Trials of Zax

(ooc: After playing a quick session with Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup [DCSS], the muse took me, and I simply had to wax lyrical about what had happened – oh, and yes, this is the incident where the screenshot for the site banner comes from)

 

As the novice conjurer turns the corner, in this forsaken pit carved out of rock and clay, his Deep elf eyes accustomed to the low light conditions of the underground, spots a sleeping human, curled up in a ball, nesting in damp plant material.

Zax embraces the dark stillness around him, and focuses keenly on this errant man, seemingly at ease enough to rest, in this stinking underworld. Even in his prone position, the man is sizeable compared to Zax. No doubt when erect he would tower over the dark faced elf. This giant is wrapped in colourful robes, adorned with simplistic symbols of what can only be described as bravado. Stars, cudgels, staves and sickles. Primitive at best, in comparison to the cursive scripts of the deepest elf markings.

“I need to get past this monstrosity to follow the cavern deeper, to find my kin” thought Zax, silently.

As small as he was, Zax’s ability to hide himself amongst the clay walls, was questionable. But turning back could cost him dearly in time, trying to find another tunnel through. So he hitched his robe up, and tightened the corded belt, and begun steadily edging forward towards this slumbering monster. If Zax could skirt around the floral carpet, the pooled slurry of clay that lined the floor could provide silent slippery movement.

Each new lateral step, seemed to take longer and longer to make, as Zax approached this menace. The dank air clung to his face suffocating his panic, as he slid slowly around the man. Passing the snoring brute, was intense as a half cough spluttered out of the man’s mouth during his dream-state.

Zax had made good progress, gliding along at a dart-worms pace, relief in sight as the tunnel bore left sharply. Zax hugged the moist clay walls, and attempted a rolling move left. As he did, his foot lifted from the soiled floor and the vacuum left behind made a large sucking noise, not dissimilar to hog snuffling rogue-berries.

The man beast awoke.

His bleary eyes snapped fast onto Zax, clutching the wall. And in no time, was up on his feet and grabbing at a long sharp scythe nestled amongst the foliage bedding.

“You have made a grave mistake, trespassing on Sigmund’s domain!”, said the giant, bristling with anger.

Sigmund charged at Zax, with the scythe held aloft, it’s sharpened head waving from side to side with every bound.

Zax panicked. He slipped a little, then sped around the corner to the left. Eyes wider than ever, he could see the snaking corridors ahead with utter elven clarity. Mid flight, he raised his fist in and opened his fingers into a claw. The power of conjuration flowed through his arm, into his hands and burst into a nebulous flame, nestled in his finger spokes, agitated and angry. Summoning an imp was a taxing process, but this was a desperate situation, and he had to do it on the run.

Chanting the spell, broken words tumbling out of his lips, due to the turbulence of travelling at a sprint, he nearly fumbled the linguistics needed. Concentrating he kept it together, and spat out the last phrase needed. A ball of flame light exploded from his hand and swarmed the ceiling of the tunnel, illuminating a path ahead and behind with equal measure.

During this light-show, Zax could here the shouts of Sigmund echoing past him, he must be close. As the light-show condensed into a swirling smoke, a form began to take shape behind Zax, an crimson impish demon appeared.

As the imp took form, it already had a sense of purpose imbued by it’s summoner. It turned on it’s hooves and clocking the enraged human, set itself about the man, charging with demonic vigour.

The crimson imp engulfed Sigmund, claws fixing itself upon the man’s face. Ripping and tearing what it could. Sigmund swatted the imp from his path as emergent magicks crackled around his wrists. The imp bowled away for a moment, shuddered and set itself again to attack.

Meanwhile Zax made some distance, turned and unleashed a magic dart towards Sigmund with a flurry of evocation and a snap of his hand. The pulsing yellow dart, shimmered as it flew down the corridor, slightly weaving to the right homing in on the human. It struck him from behind and exploded into shards of burning light, singeing the coloured cassock and making Sigmund wince in pain.

Sigmund battered the imp away again, and turned onto Zax once more. Zax spun on his heels and fled as fast as his small frame would allow. The crimson imp was fading fast, but managed to grapple with Sigmund one last time, wrapping its claws around his leg, before disintegrating into dizzying clouds of smoke evapourating into nothingness. Sigmund stumbled a little, bur corrected himself and sped on.

With only enough magic left to summon one more imp, Zax needed to use his enhanced vision to anticipate turns and twists in the corridors ahead to try and lithely put more distance and time between him and this approaching beast. Distance would keep him out of harms way, but time, more importantly would allow for his magicks to swell once again, perhaps enough for another imp attack?

Zax, summoned another imp, this time his conjuration had moulded an Iron imp, a tougher version of the demon, but unfortunately a much slower apparition.
The imp made a bee-line towards the oncoming man, but Sigmund knocked it aside with his scythe in one deft sweep. The imp barrel rolled down an adjoining corridor, got up, and set off after the man again. But the man was slightly faster than the slow metallic demon. So the pursuit would be long, and the imp wasn’t likely to catch or more importantly damage this brute.

Sigmund was upon Zax, range enough to swipe at him with the scythe. Zax felt his left side explode with pain, this was no normal weapon but magically imbued with lightning. Jolted by the attack, Zax tumbled to the sodden floor, rolled with more force than he could control, and bashed his head on the side of a rock.

Sigmund towered over him. Laughing maniacally. Raising the scythe for another blow.

Zax shuddered.

The man tumbled forward, over Zax and falling into the mud beyond. The iron imp had caught up, and charged at his back, with all his metallic momentum, the imp had uncentered the man, just at the right time. The imp weaved around Zax, as he was getting up, and started another charge at Sigmund.

Zax stood up, could see the imp being lifted into the air by a crackling jolt of the scythe, and let loose another magic dart. The dart seared the man once again, shaking him visibly. He dropped his scythe. The imp was fading, smokey curls of dull silver twisting and melting away. Zax ran in another direction, down another corridor. Jumping and leaping across corridor crossways, trying to take the least likely path.

Sigmund picked up his scythe, wiped the blood off his chin and started out after the little deep elf once again.

Zax was drained, his magicks low, his body wracked with pain and fatigue. He had to keep running, keep regenerating his magical spell-force. Keep his distance.

A wrong turn into a dead-end Zax lost it. Spinning around, he retraced his way in, and come to the cavernous crossroads again. Sigmund arrived, yelling and shouting phrases of hatred or madness, Zax could not tell which. Zax began loosing what little magic he had left as magic darts whizzing around in circles above, landing in succession on Sigmund. Knocking him from side to side, but never quite forcing him over.

Sigmund wheeled his scythe in a long arc above his head and downwards towards the elf. It hit Zax in the chest, a massive deep blow, sending violent bolts of lighting through his weakened body. Twitching and convulsing Zax had little control over himself.

Sigmund wanted to land the killing blow, and stomped over to the prone elf.

Zax could feel his life ebbing away, but the delay had left him with some magical force accrued. Laying back, he summoned what arcane energy he could, and let out an almighty magic dart that hit the advancing Sigmund point blank. Punching a hole in his robed tunic, scattering his scythe to the other end of the cavern. Clutching his chest, Sigmund stared at the broken elf in disbelief. Then fell flat on his face into the stagnant mud.

Zax cried.

But felt a little bit more powerful.

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