Rome and Quyloc hit the glistening web of the Veil and it was like plunging into an icy lake. A sudden, freezing, heart-stopping shock and then they were through, feeling as if they’d been torn in half. The pain was intense, disorienting.
Quyloc fought to get to his feet but one leg was still dead from being touched by one of the Children and he could not make it work. Piercing his chest was what looked like a black snake, as big around as his thumb, covered in slightly iridescent scales, with numerous barbs protruding from it; multiple smaller snakes emerged from his torso, wrapping around him, pinning his arms to his sides. He still had hold of the spear, but it was pinned to him as well and he could do nothing with it.
Retaining its grip on the snake the pierced Quyloc in one hand, the hunter held its other hand palm out to Rome, who had made it most of the way to his feet. A clicking sound came from it and another barbed snake shot from its palm, piercing Rome’s chest and knocking him backwards so that he almost fell. Rome grabbed at the snake with his one good hand – his right arm hung limp and dead at his side – and tried to pull it free. He grunted with pain but made no headway. A second later a half dozen smaller snakes burst out of his torso and snapped around and around him, pinning his arms to his sides as well. The hunter tugged and Rome fell to the ground.
From his knees Quyloc looked up, into the harsh, bladed face of the hunter. It stared down at him. There was no way to read emotion on that angular, alien face but he sensed triumph radiating from it and in the cold, red eyes was the knowledge that this time he would not escape. Quyloc went cold inside.
Gathering both snakes in one hand, the hunter crouched and slapped the ground with its palm twice, the impact hard enough that Quyloc nearly lost his balance and toppled over. The hunter stood. Quyloc felt a rumbling from the ground and then something broke from the ground beside the hunter.
A large, hooked beak rose up slowly, dirt cascading from it. Huge, opaque eyes blinked open, fixing on the hunter. It pulled the rest of its body free. It was broad and squat, its head tapering smoothly to a thick neck then down to a sinewy body rippling with muscle. Its four legs ended in long, hooked claws, broad as spades and as long as a man’s forearm.