Merion desperately wanted to know what was going on, but he was too scared to talk. Lurker was rattled, and seeing him so fidgety and wide-eyed kept Merion’s lips tightly sealed. He watched the big man creep to the edge of the boulder. A dull bang echoed through the crisp morning air. It was barely an hour past sunrise, and already the heat was beginning to creep into the air. Merion flinched as another thud shook his still-sleepy bones.
‘Am I the only one who wants to know what the hell is going on?’ Rhin whispered, his words barely audible. Lurker waved a hand at him to be silent.
Rhin’s question was soon answered. After several more ominous bangs, the stomach-clenching form of a hulking railwraith emerged at the foot of the slope, and paused to scratch its face. Even from half a mile away, they could hear the screeching of ragged claws on iron cheekbones.
The railwraith was quite the monster. It must have been ten feet tall, and even then it was hunched over, glaring at the wasteland. Twisted iron rails formed its bones and frame. Greased bolts and shards of wood gave it tooth, skin, and sinew. Railspikes gave it claws and spines to decorate its shoulders. Its eyes were simple: black and empty holes bored in the tortured iron. It was a monster from the darkest of nightmares. By the backside of the Almighty did Merion want to run! Only fear pinned him down.
The three of them froze as the railwraith turned its hollow gaze to the higher hillside. Sunlight flirted with its sharp features, danced on its dusty claws.
Rhin was the only one who dared to move. He reached out and touched both Merion and Lurker with his hands. Then he began to shake. His eyes became tightly-scrunched whorls of grey skin, and his sharp nails dug at their clothing. Merion had to bite his tongue to keep himself from yelling. Gradually, they began to fade. Not completely, for that would have made Rhin’s eyes bleed, but enough for them to look like rock and pebble rather than two quivering humans. It worked a charm. The railwraith’s gaze passed them by, and the creature looked to the east instead. With a screech of metal, the monster lumbered off, its footsteps thundering across the desert.
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