Chapter 69 - An Uncertain Feeling

Forlorn cries rattled in Hydra’s room for more than an hour. Then, there was silence.

Hydra had given vent to all of his appetites, with several women sporting wounds as souvenirs. They lay gasping on the floor, not an inch of them unscathed. Even their wrists were brutally broken. The more excited Hydra became, the more violent were his delights. For him joy and anger were interchangeable, so all those near him feared him like a wild animal.

He was also a clever man. He resolved his darker proclivities on slaves and those who disobeyed, and lured those with any skill to obey him. This allowed him to enjoy stable rule, and for eight years scores without number were tormented to death while the elite were in his grasp.

“Get them the fuck outta here…”

Hydra put on his clothes and replaced his eyepatch, summoning people to remove the women like sexual detritus. Women he had plenty of, and these were broken now. He didn’t care whether they were cut up and fed to the beasts or sprinkled on the fields like manure, because that was all they were worth to him anymore.

He wandered over to the window and basked in the morning sun, peering out over his territory and intoxicated with joy.

This plentiful oasis, this fertile earth, this perfect pearl in the Wastelands was difficult to match. He was ruler here, a king in his kingdom, with its more than fifty thousand residents his subjects – or rather, his livestock and slaves. 

If he wanted he could kill any one or all of them.  He could have any woman for any reason or none. Who would dare oppose? He was like a god in this place, and it was a sensation more enticing than anything. He craved it like a drug, drunk on power.

The only thing, like a bone stuck in one’s throat, was that hiding piece of shit. Once a month on the dot he showed up to take half of what was rightfully his. It was robbery, extortion. It was an insult!

It was an insult Hydra was forced to swallow… but everything would be settled today.

He didn’t know many spies and loyalists those mutants had here, but he had to expect they knew he was acting suspicious. In the battle ahead defeating them wasn’t enough, he had to exterminate them, like a cancer, or fighting was pointless.

To do this he planned to fabricate the Bloodsoaked Queen’s escape. This would give him the cover to assemble his best men, while the mutants would be forced to come. They were too invested in getting the demonhunter to stay away. That is when Hydra would spring his trap and so long as the sweepers were lured into the right place none of them would survive.

Their lieutenants would be disposed of. The shadow man would have to show himself.

With the whole outpost behind him and the might of the demonhunter it didn’t matter how strong this bastard was. It didn’t matter what influence he wielded. At least his domain had the strength to fight back!

Sitting around was to await one’s own death. Why not act first, give it all or nothing?

Someone entered the room. Judging by the sound of their footsteps his gait and speed was surprisingly consistent, almost supernatural. He didn’t have to look to know who it was, only those closest to him were allowed in here. It was his brother, Snaketooth.

Hydra swept his eyes out over the outpost. “How are the preparations?”

His response was grim and firm. “Relax, brother. The bait’s been set, and we have fifteen snipers nearby that’ll keep the situation in our control. No one’s going to slip through.”

The outpost’s snipers were its ace in the hole. They had been cultivated to be masters of their craft, crack marksmen. Fifteen of these men hidden in the nearby ruins would be like angels of death.

Snaketooth went on. “The eight of us are leaving to join the demonhunter."

Hydra suddenly turned and looked Snaketooth in the eye. “Listen, no matter what happens, you’ll always be my little brother. If there’s anyone in this world I care about, it’s you. These years you’ve been my mighty right arm, and my greatest weakness. I don’t want anything to happen to you, do you hear me?”

Snaketooth frowned at him. “I’m a soldier, brother. I’m willing to die for the cause.”

“No doubt, you’re a damn good soldier. But more importantly you’re my brother, so don’t do anything stupid. You get your ass right back and report the moment the mission’s done.” Hydra’s tone left no room for argument. “All of this place – all the food and drink and women – you’re the only one I’m willing to share it with. Whatever I got, you got.”

Snaketooth bowed low. “Thank you, brother.”

Hydra waved his hand. “Go, be careful.”

As merciless as Hydra was everyone had something they cared about. He’d grown up with Snaketooth as scavengers, living a life no different than Cloudhawk’s had been until they were ten. They supported each other through countless sufferings and now Snaketooth was his right-hand man.

As Snaketooth took his seven companions and set out, Hydra put out the word that the demonhunter had been spotted and had escaped the oasis.  He was dispatching eight of his best to hunt them down.

The minutes ticked by, one by one. Now the bait had been laid, would it be enough to entice their prey?

Hydra sat in a chair and shut his eyes, drumming his fingers rhythmically against the armrests as though he were waiting for something. And then he stopped.

A sound reached his ears, the din of doors being thrown open. The demon’s lieutenants stormed in.

Hydra!” The winged one came to ground before him. With the scrape of steel on leather he pulled forth a machete and put it against Hydra’s neck. He roared in unbridled anger. “You filthy dickweasel! Why didn’t you tell us the moment you knew where they were?!”

“Now don’t be angry, gentlemen,” his eyes opened and he regarded the three of them with the utmost respect. “I only just found out. The moment I heard I sent out eight people to get them. Don’t worry, we’re going to get them.”

“These two demonhunters are important to the master. We can’t let them escape no matter the cost. But we don’t have enough people.” Longhorn leveled an order directly to the outpost leader. “I need you to send out more men – and you will go personally.”

This is what Hydra was waiting for. He shrunk as though he could not resist. “Of course, of course!”

“Quickly!” Vulture was clearly impatient. “This is the last time.  The LAST fucking time! If these rats get away again because you were dragging ass I’ll make you pay! Do you hear me?”

Stranger Black interjected. “Alright. Brothers, we can’t waste time here either. We have a lead, we have to follow it.”

He watched the mutants leave, sneering laughter at them once they’d gone. Leonine then approached, clad in armor, and addressed him respectfully.

“We’ve got four hundred handpicked men ready to go.”

“Let’s go.”

Hydra and Leonine left for where the soldiers waited. They were arrayed in clean formation wearing good leather and breathing masks. Each one was equipped with a modified rifle or powerful crossbow in addition to broadswords or machetes strapped to their backs. Like statues they stood without moving a muscle, indomitable like a proper army.

“These fighters are the most elite in all the outpost.” Hydra walked ahead with Leonine at his side. As the outpost’s leader marched before the formation his eyes were filled with pride and arrogance. “I’ve been preparing for this moment for years.”

There weren’t many, but his people were heavily equipped and they fought like devils. They were no less destructive than the sweepers themselves. Most importantly these fighters were handpicked by Hydra. They were loyal, and answered only to him.

He only had one command – follow him even into the depths of hell.

The fiends those mutants brought with them didn’t number over three hundred. Even in a straight fight it wasn’t sure they’d win, much less when they didn’t know they were about to get stabbed in the back. His enemy had nowhere to go!

“Move out!”

Not long after the sweepers had left, Hydra gathered his people and crossed the valley into the treacherous oasis. When they reached the wilderness-devoured ruins it was like a maze that stretched out before them.

It was a labyrinth of death, one that’d taken many lives. And it was their best shot! Hydra had a chance to kill his overlords in one fell strike. And yet he felt a sense of disquiet.

Strange… why would he feel so anxious? He thought for a moment and realized that it’d all been too easy. So easy it was starting to seem dangerous!

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