The only sound was the sweet whisper of the wind through tall, yellow weeds. Most creatures were resting in what shade they could find, or lay in the dark mud around watering holes. A lull lay across the plains, cast by the oppressive heat. The air was sugary, tasting of leisure and was for once clear of death. This ugly place was normally a deadly place to live, but for now all of the predators were asleep, saving their energy for nightfall. Tentative peace had wrapped the world in light gossamer strands, easily shredded by violence.

If anyone had happened to have been wandering the lonely flat lands, the scene would have been as serene as a painting. Golden waves of grass flowed like a heavenly sea underneath a blue sky stretched overhead like a piece of colored glass. If anyone had happened to lay their head to the ground, however, they might have been struck by a feeling other than restfulness. A slight tremor in the ground shifted small clods of dirt and pebbles. It was as if the ground itself wished to sink down and cower underneath the approaching something. Because, in truth, no words could describe what came across the grassland.

The whisk of their coming sounded dimly like a blade leaving its scabbard. Their misshapen forms would normally call for pity, but the deadly look in their gleaming eyes told of being the bully more than the victim. Tusks erupted from some of their faces where tusks did not belong, ragged wings sprouted from the backs of others and yet still more had appendages too hideous to even think on. The leader of the pack halted and scanned the horizon. It was a tall creature, with the head of a snake and dull gray scales that merged into grimy brown fur below the waist. A pink, segmented rat's tail swirled in the air behind him. His half-breed minions paused their lope and eagerly awaited their chief's decree.

The snake-rat pointed to a small plume of smoke to the west. "Cooking firesss," he hissed, his forked tongue flicking out in quick movements. Low growls and harsh squawks of approval replied to his observation, his troops readying their weapons of brutality. The beast spit a stream of milky fluid onto a patch of grass and watched the affected area shrivel and die. The corners of his lips turned upward in approval. He then drew a thin-bladed saber from his belt. After a quick survey of his soldiers, the monster started to trot towards the gray smudge on the horizon. Behind him followed close to eighty genetic freaks, their eagerness for bloodshed apparent in their wildly rolling eyes.

**

The small child was kicking weakly now, his last screams sounding like a dying, squealing rabbit. What looked vaguely like a three hundred pound wild dog was crunching into his neck busily. The sound of snapping vertebrate and shrieking windpipes filled with blood barely gave the rogue's leader a pause. All he did was glance down at the feasting animal and smile his thin smile. When the child was well and truly dead, his neck virtually disintegrated by savage teeth, the snake-rat put his cool hand on the beast's armor-plated shoulder. "That'sss enough," he said quietly.

Instantly, the monstrous creature rose to a crouch. His hard exoskeleton would not allow for a straighter posture. Blood dripped from the canine mouth and it swatted the child's body some ten feet away with its long arm, which was tipped with a jagged crab's claw. The boy crumpled into the thorny thicket in which he'd been found playing just moments before. "When will we strike Serpym? I am eager for more than that small morsel," it growled impatiently, nearly unintelligible. His mouth was malformed, massive teeth jutting out at odd angles from the right side of its mouth.

Serpym flicked his tongue out in annoyance. The largest problem with controlling the large and unpredictable beasts under his command was curbing their lust for killing. It had been necessary to snuff the boy's life; Serpym's orders were explicit on the lack of survivors wanted. Unfortunately, when one of his men struck early, even out of necessity, then the taste of blood would drive them wild until they charged with no reasoning whatsoever. Chaos would ensue and the snake-beast did not like chaos.

"When the sssky darkensss jussst a bit more," he whispered, the sibilant consonants rustling like dead leaves. The chief's slitted, yellow stare urged the dog-thing not to cross him, and the monster complied, shuffling off in a lurching yet surprisingly effective gait. Serpym glanced at the sun in the sky once more, anxiously awaiting the killing hour.

The village people were not very active, the heat too much for them. Most lay inside the straw-and-mud huts, resting during the most brutal part of the day. The one child was all the gang had found. It was a perfect setting for an assault, and Serpym knew that he could afford to wait no longer. No hunting party was out on this boiling day, Serpym was positive of it, so he could allow the bloodlust to be unleashed. With a wave to his troops, the massacre began.

**

Rolgar straightened and screamed wildly, flecks of bloody spittle and hunks of meat spraying from his mouth. A severed head was gripped in each fist, dark faces contorted horrifically in anguish. He threw them both, watching gleefully as they bounced down the muddy street. No normal rain had fallen on this day; instead, blood from countless bodies soaked the earth. With a sharp snort Rolgar thumped across the village, looking for another creature to spear with his jagged tusks.

Serpym lifted his head from the neck of an old woman, barely glancing at her as she spasmed and gagged while his poison melted her insides. He watched his men revel in their slaughter, involve themselves in strange and repulsive acts. In one dark hut a woman screamed as a small group of misshapen men formed around the opening. Some rather repulsive coupling would be occurring in that building, if Serpym knew anything about his creatures. His loins twitched reflexively in hunger but he ignored the urge. The battle chief would satisfy that primitive feeling later, with the small section of prisoners he'd gathered. A more apt term for the huddled mass of children and women would be "future meal".

As the beast let the woman's body drop squishily to the ground, he scanned the rest of his howling, snarling crew. Here a pair of crow-goats were squawking over the thick thigh of a young man; there a single lion-spider was gleefully ripping the appendages off a child, starting with fingers and toes. Various creatures were rubbing the bloody mud all over their body, and Chraya, the dog-crab, was hunched over a gutted young woman who was still kicking weakly. Serpym paused and watched, interested, as Chraya gulped down the last coil of her intestine and then began chewing on her rib cage. Nice technique, Serpym thought, starting to salivate. He shook his scaly head to clear the bloodlust from him and proceeded to walk around the village, eyeing the carnage.

Huts were on fire here and there, interspersed with smoking bodies. Pieces of arms and toes and teeth were scattered throughout the ground, being hungrily eyed by squatting vultures. A young child, perhaps three or four, was pinned to the ground by about nine spears. His eyes had been removed, causing the snake-rat to think of Yassul. Yassul, an ape-thing, was known for his love of eyeballs. He considered them a delicacy. Serpym made a mental note to talk to Yassul about wasting meat.

Small crumpled forms of babies lay half-eaten next to withered old men who'd had their faces skinned. A ram-hawk was busy in the middle of the street, eagerly copulating with a screaming young maid of fifteen or so. He leaned down as he finished and casually tore the back of her neck out with his beak, severing her spinal cord and her cries. Serpym nodded politely at the warrior and continued with his inspection. After he had circled the village and found himself satisfied with the work done today, he lifted a small white flute to his thin lips. He played a brief, shrill melody and replaced the pipe to his belt. As his men reluctantly gathered around him, Serpym played with the flute. If a villager had been alive and present to inspect it, they would have seen that the pipe was made from a human bone.