The Rift Wars rage on with the battle between Rift Slither and Hunter Rally.
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The Hunter Rampage and his weary, bloodied mount faced the victorious Rift Predator and the green hard-shelled creature, which had left the Guild’s tribal warrior and his blowgun shattered in the dust.
I scampered back to the shelter of the volcanic stone and gasped to Jaru, "We must do something. These Riftspawn are on the verge of winning."
The Corrupted Disciple hesitated. I do not believe it was out of fear; that concept seemed unavailable to him. I saw calculation in his burning red eyes, a weighing of the situation to see if there were any benefits to not intervening.
“If the Riftspawn win they will overtake Newerth,” I said. “Do you think they will falter when they come to your Scar and whatever septic blight lies within? They will spill into it like a sewer drain and show your kind what real darkness is.”
Jaru smiled. “Can you not see? The warriors who give themselves over to the Rift are clearly dominant. Those who resist its influence are found lacking.”
“The first Hunter remains standing. He—”
“He is being flanked as we speak. If you do not wish to hear his screams, cover your ears as you have your eyes. I gave myself over to the darkness once, and it has served me well. This Great Rift is simply the next tier.”
“That...that is madness.”
Jaru stepped away from the shelter. “Madness brought Maliken his great power. What might it do for me?”
The red orb rose from his palm and began to spin, faster and faster. Ahead of him the mounted Hunter’s head swiveled left and right as the two Riftspawn circled him, waiting to lunge. The Hunter Rampage glanced at Jaru and his spinning orb. He pointed his giant mace at the Corrupted Disciple, marking him as an enemy, and gripped the reins to charge when a green blob arced from the Great Rift and landed in front of him.
A tentacled, serpent-like head rose from the green mass and spat a viscous toxin at the Hunter’s face. He dodged the assault, barely, as the source of the blob dragged itself through the portal. It slithered into Newerth, shimmering with a sickly green hue, its long tongue testing the air. The hood around its multi-eyed face was flared, the razor-sharp tines growing from its arms slashing the air as it slid toward the Hunter, surrounding him completely.
A realization seemed to fall upon the Hunter, then resignation. He lowered his giant mace and patted the thick neck of the Riftbeast he’d tamed, a final display of gratitude. Jaru and the Riftspawn closed in. I rose from the shelter and pushed my cloak aside, a yellow aura building around my hands. I did not know if it would change the outcome, but I had to do something.
A roar filled the air, echoing from the black portal across the face of Krula. The Riftspawn halted, their eyes darting to the Great Rift. Jaru took a step backward toward me and nearly stumbled when a warrior clad in red and purple armor launched through the Rift, his battle cry growing to a deafening level. He landed next to his fellow Hunter and slammed his weapon, a pulsing red Riftbeast head with burning eyes and jagged fangs, against the ground.
The Riftspawn were knocked off their feet and scattered across the dust. Jaru careened through the air and crashed into the sheltering stone. He slumped to the ground and blinked at the new Hunter, this warrior who seemed to be rallying the Guild’s cause, and allowed his orb to dim and sink below his cloak.
I let the yellow aura around my hands fade as well. Jaru had not seen it, and still believed I was King Jeraziah’s Anointed Conciliator. Which I was, externally. If I could keep my true identity secret, I would. But if these remaining members of the Hunter’s Guild failed to stop the Riftspawn, I would do whatever was necessary.
The war rages on in the Rift Wars with the battle between Hunter Bushwack and Rift Bubbles. Choose your side in the HoN Store today!
The jagged red bone shards of the Riftspawn hammered against the Hunter’s blades and armor again and again, driving him back until he stumbled over a mound of black stones and fell.
I gathered a fistful of Jaru’s cloak. “You’ll not help him? He fights for Newerth!”
“He has already lost,” Jaru said.
The predatory Riftspawn loomed above the Hunter, heavy arms drawn back for a final attack. The Hunter lifted his blades to defend, but they sagged from exhaustion and pain.
I rose and sprinted toward them. The Rift creature’s antennae twitched and his head turned. His red eyes pinned me in place, frozen. The ground to either side was barren—I was completely exposed and vulnerable. The Riftspawn kept its gaze upon me and cleaved the bone blades down. As the razor points pierced the Hunter’s armor and he began to scream, a bolt as thick as my wrist flew from the growing Rift and struck the creature upon its armored hide, knocking it aside and off the Hunter.
A new warrior followed the bolt through the portal. As he moved forward he reloaded the crossbow mounted on his forearm, and when he cleared the black veil spewing from the stalagnights I saw the crossbow was fashioned from some Rift monster, its segmented carapace and appendages acting as armor and weapon.
The Hunter carried himself much like one of the fearsome tribal warriors from the northeast reaches of the Rulian Marsh, and he was adorned in the scales, horns and hides of harvested Riftspawn. A twisted warthog-like skull covered his head, and through its empty eye sockets he peered at the recovering Rift predator and lifted a long blowgun to the vents in his helm.
Before he could expel his breath a large greenish stone tumbled through the Rift. It came to an abrupt halt on the volcanic rock of Krula and from it a whirling disc flew toward the new Hunter.
“Behind you!” I called.
The Hunter turned and dropped, bracing for impact, but the disc burst apart in a flash of light and became a giant, hunched Riftspawn with thick green arms and legs tipped with cruel claws. The shell on its back squirmed with green tentacles, some of which had woven together to form two cannon-like growths. A single antennae with a glowing yellow orb drooped before its face, which held a greedy leer as the Riftspawn reached for the stunned tribal Hunter.
Jaru the Corrupted Disciple and I ducked and scurried toward an outcropping of volcanic rock to avoid being trampled by the Rampage-like Hunter and Rift Arachna as they tore at each other.
My eye was drawn once again to the blackness of the Great Rift, which seemed to have grown in the brief time since Jaru brought me there. At first I thought the shape emerging from the darkness was another tentacle, but it was white and, when I squinted to gain detail, braided. It lashed into Newerth and disappeared back into the Rift.
Then the tip of a steel sword sliced across the black veil. A jagged red blade that seemed to be made of bone met and stopped it, and both weapons retreated into the Rift. Jaru saw it as well. His orb began to glow brighter and spin faster. I made sure I was not between him and whatever might issue forth.
One of the giant purple tentacles uncoiled from the Rift and loomed above us. The end spread and dipped, its viscous fluid quivering. Our reflections in it appeared quite concerned, even terrified. The tentacle jerked once, twice, and fell into the dust and ash, where it rolled and whipped in a frenzy. Its severed base flopped through the Rift spewing purple blood that glowed upon the stones.
A warrior burst through the Rift and landed next to it. The white braid trailed behind him from a golden mask adorned with a fringe of white hair and a single giant green eye in the center. He carried two swords, wicked cleaver-like blades with rolling eyes embedded near the base. I shuddered, imagining what sort of creatures this Hunter had subdued in order to forge these weapons.
He gazed at us with the burning green eye for a moment, then swiftly drove both blades into the tentacle. It gave a final twitch and moved no more. The fluid which would have become a stalagmite spilled from its mouth and formed an opaque pool in a crevice. The Hunter pulled his blades free and turned to join the fight against the Rift Arachna. He had taken two steps when a glowing red streak burst from the Great Rift and slammed into him, knocking the Hunter off his feet into a graceless tumble across the harsh landscape.
The Hunter sprinted forward, blades whirling, and the Riftspawn lunged to meet him.
He recovered and rose into a half-crouch to face the Riftspawn. This monster seemed to welcome the confrontation, as if it had finally cornered its elusive prey. It possessed the massive lance-like claws of red bone I had seen moments earlier. They grew from its forearms, leaving the hands and their hooked claws free to slash and pierce. Jagged bony armor ran down its back to a tail bristling with bulbous red tendrils that matched the two at the end of the whip-like antennae sprouting from its head.
The miners outside the City of Iron were forced to dig ever deeper in their search for ore, and when the dust cleared from the Engineer's explosion they found among the rubble a church steeple. Examination by the martyrs proved it dated back to the Lost Civilization, when man had ruled the earth and subjugated all he could find, including the gods.
The martyrs prayed night and day while the miners carefully cleared the dirt and debris from around ancient stone church. They prayed for a sign from Sol, a gift that would aid in the war against the Hellbourne.
When they finally pried the petrified wooden doors open, the martyrs immediately realized their prayers had not been answered. Desiccated corpses were piled to the high peaked ceiling, their mummified robes marking them as men of the cloth, priests who had stood firm as man fell from the light. Someone--or something--had punished them for their devotion.
The martyrs watched in sorrow as the bodies collapsed to dust in the soft breeze. Their sorrow quickly turned to horror as the dust began to swirl, build, and burn with lifeless fire. The holy souls had been forsaken for centuries, entombed within the ruins of their temple, and now they would exact justice upon those who dared to carry a living soul upon Newerth.
Find Ruin Revenant haunting the HoN Store now.