In the middle of the forest, amidst trees and shrubbery, the ground dipped, marked as though a smooth boulder had fallen from the sky and left one impressively defined mark into the soil before bouncing back up to the heavens. No plants, not even roots, were visible within; it was as though everything had been scooped away, leaving an empty hole in the middle of the forest.
It was not the first pit of its kind Jaeworl had seen, nor was it likely to be the last. They had become more common in the past few seasons; a hundredturn ago there had been none at all. Next to this one paced a far rarer sight, a large four-legged reptile with brownish-gray scales.
Capping a short yet flexible neck was a four-eyed head with a vicious maw. A thick tail dragged lazily behind it, carefully shifting to avoid disturbing the too smooth edges of the pit. The bed of once-brightly colored feathers running along its spine was intermittent and faded, yet contrasted starkly with the dull complexion of the scales around it. Each of its two forefeet had a single large claw held retracted off the ground, and yet the creature’s posture was relaxed and its movements were slow.
Once a majestic creature, undisputed master of its demesne, it had become little more than a wilting flower awaiting the winter of its life.
The sounds of snapping branches and heavy footfalls of disrupted Jaeworl’s musings moments before by a large bear wandering into the obviously unnatural clearing. An oddly angry and aggressive bear, he noted as it growled and began approaching the lizard. As the distance between the two creatures diminished, Jaeworl noticed a strange gleam in its bloodshot eyes.
Something was not right. The bear was acting more like a tr-
The bear lunged, claws tearing off a few scales as the lizard barely dodged. Rearing onto its hind legs and tail the reptilian beast launched forward; slamming against the bear, claws sinking deep into the creature’s sides. With a sickening shlick the two retractile claws tore into the bear as the lizard shifted its weight to pin the poor animal.
With a defiant roar the bear pushed back, trying to free itself, its maw snapping at the lizard, its teeth harmlessly scraping the hardened shell plating the beast’s abdomen. Then came a crunch as the lizard’s mighty jaw crushed the bear’s neck.
The lizard spit the dead bear from its maw and Jaeworl resumed his lengthy journey to the human colony, his mind still on the animal. The poor creature had been mad with rage, unnaturally so. He did not care for this at all.