284 Dark of Nigh
"T-Take it! Of course, you can have it!" Lux's voice shook when he spoke, the stench of his soiled pants made this a day he was already planning on forgetting if he survived. The Loutian road was the easiest way through the mountain pass that isolated Neva from the rest of Everspire. The Neva province marked the far southern point of Everspire, its only city of relevance was Ever Flame.
Pale alien eyes ignored the man who had attempted to rob her, he should have paid closer attention to her mount who now had him pinned down beneath its razor-sharp claws. Mina stared at the map the man had been carrying. There was no map of Everspire on the huds of new arrivals, it would slowly fill in as you explored the continent. "How accurate is this map?"
"I drew it myself, it's an exact replica of the lower provinces." Lux's words were ragged, the serenely beautiful woman had cold eyes. He secretly swore he'd no longer try his luck on the 'Pirate Road' if she let him go.
"According to your map, this pass exits Neva and there are four provinces through the mountains; Dhou, Mocai, Vespri, and Lana." Mina folded the map carefully and stowed it in her inventory. "I need to find a large city, a central area to conduct a search."
"Free Trader's City!" Lux spoke desperately trying to buy some of her goodwill. "All four provinces converge there, it's the largest city in lower Everspire."
Mina nodded to herself and had her Vilas back away, however, three more appeared out of the underbrush and surrounded him. "I can't let you live of course," her voice was cold and emotionless. "My friends will eventually come this way, I should remove any possible dangers from their path."
"WAIT!" Lux screamed when the Vilas closed on him. "I know an expert! They can find anyone, no matter where they've gone! Y-You're looking for someone right?"
"Yes," Mina admitted.
"My life for the name of someone who can help! I'm a horrible person who has lived a life of debauchery and sin! Let me redeem myself!"
"Nonoa lives in the Free Trader City! Ask for her in the Market. She tracks people down for credits!"
"Nonoa?" Mina considered it for a moment before ordering her Vilas to retreat. "You've bought your life."
Lux watched her ride away, she didn't threaten him further but left without saying anything else. His body shook as he started weeping. Somehow the gods had favored him by letting him escape certain death.
Nix held onto Soup's shell as they descended into the depths of the Lake. His thermal vision showed that the dark depths were teeming with life. Several Lake Otters started to approach but quickly veered off and retreated when they sensed the Sea-Turtle. "Looks like you have some fans Soup."
The lake was the deepest he had ever heard of, they had traveled nearly half a mile down before the first signs of vegetation started to show. The lake bed was a rock-filled mixture of valleys, ravines, and steep inclines.
A sudden flash of blackness warned Nix that a predator had found them.
Soup has stunned a Clandestine Otter.
[Lance: Gemini Flame]
Nix flashed toward the otter and sunk his lance deep into the throat of the attacker. Soup grabbed the stunned animal by the head and wrenched suddenly.
A Clandestine Otter has been slain.
"Turtle power!" Nix pulled his skinning knife. The otter was about fifteen feet in length.
[Do you wish to skin a Clandestine Otter]
24 Clandestine Otter Pelts have been added to your inventory.
Nix used his knife to dig out the stone from between its eyes. It was a clear stone roughly the size and shape of a marble.
Description: A clear stone of
great beauty and elegance.
Your first attack is undetectable.
[Can the Clandestine Otter Meat?]
45 cans of Clandestine Otter Meat have been added to your inventory.
"Clandestine? Was that bastard stealthed Soup? Or did we just miss him." Nix moved closer to the massive sea turtle.
The duo continued to explore, no more of the hidden dangers decided to test them. Soup chewed on some of the nearby vegetation while Nix investigated the immediate area. One particular object caught his attention.
Nix stared at the dome-like structure. "That look like a building Soup?"
The sea turtle drifted closer, without a doubt to guard him. Nix kept a hand on her shell while they moved closer. A perfectly round entrance that was roughly his height. He placed a hand on the smooth surface and then swam inside. The inside of the domed room had splined ridges on the ceiling and floor. Another entrance was in view directly across from the first door. After a few minutes of exploring he exited through the original door and rejoined Soup.
"It's odd. There's no other structures or anything, but something like that doesn't occur natur..." Nix stared at the dome for a few moments, then glanced back at Soup. "Holy shit Soup."
A few minutes later the two made their way back to the surface, the sun was just starting to set so Nix climbed up on Soup's shell to use the last warmth of the day to dry off. He drifted off for a bit and when he woke it was completely dark.
"Stay in the water tonight Soup. I'm going to find a tree to sleep in."
Nix has activated his bloodline.
[Second Form: Salamander]
The emerald salamander yawned widely and started inspecting the nearby trees for a suitable place to rest. Within a few minutes, Nix found a large tree that had a waist-thick branch shooting out of it about halfway up. He scampered effortlessly up the rough bark and found a comfortable position to sleep.
A few miles to the north, the scout of the pack turned toward the moon and howled. The scent of blood filled his nostrils as his lonesome summons echoed in the night air. The Dire wolf was the size of a warhorse. It had endless endurance and teeth that were made for tearing flesh from bone. Three dozen of them had spent the last hour running their prey to ground.
The man finally made a mistake, the long strides that had been maintaining his lead shortened when he saw that his path ended in a natural rock wall that rose up a hundred feet out of the forest. He cursed silently before bringing out his weapon.
The scout wolf made a mistake and was killed instantly by a single strike from his hammer. The fighter wore heavy plated armor and wielded five feet of hammer that weighed more than a hundred pounds. He quickly retreated and placed his back against the wall.
The fight carried into the night, Dire wolves would charge from multiple directions before retreating. A handful of dead wolves littered the ground around him however, they had managed to inflict a handful of wounds on him that were bleeding steadily.
"You're all bitches!" He spat blood at them through his bared teeth. His lean brown face showed no fear. They retreated a few meters, giving him a brief respite. His short brown hair was red from blood and although his breath came in deep heaving gasps, there was no quit in him.
The end came in a sudden charge from multiple sides, the pack Alpha, who was nearly double the size of the other wolves clamped down on his wrist and sent his only weapon flying into the air. Several jaws clamped down on him, tearing flesh and sending his blood spraying everywhere.
Jaro screamed in frustration, his vision darkening while his lifeblood spilled onto the ground.