The story so far:
Renni dove under the bear at the last moment, twisting her body as she did so. She landed hard but ignored the pain erupting from her leg. Raising her hatchet, she swung her arm out and up. The bear fell down onto all fours, nearly crushing her with its paws. She tucked herself into a ball, still under the bear.
From where she’d stood moments before, George barked loud and fierce before charging. He sped towards them, his mouth wide, teeth bared. Renni watched him soar through the air and come tearing down onto the bear’s shoulder and back. George scrambled for purchase, digging his long canines into what flesh remained of the cyborg creature. Never idle, Renni took the advantage and again reached up with her weapons. She caught the edge of the hatched on the bear’s underbelly, tearing a long hole and spilling reddish brown ooze. It splattered on her face and chest. She coughed and sputtered, nearly gagging from the smell of rancid motor oil and old blood.
The bear stood up on its hind legs, enraged at the blow she’d delivered. It grabbed George in its great bone and metal claws and lifted the dog clear. George continued to growl and bark, foam flying from his mouth even as the bear dug in its claws. The dog yelped once before the bear hurled him through the air. George landed in the snow. He didn’t rise.
Renni scrambled out from under the bear as it fell again, dropping its weight to crush her. She rolled against the edge of her cleared path and came to a sudden stop against thick snow. The bear turned awkwardly, growling low and metallic. She pushed herself to her feet just as her opponent grabbed her calf with its long claws. It pulled and she fell, crying out as the claws tore her clothes and her flesh. The bear released her as she desperately swung her hatchet backwards.
With nowhere to go, she turned onto her back to face what would come next. Lifting its upper body slightly the bear slammed both paws down on her injured leg. Her bones snapped under the weight that came down on her unmercilessly. White lights filled Renni’s eyes and she screamed loud and long. Pain tore through her in searing waves while white lights flashed behind her eyes. Vomit welled up in her mouth and she spat it out at the bear, the foul remnants of her earlier meal mingling with the blood and oil staining her chest and neck.
She dropped the metal dowel in the snow. The hatchet lay forgotten near her hand. She could not move her leg, the bones crushed, one sticking through the skin and muscle of her leg, illuminated in the bluish glow of the fully risen moon. Numbness flooded from the wounds up to her hips and her waist and soon rose up to reach her arms. Still, through it all, she felt the slight bulge in her back pocket and knew it was her salvation.
She looked up into the hollow face of the bear. Her vision blurred and she wondered whether the bear was still alive under all the machinery. She wondered about humanity, and whether they could endure the fate the bear faced. Blackness slowly trickled down upon her. She watched in blurred shadows as the bear’s mouth opened wide and the snake appeared.
Renni slowly moved her arm until it pushed underneath her. She gripped the Harbinger rod and pulled it from her pocket. Shaking her head, she pushed back the need for eternal sleep. From behind her she revealed the strange device. The snake poised, glowing both red and white together as if unsure. She shook her head again, blinking to clear her vision.
The snake slowly emerged further from the bear’s mouth, elongating until the light came within inches of her face. It turned slightly, as if staring at the rod.
“You want this?” Renni asked. She flicked the device back and forth before the metallic snake. It followed her movements. “You would still kill me, wouldn’t you, if I gave you this.” No question entered her voice. Renni knew the truth of it. Dead or alive, the Mongerers wanted the rod.
Renni let the device elongate in her hands. She watched as the snake watched, seeing the light in it glow brighter red. No white light remained, as if the snake were totally transfixed upon device. With her other hand, she reached out and grasped the fallen hatchet. Gripping it tight in her frozen hand, she again moved the harbinger rod back and forth.
Stretching her arm as far as she could, Renni led the snake away from her face. In one quick fluid motion, she raised her other hand and swung down, bringing the hatchet blade onto the flexible metal neck of the snake. The metal gave and the hatchet slipped away, leaving only a small thin line. A small spurt of reddish brown liquid squirted out as the snake twisted away and the bear roared. The light grew white, turning towards the weapon in her hand. Renni swung out again just as the light flashed. It caught the edge of her hand and wrist, burning through her. She choked on the stench of her own burnt flesh. Her arm dropped useless to the snowy ground.
The bear advanced, bringing its bulk to tower over her. It stared once more at the Harbinger rod. Renni stared at it also. Before the bear or the snake could move, Renni plunged the rod into her injured leg. Sleepiness like she had never felt before flooded over her, like a great wave of rest, true rest. She longed for it. And yet, she fought against it. For just a little while longer, she had a great and desperate need to fight sleep.
The snake seemed entranced at the sight of the rod as it worked its alien magic. It studied the effects that it had upon her as if fascinated. Renni gripped it tightly. The device still stuck deep in her flesh, she pulled hard to the side, snapping the rod in half.
The bear howled, furious. The snake faced her, glowing bright white once more. It moved slowly towards her until the tip nearly touched between her eyes.