Prey

By Johnny Chaosgate

03/08/18

Ranina was grumpy.

Far be it from her to try to break away from the stereotype of all Dwarves to be gruff and grizzled but… Well she was grumpy.

While she stalked through the foliage within the grand forest of Tehideth, she recalled her journey to this point. A once proud smithy in the forges of Heyl, renowned for her skills at the anvil as well as on the battlefield, then harassed out of the town thanks to the undead attacks, “bloody zombies,” she grumbled under her breath as she stomped onwards, “don’t realise a killing blow when they receive one.”

Her mind then drifted to more recently, following the evacuees to Tehideth, she considered safety in numbers but, after a while realised that she was probably actually one of the more proficient combatants in their population. 

Then there were the damned ants, not diminutive insects but deadly man-ant hybrids, terrorising their camp and stinging several of them to later discover those stung were in actual fact, impregnated with their spawn.

And finally, the wretched townsfolk from Chaosgate, swanning in claiming to save the day with their posing warriors, over dramatic mages and arrogant archers. A motley crew the lot of them, even boasting maniacal cannibals, grotesque Orks and some creatures she couldn’t even name, living puppets and talking rocks?! Her head spun with disgust. She didn’t want their help, she didn’t need their help, she certainly didn’t ask for their help!

Which brought her to now.

While these ‘brave warriors’ were patting each other on the back for apparently slaying the ant monsters ‘queen’ and celebrating in the days that followed, Ranina had noticed that her fellow townsfolk were still disappearing here and there.

Before, the ants would attack directly and there would be clear evidence of their demise, but now, nothing…

Ranina stopped to check her surroundings, it was actually quite beautiful and peaceful here, the Suns Ray’s breaking through the greenery above in piercing glorious beams of light, but it was eerily silent. Her gaze slowly panned from left, to right, to left again.

As her eyes returned to the left, she suddenly became aware of someone standing there!

Someone with brown mottled flesh like tree bark and long green vine like hair.

The Korr warrior within Ranina leapt into a fighting stance, a pair of hand axes draw ready, she mentally noted that disputed the gentle Plantae’s appearance, it also bore rows of visceral looking thorns growing along its forearms and hands,

“Do you always sneak up on people like that?” Ranina growled,

The feminine tree creature before her showed no emotion, “Why are you here?” It asked, cocking its head to one side quizzically, 

“Get lost, you overgrown dandelion, I ain’t got time for chit chat with you, there’s lives at stake here!” Ranina motioned to shove past when the plant lady replied, “yes, including yours.”

The dwarf, hesitated, shooting an aggressive stare at her potential adversary, 

“You threatening me shrub? Last time I checked these axes were good at cutting down trees AND enemies, you could be both…” She spat the last word with purposeful intimidation, twirling each axe with a flick of her wrists to hint at her martial prowess.

“I do not threaten you, I give you warning, there are things drawing close within these trees, things far deadlier than the Pryv, the Plantae, even you mighty dwarf” it spoke in a calm monotone drawl.

Ranina lowered her weapons and shrugged, 

” I beg to differ, there’s nothing I’ve yet to encounter that can endure one of my axes to their skull.”

Ranina brandished the afore mentioned blades with a grin, almost cockily.

The Plantae still displayed no emotion at the boast, 

“Then you should be aware that… “

But before it could finish its words, a large, ominous blur shot out from behind a nearby log and struck the plant person with such speed and strength, it completely swept them off their roots! 

“BY DUR’S ANVIL!” The Korr cried out in shock, the sudden attack fully caught her by surprise, the attacker’s movement being so fast and powerful that it had carried the tree lady in a terrifying whirl behind a bush, beyond Ranina’s vision. The bush shuddered and shook in a visceral suggestion of what might be happening behind it, bizarrely no screams of pain or fear were heard but it was very evident that someone just got brutally murdered as pools of green sap like blood crept out from under the leaves.

Ranina was stood frozen, taking in the scene that had actually just taken seconds to happen, then silence again.

The bush in front of her juddered twice more, just to confirm that ‘ something’ was still very much alive behind there. The Korr warrior maiden mentally slapped herself, regaining focus on the situation. With renewed steel, she cautiously stepped once… Twice… A third step towards her target…

Ranina heard a snap of twig behind her, she spun to engage her enemy to see in fact several,

Her attention was drawn to the figure in the centre, as he drew closer she heard the gentle tapping of metal in his gloved hands…