The Hunter and the Weasel

Based on characters and setting by Neil Gaiman

I breathe the stench of the beast. Its musk coated the caverns it had dug below the city, but my senses are keen enough to tell the most recent. I hear scratching, but the echoes forbid me the knowledge of their source. Still, I feel my prey, as it watches, thinking me its prey. We shall soon see who will live and who will die.

I creep past splinters of gnawed bone. Human. Foolish. They show only that the beast had been accosted by opponents who were weaker than they thought themselves. I alone will kill the beast.

It is difficult. The hide must remain intact, but a bludgeon would be less than useless against my prey. Anything that could break a bone in its body would hinder my agility. I carry only two knives and a sheath, one knife copper and the other obsidian. I have seen the beast, and its skin is worth almost as much as the challenge itself. Almost.

A skitter. I roll to the side, and claws miss the skin of my back by a hair's breadth. The dance becomes more frenetic as I leap over my prey and my prey curls back toward me, it as winding as a serpent and I as agile as an antelope with the ferocity of a tiger.

More agile.

I am not prey.

I am human.

More than human.

I am Hunter.

I fall and strike upward. The obsidian knife sticks in the throat of my prey, and I use its momentum to push its claws away from me. It will bleed, it will die, but by then I will be dead if I have not finished it. The copper knife already in my hand, I willingly lose the sheath. One of us will die within seconds. It will not be me.

The beast strikes again, what little caution it once had gone. I hold fast, striking its muzzle and rolling across the creature's head. A quick slice to the back foot slows it, and the fight is as good as done. Two more cuts. The other hind foot is the first. I complete the cut with ease. I think about waiting for my prey to die, but that would be dishonorable, and the pelt is getting bloodier by the minute. I prepare to take my second cut, hopping before the gnashing teeth of my prey, and strike between the teeth to the hard palate. My unarmed hand strikes below its tongue.

I did not misjudge my strength or speed. The beast is dead.

The pelt will be a fine token for the girl who caught my eye.