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skarrd_curwens_trophies_bio [2015/01/27 21:52] (current)
jayandrewryan created
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 +====== Curwen'​s Trophies ======
 +
 +{{::​toxiccult.png?​100 |}}Having spent his lifetime amongst
 +the emotionally overcharged Skarrd,
 +Father Curwen had developed
 +an understanding of emotions that
 +afforded him no small amount of
 +insight into those who surrounded him. He
 +would regularly take action normally reserved for
 +emotional outbreaks, “trying on” the activities in a pseudoscientific
 +experiment. Could one create rage by slaying a Bola scavenger
 +without cause? Was it possible to create savage glee by torturing
 +humans with no definitive purpose? So far, none of his attempts
 +had ever bred any feeling beyond cold, clinical, dispassionate
 +curiosity and an instinctive craving for survival. A mutation among
 +mutants, an aberration within the ranks of the aberrant, he was a
 +Skarrd without emotion.
 +
 +It was with a detached sort of ennui that he backhanded one of
 +the captives, a young man who staggered behind the rest, whining
 +and puling to be released. A wry grin curled the Chitin’s thin lips
 +and the Kaustic bleated a cackle of insane and savage laughter as
 +the human stumbled to the cracked hardpan. The Toxic Mistresses
 +seemed not even to notice, shuffling along with a far away look on
 +their faces, while the assorted Nomad Skarrd under the Grafter’s
 +command looked at the downed human with obvious feral hunger.
 +
 +“Stay your brood,” Curwen rasped at the Grafter, “and mind
 +they heed my orders. These humans are mine to use, not theirs to
 +devour. Your tribe has already received its bounty from this hunt.”
 +His order was punctuated by a hacking cough, and he spat a vile looking
 +gobbet onto the ground, where it sizzled and sent up a thin
 +plume of sickly smoke.
 +
 +The Grafter made the slightest nod of acknowledgement to
 +Curwen’s superior position, and spoke in a voice that could not
 +be more different from the Father’s. It was smooth and sweet,
 +like warm flowing blood. “I assure you, Father Curwen, that my
 +Harpies will take no action without my explicit command, and
 +that Charity’s Might are incapable of attacking without hers. The
 +Bolas and Buzz-Blades are at least cunning enough to know that
 +damaging your prizes would forfeit their lives to the Toxic Cult,
 +and none of them seek death this day.”
 +
 +He made placating gestures with his grafted claw hand that
 +reeked of incongruity,​ but his reasoning was as sound as it was
 +ingratiating. Curwen nodded his understanding and spoke on it no
 +further. The Father reached one bandaged limb down and grasped
 +the filthy human by the unwashed gnarl of hair at the nape of
 +his neck, pulling him to his feet. Curwen might be oozing with
 +sores and plagued with his own venom from the inside, but he
 +was still a Father, and great strength was still within him. The man
 +wailed and protested that he would go no further, that they
 +should simply kill him because he intended not to walk
 +another step. Father Curwen lolled his tongue out of his
 +mouth and allowed a single drop of bilious spittle to drip off of
 +it and land on the man’s cheek. The smell of burning flesh was
 +nearly instant, and the young Outcast screamed and clutched at his
 +cheek, as though his clawing fingers could dig out the acidic saliva
 +that burrowed into his face. Moments later, the man resumed his
 +march Northward without a word.
 +
 +The route back to the Caves of Dendrobate was a long one, and
 +it was good that the Nomad tribesmen had accompanied them.
 +While his Chitin, Kaustic, and the Toxic Mistresses of the Toxic
 +Cult were all wholly capable warriors, the wasteland through which
 +they marched held many dangers. He welcomed the “honour
 +guard,” a sign that the Father of the Nomad tribe welcomed the
 +opportunity to raid with the Toxic Cult. They would be useful in
 +future raids, as his experiments used up human lives quickly and
 +savagely, and he had no time to waste waiting for new test subjects.
 +
 +They continued on slowly but steadily, at home in the wasteland
 +as only Skarrd were, with an abrasive desert wind blowing in on
 +them from the west. Curwen stopped and immediately dropped to
 +his haunches when he saw his Chitin halt in mid-stride and draw
 +up, her ears seeming to twitch as a look of intense concentration
 +blanketed her face. Chitin were well-versed in wasteland scouting,
 +spending much of their time hunting the infamous Blade Beetles
 +from whom they take their weapons and armor. As the monstrous
 +insects burrow underground and wait for their quarry to approach,
 +sensing vibration in the dry sand, the Chitin must be wary of the
 +faintest signs of something amiss in their surroundings. Father
 +Curwen had learned years ago that when a Chitin stops to listen,
 +he should prepare for trouble.
 +
 +From a mere five meters away, he could see her squint in
 +concentration,​ her eyes darting around as though she could see
 +the sounds or sensations that had aroused her suspicion. Suddenly,
 +without any change that Curwen could detect, she turned and
 +sprinted directly towards him. Instinctively,​ he whipped his sickle
 +up in front of him, suspecting treachery or madness, but the
 +Chitin ran straight past him and even past the rest of the party,
 +fleeing south without a word. The captives, huddling together in
 +bewilderment and terror, began muttering amongst themselves.
 +Curwen began to creep backwards in confusion, wondering what
 +sort of enemy could prove gruesome enough to make a Chitin flee,
 +when the pack of Harpies raised their screeching voices to the air.
 +Curwen whipped his head around to catch the reactions of all the
 +warriors under his thrall, and saw that confusion gripped nearly
 +the entire party.
 +
 +The Grafter peered intently at his Harpies as one of them shrieked
 +at him, and then suddenly everything seemed to burst into motion.
 +With a whip of his mortal hand skyward, the Grafter signaled for
 +the Harpies to take wing, and they shot from the ground with
 +mind-bending squeals. The Kaustic suddenly took heel to
 +the west, inexplicably heading straight into the dust-filled
 +desert wind with the low, smooth gait that characterized their kind.
 +Curwen again looked to the north. What foul threat approached
 +that he could not perceive? The Toxic Mistresses fired test bursts
 +from their sprayers, spewing poisonous sludge into the dirt and
 +inhaling deeply the waste fumes to fuel the perpetual intoxication
 +that made them such dauntless foes.
 +
 +They seemed to have no real idea from whence the threat might
 +originate, but they were lucid enough to recognize that cawing
 +Harpies and fleeing Chitin portended something amiss. The
 +captives screamed nearly with one voice, their sanity crumbling
 +under a landslide of mayhem and uncertainty. The Grafter turned
 +a significant look towards Father Curwen and locked eyes with him
 +for a moment, raising his grafted claw to point. Understanding hit
 +the Father like a wave of desert heat. Of course the Chitin was not
 +fleeing; she was attacking. The threat came from....
 +
 +“South, you mangy curs,” he belted at the assembled Nomads.
 +“Some fool posse likely follows us to avenge their captured fellows.
 +We will suck the marrow from their bones before nightfall. Now
 +attack, you witless simpletons, or I shall add your flesh to my cookpot
 +as well.”
 +
 +The Bolas and Buzz-Blades turned to pursue the Chitin’s tracks,
 +and Father Curwen heard a sound that changed his outlook on
 +the battle he was about to enter. A single concussive shotgun
 +blast rocked through the empty wasteland sky like a peal of
 +thunder, and Curwen recognized its sound instantly. That was no
 +makeshift Outcast blunderbuss’ clumsy explosion; it was a true
 +shotgun, delivering truly devastating payload. It was the weapon
 +of a Contradiction preacher, and that meant that Saint Mary came
 +calling. Father Curwen’s mouth twisted with what might have been
 +real mirth, and he strode forward to meet the enemy.
 +
 +As she crested the rise, the Chitin Vendra was not surprised to see
 +a band of Forsaken warriors double-time marching towards her.
 +She freed her pair of cleavers from their sheathes, reverse-gripped
 +them against her forearms, and increased her pace, heading directly
 +towards them. Mimicking the insects that define their combat style,
 +she advanced in short bursts and leaps, taking a series of mincing
 +steps followed by quick jumps in differing directions.
 +
 +The Forsaken troops took but a moment to notice her approach,
 +even with the dusty wind rising, and they immediately trained
 +their weapons on her. A band of Coil troopers had the lead of the
 +Forsaken troops, and she had only closed half the twenty meter
 +distance between them before the soldiers overcame their surprise
 +and readied their Coil launchers. A half-dozen death disks came
 +whistling towards Vendra, but her seemingly haphazard leaps
 +and stutter steps confused their aim enough to allow her to elude
 +their fire. One of the jagged projectiles caught a glancing blow
 +against her thigh as she crouched for another jump, but
 +the carapace armor plating she wore proved capable of
 +turning aside the wicked teeth of
 +the deadly weapon.
 +
 +Another Coil, apparently shaken by
 +her elusive advance, fumbled an attempt
 +to reload his launcher, and the contraption
 +exploded in high-velocity shards of metal, shearing
 +his face from his skull. His dying cries of agony shook the others
 +just enough to buy Vendra the time she needed to close in on them.
 +The Chitin made one final leap directly
 +towards the Forsaken troops, her arms whipping out and crossing
 +in front of her, the venomous blades of her cleavers slashing across
 +stomachs of two Coil. She fell into a headfirst roll between them,
 +coming up in a low crouch with one cleaver held behind her
 +shoulder blades and the other snapping out to sever a third Coil’s
 +leg at the knee. The blow hacked cleanly between the thighbone
 +and lower leg, popping the soldier’s kneecap out to hang from
 +fibrous tendons like a gory medallion.
 +
 +As he dropped to the ground, grasping at his ruined limb, the other
 +two Coil fell behind Vendra, their eyes milky with venom-spawned
 +cataracts and bloody foam collecting at their mouths and noses.
 +The rest of the Coil moved quickly to avenge their fallen brethren,
 +surrounding Vendra and taking up their studded morning sticks as
 +they circled the dangerously crazed mutant. She held an expression
 +of dispassionate,​ inhuman calm as she slowly held her crouch,
 +shifting her footing and keeping her blades at the ready, waiting for
 +her opening to lash out at the rest of them. A band of Bane warriors
 +came trotting up to join the fray, but a tinny screech like cats being
 +tortured inside an oil drum signaled the arrival of a distraction
 +that would keep the Bane occupied for the time being. A flock
 +of Harpies came swooping down out of the sky to clash with the
 +Bane troops.
 +
 +The Bounty Huntress skulked around the stony and uneven
 +terrain, staying low and moving as silently as she could manage
 +inside the bed of a long-dried stream. She moved around to flank
 +the Skarrd force she had located, hoping to move in and surprise
 +them on an undefended side so that she could assassinate some of
 +their leaders and leave the remaining savages disoriented and ripe
 +for the picking.
 +
 +Her angel’s scorn pistol was a comforting weight in one hand,
 +loaded, cocked, and at the ready as she made her way carefully
 +around rocky outcroppings in the building desert wind. She knew
 +that the weather was working to her advantage; with the sand being
 +carried on the wind, few of her quarry would want to look into its
 +abrasive gusts, and that was the direction from whence she would
 +strike. As she crept painstakingly forward, she caught a glimpse of
 +what she sought; the Skarrd Father stood near a Bone Doctor, with
 +a pair of Toxic Mistresses just moving off towards the rest of
 +the fight. A Sister of Charity followed at the rear of one of
 +the Charity’s Might packs, and none of the unsuspecting
 +mutants were looking anywhere in
 +her direction.
 +
 +She surveyed the distance between
 +them, trying to decide if she could move
 +any closer for a better shot without revealing
 +her position, and her eyes flared wide as she saw
 +a shadow rise behind her, cast on the hard, dry earth by the late
 +afternoon sun. She rolled quickly onto her back, raising her pistol
 +up in front of her, but her gun wrist was caught in an iron grip by
 +a leering Kaustic who leaned down over her with a psychotic grin.
 +He cackled a madman’s laugh in her face as he raised a terrifying
 +gauntlet that bristled with needles and nozzles over her.
 +
 +In panic, she whipped a kick at the side of his knee and rolled hard
 +to her left, hoping to catch him by surprise and tear her wrist from
 +his grip. With amazing dexterity, the Kaustic let his knee bend and
 +turn just in time to cushion the kick, but his defensive measure
 +weakened his hold on the Huntress, and she was able to tear herself
 +from his grip and roll away. Springing to her feet, she faced off
 +against the crazed Toxic Cult fanatic, and the two circled one
 +another like predatory felines, each looking for the right moment
 +to strike.
 +
 +A hail of bolas sailed through the air, whistling as their
 +counterweights spun around each other on their way towards
 +the gruesome-looking Flense warriors coming to the aid of the
 +Bane and Coils. The Contradiction chaplain’s shotgun belched
 +flame and buckshot in return, and the rival forces’ troops charged
 +towards one another. The shotgun blast fell short of the Bolas, and
 +their whirling projectiles failed to take out any of the Flense, but
 +the combatants had come upon one another now.
 +
 +Buzz-blades sped past the Bolas, who were spinning up a second
 +volley of their spiked entangling weapons, and headed in to mob
 +the Contradiction preacher. As they drew closer, he unleashed
 +another blast from his shotgun, tearing two of them in half at the
 +midsection. The rest continued on through the bloody mist and
 +the chaplain unsheathed his saber, shouting the praises of God and
 +Saint Mary as he did so.
 +
 +The Bolas launched another hail of their whistling, spinning
 +weapons, and one managed to smash the skull of a Flense warrior,
 +the heavy counterweight ball plowing through his eye socket and
 +pulping his brain. Another struck one of the Harpies fighting the
 +Banes, cracking her spine as it hit her from behind. She squawked
 +a death-cry and crumpled to the ground, helped along by a final
 +blow from the Bane trooper she had been fighting.
 +
 +Charity’s Might tore past the rest of the combatants at the behest
 +of their mistress, barreling towards Saint Mary herself with feral
 +shouts of bloodthirsty excitement. They lived only to please
 +the Sister of Charity, and she had kindly asked that they
 +bring her back Mary’s throat. Standing between them and the
 +Saint, however, was a lone stoic warrior who stood at the ready
 +with a pair of crossed short swords in his callused fists. Undaunted
 +by the ferocity and mass of the oncoming savages, Blades patiently
 +awaited their charge and assessed the threat they posed. As they
 +drew nearer, his hands whipped up from his hips, and a pair of
 +gleaming kindjal appeared.
 +
 +Pausing only a moment to take aim, he sent them spinning through
 +the air at his oncoming foes, and without even waiting to see if they
 +struck true, he drew his paired gladius swords and readied himself
 +for their attack. One of the kindjal missed its mark, but the other
 +caught one of Charity’s Might dead in the center of
 +his chest, and he howled in bestial rage as he tore the blade from
 +his body and tossed it aside, but he did not slow in his advance.
 +
 +The surgically altered brute simply hefted his crude war club and
 +screamed a challenge at Blades as the squad neared their quarry.
 +Blood flowed liberally as the bodies began to pile up, and the wind
 +began to rise. Vendra’s twin cleavers slashed again and again, and as
 +she rolled and leapt around to avoid the vicious swings of the Coil’s
 +morning sticks. She gradually whittled their numbers down. With
 +a final upward swing, she rent the last Coil’s face in twain; the two
 +sagging halves of his jawbone hanging loose like the mandibles of
 +some bloody insect as he fell limp to the ground. She twirled to
 +find her next foe, and saw the Contradiction slashing about him
 +with his saber, severing limbs from Buzz-Blades and dumping their
 +entrails into the dusty earth.
 +
 +He ran the long slender blade through the throat of one of the
 +Skarrd warriors, clearing enough room to bring up his shotgun. The
 +barrel belched smoke and flame, and another two of his opponents
 +fell, one torn clean in half and the other losing a leg at the knee.
 +Vendra leapt towards him with her blood-soaked cleavers as the
 +remaining two Buzz-Blades tried to regroup. Three of the Bane had
 +been sliced to ribbons by the Harpies’ razored claws as they landed;
 +the force of their limited flight giving them added punch on the
 +attack, but the rest of the Squad had rallied against the screeching
 +menace, and the humans and Harpies had fought a war of attrition
 +from then on. They were well-matched foes, but the Bane seemed
 +to be getting the better of the maniacal Skarrd creations, as their
 +heavy double maces battered the slender Harpies to the ground
 +and then ensured they would remain there.
 +
 +Crushed and twisted masses of flesh and steel made for uneasy
 +footing as the last two of each Squad hacked and flailed at each
 +other, the Harpies shrieking insanely all the while. The Bolas had
 +managed to bring down two of the Flense warriors, but the other
 +two had closed the distance between them and the Skarrd hunters.
 +They now scythed through the terrified troopers, their attacks
 +a flurry of kicks, head butts, whirling saw sticks, and elbow
 +smashes that resembled a dance more than a fight. The
 +bodies falling at their feet, however, reminded any observer that
 +these warriors lived to execute their enemies, and the Bolas were
 +very quickly reduced in number.
 +
 +It had become evident that a true sandstorm was brewing in the
 +Great Expanse, and the wind howled in the distance as a harbinger
 +of what was headed their way. Soon this battle would be fought
 +in near-blindness,​ the screaming winds building up velocity over
 +smooth, featureless vistas and lifting up with them whole clouds
 +of abrasive dust and sand. In some wasteland storms, the wind was
 +strong enough to lift up stones the size of a man’s fist and carry
 +them through the air, deadly projectiles that could punch holes in
 +a person’s torso like a bullet from God.
 +
 +The most legendary of the Stormwing warriors stood his ground
 +as Charity’s Might reached him, and his gladius began to flash
 +through the air with dizzying speed and skill. He was mobbed by
 +the brutish and feral berserkers, but his superior skill allowed him
 +to dodge and parry the powerful swings of their crude spiked clubs.
 +He slashed and thrusted with his short sword, nearly every stroke
 +tasting flesh, but the fanatical Skarrd were able to fight through
 +wounds that would bring a human to his knees, and they continued
 +to clamor for his lithe and lethal form even as blood spurted from
 +ruined arteries and severed limbs. Slowly, their numbers thinned,
 +though one of them managed to score a pounding blow to his
 +spine, making him stumble and nearly lose his feet. With effort, he
 +maintained his balance, and he took his assailant’s head from his
 +neck with the next swing of his weapon.
 +
 +The Huntress pounced in towards the Kaustic, feinting a backhand
 +swing towards his temple. When he reared back from the expected
 +blow as she thought he would, he put himself off balance, and she
 +struck low instead, smashing a fist into his kneecap. The nerves
 +paralyzed briefly, he collapsed to the ground with a wordless
 +exclamation of surprise, and she followed up with the butt of her
 +pistol, cracking the heavy steel weapon against the side of his skull.
 +She heard bone crack as the maniacal warrior slumped over, and
 +she saw his eyes go glassy with dizziness, but he lashed out at her
 +leg with his viral injectors in a desperate bid for vengeance. The
 +mass of hypos and barbed needles tore an ugly gash across the back
 +of her calf, and she dashed his brains out on the hardpan in return.
 +She turned to head back towards the fight, and her legs collapsed
 +under her. The ragged wound in her leg screamed fiery agony,
 +and she found herself suddenly on all fours, trying to fight off the
 +blackness that threatened to close in on her vision from all sides.
 +
 +The last surviving Bane trooper turned from the mass of crumpled
 +bone that had previously been a Harpy just in time to see the spray
 +from a Toxic Mistress pour into his face. His shriek was drowned
 +in toxic sludge as the jet of caustic fluid pumped into his open
 +mouth. It also poured out over the two remaining Bolas and
 +one of the Flense warriors, though the other remaining
 +Flense was spared the horrid spray. He charged towards
 +the Mistress and her partner as
 +they sauntered across the turf, and
 +saw the Contradiction embroiled in
 +a savage battle out of the corner of his
 +eye.
 +
 +Vendra was engrossed in the battle, darting around
 +the wily preacher-man and lashing out with her venom-soaked
 +blades wherever she could. He had evaded her attacks so far, but
 +she could tell he was tiring, and her methodical assault did not
 +slow. Her patience paid off as his toe caught a loose patch of scree
 +and he faltered. A split second was all the Chitin needed; one of
 +her cleavers severed the hand holding his saber as the other slashed
 +open his throat, and he died before he hit the ground.
 +
 +The Sister of Charity had begun to think that her minions would
 +bring down the legendary Stormwing warrior known only as
 +Blades, but a pair of Saint Mary’s Clergy Ann came wading into
 +the mix with their savage chain flails hissing in the air. Blades was
 +wounded and beginning to slow, but Charity’s Might were also
 +suffering from a score of wounds both major and minor. Mary’s
 +elite bodyguards struck them from behind and flayed the already wounded
 +thugs, turning the advantage back to Blades, who was
 +able to summon his reserves of strength and dispatch the last of
 +them with paired swords through the eyes.
 +
 +One of Charity’s savages was able to take dying vengeance by
 +slamming a final lucky blow into the throat of a Clergy Ann, and
 +a sickening snapping noise accompanied the unnatural twist of
 +her head as she fell limp to the ground, never to rise again. The
 +Charity’s sense of satisfaction was short-lived,​ however, as a hail of
 +short high-velocity spikes perforated her body in five places. Saint
 +Mary emerged from a rocky outcropping and strode out to watch
 +blood bubble from Charity’s mouth and nose with her last labored
 +breaths.
 +
 +Vendra saw the last remaining Flense warrior charge towards the
 +Toxic Mistresses, accompanied by a Clergy Ann and trailed by the
 +notorious Blades limping behind, she rushed over to intervene. As
 +she sprinted to engage, the toxic sprayers spewed their foul brand
 +of death, and the brave but foolish Flense fell in his tracks. A Clergy
 +Ann was caught in one of the gouts of bile, also, but despite the
 +pestilent sores that erupted on her skin she urged herself forward
 +and unleashed a pair of blasts from her autopistol. Each shot found
 +a home in one of the Mistresses, and one of them penetrated the
 +dying woman’s slender abdomen to puncture the tank she carried.
 +With a thumping release of pressure, the tank ruptured and sprayed
 +shrapnel and toxic waste over the corpses of both Mistresses and
 +the Clergy Ann who fell screaming in a pool of corrosive sludge.
 +
 +Seeing her chance to become a legend by felling a much-storied warrior, the Chitin dashed towards
 +Blades. Surely in his wounded and weary state, she would be a match for him, she imagined. She
 +dashed over the parched terrain towards her foe, feeling as though she moved as a part of the howling
 +wind. She hardly noticed Father Curwen and the Grafter also approaching to her right. Mary followed
 +behind Blades, but she was more intent on Curwen than Vendra, and the Chitin paid her little heed. Any
 +combat fatigue she might have been suffering melted away at the opportunity to meet Blades in single combat.
 +
 +She willed herself to run faster, her eyes narrowed against the windblown sand that filled the air. Curwen glided across the lifeless terrain
 +like a specter of death, striding over literal mounds of bodies with the uncanny grace that was the birthright of all Fathers. The sand
 +whipped around him in vision obscuring clouds and cyclonic dervishes, but across the battlefield he could see her moving his way.
 +
 +Curwen had never forgotten the woman who now called herself Saint Mary. He had been in her presence for only a
 +short time, many years ago, but the memory of the strength he had seen in her eyes remained undiminished. He
 +knew that she would have survived copious experimentation;​ her dauntless will would keep her alive and defiant
 +long after any true hope of escape or survival had withered and died. The Toxic Cult’s scouts and spies had
 +carried to him the story of her escape and eventual canonization,​ and he had been greatly intrigued by the
 +thoughts that stirred in him from that knowledge. She awoke in him something approaching emotion,
 +and it was emotion with which he was unfamiliar. Now she was before him again, within his grasp.
 +A tickle in his lungs elicited a cough, and the bile scratched at his throat, causing a paroxysm of
 +convulsive hacking that threatened to bring him to his knees. He spat blood into the thirsty ground
 +and steeled himself to move forward, drawing around him his awareness of hatred and anger.
 +
 +He felt fury seeping off of the Grafter at the death of his tribesmen, and hatred towards
 +Mary and Blades. More interestingly,​ however, he felt both emotions drifting across the
 +battlefield from Saint Mary. So powerful was her emotion that he could sense it from over a
 +hundred meters away. She hated like a Skarrd, he thought. The Grafter strode alongside
 +Father Curwen, but not too close to him. The Toxic Cult’s leader radiated a miasma of
 +pestilence from his violently poisonous body that was potentially deadly even for the
 +Skarrd whose very existence was brought about by chemical and viral contamination.
 +
 +Curwen was truly toxicity incarnate, his very existence a blight. Wary of the formidable
 +opponents towards which they moved, the Grafter was nevertheless determined to remain
 +alongside the Father. Despite the slaughter of his “honour guard,” he knew that Curwen’s favor
 +could keep flesh in his belly for many cycles to come, as he raided frequently for live captives with
 +extraordinary success. Watching the blood soaked Chitin warrior race across the battlefield,​ he was
 +sure he understood why. When she suddenly fell, he thought she had stumbled, but something about
 +the way she toppled seemed inconsistent with a natural fall. The delayed sound of the gun’s report echoed
 +across the open wastes as her limp form settled in the dust, and suddenly Curwen was no longer at his side.
 +
 +With a survival instinct far sharper than most, Father Curwen launched himself sideways as soon as the gunshot reached his
 +ears. Not knowing from whence it came, he could only change his movements in hopes of becoming a more difficult target until
 +he located the attacker. He recognized that sound from a foe he had faced during many border raids; the weapon in question was
 +a Bounty Hunter’s angel’s scorn long pistol. Another shot resounded like thunder, and he drew a lungful of sandy air as he gasped
 +expectantly. Instead of the half-expected bullet in his chest, he saw the Grafter twirl with the bullet’s impact and fall to one knee.
 +
 +Another
 +extended
 +bout of coughs racked
 +his slender frame, but he had spotted
 +the Huntress on a ridge to the west. He
 +ducked low and reached out with his mind
 +in her direction, latching onto her anger
 +and fueling it. He felt it cascade through
 +her until it pushed out all other senses and
 +she was unable even to see clearly from the
 +rage. She immediately sought out the closest
 +available target for her crazed fury, and in her
 +shortsighted anger all she saw was Blades. The
 +storm was approaching full fury as the Bounty
 +Huntress launched her attack on the unwitting
 +Stormwing warrior, and Father Curwen spared
 +the Grafter a mere glance before peering
 +intently across the battlefield at Saint Mary,
 +who strode purposefully through the howling
 +rush of sand towards him. The massive nail
 +gun in her hand erupted towards him, but
 +none of the wicked spikes found their mark.
 +
 +The reflexive hacking in his chest tore through
 +him again, and he coldly decided that this
 +was not the way he and Mary should meet
 +again. The storm would make tracking him
 +difficult, and he could ensure that the Saint
 +had plenty of injured captives to tend to
 +instead of pursuing him. He stole one last
 +long stare at her oncoming form and drew
 +deeply of the rage and hatred wafting from
 +her like the aroma of roasting flesh, and then
 +he melted into the storm, and was gone.
  

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