Chapter 16: Madness
Almonihah camped just short of the Line that night, and then crossed it in the morning. It was quiet on the other side of the line, but he could feel the wrongness in the air. Ignoring the feeling, he pressed forward, moving quickly. Falloen’s writings had made clear that making the journey quickly was essential, in order to complete it before running out of supplies.
The first two days of travel were uneventful. The half-dragon traveled warily, ate sparingly, and made sure to use water that was flowing in from the other side of the line. This close to the Line, it was still safe to drink water if it was coming from outside the Madlands. Later that wouldn’t be the case, so he needed to conserve his supplies as well as he could.
It was partway through the third day when Almonihah finally became aware that something was stalking him. He’d been expecting this, so much so that he was somewhat surprised it had taken this long. Regardless, he had to figure out what he’d do with the thing now.
Almonihah had turned hunter into prey many times before when facing Javni’Tolkhrah, so he easily fell into his usual tactics. Doubling back to get throw off pursuit and try to get a glimpse at the beast, going around a large tree and then climbing the other side of it and keeping watch for a while, and so forth. This Javni’Tolkhrah seemed pretty clever, as it took him a while to finally catch sight of it, but he eventually did.
It was a rather bizarre monstrosity, even for a Javni’Tolkhrah. It had probably been a deer, once—a big buck, though certainly not as big as it was now. It was covered from head to tail in antlers, that stuck out in every direction and seemed tangled with one another. And most disturbingly, sharp teeth jutted out from its oversized jaw. Overall, it looked like the kind of thing Almonihah wouldn’t want close to him.
Instead, he looked for a good spot to hide in ambush for it. It didn’t take long to find a little rock outcropping that was just high enough that it wouldn’t be able to reach him. Quickly, he climbed up, then lay flat to wait for its approach.
It wasn’t long before the Javni’Tolkhrah came into view. Carefully, Almonihah rose to a crouch, nocked and drew and arrow, and then loosed. The arrow sizzled through the air, straight to its mark, but when it struck, it somehow became tangled in the antlers around the beast’s body, though it did shear bits of them off.
The half-dragon grunted as he drew another arrow, but just then the ground underneath him gave way. Quickly, he rolled with it and jumped off, landing on his feet, but now in a vulnerable position. Sensing this, the Javni’Tolkhrah charged at him, making some strange, gargling noise as it did. Almonihah recognized an opportunity and fired at its open mouth, but the monster swerved aside. The arrow did manage to penetrate its tangle of antlers to graze its flank, but the beast just seemed to be angered by the injury.
Drawing another arrow, the Ranger waited for his quarry. At the last possible moment, he dove aside, then rose and fired another arrow. This one found its mark, driving into the Javni’Tolkhrah’s rear thigh. It screamed in pain, stumbled a bit, but then turned to renew its attack. The stumble had given Almonihah time to draw another arrow, and this time the monster didn’t turn aside as the arrow plunged into the roof of its mouth.
Still it refused to fall, but rather stood there and shook its head, foul smoke trickling from its mouth as the magic on the arrow burned its flesh. Calmly, Almonihah drew and fired again. This time, it dropped, an arrow in its eye. Almonihah considered his kill for a moment, but decided to just travel on. If it got to its feet and chased after him again, he’d just kill it more thoroughly next time, and if it went the other way, well, the Ranger on the Line would kill it more thoroughly. And if it really was dead, he was saving himself some time by not making more certain it wasn’t going to get back up.
So, I realized I mislabeled the last post. I’ve now fixed it. THIS is the start of chapter 16. So I’ve now gone back and fixed that.
In other news, I’m hoping to get back to the Saturday update schedule. Hopefully I’ll keep up with it this time.