Blurry. Everything was so blurry. I could barely keep my eyes open, let alone feel my body. Everything was numb and a sizzling feeling went through my muscles.
I felt like I was going to vomit, but I kept myself from it. I must’ve been out for several hours and I was still hanging off a couple of vines that luckily supported my weight. Who knew if there was even ground underneath me.
As my vision cleared, I saw the leaves rustling and the whole that I fell in through was no longer in the treetop.
I put my energy together and tried to pull myself up straight when I noticed that my leg was stuck on something.
I propped my upper body up, wanting to set my foot free by hand, but when I did, I didn’t see vines holding me back. Instead, a pair of golden, slim, reptilian eyes.
I bore my shock in silence as I watched this huge, yellow and green wyvern thoughtlessly chewing on my leg. It seemed to not bite with its small teeth so I only felt the gums clench down on me. It was clearly trying to tug at me and not to rip a piece off of me.
It was so focused on pulling me, it didn’t even notice that I was awake. I used the opportunity to get a good look at this monster. Even back home, I’ve never seen any creature like this one. It was quadrupedal and its scaly skin was a yolky yellow on the back and grey-ish blue on the underside. The skin of its belly seemed less sturdy, thinner and looser than the one on the top of it where most of the tough scales were overcovered with a leafy, mane-like… I don’t know what to call it. Fur?
A long tail stretched out from its lower back and its head was like that of a supersized lizard with a blank, straight stare ahead.
“Grrrggh…” It seemed frustrated. I was dangling from the vines but the sturdy fiber didn’t rip even in the slightest and there was no chance that this monster would get me down from this angle.
I was hovering over another layer of vines that seemed strong enough for the wyvern to stand on. It was part of a gigantic tree that loomed over a green beach area underneath.
I kept quiet, swallowing my breath. I raised my hand over my head, reaching for the blades on my back and slowly, but surely trying to launch a surprise attack.
But the very second my blades made a scratching sound from unsheathing, the beast’s eyes shot to attention and with my boot in its mouth, it looked up at me, its gaze confused and curious.
I swung there, a leg full of saliva and my weapons barely out of their sheaths. “Umm… having an afternoon snack huh? Well, I can’t really recommend you eat me so…”
“Raaahhhhhh!” It opened its jaw wide, letting out a bellowing roar. It was mad and ready to attack me.
I fumbled to get my swords out and as awkward as it was, I flailed around, slashing the vines that held me up. After one after the other snapped away, I fell down onto the bed of thicker vines with the monster finishing its roar with its head stretched towards the skies. After focusing its sights back on me, I could see the spit dripping from its tongue. It was hungry and not ready to let its snack get away.
I pushed myself backwards with my feet until I hit an upwards stretching vine on which I pulled myself up to my feet, brandishing my sharp blades.
The monster’s head was erratic, inspecting me from head to toe, deciding whether or not it should attack me.
I decide to take on an offensive stance and point the tips of my swords at it. “If you want to eat me that badly… bring it.” I demanded as I trembled in fear of my first proper monster. Sweat crossed my forehead and my legs were twitching to get away, but I could hardly back down now.
But it didn’t care for my fear, only for its hunger. It clawed into the vines for grip and dashed towards me, with its fangs wide open to give me a view of the bottomless pit that was its mouth.
Blood rushed into my muscles and I reflexively jumped out of the way. The wyvern crashed into the vine that I just pulled myself up on. Its teeth dig into it, leaving a bitemark as it notices that it’s not me. Its gaze flicked over to me as its teeth unlatched from the vine.
Another attack was imminent and if I didn’t act immediately and got on the offense, it would eventually get me. I try to get an advantage on this beast as I look around for options. And there it was. The vines connected seamlessly to the trunk of the tree where a large batch of mushrooms grew. If they were sturdy enough, I could run up them and maybe gain enough altitude to mount this thing.
I put the plan into action immediately and tempted the monster to chase me closer to the tree in another brute charge. Its jaw shuts and opens with its movements as it waddles after me with surprising speed. I ran towards the wall of hard mushrooms which make it very easy to perform an upwards wall run.
I pushed myself off the ragged trunk as the monster crashed into the tree. The perfect opportunity to mount it.
“AAHHHHH!” I lunge down onto it with my swords piercing its hide and I tighten my grip on them to keep from falling off its back. The wyvern screamed at the sudden pain and thrashed about to shake me off. I gritted my teeth as I repeatedly rammed my blades into it one after the other, again and again.
The wyvern would not give up though, trying to crane its neck to bite onto some part of me. I thought I could finish it off right then and there, but then the monster seemed to have gotten an idea. It ran towards the same wall of mushroom and just threw its body against it. I got to experience the now familiar feeling of getting flung through the air once again and the bed of vines wobbled as I landed on top of it. We must have loosened it with our fighting and I was certain that if we kept this up, the only way we’re going from there, is down. And this time, there would be no vines to catch my fall.
I tried to look for a way out, but with the wyvern blocking the only escape, I had no choice but to end this. It breathed heavily with the slam having knocked the air out of its lungs and its wounds clearly doing a number on it.
I feel around the ground, not even breaking eye contact with the wyvern out of fear of the next attack. I finally felt the grips of my blades just in time as the beast launched another, desperate and frustrated attack on me. It jumped towards me though it must have used more force than needed since instead of onto me, it jumped overhead of me. I jabbed my blades up into it, wanting to slice it open and finally finish it off. And my blades glided right through its belly from its throat all the way down to the beginning of its tail. Or did it…
I felt no physical resistance from its flesh, let alone its skin. It was like my blades were ethereal and didn’t even make contact although I could see them sticking into the monster. There were no gashes either, no guts, nothing. My weapons left no scars on it.
And yet… when I lied there in fear, worrying that it would just turn around and attack again… instead of doing that… it landed limply and collapsed. And then it was lying there. Lifeless.
My heart was beating out of my chest and my entire body was covered in panicked sweat underneath my leather armor. I won this fight by the skin of my teeth.
I slowly but surely get back on my feet, sheathing my blades as I look over the corpse of my first slain monster. I walked over to it, still out of breath.
I had no idea how to feel. I felt pride, but also guilt for killing this creature. I tried to justify it as a necessary action to survive but at the same time I questioned if there would’ve been another option. Well… it was too late now. I had killed my first monster as a novice hunter.
I paid my respects, wanting to make a memory I would never forget by gently stroking the monster’s head. But then I felt something on my hand that I didn’t expect or hoped to feel. Its breath.
Just as I wanted to get away from it, I heard something tearing. The fiber of the vine that the wyvern bit earlier was slowly losing its sturdiness and with the combined weight of the two of us on one spot, it was ripping.
I couldn’t even run or scream before the bed of vines broke off the tree and me and the monster fell towards the foot of the tree. I flailed my arms, seeing the ground coming closer and closer when suddenly, the slinger on my arm went off and shot something like a bolt. A bolt with a rope attached to it.
“This thing has a grappling hook?!” I yelled to myself as said grappling hook arched through the air until it wrapped around a thick branch close to the ground and pulled me towards it. I swung from side to side as I heard the heavy thud of the other creature that fell down with me impact the ground. I tried to control my swinging, making an effort to see if the monster took any damage.
I hung there, dangling off the branch with my outstretched arm, and hit onto the slinger several times to get it loose. “How do I… *huff* get this thing off?!”
Suddenly, I must’ve triggered some mechanism and the grappling hook unlatched itself from the branch and the rope reeled in again, letting me get down onto the ground safely.
I turned around, finally seeing the wyvern lying in the gravel. I watched as the bed of vines we were standing on came falling down slowly until it landed on top of it like a net.
It was almost peaceful, like a sleeping child being tucked into a thick blanket. I wasn’t sure whether the wyvern was dead or not and a part of me was hoping for the latter.
But whether or not it was, there was something happening underneath those vines. They were rustling and cracking and the bump of the monster’s shape somehow shrunk in size.
“What the hell?” I wondered to myself as I carefully approached the slowly shrinking pile of vines. I was too curious for my own good and shoved the branches aside, digging into this pile. I shredded the fiber with my blades and tried to untangle this thick mess until I reached the creature. If I was lucky, I could set it free and maybe we can go our separate ways.
I could see the yellowy hide through the shrub and with that motivation I cleaned up the rest of the brush, uncovering what was underneath.
I was stunned…
My mouth hung open and my movements became almost nonexistent.
On the ground laid the entire hide of the wyvern. It was hollow like it shed its skin completely in one whole piece. Separate scales were scattered over the floor and the hair it had before had completely detached from the hide.
The most unexpected sight of all though…
… was the limp body of a woman.
She had a tall body, naked and strongly defined. She was curvy with thick, strong thighs and a bountiful chest. Her hair was blonde and unkempt but long and voluminous with some sort of dreads in them. Her overall look seemed almost tribal. But what was the most striking was that her arms and legs ended in reptilian claws with her human skin transitioning into yellowy scales from her elbows and knees downwards.
I leaned down and opened her eyelids carefully. They were the same, narrow, reptilian golden eyes I saw on the wyvern before.
“But… it can’t be… it can’t be…” I looked at her body in silence. With her arms and legs covering her private areas, I didn’t see anything I wasn’t supposed to. I just didn’t know what to do.
I looked around.
To the left was a path that led to the beach where I could see some Aptonoth roaming around. At least those were some monsters I knew.
And to the right was a deep jungle full of bugs flying around and who-knows-what lurking in the shadows.
Well, it was obvious which was the more pleasant choice… and then it started raining. Heavily. Under the cover of the gigantic tree, we were shielded from it, but even the Aptonoth out on the beach disappeared into the brush as a rainstorm started to kick into gear.
My face slumped into a complete deadpan expression. “This day really hates me, doesn’t it?”
I looked down at the woman. She was breathing. Snoring even. She looked calm and peaceful. At least one of us could keep calm.
I ran my hands through my hair as I looked around once more. I found a patch of a plant with huge leaves and cut long straps out of it I fashioned some sort of wraps out of them and carefully wrapped them around the woman’s bust and hips, just to provide some cover.
There was no way I could just leave her lying here.
I shoved my hands underneath her body and picked her up. She was heavy, but still manageable to carry.
Obviously, a break at the beach would’ve been what I needed right now, but with the storm picking up and the wind howling wildly, the only way was deeper into the forest.
The woman breathed peacefully in my arms and at that moment, I didn’t care what she was. I had to find shelter for us.
And so I gulped and made my way into the thicket. Straight into almost certain death. Something told me that wyvern wasn’t the apex predator here. Or at least not the only one. Well, it’s not the most dangerous thing I survived today.