The Box (Part VII)

The sounds were subtle at first, and if he hadn’t been actively searching for any signs of danger, he might have missed them altogether.  A series of soft clicks echoed through the tunnels.  They were innocent enough at first, and just as he was about to decide that they belonged to an insectile denizen of the underdark, a soft whistle answered.

For the first time since leaving his hearth home, his hands began to shake.  His heart pounded so loudly in his chest that he worried the sound would give him away. There wasn’t time to think of such things.  Slowly, he removed a small cylindrical object from one of his many hidden pockets and pressed it against the wall.  Seconds later, he left the chalk message behind with utter confidence that his companions would easily discern its meaning; Danger!

He hoped that it was enough.  It had to be.  These creatures were difficult enough to battle when solitary, but he knew that this wouldn’t be the case.  There were at least two of the Destrachan stalking him and the gods alone knew how many more were out there!

Having moved very little since replacing the chalk, he lowered his hand onto the pommel of his dagger.  The feeling was warm and comforting, for it had been a faithful tool during his travels, but he also knew that it wouldn’t be enough.  There was no way that he could take down two of them by himself!

The Destrachan are a legendary race of predators, mostly unknown to those above ground.  They’re able to move deceptively quick on their  powerful hind legs, at the bottom of which their tri-clawed feet which they can also use for attack.  A powerful tail maintains their balance, in their hunched over posture, and is itself a deadly weapon in combat as well.  Generations of living below ground have removed the necessity of having eyes, and a large circular mouth dominates the front of their head, inside of which is lined with several rows of razor-sharp teeth.  Though they have two power arms to attack with, they are most commonly known to lead into battle with a kinetic attack from the mouth.  A weaker version of the Banshee’s wail, this attack not only causes significant damage to their victims, but has been known to outright kill those more susceptible to the sonic attack.

Joeshan drew his dagger from its sheath and despaired that he couldn’t find a way to find the unfair advantage.  There would be no sneaking around them, for, unlike most beasts, these were extremely intelligent.  While it was true that they hunted for food, they also enjoyed toying with their prey before killing it.  He’d even heard rumors that they could understand the common speech of man and delighted in the fear they caused in their victims.

More than their intelligence, their true advantage was with their extraordinary hearing. Their tripartite ears allow for it to adjust to the many different sensitivities of sound, which, in turn, allow them to ‘see’ better than most creatures who rely solely on their eyes.

As he was reflecting on the physiology of his enemy, he failed to notice that the tunnels had fallen silent.  His stomach grumbled, but this time it wasn’t from the hunger.  He felt sick.  They were now upon him, and… inhuman shriek shattered the silence, rending it beneath several waves of power.  He didn’t see the attack that slammed into his chest, lifting him into the air and launching him several feet backwards.  He couldn’t hear his screams as the Destrachan slowly crept to where he now lay.  If he had, it would have sounded something like a woman’s scream, mixed with a pig’s squeal.

The blubbery lips of the monster rippled from the passage of its attack, but more unsettling than the sound from its mouth was the steady clickety-clack of its claws as it drew ever closer.

Stunned by its attack, Joeshan watched helplessly as it approached.

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