The Fractured Mountains: Darkness Ascending – Chapter 24

Syb lead the party to the stand of trees. In the dim light the vines looked even more sinister than before. They writhed of their own accord and lashed out randomly.

Holding her new stone torch high Enress approached the vines. “I have only my knuckle dusters. You guys will need to do most of the attacking.” She grabbed one of the flailing vines and attempted to hold it down. It started to lift her off her feet. “Or all the attacking…”

With a swift motion Gaemacirch brought his katana down on the vine, severing it near the base. He quickly ran away from the swarming masses of vines swatting at him. “Well, you can still be useful.” He smiled slightly at Enress. “Though, I suppose we should not grab these. If it can lift an automaton it will fling any one of the rest of us.”

“Agreed.” Burner moved forward to the vine and studied it. “Hmm…I’ve never seen this kind of vine before. Julian?”

Moving forward to get a better look Julian shrugged. “I’m not really good with this sort of thing. It was Adalet’s area.”

Enress sighed. “Let me get a better look. Shine your lantern here, Julian.” She pointed at the end of the vine. The vine squirted a purple liquid in Enress’ eye. “Well, good thing I’m a construct, because that would have been very damaging to you organics.” She wiped the liquid from her face. “It’s a purple deathgrip. The purple comes from the poison’s color, since the vine itself is green. Also, if it constricts you pray to your god that it grabs you around the ankle so you don’t die from it. There’s also rumors that they’re animals and not plants.”

“Great.” Dreekt put his taloned finger out and Syb landed on it. “Let’s keep you close.”

Syb tweeted something at Dreekt than perched himself on the left shoulder.

Dreekt pulled out his dagger, Julian readied his axes, and Burner readied her rapier.

“Well, dim as it is, sunlight is better than night. Let’s go.” Burner moved forward, stabbing at any vine that dared move in her direction.

Following Burner’s lead, the rest of the adventurers followed behind. Gaem cutting through vines, and everyone else slashing and stabbing.

Before too long the party found themselves in a clearing filled with the bones of some ancient creature. After a moment of silence as the party tried to process what kind of creature the bones could’ve originated from Enress spoke up.

“That’s a cyclops skull. It only has the one eye socket, but that’s a pretty big skull. A giant cyclops maybe?”

Dreekt nodded. “I’ve heard stories about ancient creatures that were larger than their modern forms, but that would’ve been millennia ago. These would be dust.”

“Let’s just be glad,” Gaemacirch interjected, “that we don’t have to fight this thing.”

As the party began moving around the cyclops bones the shriek of jekawir pierced the air. There were at least three distinct cries.

“That’s not good.” Julian grabbed his handaxes and looked to the sky.

Burner started humming a dissonant tune. “Get ready.” She pulled her bow from her back and notched an arrow. “Take them down as soon as you see them.”

The grotesque sight of the jekawir assaulted the eyes of the adventuring group. The neckless creatures had pink humanoid skin with tufts of grey fur that seemed placed on them at random. They had large wings that were bat-like, and had legs like those of a frog, but with human hands where the feet would be. Their tongues lolled out of their toothy mouths and were accompanied by a noxious breath that made it hard to focus.

Burner and Julian launched their attacks at the jekawir first. Burner’s arrow pierced the hide of one of the creatures, while Julian’s handaxes fell harmlessly to the ground. He had underestimated the range.

Dreekt shot a bolt of arcane energy into the sky. He didn’t end up hitting the jekawir, but he caused the injured one to swoop towards the ground, creating an opening for Gaemacirch to swing at it.

With a mighty swing, Gaemacirch’s katana beheaded the jekawir. The head of the creature went flying and knocked another jekawir out of the air and onto its back. “Well, that worked out pretty good.”

The jekawir that was knocked to the ground righted itself and flapped towards Gaemacirch. The one still in the air swooped down and attacked Gaemacirch with the sharp nails at the end of its humanoid hand-feet. It missed and shrieked in Gaemacirch’s face, getting its noxious breath directly into his face, then Enress punched it in the face with her knuckle dusters, surprising it more than hurting it with a glancing blow.

Swapping to her rapier Burner walked up to the uninjured jekawir and jabbed at it, forcing it to jump to the side and leaving an opening for the next person to attack it. Seeing the opening Julian ran for one of his axes, picked it up, and chucked it at the jekawir. The flat of the axe hit the creature in the back, causing it to cry out in pain.

Drawing his quarterstaff Dreekt turned and whacked at the jekawir that Enress had punched. He forced it to lose some balance, but he was unable to hit it. Seeing Dreekt set up yet another jekawir for him Gaemacirch swung at the creature with his katana. He wasn’t able to hit it, but it completely lost its balance and fell on its back. It hopped back up and bit at Dreekt, ripping through the flesh of his arm, ripping out feathers and exposing his skin.

The second jekawir slashed at Gaemacirch with its wings. It didn’t hit, but caused Enress to lose some of her balance as the wings slashed around in the same area she was occupying. In retaliation she punched it in the chest, expecting to wind it, but she found extra resistance there.

“Are these things designed to take hits or something?” Enress stared at the creatures. “These don’t look natural.”

“We can talk about it later. Just focus on taking them down!” Burner jabbed at the jekawir that had just bit Dreekt. She also found resistance just under the skin. “You may be on to something, though.”

Julian picked up his other axe and tossed it at the same jekawir that Burner had just attacked. “Take some more of this!” The axe buried itself into the creature’s hid and hung there. “That’s not what I meant…”

Seeing the creature in front of him was barely standing Dreekt swung at it again. He missed and forced the creature to bump its companion off balance, opening up yet another advantage for Gaemacirch.

“Look, I appreciate you creating opening and all, but could you also do some damage?” Gaemacirch sliced at the jekawir that was off-balance. He sliced its head off its non-existent neck and the swing continued through to finish off the other jekawir as well.

“Ok,” Burner said, “let’s take a quick break, and I’ll see if I can learn anything about how these jekawir tick.” After ten or so minutes she had one of the creatures, the one Gaemacirch hadn’t beheaded, flayed open. “Hmm…it seems the place where the neck would be is the weakest area. No surprise since that’s how two of the three of them were killed.”

“Interesting, but we need to get to Slapper. Let’s get moving again, shall we?” Julian motioned at the next wall of writhing vines. “These vines seem more active than the ones we’ve already moved through. They may prove to be more of a hassle.”

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