Author: Harley Jameson | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski
The lakefront was oddly quiet for the time of day. Purple mist settled on the surface of the water, belying the creature that called the area its territory and home. The only movements were the Gajau flopping around in the water, and a mud-covered Jyratodus crawling along the muddy shores of the lake.
The Flooded Forest had all but been deserted, save for a few select monsters. Most had sensed an intense danger and fled deeper into the woods or towards other territories. Unable to live in other regions, the Jyratodus was more than happy to make its new home within the deep great waterfall basin surrounding the lake, feasting on various fish and Gajau at its liking.
A small gust of wind pushed across the lake. The piscine-wyvern froze, watching the tiny ripples in the water slowly faded away. The Jyrayodus listened intently, body tense for any sound. Once satisfied, it relaxed once more into the mud. It jerked up sharply when a loud, distorted roar echoed through the air.
The lake’s waters were getting unruly. Huge gusts of wind splashed water onto the muddy wyvern and the Jyratodus let out a loud warning cry. It was answered back with another distorted shriek, and a great shadow looming overhead.
Varan slammed down onto the intruder’s body with uncharacteristic ferocity. A dark purple smoke billowed from the fanged wyvern’s mouth. Sharp red eyes gleamed in the sunlight and he immediately reached down and slammed the Jyratodus’ head against the ground, keeping the writhing fish from moving.
A snarl erupted from Varan’s throat before he reached up and grabbed the other wyvern’s head. The Jyratodus gave stunted cries in alarm before Varan snapped the thing’s neck in one harsh movement. The lake monster threw the twitching corpse to the side as a wave of pain washed over him. He groaned, his once brown hide had turned a deadly purple. Trembling, he heaved slightly and a great billow of purple smoke exhaled from his mouth.
Varan glanced back across the lake, through the haze his pain and rage he could still sense another’s presence in the Forest. An unfamiliar scent on the breeze ahead. Whether it was the cause of his suffering, he had no idea. He had been sick for days with this strange virus, and somewhere deep down, Varan instinctually knew that he hadn’t much time left.
That made it even more important for him to find whoever this was and kill it. Spreading his arms, Varan soared off into the skies and flew deeper towards the forest.
A thick, purple fog had surrounded the ground of the Flooded Forest. Most smaller creatures had died almost immediately upon inhaling the miasma. Those that didn’t were busy viciously fighting one another or thrashing in absolute agony as their bodies drove themselves to death. The only creature unaffected by the cloud of death surrounding it was a jet black creature on all four legs. Its two somewhat frayed wings rustled slightly, pouring more of its deadly virus into the atmosphere.
Gore Magala walked casually through its surroundings, moving over to the corpses of fallen animals and happily gulping them down in a few bites. Although blind, the unusual creature’s keen senses weren’t detecting any major threat to itself as it continued its lumbering pace through the forest.
It was also this keen sense of hearing that alerted Gore Magala to an upcoming threat long before he could detect the body heat. A great, mighty tree crashed down onto the forests’ floor as two great powerful arms pushed through the brush.
The only other occupant of the forest who had stayed, the once noble creature was breathing raggedly and thinner than most of its kind. Brown fur had been stained purple thanks to the virus spread by Gore Magala, and even its giant tusks had streaks of purple trailing up the bone. Renowned for its strength, the Hunters’ Guild had dubbed the creature “Behemoth.”
And Behemoth had finally found the source of his suffering. A trumpeting roar of fury came from the creature and he stampeded forwards, uncaring as he smashed through trees and vines towards his target. Gore Magala easily slunk off to the side, crouching low on his forelimbs and flaring his wings to make himself more intimidating. He let out a challenging roar at Behemoth and immediately pounced, tackling the elephant-like creature to the ground in a flurry of teeth and claws.
The two monsters rolled around for a bit until Behemoth grabbed Gore by the sides and threw him hard onto the ground, forcing the blind monster to scrambled away as the mighty titan reared up and slammed onto the ground with his fists. Rocks and dust flew into the air as the earth shook violently from the raw power of the attack, Gore Magala scrambling around to keep his footing.
Black wings began to vibrate as a more deadly pathogen was shed into the air. The Black Eclypse Wyvern inhaled sharply, crouching low on his forelegs and jumping to the side as the frenzied Behemoth trampled forward. Gore instantly swung around and slapped at one of Behemoth’s legs to try and bowl the monster over.
Instead, a thick and rough hand grabbed Gore Magala by the tail and began dragging him across the ground. Scratching and pawing, Gore gave a shriek of alarm as Behemoth slammed his other hand against his back, pinning his wings to his body.
With a mighty groan, Behemoth lifted Gore Magala into the air. His blood-red eyes were full of malice and hatred, a deadly fog exhaling from Behemoth’s mouth. His arms strained with the tension even with his frenzy-augmented strength and he began to squeeze. Gore Magala thrashed in Behemoth’s unshakable grip, crying out as he felt the pressure of his bones starting to be pressed in painful ways. Black scales flaked off, revealing a slight golden shimmer as Gore let out a final howl of agony.
A shadow falling across the two monsters was the only warning either got before Varan dive bombed and slammed into both of them. Gore was sent hurtling onto the ground, trembling in pain as Varan began savagely ripping at Behemoth’s purple tinted fur. Blood and miasma flew everywhere as Behemoth beat Varan back, grabbing his leg and physically throwing the triphibian away with a ragged bellow.
Rising to his feet, Varan zeroed in on the first monster he saw and opened his arms. Letting the winds carry him, he suddenly surged forward towards Behemoth with murderous intent. The two frenzied monsters crashed into one another, wrestling along the ground and rolling over one another until Varan kicked Behemoth off and sent him crashing onto the forest floor. Spreading his arms again, Varan was thrown back with equal violence when a ball of raw frenzy energy crashed into his chest.
Gore Magala stalked around the other two monsters, wings twitching a little. Two glowing purple feelers sprouted from Gore’s head and the sky seemed to darken as a massive burst of frenzy clouded the area. With a loud roar, Gore Magala dug his claws into the ground and swung forward with one of his wings, grabbing Behemoth’s tusks and with a twisted snap broke one of them off.
Behemoth gave a loud trumpet of agony and clutched at his face, swinging his head wildly as Gore nimbly leaped to the side, tossing the broken ivory away. A sudden surge of heat caused Gore to whirl around, smacking his meaty tail into a charging Varan who was sent tumbling to the side in surprise as he crashed through a thick tree and caused the whole thing to collapse down and splash into a shallow puddle.
With his feelers fully extended, Gore could sense the body heat of both monsters as clearly as if the blind monster could see them with eyes. Behemoth’s body temperature began skyrocketing and it lumbered forward again and Gore easily side-stepped out of the way, letting Behemoth tumble across himself and lay there in a heap. The frantic pace of the fight was overwhelming him.
The great beast was dying and he knew it. The pain was starting to become overwhelming to his body, his heart was beating loudly in his ears. He tried to stand until Gore slammed down on his back with his forelegs. Behemoth let out a little groan, trying to fight his opponent off. Gore reared up his head and slammed his jaws down around Behemoth’s fuzzy neck and with one brutal rip, tore open the dying titan’s throat. Shuddering, Behemoth gurgled a few times before laying still, finally dead.
Varan was dying too, he could feel it in his heart. It slowed down to a crawl as he breathed raggedly against the cool forest floor. His eyes felt heavy and his head throbbed. As he inhaled more of the virus that corrupted and poisoned him, some part of his mind was lulling him to sleep.
No, no he couldn’t sleep yet. The sounds of flesh and bones being crunched and feasted on made Varan wearily open his eyes to see Gore Magala happily eating the corpse of Behemoth. It was him that poisoned him and made him sick. His heartbeat began to get faster and his strength began to return as a newfound rage overtook Varan. Could he sit there and die while his tormentor walked away? No.
His muscles bulged and the triphibian stood to his full height. A dark purple smokey aura began to exude around Varan’s body as it turned a sickly purple, red veins appearing across his membranes. Although unaware of the change, Varan let loose an even more powerful roar than before. He had overcome the lethal effects of the Frenzy Virus and had become an Apex.
With newfound rage and determination, Varan leaped forward and slammed into Gore Magala with his claws, sending blood and scales flying and revealing a chipped golden skin underneath the scales.
Gore let out a squeal of pain and thrashed back with one of his wings, decking Varan in the face and forcing the other monster to stumble back. With an outraged cry, Gore swung both of his wings forward and slammed down on the Apex’s head only for Varan to reach up and catch the powerful wings with his hands.
The two monsters pushed against one another, claws digging trenches into the earth as they pushed against one another in a brutal test of strength. With a frenzied screech, Varan threw Gore Magala to the side and rolled it over on its back. Mounting the monster, the lake-dwelling amphibian ignored the claws digging into his sickly purple hide and began tearing into Gore Magala’s face, neck, and underbelly. Blood splashed around them and more of the golden skin began to peel away until with a desperate shove Gore finally pushed the murderous Varan off of him.
Both monsters panted roughly, the horrific lizard circling around Gore Magala slowly. One of Gore’s feelers twitched, and he turned in time to Varan’s movements. As long as his scales flooded the already flooded forest, he would be able to see the amphibious reptile.
Tired and bleeding, Varan nevertheless had never felt more alive in his life. He exhaled slowly, a thick miasmic cloud of pure frenzy virus coiling into the air. He had to end this soon. Spreading open his arms, he took off towards the canopy of the forest, bursting into the sunshine high above them both.
Gore swiveled his head, trying to find where Varan was going to land after he had flown upwards. Had he run away already? No, something told him that this fight was far from over. He began to walk slowly, spreading his battered and bruised wings wide. He gathered his scales, clouds of the lethal Frenzy Virus he had shed gathering around him.
With one mighty flex, he had shot upwards like a rocket. Breaking through the canopy, Gore Magala’s body exploded violently in a massive shower of Frenzy Virus, letting out a roar that shook the forest. Just as he was able to pinpoint Varan’s location did he realize his mistake as Varan swooped down and drop-kicked him hard from behind. The branches breaking beneath him, Gore was sent hurtling back to the forest floor with a meaty splash as his body crashed onto the ground.
Gore struggled to stand, letting out a roar of agony as Varan landed on top of him, one of his wings buckling under the reptilian’s weight. Leaning down, Varan grabbed Gore Magala by the feelers and jerked up suddenly, causing another squeal of pain to elicit from the Unknown Wyvern. He flailed and bucked frantically, trying to shake the triphibian off of him with little success. The pressure on his feelers grew more intense and pain surged down from his head and across his body until with a sharp crack of bone, Gore Magala’s feelers broke entirely. With a final rear of his head, Varan was flung off of a trembling Gore.
Blinded and in immense pain, Gore Magala knew that if this continued he would be dead. Despite his bent wing, Gore Magala took off into the skies to try and get away from Varan. Holding his head aloft, Gore fired where he thought he heard the draco rise again from the canopy and was rewarded with the sound of Varan’s roar of pain. With this chance, Gore ignored the pain he was feeling and tore off into the skies to get as far away from Varan as possible. He would remember this, and if he could grow stronger…
Varan landed back on the forest floor, rubbing his bleeding and pulsing red chest. He had won but the pain hadn’t subsided. His muscles bulged and he looked around, wild eyed and crazed for anything else to fight. In the distance, he could hear Aptonoth grazing in the distance. Anger surged through him, anger he had never felt before as the pain increased. With a crazed roar, Varan took off to the skies again to begin hunting his new prey.
Elsewhere, a warning notice was given out across the various towns. Four hunters walked up the quest maiden, sliding over the necessary paperwork to hunt an Apex Varan that was running loose in the forest.