Oh, no! Things are looking bad for our young hero! (Chapter 1, Scene 3)
|Dark red blood gleamed in the autumn sunlight as it seeped through a long cut in the young man’s linen. He winced as he pressed a palm to his wounded shoulder, then examined his bloody hand with disdain. "Curse you..." He shouted at the monster, "When are you wretched Hounds gonna quit comin' after me?!" Quickly he scrambled to his feet, forgetting his injury as he stood and bravely faced the giant beast.
The animal lowered its head menacingly, growling and staring down the young man. It stood firmly on four massive legs, its powerful muscles rippling beneath heavy black scales. Its shoulders towered at half again the young man's height, and its spiked back sloped down sharply toward its short, muscular haunches. The demon's great head sported a pair of stubby, pointed ears, which were laid back against its thick, armored neck.
"I'm not scared o' you! Come on over here and try that again!" The creature bared its teeth and broke into a heavy gallop. The young man turned on his heel and darted off through the forest, jumping over fallen logs and skirting thorn bushes. The earth pounded under the great demon's feet, and its loud, ragged breaths taunted the agile fugitive. The young man slipped momentarily on a patch of wet leaves, but righted himself and continued his frantic dash through the woodlands.
The monster took no time in catching up, and was now cantering threateningly close to its prey. The young man could feel its hot, moist breaths puffing against his neck and shoulders. In an instant he bent down, mid-step, and pulled the end of a thick Hillberry vine from the forest floor. He took it and kept running, darting around a tree to pull the vine taut at chest level. A gargling scream erupted from the Hound as it toppled over the vine. The young man braced himself against the demon's momentum, cringing as the rough bark of the Hillberry chafed his bare hands. But he smiled as the ground shook with the impact of the massive creature's fall.
"Serves ya right, you ugly wretch!" The young man cackled and resumed his escape. His own panting breaths were becoming louder, making it difficult to hear the scuffling of the angry demon behind him. He scanned the landscape ahead, desperately searching for something to inspire his next move. The forest floor was now sloping downward toward a small gorge cut by a fast-moving drainage to the Highland River. The young man grinned with pride. "That's it," he exhaled, and set his course in the direction of the gorge. The demon's pounding feet were behind him once again. The young man felt his lungs burning, but his brown eyes sparkled with fiery spirit.
"So you haven't … had enough, eh?" The young man spoke between breaths. "Just wait … till you end up … in that gorge … then you'll … be sorry…!" He laughed maniacally through his panting exhalations. The Hound crashed through bushes and crunched rotten logs as it approached ever closer. The young man was nearing the edge of the gorge, and he smiled as he turned to glance back at his enemy.
Suddenly his foot caught on a wayward vine; in an instant he was sprawled on the ground. Leaves scattered and flew in the air above him. He cursed. The side of his face was numb, as it had smacked against a large boulder hidden beneath the leaves.
The young man propped himself up on his elbows. He was dizzy. For a moment he watched the blood from his brow drip onto the yellow and brown leaves. His breath heaved in and out of his body. The galloping footsteps of the Hound grew louder. But the young man lay stunned on the forest floor. He groaned in frustration, willing himself to move. The ground seemed to lurch up and fall back in front of him. Leaves and sticks danced around him in dizzying arcs.
“Curse it all!” he shouted desperately. The awful, ragged panting was coming closer, still closer. Any moment now, and the beast would be upon him. Any moment, and the demon would be there to finish him off.