Here’s another part for my as of yet, untitled Fantasy project!
We forged our way through the thicket; hacking and slashing with our long knives as we clutched our weapons tight to us. You could almost smell them as they watched us. Small wyrms in the trees and in the underbrush watching, waiting until we let our guard down to pounce. They worked together when they were this size, but that was because they needed to. As soon as they started to grow, their cooperation would cease and they would devour each other for the briefest hint of the chaos energy that created them. Our troop was at one point over 15 strong, now there’s only 7 of us. Granted, we have done a lot since we started on our path all those years ago. The sad thing, is that most of our casualties weren’t from hunting dragons, which is hazardous at the best of times. No, they was from humans. Bandits and brigands would follow us and wait until we had the crystals or the gold from completing the bounties and then attack in our sleep. They never got away with anything, but too many times had we been awakened by the sounds of one of our own having their throat slashed by a group of bandits wanting to make a name for themselves like the Chaos King.
Nobody dares to cross the Chaos King.
He rules the roads and forests all around the southern part of the continent. Nobody moved or even breathed without him knowing, and he ALWAYS took a cut of anything using “his” roads. The Chaos King had droves of all sorts of creatures, warriors, assassins, and bandits at his disposable. He was a force to be reckoned with, but for all of his power, nobody had seen him in years. They still paid his tolls, purely out of fear, but it was highly speculated the Chaos King had met his end when he had challenged the Elder Green dragon, Whicoad, in single combat. Not even the most powerful and seasoned of hunters would do that, which is why most think he’s dead. There are some though, who worked closely with the king himself, that say he used blood magic to bind the elder dragon to his will. The theory is that the act of binding that much chaos energy destroyed his body, causing his spirit to fuse with that of the elder dragon. An Elder Dragon, that hasn’t been seen in over 150 years..
Shaking my head I put those thoughts out of my mind. Blood magic had been outlawed by King Pericourt nearly 1,000 years ago. There was nobody left still practicing, let alone teaching bandit “kings” their secrets.
I held up my hand and my party stopped immediately, hands clutching their weapons in a grip that caused their knuckles to go white with the strain. The sound of claws and large bodies sliding up trees and across the ground covered in dead leaves and other underbrush could be heard distinctly. They were inching closer, preparing to attack. I made a quick horizontal motion with my hand followed by a vertical pump of my arm. The group all nodded silently and sheathed their knives. I reached behind my back and clasped the small pouch on my belt that contained full crystals. I quietly opened the pouch and pulled a single crystal out. Holding it between my thumb and index finger, I wrapped my other fingers around the draw string closing the pouch. As my hand returned to my front, I could see out my peripheral vision, the others of my team doing the same thing. I slid the small crystal into the opening just under the cross guard of my sword. The was a faint hissing noise as my blade began to glow and crackle with the chaos energy of a dead red wyrm. Behind me, I heard several other hisses as the others used the same type of crystals to enchant their weapons. One of the few weapons that hunters had was the elemental energies of the dragons they killed.
When a dragon dies their body dissolves into the energies that created them, depending on the colour of the dragon, it could be any number of things. Blue dragons crystallized into an ice statue with their energy forcibly contained in the crystal at their heart. If you shattered the statue, you could use the crystal to imbue your weapons or spells with chaos energy allowing for more damage and more powerful magics being cast. These crystals are what hunters like myself are after. They’re what the wizards and witches purchase for their labs and sorcery. And they’re also what the hunters use to injure other dragons. Most weapons weren’t strong enough or sharp enough to pierce dragon skin once they’ve past the wyrm stage, which poses a problem for hunters. Over 3,000 years ago, a great hunter named Valkor Katham, used one of his crystals he was going to sell to imbue his sword with energy from a vanquished dragon. He was the first hunter to kill a gargantuan dragon in solo combat, and his tactics became standard practice after that. Most wizards and witches still bought wyrm crystals though the larger crystals fetched a much higher price on the open market.
As the weapons glowed red with the power of the embedded crystals, we waited for the attack. The sounds that one normally hears when walking through the forests: birds, bugs and other animals; had disappeared. The silence was deafening like the calm before a storm. If you strained your ears, you could just make out the hushed breathing of the stalkers as they watched us from their perch.
One of our group, Vannes, was a dabbler in the mystical arts. She had studied briefly at the academy is Parxas before she had joined up with us. She dug into her pocket and out a small rock which she held up to her mouth and whispered something to it. She was too far away for me to make out what she had said but as she finished she touched the stone to her head and threw it up in the air. Instantly the sound of stones being thrown against the trees and rocks around us echoed off the dense jungle and the wyrms sprang into action. Three emerged from the underbrush in front of us while 4 more could be seen in the trees directly above us.
Their bodies were multiple shades of green and dark brown that helped them blend into their surroundings. Their heads were shaped like an arrow head, with their eyes set back on the sides of their skull. These animals were predators, no doubt about that. Their wings were connected by thin membrane that was dark green in colour and their tails ended in a set of three spikes. Their heads would slide back and forth as if they were snakes being enchanted by music. Their mouths housed hundreds of teeth which were angled to provide grip and for ripping flesh from their victims. Their tongue ended in a fork that could protrude almost a foot out of their closed mouths as they tasted the air.
“NOW!” I screamed as I rolled to the side and aimed my sword at one of the wyrms on the path. It’s scaled head turned to face me, the reflection of the crackling sword reflecting in its savage eyes. The dragon lunged forward with its front legs extended and talons ready to rip into my chest. I stepped quickly to the side bringing my sword down with all my might as the dragon moved through the spot I had just been. I could feel the edge of my blade catch the back of the neck of the wyrm as the energy discharged from my blade through its spine. There was no sound as the entire skeleton of the wyrm glowed red as my sword continued through the creature separating head from body. The two pieces of the once young wyrm separated in mid air and had already began to harden into a moss covered log as they crashed to the ground.
Immediately, I rolled back to my previous position and reached to my pouch for another crystal. As my fingers closed around the pouch on my belt, I saw our resident berserker, Mary, jump forward brandishing her two heavy battle axes; one crackling with red energy and the other, with blue. She brought her axes down on two of the wyrms who had jumped down from the canopy. Both died in an instant as she left her weapons held fast in their changing bodies while she drew a smaller hand axe. I slotted another red crystal into the slot on my sword, the spent crystal having fallen out after I had killed the first one, and scanned quickly as I was hit from the right side by black wyrm.
“What are you doing here?” I said through gritted teeth as I knocked the red crystal out and replaced it with a white one. The black dragon wyrm roared a challenge and spread its wings, which were just under 3 meters in width. “You’re not a baby are you? Not like these ones”, I said to the animal as I stood up and leveled my sword. Unlike the small green wyrms, this one was quite a bit bigger, nearly the full size of a house. It had four large horns on its head. Two of the horns curved down to the sides of its jet black skull, while the other two were used for impaling prey. The body was black and shimmered against the humidity and sunlight of the jungle. The wings were huge and connected by dark green skin stretched thin between the wing tips. Their tail ended with a blunt bony protrusion that they used as a club to stun and bludgeon their enemies. Their eyes though, they were black pits meant to soak up all the light that makes it into their dark lairs below the swampy marshes they created with their energy. The wyrm roared again and began rushing forward. As the dragon got closer I pumped my legs like I was going to jump over it, the wyrm leapt up to catch me in the air, leaving its belly exposed. I quickly tucked and rolled under the airborne animal bringing my sword up and slicing one long gash nearly the entire length of the body from neck to tail tip. The black dragon crashed to the ground as its body began to dissolve into the foul smelling swamp sludge from which it was born. The crystal it left behind, was buried under the oozing substance dissolving away.
Seeing the Black wyrm go down so quickly the other remaining green wyrms retreated back into the jungle. The sounds of them crashing through the brush could be heard loudly and gradually growing quieter until finally, they were gone.
“How many did we get?!” I asked loudly as I ventured over to examine the crystal dropped by the black wyrm.
“You got two and Mary got two as well, so four total, the rest ran before we could finish them”, Kavan said as he unslotted the crystal from his hammer, storing it back in his pouch with the rest.
“Come look at this you guys” I said as I picked up the crystal from the dead black wyrm. I held the rough formed essence in my hand and was taken aback by how it didn’t fit with everything we had been taught by the hunters before us. Each crystal is unique to the type of dragon it spans from. Red dragons make red crystal fueled by their red energy and so on and so forth. The crystal I held in my hand was clear in colour and was glowing with a green light. “What do you make of this, Dorian?” I asked holding up the crystal so the whole party could see it.
Dorian stopped dead in his tracks as he stared at the crystal in my hand, “That’s not possible” he said quickly as he moved closer. “What type of dragon did you kill?”
“It was a larger black wyrm. Probably had killed a few others and was well on its way to forging it’s own path out of this dense jungle. But the topography doesn’t match its type and the weirder part was, the green dragons reacted to it. Like when it died, they ran. Almost as if we had killed their leader…” I replied.
“Dragons don’t work together”, Mary said matter of factly; “especially dragons of different colours”.
” Ya, We all know that Mary. Doesn’t explain why this black wyrm was leading the rest of these green wyrms”.
“Well, We’re not going to get any answers standing around debating this”, Christopher said as he returned his large Mace to the makeshift holster on his waist. “Let’s kill this gargantuan Green and get paid. Then we can worry about the black wyrm leading the others”.
I shrugged and placed the crystal into my side pouch, keeping it away from the other myriad of crystals I carried with me at all times. I know that nothing can happen when two crystal smack together, but all the same, I didn’t want to risk it with this weird looking crystal.
I drew my long knife and set to work on clearing the brush. One day closer to payday, I muttered to myself as I began hacking the vines down to clear a path for the party.