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The blanket of nothingness in the SOUTH seems to have moved closer than where it had been since your arrival.

Kail and Reie glare at each other. All of a sudden, the fight seems to leave the wife’s stance. Her shoulders slump. “You’re right. I shouldn’t…”

She rubs her arm, returning her attention to the group. “We should… we should get going. If you have any more questions-”

“They can ask more questions on the way,” Reie says coldly.

A wave of glass water laps the ground at your heels. The ground on the other side of the river has bulged, displacing the shimmering water.

“Let’s go.” Kail breathes, a thread of trepidation weaving through her words. Reie moves behind the tree, retrieving a satchel from a hole in its trunk. He slings it over his shoulder.

A few meters SOUTH of the party, the ground ripples, waves of grassy turf rolling up and down. Suddenly, a huge, eel-like thing explodes out of the soil.

Kail whips her hand out. A translucent turquoise tetrahedral blinks into existence and slams into the monster, forcing it back. “Go!” she shouts.

Reie backs away as the beast screams. He begins hobbling NORTH with haste. Kail catches up to him, throwing his arm over her shoulders, propping him up against her as they run.

Those nearest to Reie may hear him mutter, “Could really use a rela-ranger or a delta right about now,”

 


 

The Under-Thing is twenty feet away from the party.

 


Edited by OBELUS

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Alethea

Whoops. I mixed up the names. I hide my embarrassment by waving a hand nonchalantly. The couple’s reply does not ease the unsettling feeling in my stomach.

“So basically, we’re supposed to look for something that might not actually do anything, otherwise we’re stuck here waiting to become ghosts? Please allow me to freak out.” I inhale a deep breath, then kick at the ground in frustration. Nothing happens, except my foot stings. I sigh. 

“Fine, lead the way. Fuck, I could use a cigarette right now.” There is no tobacco, but instead there is a loud rumble, and a man-sized giant fish-thing emerges. Instinctively, I duck and back away. “What in the blazes is that?!” 

The woman does something, and a glass-like block hits the strange creature. “Go!” she says.

I don’t need to be told twice. I see the man struggling along, and I come up to his other side to support him. This is a familiar gesture, since I have supported plenty of people who had injured their foot during expeditions. Yes, I am a guide of sorts for the many caves that sprawl across the cliff face of Stonehaven. I may be crude and impatient, but it is against my principles to leave anyone behind.

”Come on, come on, you can do it,” I urge.

Edited by jaistlyn

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The gun’s muzzle flash is a shriek of pale summer lightning. 

It would’ve been a lot cooler if the shot had actually managed to hit something. 

“Shit,” Laurent hisses. His hand is shaking too much. He adjusts his aim, just a little to the left, pulls the trigger and-

Click.

Click. Click. Click.

Shit,” he repeats. He tries the trigger one last time. The firing mechanism jams like an ill omen, and liquid fear ices the inside of his stomach.

“Kail,” he says. “I’m going to need another one of those triangles.”

Laurent takes a step back.

“Now, s’il vous plaît.”

His hands get to work on disassembling the top half of his gun. Dextrous fingers pull back the sliding mechanism in a hasty blur of motion. He takes a deep breath to stop them from trembling, but the relief is only temporary as he makes eye contact with the monster the second it stops shrieking.

Focus. The thought doesn’t help much. Still, he manages to locate the problem: a spent casing trapped in the ejection port, which he quickly dislodges with a flick of his finger. The next bullet springs into place.

He won’t miss this time.

Edited by Wade

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         HirsMYLGYwOCZ01m_Pj6zjI_lrNZzAMD2Kc75i76

 

At the crack of the gunshot, the beast pauses, in confusion. Its bulging eyes swivel, gaze latching onto the weapon in your hands. The creature's maw gapes open to expose rows of jagged teeth before the monster releases another violent screech. It lurches forward, webbed feet dragging it over the dirt.

 

>Come on, come on, you can do it

Reie grits his teeth. "Easier said than done," he mumbles. He gives a brief nods of thanks anyway, accepting the help.

"Thank you," Kail says from her husband's side, gratitude in her eyes. When the shrill cry pierces through the air, she pivots to face the beast. Once more, she raises her hand, launching a tetrahedron at it. It digs deep into the monster's flesh, drawing black blood, before if flickers out of existence.

"No, no- stop- we need to get out of here right now," Reie suggests, tugging at his wife's torn sleeve. She ignores him, turning towards the two women.

"Take care of him. I'm going to get the others," Kail nods decisively. She runs back towards the men left behind.

 


 

The Under-Thing is ten feet away from the party.

 


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RejHudX.pngHalf of them had already fled south, and an all-too familiar sound splits his ears.

His head snaps at the man with the gun. Relieved, somewhat, but the bullet doesn't hit that thing. "Son of a bitch," He exclaims, his pulse quickening at the sight of a fish with arms. A fish well out of water, armed with teeth, and it was heading right their way. How was we gonna fist fight an eel? 

Cautiously, he runs over to the other man's side. The shaking man with the gun. "Shoot," He growls, urging him as the creature weaves itself further. His hand rests on his belt, and he paused, watched, as the masked woman draws first blood with her polyhedron. The creature bleeds black, a disgusting color, and it still wishes to feast upon them? This thing needed to disappear from their sight, it was already horrendous enough to look at. 

Sharp as ever, he holds a silver edge. He aims, a cold sweat. Blood rushes to his head as the blade pinched within his fingers begged to be stuck between monster's eyes. 

He breathes, curses at the creature to stay still. He steadies himself, can't have him miss, can't allow that, not when his vision had already stilled; he can't use an excuse like that, can't he? He's nervous? Grigori is a man of blades, he can't possibly screw up now. Those unmovable eyes of his locks onto his target, and as if struck with adrenaline, he finds the sweet spot he has been looking for, and, 

There!

He hurls the knife. It cuts through the air and cuts into the beast's hide. The blade pierces through it's flesh, and hopefully, it's bone. A perfect sword in the stone. The eel shrieks, as one might expect when if you stick a knife into the thing. If he wasn't going to get the knife back after all this, he was going to be very upset. 

 

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         vYh8R7i4CZCTqQssl7SIpMUM1GUibgDs0zAltl_pZsmK0WmxvF2Vo0lA4OQlN4E2ZsST6ac6AHQwWcML1LTVciQbUpVSTdNt-jW2u5zGVJdiWmeyO_ASd4v-yJf_u2Ix0ZILb81khc_wn3N_v17UvAQYS0bhjDtxmhsMzpkz0BETt7QSriXNaCkRg908RmaWPvv3YraaGaE23wd--iVQp-EoHKM6ykzUp4IdxAjMigI0qFZbWdV05g7W22W4nW-KPWFLDoXSJI23v8xcNNRrb_e3YcDhBqIUQY5hVH1HSjCTUu2xu1nTqWNKiJCpAAPqlA7suKMsTZdmlbCrtep-FJ42YWmlrQbzzaJ_vl8U9XkhbjYCIgYVg_1Z1Q4wXfX7xyS0L46kwxzptPXHiz32Kt5IDMoMGFHIRZy_TiwHLoO_2xslsJnOnbEaXYLV_7nJSpU_LU333WLk5P3296fw3iX2lixjRflMOEz5tpnnQlkF7UA7e20m1lCwd2Pb6EhI4yb0w7SQMoolJ7pgYoWJCQfIqV5vnZC_06NbEKJKSP8n6qQIbUQyR-wMUsbxcN90d9b_mY0H5exv3pdgi5R8Wk_Z4T1BlzgujTwV4TAP99_ETRAf2OYqOusuWsfspHj5QdHQ83KR2y5P95tT-Zy_vaUIchXDyrpuDvsHdvuCvU2q4bsYEF3KOdq36yY4ETWCUuCvogAvnPINSI5sng=w400-h600-no

 

Abandoned by his wife, Reie is distraught. "She never listens to me," he hisses, glancing over his shoulder at those fighting the monster. "But then again, she never really does." 

He looks to the two women, eyebrows furrowed. "We need to focus on keeping this-" he displays the satchel to you, "-thing safe. Come on." The man continues limping forward, buoyed up by the support you are providing him. 

The beast's pained cries fill the air. Reie's lips tighten at the sound and he stops, suddenly hesitant.

 


 

The Under-Thing is ten feet away from the party.

 


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The world is spinning, thrown directly into chaos, Setsuko thinks, urging her legs to keep on running. The farther away from the terrifying abomination, she thinks, the better off she will be. But then—

"Take care of him. I'm going to get the others."

“Please, wait,” Setsuko tries to object, firmly in the suited man’s camp of fleeing, why are you trying to fight the scary creature when we can just leave and then we’ll be safe, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do to keep the isotope thing safe, but the woman named Kail moves away from them, leaving their trio adrift: cast out into the unpredictable waves.

It’s all she can do not to burst into tears. It’s all—very scary.

And then, once they begin running again, spurred on by Reie’s determination to get to safety—which is an idea she can get behind—even he halts in his footfalls.

“Why are you stopping,” she asks the man, worry a heavy stone in her gut. “Do you want to go back and help?” She nervously shifts her gaze to the other woman propping up his weight and raises her eyebrows, wordlessly asking whether she is onboard with that particular idea.

 


@jaistlyn

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The gun rears back, snapping his hands skyward. 

He doesn’t miss this time.

He knows it before the bullet hits.

Haaaaaa.” The exhalation is calm and steady. Effortless. Reflexive. As breathing should be.

Don’t relax just yet. Laurent knows he doesn’t have the luxury. So long as the eel is still standing, he won’t bat an eyelid’s worth of rest.

“Thanks for covering me,” he says, nodding his appreciation to Kail. The knife-thrower hasn’t given out his name yet, so he simply adds, “Nice shot.” 

Laurent glances back briefly. He’s dimly aware that the other three have stopped running. What for, he’s not too sure. A cripple and a child shouldn’t have to fight. 

“Go! It’s fine!” His eyes lock on to the approaching beast. It doesn’t seem intent on slowing down, and he takes step back for every step it takes forward. "Punk lady, keep them safe! We’ll catch up with you in Hodra.”

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         HirsMYLGYwOCZ01m_Pj6zjI_lrNZzAMD2Kc75i76

 

The bullet sinks into the Under-Thing's right eye. Blue blood spurts from the socket, spattering its slimy skin.

In a screech of fury, it suddenly lunges forward, moving far faster than it had initially. It halves the distance between you in seconds, hollow eyes fixed on the hand gripping the gun.

It leaps. By sheer luck, the same thick, muscular legs that grant it movement weigh it down. It falls short of its target, jaws snapping shut mere inches from your arm.

Kail thrusts her hands out, gritting her teeth. A shield of interlocking triangles flickers into existence in front of each man, shielding them from further attacks.

 


 

The Under-Thing is two feet away from the party.

 


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kYNPWPYxpQRE2mJLG-chL_LXPuMgeg5zIB_byWx9

The Under-Thing slams into Kail's shields, gnashing its teeth against the translucent panels. Scales and slobber gather on their surface as it snaps its jaws, pressing its head against the shield.

"Finish it!" comes Reie's shout from further ahead.

Breathing heavily, Kail closes her fist. Like a trap snapping shut, the panels of her shield whip outward. The Under-Thing is crushed in the collection of razor-sharp triangles. It goes limp. The shields disappear, leaving nothing but gaping wounds in the creature's corpse

Kail falls to her knees, gasping for breath. Her hands are shaking. She watches with dull eyes as her right hand fades, disappearing up to her elbow. Grimacing, she raises her left hand; her fingers are gone, as ghostly and intangible as Reie's foot.

"Kail." Reie's voice is quiet.

The woman turns. She flinches at the sight of her husband, clutching her fading arm as she hurries to him. Reie is hunched over on the ground. The degradation has taken his other foot.

"Stupid," Kail mutters, running a hand through the ghostly, disappeared limb. "You should've gone with the girl."

Reie whispers something inaudible to her. Kail hangs her head. "Yes."

She turns to the group, pointing at the fallen monster. "Try checking if there's anything useful on that thing. We-" she takes a shaky breath, "-we need some time to talk. Alone"

Kail raises one of her shields, enclosing both her and Reie in a polygonal dome. 

 


 

Two feet SOUTH of you lies the corpse of an Under-Thing

Some distance to the WEST, the glassy river murmurs. It snakes NORTHWARD.

To the NORTH, mountains cast shadows on a kaleidoscopic forest.

To the SOUTH, a strange shimmering nothingness blankets the horizon, stretching to the heavens.

 


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Alethea

I stop when the man stops. We should keep going, but he is obviously concerned about his wife. I don’t blame him. One of the men shouts back that they will catch up later in Hodra, but what would we do if they don’t? The other girl looks at me as if for instructions. But what can I do? I don’t have a gun like the guy.

I scan my surroundings for something, anything that can be thrown at the fast-approaching creature. There are rocks on the ground, maybe I can throw them at  it. Something moves at the corner of my eye, and it is only now that I notice the droplets of the viscous water trailing after me in mid-air. Some of it clings to my face and hands still, like water that refuses to evaporate. Strange. I poke at a droplet, and they coalesce into a rod around my finger. I almost get the feeling that they are waiting for something. Experimentally, I imagine the droplets forming into the shape of a dart. They respond to exactly what I’m thinking of, and soon I have a solid glass dart in my hands. I don’t know what kind of magic water this is, but now I have a weapon.

I let go of the man and move forward to throw the dart, but the woman kills the creature violently. A chill goes down my spine. I see her ghostly hands, and can’t help but wonder if we are more hindrance than help. She asks us to search the creature’s body, but just looking at its mangled corpse makes me want to throw up. I want to ask if she knows about the strange water, but she’s having her moment with her husband. I look towards the river to the west. I wonder if I can shape more things with the magical water. Weapons and stuff, in case there are more of the fish-men around.

Edited by jaistlyn

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Alethea

Is it an illusion of the light? The water seems to lap towards me, like it is waiting for my instructions. 

“Hey guys, do any of you know what this water is? It’s strange. Look.”

I beckon to it, tentatively curling a finger like I’m telling a child to come towards me. The water rushes across the ground, then flows upwards and swirls around the glass dart, swelling the object in my grip and turning it into a long thick rod almost as tall as myself. Despite its appearance, it is virtually weightless, hovering in the air. 

“What is this? I feel like I can change it into anything.” Is it a result of reality breaking down, as the couple put it? I turn to fully regard the others. “Can you do it too? Try holding this and changing its shape.” I hold the rod out for anyone to try.

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Setsuko does not yet know what to think of these suited individuals, only that she had been asked to help them and she had accepted, and that they were powerful and dangerous. As the couple enclose themselves in that dome, Setsuko turns to face the group at large, quietly observing each one, all towering adults compared to her diminutive youth.

She could easily be seen as a coward, she thinks, when put beside these people who had turned to face the monstrous beast, and so she does not try to engage any of them in conversation, not yet. Instead, she shifts towards the ruptured corpse, wary but resolute, and picks her way through the aftermath of scattered flesh and dark ooze. Picking up a tooth, she quietly shoves it in her pockets, then turns to pry off a foot.

The squelching is altogether unsettling to both her mind and her stomach, but she’ll make do; her mother had taught her to be resourceful, and with these in her possession, perhaps she can at least stand her ground should anything foul come their way again.

Anything, to make it back home alive.

Breathing deeply, Setsuko closes her eyes and steadies herself, before turning towards the woman with the glass rod with simmering curiosity. "That—that is safe?"

 


 

Edited by vielle

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kYNPWPYxpQRE2mJLG-chL_LXPuMgeg5zIB_byWx9

The dome enclosing Kail and Reie disappears. They stand up. There is an air of resignation about them.

Reie unslings the satchel from his shoulder and hands it to Alethea. “We need to move. There are more coming,” he says, gruffly.

Kail looks to each one of you, mouth pulled tight in a grim line. “We-” she gestures between her and her husband “have been in this area for too long. The degradation’s getting to us. It doesn’t seem to be affecting you four as badly. Maybe it’s because you weren’t born here, or because you haven’t been here for too long… it doesn’t matter.” She hesitates, looking to Reie for support.

“Worst case scenario, you four need to take this to the north for us.” Reie gestures to the satchel. “But in any case, we need to continue moving before something worse comes,” he grimaces, looking down at the empty space where his legs are supposed to be.

Kail glances at the shimmering veil in the SOUTH with trepidation. She hoists her husband up, looping his arm around her shoulders. She concentrates for a minute. A collection of shield appears, carefully piecing together to form a makeshift stretcher “Let’s go.”

You walk NORTHwards for an indefinite amount of time.

Distance stretches short; the ground beneath your feet passes faster than you suspect it should. The glistening river snakes away from the group, then towards you. The mountains in the distance grow larger, looming closer. The colors of the forest in the distance grows sharper.

Finally, Kail calls for a stop. “Let’s-” she sucks in a breath that rattles, “-let’s take a break here.”

Despite the distance traveled, you feel no fatigue. There is only the faintest trace of hunger in your bellies, but your legs make no protests.

 


Some distance to the WEST, the glassy river murmurs. It snakes NORTHWARD.

To the NORTH, mountains cast shadows on a kaleidoscopic forest. A strange shadow lies some distance between you and the forest.

A faint, sorrowful moaning reaches your ears. It emerges from the SOUTH.

To the SOUTH, a strange shimmering nothingness blankets the horizon, stretching to the heavens.

 


Edited by OBELUS

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Laurent sits and folds his hands. Glances once at Kail. Tries on a weak smile and doesn’t flinch away.

“Pretty,” he says in his whiskey-and-cigar voice. “Even on the inside. Reie’s a lucky a man.” He looks at the stretcher, then to the man lying on it. Unease crawls up his neck. He can’t the shake the feeling that he’s watching someone on their deathbed.

“You called us ‘non-elucs’ earlier,” he continues, almost conversationally. “What did you mean by that? I’ve never heard the term before.”

Something awful moans in the background. Laurent straightens a little at the sound. He’s caught between playing twenty-one questions and getting up to keep a more active lookout. 

“You also called yourselves Skjold and Kore.” He relaxes a little when Punk Lady produces a telescope. He stills pulls out his gun, though. Just in case. “The protector and the cure. Seems kind of important, if you ask me. Why the name change?”

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