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A Mother's Legacy: Part 4

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This time the element of surprise was Shenrel’s.

Still gripping the arrow in his stomach tightly, he broke off the shaft a few inches above the wound. The sound alerted the orc, who turned to face the still-hidden druid. But before the assassin could shoot, Shenrel exploded into motion. His body swelled as his form was replaced fur, tooth, and claw. As the shadowmeld faded, he came down on the orc with the full weight of his ursine form.

The orc cried out in surprise as he tried to shoot the massive bear. But Shenrel was too close, and easily batted the weapon out of his hands with one large paw. With the other he knocked the startled orc to the ground and he began to tear into his assailant.

Screams of pain and terror filled the glade. Shenrel could feel the arrow in his gut tear deeper into his flesh as he mauled the orc, and the hot blood that spilled from the wound. But the bear was past worry; as his heart hammered in his ears, his body experienced several spasms as it went through a frenzied regeneration, triggered by the violence. In seconds the arrow worked itself free from his body, and the wound quickly closed. His stomach still felt as hot as a forge, but he was no longer in danger of an immediate demise.

The orc soon ceased his struggling, and Shenrel raised his bloody snout to sniff out the remaining assassins. He grunted in pain and surprise as another arrow buried itself in his flank, followed by a second one moments later. They hurt, but dense fur and thick hide prevented them from penetrating deeply. Shenrel paid them as much mind as a pair of splinters as his sensitive nose caught the scent of a second orc in the underbrush beyond. Roaring a challenge, the druid charged toward the grove of trees.

Breaking through the foliage, Shenrel spotted a dark form dodging nimbly between tree trunks and putting impressive distance between itself and the bear.  Unable to maintain his charge in the dense undergrowth, the orc would soon be out of the bear’s reach, but it was not Shenrel’s only totem. As he ran, his heavy steps quickened as his bulk flowed away from him like water and was replaced by the agile form of a saber cat. The arrows fell harmlessly from his shifting body as he navigated the treacherous floor of the grove with practiced ease.

Noticing the pursuit, the orc paused for the briefest moments to hurl something at the saber cat. With unnerving accuracy, it sailed between the trees and was set to land only a few meters in front of Shenrel’s path. The sudden acrid scent of black powder filled his nostrils. Unable to slow his momentum in time, instead the saber cat braced his hind legs between leaps and pushed himself forward with all his strength. Shenrel hurdled past a small spiked object just as it landed in front of him. Seconds later an ear-splitting pop filled the grove as shrapnel flew past his head. He felt something bite into his left leg, causing him to stumble, but he quickly regained his footing and sprinted after the orc.

Shenrel was very angry now. These orcs had surprised the druid, and he had reacted like startled prey. If he hadn’t acted as quickly as he did, he could easily have ended up on the ground with another arrow in his eye. Now he wanted vengeance as much as he wanted answers.

It was his turn to play predator.