Davern felt heavy. His head throbbed from whatever he'd been doing the night before. His ears rang, and his airway felt blocked. He coughed, trying to draw in more air. The light penetrated through his eyelids stabbed into his brain, making him more irritable.
"Evon, turn off the light; my head is killing me," he tried to bring his hand up to his head to help ease the ache and jerked his eyes open with a jolt before groaning and promptly closing them again.
"Goddamn. Bloody. Rotten. Nuller!"
His stomach rolled as he swung through the air on the rope, his ears rang, and he clenched his teeth. At least he could do something about these ropes. He grimaced, cracking his eyes. Scanning the ground below him, he wasn't looking forward to the landing.
The brilliant illumination from the stones burned his eyes as he slowly opened them wider. He sighed. "What a waste." Gavis was going to be pissed at the excessive use of resources. "Well, he's the one who sent us out here without any warning. I'm charging him double for this crappy mission," he mumbled; at least the waste of good stones let him know that the Nuller was no longer in the room.
He shifted his eyes around and spotted the camel chained to the wall. Some kind of muddy paste splattered over its wound to stop the bleeding. Though why it was still alive was beyond him. Why he was alive also confused him. Then he looked around, noticing that the bucket of blood was missing.
Where was Evon? If he was here, and so was the camel his brother should be too, shouldn't he? His eyes glanced at the desiccated remains of past visitors, or maybe not. He thought. He felt another wave of nausea pass through him. It didn't really matter at this point if he fell or not; his brother was more important than a few bruises.
He murmured a spell under his breath and let the magic course through his body and out from his hands, entangling within the ropes that bound him until they untied themselves. Ordinary chore magic sure came in handy sometimes, he thought.
Then cursed, when his shoulder hit the ground, he hadn't been far enough up to do serious harm, but it still stung when he smacked into the hard-packed soil littered in bone shards. Davern lay there in a heap for a second before he rolled over and began retching, his head spinning; he could only hear ringing in his ears. He could only feel grateful that he wasn't hanging upside down any longer.
He sat up and wiped his hand and then went to wipe it off on his pant leg only to discover something even more obnoxious. "I'm going to skin that Nuller alive..." He turned to look at the camel closer and could see that even it had the packs taken from it.
Davern stood up naked, as the day he'd been born; not a weapon in sight, and didn't relish his odds. He looked up. The damn creature had already reset the trap; he wouldn't be surprised if his camel was down here somewhere too.
There wasn't anything left he could do but gather what he could from the immediate area and then try and find his brother. Davern could only hope that he wouldn't be too late when he found him.
He gathered up the glow stones and then looked around for something to put them in. He looked over at the rope, cut off a hank with a wind spell, and then broke it down into individual strands and wove them around the stones. He tied two together around his neck, then attached one into a bracelet, and the final one he attached to the end of the rope and wound it around his torso.
It was a bit overkill to be wandering around like a living torch, but he needed the light to help him detect how far he was from the Nuller. He could leave some behind him to give him some light down the way. He gave one final look behind him at the camel, but there was nothing he could do for the creature. He couldn't move it or kill it with the limited tools he had on hand.
He staggered when he walked towards the opening in the wall. His steps were still unsteady, and his head woozy. He could tell that whatever venom the creature had given him was still in his system. Not to mention he still had a nasty head wound that his body's self-healing magic was fighting against.
But he knew that would only last as long as he was outside the Nuller's sphere of influence. He could only hope that he found his gear before finding something else because he didn't have anything to fight with other than his magic and fighting skills. With a Nuller in the dark, that was basically useless without a weapon, as he'd found out earlier. Even his dimensional ring was gone.
What, did it like shiny objects? Or did it take off anything that might interfere with it getting to its next meal? Granted, it couldn't get to him right now, but he was still in its lair. He stumbled into a wall and caught himself, holding one hand against the wall and one on his stomach, the spinning in his head ever-present.
What did he know about these creatures anyway? He searched through his groggy mind for anything that he could remember and pushed himself off of the wall, walking further into the cave system. He'd always read that they liked wet climates. In the books, when someone documented running into a Nuller, they were in a marsh.
Maybe that was why it seemed weak? What could drive a creature that liked damp and humid climates into a dry and arid environment? Davern's stomach dropped as a thought occurred to him. There was one thing that could cause a creature to become weaker than usual and change its habitat.
All kinds of creatures had spawning grounds that were different than their typical habitats. Davern hoped he was wrong, but they didn't know much about Nullers. Then he thought about the area's records and why he'd been sent out here: the missing caravans, the missing travelers. Just like now, it had happened hundreds of years ago.
Had he just stumbled onto something that he needed to report? Davern bit his lip and rubbed his right wrist; the beacon faintly glowed just under his skin. To hell with it, he put his hand down, he was going to save his brother, and who knows, he could be wrong, and damn it, he wasn't going to trigger that spell stark naked.
If there is a colossal Nuller outbreak that will decimate kingdoms, it's a disaster. No one has ever been able to pinpoint the source. The scholars that survived have just pieced it together through ancient records that large groups of people seem to go missing in the deserts proceeding the outbreaks. That's why we were sent here this time when people started disappearing to find out why. Besides, if it is breeding season, then there's time to save Evon and get back and warn the guild.
"At least I hope there's time," Davern said, moving faster down the passage. He soon came to the top of a staircase. He could see that the Nuller had been through here by the drag marks, and the faint imprint of his camel’s tracks could be seen in the disturbed dirt. So even she hadn’t escaped.
Davern heaved a sigh, well, he’d suspected as much, and given all the gear that the Nuller had taken from him. The other camel, plus his brother’s body; it wasn’t likely that it had hauled all that back to wherever it had gone all by itself.
Davern looked down the stairs and saw the glint of metal in a pile of bones, at least being lit up like a torch, was good for something. He thought wryly, hoping that whatever it was could be used as a weapon. Davern looked around while he descended carefully watching, and trying not to step on anything that could be a trap.
He saw some old tattered webbing, but didn’t think much of it since the Nuller had come through here not long before. He didn’t know many spiders that coexisted well with other beings, at least not without trying to eat them.
Davern scanned the landing with his eyes and the area around the corpse; something felt off. He just couldn’t pinpoint what. Davern unwrapped the rope from around his body and formed a lasso with it. He didn’t have any weapons, but he could at least entangle the creature with the rope long enough to cast a spell on it.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as his feet landed on the ground. He didn’t know where the creature was, but there was definitely something here with him, and it was something that he didn’t like; he glanced at the webbing again; maybe it wasn’t as old as he’d thought.
Evon, you damn bloody jinx; just had to say something and get us in this mess. He cursed in his mind, afraid that the monster would hear him and attack if he said it out loud. Davern tentatively reached his hand out towards the shiny metal object. Just as his hand clasped around the hilt of the small dagger, a cloud of dust and sand burst forth from the wall above the bones.
He reacted without even thinking. His hand tightened on the dagger, and he rolled back and to the side, away from the forward attack. Eight spindly legs shot straight forwards like knives hoping to impale their prey; obviously, that had failed, and now the creature was readjusting itself for a more dangerous encounter. Sand spiders spent their lives as ambush hunters and were dangerous, but not that dangerous outside of their burrows.
You just had to avoid being slashed by their knife-like legs and being bit. Since their venom was quite toxic. And he wasn’t entirely fighting at full strength, though his healing gift had almost taken care of his head wound in the time he’d been awake; the venom running through his system was still doing a number on his balance and vision. He’d like to avoid being bit at all cost; he couldn’t afford to have another type of venom in his body right now.
He tossed out the rope and snagged its front two legs, hoping that it would hold it long enough to cast a wind spell. He murmured the spell, gathering magic in the palm of his hand while holding onto the rope with his other hand and trying to throw the spider off-balance enough to show the gap in its pedicel.
Allowing him a clear kill shot. He didn’t have a lot of extra mana at the moment since most of it was being used to heal his wound, and he didn’t want to waste it accidentally; he yanked the spider forward. Holding the knife and the rope in one hand and with the other, he let the spell loose, hitting the pedicel splitting it in half; viscera splattered the stairs.
Davern let the rope go slack in his hands, and sinking to the floor on his butt, he put his head between his knees, closing his eyes, trying to deal with the wave of dizziness and catching his breath. “Evon, your ass had better be alive when I find you.” He staggered back to his feet and went back to the corpse where he’d found the dagger. He kicked the bones; he could tell by the shape and size that they were a goblin, great just great something else I get to look forward to down here. Hopefully, the Nuller ate them all, he looked at the spider, or something else did.
Then he saw a bit of fabric within the bones; he picked it up and looked down at his naked body, “Nah, nope, no way in hell. I’d rather be naked,” he tossed the goblin loincloth over his shoulder and continued on down the hall rewrapping his rope and tucked the dagger into a coil. He’d have to be even more careful now that he knew that the Nuller kept ambush predators around as pets.