The Shard of Io

Decisions, Decisions

“We’re going home.” Duerias shouldered Brolan’s corpse. “We want to honor our dead.”

“When the Sorceror Queen finds you, you will have a great many to honor.” Rashai squinted in the general direction of the party, which was actually just a sand dune.

“We’re not afraid of her,” Vangar said.

“Of course not. You have never had to face her wrath, so you cannot comprehend what it is that you fear! Are you so sure your kinsmen are as anxious to die as you are?”

“We’re leaving now,” Brugan said and started walking off. Thauris followed.

“Even though it will cost my my life, I must stop you!" Rashai drew his blade and charged. "AAAAHHHH!”

The group looked back and watched Rashai blindly stabbing random mounds of sand.

The days were long and hard. The ground was rocky, sandy, and nowhere near anything hospitable. The sun was a white disk that moved across the red sky, giving everything a crimson hue.

Not exactly a vacation spot.

Once Duerias had his bearings, Thauris guided the group to various emergency caches of supplies which had been left behind by hunting parties. Occasionally there would be no supplies, and death by starvation or dehydration was something to be considered.

Or it was, until they realized they had just entered at the very bottom of a terrible food chain.

After the ninth day, it became clear that the dwarves were being followed. At first, they were tailed at a distance. But as the days stretched, the packs of large, scaled wolves followed after them at a closer distance. By day fourteen, the group could make out the details of their pursuers – transparent scaled skin, shiny like a snake, but revealed the muscles moving underneath. Even their black eyes were visible. By that point, running was pointless.

So the dwarves stopped running.

That’s when the bloodwolves started running.

They moved in hard and fast. Packs flanked the group, but the dwarves dug heels into dirt and blades into scaly flesh. The group drove off two entire packs before the rest scattered.

Bloody and beaten, breathing hard but happy to still be breathing, the group gave a round of high-fives to their success. That celebration lasted only as long as it took for the flock skullhawks to swoop down from the red sky. Feathers black as night offset their pointy white skeleton skull. The birds blocked out much of the red sky as bony beaks slammed into the wolf corpses, breaking bones and rending flesh like a blow from a morning star.

Imagine this with wings. Multiplied by about a hundred.

Dozens of wolf bodies disappeared under the shredding force of the feathered frenzy of the skullhawks. But there were more birds arriving by the minute, and if dead meat could not be had, then live meat would do. Dwarves qualified.

The number of skullhawks increased, as did the pools of dwarven blood that soaked into the sand. The feeding skullhawks flew into the sky, leaving nothing behind of the bloodwolf corpses. As a hundred or so of the birds swirled overhead like a feathery tornado of impending death, the dwarves lamented that their final moments would be as bird food.

Thauris was just as surprised as the rest of the group when the runes on his mechanical arm began to glow. The energy that pulsed from the runes spread to his entire arm, and each of his fingers stretched out like a tentacle. Each digit wrapped around a dwarf, and when all three dwarves had been grappled the light exploded and engulfed them.

The skullhawks slowly ceased their circling as there was nothing left to circle. The dwarves, like the bodies of the blodowolves, were gone.



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