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Thread: Pestilence and Strife

  1. #11
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    The pair of them moved with as much speed and stealth as they could muster. Navigating the rivers of a green ooze and the larger knots of shambling corpses wasn’t difficult, especially with the massive front wave of the creatures left behind. They didn’t even bother going around individual zombies, or groups of one and two that they ran across. Those creatures William simply hammered with his dragon bone cleaver, the massive weapon bursting the rotting things apart or Atzar’s magic slamming them carelessly aside like unwanted toys. Nothing stopped them until they’d crossed nearly a two miles of rugged, hazy terrain.

    “Let’s stop here,” William said after a time, gesturing towards a stream of acidic bile nearly a dozen meters wide. Though he couldn’t hear many of the creatures around, they were still out there, driven towards the pair with a purpose as if there was a malign sentience maneuvering the zombies like pieces on a game board.

    Atzar nodded and slumped down onto a nearby rock, straining to pull clean air through his spell. William had to admit that he was impressed by the mage’s fortitude. There weren’t many magic users that William had met who could keep up with him in a run across such a distance without being completely spent, but Atzar had managed it with little more sign of weariness than being a little winded. And that was also taking into account that he was doing so in a poisonous fog without William’s own innate regenerative capabilities.

    “Looks like I picked the right one,” William thought as he turned his attention from Atzar back to the mists, watching for any sign of movement from their pursuers. There had been a lot fewer zombies on the interior of the valley after the two of them had moved past the initial horde. William assumed that it was because more of the explorers who came to Dragon’s Folly didn’t make it very far before succumbing to the toxic atmosphere or the clawing zombies before reanimating as zombies themselves. Every person who fell to the valley’s perils added another soldier to its defense.

    But the zombie’s attacks weren’t the only threats that the creatures possessed. It was well knows that, even in death, Arztschlange’s power continued its insidious work. But the exact method of resurrection for these creatures was unknown to scholars of Dragon’s Folly. But William knew, he’d been feeling it since the corpses burst over him back at the boulder.

    Even in death the fungal zombies were dangerous. There was an unnatural burning covering every inch of William’s exposed flesh where the zombies’ rotting fluids had splashed on him. It was an experience quite unlike the normal blazing fires which burned within him and it had taken William some time to puzzle it out. But now that he knew what to look for, William understood that his regenerative capabilities were the only thing that had kept him from becoming one of Arztschlange’s minions so far.

    Tendrils japed into his flesh from within the fluids, desperately stabbing into him and trying to find purchase within his skin. Fortunately for William his molten core seared the fungal roots the moment they pierced him and his regeneration sealed the microscopic wounds back up before another root could take the first one’s place. It seemed that the zombie’s own blood was itself a living entity that sought to kill and convert its prey. It was a fascinating topic, and one that William wanted to look more into once he finished his purpose here, especially if things went as he wanted. But that was a matter for another time.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  2. #12
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    “Sounds like they’ve found us again.” William said. The sounds of the multiple groups that they’d bypassed had solidified into another horde behind them. This one was smaller than the original, but no less deadly. “Are you ready?” he asked, turning back to Atzar.

    “Would it matter if I said no?” Atzar asked. The mage hopping off his rocky perch and stretched, making sure that the few minutes of rest hadn’t tightened his muscles. “Which way now? We’ve spun ourselves all around this valley making it this far, and without Ioder overhead guiding us I want to make sure we’re not going to get lost in this forsaken place.”

    “Don’t worry, I know where it is,” William said. He could feel the dragon’s resting place throbbing in his chest, a connection that he’d felt since the moment he’d laid eyes on the great beast. Months of preparation had been as important an element of the ritual’s symbolism as the location. The only way for William to get lost was for him to give up on his quest, and that just wasn’t going to happen.

    “We should have a relatively straight run at it from here. Though it’s still pretty far away. A lot farther than it seemed from up on the ridge.”

    “Three cheers for magical, space distorting gas,” Atzar said, almost too low for William to hear. The pair set off again as a slow trot, only for William to stop them half a minute later.

    “What is it?” Atzar asked.

    “Up ahead,” William nodded along the acid streams trail, off into the mist in front of them. “It sounds like there’s another group of those shambling bastards ahead of us. Not huge, but sizeable enough to slow us down. We can’t be sure that there’ll be a defensible position like last time, and it might be enough for the ones behind us to catch up.”

    “Getting surrounded the mushroom undead doesn’t sound like fun to you?” Atzar chuckled, though there was no mirth in the sound.

    “What do you think? We can try to circle around them, but that’s just going to give them more time to link up into a bigger horde. I’d like to not have half the valley behind us when we get to the dragon.”

    “Over the acid?” Atzar said, looking at the broad stream. It was viscous, and mostly still, but every now and then there was a slight rippling effect which marred its otherwise smooth surface. And the haze that hovered above the acid was thicker, keeping the two men from seeing anything farther than the opposite bank, which had widened to nearly twenty meters.

    “Can you make it across?” William asked, eyeing the magically bound air and water swirling about the mage.

    “I think I can manage it,” Atzar nodded.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  3. #13
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    “Ready?” William asked, more as a courtesy than as a question. Atzar didn’t reply, a look of focused concentration playing out across his shrouded face. William stepped up to Atzar and grabbed the man by the waist, making sure not to slash him with his bony claws. Then, with a savage snarling roar, William heaved and hurled Atzar bodily into the air over the acid with all the force his inhuman strength could muster.

    William was strong enough to crush stone and shear metal with his bare hands, but even so it was readily apparent that he hadn’t been strong enough to get Atzar all the way across the river. He needn’t have worried. Midway through his arc Atzar made a sharp, slashing arcane gesture and a torrent of winds sprung to life around the mage. The winds weren’t enough to lift him, but the buffer that they gave him slowed Atzar’s descent enough that the momentum of William’s throw carried him over to the opposite shore.

    “I’m going to check it out over here,” Atzar called back and then disappeared into the fog. William was once again forced to admire the Atzar’s skill. It was a graceful, delicate maneuver, something far different from what William could muster. Still, William was determined not to be outdone.

    A moment’s concentration drew the energy of the heat surrounding William back into his molten core. From there he eased it back out into the air around him, but instead of radiating from him, the heat grabbed at the air and pulled it into a tight, swirling mass around him. Atzar’s graceful magic has coerced the air, but William’s bludgeoned it into submission, lifting his charred flesh off the earth and out into the air over the acid.

    William was only a third of the way across the steam when a loudly cursing Atzar plunged back out of the mists in front of him. Out over the acid, William could see through the fog on the opposite shore a little better, and now he saw Atzar squaring off against a trio of fungal zombies who came lunging out of the fog on Atzar’s heels.

    Instinct caused William to grab at the power of his molten core in order to focus it into an explosive magma shot. It was a deadly attack which would easily detonate the creatures. But just before pulling his power loose, William stopped himself and left the energy surge between his fingers. Drawing out his energy like that would release the winds that were carrying him aloft. That, in turn, would drop him into the deadly fluid below. There was also that fact that there was no way to tell if the explosion would leave Atzar unscathed, but that was a distant secondary concern at the moment.

    That was when Atzar tripped. A jut of rock caught the mage’s foot as he backed away from his attackers. Still, he might have recovered if one of his forearms hadn’t splashed into the acid. Atzar shrieked as the vile substance quickly dissolved the robes and leather bracers over his forearm and then dug into his skin with equal fervor. William could only assume that this shock of pain had been enough to interrupt the mage’s concentration as he watched the stream of Atzar’s magically controlled water and the air veil over the mage’s face come apart.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  4. #14
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    Cursing, William urged himself to move faster, but he was still two arms lengths out of reach to defend his fallen comrade. He could only watch in frustration as the zombie trio righted themselves and bore down on Atzar.

    To his credit, Atzar once again showed his expertise as he clamped down on his screams and then muttered the words of a spell to draw the acid away from his arm. He paused for a moment, marveling at the way that the acid flowed in the same manner as his water whip had. A wicked grin spread across the mages face as he reached out and pulled another handful of acid from the stream with his magic, and then another. Each of these he shaped into curving lines that then lashed out, slapping into the zombies with a sizzling pop. As with his water whip, the zombies staggered a step, giving Atzar enough room to regain his feet. But this time, instead of simply righting themselves and continuing forward the zombies sloughed apart as the acid tore greedily into their putrescent flesh. Three more lashes left nothing but a flopping mass of fluids five feet from the mage.

    “That’s damned impressive,” William said and he finally touched down next to the mage, who was busy reestablishing and reinforcing the air veil over his face. “For a moment it looked like you were in some serious trouble there.”

    “Nothing I couldn’t handle,” Atzar said, though his words were tinged with pain. Atzar had reacted quickly to the acid, but not quickly enough to completely save himself from harm. The back half of his right forearm was a wet, red mass, blood and serum oozing angrily from the wound. William grabbed at his pack, pulling out a jar of poultice that he’d picked up and offering it to Atzar. It was a simple mixture, likely not enough to do more for the wound than numb it and fight off some of the bacteria that swarmed around them in the toxic air. Both Atzar and William knew that the wound was likely infected with spores, but at least this would give the mage a fighting chance of keeping the limb and from being converted into another fungal abomination.

    “Let’s go,” Atzar panted, tossing the empty poultice container into the acid with a hissing splash. He gestured and the trio of acid whips snaked back to his side, condensing into bobbing spheres which drifted far enough away from the mage to make him comfortable with their presence. William and Atzar once again started jogging out through the mists.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  5. #15
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    Neither William nor Atzar stopped again for the hour that it took to reach the dragon. Less and less of the fungal creatures appeared as they got closer to Arztschlange, more evidence that it was rare for anyone to reach this far into the miasma. And then, seeming to pounce upon them from out of nowhere, Arztschlange’s corpse was suddenly looming over them.

    “Take a moment while I make sure the way is clear,” William said and Atzar nodded, visibly relieved. Though the mage hadn’t complained once during their run, William had had to slow his pace more than once during the final stretch.

    William quietly made his way towards the dragon, carefully avoiding the ever increasing acid which seemed to seep directly from the fallen creature’s remains. As ravaged as the corpse was from the violence of its death, there were clear areas of it which had been ravaged by outside hands. The closest arm and one entire wing had been stripped clean by previous adventurers, the potent scales and bone making a fortune out in the open markets of Alerar and beyond. But even with all the materials that had been taken from the dragon’s corpse, enough remained to make someone wealthy beyond all belief.

    But William wasn’t concerned with the material wealth to be found on Arztschlange. He could feel the link between the dragon and the miasma swirling around him, could feel it in the fungal rot animating the corpses littering the valley, and could feel it reaching out beyond, on a level entirely non-physical. That was what William was yearning for, the spiritual symbolism of living pestilence that would bring him to the domain of the Horseman. He just needed to make sure that Atzar was alive enough to open the way.

    William returned to Atzar and as he caught sight of the mage, that notion concerned him more than ever. Atzar’s clothing was plastered to his body, completely soaked through from the torrent of sweat pouring out of him. His eyes were sunken and bloodshot, but the rest of his face and lips were bloodlessly pale behind the mask of his air veil. Worst of all, perhaps, was the black angry lines that wormed through his skin out from under the crusted poultice which continued to cover his acid wound. There was no doubt about it, Atzar was deathly ill, and William wouldn’t bet on the man making a successful trip out of Dragon’s Folly, let alone back to a medical clinic where they could treat him.

    “If treatment was even possible,” William thought, calling out to Atzar. The mage’s head pivoted a fraction of a moment too slow, a languorous motion that only furthered William’s fear that Atzar might not be able to survive long enough to enact the ritual.

    “Well?” Atzar asked through dry lips.

    “The dragon’s head came down not far from here,” William said. He reached out and helped Atzar to his feet then steadied the man as he swayed. “We need to get to the heart of the beast for the link to work right, but there’s more of that acid pooled up in places.”

    “Leave the acid to me,” Atzar said, waving at the three orbs still floating nearby. William’s expression apparently gave away his thoughts on the matter because Atzar pushed him away and barked, “What about the zombies?”

    “None that I could see,” William replied. He started towards the dragon’s mouth, carefully picking his way across the broken ground to make the going as easy as possible for Atzar.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  6. #16
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    Breaths came in labored gasps. His gait had slipped from spirited jog to dogged shamble, and knives twisted in his acid-burned arm through the poultice that sought to numb it. Atzar fixed his gaze on William’s back. The demon had slowed his pace in consideration for the mage’s condition, but even so, it was all he could do to keep up now. He tried not to think about the sickly veins that spidered out from his wound, but he knew what they meant.

    Their path threaded along a narrow string of land that rose out of a lake of sap. The foul fog swirled around them, oppressive as ever; beyond it, silence. Arztschlange’s plagued remains loomed larger with every step. Despite his physical condition, Atzar’s magic was still strong. His globs of acid spun and bobbed alongside, and the bubble of air floated steadily around his sweat-drenched head. He could use a rest, to be sure, but his magical fatigue was of little concern considering the circumstances.

    They arrived before the elder dragon’s head. It rested on its side, lower jaw to their left, upper to the right. Patches of scaly hide had been cut away by the hardiest of adventurers, exposing the bone beneath. The wizard had designs on staking his own claim, if he didn’t… well. Involuntarily he glanced at his arm. The lines had already snaked halfway up his forearm, and the flesh closest to the wound was gray and crackled. Atzar suspected that it was no longer a question of 'if.' He felt the strength leaving him; every step was a labor now. Stubborn, angry pride was all that fueled him now. This hellish place might kill him, but it would not defeat him. He would do what he set out to do if it took his last breath.

    “In we go,” William rasped without breaking stride. The great beast’s throat was large enough to allow them comfortable passage even standing at full height. Atzar wondered at the titanic power it must have taken to kill this thing.

    The pestilent fog was even thicker inside the dragon’s corpse, and a faint slithering sound made the mage uneasy. The pair picked their way along the bones toward the chest cavity. One side of the throat had been stripped and exposed to the elements. A blanket of interlocked scales draped over the other side. The flesh inside the maw had long since rotted away, but time alone could not erode Arztschlange’s armor.

    They reached the dragon’s vast ribcage. It rested in a pool of acid, ribs curved up into the mist at intervals; Atzar and William stood upon a breastbone as wide as a highway. The miasma hovered as thick as ever, and the shelter provided by the remaining scaly armor rendered the cavity quite dark. Again something slithered in the gloom.

    “You’re up, mage,” William growled. “You know what you need to do?”

    “Yeah,” he croaked. Kind of. In truth, Atzar had never opened a portal to another plane before, but William had explained the process. The mage had to draw two glyphs in an alternating series until they formed a circle. The first allowed the wizard to reach into the Realm of Pestilence and grasp the magic there; the second gave it a place to stabilize once summoned.

    “Then get on it.” More noises pierced the veil of mist, closer this time. The demon turned toward the noise and drew his scythe. “I’ll stand guard.”

    The mage took a deep, ragged breath. “If I die, demon, let it be by your hand,” he told William. “I have no interest in joining a horde of fungus men.” Then on shaky legs he knelt and began the ritual. He tossed two of his acid spheres into the muck with a splat and a hiss; with the third, he began to paint on Arztschlange’s breastbone the symbols that would open the portal.
    Last edited by Atzar; 09-24-2017 at 07:26 PM.

  7. #17
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    William nodded and left Atzar to his magic. He’d do as the mage asked, just as he’d expect the mage to do the same for him if their roles were reversed. Here in the heart of the blight the dragon’s power was at its height, and even his own regenerative powers were straining to keep William whole. It was so rare to find himself on the brink of exhaustion that it was almost a novel experience. Almost.

    The dragon’s mortal wound made an excellent place for William to keep watch. From the look of the ragged wound, the dragon had made the unwise decision to swallow something large and incredibly explosive. It was humbling to think that even a creature as ancient and powerful as this could lose everything to one simple miscalculation. Idly, William reached out and ran the rough bone of his claws over the torn scales at the wound’s edge. He stared at the image until it was burned into his mind. He’d need to remember Arztshlange when and if he ever started thinking himself untouchable.

    The green sea beyond the wound rolled with the same manic intensity that it had for the last hours. He focused, trying to see through the fog. The fungal undead were converging on the dragon’s corpse, William knew, and he hoped that that he’d have a little more warning than a surge of the bloated faces suddenly appearing right in front of him. There had to have been something more they could have done to keep the zombies off their trail, but with the loss of Ioder, Atzar and he had simply done the best they could.

    Besides, who was to say that there wasn’t some malevolent entity that were directing the zombies towards their position? The fresh acid that filled the pools in the valley seemed to ooze constantly from Arztschlange’s corpse and William had a feeling that though the dragon was long dead and given over to decay, there was still a tremendous amount of power held within it. Wasn’t that why he’d chosen it as the site of his ritual, after all?

    Something moved in the acid, causing a shimmering ripple to spread across the liquid’s bright green surface. There was a horrendous blooping sound as a bubble the size of William’s head broke the surface. William shook his head and eyed the pool warily. He was more tired than he’d thought, getting lost in dreamy suppositions instead of keeping a vigilant watch. He’d suspected that there was something inside the acid since he and Atzar had crossed the river hours back but couldn’t pin his suspicions down on exactly what.

    Zombies poured from the mist in a wave. They moved so quietly that William barely had time to react before they were on him. Fortunately the dragon had been massive enough that even though he was in the creature’s throat, William had the space to swing his weapons. He held the bone cleaver in one hand and a short-grip on the haft of his warscythe in the other. Gobs of puffy white flesh and rotting brown fluid spilled over the threshold as William hacked and sliced. His initial attacks held the wave of creatures at bay, but their numbers seemed endless, stretching back indefinitely into the mists.

    He yelled a warning back to Atzar when he was forced to take his first step backwards, and then again when the press of bodies started spilling over the edges of the wound. He was quickly reduced to simply swatting at the zombies with the flats of his blades instead of slicing or chopping. An arm or torso that was severed continued to wriggle and writhe towards William, seeking to simply swamp him and drag him down. But the acid pool had proven especially effective as a way to keep one flank clear.

    Until it wasn’t.

    William knew that he had to flee the moment the first tentacle shot at him from the acid. It had seemed that the fungus bloated bodies of the zombies simply came apart when they were knocked into the acid, but the macabre sight of the twisted flesh tentacles rising from the acid told a different story. He’d been correct, there was something waiting below the acid, and it was flesh-crafting the fungal zombies that fell into it into living, writhing creations of nightmarish horror. Streams of acid poured from warped mouths and nostrils where zombie faced had been stitched together, siphoned up from the stream itself. Those faces twisted towards William, intending to simply pour acid over him in order to add him to the central mass. Limbs twitched and reached for him, broken stumps and fingers alike spasming in time with some internal heartbeat.

    A sense of terror welled up inside William as more and more tentacles broke the surface and twisted in his direction. He gripped the handles of his weapons tightly and gritted his teeth, preparing to fight the abomination. Then he remembered where he was and his promise to himself not overestimate his own prowess. William turned and fled, while the tentacles continued to stretch and grow behind him.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  8. #18
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    The finger of acid traced another symbol onto bone; numerous others glistened around him in a three-quarter circle. Languid eyes crawled to the next location, and his volatile paintbrush dutifully followed. Not far behind him, the mage heard William’s battle. He didn’t turn. That was the revenant’s business right now; the portal was his.

    Another symbol; a small wisp of steam hissed from the new marking. His pulse pounded in his heart, his head, his wounded arm. His hands trembled violently. Sweat dripped from his face despite the chilly air. His lungs ached, but each breath brought less relief than the last. Atzar had done business with Death in the past, but always as the seller. This was a new experience for him.

    He had faced danger many times. And in those situations, he had usually carried with him a prudent sense of self-preservation. But he had passed that crossroad several miles back. Here he knelt on the corpse of an ancient dragon in a valley of poison, fending off zombies and mortal infection while attempting to cross into the realm of a malicious minor deity. Yet despite Death’s inexorable stare, Atzar found himself unafraid. Perhaps it was logic. Panic did nothing for him now. He knew he was already fucked; might as well do as much as he could before his body gave in.

    Or perhaps his brain was simply too wracked with weariness and fever to comprehend the idea of fear.

    He painted the next glyph; two to go. A new sound intruded on his senses. Slithering, roiling, splattering… Then he heard William yell.

    You’d better be done, mage!” the demon roared, and Atzar glanced back. William sprinted toward him from the beast’s neck, tailed by a vast, hideous mass of tentacles and acid that made the wizard’s flesh crawl. Nope. His brain still understood fear just fine.

    With as much urgency as his condition allowed, he finished the last two symbols. A new energy, sick and vile, surfaced at the edge of his consciousness. That was a small relief, but here, the demon’s instructions ended. William expected Atzar to instinctually know how to activate the portal. And now, the wizard had to do it with the spawn of the underworld gnashing at his back.

    He took a deep breath and snaked a tendril of his magic out to meet this new power. He heard footsteps behind him… another yell, directly into his ear this time… Atzar grasped, and yanked with all the might he had left.

    The symbols burst aflame, then the world exploded.


    His head spun violently. He clenched his teeth to keep from vomiting. The ground suddenly tilted; he pitched onto his back. The world was blurry and out-of-focus. Atzar could see no details; only colors. Green, black, purple. He was vaguely aware of another presence beside him. He hoped it was William.

    Yet as he lay there, struggling to make sense of the world around him, other information intruded on his confusion. The first was that his heart beat calm and even, no longer a frenzied staccato. He felt the strength return to his muscles and the wind to his lungs.

    The second was that the familiar touch of his magic, so central to his existence, was gone.
    Last edited by Atzar; 10-03-2017 at 03:51 AM.

  9. #19
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    William had once met an alchemist who’d showed him a special metal that the alchemist claimed would burn like wood. He’d scoffed at the notion, thinking only of the way metal heated to a glowing red when thrust into a forge’s coals. But true to the alchemist’s word, the metal had lit up brilliantly when the alchemist had cut away a small piece and held it over an open flame. William couldn’t remember what the metal was called, but he would never forget the brilliant white light that the metal gave off as the flames consumed it. It was one of the most powerfully intense things that the revenant had ever seen and the afterimage of the burning metal had left spots in William’s vision for a half a day after he’d stopped watching it. The terror that welled up in William’s chest as he ran from the flesh-crafted acid beast felt just as bright as the burning metal had been.

    A circle of runes blazed around Atzar, casting the hollow remains of Arztschlange’s chest in eldritch light. William didn’t really know anything about magic but it looked incredibly complex. To have conducted such an elaborate ritual while dead on his feet was an impressive feat. It was too bad that he wouldn’t make it out of the plague valley, William thought. He had had potential.

    Atzar glanced up as William ran back to him. The mage’s sunken, red-rimmed eyes widened as the mutated fungal zombie mass swelled to fill the dragon’s throat behind William. His shaking hand moved down to continue the ritual and William noticed that there was a bit more urgency behind the movement. The circle was nearly complete, but there was no way for William to tell how much more there was to the ritual after that.

    “Keep it up,” he urged. “I’ll do what I can to hold it off.”

    William stopped just short of the shaky mage and turned to face the first of the reaching tendrils. He slashed at the dripping mess but the creature seemed to take as little notice of the wound as the zombies that made up its form had. The pulpy flesh twisted to show a stretched face to William, the ragged mouth gaping wide in an eternal scream. Acidic bile spewed from the open mouth in Atzar’s direction, as if the beast somehow understood that the mage had the ability to pull the two seekers out from under its grasp. William acted without thought and leapt in the acid’s arc, only to find himself falling through a gap in space in a way that he hadn’t expected to encounter.

    What little rational thought he still had fled as the world dropped out from under him and William, in turn, flailed around in blind panic. Something slammed into William’s back and the air was driven from his lungs. The world above him spun around, gross and unfamiliar. Arztschlange’s arcing ribcage and mummified bits of flesh were gone, replaced with a roiling green ocean shot through with streaks of yellow and brown. It looked more like liquid than air and the sight of it left William feeling somewhat nauseated.

    “You did it,” he puffed in disbelief, working his burning lungs hard to draw breath back into them. He paused for a moment, savoring the feeling of not having to stand face-to-face against the twisted flesh creature, only to realize that if Atzar had in fact succeeded then they were now in a far more precarious position. They had made their way to the domain of Pestilence.

    “Are you still with me?” he asked, rolling unsteadily to his feet. He eyed the quiet mage, completely expecting to see nothing more than a lifeless corpse. To his surprise, Atzar was not only alive, but the mage somehow seemed to have recovered in the last few moments. Though there were signs of sickness still apparent on his face, he was far better looking than he had been. William opened his mouth to say something, then caught the look on Atzar’s face and thought better of it. The man wasn’t on death’s door but that didn’t mean that the sickness hadn’t affected him. William retrieved his weapons and moved away to give the mage some time to himself.
    Last edited by Revenant; 10-12-2017 at 10:33 PM.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  10. #20
    Member

    EXP: 21,506, Level: 6
    Level completed: 22%, EXP required for next Level: 5,494
    Level completed: 22%,
    EXP required for next Level: 5,494


    Atzar's Avatar

    GP
    3,486
    AP
    21
    Name
    Atzar Kellon
    Location
    Corone
    Nearby a bird shrieked, a cross between crow and banshee.

    Life waged an eternal war against death. The air hung hot and wet, a sharp contrast from the chill that filled the valley they had just left. Huge trees reached ever upwards, their foliage outstretched greedily to claim as much light as possible. But the sun wasn’t enough to satiate their hunger; Atzar could see the remains of beasts, suspended from the canopy by ensnaring vines and gnarled branches. Scabrous, fervent fungi splattered the ground and snaked up trunks, eating through bark to feed on the nutritious flesh within. Some trees had succumbed to the assault, standing dark and bare. Insects had burrowed into the dead wood, emerging to cut up and carry home creature, plant and mushroom alike with machinelike efficiency.

    A river, brown and murky, filled his ears with its roar. He could barely make out the dark shapes as they flitted just beneath the surface. He thought of vicious piranha and venomous snakes; probably best to stay out of the water. Again the bird let out its harrowing call.

    Here Atzar was in the most hostile of realms, unable to muster a spark.

    He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt truly helpless. Childhood, perhaps? He had discovered his gift early in life, and it had been there for him ever since. When he had a problem, it provided the solution. When he was hungry, it was the means to hunt; it slaked his thirst, lit the darkness, sheltered him against the elements and protected him from man and beast. It was his sense of a belonging in the world, a resource that others like William bartered to employ. It was a cavern to explore, its unfathomable depths teeming with endless danger and unimaginable riches.

    Atzar lifted his arm to examine his wound. The creeping lines of death had vanished entirely. He wiped aside the dried blood and unguent to expose new flesh, pink and tender, but healthy. The mage had not a clue what force had saved his life, but he was grateful. He’d have happily traded the arm for his magic, but at least it was something. The bird shrieked for a third time.

    He turned to find the bird… and stared. The creature was monstrous, adorned in black feathers tarnished with sickly purple fungus, and its face sported neither eyes nor beak. Talons gripped the stem of a red flytrap-like plant whose mouths were big enough to envelop a human. Then the bird-thing vomited. The fluid sprayed all over Atzar’s tunic; he huffed in revulsion at the disgusting act, and then at the pungent, sour odor.

    Something rustled. The mage looked, and then dove.

    Thorny flytrap jaws slammed shut on the space he had just occupied. Atzar rolled to a crouch and instinctively responded with fire... but the slash of his hand brought none forth.

    “William!” Atzar hissed urgently. “Wherever your quarry is, find it quickly. This place sucks.” He gritted his teeth. “…And I’m not sure how much help I’m going to be. My magic is kaput.” The rustling began again as the man-eating plant keyed on the smell produced by its symbiotic bird-friend. Unable to fight back, the magicless mage prepared to dive once more.

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