Battle with the Snerk
The serpent hung low from an adjacent branch and its head hovered in front of the erfin, surveying him. Its forked tongue flipped in and out of its mouth and it hissed at him with menace. Mirrortac pulled up on his arms as he watched the serpent coil back on itself, preparing to strike. The erfin strained as his chin scraped over the lip of the branch. The serpent wavered. An awful rattle rolled up inside its throat and down the inside of its hollow body. Muscles quivering with the weight of his own body, Mirrortac slumped back, hanging limp and exhausted. He stared back at the serpent with helpless horror. His head pounded as his blood coursed through him. The serpent lunged. Its movement was so fast that the leaves were torn off the trees and scattered around as though caught in a windstorm. Mirrortac shut his eyes and cried out ‘Mateote save me!’ and felt his fur ruffled as the air around him was caught up in turmoil. The serpent’s roar rang in his ears; its breath of decay wafted around him. He felt himself falling as the branch tore out of his grip. He waited for the vice of its jaws to clamp around him; he waited, but nothing happened. The wind died away and he felt himself swinging in the air. After a few moments, Mirrortac opened his eyes and found that he was clinging to a strip of bark that had broken free at the moment the serpent struck out. The bark jerked then ripped away again; tearing off in a long sheet that was still secured to the branch. He could hang on with his whole body, which meant that he had one hand free. Mirrortac withdrew his sword. The surprised serpent swung around, its head swaying in time with each pendulum movement of the erfin. The monster roared, shaking all the trees and showering the erfin with leaves. Without hesitation, it lunged again, jaws agape as it thundered across the space separating them. This time, Mirrortac did not close his eyes but stared fearlessly ahead, fingers wrapped firmly around the hilt of Moongleam. The ancient power in the sword charged him with renewed courage. A maddening fury rushed up into his throat and in a loud cry of defiance, he gave voice to it, screaming with the battle rage as the jaws of the serpent closed around him and snatched him up.