Knights of Anathaeum Nine Heads is Better than Three

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Josai

Sworn Spear Witch
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1698439477846.pngSoft earth gave under the weight of foot, the air thick with the scent of still water and earthy decay. With bogs all about, the progress across the peatland was, slow going. Arduous. That they had to drag their shallow canoes across grass land made it all the more tiresome.

All the more irritating.

Bug wings buzzed about Josai's ear. A prick at her neck. She smacked at it. Felt the wetness of blood and insect viscera smear across her skin. A dry smile spread across her lips as she wiped the mess off against her robes.

"Well, least the wildlife is welcoming," she joked. And wrapped her hands against the rope at the prow of the canoe. Shift her weight, and pulled heaved in unison with her peers. The watercraft shift, and skid across the damp earth, laden with their kits as it was.

The trudged, until they reached the edge of the islet, the keel dipped its way in with a slap, and ripples ebbed out. She smiled. The Canoe had become a reprieve from the drudgery. She hopped in, and took up an oar.

They were on the hunt for hydras. A pack that had ravaged the village of Harnoka. The things were blighted, if the tracks were right. The black ichorous corruption, left in the wave of the large belly sliding creatures.

"Still hard to believe a whole clutch has gone and... turned," she thought aloud as frog song and black birds quarked.

In the distance, a lone, dead tree, stood sentinel over the dour land. Leafless,
 
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Out and then in again. Of course they’d be at the swamp and not the immediate outskirts of the village. What else.

His helm clicked as he sat down next to it into the canoe, for what was beginning to be a time one too many. If nothing else, at least the weather had mellowed out significantly, less in the degrees and constant damp that made trudging about in armour a very special kind of unpleasant.

Picking up an oar, Aarno slung a yet another glance over the murky water, fixing on any little swirl of the surface. The darkness betwixt the broad marshland trunks shifted with movement, but no sound but an ungodly caw of some strange bird came forth. His face was a tense mask, mouth pressed into a line.

It was the water. There was nothing to feel in it, not in the way as there was in the dirt. No tremors, no memory, just a meander of waves that could’ve been anything at any given time.
 
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There was a stench in the air. It lingered like the last breath of an unclaimed land. There was something vestigial that wanted desperately against the intrusion of unknown and untested Knights. It demanded a presence that held the magnitude of its mere reality and the lingered doubt that garnered its displeasure towards their interface was palpable with each step. It had squandered to the company that now faced it. Some green as they may be, they were not unprepared for the trials that waited them in the murky depths of this unforgiving land.

Methuselah's canoe lay in his hand. It had been some time since he'd been able to ride in the comfort of its leisure. However, he found himself looking outward as he moved towards their destination.

Kearnie sat upon his dark plate. His cold maw looked towards the chittering bugs as a feast, but he harried his own desire to hold guard his master's comfort. It would not help to have Kearnie once they found the Hydras, but Methuselah preferred to have the company of his familiars. They often felt the disturbance of magics, long before he did.

"Their tracks are corrupted," Methuselah muttered in response to Josai. She'd always been observant, and this was hardly an exception, "They smell of ancient magicks, tainted and corrupted to their purpose. Hard to believe, but harder yet to absolve. We must be ready for what is to come."

The Knight pulled his sword from the sheath where it lay, on his back. It rested quietly on in his lab as they pursued forward.

It had often been that the swamp, and the bog tested the mettle of those that pursued it. This would be no exception, and he only hoped that they would be able to hold their own against the trails that awaited them.
 
'Is it?' Sitting up front of the lead canoe, oar in hand and blade in lap, Faramund kept his eyes on the lone sentinel tree ahead as he posed his question. Dead, or as near to it as to make no matter, the tree had become a roost for a flock of local avians. Bug-killers, for the most part, though Fara doubted they would bat a wing at devouring him were he fool enough to go and get himself killed.

Killed hunting hydras, say.

'If I was forced to live in this wet hellhole, with nothing but bugs, bird and the occasional croc to eat, I'd probably go crazy, too.' That was why they were here. To put a stop to an entire clutch of man-eating serpent-things. Apparently, they'd grown tired of chomping down on swamp critters, and had added human to their probably limited palate.

Throw in a touch of blight corruption and you were in for a fun time, indeed.

Dipping his oar into the scummy waters, Faramund angled the canoe towards a patch of solid ground. He hesitated to use the word dry, for nothing was in this infernal place.

Garbed in little more than a gambeson and a short shirt of mail, the knight was the first to make the leap, and the first to get his boots flooded once more. 'Why anyone would decide to live here is beyond me!' He cursed, turning to heave the canoe ashore.

Off in the distance, something screamed, died, like they no doubt would if taken unawares.

Not that it was possible to miss a big, fuck-off hydra bearing down on you.
 
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Josai's eyes darted up at the sound in the distance as the birds upon the lone tree gave flight. "Spine Maw Hydra," she said to the others as their canoe cut through the waters. Her hands worked the oar, turning the blade flat to slow their cut through the water. Her eyes scanned the horizon as the trumpeting screams turned to vicious hiss. The snap of great jaws clapped through the air. Quick booms and thuds in succession.

She grabbed up her spear as the craft eased against the shore.

"They are not far," she warned and helped drag the boat onto land. Quickly, she grabbed up her spear, and the few brews that might aid them against their prey. Stowed and ready, she stepped from the craft, and traced a sigil into the soft earth with the butt of her spear, let out a cool breath, and fed loch's light into the soil. The freshly traced rune glowed a feint blue against mud, frosted over and thawed in a glitter of magick.

She turned towards the sounds in the distance, saw dark wings against a grey sky, circling about the near distance. A grumble in her throat. She stowed the spear, and helped push the skiff forward across the bog land.

The keel pressed into the water, and with urgency, she hopped in behind her partner knight, their vessel skate forward across the rippling murk.

"We still don't know how many are-" she saw something shift in the water's beneath them.

Large and dark and with six eyes that burned like dying fire. No nature left in that baleful stare.


Aarno Faramund Methuselah Sir Allen
 
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He followed in the motions of his comrades, heaving the canoe across land and redoubling their efforts to close on their prey. He knew he was for from their physicality, but gave his best all the same. His hand burned as the friction of his leathers dug in with each hoist; his arms felt the same heat of exertion but were more accustomed to bearing loads like this.

The swampland was unfamiliar to him and the brackish waters churned with strange debris that painted strange abstractions on the surface.

He attempted to catch the attention of his nearest comrade and sign that he was hesitant to encroach on uncharted marsh as a complete unit. This conveyance of thought was halted by the burbling below. First spotted by Josai, Allen turned to his peer to sign that he made visual contact as well.

Silvertide, his trusty blade, left its scabbard in Allen's tight, anxious grip. He held fast and held still. He wouldn't dare be the first to strike and instead looked to his elder allies to follow suite.

He prepared himself and thought best on what manner of spellcraft may be required to bolster his swordplay. He did not act, but he was ready.
 
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As it was terribly clear that none was particularly enjoying this whole venture, the loud whinging coming from the lead canoe contributed a phenomenal fuck-all to the situation. If anything, it only managed to irritate him more by each word, presently cresting a point wherein he’d speak for the first time in what felt like hours.

“ It isn’t always a matter of choosing, Syr Faramund. Shouldn’t you know, by now. “ He grumbled over the shift of mud and grass, the dragging and pushing. Wet moss sloshed as he swung his leg out from the vessel on unto ground and for the relief of it each time, he barely noticed the chill within his boots.

The marshland echoed with a scream just as he grabbed on the edge of the canoe, movements slowing down as he strained to listen on. Despite the fact that finding the beasts meant getting out of here, a knot of dread wound up within his chest, making sure the witch’s warning would not go unheeded. There was magic in the dirt, left there to mark their way alongside a corrupted trail, so onwards they’d go.

Him and his present companion hadn’t the time to make it back in before the dying of a sentence and a greater dark ripple arrested attention. He stopped at once, signaling his companion and shifting on heel to reverse the canoe properly onto land. Swift as he could, he fished in it for his helm, gloved hand on the hilt of his sword.
 
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'Well, don't hold it against me if I choose to ignore you, Syr Aarno,' the dawn-knight replied, trudging through the marsh mud towards the next body of water capable of supporting their raft's weight. A bundle of broad-headed javelins lay in the belly of their canoe, just within arm's reach.

As much as he wanted this hunt over and done with, Faramund did not relish the prospect of facing down a hydra with little more than his sabre to make do. The javelins gave him range- and reach, if he decided to use them up close and personal-like.

Maybe, if it came down to it.

The reeds barring their path receded some. Throwing his weight behind it, Fara helped direct the canoe out into open water, hopping aboard just as he felt himself start to sink.

An oar found its way to his hand. Faramund began to row, careful not to disturb the surface anymore than could be helped. When his oar hit something solid, he paid it no mind. Not until it roared at him, anyway.

Turning on his bench, a dumbfounded look on his face, Faramund made to stand even as the canoe began to lift beneath them. He knew what they had stumbled upon, even before the three heads emerged, one after the other, from the brackish below. A hydra. A man-eating, blight-corrupted hydra!

'To arms!' The dawnling bellowed, making sure to state the obvious before he died.

Grabbing hold of his blade and the bundled javelins, Fara half-leapt, half-fell from the canoe. A wall of scales rose to meet him. Hitting hard, the knight found himself propelled head-over-heel through the air. A fish blurred past his vision. As did Aarno and Allen and Methuselah. Their shocked, terrified faces were almost amusing.

The pain that followed damned sure wasn't.
 
Quietly and carefully, her hand set the oar down, and shift to grab up her spear. A breath left her lungs, and then the whole craft lurched up and out of the water carried by a swell.

Swamp sprayed, plumed, and churned to froth as tons of scale and blight whipped three heads about. Toothy jaws wide as they searched for something to crush, a horrid rumble and hiss that shook the bones came from each maw.

Josai was thrown into the water. Her wide brim hat left to float above the waves like a big blue lily pad.

Spear still in hand. She saw nothing but the dim world of mud and murk beneath the surface. Felt the bubbles about her, rise and roll across her skin. She jabbed down into the waters, felt the soft silt come short. Too deep to stand, she measured but, she was thankful all the same. With work, she managed to come up, broke the surface with a gasp of air.

The creature, three headed and spin shelled, seemed to ooze a viscous black goo from the gaps in its very scales and spikes. Some of strange tendrils that wept from it even seemed to wriggle and writhe, like worms fresh from the soil.

One of its mouths caught the flipped canoe in its grasp, and the great jaws came shut with a snap. Tore off a side of the vessel with splinters and crack. The other two heads saw those on the small island, snapped and pulled its massive body behind it, toward those other knights with rapid advance.

Aarno Sir Allen Faramund
 
A splash. A yell, calling to arms. Another splash, the knight himself, bet.

Mail clicking as he attached it to the helm, Aarno turned just to catch the sight of the witch go under, leaving behind but her hat. The hydra rushed up, obliterating one of the canoes with much too little effort, jaws threefold lashing around. From the shored canoe, moving swift on instinct, he grabbed a bow and quiver.

“ Hey! Over here, you little arse! “ In tune with the yell, an arrow loosed. It met its mark, embedding into a scaled neck, if not to a greater effect than the catching of a collective attention. Like being stung by a bee.

It did what he’d meant, drawing the corrupted animal towards land. He had a moment’s regret about that as the immense form begun emerging, breaking more surface. The feeling was swat down like any which little fire and he set his jaw, drawing back the bowstring.

He had time to loose one more arrow, before bow be discarded that he might draw his sword.

Josai Faramund Sir Allen
 
Long strokes with one arm, spear clutched tight to the body as muscles undulated and legs kicked in timed rhythm that saw her propelled across the dark waters. Not without snatching her hat.

The blighted hydra, with its spiny shell and great maws, lumbered forward, all snap and thrash as its right most head pulled its whole body after Syr Aarno.

A low rumble like thunder pronounced a sharp hiss.
Josai got her feet up under her in the shallows of the bank. Felt her boots sink into the soft earth as her lungs drew in her breath. A soggy blue hat flopped and squished into her head, let out the brown peat water in a gush.

With both hands upon her spear, she marched up the island. Angled to the creature's flank, sure to keep brave Syr Aarno before her as she leveled her spear, its point aimed brightly towards the beast.

A whirl and loop of her arms, gentle work of the wrists in rythm with her breath saw a trail of mist hiss its long tail behind the winged spear's path.

Aarno Faramund Isander
 
Isander bounded from the canoe, knees squelching into mud; it seeped into his boots, lichen creeping over seams and kissing flesh where goosebumps writhed in the taking. Blackened leather strained with him, the damp accoutrements revolting against his frenzied press onto the bank. He dug the haft of his spear into the murk and tugged himself out, hot on his compatriots' heels.

Spitting around webs, scraping the grime from his cheeks, he dipped around Josai's flank. Time came as a long spent luxury, one he could scarce afford.

Crooking the spear in an elbow, he lumbered to a trot, feet catching perch as he adopted haste. He caught breath in his chest, leveled it. Coughed it out with the wet that yet lingered in his lungs. He charged, perhaps foolishly, and set the tip of his spear to penetrate the rough hide of the joints segmenting what appeared to be the hydra's foremost shoulder.

On impact, he spat a venomous word that knotted his tongue and tripped into the iron butt of his spear; there it etched a sigil in orange lighted flame that trickled to a blaze along its length. A tendril of it spewed to the blade, applied friction to assist the piercing blow.


Aarno Faramund Josai
 
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The hydra was pulling out of the water. He snarled at it, sword in a low guard as it eyed him down. In the blur of his peripheral vision something blue and pointy hatted climbed to land, fast joined by another who’d take a spear to the monster.

It wouldn’t notice. Holding in a breath, he jerked aside as a monstrous maw shot towards, neck reaching way past what he’d thought possible. It retracted with as much speed, asquirm like the end of a snake and sweeping in a broad arch. He braced against it as it hit him in the shin, only just failing to take his balance.

Flame flashed and spears struck. A horrible hiss rumbled out and he kicked the side of the neck, retreating to a blade’s length before bringing it down on the back of the head that’d turned to snap at him.

A cacophony of reptilian anger dominated the air. The immense form turned, abruptly like to a call, claws digging into the ground as the thick tail unfurled and swept the grass.

Josai Isander Faramund
 
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Faramund came to with a start. Half-submerged in swamp water, his body aching in a dozen places, the dawnling attempted to claw his way free of the watery mud, unsure of where he was or how he had got there. Pain scorched the centre of his face. Apparently, he had somehow managed to break his nose in the fall. Fortunately, nothing else was.

Well, nothing that he could feel, anyhow.

Stumbling through the reeds, his heart thumping in his ears, Faramund cast around for a weapon. The world span with him, pitching this way and that. One of the hydra's long, serpentine necks extended past him, reaching towards someone he couldn't even see, let alone hear.

Tripping, he arrested his fall a hair's breadth away from the edge of a blade facing up, out of the mud. It took him a moment to realise what he was looking at, and by the time he did, the hydra's head was snapping back towards him.

Cursing, he snatched up the darksteel sabre and laid in to the monster before it could swallow him up. The darksteel, heavy as it was, bit through the slick scales, drawing blood as sure as the leeches currently transfixed to places he would rather not mention.

Laughing, each shriek and shout like a thunderclap in his head, Faramund threw himself clear as the hydra's body rolled over the land upon which he had been standing.

Josai Isander Aarno
 
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