The storm raged overhead. Flashes of light in the carpet of dark grey clouds. The western badlands stretched in all directions. A wasteland of sparse prairies, desolate deserts, wanderlust skies and craterous canyons. The mesas like guards standing resolute in the open plains.

The great mountains always visible in the distance like a blue serrated saw blade. 

Rain began to patter the cracked soil.

Rare were the storms on the open plains.

Settlements became ghost towns as people fled for shelter. Ranch camps staked down their tents or moved to high ground. The great wandering herds of antelope, bison and hadrosaurs huddled for warmth. Their breath coming in jets of steam.

In an isolated defile in the depths of a forgotten canyon, the waters began to rise. At just the right time and level for an awakening. A bird. The rise of a brutish lineage. In the stone walls were the images of beasts and prehistoric monsters. Their terrifying maws flashed in the storm.

An unholy birth began.

The mud began to bubble and churn. The newborns writhing in their fungal wombs, locked in hibernation until the right conditions were met.

At the entrance of the defile, a great tribe gathered. Broad green shoulders pattered with rain, water sliding off their heavily muscled backs. Their steaming breathes created a mist in the air. There were hundreds of them.

Lightning flashed.

The mud continued to churn until limbs became visible. Mudcaked arms broke from the earth’s embrace. A single clawed hand reached upwards as pre-programed instincts drove the newborn upwards. Climb up. Up. Up. Find air. Breathe.

More arms broke the surface. A horrifying garden of writhing limbs in the water and mud.

Finally a head broke free. Pointed ears, a squashed nose and square jaw. A fanged maw let out a roar with a gust of steam, clearing its throat of mud, like a crying baby clearing it lungs.

Soon a new generation of Mudstained rose out of the soil of the badlands. Dozens of brutish orcs, sniveling goblins and bent-back gremlins. They howled and thrashed, clumsy as newborn fowls.

They will learn, thought the Lord of the Mudstained.

Their tribe, their Clan, watched from above. Drumming grew as the newborns struggled to life. If one was trampled or drowned in the mud, they did not deserve to live. They lived by the law of nature. Survive.

As the newborns stumbled by pure instinct to the familiar scent of their Clan, the Mudstained let out a roar of triumph. A chorus of cries and songs. Greetings for their brethren.

At rear of the Clan, watching the process, was the Lord of the Mudstained. They would do.

At her side, a huge horned-theropod, her pet and mount. Its back and tail as rocky as the badlands. The reptilian creature reared its devilish head and roared. Its serrated jaws split as if to swallow the flashes of lightning.


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