This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.
He gave up on the knife but didn’t retreat. He lowered to all fours and snarled menacingly as he began to circle me. I returned the favor, growling a bit myself as I kept my distance. I didn’t have any other weapons. I was smarter, but he was stronger. A long, cold moment passed between us, hunter and prey.
No, I would not be this thing’s prey.
All my self-preservation instincts kicked in. I ignored the sense to flee and lunged at him. His eyes widened. He drew back for a second before his instincts told him to fight. It was too late. In his hesitation, I tackled the beast and ripped my knife free. I jabbed the blade into new patch of scaly flesh. He thrust forward and pinned me to the ground. His claws tore into my skin, but my knife ripped into him two, three more times.
Four. Five. Six.
Blood gushed, sour and salty. He yelped and crawled off.
I attacked him twice more, slitting his throat and piercing his skull.
The ruckus of the jungle seemed far away. The monster died. The knife was heavy in my hand, covered in his covered in his thick, sour blood. I was covered in his blood. My breath heaved. My heart pounded.
My hands shook. I had won.
A tiny itch wormed its way deep inside of me: a feeling of power. My heart raged now, but not out of fear.
I was excited. Free.
I had been in the army three years and a member of a noble family before that. My life was always restrained. Like I was forced to carry a steel blanket to suffocate me. Like I was an alien in my own skin. I had never felt alive.
Not like I did at that moment, watching the monster convulse. Hunter and prey.
He cried and floundered once more, then stopped.
I would never be prey again.
The moment didn’t last. On the other side of the sinkhole, away from where the fake rebels would have been, several real men stepped into the clearing. They froze, obviously as shocked to see me as I was to see them. In a scramble, the biggest raised a pistol. A shot echoed through the jungle.
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