Last Stand of the World
Chapter One: Pitfall
"Hey Davern, you think we'll find the cause for the disappearances around here?"
Davern turned around and glared at his brother, adjusting the scarf on his face and shifting in his seat so that the hump of the animal beneath him wasn't bothering him so fiercely as before. "Evon, If I've told you once. I've told you a thousand times, don't jinx us!"
"Whatcha mean, I was just asking?"
"Every time you ask, something like that bad shit ensues shortly after," Davern grumbled, not entirely under his breath; turning his head to scan the vast amount of desert in front of him, he didn't have a clue where to start.
"Davern, what did you say? I can't hear you."
"I know you said something."
"I said it was nothing."
"Now shut up; Davern's skin prickled all of a sudden when he didn't hear a response from his brother behind him. There was no way Evon would let him get away with saying shut up.
He spun in his saddle, and there was nothing behind him in the vast expanse of the desert; "damn you, Evon, you dang bloody jinx. I knew I should have made this trip alone; that guy can't keep himself out of trouble for more than a minute." Davern grumbled, dismounting and carefully making his way back along his trail to the spot Evon's tracks disappeared, camel and all.
"Well, at least I know why there were no visible signs on top of the desert. Some smart-aleck has made something underneath. Since the bone-head doesn't like to walk directly behind me, he triggered the trap."
Davern pulled out a probe from his pack and started poking the sand around where his brother's tracks had stopped until he heard a hard thunk; then he marked it and kept at it until he got a rough outline of the trap.
Davern started going about uncovering it in an efficient but rapid way. Who knows what kind of trouble his brother had gotten into while he was dicking around up here.
He knocked the lever, and the mechanism swung down. He steadied his camel and staked it out next to the opening before anchoring a rope to the side and dropping it down into the cavern below.
A pungent smell wafted up from the disturbed air below. Davern thought he heard a faint whimper below, his gut clenched, and his unhurried amble suddenly became urgent.
Davern had an uneasy feeling he couldn't explain. He ignored all the safety protocols; he always drummed into his brother's head before they made a decent into anywhere. He made a quick wrap with the rope, and pulled on his gloves, grabbed his sliders, clipped them onto the rope, and leaped over the edge.
Davern would stop before he was near the bottom. In a trap like this one, there was bound to be something near the bottom to injure the person falling from above; and if his brother was hurt, he needed to be fast, but he couldn't let himself get hurt as well.
As he neared the bottom, he heard the sound of water dripping into what sounded like a pool, and the smell grew even more pungent, the sickeningly sweet smell of rotting meat. He pulled his scarf closer around his nose and breathed through his mouth. Squeezing the lever on the sliders, he slowed his momentum and came to a stop hugging the wall. His ears perked, swiveling to the sound of water, his parched throat involuntarily swallowed.
He heard the moan again, and he turned his body to the sound, recognizing his brother's voice odd; he seemed to be right above the pool of water. Davern's mind couldn't map out what the room looked like from the feeling around him. It felt open but dank because of the smell. He could hear water, but it still had the overbearing oppression and heat of the desert; though slightly cooler than above, it didn't have the coolness that an aquifer would bring.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out one of his emergency stones, pressed the indent, and shook the contents mixing the fluid to bring light to the situation. His stomach tossed, and he wanted to retract his last actions; holding in the contents of his breakfast, he looked around the artificial cavern. There were streaks of blood. Decaying bodies, or rather skeletons.
In the dim light, Davern could see tool marks that bit deep into bones; that had been made when the meat was hacked off the remains if the desiccated material left on the bones could even be called meat. But that wasn't where the smell was coming from; the smell was coming from the bucket of blood where the camel and his brother hung above, slowly bleeding out.
The moment the lights came on, and he realized that the sound wasn't water, he headed for his brother, his mind taking in all the details, categorizing them by importance, and discarding them. He knew that they weren't alone down here, and he didn't know how many of them there were, and he knew that without Evon, if there were more than one while, he wasn't exactly a sitting duck; odds weren't in his favor either.
He pulled his brother down from the device, assessed his wounds, and realized that he was in pretty bad shape; they needed to get out of here as soon as possible. But he also needed to do his job and stop whoever was doing this. He dumped a healing powder onto Evon's neck and stopped the bleeding, he could see it begin to mend the flesh back together, but that didn't stop the fact that he'd lost a lot of blood. He plastered on a bandage that would keep everything in place and tried to stop for a moment to think.
They weren't anywhere safe enough for him to transfuse him either. The camel looked to be a goner; the weight alone had shoved a spike deep into its neck, and while it was still alive, he didn't think he could save it. The device was obviously made to keep the victims alive for a while while they bled out, and then the person would do something with the blood and remains.
He popped his guild communicator and sent an emergency message to the guild just in case they didn't make it out; there would at least be a record of the event. He had a potion that might help tide him over 'til they could get back to town. He carefully administered what he could to his unconscious brother, who moaned and his head lulled to the side.
Davern heard a sound behind him and put his brother down near the rope he'd used to climb down on and clipped the harness onto his body as quickly as he could. Then tugged on it, giving the camel above the signal to begin hoisting up. He didn't want his injured brother down here with whatever that was.
He heard a scraping sound as if something heavy was being dragged. The air stilled oppressive and dampening, and then a glow that shouldn't have appeared in human eyes flashed at the opening of the tunnel at the dimmest edge of the stone's light. a grating shriek, "what have you done?" The stone flickered and died, throwing the room into darkness.
"Damnit, Davern swore, "those weren't supposed to die so fast;" he'd have to have a word or two with Gavis when he got back if he made it; out alive...
Davern heard a clatter of bones to the right. He resisted turning in that direction and turned to the left, bringing up his arm guard to block. He felt a heavy blunt object crash into his arm. He was knocked off balance and spun, trying to locate the person in the darkness. He tried to get his guard up and block whatever that person was aiming for.
He heard the air of a weapon coming from the side, but it didn't hit him. A clatter hit the wall and a grunt, and the whirl of the rope being dragged through the anchor. He turned towards the sounds reached into his hip pouch, fumbling in his hurry for another light-stone. Whatever it was, it was after his brother, and he had to stop it.
Davern pressed the button; nothing happened. He felt the click on the stone between his fingers the swish of the metal, but nothing worked, he grabbed another, and the same thing happened. Davern stopped his fingers from grabbing a third, he knew that there wasn't anything wrong with the stones, and if he didn't take action against the creature, he could very well lose his brother.
He tried to focus his mana towards his eyes to activate a sight spell, but nothing seemed to be working.
Trapped in the darkness with a monster that could null magic just great, he thought, and it was after his brother. He took a deep breath, decided that it didn't matter if he couldn't see. That didn't stop him from being able to hear, and the thing obviously didn't want to fight him head-on. So there was still a chance that he could get them out of this.
His brother had almost reached the floor of the cavern; he could hear the creature laboring harder as he took on more weight. Davern moved towards the sounds locating their bodies. The beast tried to knock him back again, but he brought up his arm guard. Davern didn't think bringing out his weapon would be a good idea. He couldn't see what he was aiming at, and he didn't want to wound Evon by mistake.
A violent strike hit him on the left side of his body. He wasn't prepared for it as there hadn't been a sound before it hit him. He grunted and hit the wall, "How dare you try to steal my prey."
Davern heard a sound just above him and jumped despite the pain. "I'm not stealing your prey, bastard. I'm saving my brother." He grabbed ahold of his brother's body and rolled them to the side, away from the noise he heard beside him; Davern knew that they were in a bad way. He couldn't mount an effective defense against something that could nullify their magic, see in the dark, and had them blind. Then it clicked.
He cursed, and Davern realized his only hope was to get them the hell out of its sphere of influence and be able to use that item that he didn't want to use. But it was their last resort at the moment.
He knew what this thing was. He thought they were a myth, and he was going to chew Gavis a new ear for sending them to investigate a Nuller. He didn't understand how he was still alive and why it wasn't hurting him directly and was only after his brother. That made no sense unless there was something wrong with it.
Davern had rolled to the left away from the Nuller, and the camel was on the right. The rope was behind, which meant that the opening should be not far from where he was if he could only find it. He could get out of the Nuller's sphere of influence and report into the guild.
They could send a bigger team. Davern's team would have to pay a fine for not completing the mission by themselves. Still, at this point, he thought reporting finding a Nuller's nest was more critical than any penalty that he would have to pay. Hell, he might even get lucky and not have to pay at all. His thoughts were racing as he tried to keep his ears perked for any sounds of the Nuller and still find the opening to escape.
Davern hadn't made it five feet when he felt something hard and heavy strike him in the back of the head; his eyes spun, and all of a sudden, he saw eyes in front of his, a splatter of spittle on his face.
It jerked Evon from Davern's arms, and he groaned out, "I won't let it end like this," as he sunk into darkness."