Lord Luparn and the Colossal Skeith: Part Three
Aethia flew high in the sky, her keen eyes searching the ground below her. She had followed reports of the Skeith's movements and his ever increasing size. She had finally found the beast, now six times as big as he should be. He was some distance from her, crossing grassland which had a few tall trees dotted across it. The day was drawing to a close and the sun hung low in the sky.
She knew that her best chance of success was to follow the family motto and attack the monster at dawn, but first she had to be certain of where he slept, so she could begin the battle at an early hour.
She dipped her wings and banked to her right, putting her on a direct path towards it. She hoped he wouldn't look up and spot her. Her luck held and just as the sun dropped below the horizon, the Skeith lay down in a sheltered spot behind a boulder.
Aethia circled around, gradually decreasing her height. She selected a tree that was a short distance from the Skeith's resting spot. From there she would have a clear view of the Skeith, allowing her to gain any insights to him, as well as seeing if he moved anywhere. The dense foliage of the tree should provide her ample cover as well.
She landed in the treetop, rustling some branches as she did so. The Skeith was immediately on alert. "Who's there?" he growled. Aethia heart pounded in her chest and she feared she had been discovered. She didn't want to get in to a fight right now; not only did it go against the family motto, but she had been flying hard all day and was too tired to battle. After a few worrying moments the Skeith seemed to settle back down. It took several minutes more before Aethia felt safe again.
She watched the Skeith for a while. His movement slowed and pretty soon she was sure he was asleep. She decided that he wasn't going anywhere and she should get some shuteye herself.
She was just beginning to drop off when she heard a great roar. Terrified that the beast was attacking, she fumbled for her weapon. The roar came again. Her eyes darted around the tree trying to find where the Skeith was, but she couldn't see him in the gloom. Every movement gained her attention but still she was unable to spot him. The roar came a third time and Aethia had gathered enough wits to realise that it was coming from below her. At first her eyes scanned the base of the tree. When the roar came the forth time she was able to trace it, the Skeith was exactly where he was before. When he made the sound again she realised that he was in fact snoring and not roaring at all.
It took her some time to recover from the scary experience, and even longer for her to be able to get back to sleep, as the loud snoring kept her awake. It was a little over an hour later that she finally fell asleep again.
She couldn't have been asleep very long when she was awoken by the sound of cracking bone and tearing of meat. Her eyes flew fully open and she touched herself trying to discover what part the Skeith had bitten off. Realising there was no pain, and that the chomping was still below her, she looked for the Skeith. He was still in his spot, but had woken and was eating some meat as a midnight snack.
Once he had finished, he curled back up and promptly fell back to sleep. It took a long time for Aethia to recover from the harrowing experience. Thinking you were being eaten alive can make it really hard to go back to sleep and it was a long while before she was able to do so.
She was woken again; this time the whole tree was shaking and the roar of the Skeith was coming from its base. She must have been spotted. She again scrambled for her armour as the monster continued to roar and shake the tree. "Come on, come on," he taunted.
She had managed to get her chest plate on, the task made all the harder by the shaking of the tree. "I have you now," snarled the beast and the tree shook even harder. She slammed her helmet onto her head, pulling down the visor.
"You thought you could hide from me, but now I have you," cackled the Skeith. The tree gave one massive shake and he sighed with relief. "Finally I got rid of that stupid itch," he said happily.
Aethia realised that the beast hadn't spotted her at all and wasn't trying to shake her down. He merely had an itch and was rubbing up against the tree to try and get rid of it. The Skeith returned to his rock. It was at this moment that Aethia noticed her sword had fallen to the ground, shaken off by the Skeith.
She waited until she was certain he was in a deep sleep before dropping to the ground to retrieve it. The noise seemed to disturb the beast, so she waited a little longer for him to go back to sleep before she returned to the top of the tree.
By the morning she was a wreck, tired not only from the lack of sleep, but also from her hard flying the previous day. Nevertheless she had to face him now; it was her family motto after all. She landed on the ground and staggered towards the monster. She was so tired it was an effort to move her limbs. Even worse, she had completely forgotten about her family history and the tactics they had learned from dawn raids. As she approached, the monster stood and gave her a wicked smile. She gathered her strength and prepared to attack, but at that moment the sun rose over the horizon and shone into her eyes. In her stupor she forgot that when attacking at dawn, you should always attack from the east so the sun is behind you and not in front.
Temporarily blinded by the sun, she didn't see the attack coming, the Skeith knocked into her hard. In pain and knowing she was already at a big disadvantage, she sheathed her sword and with effort took to the air. Flying higher and higher she escaped the monster and flew half-asleep to the nearest town.
Fyrebreaf the Draik Paladin arrived at the small farming village of Albat Cove. The smashed walls that surrounded the village had offered little protection against the colossal Skeith. The pitiful villagers were gathering up what little food remained, a couple of half chewed loaves of bread, some moldy potatoes, half a sack of peas and a selection of cheeses was all they had been able to recover.
As Fyrebreaf approached them, they hoisted their farm tools and took an aggressive stance. Clearly the attack had left them on edge and tensions ran high as they prepared to protect what was left of their meager possessions.
"Peace, brothers," Fyrebreaf said calmly. "I am a paladin of Meridell and sworn to aid you." They lowered their weapons, but they were still tense. He reached into his backpack and handed over his rations. "Here, perhaps this will help."
They took it from him, thanking him. Perhaps it would provide them with enough food until they were able to get more. Fyrebreaf hoped that it would be enough. He then untied a bag of Neopoints from his belt and gave them that as well, perhaps enough for them to get started again. "The mammoth Skeith, this is what caused all this?"
"Yes, sir," piped up one of the villagers, a Brown Elephante. "He smashed down our walls in the night, and ate all we had."
"When it left, which way did it go?"
"South, sir, along the coastal road."
"This is important; how is it compared to a normal Skeith?"
The Elephante sucked in her breath as she thought. "I'd say seven times as big, many more times as hungry and infinitely more dangerous."
The paladin nodded; every time he had heard about the Skeith, he had grown. This was the closest he had been to him and he hoped to find him soon. "I will inform King Skarl, may he reign forever, of your plight the next time I am in court," he told the villagers. "With hope that he will send you some aid." Fyrebreaf didn't think even King Skarl's gluttony would extend to eating his massive meals while the people starved, but he couldn't be certain. With that, the Draik left the villagers, following the road south, in search of the honour of defeating the Skeith.
The road hugged close to the edge of the cliff. Peering over, Fyrebreaf saw waves crashing against the bottom of the cliffs. He continued on for a few miles, slowing as he went around a corner that was concealed by a dense copse. There in the path was the Skeith. He gave him an evil smile. "Foul beast," proclaimed the paladin, "surrender now and I shall ensure that you are given a fair trial."
"Draik," the beast acknowledged, "I prefer your species in egg form, but I am prepared to try eating you fully grown." He licked his lips while advancing upon the paladin.
Fyrebreaf drew his sword, touched the flat of the blade to his head to honour his order and then adopted a fighting stance. The Skeith swung a couple of powerful but clumsy punches at him. The paladin ducked under them and swung his sword at the monster's midsection, but the Skeith sidestepped quickly and the blade found nothing but air.
The Skeith then jabbed his right fist directly at Fyrebreaf. He brought up his shield to block it, but the strength of the impact forced him to his knees. The Skeith punched the shield a couple more times, keeping the Draik in place. Then he swung his left paw in a wide arc at him. At the last possible moment Fyrebreaf rolled backwards and slashed his sword in an overhead swing. This time it found its mark and a red stain formed on the Skeith's blue scaled hand.
"Owwwwww," he cried out, "mercy, mercy!"
The paladin pointed his blade at the monster. "Do you yield?" he asked.
"It hurts so much," he whimpered. "Yes, I yield."
With that Fyrebreaf sheathed his weapon and cautiously approached the Skeith. "Here, let me see that," he said, indicating to the wound.
The Skeith held out its hand and looked pitiful. The paladin inspected the cut, which only appeared to be superficial. "It doesn't look too bad," he informed the beast. "I am surprised a big guy like you even felt —" was all he was able to say because the devious Skeith had swung his good hand to strike a blow on the paladin's temple.
Drawing his weapon and trying to shake out the ringing in his ears, Fyrebreaf prepared to fight again. He was able to dodge and block the first few blows, but then one clipped his head. He took a few steps back to recover, the Skeith smiled triumphantly and leapt at the Draik, knocking him to the ground. Fyrebreaf rolled away feeling groggy.
He turned to face the Skeith once more. The paladin's back was to the cliff and an idea formed in his shaken brain. The Skeith came at him again with those vicious punches. The Draik blocked the first few, but then allowed one to clip him again. He took a few steps backwards, just as he had done before, taking care to step close to the edge but not over it. Once again the Skeith leapt at the paladin, this time Fyrebreaf sidestepped the anticipated attack and the monster found himself hurtling over the side of the cliff.
Fyrebreaf took a few moments to recover, and then looked over the edge to check on the Skeith's fate. He clung to the edge, fear in his eyes. "Help me," he pleaded, "I don't want to die."
The paladin once again pointed his sword at the creature. "Swear to me that you surrender," he informed him.
"Yes, I swear it. Please save me," he answered, his claws trying to find grip.
Taking the Skeith's word for it, the paladin first placed his sword on the ground before laying himself flat on the edge of the cliff, offering his arms to the Skeith. He braced himself against the massive weight of the creature, scrambling and with much effort, somehow between the two of them they were able to get the Skeith safely back up.
Fyrebreaf closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, slowly recovering from the exertion of pulling the colossal Skeith up. He never saw the kick coming and he hurtled over the side.
The kick had damaged his wings, and he was unable to fly. Even Fyrebreaf didn't have the bravery to avoid screaming as he fell towards the waters below. The impact startled him, but he survived the initial crash into the water. Unfortunately his armour pulled him down quickly. As he sank, he fumbled at the straps trying to undo them before he drowned.
At the top of the cliff the Skeith chuckled to himself. "Honourable fool." He saw the paladin's sword and having no use for it, he kicked it over the side to join its owner. The beast licked his wounded hand; it really had begun to sting a bit. He would have to find healing potions at the next village he attacked.
Meanwhile under the water, Fyrebreaf had undone only one strap of his armour and knew his air was about to run out. A glint caught his eye and he saw his faithful blade sinking towards him. Catching it in one hand, he quickly used it to cut the remaining straps and pulled his armour away. Kicking to the surface, the Draik hoped he would make it.
He gasped deeply as he reached the surface and then swam to a nearby beach. He would have to recover his armour later. Lying on the beach his thoughts dwelled on what had transpired. He was angered by the Skeith's lack of honour, but he was even angrier at himself for succumbing to fear as he fell.
To be continued...