Knights of Anathaeum the Fantastical and Feral

Threads open to all members of the Knights of Anathaeum group

Saskia Kerraelas

The Shadow Knight
Character Biography
"Can you recall when you saw this creature?"

Saskia waited behind the other Knight that took the lead on the questioning. A young boy was sat at the dining table, wrapped in the thickest blanket she had every seen, but even then he still shivered with fear. Only four of them could fit in the otherwise small room, the rest of their group heading to the inn to organise their lodgings. She knew that fear well, the kind that scared so frightfully that you cannot think to sleep.

It was nearing the witching hour, but still the boy resisted sleep.

"Go on, Barry, tell the Syr what you saw that night." The father spoke. When nothing more came from him other than wobbly lips threatening to blubber and cry, Saskia inched closer until she was kneeling beside the seat the young boy sat in.

"Was it a scary monster, Barry? Did it move only at night?" Her tone was unlike her usual, instead adopting one reserved for speaking to children. Barry turned to stare at her, big sunny gold eyes staring up at him. Finally, he nodded. Saskia managed to keep her smile small. "And was it responsible for killing your goat? You can tell me and my friends here. This is what we do. We listen and we make sure the monsters do not return."

It felt like a lie on her tongue, but Saskia knew her monsters were different. What she could shape withing the shadows were deranged depictions of her very own fears, she grew to conquer and learn to change their shapes until the shadows were at her call. She was a menace once she mastered this at the age of eleven, terrorising Alaric with horrific figures looming over his bed.

But it also made Saskia unafraid of the dark.

"He had antlers." Barry offered, fighting past his shivering. "A-and he had claws and the biggest teeth!"

But Saskia could see the fear wining over the small child and found herself wrapping her arms around him, like she used to the younger children she grew up with. "Shh... that is all you need to say. I know you do not wish to sleep, but I have a big faovur to ask of you. Will you keep watch? And you tell your mama and your papa if you see the monster again, and my friends here will come rushing back to defend you." When she felt the young boy nod and hold back his blubbering tears, she released him with a warm smile.

"This is one of my wolves. He is a shadow, but he can fight too. If you do sleep, Bread will keep watch on your farm for you."

"We should meet with the others, Syr Saskia." The Knight tapped her shoulders as the rest filtered out from the farmhouse. She listened, standing and saying her goodbyes before sparing a glance at the corporeal shadow that was of one of her two wolf familiars. Bread and Butter, one was always nearby to the other. As the four Knights gathered outside, Saskia hailed the second wolf to keep watch on the outside of the home. Syr... drats, she forgotten his name. She had seen his eyes follow the shadow familiar before turning to address them all. "I want the two of you to search the perimiter of their farmland. That includes the property stretching into the woods there. If we can do this before the storm hits us tomorrow, the chances are better for us. Otherwise we are stuck here until the storm passes before we can resume the search for this beast." He then glanced up at the sky, the waning crescent moon casting a ghostly light upon them all. "I will instruct the rest of the group to spread out over town. Multiple reports of a heretical creature? Hmph. If you feel that you are outmatched, then retreat. Do we understand our orders?"

This is a thread intended for me to flesh out more of Saskia, so some good ol' fashioned hunting at night sounds perfect!
Feel free to pop in and any ideas or such, feel free to get in touch :)
Byanka liked the night time the best. It was when dreams were abundant, and even if she never interfered with anyone's dreams without their permission, it was still a sort of fun to see them. But in this house, there were no dreams, only tears ready to spill. Byanka did not like tears.

She stood in the back of their little group of knights in the house as Saskia spoke to the child in an almost motherly way. She managed to get a vague description of the monster out of him, and just as Byanka was going to suggest she encourage him a little more with some Loch magick, they were being ushered out of the house. Oh, well. They could work with what they had.

The leader of their mission directed Saskia and Byanka to search the perimeter of the farm, while the others were told to spread out across the town to look for a monster with antlers, claws, and big teeth. Kind of broad, but they had to start somewhere. She rested her hand on the hilt of her sword and turned to Saskia, giving her fellow knight a soft smile. "Let's get to it, shall we?" She was not one for small talk and had been trained in the ways of the sword and Loch, not social cordiality.

Saskia Kerraelas
The long summer had passed, and now the autumn cold chilled the air. Dark as the night was, the sister moons shone their light down upon those knights gathered for the hunt.

Corruption seemed more and more frequent these days. Hector's hand gripped about the handle of his sword. Small comfort there in the grip of his steel. Though that too worried him.

Orders came quick, and soon they were split into teams of two, set to patrol the village and find what they could. Hector nod to his patrol partner, and moved off toward the edge of the fields. Another little house off in the distance, its fire lamp still on.

"Might be, they have more information?" He said, as he watched shadows move across the walls of the small farmhand's shack at the edge of the woods.

Byanka Valkas Saskia Kerraelas
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Saskia was not afraid of the dark.

She was not scared of this beast the child had described, which matched the descriptions of other witnesses they had interviewed.

It was the idea of being sent of in a small number of pairs to cover as much ground as they could. That, and Saskia was no small talk extraordinaire.

So she smiled, perhaps too widely, at Byanka Valkas.

"Should we start on the property or head out to the forest first?" She inquired, looking around the farm. It was dark, but moonlight gave them enough visibility that would not strain their eyes to adjust. Saskia turned to watch Hector and his paired partner make off towards the neighbouring property. "Surely the property wouldn't give too many hiding spots for such a creature?"
“ More information. “ He repeated in way of nigh question, one that doubted rather than actually inquired. And what would they do with all that — another tale about a monster which they were are already searching, its features and presence in the village no mystery. If I have to listen to one more—

Swallowing his criticism, he looked upon the dawn knight with pointed neutrality.

“ Why don’t you question the residents, then. I’ll search the yard and round the building in the meanwhile. “ Lest we are here until first snow. From his company, he bounced his attention to the building, stare narrowing. Right next to the treeline the property was bordered by a row of old lilacs, their bloomless and leafless forms casting a great hulking shadow. In the autumn wind they swayed, like something alive and breathing.

A flicker. Tricks of the mind and eye better adjusted to daylight. But better safe than sorry—

“ You’ll manage, hmh? “ He asked, beginning to break off to his own route as they neared the front door.

"It depends on what sort of creature it is," Byanka replied as she walked away from the house with Saskia. "It could be a shifter, or adept at hiding in the shadows. We really don't know enough about it." They barely had anything to go off of and so far, Byanka could sense nothing out of the ordinary around them.

She scanned the fence line around the house, as if she would find a hulking monster with antlers of some sort hiding behind a bush or a bale of hay.

"We can start with the property, hopefully it shouldn't take too long," she continued. She really did wish they knew more starting off but she supposed it couldn't be helped. Nevertheless, she kept her senses on alert.

Saska Kerraelas
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Reactions: Saskia Kerraelas
They were short a body.

Glancing around, her raincape fluttering in the wind, Squire Gruki was almost certain of it. Before she could think to share her concerns with the others, however, the group had already started to separate. In pairs, for the most part, they ventured off into the growing darkness in search of a monster- and an elusive one at that.

Some went to check the perimeter, whilst others stuck to the numerous properties scattered about the village. Torn, Gruki dithered, unsure of where to go or who to follow. It wasn't until one of Saskia's shadow-wolves -Bread or Butter, she could never tell- appeared at her side that she finally made a decision.

'Right! Of course!'

Hurrying after Syrs Valkas and Kerraelas, the big half-orc fell into step behind the two knights. Half a shadow herself, she listened as they talked strategy. Or the lack thereof. Both women seemed to have issues with how the search was being conducted, though neither spoke openly about it. Figuring it wasn't her place to ask, Gruki nodded at the dusker's words.

'Between the three of us, it shouldn't take long at all,' she said, surprised by her own certainty. 'Though, if I may be so bold, perhaps it would be wisest if we were to check the woodland first? It'll be true dark soon, y'see, and, well...' Her voice fell to a whisper as she trailed off. Stupid Gruki, she cursed herself, leave the thinking to those who are good at it!

'Just a-... just a thought.'

Saskia Kerraelas Byanka Valkas
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Hector gave a look to Syr Leinas, a man he had always known to be pointed and sharp. There was no judgement behind his eyes, but there was also no hint of doubt.

He'd learned, time and time again, that it was oft the smallest of details that could make the difference.

"A sound plan," Hector admitted to the senior Sworn, and nod as he pressed on to the shack's door and Kaarle made his own way. A rap of knuckles at the door. A twitch of his ears beneath the warm layer of his padded coif. Glad he had taken the time to change out the lining earlier in the summer. Steps from behind the door. A pair of voices. The door cracked open.

"Who's this, then?" a narrowed eye peered through the slit. Rings that marked sleepless nights sagged under puffy lids. "You're with them knights?"

Hector gave a nod. "Syr Rookheart, of Anatheaum,"

"Hmm, bout bloody time somebody showed up,"
the door eased open some, his nerves eased. "Farm's lost more than just a goat, you know, most of the mushroom harvest in the woods has turned foul, covered in some," he covered his mouth in the crook of his elbow. Phlegmy, and thick. He breathed hard a moment, as if he needed to recover. Wiped his mouth away, something dark and oily smeared at the corner of his lip. "Blight,"

Hector watched on. Mindful of the space between them.

Saskia turned around to see Gruki, who upon recognising the squire, greeted her with a wide grin. "That is not a half bad suggestion."

Sas turned to Byanka, still grinning. "Let us start in the woods. I left Butter to keep watch of the farm, and if anything odd happens, I will know." The shade of night was when she was at her strongest with her shadow magic, able to tear into the deepest depths of shadows to create familiars that did not need her concentration to keep their shape. In theory, Saskia should have infinite control over the shadows once night truly fell, but prolonged exposure to such magic took it's toll on her.

The work of running patrol would be done and dusted if she did not begin to succumb to the darkness.

Saskia ushered Gruki to walk alongside herself and Byanka, lifting her torch to help light their path.

"None of you are afraid of the dark, hm?" She pondered aloud, regarding those that accompanied her as they neared the fence, the dark woods beyond that.

Byanka Valkas
A firm nod, one last affirmation, and they parted.

With merely the moons’ light to guide him, he begun his way around the humble shack of an abode. With the darkness and sharp shadows about the yard came wariness, his pace slowing from the crisp march it had been. Unkempt hay huffed and sloshed underfoot, the sound of the door and voices from the front of the building just about audible.

Seems to be going well enough. There was no doubt in his mind when it came to Syr Rookheart’s competence, of course, but he’d rather keep an ear out than not.

Rounding the corner to the back, he kept his stare aswivel betwixt the shrubberies next to the wall and the ever looming treeline. What appeared a mound of logs still remained unfinished at the forest’s edge, next to the little shed they’d be stacked in eventually for the winter. Further ahead on his way — a small garden and some gnarled apple trees, their branches a wide tangle. Well-maintained.

He keeled his head to fit proper beneath their canopies, crossing the garden. A hollow, wooden shift from abaft stopped him then, his ever present frown knitting tighter above his stare that sought the source. He heard nothing further, saw nothing. A hedgehog building a nest in the shed?

An animal was likely, but—

He glared into the slit of blackness, the ajar door some fourty paces away. A fragment of a moment later, he grabbed the hilt of his sword tighter and strode at it to investigate.
Byanka turned when Gruki spoke, nodding slightly after Saskia agreed with the squire. They drew nearer to the woods, the shadows growing thicker. She did not say anything as they moved away from the property, where there was better lighting. It wasn't that Byanka was afraid of the dark, she rather liked it, in fact, but the scariest things tended to hide in plain sight.

But no matter. They would search for this monster and they would either find it or they wouldn't. "No," Byanka replied to Saskia's question. Her voice was cool and calm. The darkness had never scared her, or perhaps she just hadn't seen enough of the world.

The trio entered the woods, a cool, gentle wind stirring the branches, creating a shushing sound. Byanka kept her gaze peeled, searching for anything amiss- fur stuck on a branch, footprints in the dirt, an unusual scent, or even the mental presence of a monster, whatever that was supposed to feel like. She had found that monsters differed in their mental presence.

Saskia Kerraelas
'Only of what it hides.' Gruki admitted, honesty being the best policy and all. 'We'll be okay, though. Any monster fool enough to cross us will get a swift bonk on the noggin!' To emphasise the point, the half-orc's fist met her palm in violent display. Ouch! Shaking the stinging sensation away, Gruki turned her eyes to the approach. Woodlands were okay to traverse, during the day. Beautiful... and peaceful.

Darkness changed it.

An entirely different beast, now, it consumed those who didn't pay it the proper respect. Syrs Faramund and Lyra had warned her of the dangers the forests held. As beautiful and peaceful as Gruki knew them to be, they were also hazardous to one's health, assuming you went unprepared. Poisonous shrooms. Grappling vines. Wild animals bigger than the biggest of warhorses, with thrice the appetite.

Gruki's belly rumbled.

Feigning deafness, the squire directed her gaze at the canopy as they searched. Taller than the others, closer, she examined the trunks high up for signs of scarring. The limbs followed, crooking and bending this way and that. 'If you were a monster with a fondness for goat,' she began, 'where would you hide?'

Down low, amongst the foliage and thickets? Or up high, where no-one ever thinks to look?

Saskia Kerraelas Byanka Valkas
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A nod from the young knight. "Did you eat any of them?"

The farmhand's lips pulled down at the corners. "Was hungry," he said, matter of fact. "Damn thing," he shook his head, a growl in his throat as his hand came to tightly curled fist. "Damn thing went and slaughtered most the game that stayed near our woods this time of year," a sigh. Near a sound of defeat. "I, thought the shrump was good you see, didn't see none of that, bale-snot on it, but, Withry back here," he jerked his head over his shoulder. The door cracked open, just the more. "He ate a bit more than I did, and, well,"

Withry, laid out on the straw stuffed sack, and wrapped in a roughspun blanket. Curled into a ball, Hector could see that he did not look well.

"Is he drinking water?"

The farmhand nod. Coughed with a fitful sound. "He's drinkin water, can't right keep his food down though,"

Hector made a sound. Gave a nod. "I can tend to him, see if there is anything I can discern," his eyes looked up to the farmhand. "If you'd like,"

Caught unawares, the man gave a slow nod. "Sure, right, I mean," he looked away, embarrassed almost. "Not much I can give you for it,"

Hector raised an open palm, and shook his head. "No need,"

Saskia grinned at their responses. Good. She liked those that can stick it out in such darkness.

"Well there is no need to be afraid while I am around. Aren't you both lucky to be paired with a shadow wielder." The pride she felt could be heard in her voice as they peered around, and any pits of darkness soon ebbed away to let in more light. Night was the domain Saskia excelled in since she was a young squire. Her fear of being unable to see into the dark quickly grew into curiosity, but she learned to use her shadows at her command to feel for anything that may harm herself or others.

Just like Bread and Butter, Saskia now carved from nothing but the darkness surrounding them a new beast at her will. A bloodhound, made of enough shadows to appear opaque than the translucence her power could produce during the day. It showed just how much more stronger she was when the sun no longer held court in the sky.

"There. Let's see if he can pick up a scent, shall we?"

The bloodhound was made from darkness, but the eyes glowed like a stone of amber being lit by the sun, a brighter hue than that of Saskia's. It was the tell it was created by her, but she was not going to divulge that to those present in case word spread and her pranks would then lead back to her.

Byanka Valkas
Byanka wondered how Saskia could be so upbeat right now. She gave the younger girl a sideways smile as they walked deeper into the forest. The shadows seemed to obey her every command and Byanka was rather impressed.

She had such wonderful control over her emotions and expressions that her surprise and awe could not be seen on her face as she watched the shadow knight weave a bloodhound into existance. The trio continued walking through the forest, the shadowy bloodhound in front of them fading in and out of appearance.

A shiver trickled down her spine, and it felt so real Byanka could've sworn that was an actual droplet of water running down her back. As soon as the thought had left her, it was like a mental door had opened in her mind.

The monster was right above them, it was drool dripping down her back, and the monster had been covering its tracks using mind blockers. Byanka mentally berated herself for not realizing it sooner.

She tensed and slowed a bit. If it was smart enough to know how to hide itself, she could not give herself away that she realized it was there. Subtly and slowly, the monster's vision of the three knights would blur in and out, making it harder for it to focus.

At the same time, she would reach over to her fellow knights' minds and gently nudge, as if tapping them on the shoulder.

Don't look up, she willed them.
'If it even has a scent.' Gruki whispered, unnerved by the prospect of having to track such a beast through the woods in the dead of night. It was a good thing she had Syrs Valkas and Kerraelas with her. Any fewer and she would have turned around.

With any luck, we won't find anything out here, she thought, a touch guiltily. The alternative was that it was still in the village.

With Hector and Kaarle. And the villagers, obviously. The folk they were sworn to protect. Gruki felt bad about putting the lives of her friends and comrades over those unable to defend themselves from... whatever it was causing them -or in this case their livelihoods- harm. But then she was only hu- an orc, and half of one at that.

The good half, Pa's voice said, coming to her like a memory, unbidden.

The group stopped walking. Quietly, as if tiptoeing past a gaggle of sleeping saplings, the knights spread out to search. Gruki stayed put, watched as the shadow-hound rooted around in the dirt for their quarry. It took Gruki a handful of beats to notice the smell. Foul, like rotten vegetables. Or... 'A corpse?' She wondered, distractedly.

Something rustled in the canopy overhead. Syr Valka's voice brushed her mind, made her flinch. Some of the words were lost on her, but she understood most of the message. Look up.

Tilting her head back, Squire Gruki turned her gaze to the heavens. There was something blocking the starry sky. What was it? 'Um, Byanka?' She called out to the knight, fear making her legs go weak. There was something there, amongst the branches. Something big.

'I looked up!'
Saskia furrowed her brows, acting as if she had not heard Byanka's voice whisper in her mind. Shadows stilled, ready to come together at the wielder's behest. Was this warning about a predator stalking the three of them, or perhaps another thing?

Yet the answer came in a matter of seconds after Gruki announced she had looked up, exactly not what Byanka warned of them. It was not until the shadowed bloodhound began a low growl, turning it's head to peer up at what Gruki had glimpsed.

The monster acted.

For Gruki, it aimed to pin down the towering squire and would fail just inches from her, swallowed by the bloodhound's warping mass and pulling it to the ground before the three young women could make sense of things. Saskia rushed in, sword removed from scabbard, and stood in front of Gruki.

The shadow struggled to keep the monster contained, a feral snarl erupting from the depths as claws and limbs tried to pierce through Saskia's magic. The scent hit her nose next, and unable to help herself, Saskia gagged audibly and dropped her stance.

"Oh, that is ghastly!" She coughed, feeling sick in her stomach. Why couldn't the boy at the farm warm them of this?

Byanka Valkas
Sidling up to the shed, listened. From within, came a little sound, a shift. Followed by something like sniffing. Rigid as a wrought iron fence he picked up an errant log from his feet and threw it at the door.

The impact gave a loud bang, loose latch clattering and hinges groaning as something rushed out the nigh simultaneous second. He caught sight of merely its tail end, all poofed up, as the creature disappeared into the nearby brush in a mix of hissing and growling.

A fucking cat. To have nigh shat myself over a—

Clenching his jaw lest he curse out loud, he straightened from where he’d involuntarily hunkered down. In aggressive succession he yanked the shed door wide open and glared in, seeing nothing but neatly stacked logs on both sides. As expected. He made a point to latch the door closed before he went, marching out of the garden with a measure of anger in the swiftness of his step.


He had marginally cooled down by the time he rounded back to the front, a steadier breath expanding his chest as he approached the steps. He sought his fellow knight in questioning, neutral tone unaffected.

“ What’s going on here? “

Hector had already moved to the sick man's side. Attended to him, by moving him over, and checking the signs of his condition.

Black crust about the eyes and the corners of the mouth. A sickly color to the skin, which seemed both swollen, and saggy. Worst of all, he stank of waste and iron.

"These men are ill," the young knight stated. "Eaten mushrooms, with reported signs of blighting," he eased himself up, rested an elbow on his knee and looked up to Syr Leinas. "This one," he shook his head. "Withry," he reminded himself. "Looks beyond anything we can do for him here, maybe... if we take him back to the Monastery, but,"

The farmhand who'd yet given his name seemed to sink unto himself. Eyes stared off into a faraway place. "They were just slimy shrooms, not... nothing the likes of which we'd not eaten before," he looked to Withry.

Hector rose and stepped to the man. "I can prepare some clean water, give you what herbs i have and, bestow a boon of life that may ease the suffering, but," he shook his head. "With the blight corrupting him, his condition is beyond my abilities to improve,"

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Byanka froze when Gruki said her name and she knew even before she continued what had happened. She withheld her groan and conceded that perhaps she should've been more clear. But how much clearer could she have been without alerting the monster in the trees that they were aware of its tricks?

Either way, it didn't matter now, because all three of them had looked up, and the beast made its move. It dropped from the trees, inches from Gruki, and Saskia's shadow blood hound was upon it immediately. She could not make sense of what the monster looked like- she could not tell the difference between shadow and monster.

Byanka unsheathed her sword, not entirely sure how much good it would do her as she watched the blood hound and the monster wrestle on the forest floor. A stench wafted upwards and Byanka took a step back, wrinkling her nose. Good gods, it smelled awful! As if it had been dead and rotting for three years and had never bathed itself in its entire lifetime. It made her eyes water and she gagged, covering her mouth and nose with a gloved hand.

Saskia Kerraelas
Ill. Not what they were here for at all tonight, but suppose this outcome was granted. In the sticks one easily happened upon a dozen other troubles next to the larger one that’d summoned him there.

Kaarle bobbed his head, face grim as he gave a cursory glance to first the sick, then the room and its furnishings. Dingy, the lot — awful draft too. If anyone was to heal here, herbs or not, it’d be some miracle.

“ Right. “ He spoke conclusively, spinning on his heel to face Hector anew. “ In interest of time — Anything I can assist with? Boons and herbs are beyond me, but— “ His amber stare swiveled to the other side of the room, where a bucket and some pots lay next to the firepit.

“ Water I can fetch and boil, if need be. “

Gruki went for her weapon, even though she knew it was already too late. The monster had her dead. No way round it. Shitshitshit, she thought, wishing she had thought of something else. Her sword felt like a lead weight in her hand as she drew it. Slow. Far, far too slo-

Something rippled through the air, seized hold of the monster before it could strike.

Freeing her sword, Gruki breathed a sigh of relief as Syr Kerraelas stepped in front of her. It had been the knight's shadow-hound that had saved her, she realised belatedly. If not for Saskia's intervention...


Circling around the two writhing forms, the squire sought an opening. The air stank of sulphur and rotten eggs. Less corpse-stench, more concentrated farts. 'Yeah,' she growled, noticing the way the two Sworn reacted to the beast's somewhat "unique" odour. She would have done the same, had she not experienced worse in the swamps of her youth.

Holding out her hand, Gruki muttered an incantation.

A ball of white light leapt from her fingers to hover over the monster and its shadowy opponent. Her spell, whilst useful, had the unfortunate side effect of weakening the bloodhound. Plus, it allowed them to get a good look at exactly what it was they were fighting.

Honestly, Gruki would have preferred they hadn't.

Saskia Kerraelas Byanka Valkas
Hector gave a nod to Syr Leinas. "We will need boiled water yes,"

Something caught his eye through the slats of wood that covered the windows. A flash of light.

Hector's brow knit close together, and he got up from his kneel, made for the window. Adjusted the pane to better see outside. His eyes widened. "Magick, in the woods," he reported.

"Gruks, no!" Saskia sucked in a breath and watched as her own shadowed familiar withered and waned under the luminescence washing over it. She did not give herself time to think, to speak, only to step forward and once again put herself before the squire as the monster turned to face the light.

It recoiled, finding the brightness to be too much for it's sensitive eyes. In the light, Saskia saw the light reflect in the eyes, much like a cat or a fox.

The monstrous being before them struck out, and Saskia brought her sword up in time to deflect, getting up close and personal with it's scent. Doing her best not to react, shadows shuddered on the sidelines of the light and tried to become opaque and capable of damage. "Gruki! Turn off that light!" Saskia could taste the smell on her tongue, and that made her gag. Momentary loss of concentration had costed her.

With immense strength, Saskia was backhanded out of the way, straight into a strong tree trunk.

The monster roared, standing up to it's full height and baring down at the two others. The antlers that had been reported were lopsided upon it's head, as if taken from an animal and worn like a crown. It appeared to have leathery, grey skin all over, the limbs looking skeletal but capable of doing damage.

Saskia groaned and looked down at her armour, noticing the bottom line of four heavy scrapes at her chest plate. Those claws... what a weapon it was.

Whatever it was...
They didn’t even get to begin on it, when something already seized attention, drawing his fellow to the window. A flicker from the dark, clearly visible as the slats were adjusted. Kaarle met Hector’s eye as the goings on were announced.

A pale light, bright like a small sun. He’d seen it before.

Without a word, he turned on his heel and marched out, sword hilt gripped tight as he accelerated his pace down the steps. At the roadside he glanced about for the beacon, stopping for but a second that he might listen.

There were voices now too, a shrill call amongst them, but at this distance the words themselves were indistinguishable. Breath hissing through his teeth in a barely contained curse, he chose to rather be safe, than sorry.

Heading refreshed for the woodland, he cleared his previous path at haste, a great leap taking him over the ditch that separated the yard from the forest.