Kari crouched as motionless as a doll beneath the ferns and stared across the lake carpeted with purple lilies to the trisom trees on the opposite shore. The towering trees swayed in the breeze; their branches overloaded with sweet fruit at this time of the year. After an hour of patient waiting, the eleven-year-old brushed her sweaty locks from her forehead and fretted. Her two-mile hike through Dora’s hot jungle had been in vain. Nothing but birds and small-winged mammals had come and feasted on the fruit.
She heard a pair of squabbling kilts, squirrel-type creatures, and lowered her gaze to watch them as they tussled, rolled, and chased each other up and down the vines. So entranced with the kilts, she failed to notice the male harpy who had flown in and landed in the trisom trees. She rose to leave and saw the flutter of his pale yellow wings before he folded them against his back.
She ducked back down and swallowed. “He’s a golden. A real, true golden harpy,” she muttered, watching him. He picked a ball of fruit, leaned his slender, humanoid frame against the white bark, and nibbled.
Her chest pounded with excitement, realizing she gazed at the rarest creature on the planet. Numerous times, she had seen brown-winged harpies, but the blond, yellow-winged species were nearly extinct. Prized by hunters, the goldens were considered the ultimate game animal and slaughtered for their trophy wings. The golden flung the shoulder-length hair from his boyish face and sniffed the air before hopping to another limb, out of view.
Kari dismissed her father’s warnings about dangerous harpies and crawled from her hiding place for a better look. Approaching the lake’s edge, she was so captivated she never noticed the ripples of water created by a stalking mogel. It shot out from the murky depths and latched its mouth around her leg. The giant eel-like beast knocked her down on the muddy bank and dragged her toward its watery domain. She screamed for help, but was too far from home and her father to be heard.
With her free foot, she frantically kicked the beast’s leathery black head and silvery eyes, but the mogel remained undeterred, holding on to its meal. Its sharp fangs clamped down and released their venom. While thrashing in the shallow water she felt a burning pain enter her bite wound. She grabbed a large rock and clung to it, but with the mogel’s strength and steady pull, her hands quickly slipped over the algae-covered stone. Total paralysis from the poison and drowning would soon end her struggle.