"Only 3 deaths before the drake have entered the trap. Not bad, I should probably raise the salary of the survivors. So we still have 22 hunters and those 6 freaks. From the report of the scout, that drake should have been born a century ago. That means he is still young, rash and full of vigor. He will try to tear us apart. To eat us alive. Only when he will feel death coming for him will he think with his brain and use his wings to his advantage. Not that it will make a difference."
That was the thought of Daryl Maimedhand, the captain of the hunter group. He was already 60 years old and in his profession, that would be a great age. He lost three of his left fingers against an earth lizard when he was only in his teens. After that, he never underestimated any monster. But the reason he was currently hunting that drake was not because of a treasure in the fairy village or whatever secret those towns could hide. He was here because the Order needs a drake heart for the ritual. Even if someone could mistake them as normal bandits, they will surely pay the price for their ignorance, because they were even more dangerous than even the Church; in their own way.
Even if a world is ruled by one religion, a religion that transcends the race and the age, there is always a rebellion somewhere. It could be a simple schism or something darker. Daryl was part of the Order of Krieg, servitors of the Blood God. If the public were to know his allegiance, he will be instantly hunted, exiled, killed. Because when two religions are in conflict, only death can judge who is the worthy one. For him, living in hiding is half of his life, when he was reborn because of the Order.
Once a famous adventurer, he was betrayed by the Church because he found a relic of the vanished race. When they tried to grab the relic from the hand of his group, he knew that something was amiss. But he never thought that the holy knights would launch an assault without prior notice. None of the adventurers in his group made it, and it was only a miracle that he was alive. That miracle was the very relic that condemned his companions. It was a weapon, that was still filled with the monster cores. By sheer luck, he managed to activate it, decimating the priests and knights that were pouncing at him. But the price for employing a cursed weapon was heavy. The remnants of the spells of the darkest race were encrusted in the weapons. He was condemned to die slowly and painfully, all alone and surrounded by corpses.
It was that moment, when he painfully exited the ruin where the betrayal had happened, when he wanted to the sun one last time, that the Order found him. They took care of him, and even managed to cure him. Even if he knew who they were, he couldn't help but be filled with gratitude toward them. The dark and cruel Order of Krieg had saved him, a passer-by. Even if he knew that some rumors where true, it was still nothing compared to the brutality that the Church had inflicted on him. To thank his benefactors, he taught them everything he knew about monsters, his decades of experience when he was killing them. He was promoted time and time again, and now he was one of the higher warrior fighting for Krieg.
The major specialty of the Order was the partial transformation of his members. For example, Daryl was infused with the blood of a Sphynx that he hunted years ago, granting him the ability to turn his body into sand. Numerous of the hunters under him were strange too. Someone would have the eyes of a gryphon, the other the skin of an iron rhinoceros. Currently, they were hunting drakes for their heart, for a ritual to turn one of his men into a Chosen, the freaks he was talking about.
Only the most loyal could be chosen for this. After that, he will undergo a training with 19 other members. Only the last one standing will be granted his resurrection. But for that, he needs a lot of ingredients, all coming from the most dangerous creatures alive or even dead. For example, they need the core of a lich older than 200 years. And right now, the drake heart was the last ingredient missing but there were only two places where one could find those monsters easily. The Everlasting Peak, north of the dwarf kingdom and the Fairy Forest, that was protected by the elves.
While they could have gone to the peak, and it would have been easier to hunt a drake, a recent event had changed their plan. Apparently, in a small city of the Holy Kingdom of Aria, a ratman was seen. Because of this, the frontiers of all the empires nearby were closed and watched with attention. And since they were coming from the South East, they could only hunt a drake in the Fairy Forest. But it was nearly a death sentence. No one was stupid enough to piss off the elves on their own territories filled with trees without a good reason. That's why, after they finally killed this drake, they will need to get the hell out of here.
This was the main reason causing them to be overly equipped and with 20 more men than necessary. Honestly, he could have toyed with this drake with only 6 of his best men but that would be stupid in this case. First, they needed to kill every fairies. If only one of them was alive, they could call for help and that call will be transmitted to the elves. That's why they made the entire town explode. Of course, it will be heard, but the other towns won't use their distress signal without knowing the situation. Next, they needed the heart of the drake in good shape. So they needed to be precise and make absolutely no mistake. And even if he was sure that his men won't miss a single shot, this time, they won't even fire on the main body. Only the wings will be targeted. But to compensate that, some of his men needed to be a living bait. It was such a pity.
Finally, the drake was in the range of all the siege weapons. At that moment Daryl ordered to fire at the drake. That poor creature didn't even understand what happened before he began to fall. His wings were torn apart by the firepower. After being stunned for a moment, he began to feel pain in his whole body. Three weird-looking claws were stabbed in his flesh. Each time he tried to move, he could see at the end of the rope many men pulling it. As he kept fighting with the men, he realized that he could breathe on all of them and burn them all. But just as he was preparing his attack, he noticed a silhouette in full armor standing in front of him with a huge axe. The last thing that the drake had in mind was how fast that armor was moving.
"Only one swing of the axe and he killed it. As expected of those freaks." Daryl never liked those men after they were chosen. He didn't know why, but he always felt uncomfortable near them. Like Gustav for example, the man that just killed the drake. He knew him before he became a Chosen. He even had a debt, but he thought that he will never let it go, even if he were a Chosen. He was too greedy to let 100 gold go away. But after the ritual, he never spoke about it. Daryl never saw him eat or drink afterward. He had lost his sense of humor too but that was not a big deal, that was even a blessing in the case.
But he was not here to judge. Gustav had spared him the task of killing the drake. Killing him without destroying his body couldn't have been cleaner. Maimedhand ordered his hunters to scavenge the body quickly. Even if no fairy was alive in that town, he couldn't expect his operation do be without trouble. They probably need to get all the important parts in less than a dozen minutes. That's why they were 25 hunters at first. Everyone was briefed and accomplished his job quickly and in silence. Right before his mental deadline was over, the last man stepped away from the carcass and everyone fled as if they were on fire. And for the numerous shields, siege weapons, and grappling hooks, they were left without a regret. They needed to leave the forest before the elves caught up. They had at least 3 days of intense running before they left the forest. A distance that the elves can do in only one day if they were able to pinpoint their location accurately. As he watched all his men close to him, he wondered if he had to sacrifice his men once again. He hoped not.
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