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Great [Monster] Journey 20

RSanon Feb 8th, 2014 1,709 Never
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  1. For all his blinking and squinting, Galen couldn’t quite make out what Seira was glaring at. It appeared there was a viciously-steep incline ahead of them and at the top were three rather wide figures, but beyond that it was just darkness on black to him. His grip on Seira’s paw tightened.
  2.  
  3. She squeezed back.
  4.  
  5. “Who are you?” she asked.
  6.  
  7. “Messengers from Medusuub, Seira. She wants you to die.”
  8.  
  9. Seira sneered. “How considerate for you to come all this way to deliver a message. I’d ask you to tell her the feeling is mutual, but I don’t plan on letting you live long enough to do so.” Her muscles bulged, knees bending and wings spreading out. Galen could practically see the fierce heat radiating from her body, a glowing red against the backdrop of night.
  10.  
  11. She turned halfway back to Galen, leaving one eye on the enemies ahead. “It’s a mothman and two harpies. Charging up at all three of them would be suicide with their height advantage and all the time they had to prepare. I’m going to fly off and hopefully drag them with me. Use that chance to get up the slope and I’ll come back.”
  12.  
  13. Galen seized her elbow. “We’re not splitting up! I decided that last--“
  14.  
  15. “Now is not the time for your stupid bravado! Now GO!”
  16.  
  17. In an explosion of wings and muscles, Seira burst into the air and buzzed by the enemies ahead. Not a breath behind, the two harpies took off, screeching with rage. Galen winced as the high-pitched shriek assaulted his ears, but he didn’t dare occupy his hands with covering his head while the mothman remained watching him. He saw three silhouettes blink past the moon. He wanted to yell at Seira for being so hasty, but it wouldn’t do any good. Growling to himself, he looked back to the path ahead.
  18.  
  19. The incline was dangerously steep. Getting up there with his current visibility would be a slow, tricky process. Impossible with that mothman waiting for an opportunity to strike. He’d need some way to get up instantly or otherwise occupy the mothman as he ascended.
  20.  
  21. “Galen.”
  22.  
  23. He turned around to see Sybyll and Mino watching him. His eyes narrowed in concentration as he bit his lower lip. With one last glance at the slope, he motioned Sybyll and Mino in close.
  24.  
  25. “Sybyll, how fast do you think you could make it up that incline?”
  26.  
  27. “I would be able to sprint up it.”
  28.  
  29. His eyes widened a moment. “Really? Sprint up that steep of a slope?”
  30.  
  31. “Yes. My claws are excellent at digging into the ground and would give me the necessary speed and traction.”
  32.  
  33. “Mino?”
  34.  
  35. “Umm…” She stuck a finger in her mouth. “I think I could do it kinda okay. Not as fast as Sybyll, though.”
  36.  
  37. Galen took a deep breath. Good thing it was dark out--he didn’t want Sybyll to see his blush as he asked, “Can you carry me up there while running? I’d be too slow on my own.”
  38.  
  39. “It is possible. It would slow me, of course.” Her voice didn’t change in the slightest. Either she didn’t detect his hesitance, or didn’t care.
  40.  
  41. “Good. Mino, you go up at the same time. We’ll give the mothman two targets so she can’t stop us b--“
  42.  
  43. Galen’s sentence cut off when Sybyll yanked him to the side. At the same time, a loud thunk came from the ground right around their feet.
  44.  
  45. “I think I’ve given you enough time to chat,” said the mothman, lightly tossing a sizable rock up and down in her hand. “Now try and get up here already.”
  46.  
  47. Galen cursed under his breath, then looked down where the sound had come from. Yup, she was throwing rocks at them. Wouldn’t do much to Sybyll or Mino, but one solid hit on him could put him out for a while.
  48.  
  49. “Sybyll. Let’s go.”
  50.  
  51. Needing no ceremony, she plucked Galen up off the ground, tucked him under one arm, and took off. Had she not just told him he’d slow her, he would’ve thought she was running full-speed. Her long strides ate up ground at a surprising pace. The air, which had been a still chill a moment ago, transformed into a harsh, gusting wind on his face. He swallowed, his own muscles tensing in preparation. Just as Sybyll hit the slope, he heard a screech from the sky. The harpies were still singing their song at Seira.
  52.  
  53. No time to think about her, though. Galen gritted his teeth and kept his eyes forward.
  54.  
  55. The mothman, too, had jumped into action, tossing a flurry of rocks down the slope at Sybyll and Galen. Mino kept up a bit behind them, but the mothman probably had figured rocks would do little to a slime. Sybyll weaved in and out of the barrage, putting her ankles through a dizzying array of twists, spins, and turns. Even as fast as Sybyll was, the occasional rock would come dangerously close to Galen or pass through Sybyll completely. Galen couldn’t keep himself from flinching as each splotch of dark came for him. It was bad enough that he needed Sybyll to carry him up the slope, but he was also helpless to knock the rocks away. His eyes were piss poor in this situation and his reactions would’ve been too slow even if there was more moonlight.
  56.  
  57. Sybyll crested the slope, leaping up to the landing on which the mothman stood. She released Galen the second his feet found purchase and drew her sword. Galen was a couple seconds slower with Toneruth.
  58.  
  59. He was just in time. The mothman’s own weapon, a halberd, came swinging down towards Galen’s head. The axe blade met the broken form of Toneruth, the impact jarring Galen’s arms and traveling all the way through his body to his feet. But he held. His teeth were crushing together so hard he thought they might shatter. He glowered at the mothman’s confident smile, tossing her halberd tip away and readying himself for her next attack. She gave Sybyll no attention and Galen still had a few tense seconds before Mino would join them. Even with Mino up there, he didn’t know how well the fight would go. For now, he would have to rely on himself.
  60.  
  61. He drew Toneruth back slightly into a more defensive position, trying to make out the mothman’s posture in the dark. But her silhouette reminded him less of a mothman and more of a bulky man the way her wings blocked the moonlight and how she stood with that halberd at the ready. She could even be a guard like that, bulked up by armor and a righteous glare in her eyes. It would not be the first guard he attacked.
  62.  
  63. His grip on Toneruth wavered.
  64.  
  65. The halberd came out of nowhere, the mothman’s movements blurred by speed and poor lighting. Galen reacted just in time to shove Toneruth in the way, a involuntary gasp escaping his mouth as he stiffened up. The halberd’s speartip glanced off the flat of Galen’s sword and retracted instantly. Galen didn’t even have the chance to catch his breath before another lunge came. Again, he deflected it just in time. Jab after jab sought to seek its way into Galen’s chest. He was forced to retreat further and further, even though he had no idea what was behind him. His reactions were only barely quick enough. He knew that soon he’d either miss a block or stumble on some unseen rock. He had to do something.
  66.  
  67. Again. It was happening again. Just like his first encounter with the lamia in the forest, then his fight with them in the streets of Fullsburg. The time he’d spent learning how to fight on Nox and with Sybyll accounted to nothing in the face of such skill and speed. Sybyll made his swordplay look like that of a child’s. Maybe that’s all he was out here: a hopeless kid without an ounce of strength to hold himself up. Seira, Mino, and Sybyll were doing all the work. All he had was a broken sword.
  68.  
  69. His muscles burned. On the mothman’s next attack, Galen gave a short leap backwards, planted his feet, then swung Toneruth with all his strength at the halberd, hoping to knock it away and catch the mothman off-balance. The fibers on Toneruth’s hilt dug into his hands as he swung. The air whistled as the blade cut through it. His aim was true, his speed dizzying. Axe head met blade.
  70.  
  71. Toneruth broke off at the point of contact.
  72.  
  73. Galen followed through only on instinct, but his wide eyes were focused solely on the new break. The broken-off piece of metal flew in silence, landing away from Galen. He stared, dumbstruck and almost not remembering to breathe, at the weapon in his hands. It could hardly be called a sword anymore--it was more like a dagger in length, with a much less impressive tip. The jagged break line taunted him, laughing at his weakness, his callous ideals, his inability with a sword. His legs wobbled and his jaw fell open.
  74.  
  75. The mothman, while somewhat surprised at the sudden strike, recovered much quicker and would’ve skewered the shocked Galen had Sybyll not thrown herself forward. While Sybyll was unable to fight the mothman, she was capable of blocking her vision. The mothman cursed, then barreled through Sybyll’s body to get at Galen. She smirked at his pathetic state and drew the halberd back for one last jab.
  76.  
  77. Before she could thrust, however, slime enveloped her head. Her eyes lit up in surprise and she dropped the halberd to claw at the advancing goo, her face twisting into rage. Wings flared outward and the mothman braced to take off, but slime covered her wings as well. She lost her balance and fell to the ground, still desperate to get Mino off her face. Excess slime flew about as the mothman’s hands tossed more and more of Mino’s body away, but Mino kept her body flowing and the tossed slime crawled back to re-feed her. Before long, the mothman’s struggles ceased and she went limp, unconscious. Mino held on a few seconds extra to be sure, but collected herself into her usual form and clapped, looking at her work.
  78.  
  79. Sybyll, meanwhile, had shifted her attention to Galen.
  80.  
  81. “Galen!” She grabbed his shoulders and shook him. “Get a hold of yourself!”
  82.  
  83. Blinking, his eyes came back into focus, the world around the dagger in his hand returning to more than just a blur. He swallowed and the sounds of the night returned to him as well. His eyes went to the mothman’s unconscious form, then Mino, then Sybyll. He registered their eyes on him before breaking away from Sybyll and scanning the ground around them.
  84.  
  85. “The sword piece! Toneruth broke again, we need to get the part that broke off!” He dropped to his knees to look, but Mino called out before he could start.
  86.  
  87. “I think I stepped on it. It burned me,” she said, pointing at the ground next to her.
  88.  
  89. Galen scrambled over and snatched up the metal piece, sighing when he matched it up to the rest of the sword. “Man, I dunno what I’d do if I’d have lost that. Seems like all I’m good for nowadays is holding onto this thing.”
  90.  
  91. Mino opened her mouth to console him, but the scene was shattered when a whirlwind by the name of Seira cut off her dive and landed right next to them.
  92.  
  93. “Look out!”
  94.  
  95. The harpies chasing her shrieked again, coming forward with gnarled talons reaching for their prey. Their swooping attack aimed only for Seira, who ducked and dodged out of the way with her impressive manticore speed. As the harpies caught air and started backing back toward the group for another strike, Sybyll jogged up next to Seira.
  96.  
  97. “Are you well?”
  98.  
  99. “Tch.” Seira sneered, scoffing off to the side. “Who talks like that in the middle of a fight? But yes, I’m fine. We just need to ground those harpies and this fight is over. Galen?”
  100.  
  101. He froze under her stare, looking up to the harpies then back to Seira. “Uhh, I don’t really know if I can…” He slammed Toneruth and the broken-off piece back into its sheath. Not like it would help much as it was now.
  102.  
  103. Seira screwed up her face with an incredulous stare. “Seriously? Your sword would be perfect for this. The shock would disrupt their flapping and they’d crash.”
  104.  
  105. Face red, Galen lowered his eyes to the ground. He’d probably just break Toneruth even more if he tried. “I can’t. Sorry.”
  106.  
  107. “Are you seriously moping? At a time like this?” Her lips curled into a snarl, but the harpies cut off her lecture with a screech. She braced herself for the next attack, raising her tail over her head. Mino scrambled to stand next to her.
  108.  
  109. When the harpies swooped in, Seira let loose several spines from her tail. Galen couldn’t follow the projectiles with his eyes, but one of the harpies’ flight path quickly deteriorated and she slammed into the ground. The other one got a good swipe at Seira’s tail with her talons, dragging a shout of pain from Seira’s mouth. Mino pounced before the harpy could gain altitude again, her slime body stretching to impossible proportions, latching on to the harpy and splashing into the harpy’s body with an audible whiplash. Mino allowed the harpy only one good flap of her wings before she was bound up and crashing into the slope, tumbling down it like a rock. Galen winced with each sopping splat the ball of slime and harpy made as it bounced along the slope. When it hit the flat ground at the bottom with a splatter, his wince turned into a concerned frown. Could Mino really be alright after all that punishment?
  110.  
  111. A guttural roar snapped his attention back to Seira. She was sprinting toward the nearby harpy, claws out and ready to swing. While able to stand, the harpy was hardly steady on her feet. Galen understood why; he’d been hit with Seira’s poison before. It was odd to think of as a weapon, but he certainly couldn’t argue its effectiveness.
  112.  
  113. Seira’s attacks came hard and fast. Claws reached out, swiping at the harpy’s head and chest. The harpy somehow found the concentration to duck and dodge, but Seira’s speed left the harpy no room for a counterattack, and with the poison working on her, she couldn’t build up the concentration or space to take off. Even with the enormous advantage Seira seemed to have, Galen couldn’t help but swallow as he watched. A drop of sweat fell down his neck.
  114.  
  115. It was only a matter of time for the harpy. One claw found purchase in her stomach and she doubled over in pain. The next blow came crashing down on the back of her head and she fell to the ground, limp. Seira went to her knees atop the harpy, pinning her wings and watching for further movement, but her opponent gave not so much as a twitch. Instead of relaxing and getting up, however, Seira raised her paw one last time, her face twisting into a snarl.
  116.  
  117. “Stop!”
  118.  
  119. The snarl wavered and Seira’s paw lowered a bit. Her eyes were locked on Galen.
  120.  
  121. He had to stare at her for a few seconds to realize it had been him who’d called out. Why did he do that? Looking at the unconscious harpy beneath Seira, then the downed mothman, he pressed his lips together and closed his eyes. He kept seeing that guard’s unconscious body, no matter how he looked at it. It was happening again. Maybe it wasn’t exactly the same as last time, but it was close enough for the signs to be clear to Galen. They’d won. Their enemies wouldn’t trouble them any more. It was time to stop. Flaring his nostrils, he jogged over to Seira.
  122.  
  123. “They’re unconscious. We can move on now.”
  124.  
  125. The look of pure, unbridled disbelief on Seira’s face almost knocked him off his feet. The force of her voice afterward didn’t help. “Are you INSANE? They tried to KILL US, Galen! This is not some kind of game you play with your village friends. This is war, and in war, people and monsters die. Get over it before it bloody kills you!”
  126.  
  127. Her paw went up again, but this time Galen seized it and held it in place. “No! We can’t do it this way! It’s not worth it!”
  128.  
  129. “Oh, I think our lives are damn well worth it!” she snapped back, trying to wrestle her paw free.
  130.  
  131. “If we beat them once, we can beat them again! Besides, how do you know they’ll even be able to find us? There are rocky hills and mountains all around us. Surely we can find some cover, sleep, and by the time we wake up they’ll be off our trail!”
  132.  
  133. “You have no idea how ignorant you’re being right now!” Seira tossed Galen’s hand off of her, standing up to loom over him. She jabbed at his chest with a claw. “I’m risking my life fighting out here, even got tossed in a jail cell because the lamia caught you, and all you have for me is your stupid idealistic wishes? The world doesn’t work your way! Just because Nox has a peaceful life doesn’t mean the rest of us can live like that. You know what’ll happen if we leave these monsters alive? They WILL chase us, they WILL find us, and they WILL strike at the worst possible time. Not to mention we’ve already got that demon-cursed slime plotting whatever she’s plotting! If these monsters don’t die, we will. End of story!”
  134.  
  135. Galen entire body shook. His lips quivered and a torrent of words fought each other to climb their way up his throat. His eyes shone for the first time that night, brighter than even the moon, and they were aimed square at the red-hot glare in Seira’s.
  136.  
  137. “You can’t know that! We can still get away! And besides, aren’t you going to be the next monster lord? What kind of a leader murders her own subjects? Shouldn’t you be trying to save as many of them as possible? Shouldn’t you forgive this at least once?”
  138.  
  139. His yelling finally found weight. Seira’s eyes softened and she looked away for a moment. Her muscles relaxed the tiniest bit. “How could you possibly know what a monster lord’s supposed to be like? You can’t lecture ME about my actions. You’re ignorant. You don’t have training and years of learning like I do! You haven’t stood in the monster lord’s castle or witnessed the weight and respect of that title first-hand!”
  140.  
  141. “Who are you trying to convince, Seira? I know I don’t have any of that. I never pretended I did.” He extended a hand toward the harpy’s coarsely-breathing body on the ground. “So why don’t you tell me how killing her is going to make you a better monster lord? Show me what a monster lord is supposed to do in this situation. Because if it’s all about killing, them I’m not sure I’d want to help even you get that title back.” His upper lip curled upward. “I liked you better when you weren’t so concerned with killing everyone in your path.”
  142.  
  143. Her eyes ignited once more. “Don’t you--“
  144.  
  145. “Seira. Galen.” Sybyll spoke without urgency, but her voice carried enough weight to take their argument and pin it to the ground. “Our enemies are unconscious and we must hurry as far as we can tonight. Such arguments are best left for another time.” Mino came back up the slope to join them, though even her presence didn’t distract Seira from her glowering at Galen. She turned back to the harpy, but Galen grabbed her shoulder.
  146.  
  147. The look she shot him nearly seared his eyes out.
  148.  
  149. “You asked me to do this, Seira,” said Galen.
  150.  
  151. “Because I thought you’d be smart about it. Defending these monsters is pointless. Foolish.”
  152.  
  153. He had to make her accept his decision, and he had to do it now. She’d just come back here and kill them on her own once they’d started out if he didn’t. They had no more time to argue. “If you kill them, I’m not helping you any more. You’ll have to go to Mallus on your own.”
  154.  
  155. Her eyes narrowed, funneling an inferno of hate at Galen. While he stared back as stiffly as he could, the raw emotion in her stare almost knocked him back. He felt like little more than a puddle on the ground, one Seira was raising her paw over and about to stomp on. She held the glare for an eternity.
  156.  
  157. Keeping her eyes locked on Galen the entire time, she slowly shifted away from the harpy until she faced the path onward. Her claws were still out, ready to strike, her wings were spread, and her tail was raised up and swaying like a viper. Even so, she stepped away from the unconscious harpy. Before breaking her glare away, she spit at Galen’s feet and wiped her mouth with a forearm. She bobbed side to side in her stride as she walked forward, each paw hitting the ground with a reverberating thud.
  158.  
  159. “Stick with Sybyll from now on. I’m done guiding you through this.”
  160.  
  161. She didn’t wait for the rest of them.
  162.  
  163. Galen let out a long, audible breath, watching his chest as the air fled his lungs. They wouldn’t be conversing any time soon, though he sure hoped she wouldn’t stay mad forever. He slowly ran a hand through his hair. She’d asked him to do that, right? Why would she be so mad if he stood up for something when it mattered most? Was it just a girl thing? A manticore thing? He closed his eyes. His dad would probably have the answer. Home felt even further away than it had at Cea’s house. There was no one out here to soothe him or guide his feelings or justify his decisions. It was only him. He raised his head. That would have to be good enough for now.
  164.  
  165. He looked over to Mino. “Ready?”
  166.  
  167. She met his question with a smile, bounding over to grab his arm. “Yup! Are you?”
  168.  
  169. “Hopefully.” He turned to Sybyll, asking her the same as he did Mino.
  170.  
  171. Sybyll answered with a nod, then extended a claw to him. “Stay close. We’ll have to move quickly to keep up with Seira.”
  172.  
  173. He grabbed her claw and she grasped him back, firm but not too tightly, and guided him forward. Mino remained clinging to his arm, her grasp constantly in flux. She made something of a game of it. Her limb started out as a hand, but lost form and shifted to a many-fingered claw, then a hook, then a ring of goo that sucked on his arm. Every now and then, she’d move her grip upward, almost touching his shoulder a few times. He wanted to tell her to knock it off, but couldn’t bring himself to threaten that oblivious smile on her face. Just because he was sour didn’t mean she had to be as well.
  174.  
  175. Sybyll keep her eyes searching and her stance alert in stark contrast to Mino. Her grip on Galen’s hand remained the same as they traveled, pulling him left or right every now and then around obstacles. Galen could hardly make out a thing, but it was clear they were still moving higher, and there was little to block out the increasingly-chilly wind. Only in the distance to his left and right could he make out deep shadows of solemn mountains. He tried as hard as he could to block out Seira’s warnings, but he couldn’t keep himself from checking the sky to see if they were being chased. A persistent part of him told him to turn around and finish the job, that Seira was right, and it wasn’t worth shunning her for something as ridiculous as letting mortal enemies live.
  176.  
  177. After several hours of the same, his legs were ready to give out from under him. His breathing was strained and his eyes wavering. The air had only grown colder and the path rougher, throwing more and more obstacles and rocky terrain at them. Mino would tug at his arm and give him a concerned look every now and then, but he would only answer with a wearied shake of his head and a faint smile before looking back forward. Sybyll’s halt caught him off-guard and he bumped into her back. Blinking, he stepped up to her side to see what had caused her to stop. More enemies?
  178.  
  179. “I see a suitable area of rest. I will guide us there, then fetch Seira.”
  180.  
  181. “Yeah,” mumbled Galen. Rest sounded really good.
  182.  
  183. A couple minutes later, Sybyll pointed into a tiny cave jutting out of the rock. Though, ‘cave’ hardly described it. It was more like a lean-to of rocks. There couldn’t be room for any more than two people.
  184.  
  185. “Is this going to be enough?” said Galen. “I mean, there are four of us.”
  186.  
  187. “The weather has no effect on me, and I can find a better place to hide myself from the mothman and harpies, should they return. Mino is also unaffected by weather, and can hide herself wherever she wishes. This alcove will be enough for you and Seira.”
  188.  
  189. That did little to ease his mind. Not only would they need to convince Seira to tolerate occupying the same space as Galen, but even if they did, she would likely make it as miserable for him as possible. She certainly had the tools.
  190.  
  191. A gust of wind reminded Galen exactly how cold it was. His hands went to his arms, rubbing them up and down, his skin ice-cold beneath his fingers. Giving a light shiver, he hunkered down and squeezed himself as far back as he could into the alcove. Just as he got settled, he realized exactly how much better it was. Sure, it didn’t block all the cold, but at least he wasn’t feeling like an ice cube any more. He brought his legs to his chest, stuffing his hands between his stomach and legs. With a little time, he’d be able to feel them again.
  192.  
  193. Mino’s head poked out of the entrance. She smiled and waved, inspecting the small shelter before looking at Galen.
  194.  
  195. “I can block the entrance once Scary Seira gets in. That way, there won’t be any wind to worry about.”
  196.  
  197. Galen smiled at the offer, but had his doubts. “Seira might not be alright with that.”
  198.  
  199. “Oh. Right.” Her smile vanished.
  200.  
  201. “Don’t worry about her. I’m sure she’ll come around eventually. I don’t even see why she’s so angry at slimes in the first place.”
  202.  
  203. “Well, it could be she’s speciesist.”
  204.  
  205. Galen cocked his head. “That’s a thing?”
  206.  
  207. “Yeah. Slimes and s--“
  208.  
  209. A large paw seized her head and pushed it away from the alcove entrance. “Move.” Seira’s tone was as dry as a desert. She frowned on seeing Galen already inside, but scooted in regardless. There was barely enough space for the two of them lying down. Her tail and wings pressed against Galen as she squirmed into a comfortable position, eventually settling on her side, paws under her head, her body shoving Galen into the back wall. When Mino came back to the entrance to cover it up, Seira growled. Her wings and tail stiffened a bit, digging into Galen’s skin as she glared at the intruder.
  210.  
  211. “I don’t want to see your slime face any more than necessary. Go away until I’m gone.” After a soft shuffling, Galen assumed Mino had left. He couldn’t see too well from his current position.
  212.  
  213. He opened his mouth, hoping to at least thin the tension in the air before going to sleep, but Seira cut him off.
  214.  
  215. “If I hear as much as a single gasp, I’ll shove my tail so far down your throat it’ll come out your ass. Barbs and all.”
  216.  
  217. So much for that.
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