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Great [Monster] Journey 6

RSanon Nov 18th, 2013 2,596 Never
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  1. Drifting across the sky, the sun looked down on the trio of travelers. Galen and Sybyll remained sitting while they chatted and Seira paced back and forth. As involved as Galen was in the conversation, he could sense Seira’s restlessness behind him and hear her paws stepping through the long grass. He wanted to ask her what was on her mind, but felt if it was important enough she’d come forward with it on her own. In the meantime, there was still much for him to learn from Sybyll about Toneruth.
  2.  
  3. Not forgetting his manners, Galen introduced himself and Seira before inquiring further. He was ‘an adventurer from Nox’ and Seira was ‘a curious but strict manticore on the run’. Sybyll had taken it all in, those piecing eyes of her never losing their edge. He had a ton of questions about Sybyll’s past, like the name of her village, where it was, if she’d gotten good at swordfighting and what her hobbies were. At the last question, she merely raised an eyebrow.
  4.  
  5. “You don’t have hobbies?” asked Galen.
  6.  
  7. “Not anymore, not particularly. I’m bound to the sword. My ‘hobby’ is training the wielder.”
  8.  
  9. “So that’s what that fight was? Training?”
  10.  
  11. “Of a sort. I was assessing not only your skills, but your knowledge and personality as well. Much is brought out of a person or monster when unexpected combat is thrust upon them.”
  12.  
  13. Galen rested his head on his hand. “Do you always greet people like that? Because if you do, going to cities is going to be a real hassle.”
  14.  
  15. “No. It would be difficult for me to fight someone not wielding Tellus anyways.”
  16.  
  17. Galen’s eyebrows perked up. “Why’s that?”
  18.  
  19. “At the moment, I can only influence the blade itself and your body. Even then, I would be unable to create a cut on you, only weaken you as I did earlier. The stronger you and the bond between you and Tellus grows, the more I will be capable of. The first thing that happens with the growth of strength is that others can see me without having to touch Tellus.”
  20.  
  21. “So, you’re kind of a spirit right now. You can’t do much without Toneruth’s and my help.”
  22.  
  23. “Correct.”
  24.  
  25. Galen tapped his chin. Having a training partner would be awesome, especially one with as much experiences as Sybyll. They wouldn’t have to worry about using training swords either, since neither could hurt the other. “Are there any cool techniques I can use with Toneruth?”
  26.  
  27. “There are a couple of techniques unique to Tellus, though it will take some time for you to learn them. First, however, you must improve your sword-fighting skills.” She leaned forward. “Tellus is different than the blade you are used to. Its length, shape, weight and power are all unique, not to mention how it cuts.” She put a hand on the hilt of her own sword. “Like when I cut you during our fight, Tellus will not rend flesh. It will cut strength and willpower. As such, it is immune to armor, scales, thick skin and other methods your enemies may use to avoid damage. Do not get overzealous, however. It can still be blocked by a weapon with no trouble, as a weapon will have no strength or willpower to cut through. This also means you will need to land more strikes to take down a particularly strong-willed opponent.”
  28.  
  29. He grinned. Toneruth was starting to sound even cooler than in all the stories he heard! But as cool as it was, it could only be so useful when broken in half. Crossing his arms, he looked down to the sheathed Toneruth. “Do you know how to repair it?”
  30.  
  31. “No. My suggestion would be to find a blacksmith capable of the task. The master blacksmith who first created the blade may have had an apprentice. With luck, his skills would’ve been passed down along with the knowledge of how to build or repair Tellus.”
  32.  
  33. Galen nodded. Another quest! That reminded him, he still had to help out the Kraken by finding Poseidon. He wished now that he had asked her where Poseidon was, but if she was really the ruler of the seas, it shouldn’t be too hard to seek her out. He glanced back at Seira, who had since lost interest in the conversation and was now staring off into the distance, watching the forest. She looked almost majestic with the way the light hit her. The wind played with her hair and braid as her tail swung back and forth with liquid motion. If not for the squint in her eyes, Galen would’ve thought her at peace.
  34.  
  35. “Alright!” he said, slapping his knees and standing up. “I know what I need to do now. All that’s left to figure out is what’s first. Seira, where do you want to go?”
  36.  
  37. She turned away from the forest, regarding Galen with curiosity. “You’re asking me? I’d thought you enjoyed leading.”
  38.  
  39. “Yeah, but a good leader should listen to his companions!”
  40.  
  41. “Hmm.” She glanced down to Toneruth, now on Galen’s hip next to his longsword. “I still have something to figure out. I will go wherever, as long as we’re on the move.” Dropping her arms to her sides, she let out a sharp breath. “Those lamia should be catching up soon.”
  42.  
  43. “Sybyll?”
  44.  
  45. “I go where you will.”
  46.  
  47. He touched Toneruth’s hilt. “It doesn’t hurt at all that Toneruth is broken? I can try to get it fixed first if that’s the case.”
  48.  
  49. “The state of the sword is of no concern to me.”
  50.  
  51. “Okay, then.”
  52.  
  53. To Galen, it seemed their biggest obstacle at the moment was information. They didn’t know Poseidon’s location or the location of a blacksmith who could fix Toneruth. The immediate threat, the lamia, could be avoided if they just kept moving with a good pace. Sooner or later it would rain and destroy their tracks. Galen pulled out the map, tracing along possible routes to the nearest cities. Almost due north was the monster city of Mallus, though it lay through miles and miles of the Scorched Lands. It would be an excessively dangerous route simply to find information. If they instead went northeast, there were some smaller villages a fair distance away, then a coastal city along the far east coastline. That would be a lot of travel, however, and they would be going back in the direction of the lamia. If the wind blew the wrong way, it could give their scent away. A few days west lay the city Fullsburg. The only obstacle was a fairly large river, making it easily the safest and quickest path from where they were now.
  54.  
  55. “Hey, Seira, how large is Fullsburg?” he asked.
  56.  
  57. “Pretty large. Why?”
  58.  
  59. “I wanted to know the chances of it having the information we’re after: both the location of Poseidon’s domain and where the best blacksmiths are. If it’s a larger city, our chances are better.”
  60.  
  61. “It’s definitely worth a shot.”
  62.  
  63. “Are we decided, then?” asked Sybyll as she stood up, pulling her bracers and boots tight.
  64.  
  65. “Yup! We’re off to Fullsburg!”
  66.  
  67. Galen nabbed his backpack and slung it on his back, full of energy. He set off with a prance, smile wide as a fool’s, away from the sun. Rolling her eyes, Seira quickly caught up to him and turned him around.
  68.  
  69. “What?”
  70.  
  71. “It’s afternoon. You want to walk toward the sun, not away from it.”
  72.  
  73. “Really?” He furrowed his brow, looking back and forth between Seira and the sun. “I guess I must’ve been talking for longer than I thought.”
  74.  
  75. “Yes, you were.”
  76.  
  77. He shrugged and set off, this time toward the sun, the same prance in his step and smile on his face. Sybyll dutifully followed and Seira brought up the rear. Seira kept her eyes cast east as often as possible. While they should’ve still had a fair lead on the lamia--assuming they even figured out where Galen and her had gone--she didn’t feel comfortable. Things were too casual, too lax for her.
  78.  
  79. The trio forged their way through the plains and forest west. Clouds began to move in from the west, a thin layer which left wandering shadows on the ground beneath them. The wind picked up as well, shaking the leaves on the trees so much their sound could be mistaken for rain. Galen’s nose picked up the scent of sap out of the dry air. He’d been hoping for rain, but there wasn’t a trace of it in the wind. They’d have to wait at least another day before getting their hopes up again.
  80.  
  81. Sybyll strode, tall and passive, navigating through brush and branches without care. Her golden eyes remained ever-searching for threats. She only spoke when spoken to, answering the many questions Galen assaulted her with, from her village, her age, her favorite color and the like. Galen had hoped to soften her up, but that strict air never left her. He wondered if his constant questions were getting on her nerves. Surely she was happy for the company after so long being alone? If that room had never been entered in four hundred years, Galen and Seira would have been her first contact. Given the story of her history, it was possible she had never been the most social lizardman. Galen glanced back at her, narrowing his eyes. That would be his little mission for her. To lighten her up.
  82.  
  83. Past Sybyll, Galen caught a glimpse of Seira hanging out about twenty strides back. He realized he hadn’t felt her eyes on his back today. Maybe she was thinking on that thing she mentioned earlier, that ‘something’ she had to ‘figure out’. His curiosity had begun to tingle his tongue, the questions just waiting to come forth, but he swallowed them. She was his companion--things she kept to herself were hers and hers alone.
  84.  
  85. ‘People need their secrets,’ his dad had told him. ‘Keeps them special, keeps them moving. The man without secrets is hopeless and defeated.’
  86.  
  87. Galen didn’t have any secrets he could think of. He could tell his companions more about his life back on Nox, but they would probably find that boring. No reason to bother them with it. Maybe that’s what Seira was thinking: it wasn’t worth bothering Galen.
  88.  
  89. But he wanted to be bothered!
  90.  
  91. Frowning, he turned back forward just in time to see a branch coming for his face. Gasping, he ducked, stumbling forward past the branch. Thank goodness for his reaction time.
  92.  
  93. “Are you alright, master?” said Sybyll.
  94.  
  95. “’Master’? You’re not going to call me master are you?”
  96.  
  97. “You are master of the blade I am bound to. It is fitting.”
  98.  
  99. “Just call me Galen,” he said, wiping the sweat from his forehead. They hadn’t had a break in a while and now seemed like a good a time as any. He waved for them to stop for a moment then pulled out his waterskin. As he drank, he noted it had started to run low. They’d need to find a spring or refill at the river ahead. Nothing too pressing, though. He offered the waterskin to Sybyll, but she declined with a wave.
  100.  
  101. “I do not need food nor drink. At least for now, my existence is transient.”
  102.  
  103. “Transient?”
  104.  
  105. She looked to a nearby tree branch and waved her arm up and down. It passed straight through the branch like she didn’t exist.
  106.  
  107. Galen was surprised he didn’t notice it earlier. “So your ability to influence stuff isn’t limited to fighting, it’s everything.”
  108.  
  109. “Correct. Until you learn how to wield Toneruth and your bond with it grows, I would be as a ghost.”
  110.  
  111. He took another swig of water before putting it away. Sitting down, he shifting his jaw back and forth. Sybyll would make a pretty sweet spy as she was now, but he definitely wanted to learn how to use Toneruth. Leaving her as-is wasn’t an option. Besides, he wasn’t so sure she didn’t want to evolve beyond a ghost. If it were him, he’d get awfully frustrated, not being able to touch or do anything. If only he could see beyond that stoic gaze of hers, he’d know for sure.
  112.  
  113. He sighed. It would come with time. She probably didn’t feel comfortable around Galena and Seira yet.
  114.  
  115. He leaned forward to look behind Sybyll at Seira, who was leaning up against a tree and facing east, her tail swinging gently back and forth. The wing kept grabbing her braid and tossing it around, but she didn’t look to care. Galen hopped to his feet and walked up behind her, sure to make plenty of noise as not to surprise her. With those ears, though, he wasn’t sure he could surprise her if he tried. Clasping his hands behind his back, he leaned forward and smiled at her.
  116.  
  117. She opened one of her striking red eyes and planted it’s gaze directly on Galen’s face.
  118.  
  119. “You know, my dad said people looking behind themselves all the time are either scared of what’s there or regretful for it,” he said
  120.  
  121. “Is your entire family this sentimental? I’m checking our backs for threats, not looking back on my past.”
  122.  
  123. He poked her shoulder. “I wonder, does that mean you’re scared or regretful?”
  124.  
  125. “Have I ever told you that you ask a lot of questions?”
  126.  
  127. Her ears grabbed his attention when they started twitching. He wondered if that was because she heard something or she was feeling nervous. “But you give such interesting answers.” He pointed at her wings. “Is your wing healing?”
  128.  
  129. She lifted her back off the tree, flaring out her wings enough to check the injury. It hadn’t grown at all since Galen last saw it, but if it had shrunk, it wasn’t by much.
  130.  
  131. “Still another few days or so till it’ll be back in commission, assuming we don’t run into those lamia again and I’m forced to use it.” Galen watched her chest bulge out and shrink back in as she sighed. “Just one dilemma after another.”
  132.  
  133. Galen’s hands squeezed together tight. Another dilemma? Was she actually going to reveal something? When she looked back down at him, his eyebrows shot up. She gave a half-smirk and shook her head.
  134.  
  135. “Shouldn’t we get moving again?”
  136.  
  137. His head sunk. “Yeah,  I guess we should.”
  138.  
  139. Onward they went, chasing the sinking sun until only a sliver of it remained over the horizon. Galen gave up on his prodding at Seira, but resolved to resume later. If he just gave her the opportunity to talk about her secrets, he was sure she’d come forward. His job lied in letting her know his interest. They stopped for the night under the cover of an odd rock formation. It wouldn’t give the best shelter should it rain, but it did well enough for Galen in blocking the wind. Seira gave the wind no mind, climbing a nearby tree and resting on a branch like before. A part of Galen tugged at him, wanting to try out resting in a tree as well, but he wasn’t quite so confident with his stability while sleeping. His body was more fragile than Seira’s as well.
  140.  
  141. He tucked himself in against the rocks, giving a little shiver before letting out a sigh of contentment. His gaze wandered over the ceiling of leaves far above, imagining the gaps between them were stars. His mom had told him imagination was always useful, especially for the little things.
  142.  
  143. Like what the forest dreamt of when it slept.
  144.  
  145.  
  146. **
  147.  
  148.  
  149. Seira let her paws hang loose from the branch, staring at Galen as he drifted off. She never guessed she’d be spending so much time with him. He’d been the clumsy, stalky human who’d almost been her first meal in a week, nothing more. Then he had to go and ruin it by being… him. And when he mentioned Toneruth, that’d opened its own can of worms. What she wanted was to never see those lamia again and go about on her own, gaining allies from the shadows. Why had she come back for him, anyways? He’d proven he was almost certainly more trouble than he was worth when the lamia caught up, yet she’d gone and turned around. Nosy, too. All those questions, one would think he had a list of them memorized to pester all his new friends with. But he never asked without sincerity. Perhaps he recognized his own ignorance and took the most direct path to solving it. That was Galen in a word: direct. Shamelessly, most of the time.
  150.  
  151. She blew a half-hearted raspberry, absent-mindedly wrapping her tail about the branch. At least he’d made a good meal and would continue to provide as long as she stuck with him. They could travel together to Fullsburg, at least. That’s when she would decide for sure if it was worth tagging along. By then her wings would be healed and she’d be in a position to chase down allies should Galen not pan out. Fullsburg would be safest from the eyes of Medusuub as well, giving her a chance to rest. Running for weeks could really take it out of a manticore.
  152.  
  153. ‘Well then you should stop over-exerting yourself with all this running!’ she heard his voice say.
  154.  
  155. What was the kid playing at? Sooner or later, he would realize how humans and monsters truly interacted. He’d only gotten a taste of it that night she milked him.
  156.  
  157. That lizardman wouldn’t do her much good, invisible as she was and tied to Galen so. Her story didn’t match up, either. She acted the paragon of discipline and poise, yet she said she had been a rebel back in her earlier years. And why would the blacksmith and mages choose a rebel? Wouldn’t that be the exact type of monster they couldn’t trust with such a task? Still, Seira figured she should learn what she could from the lizardman before they parted ways if that did end up being the case. If she fought along Solvet the last time a monster lord was overthrown, she may know intimate details about how to break The Covenant.
  158.  
  159. Her ears twitched. His breathing had slowed and evened. It was time for her to act. Quiet as a mouse, she slipped down the tree, landing with nothing more than a whisper. Sybyll sat atop the rock formation, facing the opposite direction, cross-legged and likely still awake. Meditating, perhaps. Keeping low and silent, Seira snuck up to Galen’s sleeping form and reached for his pack. She extracted the large glass container, smirking when she got a good look at it, and slinked away. She put as much distance between herself and Galen as she could while keeping him in sight. She knew he was a heavy sleeper, but he didn’t need to hear any of this.
  160.  
  161. While the container may have appeared transparent, she knew better. Seira tapped on the glass several times, making sure her audience was alert and listening.
  162.  
  163. “You might fool him through his ignorance, but you’re not outsmarting me. I don’t know what your game is, but you are going to listen.” It’d been such a long time since she’d spoken with a fierce growl that it tickled her throat. “I’ll allow you to travel with us, but you had better not touch the kid. I milked him last night. That means he’s MINE. No one else’s. If anything happens to him, I will be very unhappy. Do you understand? Turn red if you do.”
  164.  
  165. The glass container fogged, the passenger turning red in the moonlight. Seira smirked. Good. She was hoping it wouldn’t take much. As quietly as she’d taken it, she returned the container, shooting it one last glare before closing Galen’s pack back up and sneaking away, back to her perch. Once comfortable, she smiled to herself, her tail swinging back and forth. A glint of gold caught her attention; the lizardman was watching her. She leered back a moment before closing her eyes. Today had been a touch too stressful. Hopefully tomorrow would have more answers.
  166.  
  167.  
  168. **
  169.  
  170.  
  171. A giggle. Shifting. Poking. Rubbing. Seira’s nose twitched along with her ears. She knew what it was before she opened her eyes. The next poke on her cheek, she lashed out with a paw, grabbing the offending item and wrenching it out of Galen’s grasp. She opened her eyes and shot him a glare, a low growl rising from her gut. With a squeeze of her paw, the stick snapped and she discarded the pieces.
  172.  
  173. Galen couldn’t help himself now, holding his chest as he laughed at Seira, defying her angry eyes. “See, Sybyll? It’s great!”
  174.  
  175. “She doesn’t seem happy.”
  176.  
  177. “Well, yeah, because she didn’t want me to get her back so quickly. But she slept in, so it’s my victory.”
  178.  
  179. Seira dropped straight from the branch, landing a few feet in front of Galen without a sound but for the burst of air which kicked up the dead leaves around her. Keeping her eyes on Galen the entire time, she strode up to him and grabbed him by the clothing on his chest, yanking him close.
  180.  
  181. “Are you sure you want to wake a manticore like that?”
  182.  
  183. He closed his eyes and shot her a stupid grin. “Heh, you’re trying to be all scary but I think you liked it.”
  184.  
  185. Her tail wrapped around his leg, tightening its coils as it entangled him further. “You should be prepared to face the consequences if you pull something like that again.”
  186.  
  187. “Boop!” he said, poking her in the nose. Galen knew he might be pushing his luck, but from how she acted a couple days back, he figured she was playful enough not to take things too far. When her tail constricted his leg to the point of pain, he suspected he may have made a mistake, but she released him, uncoiling her tail as he dropped to the ground.
  188.  
  189. “Don’t think you’ve won,” said Seira, tracing a claw across his body as she walked past.
  190.  
  191. Galen clenched his hands into fists, trying to keep his grin from running away from him. He’d totally won, Seira was just too prideful to admit it.
  192.  
  193. “He didn’t do that stupid morning stretching ritual before waking me, did he?” Seira asked Sybyll.
  194.  
  195. “He did, in fact. But I do not find it ‘stupid’ to prepare one’s body for the day.”
  196.  
  197. “Uugh,” groaned Seira. “I’ll never live this down now. How did I not hear it?”
  198.  
  199. “He was very quiet about it.”
  200.  
  201. Galen skipped ahead of them, shouting, “Winner!”
  202.  
  203. He held onto his high spirits as they set out, now running from the sun. The cool wind of yesterday had brought more clouds, but still not the scent of rain. More and more of the forest passed by them, the same scenery through mild hills, broken up only by streaks of plains and the occasional bed of wild flowers. Galen scarfed down edible plants where-ever he found them, trying to stretch his food out as long as possible. He’d have to eat meat sooner or later, though. Hopefully the clouds would keep growing thicker and eventually give them the rain they needed, allowing him a fire for cooking.
  204.  
  205. They kept a strong pace fueled by Galen’s excitement. Not only did a wealth of information await them in Fullsburg, but it would be the first time he’d even been in a major city. He dreamt up scenarios of monsters and humans living together, great, bustling markets, sturdy guards with heavy armor, and city walls higher than he could see. If he was lucky, he’d be able to witness a brawl! His dad always said real men would enjoy a good brawl after downing their evening drinks. While Galen hadn’t been allowed any ‘evening drinks’ back home, out here he could do whatever he wanted!
  206.  
  207. As they crested the next hill, the sound of rushing water hit Galen’s ears. He froze, taking a good listen before breaking into a run. Sybyll and Seira followed close behind. His heart thudded in his chest as he hurried down the hill. His body could hardly keep up with his exhilaration. His feet moved on instinct, narrowly dodging rocks and other spots of poor footing. So close!
  208.  
  209. Galen broke out of the treeline, skidding to a halt just a few feet from the riverbank. Leaning over, he rested his hands on his knees to recoup. He kept his smile as he looked up and down the river. It was at least a hundred feet wide, its waters roaring over hidden rocks and logs. Galen had always pictured rivers as flowing more calm than this, but he was pleasantly surprised in the discovery. That was, until he realized the current would make swimming across all but impossible.
  210.  
  211. “So cool,” he said.
  212.  
  213. Sybyll caught up first. She put her hand on Galen’s back, checking to see if he was okay, but he waved her off, thanking her for her concern. They stared at the river while waiting for Seira. She wasn’t far behind.
  214.  
  215. “It’s too far across to swim safely. I could fly, but it would damage my wing more and there’s no way I’d be able to carry you while it’s injured. We’ll have to find a bridge,” said Seira, emerging from the forest beside Galen. She pointed downriver. “There should be one not far down that way.”
  216.  
  217. “Sweet!” He walked up to the bank, chugging down the rest of his waterskin, then crouched down and carefully refilled it in the rapids. Once finished, he stuffed it back in his pack and took off downstream, humming to himself.
  218.  
  219. Just as Seira said, a bridge waited for them not another hour downstream. Constructed of wood, it was held up by several thick pillars. The walking surface itself was wooden planks laid length-wise, smooth against each other from one back to the other. An impressive structure, capable of carrying the weight of at least one wagon at a time. Galen was a bit surprised to see something so well-made out in the middle of nowhere, but pleased to come across it nonetheless. He already had all sorts of stories to go back home with, and this would only add to it. He couldn’t think of heading back yet, though. There was still plenty to do.
  220.  
  221. As Galen and his companions approached the bridge, they noticed something that made Seira extend her claws, Sybyll place her hand on her sword and Galen frown.
  222.  
  223. They weren’t the only ones there.
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