You hid in the cavern, seeking momentary respite from your endless travel. It was warm and humid, with sinewy walls that radiated the tender heat of pumping blood. What the tribe did not expect was the cavern's mouth, adorned with misshapen teeth, closing behind them and trapping them inside. The walls have not yet begun spewing digestive enzymes, therefore you are certain that this is not the gullet of a greater beast, and only a natural formation in the Flesh.
Swiftly, you began looking around for a possible exit. It was not unheard of for these caverns to eventually lead to the outer Flesh through a sphincter-like opening. What your investigations gathered, however, was most concerning...
The dessiccated, atrophied and bloodless corpse of a former traveler. Everything he must have had on him had been eaten, aside from skin and bones. He had not died of hunger, nor thirst, no. That was quite evident, from the multiple needle-wounds on his body, mostly the neck and places where veins were most exposed. Some sort of beast had done this, and you could only hope that it has left by now.
Then, you see them.
Crevices in the walls hide a multitude of bloated eggs that seem ready to burst. Above your heads, they hang. Blood-drinking larvae, fortunately all sleeping. Droves of them, just waiting to be awakened. The situation has just worsened considerably, and the whole tribe's life is at danger.
You may attempt to pry open the cave's mouth, at the risk of awakening the larvae, or head deeper into the darkness and hope for the best.
"Don't like this... don't like this..."
Urgesh hated caverns. All along their descent he made it as clear as he could that he did not want to be down here, and even though he was flooded with reassurances like "You'll be fine, big guy." and excuses like "For the tribe!", it certainly didn't mean that he was particularly happy about the situation. Yet they trudged onward through the dim and even absent light, looking for... whatever they were looking for. Urgesh couldn't remember. Not that he could be bothered to think in this stupid cave.
There was a certain... stillness, which was odd for the Fleshscape, since it was typically undulating and writhing, pulsing blood and other bodily fluids. The fact that it was so unnaturally quiet down here sent a dull chill coursing up the spine of the brute. Being as slow as he was, it took him a couple of seconds to realize that it wasn't only the walls that had been sucked dry of fluids, taking away their telltale soundscape. There was a corpse which looked to have been drained completely as well, with the hanging larvae surrounding them from above. Instantly he froze, staring up at the disgusting blobs of fat and blood dangling from the roof of the cavern with a face only a Dragon could shy away from. Not only did he carry a hatred for caves, most of the creatures within got the same treatment.
"Urgh... stupid leeches, of course they blocking our way out. But you know, they DO look tasty. Probably bloated with blood, cook up real nice..." He whispered to his fellow tribe mates, hoping that one of them would make the decision. Urgesh didn't make decisions, those were for the smarter people of the tribe. Urgesh just followed them and did what they told him. That being said, his indecision was actually based in a simple deduction. Either way, he'd most likely be using his massive club, so he kept his thick, calloused hands on it's handle at all times. He was completely ready to swing into action (quite literally) at the first sign of trouble.
Gogmagug frowned in the deep darkness of the cave. A fine predicament that they were all in, and one Gogmagug wasn't yet sure what to do about. Sitting next to the desiccated and bloodless body of some poor traveler before them, he pondered a course of action. Crossing his legs together as he sat upon the waxy bloodless fleshscape, the esteemed fire-keeper took deep slow breaths and tried to relax. To clear his mind and to simply think of what could possibly free them from this place.
(Using 1 Brain Point, I would like to ask two questions.)
|Question 1: The Fleshscape was muscle and meat. The 'door' blocking the way back was in Gog's opinion like a closing, cramping jaw. Gogmagug wondered if he might be able to massage the tension out of this 'closed jaw'. Are there any taught muscles or sinew within sight attached to those closed teeth doors?|
Gog was of course not sure if his first plan would work, and knowing that failure could easily result in death... He needed another plan to fall back on. Quietly, Gog very lightly clacked his teeth together to gather the attention of Urgesh. "Urgesh, I try open teeth without sound." Gogmagug whispered. Unknowing of if these disgusting blood worms were attracted to sounds, warmth, or just the scent of blood itself. "Gogmagug not know if work. But Urgesh is strong of body. Urgesh can fight. He go further, and Gog try to open door. Gog fail, or wake up worms... Urgesh leave. Find way out. Gogmagug open teeth, he come get Urgesh. What Urgesh think?"
|Question 2: What would be a safe distance for Urgesh to go further into the flesh cave where Gogmagug would be able to hear him and also be able to sprint to him quickly in case of an emergency?|
Khaoul tensed as the he felt the flesh move beneath his feet, pulses of eletrical singals coursing through nerves and the ripple of reactive muscle as the mighty jaw closed behind them. It had been so dark that making out the teeth from a distance had been difficult. Now it was too late to make the realisation that they had entered some kind of natural geographical trap. Since there was no acid rushing in from the walls to digest them, the tribe certainly hadn't stumbled into the stomach of a giant beast. Nonetheless, their predicament was not much less dangerous than that.
Khaoul was one of the smarter individuals in the tribe and could muster passable sentences, exercise quick thinking and form cunning strategies. There were clues in this cavern that would lead them to safety: there always were in the Fleshscape, nothing died by mere chance or accident. It was always an interaction between prey and predator, each with their own plan and strategy. It was harrowing to think that every living creature in this land was carnivorous, but none of them really had any sense of what a herbivore was. Even the ground was made of flesh, so everything ate meat. Some just chose to use their energy chasing meat that walked atop the meat they ate.
Khaoul drew closer to the dessicated body, inspecting it with calm intrigue. The bloodsuckers hanging above them were a worry, so he gestured to the rest of the tribe to quiet themselves lest they give the everyone away, but there would be a clue somewhere as to how to evade or defeat them. His intellect told him so. He nudged the dead traveller with the tip of his Deep Piercer, moving it over to see if it was lying on anything. Perhaps there was a useful item or dying message that would aid them in their troubles?
|Question 1: Does the dead traveller hold any useful items or knowledge?|
The Cardinal Rekindled (Unknown Cave - Flamekin Tribe)
Fire and brimflesh could only describe Ifrit Flameheart's morbid surprise at the challenge that now faced them. The cave had shut its wily jaws of ensnarement and within it's throat rested rows upon rows of demonic bloodsuckers, slumbering before they took the tribe as their next meal. No, Ifrit could not allow such a fate to befall his Kindled. As a prophet of the one true fiery faith, it was his duty and the duty of the other cardinals to ensure the safety of their tribe. Their teachings, practises and way of living could not cease here. A determined frown came across the man's pale features as he turned to follow Gogmagug back to the literal mouth of the cavern.
"There must... be way out... from crack tooth."
Ifrit moved past Gog, who was searching for taut muscles near the jaw, and began inspecting the actual teeth themselves. Wicked fangs that could bisect a tribesman easily, but luckily the maw had not moved swiftly. It likely didn't have the capability. The cardinal began tapping at teeth and searching for ones that seemed more hollow or possessed visible cracks in them. If they could bore their way through at least one tooth to retreat back outside, they could all exit in single file back to safety. But yet, despite their best efforts to escape, something in Ifrit's gut was telling him that the Fleshscape wanted them to venture further into the fleshcavern. While he hated to explore further into the Deepflesh as it meant straying further from their sun God, even Ifrit had to concede that it was a near impossible task to defy the Fleshscape. Such an infinite being could not easily be deterred by the tics that lived upon it. Even so, Ifrit would exhaust his escape plan's options first before he gave into the Fleshscape. He would not be turned away so quickly.
|Question 1: Does the cave's mouth have any weak, cracked or somewhat hollow teeth that can be broken?|
Flinching from the sudden pickup of whispers, Lobot grasped the sack of flesh at her side, the gush no louder than her sigh. The bloodsuckers that rested above were stagnancy, their parts belonged to the tribe, yet were out of reach. Even more worrying the cluster wouldn’t awake individually, and the creatures wouldn’t relent as a beast eventually would. To use a creature that could retain a firm grip even unconscious would be useful, if we weren’t so vulnerable.
There laid only one corpse, likely a future meal for a creature who had found the perfect means to secure flesh without combat, stalking further down the cave. Were there truly a danger deeper in the cavern someone would draw blood, and there would be no escape after. However, with an opening we would be not only free, but gain from the risk.
The Fleshscape would always provide cruelly, any place to rest would serve as a final resting place, there was no option but to reject its gifts and make our own. This was no different, the tribe had to scavenge what they could and find safety.
Lobot trailed behind Ifrit, watching his hand brush against the teeth, the lack of structure had to ensure there were some weak points. Her spindly fingers reached down to her leg, unhooking a thread that held a pair of long thin bones, she pressed the two into her skin until they left a deep imprint, and scraped them against the teeth Ifrit had been touching, before slowly presenting them to him.
|Comrades in blood: Help Ifrit find any weak or cracked teeth|
With the tribe's perilous position becoming clearer and clearer by the moment, some tribemembers begin nudging eachother, pointing up, looking for a way out themselves, and slowly descending into panic. Most of them flock around Urgesh's powerful form, knowing that the giant's athlethic might could protect them from anything. Others bare their own weapons of choice, ready to defend themselves. A zealous member of Gogmagug's flock grips Ifrit's wrist with a charred black hand, speaking in hushed but excited whispers. "Cardinal! You throw fire, leeches burn! Only you can save tribe!" He gesticulates wildly, holding nothing but admiration in his eyes. Two other believers seek Gogmagug himself for his wisdom, but know better than to intervene.
The Esteemed Firekeeper's mind was as clear as ever, unperturbed by the mortal danger. He probed the cave's walls, finding tough hardflesh... And taut sinew, just as he had imagined. What that sinew held onto, he could not know, but it was a good guess to think it held the mouth of the cave shut. Massaging the tendons could please the Fleshscape, and open the way ahead. It would take time, while being relatively quiet... Certainly a better alternative to forcing the mouth open.
Looking back into the deep pit of darkness, Gogmagug's plans with Urgesh prove more than possible. The Firekeeper realizes that his muscular companion could head deeply into the cave, while still being heard and reached in a pinch. One must only act on this. Gogmagug: [BRAIN 5/6]
Meanwhile, Khaoul pokes and prods at the dry corpse, seeking knowledge in the dead man's remains. He does not find out much more than what was already known, besides the fact that, based on his position, the man seemed to have been trying to crawl deeper into the cave during his last moments. Khaoul: [BRAIN 4/5]
Ifrit scoured the cavern's misshapen teeth for any weakness. The yellowed fangs gave way to darkened gums of hardflesh. Rough matter, smoothed over by wind and time, yet hardy and resilient. The teeth did not have any evident cracks, and the moulder's hands revealed no pieces that would be easily broken off... Until the artificier, Lobot, stepped in. She picked at the teeth, following small incavations and listening to Ifrit's counsel, until they reached the blackened underside of a molar. There, a small and jagged hole, hand-sized. Trying to feel the inside of the tooth, one could touch soft matter, that came apart easily. This one was dead. Removing the molar would be a noisy affair, but it would allow the whole tribe to exit the cave in single-file, were it successful. Ifrit:[BRAIN 3/4]
A deep frown stretched across Urgesh's face as Gog recommended he go in first. It wasn't the fact that the leeches scared him, quite the opposite in fact, but he was flabbergasted at the mere notion of leaving Gog behind if he failed. Urgesh had a familiar feeling deep in his gut, and he never ignored his own flesh. "You funny, Gog. I distract the blobs, and you open door. Then we leave."
Slowly, he crept as quietly as he could towards the center of the massive ring of leeches, trying his hardest not to alert the dangling bloodsuckers. Urgesh was completely unaware of their sensory adaptations (he found that every damn creature in the land had a different way to find it's prey), but that only steeled his resolve to find out. Continuing forwards, he switched up his stoic frown with a big, goofy smile and shot a thumbs-up at Gog before slipping his club out of it's harness and standing to his full height. Even with his massive rippling muscles, he still had a hard time getting it to rest comfortably on his shoulder. Then he realized it would only be comfortable if it was being swung, preferably into something soft and meaty.
Gogmagug would greet Ifrit and Lobot with a calm hand gesture and bowing of his head, once Gog saw them anyway. For the firekeepers keen senses amidst all this newly found nervous energy the tribe exuded; was detecting fear and panic in the hushed voices and body language many had adopted. This was something that quickly needed to be addressed.
Always quick to assuage the fears of his people, Gogmagug quickly took his two devout followers in need of guidance, and pulled them close for direction. "No be afraid. We are children of mighty Sun. There is no darkness that can halt us... So go with courage!" Gogmagug urged the two with stern grips to both their shoulders. To the one on the right, Gogmagug looked to their eyes and said this. " Go, tell brothers and sisters to not fear. Tell tribe mate have spear follow Urgesh. Tell them fetch torches to light. Tell Urgesh they must go deeper." To the one on the left he looked to them and told them this. "Tell tribe mate with short weapon and club come here, follow Ifrit and Lobot. Make sure worms not fall on each other. Be ready fight."
With that, he lightly shoved them away. Raising up his smoking scepter from his waist-sash and gestured his blessings and good will to the two tribesmen. Gogmagug then turned, and began moving through the crowd. His voice soft and that beautiful scepter spreading a sweet incense while he tried to spread the same calm he felt. His aim now was to direct the fearful. To override their fear with purpose and lighten the burden of their doubts with comraderie.
Khaoul frowned as he inspected the remains of the traveller. The position of the body and the marks in the flesh beneath indicated that the person had attempted to flee further into the cave. Was there some merit in escaping deeper into the jaws of this trap? Steeling his resolve, the Taskmaster strode away from the corpse and made his way briskly over to where their cardinals had gathered near the jaw.
"We require walking there. Tribe must traverse deeper."
He pointed towards the dark recesses of the cave, opposite from where they had first entered. It was clear that he wanted the other leaders to help him move the tribe along so as to escape the bloodsuckers. He didn't know why, but the leader had deduced that retreating in that direction would yield some success, even if it were brief. Khaoul was not often fond of solving one problem with another, however it seemed like this would be their only choice. Prizing open that massive jaw or cracking it's teeth would take too long or generate too much noise. Either way, the bloodtics would wake up before they could finish getting the tribe to safety. His brain was telling him that the best solution would be to continue onwards, so that was what he based his decision on.
The Cardinal Rekindled (Unknown Cave - Flamekin Tribe)
Ifrit smiled warmly at the devoted tribesman as he latched onto the cardinal, imploring him for his personal aid. The gesture may not have been seen of course, given that the majority of his face and body was hidden within the folds of his large wrappings and hood. The low light could only catch a glint of the shiny spectacles within, made of some kin of reflective chitin. He patted the man's hand reassuringly.
"Worry not... Kindled. We... leaders... will find way out. Fire only... bring many leeches together, bad... for tribe."
Turning away with purpose, Ifrit got to work working the oversized teeth until, with the help of his esteemed equal Lobot, they found one that seemed rotten. But even as he tested the molar, his doubts crept back in. His guts never lied. He could sense that danger may arrive very soon if they continued on this path. The cardinal was luckily smart enough to deduce that chipping away at the molar would cause too much noise and alert the leeches. He looked over to where Gogmagug was attempting to massage the jaw open via a tendon. Ifrit was not as wise as Gog was overall, but he had a deep affinity for knowledge on the flesh. Every moulder had after years of practise. It would simply take too long and by then, the leeches could even wake up before they escaped. But even so, Ifrit was not one to disregard the wisdoms of other cardinals. He approached the man.
"Cardinal. This way... take too long. Maybe... go other way?"
The way deeper within the cave is pitch black, a darkness that feels unnatural to the denizens of the Fleshscape. Everyone knows, after all, that the Fleshscape itself is bioluminescent in the dark, naturally exhuding a feeble, red lighting. Yet here, the hardflesh beneath your feet has been stripped clean of life, blood and nutrients. The larvae seem to not have any problem with leeching from the land itself. And what was once durable hardflesh is now greying matter, soft and breaking away in clumps. The blood larvae hanging from the ceiling lessen in number here, and some of them are even attached to the side walls, perfectly awake, vibrating feelers prodding against organic material. They seem to be largely uninterested of your presence.
The tribe acts as one single entity. Compact, strong and resolute. Those in fighting shape bear weapons of bone, in formation with Urgesh. The believers chant blessings and incantations. Children stay close to their mothers. Everyone feels secure, altough at any moment this situation may change. Gogmagug: [GUTS 2/4]
The cave's passage slowly becomes narrower, forcing the tribespeople to stick closer together and march in a line. None dare touch the sinewy walls. There is danger in every quiver of the flesh.
With torches of burning fire-larvae lighting their way, the tribe walked for a long while. Long enough that most grew relaxed, having slowly convinced themselves that freedom would be close at hand. It would not last long, as what they saw next froze them in place.
Two more dessiccated husks, dead, limp on the ground. They bore striking resemblance to the corpse found at the mouth of the cave. Atrophied, bloodless and grey.
Urgesh's glee was stolen from him, replaced with a scowl so deep you would think that it was carved into his face. Though he did agree that it would be better not to lose anyone recklessly attacking the leeches, he was not exactly ecstatic once they made their way back down in the dank, deep red depths. Urgesh, however, decided to keep it to himself. Thinking was not his strong suit, and disagreeing would only cause backlash like it did in the past. "Tribe smart, know the way. Leave think to tribe." He thought to himself, ironically. He had also forgotten to sheathe his club, preferring instead to keep it handy in case any of the other bazillion cave creatures decided to make his tribe a snack.
It was too cramped, too dark, not enough escape maneuverability. A practical death sentence for any wayward wanderers.
Speaking of which, more corpses lined the floor ahead of them, sucked dry once more. With the number of leeches around them, it was not a unique sight.
"Leeches sure like blood... hard to believe entire cave emptied so much." Urgesh muttered with a voice like grinding bone, squinting his eyes hard to see barely two feet in front of him. This whole ordeal was taking a toll on his patience with the apathetic leeches, and with every passing second he wanted nothing more than to smash them into a puddle.
Gogmagug bowed his head and welcomed Ifrit, arms opened and lowered in a warm and friendly display. "It is already done, dear friend. But come. Walk with me, for I must tend to the people. Your presence will surely help add to their spirits." The Firekeeper raised his head and extended an arm outwards towards the center of the still ordering crowd. But after that more formal greeting Gog raised a single hand. Putting it on Ifrit's arm and clasping it as a sign of trust and affection.
"Their hearts hold fear. For we are away in a place that our great Father cannot see. A dark and dangerous place." Gogmagug spoke out loud in his usual calm and sweetly soft fashion. Stating what he saw as some of the truth. "But one must remember always Ifrit... This is why the great father gave us fire. So we can fight the darkness." This Gogmagug said a little louder, raising his scepter upwards and swinging it some to stoke the ember hidden inside.
"Even now, we have torches and weapons enough to destroy these disgusting worms and far worse." Gogmagug said in a sure and optimistic manner.
"But I must go. Urgesh leads the scouts further through the tunnels as we speak. I must consult with him on what we must do next. Will you join me Ifrit?"
The Cardinal Rekindled (Unknown Cave - Flamekin Tribe)
Ifrit nodded in affirmation of Gog's words, gazing upon the rest of the tribe as they filed through the crevices of this undergound cavern. Even in such a cold and unfleshly environment as this, there was comfort to be had in knowing that they had been given all the tools they needed to survive already by their reverred Father above. Through fire and bone could they see their way out of this trial and the few cardinals among them would ensure this outcome. The pryomancer returned his focus to Gog as the tribesman posed a query as to their next movements.
"I appreciate... the offer, but... I must stay. The Flamekin needs its Rekindled... to stay calm."
His usual pausing speech pattern remained, but his tone was resolute. If the low light hadn't been shadowing much of his face in the depths of his large cloak, except for the two bioluminescent reflective chitin goggle lenses, a brave expression might have been glimpsed on his features. As much as he wanted to explore ahead and ensure that way was safe for their people, he could be used most effectively by staying with the tribe and consoling their fears. If groups started acting out on their own through fear and everyone got split up, it would prove impossible to protect everyone. The warriors and hunters were less of a worry, but it was the women, children and sheer number of specialised artisans (which was most of the tribe in truth) would not be able to properly fend for themselves in this bloodless cave system. Who knew what horrors laid further into the darkness they so feared? Khaoul turned back to the tribe with this in mind, content in allowing himself a moment of respite to remain on overwatch.
The Taskmaster (Unknown Cave - Flamekin Tribe)
On the other hand, another of the tribe's leaders approached the cardinal firekeeper, spear resting in the hardflesh with a tight and vigilant grip. Khaoul, the Taskmaster and responsible for everyone doing their job properly was resting cool steely eyes on Gog, almost as if he were trying to actively deduce something. He wasted no time posing his suggestion, however.
"I will go with you. I am skilled in scouting duties, but calming the tribe is not my skill."
It was a good proposition. Many of the warriors and slackers of the tribe knew; their Taskmaster had a knack for simply knowing things before they happened. Some called it a sixth sense, some attributed it to his high intellect. Regardless, it was no coincidence that Khaoul could never be taken by surprise ever, not to mention he was always the first to strike in any sparring match or hunting session. Coupled with his strangely elegant way of fighting, it made the man an advntageous ally to have on any mission. And you could tell by the cold, calculative way the man carried himself that he knew it too.
Gogmagug headed further into the cave, between tribesmen bowing to him and callings of "Blessings to you, Firekeeper!". Khaoul followed suit, with certainty in his eyes. The great majority of the tribe remains near the cavern's entrance, moving just enough as to not be directly under the blood-sucking leeches, were they to awaken. They looked to the Cardinal Rekindled for guidance, though most of them now had a purpose, and that was enough to get their mind off of worry. Fire bless them.
Deeper within, Urgesh's hatred grows. The scouts and fighters with him nod and grunt, agreeing with the little words he speaks. All too suddently, just as Gogmagug and Khaoul reached their location, one of the hunters begins screaming. He holds his torch up, wildly flailing his other arm around, and runs deeper within the cave.
Urgesh's angry grumbling was cut short as the loud screaming took up the empty space in the cavern, shaking his ears and startling him. See, Urgesh had already been on edge, so it would have taken little more than a wayward nudge to get him riled up. However Urgesh absolutely despised fear, especially within himself, so the scream sent him into frothing rage rather than whimpering terror. Immediately, he swung the club into his adjacent hand and turned around, eyes seething with burning hatred. He didn't ask questions, didn't look over the situation, just began stomping through the darkness in the direction the cowardly tribesman had darted.
His grumbling had been replaced with a growl, low and agitated. He couldn't see, nor did he care. His fear of caves had been replaced with one, sole objective. Find the scout and drag him back to the tribe. A leech, unfortunate enough to have been in front of Urgesh, felt the full force of his rage as the bone club flew out of his hands and slammed into the squishy creature with a resounding THUD. After all, noise was no longer an issue. Without even stopping to see if the leech had been dealt with, he moved on. It was at this point that Urgesh realized he must have been screaming for some reason, after all men don't just run in terror from nothing. He swung back towards the group, staring daggers into a poor hunter who just happened to be close by. He simply pointed into the dark cavern, in the direction of the terrified tribesman.
"You. Find him. Urgesh smash whatever he afraid of."
(roll for intimidation )
After issuing his simplistic order, Urgesh glanced around the cave, looking for anything that might have caused such a sudden and powerful terror within the fleeing man. It couldn't have been the leeches, they were hardly terrifying. Urgesh also doubted that the bodies had prompted such revulsion either.
So what kind of nightmare creature was creeping up on them now?
Gogmagug was running forward before his brain could even fathom his fleeting steps. His lean and skinny body breaking into a dead sprint as his mind finally processed the scream. The scream that even now he was running towards. "Torches! Light the torches!" Gogmagug yelled behind himself to the group he was leaving behind. But he spared no look nor call to Khaoul. Whom he trusted to keep the pace, if not outrun it altogether.
Gogmagug held his sceptre tightly in hand, his arms pumping powerfully by his sides as he pushed his body passed what was comfortable for his sickly physique. "Great Father! Mighty warrior from above! Guide your shepherd to his flock and stay the maw of the slavering beast!" Gogmagug prayed, his tone of voice was measured and intense. Hissed out through his teeth between breaths as Gogmagug hyper-focused onto the environment about himself.
|Is it possible to spend 1 Brain point in order to still perceive my surroundings while I am sprinting? The reason being that Gogmagug is spending it to help him retain the mental focus necessary to do so.|
Khaoul's head darted in the direction of the screams as one of the scouts tore off into the darkness, swallowed by the unseen enormity of the cavern. Had they been attacked? Or was the flesh playing tricks on the mind? The Taskmaster narrowed his eyes suspiciously. The corpse at the entrance had appeared to be desperately attempting to proceed deeper into the cave, and the same seemed true for the corpses they had recently passed. In their final moments they had all made a mad dash for... for what? His brows furrowed. Judging from the nature with which the scout had fled, it looked rather involuntary, as if something was ushering victims deeper within. Did salvation really lie further, or was this an elaborate natural trap?
Khaoul had only two jobs in the tribe and in his life: To ensure everyone works effectively and to preserve the lives of those in the tribe. Now, it was time for him to risk his to protect theirs. With all the stoicism he could muster, briefly touching the tapestry-inscribed markings on his hide armour, Khaoul sprinted forth with Gog and Urgesh into the darkened depths. Racing ahead of Gog by outpacing him, the lightly armoured tribesman soon drew near to Urgesh, who was ordering a scout to move ahead after their lost brethren. For a brief moment, their eyes met as Khaoul raced past, time seemingly moving in slow-motion. Then the moment passed and Khaoul raced further, disappearing into black oblivion.
. . .
Khaoul had been running alone for a few minutes, but he couldn't place exactly how long it had been. The dark features of the cavern made it hard to make out much in the way of landmarks, but the dim bioluminescence proved useful for staving off complete blindness. He continued to trudge onwards, searching for sounds of movement with his ears and scanning for flickers of detail with his eyes. In an unknown territory, it was important to remain vigilant in the face of such uncertainty. It was how Khaoul could remain so calm; his will was emboldened entirely by his intelligence and logic. He did not fear his own sacrifice, should it come down to it, as it served the more profitable purpose of benefiting the tribe. If Khaoul could not rationalise his situation, he could not remain as calm as he felt. Yet even still, the uncertainty was still present and a bead of sweat trailed down his temple. Deep Piercer in one hand, Khaoul crept in a crouched stance, wary of any would-be attackers. He had not had the time to grab a torch from one of the other scouts, but he supposed that could prove a boon. Fire would simply give his position away to predators, after all. While the Taskmaster could recognise the benefit of allowing the Flamekin's religion to keep its people in line, he himself was not a believer. His only desires were serving his purpose for the tribe and discovering what depths laid beneath the flesh.
From far within the cavern, the grand majority of the tribe hears the faint and echoing scream of the scout. A couple of leeches fall down from the ceiling, rudely awakened by the sudden sound. Those with stronger wills immediately follow Gogmagug's last order, lighting up more torches in hopes that their warmth would bring on salvation. Their hope for not falling into chaos leans on Ifrit. The Cardinal Rekindled must lead his people.
[Spend 2 GUTS for the tribe to follow your orders and remain calm]
Deeper in the bowels of the Fleshscape, a scared hunter rapidly composes himself, following Urgesh's orders and rushing into the darkness. Khaoul is a blur, following suit. Urgesh himself scans his surroundings, finding them... Surprisingly empty of danger. Three leeches crawl on the ground, and are swiftly stabbed and stomped by two scouts. Rich red blood colors the grey hardflesh. No nightmarish creatures are sneaking up on them yet... The darkness is completely silent. The hammer-wielding warrior snorts, and feels a strange smell in the air. Urgesh:[1/3 GUTS]
Gogmagug, too, feels it. A bit behind the main scouting group, slowly catching up. Reciting incantations to the Great Father. His eyes dart around, wide, searching for something. Anything. Danger. The hair on the back of his neck stands upright. He smells boiling blood in the air, stronger than the incense from his sacred staff. The tell-tale signs of psychic powers being used. Terror grasps him, as he reaches Urgesh's group. Gogmagug: [4/6 BRAIN]
Lastly, in the heart of the pit, Khaoul makes his way through a silent tunnel. The faint bioluminescence of the Flesh helps him navigate. It seems the leeches have not reached far enough to suck the blood out of the hardflesh here. The taskmaster sees a faint light coming from further ahead. He picks up his pace. Running. Sweat on his back. The tunnel seems endless and winding. He turns a corner.
The tunnel ends in a flat wall of meat. At the centre of the wall, a face is sculpted in the flesh. Colored azure, strange and unnatural. The scout is kneeling in front of it, torch at his feet. The face opens its mouth, and speaks. The voice is deep, echoing, not of this world.
"Lay down your weapon. It is not too late for my mercy."
Satisfied with the current situation, Urgesh moves through the winding tunnels with newfound haste. If no creature scared the scout, then what could have sent him into such a frantic state? Then the voice hit him, deep and bellowing, like words from a god. Something about it deeply disturbed him, something about it's inflections or it's tone of voice... Urgesh couldn't put his finger on it, but something was clearly not right. Coming up on the ones regrouped, he drops the head of his club the ground and scrapes it across the decaying floor, causing an ominous sound to inch closer and closer to the head.
The face only solidified what his gut feeling had told him. This was not a natural creature of the Fleshscape. It's jarring features spoke lengths about it, and strengthened the rage flowing through Urgesh. It truly disgruntled him, and usually things that Urgesh found disgruntling weren't around long enough to have any lasting affect.
"Stupid caves and stupid monsters..." He grumbled, making his way over to the... thing. As much as he wanted to crush the ungodly face, something gnawed at his brain matter and told him to stop. He hated the sensation.
"Mercy? Wall talk too much. Wall need mercy more than Urgesh and tribe."
Gogmagug's eyes widened as he smelt the strong metallic odor of boiling blood. It was a surprising scent, and one that naturally instilled Gogmagug with fear. But the firekeeper forced it down, instead driving the nails of his left hand into his palm. Using the pain as a focus to distract from the tendrils of panic that tried to find purchase within him. But even now, coming upon Urgesh's group; Gogmagug remained to some extent visibly composed. But inside, Gogmagug was beginning to lose much of that famed composure. For now he masked it with how winded he was from the sprint.
"Urgesh-..." Gogmagug started, but then had to stop abruptly. The firekeeper's body shook lightly from both fear and exertion. His deep and almost unmeasured breaths a keen indicator of how hard he had pushed himself to get here. "There is mind-witchery afoot. Guard yourself."