He moved through the cosmos yet again; documenting the stars. His volume grew with each world, but lonesome days called for a new purpose to travel the stars. The world of Sky’s Cradle was out of the question, for the alchemist desired to see more, to work on the book while he sought to end his lonesomeness; his time on the boat surely affecting him.
When his vision cleared from enacting the ritual, the planehopper saw a dark and bleak sky, overlooked by an amber crescent. He heard the howls of life, and when he looked around, the man found himself in a forest; its greenery shadowed by night and touched by the amber moon, and within this forest -- there were ruins. Remnants of ancient man: old keeps and homes -- these gravesites overgrown by nature. He didn’t get enough time to take in the morbid beauty of forest and dilapidated relics as the howls and mew of twisted life encroached. Now was the time to act, if any.
Klaus’ boots shifted quietly, but at a brisk place as he advanced, finding a ruin overgrown by a massive tree, its roots clutching the cobble walls of what could have been a cathedral at some point; the large structure dotted with moss and vines -- statues and sculptors of an unknown make cracked and abused by time. This, he thought, was ample hiding. The traveler slipping under those massive wooden roots, and pushed open rotting doors, overlooked by a worn portal with the face of a screaming vampiric beast.
The dark insides of the old cathedral matched the beauty of its outside, an elaborate, but worn architecture with cast torchbearers, and various arcades that lead off to other areas of the ruin. He wanted to get further away from the howls outside, and meandered past one of the corridors, deeper into the nave. He looked between the isles, the pews and sculptures depicting something foul, twisted and demonic in nature; as vile as the stone beast guarding the front of the place, and overlooking them on that dias was a statue of a robed man; his eyes covered by wrappings with tears dripped down from its obscured eyes. It has its arms held out, pulling a great blade from a sheathe. It was a saint of some kind, or so Klaus thought. As he came closer, so did the howls. There was a pause, and such was followed by a sound of creaking wood. Whatever was outside was heading inside, and there were -- evident through the sounds -- multiple. He frantically looked about, afraid of what those horrors could be; different from the things of his homeworld. He was fast enough to find something past the choir, a battered gateway to the crypt. As he started moving down the stairs, he heard the shattering of that rotted wood, peeking up to see those curious shapes.
The entities were varied, though humanoid in nature. The bulk of what he could assume was a hunting party, though surely not for him -- or so he assumed. The majority were hunched, pale creatures long claws and small bony protrusions, lead by three more refined figures. He heard their snarls and barks of some demonic language, and his judgement was to continue down to the crypt, stealthily moving down and occasionally looking up to find their positioning. The game of cat and mouse began as he heard their snarls come closer towards the crypt, and looking up - he could see one of those hunched beasts overlooking the stairs; that pale eyeless thing snarled and sniffed with its snout, long ebon claws clutching the stone. Klaus could feel his heart thump harder than it already was, sticking to the shadows the very bottom of the stairway provided. He moved a hand to his pouch as he slowly shifted to bypass those battered iron bars, and that was all it took to have the beast turn its head to Klaus, and open its mandibles in a hiss. Before it could try to leap at him, the alchemist hurled a small, black egg. It impacted and the creature reeled back, clutching its face and snout; black pepper, crunched glass, and pepper seeds make for a useful distraction.
The sound of the beast reeling and screeching was what alerted the others. His mindset on getting away as fast as possible; he threw himself past the bars, some of the rusted metal grinding against the hems of his coat and hide padding, it was like treading through wire -- slowing him down. The other creatures came closer, and he barely caught a glimpse of them as he threw down another powder egg, along with a flash pellet. At that point, he was able to dart away from them, scampering into the once pristine crypt, having to recover as he nearly tumbled to the floor.
He looked back to that darkened hall every so often, making sure he kept some distance from the hunters. They were closing in on him, even with that blinding and disorienting attack. He had to act fast, typical. The hunter spotted a few coffins and idols, the details he could barely make out in the mayhem; though at the very least -- they were intricate and told tales. The hunted threw another disorienting blast, giving him cover as he slipped into one of the open coffins, trying to calm himself down to lower his heart rate, and keeping a sword in his hand. He kept part of the coffin open, enough to see a peep and keep himself somewhat hidden. Besides him in this massive box was old and shiny plate, and a pristine handaxe; this one was a hero, he could imagine. Klaus’ attention snapped back to the opening as he heard steps approach and orders being shouted; he saw their shadowy figures pass, with an order called for one of the hunched entities to do what he assumed was to patrol the area.
As the others passed, and that one vile thing was left behind, he gripped his own sword tightly, waiting with a mix of fear and anticipation. The beast sniffed around, and stood near the coffin; he tried his best to keep his heart rate down, assuming these things not only work off scent, but more of the body. He -- at the very least -- found comfort in its pacing, though such reminded him of a time when he spent his life hunting beasts, having to camp out in a crypt to slay one. Times when he was younger, and more innocent, surely. When his mind started to reminisce, it was stirred by the fiend halting its tracks, a claw resting on his coffin as it sniffed around, for far too long. That thing was getting the wrong idea, his heart thumped harder and harder, it would only be a matter of time.
This would not be his resting place, statement clarified by pushing the coffin open with a creak, and slashing the blade into the beast’s throat, carving into the flesh, and before it could open its foul mouth to screech, he bound the mouth with his other hand, and pushed it close; its blood trickling on the cover. The beast thrashed and thrashed; contesting the alchemist’s strength with its demonic braw. Its claws scraping the stone coffin and nicking his reinforced coat; the animal clawed for its life, with its final, pitiful throe being its hand reaching out for the man’s beaked mask, only to fall limp. Huffing and panting from the resistance, he gently settled the body down, and began to creep out, and reluctantly taking the handaxe from the hero’s cask. He examined it for a moment; the steel -- while rusted -- had a fine finish, and showed embroidery of a shining sun over a crescent moon. He marveled at it for however long he could, awe dwarfed by the state of the coffin and burial site. They showed many inscriptions, many engravings of what he could assume was a time long past; they depicted a great sun that shines above that meek waning moon, armies of men marching below, spreading light around the black. From the shadows of those inscriptions, he could spot the twisted monsters; vampiric, demonic, twisted and eldritch in their respective nature. This was a chapel of heroes and martyrs, cemented by depictions of righteous men. While the site showed signs of time, the decrepit crypt was still a great beauty, even if he wanted to leave as soon as he could.
He figured it was still night, as he managed to pull out his dial to look briefly; the time changes from plane to plane, that he could trust. Going outside would prove a greater death sentence, how could those howls be correlated to such demonic things? What else lies in that forest? The man thought to himself, and surely the sounds of his struggle was audible by one of those foul aberrations. The only way to reasonably survive this night was here, in this beautiful, terrifying place. Even if it made him feel awful to hold that fallen hero’s weapon, it would aid him this night. Klaus slung the axe on his belt, and drew out his light-slurbow with his freehand. The one handed, barreled crossbow augmented by clockwork, aiding him in nocking the string. From there, as he moved forth, he opened the breech to side in a bolt. These horrors must be faced, one way or another.
He was no longer the weakened prey, creeping through the crypt to find those foul demons. He clung to the shadows, for fear of being unable to slay them in a full blown melee. As he passed, he saw more and more of the great crypt; its many statues of warriors and armored angels, of kind hearted vestals and righteous churchmen -- the architecture, even if he briefly caught sight -- was truly marvelous, and the stone crests on ground and walls only solidified its marvel. He halted as he saw a shadow, said shadow becoming multiple; a pack of the fiends, those hunched dreggs. He had sheathed his shortsword at this time, opting to take out more of those pepper eggs. Readying his crossbow, and watching those things -- which veered their heads towards his person, stirred by his scent -- he hurled the egg, to which only two were caught and quickly recovered; the others scampered around the area, screeching and growling.
The ones that lead this pack would surely be alerted and make their way, and in response; Klaus had to minimize the threat as much as possible. He started moving around, wary to evade attacks; he loosened a bolt to a beast’s upper body, causing it to crumple with a well placed shot. He drew his sword then, his free hand in a guarding position as opened various wounds in another beast; a flash of steel retaliated by claws and the aid of its allies. While on death’s door, the assailed beast managed to slam the man in the stomach, causing him to reel back and get jumped on by another of the hunched pack. He near buckled -- brought low -- his shortsword twisted in a downward grip to stab into the attacking beast’s ribcage repeatedly, a visceral display as blood and opened organs dripped to the floor with a wettened thud, the air hot with the newfound gore. While this was occuring, he was attacked from the side with a bite, one of these hunched fiends thought it was wise to attack; it bit into his guarding arm with its malformed maw, not only to be held back by the protective cloth, but the make of his prosthetic. The weight of the two brought him to his knee, though the dead thing over his back fell to the ground. He grew desperate as he heard steps rush towards the room. He hissed, intending to drive the bloodied sword into the nape of this beast’s neck, only to be thrown off by another attack from his backside from the dreggs. His sword, while slaying the beast with a final sputter, got lodged into the bone and viscera. The thing from behind pulling him in, and bearing down on his shoulder; though he was fast to react, even without that sword.
He frantically tore that handaxe free from his belt in rythme with the rushed steps, and with a sideways chop, the rusted metal bore and lodged into the beast’s face, maw hanging by mere sinew as its head hung lifelessly on his shoulder, his already drenched figure now sprayed with more blood. He struggled, stamina drained from the onslaught, before his pants were caught off by the last beast, who pounced on him. With a gurgle, he hit the stone floor, wheezing as he looked up to the ugly, twisted face. He tried to move his arm in the way of various claws, only to cause shallow marks along his coat, and pained yelps from the force. It bit down, teeth clasped around the prosthetic. The two struggled, weak jabs with the knee doing little to the beast; and he could feel the teeth press the prosthetic’s covering into itself. His other hand squirmed for his old sword, trying to tug it free during this, and by sheer force of will, he tore it from the dead dregg, and slit open this beast’s belly. The thing struggled as its innards fell with a slack, lasting minutes until it finally died.
His pants and grunts continued, the creature laying on top of him, now lightened its gutted self. What minutes he had to recover were used to push the body off him. Back in his youth, he was much more refined and spry, if it were not for his age and afflictions, perhaps he would not be as out of breath as before. When the remaining of the hunting party approached, they found a blood covered Klaus, the axe clung to his side, his slurbow and sword at hand. Seldom to say, they were very much afraid. He stared at them through the lenses of his mask, huffing and puffing. What fear drove them to run was beyond him; but the roles were now switched -- the hunters turned to prey. As they ran, he slowly followed behind, taking out his larger, clockwork slurbow and loading the weapon. The remaining three were far more refined and humanoid, sporting batlike features and a composite of hide and plate. One of them was in his line of fire, falling to the floor with a heap from a slurbow bolt. The man was left leaning against an archway, sweating underneath his attire. It took him a minute before he regained his composure, slowly but surely continuing his advance; to hunt his prey.
At the very least, those things were moving in the same direction. He loaded another bolt as the fiends bolted past a large gateway, brushing rotted wood to the side, the sound of wood clattering the massive doors. He fired off a shot as he approached, and while their shapes became obscured, he heard a thud. Grunting, the man slung his weapon to take out the shortsword. Peeking inside, he could notice that one was on the ground with a bolt in its leg, and the remaining was in wait. Entering, he immediately slashed his sword, only to grind past hide and glide along plate. He groaned as the able demon hit him with the flat of his axe, causing him to reel back, prosthetic resting on his stomach. Gagging and beginning to recover, he lifted his head to see the axe sail towards his shoulder, to which he locked the attack with his sword, binding the weapon under its heavy head. The force caused him to buckle some more, to which he followed by pushing his foot into the side of its knee. A growl comes from the beast as it inclines, reeling back to avoid the brunt of a riposte, having a cut along its face. It sneered, gripping its axe two-handed, it watched Klaus - the two beginning a silent dance. The man circled around, to send a harsh kick to the downed creature’s head, rendering it unconscious and seeing an opportunity the thing darted towards him, and with what energy he had, Klaus slashed at the side of the axe to beat it to the side, and then jam the shortsword in a ***** of the armor, digging into the hide and sticking into its abdomen. The demon shrieked, and backhanded Klaus, grinding against his crowmask and causing him to double over. He rolled to the side to avoid a follow up attack, coughing and sputtering from the blow. His hand settled on the bloodied axe as he came to a stand, hacking sideways to dig into the demon’s swinging hand, cutting into the bone of its elbow with a roar. It grasped him with its usable hand, and pushed him into the ground, black eyes filled with hate and hunger. He gasped and gurgled, mechanical hand tight around the arm. He reached for his axe, and twisted it from the wound, to slam the backspike of the axe into the batthing’s shoulder, it toppling over.
The hunter took advantage of this, tearing the spike from the foul thing, replaced by a boot to the throat. It couldn’t do much, growling as it watched Klaus pick off the downed demon with a shot from one of his slurbows. The crowmasked alchemist turned back to face the demon, pressing his boot into the thing.
“Talk. What are you? What was this hunting party?” Klaus queried with a huff, his crowmask close to the foul demon. It snarled and rasped, teeth contorted into a foul grin, spitting blood at his face.
“Expected you… Planewalker. We knew one would come. Even if I die here… more will come for you.” Klaus, even if he had the thought in the back of his mind, couldn’t help but swallow his coming words. He tensed up, only to stare.
“You cannot escape! For we -- the courts, the counts -- we have trapped you here.” A verbal knife to his side, Klaus could only feel an ache in his stomach, and the need to vomit.
“What were those howls?” He asked shakily, pushing his boot into the thing’s neck, even if it was talking, the stress was mounting and he needed something to relieve it.
“The hounds. We are not alone here; there are many… MANY things here, worse than I. More savage and terrifying… if we do not have our way with you, they will.” And with a gurgle, the beast sliced its own tongue, blood spurting onto Klaus’ mask.
“Tah...htah…” It managed to gurgled out, before the body turned lifeless.
He took his ammunition and weapons from the downed demons; even if he was shaken by the circumstance. He looked up in this chamber, spotting massive statues that clung to the supports; showing soldiers with clenched blades, and holy beings reaching out their arms. The cracked stone welcomed those within, even the dead and distraught. Looking down at the massive crest of a floor-- depicting the same sun and moon -- he tried to perform a ritual to return, only to find a mark above his head as he finished the incantation; preventing him from returning home. Woeful.
He started breathing heavy, clutching his sides as he stifled a scream. The mounted stress was getting to his head, and where he was wasn’t helping. However, before he could fully lose it, he relaxed himself; the fellow seeing his current standing. The fellow had to survive this night, at the very least. He took to getting the wood and rock from around the place; bone and demon used to fuel the fire. He huddled close to the campfire, using it to keep himself warm. He downed some food, staring into the flame. The past flooded through him, the good, the bad; he saw his better half through the flame, and those he held dear, only to be consumed by fire. After he finished eating, the alchemist slowly began to settle in, wanting nothing but sleep in this hellhole, though the mind is a cruel machination.
His den was covered in shadows, and for a damaged man to be alone in such a place only breeds horrors; ones spawned of the mind. Every creak and distant sound worried him, keeping him awake. They were coming, he felt; and this feeling happened every waking minute, spurred by insecurities of the mind, growing into a beast of its own. It overlooked Klaus, and shaped his thoughts with torment; the night did not end by sleep, but by staring at the ticking clock, and his surroundings; his den. Within this place -- within his decrepit den -- he remained huddled, waiting, afraid and paranoid, kept company by the fire and his agonized mind, hoping it would not go out -- though he would not be awake to see whether or not that happened.
End of Act II. Act III, Errant coming soon.