The hunter watched as the bionically altered figure trudged onwards through the metal forest of collapsed scaffolding, punctuated now and then by a fallen monolithic slab of rockcrete. Prey, the hunter thought. Prey for the hunt.
* * * * *
Hearing the crunching footsteps getting nearer, Nesting Python remained perfectly still where he lay on the flat girder beam over the Ratskin path that wound through the ash dunes, so as not to give his position away to whoever, or whatever, it was that approached. He had felt the clumping footsteps before he had even heard them and it had given them all the time he needed to get into position.
Whatever it was that had strayed into his tribe’s territory was unknowingly about to become his prey. Its head would become the trophy by which he would prove he had passed the Rite of First Blood and earned the right to be recognised as a warrior of the Redsnake Tribe, a brave no longer. Feeling the juddering stomping even up on the beam, Nesting Python curled his forefinger around the trigger of his handbow.
Then his prey rounded the side of a rockcrete boulder and the young Ratskin baulked. His potential prey was an ugly, hugely-muscled, mohican-haired monster, half-man and half-machine, like something from one of the ghost legends of his people.
But, Nesting Python considered, if he brought down a monster such as this he would earn the respect of even the most hardened warriors of his tribe and Purple Moss would be the one wooing him rather than spurning his advances, as she had done ever since they were children.
Athletically, and silent as methane mist, the Ratskin swung down from the girder, depressing the trigger of his handbow as he did so. The dart flew true and struck the hulking, buzz saw-armed fiend squarely in the chest. Nesting Python landed in a crouch in front of the man-machine, but rather than finding himself facing a dying enemy he was now face-to-face with an enraged beast. Could it be that the creature was somehow immune to the Widowmaker venom he had tipped his arrowheads with?
The man-machine’s flesh and blood fist struck him like an iron fist and sent him flying. As Nesting Python scrabbled in the dirt for his handbow, his erstwhile prey fired up its jagged-toothed saw blade.
Sudden as a striking ash-viper, something dropped from the darkness above them on a glittering line and, before the cyborg could take another step, thrust half-metre long steel claws through skin, metal, muscle and bone in one grinding scream of a thrust. Vomiting blood, the man-machine was hoisted into the air so that its iron-shod feet dangled just above the ground.
Nesting Python only caught a glimpse of this new insectoid, chitinous spine-armoured, bulbous-eyed creature before it disappeared back into the darkness, pulling the man-machine’s heavy body with it, but it was enough. He knew what it was that had saved his life and it made him feel sick to his stomach.
Spider Daemon, the brave thought, and with that Nesting Python picked himself up and ran.
* * * * *
High on a narrow platform jutting from the concave curving wall of the dome, the Malcadon Spyre Hunter added the Goliath’s head to the carefully arranged pile it had collected since the hunt had begun. Twelve so far, and many more where they had come from. Prey just waiting for the kill.