Yseult Shadowrun – Dust of Ages Part VII

   Everyone was in agreement: if they were going to work in the catacombs, they had to take out the serpent-thing. You never knew when an animal would turn at bay instead of being driven off, they had no idea of how it could be contained (or even IF it could be contained), and nobody wanted to work in the catacombs knowing that – at any moment – the damned thing might pop out of the rock and dissolve you.

   Of course, the idea of some fabulous treasure was in the back of everyone’s minds. If somebody had managed to put the damned thing here as a guardian, and had arranged to sustain it across five thousand years of low magic, then it had to be protecting something pretty damned important.

   Well, it seemed to breathe air, so it wouldn’t want to go below the water table. It didn’t seem to want to leave the high-magic zone or to go too close to the surface. It was willing to chase drones and magical watcher-spirit lures. Ergo, they should be able to steer it into an ambush.

   A weapon of the prior age against a beast of the prior age. A chemsuit, an elemental-booster spell, an anti-corrosive coating, and poison on her already-enchanted blade, her own inhuman cybernetic strength, the best protection-spells her mages could maintain, a selection of high-powered modern weaponry set up for a crossfire and to drive it forward with explosions, some drones for fire-support – and instructions for her allies (who would be well back down the tunnels): if she went down, they should abandon their positions and pull out as quickly as possible.

   If she could get it coming out of a tunnel quickly enough, and she was waiting to ambush it, she might be able to slice it in two for a fair part of it’s length. Surely that – along with modern explosives – would be enough to kill the damn thing.

   They had to lay down a lot of irritating chemicals, and expend several more of the cheaper drones – and there were one or two close calls during a day of careful maneuvering – but Yseult eventually wound up lurking next to the tunnel the serpent-thing was currently sulking in.

   Sending in all those low-powered spirits to pester it had made it pretty cross.

   It took several nerve-wracking attempts with minor spirits – evidently they had made it tired – before the thing came bursting out like a small freight train.

   She wasn’t that hot with a sword, but this called for brute strength, not finesse.

   Fortunately, Karma was with her. [And the player was quite willing to spend some of it].

   Unfortunately, the damned thing turned out to be tough as hell.

   That wasn’t too surprising for a creature that tunneled through rock and was coated with acid that readily burned through stone. Her blade opened a massive gash – slashing open one side of it’s mouth and leaving a gaping wound along it’s side. It twisted and flailed, spattering blood that ate great gaping holes in the stone. Fortunately, it was now semi-blind on the side she was on – so it’s first reflexive burst of acid-spitting had merely annihilated three more drones while a stray drop had burned a hole through her amateur caver’s shoulder – easily fixable later, but enough to make him fall back now.

   Of course, the blood-spatters were rapidly burning through her chemsuit and armor. Fortunately, she’d twisted to the side quickly enough to avoid most of it [with very good dodge and body checks] and the last traces hissed against the outer plating of her heavily-cyborged body as the acid – mostly expended against er chemsuit and armor – did little more than superficial damage.

   Well CRAP. It was only wounded – and perhaps more dangerous than ever!

   Rush in, duck under it’s flailing head, and drive her blade deep into the creature, bracing herself against the floor to ensure that she impaled it? Yeah, maybe if she’d been a video-game character with five extra lives; she could see how that would end. It might die, but she’d wind up being covered in acid that dissolved stone as quickly as a man could walk.

   Another slash from the side was (somewhat) safer, but was less likely to kill.

   Sulahafa sent the combat drones in to cover her retreat – although she did manage to throw a pouch full of poison into the gaping wound as she frantically dodged splattering acidic blood and the holes it had burned into the floor.

   She barely evaded another splattering of blood as the poison hit the wound and the creature convulsed. A good thing she’d fallen back…

   She added her own explosive pistol bullets – targeting the existing wound – to the hail of fire from the combat drones. Her allies triggered the explosives back behind the creature to keep it from retreating; it might have been wounded enough to stay quietly out of the way while they worked – but there was no knowing how fast a currently-unique awakened beastie could heal.

   She never knew how she managed to avoid the stream of acid it spat at her. Time seemed to slow [as the player burned three karma rerolls on Yseult’s dodge] but she’d evaded it somehow, as it burned through the stone behind her like a combat laser through mist. Faint memories of her otherwise long-forgotten chemistry class screamed “supernatural!” at her – like she didn’t know. At least – judging by how much blood it was losing – it wouldn’t be able to keep this up for long.

   Still, the bullets were mostly bouncing off the thing’s scales… Invulnerability too? The only magical weapon they had was her sword!

   The thing took out three of the remaining drones at one shot with a spray of acid. Evidently a thin stream wasn’t it’s only weapon.

   If she didn’t kill it, it was beginning to look like none of them would get out of the catacombs – especially if it had more unrevealed abilities! She should have taken that “no one had caught more than a glimpse and lived” thing a bit more seriously!

   It was a vertebrate though… A clear head, jaws, fangs, and eyes, skull – now notched where she’d slashed across it – protecting the brain.

   She hoped that Nassor and his apprentice heard her call for them to reinforce the protective spells around her as much as they possibly could [which called for a Leadership check; she caught a glimpse of one peeking around the corner, hopefully to establish line-of-sight for spellcasting] – and went in to try and sever the spine at the base of the skull. Her sword was easily long enough for that – and its power was definitely wide awake.

   She tried to stay on it’s blind side – and blessed the engineers who’d provided her boosts. It took far more than human agility to get close to the thing while it was thrashing and splattering acid like that. She put everything she had [her last several rerolls and her full enhanced strength] into the one attack…

   Her full strength, karma, and a two-handed swing backed by the spirit of the blade was just barely enough to drive the sword home between two vertebrae, severing both the spine and some major blood vessels.

   The convulsion hurled her across the room – the last remnants of her chemsuit and armor peeling away from the acid covering the things body – and the impact against the wall didn’t help a bit. Her systems were reporting a LOT of failures, acid damage, right hand and forearm dissolved, cyberarmor mostly gone, synthskin covers gone, cyberleg internal damage, internal injuries…

   It was a good thing that Nassor had a healing spell – and that she’d taken out that very expensive cyber-insurance policy.

   Still, the bloody snake was in worse shape than she was. In fact it seemed to be dissolving.

   She really hoped that there weren’t any more of them about.

   Nassor was pretty sure that the thing was down and out – but there was something very weird about it. The fact that the body was dissolving fast was no surprise given the amount of acid in it, and the fact that it’s magic was dissipating was only to be expected – but he and his apprentice were still getting an impression of anger. Their tour guide looked rather upset about that, and had added something about “immortal wrath” and the “twelve hours of the night” to his muttering about Apep and Set and Osiris and Thoth and such.

   Yseult asked him if he knew of a prayer or something of that sort that might help keep the thing down.

   The man agreed to try praying to Osiris and Set to hold back the wrath of Apep as they defended Ra in the Hours of the Night.

   The sword however… It seemed a bit larger (if no heavier), was warm to the touch, and had little veins of light moving in it. Wait, the thing was supposed to get more powerful as you fulfilled it’s requirements. Had “slay a major monster” been one of them? That seemed fairly likely somehow. Too bad the spirit of the sword couldn’t just tell her what to do to activate all its powers – and that the “being aided by the bear spirit” thing didn’t seem to work well with all the cyberware.

   Too bad there wouldn’t be anything left of the body to show off, but the way it was eating it’s way down into the stone, it wouldn’t be safe to touch it anyway.

   She stuck the little statue of Osiris with the funny inscription they’d found under the temple by the hole in a memorial/sealing effort. It couldn’t hurt. The mages said that the thing’s spirit still seemed to be hanging around – but they weren’t ancestor shamans, and had no really good way to communicate with it anyway.

   The bear spirit of her blade could tell him that the serpent-spirit was entangled in some really BIG binding – but that it would probably take a week or two to form a new body.

   Evidently the thing had been guarding the area for a very long time indeed.

   That was kind of sad somehow. Perhaps they could set it free so that it could actually rest in peace? Presumably it was bound to something somewhere… The tunnel system it had bored out was roughly circular; if it spent it’s time within range of a binding it might explain that – although the circle also roughly matched the edge of the elevated magic zone, at least now that they were underground. It didn’t always reach the surface for some reason.

   There were tunnels that headed for the center – but all of the detections and the geological surveys had said that there was nothing there except rock. It had even seemed to be something of a magical dead zone: there were magic centers under several of they pyramids, and under a couple of the temples – but under the sphinx, which was roughly at the center, there was nothing.

   Wait; at this point that was unusual – and so it was well worth investigating.

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