Hunt - Chapter Thirty-Four
~ 34 ~
27 Arodus, 4692 AR; Grey Garrison 3rd Floor, Kenabres
27 Arodus, 4692 AR; Grey Garrison 3rd Floor, Kenabres
Suddenly, Strune let out a cry of pain, black energy suffusing her entire being, and veered off course. Her body slammed hard into the ground, the stone cracking with the impact. She slid at an angle away from the Wardstone, leaving a trail behind her in the floor, and finally slowed to a stop about twenty feet away. The Rod of Cancellation bounced multiple times, eventually spinning to a stop near Jeslynâ€™s feet. The half-elf-demon lowered her outstretched hand, and bent down toward the Rod.
Before she could grab it, though, Shayliss charged in with a shout. Her longsword swept upward and met the shaft of Jeslynâ€™s scythe. As she was not close enough to simply kick the Rod away, Shayliss flicked her grappling hook at it, sending it skittering a few feet away out of easy reach. Jeslyn let out a growl and shoved Shayliss away.
Shayliss was not having it, though, and swung her grappling hook at the retreating demon. The metal claws cracked against Jeslynâ€™s head, staggering her toward the diagonal and Shayliss followed it up with another swing that crashed against the demonâ€™s temple. She stumbled at that blow and it took her a bit to start recovering. Shayliss used that window of time to rush for the Rod, hoping to at least guard it if not actually pick it up.
â€œDeradnu!â€ Jeslyn yelled.
A sudden roar turned Shaylissâ€™s attention toward the other side of the room. The minotaur, who was dealing with Mordria, Blueeye and Kaira, slammed his horns into the two close quarters fighters, sending them into the ground, and spun to face Shayliss directly. With a readying paw against the stone, he bent down, ignoring Kairaâ€™s arrows, and charged right for Shayliss. His hands and hooves dug grooves into the stone, sending the remains up into the air, and Shayliss had a sudden image of that happening with her blood.
When the minotaur was a second away from skewering her with his horns, a green form slid in his way and grabbed hold of his horns in two gauntletted fists. Snaga slid to a stop only inches from Shayliss and she could see his arms straining against the pure mass and strength of the minotaur.
The strange energy that has come to everyone else covered him as well and seemed to infuse his arms, giving him enough strength to hold the minotaur in place. Shayliss could see the minotaur try to throw Snaga away, twisting his head this way and that. But Snaga was not affected by it at all, his feet fully planted to the ground.
However, the attack from the minotaur did its job. Jeslyn rushed at Shayliss, slamming her body into Shaylissâ€™s and sent them both away from the Rod. Shayliss managed to hold her longsword up so that the descending scythe did not decapitate her, but the force of the sudden attack sent her to the ground and Jeslyn bore down upon her.
The impact shifted Shaylissâ€™s shirt slightly, revealing the brand on her chest. Seeing that, Jeslynâ€™s mouth curled up in a small smile, â€œYou are the failed experiment, then. Supposed to be one of the greatest products they ever created. Yet, you escaped.â€ Her scythe rose, â€œIâ€™ll be glad to kill you so they can try again.â€
Despite imminent death coming down upon her, Shayliss blinked at the half-elf-demon. Failed experiment? What on Golarion did she mean by that? What was the brand supposed to do?
Focus, moron! A voice yelled in her, Get out of the way!
Before the scythe could descend, Jeslyn was slammed from behind and flew off of the prone Shayliss. A second later, Irabeth stood above Shayliss, holding out a hand. It took a second for Shayliss to switch gears from Jeslynâ€™s statement to Irabethâ€™s hand, but she reached up to grip it. Without hesitation, despite the sweat pouring from her forehead, Irabeth practically threw Shayliss to her feet and said, â€œGet the Rod!â€
Dazed, Shayliss looked around to find the Rod laying down on the ground, a foot away from the still struggling Snaga and minotaur. She ran up to grab it, but a surprised grunt next to her halted her movement. She looked up just in time to see the half-orc arcing over her to slam hard against the curved wall behind her, the magic film surrounding him completely dissipating. The minotaur, now not held back by the summoner, pawed at the ground ready to charge at Shayliss.
Apparently it had become used to the arrows still firing at it because it was completely ignoring them, and Mordira and Blueeye were too far away to do anything. They were trying to reach her, but the distance was too great. Strune was struggling to rise, but whatever spell was used against her was too great and Irabeth was too busy keeping Keslyn busy.
Shayliss was on her own.
Realizing that, she braced herself. The minotaur did not seem to notice her center of gravity shift as it pawed once more before letting out a roar and charging forward.
There was no time for hesitation. She dove to her right as soon as roar was let loose and felt the tip of one horn rip the leather out of her shoe on its destructive path. She rolled to a slide and immediately tossed herself to the side again, feeling the wind of the minotaurâ€™s passing against her chest. The third pass sent a horn digging into her torso, leaving a long line of blood where her armored coat failed to protect her, and the fourth nearly skewered her completely.
As the minotaur came in for his fifth pass, Shayliss whipped her grappling hook around twice before sending it low to the ground at the beast. Metal claws latched into flesh and meat. A roar rose from the minotaur again, this one a pained roar. Shayliss let out a cry of her own as she pulled the hook hard.
She had not really expected to do much, but the minotaur must have been losing steam like she was as her pull managed to send the beast crashing to the ground. She tried to pull the hook back to her so she could use it again, but the claws were too deep into the minotaurâ€™s limb. All she could do was strain the magically enhanced rope and barely move the beast.
However, the minotaur did not attempt to rise to his feet. It took Shayliss a second to realize that the beast was dead, but was then promptly confused. Did her hook really kill him? How?
A flash of light brought her attention to one of Kairaâ€™s arrows of light fading from his side, under his armpit. Her addled brain could not process that for a second.
It was not given much of a chance to as Kaira, Blueeye and Mordria approached. Mordria and Blueeye continued running past her to stand over the still down Snaga while Kaira halted at Shaylissâ€™s side.
â€œAre you alright?â€ Kaira asked.
Shayliss shook her head, trying to clear her mind, â€œYeah. Iâ€™ll be fine.â€ She looked down and found the Rod still laying there, miraculously. Picking it up, she sighed, â€œThis is too hectic. We have the minotaur down, but Jeslyn is not going to let us get anywhere close to the Wardstone now.â€
As she said the half-elf-demonâ€™s name, she turned to look at the battle that was still raging between Jeslyn and Irabeth. Jeslyn had an aura of purple energy around her which seemed to strengthen her as she pounded against Irabethâ€™s shield with her scythe. Irabeth was kneeling, holding her shield up toward Jeslyn, and was managing to hold on. However, with each attack, Irabeth was sliding backward and more force was getting through. Irabeth was tiring, just like everyone else.
â€œWe have to end this now.â€ Shayliss growled.
Kaira nodded, â€œCan I see the Rod?â€
Passing the Rod over, Shayliss watched as Kaira examined it. The hunter bounced it on her palm, twisted her wrist while holding it, and measured its length. She then nodded, â€œI can do it.â€
Shayliss blinked, â€œIâ€™m sorry?â€
â€œI can shoot the Rod into the Wardstone.â€
Shayliss blinked again, â€œUm. I was not expecting that, but okay.â€ Her mind was chugging along, coming up with the pieces of a plan, â€œWe can do this. Iâ€™ll distract Jeslyn, acting as if I am about to touch the Wardstone. When I get her distracted enough, fire.â€
Kaira nodded and prepared her bow. Shayliss, her stomach churning with nerves, gripped her longsword harder and looped her grappling hook back on its clip. With one last heavy breath, she charged the Wardstone, letting out a loud yell.
Shayliss had expected to gain Jeslynâ€™s attention. She, however, did not expect that the womanâ€™s response would be as quick and explosive as it was. One moment, she was charging for the Wardstone, only about five feet away from it. The next, the blade of a scythe pierced her chest, going completely through her body, and sending a spray of red blood outward.
She could not feel the pain of the attack. All she felt was an icy chill that spread throughout her body. There was a push against her body, and then she was flung backward, crashing hard into the ground, though she could not feel it. That chill continued to spread, touching the tips of her fingers and pelvis. After a while, her chest went numb. That numbness followed in the chills wake, shutting down her body bit by bit. The only thing she could feel was the brand, still searing her as if it was doing its best to keep her heart beating.
Shayliss saw Jeslyn stand over her. The womanâ€™s mouth was moving, but Shayliss could not hear anything coming out of it. The ceiling far above her started blurring out of focus. Jeslyn was doing the same as she raised that scythe up to finish the job that apparently was too slow for her.
There was a thin white line that flew above Shaylissâ€™s sight. Jeslyn saw it flying and turned to watch its progress. There was a burst of white light.