Log:Ashoka's Hunt for the Feast
|Ashoka's Hunt for the Feast
Its eyes were simpler than its mouth.
20 December, 2019
Ashoka goes a-hunting.
Ashoka's scout took their sweet time. The missive the knight received spoke of looking for something worthy of the noble warrior. A truly great foe to match that of his skill. As if they just remembered how close things were he received an answer on the day before the Feast.
A thing, terrible and woeful to behold. A beast had terrorized the trod since winter's cold had reached Vermont. It was described it as reptilian, massive. Not a dragon. Definitely not a dragon. This was mentioned several times throughout. It did breathe fire, but that was coincidence. Mostly.
It's path of destruction weaved in and out of the trod. Hobs near and on the mountain spoke of this magnificent beast, but none could wholly describe it. It left little in its wake save fire and death. It was, at least, last said to be heading down the mountain after killing Akili Hanson, a local grifter of meager infamy.
With what Ashoka knew, the thing would only be easily attacked and seen at night. Just as most predators make their crawl during the night, he could see some its path coming from Stoneheart. What little light there was came from the judge's moon half-gaze only just shining through the sea of grey high above.
The creatures of the grove are silent save the distant howl of some beast, and the scuttling of some critter. Despite the fact that he's alone he can still hear something. Far enough away and hidden in the darkened green that he's unlikely to make it out, but just close enough that he could hear something every so often. The earth beneath his feet was hardening from the cold, although the light snows from earlier in the week give it just enough give that his armored boot leaves behind a trail for him or any would be creature to follow.
Ashoka is not silent, and certainly isn't difficult to notice in the dark. The Sun's Mantle ensures that he is a beacon of pale golden light, glints of it reflecting off of every fold and crease in his attire. Plants yearn toward him as they would the sun, though mounted as he is, the latter effect is dampened somewhat. The creature IS rather large, and does block his Mantle's access to plant matter.
Paying close attention when he hears the sounds, the knight does his best to pinpoint just what is making them.
It's just barely there. More shadow than something he could touch. A pair of glowing red eyes trailing behind him in the trees. As it moves from branch to branch it makes no sound save the rustling of leaves. It seems to be moving just outside of the light and pull of Ashoka's mantle. If the knight turns the creatures skitters away again, just out of eyesight behind the trees.
As seconds turn to minutes Ashoka can hear the rumbling of something. The earth doesn't shake, but the trees definitely do. The smell of burnt offal stings the air, and light can be seen ahead. He's on the right path, but there's no sight of the beast as of yet. Further still he can makeout the carnage as he approaches. Bodies torn asunder, either burnt jet black or left as nothing more than bones with cooked meat hanging from the bone. A look above reveals a still clear sky, and still no sign of anything else nearby.
The Sun pauses outside the range of the destruction, carefully studying what he can see of it without muddling the trail or otherwise destroying the evidence with his mount's own tracks. He pats the beast's neck, avoiding a spike, and frowns down at the torn up soil of the trod before checking the trees, gaze never lingering long in one place. Side to side, up, down, a careful swivel.
Most of what can be made out is a charred mess. What clues he can find tell him what he was already told. A beast leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake. The footprints left behind are big enough that even the foot his already massive mount cant equal in comparison. As the Wizened watches for clues something else watches him. Ever still in the trees, those red eyes following his every movement.
This part of the hedge should be noisy. It usually is. Either with the resident hobgoblins, things passing on and over the trods, or the typical wildlife present. However, there's nothing on the wind aside from the crunch of something much further away, somewhere hidden amid the trees. The footprints lead in that same direction, but they disappear right at the treeline.
The earth trembles beneath their feet. Altogether it seems like nothing too major. Then the earth opens up right under his mount. The beast is aple to jump away when jaws big enough to swallow Ashoka whole rise up from the ground along with a geyser of melting earth.
The creature pulls itself from the earth, with limbs big enough that the Wizened can't even wrap his arms around them. The thing looks to be mostly head until it pulls more and more of itself from the earth as puddles of fiery ground pool around it.
Ashoka's grip tightens on the reins as his mount moves suddenly beneath him, shifting weight and balance to stay in the saddle without impeding his beast. Pale eyes narrow, and he guides his mount around the creature, keeping his side to it so he can attempt to find any weak spots without leaving himself unduly vulnerable.
The scaly beast lets out a roar as molten spit drips from its maw. With a mighty roar it bites at Ashoka, and immediately lets go when spiky sand jabs into its mouth. As it does so fiery spittle sails all around them.
Ashoka yells when the creature's teeth puncture his silver coat, recoiling, but maintains his seat. Before the flames can rise beyond the site of the damage, he nudges his mount with his heels and charges toward the scaly beast's flank, sword raised, then slashes at it as the mount tries to trample it on its way past, galloping a good distance out of the way.
The beast roars in pain once more. Once cut it rears back, and when doing so leaves itself vulnerable. Her beast of a mount ends up clawing it up. Not enough to kill it, but enough that it stamps back down with its clawed hands onto the ground. Molten blood spills everywhere. It pulls itself down, almost as quickly as it came out of the earth. It leaves a trail of burning hot ichor while it disappears from sight, and rumbling that soon turns into a whisper.
Ashoka checks behind himself as his mount gallops ahead of the creature, and when he sees it sink into the earth again, he frowns to himself and listens hard for the vibrations of its passage. Just in case, he has the mount run defensively.
The beast is nearing him. Fast and circling like a shark in the water. The gargantuan of a beast was moving below, and tightening its path with great haste. The ground shows that telltale rumble again, it grows nearer and nearer by the second.
As rider and beast are moving they can see it again. The whatever it is moving about the trees. Watching them again, the stranger seemingly ephemeral in the pale moonlight. It was gone for a moment, but with the beast now the one to disappear it shows itself again. Just barely.
Ashoka waits until the beast beneath the ground has circled and begun a circuit -away- from him, then directs his mount to sprint ahead while HE keeps an eye on the strange glowing eyes within the trees.
The beast continues circling around. As if waiting for the perfect moment. It comes near the surface as the ground shakes further, but eventually goes back down. It never rises too far as Ashoka still moves around.
While it moves around those eyes dart from one tree to the next. With each passing second the creature comes a bit closer, especially when Ashoka goes further back. With every time Ashoka nears the opposite treeline the creature dips further down underground only to come further up.
Ashoka tests the watcher and the underground beast, but when the pattern seems likely to continue, he calls upon the powers of his Court and, not so incidentally, creates a beacon of light for anything in the vicinity which can see the sky, flooding the area around that patch of vague shadowy watching eyes in an effort to make SEEING what the bugger is easier.
No matter how much and where they moved the rumbling from below continued. The beast was surging up once more. The nearer it got the hotter the ground got. Second by second right behind its prey. Then it happens. The moon's lidded gaze was met with a brillient truth that brought everything before the sun's light.
The shining question was answered by booming sound from underground. The trees rustled as something fell from it, and on the way it snaps branch after branch before hitting the earth with a thud. Red scales covered every inch of its body. The thing was a foot long from head to tail. Maybe, and just maybe, a few inches longer. Pointed ears topped its scaly head, and currently it was clutching both of them with its stubby fingers. It kicked at the air, eyes slammed shut as it rolled from side to side.
The mouthless thing writhes in pain. That blinding light is too much. It brings one of its hands to block out some of the light, and, praise be, there's a bit of shade to block out that oh so painful brilliance. That moment of respite comes with its torso being rent open. It tries to push away. Kicking, and in the next second it stops moving. As its innards spill from a sweeping cut. Fiery blood drops from the now gaping wound, burning what little grass remains around as it slips from the mortal coil.
The earth was moving up again, rushing and shaking. A gout fire surges from the ground until the beast is above ground again. It's only a few meters away, and it lashing at the nearby trees. Its roars come like a rumbling volcano as it spews a torrent of fire where the small creature died. Smoke and fire being to border the melee as it continues its thundering outry of pain.
Ashoka keeps control of his mount when the gouts of fire surge up so close by, maintaining a firm hand on the reins, and when it seems focused on the spot where the smaller creature died, the Sun swings around to strike it from the side, avoiding the earth and torn-up greenery that is already aflame. His sword flashes in the summoned sunlight, bright and sharp.
The beast pulled more of itself from the earth, revealing more of its massive length. The gargantuan, girthy thing continues thrashing, and scratches out where anything might be. To the left it goes and nearly knocks down a tree. To the right it swings its claws, just barely knicking Ashoka with a swipe at his arm.
Ashoka tries to dodge the wild thrashing of the enormous beast, but doesn't dodge quite well enough, jerking in the saddle when a swipe of its claws batters his arm. With another shout, he urges his mount to trample the beast yet again, and gets a lucky strike this time, sword biting and cutting deep. When he sees that the creature has fallen, he studies it, then guides his mount closer, picking his way between the raging fires, to perform a cautious coup de grace, wary of further burns.
The beast leaves this world with one last steamy breath. Its blood burns the ground where it spills, and the spray of ichor only made it worse. Fires burn all around them. The bodies of the beast remain unharmed by the steadily growing blaze that's only worsened by the blowing winds.
Pity his 'scout' didn't stick around. Hien's particular gifts regarding rainstorms would be useful right about now.
Ashoka slings his leg over, dropping to earth with a jingle of harness and tack, and goes about doing what he can to scuff dirt over the fires he can safely stamp out.
Ashoka would be making Smoky proud right now. However, for each fire he puts out on the trod the trees on both sides continue to burn. Smoke begins to choke the grove, and what few flora and fauna were around and hidden flee. Even a few of the trees start moving, and their screams of pain and terror ring out.
As things potentially began to look dire the clouds break. From on high water begins to fall, drop by drop. The belly of the sky is cut open, and a torrent begins to follow. Fires turn to steam, soon turning to smoke as the rainfall smothers every inch of the blazing wood. Things quickly turn from blazing hot to freezing cold, and there's little to stop the cold hand of the weather from draining out every bit of heat from anything around.
Stamping out a last flame, Ashoka flinches when the skies open up, squinting into the downpour with a quiet, patient endurance. Studying the speed at which it puts out the fires, he straightens his gloves, wipes his sword clean with some torn-up grass, then sheathes it to free his hands, shield slung over his back to rest in its customary spot.
After some work at finding spots which haven't been cut, and aren't likely to drip that fiery blood on the rope, he has his mount back up, and works at fastening ropes to the beast's harness, then to the enormous beast, lashing the thing by the wrists to make it easier to drag. The smaller beast is carefully brought over to the larger, and lashed within its jaws as an improvised container.
To spare the mount the weight, the Sun walks beside it, and urges it to try hauling the corpse Stoneheart-ward.
The trip back up the mountain is a slow, laborious one. The insufferable cold only making it that much worse. The freezing rain slows their stride in the worsening mud. It seems like the storm will go on nearly forever until it finally relents. The rain storm is gone faster than it's arrival with its sudden end.
There comes a call for the night from the trees. Sitting tehre, legs dangling and kicking as he watches the haul. He whistles sharply, loud enough that any would be predators have something else to follow aside from the trail of blood. "I knew that honker was big, but wow. Just wow."
Despite the rain he appears to be as dry as the desert save his typical sheen. Hien's dressed in a tanktop and shorts, hair tied back into pigtails with two neon blue ribbons. "Can I pick 'em, or can I pick 'em?"
The mount heaves a deep and gusty breath, sagging a bit in the harness when Ashoka urges it to a stop upon spying Hien there in the trees. Ashoka himself, now, is still spattered with mud and muck and the results of helping that mount drag the long corpse so far, and regards Hien's dry-as-a-desert appearance with mild disapproval, then indicates the lashing around the creature's jaws. "Its eyes were simpler than its mouth."
Being a responsible horseman, or...uh, 'beast'man doesn't quite sound right. Rider? Yes. We'll go with that. Being a responsible rider, the Sun takes this time to check the fastenings on his mount's harness, to check the tough hide beneath the saddle for any signs of chafing or discomfort.
He tilts his head, and rubs at the back of his neck. "Eyes?" he echoes. His gaze darts to the thing in the beast's maw. "I see. Is that like a kid or something?" He shrugs. "Still, it looks like you're more than fine."
Ashoka ducks down to study the belly strap, voice muffled a bit by the mount's body as he answers, "The smaller creature hid within the trees. Red eyes, glowing. Watching. When the large one was underground, the small one watched. Whether their relationship was one of symbiosis, or whether they were parts of one creature, I do not know. Sudden light blinded the small one. The larger went berserk when the smaller was killed."
"I see. Well, partly. When I went hunting I only saw the the big one." Ashoka gets another shrug from the Beast. "I probably missed it because I can see so well." He smiles, wickedly so with all those teeth. "I wouldn't know who might have done that, but oh well. All's well that ends well, yeah? Speaking of, how's that thing taste?"
Signaling to his mount to start dragging the beast again, Ashoka pats the weary creature's side, then starts walking alongside it. "Help get it inside, and try it for yourself."
Bubbly laughter erupts from Hien, and he has to hold onto the branch to steady himself. An aquatic monkey clambers from his back to his left shoulder. "I am not strong enough to lift that thing, but I can cheer you on." He lifts an arm, shouting. "You can do it! C'mon! Put you bakc into it!" At the same time the little seamonkey joins in on cheering the Wizened, although his squeaky words clearly aren't English.