Erkan took a moment to turn on the flashlight Mortimer had given him as they continued to run from the ocean rattlers. He hadn’t needed it when they were walking along casually, but now it took a few seconds of fumbling to turn it on while he was running. Then Mortimer stopped running at the top of the slope leading down to the ‘beach’. “We should be fine here,” Moritmer turned and shone his flashlight down behind them.
It shamed Erkan that Mortimer, who was at least ten years older than him and seemed thin as a rail, managed to run the whole way without breathing heavily. Meanwhile, he had fallen behind and was taking deep breaths. Then again, he was an undead hunter… or gravekeeper, which was apparently the nice term.
Erkan heard another crunch, fainter this time- but his flashlight showed the situation down below well enough. He wondered if he should have stayed closer so that Justin and Nico had light to fight by… but it didn’t seem that it had been necessary. The crunch seemed to have been Justin biting into one of the ocean rattlers- a horrifying sight, since Justin’s jaw opened up wider than Erkan thought humanly possible and his razor sharp teeth cleanly tore out the back of the gigantic snake’s neck, just behind its head. The body was tossed over to the side where Erkan saw at least one or two more- it was hard to tell exactly with their twisting bodies overlapping.
Nico dodged a lunge by one of the snakes- whether or not any normal sea creatures were really snakes wasn’t relevant in this situation because Erkan saw giant fangs that indicated that at least these particular creatures were close enough. Nico moved his hand in a circle, and Erkan’s flashlight reflected just enough off of the blood Nico used that he could see it flying through the air at one of the sea serpents. A moment later, the sea serpent was thrashing wildly, then its motion suddenly stopped. Nico gestured towards some of the dead snakes, drawing blood out of them into a large ball that partially reflected the light.
Erkan saw another snake leaping towards Justin, but Justin was facing the other way. Before he could even get half a word of warning out, the snake had latched onto Justin’s neck and shoulder. Justin staggered forward… then reached back. His hands grasped around the neck, both of them together just barely reaching all the way around the snake… there was a moment of stillness, then a faintly heard crunching sound as Justin’s fingers squeezed together. The snake went limp, and Justin pulled the fangs off of his shoulder leaving behind two sizable holes.
There were only a few snakes left, and they turned back toward the water to flee. Justin caught one of them by the tail with one hand and pulled, flipping them towards him. He caught it around the middle with his other hand, then his mouth once again bit off a chunk of snake, right out of its midsection. Erkan turned away, back toward Nico. He saw him wiping his mouth, then he held up one of the bottles that usually held pig’s blood, and filled it.
Erkan jumped as Mortimer patted him on the shoulder, “It’ll be alright. First time seeing them fight?”
“Uh… yeah…” Nico drinking blood was one thing- he was a vampire, after all. Seeing Justin apparently consume huge chunks of raw meat and scales was something else entirely. There was a reason he liked his meat already prepared.
Nico walked up the slope toward Mortimer and Erkan. “Well, that was quite something, wasn’t it? There are reasons not to just wander about the shadowlands.”
“Yeah…” Erkan said weakly.
“Hey!” Justin called from down below, “If you wanna wait around a bit I can set you up with some nice cuts of snake! Don’t have any good bags though.”
“Umm… no thanks,” Erkan answered.
“I will pass as well,” Mortimer nodded.
“Your loss then! I’ll see everyone later, alright?” Justin waved.
Erkan waved back.
The group of three made their way back towards the road. Erkan was much more concerned about the darkness all around them. Darkness at home was one thing- he knew there were no monsters there. Conversely, he also knew there could be some monsters here. It was a weird thought. “Oh!” Erkan looked back, “Will Justin be alright? He got bit… those things are venomous, right?”
Nico nodded, “Indeed they are. However, there are few venoms that would affect a ghoul. They are designed to damage living beings, after all. He does not work the same way.”
“Right…” Erkan shook his head, “I’m still getting used to all this. How did you… do that thing to the snakes?”
Nico explained, “That thing was causing their blood to go wild. It requires a magic circle on the target… so if they had known to dodge it would have been much less effective. However, they were not much concerned about a bit of blood getting on them.” Nico gestured vaguely behind them, “There were a few things to take note of in that battle. First, if you find yourself in a fight that you can’t run from, you should focus on killing one target, even if you have to expend most of your resources to do so. Do you know why?”
“Umm…” Erkan thought back to the battle, “Because then you have more blood to use?”
“Quite right. If the owner is dead, it is not much trouble to use their blood- and it will be at nearly maximum potency, unlike anything you carry with you. Except your own blood, of course.”
“I don’t know if I want to fight… but I suppose I won’t really be given the option,” Erkan shook his head, “It would have been nice to be able to do something before. When will I be good enough to use blood magic in combat?”
Nico shrugged, “It’s hard to say. Until then, running and hiding can still work, if you recognize a threat beforehand. Otherwise, get a weapon- or anything somewhat heavy. Anything can be quite effective if your opponents aren’t expecting you to be able to fight.”
Erkan thought about that, and everything he had gotten involved with, as he trudged through the blackness back towards the world he was somewhat familiar with.