The sounds of snapping branches and fast-approaching footsteps could barely be heard over the rapid breathing of the terrified dwarf as she ran nearer into the forest’s edge. Had she known what dangers lurked in the grassy plains, she might have chosen a different route but now was not the time to think about that. The diminutive dwarf was focused on trying to stay alive and evade her unknown pursuer.
The tall hay-colored grass and thick green bushes that littered the plains east of Fielboro had obscured her vision of the beast that had tracked her and wanted to make her its dinner. All she could see was the turbulent motion of the tall weeds and the low bone-chilling growl headed her way. Too far from the city’s protective walls, her choices were to run to the water or into the forest. Dwarves were not known for being strong swimmers, and who knew what dangers lurk in the waters of Lake Morthia, so the forest was seemingly her best bet. Putting her short stout legs to work, Asbin sprinted toward the cover of the trees. After all, dwarves were great short-distance sprinters, and the lush forest was closer than the lake’s murky water.
Once nearer the outskirts of the forest, Asbin’s next challenge was to avoid her would-be attacker while avoiding any trees that lay in her path. The dwarf ’s eyes were wide open, thanks to a mix of fear and adrenaline. Her mind was racing as she scanned the environment, looking for a safe place while making sure to dodge, duck, and jump any obstacles as they approached. But no matter how fast she ran, the sound of footsteps could be heard getting closer and closer. It was only a matter of moments before her follower would be upon her, with no safety to be found.
With her stamina quickly depleting, Asbin felt her speed slowing down and her fear rising. With each step, her mystery attacker was gaining more ground on the now-terrified dwarf. And then it happened.
The sounds behind the dwarf fell silent.
Asbin realized that one of two things had to have happened at that point: the creature simply gave up and quit the chase or, and most likely, the creature was in range and leaped to pounce on its prey.
It was now or never for the tiring dwarf. It was fight or be killed.
Asbin jumped low and flipped on to her back as she glided through the air. Her stumpy but powerful and muscular legs had just enough strength left in them to send her gliding gracefully through the air over a fair distance.
As she rolled to her back in midair, Asbin got the first real look at her would-be killer. It was a deaijo, and it was headed straight for her.
Asbin yelled something in Dwarvish as she waved her arms in front of her. It was just in time too. The beast landed on Asbin’s aura, which she had just summoned only a heartbeat earlier. The aura enveloped the fearful dwarf and was only just strong enough to repel the deaijo’s assault as it was deflected off to the side.
Asbin hit the ground and slid at about the same time as the deaijo. The beast was stunned by the aura’s effect, which gave Asbin enough time to get back to her feet and face her foe.
Asbin, exhausted but unwilling to yield, gripped her small steel mace in one hand and pulled the small round wooden shield from her back with the other. There was still fight left in this tiny dwarf, and she was about to show what a dwarf can do when challenged. Asbin would not go down without a fight.
Her chest and shoulders heaved up and down as she worked to recover her breath after the long chase. The deaijo ducked down and started circling its target, looking for a weakness or an opening to launch another attack.
The two paced around in a circle for several seconds as each sized up the other.
Finally, the dwarf had had enough watching and lunged at the beast, putting it on the defensive for the first time.
The deaijo recoiled in the face of Asbin’s attack and countered with a bite of its massive teeth.
Asbin’s mace missed her target as she reacted to the beast’s well-timed counter that forced her to raise her shield to stop the blow.
The monster’s snout slammed into Asbin’s shield when she flung it in front of her body. The blow knocked the creature’s scaly head around and pushed Asbin’s feet back several inches.
The creature stood on its hind legs as its pointed tail swept the ground, giving it balance while it hung its front legs down, almost like arms tipped with razors. The scaly body and wide gaping mouth full of teeth were enough to make Asbin pause before launching another attack.
The creature stood several inches taller than the short dwarf while in this stance.
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