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.