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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.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  2. #12
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    Name
    William Arcus
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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, “With a little help from you, of course.”
    "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.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  3. #13
    Member
    EXP: 89,665, Level: 12
    Level completed: 98%, EXP required for next level: 335
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    EXP required for next level: 335

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    Name
    William Arcus
    Age
    Mid-30's (apparent age)
    Race
    Revenant
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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.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  4. #14
    Member
    EXP: 89,665, Level: 12
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    Name
    William Arcus
    Age
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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.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  5. #15
    Member
    EXP: 89,665, Level: 12
    Level completed: 98%, EXP required for next level: 335
    Level completed: 98%,
    EXP required for next level: 335

    AP
    50
    GP
    6945
    Revenant's Avatar

    Name
    William Arcus
    Age
    Mid-30's (apparent age)
    Race
    Revenant
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Black Stubble
    Eye Color
    Molten Fire
    Build
    5'11"/178lbs
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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.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

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