Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ravens, Pt. Three

Tossing his mace to Steven, David hefted his copper-tinged spear I his hands, sweat glistening on his brow despite the chill in the air. Steven, a burly lad with a clean shaven head and a beard down to his mid chest, clenched his fist around the hefty mace with an iron grip, his other hand wielding an equally hefty oak cudgel. Heinrich had no doubt that between the two of them, they would work fine. He was merely worried about being overwhelmed by the Crawlers.
Peeking over the counter, he could just make them out in the dim lighting of the old pharmacy. A total of five clamored above the shelves, moving like spiders on stolen limbs stitched to grey swollen bodies. The heads, hanging limply from the shoulders, were split down the middle and bald, opening and closing in a demented parody of a mouth as tendrils of sewed tongues slithered out, black ichor dripping from the pale pink extremities. Moving on four or five arms a piece, this left each of them with four arms held high in the air, rusty knives and trowels held in dirtied hands, with an array of other sharpened bits of metal jammed into the back of the creature, easily within reach of the arms should they have need of them.
Crouching back below the counter, Heinrich pulled his sickles to his side, adjusting the leather loops extending from their handles around his wrists for the upcoming battle. “Don’t be fooled by how they look,” He said, mostly to the two young bloods, “Crawlers can think, and they’re fast on their own. They like to work in pack tactics. These ones look like they may have some kind of poison on their tongues, so don’t let any get near your mouth or eyes.”
“Let’s just do this and get out of here,” Michael groused, hands tight around the pommel of his sword, “Samuel may need our help.”
Heinrich nodded and, upon giving them all one last look, stood and turned to face the looming threat as they slowly crept closer to the counter.
“Alright!” He cried, twirling his sickles about his hands in an intricate pattern. “Whose first?”
Three Crawlers immediately answered his challenge, skittering along the worn carpet on broken fingers towards the counter, heads weakly lifted into the air as the tendrils spread out wide from the disgusting slit. The first to reach the counter, quickly vaulted over it, three ashen hands pulling it up on the slickened wood and plaster while another two swung dirty cleavers at Heinrich, who merely leaned back before quickly snapping forward, cutting into two of the arms supporting the foul creature up, severing tendon and sinew from bone as he slid the sickles down, shaving flesh away from arm.
Michael surged up from his kneeling position, blade upturned so that he could impale the beast with his long blade, the tip of the claymore piercing the upper chest and breaking through the back in a shower of gore and chalky tissue. Wriggling like a fish stuck on a line, the head gave a low keening wail, one matched by the other two Crawlers that were quickly scaling the countertop as well.
One of the Crawlers never had a chance to swing a blade as Steven’s twin hunks of hammering fury rained down onto the raised arms bearing knives, snapping bones as the heavy-headed weapons surged onward into the soft tissue of the torso, driving several planted knives deep into the body while breaking the exposed spine and several ribs. The creature flailed helplessly about as it tried to right itself, but was quickly speared in the chest by David, who hefted the squirming mass into the path of the third Crawler, effectively knocking it off of the counter.
Heinrich took a few moments to carve away at the stuck Crawler, slicing away hands and severing tendons on the arms used to propel the beast about, his cuts surgical in their precision. Michael, hoisting most of the beasts mass over him, grunted from the exertion before pushing a gloved hand up to the creatures chest, pushing it off of his blade slowly, in order to grant Heinrich more time in disarming the creature, before rolling it off the counter with a meaty thud.
The men barely had a moments breath as the remaining three Crawlers pressed in with their attack, the lightest on hanging in the back and acting as support as it’s four arms began pulling blades and stakes from its hide at random, throwing them with startling accuracy at the besieged looters, forcing them to seek shelter behind the counter.
David was able to plant the end of his spear into the floor before jamming the copper head into the shoulder of a Crawler descending upon him, effectively pinning the creature at a distance as it growled, jerking and throwing its weight about to try and wrest it’s way free from the piercing instrument holding it back from its meal. Steven, a knife stuck in his shoulder and a cut across his cheek, swung up with his borrowed mace, crushing the skull of the trapped Crawler, a torrent of black ooze splattering out from the splintered remains of the skull, drooling down onto David’s chest and shoulder.
The other Crawler, proving that the creatures did indeed possess a frightening intelligence, had sheathed its blades within its own body, choosing instead to grab a revolving bookshelf that sat near the register on the other side of the counter, hefting up the heavy wooden object and using it as a shield as it clambered over the countertop, Michael’s claymore hacking into rotting wood instead of rotting flesh.
Pushing the bookcase off in Michael’s direction, the Crawler pounced forward, bodily slamming into Heinrich and pinning him to the floor, one sickle knocked free from his hand and wrist. Heinrich immediately punched his free hand up into the writhing tongues, his gloved hand seeking purchase amongst the slithering tendrils, which happily wrapped around his hand. With his other hand he brought his sickle into play, repeatedly slamming the sharpened edge into the creatures side.
This didn’t last long as two arms took hold of the weapon, pulling it from Heinrich’s grip with ease as another two moved to pin him to the ground, one taking a firm grip on his bicep, the other on his throat. The tendrils, now firmly encircling his forearm, began slowly dragging the entire limb into the split skull hanging loosely above, as another arm brutally punched him in the face, breaking his nose in a bloody splatter.
Steven, still standing, moved to help Heinrich before receiving a hail of knives from the final Crawler that had yet to approach, dropping him to the floor with a cry of agony. Still pinned beneath the writhing Crawler, held up only by his spear, David grabbed his mace from Steven’s slackened grip and brought it up with a grunt, breaking one of the creatures arms with a sickening crack.
“Hang in there Heinrich!” David cried as he took another swing, slowly scooting away from his spider-like foe.
Heinrich’s vision was blurry as the Crawler continued to pound his face with its dead hand, strings of blood and tissue dangling from the offending limb. Struggling for breath, Heinrich kicked and bucked against his assailant, only to have hands grab his legs, forcing them down. His arm half down the gullet of the Crawler, Heinrich closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable.
With a screech from Heinrich and a gurgle from the Crawler, the two rolled in unison as the splintered remains of the bookshelf slammed into the side of the creature, throwing it off balance and forcing it to roll into David’s spear, knocking it free from its pinned position and dropping the crippled Crawler onto the one in the midst of murdering Heinrich. Before either could react, Michael was upon them, savagely hacking into the mass of mottled flesh and broken wood with his claymore.
Limbs and hands were both ripped and cleaved from the writhing bodies as the two Crawlers sought to untangle themselves. Heinrich, his face throbbing and his arm in searing agony, reached up with his newly freed hand and took a hold of one side of the split skull, yanking back hard on it as best he could, peeling it free from the Crawler in the midst of a keening wail.
Taking the broken half of skull, Heinrich gripped the top of it, eyes piercing the dull orbs in the sockets as one would hold a bowling ball, and began fervently beating at the tendrils still wrapped about his broken arm.
“Get the fuck off me!” Heinrich growled, bucking and kicking at the probing hands as they sought to pin him once more.
The half-skull, fractured from age and the use as a hammer, now presented Heinrich just the tool he needed: jagged bone. With a pained battle cry, he slipped the splintered mandible beneath the tendrils and began sawing at them directly, severing them one by one. Just as he severed the last one, dragging his sagging broken arm from the damp hole that served as the creatures mouth, did Michael’s claymore begin to strike true, having finally carved its way through the crippled Crawler pinning Heinrich’s adversary to the ground. The creature wailed as it’s limbs fell to the ground, going from nine to seven, then to three arms in mere seconds, leaving it crippled and defenseless as it dragged itself slowly away from the crazed swordsmen, a steady stream of black ichor drooling out of its many wounds.
The final Crawler, out of knives to throw, had taken the moment of mass confusion to raid one of the abandoned aisles, now charging unsteadily on three limbs with six others swinging canes about as it made its way to the counter.
Michael, unsettled by the sight at first, pulled the spear free from the oozing mass of rotten flesh and, in a single thrust, pierced the sagging head of the charging beast, wrestling it to the floor as it struggled at the end of the spear, it’s momentum forcing several feet of the long weapon into its body.
Looking to the others, Michael knelt next to Heinrich. “You two finish that one off, I have to make sure Heinrich is alright.”

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