No signs of the Yeboro came to him. He regulated his breathing altogether and took in the scents of his surrounds. Different flowers and trees wafted to his senses, and those of smaller animals; not the beast nor the child. He turned, about to lunge for a different direction when a familiar odour, faint, came to him on the new breeze; human.
Dropping to the lower branches, he surveyed the area, inhaling deeply to find the scent’s direction; slightly stronger to the north- east where the trees thinned. Picking up speed, he bounded through the branches; the scent growing steadily stronger. He stopped overlooking a grove of leafy stalks, resembling bamboo; knowing the girl hid somewhere near. His eyes took in the ground, looking for anything that might indicate tiny feet. A small stone had overturned in the ground’s surface and further on, a blade of grass remained kinked. Both gave him a reference into the saplings. He stared hard into the stalks, until finally a bright blue eye peered at him from the shadows.
“Hello,” he said, taking a step forward.
The eye pulled back, revealing another semi-covered by a shock of snowy white hair combed to one side.
Brad realised the sight of his goggles may have unnerved the child. He swept them from his head.
“I’m Brad,” he said. “I come from that way, in a place called Haven. Your parents are there. They sent me to find you.”
He held out his hand and waited. Gradually, a little delicate hand slid into his and the girl stepped into the open. She had pale skin and seemed a little undernourished. Given food and time, he knew she would evolve into a desirable woman.
Brad smiled warmly. A moment later, the uncertain little face responded with one of her own.
“What’s your name, little one?” he asked.
“Moriah,” she said meekly. “There’s a monster.”
“Yeah, I know about him. It’s alright now. I’m going to take you home.”
Heavy feet stampeded somewhere close. Moriah pulled back into the stalks as the scent of a Yeboro became stronger with each footfall. Brad rolled away from Moriah into a small clearing and mimicked its challenging roar. The beast changed direction and crashed through the finer trees and slid to a halt several metres short of Brad. It looked essentially like a stegosaurus, but with tufts of wiry hair around its lower legs.
It answered Brad’s challenging roar and charged at him. He had no time to do little else except roll aside and deliver a slash along its flank. The beast neither slower nor showed any discomfort. Brad skipped and bounded into the nearest tree. As the beast turned he saw a long scratch in the Yeboro’s side, drawing blood.
It charged again as Brad instinctively reached for a grenade and cursed. He had long discarded the weapons harness. Before he could collect his thoughts, the beast swung its tusked tail into the branch. Brad leapt free, just prior to it shattering beneath him. He landed on the ground and rolled to his feet moving laterally as fast as he could.