“We’re going to have to distract it,” said Teyata.
Another shuddering kick, forced them to dig in with their claws as the tree tilted further. Brad thought the situation called for a grenade. He laid his hand on top of a smoke grenade, then feared it might not rise to the task. His hand descended on the incendiary grenade. Twisting its cap, he cast it aside, coming to land beside the creature. To his horror, Teyata had also appeared beside the beast, delivering a broad slash at its torso.
“Teyata; get out of there!”
She growled with ears flattened too occupied to hear him. Teyata managed to evade two more wild swings of the beast’s oversized arms and retaliate with slashes, causing no real damage; only pain.
Brad dropped down the side of the tree, and kicked away rolling to the ground as the grenade’s hum reached it’s fevered pitch. He scooped the device aside with his arm, flinging it into the dead tree. It erupted into flames as if previously doused in petrol.
Before he could roll clear, the beast slammed him onto his back. It crouched over him, pounding both of its arms onto the ground either side of Brad’s head. He heard Teyata running in behind the beast. Instinctively, it kicked its rear feet back, catching her with a glancing blow. From his peripheral vision, he saw her tumbling along the ground, coming to rest, face down. With a hand on her ribs, she began to rise on her knees, coughing weakly.
She’ll live he told himself.
His solace ended with beast leaning close, glaring at him. It roared again, exposing its oversized fangs, making Brad retch with the stench of its fetid breath. One bite; one swipe of its arms, and his life would end. About to close his eyes in prayer, he saw something shift in the tree above the creature’s head. A silhouette, vaguely human, separated from the foliage and descended.
The creature roared again, much higher in pitch. When it turned its head, Brad saw a glossy black manine firmly latched on its upper back, and slashing with its free hand. Several times, the beast reached behind itself to dislodge its tormentor. The manine simply twisted aside or ducked his head continuing his attack uninterrupted.
Brad slid out of reach on his back, then got his feet and took a few backward steps for the trees. Teyata appeared from nowhere to stand beside him. Unlike himself, she watched without fear for the stranger.
Brad watched the black manine, totally mesmerized. It had an overall film of black hair, which glistened like a panther’s. His physical prowess impressed Brad even further. Nothing about this manine suggested a feral being. He didn’t slash wildly, hoping to make his victim tire and fall from blood loss. Thought went in to where and how to strike, incapacitating the beast with precise slashes. Brad had learned a lot from Teyata, but realised he could learn so much more from this manine.