§ 2021-02-15 19:57:13
[23:21] The landscape they were walking into became increasingly scraggy beyond the conifers, thinning them out. The rocks that became more dominant, decorated with bushes, were furrowed and split, forming treacherous ground – but it didn't look as though it could hide much of anything that could be dangerous to passerby.
But it could definitely hide things.
§ 2021-02-27 18:04:40
[18:04] This sort of terrain was more familiar to kavkem than Nayabaru, which was to their advantage if they encountered Hesh. Unfortunately, that meant the Hesh may have experience laying traps within it, which boded ill. Asraaban had no idea how the Karesejat would handle it. Would her thin legs struggle to find purchase, or would having more of them compensate? He'd never actually SEEN her, so he had nothing to base any assumptions on, and that more than anything struck him as a concern.
"I know our enemy is large, but how much boulder does the Enemy require to hide behind?" he asked Evenatra quietly.
[22:22] Evenatra, stubbornly having maintained her leadership position on their tiny flock, nearly stopped mid-stride at the question, making it anything but subtle.
With a mildly alarmed confusion, as though she had been caught out by something not being common knowledge that she thought was common knowledge, she whispered back: "...realistically? None. From what I've seen and heard, both, she can hide in plain sight."
§ 2021-03-06 03:54:44
[03:54] Oh. Wonderful. Camouflage. Just what a giant spider needed. Because of course the entire situation was not daunting enough.
Very well. If he could not reliably trust his eyes, he would... well. In truth, he would stick close to Evenatra, who had senses he lacked, and presumably could reliably spot the Enemy.
§ 2021-04-17 14:10:38
[14:49] Yanaru bristled lightly at the revelation, shooting her a mild but palpable glare. 'Maybe you should have told us that before you recruited us' was a poor complaint when the Dynashgadecha themselves had practically forced themselves into the party, but it did rank high on 'things best mentioned upfront'.
Kalina skipped translating Yanaru's reaction – they were here for the danger and for everything Evenatra knew about, there was bound to be another thing she did not know. It was consistent with what she'd said so far.
Instead, she asked: "So, how do we spot her?"
"I should be able to see her in any guise," Evenatra mused. "But it depends on our angle of approach and I need to be looking her way." Privately, she appended: And if I see her, it might be too late for any of us to react. But she'd decided now was the time to fight. She was sticking to it.
Gradually Evenatra's leadership took them toward a set of sharply defined natural stairs. The whole segment was leading into a deep valley at a gentle slope – the end of one mountain ridge and the beginning of another. The ground seemed increasingly sturdy despite the furrows, without too many pebbles one could lose one's footing with.
Evenatra's borrowed instincts hated that there was no place for their little troop to hide, other than in the depth of the night's darkness.
About halfway down the sequence of staggered, short plateaus, a soft whistling noise rose only to cut itself short. Evenatra twisted slightly and gave a drawn out hiss. "Stay back," she whispered sharply, right hand grabbing at her left shoulder, then plucking the dart from her simulated feathers to wave it at her companions demonstratively.
She silently gestured to where it had come from, then turned without moving her feet to where its sister sensor might have been set up, trying to guess which of the bushes it was in. Yanaru, however, was already carefully approaching the first from a different angle, hoping to dismantle part of the perimeter.
From now, it was best they hurry. It was the safe assumption to make that these were also beacons. It would take a while to confirm it and it was important they did, but their first assumption should be that they had to move quickly.
§ 2021-04-24 16:21:02
[16:21] The landscape was fitting for an ambush. If they were truly fortunate, it would be one they had set.
Despite the fact they were following a god, Asraaban doubted they were that lucky. Indeed, the landscape agreed with him, and thankfully they DID have a god on their side, if only because she was wise enough to armour herself.
Was it a one-shot trap, or many? Too late to judge, because one of their tag alongs was already on the move. Very well. There would be more traps, and now was the time to choose how they would counter them.
"Stick close and try to sneak past or disarm as we go, or set off everything and be prepared to outrun our foes?"
[17:05] "We're here to disarm them," Evenatra reminded, gently, ruling out 'sneak past'. "Just be careful; I presume this concoction will take you down quickly if you're hit." And that mostly ruled out 'set them off'.
During the curt conversation, Yanaru had reached the source of the dart. The bush rustled as he thrust in his arms, grasping what turned out to be a pole with a tripod base and plucking it up. In reflex, he snapped his muzzle back as another dart leapt out of its confines, disappearing ineffectually in a direction that presumably pointed to another perimeter point to which its uprooting had severed the link.
Moments later he had hefted the metal contraption against one shoulder and was walking to meet up with Evenatra, to let her investigate its structure and function.
Kalina was beginning to carefully inspect the bushes to the right, hoping to spot the sister device to the pair that had triggered the dart which had struck Evenatra.
The device Yanaru brought them had a square plate at the top, and what at first glance looked like two circular holes in its surface staggered on either side – one each turned out to be covered by glass.
It was possible to open the device, which Evenatra did, uncovering both a place to store darts – several, in fact, some of which had yet to be deployed, which made her wonder what would have triggered said redeployment – and a battery. She plucked out the battery, then gestured to the square plate. "Solar-regenerative batteries," she mused.
The observation wouldn't help them take it down – it didn't need much energy to have a thin beam of light keep track of its own unbroken nature, and for a dart to be released, and it was night besides. But it pleasantly shattered any mystery about the devices. This should be easy to—
A soft sound seized Evenatra's attention, slowly rolling toward them, disembodied while her feathers began to stand on end with tension and she tried to make out what it was.
It was the sound of metal on stone, if metal skittered.
§ 2021-05-08 15:46:17
[15:01] He did not like this. They were moving too fast, too recklessly for anything short of an assault or frantic retreat. Which, arguably, this was (or at least was going to become). Also they were Dynashgadecha, and so the regional experts in this and he should trust them to do their job, while he focused on HIS.
Unfortunately, 'prepare for battle and protect Evenatra' worked better when they were facing Hesha, not the Enemy. Or when he was to stay and PROTECT instead of flee and leave her behind.
Which... might be a decision to make within the next few seconds. "That seems to be too rapid," he murmured, head twisted to one side. "Spiderling scouts?"
§ 2021-05-13 17:49:18
[17:49] Evenatra passed the disabled device back to Yanaru, her tense focus cast into the landscape behind them, trying to pinpoint the sound for a clear direction. Yanaru began trying to take the device apart with partial attention; it was unlikely doing so was going to yield more intel, given they were clearly beacons and otherwise quite crude, but for a few seconds, it was the best use of his time.
On a scale of one to things you never want to hear a deity say, "What is that?" ranked a solid nine. Evenatra bristled. "Fan out, scatter," she instructed, gesturing for Asraaban to go with Kalina.
Even as the gesture completed, the threat became visible to them all – first one, then two, and finally a third of some kind of autonomous machine with some unintuitive number of multi-segmented limbs (careful analysis would have shown there to be five), running toward them with an alien gait, each subtly taller than a kavkem, although their respective 'bodies' held up by the limbs were smaller than a hand.
There was no time to analyse all this. If Evenatra hadn't seen them coming before everyone else, 'Fan out, scatter' would have taken too long to say to have much hope of launching into a run before they caught up with anyone.
§ 2021-05-15 17:10:00
[17:10] He was moving before he had time to think. That was a direct order in a combat situation and there was no time for hesitation or questioning.
Those long-trained reflexes turned out to be justified; there were... there were MONSTERS. Asraaban found his brain stalling over what they were. He couldn't tell you how many legs they had (beyond 'too many'), or how they were assembled, or even WHERE they were attached and if some were arms or maybe the whole lot was a bunch of walking-worms.
None of that mattered. There were only two questions in his mind: how do we evade it, and how do we kill it?
[18:09] Yanaru and Evenatra leapt into motion. She led the way, in as much as 'fan out, scatter' could result in any leading at all; but the kavkem instinct to stay in pairs of two was strong, honed by plenty of stories where kavkema in solitude had been ensnared far from the help of their peers.
But there were only three of their enemy and four of them. One changed course to follow Asraaban and Kalina; the other two others pursued Evenatra and Yanaru. As far as possible outcomes went, it was a good one – Asraaban and Kalina might have a good chance of fighting a single one of them, and the other pair of kavkema had the benefit of Evenatra.
At least in theory.
Kalina had uprooted the second beacon and was ready to wield it as a blunt weapon as Asraaban closed in, her glare shot past him at their enemy, taking careful but quite rapid steps backward along the plateau, tense and terrified, but in the manner of any Dynashgadech, unwilling to back down for it.
§ 2021-06-05 14:04:08
[14:04] Weak points: joints, sensory organs, genitalia, nerve clusters, major blood vessels. These were mechanical, so no genitals or blood. Electrical components may be comparable to nerve clusters, but he had no idea where they were located. So. Hit the cameras and the joints.
The central body likely held the eyes and brain. It was tiny. Perhaps it could be smashed smothered; that would depend on weaponry and armour. What weaponry did they have? Presumably poison. Possibly some form of electricity, but electricity was dangerous: it could kill a kavkem as easily as it disabled, and the Nayabaru would not tolerate that.
The body would be tricky to reach and it was likely the poison was dispensed from the limbs somehow. So. The joints were his target.
He needed a rope, or a rockslide, or in desperation Kalina's idea of a very big stick.
§ 2021-06-19 17:42:27
[17:42] There was no time to acquire any of it. Kalina's choice was obvious, but she'd made it sooner. Maybe another tactic would be to get the mechanical monster to thunder off a cliff from misguided momentum and break itself on the rocks below.
Kalina lowered her torso, feathers bristled, both forepaws clutched at her weapon. An instant later, the creature was practically upon her and she swung the uprooted beacon at its limbs, somehow resisting her deep urge to flee, vividly expressed in her posture as it was. Metal rang against metal as it connected, singing through her bones like a bell, disrupting their enemy's balance in the same breath as the impact ached punishingly in her wrists.
One metallic limb folded. The machine feigned no surprise – with what registered as confident grace, it let itself fall onto the curling limb, instead immediately flicking its other two limbs forward as though to grab for Kalina's arms and neck and tear her down with it.
Somewhere from beyond Asraaban's visual range sounded a cry of angry frustration, located somewhere further down the stair-like slope leading down one of the wide cracks in the landscape, its exact source hidden from sight by the plateau's rocky surface – but it had to be Evenatra.
§ 2021-06-26 16:45:30
[16:45] Don't focus on Evenatra. She's annoyed, not panicked: trust her to have things well in hand.
Focus on Kalina. Your instinct says to use your body to manuever, to turn in multiple steps at speed, so that you can keep your weapons focused on your prey. Ignore that. You ARE the prey, and you must spin with the speed they do. Lash your tail around and raise one leg as you tuck your neck, so that your momentum sends you pivoting on your grounded foot. Ignore the scrapes; they'll heal. One stride to rebalance, and you have the speed to leap. Not the positioning, two more paces for that, head low. No clear weaknesses visible on its belly, and you have to assume it can see behind itself; if this was flesh and blood you'd be in its blind spot, but instead you're going to need other techniques.
Like hoping it needed to follow the same rules of physics as the rest of you, and that if one limb was displaced and two were aiming at Kalina, that left only two to balance upon. And very few two-legged things could maintain their balance when said legs were struck by rough sixty kilograms of aggressively pouncing kavkem.
[16:56] It was both a blessing and a curse that it had already decided to fall forward, pivoting on the two remaining 'legs'. Asraaban could knock into it without much resistence – but it could swipe at Kalina without much resistence as well, if now slightly off-target. One reaching limb smacked into one of Kalina's shoulders with far too much force, the other scratched across her chest. The uneven impact made her spin to the side a little, instantly jerking further back, dropping her weapon, and clutching at the struck shoulder.
None of the metallic monster's limbs yet tried to redirect its energies toward Asraaban, although no doubt in another second, it would.
[17:03] Hurling your full body weight against a metal pole hurt. Luckily that was what adrenaline was for. Biting it seemed a poor idea; the Nayabaru did not need assistance in blunting his teeth. (The dream with Tkanetar's messenger flashed through his thoughts, but those teeth were not strong enough either.)
Instead he lashed out at the most grounded leg. A tumbling enemy would be forced to use its limbs to balance instead of attack, and if they could FLIP it then perhaps vulnerable parts would reveal themselves.
[17:18] The disconcerting part was that it was already in the process of flipping itself, evidently having decided that the injured Kalina was no longer its primary target and letting Asraaban manipulate its posture as though it approved. Three of its limbs whirled up, over Asraaban's head, revealing a fairly smooth underside with no obvious hints of anything that could hypothetically be prised open. There were short spines on the inside of the limbs, about a third the way down, reminiscent of a serpent's fangs.
[18:18] Avoid the thorns. Try to break the thorns? He'd need a rock or something, and while they weren't in short supply, they were attached to the ground and he was a little busy. Had Kalina been poisoned? He couldn't tell.
Treat the legs like snakes. He wasn't sure if they were flexible enough to constrict, but they didn't have enough MASS individually to entirely withstand his. Keep moving. Your hips and shoulders and momentum are worth more than your teeth and claws. Look at the feet. Maybe you can damage the parts it uses to grip, because the legs seem too thin for mere steel pads to function at speed.
[01:19] The reappropriated beacon suddenly swerved through the air beside him again – for a disorienting moment, it seemed like the creature might have grabbed a hold of it and was now going to whack the back of his skull with it in blatant disregard for that it might kill him; then a split second later, it resolved into Kalina, grabbing it with one arm only, cracking it down at their metallic enemy.
It interrupted whatever grabbing motion it had wanted to launch at Asraaban and, for a miraculously long moment, pinned it to the smooth, rocky ground as a writhing mess of limbs. It did not seem to be good at recovering from being pinned. It was just about static enough that Asraaban could clearly make out the individual joints between each of the segments of those serpentine limbs.
They looked fairly fragile up close, like the right stressors should tear the legs out of their sockets. It was recovering from whacks and tackles by reacting with several segments, smoothing out sharp angles – but a blunt object applied near each uppermost joint could likely break it.
§ 2021-07-10 14:33:32
[14:33] Kalina was able to move and fight. That was good. A pack of two was better than hunting solo. If a weapon could briefly pin a limb, then they weren't nearly as strong as feared. There were thorns, they were a threat, but if he could... he pounced on one of the swinging limbs, curling his rear talons and crouching slightly to lock it under his body weight as he snatched for a rock to hammer it with.
[15:14] There were rocks in all shapes and sizes nearby, although most certainly erred on the side of 'gravel'. There was one that was a bit too large to comfortably yank at with one paw, but he had two at his disposal – it was about half the size of a kavkem skull and would have made for a great weapon to crush one of those, if that were his goal.
It made an equally good blugeoning weapon for their present enemy. A vicious cracking sound marked the first crippling damage to the thing's pinned leg. It began to jitter along the ground beneath him in its squirming motion, as though it received only partial instructions. Another whack and the writhing stopped, although he couldn't quite get it to physically break off.
No matter. That limb was dead, which was all that mattered.
Just in time, too – the rest of the contraption's writhing was finally dislodging it from Kalina's one-armed pinning gesture, and the other four limbs eagerly snapped up and around in an attempt to close around Asraaban like a fist.
[16:00] One limb down. Five? to go. Or maybe less. And time to move. Move back, move sideways, try to find a chance to repeat it. Keep hold of your rock. It's a good rock. Dodge, pounce, strike- that seemed like a path to victory.
"How many legs until it's harmless?" he asked, half to himself, but perhaps Kalina had a better idea of how to sabotage this creature; he did not deal in much mechanical destruction himself, while she was from a group experienced in it.
[16:50] Kalina didn't answer – whether because speech was beyond her in this current situation or because she had interpreted it as a rhetorical question was hard to say. The first was as likely an explanation as any; she was still trying to whack their metallic opponent with a stick, but having only one functional arm to do it with likely required all of her concentration.
One of the creature's limbs finally got lucky – it snared itself around Asraaban's left heel, yanking him off his feet to even the playing field. The heavy rock unbalanced him further, overstraining several of his arms' joints as he fell to the side. Kalina rammed the upended beacon into the ground between the creature's moving limbs, keeping its core from advancing toward Asraaban.
§ 2021-08-09 18:50:28
[18:50] He hissed in pain as he was tripped-flung across the ground. There wasn't time to focus on that. Lean into the adrenaline; you can assess the injuries if you survive. Get back to your feet, whatever it takes, because it's about to
Ah. It is not mid-lunge, because Kalina has stopped it. Assist Kalina. The fact that the creature is still on the ground and writhing is a good sign, it is a suggestion that once unbalanced it is either slow to right itself or vulnerable while doing so. Time to make its existence worse.
Remarkably he'd kept hold of his rock – although Asraaban knew he was going to regret doing so come dawn – so now it was time to apply it once more with vigor against the joint of one extended limb. One of the ones neighbouring the first he had disabled, because a quadruped could hobble on opposing limbs but not if you broke both on the same side, and hopefully pentapeds obeyed similar physics.
[03:17] In time with the crack of the rock against an unhappy limb, another cry cut through the night – crisp and sharp, the kind made when one had already been discovered and was in dire need of assistance.
Given Yanaru's mute state, there was only one likely source.
Kalina didn't flich, still focussed on their metallic opponent. In a world where brief distraction, however warranted, could sign one's death away, it was standard practise within the organisations to teach their members to ignore empathic instincts in a pinch, to suppress their own alarm, to remain focussed.
It meant her behaviour was quite normal – but whether it was right was another question entirely. They'd mangled their opponent to the point where it would have trouble limping after them and Evenatra and Yanaru had been pursued by two of these monsters.
§ 2021-08-14 16:34:29
[16:34] Which meant the last thing they needed was to fight THREE monsters at once, and he had to be certain of its incapacitation before letting it out of his sight.
"One more limb should cripple it properly," Asraaban said grimly, suiting word to action and circling the writhing structure. "We can't afford not to." One more pounce and it should be done. Three more strikes, ignore your own aching joints, the moon is not yet old and there are hours and battles still before dawn.
§ 2021-08-21 03:20:59
[03:21] The great trouble with mechanical enemies was that their component parts had two modes of operation: Full strength or completely useless. There was no gradual decline from bloodloss or burnt emergency energy reserves as there would be in a biological enemy – which was to say the remaining limbs of their personal monster were still quite formiddable.
Thankfully, so was Kalina's raw persistence, wrestling her stick and monster to keep latter down. Whack, whack, whack. Finally, a third limb went still, leaving two wiggling about. This thing was no longer sprinting anywhere, that much was clear.
Kalina seemed quite intent on staying to keep it pinned against the ground, her focus remaining firmly anchored. Perhaps it would dislodge automatically as soon as Asraaban ran to help the others – or perhaps a word of intent was advisable.
§ 2021-09-04 16:28:28
[16:28] "Let's go, Yanaru needs help," he said quietly, holding his rock close to his chest and picking his way as swiftly as he dared back the way they'd came. Evenatra likely needed help too, but... unless the Karesejat had struck while they were gone, Evenatra would survive. And if she HAD struck, he expected they would have heard more than one scream.
The fact that she HAD screamed was alarming enough, and the reason he was NOT approaching at a flat sprint. The others needed help. If he and Kalina blundered into harm, that was no help at all.
[17:38] For a moment, Kalina seemed reluctant to move, her body held tense against the reappropriated beacon that was helping to keep their metallic opponent from raking its thorns into either of them. Then she yanked it back with a snort, leaping backwards in the same instant, the partially crippled machine springing to marginally more life – insignificant, but obvious, making her bristle and pull her lips back from her teeth in a moment's instinct.
Then she turned her attention to Asraaban and their friends in distress, invisible from their current location as they were.
Both of them knew better than to outright run toward trouble, but instead approach cautiously and briskly. And so they were at the edge of their plateau, looking down into the stair-like canyon only a moment after deciding to go there. The path charted by the cleft broadened before it tapered again, then twisted abruptly to the side, almost enough to hide their friends from their current view.
The best-visible was a tangle of metallic limbs that held a limp Yanaru, his legs pressed together by their grip. There were some oddities to his posture which took a moment and some repositioning along their lip of rock to view, Kalina bobbing her head up and down and from side to side to get a decent impression of it.
It made more sense once they shifted enough to see Evenatra, who stood on two limbs of the other machine, held a squirming third away from her torso, but had evidently lost reasonable motor control of her second arm to the tangles of a spiderweb. Yanaru's head must have fallen against the web when the machine had overwhelmed him, which translated into him looking at though he were holding it aloft awkwardly.
The other two limbs of Evenatra's assailant were hard at work trying to unbalance her enough to gain access to the rest of her for a similar hug.
[17:52] Fighting these machines two-on-one could be successful, he and Kalina had proven that. Fighting them one-on-one was unlikely. How would three-on-two fare?
"Unwilling as it is, I think Yanaru may be successfully hobbling his machine," Asraaban said quietly. "It can't contribute much without letting him go. It can't flee with him with any great speed, either. We attack Evenatra's, maim it, then all three of us can free Yanaru," he proposed.
[19:01] It depended on what the thorns did. If Yanaru was in the process of succumbing to poison – given the Nayabaru status quo, this seemed likely – then at some point that crushing grip might relent on basis of the machine's prey being suitably subdued even without its further help.
In any case, both machines were occupied. Kalina took this as encouragement to heft the beacon up to her undamaged shoulder, clutch at it and leap from the edge of the rock onto one of the broadest steps below, landing with a slightly awkward but effective sprail.
§ 2021-12-20 16:54:29
[16:54] How did these machine's sensors work? Could they focus on two widely separated targets? Three? If this was a true scouting expedition, they'd test how it reacted to different approaches, but this was not the time for study. This was the time to evade a nasty trap and analyse in detail later.
The spiderwebs were new. They must have taken their machine down too fast to deploy it. Would they have both webbing and poison? Most likely. That only made it more important to disable each limb, and hope their partially maimed machine was crippled enough to be disregarded.
Asraaban took a moment to mentally chart his path. Evenatra was pinning three limbs. The remaining two were supporting it, so he had to destablise one, but in a way that would not make Evenatra's task harder. Grabbing one and yanking it backwards might work, but it might leave them in a strange standoff they couldn't afford. Ramming them sideways would be safest for him, but risked throwing Evenatra off balance too. The 'body' was low enough to reach, he could attack the joins above the spines. That seemed safest, especially when Kalina would most likely distract it amply with her club.
Asraaban took a deep breath, then moved.
§ 2022-01-02 17:36:28
[17:37] Kalina had by now reached the machine's side and was in full swing of using her beacon like a bat, aimed at the metallic monster's centre. The metal clanged; something cracked and splintered in the beacon's interior and Kalina's previously-good shoulder protested the feedback from the impact. It took some effort not to drop her weapon in misguided instinct. Instead, aching, she drew it back, stabbed it down beside one of the creature's awkwardly pinned ground limbs, and used the rod as a lever to twist the limb out of from under Evenatra's legs, but also away from any sort of supporting role.
One of the free arms came down in an attempt to compensate. Near-blindly, Kalina dropped her grip on the pole, then snapped her paws at the reaching limb, clutching at it near the tip, mercifully missing any of the spines. The creature had the advantage of strength by far, but she had some element of surprise.
Evenatra, still with one limb tangled, used her now less occupied leg to kick at the creature, in obvious disregard for where she hit it, on the reasonable assumption whatever poisons it contained wouldn't work on her. It peeled backwards, opening up like a five-petaled flower as it came down on its 'back' for a moment's opportunity.