~ 5 ~
Thing patted Nulthir’s knee as if he knew what Nulthir had just been thinking. Movement drew his gaze back to the scene unfolding below. People had gathered on the rocky slope leading into the pool of stinking muck. They carried a bier festooned with dead things–rat carcasses, dessicated flowers but no human bones. Small favor that. Though he wondered what purpose the bier served.
Other folk had come too; he could just make out their silhouettes against the deeper shadows along the edges of the cavern. Very little lumir had been left here signaling that this cave had been part of a mine long, long ago. What lumir remained striated the craggy walls in thin lines of white light. Whispers from the gathered reverberated mixing with the susurus of the stinking lake providing a nice undercurrent of sound to mask whatever little noises he and his crew might make.
What Nulthir needed was a distraction, the kind Thing and his family could provide. Something to scatter the folk gathered at the edges and take them out of the equation harmlessly and completely. First he needed to weapon up for a fight.
Ducking down out of site, he pulled the curved blade out of its sheathe. Not the blade that had belonged to his maternal grandmother but one he’d had made to resemble it. He run his finger along the barbs that served the same function as a sword’s quillions with one twist. Instead of curving down towards the grip to protect the wielder’s hand, half the quillions curved up towards the business end. Each one had been filed to a razor point for those times when you absolutely had to shred something.
No mage-smith had made this blade. Just the opposite actually–a regular joe had hammered it into existence despite what had probably seemed to him as bizarre instructions. Designs marked in the metal as the ambient magic in the air soaked into them. Those symbols weren’t decorative.
Nulthir wasn’t a mage and therefore had no personal access to power. However, with the cavern permeated by a strong magical field already, that didn’t matter. Magic, like water, wanted to flow. It wanted something to channel it, to give it shape and purpose. Even fouled magic wanted definition. The designs etched into both his knives provided that. They were lines of code that waited for one more catalyst: blood.
He pricked his finger on one of the quillions that curved down towards the hilt and smeared the resulting blood on two adjacent runes. On contact the first rune, a double-helix, healed the cut. The second rune, an arrow aimed at the line of runes running the length of the blade on both sides, set the others to glowing whitely. Holding himself absolutely still, he watched as the blade melted on his palm. Liquid silver crawled over his hand like an ice flow. It engulfed hand to the wrist and his skin burned from the intense cold. The runes floated on the liquified metal still lit with the magic fueling them, none of which came from Nulthir because he hadn’t any.
The metal drew together leaving the underside of his wrist and his palm bare. It covered the top of his hand now and part of his arm. Four hooked claws emerged from just behind his knuckles ready to rip out the belly of that monster. They extended out six inches and were at least an inch wide at the base before tapering to a razor point.
Nuthir flexed his fingers. They warmed as he moved them and then tingled as the blades retracted. They lay nestled against the top and sides of his forearm waiting to be deployed. He repeated the process with his grandmother’s blade and then had to sit for a minute. Feeling lighter than air all of a sudden, his head felt like it might just float off of his shoulders. He rested his head against one of the rocks that screened him from view and tried to work out what was wrong.
Magic required energy to work. So it followed that triggering the spell wrought blades to kick their kill factor up a notch had robbed him of some of that precious commodity. It shouldn’t have knocked him for a loop though. That had never happened before and that bothered him.
Thing perched on Nulthir’s knee and peered at him, head cocked at an angle as if this sudden turn worried him.
“I think I did too much. I haven’t been sleeping.”
Even as Nulthir offered that explanation he recognized its wrongness. It wasn’t him. He swiveled around so he could look not at the creature holding court but at the cesspit that had spawned it. It was bigger than he’d originally realized. Shadows veiled most of its back half but as Nulthir stared at it, he realized the pool extended into a channel that went for an unknown distance.
Flowing water carried its own energy and depending on its flow rate, that could potentially be quite a lot. That explained the drain and the lightheadedness. The pool was brewing something in its depths and it needed to suck up more energy to finish its work. If he squinted at the center, he could almost make out a deeper shadow below the surface. Wonderful, he’d found a monster spawning ground.
Thing had climbed up his chest and now perched on his shoulder to give the pool his own once-over. He butted his scaly pate against Nulthir’s cheek. Absently, Nulthir stroked Thing’s back as he considered this new complication. Before he took out the monster, he needed to shut down the processes hard at work warping whatever lay at its bottom. Otherwise he’d have a legion of horrors to eliminate instead of the one. To do that he’d need to take a swim in the sewer. From this vantage he couldn’t see what was going on under there. There was too much magic and all of it moving in fouled layers obscuring his sight.
Amal tapped his shoulder; she had perched between the rocks screening them. She pointed at the main horror.
MORE OF NULTHIR
Read the intro.