The stairs curled up around the turret before straightening out, up through one gate, under an arched bridge, and through a second, closed gate.
Nak sized up the defenders on and about those stairs. One soldier gripped a tattered spear just up the steps, one surely lurked right around the corner of the first gate, and two held crossbows on the bridge above. But the foe that dominated Nak’s attention—the star of this show—was a half-ton, ten-foot-long boar, inexplicably covered tusk-to-hoof in banded armor.
Nak raised his trusty heater shield and inched forward, drawing out the first spearmen (and the one hiding, as promised, around the corner). He dispatched them with four slick strokes, and took two steps forward to encourage the mechaboar out of its hiding spot. The mechaboar swatted at the ground with its hoof, and Nak knew what that meant. He dove to the side, but too early! The mechaboar adjusted, and caught him in full stride with its tusks, hurling him backward into a pillar. Nak tried to stand up, but not quickly enough. The tusks returned. Nak died.
Nak tried, across about ten deaths:
Nak’s eventual victory with the fourth method was especially ignoble, but he was tired of being rent asunder by mechatusks.
Nak advanced down a narrow hallway. Ahead, he could see that it ended in a T-junction. The wall of that T-junction wasn’t actually a wall, it was beautifully worked column/archwork that afforded a view of the old and serene forest, but he couldn’t get caught up in that. He had to navigate this junction carefully: danger could lurk around either corner.
Fortunately, a fellow undead fate-seeker had left him a softly glowing orange message: “Beware of right.” Nak smirked as he inched toward the junction… and he wheeled around upon the unsuspecting Hollow spearman, waiting in a small nook on the right hand side, holding up its own shield. Nak kicked to break it guard, and then—STAB.
There was a rapier sticking through his back. Nak died.
Just beyond the helpful but ultimately misleading warning, Nak found himself on his hands and knees scrawling a message of his own: “Beware of left.” Hopefully the next poor sap to blunder down this hallway would catch on and not merely shrug off the seemingly conflicting warnings.
Nak weighed the options, literally and figuratively: broadsword? Bastard sword? Stick with his trusty longsword? Better armor?
He had found a veritable candy shop in this bleak and abandoned parish: Blacksmith Andrei, a perfectly human fellow who was willing to take Nak’s gathered souls in exchange for forged weapons and improving those Nak already carried.
So many decisions.
Nak eventually bought a bastard sword and asked Andrei to improve his armor and longsword before he charged outside to try out his new and terrifying weapon.
He smashed the first hollow he found, sending it flying. He broke straight through the feeble guard of the next, and he effortlessly cleaved through the pesky caped, rapier-and-buckler fencer that he had dueled with on several occasions.
It was going to be a good day.
The Bell Gargoyle was a fearsome creature indeed: it hefted a twelve-foot-long greataxe in its muscled arms, and its tail had been fixed with a hundred-pound steel axe head, which it would swing in devastating arcs while airborne. Nak found this to be a wonderful use for his bastard sword: he could swing it in great arcs of his own, focusing his energy into one blow when the gargoyle had landed and dropped its defenses, and retreat before it would counterattack. He measured his attacks carefully, noting that he had to maintain enough composure to keep his shield up and deflect its tail strikes without being thrown backward. He dodged, he swung, he blocked, he sidestepped… he had found his rhythm again. Maybe the Taurus Demon had taught him all he needed to know?
Then Nak’s ears heard something strange. The beat of the wings changed.
There was more than one set in the air.
Nak dove forward right as a second bell gargoyle landed behind him on the sloped church rooftop. He scrambled out from between the two monsters and held his shield up. Now he had to anticipate attacks from two directions, from four different sources: two enormous greataxes, and two lashing axe-tails. Opportunities to restore himself with Est would be short and risky. His analysis was cut short by another sound reaching his ears, this one vaguely familiar: a deep growling, accompanied by the sound of seeping air. Oh no. The gargoyles could breathe fire.
He awoke at the bonfire above Andrei’s workshop, listening to the regular tink-tink-tink of the blacksmith’s hammer. He put his shiny new equipment aside. This had worked before, why not again? Nak went to bed, counting hammers instead of sheep.
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