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Those Who Stalk the Night

    The Old Hangman's Square
    The small square is faintly silvered in moonlight, causing dark, long shadows staining the cobblestones and the sides of the framing buildings. In the center of the square stands an old, dilapidated gallows, a weatherworn, frayed old rope still swaying gently in the cool night breeze. Only an alley or two enters this square, as its purpose is no longer much in demand.

Vash takes a deep breath and runs his hands back over his head. He watches the moon crawl its way up, and lashes his tail. Regardless of how he feels... it's getting late, and he should get back to the Egg. He turns to head back.. and pauses. He takes another few steps, and then stops. Something's out of place now. It got quiet. Even the trees aren't creaking anymore. And out on the edge of his hearing... there's something.. scuttling. And without direction. Training clicks into place. No visible escape routes. He's surrounded. And it's getting closer. He sets his stance, lowering his center of gravity. It figures... it just isn't my night...

The sounds all go silent as the armadillo sinks into a more alert, combat-ready stance... then there's a thin, reedy, disturbing giggle. From the other side of the square comes a malicious, hissing whisper, "Who's forgotten his wardings then? Who's forgotten who owns the night, eh?"

Vash's hands are up, one in an open-palmed position held more forward, the other off-hand's fingers curled slightly to put his claws in the optimum place. "Why don't you come find out."

Tiny red eyes -- many pairs -- wink suddenly into existence... huge rats, crawling like cockroaches all over the dilapidated gallows. One of them hisses at Vash, and several of the diseased looking things scuttle down towards Vash. The tittering, irritating giggle scratches at Vash's ears again, and the malicious voice whispers again, "Doesn't really matter... feastings for the ratties tonight, eh?"

Vash's features twist up into a snarl of disgust. "Chingate tu madre, cabron. We'll see, eh?" His superior night sight reveals the speakers to him -- things that seem to assume they are cloaked by night. Scabrous skin, twisted and clawed limbs clinging impossibly to building sides or tree trunks, and a tiny, pot-bellied body with an oversized head. Faintly glowing red eyes, rat-like in their color and size, and an impossibly wide, fang-lined mouth that seems to gash from ear to ear, with a red cap pulled tightly down over the short brow... three of them. The closest one licks its lips and titters maniacally again. The rats swirl towards him, like filthy, clotted water surrounding him. Vash remains stone still, almost statuesque against the shadow and creeping filth. "Come on, then. You picked a bad night to fuck with me, agilipollao."

The disgusting tide of rats moves jerkily, as if they're uncertain about prey that doesn't run... then, in a sudden, quick rush they swarm towards Vash on all sides, hissing and stinking of the sewers. The closest redcap simply watches with eager avidity, while another scuttles, disturbingly spider-like, across the bottom of an overhanging roof, to hang upside down almost over the besieged armadillo. The third one sinks out of sight in the darkness.

Vash doesn't blink, even though the stench and the thought of the physical miasma he's very probably going to be sticking his hands into (and, he hopes sincerely, all the way through, after the night he's been having), seems to have welded that scowl onto his face. He circles out to his right, very light on his feet, toward the middle of the atrium, trying to keep them all in front of him. Failing that, he means to get out of the range of a drop attack. He licks his lips a little and slows his breathing.

Tiny clinging, clawed feet; scabrous, lashing tails, glowing scarlet eyes and fetid breath; sharp, stinging nips that don't break skin -- yet... it's like being covered with flea-ridden spiders. Vash shakes a few of the rats off of his arms and shoulders as he gets into place, kicking away the ones at his legs as he bounds into the square. He tries not to think about magic fleas, and scrapes offhanded at the ones that come at him again, catching one unlucky straggler in his claws and giving it a squeeze before flinging it against the scaffold. Eeeugh! Filthy! Didn't think I'd ever need to bring an exterminator to a fistfight...

The rat squeals thinly, struggling -- then *pop*s disgustingly in his hand, coating it in viscous slime that sprays away from him as he shakes his hand in revulsion. The fetid tide swarms, consuming their fallen brethren smashed by Vash and still surging towards and over him, in an ever-thickening, scraggly, clawed tide. The closest redcap titters insanely again, casually scooping up a passing rat and biting its head off as it struggles futilely in the clawed grasp. The hugely, impossibly wide jaws grind together, chewing, as the dying rat body flops about, spraying filth and blood. Up on the low-hanging roof, the second redcap pauses, crouching like a spider -- then springs, insect-sudden, directly towards Vash!

It lands, hissing viciously as Vash dodges neatly aside. It's crouched on all fours, its knees and elbows rising above its rounded back. Vash turns neatly, pivoting his torso so that he still faces the creature as it passes, and drives his hand down, clawed fingers locked rigidly, toward the center of the creature's back. He snarls, "Aiiiyah! A viente!" and drives his hand through the curved back of the creature, his claws splaying as they breach the other side in a shower of sticky, rancid ichor. He withdraws his hand with a jerk, lashing out and spraying the filth off of his claws and upper arm, drawing out with anonymous bits of flying debris from inside the redcap. He turns and sets his stance again, exhaling slowly, deeply. This is what he was trained to do. He was always taught given hardness, reply with softness; faced with strength, give them weakness. They attack him with screaming and imprecation; he takes their lives without a word.

The rats check, going eerily still for a moment as the shattered, twisted body convulses and thrashes, shrieking weakly. Twin squeals of horror echo from either side of Vash -- "It hurts us! Wicked, wicked -- kill the vile creature!" -then, as the rats turn as one to swarm the horribly injured redcap, Vash can hear the swift patter of many feet racing towards him. The remaining two redcaps are charging him from opposite sides, fanged mouths wide, narrow eyes alight with hatred. Long, impossibly jointed arms swinging, both redcaps slash at Vash, claws whistling past his face and barely missing in the frothing surge of leprous rats on thrashing redcap as Vash dodges fiercely.

Vash's torso flicks forward and then back, swinging around the twisted arms. As he rights himself again, he straightens the fingers of his right hand, sliding them quickly up underneath the chin of the Redcap on that side. Without looking, he drives the flat of his palm toward the nose of the Redcap on the other side. Rats are being stamped underfoot, and the cobblestones are slippery with blood and filth. The twisted little goblins jerk back as swiftly as insects, and Vash's blows sweep past them... then, simultaneously, one attacks as the other leaps at Vash, arms swinging tightly about his upper body, clinging to his back like a giant, filthy tick. Claws slash across Vash's carapace, actually digging in. They leave long, deep, stinging, bloody furrows, and both redcaps snarl triumphantly, their breath hot and stinking of carrion.

Vash grits his teeth, wincing as claws rake across him. He shoulders the other Redcap, just enough to off-balance him, and breaks past him, down at a full run. He lowers his stance, trying to dig his claws into the Redcap's forearms at his waist. "Hold on tight, now..." He bends and launches himself at the wall, twisting his torso around as he goes, and strikes the wall of the atrium hard. As he strikes the wall he snaps his head back, driving his head plate against the Redcap's face. He coughs heavily, staggered, and swaying momentarily with the weight of the still-attached Redcap. Nnnngh.

The redcap grunts, but continues clinging tightly. The rats, distracted, turn and start swarming towards Vash, their greenish fangs bared and their scarlet eyes glowing... and the last redcap comes skittering across the ground, twisted limbs splayed out like a spider's. Claws rake painfully across Vash's legs from it, low on the ground, and the rats launch themselves, chittering madly, at the besieged armadillo. The goblin on his back is attempting to sink its fangs into his shoulder, but so far his trusty carapace is sheltering him still.

Vash winces, claws on his legs and teeth at his back; it's getting to be too much. He pants, forcing his breathing to normalize. This isn't getting me anywhere... this one's got to go. He strains against the outsize arms around his waist, blood pounding in his temples. He can't believe how quick these things are, or how strong... Tolkien didn't exaggerate, he supposes. Nano, if you're still speaking to me... I could use some help here... He feels the creature shifting its grip slightly and takes that moment to exert himself, arms flying free from his sides! He sidesteps, getting the one away from his back, and breathes deeply. Thanks, Nanno... I owe you one. He sets his teeth, trying to stay focused; the blood is pounding in his ears and the gashes in his carapace are starting to sting and burn. He tries his best to push that to the rear of his thinking. If he can just kill one more... then it'll be even. Then they'll be his.

The redcap goes flying, bouncing once on the ground, then righting itself... both of them come skittering sideways towards him like cockroaches, and the damn rats are like clots of filth sticking all over him a horrible nightmare he can't wake up from... and then the redcaps and rats all freeze, statue still, all eerily turning their heads as one, noses and whiskers twitching... and, like grimy, draining water, they skitter silently away, fading into the stained darkness. Mere seconds later something comes *whoosh*ing around the square's corner, low to the ground in a heavy, hissing rush. Vash starts to pant heavily, whipping his head around and looking, "Madre de Dios, NOW WHAT?!"

From Zildjian's shoulders, Kerry pings the shadows, catching a glimpse of the creatures as they disappear into the night. "Captain, are you all-" He pauses as it becomes obvious that Vash is not all right. "####! We've got to get you back to the doctor, quick."

Vash starts to snicker. "Hey... Kerry! You missed it!"

Zildjian whips around, rearing back, her tongue flickering madly as she glances about her, picking up the scent of sewage and blood... then she darts forward again, her lips pulled back from her fanged teeth in disgust, "Get lost, ya revolt'n' vermin! G'wan! Beat it!" The redcaps are long gone, but the couple of heavy *thumps* from her tail slapping the ground are echoed by a few feeble squeals and some disgusting splatting sounds... then she comes hustling back across the square to Vash, her eyes glowing golden with concern in the darkness, "Vash? You still with us, boah?"

Vash sways visibly. "Hey... Zildjian! I'm glad you're... here..." He grins brokenly from under the blood and filth and sticky ichor, starting to try and catch his breath. "'s your kinda fight here... I don't... think I got... more than one more kill left in me." He slumps down to one knee, "...estas apedrear... I'm having such a shitty night." He slumps over onto his side, shoulder against the atrium wall.

Zildjian hisses under her breath, one arm slipping around Vash's shoulder, "Man, yo' don' look so good... tell me this was all rats? Not li'l disgustin' guys with red hats on?" She sounds like she doesn't believe it herself... but is hoping against hope.

Kerry swings down from his perch on the lamia's back to help the wounded armadillo. "Look at him. I doubt it was all rats. You're talking about goblins of some sort, aren't you? Vash, trust me on this. If you don't know the old legends, be very careful about going out alone, or at night. Nasty critters in those old legends."

Vash shakes his head, trying to clear it from the pain, which is, in the absence of endorphin and adrenaline to push it back, suddenly very acute, and the cool feeling in his fingers that he knows dimly is the onset of adrenaline withdrawal. He sways again, "Red hats... red caps. Commie bastards," he grins, and coughs. "Yeah... there's... still one there by the... scaffold, if you want him..."

Zildjian mutters irritatedly, "Why di'n Ah give 'em all ward'n's first?!" and simply scoops the smaller armadillo up. A little frantically she adds, "Kerr, dunno if'n we got any time or no... hop back on, le's get Vash back to the Egg... if'n he was bit, seconds count!" She's already moving towards the alley, although slowly enough for Kerry to hop back on. Kerry sweeps his wings to get back on Zil's tail, clambering forward once he's on and she's picking up speed.

Vash shakes his head, "No, no... couldn't... gnaw through. Think I surprised 'em. Not used to prey that.. won't run. I got 'em... woulda got the other... you got here too soon."

Zildjian covers a worried laugh with a cough, then grins and adds, "Sorry t'be such a bothah, son!" She's soon sweeping back down the street, low to the ground, using her considerable length to increase her speed... they dash into the Egg moments later.

Last modified: 2000-Dec-15 10:52:40

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