By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 62 - A Flying Nightmare
Olostin’s Hold to Berdusk, Flamerule – Eleint 1371, mid morning
With a cool autumn breeze blowing through the quiet streets of Berdusk and overhead the fluffy white clouds moving at a steady pace through the blue sky, Tarim feels at ease; it is almost like a summer day in the North. It seems like only yesterday when they left Olostin’s Hold behind under weather circumstances not unlike these. Eyes roaming left and right, up and down, new sights and sounds are absorbed as Tarim walks through the city – his first city.
How different Berdusk is from the villages and hamlets they passed on their way south. Guldin Druin had taken them past some cities on their way, but they had never entered one of them. Master Druin preferred to stay in the smaller places and the more remote waystations. Yet now they were in a real city. Tall houses, a stone wall and many people – lots of people. Sure there had been many folks on the road as well, and even the smaller hamlets seemed more crowded then Olostin’s Hold did. Yet this was almost a sea of humanity… and Master Druin had said that Berdusk was only a small city…
“Small” he mused aloud “Unbelievable…” Tarim was just short of overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of it all… the details, people coming and going and shops and homes and, and… His mind ached with the trying to memorize it all. It was not like home that was for certain. In the Old Forest if you met someone you didn’t know, you stopped and exchanged news and names and usually shared a meal it was just plain courtesy. But here…Tarim had passed by over a hundred people in the last few minutes and not one of them even looked him in the eye let alone asked his name. Different, yes that’s for sure.
Suddenly a familiar sight comes swooping down out of the air, a small black owl alights on the young man’s shoulder. Even before it has touched down, Tarim feels the anxiety of his friend – danger. Counterintuitive to most humans, Tarim’s eyes immediately scan the sky for the source of the owl’s panic. Within a heartbeat he sees a weird looking creature flying over a large building, it is as if the creature came out of the building’s roof.
Against the blue sky the creature appears almost translucent, with a very large unnatural wingspan, reminding the young Uthgardt of the wyverns which sometimes would come down out of the Lost Peaks. Making a full circle overhead, the creature dives back to the roof, as if there’s prey to be found. Through the black owl on his shoulder Tarim knows there are two two-legs like him on the roof…
The young mage approaches where the creature alighted with all due speed… readying his newly acquired crossbow. Tarim goes over the magics in his mind looking for something that would help… With the realization that there are others there in danger Tarim tries to judge the distance for a shot but can barely see the creature from this angle. Casting about quickly for a way up to the roofs, a strange feeling comes over him almost as if his mind just stopped. Watching as if from someone else’s body he sees his hand snake out grabbing a small spider from a nook and without missing a beat puts it directly into his mouth. He feels no squeamishness about it, being raised in the wilderness, but is slightly confused as he chews the little thing up and begins to climb the side of the wall to the roof.
The little owl on his shoulder seems to feel that this is one of the more normal things he’s done in the recent days…
Screeching once more the translucent winged creature wheels about in the air and dives back down towards the roof, talons extended as it aims for the two surprised men near the ventilation duct.
With an astonishing ease Tarim manages to climb up to the edge of the roof, just in time to see the wyvern-like creature sweep down on two humans near some sort of tiny wooden house built on the building’s roof. One of the two seems in trance as he gazes up at the rapidly descending creature.
Jez stands and looks in awe at what has flown from the ventilation duct. “Oh Hell, I knew I should’ve went through the front doors with the others,” he says aloud. Jez raises his gaze at the flying reptilian monstrosity and his astute elvish orbs flash then glimmer with hidden magic all their own. As suspected an aura of magic surrounds the creature as it comes swooping back down at him and Marc, though the murky aura isn’t clear enough to read the type of magic.
“Crap indeed.” Marc swears as he sees the thing bear down on their position from the air. Without further regard to stealth, he kicks another slat away from the structure and tries to crawl into the opening – regardless whether or not there’s another surprise waiting for him below – at least the wooden structure provides some protection.
Before Jezbodiah can react, the thing slams talons first into him, the dagger like claws piercing into his flesh as the half-elf falls backward, the winged creature looming above him. Before he hits the ground the thing’s snout comes down and two rodent-like teeth sink painfully into his shoulder.
The half-elf cries out in pain as the dragon-like monster bites into him. All air seems to be slammed out of his lungs as Jez hits the ground, the weight of the creature adding to the blow. Though no reason for joy, yet Lliira’s favor seems to be with him in a small amount as the beast – through its own momentum – falls forward, futilely attempting to balance itself with flapping wings. Above the scrambling Marc, it slams into the wooden structure, dislodging it partially from the roof.
Screeching loudly and trashing about, the reptilian-like creature is struggling to free itself from the wreckage. Below the trashing beast, Marc is barely able to hold on as debris rains down on him and further down into the warehouse; several pieces scratching and bludgeoning him on their way down. A panicky look appears on the young bard’s face as his fingers start to slip on the precarious hold he has…
Jez felt like this before, almost, once as he fell off a roof when he several years younger. The pain in his shoulder then was nothing compared to the pain as being bit by a Wyvern-like creature. “Stupid idiot! That was stupid,” he says loudly. “I should have done that behind the chimney!”
From a nearby rooftop, the young Uthgardt sees the scaly thing slam into the figure on the other building and after clambering quickly to the roof cocks and loads his crossbow. “Mystra guide my hands…” he murmurs softly as he raises the crossbow to sight his target.
Rolling onto his side and pulling himself onto his feet, Jez makes haste towards the chimney with his rope in tow. His only hope now is for him to descend deep and fast enough so the reptile does not bite him, or worse, using that tail.
On yet another building, this one next to the warehouse on which the struggle takes place, the air shimmers momentarily and a leather-clad man appears, looking dazed for a moment as he tries to get his bearings. The sounds of the fight attract his attention and help him focus as he turns to wards the neighboring building. Behind the man another figure has materialized, looking just as dazed from the effects of the translocation magic.
Shaking off the effects of the teleportation spell, Teryn looks around for the source of this disturbance that he had been told about. Turning, he sees the fight, and drawing his swords, he takes a running start, before trying to leap the gap between the two buildings. Teryn knows a moment of exhilaration as he flies across the span between the two buildings. Moving agile as a cat he gets on his feet after touching down and moves to engage the creature on the roof.
Freed from the wreckage of the roof’s superstructure, the reptilian creature looks around, seemingly confused as to where its target went. The landing of another morsel on the roof draws its attention and it starts to move towards Teryn.
Kevin stumbles as the world rematerializes around him. His thoughts were preoccupied with the wizard who had just teleported him here – wherever ‘here’ is. He had the pleasant image of himself, his hands around that other mage’s throat, explaining the benefits of making sure that a spell’s area of affect NOT include innocent bystanders. Then the sounds of battle penetrate his brain, and Kevin realizes he has greater concerns.
“Baubles of Beshaba. Small enough to hide but not enough to descend…” Jez thinks disappointingly. Dropping the bulk of coiled rope from his shoulder, Jez retrieves the end-length (the portion of the rope that is not tied to anything) and wraps it quickly around his forearm.
“Only one option left, that and I need my head examined,” he mutters to himself not knowing if he’s going to survive his next stunt. “Hold on Marc!” He yells, “here I go!”
Exposing his position from behind the chimney, Jez stands and concentrates, looking at the reptilian monstrosity with venomous intent. His hand opens somewhat curled. Tiny motes of blue, red, and pink manifest as they sparkle and dance to beat of a drummer all their own. Within scant moments their tempo increases until his palm energizes and bursts forth a single scarlet missile. It flies unerringly towards the reptile’s head.
Hoping that the missile will distract and cause it pain, Jez mutters a prayer in the name of his patrons. “Lliira and Tymora, fortune favors the bold.” Jez runs full tilt towards the ventilation duct intending to leap into it. On its way to engage the leather clad warrior, the creature stops in mid-stride as the magical force slams into its head. Letting out an eerie screeching sound of pain, it turns its head toward the source… a sprinting half-elf.
Trying to cross the distance as quickly as possible, Jezbodiah runs towards the collapsed structure, which now reveals a gaping hole in the roof. While from below sounds of fighting sound, Jezbodiah dives in, making a grab for Marc as he passes through the opening.
The young bard feels his fingers slipping further as he suddenly sees Jezbodiah dive into the opening. Swallowing audibly, Marc lets one hand go and reaches for Jez’s outstretched hand. Almost the two miss each other in mid-air as the young bard’s other hand looses grip on the duct’s edge and he starts falling down. With a desperate grab form both, they manage to get a hold on each other’s arms. Together the two cat-burglars rush down into the warehouse, suspended from a rapidly playing-out life-line.
Seeing Tarim sighting his target, the little black owl takes flight, easing the light burden on the young mage. Tarim adjusts his aim after a brief thought spared for wind and distance lets fly his bolt. As the bolt speeds towards its target the Uthgardt murmurs softly, “The deed has been forwarded, Vaitha. Let your courage be mine for a bit,” as he watches for the results of the shot.
Tarim’s bolt speeds across the distance between the buildings and punches cleanly through the creature’s wing. Even as the bolt is in flight, understanding dawns upon the young Uthgardt. Something Kevin and he came across during their travel to Berdusk…
Even as Tarim ponders his insight and Teryn is about to engage the creature, from somewhere below on the streets, the clattering of many horse hooves on the cobble stones of Berdusk’s streets sounds…
Kevin starts as he sees just what is going on. He doesn’t know who all these people are, but there is one thing he recognizes: That creature they are fighting was something he’d shown Tarim in one of his books. It is a darkenbeast!
The young man swears softly in Low Elvish. This was a fearsome creature, and he hadn’t come prepared for battle. It was too bad Tarim wasn’t here; the young Uthgardt was not only armed with a new crossbow – something Kevin had thought was unnecessary in a city – he also had a sorcerer’s ability to tap into certain magics on the spur of the moment.
Kevin sees one of the combatants attack the darkenbeast with a bolt of magic, and he despairs for a moment. Darkenbeasts are resistant to magic; surely that was a waste of that man’s energy… But, fortunately, this spellcaster does not seem to be aware of the creature’s true nature – for, amazingly, the darkenbeast roars in pain as the magic missile connects. Perhaps spells weren’t as futile as that book had said after all. Kevin mentally reviews what he has memorized, but he finds nothing that might be of use as an attack. Still, that was why he kept…
The darkenbeast screams again as a quarrel suddenly sprouts from one of its wings, and Kevin automatically tracks back to find who fired it. The young man at the edge of the roof looks familiar, as does the black-feathered owl circling above him. “Tarim!” he calls out, but the slight Uthgardt was concentrating on his spellcasting.
The sight of Tarim’s familiar, Endome, reminds Kevin of something. Looking around in sudden fear, he doesn’t spot the familiar calico fur of his most treasured friend. “Kethron!” he tries to shout, but it comes out as a choked sob. The sudden lack of his treasured companion seems to take the energy out of the young half-elf, and he stands dumbly as the battle rages on.
Having landed safely on the other roof, and hoping that he can hurt the beast, Teryn moves quickly towards the creature, short swords ready for the attack. “For Selûne!” He cries as he leaps forward the final few feet. Both swords darting in and out, parrying the creature’s snapping jaws as it stands on its hind legs in front of the warrior.
As the creature’s head lunges after Teryn’s slightly exposed left wrist, the warrior’s right hand delivers a telling blow, piercing the thing’s neck. The wound in its neck and temporary being struck on the sword, prevents the winged horror from closing its jaws on Teryn’s arm. Instead, it has to flap its wings to remain standing. The movement bringing both combatants slightly out of balance.
Slightly shocked that his bolt found its mark, the young mage smiles as he turns his arm counterclockwise and releases his crossbow – the bow of it parallel to his body. Even as the weapon swings downward like an axe on a smoothly descending arc, Tarim is chanting and his fingers are gesturing, unlocking the energies stowed away for just such an event.
A slightly shimmering haze forms around his right hand as he finishes his spell with glimmering motes of iridescence, that coalesce into a single bolt of shining multicolored energy that streaks away towards the creature unerringly, jerking it away and of the warrior’s sword. Teryn grabs the opportunity and delivers another attack, opening a gash in the thing’s underside.
The rope attached to the chimney by means of a grappling hook suddenly goes taut as it reaches its end with the two men dangling from it. The claws of the hook biting into the chimney and sending chips of stone flying. Several feet below in the warehouse, Jezbodiah is almost yanked from the rope loosing his grip on the boy. “Marc!” blurts Jez as the young bard’s fingers slip from his grasp. Marc’s eyes are wide with terror as he slowly gather’s speed once more.
Arms and legs flaying wildly the shepherd plummets towards the ground. Tymora’s luck has not yet forsaken him as he manages in a desperate attempt to grab hold of another rope that dangles downward. The warehouse’s block and tackle system suddenly starts rattling as the momentum of the falling boy sets its wheels in motion. The friction of the rope and the pulley system serve to halt the downward motion to some extend, though not stopping it at all.
After the bolt of magical energy left his fingertips Tarim cast a glance aside seeing Kevin and grinned widely. All was good now… The distress of his mentor barely reaches his ears and he sees Kevin frozen in place. Instantly he realizes why… In the back of his mind he pushes the need for the cat thing to be found to Ene’dome, hoping that her vantage point would serve useful. “Kevin!, Saer! We need your help!” He shouts at his mentor with all the volume his frail lungs can manage.
His hand drops to the crossbow, dangling from its strap that he had released mere moments before. Unslinging it quickly, he sets the butt of the ingenious weapon against the ground and sets his foot into the claw that helps draw the string back taut pressing downward with nearly all his weight. He feels the string set into its notch with a gentle click and quickly draws a bolt from his quiver. Lifting the crossbow, Tarim sets the bolt in place, and lifts his eyes to the Darkenbeast for a shot…
The creature, bleeding from the wound in its underside, eyes the movements of the warrior as it moves on the roof, wings flapping to keep balance. Malevolence glints in the things eyes as it sees an opening. Lighting quick the creature’s jaws dart in, snapping close on Teryn’s shoulder, shredding leather and flesh.
Grimacing in pain, the warrior’s blade swats against the things jaw to make it loosen its grip on his shoulder. The awkward attack is successful as the jaws open up, pieces of blood-coated leather hanging from the lower jaw. Steeling himself against the pain, Teryn adjusts hi grip[p on the sword as he moves out of the things reach.
On the nearby roof, Kevin starts once more, shaken from his momentary paralysis by Tarim’s shout. His friend was right; now was not the time for distraction. He still doesn’t know what is going on – not in the slightest – but with Tarim on one side and a darkenbeast on the other, it is obvious who is on the side of the celestials.
The wizard fumbles at his belt, pulling aside his overhanging vest to reveal ten tube-like pockets on his right side. Nine of them show the tips of scroll-paper poking out, each marked with a different colored symbol. The one he grabs now bears the mark of a white circle, and he quickly unrolls it.
Concentrating, he chants the words he had scribed there months ago; a moment later, the parchment dissolves into a white light, which coalesces into a ball of energy. Speaking a single, final command, Kevin gestures forcefully. With a sound like a shrill scream, the ball shoots towards the darkenbeast like some magical bird of prey.
“KLABAAM!!!” The small ball explodes against the magical creature, sending it staggering backwards from Teryn, screeching in pain and defiance as it shakes its head. The warrior’s ears ring from the blast as well, as he murmurs a prayer to Selûne “Lady, please watch over your foolish servant.” Both blades moving in quick motions, he strikes out again at his opponent, though the bleeding injury in his shoulder is hampering his movements, making the attacks not as effective as intended and causing no visible damage
A few roofs over Tarim looks over the sight of his crossbow, when feels an emotion coming from the owl above, ‘the winged cat is coming.’ At the same time Kevin feels a reassuring presence in his mind. Sighting his target again more carefully due to the warrior in close vicinity. Tarim yells over the sight of his weapon “Saer! Kethron’s on the way!” His mentor’s mind put at ease, Tarim holds his breath waiting for the best shot
The frail young man tosses his head flicking his long shiny black hair out of his field of vision as he seeks the Darkenbeast’s most vulnerable spot; his piercing blue eyes assessing the creature, carefully waiting for just the right moment…
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