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Short Story • 4 Minute Read


By Anthony Burch

A predator feasting on fear. A hunter without any. Only one will make it out of this alive.


Rengar Rengar smelled the blood before he saw the dead humans. Six or so, he estimated, but it was tough to get an exact count thanks to the number of pieces they'd been torn into. Their swords were strewn about the meadow, as useful as dulled cutlery.

He knelt, licking blood from the ground.

Cold to the tongue. Still sweet, yet bitter with the taste of iron.

It had been spilled less than an hour ago.

Turning over one of the stray limbs in his hand, Rengar found a line of greenish saliva dangling from where the arm had been ripped from its body. He raised the stump to his nose and sniffed.

The saliva smelled foul, like a corpse that had rotted in a puddle of excrement. Just raising it to his nose nearly made Rengar want to vomit, and he had a stronger stomach than most.

He smiled his wide, toothy smile. The creature who inflicted these wounds would be easy to track.

Rengar watched from the brush brush as the razorhide worked its claws around an old man's skull and crushed it between its boneteeth. It howled in disappointment, evidently unimpressed by the lack of a crunch.

The giant, four-legged beast stomped through the elderly man's tent, crushing it with a single step, then biting at the canvas and tearing it apart.

Tossing aside the man's bedroll, it howled in delight as Rengar heard the scream of a young boy.

Little one.

Frightened. Good fear. Delicious fear.

Time to eat. Time to silence screams. Time to---


Pain on the back of its neck. Sharp and hot. Something bit it? No. Another pain, then another. Sharp stabs. Something with a weapon. Something with some fight in it.

Maybe something tasty.

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Rengar held onto the kirai saber kirai saber with one hand as the razorhide bucked back and forth, trying to dislodge him. With his other hand, he grabbed a knife and punctured the beast's leathery hide over and over. He knew he'd never kill the beast this way, but he'd get it bleeding. Confuse it.

With any luck, panic it.

The razorhide dropped to its stomach and rolled over, taking Rengar with it. It was fast - much faster than Rengar would have thought for a creature of its size. He barely had time to dislodge his blades and jump away.

The two combatants got to their feet. Blood trickled down the razorhide's scales, each one sharp enough to sever a limb. Combined, the scales made for a nigh-impenetrable defense and a thousand small weapons, all at the same time. It circled Rengar, sniffing the air. Rengar could tell he'd never win a straight fight against it. It was too big, too quick, too strong.

A lifetime of scars had taught Rengar the secret of hunting: it wasn't about being strong. It was about knowing when to withdraw, and when to attack.

Right now? It was time to withdraw.

He sprinted away from the village, toward the tall grass surrounding it. The razorhide leapt after him in pursuit, its feet pounding the earth. Rengar could hear it behind him. He could be hidden in the grass soon enough, but the razorhide would catch up to him long before then.

He just needed a few extra seconds.

One-eyed vastaya will be delicious. Only one thing tastier than something young: something that just tried to kill you.

Stomp the cat-beast to death before eating? No. Better to swallow him whole, feel thrashing grow weaker and weaker until it deliciously stops.

Unhinge jaw. Bite down, feel warm spurts of blood---

Tripping. Falling. What?

Some sort of weapon - three balls balls, tied together with leather - tangled around legs.


Still. Broke free easily. But cat-beast gone. Only slight rustle in tall grass to show where he went.

Bound into field after it. Cat-beast: small, scared.

Me: big, fast.

Will stomp all tallgrass down if it takes---


Warmth running down hind legs. From where? Behind?

No cat-beast. Ran away again.

Pain. New pain, in side. Annoying. Not problem. Just annoying.

Start running. Doesn't matter which direction. Put distance between us. Regroup.

Turn around. Where vastaya? Maybe ran away. Maybe hiding, waiting.

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This was the best part. Invisible within the tall grass. His prey cautious, but not smart enough to be terrified.

The momentary silence before the attack. Before the quarry realized just how helpless it was. Before the howls of pain, and the blood, and the adrenaline, and the joy.

Rengar threw his head back and roared roared.

Where roar coming from? Sounds like everywhere. Not roar of anger. Not roar of fear.


Getting closer.

No. This was a mistake. Out in the open. Run. Run back.

Hard to breathe. Why?

The wound in the side. Deeper than it felt? Throat wet. Choking. Blood.

Don't slow down.

Where is village? This way? No. The other.

Vastaya still roaring. Still getting closer.

Run. Doesn't matter where. Just r---

Flash of metal. Cool air blowing on stomach.

No, inside stomach.

Feel self growing lighter. Sound of something wet and heavy hitting the ground. Many wet and heavy things.

Look back. Guts. Fluid. A trail of red and green.

Pain. Stinging pain, throbbing pain, stabbing pain. Everywhere.

Can't stand up. Legs buckle. Breathing hard. Hear footsteps coming closer.

Sound of knife leaving sheath.

Feel something. Something new. Something terrible. Not hunger, anger, joy.


Rengar approached the prone razorhide, its feet still kicking at the air as blood poured from the massive slash across its belly. Its eyes were dilated.

What trophy would he take? The skull? The mane?

The creature lifted its head and worked its jaw, biting at the air out of anger or confusion.

Rengar smiled. The creature's boneteeth were sharp. Smooth.

One of those would make an impressive addition to his necklace necklace.