Norgrund held his breath as he hid behind the hillrigde that looked down into the swooping valley. The sky was a dimming blue as the sun was being drawn to west, ready to offer its final sigh. Though, he wondered if the day was holding its breath, for fear of dappling the land in darkness while a nightmare roamed across it.
In these strange parts, the spirit walker was grateful for his attentiveness as a warrior, while wading through the foreign land. His journey had been blissfully free of any misfortune, but it had not dimmed his senses to the imminent dangers that could present itself at any given moment. But this new enemy had taken him unawares. If not for the glint of black hide that showed up between the high blades of grass, he would have likely walked right into his end.
This was not a situation that Norgrund often faced; if ever. As a spirit walker, his attunement to the earth was like an intuitive perception of the world, allowing him to perceive danger leagues away before even facing it. His connection with the land was that powerful. Yet, ever since the mountain, he felt a sickness seeping into the soil. Uncertain as to what he would encounter, he decided to sever his connection until the foreboding in the pit of his stomach subsided. He thought that the malingering ailment of the spirit would dissipate as he ventured beyong the mountainside that was ravaged by that spell; yet, it never did. In fact, something far more corrupting had replaced the tension that the glacial graveyard of his troubled kinfolk had created.
And now, looking at the beast in the field, he could perhaps fathom why…
He did not need his shamanistic gifts to tell him that the being was a sisister presence. He knew it by the silence that permeated the valley, as if the thing was siphoning the very life from the surrounding field. Nothing moved, nothing stirred, only the long grass through which it slowly waded…
Norgrund wondered if he could take the beast in combat. Contemplating the thought, his fingers had grazed the the grip of his longaxe more than once. But revealing himself now would be a fool’s game… He was unsure of his enemy, and about its dimensions and strength. And if the long grass had hidden it so effectively, he would be at a tactical disadvantage if it decided to use the grass sea to its advantage. So he lay there, in wait. Until he heard a branch snap from behind among the trees.
Fighting the impulse to snap his head around for fear that the sudden movement would attract the attention of his unwanted stalker, Norgrund took a deep inner breath to steel his nerves. Not sensing that he was yet being charged, he looked around and down the steep slope on his side of the hill.
Along the foot, another jet black figure had emerged among the trees. This time, Norgrund got a good look at the enemy he was up against. Though twisted and unnatural, it was a foe that clearly drew strength from its speed and stamina. And from the blade-like appendages that acted as its forelimbs, he knew that in addition, it was built for the kill. The large warrior warily regarded his yet unaware adversary. Even if he did engage in melee – even if he won – the creature would by force of its sheer dexterity alone likely inflict him with grievous wounds that would make his journey insufferable. But the double-barreled danger he was in sought attention to another foe that was roaming the valley, and would likely charge their direction at the moment that steel clashed with claw.
Demons, they were demons. He knew by the stench of sulphur that now filled the air; by the unholy silence that preceded their presence; by the dread that filled him even in his prime – the dread he had not felt since stories once told by his grandmother many years ago.
One thing was certain: he was cornered.
His tight grip around the weapon loosened, and the blood rushed back to his fingers. With the same hand, he reached within a fold of his belt bag, drawing forth the unlikeliest of weapons. A weapon he had not used since he was an impressionable boy, taken by those very same stories of his grandmother, and believing he could stymie the forces of evil all alone.
The sling, now dwarfed by the size of his hand, still felt familiar as it rested in his palm. The twisted cords of hemp and its leather pouch had been preserved well throughout the years. And even if it had been too worn out at times because of constant use, he had simply repaired it. Many times. He believed that luck clinged to the weapon, after many years of its trusted service. But perhaps, it had just been the familiarity that he felt in having it on his person that truly gave him comfort.
And right now, that old familiarity and reliability filled him with a sense of small relief, as he fought to beat down the rising tension of the moment. He hoped that the small weapon would serve him well once more…
Drawing a stone from within his sack, he quietly positioned himself in a more upright position, to free his arm and shoulder for more mobility. He felt sweat bead on his forehead as he strained to move with the least amount of noise. Tension had cramped his upper body, but in coming into a crouch he had loosened his muscles. He took a couple of needed breaths. Placing the stone in the pouch, he braced himself for his dire, daring and foolish attempt at subterfuge.
The fiend was moving within clear line of view now. He doubted if it had noticed him, but it would not be long before he would be rousted from his higher ground of defence, and perhaps blindsided by the other beast in the field. Sweeping the area for a target, Norgrund looked to a cluster of trees in the distance. Coiling his muscles for the chain of reaction about to ensue, he whipped the sling backward with a deft and strong movement of his wrist, and then flung it across the clearing.
As the projectile ricocheted against the tree bole and sent forth a a resounding echo, Norgrund surged down the hill and into the forest… just as the ground exploded where the demon had stood as it bolted in the opposite direction toward the sound that had acted as the spirit walker’s diversion…
And but a few seconds after, as he had run the other way, the claws of the second beast from the vallymouth tore up his hiding spot – following the other terror with the same inhuman speed to bring and end to non-existent prey…