Ava heard a rustling in the bushes. He stood up from the small dusty clearing and prepared to defend himself. Though his black feathers starkly contrasted the green forest setting, he tried to cover himself with sparse shadows coming from the canopy above as best he could. Then… he waited.
Waited for his savior. The savior who still might kill him.
Jax was only a few more paces to the camp. At his pursuer’s increased rate, he knew he wouldn’t be able to reach it. Fortunately, he had planned for this. Jax spontaneously set off in a sprint, descending to all fours as he had been accustomed to in the Facility. As he leaped through the narrow path towards the clearing, dodging snatching thickets and clawing branches, a specific branch caught his eye. That was his new target.
Jax twisted his torso sideways, slamming his ribcage into his hips as he planted a hand and foot on a nearby tree trunk. He thrust off of it with all his might, careful to not touch the altered ground.
The birds went silent. Something was wrong.
Ava heard movement. There was too much movement.
Ava barely had time to feather the butt of his pistol when the bushes erupted in an explosion of leaves, twigs, and flying Sergals. A black one flew out sideways, landing hard on its hip, while a white-blue one to its left belly flopped onto the dusty clearing Ava had so recently been sitting in, a snare fouling its legs. The black one rolled out of its fall, but it was apparent it was injured when all it managed to do was fall back down on top of the other Sergal, causing a ball of flailing limbs, bruised torsos, and torn fur to spiral out of control at Ava’s feet.
Before Ava could do anything, a glint of silver flashed from between the two combatants. The blue-white one rolled over dead. Ava was too stunned to do anything but stare in awe as the black Sergal struggled to regain its footing. The black Sergal seemed to be desperate to move, but collapsed again after placing too much weight on its injured hip.
He thrust off of the branch with all his might, careful to not touch the hidden snare on the ground. Jax broke through the brush just as an uttered curse from his ensnared follower reached his ear. His head instinctively turned to discover the source of the sound when his hip landed hard on the dust covered ground due to his unguided fall. Just as he got his feet back under him and hopped up a searing pain went through his hip. He tried to offset it by tensing his muscles further.
Jax grunted in pain as his overburdened legs gave out despite his desperate attempts to stay up, collapsing right on top of the Northern Sergal that had been following him. Fortunately, as indicated by the fact that the other Sergal was already on the ground, Jax’s plan had worked, and the Northerner’s legs were ensnared by the trap Jax had left earlier in the day. The fact that the Northerner’s legs were tied up, Jax soon learned, was no reason for it to be fully incapacitated in combat, and the claw to his face followed by a knee to his unprotected stomach made Jax writhe in pain. Jax rolled himself off his opponent, shielding his hurt underbelly from the barrage of kicks and claws that ensued. When he had gotten his body far enough away from his immobilized opponent, Jax saw the Northerner reach for a knife on his belt. Acting on instinct, Jax leaped forward and bit the wrist of the dagger wielding hand before it was fully unsheathed. Before he knew what he was doing, Jax took the discarded knife from its sheath with his right hand and tried to back away from his opponent when he realized his legs were pinned by the thrashing Sergal. The tied animal ravenously lunged itself towards Jax as he readied himself for the attack, and without thinking, Jax shot his hand out, splitting the other Sergal’s throat in a second.
Jax was too stunned to think about what he had just done as the white fur of the slumping Sergal was slowly stained a shade sanguine. The dagger slipped out of his hand as he realized the cool trickle down his wrist was the blood that had so recently been flowing through the inside of his late opponent’s neck. He tried to lift his numb body off the ground, but once more his injured hindquarters refused to lift him. As Jax looked up, he saw the Nevrean staring at him, still in shock after what had happened. Seeing the shocked creature so blatantly staring at him made Jax more self-conscious about the cold feeling on his hands. The cold blood that seeped down his hands.
Jax shook himself out of it with a second painful attempt to get his feet under him. While he could not stand, he managed to right himself and put his legs below his torso. Jax paused to catch his breath when his ear twitched.
This was not going to be good.
The black Sergal’s ear twitched as it righted itself, spreading its grimace to its entire head. But there was something more to it; a calculated squint in the Sergal’s thoughtful eyes. There was a reason the natural predator had reacted in such a way. It had heard something.
And Ava knew it could not end well for him no matter the source of the sound.
Jax frantically tried to get the Nevrean’s attention and communicate. Sure the Nevrean was staring at him, but Jax had no way if those wide, dilated eyes on that surprised gapping face was actually taking anything Jax did in. Jax’s ears swiveled once more. He heard it again.
Jax started signaling at the corpse beside his tail, and tried to convey his message.
‘How did you end up here?’ Was all Ava could think.
‘How did you do this to yourself?’
Ava just stood staring in the clearing he had so recently been sitting in. The scratches in the dust Ava had made but a few moments ago were slowly flooded away by an ever expanding pool of red. There was a Sergal, a dead Sergal, bleeding out where he had just been sitting.
And its murderer.
The murderer was right there, infront of Ava, looking back at him with its wide white eyes. It had a strangely pained expression on its face, though the pupil-less eyes did not give away the source of its meaning. It waved its arms violently, but its frantic motions fell upon blind eyes as the dizzying motion made a dazed Ava’s vision further blurred.
Jax could see his message wasn’t getting through.
Jax whirled around just in time to be clawed in the face by the dead Sergal’s companion as she jumped out of the brambles…