Beware the Hydrobeast: Part 2

It’s probably worth your while to read part 1 first. This week, we were to write about a monster. Not something that already exists, like a vampire or werewolf, but one that we have created. Since I already did this with last week’s story, I decided to continue it. It is a wee bit late, but I hope you like it anyway.

“You—you’re Prince Castain?” Melinde stammered.

“At your service.” He smirked, bending forward into a slight bow. Melinde wasn’t sure what to do, so she began to bend her legs in an awkward, stiff courtesy. Castain held up his hand to stop her. “Don’t bother with that nonsense. Let’s go.”

“I still don’t understand how you would find me useful. I have no spells that might work against a monster like the hydrobeast.”

“Have you knowledge of any healing spells?” He scowled, arms crossed. She nodded. “Very well. You will be useful enough.” He then uncrossed his arms and began to stalk back in the direction from which he had come, the warriors following him. Melinde hurried to catch up, her shorter legs turning over twice as fast to keep up with Castain’s long-legged stride.

The party headed north, taking only a couple of hours by horseback to travel what took Melinde nearly a day to cover on foot. They headed for Lake Hurian, the last place the hydrobeast had been seen. With every step they covered, Melinde could feel herself get more nervous. The hammering of her heart in her chest was such that she was certain Duncan could hear it, her hands on the pommel of the saddle were slick with sweat, and she felt as if a large boulder were resting on her chest. She could hardly force herself to look ahead as the lake grew wider and larger with their approach.

Then, just as they were reaching the clearing surrounding the lake, Castain pulled his mare to a stop, Duncan and Marcus following likewise. They all stepped off their mounts, Duncan assisting Melinde singlehandedly. They secured each horse to a tree, while Melinde focused on preventing her legs from collapsing underneath her. She felt dizzy and sick with fear.

The men slowly, warily approached the shore of the lake, Melinde following several steps behind, her whole body shaking. Once they reached the shore, they stood there for several moments, waiting for the hydrobeast to appear. Nothing happened. The only sounds were the wind rustling softly through the trees behind them and the chirping of a few birds.

“Perhaps the hydrobeast has moved on,” grunted Duncan. Marcus nodded his head in agreement. Castain shrugged one shoulder, turning around to face them.

“Perhaps. I suppose we can wait until sundown and if the creature does not appear, we can head back to the castle.” Castain pulled the silk-wrapped dragonstone from his breech pocket, idly rolling it around the palm of his hand. Melinde began to relax slightly. Her master would be most upset with her for failing to obtain the stone and getting the dragons to ally with them, but he could be mollified if the hydrobeast was no longer a threat.

Suddenly, Castain stiffened, stuffing the stone back in his pocket and drawing his sword as he pivoted back to the lake. Duncan freed his flail from his belt and Marcus reached for the battle axe strapped to his back, both of them moving to flank Castain from behind. Melinde strained for any sign of the hydrobeast but the lake remained calm. At first, she could not understand what had startled the prince into drawing his sword, but then she noticed the silence. No rustling of trees. No birdsong. Just an empty, pressing silence. Her heart began its frantic staccato once again.

All at once, the surface of the lake burst open, water rushing up, up, up. It paused several feet above, and began to slide back down, revealing the monster. It was tall, taller than any creature Melinde had even seen in her life. The rounded head was smooth, with gigantic lidless eyes. A lipless, wide mouth hung open, with rows of razor sharp teeth inside. Its slender body, with long, slim fins where its arms should be, had a ring of tentacles instead of feet.

The hydrobeast used the tentacles to propel itself forward, heading straight for Castain and his guard. As one, they all took a long step backward as the beast came closer, their weapons held in defensive positions. Melinde was paralyzed with fear. She could do nothing but stand and watch the monster get ever closer, the three men now standing directly in front of her. Every instinct she had was screaming at her to run, but she could not get her feet to obey. They remained rooted to the spot, her brown eyes wide and unblinking.

Duncan and Marcus swore, springing forward in front of Castain and swinging their weapons as they approached the creature, trying to find an opening without getting too close to the tentacles that were now thrashing around on the sand. They did not succeed; instead, both of them were struck by the waving appendages and thrown in opposite directions, flying for some distance before landing with a simultaneous thud. They did not rise.

Castain raised his sword higher, taking one tentative step forward. Then another. He leapt back just in time to dodge one of the writhing tentacles that swept forward, nearly knocking him to his back. “We cannot get close enough!” His movement was just enough to bring Melinde out of her fear-induced trance. “Do you know a spell that can help?”

“No,” she replied. “Wait! Maybe.” She closed her eyes and took a big breath, willing herself to focus as she raised her hands up, palms facing towards the monster. A small light began to glow from her hands, growing brighter and brighter, swirling blue and then yellow and then brilliant white. Her eyes flew open and she pushed forward, flinging the white energy towards the still-writhing tentacles. As soon as the spell hit them, they stilled as if frozen in place. The monster roared in anger, thrashing its smooth head forward as if to attack with its teeth, but Castain and Melinde were too far away to reach.

Castain rushed forward, slashing at the creature’s scaled lower body with his sword while Melinde ran towards Duncan. She crouched beside him and placed her hands on his back, closing her eyes again until a bright yellow light seeped out from her palms. The light radiated over Duncan’s back and he stirred. As he slowly sat up, she rose and moved over to Marcus to heal him as well.

Both men rallied quickly, snatching their weapons up as they joined Castain. Duncan moved behind, striking the hydrobeast with his flail until it turned towards him. Meanwhile, Castain and Marcus hacked at the creature’s midsection with sword and axe, trying to cut down the body like a tree. They each took one side, slashing and cutting while the beast cried out in pain and frustration, trying and failing to snap at them with its teeth. The tentacles remained motionless. Finally, after several moments, the two men managed to cut through the body and it fell forward onto its face. It did not move.

All three men stood where they were, weapons still drawn, panting from exertion, eyes on the felled creature. They waited a few moments, then, just as they were lowering their weapons, Duncan shouted and jumped back. “They’re growing back!”

“What are?” Cried Melinde, as the hydrobeast slowly raised its head from the sand. She took an involuntary step back.

“The tentacles! It’s not dead!” Duncan continued to retreat, Castain and Marcus joining him. Once they put some distance between themselves and the slowly rising hydrobeast, they bolted back towards Melinde. “Can’t you do something?”

Melinde shook her head. She used the only spells she knew. The monster was now fully upright again, and began to advance on the party with its regenerated tentacles. Just as they all turned to flee towards the horses, Melinde felt the air shift behind her. She turned back around and could no longer see the creature for the swarm of dragons surrounding it. A swirling mass of crimson, emerald, and sapphire attacked, tearing the hydrobeast apart with sharp talons and teeth. She could barely hear the death cries of the monster over the thunderous beating of wings. She and the men watched, dumbstruck, as the dragons destroyed the hydrobeast with ease.

“I believe you possess something of mine I wish to reclaim.” A gruff voice, barely more than a growl, spoke from their left. Castain and Melinde turned towards the voice, startling when they saw it belonged to a large silver dragon. The queen. Castain reached into his pocket, clutching but not retrieving the dragonstone within.

“Do not attempt to deceive me. I can sense Dragon Eye’s presence from leagues away. It is how I knew to find you here.”

“The—what?”

“That stone is the eye of the First Dragon. With it, we can see all that it sees. It, and us, have been blinded for centuries. Then you,” the queen turned to Melinde, “stole it from King Andreus and we could see at last. We have done the task you set out to ask of us. Now we require our payment.” Slowly, reluctantly, Castain withdrew his hand from his pocket and deposited the stone into the queen’s waiting hand, the dully gleaming talons closing around it. She nodded slightly.

“It…sorrowed us when the old king Regulus attempted to control us with this stone, and sealed it away from us. It is…good that it is back with its rightful owner.” The queen spread her silver wings now shining in the moonlight that bathed the clearing. “Perhaps you have not seen the last of us, Prince.” Silently she took off into the night, flanked by the other dragons.

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