"It's him! I can't let him take you, too!" She was terrified as she looked around the campsite. "We need to run."
Tyrin shook his head. "We might get separated. If it is the Hunter, he'll have traps ready," he whispered, pulling his knife out.
"But we canna' just stay here and wait for an attack," Jag-Ben said.
All of them were back to back now. Even Prril had wrapped herself around Minn's shoulders and hissed at the darkness. The breathing grew louder. Kleo reached behind her and pulled at Jag-Ben's hairy arm. He turned to look at her, but saw that she was pointing at the other side of the fire.
A tall, white figure slowly stepped into the light. Most of his body was still hidden behind trees and shrubs, but as he drew nearer, some of the plants pulled their roots from the ground and scurried away from him. His face was an indistinct, pale blur that focused around two large, black eyes and a broken line that was curled into a smile. The more of him that was exposed to the light, the clearer they could see him. His hunched body was easily twice as tall as even the tallest gelfling and clad in rich furs and pelts that draped in front of him. Even from this distance, they could smell his putrid scent. "Run, little ones," he said in a breathy voice.
They backed away from the specter. Tyrin took Morra's hand and she gripped his firmly. With a grunt, Jag-Ben stepped forward, putting himself between the Hunter and the others.
"Ye're not welcome here, spirit!" he commanded in the strongest voice he could muster. "Begone!"
The Hunter chortled. A crossbow appeared from behind his furs and aimed for Jag-Ben. With a melodic twang, an arrow took flight, but not from the Hunter. Minn had quickly fashioned his instrument into a bow and was already preparing a second arrow as the first zipped in the air straight for their foe. It struck the Hunter with a dull, wooden thwack. However, his ethereal form had shifted to the side with grace and rapidity, so that what looked like a solid hit one moment was revealed to be a miss. The arrow had only torn through his furs and was lodged in a thick tree.
A bemused smile cracked along the thin line of the Hunter's mouth. "A challenge?!" he called and turned his crossbow towards Minn instead. Prril hissed and, in a cloud of sand and light, disappeared from Minn's shoulders. For a moment, she was little more than a beige streak along the ground before jumping onto the Hunter's crossbow and latching her fangs into his bony hand. A long, metal bolt was released and buried itself into the ground harmlessly.
His shrill scream was the impetus the gelflings needed. "Go, I will draw him off," Minn said with a quick jerk of his head. He ran towards the fire that lay between them and their foe. The Hunter grabbed Prril and tossed her away, but the distraction gave Minn enough time to pull off his crystalweave cloak and wave it in front of the fire. The resulting light that passed through the myriad crystals blinded the Hunter. A second crossbow pushed through his furs and launched another bolt, which struck the cloak and buried itself in the fire.
"Minn is right. He is too strong ta fight," Jag-Ben said. He backed away with his thick, green arms outspread, guiding the others into the darkness of the woods.
Kleo called out to Minn, but her pleas went unheeded. As Minn fired off another ill-fated arrow, Jag-Ben pulled her away from the scene and into the underbrush. Warm light was replaced by cold darkness. They ran, tripping over roots and rocks.
"Wait," Tyrin said, putting a hand up. "We're being too loud." His voice dropped to a whisper.
"We need to gain some distance." Jag-Ben called over his shoulder. He ducked his head as the others shushed him.
"We won't get anywhere if we fall into a trap or lead him to us," Tyrin whispered.
"Tyrin is right," Kleo said. "We won't get anywhere if we stumble into a trap, and I don't want Minn to be risking himself for nothing."
"Then how do we the avoid traps?" Jag-Ben asked.
Tyrin nodded gravely. "Kleo, you live in caves. You can see in the dark, right?" he asked.
"Yes. It is the gift of my clan." She smiled and nodded, her dark hand taking Jag-Ben's. "I will guide us," she said softly. Tyrin held Jag-Ben's hand, but when he looked around for Morra, she was gone.
"Have you seen Morra?" he whispered. Kleo only shook her head.
"Her people are good at hiding. Perhaps it is best if we let 'er be," Jag-Ben said.