Forming a ragged line the slayers plunged into the forest; even to slayer eyes it was still very dark under the trees. Willow kept a firm grip on her girlfriend’s hand not wanting to get separated. They had walked for about fifteen minutes when they came across the bodies.
“Could you give us some light Will?” asked Kennedy.
Willow threw something up into the air and the little group was suddenly surrounded by little red ‘tinker-belle’ lights. The two bodies lay on a narrow track; they were dressed in camouflage jackets with jeans and hiking boots. Their heads had been pulled or cut off; all around them lay expended cartridge cases. Monica picked up one of their discarded rifles and checked the chamber.
“Weapons been fired recently,” she sniffed at the weapon’s open breach, “magazines empty.” she put the rifle down next to its one-time owner.
Kennedy looked around at the ground and all the spent cases that littered the forest floor, “Looks like they both got off twenty or thirty rounds…seems like they were firing all over the place. What do you think Willow?
Looking at the bodies Willow felt a little sick at the sight of all the blood, why were monsters so messy?
“Could be any one of a dozen different types of demon…anyone find any tracks?” she looked around at the girls hopefully.
“Over here!” Monica called from behind a tree.
Everyone went over to where Monica knelt; she pointed down at a foot print in the soft earth. It was well over a foot long with four toes, from the marks in the ground the toes looked as if they had claws.
“Not human then,” Willow sighed not knowing whether she should be relieved or not.
Kneeling down next to the print Kennedy studied it carefully, looking up she caught a glimpse of Sally and Christina huddled together clutching their crossbows. Sally looked particularly pail even in the red glow of Willow’s lights,
“Will,” she whispered as she stood up and nodded towards the two youngest Slayers, “go look after them eh?”
Following Kennedy’s glance Willow nodded to her partner and wandered over to the two girls.
“What do you think Courtney?” Kennedy turned around and looked down were the girl was studying the footprint.
Searching around in the debris under the trees Courtney she found another footprint like the first.
“From the distance between the two prints,” mused Courtney, “I’d say our monster is seven to eight feet tall and probably outweighs the lot of us put together.”
Courtney’s Native American heritage and the things her grandfather had taught her were really coming in useful tonight.
“Which way?” began Kennedy, but before anyone could answer there was a burst of firing from further into the forest.
“That way?” Courtney pointed in the direction from which the sound of the shots had come.
The Hunter looked out of the treeline at the settlement before him. There were at least fifty Prey here, some were females and young which he wasn’t allowed to hunt but nearly half would be armed males who were ‘fare game’.
As the slayers ran the shots became louder and more frequent, soon they started to hear screams as well. Between the trees they could see lights and flashes of gunfire, and then as they approached the edge of the trees they saw figures running between the log cabins in the clearing ahead of them. Kennedy bought her little band to a halt when she heard bullets passing through the branches of the trees above their heads; the slayers took cover behind tree trunks, and Kennedy went to find Willow who was sheltering behind a particularly thick tree.
“What’s going on?” Willow peered fearfully into the dark.
“I don’t know,” Kennedy shook her head in confusion, “there’s people running around shooting at nothing as far as I can see.”
There was a very loud and long burst of firing that was suddenly cut off; an unexpected stillness fell over the forest. Looking back towards the cabins Kennedy saw a man being dragged along the ground by his foot. The only problem with this was there was nothing actually dragging him.
“What the heck’s going on?” Kennedy shifted uncomfortably.
“Don’t know,” a little panic entered Willow’s voice, “but I still can’t feel any magic.”
“That means it’s….?”
“Not magic?” replied Willow helpfully.
They watched as another body was dragged off by the invisible monster.
Eventually Kennedy squared her shoulders, “I’m going to have a look.”
“No it’s too dangerous,” cried Willow holding onto Kennedy’s arm.
“No choice Will,” Kennedy smiled, “slayer see? Gotta go and look.”
Running from shadow to shadow Kennedy worked her way through the collection of log cabins that made up the settlement. Her slayer senses tingling with the promise of danger. Lights still shone from open doors and windows, as dawn started to spread its rosy coloured fingers across the forest. Kennedy hid in a deep shadow and let her senses roam.
The Hunter hesitated as he hung up yet another carcass; he looked around warily as different light spectrums cycled through his visor. There was more prey out there somewhere, he could feel them. He scanned the settlement; there were the females and young cowering in one of the dwellings, he could see their heat signatures clearly, but there was something else. He moved away from his trophies and started to search between the buildings again, had he missed one of the prey’s fighters? Yes! There it was hiding in a shadow, now he had moved he could see it’s heat signature clearly, he started to move closer.
Kennedy sensed movement close by, she strained her ears, there was something moving stealthily towards her, but she still couldn’t see what it was.
There was the Prey. It was a female but it carried a projectile weapon and a cutting weapon. He fine tuned his sensors; the female carried no young in its belly…it was Prey!
“Closer…closer,” muttered Kennedy under her breath; she could feel the creature no more than a few yards behind her, “just a little closer.”
This was poor sport, thought the Hunter. The female showed no sign of having heard him. This would be too easy no challenge at all, he switched off his ‘Far-Killer’ and activated the gutting blades on his left wrist, and still the Prey showed no sign of noticing him.
He was less than six paces away when the Prey turned and raised its weapon. It looked straight at him; it was almost as if it could see him! The Hunter hesitated for an instant then glanced at the controls on his right arm; had his Invisibility Net failed?
Kennedy turned and brought her shotgun up to her shoulder in one fluid motion. Firing she took a step forward before firing again. There was a wet sounding ‘Thwack!’ as the shotgun slugs hit their target and bright fluorescent green blood appeared where a slug struck home.
The Hunter rushed towards his suddenly dangerous Prey and knocked the projectile weapon from its hands. He brought up the gutting blades to cut the creature in two but it eluded him as it sprang away. This creature was fast; its skull would make a fine trophy.
Kennedy jumped away from the bright blades that appeared to spring out of nowhere. She hit the ground and rolled to her feet drawing her Katana as she went. She looked at the blood that floated in mid air. If it could bleed it can die, she thought, as she raised her sword and attacked.
The Hunter had hunted the Prey of this world before. Never had he fought one that had such strength, speed and agility. The female’s first attack had almost caught him off guard and he’d only just managed to intercept its weapon before it struck home. The Hunter couldn’t understand how the Prey could see him. His Invisibility Net was still functioning; the creature should be fearful and disorientated from not being able to see its target.
This Prey stuck out with a sureness that was unnatural, the Hunter parried another blow and lunged towards its attacker and again he missed. It was only then that the hunter noticed that the prey was fighting him with its eye’s closed!
Stepping back from his opponent the Hunter heard movement behind him, turning he saw five more Prey appear from behind a dwelling. They were all armed, they were all females. A female that appeared to be the leader of this group walked towards him unafraid. It held a cutting weapon in one hand as it raised it’s free hand towards him. The Hunter felt the unaccustomed emotion of fear as it looked at this new frail creature that challenged him.
Leading the young slayers into the settlement Willow heard shots that could only be coming from Kennedy’s gun. Following the sound of metal on metal Willow came around a building and saw her lover fighting an invisible foe its presence marked only by the disturbance of the ground as it moved. Calling on the slayers to stop, Willow walked towards where the creature stood and raised her hand.
“Goddess Morrigan,” she called on the little known Celtic deity, “hear my plea.” Willow’s voice rang out clear and strong in the silence that had overtaken the battlefield. “Let this demon become visible unto…umm…we!”
A wave of light sprang from where Willow stood; when it hit the creature it became visible with a flash of sparks that sprang from the control panel on its arm.
The Hunter wasted several vital seconds at he stood looking around in confusion. The Invisibility Net had stopped working and he was obviously visible to the Prey. The female that had challenged him fell to the ground but its followers raised their weapons and fired.
Kennedy dropped to the ground as wildly aimed bullets and crossbow bolts flew through the air above her head.
“I thought Slayers were supposed to be naturally good shots!” she yelled as she hugged the ground.
She heard the creature rush by her heading for the woods. Slowly the firing and crossbow bolts came to a stop. She raised her head and looked around. The first thing she saw was Willow lying on the ground.