Medusa Ch. 11byNovusAnimus©
Time to pick things up again. I hope you'll notice that my prose have changed to a more professional style. Less participial phrase abuse, less pointed description of dialogue, etc.
In the future I'll be making an effort to keep my chapters short. They currently often run 7-10k words, and I'll be aiming for 5-6k from now on. This way I can work in more manageable chunks while also getting you guys updates at a more reasonable pace. Don't worry though, I won't be cutting out or slimming down content, just breaking it apart into chapters.~~
The group traveled in silence, heading North to cut into the wind. With the fire heading toward the South, the group was free to occasionally look back and over their shoulder. Black and orange filled the sky. The maelstrom of angry color spread further and further as the raging flame swallowed the forest and engulfed all of nature in its wake.
"I've never seen a fire like this," Medusa said. She slithered along behind the group as they made their up along the outer edge of a mountain. The trees were sparse enough there to give her a clear view to their abandoned hope. "It's massive, and it's spreading so fast."
"It wasn't started naturally. I don't think Perseus could have done it alone either. He must have had help from someone, or something capable of something like this." Darien stepped back to walk next to the gorgon before looking up to her armored form.
"Help from beast. Fire beast, maybe." Vinn walked ahead of them with the water nymph on his shoulders.
Kallae was quiet. She was unable to look Darien's way as she kept her face buried in the minotaur's fur. She dug her hands into him and held on tightly as she shuddered and trembled with shock. Her legs dangled lifelessly over his shoulder and bounced with each of the giant beast's steps.
"A fire beast? I don't know of any creature that can just... what, breathe fire?" Darien said before looking back to the minotaur ahead of them.
"Don't know." The minotaur shrugged, then reached up to pet the tiny girl on his shoulder as he walked.
"Hey... how's Kallae doing?" Darien stepped up to join the massive creature, a spear in his right hand as his walking stick. His sword remained in its sheath with his shield on his back, fully dressed in his stolen Greek armor. The brute next to him was perhaps his opposite, covered in fur and dressed in only a loincloth. Still, Darien guessed the minotaur nearly twice his height and far, far thicker with muscle and mass.
Vinn didn't respond, satisfied to look ahead and walk silently. He glanced down at the small man next to him, eyes heavy and weary, before returning to marching forward.
"Does she still blame me?"
"No. Sorrow too heavy. She knows not your fault, but... sorrow too heavy."
Darien could only groan and rub at the back of his neck as he looked up Vinn to the girl over his shoulders. She was trembling, shuddering, breaths ragged and eyes glazed with tears and swelling. Little pants and sobs occasionally left her, but otherwise the tiny nymph was silent, almost dead as she sagged over the beast's muscles.
Darien couldn't stomach it. He let himself lag behind the group till he was next to Medusa again. His own sorrow wore him down until his sandals dragged over the rocks and dirt. Each step grew heavier until his found himself leaning against Medusa's side. Her much greater height put his head over her scaled hip.
"Come on Darien, we can get through this."
"I know, it's just... how many people am I going to drag down before we do?"
Medusa frowned down at the small warrior, herself in her stolen armor to his mirror image. "You know that isn't your fault. If someone follows you around and makes life horrible for the people around you, it's their fault, not yours."
"Maybe. That doesn't mean the person being followed shouldn't have done something to stop this stalker."
"Maybe if the person was just a regular stalker. We're talking about the Fates here, Darien." She placed her arm over his shoulder, curled her hand, and twirled her claws in his short hair as they walked next to each other.
"I don't suppose they'll make themselves shown, just so I could punch them in the face."
"I'm sure you'd give them a good thrashing," Medusa said. She leaned down to put a kiss on her man's hair.
Howls forced them to turn. Quiet at first, layers and layers of howls started to overtake the background roar of the forest fire. It rose over the black cloud and heat waves, soon echoing out onto the barren hillside the quartet marched across. They all turned to face the sound and blinked in confusion.
"Wolves? Running from the fire?" Darien said.
"Too loud, too deep." Vinn stopped to watch the fire, massive head tilted to the side as he listened. "... do not know this sound."
"Well, we should keep going." The small warrior pointed to the hill of rock ahead of them. "We have to clear the north side of this mountain to steer clear of... ok, those are getting closer."
The howling grew shrill, active with awareness. They all stood there and twisted in the pebbles beneath them, too shocked to run. The bass of growling throat over the howl of canine barks echoed further up the mountain, and it sent chills down Darien's spine. The sound filled the air, as if an angered cry of the burning woods beneath them.
"Chasing us." Vinn hid his eyes from the sun to look down, rumbling deep in his chest as he gazed over the edge of the far forest. "... we must go. Quickly."
The wood burned beneath her with every step. Rock splintered and water boiled. Ash and soot left a trail of footsteps behind her before blowing away in the winds of the fire.
A single wolf trotted up to join her, and its 3 heads raised to nudge against her extended hand.
"Found the trail have you?"
The beast nodded. With its tongues hanging, it panted into her palm, exhausted.
"Good. Lead the way."
The wolf happily sped off, guiding the woman through the falling trees and flaming bushes. Only red and blistering heat awaited them, and it surrounded every direction with roaring death.
The woman burst into a sprint and quickly joined her companion. The black earth beneath her parted as lightly as ash as her huge talons tore through it. Her tail swung left and right behind her and left its own trail of flame in the air as she began to move faster, and faster. Her crown of massive, curling horns cracked through what few twigs remained in the wake of the forest's demise. Those unfortunate branches erupted into a searing flame before disintegrating.
Faster still, she got down onto her hands and knees and dug her claws into the dirt wolf-like to run next to the 3-headed beast at her side. Soon, another joined her, and another. 9 heads on 3 wolves sprinted beside her, their breath heavy as they soon struggled to keep up with the woman.
She didn't stop. Keeping her friends in sight for when they turned on the trail, she ran next to the through the fire and blaze, tearing up rock and crumbling wood beneath her with her clawed grip. Walls of flame did little to stop her, and the quartet of beasts pushed through the heat and red.
A massive tree crashed before them and carpeted the area in a bellow of flame. Easily 10 feet thick, it smashed into the ground in an explosion of sparks to block their path.
She didn't stop. The beasts dug into the burning bark and forced themselves over the obstacle and through the flames that encompassed it. They tore through the wood, leaped off the trunk and continued, body's still covered in scorching red. Soon, the powerful winds and speed of their march pushed the flames away, leaving unscathed skin and untouched fur.
The woman grinned with victory once they finally reached the edges of the forest. Trees and heat fell away to reveal open air and sunlight. Rocks cooled and earth turned brown and green once more as they left the fire behind them.
She rubbed at her arms, flames licking over her fingers as she shivered in the cool breeze, red eyes looking up and down the wasteland of rock before them. The mountain rose high, wide with the girth of a thousand avalanches, boulders and cracked mineral surrounding them.
One of the beasts nodded, not breaking stride as its massive paws pressed over the unending sea of pebbles. Its 3 heads pointed forward, noses sniffing at the rock as the trail was made obvious. No break, no stopping, the quartet of creatures began to climb after their prey.
"Stand and fight?" Vinn said. The descent was harsh, and boulders cracked underneath each other as every step the running beast made caused a slide of falling earth.
"Up here, out in the open? Even if we could win, that Perseus bastard might find us in the middle of it all and really put a kink in the fight."
"There!" Medusa pointed down the slope to a large town on the riverbank, down from the mountain.
"Take the fight to the city?" Darien said.
"No, but we might be able to lose them in all the people. Maybe escape in the chaos."
Darien and Vinn looked at each other and rubbed at their chins in unison.
"None of us do terribly well in cities full of people." Darien rubbed at his neck and looked down to the small city. "They have a habit of trying to kill us."
"It's either there or out here in the open."
"... crap, alright."
With a loud sigh, Darien started down the hillside. His light form had no trouble bouncing off of rocks, while Vinn crushed half the pebbles underneath him with his massive weight. Medusa slithered after them, and she kept pace as her 30-feet of snake length propelled itself forward across the rocks.
In only moments they closed the distance between themselves and the town. It was a large place filled with mudbrick homes and dozens of intersecting streets. It had no gates or guards, and the group of monsters were free to run straight into its maze of roads.
"This must be a neighboring city of Athens, but..."
"Where is everyone? It's the middle of the afternoon, I figured...." Medusa found herself silent as the group cut around a wall.
The street was filled with people. All of them were mumbling and chatting to themselves in massive groups and migrating from location to location. Stalls were up with tarps and silks to block the sun. The various groupings of merchants were selling everything from fish to jewelry. Togas were being draped over bodies and silks were hung about necks. Meat was being smelled and rocks were being examined. At least a thousand people were minding their own business and idly talking with each other and themselves as the group entered their street.
They all turned to look at the mismatch of monsters.
The crowd erupted in panic and started screaming and hollering. Stalls and stands of wood were thrown aside and fruit suddenly littered the rock road. People climbed over themselves and pushed each other out of the way as they desperately made for their homes. Kallae was forced to cover her ears from the drowning thunder of the riot.
"Oh no no no, this isn't good. How are we going to get through this?" Medusa said. She used her tail to push herself to a taller height and look over the crowd.
"We go through them." Darien set his teeth and marched forward until he broke into a gallop, sword in hand
"This is not good. This is not good," the serpent said. She groaned as she followed after the tiny warrior, all the while shaking her head. "I'm regretting this idea already."
The crowd erupted into even more screams and scampered to get off the streets as the monsters moved forward. Soon it was chaos. Hands and feet started punching and kicking out as people struggled to make way and pushed each other over and onto the stones. Darien paid them no mind. His hand reached out without hesitation and grabbed shoulders, squeezed, and dragged people to the ground to make his path.
All Medusa could see was heads. With Vinn behind her, Darien was soon lost before her in the crowd of limbs and skulls. His helmet disappeared into the swarming mess, his location only given by the tumbling of more-than-average numbers of people.
"Darien! We're going to get-" An elbow sank into Medusa's scales, underneath her stomach. Muscles cramped and caused her to roll forward, torso banging against a few heads before finally hitting the road.
"Medusa!" Darien turned around and quickly scanned for her above the crowd. She was gone. Vinn was there and pushing people aside in as nice a manner as possible. Of Medusa, there was no signs.
"Damn it! Medusa!"
The gorgon pushed herself back up through the throngs of feet and hands. They weren't just rioting around her, they were running from her. They did their best to avoid her, even hitting each other in their efforts to escape, but the crowd was too thick. Hundreds, thousands of peopled pressed to each other and crashed against carts and donkeys alike.
"Get... off!" The gorgon whipped her lower half from side to side, dislodging tripped pedestrians as she finally started to push forward. The hunters were behind her somewhere, beyond the blanket of faces and slapping fingers. She knew they were chasing her, or at least Darien, but through this sea of people she could barely move, let alone help him.
"It's Medusa! Run!"
"I don't want to be stone!"
"Someone call the guard!"
Medusa coiled upon herself as she took a moment to breathe, lungs burning with hyperventilation as she looked around. Her eyes flitted in desperation and looked for something, anything familiar. The people were endless. The commotion and uproar drew more and more crowd, only to incite more of a panic and riot in the flock.
"Got to get out." A loud, annoyed hiss escaped her. She pushed away the crowd with a twist of her body and sank snake scale against muscle and cloth. The force knocked away the humans as if they were weightless animals. Cries of outrage and pain filled the air, but she slithered over them nonetheless. She ignored their struggles as she darted around a corner and into another street.
Guards stood before her in the next street, eyes wide with surprise before they started fumbling to draw their swords.
"Stay back!" she said, eyes glaring with a glow.
The guards, finally managing to get their weapons out and pushed aside the crowd to create room. "You're coming with us, beast. The council of Athens will know what to do with you!"
The man never saw the hound coming.
Leaping from a ceiling, one of the massive beasts fell into the crowd of soldiers, its large weight crushing one of the guards beneath it.
"Oh gods what is that!"
Words quickly degraded into panicked screams and bloody gargles as the 3-headed beast leaped onto one guard, massive jaws sinking into his armor and through to his ribs. Cracking bone quickly brought Medusa's hands to her mouth, only worsened by loud snaps of death rattling in the scream-filled streets.
It was a cerberus hound. Black in color, it was a gargantuan animal of claws and muscle. It tore through the guard without issue
She ran. Turning her back to the beast, she pushed her way into one of the neighboring buildings, eyes wide and tears on her cheeks as she shoved aside the people in her path. More panicked screams followed as she knocked aside more hiding villagers, only to hear them scream again as the gargled shrieks of the dying soldiers continued to echo outside.
Curtains and walls greeted her, and she hissed in frustration while tearing at the fabrics. "Window. Window. Window." Her tail crashed around the room and knocked over tables and pots, only to shatter them under the weight of her snake-length. "Window. Window!"
A snarl grabbed her attention and forced her to look to the doorway. The beast stood there, growling, blood dripping from its maw and clothes in shreds between its teeth. One of its heads raised to glare at her, mouth open, and smoke leaked from behind its tongue.
Medusa hissed loudly and slammed her tail forward. The huge appendage hooked the dining table with her girth and sent it flying toward the monster. It crashed over its head, splintered in an explosion of wood, and threw the dog backward until it slammed into the wall.
She wasted no time and got back to trying to find a window. No luck. With a frustrated hiss she launched herself toward the stairway. She slithered her way up through the winding path, panting with exhaustion, and dragged her massive snake-half up the stairway.
"Aaag!" Suddenly beset by an overwhelming pain, she screamed in fury and looked behind her down the stairway. The beast had recovered and managed to sink its teeth into her tail. What little it managed to force through her scales and into her muscle quickly started to drip blood and left a trail of red behind her as she continued to fight against the massive dog's weight. "Get off!" With all her strength, she raised the mighty creature into the air and ignored its claws and teeth digging into her to hold on frantically. Still trying to pull herself up the stairway, she slammed her tail left and right and crushed the canine between wall and sca0le as she smashed it against the building.
As one of its heads let out a howl of pain, the hell hound let go. Medusa forced her hands to the floor and pushed herself into a slithering sprint until she made it to the roof.
"Where is Darien? Gods, where is everyone?" She twisted around to examine the gashes in her tail. Blood trickled but it didn't gush, a good sign. She slithered on and made her way over the rooftops of connected buildings, occasionally looking down over the edges of the people below. The streets were in a riot. Panicked shop workers and shoppers alike tripping and swarming over each other in fear of something they couldn't even see. With no minotaur to serve as guide in the chaos, Medusa was left alone.
Snarls and barks followed behind her. The beast, beaten and bruised, forced itself up onto the roof and shook itself as it ignored its wounds. One of its heads hung in pained misery, but growled fierce nonetheless as the other two barked at the serpent.
"Damn it!" She put her back to the monster and slithered as fast as her long body would take her. With half of her leaping across before pulling the other half behind her, it was no easy task.
The beast did the same and dived from rooftop to rooftop in pursuit. It threw its weight dozens of feet through the air without issue, the open sky its playground as it hunted Medusa. The brick and wood of rooftops cracked under its claws, prints of its paws left in its wake as the huge hound pounced.
Medusa came to a dead stop as the dog landed on her snake half once more, and she let out a howling scream as its claws sank through her scales. She turned to face it, eyes wide with rage as she looked down at it. One of its heads was biting into her and struggling to pierce her scales with its teeth. The rest of the heads snarled at her, and the distracted one joined back in from its bloody mess to bark with animal hunger before launching itself at her.
She caught it, as best she could. Its size and weight easily overwhelmed her torso and slammed her into the rooftop beneath them. Her armor did little to ease the pain, and she screamed once more as her head thudded against the red, clay shingles. Some of the snakes on her head coughed blood as they were smashed underneath the impact.
Unable to deal with the two massive creatures on a single point, the roof gave way, and both monsters toppled down into the structure. The second floor of mud brick crumbled under the falling weight of the two beasts, and the two creatures were again sent through a destroyed floor and into another stage of the house.