Book 5, Chapter 25 - The Wendigo King

Red Scorpion slunk away from Sandspire, defeated. He had to tell his master about the mysterious demonhunter as soon as possible.

He dare not waste a single minute, so he boarded a small aircraft and headed off to the uncharted areas to the south where he usually made contact with his handlers. Two days and two nights he traveled before he arrived.

From outside this mountain looked like any other mountain in the wastelands. However, inside it was veined with rivers of fresh water. One distinct feature was how it looked, like a wolf’s head nestled in the jagged terrain. Its open maw was the entrance to a system of caves they called the Wolf’s Den.

Wolf’s Den was like a world all its own. Red Scorpion took two mutants and entered, and as they walked deeper inside their path was lined with gleaming lights. They were the hungry green eyes of mutant animals that watched their progress.

From the darkness an enormous mouse skittered out to waddle beside Red Scorpion. In contrast to its smaller cousins this one walked on two legs. It rose about a hundred and seventy centimeters tall and its body was covered in smooth gray hair that looked tough as steel. More surprising still was the fact this mutant rat was actually wearing armor. Red Scorpion could see the spark of intelligence in its beady eyes.

It wasn’t his first time encountering creatures like this. He’d learned to hide his surprise each time such a strange scene presented itself. Animals were getting smart, even building their own armies. Not for the first time, Red Scorpion wondered if he was going crazy or if it was the whole world that’d gone mad.

This strange group of creatures had come here at the behest of their master four years ago, seeking shelter. Since then their numbers have grown considerably. Because of their natural advantages they made the perfect pioneers to set up a base in the inhospitable ranges of the far south.

They gave Red Scorpion goosebumps. “Where’s the Wendigo King? I have important news to share!”

His breath caught in his chest as all around a press of hyper intelligence animals closed in. They sniffed the air around Red Scorpion and the two men he’d brought.

One of them, which looked hardly more than a pup, opened its wolf-like maw and tried to nibble on one of the mutant’s feet. While the mutants were trying to stomach these strange creatures, the percieved threat caused him to lose patience. He kicked the tiny wolf away.

Red Scorpion blanched. “Idiot! What are you doing!”

Suddenly the cave was filled with angry grows. All sorts of creatures, whatever their species, suddenly took on aggressive postures. Red Scorpion could feel the mortal threat wash over him.

A light emerged from deep within the cavern. A pair of burning eyes that were difficult to look at directly. It took only an instant for the owner of those eyes to appear before them.

A pair of scarlet claws ripped through the mutant’s chest and burst out from his back. 

Like a scene from some torrid nightmare, they watched as the mutant shriveled away into a husk of its former self. It was like watching all the flood and fluid in him being sucked away in an instant. When it was nothing more than a dried corpse, the mutant’s assailant flung the body away like garbage. The rest of the beasts pounced on it and tore what remained to pieces.

“Control your mongrels,” a hoarse, authoritative voice growled at Red Scorpion, “or you will suffer the same fate.”

Red Scorpion felt cold sweat trickle down his neck. The power difference between him and this creature was like an ocean.

Four years ago these beasts were a typical group, formidable but not terrifying. Yet after joining the Master, this beast in particular became immensely more powerful. It was no wonder he was so highly considered by the Master, or why he was made to be their vanguard.

Red Scorpion responded with a mixture of jealousy and fear. “Wendigo King, I’m here to report about a demonhunter appearing in the southern wilds. We must alert the Master right away.”

“A demonhunter.” Nothing changed in the monster’s face. “They were bound to learn about us sooner or later. One or two is no problem.”

Red Scorpion pressed him. “I believe Skycloud had sent the demonhunter to take over Greenland City. He says the scouting party you sent a few days ago has already been slain. You don’t think this a problem we need to report?”

The Wendigo King was silent for a few moments. “The demonhunter you speak of is already here.”

Red Scorpion was frozen solid, but recovered after a second. “What do you mean?”

The Wendigo King’s pupils contracted to two dark spots and flashed green like two burning embers. His coat of silver hairs bristled and then burst through the cavern faster than the speed of sound. His powerful claws swiped with murderous intent, leaving gashes in the cavern’s wall.

The Wendigo King glared at something unseen. “Where did you go!”

Clang!

The sound of metal ringing against something pierced their ears. The whole cave shook violently!

Scarlet claws groped as the Wendigo King struck again. They were deadly weapons that could rip through iron like paper, even shatter relics. But what he swiped at now was sturdier than his claws could contend with. It was rare that the Wendigo King’s fury was deflected.

It was a gauntlet, dented and scratched from eons of use. But although it looked in poor repair it’d stopped his claws without issue.

A figure slowly appeared from nothing. The gray cloak that hid it flapped in the gentle breeze. What they could see of his form was wiry and wrapped from head to toe in dirty bandages. Beyond that, little could be discerned.

Red Scorpion felt like he was about to retch. “You! You followed-”

He recognized immediately that he’d led this stranger right to his master’s vanguard. Such a simple trick.

Cloudhawk had tracked Red Scorpion here. What he had not anticipated was that this mutant would be able to pinpoint him when he arrived, even invisible.

The blow from his claws had made his arm numb. 

Luckily the gauntlet he’d found in the alien temple once belonged to a god. Its name was etched in writing across the inner surface - “divine gauntlets of turning.” With a name like that it was certainly intended to be an important tool. It was possessed of several abilities, the foremost of which was deflecting any attack. It was a defensive relic by nature. 

After resonating with the gauntlets Cloudhawk could deflect all manner of energy cast his way. How strong its defensive abilities were depended on his own mental fortitude. A godslayer like the one Red Scorpion had by his side had no hope of harming Cloudhawk.

Although Cloudhawk was still recovering, he was not the sort of man who could be easily put down. With the help of this gauntlet he could protect himself from almost anything.

But besides deflection, the gauntlet was also highly defensive. Physical blows were just as ineffectual as energetic ones. But that didn’t take away from the sheer power Cloudhawk felt from this Wendigo King. The sudden attack had knocked him several step backwards and pain was starting to creep up his arm. That was one hell of an attack.

The beast was just as surprised that its prey would survive the onslaught. “You have some gall, walking into the Wolf’s Den!”

Howls and hisses from the myriad mutant creatures answered his words. Cloudhawk looked around, acutely away that he’d just stumbled into a hornet’s nest.

The half man, half wolf Wendigo King lashed out again with its crimson claws. Faster than the eye could follow he reached for Cloudhawk with enough force to shatter bone.

But Cloudhawk liked his bones as they were, so he turned and raised his arm to block the strike. Scarlet claws raked against cold iron.

Eyes that burned with nightmarish green light were fixed on Cloudhawk, like a hungry animal eyeing its next meal. “Don’t think you’ll be leaving here alive.”

As if on cue, the host of mutant creatures jumped to action. Even a Master Demonhunter would be rethinking their exit plan in a situation like this, much less a wounded Cloudhawk. Yet with level tones Cloudhawk just shrugged. “Oh yeah?”

He took advantage of the Wendigo King’s taunts to reach out and grab him by the armor. The air around them warbled uncomfortably and then, just as the sea of creatures crested around them, the two figures vanished completely from the cave.

“Where?!”

Red Scorpion stared at the space they’d been wide eyed and baffled. He couldn’t grasp what he’d seen. How could two people simply disappear?

The remaining monsters started to panic. The Wendigo King was their leader. He was taken from right under their noses without so much as a scent to follow. He was stolen by some dark power, and that meant he would be difficult to find.

Aooo! Aaaaoo-aaaoooo!

Howls arose, ringing off the cavern walls. Beasts scattered in all directiobs.

Meanwhile Cloudhawk and the Wendigo King blinked into existence outside of the cavern. The wolf-like mutant was taken aback by this strange power, but that didn’t stop him from launching into another series of attacks. The two, now alone in the mountains, traded several blows. Cloudhawk struck out with streak after streak of silver light, but the Wendigo King knocked them away with his claws. Chasing one another across the broken terrain, fissures and landslides marked where they passed.

As they continued their struggle Cloudhawk was suddenly wracked by a terrible pain.

It was a brief moment, but one the Wendigo King capitalized on. He landed a well-placed kick against Cloudhawk’s chest and sent him to the ground.

Cloudhawk instinctively blinked away a hundred meters. 

It was obvious to the Wendigo King that this demonhunter was powerful, yet somehow constrained. The longer this fight went on the more it moved in his favor. This was good, for otherwise the mutant wasn’t sure he could defeat the human.

Was he wounded? So much the better! He charged at Cloudhawk, ready to finish it.

Cloudhawk couldn’t keep up the fight for long. As the Wendigo King came bearing down he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Hey drunk, are you just gonna wait for him to carve me up?!”

The call ran through the Wendigo King’s body like a shock. Was this an ambush?

His answer came in the form of a shadow from overhead. The figure descended on him with incredible speed and struck with a simple-looking blade. It was the weapon Cloudhawk had brought back and delivered to the old drunk, Sunstroke.

The Wendigo King was forced to lunge to the side. A gentle light like the first rays of dawn swept across the ground, and much to the mutant’s shock left behind a gash in the earth twenty meters long.

Judging by what he saw, this new threat was no less powerful than himself. What’s more, he could sense that the sword was just a secondary tool.

Things were not looking good.

The Wendigo King dropped to all fours and started to bound away.

But the old man appeared before him, sword raised. With one swing he sent the mutant sprawling. In a single blow the Wendigo King was thrown to the ground and gravely wounded.

Only then did the old drunk look toward Cloudhawk. “This one’s their ringleader?”

“It looks like the big boss isn’t here. Still, this one seems a lot more important than Red Scorpion. Let’s take him alive. Maybe there’s a chance we can dangle this one to get the big boss’ attention.” Cloudhawk stopped when he heard the cries coming from Wolf’s Den. What strange creatures… there was something about them… but Cloudhawk pushed the thought aside. Now wasn’t the time. “Let’s go!”

The old drunk lifted the wounded Wendigo King and together the two figures fled the mountain range.

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