As he ran, Robin kept seeing flashes of pink through the trees ahead of him. He confirmed it with a mental check, but it was definitely her.
Good, Opal got the message. I do not think she would have been in any real danger from the tumbleweed-thing, but it is still better if we stay together.
He found himself outpacing the white tumbleweed monster rapidly, soon losing sight of it entirely, the sound of it fading soon afterwards.
Robin forced himself to slow down, and realized that his light jog was faster than he had ever seen anyone sprint in the previous life. He grinned slightly, slowing to a quick walk and then stopping entirely. He was barely even panting! Robin looked back at the way he had ran. He remembered running in a straight line, but now that he thought about it… I was zig-zagging through all the trees, and I barely even noticed. His grin got a little bit wider, turning into an actual smile.
It vanished entirely when he heard a low chuff sound coming from the direction he had been running. It sounded a lot like the Tweaker Babies, but like they were winded and tired, not filled with the same manic energy that the others had possessed.
Robin leapt onto the trunk of a tree and began scaling it, his fingers clinging easily to the surface despite the Shell of the Blue Entomage covering his fingers. He reached the branch-layer in seconds and pulled himself deeper into the leaves. When he was confident he had hidden himself from immediate sight well, Robin turned his attention to the sounds approaching through the trees.
Several moments passed before the first Tweaker Baby showed itself through the trees, moving at a light jog. It was the source of the chuffing sound, looking as if it had been through a severe endurance run.
It was soon followed by several more, and then a couple of stragglers. Robin was preparing himself to drop from the trees in an ambush when he heard a much deeper noise, an actual voice coming from the woods.
Robin’s heart sank. The bigger ones were harder to deal with, and this one… this one sounded like it had authority among their kind, a role of leadership.
He saw it a moment after he heard it, creeping through the trees, slowly wrapping one set of long, rubbery fingers around each trunk it passed. It was still whispering in the babble-tongue they used. Robin was pretty sure he heard the word “dinner” several times, though, despite the rapidly-delivered, heavily accented voice.
As it began to near the tree he was perched in, the odor it carried on its greasy skin wafted up to Robin. It smelled almost chemical, like a cleaning agent on which he could not quite place his finger. It burned his eyes and nose, making him sniffle and blink away water from his eyes.
He felt it leaving his nose just a moment too late, dropping down to the dark forest floor below him.
A teardrop shed from stinging, burning eyes, had rolled down his nose and dropped onto a dead leaf, making a distinctly audible put sound.
The Tweaker Mage, if that is what it was, froze, its fingers wrapped entirely around the trunk of a thin pine. It looked around itself, the strangely loose, rubbery skin following a moment after the motion in thin ripples across the creature’s form. It made a noise like a carnival-crier catching a fly with their mouth mid-spiel, and Robin heard the Tweaker Babies that had passed by his hiding place returning, moving at a quick walk.
Crap. Crapcrapcrap. What do I do!? If I move, it will definitely hear me. If I do not move, it will find me.
The Tweaker Mage uncurled its fingers and began moving around the trees near Robin, searching at a speed a human would find slow, let alone the supernaturally quick monstrosities.
This might be it.
Robin waited until the creature was behind a tree, although still near him, and quietly took the Δ-Revenant from the holster, readying himself mentally to stand up.
As he pulled the handgun from the holster, the creature snapped its head in his direction, seeming to locate him immediately with its watery, bloodshot eyes.
Robin pushed himself to his feet on the branch, easily finding his balance despite the multitude of Tweaker Babies climbing up the trunk to reach him
…seven? Did I miss one before?
Robin aimed the revolver at one of the implike Tweaker Babies and cocked the hammer back, only to stumble and almost fall from the tree as it shook from the impact of the Tweaker Mage slamming into it, hitting it like a fleshy blur. The smell grew worse as the creature’s skin was scraped by the rough bark, and Robin found his eyes were blurring again. He managed to find his balance, but his shot was ruined, and the Babies were almost entirely up the tree and into the branches.
I have to move now, Robin thought, sizing up his situation. They are going to knock me off and swarm me if I stay here.
Robin put his feet into the tree and leapt with all of his might, pushing off the branch and into the darkness.
“Stupid...fucking… Tweaker Goblins!”, she screamed as she cut into the skull of another one of the things using the knife she had gotten from the jumping spider. It was making spiders all over the freaking place, but the nasty little jerks had surprised her, and she hadn’t had the time to get the machete from the Ranger’s Pack. It might even still have drakeling blood on it, now that she thought about it… she hadn’t remember it was there until just a few moments ago.
It just added gasoline the bonfire of her anger. They had surprised her!
Surprised her. Her! She stabbed into the eye of a leaping Goblin, her feet sliding up a web line to another tree like someone had overcharged one of those automated chairs old people use to get up stairs, rocketing her into the branches at the culmination of the web line.
She landed as smoothly as a person can on an untended forest floor, the Eight-Eyed Aspect: Sight enhancing her field of perception to an almost complete view of her surroundings. She took stock of her surroundings again as she righted herself fully, reaching into the Ranger’s Pack to withdraw the machete the kid had given her. It nestled into her hand, feeling almost like it was leaping into her hand and pressing itself into her palm, and she pulled it out, immediately pulling it out of the sheath.
She slammed it back into the sheath almost immediately.
I don’t remember it glowing! When did it start glowing!? Shit, was it the dragon’s fire? That was like staring at a welding torch without glasses, so… okay, I guess it makes sense that I didn’t notice it glowing at the time. Oh no… I hope I didn’t break it by using it to seal the drakeling’s neck!
She dismally remembered how she had left the blade of the machete in the neck of the drakeling to block the last few gouts of unbelievably hot fire from the dead creature, at the time believing the machete to just be a ...machete, for crying out loud!
Stupid things. If you were anything like the tiny ones I found on the other side of the rift, you’d keep blasting occasionally for a few hours, so it seemed like a good idea at the time…
She stopped lamenting to herself and attached the sheath to her hip. Even if she had broken it by dousing it in dragonfire, it would still work as a piece of metal to hit things with. It was better than a knife that made spiders every time she cut something with it.
Even if it glowed super freaking bright.
She stopped her count right as the first one reached her, noting unhappily that she had several seconds to go.
Hope you guys aren’t getting faster.
May had a thought as she was leaping backwards and away from the frenzied blur of a claw, twisting, and risked opening her menu mid-leap. She closed it a fraction of a second later, and landed in the same instant.
The Goblin was staring balefully, trying to keep an eye on her while also finding the easiest way around the small thicket she had leapt over.
Another Tweaker Goblin approached it from behind and shrieked, pointing at her. It was a little dramatic, in May’s opinion.
She smiled at them and slowly pulled the machete from the sheath. The glow immediately lit up the forest, casting shadows that danced wildly as she moved the glowing white blade. The Goblins shrank back, their eyes contracting painfully in the harsh light.
They were shrieking, mindless noises that sounded more like injured pigs than frightened humans.
May could hear more of them in the woods beyond the shriekers, but they weren’t approaching, perhaps due to the intense light.
It occurred to May that this was more light than this section of the forest ever received naturally, glancing briefly at the branch cover as she snapped a web out from her right foot, immediately launching forward like a duck at a shooting gallery.
“This duck hits back!”, she crowed, dropping off the web near the branch lime and dropping down, swinging the white machete. She didn’t care that it didn’t make sense to the Goblin.
To her surprise, the Tweaker Goblin managed to bring an arm up fast enough to block her swing, but it needn’t have bothered. The machete cleaved through the arm of the Goblin like it would have through a dandelion stem, hissing faintly as it continued into the neck of the Goblin, cutting into the neck, through the bottom of the throat, and downward through the ribs, ripping through a lung as it the corpse it had created.
May looked down at the Goblin-that-had-been, her mouth open with shock. She smelled something that smelled exactly like a Wal-Mart dumpster fire, and promptly snapped her mouth shut.
The Tweaker Goblin was on fire, burning like a bundle of thin reeds. She stared at it, taking a step back, and then opened her menu again. That had been the point she needed. She made her change, grimacing at the heavy cost, and then closed her menu. The entire process took her less than a second, but she was forced to step back again.
May looked at the Tweaker Goblin she had dodged twice now, and raised the machete overhead. It turned to look at her, surprise, horror, and realization dawning on its bad-botox-job face simultaneously. It raised an arm to block the machete, but she laughed and twisted it around the still-raising arm, cutting into the back of the rib cage and out the front of the creature, killing it in a single blow.
It began to burn, but May ignored it. She turned to the forest, her eyes sparkling in the light of the machete, and called out in the friendliest voice she could muster, which turned out to be pretty charming, by her estimation.
She heard roars, screeches, and bellows coming from all around her, the inhuman, drug-fueled rage in them palpable, and frowned. Maybe it hadn’t been that charming after all.
The human was being loud, so loud that even her human could hear it. He seemed happy about hearing the smaller human, and Opal could understand that, although she was certainly worried for him, and not because of the shrunken stench-humans that were chasing him.
Opal resolved herself then and there that she would make sure the smaller human was well-fed at all times, just in case.
The forest was not easy to move through, at least not as easy as it could have been. She wished there was more moonlight, but the trees were so dense and the leaves so thick, she had to rely on thin beams here and there that managed to pierce the occlusive greenery.
She was finding it easier and easier to be elsewhere, though, as they got closer to the location of the tiny human. This was mostly good, but for one detail. There was something bright there.
Bright things draw in prey, and prey draws in predators. Opal was somewhere else, somewhere closer, and her human saw her thorax protruding slightly from the treeline as he ran by.
Opal was elsewhere, closer.
She was hurrying to be somewhere else, the where and the else that the small human was, where her human was going to be.
Robin had seen the light and was running wildly towards it, with altogether too many Tweaker Babies chasing him, as well as the Tweaker Mage. The Gossamer of Anansi he had been leaving behind him seemed to be doing a good job of slowing them down, but they were still close enough to leave his heart pounding.
As Robin came within five or so meters of the light, just before he thought he would be able to see it through the trees, he heard a familiar, disturbingly friendly voice call out, and immediately recognized it as May. Something was different about it, though, and Robin paused for a moment, struggling to put his finger on it.
It was right as the woods around him erupted with howls that Robin realized two things, both of which exercised his Resist Fear skill. First, the Tweaker Babies and the Tweaker Mage behind him were not the only threats in the forest or even in this immediate area; additional threats would also likely have been attracted by the light.
Secondly, the voice had been May’s, but it had been spoken very, very fast.