Continued translation of exhibit A-141B: A Small journal bound in walrus skin, found inside a cairn in Eastern Iceland – the writer is still greatly embellishing his exploits and making up mythical creatures his group supposedly defeats. This researcher still hopes to find some content of historical significance, but if anything the story seems to be getting more… fanciful with it’s latest developments. This could well turn out to be some comical children’s tale and no legitimate journal at all.
I stumbled on the uneven floor of the mine, and cursed that druid‘s name for the thousandth time, as these… appendages he’d gifted me with robbed me of my balance. He must have decided to spice up his curse somehow too, and done something to my hips – they were just not moving right: The articulations, the balance, everything was different, and as I was trying to walk a straight line I couldn’t fully suppress the weird undulating motions.
Then the tunnel opened up, and in the dim light of our lanterns we could see we had emerged at the edge of some gigantic chasm under the earth, with no roof, bottom or other side in sight. Ahead of us, a narrow archway led across, disappearing in the darkness at the edge of our lamplight. I dropped a rock down and started counting… I go to a hundred or so before I gave up.
Well, this party had ventured through Nilfheim’s gate and emerged victorious, so we weren’t about to let a measly bridge stop us, but still it did give us pause. Dying gloriously in a fight was one thing we could make our peace with, but falling of the ledge into the darkness, alone and unsung – that was an altogether different beast. The bridge had no railing of any kind, and was just wide enough for two us abreast (Damn it again! Curse you Ivar!)
So we opted to proceed with utmost care, roping ourselves together and letting the two behemoths take the rear, in case the bridge might not stand their weight. That probably wouldn’t be very good for us either, but at least we’d have a chance to run clear, although with no way back.
I took the lead and we ventured on – thirty paces and still no end in sight, the archway still rising up slightly, then came to a first stumbling point. A section of rock had collapsed and reduced our footpath to an even narrower section. I started across gingerly and hoped this treacherous body would not betray me right now – but fortunately nothing untoward happened, and we all made it across that section successfully. But the darkness had acquired a certain oppressive quality – we could all feel malevolent eyes upon us from the shadows, and screeches just beyond the edge of our hearing. Ulther let out a snarl and I though he would shift right then.
But it was too late to turn back, so we pushed on, and promptly came to another obstacle – a patch of ice this time. Shiny, treacherous, and possibly unnatural. Again, I ventured ahead, focusing on my footing… and forgot about the extra weight I was carrying on the front. I overbalanced, tried to correct it in vain, and fell resoundingly on my backside. At least those… softer parts cushioned the landing somewhat. Still, it smarted and especially for my pride, or what was left of it.
For a long second I started sliding on my back towards the edge… then I drew my sword and planted it in the ground, and used it as a crutch to help me back up. Slowly, I resumed my way across as the rest of the party followed, with various degrees of luck. Only our Druid companion seemed unbothered by the ice. Damn druids.
Just when I was finally clear of the ice, our unseen enemy struck. Four giant bats, as tall as a man and with large, leathery wings swooped down at us from the darkness. I had my blade in hand and was looking forward to take out my frustration on the ugly creatures, but they stuck at the druid and at our already injured companion, Warg, instead, tearing at them with their claws. Taking care not to get tangled in our ropes, I turned back towards the druid… slid under the bat he was tangling with and hit it with a solid cut (Upwards slash, awkward angle but I managed to cut the creature below the ribs and through it’s right wing. It shrieked and flew away, spilling blood and gore.
I rolled back to my feet and noticed some blood on my trousers. Had I been hit? But the cloth was whole, the blood coming from my inner thigh and… Oh. Thrice-cursed be your name Ivar! May your nuts shrivel like raisins and the seed rot in your lecherous groin!
I roared and threw myself at another bat, without regard for the chasm or anything else. That one I sliced clean in half, letting the pieces slide along their path and over the bridge. I narrowly caught myself at the edge, then turned back to assess the situation.
It looked grim indeed: three of us were heavily wounded, and more bats had flown in to replace those we’d cut down. The giant tree-thing had flattened one bat like a pancake but the others had taken to harassing it and flying safely out of reach. Borga was probably doing the most damage from atop her War Pig, her bow singing and sending a string of arrows into the screeching creatures, and her boar swatting any that came too close – but they just kept coming anyway, and hindered by our ropes we were making no progress.
As I watched a couple of bats managed to blindside the boar and inflict grievous gashes in its flanks. The beast lost it’s footing and toppled over the edge. My stomach growled at the thought of all that bacon gone to waste. For a moment I thought we’d lost Borga as well, but she managed to throw herself off her mount just before it fell. So apparently her legs were working just fine after all.
We regrouped and tried to push onward – Warg and Ulther cut off their ropes, which were more of a hindrance at this point. The druid was already running ahead but the rest of us were being harassed by the bats – Ulther, now on four legs, and our new Stalo companion had taken the most damage – one of the beasts had using and the stalo was leaning on his spear, bleeding from many wounds. Warg couldn’t do much fighting with one arm, but he cast a spell of protection at Ulther and me, then some alkas to impede our foes.
Unfortunately, the alkas impeded me as well and I had no good route forward on the bridge. Instead, I calculated my next moves carefully. First I drew from my protective fylgia’s abilities to heal Ulther’s blindness just as I finished off a bat he had injured. Then I danced back a few steps, swung around, and with a backhand swing I caught another bat that was flying away from the tree-thing. Finally with the way ahead clear I charged at third one that was harassing the injured stalo, and clipped off its left wing to let it tumble in the dark. I heard a rumble behind me and rolled back just in time to avoid the tree’s charge. The thing rushed past me and flattened yet another bat to the ground.
Yet we still were getting no respite: The stalo managed to stumble into some healing alkas thrown by the druid and Ulther just howled, letting his inner beast’s spirit heal his wounds, but the bats just kept coming and cutting at us. The only way to safety was onwards.
If that was not bad enough, Ulther snarled some curse at the Gods, and as if in response the whole bridge shuddered and groaned, chunks of stone falling off into the darkness.
… to be continued.