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Tresayne had never seen a creature like it. Sleek pelt the same emerald of the fronds for which she'd first mistaken its upturned ears. Vertical lavender slits raked the undergrowth. It sniffed, revealing incisors longer than her arms. Beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. She ascribed the prickly chill that swept over her to nightfall before recognizing it for fear. Aglow with exhilaration, she was unsure if she could actually kill it.

She had stalked it over most of Wilderrun's arboreal sprawl for days, waiting for the beast to sleep, drink, or relax its guard. It had done none of these, its behavior, its sudden existence, as cryptic as the enigmatic whims of the Eldan that had brought her here.

Whims. Stolen across the stars to assist in the creation of a god, her progeny sent to Cassus to rule an empire. Yet here she remained, Tresayne Toria, the Siegebreaker of Bellariaus, Scourge of the Black Fleet, cursed with immortality and no foes left to overcome. After all her storied victories, had she failed some final test? Was this idleness penance for some forgotten cowardice? Had she still a part to play? As day followed day without deviation, the prospect seemed increasingly foolish.

But this beast had changed everything. It had slaughtered four of her sisters, seemingly without effort, their blood still warm when she found them. Staying only long enough to whisper the Sisterhood's ancient death-rites over the bodies of the fallen, she had set off to track the beast. And now, after six days on the hunt, she had finally caught up to it.

The beast's massive bulk sidled gracefully beneath her. Blade poised above her head, Tresayne leapt from the tree.

Her sword drew blood - but the creature sensed her attack, striking faster than she thought possible. As she landed, a spreading warmth confirmed it had opened her side like a flower. Rolling and pivoting in one fluid motion, she rammed her sword up through its chest, feeling the shudder of its pierced heart. Perfect. Dying, she sank to the ground, twisting the blade and pulling it free as the blood pooled beneath her.

If the beast felt pain, it gave no sign. With regal slowness, it stalked over her crumpled form, the wound on its chest closing before her eyes. Feeling its hot, sweet breath ruffling her hair, she awaited the sting of fangs on her throat and the cold release of death that would inevitably follow.

Instead she heard it speak, the words resonating in her head like a gong: "Long have I waited for you, huntress. I am Vitara."

As the creature's lambent, wise-sad eyes loomed into her fading vision, Tresayne spat blood in its face.

"War comes, mortal. Your heart is strong, and your blade sharp. Serve me and live. Refuse me and die. What is your wish?"

Silence reigned in the glade. Gravely, Vitara turned to leave.

An instant later, Tresayne's bloody fist closed around the creature's tail. A hoarse rattle emanated from her throat, forming a single word as it left her lips.


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