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"Star Keys" (Ghint'e Revenge)

Morning comes. The jungle casts a silent shadow. Death spent the night. A trooper and a prisoner’s bones lay exposed in large pods of the green plants, which hapless victims had slept too close to. Plant enzymes dissolved soft tissues. Heliamphora chimantensis and Darlingtonia noopafornica, relatives to the cobra plant, claimed victory. The night set a noose about necks and pulled victims in.

Not far away, after solemn words, after breaking camp and walking, soldiers learn more gruesome news. Spattered blood lay upon the ground like a red, smelly, death blanket.

“Dubadon Denayreeon blue devils. Phoo,” Gank gushes and shakes his head. “Augh,” he mutters. “Stand back. The smell of decaying flesh is nauseating.”

All, cast sickened eyes to blood, bones, and gory flesh. With troopers, Kieusiv blinks. Seeming altogether calm, his father taught him ways of the hunt, ways of the wild, and that no man should give quarter to dead beasts that trickle blood.

Naldron nods. “It is. Three devils did not make it; they were torn apart, Gank.”

“Right. Some did not survive,” Hover says and he looks while not far away. “But others did,” he adds and points. “While remaining, blue devils live, this time, a Noopian tiger cat did not.”

The carcass of a great striped cat lay strewn on the forest floor and the ferocious, sleek beast a victim to the sharp-toothed devils.

“The pack-hunt rules in many places,” Hover continues.

Kieusiv nods.

“Predator and prey. We must find that higher ground, and soon.” At Ainia’s and Solyenay’s shoulders, Hover peers to Kieusiv and back to Ainia. “We must find shelter. We must place hope in the signal. We do not wish to be the hunted.”

The jungle and the night: the night numbs and nabs, as the necromancer, Ze, knows how.

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