The forest really was bigger on the inside. Sandy looked all around and couldn’t see past the trees. Once Sandy and Miko were deep enough into the woods that Sandy couldn’t see back the way they came, a creeping anxiety rose inside her that she could no longer ignore. There was nothing but thick tree trunks in all directions with a carpet of mist wafting just above the trail. Sandy developed a nervous habit of checking for Miko in the times when they weren’t talking and eventually Miko noticed.
Sandy really appreciated having Miko around. She couldn’t remember having a real friend to talk to since grade school. She’d never treated socializing seriously. Working in a restaurant meant working while others were socializing, which meant Sandy’s only escape was reading. She took a long deep breath of the forest air as Miko suggested, thinking about how Sandy reacted when that last refuge of her life was under attack. It didn’t matter how right the manager was to scold her. Reading was all Sandy really had left.
Sandy and Miko began to laugh together on the trail. Sandy almost dropped the pie when she stopped paying attention. It felt so good to just loose yourself on a walk in the woods. It made Sandy think, if she was so much happier when she couldn’t remember a time before Fable. Maybe Miko was better off after all.
Both of the women looked up. Right there, right in front of the both of them on the trail, the shadows of the forest seemed to move and a large footfall silenced both of their laughter at once. A black beast unlike anything Sandy had ever seen loomed out onto the path. It leaned into its own great weight and Sandy only had the time to scream before it was upon them. Miko and Sandy had the same instinct in that moment, to duck down and scramble away while its swollen knotted arms swung overhead.
The monster’s red eyes left trails through the misty air as it struck. Sandy only dodged it out of luck as she stumbled backwards onto the trail. Sandy was so scared that everything was a blur. Her mind flew between the sensation of hitting the ground, seeing Miko running up top stop it, it’s hideous scarred orca-like skin swelling with breath, and the claws the size of Sandy’s whole body… Sandy braced for the worst.
Suddenly Jill was where the monster previously stood. The mist rushed away from the impact and the orca-like beast flew like it had been in a car crash, effortlessly thrown from the path like a discarded doll. Sandy was scooting back along the path as Miko came up to hold her. All the while, Jill’s voice projected loudly enough that Sandy could still hear it through her adrenaline.
Sandy was able to shake away her fright in that moment as Jill started strutting up to the monster twice her size. She leaned hard into her walk so her head was low and her shoulders were raised. With every step she took, the strange orca monster backed up in a scramble like a scared puppy. It backed up so fast that it crashed into a tree trunk and pushed itself up the bark, visibly shivering in utter terror.
Then Jill leapt up and grabbed it in a headlock. The creature was absolutely petrified. It was shaking so hard that Jill had to tighten her arm around its neck to get it to sit still. She put her axe’s head against the monster’s, bumping it with every word. Sandy watched the monster swallow nervously.
Jill shook the monster enough that it lost its footing. Then she let it go hard enough that it spun like a top away from her. Jill’s foot landed in the center of the path with a mighty boom just before she wound up her axe behind her and swung handle-first into the monster’s middle. It lifted up cartoonishly into the air and soared away before hitting a tree… And then bounced out of sight.
The heavy metal ‘ponk’ of Jill letting her axe head fall to the path brought Sandy and Miko’s attention back to her. At first, Jill looked fierce and was looking over the two of them with scrutiny before finally showing off her big flat teeth in a smile.