The calm waters stretched to the horizon, a myriad small islets spread throughout offering a nigh-infinite number of paths leading to the same place: the door out.
Not that Sethian had any need for such paths, relying instead on magic to carry them in great leaps from isle to isle in a straight line. They had spent the entire day yesterday hopping like this, resting only when Sethian needed to recharge his power.
“Adjudicator!” Gorm’s deep voice echoed inside his heavy helm as he pointed at the horizon. His companion squinted, instinctively holding a hand over his eyes for shade against a sun that did not shine.
On an island quite far off something cut a dark silhouette against the clear blue sky. Though far larger than the door they sought, in this monotonous place anything out of the ordinary inevitably piqued their curiosity.
Sethian gripped his cane and held his hands out, closing his eyes in concentration. Gorm watched as the mage began drawing symbols in the air, their light much stronger here than at home. Even Sethian did not know the cause, and could only speculate the cause lay in the strength of the link between the Abode and the Astral.
Gorm felt the weight of his armor lighten on his back and that of his body off his feet when the magic gripped him. The world rushed by them as they flew high into the air, arcing across the waters and in the direction of the silhouette.
Moments later they touched down upon the sandy grass of a larger island. Gorm immediately fell into a battle ready stance as the dark figure had begun moving during their descent. A great serpentine creature uncoiling its deep blue form as it launched toward them like an unwinding spring.
While Sethian stood staring at the beast, trying to figure out a reaction, Gorm rushed to meet its charge. The wyrm attempted to snake around him as it opened its giant maw, fangs veritably dripping with venom. Gorm responded by stabbing his halberd into its mouth, driving the creature to rear up and back.
The movement made the creature’s size apparent for the first time. The wyrm towered over him, its ridged head the size of a man’s torso and its body so long it measured many times the height of an ogre.
Off to the side Sethian had gathered his wits, leaping off to a nearby islet and holding his cane at the ready. Never one for combat, Gorm knew the arbiter had few spells of use here. What he did have, he would need to use; else Gorm might find himself defeated.
And on the battle raged; the snake coiling ever tighter, seeking to weaken its stubborn foe with venomous strikes. Yet Gorm fought back, trying his best to hold it off and hoping for Sethian’s aid to tip the scales in his favour.
The wicked spikes of his armor had proven themselves sharper than the beast’s scales could comfortably squeeze, keeping the grip loose enough for Gorm to maneuver effectively. It loomed over him, its head rolling on its neck, keeping him guessing where the next lightning bite would come from.
He could feel the venom from successful strikes burning in his wounds, but it did not slow him down. Instead he reveled in the pain, drawing upon it to fuel his focus and resolve. When next its maw opened wide as it lunged forward Gorm’s halberd caught it in the mouth. Last time it had caused the creature to back off, take a more cautious approach, but this time it simply bit down hard and twisted.
Gorm watched as his halberd, torn from his grip, flew off to the side, disappearing behind the creature and landing in the water with a loud splash. Gorm jabbed the serrated blade protruding from his elbow out to his side, driving it into the creature’s gut, before slamming his hand forward to yank it free once more.
If the strike did any damage the creature made no sign of caring and instead struck with lightning speed toward Gorm’s shoulder, one arm coming up reflexively to ward off the blow. Though the creature retracted almost instantly, Gorm managed to catch sight of something. Its wicked fangs had stopped mid-air, more than a finger’s width from his arm, as if they had struck solid steel. Sethian had finally gotten around to doing something useful.
When the next strike came, Gorm slapped his arms around the worm’s head and latched on. It lifted him as it reared back, shaking its head in an attempt to throw him off. He responded by kneeing it in the teeth, repeatedly stabbing the knee-blade of his greaves into the roof of its mouth. It clenched its jaw hard, locking his leg, and slammed him into the ground, trying to crush the life out of him with its bony head.
As it reared up again, still holding on tight to his leg, Gorm let go with one hand, using the other to keep him stable and trusting the beast to hold him secure, and then delivered as heavy a backhand as he could muster right into its eye, the cold steel of his gauntlet-blades leading the way.
The world turned into a blur as he flew from the creature’s maw, now open in an agonized screech. When finally everything stopped spinning long enough for him to get his bearings, he found himself staring at water so close the forehead of his helm touched it. Yet something gripped him strongly around the waist, keeping him from falling in. The creature had proven less willing to surrender its meal than he had hoped.
Then he tumbled onto the sandy islet, no longer held fast by anything. Struggling into a stand he looked around for his adversary, but could see only Sethian. The mystic leaned heavily on his cane, panting and grinning widely at Gorm.
“You let it live.” Sethian sounded less disappointed than weary.