I am the serpent

Eddrick Brodon

A blistering desert that stretches for hundreds of miles around Nashaki, with very little relief from the baking heat.
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19 Ashan 716
The shadow of Nashaki City is dark and far-reaching, stretching across the desert for miles from first light until noon. Deep within its walls a hidden oasis, one of the only major surviving sources of water in the region, is kept under lock and key, guarded day and night by those who have found a means to turn a life-substance into something far more valuable than gold. “You would rather die with empty pockets than—”
“Submit to another tyrant? This is our cave, Nera,” Nefere cut young woman off mid-sentence, hand poised above the head of a common desert snake, ready to strike.

Fist clasped tightly around the serpent’s neck, Nefere squeezed, milking the snake’s venom over the point of one of her crossbow bolts. Dispatched, Nefere drew the point of her knife down the length of the snake’s belly and attempted to pry the skin away from her meaty prize.
“Can you eat that?” Nera asked.
Nefere cut away the head and inch down the neck and flicked it away with the end of her blade. “The body should be all right.”

Over sticks they wound the opaque flesh, holding it to the fire Nefere had managed to start using some of the basic survival tools they had been able to get together. The meat hissed and liquid rolled away from the pointed ends, curling and constricting about the stick as the heat of the fire cooked it through. The girls ate and hit the road, but not before Nefere took up her pet corn-snake, letting the serpent wind about her arm.
A gruelling climb to the top of the sand cliffs surrounding the caves let them look out over the desert sands as far as the eye could see, clear for a stretch before the heat in the air distorted their view. “There!” Nera pointed and Nefere scanned the sands, looking for their next target.
“I don’t see, where are you pointing?” She asked.
Nera closed her hands over her sister’s shoulders and whispered. “Left of the road.”
Nefere spotted the lone traveller and smirked, he would do nicely. “Got him.”

Their plan took them off-road, putting the girls directly in the path of the lone wander. Nera’s job was just to lay low with the crossbow, while Nefere took the poisoned bolts and covered them with sand, just enough that they were out of sight but still in reach. The pads of her fingers brushed the stiffened feathers and she lay down on the earth with the corn snake nestled a metre or so from her person.
When and if the man drew near, she would call out in pain as if she had been set upon by the snake. Hopefully the man would abandon his belongings to provide aide, leaving Nera, the craftier of the two, to raid his cart. It was simple but effective and had paid off many times in the past, but recent run-ins had made them cautious and if the stranger got too near or seemed ill of intent, Nefere would take a tainted bolt and stick him in the neck.
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Eddrick Brodon
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I am the serpent

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Eddrick had paused for some time; his Poko lying flat on its belly, its legs propped vertically in what often was mistaken for the sides of a wagon bed. He had draped some of his clothes over a bit of twine that he'd tied to the now-stationary legs to give some shade from the sun still hovering over a small plateau to the east. This added to the appearance of a wagon.

He knew enough of ambush tactics to know that it is best to keep the sun behind you. This was Raider teaching of the most basic variety. Anyone atop that plateau would be enjoying that very advantage right now. He also knew enough of desert survival tactics to know he'd been a fool to travel during the day. But there are times a fool's errand is the only alternative to death.

When he'd seen the bones earlier, he'd prayed to Syroa, the only Immortal he really knew by name, that it would show signs of a violent death; a broken neck, claws of some other animal lodged in spots, broken claws and teeth of its own. This would indicate the possibility of something to have fought over - like water. Were it a predator's kill, and there was no water nearby, it would have dragged it's kill out of sight. But if it was a fight over water, it might have left its kill there to maintain its claim on the precious fluid, as well as its meal. But the bones were lying in the disposition of a creature that had died of thirst.

So the ex-raider had had to make for anything that looked as if it might provide shade. The poko, luckily, was mostly unaffected by the heat. And it had made a fine crunching meal of the bones, bleached beyond anything a human could gain nourishment from. Eddrick had gratefully collected drinking water from its urine, after some simple processing that he'd been forced to learn. This had been breaks ago, and now he'd sighted the plateau, with it's hope of shade, but more importantly, he saw less of the loose sand blowing like a sheer blanket over the surface of the desert at its base.

Less sand implied more clay. More clay implied a history of water. History of water suggested the possibility of current water. There was nothing so indicative as plant life, of course. Were that the case, there would probably be a city set up already. And it would probably not welcome a deserter from the Athartian Slave Raiders; other than what could be stripped from him before his skin followed suit. But the swells of the ground did not follow the normal dune pattern. They hinted at a past puddling of water from some source.

Fortunately, his eagerness to inspect the bones earlier was not borne of dehydrated delirium. He estimated he had a good three or four breaks before that set in. It was the close call he would be testing against heat exhaustion that concerned him right now. The plateau looked far too promising to be taken unchallenged. He was not so delirious as to go rushing toward it, crying in gladness at the prospect of change...ANY change.

An arrow to the throat would be the most likely change. But he had to admit, whoever was surely up there was doing a damn good job of raising NO wisps of telltale dust to betray their presence. Perhaps he could simply make his way to the near base, where the shade was already starting to grow. But memories of Athart always made him think twice of this. The Avriel had often resorted to flights over the human sector, and punishing the inhabitants by bombarding the place with stones from so high archers were useless. This tactic could certainly be easily employed against someone camped at the bottom of a cliff. But there were often recesses in the walls that would offer some protection.

He had to know, one way or the other. He did not like to play all his cards where possible enemies could take notes. But the situation had stagnated into a waiting game that clearly favored anyone in those heights. With a resigned sigh, he took the Hawk Box from under the cloak in the deck of wooden flats that covered the back of his Poko mount, adding yet again, to its deceptive appearance.

He took "arrow", his hawk, from the box, and waved a tiny shred of dried Hopping Mouse the bird had snagged several trials before. Then he screeched a particular pattern and launched the bird with a slow, wide wave of his arm. the bird flew in a huge circle, with Eddrick's site at its center. Eddrick was not surprised to hear a sharp call as the bird soared over the open area a few hundred feet beyond the plateau.

Knowing the delay of sound travel, Eddrick knew the bird had actually made the cry as it passed over the top. Its call was the alarm call it had been trained to give at the sight of hostile men or animals. Someone was up there alright.
Last edited by Eddrick Brodon on Sun May 22, 2016 12:32 am, edited 2 times in total. word count: 883
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Nera raised the crossbow, the shrill cry of a hawk coaxing Nefere to reach out protectively for the pet snake settled in the sand near her, rolling onto her belly to mimic the actions of the lazy serpent; she crawled forwards and looked out over the desert sands. “I can shoot it from here,” Nera told her.

Nefere lifted her left hand carefully, halting any such action. Arrows were precious out here and often meant the difference between life and death in a terrain were wood was scarce. If Nera were to miss, not only would she alert the wanderer to their presence, but the fact that they were hostile. The pair would have to employ stealth or change their tactic.
“Nefere?” Nera called, seeking something more than a wave of her sister’s hand.
Nefere backed away from the edge, careful not to disturb the sands. She was thoughtful for a spell and then. “Take the weapon, go down the face of the cliffs, approach him on foot but don’t get too near. We will meet you.”
“How?”
“Through the caves,” Nefere smiled, it was the fastest way to the bottom of the cliffs, but with Nera serving as a distraction, Nefere would have time to sneak up on the man and his caravan from behind. “There,” Nefere pointed, “where the shadow meets the road, go no further, wait to see if he approaches.”
“And if he does?”
Nefere looked at the crossbow.

With poisoned arrows snatched up and girls headed their separate ways, and unless the nomad’s hawk was able to count, Nefere still believed they had the advantage. She manoeuvred the narrow passage ways as quickly as she could, grazing her knees on the way down as well as the palms of her hands. Eki, Nefere’s pet corn-snake nearing six feet in length, wound himself about her torso and neck, his sleek, brightly coloured body twisted in and out of her clothing.
Having finally stumbled into their cave, Nefere touched her tongue to the roof of her mouth and purred, waking the caracal who growled disgruntledly, stretching as she rolled forwards from the blanket she had found to curl up on, and stalked out of the cave after the huntress. The large cat-like creature didn’t have a name, the two communicating (if one dares call it that) with low hisses and pitched purrs. The cat might not listen, but she would attack if she felt threatened.
Free of the confines of the cave, Nefere carefully stepped around a well concealed trap the two of them, Nera and herself, had set up over a sheer pitfall burrowed into the bowels of the earth. Many a man had fallen to his death trying to enter the caves this way, and one misstep could spell the end, even for someone in the know. Nefere hugged the wall of the cliffs, moving between shadows in an attempt to sneak up behind the man and his mount while Nera distracted him from the front.
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Eddrick Brodon
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The situation and surroundings tickled some memory in Eddrick's thoughts as he watched the cliff face of the distant plateau. 'Something about "twin snakes" the old man had said...and the stone wall between.' he thought to himself. The road itself could be one of the "snakes", it certainly had a winding quality to it, when it could even be seen beneath the ever-shifting sands.

It was with a considerable measure of coincidence that the winds blew in such a way as to reveal it right here and now, before the plateau. And at a time when the dry remains of an old wadi were evident in a similar slinking pattern on the far side of the cliff face. The hairs on his neck rose with just a hint of intrigue. He'd seen the sign of old water from a dune top just a short ways back, and had diverted his path to check on it; signs of old water often resulted in new water beneath it. And the stone plateau was a second sign of its likelihood. A resolute dig into the old bank of the dry wadi, right at the base of the rock stood a very good chance of revealing moisture. And Eddrick had good training in turning moist sand into a drink of water.

But it had been the way the wind had gusted just in time to reveal the road...the winding road...the second of 'twin snakes', one on each end of the plateau, that had brought him to a halt. It matched what the old man, the wandering fortune teller, had said. But it was the rest of what the old man had said that gave Eddrick cause to halt in his tracks, rather than hurry toward the possibility of finding water...

'The two women. One a lure, the other the trap. Fear them not, though they mean to kill you. You must let them...' the old man had insisted. He'd said some gibberish about 'fate of the lands' and some 'joined fight against a great enemy' Eddrick remembered stifling the urge to laugh in the old guy's face. Though he had thought it all a bunch of rubbish at the time, he was not raised to mock old people, regardless of how clearly senile they may be. But as he heard a woman's voice rise to call for help, he was no longer so sure.

'Two women...One a lure...'

He'd already suspected, but the old man's words seemed to confirm it. It would be a trap. He pondered a moment, listening to the accented voice carry on about a snake bite. He returned to his Poko, rousing the creature to its insectoid feet, and coaxed it toward the voice. He already had most of the straps on his leather armor unfastened, but he subtly unhooked the rest, and pulled a single blanket, and one stuffed shape to the end of the cargo flat on the creature's back, for easier access. He had also played the "Lure and Ambush" game.

When he got within about thirty yards from where he guessed the woman's voice to be coming from, he gave both the "Rah" and the "Krii" calls to his hawk, "Arrow", to take once again to the air in a circling search pattern, and to watch for fired arrows. He then hissed a command to his Poko, and the creature went into a bizarre tantrum, drumming the ground in a circle and raising a furious cloud of sand. When it settled, Eddrick was now on his back, the blanket over his upper torso, and a good layer of sand over the blanket. He held his shortbow as well; it was already notched with an arrow.

If the woman approached, he would hear "Arrow" give a squawk right overhead, warning of the hostile presence. Time passed and, sure enough, he heard the call. He shrugged mentally, recalling what the old man had said. He would see what developed, but this might just be his way of 'letting them kill him'.

There was no reason for further delay, so he sat up abruptly, looking quickly in the direction of the padded, body-shaped dummy he'd propped on the back of the cargo flat, dressed in his red leather armor jacket. There was a girl with her back to him, a spent crossbow in her hand, and her gaze towards the bolt protruding from the dummy.

Eddrick drew back on the bow and cleared his throat pointedly. "Don't turn around. That's right, just face forward. I know you speak common from your bullshit about a snake bite. be a good girl now and set the crossbow on the board. It's spent anyway. NO don't raise your hands. I want you to take three steps forward and shout these words exactly: 'It's alright, he's dead, and there's gold in this box, come and help me carry it.' I don't doubt you have code words, so any deviation from that phrase and I put an arrow through your neck, understand? I'll be watching your hands for any odd gestures, so think very carefully about anything you feel like trying...okay, go on."
Last edited by Eddrick Brodon on Tue Apr 26, 2016 3:55 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 892
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Nera's legs shook beneath her, she had disobeyed Nefere and in doing so put them both in danger. Instinctively she put down the crossbow and made a move to raise her hands, but the man who had outsmarted her called for something else. He gave his instructions carefully giving Nera enough time to bow her head and spot from the corner of her eye, the woman she had disobeyed. Relief pooled in her belly, though her body did not physically relax. Nera made herself tense, slowly lowered her arms and through her relief, tried to remember what the man had asked her to say.
"He's dead!" Was a good start, most people would believe that, but what followed gave him away as the second verse was spoken by the young woman. "His chests have gold!"

Nefere felt the sand underfoot give as she stepped forwards as quietly and carefully as her nerves would allow, footfalls shadowed by Nera's loud but slowly spoken words. Nefere sunk to her knees, arm wrapped about the wanderer's neck, holding the point of her arrow against the gland. "We don't want your gold," she said plainly, heart pounding in her chest, "lower the weapon," she then insisted gently and looked across the sands at Nera.

Nera took up her crossbow and Nefere threw her one of the arrows to load, freeing up one of her hands to pat the man down and remove anything he might be able to do them harm with. "You should have stayed under your blanket," she uttered, "that was clever."
Tentatively, Nera drew away from the strange looking mount and pointed the loaded crossbow at the man. "Doesn't look like he has any gold anyway," she waved, "what's his name?"
"Dinner," Nefere teased, though for all Eddrick knew she was being completely serious, and pointed out one of the boiling pots, "take that." Nefere then dragged the man's weapons out of reach and eyed his blanket, it would come in handy inside the caves during the cold desert nights.

She would have Nera take it, not wanting to give the stranger any room to strike back but just as she meant to give the order, Eddrick's hawk cried out above them and Nefere looked skyward while Nera kept the man fixed in the sights of the crossbow she held.
"Time to go?"
"Time to go," Nefere agreed.
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Eddrick Brodon
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Eddrick cursed his oversight. He'd allowed the sun to become off center behind him. It still allowed him the advantage of dazzling the eyes of any foe in front of him. But it no longer gave him the warning of an approaching shadow from behind. It should have stood as credit to his experience and discipline that he did not jerk when the arrowhead pressed against his neck. But the woman, "the other" woman, was probably not interested in giving him credit for anything.

He smirked good-naturedly, "I suppose I should have realized that a claim of so much gold would not be taken seriously. Tell you what; next time I'll say it's food, okay? Do you think you'll fall for that one?" He sighed at the lack of response and handed up his short bow, noting that she did not simply slip it over her arm, but rather, moved it out of his reach. - Was it possible that they were going to leave him his weapons?

"So is that Hotlands Taipan venom on that arrowhead? That's pretty pricey shit. What do you need to go robbing a poor slob like me if you can afford that? Or...do you raise your own? Dangerous job, milking those things. We have frogs in the jungles to the west that take some real talent gleaning the toxins from their skin. I mean, how do you dip something you can't touch, eh? Well, we just use a 'steeper', just like what you use to make tea, ya know? it's no simple trick catching the little bastards in something like that though, I can tell you."

He swiveled his head to keep the woman in his line of vision as he spoke, trying to keep her attention on him as he waited to see if his Poko's previous 'drumming' routine would bring the results he desired. His mount's foot-tapping tantrum had been trained with a specific intent. The Hotland's ferocious Sand Lion would recognize it as the pattern they use to claim territory. It would come in a fury to destroy such a rival.

The giant subterranean insect would rise at the last moment to create a sinkhole in the sand, bringing anything caught in it falling into its massive lateral mandibles. It was, in effect, a Goliath Beetle gone prehistoric. The mandibles would snap its victim's spine on the first chomp, and devour it slowly after that.

Eddrick knew, however, that when confronting a rival, it would not undermine the target this way. Such battles took place on the surface. But it would not attack the Poko. there was an instinctive knowledge that this passive insect was not a rival, and as long as it took no aggressive or fleeing action, it would ignore it. The same applied to humanoids. Eddrick considered the possibility that the women knew about this giant insect and its tendencies. But the initial distraction was all he needed.

But so far there had been no sign. Arrow, still airborne would cry its warning of the creature's imminent arrival. But he too, had given no indication of its approach. Eddrick shrugged mentally and continued with the small talk, stalling for time. "Well, I guess it serves me right for listening to desert mad men, wandering around telling crazy fortunes. You know he told me that you would kill me and that I should LET YOU?"

Maybe it was his imagination, but it seemed that the woman that had held the poisoned arrow to his throat stiffened with an ever-so-brief pause. Eddrick decided he may have hit on something. "Yeah, that sandstorm...or...what do you call them...a uh...Qui'aya? Anyway, that one came through back east a few cycles ago? I saw him running out into it...well, the trailing end of it anyway, digging up sand. You believe it? As if there's not enough sand around here that you've got to go gathering it!"

He chuckled, but there was still no sign of any approaching insects... "Now, I'll admit there was a strange glitter to it, but he said he could tell my "tale to come" with it. I was fine with humoring him for a few bits, but the old bastard suddenly up and cuts me! says he needs my blood for it. But he puts a few drops in the sand, sprinkles some powder from a pouch on it, and smokes it! tells me some crap about twin snakes and a wall between, about two women, who..oh yeah, I already said that bit."

Arrow seemed to fly just a hitch in its circling, and was now inbound. "I had pretty much tossed the whole routine as ridiculous, until I saw the winding road and old stream bed...between your stone cliffs...and you being two women...Well, I guess I'm supposed to let you kill me. But I'm kind of thinking..."

Arrow suddenly shrieked overhead, and the woman looked up. The first woman still had her crossbow trained on him, but Eddrick could see a growing swell in the sand behind her suddenly erupt into horror as the Sand Lion ripped through the service hissing, and clacking its mandibles in a challenging display..."BURN THAT!" Eddrick roared as he rolled from his sandy crouch, counting on the crossbow-armed woman turning to see what was behind her as he ducked under the Poko.

It suddenly dawned on him that his escape plan - to jab the underside of his Poko as he clung to one of the straps and have it drag him out of harms way - was not going to work. Any retreating action by the Poko would draw the challenge of the Sand Lion. It looked like he was going to have to ride the situation out, along with the two women.
Last edited by Eddrick Brodon on Sun May 08, 2016 6:02 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 998
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Taipan venom, was that another word for snake venom? Nefere wondered as she pushed the point of her poisonous bolt against the man's neck to remind him who was in charge here and that he was being far too talkative if he intended to keep his tongue, something she would happily cut out and throw on the fire to eat later. "Nefere," Nera pointed over her shoulder at the man's mount, "you get the pot, I don't want to go near that thing."

Nefere sighed, half tempted to pierce the stranger's skin and be done with it, the poison would take a few bits shut down the vital organs and leave the man colder than a stone before there was time for half a break to pass. Nefere found a soft spot against his throat with her little finger and was just about to make her move when the man mentioned the Desert Wanderer, halting her. What had her mother said? Find the people of the Sky Caves, talk to the girl with tattooed hands, only she can point you to The Wanderer.
Eddricks words had gone completely unheard by his attacker, and Nefere looked ahead but saw nothing past her daydreams. "Nefere!" Nera hissed, "would you shut him up already?"

Nefere came to her senses to find the man rambling about storms and glittered sand, arm sat slack against his shoulder, reduced to the will of a child by his stories, stories her mother had used to distract her daughter from the horrors of enslavement for many an arc. Tales of the Desert Wanderer and his visions had taken her this far, beyond the shadow of Nashaki in the direction of the Sky Caves. If this man knew how to find The Wanderer, he might be worth keeping around.
What happened next left Nefere wide-eyed and frozen with fear as a creature she had only heard rumours about burst from the depths of the Hotland sands, snapping it's long snout, covered with teeth-like points to draw the sand in, creating a sizeable sinkhole in the earth. Nera lost balance and threw the crossbow forwards as Eddrick escaped Nefere's hold to hide under his mount. Nefere dived for the bow and got to her knees quickly to take aim and fire into the mouth of the beast, but when she pulled the trigger, the jolted weapon failed to release the bolt. Hurriedly, but with dumb, clumsy, panicked hands she adjusted the bolt and made sure the string was fixed behind the small, bronze nut and got to her feet, taking careful aim as the sand raced away from Nera, putting her closer and closer to the snapping jaws of the Sand Lion.
This time the bolt flew forward, pinned mid-snout to the Lion's mouth, doing little more than to irritate the creature, and not sure the poison would have any effect, Nefere loaded the crossbow a second time to serve a double dose, only to take pause before the bolt's release, screamed at by Nera for help. Not daring to get any closer, Nefere turned and made a grab for Eddrick's abandoned blanket, casting it forth as if it were a rope, with Nera attached to one side while Nefere tugged on the other end. In no time at all both women were on their feet, making a beeline for the Poko, deciding that the safest place in the desert right now was on the giant insect's back.
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Eddrick had been looking directly at the point where the Sand Lion had broken the surface. So he had seen its face turn side to side as it tried to locate its challenger. Again, he did know how much these two women knew of this creature or its behavioral tendencies. He assumed they knew that the best strategy was to hold still; that its swishing of its head this way and that was as much an attempt to locate its rival as it was a display of aggressive posturing to renew a claim of territory. He did not know that the women lived in the rock plateau and that the Sand Lion would avoid such ground.

So he was shocked briefly as he saw the two women make for his position, intent on his mount. It did not immediately matter to him whether they were intending to steal his poko, or if they were just fools. What mattered was that they were going to get his poko killed along with them. And it made his position below the poko's abdomen risky at best. If he was not trampled by his poko, turning to run as the women's proximity forced it into a challenge against the more aggressive beast, then the pursuing Sand Lion would surely do the job.

A brief flash of all his life's deeds, misdeeds and repercussions struck him, and a fatalistic shrug heaved his shoulders as he realized that this was just one more opportunity for fate to deliver punishment upon him. 'Maybe it will be that death sentence they have waiting for me back home in Athart' he sneered inwardly as he found himself rising to his feet and charging past the two retreating women toward the oncoming insectoid monster.

He did not observe whether either of the women looked at him or called him a madman as he rushed past them, a curious impulse to laugh taking control. The Sand Lion, its focus previously upon the women, did not notice Eddrick until he was right below its clacking mandibles. The man dove into a roll that carried it beyond the beast as it hesitated between its initial retreating prey, and one that now seemed to act in defiance of its claim. It had made a clumsy whirl of its jaws as the man slipped beneath it, and the frustration added to its change of target.

By the time it stopped its momentum in the ever shifting sand and turned about to give chase to its red-leathered antagonist, Eddrick had reached his Ball and Chain. He'd seen the bow, but decided in a heartbeat that its location would have diverted his momentum too much. And he had seen how little effect the one women's arrow had had. He knew that pokos were immune to Hotlands Taipan venom. It stood to reason that Sand Lions probably were too 'Just my luck.'

Once again, the direction of the sun gave him the shadow warning he needed to ward off the first snap of giant mandibles directed at his neck. He'd spun blindly, and the beast lurched back from the hiss of the chain, its carapace fluttering along several lines. Eddrick had no idea if the hiss was similar to some insect sound that recalled some fearful instinct within the mind of the monster, but it gave him pause to withhold from giving the usual feral shouts and shrieks he'd normally vent to demoralize a foe and energize himself.

They began to circle, Eddrick advancing vigorously any time the sun was in the face of the creature, and backpedaling in a circular direction whenever the sun would be coming into his own face. More than once, he got a good clout on the Sand Lion's mandible, once bringing a hiss and an odd warble from the thing, as it shook its head. This brought more laughter to his lips.

But he was getting tired. And he was starting to feel the heat again, lost briefly in the excitement of combat. The creature lunged at him one more time, and Eddrick swung the ball at the height where he'd had success before. But he went to the well once too often. The creature ducked its mandibles below the swing, jabbing them into the sand directly beneath Eddrick's feet. Eddrick realized the intent of the tactic too late, as the creature swung him up into the air in a cloud of sand.

In his arcs of animal handing, he'd seen many animals feed themselves this way, by biting off a chunk of something and tossing it up, to fall directly down their throat. As he tumbled, he saw his fate yawn open to meet him, and resolved to be as painful a bone in this monster's throat as he could before he was crushed. He had no leverage to begin any sort of swing with the ball, so he simply grabbed the long handle, holding it laterally before him, hoping to catch an end on some bit of flesh or shell.

He hoped it was not himself he heard screaming. He was certain that he'd long since accepted the death he would someday suffer, and the level of fear he was feeling did not seem sufficient to make him scream. In fact, it did not even sound like his own voice...it did not even sound human...it was far too piercing...was it the beast itself, uttering some victory cry?

He did not think so, it sounded vaguely familiar. He was surprised by an impact against a solid wall of shell, rather than a wet crushing maw. And as he tumbled down the side of the Sand Lion, he caught just a glimpse of his hawk, 'Arrow', eluding the whirling, snapping, insect's mandibles as it flew within inches of the beast's face, screeching angrily.

Eddrick got back to his feet and roared in unrestrainable triumph as hope soared anew.
word count: 1012
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Nefere
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Race: Naerikk
Profession: Bandit
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I am the serpent

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Eddrick was a madman, of this Nefere was certain. Watching him charge the sand lion caused her stomach to turn and left her on edge, a sensation akin to mild starvation, something the two of them, Nera and herself had suffered from many a time in the last half arc. Knowing little about the habits of a sand lion, Nefere was sure Eddrick was not fighting the beast for sport, not after initially running from it; there had to be something more. The Poko shifted under their feet nervously, an action that saw both women duck. Quickly Nefere handed her snake to Nera and made sure the crossbow was fitted with another bolt, latching the last remaining poisoned bolt to her belt.
With such unstable turf beneath her, Nefere took extra care with her shot, lining it up and firing only when she was sure she would not strike Eddrick, not that it would matter... Perhaps if the beast had his meal the rest of them would be free to go, and the madman seemed willing if nothing else. As the trigger saw the string released and bolt fired, the woman was almost sure that from this distance there was little she could do to help, but getting any closer would make her almost as crazy as him.
It was then the hawk dived, as man and bird looked to trade places between earth and sky, that Nefere realised the sand lion had a weakness. She snapped up the poisoned bolt and dropped her crossbow to leap from the Poko's back, take up the abandoned blanket at the strange Insect's feet and make the mad dash across the sands to the hole in the sand. Pitched across from Eddrick she looked the man in the eyes briefly before moving back from the twisting snout of the sand lion. Divide and conquer, it wasn't much of a strategy, but it would give them a chance.
The woman stared down at the big, glassy eye of the beast, the size of a large, upturned clay bowl, always watching and constantly moving. If she hadn't known it before then she could have sworn now that the sand lion was a reactive predator, turning to snap at which ever of the pair made the most or nearest movement. The hawk's brave little dive had shown her that the sand lion relied on his site, but could he also sense their weight distribution through the sands? If they could just get the creature's mouth closed, she thought...
Nefere wasn't sure if the sand lion had one eye or two. From where she stood there was just the one, but she had to assume there was a second. "Go for the eye!" She yelled across the snapping sinkhole to Eddrick, timed her move just right and then whipped the blanket from over her shoulder into the creature's open mouth. The sand lion could taste that its latest catch was not of the edible variety, but a more pressing concern saw it thrash back and forth like a fish out of water. It's sight had been compromised and lacking the ability to spit, without swallowing the blanket would remain blind, the length of its face covered on either side, with the middle of the blanket held firmly between its jaws.
If Eddrick would not make his move, Nefere would slip down into the pit on her backside and attempt to pin the beast's snout underfoot before plunging the poisonous bolt into the sand lion's eye.
word count: 606
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Eddrick Brodon
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Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2016 3:05 pm
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The woman's sudden arrival caught Eddrick's eye and he locked eyes for a moment. He was not sure if she had any plan in mind, but it was exhilarating to see that she'd returned to lend a hand, or bow, '...or blanket??'

She shouted something about going for the eyes. Eddrick bit back a snide reply. 'Of course you go for the eyes!' he snarled inwardly. 'Everything else is cased in armor!' And what was more, he'd only just realized that the creature had nestled itself back into its original sinkhole. And while that did allow for a better trajectory to target the eyes, it also caused a major shift in the sand beneath his feet.

He found himself sliding right up against the side of the beast's head, near the back. He could see the very end of the blanket, fluttering around the edge of where the open mouth must be, the mandibles still protruding, aggressively snapping at his hawk as it still passed back and forth in the Sand Lion's face.

All at once it occurred to him that the woman with the bow may have been telling him that she was planning to shoot at the eyes. His hawk would be making that very difficult, unless she did not care if she killed it in the process. Well HE cared! He needed to get the Arrow out of the way so the woman could shoot safely.

Inspiration struck him and he called to Arrow, as he rifled through his pockets for one of his training treats. "KAI-EE, Kloo-lay, kloo-lay" he shrieked in his highest possible register, and tossed the rolled meat snack to his left, atop the sinkhole's edge. Arrow dove for the meat, bring the beast's snapping mandibles after him. This brought the left side of the Sand Lion's face right into Eddrick's direct field of vision, the mandibles stretching across the span in front of him.

He was not sure if this was what the woman had in mind, but he could clearly see a wide eye on this left side of the monster's face. It stood to reason that common symmetrical design would place a second eye in the corresponding spot on the other side, which would now be facing the woman. He needed to keep the beast's face in this position for just a few ticks.

He rose as best he could and swung the ball free, needing a single pass to begin the needed momentum. Fortunately, this caught the creature's attention, which made it turn even slightly more in this direction; exactly what Eddrick needed. This compression of the panels of carapace from the Sand Lion's tight facing towards him caused a few to overlap just enough to expose a few edges.

In a single motion, Eddrick swung the ball, causing the chain to wrap twice around the nearest mandible, as he shoved the handle under the edge of one of the insects armored plates. The big insect instinctively pulled away from the sudden feeling of ensnarement. But it stopped in painful frustration, as its effort tore the armor plate partially away, allowing Eddrick to jam the handle of his weapon even further in.

There it was...that brief span of ticks where the beast did not know how to undo the painful jam of the weapon under its armor without doing even more damage to it. The creature's right eye must now be facing the woman with the bow. Eddrick hoped she was at least decently skilled with the thing.

"DO IT NOW!" he shouted as the strain started to crack the wood of the handle where the chain was connected.
word count: 635
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