Tix had followed the trail effortlessly. The beast was a skilled tracker as well as a powerful fighter. More than anything, though, Tix enjoyed the hunt. He was known to toy with his victims for several days, delighting himself in their fear. He smelled the fear, and reveled in it. Now, he had found his intended target, and Tix knew that he would enjoy this one. This elven female would give him many days of excitement with little danger. Her cougar would be easy to deal with; Tix would snap its neck with one quick bite. Yes, Tix was very confident, and feeling especially lucky as he made his way to the elf’s camp.
“What is it, Mungo?” Aspen asked as she raised her longsword and shortsword. The woods had gone strangely quiet and Mungo had his ears back. The cougar issued a growl of protest as the Beast strolled into camp. Tix resembled a black panther with red splotches dotting his claws and mouth. His movements were graceful and he took his time approaching the young elf and her cat. He paced back and forth never taking his eyes off of his prey. Tix wanted them to see him in all of his wondrous glory; he wanted them to understand what hunted them. He wanted them to fear him, and they did.
Aspen whispered a prayer to any god or goddess that may be listening, and apparently someone was.
Delia landed between the hunter and the hunted, fangs barred. Tix’s eyes narrowed, but without blinking, he started to change his form. Even Delia’s eyes widened as bones shifted and elongated, sounding like a clumsy dwarf walking over dry sticks. It was over in seconds, but would haunt all of them for as long as they lived, which did not seem to be very much longer.
“Run,” was the only thing Delia had time to say before the newly transformed Tix was on her. Aspen did just that, and she was running as fast as her wounded leg would let her. She did not see the bloody battle that followed, but she could hear it plainly. The sounds would follow her to the end.
The now squat, thick body of Tix leaped on Delia, and rolled her over. The Beast had sliced a nice slice in the sphinx’s flank. The long, curved claws dug deep, but Delia was no novice in battle. She got to her feet and flew off a little ways. Tix was in close pursuit, and he found the wounded sphinx in no time. With his eyes glazed over in the rage of battle, he did not see the rune as he stepped on it. Tix did not move, his clawed front feet still in the air. He quickly understood his mistake; he would not make it again.
Delia stalked in now, feeling quite good about her clever tactics. She moved in for the easy kill when she was struck by an intense beam of light. She saw only white as she felt her feathers wilt and her fur burn. Crick stepped out of the woods and slammed his staff in the earth. Delia tried to get her bearings, tried to understand, but all she saw was white and all she could smell was her own burnt flesh.She screamed and beat her wings, but the featherless wings did little more than stir the dirt at her feet. She was helpless, and she knew it.
Crick’s staff became a huge tree-like creature with large powerful arms and, quite literally, tree trunks for legs. The summoned treant stomped over to the helpless sphinx and raised its large wooden fists. The pounding lasted much longer than it needed to, leaving Delia’s body twisted beyond recognition. It mattered little, for Tix came free of his hold spell and feasted on the tender meat. After he had consumed what he needed, the transformation came again. This time the Beast took on the shape of a large bat. Tix gave a nod to Crick, who was retrieving his staff after dismissing the treant. Then, he was gone; the hunt was still on.