Thick-fur protected Stratos from the freezing Night-air as he sped up and high above Eternos, viewing the black mass of buildings from above, illuminated orange towards the centre of it all, by the blasted Temple. He adjusted his goggles with one hand, the great feather of the Golden Hawk brushing the side of his face and beard as he did so.

For a moment, it was a reminder of previous success: adding the feather of this legendary, man-eating bird to his decorative arm-braces had leant him the prestige and confidence he had needed to rally and unite his people against dissention and schism. Years ago, Hordak had offered to leave them in peace, in return for neutrality. But as was his design, the Tyrant had almost caused a civil war over the ensuing disagreement as to whether or not Avion should remain allied to Eternos. Yet this Night, because of Stratos' leadership, Avion now continued to fight alongside Randor and He-Man.

Around him, his fellow sky-warriors raced through the heavily hanging Night-sky to detect the bomber. Teela had advised him to act as if this were a hit and run, and to look for the bomber outside of the City. But Stratos could not shake the disturbing questions that the attack evoked: Would more deadly, massive explosions follow? What might be the next target? Regardless, he trusted Teela's advice and ordered s-pattern 8, to cover the most ground.

With their feather-trophies rippling against their arms in the wind, their densely furred bodies bared to the elements, the brave and savage Avionians deployed in circles – some wide and others tight – to cover every possible direction of escape over-land. Stratos suspected that the perpetrators would flee East, towards the Dark Lands, and so he opted to follow that direction himself, zig-zagging to cover ground, while moving his fingers within the control gauntlet to force his ancient flight-pack into full throttle.

Unfortunately, other technology of the kind that enabled men to see in the dark was not common, and even he had not been outfitted with such a relic. But Stratos would rely on his own skill and enhanced vision to find his prey and then plunge earthward for the kill.

He screwed up his mouth as the air tried to force a way inside, pushing at his lips and revealling his ritually chipped teeth, jagged as knives. But like a swimmer, he turned his head to breathe. He was flying so fast that the ruined farmlands of Eternos were already behind him - and then he glimpsed a fleeting shadow at speed on horseback, flitting through the blue Great Moon's light, under the withered trees below. He slowed so that he could surprise the black-clad villain from behind, still staying high so that his pack could not be heard. Then he readied his lance and prepared to call on his warriors – if this was the bomber, Stratos swore, his body would soon be hanging in the gibbet. He bared his sharpened teeth, ready to attack.

Now he suddenly stopped the power to his flight-pack to avoid being heard as he dived down for the kill. The characteristic thrumming and hissing of the twin jets on his back cut out as he plunged head-long in silent free-fall towards the trees, arms by his sides, guiding his descent by twisting his body, while holding the lance forward alongside his arm for a killing blow. At this speed his weapon would tear a man in two – but if he did not strike his enemy true, he himself might also take a fall from the rebound of the blow – or worse. It was a difficult, but deadly, line of attack...

But Webstor had been watching for him. The vampire lept suddenly from his galloping horse and landed almost silently in the brush. There he crouched as if about to pounce. His steed sped away from him, crashing and whinnying through the undergrowth. The Avionians had acted predictably, fanning out to find him, their attacker, while their leader headed in the most obvious route. Webstor had led his steed into the nearby wood away from the scoured landscape, and stayed unmoving in the blackness, his trap set. The six round eyes on his elongated head swiveled skyward and his deformed mouth twitched with tension....

Falling, Stratos neared the tree-tops and switched the pack back on at the last moment. The element of surprise would be lost as he crashed through the branches towards the fleeing rider, so the additional noise of his flight-pack would not matter – besides, he had to control his fall and aim the blow. Stratos grinned – the noise would be enough warning for his foe to turn and be witness to his killer – this would be the only satisfaction Stratos would draw from tonight.

As he controlled his final drop, he sped under and over heavy branches, avoiding getting smashed by the solid Eternian oaks. Then, he had but a moment to glimpse the horse ahead of him - it was now rider-less! - before near invisible strands stretched between the trees slowed him, hampered him, then caught and tangled him. It was too late to stop – suddenly he was caught in a thick and giant web. It was one of several that hung from the trees in this area, glinting in the moonslight. But Stratos did not have time to take note of this – tough strands of clinging web had jarred and jerked his body, taken him by surprise and left him defenseless as he crashed into the tangling trap of web.

Though it was a relatively soft stop, it was a sudden one, and now Stratos hung dazed and almost upside down, his limbs twisted and strained, feathers all askew, arms tangled in the sticky bonds of glistening spider-thread. His head reeled as he tried to find his lance, torn from his hand when he hit the webs. He couldn't see it. His lightly gloved hand manipulated the controls and he surged – just a little – towards the sky. But the viscous coating on the web held him so tight he felt himself being crushed by the pressure the pack was exerting against the strands that bound him with suffocating force within the web.

Webstor could not help but gloat as he carefully stepped out from the undergrowth. "Stratos..." his voice rattled with breathless mirth through boney mandibles as he slowly reached a long black arm across a branch that supported part of the web. Webstor crawled on all-fours, black eyes focused and determined, and moved lightly upon a glutinous
web-strand. Stratos stared in horror at the vampire and again he strained with all of his might with the pack still on – if the pack could not tear him entirely free, he might be able to at least rip his arm free to touch his helmet and turn on the radio to send a final message.

"You cannot escape." The creature's sibilant voice advised flatly as it crept closer still. Stratos almost choked against the squeezing, steely strands as his frantic thoughts buzzed on the edge of consciousness - if he kept trying to fly away like this, the force would crush him against the unbreakable strands wrapped tightly around him.

Webstor's sinewy body was driven with methodic and inhuman hunger towards the helpless sky-warrior - the creature exposed long fangs as he opened his arachnid maw, drawing his thin, purple lips back in a mock smile.

The muscles on Stratos' left arm bulged, trying to reach his helmet again as he gagged for breath, hissing out: "There are more Avionians.. to follow... to revenge!"

"Aye Stratos." Webstor crept up towards Stratos' prone body without a change of pace. "Let them come." Webstor lingered before his prey, almost enjoying the empty feeling within himself that would soon be satiated. Then the vampire leapt and held onto the web right besides Stratos in one graceful movement, his taut body hanging from dark, lithe arms.

With the deliberate patience of a spider, Webstor plucked the brass-coloured half-gauntlet from Stratos' knuckles and fingers, letting it dangle on the thin cable that connected it to the flight-pack. The pack stopped hissing but the strain of struggle did not leave Stratos' shuddering body. The vampire then pulled away Stratos' helm, examining it for a moment. Webstor then cast it aside and drew back his mishapen arachnoid head to drive needle-like fangs into Stratos hairy throat. Webstor groaned and shuddered with perverse pleasure as the mortal's blood began to flow, carrying away his life while Stratos fell limp upon the web, paralyzed with Webstor's venom, to await mummification or death.


***