Traveling the Cold Desert feels like an eternity. The same bleak landscape, the same conversation, with a fight against a crag worm a few days ago the only interesting thing to happen. Well, interesting might not be the right word…
We have been traveling the Cold Desert for the last seven days, making our way to where the object reportedly struck down from the sky. Movement is slow on account of being loaded up with enough food to last the journey. The cold helps to preserve the cragworm meat and root vegetables, thankfully. I’ve grown weary of the plentiful ice candle fruit that grows prolifically in this region. Unfortunately we have to take turns pulling the carts, not having aneens to pull them for us. Apparently aneens do not do as well in this cold climate. I can’t say I’m doing remarkably myself, but it is the preferred alternative to being conscripted to defend the Machine City.
The bleak landscape is one of the most tiring aspects of the journey. A flat, cold land where only sand, drit, and stones sparsely pepper our surroundings. Nothing to see for kilometers except the occasional carcass picked clean by the quarraccas. When we do pass an object in the desert other than a rock, it does hold a moment of fascination, breaking the visual monotony for a spell. We are currently passing a wide blue-gray stone column with rivulets of brown liquid that have frozen to its surface. Quickly the novelty of prior world objects such as these wears off and I return to fixing my gaze ahead.
We hear the soft hurried crunch of footsteps coming up behind us a little too late. We turn to see seven abhumans in tattered hooded cloaks with bird beaks, beady black eyes, and hunched backs. Their reek is powerful, which surprises me that the wind didn’t catch it at first. The stone column is downwind from us, where they must have been hiding in wait for an ambush.
I ready the staff I had been given to defend myself with when my mind becomes hazy. My thoughts feel like they are being flooded with tiny, loudly buzzing insects. I realize now that we are being attacked by murden, or raven-men as they call them in this land. Something about their presence clouds the mind and makes it difficult to hold focus.
The murden outnumber us by two, but Chalra, the glaive protecting the back of our group immediately springs into action. She wields a knife in one hand and a razor ring in the other, taking on two of the abhumans, but her ambidextrous attack only manages to connect with one. I catch sight of one of them making for our cart while the others have us distracted with their engagement. Nakkus, the other glaive who had been our point person rushes to enter the melee while I and Orton the other mutant nano try to use the other cart as cover, allowing ourselves space to engage as need be. The delve named Meesk climbs atop the cart, preparing to launch herself onto one of the murdens.
The two murdens engaging with Chalra try to flank her on either side, one jabbing at her with a rusty knife while the other attempts to slice her with a long blade. Two murdens with spears charge at me and Orton, and two attempt to take on Nakkus who is swinging his double edged axe rather handily. He manages to get a slice into one of them but the other takes a small sword to his leg, causing him to yell in a mix of pain and anger. I swing the staff at the murden rushing me and I am able to make contact, but my strength is not enough to have brought it any significant damage. Orton’s hands quickly turn to a blue-white glow and they grab the raven-man. The filthy cloak of the abhuman rapidly smolders, smoke and crackling sounds erupting from where the mutant grabbed it. The static in my head escalates in the moment, and I instantly become dizzy and begin to swoon.
I concentrate as best I can to regain my focus, and I suddenly remember the esotery I had inadvertently used against the Jaekel sentry. I visualize a force of energy welling up in me and thrust it forth from my hands. The invisible wall of energy shoves the murden back, toppling it into one of the two battling Chalra. Just then I witness Meesk landing on the other murden and plunge the twin blades of her verred into its neck, or what I believe to be its neck.
The scorched abhuman attempts to right itself and engage Orton again, but before it can do so the mutant has produced an object- a cypher! They point the hook shaped rod, grab a synth ring hanging from the end and pull while pointing it toward the murden before them. A fan shaped casting of light emits from the cypher and slices straight into it, with part of the blade of light cutting into the one I knocked back and the other that it had collided with. The rest of the murdens hesitate at this spectacle, and their pause turns into a rout as they scatter. The sneaky creature that had been rifling through the cart follows behind the others and I can see it is absconding with some prize, but I don’t know what. Orton tosses the expended cypher and Chalra spits on one of the two dead murden as we get our wits about us and prepare to continue on our way, the unnerving static beginning to fade from my mind, and I assume from the others as well.
Two more days of travel leaves the unpleasantness of the murden ambush behind us. We finally set our sights on a large object in the distance, its location matching up with the coordinates we were given. As we get closer to the object more details can be made out. Nothing about it is symmetrical in its design. The bulk of it appears elongated yet swollen at one end, tapering to a narrower point but widening again into a somewhat toroidal shape. If it did indeed fall from the sky, I can’t imagine how such a thing could have taken flight. It’s difficult to determine its size from our current distance, but it is by no means small, I can tell that much. I don’t know what it may be, but hopefully it is worth the arduous trek through this barren wasteland. We shall find out soon enough.