair up-top began tugging even harder, putting their body weight into the pull as Felix climbed out on the opposing side of the pit. Their grunts of effort continued until a crashing of trees behind them caused them both to immediately drop their ropes and hop into fighting stances. They turned knowing that they would see a giant predator.
Astrid's eyes widened in panic at the realisation that it was the same beast that had haunted her for years. The red eyes pierced her, bringing her right back to the last time she saw them, causing her to fall backwards. Finn stepped in front of the eyes, Shaking slightly but ready to fight. No, not again, please, She thought as she lost all control of her breath. The beast leaped at Finn who ducked and thrust his spear upward into the creature's mouth through it’s chin. It’s leap was so strong that it took Finn off his feet and was closing in on her. A glowing blue fist sprung into view from behind Astrid, an explosive impact sent the beast flying backward, it crashed into a set of trees. Finn pulled his spear out and ran to join Felix to face the slowly rising monster. It growled before taking another leap, the pair dodged at either side, Felix slashing the creature side with his axe and Finn mimicking him with his spear on the other side. The furious fiend let out the roar that Astrid hoped to never hear again. She covered her ears. They can’t go on like this, I have to do something, she felt herself burning inside as the little air she was taking in with her shallow breaths couldn’t stop the roaring heat of her fear. The beast charged toward them once again but didn’t leap this time, it skidded to a halt in front of them, sending a wave of snow before swinging it’s claws at them in a flurry. Felix danced around the paws in a rhythm that took him side to side, over and under them. Finn did the same except when it was time for him to jump over he was caught by the claw. He was sent flying backwards with three gashes crossing his torso. Oh, no. Felix stopped himself from leaping to Finn's aid as the beast scrambled to stand in front of the motionless man. Felix began fighting the monster, each of them causing significant damage to each other but suddenly the creature made a diagonal downward slash that took Felix completely by surprise. The arm holding the axe he used to damage the beast now lay in the snow. With an almost sardonic grin on its face the creature closed in on Felix, backing him away from his lost arm. Felix charged various parts of his body up, his entire arm, hips, lower and upper back were now glowing enough to transform the snow into a blue lake of cold crystals. The panther acknowledged what was occurring and gave a huff as it launched forth in a powerful leap towards him. Felix swung his arm forth set to hit the beast and the beast swung it’s arm in an arc set to slash the arm off. ‘No!’ Astrid yelled as she released her energy for the first time in years, the wind came to her aid as if it were the first winds that shaped the earth and mountains surrounding them. The beast was completely knocked off of its original trajectory, allowing Felix to successfully land a crushing, colossal strike on the side of the creature's face.
Felix’s glow faded and he collapsed to become part of the pale snowy ground, he put his entire physical and magical being into that strike. The beast, it’s entire lower jaw cleanly taken, shakily rose once again. It’s grin was completely gone, only claws for weapons now, it quivered even just standing there; with charred fur where it wasn’t completely removed. Astrid now stood up, knowing the beast wouldn’t back off and charged all her energy up to face the animal, her breath as shaky as the beast in front of her. The energy flowing through her almost stinging her as it flowed through her body. The beast began its charge, flapping its wings to bring it to a speed she had never seen it at before, it’s legs just able to push it forward with the wings. Her heart began pounding to replicate the thunderous stomping of the charging beast. Focused, she began to control her breath out of necessity and crouched down, as if ready to leap at the beast. The beast increased its speed when it saw this. A slight smirk cracked through her face as she reached both hands out to her left and forcefully swiped them both horizontally. A whipping wind swept the creature off of its feet. Before it could land, at the end of her arms motion she swung her arms upward, then down where she would grab her knife. The wind followed her motioning as she did it, the beast was flung into the air, well above the tall spruce trees around them before being sent down toward the ground; with each change in wind direction hitting the creature like a giant’s club. Astrid, sprung upward toward the beast but found herself nauseous as she jumped, she hadn’t enough energy to make the killing blow because of how heavily she was moving the wind. Damn. She fell backwards with the beast about fifty feet up and away from her. She looked up at the pale sky as she harnessed every last ounce of energy she could to stop herself from breaking from the fall. She felt her consciousness flicker slightly but managed to gather enough energy to soften the fall at least a little.
She began to put the energy into action, summoning a tube of upward pushing wind to weaken her crash. That was when she saw a dark figure leaped above the creature. As it passed over Astrid’s view of the sun it brought down a flaming stream following it’s sword, thrusting the blade into the beasts chest and causing the creature to crash even harder than it was going to. Astrid’s wind was stronger than expected and completely negated all impact. She was weak. As she watched the creature lay there completely limp, the cloaked man walk away from the flaming corpse, towards her.
She took his hand when he reached out, forcefully lifting her to her feet. The hood was thrown back. It was Karl. ‘Look what you kids went and got yourselves into,’ he rasped. Astrid was speechless, the natural wind seemingly stopping with her in bewilderment. ‘You did well, Astrid, welcome back.’ He followed up with, as he headed toward the two fallen hunters.