The Monster from the Maelstrom

There is a man who endlessly stalks the Badlands. A region of the world where chaos is rife and warlords constantly vie for power. This man seeks dangerous criminals and tyrants the likes of which most men wouldn't dare to face. He does this for a reason no man has ever been able to ascertain and he will continue to do so as long as he lives. But there is one thing you must know about this man. The quarry he hunts are not what they seem and neither is he.

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2. Dangerous pets

The Catacombs underneath the town were a dark and foreboding place that was essentially pitch black. The man advanced, quickly through them with ease. Over the many years he’d spent on this world he’d grown accustom to many things, including operating in the dark. He also had an extremely sharp sense of direction whether above or underground. As the man turned down yet another tunnel he idly wondered what these catacombs had been originally designed for. He then quickly pushed the thought to the back of his mind when he realised he didn't really care. After a few more minutes of navigating while virtually blind the man came to stop just in front of where the tunnel he was in split off into three smaller ones. Without so much as a second’s thought he proceeded down the one to the far right and then eventually came to a halt at the end of it. Someone had walled it off. It seemed to the man that this warlord Zainif might actually pose a challenge. He relished the thought. The man ran his hand along the wall to search for any weak points. He soon happened upon a section where the damp of the catacombs had softened and eroded away at the bricks. 

“Tut, tut Zainif.” he said. “You had the foresight to wall the tunnel off but not to maintain the wall.”

The man took a step back and delivered a powerful kick to the weakened section of the wall. It crumbled and fell away as if it had been nothing more than dirt. Stepping over ruined brick and mortar the man continued on his previous path. Further on down, the tunnel exit revealed it’s self in the form of an old wooden door at the top of a very steep staircase. With one swift swing of his hatchet the man obliterated the lock which held the door shut. He pushed it open to reveal a circular room that, while brighter the catacombs, was dimly lit. A familiar scent suddenly wafted into the man’s nostrils as he entered the room; but it wasn’t the heavy smell of death he’d grown used to or the smell of gunpowder or burning wood or any other smell he associated with war and killing. No this odour was a much worse omen. It was the stench of the Maelstrom. That intoxicating yet sickening smell that accompanied any demon-spawn that either was freed or broke free of the bonds that tied it to that hellish realm. The man brought his hatchet to bear and crouched down low. The rumours of Zainif making a pact with a lord of the Maelstrom were most definitely not exaggerated but then the man already knew that as it was part of the reason he was here after all. Suddenly a slight rustling noise caught his ear and he froze in place. Across the room a figure silently raised itself up. The man recognised it by its silhouette as soon the creature had raised itself to full height.  

“A blade scarab.” remarked the man as the foul demon-spawn exited the shadows and stepped into the dim light.

Blade scarabs where gigantic beasts that stood at an impressive nine feet and were the work horses of the Maelstrom, but that didn’t mean they weren’t dangerous. They had six, diamond shaped, bone white, razor sharp legs atop of which was a colossal, red body that closely resembled the armoured carapace of a scarab beetle. Out the top of the carapace body protruded a large, muscular form of sickly yellow flesh that seemed like a twisted mockery of a human chest. Two long arms extended from the chest, both were the same length and had things that resembled the clawed feet of a bird rather than hands. Finally atop the chest was a smooth, matt grey, featureless head that was in the shape of an arrow tip. As the blade scarab reared itself round to face the man he braced himself for the coming assault. With demonic speed and in almost total silence the demon-spawn charged forwards. Within a matter of seconds it was on top of him. He rolled aside just in the nick of time as one the bladed legs came down where he had just been standing a second before. The man then swung his hatchet upwards at the demon’s chest. The blade scarab pivoted round and struck out with one of its legs. The lethal limb caught the man on the thigh on bit into skin and flesh. Paying no mind to his injury the man pressed his attack and swung his hatchet at the outstretched leg. The blade bit into the tough hide surrounding the leg but then became lodged. Before the man could retrieve his weapon he was swatted aside by the one of the demon’s claws. He was sent hurtling across the room and slammed into the far wall. The man looked down at his chest to see a large but shallow gash from which blood flowed freely. He rose to his feet and gazed upon the figure of the blade scarab which watched him in total silence. That was one thing he’d always hated about blade scarabs, they never made any noise (apart from their footfalls) nor had any form of body language.

“I haven’t had a challenging opponent in a while.” grinned the man as he spat out a mouthful of blood. “I’m a bit rusty.”

Suddenly he leapt into action and charged towards the demon which in turn charged him; as they met in the middle the blade scarab swiped at him with its claws. He ducked below them and made for the demon’s legs; or one in particular. The one that had his hatchet buried in it. He used his momentum and that of the blade scarab to pull the weapon free before wheeling round and swiping at one of its rear legs. This time he cut through the tough skin and into the soft flesh underneath. Thick, iridescent, purple blood poured out of the wound as the man pulled his hatchet free. The blade scarab immediately responded by lifting its four front legs off the ground and slamming them down on the man. Rather than doing what most people would’ve done and dodging out the way the man opted to roll forwards instead, before dropping into a crouch as the blade scarab came down. The huge demon’s legs missed completely and it instead came down right on top of the man, its body missing his head by a few centimetres. Immediately seizing the opportunity the man flipped his hatchet round and swung it up into the demon’s soft underbelly. He then drew back his weapon before swinging a second time, then a third. Before he could get a forth swing in the blade scarab scuttled off of him, blood now leaking out of various parts of its body. Not wanting to give it time to react the man charged the demon again. He cut a deep gash into its chest. It tried swiping at him with one of its claws but the movement was sluggish and clumsy. The man easily side stepped the blow and hacked the blade scarab’s claw clean off in one savage strike. The demon reeled back and retreated slightly. The man could see the injuries he’d inflicted had definitely begun to hinder it. He knew now was the time to end it. For one last time he charged the blade scarab. It lashed out with its two front legs in an attempt to slow him but the man pivoted out the way of both of them and leaped up high into the air. He then swung his hatchet down on the demon’s head in an arc. The blade cleaved through the smooth featureless head and split it in two. The blade scarab toppled over on its side, dead, the man’s hatchet still buried in its skull.

“You fought well.” said the man as he leaned down and retrieved his weapon. “But not well enough.”

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