As the morning sun warmed the broad leaves of the Concordia’s jungles, the forest began to awaken. Wrapped around a thick tree-branch, a Concordian wyrm let out a drowsy chirrup. Once more, prey-smell filled the air. With a crack of its chitinous, segmented legs, the hexapod stretched, chittering lazily. The wyrm’s antennae started shifting in the direction of the prey-smell. Caustic drool began hissing into the tree-branch. The creature was hungry. It was time to hunt. Even in the slow warmth of morning, sounds and smells began to fill the air.
Eight feet long, its mandibles agitatedly clicking, the wyrm skittered through the great canopy. The prey-smell was very close now. Slowly, the wyrm’s raptorial claws flexed in anticipation.
In the sweltering morning, life was slow, drowsy. An ahkuhl brayed contentedly as it grazed on the broad leaves of the forest-floor. The wyrm chittered quietly. The barbed spines that covered it bristled in excitement. Its first meal of the day.
Silently, the wyrm slipped its tail around the branch. Its mandibles clicking at a near-whisper. The beast was too fat, too large. It couldn’t be swallowed. Acidic saliva began to drip from its jaws.
The wyrm began to lower itself, its chitinous tail slowly stretching. Its antennae twitched in the direction of the ahkuhl. It stank of contentment. Still too groggy to be alert, too hungry to care. A drop of spittle landed on the blubbery beast’s shoulder. It gave a confused bellow of pain.
A dull warble slowly drifted through the forest. The wyrm ceased lowering itself, it tensed. That was not a prey-noise. With a braying grunt of fear and pain, the ahkuhl began to quickly waddle away. The wyrm let out a hungry and aggravated hiss from its cackling mandibles. The sonorous hum grew louder. Immediately, its spines flaring, the wyrm scuttled back up the tree branch it hung from. Along with the droning, the faintest whiff of the new prey-smell followed. It smelt bitter, and the strength of the scent was increasing.
The wyrm immediately flattened itself against the branch. Its spines twitched in agitation. It had never heard anything like that before. A small, bitter smelling thing burst out of the bush. It was like a flying shell. It stayed there—a light shining out of it.
‘ZONE-SCANNED. LIFE-FORM DETECTED.’
The light vanished. Suddenly it lurched upwards into the canopy. It stared at the wyrm. With an angry hiss, and a flaring of its spines, the wyrm reared up, its claws raised in a threat-display. The flying shell-thing seemed unmoved.
‘LIFE-FORM FOUND. SCAN IN PROGRESS.’
Once again, light shone from it, over the wyrm. With an angry clack, the wyrm lunged forward, batting the shell-thing back into the dirt, near the mangled ahkuhl body. It had torn a deep wound into it. Small bursts of light crackled from the shell.
‘ZZSSZZZTEM E-E-ERRRRRO-OR FAAA-T-TAL D-D-DAMAGE.’
The wyrm let out a hiss of agitation. The shell-thing confused it. That slow hum remained, though quieter now the shell-thing was dead. Once again, the wyrm flattened itself down. Once again, its antennae had picked up that bitter taste approaching, but more, larger. Where the smaller thing burst through the bush-line, this large-thing slid sleekly. It smelt bitter like the shell-thing, but there was prey-smell within.
It seemed to stop, like the ahkuhl had. The prey-smell seemed to emerge from the shell-thing’s belly. A short, brown-shelled blue thing emerged; at first it was calm, but then as it saw the smaller shell-thing, alarm seemed to flare around it. ‘Drone located Shas’la… Sands of T’au, something was unhappy with it!’
Six more, also blue and shelled, emerged. The first was still kneeling near the dead shell-thing. ‘What kind of beast could do such damage? It must be a great brute… perhaps a wyrm like the Gue’la spoke of Shas’la? Perhaps we should return with heavier security… the Gue’la did say its saliva could eat through their vehicles…’
There was a short bark of amusement. The last to emerge stank of ease, it was an old hunter. The wyrm wrapped its tail around the branch. It would die first. Too dangerous.
‘Worry not, Fio’la, they’re prone to fancy. As long as we keep our wits about us, there is nothi-‘ It looked at the hissing drop of acid. Then it looked up. ‘By Puretide! Mo-‘
The wyrm lunged forwards. With a horrid sucking, it opened its maw wide and swallowed the prey-thing whole. It had barely enough time to struggle in its distended gullet before the acid killed it. The blue-prey things stumbled away from the now corpulent wyrm. The loud, shelled thing still sat in its stomach, like an awkward lump. It could smell the prey’s fear. But still, the shell sat in its belly. It would drink-eat them. Too uncomfortable to simply swallow. Too bitter.
Immediately they began spitting light at the wyrm. It bit and stung its hide. With a shriek it lunged, the shell gave an uncomfortable lurch. It swiped at the shorter one. He was rank with fear. The wyrm’s claw neatly slid through him and two halves of him flopped to the ground. The remaining prey-things were lining up now, their stinging lights sent horrid pains to the wyrm’s stomach. With an uncomfortable gurgle, the wyrm spasmed. It vomited out the stinking remains of the first blue-thing.
With a cry of fear, the blue prey-things were knocked off their feet by the remains.
The wyrm was upon them. With a hissing shriek, it dug its mandibles into the one immediately below it. Its shelled head buckled almost instantly. Before they could do more than scream in disgust and terror, the remaining two had their heads neatly sliced off. The wyrm immediately turned to the large shell-thing. It had done nothing, but still, the wyrm was wary. It hissed. The large thing did not move. It simply flew in place. Finally, the wyrm’s spines flattened, and it chittered greedily. Acidic drool dripping from its maw. It would eat well tonight.
About the Author
Isaac is a long-time writer from England, currently going to university to improve said writing… hopefully. He’s a connoisseur of the messed up 21st Founding, because they’ve got style, and a big fan of eldritch horror, especially in fantasy. Rather obviously this means he’s a massive metal-head.