The rocky peaks of the Sky-Gardens of Nosrac… a quiet place, usually.
“No, no, no!” she ejected, waving her three-inch claws wildly. “You’re not coming with me!”
“On the contrary!” he protested. “You’re not coming with me!”
The two Reptilians bickered as they picked their way up the mountain ridge.
The first, a lumbering, feathered segnosaur-like creature named Amblys, towered over the other. He was a light, swift velociraptor called Sckraeeaczck. He stood about half her height, but could outrun her in any race.
They were both end-time cultists exiled and/or escaping from The City for their heretical beliefs. There was a lot of that these days. The City had become a haven of fanaticism. Once it was the old high capital of the Ancestors, whose lightning-lit towers soared. Then the comet struck. In an instant, their civilization was brought low. Now, it is a rusting testament to a bygone age. The City is still inhabited, but only by small clans who have long since forgotten how to read or build the great devices of old. The Reptilians’ zeal was now spent instead on homilies about the coming of the Final Destruction.
Amblys and Scraaeeaczck were two such end-timers, but they were from rival cults. Amblys’ pouch was fat with a codex she couldn’t read but believed held sacred knowledge, while Scraaeeaczck’s bundle held a map of the stars that he was certain could tell the future. These beliefs were mutually incompatible, of course.
The two Reptilians had run into each other along the path… unfortunately.
But it seemed they had bigger problems.
“Wait, what’s that?” Amblys pointed to the sun.
Out of the corona came two dark silhouettes.
“Sky Riders!” Scraeeaczck exclaimed.
Their beaks drooped in fear.
Soaring high above, two patrolling Sky Riders gazed downward. From the backs of pteranadons, the brown-skinned, hobbit-sized Hominids spotted Reptilians in their territory. Never a good sign.
But why just the two of them?, thought Klag, an experienced ptera trainer. He fidgeted atop his mount. They must be part of a raiding party, he thought, but then where is the rest of the warband? Strange.
He signaled to his compatriot, Feather, to scan around for the warband. As he did so, the sun glinted off the strange mechanical device implanted into Feather’s skin, which always unnerved Klag. It marked Feather as a Grid – one of those uncanny individuals able to bend reality with the device’s aid.
Klag was wary of Feather. Though a far less experienced rider, he bore that unnatural device. What awful curses could he heap on me with it?, he thought. Can I trust him?
Suddenly, Feather pointed vigorously to the trees just beyond the Reptilians.
Then Klag saw it too. There was something in the trees moving toward the Reptilians. Something big. Very big. And it looked hungry.
This put Klag in a quandrary. His people couldn’t allow Reptilians in their territory, and letting them get eaten by cyborg megafauna would solve that problem nicely. But then there would be no one to question about the location of the Reptilian warband that surely must be on its way. So, he resolved to intervene.
Klag signaled to Feather, and they began their dive to “rescue” the two Reptilians from the maw of death.
Amblys’ feathers stood on end as she saw the Sky Riders diving toward them.
Then they felt it. The earth tremored, but it was no earthquake.
The two Reptilians turned around to see it emerge from the trees: a towering beast of scales and metal plates. One arm ended in a meat hook and the other in a buzz saw, while its left eye was a camera lens zooming in on its prey.
The creature planted its feet and let out a piercing robotic roar:
Just at that moment, the Sky Riders swooped in. Klag leaped from his mount and tumbled deftly onto the scene, ready to defend the Reptilians.
Meanwhile, Feather knocked his bow. Aiming unsteadily atop the flaring ptera, he just prayed it would hit something… anything. But the shot amazed everyone – even Feather. The arrow loosed and screamed right into the beast’s mechanical eye, sending shards of lens in all directions.
The creature roared in anger and made ready to devour them all, but hesitated. Then it turned tail and ran in fear.
The Reptilians and Hominids realized it had become dark, like the sun had died.
They looked up to see the sun blotted out by a black cloud – no, a swarm. Locusts.
The swarm took nearly thirty seconds to pass overhead. As it did so, low-flying locusts buzzed and knocked into the Reptilians and Hominids. Feather caught one in his hands, and saw it was mechanical.
Meanwhile, Sckraeeaczck shook his velociraptor head in dismay. This is bad, he thought. As a stargazer, he was no stranger to omens. And this one was not good. Not good at all.
The words fell from his beak:
“Another comet is coming.”