I looked around cautiously before freezing at the sketchy outline of a muscular man partially hidden in the grass. A man! He was sprawled on his back and golden pink from too many hours in the sun. My heart pounded to see the unfamiliar pattern of a deer on his breechcloth. I had marched myself directly into the reach of a Zennite warrior!
I gingerly took a step backwards, but to my horror, the man’s black eyes fluttered open. I turned and hurled myself back across the meadow, just as the man shot up and flew after me like a predatory bird. My muscles burned and strained to lengthen the space between us, but getting away was hopeless. I was not a challenge to even the young boys in the foot races.
After a few powerful strides, the warrior tackled me to the ground, painfully grazing the skin on my cheek. I wheezed a few times before my lungs filled with air.
“A Chippoke?” he asked between breaths.
I feverishly punched and kicked to free myself. “Get—off—me!”
“Stop! I’m not going to hurt you,” the warrior chuckled as he struggled to pin my arms and legs. His voice was calm and pleasant, but lying was no different than breathing to a Zennite.
“I cannot promise the same,” I wheezed as I fought.
“You’re a bobcat,” he said with a laugh. “A bobcat with no teeth or claws.”
“Let me go!”
“I will when you’re calm.”
Strong hands held my wrists while his full weight pinned my torso against the earth. Fighting him was as useless as running. “You are not a boy,” I spat angrily, fully taking in my attacker. It was little comfort that he didn’t look like a bloodthirsty killer. He was admittedly handsome with an angular face and sleek black hair that hung well past his shoulders. He was not as tall as Elan, but his muscles were narrow and built for speed. There was something different about his eyes too. They were as black as soot—very unlike the brown woodsy colors from our tribe.
The warrior smirked down at me. “My mother will be very surprised to hear that. All this time she’s assumed…”
My face heated, but I fiercely met his gaze. The Zenni were like wild dogs and pumas—they could smell emotions. “What I meant was, you are a man, not a boy.”
“Oh, I see, but you must understand, I’m not a man yet.”
“You must understand I’m a squirrel! Get off! You’re hurting me!” I ordered with a useless heave.
“No,” he said with a smirk.
It was then I realized I might die—right after I was lulled into a false sense of security. My chest pounded as I searched for the killer’s weapon. “Are you going to kill me?”
“I do not feel like killing you just yet,” he said as his long hair swirled in my face. Were we to play a game before he killed me?
“I am glad the mood doesn’t strike you,” I snarled. The warrior studied me with a drawn brow. Was he guessing that I was the forest witch? I didn’t think I looked like a witch, but I wasn’t certain what one should look like—evil at least.
“I don’t understand something,” the warrior said. “Your eyes are blue—the blue of an angry sky. Are you the daughter of a god?”
“Yes,” I said, heaving against his weight again. “Now get off me, or my father Achak will strike you dead with lightening.”