Author : Keith Sheridan

They were deep in the forest when the sky began to scream. Above the snowy shoulder of the mountain the orange and navy penumbra of dawn was shattered by the intrusion of a black behemoth; long and sleek, like a dagger slicing through clouds. Tay dropped to his knees, his hands went to his ears to block out the shrieking.

Okor shook him from his crouch. He shouted something but Tay couldn’t hear through the ringing in his ears. Okor’s black eyes were wide and his finger stabbed Inwards, towards where the intruder was falling towards the valley.

They began to run. Through gaps in the canopy Tay glimpsed the intruder barrelling towards the Water. The earth shook as it crashed.

The intruder had shorn through the banks of the Water, blocking the channel and sending streamers of crimson water flooding across narrow plain; scarred with smoking craters and pieces of the intruder’s carapace.

They stopped at the tree line and watched. In the thing’s flank they saw a ragged hole, from the edges of which hung ropes that crackled with light. Okor stepped out of the trees, spear in hand and began picking his way across the ground to the hole. Tay followed, careful not to put his feet in the smoking craters or step on the pieces of jagged metal. Was it a metal beast? A hudun from the stories?

Tay could feel the heat of the thing, and Okor stepped alongside it and felt the hull; raising a hiss. “Hot.” He said, stepping alongside the hole, careful to avoid the crackling ropes. His slit-nostrils perforated. “Death.” He announced.

Tay made the sign of the Channel on his forehead.

A creature tumbled from the hole, its skin black and its smooth head dominated by one giant eye. Okor stepped back, raising his spear. His large head tipped to one side to study the thing. Tay guessed it stood no higher than his waist. The creature’s legs flapped about as if only half under control, like a child.

The Sky’s Child turned towards Okor and jumped. An object appeared in its hand, pointed at Okor. His kinsmen reached forward to take the offering. The Child shouted. The thing in its hand cracked, echoing across the Valley.

Okor wailed, falling as black blood spurted from his chest. Tay roared and lunged at the Child. it spotted him and aimed its weapon at him. Tay flinched as it cracked but it seemed not to affect him. He caught the Child in his long arms, raising him towards the sky. It thrashed and wriggled, trying to escape his grip, but he held on. Tay grasped its legs and head and both pulled and squeezed. Its shiny head crumpled beneath his fingers, sending red blood splashing against the inner side of its eye. Its black skin ripped, revealing a pale inner skin that tore; leaking yet more blood. The Child screamed as it died. Tay threw it towards the trees so it could not contaminate the sacred Water.

Okor was sitting up, his ashen skin bathed in a sheen of perspiration. In his torso his flesh was fighting the wound, forcing a smoking chunk of metal from his narrow chest. Okor’s fingers trembled but he did not cry. He would live.

His kinsmen smiled, but it faltered. His luminescent eyes widened.

Then the sky began screaming again.

Tay turned. The sky, only now mending after the intruder’s assault, was tearing again. A dozen more intruders slipped down through the azure plane, descending like vultures on a corpse.

Tay watched and clutched his spear.

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