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Great [Monster] Journey 15

RSanon Jan 4th, 2014 1,956 Never
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  1. The arrow blew by Galen’s ear with a rush of wind, forcing him to duck in a knee-jerk reaction. He stumbled, almost losing his feet, but Sybyll steadied him before he fell. Three more arrows hit the streets amongst them, bouncing off the cobblestone with a noise that did not do their danger justice. Galen kept pumping his legs and swinging his arms, willing his body to go beyond its limits and flying along the cobblestone roads, slowing only to take sharp turns. His sprint briefly reminded him of his departure from Nox, his body practically floating atop the whirlwind of his legs. As fast as he ran, Sybyll kept just in front of him with ease. Her body moved with no urgency, those slender legs of her giving her a longer, more comfortable stride. Corded muscles revealed themselves with each step. In any other situation, Galen might have found himself feeling self-conscious about it.
  2.  
  3. The arrows nipping his heels just seemed more important at the moment.
  4.  
  5. “You know the way out, right?” said Galen, his voice rushed and wearied.
  6.  
  7. “Certainly. It isn’t far.”
  8.  
  9. They took another hard corner, Galen almost slipping on the uneven road, but he compensated in time to resume his run. The poorly-lit street held many hazards, though Sybyll hardly seemed affected by it. She threw a glance over her shoulder, prompting Galen to do the same. He immediately regretted it.
  10.  
  11. Twenty or so guards were not far behind them, most clad in some form of armor, many holding torches. Those who weren’t holding torches had crossbows or bows and were loading them as best they could at a run. The clamor from their armor made Galen think of an overpowering tidal wave looming over him, about to crash downward and bury him in its fury. He turned back forward, clenching his teeth, hoping Sybyll wasn’t lying about the exit being not far.
  12.  
  13. It turned out the gates were just around the next corner. Galen’s glee at seeing them died out rather quickly, however. They were closed and sealed, a dozen armed guards blocking the road in front of them. Word must have traveled faster than Galen’s and Sybyll’s feet could take them. Dread washed over him like someone upturning a bucket-full atop his head. His face eroded into horror at the sight, even if his legs kept dragging him forward. This must be his recompense, he figured. He never should’ve attacked that guard.
  14.  
  15. “Keep moving!” said Sybyll, picking up speed.
  16.  
  17. “But the gate is closed!”
  18.  
  19. “Look up!”
  20.  
  21. Galen did as ordered, finding two large, gooey tentacles whipping down from the top of the city walls in front of him. One went for Sybyll but passed straight through her while the other coiled itself around Galen’s waist. He yelped in surprise at being taken off his feet, still kicking at the air as if still on the ground. Sybyll glanced backward to make sure he was secured, then took off for the gate. Gripping the tentacle around his waist, Galen looked up to where it was coming from, trying to make out a figure, if any. Mino’s face popped out of the slime in front of him with that gleeful smile of hers.
  22.  
  23. “Don’t worry, Galen! I’ve got this all taken care of.” She frowned down at Sybyll. “I can’t touch her, though.”
  24.  
  25. Galen had to swallow and blink to compose himself enough to speak. “She’ll be fine, nothing can touch her.”
  26.  
  27. “Alrighty! Here we go!” Mino’s face disappeared back into the tentacle. Whatever she was doing, it must have required a lot of concentration.
  28.  
  29. The tentacle swung him forward until he was just about to hit the line of guards in front of the gate. At the apex of the swing, he had to cover his mouth to keep from emptying his stomach. A cruel backlash snapped his head forward as the tentacle swung a full arc clockwise, flinging Galen over the wall with such force his sense of balance took a second to catch up. The wind tore across his body, scraping against his skin like sand. It would’ve forced him to close his eyes, too, had he not been so frightened by the concept of closing them. His breaths came out rapid and heavy. Mino detached herself from the city wall, her body rushing up to slam into Galen in a gooey hug. She retook her usual form, wrapping Galen up in hands, legs, and hair tentacles, shouting with glee as they soared.
  30.  
  31. It was right about then he passed out.
  32.  
  33.  
  34. **
  35.  
  36.  
  37. With the mix of strong, quick lizardmen legs, the shock of Galen being suddenly snatched up by Mino’s tentacle, and the guard’s inability to phase through the gate they’d so intently been defending, Sybyll was able to leave any pursuit in the dust before she even hit the first hill that put the city out of view. Her sprint took her straight to where she figured Galen would have landed after she saw his limp form flying through the sky along with Mino. She urged her legs faster when she spotted the two--Galen was lying on the ground, unmoving, with Mino kneeling beside him.
  38.  
  39. Mino noticed her approach and smiled, waving her over. Narrowing her eyes, Sybyll ran to his other side, letting out a heavy breath as she dropped to a knee. She laid a claw on his chest, her muscles relaxing when she felt his chest rise and fall. Turning to Mino, she asked, “What happened?”
  40.  
  41. “I think our short flight was a little too much for him. He conked out shortly after it started. The landing went just fine, though. He shouldn’t have any broken bones.”
  42.  
  43. Sybyll moved her claw to Galen’s forehead. “‘Shouldn’t’ have any broken bones?”
  44.  
  45. Mino smiled bashfully and looked away, scratching her cheek. “I’ve never really landed like that with a human before. I think I cushioned it enough.”
  46.  
  47. Sybyll shook her head. “He appears well for the moment. I don’t detect any injuries but it will take a more thorough examination to be sure. For now, we should meet up with Seira.” She reached for Galen’s body to pick him up, but paused when she noticed her breathing. Looking down to her chest, she laid a claw between her breasts, feeling her chest rise and fall. Her breath rate was slightly elevated. The corners of her mouth curled downward subtly a moment before she renewed the steel gaze on her face. Slipping one arm under Galen’s shoulders and the other under his knees, Sybyll lifted him off the ground with ease. “Come,” she said, and started toward the meeting spot with Seira.
  48.  
  49. Mino walked beside Sybyll with a bounce to her step. “Why couldn’t I touch you, but you can touch Galen?”
  50.  
  51. “That is up to Galen whether he wishes to share that or not.”
  52.  
  53. “But I’m his friend, too!”
  54.  
  55. “I am sure. Nevertheless, it is not my choice.”
  56.  
  57. Mino jumped in front of her, walking backwards as she spoke. “You know, you have a choice about sharing that, too. It’s about your body, right? So you should be able to choose who to tell.”
  58.  
  59. Sybyll’s golden eyes fixed on Mino’s, their stare rock-steady. She delved into Mino’s thoughts through the stare she received back, but couldn’t find what she was looking for.
  60.  
  61. Adjusting Galen’s body in her grasp, she let out a weak grunt and raised her gaze toward her destination. Seira’s attitude was better than Mino’s. While the manticore may have had hidden agendas and secrets, at least her methods were straight-forward and understandable. Mino was a mixed bag of strange and stranger.
  62.  
  63. The walk to their meeting spot wasn’t long. Mino’s toss had carried her and Galen about half the distance already. The rough wind and whistling hills kept the two company on their trek. Though night swallowed the land, Sybyll’s lizardman eyes took enough in from the moonlight to see without much difficulty. Not a tree laid in sight, only miles of plains, the grass flowing in waves with the wind. Thick pollen itched at Sybyll’s nose, earning another shallow frown from her. Tellus’ power was definitely growing.
  64.  
  65. Sybyll spotted Seira sitting atop a hill, the long grass hiding her below her breasts. Sybyll could make out the twitching ears and swishing tail of Seira’s form as the manticore jogged down the hill to greet them, laying a paw on Galen’s chest much like Sybyll had. She visibly relaxed at feeling him breathe, but kept some tension in reserve. Probably for the slime accompanying them.
  66.  
  67. “What happened with him?” Seira asked, looking to Sybyll.
  68.  
  69. “Passed out from the surprise flight Mino took him on. I believe he is fine but I would like to make sure.”
  70.  
  71. “’Surprise flight’?” Seira arched her eyebrows. “Since when could he fly?”
  72.  
  73. “Since today!” said Mino, squeezing her face in between the two. “It was loads of f--“
  74.  
  75. Seria interrupted her by seizing her entire face with a paw and shoving her face into Mino’s. “If you did ANYTHING to him, I swear by the great demon I will end you!”
  76.  
  77. Mino nodded, but Sybyll suspected under that paw grabbing her face, she was smiling.
  78.  
  79. “Seira,” said Sybyll.
  80.  
  81. The manticore turned to Sybyll.
  82.  
  83. “The guards had blocked off the gate. There was no feasible method to remove Galen from the city without extreme measures. He is out here, now, and alive.”
  84.  
  85. “Are you defending her?” Vitriol seeped from her voice.
  86.  
  87. “I am stating facts of which you were not aware. Your intense criticism of Mino may not be warranted.”
  88.  
  89. Seira sneered, appraising Mino for a few seconds before releasing her grip on Mino’s face. Stepping back, Mino lowered her head. At least she had the sense to keep this from escalating. Perhaps she realized the situation she was in, now that they had left the city and Galen wasn’t awake to defend her. Still, whatever grudge Seira had for slimes must’ve been well-ingrained for her to turn on the one who freed her from the cell without hesitance.
  90.  
  91. Or maybe it was her concern for Galen that incited her so?
  92.  
  93. Sybyll looked down to Galen’s face, his eyelids motionless and his lips pried open just enough for her to see the glint of moisture in his mouth. His breaths came out slow and steady, a rhythm he’d been hard-pressed to find for the last day. Between Mino showing up, the talk with the information trader, the fight with the lamia and the subsequent trip to rescue Seira, his heart and lungs had been put to the test. Perhaps the escape from the city had been the final straw. He was a stronger man than his initial appearance gave him credit for, that was certain.
  94.  
  95. “Sybyll.”
  96.  
  97. “Hmm?” It was Mino.
  98.  
  99. “You’re smiling.”
  100.  
  101. “Am I?” She froze her face in place, trying to visualize what it must look like at the moment, but she didn’t feel a smile.
  102.  
  103. The statement grabbed Seira’s attention as well, her curious eyes scanning Sybyll’s face but fading after she searched. “I don’t see it. Must’ve been seeing things. She never smiles.”
  104.  
  105. Mino tugged at her arm. “But I did see it, even if it was just a little one.”
  106.  
  107. “I will trust you on that.” Huh. How about that. She didn’t feel particularly happy at the moment. It was good to see Galen alive and the group together once more, but there were still things to do. “Did you see any shelter on the way here?” Almost as if listening, the wind picked up, tickling Sybyll’s skin with its chill.
  108.  
  109. Seira shook her head. “Afraid not. Just plains. We’ll have to trek a while before we find anything.”
  110.  
  111. “Very well.” Going to a knee, she gently set Galen down and removed his pack, then began to pull of his shirt. Seira’s eyes went wide and she ducked down, grabbing Galen’s shirt to stop her.
  112.  
  113. “Woah! What are you doing?”
  114.  
  115. “If there is no suitable shelter, I will need to check for internal injuries here. It would be best to do so before they can cause serious damage.” She waited for Seira to remove her paws, then finished taking off his shirt. Afterwards she moved to his pants and did the same. An audible swallow came from Seira, but Sybyll ignored it. Mino had taken up spot at Galen’s head, propping it up on her legs while she sat cross-legged. Sybyll started at his most important organs, laying a claw atop his heart and her ear on his chest. She checked his lungs, then his stomach and kidneys, using a combination of her link with Galen through Tellus, her ears, and the reactions from his body when she applied pressure at certain points. From there she moved to his head, then his arms, and finally finished with his legs. Mino was content to watch the entire time while idly massaging his scalp with her hands. Seira stood watch, keeping her eyes on the horizon. Her tail coiled around her leg and her ears kept twitching, though Sybyll couldn’t tell if it was the wind or something she heard.
  116.  
  117. Finally, Sybyll withdrew from Galen, laying her arms across her knees and nodding. “He is well. There are no internal injuries.”
  118.  
  119. Mino pumped her fist and let out a drawn-out, “Yes!”
  120.  
  121. Seira’s tail unwound itself from her leg, but she didn’t give Galen or Sybyll more than a glance. “Good. Would’ve been a real pain trying to fix him up out here.”
  122.  
  123. “True.” Sybyll turned to Mino. “But you said you have some healing ability, did you not?”
  124.  
  125. Mino’s hands balled up into fists and her hair tentacles started to squirm as she rotated back and forth. “Some. I might be able to fix some bones, but if his ribs got in his stomach or other stuff I might not be up to it. I don’t have much experience.”
  126.  
  127. “You stated as much earlier. But even that will be of help.”
  128.  
  129. “I wouldn’t rely on it, Sybyll. She’s probably just making things up,” spat Seira, still standing watch.
  130.  
  131. Sybyll’s eyes bore a hole in the back of Seira’s head. Seira’s attitude toward Mino was certainly irrational, though it wasn’t without a grain of truth. They hadn’t yet seen Mino heal broken bones, only remove magic from them. The most preferred option would be to have Galen never break bones, but that was too much to hope for, Sybyll knew.
  132.  
  133. “Seira,” came a weak voice.
  134.  
  135. Sybyll’s gaze snapped to Galen, now awake and looking up to Seira. Seira hopped over, getting on her knees next to Galen. She rested her paws in her lap and stared at him with a hint of a smirk, but Sybyll could see her paws scratching her legs idly, the other corner of her mouth trying to curl upward, and her ears twitching like crazy.
  136.  
  137. “Don’t be so hard on Mino.”
  138.  
  139. Her claws dug into the fur on her knees and the smirk vanished. She said, “Fine,” but with a growl undertone.
  140.  
  141. Sybyll shot Mino a sidelong glance. The slime was currently playing with Galen’s hair, daring only second-long peeks at Seira to gauge her mood. Some sort of encounter was fated between the two; it was only a matter of time. Hopefully her earlier words to Galen had gotten through to him, but she decided she wouldn’t not bring the subject up again unsolicited. The decision on how to deal with them was up to him.
  142.  
  143. “Umm, why am I stripped to my underwear? It’s kinda cold…”
  144.  
  145. “I apologize,” said Sybyll, grabbing his pants and shirt and handing them back to him, “I needed to check your body for injury and removing your clothing was necessary.”
  146.  
  147. “Thanks.” His hand gripped her claw as he took his clothing back. He hesitated, his eyes ceasing in concern a moment before he stood up and began dressing. As expected, he was beginning to read the signs. Not enough to speak on it yet, however.
  148.  
  149. Galen finished dressing, gave a yawn, and swung his pack back on. “So, Seira, I think you owe us a little story now that we’re out of the city.”
  150.  
  151. Sighing, Seira lowered her head. She gave herself a moment of silence before standing up and nodding. “Yes, I do.” Looking out to the moon, she squinted as if she could make out the dust and rock on its surface. “I’ll tell it while we walk north.”
  152.  
  153. “North?” asked Galen.
  154.  
  155. Seira stood up, brushing the dust off her fur. “Yes. Because that is where our next destination lies.”
  156.  
  157. “But Posiden and Uuluth are both near the eastern shore. Shouldn’t we head east?”
  158.  
  159. Seira shook her head. “I’ll explain. Let’s go.” Without waiting for further argument, she started north.
  160.  
  161. Galen shrugged and yawned, then took off after her with Mino in tow. Sybyll followed close behind, keeping an eye on the other three and occasionally tossing a glance behind. The chance of someone following them was almost nothing… but almost nothing still wasn’t nothing.
  162.  
  163. “Well, if I’m telling you about myself, I guess I should start at the beginning.” She eyed Mino, grimacing a second before shifting her gaze to Galen. “I was born to Gladiel the second a hundred and fifteen years ago in a small monster settlement southwest of Uuluth. My family was pretty large; eight sisters in all. I could tell you all their names but that isn’t really relevant. What is relevant is that my mother had ambitions with such a large family, and soon all her daughters, me included, shared that with her.
  164.  
  165. “See, the title of monster lord has been in flux for the past four hundred years. When Suusuub II fell to Solvet, it created a great void. Suusuub III tried to fill it, but she had none of the qualifications of her mother, and her sisters wanted the position besides. When Solvet finally died and the following raid of Silere failed to reveal Toneruth’s location, monster leadership fell to chaos. The first to die were Suusuub III and her sisters, followed by countless others of which I’ve no doubt history will forget.
  166.  
  167. “My sisters had been traveling the land, gathering allies, information, and weapons. They also earned valuable combat experience.” Seira stretched her arms out and ran a paw down the back of her head. “While I was yet too young, my mother had still been training me. I was never the best fighter or the smartest strategist in my family, but my mother still trained me the best she could. Writing, reading, geography, combat, war--she left no stone unturned. My father helped as well where he could, but he never quite shared the ambition my mother held.” She shrugged, opening her paws. “Who knows how they ended up together as they did.” Her arms fell back to her sides, swinging as she walked. “Shortly after I turned fifteen, my mother decided it was time to strike, to end the chaos surrounding the monster lord title.
  168.  
  169. “The monster lord at the time--or, should I say, the monster who called herself monster lord--was a medusa by the name Buisuub.” She looked down to Galen. “You’ve probably noticed by now how monster lords like to have ‘suub’ in their name. Changing one’s name to include ‘suub’ is an informal tradition since the reign of Suusuub I, considered the greatest monster lord of all time. Her reign lasted nearly a thousand years--far longer than any other monster in history. The monster species knew its best relations with man under her, but things quickly declined after that. But you’re not here for a history lesson. The medusa Buisuub only won the title by killing the monster lord before her. She didn’t have the proper connections, the strong attitude, leadership, or even ambition required to hold the role. My mother had all those things.
  170.  
  171. “I wish I had been old enough to comprehend everything coming together. I can only imagine it as a careful net woven around the monster lord’s castle, each thread meticulously laid over the years, and the trap sprung within an instant. Buisuub’s force holding the monster lord’s fortress was meager. A pity for her, considering how difficult it is to get in when properly defended. I won’t bore you with the details of the fight, but my mother’s allies and her were victorious. Quite overwhelmingly, if I do say so myself. With the alliances we’d set up, the fortress we lived in, and the cunning mind of my mother, we were set for a good long life at the top of the food chain.” She crossed her arms. “And it was that way, for a while.” She shook her head, then looked at Galen. “The lamia. We thought we’d accounted for them. They were a proud race of combat-able monsters, much more willing to stick together for a cause than, say, the arachnes. We tried to bring them to our side, to rule the monsters with unity like Suusuub, but someone else had gotten to them first. A medusa, one by the name Medusuub.” Her face twisted into a snarling smile. “Arrogant for a monster not yet confirmed as monster lord to take that name. She proved good for it, though, when she took the rule out from under my mother. A combination of a stealth attack along with arranged treacheries by monsters in our trust.
  172.  
  173. “My entire family but me died within a night. I, the youngest, got away only through my father’s sacrifice. That was thirty years ago.” The air thickened with silence as the taste of Seira’s last words left her tongue.
  174.  
  175. A past of conflict. Sybyll expected as much, though the fact that it reached all the way to the current monster lord was impressive.
  176.  
  177. Galen laid a hand on Seira’s shoulder. “I’m sorry about your family…”
  178.  
  179. “Mmm.”
  180.  
  181. “…But you’re a really bad storyteller.”
  182.  
  183. Sybyll’s eyebrows raised a touch. Seira’s went up past her brow straight off her face. Her stride broke. “W-what? Are you serious?”
  184.  
  185. “Yeah. I mean, you glazed over a ton of the good stuff, and when you got to the end, you didn’t give a satisfying ending!” He grabbed one of Seira’s paws with both hands. “Like, who betrayed you? How exactly did Medusuub and her force get in? What was the fight like when you took the castle and when you lost it? What were your sisters like? I wanna know more!”
  186.  
  187. Crossing her arms, Sybyll peered at Seira’s face, watching it twist between anger, shock, and befuddlement. It wasn’t often she had the opportunity to see someone so staunchly conflicted, and from what she knew of Seira, she guessed it didn’t happen to her very often at all.
  188.  
  189. Seira settled on shock spiced with sadness. “Well… well, that information isn’t important. I told you I would tell you who I was, and I’ve done that. Besides, detailing everything you mentioned would take forever.”
  190.  
  191. “I have time. You do too,” said Galen, poking her belly.
  192.  
  193. She swatted his hand away. “No, it’s boring. If you really want to know more, ask Sybyll. I’m sure she knows. This was pretty important stuff in the monster world when it happened.”
  194.  
  195. When Galen turned to Sybyll, she shook her head. “I’m afraid not. I was asleep as all of this was occurring.”
  196.  
  197. Seira shot her a look as if to say, ‘Really?’ Sybyll met it with a nod.
  198.  
  199. “How long were you asleep?” asked Seira.
  200.  
  201. A whisper of hesitance rose up within Sybyll’s head as she opened her mouth to answer. Where it came from, she did not know. “Nearly four hundred years.”
  202.  
  203. “Woah,” said Galen and Mino both at the same time. Sybyll glanced over to the slime; she’d almost forgotten she was there.
  204.  
  205. “I didn’t know lizardmen hibernated,” he added.
  206.  
  207. “They don’t.” Seira crossed her arms, eyes narrowing. “What caused you to sleep for so long?”
  208.  
  209. Lowering her head, Sybyll considered the question. Now was probably too early to give them the answer. Not only for Seira and Mino, but especially Galen. There was still much to teach him and a long journey for him to travel before she could delve into specifics. She would know through Tellus when it was time.
  210.  
  211. “I cannot speak to that now. Hopefully later.”
  212.  
  213. “Secrets?” Galen stretched his arms and yawned. “I wanna know even more now!”
  214.  
  215. “Me too!” said Mino, holding her hands in fists against her chest.
  216.  
  217. “Whatever floats your boat,” said Seira. She placed her paws on the back of her head and continued north, grabbing Galen’s and Mino’s attention away from Sybyll as they resumed their walk. The lizardman snorted silently to herself. Galen might not put too much effort to figuring out the secret beyond persistent questioning, but from the look on Seira’s face before she turned around, she likely already had her suspicions. The years certainly added up nicely when one examined it close enough.
  218.  
  219. Galen began his next statement with a long yawn. “So why are we heading north, then?”
  220.  
  221. “Because I need to get into the monster lord’s castle, and in order to do that, I need to break the seals on the entrances. Seeing as none of us are able to break magical seals, we’ll need to find someone who can.” Her voice deepened. “And that someone we’ll find in Mallus.”
  222.  
  223. “Huh? Mallus?”
  224.  
  225. “Northeast of here. In the Scorched Lands.”
  226.  
  227. “The Scorched Lands? That sounds… nice…”
  228.  
  229. Galen’s voice trailed off as his body went slack. Seira, Sybyll, and Mino were all there before he hit the ground, Mino and Seira on opposite shoulders and Sybyll holding his sides from behind. They all checked his face, finding him fast asleep and lightly snoring. Sybyll blinked. Such a thing was expected. Surprising enough he made it so long, given the circumstances.
  230.  
  231. “He’s had a long day, huh?” said Mino. “Should we stop here for the night?”
  232.  
  233. “No,” said Seira, a discernable edge on her voice. “We should put as much ground as possible between us and Fullsburg. The guard won’t chase, but those lamia will.”
  234.  
  235. “Also, I would prefer to find shelter before stopping,” Sybyll added. “We may be immune or resistant to this cold wind, but Galen is not. Should we be unable to find something, we’ll need to use other methods to keep him warm. Seeing as Mino and myself do not naturally produce body heat, that would leave--”
  236.  
  237. Seria’s paws came off Galen instantly. “He’ll be fine!” she squawked.
  238.  
  239. Sybyll closed her eyes and allowed herself the tiniest smile before leaning over and picking Galen up like she had earlier. “I can carry him. Let us continue.”
  240.  
  241. “Are you sure?” said Mino. “I can carry him, too.”
  242.  
  243. “I have little to worry about as far as fatigue goes. Do not concern yourself.”
  244.  
  245. “Okay.”
  246.  
  247. The three set out along the plains, Seira setting a brisk but sustainable pace. Hills upon hills, seemingly without end, set themselves upon the group. The tall grass tickled Sybyll’s legs where her scales ended and skin began. A cool, thin wind rushed by and about them, tossing her hair about, almost as if trying to remove the stubborn ponytail she always wore. The heavy scent of pollen had cleared, leaving the air empty of any one prevalent smell. She adjusted her grip on Galen to pinch her nose when a chill nipped at it, flaring her nostrils in an attempt to chase the cold away. Mino chuckled at Sybyll’s facial expression, a light laughter that carried easily in the wind. Sybyll gave a mental shrug. Screwing up her face was the sort of thing she’d expect Mino to find amusing.
  248.  
  249. Sybyll had seen wide plains like this before. In fact, with meditation on the subject, she felt a touch of familiarity. It’d been so many years since she’d seen home, and those memories now lied broken or fractured, but her senses wouldn’t let the feeling go. She’d been here before, a long time ago. The arachne information trader had mentioned lizardman settlements north of the city. Perhaps one of them was the place she once called home? Her golden eyes narrowed as they surveyed the sea of grass before her. Maybe. But it would be a pointless visit, especially if the settlements were now abandoned. There was no need to burden the group with sentimentality.
  250.  
  251. Since the onset of their trek, Seira had been leading Mino and Sybyll at a distance. They were not heading straight north, but north and slightly east. She was probably taking them to the mountain pass closest to Mallus in order to minimize their travel time in the Scorched Lands. A wise choice. Had she been through there before? And how would Mino fare? Shifting Galen in her grip, Sybyll found herself jogging to catch up to Seira.
  252.  
  253. “Seira.”
  254.  
  255. “Hmm?” Seira turned to Sybyll as if she had to force her eyes off the sight they’d been set on. A dull glaze covered them.
  256.  
  257. “If I may ask, why do you wish to return to the monster lord’s castle?”
  258.  
  259. She opened her mouth, pausing when she looked to Galen’s sleeping form in Sybyll’s arms. A short frown gave way to her answer. “I need to take the title and the throne back.”
  260.  
  261. “Yes, but what for? Do you desire to lead monsters, or do you wish revenge?”
  262.  
  263. “That’s…” She let out a sharp breath. “My mother had the right ideas. Medusuub is destroying our society from the inside. I need to be monster lord because she cannot be.”
  264.  
  265. “You do not sound as enthusiastic as I would expect. How is she destroying monster society?”
  266.  
  267. Seira cocked her head back and forth in thought. “She wants to start a war with humans. She’s mobilizing all the combat-capable species, segregating the human lands and cities, and meeting with other monsters of power.” She grimaced. “Poseidon, for one.”
  268.  
  269. Sybyll turned away from Seira. Another war, was it? “Then it is of the same as last time.” Perhaps it was Tellus’ fate to be drawn whenever war arose. Not a comforting thought.
  270.  
  271. “Last time? Are you talking about Suusuub II?”
  272.  
  273. “Indeed.”
  274.  
  275. Seira’s and Sybyll’s breaths filled the gap in their words. Sybyll was content to leave it that way. Their legs beat against the ground as they subtly picked up speed, though their minds weren’t on their pace. The longer the silence went on, however, the more curiosity nagged at Sybyll’s mind.
  276.  
  277. “It sounds as if your allies left you at the end of your mother’s reign. How do you intend to win against all Medusuub has?”
  278.  
  279. Her gaze reluctantly drifted downward, then met Sybyll’s own. “I have a few ideas.”
  280.  
  281. “Ideas involving Galen?”
  282.  
  283. “More than one.”
  284.  
  285. That explains why she had chosen to stay with him, but… it would be a bit much to expect him to taken on the monster lord in her castle, Tellus or no. He hadn’t even given his decision on all this. Sybyll looked down to his peaceful face. Whatever he decided, she would support him through it. It was only natural.
  286.  
  287. “Between Galen’s abrupt criticism and sudden fatigue, I never heard your full name,” Sybyll asked.
  288.  
  289. Seira blinked a few times. “Right. I guess I figured the last name of a monster lord would be more infamous, but it looks like my mother’s destined to fade from history just like all the others before her.”
  290.  
  291. “That is a valid concern.”
  292.  
  293. Seira sighed. “Anyways, it’s Khertaleon. Seira Khertaleon.” She grinned, raising her head. “It’s been forever since I’ve heard it, even if it’s out of my own mouth. Feels weird.”
  294.  
  295. “It suits you.”
  296.  
  297. “Does it?” A smirk grew on her face, one darkened by shadows. “It will one day, if I have anything to say about it.”
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