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With a startled gasp and with his hand grasping tightly around the handle of his weapon, Arturo sat up from where he had been laying crumpled on the ground like a sack of wheat. His eyes were wild, almost feral as they darted around as he brought the wood cutting axe closer to his chest in a defensive posture. It didn't take him very long to spring up from his sitting position as his clouded mind assessed the situation he was currently in, though he kept himself lower to the ground, giving him the appearance of a wild animal that was all too ready to strike if provoked. He did not remember succumbing to fatigue, he did not even recall feeling particularly tired; last he remembered, he was walking a woodland path in an attempt to answer the call to arms sent out by Myrrheim, but this seemed to be nowhere near his destination, not that he could tell at any rate.

Still, a full two minutes of standing still produced no tangible answers for Arturo, so slowly he rose from his stance with a low exhalation of breath and began to take in the sights and sounds of his environment, rather than simply scanning it for threats. As far as he could tell, he was in some sort of swampland, it certainly had the smell of one at least. Arturo considered this only in so far as it took him to reach for the rope strapped to his pack and to cut off two pieces of length from it, just enough that he could securely fasten them around his ankles in an attempt to ensure the terrain would not claim his boots. After that, Arturo noticed his current shield lying nearby and picked it up; it was a rather simply constructed targe that was battered and scarred extensively, a relic of a foe who's face he could no longer remember, nothing more than another mismatched piece of cloth stitched into the patchwork quilt that made up the whole of his equipment.

One breath...two breaths...three. Arturo closed his eyes briefly and focused on the sound of his breathing to focus himself, just like father had taught him. In...out...count the seconds until hesitation leaves you, then move forward. With a nod, the grizzled man tightened his grip around his axe just a little harder and began to move forward on this new path. Moving forward wasn't just the best idea he had, it was the only one he knew at this point.

@Better Than Gore & @Spooky Mittens

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Arturo had awoken in a dangerous land; had the swamp itself not claimed you, there was always the wildlife and even worse those that inhabited it. For the most part it was quiet, save for the occasional frog croak and mosquitos annoyingly buzzing past your ears. It was also humid, unnaturally so. The heat from days past still somehow remained, perhaps sorcery was afoot. Arturo would have one hell of a trek, it was wet, muddy, and hot. The sweat would roll and collect in places he, himself, never new existed.

Exotic plants snapped to life as bugs landed atop them, sealing their fate as they desperately tried escaping. Soon crocodiles would become apparent, swimming through the muck in search of easy prey. Arturo needn't worry about them, however, our adventurer had caught the attention of a much more dangerous predator. It watched him from behind a tree, contemplating where it could ambush the man. It was careful not to make any sounds, but it occasionally made a splash as it strode through the muck. Which could have been caused by anything.

@Opaquely Translucent

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The heat brought back memories, memories Arturo could never escape no matter how far he wandered or how many moons passed by his notice; memories of the flames that had consumed his life and all that he had held close to his heart and the faces that hid in those flames. Fanged, wicked, cowardly, striking out at those who were fleeing or who had their backs turned; the laughter amid the screams, the sing-song chanting and cackling taunts that had filled the night air as his kingdom sunk into the ground, consumed by the Nine Hells itself. The more these memories surfaced, the more Arturo's head began to hurt, but the sharper his focus became as a result of being pulled from the usual fog that clouded his mind, his anger blossoming into a razor's edge of single-minded concentration.

Everything around him seemed to become more vivid, more expressive. The plant life seemingly springing to life around him as they took hold of their next meals; the soft ripples of the water has creatures he had never seen moved silently beneath their depths; the odd snapping of a twig here or there; his senses dialed in to every single stimuli he was receiving. With every new sound, his stride would slow just a little and his slightly elongated ears would perk up just a bit before he resumed pace. It was impossible to tell whether it was due to his increasing agitation or if this was just how he always was, but it was very clear by his posture that at no point had he released the tension in his muscles, not even as he continued his forward trek.

It was almost as if he were looking for something to lash out against at this point and to be fair, that was probably the most likely truth. 

@Better Than Gore

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Yellow eyes watched with anticipation, waiting for the perfect moment to arise. It would wait for Arturo to present his back before it even considered revealing itself, for that's when he would be vulnerable. When that became an option, it came out of hiding but not nearly as quiet as it had predicted, giving Arturo ample time to face it before it could even muster a strike. Arturo was in the presence of a Gnoll. It stood at 7'5" and weighed a solid 320lb. "Looks like I'll get a meal today after all." He cackled, his yipping laughter echoing throughout the swamp. His attire consisted mostly of leather, save for the occasional metal rivet. Within his grasp was a club of sorts, wooden and lined with similar rivets that his armor displayed and a rawhide buckler was fastened to the opposite arm.

Before Arturo had a chance to react or respond to him, he charged, closing what little distance they had between each other in seconds. As he drew closer his club lowered and his buckler rose simultaneously, his goal was to swing in low with the club and keep his buckler high in case of a counter attack. Hopefully Arturo wasn't a commoner that just so happened to get lost in his swamp, otherwise their encounter might be over relatively quick. He liked to work for his meals.

@Opaquely Translucent 

Edited by Better Than Gore

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The moment Arturo had heard an unusual noise come from behind him, he had already turned to face what had made it and the moment his eyes made contact with the Gnoll, his entire demeanor changed instantly. His pupils contracted to the size of pinpricks and his breathing normalized; everything about him from his gaze to his posture became absolutely frigid and the look in his eyes was nothing short of murderous. The yellow eyes, the yipping laughter, the words that he couldn't even comprehend at this point, they all brought him back to a place of blood, violence, and death; all he wanted in this moment, all he needed in this moment was to tear whatever this thing was limb from limb. Not for himself, not for survival, not for the greater good, just the fact that something so clearly evil existed offended Arturo in ways he could not describe.

Rather than wait or guard himself against the incoming attack as the Gnoll flew at him, Arturo instead threw himself at his attacker. He brought his body low enough to put it on the same level as the Gnoll's club and pushed forward as hard as he could, throwing his entire body weight behind his push as he brought the handle of his axe up across his body. His intent was to slam the handle into the club and force it back against the Gnoll's body while he slipped under the guard of its buckler; if he could manage that, he was going to turn his hips into his charge and swing his targe upwards with all the force he could muster in an attempt to uppercut the creature as hard as he could in the chin with his shield. An inelegant solution, but elegance had never been his strong suit. 

@Better Than Gore

Edited by Opaquely Translucent

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Not a commoner. Check. Arturo managed to slip underneath of his buckler and pin his club via the hilt of his axe, which was successful. His club was forcibly shoved backwards and into his own body, forcing a groan. That was going to leave a mark.

It seemed the two of them had similar intentions, Arturo aimed to raise his shield and slam it into his chin, which was possible due to having to lower his posture in order to achieve the swing he had initially attempted. He too aimed to use his shield, but not in a similar form. Due to Arturo's close proximity and him slipping underneath the shield, he simply withdrew his arm, collapsing it against Arturo's back and drawing him in even closer. Then he attempted a throw! Rotating his hips away from the Half-Elf while simultaneously pulling with his shield arm.

The maneuver wasn't enough to avoid Arturo's shield altogether, but it negated the knockout blow, instead the shields edge caught the Gnoll in the cheek and slid upwards, scraping fur as it glided.

The end result would hopefully force him to fly past the Gnoll, whether he kept his footing or not wasn't determined, due to him not really having anything to trip on.

@Opaquely Translucent

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"Tch..." The first true noise of annoyance came out of Arturo's mouth as he was summarily grabbed by the Gnoll and he felt his body get lifted off the ground as his strike grazed its cheek. As he was tossed away from his opponent, he made a hard movement with his shield arm and attempted to bash the Gnoll in the back of its head as he was thrown like a rag doll. The terrain didn't exactly suit a soft landing for him, but he was able to tuck his shoulder in as it impacted the ground, allowing him to roll forward, even though he felt the bones in his arm rattle and ache from the shock. The second he felt his feet find purchase against the ground, he spun around to face his attacker, his face still icy and resolute in its violent intent.

"Monster." he said, though his voice was hoarse, it cut through the air like the crack of a whip as he pulled his shield and axe into an offensive stance once again and rose to his feet properly. "What is it...you cherish most? I want to know...what to take as a trophy...when I end your life." His words were calm and resolute; they were not a question, they were a declaration of intent and the malice dripping from each syllable was liable to rot the vegetation around him if he continued speaking.

@Better Than Gore

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"You're the monster here," He flashed a tooth filled grin.

Shnnk!

An arrow whizzed by Arturo, narrowly avoiding his torso and sinking into the mud just a few feet away from him. "Now's your last chance to run, but you won't make it far. How's a thirty second head start sound?" Arturo was so distracted by his adversary that he failed to realized what was slowly but surely closing in on him. That arrow would be his only indication, the direction from which it was fired was a mystery even to the Gnoll, his pack was good at what they did. He served one purpose, distraction, and he was damn good at it. This wasn't the first time someone had fallen victim to his trickery by any means.

More beady yellow eyes lit up the swamp, cackling and yipping followed. "One.. two.. three.." The Gnoll began counting, inching closer with each word.

@Opaquely Translucent

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If it were possible for Arturo to look any more deranged and dangerous, in the moment he saw the arrow hit the ground near him, he somehow managed to achieve it. The very air around him seemed to become colder, cold enough to the point where his breath was becoming visible as it poured out of his mouth like steam and the absolute contempt in his gaze had managed to increase in spite of how absolute it had seemed only a moment ago. For one moment, for one brief moment he had thought this creature...this thing...offense though it had been to all of his senses to behold, had possessed some shred of dignity. It had engaged him alone, albeit in some manner of back attack, but it had made an earnest gesture of it and in some odd way, Arturo could respect that. This though?

This was cowardice.

That same cowardice he had seen all those years ago, among the fire, laughter, and death. It was almost as if he had lost consciousness at this point, nothing the Gnoll was doing really registered with him; he saw its lips moving, he saw eyes flashing into existence around him, he saw it sneer at him, but he observed all of these things with the same level of detachment one might have while reading a book or watching a play. He could feel his blood pumping through his veins at this point, blocking out the world around him and his heart beat like a drum in his ears; while the Gnoll was taking his time approaching, Arturo gave it no such luxury.

With an almost supernatural burst of strength and speed produced by the sheer force of his adrenaline rush, Arturo's body moved forward; to an untrained eye, it would almost seem like he hadn't moved at all and that he had always been in that spot, save for the small skid mark from the sliding of his foot imprinted into the soft ground; and he threw his shield directly at the Gnoll's face with enough force to make the wind whistle around its edges as it soared towards its target. In that same breath, he exploded from where he was standing, using the distraction of his shield to cover the distance between himself and his target in nearly a single breath. He moved off slightly to the side, just enough to get the angle he wanted as he gripped the axe handle with both hands as he came to an abrupt stop and turned his hips upwards into a rising horizontal swing aimed directly at the Gnoll's neck.

The swing itself carried absolutely zero self preservation behind it, there was no risk assessment or hesitation behind the blow, every part of his being from his weight to his commitment followed in its wake. He didn't care what he had to cleave through or what he had to endure here, he was striking with full intent to remove this monster's head from its shoulders and to that end, nothing else mattered.

@Better Than Gore

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Oh? Arturo's determination surprised the Gnoll. His disregard for his own wellbeing was even impressive. But it was also cocky and that would probably end up biting him in the rear. The Gnoll hadn't expected Arturo to stand his ground and he certainly didn't expect the Half-Elf to throw his shield. It caught the Gnoll off guard and gave him little to no time to react, so he felt the full brunt of the attack. The cold, hard metal of the shield hit right on target, colliding with the Gnoll's face and sent it rearing backwards. Forcing a yipe to escape him and the other's cackled at his pain. But that wasn't the end of Arturo's assault, he cleared what distance they had between another in practically the blink of an eye, axe raised.

Shnnk!

Arturo's axe bit into the Gnoll's neck, had he swung any harder it might have outright separated his head from his shoulders. Blood sprayed, likely decorating Arturo's face as the axe struck a main artery and the Gnoll spent the last couple moments of his life gurgling his own blood before collapsing.

Before Arturo had time to prepare himself once more, the pack was zoning in on him. Another arrow was fired, this one far more accurate than the last, it threatened to pierce the side of his leg. Sinking into the meat of his thigh. "Diediediedie!" One shouted as it drew closer, equipped with a dagger, the Gnoll aimed to skewer him in the abdomen.

@Opaquely Translucent

 

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Finally, something that felt real. The spray of blood that hit Arturo's face was like a warm sheet of rain on a midsummer's morning, he felt invigorated and refreshed, just the simple act of wiping the slate clean of this monstrosity brought him a sense of purpose, a feeling that couldn't be tarnished, not even by the stinging pain of the arrow that pierced his upper thigh. It hurt, but what was pain really? Even at its worst, it was a transient experience; it would either pass or he would be dead and in that scope of reasoning, it meant very little to the half-elf. His shield was gone and his axe was fairly well and stuck in his target's neck, the advent of another beast charging him with a dagger gave him no time to retrieve it.

Instead, he reached down to grabbed the studded club the Gnoll he had killed dropped and dashed headlong at the dagger-wielding assailant. He took a deep breath as he drew in close and in the most charitable move he had made all day, he gave this Gnoll a compromise. Rather than the dagger finding his abdomen, he slammed his left forearm into the tip of the dagger as hard as he could, forcing it all the way through his arm if it was long as he pushed hard into his attacker in an attempt to push him onto his back foot. In turn for this act of charity however, Arturo raised his newly acquired club up over his head in an arc and swung it down with all the force he could muster, aiming directly for the middle of its face as he tried to cave its skull in.

He was hurt, he was bleeding, and this could very well be his last fight as far as he could tell...but they weren't going to take him. Not without incident.

@Spooky Mittens & @Better Than Gore

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The Gnoll's dagger struck true; however, it didn't pierce its intended target, instead, Arturo defensively raised his arm and let it stab through. The blade itself was jagged and sharpened to perfection, likely tearing through muscle and making a mess of things before exiting. Successfully wounding the Half-Elf made the Gnoll grin devilishly, but it transitioned into wide-eyed surprise as Arturo came crashing down with his fallen comrades club. A sickening bone crunching sound rang from the Gnoll's skull as the weapon made contact, it blinked rapidly before its eyes rolled into the back of its head and collapsed. Two down, one to go.

Despite its teammate engaging Arturo, the archer didn't particularly care who it hit. An arrow struck the collapsing Gnoll, piercing its side as it fell, the archer cursed under its breath as it nocked another arrow. This one would strike true due to the archer having plenty of time to aim. Arturo would feel the stinging pain as it struck his shoulder blade, but that likely wouldn't put him down, not with all the adrenaline coursing through his opponent's veins. So it nocked another, one more is all the Gnoll thought it would take, but it had to aim for a vital spot.

@Spooky Mittens & @Opaquely Translucent

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The recent happenings in Coth's territories had been troubling Tirkas for some time now.  He spent much of his time casting as wide a net as he could, trawling the furthest borders of his domain.  The swamps were one of those places.  With the sharp rise in heat and the oppressive humid atmosphere, Tirkas had taken to wearing much lighter garb than he normally did.  As in, almost nothing.

For days now, Tirkas had been on the trail of a vision.  It had come to him in a dream; a stranger from the heavens, fallen to earth in a fetid quagmire.  He was wreathed in snakes, though none touched him.  He was surrounded by blood and destruction, but at the fringes there was all of creation folding in on itself.  Tirkas had taken this vision to the priestesses and they gave him a number of interpretations.  This traveler might be a man of god, sent to rend the foes of the church into nothing.  Or, perhaps, he was a calamity here to tear Coth to the ground.  Either way, he was someone Tirkas had to find.  So here he was.  He had nothing worn on his torso, and his legs were garbed in tight fitting hose.  He wore some supple leather boots and a cloth tasset with his harness.  Dressed a she was, Tirkas' arm markings would have been visible, were it not for the mud he smeared over his flesh for camouflage.  His spear served him well in the swamplands, as it doubled as a walking stick that he could use for support and to test the depths of the murk.

Days had gone by, and still he persisted, until fate struck.


 The man he had come here to find awoke in the distance, and Tirkas remained well hidden in the mud.  He knew these grounds to be a frequent haunt for things that went bump in the night, so he was cautious.  Just as he had suspected, it didn't take long for a pack of Gnolls to descend on the scent of fresh man flesh.  They accosted Arturo and the warrior fought back valiantly, but not without incident.  Tirkas had taken to a particular group of black ash that just now provided the Gnoll archer his cover.  His muddy coating and elvish deftness allowed him to remain undetected, even with the creature's superior sense of smell.  An arrow nocked, aim taken, and Tirkas would answer it with a sudden snikt.  He thrust his spear, the tip caked in swamp mud, from a knotty hole that Tirkas had been laying in until just then.

His spear found the Gnoll's jaw, and the long leaf-like blade pierced clean through the neck, slashing across it's spine from the inside.  The Gnoll's shot fired, but not on the course he wanted.  The arrow sailed high into the distance, and shortly after it's body would run limp.  Tirkas emerged from his hiding spot shortly thereafter, dislodging his spear with a boot to the creature's head.  He turned to look for the wounded fighter, and whistled loudly to alert him.

@Better Than Gore @Opaquely Translucent

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If his first kill had brought him back to reality, then this second one truly brought the flame of life back into him. Everything seemed so much more vivid to him than it had just a moment before, his mind became much more clear, clear enough to really assess his situation as he was pushed onto his back foot by the arrow that slammed into his back. The upper left side of his body had taken significant damage, especially in his arm where the dagger had torn up the muscle and if he used it any more vigorously, he might risk permanent injury; it would hardly stop him from doing what he did, but at the same time, it would present significant difficulties in any future fight if he lost his shield arm. As he spun around on his heel to face the archer, he put the right side of his body out in front, making an obvious effort to protect his injured side now, but what he saw before him was not the Gnoll he had expected, but someone else entirely.

The sound of a whistle brought his eyes up to the man's face and his instant assumption by virtue of the man's long, pointed ears, was that he was looking at an Elf of some sort. "Maybe a passing hunter?" Arturo thought to himself, noting the spear in the man's hand and the obvious camouflage painted across his body, as well as the fact that he had very deftly ended the Gnoll's life before he'd even had the chance to notice himself. Still, the enemy of his enemy was not necessarily his friend, he had fallen into that trap once before and still had the scars to prove it, so Arturo eased up his stance slightly, but still kept his improvised weapon leveled at this new individual.

"You have my thanks. Now who are you...and what do you want?" he asked, his eyes narrowing dangerously as he observed the man intently, watching for any sudden or aggressive movements.

@Spooky Mittens & @Better Than Gore

Edited by Opaquely Translucent

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It was clear he was weary and slow to trust.  Who could blame him?  After all, the swamp was hot and full of hostiles.  For all he knew, Tirkas was about to skin him and eat him raw.  It seemed, perhaps, a little naive that he wasn't more hostile.  Tirkas certainly would have been.

"My name is Tirkas Leafglint.". He began as hebstarted to trudge towards Arturo.  As he walked, he gripped his spear in his left hand and rested it across his shoulers, with his right hand draped over the other side in a lazy fashion.  "I see you are wounded.  I am skilled in dressing wounds, and I have medicine to fight infection.". He offered as he grew nearer.

Tirkas reached down when he was only five paces away and pulled a water skin from his harness.  He took a drink from it first, then corked it and offered it to Arturo.  "Drink, and clean your wounds.  I'll dress them properly when we get safe.  There are more of this pack lurking these swamps, and they are soon to come hunting for this party."

@Opaquely Translucent

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