((This post is a log of RP written in tandem with Cael! My contributions will be in bold text, hers will be regular.))
There hadn’t been any opportunity to even get a good look at the beasts that had been pursuing him. Best Jander could figure they vaguely resembled the bears he was used to. Hulking quadrupedal mammals with stocky frames; they had sections of fur missing, and open wounds that were large enough to still be visible from a distance. It was another similarity to Felwood and the Plaguelands, the animals looked diseased (or worse, undead.)
His attempts at repelling or defeating them had been unsuccessful. The issues that had prevented him from casting a clean ‘slow fall’ spell were still present. For reasons that he hadn’t been allowed enough time to consider, any attempts he made at using his magic were either ineffective or they failed altogether.
All he had managed to accomplish with his erratic spell casting was a few barely registered fireballs and the world’s most ineffective frost nova. The appearance of those spells looked off too, completely colorless and quick to evaporate into nonexistence again.
And so he ran. Under normal circumstances he could use his magic to enhance his speed, but his attempts at invoking his frenetic speed abilities had been ineffective as well. He was just grateful for the weak frost nova being able to slow down his pursuers just enough to make up for the vast physical differences putting him at such a disadvantage.
He used the terrain in his favor, weaving between the narrow trees and moving with enough agility to keep the two burly beasts from closing the last few yards of distance he’d put between them. He knew his advantage wouldn’t last for long though, especially with the way the lumbering tanks seemed to plow straight through any arboreal obstacles in their paths.
It was strange, the mage felt fatigue like never before during his frantic flight, but he didn’t find himself short of breath at all. The temperature of the area seemed nonexistent, or at least it was just at the perfect point where he didn’t notice feeling the least bit warm or cold.
He couldn’t explain all of the bizarre eccentricities of this area, but he couldn’t stop to think about them either. He just had to keep running.
His tree cover started to run out, and so did his options. In an act of ill-advised desperation, he sprinted towards the narrow river at the base of the valley, hoping that by some miracle the beasts would take issue with having to swim for their potential meal.
Instead, he found that his boots did not sink through the surface of the water. His sprinted footsteps traveled straight across the glassy top of it, not even creating ripples on contact. It was as if the water beneath him was all an illusion, like it was never there to begin with. Pressing onwards through his disbelief, the mage continued running to reach the edge of copse of trees on the other side.
As luck would have it, the two beasts did not have the same interaction with the mysterious fluid. Their heavy paws sank right through, and they didn’t seem all that pleased to have to swim after him either. They did anyway, though.
“Shit fire…” The mage cursed as he watched the way the two creatures swam through the murk the same way any typical bear would. He wasn’t safe yet, but he did buy himself a few precious seconds.(edited)
It was enough time for him to hastily begin scaling one of the larger trees, hauling himself one branch at a time until he was sure that he was well out of swiping distance. He slipped a few times, having trouble gripping the surprisingly smooth surfaces of the branches, but managed to evade being devoured for the time being.
The two beasts clambered out of the water and attempted to climb up after him, but didn’t quite have the proportionate body strength or dexterity to climb after him. Instead, they opted to pace in slow circles around the base of the tree, snarling at him with alien, unholy noises.
Jander was not safe, but he had at least bought himself a little bit of time to rest and get his thoughts together.
He only hoped that the hideous creatures wouldn’t start testing their strength on the tree’s trunk anytime soon.
She enjoyed pine trees.
Always had; a holdover from her days as a mortal. It made sense, then, that she often found herself drawn to the Banewood, instead of inane parties with simpering nobility, with whom she had little in common save for thier purpose- to serve the Master. The forest was old, darkened and shadowed, dark green of the pines against the ruddy reddish foliage, the twisty thorny bushes that sprouted here and there and the odd blue shrubbery however marked it far different from any other forest in the mortal realms, though it was close enough for comfort. She could, if she inhaled, smell the sap, the loam. Hunting the diseased bears of the area and the strange creatures from the rifts that spawned was good practice, and far more enjoyable and challenging.
Almost as challenging as hunting other people. The enemies of the Master always remained her favorite thing to kill. They deserve it, after all, and it is for the good of Revendreth.
Crouched, she presented a low, hidden profile, and the darkstalker with her whuffed impatiently, keen to be on the hunt. Dressed in fine (if quite serviceable; there were no frivolous embellishments to be found on her person) hunting garb and a dark cloak, she blended with the woods, and put her hand on the beat beside her. “No,” she said, softly. “Wait.”
There was rumor of an ravenous, massive thirstlurker in the forest. She intended to-
Squeaking caught her attention. Something flew her way, quickly, chattering. A small bat flapped in circles as the venthyr tilted her head, listening.
Branches breaking. Heavy footfalls. Speed. When the bat flew in the signal for “unknown” -not a venthyr, not any of the usual prey- she paused.
As silent as a cat, she rose, and with a wordless gesture commanded both darkstalker and bat to follow, equally soft.
The noises ahead became louder almost immediately, moving fast. She recognized the snarl of what sounded like two of the diseased bears, and picked up the pace. The beasts were surprisingly quick for all their bulk, and a harrowing challenge for most: they reaches sizes of half a ton and knew neither fear nor pain in their maddened states, only only the need to kill. She kept herself back just a hair, to avoid their ire and time her movements so the noise of their chase masked her own.
In a movement so practiced it felt as natural as breathing, she unslung her bow and nocked an arrow. The longbow was as tall as she was, with a truly monstrous draw strength, and coupled with the quiver on her back of lethally serrated bodkin points, it marked her specialty.
Splashing ahead. She slowed, going low to avoid being seen, hood up, face shadowed, a wraith in the dark with only red pits for eyes. They’d reached the water. What was-?
There, she got her first good look at the scene, and her brow furrowed.
A blueish, ghostly figure- a soul?- treed by two of the bears. It seemed panicked, and that was quite understandable, as they circled and sniffed and growled frustration at the base of the tree. But this was not the sort of soul they usually recieved…
Jander struggled to calm down again, swallowing hard and trying to get his thoughts straight. Despite his predicament, his breathing remained steady and he couldn’t feel anything erratic about his heartbeat. Yet more alarming factors that he would struggle to wrap his head around.
Perched up on one of the high branches, he clenched his fits around the most stable places he could reach, gripping hard enough to whiten his knuckles under ordinary circumstances. From his position, he looked down at the two bears, studying their festering irregularities with a concerned frown.
They weren’t giving up. They weren’t going away any time soon. If they truly were undead, he couldn’t count on their potential fatigue or distraction to help him out either.
The figure tried to climb higher. The hunter watched, impassive for a moment, hidden as she was.
Definitely a soul. Perhaps an escapee from the Fearstalker, or running from her on one of her Hunts. I didn’t know they were doing one today, though…
A small, wicked little smile creeped onto her face. Well. Sure would be a shame if she had all the fun, wouldn’t it? It would frustrate her greatly if someone else stole the prey right from under her… And I do hate that woman. Almost as much as Altimor. Both of them constantly blathering on and indulging in their own vices, or mistreating their animals- a true hunter knows how to take care of their weapons, and when to be silent- and has far less to prove.
She raised her bow.
One arrow, eighteen inches of black-fletched handcrafted hardwood tipped in jagged metal, flew across a hundred yards -an easy shot- to embed itself in the left eyeball of the first bear. The second, a breath later and hitting at nearly the same time, smacked into the other bear, also in the eyeball. They ripped through the skull and embedded themselves, quivering like angry bees, in the trunk below. Then, casually, she fired again, aiming for the soul.
Not to kill him. The hunted must be cowed into submission, fear etched into their hearts if they were to repent, and so she aimed to simply drop him from the tree.
All three fired in the space of perhaps seven seconds.
Despair was starting to set in on Jander. Helpless, lost, isolated, he began to feel the implications of his predicament weigh more heavily upon him. He never handled it well any time his abilities were disrupted or hampered in any way. The lingering thoughts about how endangered he was, and just where he might be only got worse with each passing second.
And then the arrow struck the bear he’d been staring at, startling him enough that he almost fell off his perch. The second came right after, causing his body to jerk again, making his position even more precarious.
“-FUCK- me!” He exclaimed. It had been one bizarre turn of events after another for the poor mage, and he was in no way ready to have to face any more excitement just yet.
When the third arrow arrived, he had no hope of avoiding it. It struck him squarely in the thigh, cutting through him and impaling the branch on the other side.
Pain wracked the mage’s consciousness, causing him to immediately lose his balance. Something about the sensation was entirely foreign to him, and caused a greater deal of shock and weakness than any other wounds he’d sustained in life. His leg offered basically no resistance, and upon impact, something other than blood escaped from the affected area.
Pale blue and wispy particles of light flowed forth. Jander didn’t understand it was, but his instincts made it clear that it was something he did not want to lose.
Instead of getting a chance to react any farther, he toppled from the tree, hitting several branches on the way down before landing in a sickeningly twisted heap on the ground.
Strangely enough, those impacts did not instill any noticeable pain (at least, nothing compared to the pain caused by the arrow.) Even more strangely, the arrow was still left embedded in the branch up above.
It was too much. Terrorized to the breaking point, Jander just clutched his hands over the strange wound, trying to apply as much pressure as possible while laying helplessly beside the slain bears. Things were bad enough, all he could manage to focus on was trying to keep any more of that strange light from escaping from him.
She tilted her head, calculating. Oh. He was just laying there? That wasn’t productive at all. How could he grasp the true terror of being hunted if he refused to flee? Hmm.
The venthyr aimed again, sending another arrow whistling into the ground an inch from his nose. At her side, the darkstalker snarled. Well aware that he could see her, she looked down, and nodded to her companion. The wolfish beast came slowly stalking out of the undergrowth, the rippling growl splitting the clearing by the water…
Jander gasped, eyes widened at the warning shot that damn near ended him.
His hands clenched around the entry and exit wounds framing his thigh, further unsettled by the lack of warmth from the substance escaping him.
“Hey, hey-! Take it easy now-!” He scrambled backwards, still clutching his leg while putting his back up against the tree trunk. “I-I-…”
The smarmy mage was about to start spouting some bullshit about being an alliance diplomat when his eyes fixated on his attacker. Her absurd height and hideous features made his stomach sink with a fear he couldn’t put into words. The fact that she looked so utterly foreign to him made things that much more chilling.
“Look, look… I know you folks are way into blood and all that…” The sputtering mage found enough footing with his presence of mind to start another desperate line of thought. The connection made in his mind was that if the scourge was back, this must have been one of the San’layn he’d heard of. “But as you can see, I’m apparently lacking the stuff alltogether right now, so you’re just gonna have to find somebody else to suck on.”
His cadence shook and wavered with obvious fear.
The figure, burning crimson eyes studying him, tilted it’s head slightly. There was no response.
Hmm. Odd. Usually they’re too far gone after the Fearstalker has them to be trying witty banter. He’s scared, but not nearly enough. Something prickled at her, a sharpening of her interest. And what does he mean, interested in blood?
No. I won’t indulge him in whatever delusions he harbors, or whatever game he wants to play. It’s not good for them to do that. Hinders the process. But I will speed things along I think.
She considered the mage for a moment-
And then she moved, incredibly fast, at the same time as her darkhound began to bay, closing the distance.
Jander considered his options. The huntress’s beast sure complicated things, but it couldn’t be helped. Negotiating was not an option, and time was up.
Since the hound was advancing faster, the mage simply watched and waited for it to get closer.
His blathering attempts at diplomacy had bought him a few precious seconds to gather up enough of the area’s bizarre, unpredictable ley energy for a spell. A spell that neither of his assailants would be able to see until they crossed its unseen boundary lines. The moment the hound stepped upon it, colorless ice seemed to shoot up from the ground and root its hulking body to the spot, halting its momentum altogether.
Under ordinary circumstances that spell would have frozen the beast solid, but the temporary snare was all Jander could manage in unfamiliar surroundings, without enunciating the incantations, and without using his hands for the casting gestures.
A frown flickered across her face, almost too fast to be seen. He was too strong to have been in the Fearstalker’s clutches for very long as well.
The ice caught the darkhound. It yelped, paws frozen, muscles bunching to yank free. Ah. I see.
She kept closing the distance. When she felt the ice close around her boots, a vicious smile showed long pointed canines, and then she simply wasn’t there anymore. A red swirl of anima surrounded her-
-and then she was there, in front of him, horribly close enough to see her teeth and inhuman features, her red eyes, the pointed fingernails.
Jander hadn’t been expecting the shadowy teleportation, but he knew it was only a matter of time before she got in that close. He had the narrowest window of opportunity to put his desperation play into action.
The instant the hideous figure got into spitting distance, Jander swung the arm that had just been covering his thigh wound in a broad, sweeping gesture in front of his assailants face. Relaxing his fist, he released all of the leaked anima that had been pooling into his cupped hand, throwing it at her in a cloud from point blank range.
“POCKET BLOOD!!!” He screamed, hoping that the substance would be disorienting enough to buy him a precious second.
In the follow-through, as if reacting in altered time, he swung both of his hands around to try and clap that ugly vampire on both of her ear drums as hard as he possibly could.
Knowing that he had no time to stick around and face any of her wrath, he rolled to one side and scrambled away, desperately hoping he had enough time to do so.
Then, once on his feet, he gave a hard kick to a nearby nest of sizeable spider eggs resting against the base of the tree. The follow through of his huge kick caused him to stumble, before he scrambled to regain his balance and take off running.
Thankfully his leg seemed to support his weight just fine, and the leaking of ‘blood’ seemed to have ceased for the time being.
In the immediate aftermath of his kick, swarms of tiny pissed-off spiderlings erupted from the cluster of eggs, cranky from having been exposed to the harsh outer world before they were fully ready.
The final step of Jander’s escape plan was to grab hold of the area’s chaotic ley energy and attempt an extremely risky blink spell. Given his current state, it was unlikely that such a thing would work, and even if it did, there were no guarantees that his spell wouldn’t teleport him into the ground, or any number of the other obstacles. He knew he probably had enough control to ensure that he would blink in a vaguely forward direction, but that was it.
Fortunately for him, his sloppy blink made him materialize again a short distance ahead. The only difference was that he ended up several yards up in the air, and had to flail and stumble after landing again.
While leaving the venthyr to deal with the swarm of spiderlings he left in his wake, Jander executed several more chaotic, haphazard blinks in rapid succession, zig-zagging through the valley and putting as much distance between them as he possible could.
Perhaps it was the sheer unexpectedness that let the gambit succeed. Either way- the substance he threw at her was blinding, not in matter but in the glow, and he hit her head hard. Not hard enough to do more than disorient for a moment, not hard enough to really wound, and she’d had far far worse.
Then something tried to bite her through the soft, sturdy leather of her boots, and the hunter snarled. A bone-handled knife flashed in the dark as another spiderling leaped for her face, the baby’s venomous fangs no less lethal for thier small size. She had a moment to spare for Should have brought my sword before she cut it cleanly in two with a slash, ducked under another, and skewered it. A forth went flying as she kicked it away and danced backwards with a peculiar fluid grace. It finally gave her the distance to shoot, and suddenly the CRACK-squelch of arrows piercing carapace echoed in the clearing.
The hunter stopped, and slowly, methodically, wiped her face as the quarry ran into the forest further, getting fainter as he did. She went to recover her arrows, just as methodical, and checked the points for damage before slipping them back into her quiver.
A beat of anger pulsed in her heart. Of all the schemes… It was coupled with burning curiosity.
There was no way he was one of the Fearstalkers. She’d never a soul like that before. The darkhound broke free of the ice and growled agian.
She removed the bat from where it sat on her shoulder. The little creature squeaked inquisitively.
“Seek,” she said, soft and dangerous, to it and her hound. She let them smell the blue on her fingers.
They both bolted after him, hound baying and bat squeaking, as the hunter drew her bow and smiled.
Now the chase. And then, when I catch him -and I will catch him- I will figure out exactly what he is.
Silently she raced after hound and bat and fleeing mage, deeper into the shadowed Banewood.