The following is an excerpt from my third draft of Iron Fist of the Oroqs, the sequel to Wings of Twilight. In it, you meet Aeryn, a young woman in search of her brother: Strom Lightbringer.
The beast knew hunger. The beast also knew allowing that hunger to run rampant was dangerous, particularly when humans were nearby. They did not understand the beast. They feared it. As well they should. The beast was bloodthirsty. The beast was a curse.
Aeryn hated the beast, but it was a part of her. She had no choice but to live with it. Fortunately, thanks to the ministrations of a kind elf, Aeryn was able to control the beast within. She never found out why the elf helped her, only that she nursed Aeryn back to health and helped her learn to control the beast. The only explanation the elf gave Aeryn was that the she couldn’t let her die.
Since then, Aeryn hunted only animals. The beast within her would not be allowed to kill other people or to pass its curse onto a new generation. She left her home in Hodge’s Mill shortly after the elf declared her fully healed. Aeryn thought if she tracked down and found her brother Strom, a knight who called himself Lord Lightbringer, he might be able to help seek a cure for her curse. It was certainly the type of cause of which he fancied himself a champion. At least she hoped it was. He was not known for being the tolerant sort, but she was his kin. She hoped that would make a difference.
Running over the rolling plains and farmland of Cardoba, Aeryn took in the sights and smells that surrounded her. She had to admit the beast form in which she now spent most of her time certainly had its advantages, of which one was speed. As she skipped through the tall grasses, her paws could feel every bent blade and every pebble they touched. Wildflowers bloomed, their floral scent filling her nostrils as she ran. Not far to her left, an antelope lay hidden hoping predators, particularly the one running past just now, would not notice him. Aeryn ignored the antelope. Feeding was not her immediate goal.
Getting to Hogs Wallow was.
Throughout the day and into the night, she ran. The rig she created to securely hold her pack, bow, and sword onto her back stayed in place, a mandatory concession to her beast form. She had no clothing or armor that would fit properly while she was in that form, though she could stand upright and use weapons. Aeryn would change into human form at will, however, which was a necessity when dealing with other humans.
As the light of dawn infused the horizon with a soft, pink glow, Aeryn could no longer ignore the rumbling in her stomach, the call of the beast within to feed. Stopping at the crest of a hill, she could see an inn past the next rise: Hogs Wallow. She sniffed the air, catching the unmistakable scent of sheep in the wind.
Trotting toward the scent, she soon heard the sheep vocalizing and another unwelcome sound. A shepherd was with them, attempting to coax them where he wanted to go.
Removing her pack, Aeryn left it under a bush with fire-red berries downwind from the sheep. She knew she could locate it again by its scent after she fed. The sheep were close enough that she could hear them moving around in the grass. The smell of the shepherd was distinct from the sheep.
She hunkered down and crept toward her prey: a lone sheep, munching on some ground cover. It was a straggler, and the entire flock stood between them and the shepherd.
Aeryn cursed silently as the wind shifted. The sheep looked up, eyes wide. It could smell her. She took off sprinting, charging the animal. Precisely as it turned to run, Aeryn tackled it, digging her claws into its body and dragged it to the ground. The frightened animal struggled to escape, bleating in terror. Aeryn heard the rest of the flock bleat in response, moving away as a group as fast as they could.
The shepherd cried out, fighting to move through the flock toward the distressed animal. Clamping her jaws around the sheep’s throat, Aeryn repositioned herself and bit down, relishing the gush of hot blood that rushed into her mouth. The sheep’s bleating turned into a wet gurgle as blood flooded its vocal cords. Her claws raked at its belly as she disemboweled it.
As the sheep’s struggle came to an end, the shepherd finally found the source of the commotion. Aeryn looked up at him, jaws dripping. The sheep’s flesh dangled from her fangs. He yelled in alarm. Growling, Aeryn swiped at him, sure that he was still too far away for her to actually make contact. The shepherd stumbled backward and ran off in terror, chasing after his flock.
Aeryn smiled to herself and resumed feeding.