Shaking away a brief moment of shock, Sam lunged wildly toward the Leshy, almost faceplanting over the leafy debris which littered the forest floor in his ill-fitting wrong-footed boots.
He cringed as he approached the grotesque creature, staring at its leathery hide, gnarled and twisted and pocked with lichen like a rotting tree-trunk. The two beady black eyes which were sunk into the rough furrows of its face glared at Dean, glimmering with malice as it tightened its grip with a cruel relish. Its long arms were stringy and gnarled; branches by any other name, and they tapered off into long, spidery twigs, alive with writhing, scaly tendrils – prehensile fingers that could torture and kill without effort.
It seemed that the Leshy hadn't realised he was there, given that he was still wearing his clothes back to front, inside out, upside down, however the hell else he'd managed to arrange them – for once the lore had been absolutely right – and Sam was happy to take advantage of that fact. The stringy limb that it had ensnared Dean with, was slowly moving down, slithering like a crooked black snake, encircling his chest, and pinning his arms to his side in the process. Crimson-faced and pebble-eyed Dean gaped, goldfish-like for air that wasn't coming, as he writhed and fought; his helpless struggles already growing weaker as the crushing force grew stronger and stronger, gradually starving him of air.
Sam acted in an instant, his blade sweeping down in a furious arc and hacking through the offending branch. He allowed himself a satisfied smirk as the Leshy let out a hoarse shriek, recoiling in shocked agony as the branch snapped loose, splattering thick, acrid brown sap across the ground.
Finally freed from his tormentor's grip, Dean dropped bonelessly to his knees, choking and gasping as he clawed blindly at the remaining strands which still clung tight around his throat and body.
If the creature hadn't been aware of Sam's presence before, it certainly was now, and it lashed out viciously with a tangle of long, mossy tendrils, cracking like a whip as they made sharp contact with Sam's face, snapping his head back and leaving a bleeding welt across his cheek. The force of the blow knocked him off his feet, slamming him heavily into a nearby tree and knocking the breath from his lungs. Dislodged by the jolt, his blade dropped out of his hand and skittered across the ground.
Through his dazed shock, he could see Dean trying to crawl toward him through a foul mulch of stinking sap, thickened with the usual detritus of the forest's floor. Gasping harshly, Dean was still struggling to breathe, and Sam fortified himself; stumbling back to his feet as he saw the Leshy bearing down on Dean once again.
It took him a second to locate his blade, and a further moment to retrieve it before turning back to face the creature once more.
Dean had staggered giddily upright, but his florid face suggested that his breath still wasn't coming freely, and his lop-sided stance pointed to rib injuries, disorientation or both. Beside him, the creature loomed over him ten feet tall at least, and Sam shuddered as he guessed it could probably easily overpower both brothers even if they were at the top of their game. With them both injured, the odds were stacked in the Leshy's favour, and Sam didn't much care for those odds at all.
Grasping the hilt of his blade, Sam pulled in a deep breath, fighting to achieve some clarity through his ear-ringing daze. He thanked heaven that here on the edge of the forest, the thinning population of trees meant that there was enough clearance for him to keep sight of Dean.
At that moment, he didn't notice the stray shoot that had crept across the ground, squirming and tunnelling its way through the carpet of leaves at his feet. It suddenly reared up and grasped his wrist. Flicking upwards, it cruelly twisted the joint and Sam let out a pained yelp as he heard the muffled crack of his wrist breaking.
Dean could barely see through the haze of tears as he crawled away on elbows and knees from the Leshy. Through a thickening soup of sap together with soil and rotting leaves, the coppery stench of mildew and decay was enough to make him want to retch, as if his throat wasn't hurting enough already.
He had heard Sam's cry and he almost welcomed it. It jolted him to his senses; suddenly he had something else to focus on, something other than his own predicament. Sam was in trouble and therefore, as far as Dean was concerned, so was the Leshy.
With a trembling hand, he reached into the waistband of his jeans for his own blade. This skanky tree asshole was going to feel every wonderful moment of Dean's revenge, and Dean would make sure that revenge was something worth remembering. He glanced across at Sam, trying to catch his eye as he gripped the blade close to his body, in an effort to offer the reassurance that they both needed.
He was concentrating so hard on the matter in hand, he didn't even hear the faint whoosh behind him as the Leshy threw one long fibrous creeper over the sturdy branch of an ancient oak behind it.
Sam fumbled his blade into his free hand, but left-handed he was nowhere near the adversary he would normally be. He lashed out toward the tendril that held him, but managed no more than a glancing scratch and it yanked hard on his injured wrist in an act of petulant cruelty in return.
He hadn't noticed Dean's attempts to catch his eye, but he did hear the choked gasp as the Leshy's slithering creeper grasped Dean once more around the neck, coiling thickly and tightly as it did. Sliding back over the branch, it slowly and deliberately pulled Dean to his feet, then hauled him further upwards until he was hanging helplessly, legs a full twelve inches off the ground, kicking and thrashing spasmodically like a fish on a hook.
Dean's sudden distress was a potent anaesthetic and Sam suddenly wasn't feeling the pain of his broken wrist as he lunged forward, dropping to his knees and began to hack furiously at the creeping tendril which was working its way up his arm.
The creature shivered and moaned at the assault and another tendril whipped across Sam's line of vision, snatching his blade out of his hand, turning it back on him.
He gasped, recoiling as the razor-sharp metal flashed through thin air exactly where his head had been only seconds before. Undeterred, the Leshy drew back the blade once more, ready to strike again. It watched in malign glee as Sam shifted to and fro, desperately trying to anticipate where it would strike next. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam could still see Dean's weakening struggles and for the first time he began to despair of being able help him.
That thought had only just crossed his mind when both he and the Leshy heard a guttural roar behind them.