Haywood didn’t scent the cat until it was too late. The spotted serval pounced from the tall grass, its claws glinting in the midday sun. Haywood just managed to dodge its first attack and pushed his mate against the base of a bush shaggy with new growth. “Stay here.” He barked. “I’ll distract it. Once it turns its back make a run for it.” Suri nodded, her beautiful eyes wide and scared. She pressed herself against the flaky trunk. Haywood took a heartbeat to look at her, his mate. He thought he might overflow with his love right then. He was distracted by the serval who swiped a tawny paw at the undergrowth, just missing Suri. Haywood ducked from underneath the bush.
The serval faced him, its teeth aglow against the dark backdrop of its throat. He didn’t wait for it to strike. Haywood charged it. The surprise that flickered for an instant across its face was to his momentary advantage. The cat was over four times his size, yet Haywood leaped at its face. He managed to latch onto one of its large, rounded ears and dug in his canines. The cat let out a yowl of pain and frustration. It lifted its long front legs to bat him off. He felt its claws scoring down his flanks, warm blood oozing down his side. But still he clung on. The beast became more and more agitated. It hobbled in circles and bucked as it tried to fling him off. Haywood cracked open an eye just in time to see Suri making her escape through the grass. His ploy had worked. His mate, his only family was safe.
That small lapse in concentration cost him dearly. His jaws tired and slackened. He slipped just a whisker and the serval felt it. His paws scrambled for purchase in its silky fur. With a mighty wrench it tossed its head to one side and Haywood was thrown off. He landed in the sand with a thud. Winded, he was slow to raise himself up. He should’ve stayed down. As soon as he regained his paws the serval lashed out. Its large paw struck Haywood in the face. He felt blood leaking down his cheek as the cat’s claws sunk in deep. Time seemed to pause. Haywood heard the pop and squelch from a distance. It could’ve have been happening to any other meer for all he felt. No pain, only numbness. He was in shock. He crumpled, his breaths rapid. Blood pouring over his muzzle at an alarming rate. One of his eyes was pressed to the ground, it saw only darkness. The other would not, could not open. His other eye saw nothing. Where it had once been was the bloody pulp of a hollow socket. The cat had taken his eye.
The serval leaned over him now. It licked its lips and opened its jaws, ready to finish him. He would make a perfect meal. But Haywood wasn’t giving up. Once it was close enough he kicked out with one paw, sending a flurry of sand into the serval’s face. His aim was true and with a caterwaul the serval retreated back into the undergrowth, blinded for the time being. It did not return.
Word of Haywood’s feat spread throughout the meer families of the desert. He became known as OneEye in their legends. He took on the title of one of the most intimidating dominant males in the desert. He wore the mantel proudly. As long as he was dominant male of the Brights other meer would think twice before challenging his family. So Haywood became OneEye, the meer that even the clawbeast feared……