Chapter One continued
Gimmlette felt in her pockets for her special trinkets, clicked them and unloaded shot after shot. Although she favored guns, the motion to use this bow had become second nature to her. Saronite Razorheads cut the air with a slight singing sound. Hogger was starting to resemble a porcupine. Gimmlette used her entire shot arsenal. She fired in easy rotation, pumping out the maximum she could while feeling her health slowly ebbing even with the health potion infusion. UrsaMajor’s extra attack also passed and he was back to his usual swiping.
Having killed Skipperdo, the beast turned his attention to the dwarf, as she was now closest. With a roar, which became a fear to the horrified travelers and which sent the bear and raptor fleeing, he charged. Gimmlette scarce had time to pull her weapon and take a swing when another swish of Hogger’s arm sent her flying towards a tree. She hit the tree with such force that gems from her armor were dislodged and fell, along with her lifeless body, to the ground.
Junas struggled to his feet. “Super, this shouldn’t be happening,” he yelled.
“I know,” shouted the night elf who was emptying more ammo into this mob than he’d ever shot at anything before. Every special shot he could think of had been used. He’d gone through his trinkets twice already. Hogger was still standing. This shouldn’t be.
Junas again charged, lowering his shield in a very unpaladin –like bull rush. The force of the impact of Junas running full into Hogger was like a demolition ball hitting a brick wall. Stars filled Junas’ head and he sank to his knees.
Hogger paid the paladin no mind. Superkind couldn’t believe that the force of Junas’ charge hadn’t even stunned the gnoll. Arrows from Gimmlette were sticking out all over his shoulders, upper arms and back. Bite marks from UrsaMajor and Xlii oozed blood. Hogger turned his maleficent gaze on Superkind and Superkind realized whatever Hogger was drinking had made him something not of this world. Those eyes. There was something about those eyes.
Superkind pulled out Marrowstrike as the beast leaped toward him. He swung and the blade ripped across Hogger’s chest. “Now that’s a serious wound,” Superkind thought. He leaped sideways to avoid the reactionary swing of the wounded monster. Another swing from Marrowstrike went across the back. Hogger howled as the blade cut another swath through those enhanced muscles. “For Spectacular Death!” Superkind yelled. He jumped backwards, whipped out his gun and fired again. From behind him, he heard a shaky voice say, “We got…this…one, right?”
“God, I hope so,” Superkind hollered back.
Hogger paused. He flexed his wounded body. He eyed the shaky paladin clearing the cobwebs from his mind and the tall elf who was unscathed and simply pouring rounds of ammunition into his body. He roared and Xlii fled in terror again.
“Junas? Did Hogger have the ability to fear?”
“I can’t remember what day it is and you’re asking me if he ever had fear? How the hell should I know? I’m wounded. We got to get this guy down.”
Hogger leaped the fence and charged Superkind in a motion so fluid, it was like water running over rocks. Superkind whipped out Marrowstrike but Hogger was too quick. He grabbed the weapon and broke it in two. Superkind attempted to jump backwards into gun range but the monster grabbed him by one arm and raked him across the chest with the other. Superkind clutched his shattered armor and chest, looked at Junas and pitched forward.
“Shit,” said Junas as he watched the night elf crumple to the ground. “Okay, you mound of gnoll poop. It’s you and me now.”
Junas prepared himself. He was fairly certain he had more life in him than the thing in front of him. Even so, Junas scrounged in his bag for a health potion. Crap. He’d given his last one to Squidchin when they were fighting in Naxxramas. It had saved the day against Maxxena but he’d forgotten to restock. Oh well, he could take this thing, he was certain he could.
Junas looked at his shield. It was bent and battered. The magic in it was still sound and crackled with a ferocity that reassured him. He could see Hogger was sizing him up and preparing a charge. Junas got into defensive stance. His “oh crap” spell of last resort was available and was probably going to be used.
Hogger roared, lowered his shoulder and charged. Adeptly, Junas waited until the last minute and then stepped aside. The monster crashed through the fence and hit the tree where Gimmlette’s lifeless body lay. The concussion knocked a couple of squirrels off their vantage point above the path.
Hogger didn’t seem as dazed as he should have been. He paused for a second, shook his head, turned and, from his pant leg, drew a sword. It gleamed in the morning sun. Obviously it had been enchanted but this was no ordinary enchant. It was black. It swirled about the blade alternately showing and then hiding the edge. This wasn’t the “Executioner” enchant, the enchant Gimmlette loved simply for its looks. It was as if a void circled about the blade. Whoever was feeding Hogger the drugs had also given him a weapon of incredible power. But for what reason?
Junas became aware that Hogger was chuckling. He was laughing at him. Hogger’s chuckle made his skin crawl. Junas stood up to his full 6’ height, grabbed his shield and flung it at Hogger. The shield clanged off the side of the beast’s head, momentarily dazing him. Junas took the opportunity to charge and succeeded in knocking the beast off his feet. He jumped backwards onto the road to have level ground for the fight of his life. Hogger recovered and leaped after him. With the shield returned, Junas raised his left arm to fend off the blow he knew was coming. The air went dead still and time seemed to go in achingly slow motion. Hogger dropped the full force of this swing onto the shield which crumbled as if it was made of paper.
Junas cried out in pain, a pain he didn’t remember ever feeling before and he’d felt pain a lot. There was something else to this pain. Junas swung at Hogger. He felt his sword connect and then stick. Hogger wrenched the sword from Junas’ hand and tossed it aside. Junas felt the left side of his body almost melt. He staggered. Black circles swirled around on the ground.
“Must…get…out…of…circles,” he heard himself say. “Lay…on…hands…must…cast…”
Hogger grabbed the paladin and lifted him above his head. He walked back up the road 50 feet to where a bridge crossed a small stream. In an easy, effortless motion, he hurled Junas at the bridge causing him to fall onto and across the side. Junas tumbled onto the road.
“This…can’t…be…happening,” he thought. “If…only…we…had…a…priest,” and the world went dark.