Vol.1, Ch.4, P.5


“Bloomin’ ‘eck… Ye sure we goin’ the good way, m’loves?” fretted Raakel. “Bugger’d if we get lost, eh? What with that murder-cow comin’ after us.”

“Your nagging has got me proper buggered already, Raakel,” Gerd quipped. “Don’t you worry. We walk the right path.”

Briskly did we stride on our winding way to the adit, never knowing when that demon of a bull would burst out of the gloom to gore us from behind. Raakel’s grumblings were well-grounded: the tunnels were all in a tangle, an unschemed skein that led our return every which way. By then, we’d both scaled up and slipped down many a layer, and were now closer to ground level than we were upon our first encounter with the catoblepas.

Only, our worries seemed to have no end in sight…

“There are stray paths here, ones unmarked upon the map,” I observed while on the move. “Heed their wiley wendings and we risk going astray with them.”

“Rolf, you mean to say the maps were mistaken?” Emilie asked.

“I do. Lord Gerd said it himself at the war council: the mad rush for silver of forty winters past led to a blind expansion of the tunnel system. Unfortunately for us, the cartographers’ diligence was no match for the old miners’ zeal.”

None of the returned squads had reported the presence of such unmarked paths. Perhaps it was in being so fervent and focused upon finishing their own part of the operation that they failed to pay a mind to any tunnel beyond the route assigned to them.

“Haa…” came Sheila’s exasperation. “The mirk of these mines are as the muds of a marsh… I dearly hope we are well on our way to the exit.”

“Another worrywart, eh Sheila? Well, you can hang up your mudboots; we trace the 8th Squad’s footsteps as we speak, and as far as I know, they themselves were untroubled on their way back up to cam—”


As if to jeer at Gerd’s attempt at consolation, a beastly bellow broke the air from a ways behind us.

“Tch!” clucked the eldest Owlcrane. “Bloody quick for a cow, this catoblepas!”

“Emilie, up ahead!” Felicia pointed. “An emptied stope awaits! Just a bit further!”

“Right!” our mareschal nodded. “I suppose that’s where we’ll dance the long waltz, then.”

With our hearts steeled, we ran further in our course till our emergence into the stope: an expansive cove of burgeoned breadth, greedily gutted of all its ore.



The six of us were huddled behind cover in that gaping hollow, hastily forming a strategy as per Emilie’s instructions.

Gerd, Felicia, and Emilie herself were to standby near the mouth of the gangway, from where we were certain the catoblepas would emerge. Their duty was to dole out a coordinated ambush, one aiming to have the beast buckle down to its hocks and knees.

Raakel and Sheila, for their part, were to wait a ways off, their charge it was to execute the catoblepas in its collapsed state. Our warrior readied her maul, with the whole of its head and haft emboldened by our surgien’s succouring magicks.

“Where our blades fail, we leave it to Raakel,” Emilie chanted. “Let’s hope you’re fit for the leading part!”

“Aye, an’ it’ll be a play ye won’t soon ferget!” nodded Raakel. “All me odyl—right here in me silvermaul, it is!”

With that, we all scurried off to our positions and waited with bated breath. I had the unfortunate pleasure of being positioned in the far rear. Disappointing, to be sure, but this was not the time to pout; an ungraced would prove to be of small avail here.

Our ears perked. From the gangway echoed the catoblepas’ panting, deep and gust-like. The sound stiffened us all. Down our cheeks rolled beads of sweat.

Electricity cracked and snapped about Emilie’s silverblade, while tongues and tendrils of flame seethed about Gerd’s own. Sheila quietly conjured up another succouring magick, a spell to further bolster Raakel’s sinews.

The lurid breathing loudened.

Closer now, and closer still.

Felicia raised her silverstaff. Raakel clenched her silvermaul. Another moment, and the catoblepas trundled its way into the chamber.

An unnerved soldier might be apt to ambush the beast right this instant, but none amongst us were so foolhardy. Our patience stayed us all; only till the catoblepas was squarely within the stope proper would we pounce.


Further still.

Now the baleful bull was wholly in our view. Then, like a thunderclap, the three sprang to action.

“Aciēs Iūnctūrae!”



Emilie and Gerd lunged upon the catoblepas’ forelegs, bringing down their ensorcelled blades upon the bulky limbs. Meanwhile, a frosty pall conjured up by Felicia appeared afore the beast, blowing a shrieking gale of sharp ice straight into its face.


A combined offence, executed by some of the mightiest champions in the 5th—even a monstrosity like a catoblepas could not help but founder afore such fury. But the moment would not go unseized: already was Raakel rushing into the fray.

“’Ey! Up!!”

A crack.

No mortal body should ever produce such a sound. But produce it did, from where but the beast’s brows as it was struck by a swing of the silvermaul.

“Ooggh…!” the behemá groaned.

“Rruuaaahhh!!” howled Raakel, dissolving into a violent blur of scarlet and silver, her maul thrashing every which way as it rained hammer-strikes upon the catoblepas’ countenance. The air shattered against the cacophonous cudgelling, unfettered and unrelenting.

“Aahhrr…! Gghoohhou…!” the bull bleated before couching down upon its belly.

A prime opportunity—Raakel retracted and raised the savage silvermaul for one more swing, to seal the deal and end the enemy.

A flicker.

We saw it, each and every one of us.

A wicked light roused from the catoblepas’ foul gaze.

It wasn’t couched in defeat. No, it was making ready: a low springboard of a stance, from which would follow a deadly charge.

“Raakel!” shouted Emilie, and just as she did, the catoblepas kicked off. Such mammoth flesh had no right to move with the speed of a loosed arrow, but the beast betrayed all convention as it thrust its murderous mass straight at Raakel.



Our warrior tore away from the charge in the nick of time. Felicia jumped out of the way as well, having found herself in the perilous path.

“Ghhooaaahhrr!!” roared the behemá, unceasing in its advance. Those lamp-like eyes trained upon a new target: me.

“Bloody—!” I dived to the side to avoid the crazed catoblepas, but with affrighting agility, it wound about and commenced another charge right at me.

“Gāstċēn!” rang Felicia’s incantation, and in the darkened air, there bloomed a billow of flame. At once, it constricted into a fiery orb and shot straight into the catoblepas mid-charge. From the ensuing explosion emerged the beast, hindered not in the slightest.

Its path was unchanged—it was keen to finish me off. Perhaps it was wont to wipe its plate clean of any ungraced morsels before moving on to the main course.



I ducked out of the way. It looped and charged once more. This exchange repeated for but a few seconds of deadly eternity. At the end of it all, I was cornered.

Opposite of the gangway leading into this stope was another winze, a veritably gaping gulch leading down to the lower levels. And there was I, standing at its edge.

“Rolf!” screamed Emilie, dashing straight to me.

But the beast was faster.

With vaunting vehemence, it smashed its way right into my midst.


An all-consuming impact—what incredible power.

Fortunate enough was I to avoid being gored by its horns, but that was where my luck ran out: its rampaging snout struck me squarely. Such force threatened to snap the very arms I used to defend with, but it instead sent me flying into the sighing shaft.

But I wasn’t alone.

The catoblepas, too, parted from the cliff edge, unable to mitigate its own momentum. Together, man and beast abandoned all footholds and plunged into the deep.

In that fall, a dear echo met my ears.







Aciēs Iūnctūrae

(Language: Latin; original name: “Juncture Edge”) Levin-elemental bladespell. Envelopes the sword in a cloud of electricity. Its peculiars are unknown as of yet, but presumably produces a blast of lightning upon each blade strike.



(Language: Latin; original name: “Annihilation”) Fire-elemental ensorcellment and bladespell. Ignites a raging flame about the sword, imbuing each swing with a hammer-strike of fire that continues even if the blade is blocked.



(Language: Old English; original name: “Fireball”) “Ghost-torch”. Fire-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of a sphere of flames, conjured and lobbed at a target. Explodes and scorches on impact. The ċ consonant is pronounced ch, as in “chair” or “charge”.



(Language: Old English; original name: “Frost Gravel”) “Hoar-horn”. Ice-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of shards and/or stumps of ice, directed towards a target at high speeds. Pierces and/or pummels on impact.

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