He sagged against the damp stone wall, breathing heavily and reloading his revolver from the spare ammo he kept in his duster. He'd found the sword among the Niht clan, as Doc had said he would. He holstered the revolver, a KMT model, and a well used weapon. He withdrew a thick glass vial from another deep pocket and shook it a bit, grimacing. It was cloudy and looked the color of pus.
He'd watched Doc brew the sorcerous concoction, he'd watched the man boil the grey flesh off of a six fingered hand and grind up the weird multi-jointed bones of the dead Vyanth. He'd mixed it with other, most likely fouler, things, but watching the flesh melt and run off the bones had stuck with him more than the the powders and plants Doc had mixed into the strange brew.
He sighed, he'd found the sword yes, but he had no idea if he'd make it back to Doc to tell him. Something was wrong with the Niht. Something dark and unnatural had taken hold of them. They painted their skin and hair black, and powdered their faces white, like skulls. Some kind of strange war paint they'd never used before.
He heard them then, the Niht warriors, shuffling along barefoot in the damp cave. They knew he had nowhere to go, and were patiently waiting for him to take the first move. The Niht had hidden the sword in a sort of shrine in the bottom of the cave complex, and had heaped treasures and trophies from battle around it, as if they worshiped the black blade. He had gotten in easily enough, now it seemed he would be fighting his way back out.
Rumor had said the blade was here, other tribes had confirmed it, but Doc needed proof, he needed one of his agents to see it before he was willing to act against the Niht, the tribe of his birth. Well, the damn blade was here, the difficulty now lay in finding his way out of the caves and back into the dim light of the day in The Beast Lands, and perhaps making it back to Doc.
His brain quietly worked on the mystery of the blade while he took turns almost at random, attempting to generally head upwards and in a more or less northerly direction. The blade had been like ice, even through his leather glove. That had cost him, he had touched it with his gun hand and his numb fingers had only killed two of his pursuers when they'd found him in the room and he'd emptied his chambers into the horde of them.
Doc thought the blade was some sort of talisman, an item of sorcerous power related to the shadow monsters. It was certainly cold enough, and black enough, and sorcerous enough. Being near it had filled him with a cold ache and put the hairs on the back of his neck standing straight up. When he touched it, he could feel the wrongness of it in his bones, it set his teeth vibrating in his mouth and turned his legs to rubber, but he'd had to confirm it for Doc. Doc said it was necessary, any tinsmith sorcerer could paint a spell-wrought blade shiny black and leave it in some cave for primitives to oggle, but the one he sought was distinctive, and a touch had confirmed it.
Something had been luring the shadow monsters to The Beast Lands decades before Nakmander Zauber'konig had ever left and returned from the poisonous shores of Fresgulen with his mysterious weapon. Doc and the Organization, believed it was the sword. The sword had been in The Beast Lands for a long time, longer than Doc and the Organization had been around. Doc had said he'd grown up hearing legends and stories about the blade from his grandfather and the old Cenn of the Niht. The stories weren't as old as the ones about The Watcher In The Trees, but they were old enough.
They spoke of a blade just a bit too huge and heavy to be wielded in one hand, forged all one piece of black material, like obsidian, but smooth as if forged and not knapped. A blade so keen it could cut hair and chop down a tree with equal ease. The cold was deadly, a chill so numbing that the only cure was going to battle in the thick hides of a great ursine, even then it still numbed the fingers and left frostbit flesh around every wound it dealt. Sometimes, if the weapon dealt enough death, silver points of light glimmered within the blade, like stars coming out at night.
Doc's foul concoction was still in his hand as he rounded the corner of a tunnel and twenty Niht warriors leapt out at him like shadows hungry for his blood.
"By Hell's black walls," he swore as he downed the foul concoction.
Doc had said it was different from his normal formula, the ground up Vyanth bones would alter its composition, make him quicker and faster, rather than beastly like what Doc became. The change was quick and painful. Muscle and fat withered instantly, making him gaunt and wasted looking while his skin thickened, like a callous over his whole body. His fingers clenched and twitched and his knuckles popped like small caliber rounds fired from a derringer, but they flowed over the gun and his ammo like liquid.
The shots were thunder in the cave, and he was leaping around like a frog. His duster spinning and flapping as he dodged spears and crude stone clubs. The Niht howled their war cries, deafening him just as much as the thunder of his gun. Whether it was the thunder of his hammer falling or the bloodthirsty cries of his foes, more Niht came for his blood.
He bled from a hundred narrowly avoided deathblows, chips of stone and splinters of wood studded his duster and had caught in his flesh. The concoction fueled him with its alchemy, but he was never going to be able to kill enough of them to free himself from this tomb. They'd lay his skull at the foot of the black sword's pedestal.
There was nothing for it, he let his trusty revolver from his days as a Brasscoat fall to the floor and he drew the Cinderswitch. It was all brass, the stylized dragon mouth that was the barrel, the ornate edges on the rounded sides of the black glass of the "chamber," even the trigger was steel embellished with shiny brass tracery. Three chains depended from the but of the weapon, each one holding a brass talisman, a star, a triangle, and a simple circle.
He called to his blood, boiling within his veins and seething to be released, his power came and he cast it out into the Cinderswitch's "chambers," biting his lip and snarling in frustration as his sorcery howled within him, kicking and bucking and trying to burn his brain out rather be bound by the will of a man. It relented, like an unruly hound that could knew it could only try its master's patience for so long, and he pulled the trigger.
The thunder did not come. The "chamber" did not turn. No hammer fell, for the weapon had none. The eyes on the dragon glowed red like embers and smoke swirled out of its nostrils. Then, and only then, was there noise. And light. And fire. The black rock of the weapon's "chamber" took his sorcery from him and fed the Niht fire and death from the dragon's mouth and each time he pulled the fake trigger fire scoured the cave wall, searing meat and flesh to bone and giving him time to breathe.
He'd never understood why the Cinderswitch weapons always had dragon's mouths for barrels. He'd never heard of any fire breathing dragons, just the huge brown and green beasts that spat acid, though technically acid did burn. Regardless, the weapons dealt death well enough, he gave a mental shrug and kept pulling the trigger as fast as his enhanced reflexes would let him.
He'd burned two dozen Nith down to melted stubs of black bones and runny flesh by the time more warriors of the clan showed up. It was hot in the cave now and cloudy with cinders and ash, and the Niht kept coming and he was backing up instead of forging ahead. The Cinderswitch kept the Niht from closing with him, but it didn't stop their flung spears and bows. The potion's effects were still strong within him allowing him to duck and dodge and aim quicker than any foe now seeking his blood. Despite his worries and questions, Doc had only been willing to say that it would last long enough.
There was a thunderous crash, not from his guns or the howling warriors backing him down into the cave, but from above. The walls of the cave shook and rumbled and their were cries of pain and fear from above. There was the sound of stone breaking, the roars of a mad beast, and the angry chugging and buzzing that were iconic to a weapon he knew well, he understood now why Doc had said that the effects of the alchemical concoction would last long enough.
It was then that Savage Doc Managan strode into battle against the clan that he once called home and family. Doc was gripped fiercely by the full effects of his specialized elixir. Huge and monstrous, nine feet tall with skin thicker and darker than that of a Child of Volung. His limbs were tree trunks and his torso had the girth and solidity of a mountain. His face was a twisted parody of Uncout features, thick yellow teeth and bulging red eyes, lines of drool and spittle running down his chin as he bellowed angrily.
The noise was deafening now, for on Doc's back was a coal burning engine that powered a great buzzing weapon clenched in his massive fist. The blade was slick with oil and blood and jerked wildly as four lines of motorized wolf-iron teeth slid up and down along the edge of the blade, the hilt of the weapon was clotted with blood and tissue and the fragments of broken weapons.
Savage Doc Managan roared and swung the massive weapon in a deadly arc, splitting torsos and tearing off limbs with the chugging and buzzing blade. In his other hand he tossed a large grenade into the air with a yellow starburst pattern painted onto the side. As Doc tossed the grenade, he let off one shot with the Cinderswitch and then hid his eyes behind a flap of his duster as it exploded above Doc's head and erupted into a piercing light that confused and blinded the Niht around them. It took moments to finish off the rest of the Niht warriors.
Doc was growling and twitching when he approached him, "I thought you weren't willing to act against your kind until you had confirmation."
Doc grunted through tusk-like teeth, "Is it here?"
"Then I have my confirmation."
"Are we taking it back then, or destroying it, or what?"
Doc grunted and grimaced, his concoction flooded his body with powerful chemicals that made him tough and strong and nigh unstoppable, but they often left his brilliant mind dulled and sometimes hard to focus.
Doc gestured with his now quiet blade, "I have no need of a weapon, will you put down your guns to wield it?"
He shook his head, "Why did I risk my life to find it then?"
The muscles in Doc's bull-like neck flexed and strained but Doc spoke, "Because, I seek to connect the shadow monsters to the Niht. We know the blade is here for certain now, now we observe the shadow monsters and where they roam in relation to the blade's location. If the blade is the epicenter of their hunts through The Beast Lands, then we know the monstrous creatures are connected to the legends of the black blade and the Organization can proceed from there."
Doc smiled and turned to go, "Where the Organization goes and what we do with the black blade will depend upon what Nakmander Zauber'konig decides to do when he returns from his adventures south of The Known World. If he continues to confine his mad and unrestricted use of sorcery to Meroteth, we will leave him be and turn our hands to other tasks. If he seeks to spread his influence across the continent, we will stop him."
He nodded and said, "Fair enough then." and followed the now slowly shrinking Savage Doc Managan out, reclaiming his trusty KMT revolver as he did so.