First Blood

The Creation Part 6

Every move Death Bringer made was strategic, every flick of his serpentine tail and flattening of his dreaded hood. As his coils unwound and undulated, bringing him forth from the lake and onto the flakey shore of the tiny island, Bringer was proud of himself. His midnight scales merged with the ebony sky, shrouded with stars, as he lifted his head. His crimson tongue tasted for scents. None were fresh and he determined that he was alone on the island.

            The sand hugged his dripping, glistening body as the cobra slithered from the beach and into the foliage. He made quick work of pushing twigs and leaves with the folds of his corded figure. Soon he arrived at the Starfire pit with his collection. With a sweep of his tail the gathered items tumbled down the crater wall and came to rest at its center.

            A cool breeze scraped his scales as Bringer lifted his head once more. His tongue flickered in and out reflexively. He spread his hood, his beady eyes shining as he regarded the distant stars and claw-scratch moon. The two faint but present scars just below the kinks in his hood were pronounced in the dim light.

            “Starfire.” The snake whispered, tone as harsh and grating as wood splitting. “Show me Gnash.”

            Immediately mottled orange and white flames arose, bathing the clearing in a ghostly brilliance. Bringer craned his neck, peering into the depths of the flames. Images appeared. Giants stamping a meer burrow, meerkats who had drowned in the collapsed sand lying motionless and half-buried, and a lone survivor yanking himself from the carnage.

            It was a big meer, dotted with scars. He shook himself and struggled to walk. One of his hind legs was badly broken and it dragged behind him. He only managed a few paces from the mess before falling in the shade of a bush and remaining there. After that he pushed himself up and continued, movements jerky and painful.

            Death Bringer’s tongue flipped with satisfaction as the visions in the flame showed Gnash coming to rest in a hollow tree trunk before beginning to replay themselves. So that’s where he’s hiding out, Bringer thought to himself, the one who would have been my murderer. The one who tried to steal my life just as he stole my friend.

            A hiss built in Bringer’s throat as that day when he was a hatchling resurfaced. He could still feel Gnash’s dreadful teeth in his neck. Shaking and shaking. Gnash shook the cobra until the hatchling had pretended to be dead. Then he had left the baby snake, not even honorable enough to eat the kills he made.

            Bringer reared from the Starfire in disgust, tired of looking at Gnash’s image. When Death Bringer had suggested to Star that he join The Gang he hadn’t been aware that the creatin Gnash was its leader. Things had only become worse when Star had begged him to fake a fight to win Gnash’s favor and remain with the group. Then when they’d watched the burrow collapse in the Starfire all those moons ago, Bringer thought that Star might finally come to his senses and remain with him. He missed the days when they had traveled together, and he missed the young pup that he had helped raise.

            His hopes had been dashed though when Star rushed to save his new family and then started his own with Wing. A sigh rattled the cobra’s gullet. Star never seemed to have time for him anymore, nor did Claw, Greatwing, Storm, or Listener for that matter.

            Bringer was alone again, as he’d been since Gnash tried to kill him as a hatchling. Something in his heart hardened. If his friends had changed, then why couldn’t he?

            From now on, he vowed to himself, I’m taking care of myself and putting the needs of my species first. He resolved then and there to unite the snakes of the desert. He wasn’t sure how he would do it, or when, but he did know that he had to do one thing first. He had to find justice. He needed revenge.

            The Starfire had receded but was still burning, sending smoke trails into the air. Bringer reached in and took a stick in his mouth, holding the flame far from his scales. Then he slithered into the forest. The fire gleamed unnaturally on his coils and in his beady gaze. Bringer loved the power that thrilled through him as he carried the torch. He found the driest shrub and dropped the flame into it.

            He retrieved four more torches before the Starfire winked out and left them to burn. Soon the island was swathed in smoke and Bringer was covered with soot and ash. As scorching leaves and brittle twigs rained down on the lush grass and dark golden sand, the snake pushed himself into the water and began the swim back.

            As the evidence of his deed vanished with the current, a cold certainty filled him. He felt as if he were seeing the world for the first time. The fire’s glow reflected in the lake as the island burned, the vegetation wasted by flames. Soon there would be nothing left. None of the others who knew of the island and the Starfire would be able to use the crater for assistance now. No one would be able to investigate the future to see what Bringer planned to do.

            First, he would taste Gnash’s blood, he would get his revenge. Then he would claim the desert for himself.

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