I’m headcanoning a little here, as I can’t remember whether or not these creatures are immune to blood magic in game (I wasn’t a blood mage in Origins, and I never took Merrill to this battle). So for the purposes of “Shadows”, you can assume that they are.
Previously: The New Assignment
The lines of Carver’s face soften. “Spiders? You must be joking, Merrill.”
“What? They eat the crawly things in my house.” She winks at him. “Plus, they’re fuzzy. I like fuzzy.”
“I swear,” he chuckles, shaking his head and grinning. “You can find anything cute.”
“There it is,” she says, nudging his shoulder with her own. Her eyes gleam in triumph. “You do remember how to smile.”
Cheeks slackening, Carver clutches the strap of his trash satchel and stares down the dark alienage alley. The shadows are impenetrable, almost solid. “Not much to smile about these days,” he grunts.
“Pfft. There’s always something to smile about,” she says, her voice still light, lilting. “Even if you have to make it up yourself.”
Carver starts, his heart flopping into his stomach. For the hundredth time, he debates telling her about his time in the hole: about the thirty-six bites, about blue sky days and his dreams and counting veins in the leaf. But then he shakes his head.
“What is it?” she murmurs, her green eyes flicking to his mouth and back again. Her lips part, as if tasting the air between them.
“N-nothing.” Swallowing, Carver tries not to notice how wet her lips are, how inviting the flash of pink tongue and white teeth. “It’s just—you’re right. As always.”
The corners of Merrill’s mouth twitch. She licks her lips, and he stares, fascinated.
Down the alley something skitters. Carver jerks back from her. Merrill sighs irritably.
“What was that?” he grunts.
“Not sure. An animal?” Merrill tilts her head, then wrinkles her nose. “Creators,” she gags, wrinkling her nose, “what smells like the inside of Fenris’s house?”
Carver shrugs, and covers his mouth from the suddenly overwhelming stench.
Then from the shadows crawls something grey and twisted, and Carver can barely strangle back a yelp. Carver is no stranger to the oozing, twisted flesh of abominations, but this is unlike anything he has ever seen before. Like a corpse chopped into many pieces and stitched back together, the animal—creature—whatever it is—is wrongness given form: all teeth and muscle, its taut skin stretched over bone and hollow eye sockets. Its long, sinuous tongue drips with foamy liquid. Instead of feet, it has hands. Human hands.
It skitters toward them, and its fingernails scrape like claws in the alley dirt, leaving long trails behind.
“Maker’s balls,” he whispers. “What is that?”
“A nightmare,” mutters Merrill.
The thing tilts its head, raises its nostrils and sniffs the musty air. Then, snarling, it lunges toward them.
Carver and Merrill push away from each other. The creature slams, open-mouthed, into the wall where seconds prior they’d stood.
Reeling back, it lifts its sightless eyes and gargles weakly. The sound, like a drowning baby, is the worst Carver has ever heard.
He kneels to draw the dagger Isabela gave him from his boot, but before he can stand again, Merrill draws her mage-knife from her hip and scratches the blade against her bare forearm. The blood does not flow down her wrist, however, but hovers around her in a beautiful, crimson fog.
Muttering something in Elvhen, Merrill raises her blood-soaked hand and clenches it into a fist. Carver remembers Chateau Haine, when at the same simple motion, eight of Prosper’s guards dropped to the ground, screaming in agony, as their blood rent from within.
This creature, however, merely sniffs the air and lurches toward Merrill again.
Merrill’s eyes go wide, and Carver can’t think of anything else to do but hurl himself on top of the thing, landing on it heavily and pinning it to the ground.
Under his weight it squirms, the fingers—bony, bruised, green—scrabbling against the dirt for purchase. Its flesh is rubbery, slippery. The thing smells like stale piss and sickness and something else, something undefinable and unsettling. Like how his father smelled in his final hours.
Carver grabs his blade and stabs the thing into one of its sightless eye sockets.
The creature wails and thrashes, catching Carver in the solar plexus. He grunts and his hands go slack. The creature slips out from under him.
Back down the dark alley way it crawls, faster than spiders or Fade spirits or anything else Carver has ever seen, with Isabela’s blade still stuck in its eye.
Merrill gasps and staggers back against the wall, clutching her forearm.
Pushing himself to his feet, Carver is by her side in an instant. “Are you alright?”
She nods. She nods at a pouch by her hip, and Carver digs into it, pulling out a bandage. She stares, unblinkingly, as he wraps her arm with shaking hands.
“My magic didn’t work on it,” she gasps eventually.
Carver grimaces. “Looks like blood magic has its limits.”
“No, it doesn’t.” She peers down the alley way, where the thing disappeared. “Wounds of the Past works on anything alive, anything with blood in its veins. Unless—“
Carver has finished wrapping her arm but does not let go of her forearm. “Unless what?”
“Unless the thing didn’t have any blood to begin with,” she mutters.
Carver shudders, the motion shaking Merrill’s arm. She turns back to him, and grips his forearm with tight fingers, and the two of them stand there, holding the other in place, swaying slightly.
Merrill speaks first. “Do—do we go after it?” Her eyes are wide, pupils blown out in terror.
“How can we?” He draws a shaky breath. “We’re not even armed. It took my only weapon.”
She nods, trembling.
“That aside,” she mutters.
“I think we have to anyway,” he agrees.
Gulping, she squeezes his arm but does not let go.
“Carver,” she mutters, voice shaking. “Whatever that—thing is, I do not think it’s cute.”