She opened the tent, taken for a moment with the beauty of the stars that shone overhead. She spent so much time looking for meaning in their positions, she could only notice their beauty by surprise. They shifted slowly, so slowly most people would not notice, but Ana was as aware of their changes as she was of the wind that played against her face.
She got a small fire going and made cam. As she waited for the water to boil she ate some bread, lamenting how little food she had even after replenishing her stores in the last village. She was strong, but there was only so much she could carry, and villages and towns were few and far between in these parts. She looked around and felt grateful she was in an area that would provide her with food if necessary. She was in a clearing in the Arbu forest, a place that—while not friendly—was rich with game and edible plants.
She drank what she wanted of her cam and threw the rest of the water on the fire. The sound of a cracking branch brought her up short. She'd been hearing the usual sounds of the forest all morning, but this sound was different. Deliberate.
She turned to her left, from where the sound came, and drew her dagger. She suspected she was dealing with a belua of the forest, but she couldn't be sure. Not until it showed itself.
The belua stepped out into the clearing, a clear sign it was challenging her. Ana's stomach did a slow, unpleasant roll. A belua was an ugly thing; in the tales Ana had heard growing up, a belua could drive a man crazy from looking at it.
She held up her dagger, ready to fight. But then the belua seemed to look beyond her, an expression of fear coming over its face. It turned and ran back into the forest.
Ana turned. Behind her was a man. He stood in the clearing as if he had merely appeared there instead of walked into it from the forest, and Ana had no doubt he had. He was Sebastian, her nemesis, a witch doctor who was her enemy from the moment she was born. An enemy of her kind for generations, in fact.
Ana felt her limbs go slack.
“Hello, Ana,” he said mildly. “You didn't expect me to find you so soon, I see. I'm sorry. I suppose now we must hash out our differences.” He drew his sword.
Ana's eyes darkened, as they always did when she was angry. “How many times must I show you that you cannot read the Elves, Sebastian?” She put away her dagger and drew her sword.