Thea showed her teeth, the fury of battle already riding through her veins, driving her forward towards the Death Cultist that the Ghosthound’s Incinerating Bolt knocked to the ground. She would be the one who had the honor of proving this pointlessly gloomy blind woman wrong.
The Death Cultists’ wings and arms were one and the same, which gave them a very strange body shape. They had tiny wastes, although their legs appeared very strong, and ended in sharp talons. But their arms were long and had an extra joint, growing thicker as the appendage approached the torso. Near its broad shoulders, the arms were almost as thick as a dinner plate, but they narrowed to as skinny as a teenage girl’s arm near the end.
The thing staggered to its feet, somewhat disoriented from the fall, right as Thea arrived. Without giving it a chance to catch its bearings, Thea slammed her hammer down towards its head. But to her surprise, the thing brought one of its tiny, 4 finger hands up and caught the hammerhead with its long fingers.
It grunted, and sagged to the side, thrown off balance, but otherwise ignored the damage.
The other arm windmilled upward and slammed downwards towards Thea, and she was forced to roll forward, out of the way. Luckily, this was one of her favorite new moves, and as she straightened she whipped her hammer around, striking it in its ribs. But her hammer rebounded off of its strangely elastic bones.
Gritting her teeth, Thea hopped backward, but wasn’t able to dodge the creature’s arm, which came around like a whip, smashing her sideways with enough force to knock the air out of her lungs.
It opened its mouth and spoke some gibberish, waving its arms hatefully, and an arrow slipped into its open mouth and sunk into the soft flesh at the back of its throat. This certainly got the Death Cultist’s attention, and it began to frantically claw at the arrow, trying to pull the shaft out, freeing up its airways.
This was not an opportunity that Thea was willing to let pass.
Now that she had been hit in the battle, she could feel the heat pumping through her, making her faster, stronger, angrier. But she didn’t even care, she simply growled and threw herself forward, her hammer smashing back and forth, aiming for its more vulnerable leg joints. They were thick, but not as unnaturally overdeveloped as its upper torso.
The first strike hit the side of its left knee and made it stumble somewhat, but then it quickly identified the threat and brought the other arm down to block the strike against its other knee. Again, her blow rebounded off its arm almost as if she had struck rubber, sending her back a step, and she looked up to see the monster staring hatefully down at her, tears of hatred in its eyes as it forcibly chomped down on the arrow shaft.
She spat in its face for good measure, then thrust her hammer into its face, hearing a satisfying crunch as she broke it pointed nose.
It reeled back in pain, and two arrows shot forward, ripping through the muscles of its leg, making it topple over. Thea raised her hammer, but it was a fraction of a second too late.
Chrysanthemum barreled past her, and within a second, it had grabbed the monster’s head in her jaws. There was an audible crunch.
Almost annoyed, Thea huffed and let her hammer drop to her sides. Then she walked forward and rubbed Chrysanthemum’s head. As her bear began to feast on the body, using her paw to hold it down as she ripped off large chunks of flesh, Thea turned and looked towards the other Death Cultist. Alana was standing over it, cleaning blood off of her spear.
“I can see why you fear them,” Alana said casually, as she inspected the blade of her spear. “It’s skin is thick. It takes a great deal of force to penetrate its skin. Thea, how well did blunt force work?”
Thea just grunted, trying to act casual as she picked a bit of imaginary hair off of her own hammer. It wouldn’t sound very cool to admit that her damage had been rather minor, until Chrysanthemum moved in and crushed its skull…
“Poorly,” Annie answered for her, with an annoying bout of cheering. “Penetrating sensitive areas is still better. But these would be annoying in larger groups. Anything Rose?”
“A Rare Rarity physical constitution boost, high Level too.” Rose mused, walking over to one of the bodies, the one Chrysanthemum wasn’t determined to rip into thin rags. “Basic Fighting Proficiency, but no other Skills… it’s hard to believe that this is all they have. Oh, and a pretty powerful general Magic Resistance Skill.”
“I noticed,” Clarissa said sourly, folding her arms.
Ace leaned over towards Lucifer, tapping the other man’s large sword. “Would be nice if we had something to talk about, eh?”
Lucifer just snorted, and folded his arms. But it was in such a way that it looked very similar to Clarissa’s pouty stance. Ace burst out laughing. Thea wasn’t sure if Lucifer had done it on purpose, so she only smiled slightly, watching his response. He barely even seemed to notice, however.
Ghousthound’s mouth twisted, and then he looked at Aratta. “How many of them are there?”
Aratta was sitting down, shaking her head. Thea grinned. Apparently, the shock of seeing them so easily deal with them had shaken her a little. Which she supposed was fine, but it was a little insulting. After all, their party was 10 people, 11 including Aratta. If two of them could suppress them… then what was the point of even going to their Eyrie…?
If that were true, the level of difficulty…
“There are… about a thousand per Eyrie.” Aratta looked up, but her voice sounded determined now. “These are just the foot soldiers, there are powerful Red Death Cultists, and then above them the Shadow Cultists. It’s rumored that each Eyrie has a White Death Cultist leading it, surveying the area, gathering all the treasures within its purview…”
Everyone, even Thea, perked up at the mention of treasures. After all, they still needed to find the Death Key before they could depart from this place. It was easy to forget, but outside of the Raid Dungeon the rest of the Zone was slowly starving, the very Aether seeping out into the void. If they didn’t move quickly…
But Thea anxiously hoped they still had time. Considering the time difference, it shouldn’t have been that long since they came in here right? And during that time, there would first be Aether Sickness, so even if it was uncomfortable…
Idly, she wondered what Simon was doing. Whether he was laying somewhere, curled up, worriedly watching the rest of the Zone. Even though there was very little he could do, and watching only would make him more upset, he was the type of boy that would look anyway…
Shaking her head, Thea tuned back into the conversation occuring in front of her.
“So we just break down the door and charge right in? How unique and inspired.” Ace was saying, chuckling slightly. “Still, you know I don’t mind. I love a good entrance.”
“You must be extremely careful,” Aratta warned. “The Cultists… most of their physical strength comes from the forbidden rituals that they perform. If they realize an attack is coming, their leader will begin a very powerful ritual. Once you are within the Eyrie, you must rush to the central chamber. If they are allowed to complete it…”
The blind woman looked down, her fingers flexing. “…a hundred times… No…. Two hundred times the strength of the basic warrior…! Their bodies will be like a god’s….!”
Thea wanted to roll her eyes, and was pleased to catch the Ghosthound smiling like a wolf. So it wasn’t just her then, that felt the presence of a challenge as something incredible. The chance to feel the burning heat of battle, to lose yourself in that pure ecstacy…
“…Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.” Rose said, looking around at the group, then up at the sky with a frown. “We’ve still got a fair bit of ground to cover before night, then let’s camp there. Tomorrow-”
“If you do not rush, they will come to you.” Aratta said urgently.
Rose just smiled helplessly. Lucifer chuckled, and began walking forward. Ace walked over to Aratta and patted her back, a sinister smile on his face.
“That’s what we are counting on,” Ace said. And then he stood and walked forward, heading North towards the Eyrie. Thea clicked her tongue and Chrysanthemum walked over towards her. She patted her partner’s side and hopped onto her back, following the rest of the group.