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Great [Monster] Journey 3

RSanon Nov 12th, 2013 2,979 Never
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  1. Galen ducked under another branch, checking behind himself to make sure Seira was still progressing behind him. While he had a more delicate method of moving through the forest, Seira was rather blunt, using her large paws and powerful arms to break off anything that got in her way. The way she traveled, Galen guessed he wouldn’t have had much trouble tracking her whether he knew how to or not. She gave Galen an inquisitive look, half-threatening and half-asking. He spun his head back around to avoid inciting her temper. The travel by foot seemed to annoy her, probably because she was used to moving about by air. Galen didn’t know if she stuck around from interest, because he asked, or because she felt some sort of debt for the healing paste. Either way, she hadn’t run off yet, giving Galen a reason to smile and hum as he walked through the woods.
  2.  
  3. The sun had begun its long descent toward the horizon. Galen figured they still had a couple hours before nightfall and they’d need to set up camp. He wondered how good Seira’s eyes were and if she could see in the dark. Even if they weren’t any better than Galen’s, those ears were something else. Any stray noise would at the very least cause them to twitch, at most grab her full attention until she determined the noise wasn’t worth investigating. Her tail almost dragged along the ground as she walked, hovering a few scant inches above it. He almost noticed the care she took with her wings, making sure to pull them in around any obstacle her paws couldn’t outright destroy in front of her.
  4.  
  5. She wasn’t the most talkative companion, but just like Galen, she watched her partner with care, learning what she could from his movements. He felt her eyes on his back almost the entire time. Hopefully it wasn’t to plan some sort of ambush.
  6.  
  7. Unless it ended in rape. She still owed him that.
  8.  
  9. “Why are you after Scarlet Lightning, anyways?”
  10.  
  11. Galen’s humming stopped. He glanced back at her, slowing a step before turning back around. “My father told me about it in his stories, but it was one of the few things the adventurers he talked about never obtained. It came up in several tales, but the only one in which they actually searched for it, they failed.” Galen struck his chest with a fist. “I want to find it to prove I’m just as good as them! Maybe even better! If I come back with a powerful artifact like that, I’ll surely be one of the best!”
  12.  
  13. “You want it for fame?”
  14.  
  15. “Fame and respect. People won’t just accept anyone as a real adventurer, you know.”
  16.  
  17. “And what makes you think you’ll find it where the other adventurers failed?” A crack rang out through the forest as Seira demolished another branch.
  18.  
  19. “Because I know all of the stories. I know the bits and pieces that each individual adventurer didn’t know. Plus, my father just told imaginary tales and it was more mysterious to tell them as if they never found it.”
  20.  
  21. “Imaginary, huh?” She jogged a few steps to catch up with Galen. “And where did these ‘imaginary’ tales point you to?”
  22.  
  23. Galen stopped to pull out the rough map Seira had drawn before they set out. His finger traced their westward route until it came to a ruined city. “Right there.”
  24.  
  25. “Silere? That place has been sacked and looted more than once. There’s no way anything’s left. What makes you think Toneruth is there?”
  26.  
  27. “Because it’s hidden.” Galen grinned. He always grew giddy whenever he got the chance to recant his father’s stories. “After the last time it was used and cut out the Scar of the Earth, people and monsters both realized how powerful it really was. The hero that wielded it took it back home with him, but was instructed to keep his whereabouts secret and live a humble life. He was fine with that, having experienced enough adventure for a lifetime, so he went back to Silere and, with the help of some friends, created a place--a secret underground storage--for Toneruth. While he lived, it was safe. But the knowledge of Toneruth was far from secret. The fame the hero gained in his victory followed him back home. Too afraid to challenge the hero, greedy minds sat back and waited. Eventually he passed, giving those people a chance to strike. Humans seeking the power of Toneruth and monsters attempting to keep it from human hands attacked the peaceful village of Silere with the intent of burning it to the ground and ransacking everything. They might have found it if not for the interference of the hero’s monster friends and allies. They pushed back the invaders, but with it too late to save the town, they instead let it burn, taking what was left above ground and returning it to its rightful owners, while ensuring the rest was buried forever.”
  28.  
  29. Galen felt Seira’s tail lazily wrap around his leg, the tip drooling whatever that goop was on his pants. He couldn’t tell if she was conscious of it or not, as her attention was split between the map and the forest in front of her. “That’s actually more than I knew of it. There may be more to your tales after all.” Beaming, Galen stuffed the map back in his pack. He was about to ask Seira to remove her tail when it unwrapped on its own. The goop was still there, but he knew better than to try to swat it off. Who knew what it did to bare skin?
  30.  
  31. “What sort of lead do you have on--" She cut herself off, her entire body flipping from relaxed to tense in a second. Galen looked up at her ears. They were twitching like mad.
  32.  
  33. “What is it?”
  34.  
  35. “Shh!” She held up a single digit toward Galen, silencing him. Her eyes moved back and forth, something in them Galen hadn’t seen before. Worry.
  36.  
  37. “We’ve been followed,” she whispered. “C’mon, we need to find cover.”
  38.  
  39. “Who?”
  40.  
  41. Seira frowned, grabbing Galen by the arm and lugging him along a few steps until he got the message. Now they moved silently, without breaking branches or tearing up brush like Seira had before. Their steps through the forest floor of brown and withered leaves seemed to have grown much louder now that they paid attention. Every snapped twig was like a yell. With the forest being fairly thin, they were able to keep a decent pace and stay mostly quiet. Unfortunately, that also meant cover was few and far between. Galen could feel his heart thumping in his chest. He almost grinned if not for that look he remembered seeing on Seira’s face before. If she was a better fighter than he, and she was scared of something, he should be to.
  42.  
  43. But fear was unbecoming a true adventurer. If the enemy caught them, he’d fight without hesitation!
  44.  
  45. Before long, they hit trouble. A clearing. The forest resumed on the other side, but it was a good mile of nothing but plains as far as they could see on their left and right. They could go around, but that would take a serious time commitment, and based on Seira’s urgency, their pursuers were none too slow. Maybe faster than them, especially if they didn’t need to worry about stealth. Running across had the benefit of leaving much less behind to track. With the ground being mostly dry, their tracks would be faint and difficult to follow in the tall grass. Galen looked to Seira, surprised to find a severe strain on her face, almost like panic. She didn’t seem to be the kind to panic from what he knew of her. Looking behind, then forward to the field, he made his decision.
  46.  
  47. “Alright, here’s what--"
  48.  
  49. “Okay, we’ll--"
  50.  
  51. They’d both started giving orders at the same time. Seira narrowed her eyes, pulling Galen close. “We don’t have enough lead for you to make it across the field in time, but I’m faster. I can do it.”
  52.  
  53. Galen wavered between shocked and hurt. “So, you’re leaving me behind?”
  54.  
  55. She snorted, tapping her foot. “Technically, yes, for now, I’m leaving you behind. Listen, I don’t have time to explain everything, but this is vitally important: you don’t know me. You’ve never met a manticore. Forget the name Seira. They’re after me. All they’ll do is toss you around a little bit. They won’t stop to beat you up, or kill you, or rape you. If they’re chasing me, they won’t want to waste time like that. Got it?”
  56.  
  57. “But we’re companions, we’re not supposed to--“
  58.  
  59. “Shut up about what’s ‘supposed’ to happen! It’s not going to! If we took them on--“ Her ears twitched again. “Dangit! Out of time.” She stood up straight and shot one last leer at Galen. “No matter what. You don’t know me.”
  60.  
  61. Her legs exploded against the ground as she broke into a sprint. Galen gaped at her speed, watching her form slowly grow smaller and smaller until it melded with the treeline across the meadow. If she’d run earnestly like that before, when she was first trying to escape Galen, he didn’t know if he’d have been able to find her trail.
  62.  
  63. He’d have to pretend like he’d never seen her. Taking a deep breath, he put his hands together and closed his eyes, letting the tension of the run flee his body. His vigor restored, he turned in a slightly different direction than he’d seen Seira run, and began walking.
  64.  
  65. He got all of one step before hearing a crack and feeling something slick and thick wrap around his waist, yanking him off his feet and dragging him to the ground. Groaning, he put a hand to his forehead, but it too was wrapped up in coils and pinned to his face in an awkward fashion. He looked upwards to see who’d captured him.
  66.  
  67. Three full-sized lamia, at least eight feet tall as they stood now, towered over his body, two with their coils already around him. All three wore tight but simple cloths, one over where their snake body met their human part, and another over their breasts. Two of them had lighter skin while the third, the largest, was a shade darker than olive. He swallowed at the sight. They were clearly confident in their bodies, unashamed of how little the clothing covered, and they had plenty reason to be. Much like Seira, they were well-developed, though the middle-sized one had much smaller breasts than the other two. Galen wondered if their physique was due to training, or if monsters all had naturally appealing forms. With another look, he saw their arms and abs muscled as much as the blacksmiths back home, maybe more. These were definitely warriors, although Galen never would’ve guess lamia could move so fast and so silently. He hadn’t even heard them approach. He regretted not taking his father’s warnings about monsters as seriously.
  68.  
  69. He decided on his usual approach with strangers. “Well, hi there! I’m Ga--“
  70.  
  71. The coils on his waist tightened well beyond the point of pain, cutting Galen’s greeting off into a whimper. It felt like his hips were cracking and every inch of muscle below his waist had rebelled against him. A hundred needle strikes of pain buffeted his muscles, his attempts at worming away from the tightening coils useless. He could hear something pop and a new wave of pain crashed over him. He opened his mouth to yell, but a tail stuck the side of his face before he could manage it.
  72.  
  73. Then the pain vanished. One of the lamia had leaned over, her breasts threatening to spill out of her skimpy clothing. Galen guessed they didn’t want to wear anything restrictive with their role apparently being to hunt other monsters down.
  74.  
  75. “Where is the manticore?”
  76.  
  77. “M-manticore?”
  78.  
  79. The coils tightened again, this time enveloping his thighs and stomach as well. The pain shocked his body so hard he feared he might pass out. Even the worst injuries he’d taken back home paled in comparison. His muscles burned so hot he feared they might melt and leave him crippled. Again he tried to yell, and again he way cut off with a blow.
  80.  
  81. “Where is the manticore?”
  82.  
  83. “I haven’t seen any manticore!”
  84.  
  85. The largest seized Galen by the throat and held him up. He could now see clearly a twisted face of disgust from the largest and the two others wearing indifference. The coils around him spread again, this time swallow his chest and lower legs in their embrace of pain. He screamed freely, but found the wind stolen from him when one tail rammed into his chest. His struggles became more desperate as the coils, which would certainly killed him, grew tighter and tighter. His body knew nothing but pain. Every last nerve burned the feeling into him like he’d never know anything else again. Another scream, and another strike to his chest. He was caught between coughing and another shriek of pain.
  86.  
  87. “P-please, I d-don’t know!”
  88.  
  89. The lamia let up, sharing glances, then the two smaller ones looked up to the largest. She shot Galen a grimace, releasing her hold on his neck. The other two followed suit with their tails and Galen hit the ground, panting and sweating, grabbing at the dirt like it was his salvation. He started coughing, fighting to fill his lungs again.
  90.  
  91. “You’re lucky our prey is fast and killing humans is troublesome. If we find you again, you will die.”
  92.  
  93. Galen’s face was still in the ground, his body aching from the brief but intense torture. When the crippling pain had dulled to a buzz, he mustered the strength to push himself upright. He saw the sweat from his forehead drip down his hair. A strange, metallic taste tickled the back of his throat. He spit at the ground, not surprised to see some blood come out. Wiping his mouth, he gradually shifted his weight to his legs, making sure they could hold him before standing all the way up. While he was shaky for a few moments, his body soon got used to it and he was able to straighten back up. He stretched out his arms and neck, twisting his wrists back and forth to make sure they still worked. It seemed his body was still in one piece.
  94.  
  95. His dad had mentioned adventurers being tortured before, but stories made poor substitute for real thing. He also knew that what he’d just gone through was almost nothing. If the lamia hadn’t been in a hurry, that could’ve gone on much longer and dealt permanent damage to his body.
  96.  
  97. That was the second encounter he’d had with monsters, and the second he’d lost. He knew the odds were certainly stacked against him, but that did little to help the sting of defeat. What’s more, he didn’t know how he’d be able to meet up with Seira again or if she’d even wait up for him. Flexing his arms, he punched his fists together. Adventurers couldn’t let a couple failures get to them, and he had a manticore to check on. Drawing his sword, he pointed it to the sky, posing a moment before sheathing it again. His arms and legs still worked, so why not his determination?
  98.  
  99. He set off at a jog across the clearing, heading for the spot he’d seen Seira disappear. He didn’t know how long they’d tortured him, but it couldn’t have been more than five or ten minutes, if even that. His limbs would be remembering that pain for at least a day, though. His right leg in particular creaked on every step. He’d have to do his best to keep his eye out for Seira, as he had no idea how she planned to escape the lamia. He hoped the time he’d bought her was enough, but it was possible the lamia were just too clever.
  100.  
  101. He found his legs picking up their pace.
  102.  
  103. Remembering her comment about her wing made Galen wonder how long the lamia had been chasing her. She sure didn’t seem in a hurry to get anywhere after their fight and from the way she made it through the forest, she hadn’t been worried about being followed earlier. Regardless, when her ears picked up the lamia, she knew exactly what was going on.
  104.  
  105. Galen wished he knew where the lamia were from. For a second, he regretted not asking, then realized any sort of conversation with them probably would’ve ended in more beating. Whoever they were working for, they were at the least very impolite and at the worst ruthless and cruel.
  106.  
  107. But what did that make Seira?
  108.  
  109. “Galen!”
  110.  
  111. His sword was out in a second. At least, that’s what he intended, but he’d tried to draw it so fast it slipped out of his grip and flopped onto the ground. He snatched it up and pointed it in the direction of the voice: a dense, rustling bed of brush not twenty feet away. Seira emerged a second later, wiping leaves off her fur. That familiar long, amber hair swayed in the breeze as she walked up, unaffected by whatever she’d just been through. Her skimpy clothing--hardly more than underwear, really--had held up as well. Galen suspected it was made of something more than simple cloth.
  112.  
  113. “Seira! How’d you get away?” Galen sheathed his sword, careful not to lose his grip.
  114.  
  115. “There’s a small river a mile or so west of here. Once I hit that, I flew downwind and perched in a tree.” She unfurled her injured wing. The gash had grown from when Galen last saw it and the paste was beginning to fall off. “It hurt like trying to crap out a sandworm and I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to make it, but it worked out in the end. I watched them hit the end of the trail then head downstream. Once they hit the ocean, they’ll probably come back and try to pick up our trail, but we’ve got at least another day out of it.” She smiled at Galen. “I see they didn’t do any permanent damage.”
  116.  
  117. “I thought they would.” Galen shrugged off the memory, flexing his arm for Seira. “But I’m made of sterner stuff! And we can make it to Silere safely now. One thing, though.” Seira crossed her arms, watching as Galen approached her. He pulled the sword scabbard off his belt and bopped Seira in the head. “No more splitting up! Companions always watch each others’ backs!”
  118.  
  119. She rubbed the afflicted spot with a paw, narrowing her eyes at Galen. “We’ll split up if we need to. You seriously need to get that idea out of your head that there’s some ‘proper’ way to do everything. You adapt to the situation. That’s how you stay alive, or, in your case, un-raped.”
  120.  
  121. “Yeah, I have you to thank for that last part, don’t I?” He tried to grumble at her and stay mad at her for running off, but he could hold a grudge as well as a he could a handful of sand. He leapt forward and embraced Seira, squeezing her and smiling until she pried him off.
  122.  
  123. “Hey! Paws off. We’re just together until my wings heal.”
  124.  
  125. “’Paws’ off?” said Galen, grinning. “Isn’t that my line?”
  126.  
  127. Her expression flattened, trying to wear down Galen’s grin, but Galen was far too giddy for her ill humor.
  128.  
  129. “And here I thought I’d be glad to see you again.”
  130.  
  131. “But Seira, I’ve called you my companion twice now and you haven’t corrected me.” He turned west, not waiting for her reaction, and started off on his bouncy little walk, humming to himself along the way. He’d take the victories where he could get them. He heard a grumble and footsteps follow shortly after. Yup, definitely companion.
  132.  
  133. The two followed the path Seira had left behind until they hit the river. Galen stopped to refill his waterskin and Seira took a drink herself. They didn’t stay long, though, just to be safe. Once across, they moved as quickly as possible without leaving much behind. Instead of going through brush and the weaker lower branches, they went around. Galen wished he could do something about the large paw prints Seira was leaving behind, but besides scattering dead leaves and branches over it, there wasn’t anything to be done. Hopefully it would rain before the lamia came back.
  134.  
  135. They pushed as far as they could into the night, stopping only when Galen could hardly see his hand in front of his face. A fully-fledged fire was out-of-the-question with the lamia still looking for them, but Galen was pleased to find his mother had packed a small wax candle with everything else. It was perfect for what they needed. It took some time to get even a small flame with the limited visibility, but a small flame was all Galen needed. Seira watched the entire time, though Galen couldn’t tell what her faced looked like, whether curious or impassive.
  136.  
  137. When the candle finally lit, he let out a small victory whoop and quickly dug into his pack for dinner. Almost on queue, his stomach rumbled. He withdrew a large glass container, hoping it might have his meals in it, but when he held it up to the light, he found whatever it held was long past edible. Bits of… stuff floated around in a strange, red substance. It was much more like a red paste than any sort of food.
  138.  
  139. “Aw, man. The seal must’ve been bad and let seawater in on my way here.” He tapped the jar. The container itself looked good, but the metal top looked hastily made. “Oh well. I’ll have to find something tomorrow.” He cracked open the container and poured out all the red goop. At least it didn’t smell terrible.
  140.  
  141. “Eugh,” said Seira, watching Galen pat the goop out onto the ground. “Tough luck.”
  142.  
  143. Galen couldn’t complain with everything else his mom had thought of. She’d included paper and charcoal, which Seira had already used to make a simple map. There was also the candle, the waterskin, a few herbs, a roll of twine and some flint. He’d slept on an empty stomach before, punishment for misbehaving. Doing so again wouldn’t be the end of the world.
  144.  
  145. Finished inspecting his pack, he held out the candle to Seira. The moment he held it up to her, it illuminated her face perfectly. With the shadows stripped away, she looked… content. Her smooth cheeks, unblemished by scar or sore, glinted in the light. The flame flickered in her eyes as she stared at Galen. He felt their gaze search deep into his eyes, much further than he was sure he was comfortable. “Need it for anything?”
  146.  
  147. “No, I’m fine.” He voice had evened out as well. Galen imagined there must be a lot on her mind.
  148.  
  149. “Alright.” He blew on the candle and again they were bathed in night. Her face remained the same until the light disappeared.
  150.  
  151. He found a thick tree trunk to sleep up against, expecting Seira to do the same, but she instead climbed straight up to the lowest branch which would support her weight and made herself comfortable there.
  152.  
  153. “Wow. Isn’t that dangerous?” said Galen.
  154.  
  155. “Compared to most everything else I do? Not really. Besides, you get a much better breeze up here.”
  156.  
  157. Galen adjusted himself until comfortable. He could hear Seira doing the same. With the day’s journey over, he let himself relax, the cicadas almost drowning out his thoughts. He used come out to the forest behind his house every now and then to enjoy the atmosphere, but out here, with home so far away, it felt completely different. He couldn’t decide if it was better or not.
  158.  
  159. “Oh, by the way, I had a question earlier that was interrupted by our pursuers,” said Seira.
  160.  
  161. “Hmm?”
  162.  
  163. “You seem sure you’ll find Toneruth when we make it to Silere. Why is that?”
  164.  
  165. Galen closed his eyes, smiling to himself. “You’ll see.”
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