Storms over Kelerak, Part I - Page 5 - Myth-Weavers

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Storms over Kelerak, Part I

   
Nope. I hear lots of good stuff about it though. And speaking of reading things, my local "All tabletop games played/sold here" shop now has a physical copy of the WoF War of Immortals sourcebook in its "take a look at these" library.

Oh, the succubus and one of her names reminded me of a character in that series. It’s a fun read.

Cool!!!! If you get a chance, take a pic and post it.

The smell of human and fish grew stronger as she ran, in circles some times and straight some others, with the tireless speed of the wolf, drawing ever nearer to Fisherman's Solace. Memories flashed behind her eyes as quick as lightning, some nearly blinding in their intensity, and all confusing and terrifying to she who had once been a wolf girl destined for the great halls of Hildolf.

The spywings had been left long behind. They were smarter than most gave them credit for, but could not predict the erratic movements of their prey, and so Asta eluded them by not thinking about where or how she fled. Doing so was agony unlike any other. Each breath was a razor hurricane in her throat. Bloodied spit clogged her nostrils and crusted around her eyes. Every dehydrated and hypertense muscle would have screamed at the effort she forced them to perform, had they energy to spare.

The wolf had a keen understanding of pain, but was harder and fiercer than the girl. To the wolf, inescapable pain was a thing that could almost be ignored, especially with anger. To the girl, even one raised to dominate in the harsh land of Anaria, inescapable pain was a terror reserved to stories of evildoers receiving divine comeuppance in the afterlife.

Nonetheless, she embraced the pain. The pain kept her Asta, jarl's daughter of the Hildolfar, wolf girl of Lostein - not the Fleet, not the Strongjaw, not she of many packs. She kept running, drawing ever nearer to Fisherman's Solace and the humans from the south, who might kill her instead of save her.

She had no choice. There was something important about the newcomers, something she could not place exactly. It was in the memory of their smell, their taste - how did she know their taste? Did she want to know? - and it was so close that she felt she could almost reach out and grab it, had she still hands instead of paws. It had to do with a sense of great age and-

The almost-understanding vanished with the first screams as she rushed headlong into the village, Kelerite fisherfolk scattering in all directions in panic at the sight of her. Several were frozen where they stood, one large gathering of four or five turning in place and in shock to see her, and Asta's blurring vision inexplicably skipped over them to a different prey, a young woman no more than a few years older than she had been when Niklaus' true self was revealed to her.

For the briefest moment, Asta thought she saw more hate than fear in the other's eyes, and as simply as that, her pain began to fade away under an overwhelming surge of anger. The wolf dream from which she had awoken started creeping closer, becoming bolder with every heartbeat. Valiantly, she fought against it. The fear fed her fury, which dulled her pain, which strengthened the wolf, which frightened her, and so the loop went.

Two seconds, perhaps three, after their eyes met, contact was broken. Both women fell back, too terrified even to scream, as the monstrous dire wolf bore down upon them, one in the mind, one in the flesh. And from some far-off reality of no consequence, the wolf heard an elven battlecry be sung out.

Ah man, tense and powerful!

As he sprinted forward, a pair of startled grunts and heavy footfalls behind him told Aidan that Embla had picked up Isolde and Brokk, and was busy getting them out of the way. The oracle could look after himself as far as Aidan was concerned - not the most charitable of attitudes, but Aidan was just honest enough about his flaws to acknowledge this pettiness - and besides, there was one who was far more vulnerable right now.

The dire wolf crossed the distance to its screaming victim in a heartbeat, murderous jaws snapping shut on the eel-basket in her hands and ripping it from them, sending its squirming contents in all directions. Still scant feet away, Aidan knew there was no time to think, or to ready weapon for a 'proper' battle, as the bards might tell it. Instead, he slammed into the wolf with all the force he could muster and went rolling in mud and blood and eels. His spine creaked in protest as the two came to a stop, the half-elf on the underside of the melee, and the shaft of his warhammer pressing into his back.

His first instinct was to struggle to his feet, but his warrior instinct overruled this stupidity. For one thing, his legs were pinned beneath the weight of the raging beast; and for another, he knew himself to be far less agile and ferocious a fighter than this enemy, even if he had not been so tired from the long journey and his recent injuries. His hands closed over the wolf's head, one tightening around the throat, the other trying to gouge at the eyes.

On most creatures, even one so intelligent and cunning as this, this tactic would have worked. But the wolf dream had been shaken off for a time, and had not yet clamped down on everything that the wolf girl knew. Anarian wrestling was not a common lesson for its chieftains (the Bear Tribe excepted, and they excelled in the martial art) but even a child knew the rudiments from watching contests and displays of skill at festivals. Rudiments such as how to escape a grapple.

Aidan felt his grip weaken as the dire wolf shifted its weight, raising its hindquarters up and twisting them to allow it to plant its hind legs either side of him. Bracing on them, it pulled at its front half and slipped away from the paladin's just-not-strong-enough grasp. Desperately, he tried to respond by seizing its ears instead, hoping their sensitivity could be leveraged to his advantage. They were already flat against the skull, impossible to catch hold of in the instant he had available, and by the time his brain had realised this, the massive head was free. Now Aidan was the one on his back, wolf standing over him, one paw pressed into his throat in a darkly amusing parody of a wrestler's hold.

Aidan saw death waiting as the monstrous jaws widened. Then they slammed shut again as a knife flew out of nowhere, its hilt striking the wolf just behind the left eye, momentarily dazing the beast. A very distinct hositan voice followed in complaint: "The one time I don`t want it to spin..." and deep inside his thoughts, he allowed himself a laugh. It seemed about time that Isolde had her own share of bad luck!

As amusing as that was, he did not have the luxury of enjoying it. Instead, he clapped his knees to the wolf's flanks and heaved upwards, and at the same moment took hold of its front legs and pulled forward mightily. With a confused yelp, the dire wolf flew over his head.

Now he obeyed his instinct to stand. Without undue haste, forcing his fingers to work as they ought, he loosed his warhammer from his back, silently thanking Embla for the suggestion. After their first encounter with this creature, when he had embarrassingly left his weapon in the back of the cart, she had advised him on the way of the Erunian warrior of carrying such a heavy item - which was broadly the same as the nomad avengers of old Wawmar, or even the lost colonies of the Sarumvest - but was markedly superior to the lessons he had learned in Zeland's secret temples.

To be fair, they had suffered from a dearth of warriors and had to teach from manuals and apprentice scrips, and they were not afraid to admit their ignorance in matters of actual combat. Now, one of the earliest and most important catechisms he had been taught came back to Aidan: the greatest techniques are learned by the survivors.

This confrontation had so far lasted less than half a minute. Embla was still receding, Brokk under one arm, Isolde mostly wriggled loose from the other - and with another of her many daggers already in hand. The Kelerites were still in a state of pandemonium. But in that short time, Aidan had already realised he was up against more than an ordinary dire wolf, rabid or otherwise.

It moved unlike any deranged predator ought to. It had broken free of his grapple. It battled on a level greater than mere instinct, but used technique and skill scarcely inferior to his own and adapted to his fighting style. It was a survivor. Even as a paladin, his spirit armoured against fear and terror, Aidan felt that cold touch in his heart. He was merely incapable of giving in to it, no matter how much he might want to.

"Come on then," he hissed at the dire wolf, its footing already regained. "Come on so that I may send you back to whichever Hell you crawled from."

The dire wolf cocked its head, almost as if in understanding. Their eyes met. In those of the beast, there was pain and confusion and anger, but the pain was lessening by the moment. An intelligence as keen as Aidan's own looked him up and down, judging him as he judged it. They took the first step forward at the same time, and the second, and the third, and all those after that.

Perhaps this would please any bard who hears the tale, Aidan thought as their melee resumed.

Your combat descriptions are always fun to read!

With one final heroic effort, Isolde slipped from Embla's arm, twisting like a cat to land on her feet. An exasperated shout of "Bhunbaskir villtri, arratti!" followed her, which the hositan guessed meant something similar to 'You suicidal halfling idiot', but dismissed it. She had heard worse in her time, not least from her family when last she had seen them. The pain of that exchange was thrust aside almost as soon as it stirred in her heart. Thinking of that would be far too distracting over a campfire, never mind a true battle.

She rushed forward, eyes fixed on Aidan and the pattern of his movements, rather than on the terrible wolf. The pair were dancing around an ever-shifting central point, muscle and sinew straining to outdo the other. On paper, Aidan was the greater combatant, skilful and enduring enough to overcome such a beast. On the battlefield, the dire wolf was vastly more dangerous, superior in body and with a mind no less keen than Aidan's own.

Only now, watching the beast dodge and feint, luring the warhammer away and snapping at the exposed wrists holding the weapon, did Isolde reach the same realisation as her friend. This was no ordinary dire wolf, but something more. The acrobatic tactic she had intended to make use of, a staple of her gutter runner days, suddenly seemed an incredibly unsuitable one.

Unfortunately, her body moved quicker than her thoughts. By the time her brain had processed an alternative means of attack, her head and torso were already tucking into a roll to the right of Aidan's legs an instant after he stepped to the left. The dire wolf, already turning to face him, had its flank completely exposed to her. Against a normal enemy, she would have been able to score both daggers along its ribs and belly, escape its agonised counter-attack, and complete her roll all in the space of a few seconds.

On paper, this would have seemed an eminently reasonable course of action. The ideal one, in fact, since she was no endurance fighter to stand face-to-face with an opponent three times her size (and damn near six times her weight in raw muscle and bone). On the battlefield, however, this proved a mistaken theory.

Two shining blades curved up as the halfling passed by her enemy. They bit into thin air as the dire wolf used its turning momentum to bounce backwards and away. Its rage was sharpening the senses already honed by experience, and the attempted acrobatics had not come as a surprise. A blood-mad eye glared down at Isolde and her daggers, abominably human in wordless mockery. Over twenty darker blades descended and twenty more rose to meet them, but these did not bite air.

There followed a metallic crunch, and a light rain of steel splinters and blood-flecked saliva fell to the earth. Even daggers forged from steel worthy of oluk legionnaires proved inferior to the fangs of a cursed dire wolf. Their hilts, useless now save as scrap, followed the splinters.

A paw slightly larger than Isolde's head reached out, almost languidly it seemed to the horror-struck halfling, towards her. For the first five or six seconds after impact, the world turned inside out and flowered into a thousand wondrous colours she had never even imagined. There was merely a profound numbness in place of the expected pain. Then it erupted in her jaw and behind her eyes, a ringing in her ears like the bells of a Davenian cathedral deafening her to the world.

In the back of her mind, Isolde knew that the sudden coldness sweeping over her was a shadow, a shadow of impeding death cast by some great and unknowable terror blotting out the rising sun. That was irrelevant. It was almost pleasant, in fact, the chill. Relaxing, when you got right down to it, soothing, peaceful. The incessant ringing in her ears was more a lullaby.

Fighting was hot work, and she was still overheated from the night's exertions of trying to save people from the burning inn. A rest was not unreasonable thing to have right now. Her eyes were already closed. Why not just go to sleep? Let someone else deal with...whatever...thing it was that needed dealing with. A good plan. Isolde liked those, and so set sail on the sea of dreams.

Dire wolf laying the smack down!







 

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