The cold bit into Snookums hard. Not much over 3 feet tall, he was a slender figure, barely noticeable as he slunk amongst the shadows of Quietus keep. The fallen glory of the once great edifice was not lost on the young Kobold. Even amongst the rubble, bits and pieces bespoke of sweeping arches and fanciful fairy like columns.
The smell of wet dog was prevalent, wet dog and something else, his Kobold senses suddenly went on high alert, blood, and a lot of it, had been shed here. Walking forward, flitting from shadow to shadow, Snookums eyed the cavernous mouth of an archway into a as yet unfallen tower. Abruptly deciding that if it hadn't fallen yet, it wasn't going to anytime soon Snookums slipped into the icy shadows of the tower proper.
The reek of hound was nearly overpowering within the ruins and it was all he could do not to vomit. Having grown up amongst the Kobold warrens, Snookums was no stranger to fetid aromas but this; this was as an exhaled breath to a titanic windstorm. Finally mastering the urge to indulge in a prolonged fit of hacking, Snookums took stock of his chosen environs, his eyes adjusting without conscious thought to the Stygian gloom.
A crudely constructed ladder, ahead and to his left, caught his roving eye, as his gaze followed it upwards, he espied the watching form of the last Heir to the keep, nameless, now known simply as the Hunter. Swallowing was difficult as Snookums re assessed his plans. He hadn't expected the Hunter, hadn't reckoned on this complication.
Snookums swiftly reviewed what he knew of the solitary figure known as The Hunter. Last heir to the keep, the tales said that he had played within this very grounds as a child, that these fearsome beasts had been his boon companions as he grew. With the fall of the Keep, the hounds had gone feral, Snookums could easily sense those that had simply wandered for lack of a good Master and those that had willingly, eagerly embraced the path of Evil.
The Hunter hoped to redeem both his hounds and his legacy but Snookums had never heard of any tale of the Hunter involving himself with the activities of the Hounds, instead he watched and waited, hoping that a path back to prominence might reveal itself. Of those who had dared to confront the hunter, Snookums shuddered and firmly redirected his thoughts away from such a fate.
The low rumbling growl captured Snookums attention at once. How could he not have seen it at once ? He didn't know but he surely saw it now, and saw that small as he was, it was wholly unaware of him.
The hound was more wolf than dog, fully 7 feet tall at the shoulder, towering above Snookums. The ears alone were bigger than his entire hand. The paw pads were nearly as large Snookums entire head and those claws were deeply stained a shade of red whose origin did not bear thinking of. The smell coming off of the behemoth was that of the cold, unforgiving sepulcher and in spite of himself Snookums shuddered with revulsion.
Snookums realized that he could retreat as he had come with the fell beast wholly unawares. Suddenly filled with self loathing and disgust, Snookums shook his head violently. No, he had come here to prove, both to others and to himself, that he could become a potent ally and a worthy adversary. Small as he was, the shadow arts came to him naturally but despite his mastery of these, he was not as yet. a wanted quantity among the stalwarts of the realms. Snookums was going to change that..or Die trying.
Snookums gripped His Tourach in one hand and his Nephlim in the other, taking stock of the great beast, knowing that if he missed this, crucial first strike, his end would come all too swiftly. Muttering half formed prayer to whomever might be listening, Snookums Lunged up and forwards stabbing as hard as he could with both arms fully extended, aiming for those baleful, glowing red eyes, determined to close those windows into hell.
Success! The two blades sank deep and the red glow dimmed and went out. The great beast was blinded! Snookums elation vanished as the massive mastiff whipped its head back and forth in an arc, flinging Snookums away and coating him with a fine mist of blood that hissed and sizzled as it impacted upon the armor that protected the young kobold.
Snookums realized that, although blinded, the fight was far from gone form the fell beast. Those great and terrible ears twitched and flicked, orienting on Snookums every move, every breath, blinding it had given Snookums an advantage, but not nearly as much as he had hoped.
Blocking those gnashing teeth and struggling to avoid the horrific claws, Snookums clamped his teeth shut, locking in the scream that tried to erupt forth as the great hound's vicious teeth found their mark. Snookums knew that he would have to take a great risk, if he missed, his death was surely to follow.
Crouching low, nearly on his all too small posterior, Snookums pistoned out with both legs, his minuscule two limbs sweeping out and away the four great stanchions of the fell beast. Like a tree toppling, the great hound came crashing down and Snookums scrambled back, nearly pinned by the falling body.
The hound wasn't down for good, no far from it, even prone, the beast was titanic in its fury. The great head lashed forward, impossibly fast and Snookums suffered a horrible wound to his left side , blood and guts beginning to leak from behind the protecting armor. Desperately Snookums lashed out, mingled pain, fury and fear combining to propel Snookums kicking foot into a juggernaut of force. The hound suddenly lurched to its feet and fled from the tower, weeping blood from its ruined eyes as it retreated.
The sudden respite was welcome but again Snookums felt his Kobold nature trying to assert Dominance over his intelligence. Run away, flee, hide, his instincts beat at him, a throbbing drumbeat matching the tempo of the wound in his side. Snookums took a deep breath and recited the sacred word taught to him from his earliest days as an adventurer. SANCTUM.
Snookums moved as best he could down into the healing hall of the sacred sanctum, so dire was his condition, so clearly could he see the cold icy fingers of Death reaching for him, that without hesitation he asked for healing not only from the Great Glae but also of Saintly Serpwar and Courageous Kimla. The potency of the triple healing filled Snookums with light and steeled his resolve. The screaming of his Kobold nature, he easily quashed and bowing low to his three saviors, he invoked the power of return, his resolve to fell the great beast renewed.
The tower remained icy cold, filled with the great stench of beast, but now, now without the distraction of his own wounds, Snookums clearly discerned another scent. A scent that filled him with a wildness. Fear. The great beast feared him. Snookums strode forth from the tower, a maniacal laugh spilling from his mouth.
The massive mastiff stood amongst three other, smaller hounds. Snookums glared at them, each in turn, and their eyes dropped. Snookums nodded, knowing that they would not dare to interfere in the fight that was to come. Launching himself with a Kobold yelp of fury, Snookums swept the four tree trunk like legs from beneath the great beast once more. As it crashed to the bloodstained earth of the once elegant grounds of Quietus keep, Snookums was a whirlwind of flashing blades and potent kicks. The beast struggled to its feet once more, But Snookums eager for the kill, swept is legs once more and thrust with all he had, striking the Kill shot as the beat crumpled.
Snookums threw back his head and laughed, knowing that this day, he had fought a battle that he should have, well could have, and nearly had, lost. Power filled Snookums and he realized that he had increased in potency by a great measure with his victory, hearing the distant call of the town crier announcing it to all gave Snookums a heady feeling,akin to drinking a fine wine.
The body of the great beast suddenly turned into a foul smelling smoke, borne away on the wind, back into the ruins of the tower. Snookums nodded his eyes narrowed. The tales were true. The dead of Quietus keep did not rest easy, indeed did not rest at all. The knowledge that the great beast would return, fit and fierce, unwounded should have scared him, Snookums felt his Kobold nature trying to be scared, but buoyed by his newly acquired potency and puissance, the fear simply couldn't find an avenue to grip him.
Snookums couldn't help but wonder we hat the true nature of Quietus keep was. Why did Death hold no sway here ? what kept bringing the foul, fell hounds back again and again ? While he suspected that it had very much to do with the fact that in those desperate days when the keep was falling the hounds betrayal and turning upon their former Masters had a great deal to do with the now present curse that bound them here.
Snookums mulled over the fact that a measure of the hounds simply had not, would not, partake of the evil path. Feral ? yes indeed. But Demonic ? No. Snookums could sense that many of the hounds had not embraced the Demonic fate that had been thrust upon them. why then were they too bound ? He shrugged and sighed. A mystery for another day, another time.
For now though, Snookums grinned, looking Feral himself, there was much more potency to be gained here, many strides for him to take upon the highway of heroes, proving himself worthy of being amongst their august company.
Snookums raised his blades and lunged at the nearest hound, once more beginning his dance with Death, either his or the beasts, knowing that one day soon these terrible creatures would be beneath him.