Hunt - Chapter Five
~ 5 ~
17 Arodus, 4692 AR; Under Kenabres
17 Arodus, 4692 AR; Under Kenabres
"Damn. I was afraid of this."
The group all huddled at what Shayliss assumed was the end of a tunnel. However, since Strune dispelled her light the world around the woman was just pure darkness. Her eyes were not strong enough to pierce the darkness, even after five or so minutes of waiting. Whatever her eyes missed, her ears picked up on something in front of them. Slurping, sucking sounds came from multiple sources, like octopodes trying to walk on land. What made it more unsettling though, was the fact that none of them sounded like they were on the ground.
"You said they were darkmantles?" Shayliss asked in a soft whisper.
Soft footsteps sounded as Kaira stepped up to Shayliss's side, "I cannot see them." She said in the same level of volume, "But those slurping sounds are the sounds of the darkmantles' suction cups on the rocky surface."
"She's right." Mordria added stepping up to Shayliss's other side, "I can see them squirming on the ceiling and along the statues."
Shayliss and Aravashnial both perked up at that.
"You can see?" Shayliss asked. At the same time, Aravashnial asked, "Are they First Descendant Statues?"
Anevia placed a hand on Aravashnial's shoulder and spoke quietly to him. Whatever she said to him was enough to keep him calm. If he went on a lesson now, the darkmantles would surely hear them.
"Of course I can see." The half-fiend huffed, "Just because I have a blindfold does not mean I cannot see."
Shayliss blinked at that. She opened her mouth to say that the point of having a blindfold on was to become blind. However, that thought led to other uses for a blindfold. Which then led to a reddened face. So, she instead shook her head and sighed, "Alright. How many of them are there?"
Mordria took a quick look around and said, "Five. All of them are hanging from stalactites."
A soft curse escaped Shayliss' lips, "We cannot get the drop on them. Not if only a couple of us can see in this darkness. So, speed will have to do what stealth cannot." She turned to Strune, "When I give a signal, recast your Light." She then turned to Kaira, Snaga, who stood in the far back silently, and Anevia, "As soon as you can see, choose a target and fire. It would be good to find the same target but any of them will do. The other fighters will rush in. Take them down as fast as possible. While we have numbers, they have better vision. Don't let them flank you."
"Do we need so much planning and tactics?" Kaira asked, "They are small and we outnumber them."
Shayliss turned a glance at Kaira, "Don't underestimate an enemy. I learned that the hard way."
Kaira blinked, "You were telling the truth then? I thought you were being funny."
Shayliss shook her head, "Nope. They were real ogres." She turned back, "Get ready, Strune."
Kaira was giving the woman a dubious look while Strune gave a soft grunt of affirmation. Bowstrings were being pulled back while the sound of claws against scale rung out. The sizzle of acid from Snaga was the confirmation Shayliss needed that everyone was ready.
"Go!" Shayliss hissed.
Bright light flared up and despite being ready for it Shayliss had to blink her eyes a few times to recover. Anevia, Snaga and Kaira, however, did not. Arrows sailed past Shayliss' ears while a glob of acid was lobbed over her head. When Shayliss could see again, she saw one slimy creature falling to the ground being eaten alive by acid.
Before it was completely devoured, Shayliss could see that it was basically an octopus on land. Eight tendrils spread out evenly from the bottom of its tube-like body. Red eyes as narrow slits sit on either side of its body. However, that is where the reseblance ended. Each tendril ended with a pair of sharp hooks and the tendrils were stuck together by large webbing like a frog's toes. In the center of the circle the webbing made, a large maw ringed with hundreds of sharp shark-like teeth gapped open.
The other four darkmantles turned to look at the charging fighters and let out muffled cries. They then leapt out from their rock perches and tried to land onto a single fighter. Mordria managed to dodge out of the way, the darkmantle landing onto the stone with a sickening squelch. However, the others were not so lucky.
Shayliss felt the creature crash into her like a wagon and she was nearly sent off of her feet. Without hesitation, the octopus-like thing started biting hard. Its teeth sunk in deep into her shoulder and its hooks pierced her skin wherever they could. Her already sore back had companions in pain as her whole torso started saying that it was in agony. She hooked her grappling hook rope onto its holder and tried to use that hand to pull at the thing.
It held tight, its hooks sinking in even deeper, like a fishing hook within a fish's mouth. Blood flowed and stained her shirt while she fought the darkmantle. She was getting nowhere with the thing fast as any motion pushed the hooks and teeth into her skin deeper and deeper. Next to her, she could hear the snarls from Blueeye as the beast participated in its own dance of death. He had an even harder time than Shayliss did, since he could only use his fangs which could only barely reach the darkmantle attached to his side.
"Blueye!" Shayliss yelled, "Stay!"
The white wolf did not listen. He continued to spin in place, trying his best to get at the thing attached to him. Thankfully, Kaira saw what Shayliss was about to do and she ordered, "Sit!"
Blueeye, surprisingly, immediately obeyed. With more growls and snarls, he practically slammed his rear end onto the ground. Shayliss did not hesitate for long. Fighting against the hold the darkmantle had on her, she raised her blade in an awkward hold and swung it down. The blade barely nicked the creature's skin but it did the job. The darkmantle detached itself from the white fur of the wolf...
And attached to Shayliss's legs.
"Not even Val was this clingy!" Shayliss growled.
She was in a bad spot. The new darkmantle was wrapped one hundred percent around her legs so she could not move. Its hooks pierced into her virtually unprotected legs and even more teeth took chunks out of her skin. The one on her upper body shifted a bit to make sure she could not use her arms. She tried to break free but only received deep lines of open flesh and muscle.
Two blurs, one white and one red, raced by her. She was jerked back and forth by the impacts against the darkmantles and they let out cries of pain. Yet, they did not let go. If anything, they pushed in deeper. Shayliss, who had been trying to hold in her screams, opened her mouth and let out a howl of agony. Mordria and Blueeye rushed in again and Shayliss felt the impacts again. The creatures still hung on which pissed Shayliss off.
With a roar of anger, she pushed out against the darkmantles again with no success. She tried again with nothing to show but more wounds. Her wrist twitched to try and thrust her blade in. There was no angle in the world that would have let her hit one. Two more impacts made her drop said sword. It clattered to the ground.
However, the impacts also forced her against the wall.
With another roar of pure rage, she spun around and slammed one of the darkmantle's body against the wall. A cry of pain and a satisfying squelch came soon after and she could feel the creature fall from her torso. It tried to right itself, but Shayliss bunny hopped into the air and came down onto it. Another squelch and the last breath of the creature met her.
The darkmantle on her legs hesitated, which allowed Shayliss to land a swift punch. The attack surprised the creature and it fell to the ground. With legs suddenly free, she raced for her dropped sword. As she grabbed it, the darkmantle was about to launch itself at her again. With a cry, she lifted her blade and swung down. She felt the resistance of metal against flesh as blade cut deep. The corpse of the darkmantle landed a few feet behind her.
Shayliss turned around to find that her companions were taking care of the darkmantle who managed to stay clung to Strune. She was about to rush to help them when three different impacts slammed into her already complaining back. At the corners of her eyes, she could see purple-white energy evaporate and as she spun to face the newcomer, she saw a dwarf reaching into a pouch at his side. She never saw Snaga do the same, but she knew that it meant he was about to cast another spell. She knew that if he succeeded, she would most likely not survive the attack.
Without hesitation, slowed by her injuries, she charged at the man. On the way, she pulled out her grappling hook and snapped it forward. The metal head flew through the air and connected with the dwarf's lower arm. The blow was not really harmful or debilitating but it served its purpose of preventing the dwarf form throwing another spell.
At least, that is what she thought. With a dark smile he raised his hand and a glob of acid sailed forward. She managed to duck under it but could feel miniscule specks of it hit her face and burn. Red splotches formed on her cheek but she ignored them as she thrust her blade forward. The dwarf nimbly dodged the weakened attack and squealed, "You will not take me! I won't let you!"
Shayliss blinked and halted her assault, "We are not here to take you anywhere."
"Lies!" He yelled. His voice then lowered to a crazed mutter, "Lies lies lies. You lie. I won't let you take me."
With a swift motion, he thrust his open hand forward, fingers pointing, muttered something under his breath, and three purple-white bolts of energy shot forward as if from a gun. Shayliss tried to deflect the bolts with her blade but she knew what spell he used was. Magic Missiles, while not the flashiest or deadliest spell out there, was the most accurate and most likely the most known. They never missed nor will they ever. So, a sudden sense of dread filled Shayliss as the trio of bolts crashed into her.
She was flung off her feet and slid on her back. There was no telling how far she flew but she felt every rock and pebble that was sent under her. However, they were the main reason she managed to stop her progress. She tried to rise but something went wrong between her brain and her limbs. Neither her fingers nor her feet twitched as she asked them desperately to move. Like she thought before, she did not last against a second spell.
Shayliss did not even notice when someone hooked their arms under her shoulders and started dragging her away from something. She no longer felt the rocks under her and the sensation of being dragged faded away into nothing. The same started happening to her vision. Before it went completely black, she saw a woman with wings of white kneeling over her. The strange thought that it was an angel entered her mind. It was then interrupted by the feeling of warmth coursing through her whole body. Sensation returned to her body in agonizing slowness and it was a few seconds before she could see again.
Strune knelt over her letting out a soft prayer. Shayliss could not hear the words the woman said, but she could read the occasional Iomedae on her lips. Blood flowed down dark skin and more were being halted by something. Maybe she was healing the both of them. The sudden need to cough overwhelmed the woman and she let out wheezing hacks. Strune bent over a bit more and smiled, "Good. Get up when you can. We need your help."
As if to agree, a glob of acid sailed above Shayliss and landed a few inches away. The woman jumped at that which nearly sent her to her feet anyway. So, she fully rose and watched as the dwarf took on five different experienced fighters and survived.
Mordria and Blueeye, working in tandem now, went in low trying to sweep the dwarf's legs from under him. He threw something into the air, muttered a word, and was suddenly flung into the air by some unknown force. Struggling to steady himself, he then waved both hands back and forth in front of his body. With another word, his whole body, clothes and all, started moving back and forth violently, mimicking his hand motion.
Just then, two arrows shot through the air, wind whistling in their passage, and looked as if they would slam into the dwarf. However, they just whizzed right past him without dealing any kind of injury. With a cackling laugh, he cupped his hand and flung another glob of acid down upon Mordria and Blueeye. It was intercepted by another acid ball and their collision helped protect the pair from damage.
Strune lifted off on wings of white and charged for the levitating dwarf. Her blade shone against the light of her Holy Symbol as she swept it in a diagonal arc. The dwarf acted as if he was slamming his hand down on an invisible table and he was violently send down back toward the ground. He did not hit the ground, but he lowered enough to avoid Strune's rush. It did put him in range of the half-fiend and wolf, though, and they were swift to lash out. Claws and fangs ripped into the dwarf but he barely seemed to notice as he launched himself back up. Blood flowed from one wound but that was all he had.
As he sailed back upward, he thrust his fingers forward again and more purple energy lashed forward in a trio of energy bolts. This time, each one found a separate target, curving in their trajectory. One slammed into Strune who was sent off course and would slam head first into the ground if she did not correct herself. A second thrust toward Mordria who took the attack hard. The only reason she did not go flying like Shayliss did was because she held onto the ground with her claws. The third wrapped around Shayliss and crashed into Anevia. The woman, unstable with her awkward leg, was sent further into the tunnel she stood in. Kaira tried to grab her but failed and Shayliss could hear various grunts.
Gritting her teeth, Shayliss had enough observing and grabbed her grappling hook again. With it and her blade in hand, she swung it like a lasso once before snapping it forward. The metal claws closed around the dwarf's left leg and without hesitation she pulled hard. She was hoping that he would be sent to the ground after being taken away from his levitation spell. Instead, he was just sent toward her but at the same elevation. Yet, it allowed for Snaga, fused with Nephalim, to come out of nowhere, leap up and pull the dwarf down by main force. Both forms came crashing back down to earth and Snaga then slammed the dwarf down again. The dwarf snarled incoherently and thrust another acid glob into the orc's chest.
Shayliss expected to hear more flesh being devoured by the acid. However, she only heard a cry of pain not from Snaga's voice and some of the otherworldly outline of Nephalim dissolve. Snaga remained untouched. He let out a guttural growl and slammed a spiked gauntlet into the dwarf's face again. Blood spurted from the corpse's face.