• Run. That was all I could do.

    I felt my heartbeat in my throat, the bile rising to the back of my mouth. Was it still behind me? Could I possibly outrun this thing? Every muscle in my legs burned, begging for me to stop. But I couldn’t. If I did, it would surely catch up to me.

    The ground crunched beneath my feet, dead leaves, dirt, and rocks. Trees flew by, one by one. As I moved further ahead, the trees became denser, forcing me to weave in and out of their paths.

    I could make out a howl in the distance. It must be him. The one who’s after me, the one who wants me dead? One of his underlings? I couldn’t tell.
    I chanced a glance behind me. I caught a flash of fur, a glimmer of drool dripping fangs. Then I went back to running.

    I had to pick up the pace, try to get some distance between me and them. But, my legs couldn’t take much more of the strain.

    I collapsed at the base of a great oak, hoping it would be enough to hide my form from their eyes.

    My lungs were burning, and my legs were like jelly. How could I go on? Maybe I should just give up and give them what they want.

    But, what was it that they wanted? If it was my life, surely they could have taken it when they had me captive, so what? Did they want me to be their plaything, to use and break as they deemed fit?

    No. It was something deeper than that… something more sinister and vile.
    The howling became louder. Too close to evade now. Maybe I could hide in the tree? Wait, I forgot they can climb after they change back. This form they had now was just pursuit mode. Something that could chase me down, and incapacitate me if needed.

    I felt something call out to me. It was a soft voice, like a mother calling out to her child, a sweet sound that eased my fears.

    A pair of arms came out from the tree I was hiding behind, one around my waist and one covering my mouth, and pulled me in.

    I tried to fight back, but it was useless. These arms were stronger than me. Faster, too.

    Once inside, I realized that I was in a Hollow Tree, a piece of lost technology that looked like a tree from the outside, but was really a doorway to an underground room. And, from the amount of people in this particular room, it was huge.

    The arms were still holding me, their grip not loosening. I shrugged them off, and turned to face my so-called rescuer.

    The arms belonged to a tall man, dressed in dark colors, red mostly, with yellow eyes, and dark, short hair.

    “Are you Kirlana?” His voice was soft, and I could feel the magic woven through it.

    “A spell. You’re trying to relax me.” I managed to get out. My voice was almost gone from all the screaming I did.

    “Are you or aren’t you?” He was getting impatient. His eyes narrowed, and he crossed his arms in front of his chest.

    I paused. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to tell this man my name. I didn’t even know who he was. “I am.”

    “My name is Kosen. I am the leader of these people.” He gestured to the crowd, whose eyes were now all on me.

    “Why did you save me?” I lowered my head out of habit.

    “You were a runaway, a slave of those who rule. Just like we used to be.”
    “And now you are hiding from them?”

    Kosen’s eyes glittered with anger. I had touched a nerve, apparently. “We do not hide from anyone. We are simply trying to find a way back up to the surface, and be free.”

    I scoffed. That wasn’t likely. “You can’t escape them for long. They’ll come for me. They always do.”

    Kosen grabbed my arms and looked me in the eyes. “Then we’ll fight to protect you. We need you Kirlana.”

    “Why? I’m just a slave of those who rule. I am nothing to them, or to you.”

    “Haven’t you heard? The reason they just imprisoned you.”

    I shook him off. “No.”

    “They fear you. You are the one who will set us free.”

    “And what if I—“ I was interrupted by a loud crash, and several grunt men coming in through the door. In the pale artificial light, their skin shone like glass, and their pale yellow eyes glimmered with glee at the thought of a slaughter.

    Those who rule. Reptilia.

    One of the uglier ones turned and saw me. “The mammal! Get her!” They all leapt at me.

    I just dodged. These idiots were too slow for me. I moved myself under my opponent, who was still in mid jump, and slammed my feet into his chest. He gasped, the wind knocked out of him. Still sliding my way under my opponent, I grabbed his tail, and decided that a mace approach would be best.

    Putting my plan into effect was no easy task. This guy was really heavy.

    Although, that made him a great mace. I swung him in a circle, ignoring his pleas for me to stop, and I hefted him at his gang.

    I hit a few of them, and sent them flying. Kosen wasn’t doing too bad, either.
    After that show, the rest weren’t sure how to react. They looked as if running away wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

    Stepping on one of their unconscious friends, I narrowed my eyes the best I could, and growled: “Give your master this message from me. He is not welcome in this forest any longer. And if I see you or your scaly friends in here again, I will personally see to it that you never leave. So, be grateful that I grant you your lives tonight. Now, go!”

    All of the men whimpered, and ran away, including the one I was using as a platform. I gave him a swift kick in the tail for emphasis.

    Kosen made his way through the crowd. “Nice job. I knew you could do it.”

    A female voice called out. “Kosen?! Where are you!?”

    “Mika! I’m over here!” Kosen called back.

    A tall blonde girl made her way through the already descending crowd. She pushed her way past people to get to Kosen, who she promptly embraced.
    I decided to ignore them, and took a long look around me. This place was full of mammals, like me, but, I was different because I am the last of my kind. Bear-men, Cougar-men, or even cat-men like my new friend Kosen, were hiding from the Reptilia for who knows how long here.

    Kosen’s feline ears made their way through his hair. “Mika…you can stop hugging me now.”

    The girl’s rabbit ears did the same. “Never! I’ll never let you go!” And she began to sob. How annoying.

    A little girl came up, and tugged at my skirt.

    I couldn’t help but be reminded of myself at that age, all naïve and cute.
    “Are you the mongoose girl that my momma told me about?”

    A smile made its way to my face. “Yes. I am.”