Several gunshots from small caliber rifles rang-out, and a deafening roar resounded from the colossal beast. At a distance, it might have seemed like a handful of mice were scurrying around a black-feathered rooster; yet upon closer inspection, those pine-trees that surrounded them, were in fact, absurdly large.
Humanoid rat-people, who weren’t completely clad in black or brown fur, but still mostly resembled their ancestors in many aspects. Considering that they were at least a meter in height, the gigantic magical chicken’s size was truly astounding.
Five brave soldiers, wearing disruptively-patterned green leather-armor, were spread out around the creature; each of them had revolvers, and were firing sporadically at the rampaging monster. Their bullets were seemingly having no effect, other than angering the beast.
Even though there was little immediate effect, the desperation of the animal made its internal damage painfully clear. After seven minutes of scampering around the rooster, and over a hundred small gunshot wounds to its unreasonably large head, the level-nine magical beast finally collapsed.
Overwhelmed by their hard-won fight, three of the little mouse-girls actually began crying out of fear, and happiness. Their team leader, a black-furred rat-man, shouted “Pull yourselves together recruits! Killing the damn bird was the easy part! Now we have to wait for the butchers to get here! Stay focused, and don’t let your guards down!” as he quickly began cleaning the barrel of his rifle.
It was a fairly simple method of using wind manipulation, but still invaluable when faced with such a fierce buildup of black-powder residue. They had plenty of ammo left, and each of them carried a sidearm, some flash and fragmentation grenades, plus a standard-issue combat-knife.
The brown-furred rat-man, who seemed considerably younger than the team-leader, snickered with an arrogant attitude and said “Calm down Dad, they’re just kids… Besides, this area is so close to town that we were lucky to even find such a large, magical-beast.” while pulling out a flask of water.
As the young soldier took a sip, he shuddered and coughed faintly, before falling onto the ground. Then his body spasmed violently, as a yellow moss-like substance erupted from the flask that was still tightly gripped in his left hand.
It was so sudden that the team-leader didn’t even notice his son’s condition, especially over the loud whining of the three seven-year-old mouse-girls. Unfortunately, there was a much more dire circumstance surrounding the group: chickens, hundreds of them.
Each of the magical-beasts were only around two-meters tall, but that was still pretty large compared to the four unprepared mice. The black-furred man yelled “Stop crying you idiots! Jacob, use two grenades and take out the northern and eastern sides… Jacob?” without turning away from the enemies in-front of him, so he had no way of knowing that his son was on the brink of death.
One of the three little girls finally stopped having a mental breakdown, and screamed “Jake! Melody, stop freaking out and heal him!” before slapping the white-furred Mouse-Tribe girl across the face.
As soon as she snapped out of it, the girl shrieked “Gah! How the hell do I ‘heal’ that?! There’s some kinda monster growing out of his face!” in a terrified, high-pitched voice.
The horrible noise brought the third mouse back to reality, and she yelled “Sergeant, call for a medic, now! Melody and Jake are cursed!” as she jumped up off the ground. While the rat-man named Jacob was writhing on the ground, the white-furred girl who was supposed to treat him had been suffering from similar symptoms; all over their bodies a thick yellow moss was rapidly growing, releasing a pleasantly sweet aroma.
As the squad-leader turned around, he grimaced, then reached into a large pocket on his left thigh; what he pulled out was a strange object, which resembled a rather large, pink, walnut. He tightly squeezed the device, and it released a horrible, squealing noise.
It was an incredibly convenient emergency broadcasting beacon, which emitted ultrasound as a side-effect. Of course, if they had been humans, it would have likely been impossible for them to even hear the awful noise. The three of them cringed, but their distress-call was almost immediately answered.
Giant magical chickens weren’t especially intelligent creatures, but they did have fairly strong instincts. They were mainly herbivores after-all, so when more dangerous predators were nearby, they didn’t stick around to fight.
The stampede rushed towards the north, away from the incoming monsters. However, rather than a gigantic raptor, or a pack of colossal wolves, all that arrived were two relatively small girls.
One of them was riding on the back of the other, while muttering “Run faster you damn horse…” and spanking the rear-end of the unfortunate female deer-centaur. The albino, Squirrel-Tribe, woman was fully clad in black-leather armor, and wore a katana on her back, with a myriad of throwing weapons stashed across her extremely tight-fitting clothes.
As the doe moaned faintly, she complained “Alex… get off, you’re too heavy. Why didn’t you just buy an actual mount? Ugh, this body wasn’t designed to carry passengers.” but the pink t-shirt wearing, pale-skinned elf, didn’t try to remove the not-so-stealthy ninja. Her bottom half was covered by a white, spandex-like material, which had a black 777 symbol embroidered on both sides of her second abdomen.
At first glance, the squirrel-girl would have seemed like a large-breasted, fluffy-tailed, dominatrix, rather than an assassin. Especially because she was wielding a black bullwhip, rather than a chain and sickle.
The long wavy blond-haired, blue-eyed, short-eared wood-elven doe, was holding a small silver wand in her left hand. On each finger was a thin, but elaborate, ring, and her neck had several mithril amulets dangling from it; she was obviously a mage of some sort, but only someone with the ability to see mana, would have immediately realized that she was a powerful nature magic user: due to her bright green and incredibly gentle aura.
As her four thin legs briskly trotted along, her rider used her whip to latch onto a tree-branch and seemed to vanish. Shortly afterwards, the meter and a half tall doe-centaur, reached the panicking mice.
With only a glance at the rat-guy and mouse-girl, she let out a sigh of relief. The sergeant didn’t say anything to her, and had to focus all of his attention on the two female recruits, who were obviously not suited to such a perilous vocation.
She reached into the satchel around her incredibly thin waist, or neck depending on which part was considered the ‘main’ body, and pulled out a small, clear vial of purple liquid. After removing the wooden cork from the glass container, the girl immediately poured the contents equally onto the two mossy rodents.
There was an instantaneous reaction, but rather than helping, it seemed like the rate of growth had been exponentially increased. Within moments, there were just two yellow blobs of fungi; yet, the doe didn’t seem the slightest bit worried about it.
Five minutes passed by, and the only change was that the soft material had seemed to harden into the shape of eggs. Then she put the glass vial away, and beamed a smile, before turning to the sergeant and announcing “Hi, I’m Rachael Xiel-Ta, nice to meet you. These kids should be fine in a couple hours, just make sure to give them lots of water once they’ve hatched. We were just heading towards Angren when I heard your distress beacon, I would normally stick around to make sure that everything’s alright… but we’re actually gonna be late as it is.” while walking up to the relatively small man.
Before the man could introduce himself, or inquire anything of the mysterious centaur, she abruptly shouted at him “Heal!” as a terrible itching sensation spread across his entire body. None of them could see it, but her warm and gentle aura had erupted from the bright-green mana-crystal, at the tip of her thirty-centimeter long wand; it was concentrated into the form of a rather large beam, and she quickly aimed it like a laser, penetrating the cuts, scrapes, and bruises across the sergeant’s face, neck, and his long, pink, tail.
After she was finished with him, the fanatical healer began forcing the two mouse-girls to regenerate their slight abrasions. Those beautiful blue eyes, seemed a bit crazed, at the sight of people in need of her assistance: She was mildly overzealous in her desire to ‘help’ others.
Once Rachael succeeded in treating the injuries, that anyone with basic understanding of nature magic and a bit of mana could easily accomplished, she scampered off. When she reached a sufficient distance from the gigantic dead chicken, two mice and one rat; a squirrel landed on her deer-body.
The meter and a half tall woman wearing dominatrix-ninja garb, minus a face-mask, asked the doe “Ugh, I hate rats… Why do you feel the need to help every damn person we meet?”
A dull roar resounded in the darkened skies, beyond the forest’s ceiling of trees. Then the centaur pouted, while muttering “You know why… Spirits, please forgive this foolish child for her ignorance.” as she held both of her hands around the thin wand, and pressed it against her undeveloped chest.
Within seconds of her quiet and slightly sarcastic prayer, they reached a huge clearing; the beautiful moonlight shined down upon them, and Alex smirked. After they reached the center of the wide-open field of glowing yellow, blue, green, and orange flowers, the ninja-squirrel stood-up and spread her arms wide; a huge gust of wind seemed to come out of nowhere, and lifted her into the sky: Her cloak was attached to her leather armor in such a way, that she was essentially wearing a wing-suit.
For a few moments, Rachael was looking up at the sky, pondering why her friend suddenly abandoned her. Then she heard a telepathic message “You were taking too long, so I called you a taxi, I’ll meet you in Angren.” as the normally black tattoo on her left hand, suddenly glowed with a bright golden radiance; it was the standard symbol of seven-hundred and seventy-seven, surrounded by a circle, that most adventurers, soldiers, and hunters received… at least in the country of Alfirin.
After hearing a second dull roar resounding, the doe began screaming “No-no-no-no-no-no! Go away, I don’t want to hire you! Stop! Wah!” as two gigantic bird-like, leathery claws, wrapped around her body. The wyvern had a wing-span of at least ten meters; it’s head resembled a velociraptor, with an extremely long neck and tail, the torso was short, but stout. Along the creature’s spine were many sharp, black, bony, protrusions, and the majority of its scales were viridian.
Rachael was afraid of heights… It didn’t help that she was practically broke, and a ‘taxi’ was extremely expensive; worst of all, was the nauseating up and down motions, which continued for nearly four hours: The Wyvern Transportation Service, wasn’t very popular among centaurs.
Fortunately, the demonic-spider silk that the body-suit she wore was made out of, had been incredibly durable. It was bullet-proof to a certain extent, and could protect the deer-shaped half of her from blades or blunt weapons pretty easily; it was also able to cover her non-humanoid genitals, only her fluffy white tail was exposed.
Living in Black Mithril for a few months had made her feel like the first eighteen years of her life, she was practically a nudist. She lived in the upper-city, which was literally above-ground, and briefly attended Alfirin Academy; though she had already learned a great deal of nature-magic from a dryad named Yuri, she mainly focused on studying alchemy.
In that school, she was taught much more than how to make potions, poisons, and chemical explosives; Rachael discovered the concept of money, and how terrible she was at managing it. She was able to make a small fortune working part-time as a healer, but no matter how much she earned, there were always so many expenses.
Tuition, rent, alchemy ingredients, food, clothing, tools, magical jewelry, a house, appliances, water bill, a maid, paying people to let her experiment on them, hiring a female dominatrix for completely non-sexual therapy sessions, a puppy, a kitten, and someone to take care of her pets when she wasn’t home… The list was seemingly endless, and those were what she considered necessities.
Rather than constant flapping, wyverns typically just glided, while manipulating the wind around their wings; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to support their heavy bodies, and definitely couldn’t have carried any passengers. While controlling the air-currents around his scaly exterior, he attempted to make the ride as comfortable as possible for his extremely nauseous passenger.
Eventually, the dizzy deer-centaur took a strange, luminescent, yellow potion from her relatively large satchel, and quickly drank it in one gulp. Her skin seemed to glow brightly in the dark night, but it remained the same color, pinkish-white; she had to ‘sheath’ her fancy wand, in a special brown, magical-beast leather, container on her right hip.
If she had accidentally dropped it into Lorthon Forest, while flying at over sixty miles an hour, in the middle of the night, there was no way she would have ever been able to find it. For that same reason, she had to resist the urge to read a book, or do any of the myriad of distracting tasks that would have been possible if she had just taken the underground magical-maglev train.
It also would have only cost her a few copper, rather than the twenty-five silver-bills that she was going to have to pay her terrifying taxi. Fortunately, like most intelligent wyverns, he was capable of speaking Lorthon rather fluently.
The giant flying lizard murmured “Have you ever been to Angren before, little doe?” in a deep, but surprisingly loud voice: even against such incredibly noisy wind.
Rachael was startled by the vibrations, but quickly replied “No, this is actually my first time. I’ve heard that it was similar to White Mithril and Black Mithril; a triangular underground city, with a giant pyramid in the center.” while tying back her hair into a ponytail, with a small, black, elastic band.
After a few seconds the dragon chuckled, and told her “Indeed, on the surface though, they’re completely different. I can drop you off a few miles north of that place, but the area directly above that hellhole is a no-fly zone. Honestly, it’s none of my business what happens to my passengers after I drop them off, so I won’t ask why you would want to go there… just, be careful, okay?”
There was a faint smile on the girl’s face, as she said “Ah, that’s fine, I was originally planning on walking there, doing a few quests on the way. I just became an adventurer a few weeks ago; I’m a level twenty-nine healer though, so my rank was automatically placed pretty high. Ah, and I used to live in Ael Tol for a few months, so I’m actually pretty used to the mana-pressure in the third ring.”
The wyvern snickered, then began ranting “Ah, I joined the BCHAA a few months ago myself. It seems like the whole world is changing so quickly lately. Hah, only a year has gone by, yet nearly my whole flock has started nesting in that ancient elven city. A few of us came up with this transportation idea, though I do a bit of magical-beast hunting on the side. My cousin and some of the others, even decided to join the military.
“I never imagined that there would come a day, when dragonkin and humanoids could coexist. Well, I also thought that spirits were just an ancient legend… hell, look down there; that hundred-meter tall cottage is Morneth’s place.” There was a colossal structure, made completely out of green stone and brown iron-wood; it was surrounded for at least ten miles in every direction, by massive patty-fields of gigantic, red, rice-stalks. Several small, centaur villages, were spread-out around the area, and though the plants were each about seven-feet tall, they were still tiny compared to the house or the trees in the jungle.
The two of them had reached the center of the third ring of Lorthon Forest, and heading northeast, to avoid getting too close to the demon-infested fourth ring. Typically, the average height of the trees surrounding that immense farmland was well over a hundred meters; so the talkative wyvern was able to lower his altitude significantly.
Since they were much closer to the ground, the mana-density was a lot higher as well; the air was also incredibly moist, and the invigorating pressure made Rachael feel like she was finally home: though her destination wasn’t Ael Tol. While she was enjoying the view and having her aura condensed, the green dragonkin continued speaking to the bored doe.
“I grew up hearing tales of the monstrous, four-armed, three-eyed, dark-elven giant; she was supposed to be a vicious and evil demon, who devoured the souls and flesh of a million dragons. Now-days, I deliver mail to her once a month; she doesn’t even eat meat, and what is a soul anyway? Morneth doesn’t actually own all of this farmland, or grow the crops, but since she does come by every few weeks, the wild tribes tend to avoid the whole region.”
The tired deer-girl could barely stay awake, as she patiently endured the shaky ride, which seemed to go on forever. Her abdomen felt like it was being crushed by the wyvern’s claws, but she was able to use a bit of nature magic to subconsciously heal herself.
It’s not that Rachael wasn’t interested in what the taxi was telling her, but explaining to people that Gyrgerenil, The Spirit of Death, was her teacher… usually didn’t go so well. They typically wouldn’t even believe her, because hardly anyone knew that Doctor Yuri, the pink dryad responsible for curing vampirism, was also the person who created it in the first place.
Thus, the excruciatingly long flight went by, with the doe maintaining relative silence, while half-halfheartedly listening to the talkative wyvern. When he finally dropped her off at a heavily fortified outpost, seven miles north of Angren, the sun was already rising in the eastern sky.
The three-meter tall lizard, actually had long and thin arms, once his wings were folded up; around his neck was a large dark-green satchel, which he reached inside of with his relatively small claw-like hands, and pulled out a black-leather wallet. Rachael reached into her bag and pulled out something similar, but white; then she opened it up and sighed dramatically.
She handed over a single yellow, rectangular, piece of paper; on the back of it were the words “One Gold Alfirin Dollar” written in Lorthon, and on the front was a portrait of a young Mouse-Tribe girl, with snake-like pupils, wearing a sundress and holding a gigantic meat-cleaver. The taxi quickly took the bill, and gave her three silver twenty-five dollar bills in return; she wasn’t completely broke, but she only had seven-hundred and sixty-eight copper left: It wasn’t a lot of money.
They obviously had to take several breaks along the way to relieve themselves, eat, drink, and sometimes just to rest. In the third ring it wasn’t that difficult to regenerate mana, but the first half of their trip took place in the second ring of Lorthon Forest; where the level of mana-density was much lower.
The whole flight was five hours long, so the taxi barely made a profit… but he was mainly a courier, and just picked her up on his way from Black Mithril to Ael Tol. Once that business was done, Rachael started aimlessly wandering around the heavily fortified village.
It was a small town, with five-meter tall, dwarven-steel reinforced, concrete walls; there were huge metal gates in the north and south, with guard-towers in each of the four corners. Gunshots could be heard periodically, because they were almost constantly under attack from giant magical beasts, or roaming Tiger-Tribe prides.
A large river cut through the center of the village, and there were railings surrounding it, with signs that read “Beware of Tentacles!” which a certain doe completely ignored. As she nonchalantly crossed the highly elevated iron-wood bridge, gigantic alligators, with heads that resembled the entire body of colossal octopi, began bellowing and whipping their limbs in her general direction.
However, as if it were a common occurrence, Rachael didn’t even spare them a single glance. She attempted to telepathically contact Alexis a few times, but she was out of range or unavailable; the flying squirrel-girl was at least a dozen miles per hour faster than them, and she didn’t have to take as many breaks.
The despondent deer-centaur had quickly realized that her friend had most likely, already made it to Angren. She needed to somehow make her way southward for seven miles, through a jungle that was fraught with incredible danger, and filled with not only monstrous animals and plants, but also people.
When she approached the nine-foot tall, Kodiak-Tribe woman guarding the southern gate, who was clad in a full suit of shiny silver armor and holding a massive ax, Rachael immediately showed her a triangular piece of silver-colored mithril; on it was the number twenty-nine, and when she placed it onto the tattoo on her left hand, it radiated a bright-green light: Indicating that she was a nature-mage, and that her level was high enough to leave the town without an escort or bodyguard.
However, the middle-aged brown-furred giant, scowled at the the relatively small centaur and growled “Ya really don’t wanna to go out there little girl. Can’t ya hear that? Wait a few hours, and travel with the daily caravan…” Not everyone in the third ring knew how to speak Lorthon, but luckily the elven-doe did understand the most common languages of Beast Haven.
After she put away her adventurers badge, which should have gotten her out of the town fairly easily, Rachael sighed and took a few dozen steps backward. Then she started galloping forward, and actually managed to jump over-top the three-meter tall woman, but just barely.
On each of her hooves was literally made out of mithril, and when they impacted the rectangular, sliding, metal gate, they stuck to it like magnets. Just because her expertise was in nature magic, didn’t mean that she couldn’t use a bit of basic earth manipulation.
The bear roared “What the hell are you doing, ya crazy bitch! Fine, go! I could’ve just opened the damn gate, ya know!?” while glaring at the very slowly climbing centaur; she actually pulled a few muscles during the jump, and was casually healing them, as she made her way over the giant slab of steel.
Eventually she reached the top and realized a major flaw in her plan, the top of the gate had coils of barbed-wire. As she was about start trying to climb over it, the giant door slid open slightly, and she was able to squeeze through the crack: tumbling down to the dirt road, sideways.
Once Rachael stood-up and dusted herself off, she unholstered her shiny wand. The area around the concrete walls was deforested for half a kilometer, so she was immediately able to see and smell, a few clusters of miscellaneous beast-tribe corpses to the east and west.
Carcasses of various magical beasts, from giant insects, to colossal dinosaurs; it was definitely an unpleasant environment. However, there were plenty of rat-people, red-goblins, and dark-dwarves scattered around, butchering and harvesting whatever they could take; a few tiger-men, bear-girls, wood-elves, and even some minotaurs, wearing assorted heavy-armor and carrying various weapons, were standing guard around the workers.
They were all hunters; rather than going on quests, they were essentially just freelance scavengers. Well, the Beatrix Corps Hunters and Adventurers Association, handled all manner of dangerous odd-jobs; it was a subsidiary of Lorelei Incorporated, and was a crucial part of every frontier town.
There were plenty of other, much safer, ways to make money in Alfirin, but some people instinctively craved something more. Mages could capitalize on the extremely mana-rich environment of the third ring, from the relative safety of Ael Tol; for several months Rachael did just that, but when the first caravan arrived from Black Mithril, she wanted to go see more of the world.
As she began walking down the dirt path, roars and screams, accompanied by gunshots and explosions occasionally rang-out. The majority of fighting involved swords, bows, axes, and spears, but they weren’t quite as loud or flashy as grenades or rifles.
Since the conflicts were mostly taking place within the jungle, the field of death that surrounded her, was relatively peaceful. For the first few miles, it was a pleasant walk down the forest path; once the sounds of fighting died down, she had finally entered the most dangerous point between the outpost and Angren.
Even if she had screamed or called for help, the only people who would have been able to hear her, were the group of humanoid tigers, who were lurking in the bushes and trees around the trail. An iron-wood arrow, the size of her thin elven arm, abruptly smacked into her left hind-leg; if she wasn’t wearing that protective white material, the projectile would have easily penetrated straight through her body.
Unfortunately, the damage done was still fairly extreme, causing massive bruising and some internal bleeding. The seemingly frail deer-girl immediately fell onto the surprisingly dry ground, considering that it was a rain-forest.
Her wand was already in her left hand, but it wasn’t useful in regenerating her own wounds. When she appeared incapacitated, a huge naked woman, with the head and tail of a tiger, orange and white fur, with black stripes, emerged from the eastern thicket; she was carrying an equally enormous green bow.
The incredibly muscular female roared “This one is mine!” while hastily approaching the seemingly helpless doe. Rachael wasn’t a stranger to violence, pain, and death; before she was safely delivered to Ael Tol, there were many occasions where she had to use her natural healing talents to keep her family alive… not to mention all the ‘lessons’ she received from Yuri afterwards.
The moment that the tigress came within five meters of her, she aimed that tiny wand the woman’s left peck, and muttered “I am the master of life, I command you to grow rampant… devour your host.” as a beam of incredibly dense mana, penetrated through her enemy’s thick aura.
Then the seven-foot tall giant suddenly stopped, fell to her knees, and began regurgitating copious amounts of blood, with large spiny worms squirming around in the mess. Her beautiful blue eyes popped, as similar creatures erupted from the gaping sockets, every orifice on her body had slimy black tentacles squirming out of them.
Death wasn’t instantaneous, but very close; the cautious onlookers shuddered, as they watched their fellow huntress meet such a gruesome end. However, they still didn’t comprehend the power of a competent nature-mage, and rather than retreat, they chose to seek vengeance.
The writhing mass of fur and worms, quickly withered and died once they were exposed to the air. Rachael sighed, as she casually healed herself, and brushed the dirt off of her hot-pink t-shirt.
She heard the sound of a furious aura, and quickly took a step backwards; from the eastern side of the path, several large wood and bone javelins nearly struck her elven body. Then another seven-foot tall tiger-woman emerged from the jungle, she had a black-carapace tower-shield on her left arm, and a short-spear in her right hand; the frowning doe pointed her wand at the four-foot tall, chunk of magical beetle shell, and whispered “All life must kill to survive; awaken from your slumber, accept my nourishment and be born into this cruel world.”
From the obsidian shield emerged thousands of tiny, flying, cockroaches; the startled tigress quickly threw it onto the ground, but her left arm was already infested with dozens of the little monsters. A pained roar emerged from her mouth, before the swarm used that opening to enter her body.
Rachael panted from mana-exhaustion, as the second enemy was swiftly torn apart from the inside. Yuri had taught her many similar ways to ‘heal’ people to death, by purposefully weakening their immune systems, or empowering parasites, bacteria, or viruses, that were already inside of the person’s body; the only problem was that it took a considerable amount of effort, to forcefully break through auras in the third ring: especially from more than a few meters away.
Fortunately, the rest of the hunting party, only consisted of two young Tiger-Tribe girls; they bravely emerged from the jungle, with grey iron-wood spears that were several feet taller than they were. Even though they were small and lanky compared to the first ones, they were still over a foot taller than the tired deer-centaur.
Rachael glared at them, and pulled a tiny blue pill out of her satchel with her left hand; she quickly swallowed it, and then yelled “I am the ruler of the forest! I command you to bind!” while pointing her wand at the low-hanging tree, that was conveniently covered in non-poisonous brown vines. Once the two girls were hog-tied, and dangling a few meters off the ground from the large branches, the ‘soft-hearted’ doe quickly fled to the south: It wasn’t going to hold them for long, and she didn’t want to have to kill the ‘little’ kids.