Will groped desperately for new hand and footholds. He tore his gaze away from the eddies in the mist and looked for a means to save his dearly purchased carcass, heart thundering in his chest hydraulic hammer. He found a vertical split with his free hand and managed to catch a tiny outcropping with one foot, then the other.
He took several moments to catch his breath, holding tight to the red rock of the chasm wall, panting, eyes closed. His heart slowed. He caught his breath. The rock was cool against his cheek. The mist had a reek to it. Vaguely sulfurous, almost like bad eggs, but not quite to the gut churning gag of truly rotten ones.
Several deep breaths later, he was ready to continue. More caution was called for. Best to dial the cockiness back to simple self-assurance. He resumed his descent, picking his way with care and trepidation, always keeping an eye for the swirling mist. He was sure there was something in there, just not what it was.
Finally he reached the ledge with the purple penitent–and his gear–on it. He crouched near the body, close to the chasm wall as he could, keeping as much of his front toward the red mists. He wasn’t sure if they were changing momentum, but it felt like they were. Best to assume the worst.
With quick hands he worked at removing his pack from the poor brute’s body. It was lying face down on the shelf, what remained of its face staring sightlessly off into the mists. Most of the bones in the arms were broken, but the right arm as lodged under the body, blast it.
Will moved its left arm, maneuvering the dead flesh so that he could slip the pack strap free. The arm squished and small grating noises came from within. Will felt his gorge rise. The arm was far too flexible in all the wrong spots. But he needed the pack, now, so he gritted his teeth and got it over with as fast as he could.
He exhaled hard when the penitent’s arm came free and flopped back to the ground, the clammy dead flesh making a flat smacking sound. Now the other arm. He would have to roll the body away from him to do this, hope it didn’t catch the pack’s other strap.
The mist seemed to roil again, and Will froze. He looked around the shelf, gauging his fighting space, and wishing like everything he’d picked a fighter. Thief builds were good at sneaking and backstabbing, great at stealing. They weren’t so hot at fighting fair fights. Only magic-users were worse. He’d tried to build for that; picking a finesse build, light weapons, the works. And a fighter would’ve died on the way down here. There was something to be said for actually having a skill named Scale Sheer Surfaces.
The eddies in the mist slowed. Did that mean whatever it was intended to strike? Had it left?
He waited. Based on the size of the drifts in the mist, whatever might be there was either huge, or not alone. The mist had a consistency that, up close, reminded him of water. It moved like a liquid, but it was clearly a gas. Was it (they?) swimming? Floating?
Will took a slow, shaky breath and turned back to the penitent’s body. His mind stayed on the mist as he tried to solve this problem at his feet. What could it look like? If the mist was a gas was it naturally buoyant? Maybe it was a big puffer-fish-looking thing with tentacles.
The image of a giant silver object floating through the sky with glowing yellow text on its side flashed in his mind. He superimposed waving tentacles or… what was that on microscopic organisms? Flagella? Yes.
Not for the first time he wondered how he knew all this weird stuff. There were no floating gas bags in the Dungeonworld. People only flew with spells and magic items, things they either gained in one of the many dungeons or bought with dearly hoarded karma. This whole problem could’ve been solved if he’d waited longer, hoarded more. A flying carpet would’ve been really awesome to have right now.
“Focus, man. Focus!” Will muttered. “Get the pack off the body, then speculate. Idiot.”
Will shook his head. He needed to solve this problem, and solve it now. He was certain his reprieve from the moving mist was only temporary.
He tried several poses to get the necessary leverage to lift the brute, finally settling on one knee on the ground and the other foot flat. He grabbed its right shoulder and began to roll it, lifting it and pushing out toward the edge of the precipice. He got it up on its left shoulder and started working the strap down its right arm, which was in even worse shape than the left.
Finally he had the strap almost off… then the damned brute’s body started to roll over the precipice.
Everything happened in a rush.
The mist suddenly boiled, a churning knot from the far side coiling and rocketing toward him. The penitent’s body twisted as it fell, loose wrist tangling in the strap. The pack lurched with the body, trying to yank itself out of Will’s hand, but he held on.
Then: Thud! Crunch!
The roiling mist reached him, washing over him like a wave at the beach, the sulfurous odor of the mist suddenly overpowering. Something huge and barely seen smashed into the penitent. Will had the impression of jaws on a head the size of a dairy cow closing on the penitent’s legs with a crunch. Wet ichor sprayed everywhere, spattered him.
Then it twisted its head and yanked. The penitent’s wrist was still trapped in the strap, so body went, the pack went, and Will flew off his perch into the mist, clinging to his pack with all the desperate strength he could muster.