Hydras are horrible creatures. One had lived in the swamp that was frozen to death when the plane of ice opened onto our world. I was happy it had been turned into a icicle, I dreaded the thought of tackling one of the multi-headed beasts. And here, for the entertainment of these horrid elves, came one larger than anything I had imagined. This beast had eight heads before Blargle began her magic. Three were consumed in the first assault, fire burning the heads down to the stumps. And they would not grow back because that’s the trick. Fire prevents the heads from regrowing. It was lucky that Blargle seemed to favor spells with fire. Otherwise each head destroyed would regrow into two.
One of the heads struck out at her, delivering a wicked bite to her left leg and she punched it in the eye. Blood coursed down her leg and she staggered back, avoiding two more attacks. The battle was not going to end well, even if Blargle lived. I had to do something dramatic.
I glanced around at the six. They were spaced around the great opening so far apart that if I attacked them, I could only reach a single one of them at a time. It would take a dozen strides to reach the second and by that time, blighted ogres or worse would be running up those ramps. I had the fire stone, and my mace. Well, technically I had my entire back pack as well, but I knew of nothing in there that could help with this situation. If only I could think of something spectacular.
Blargle had taken another bite, this time in the side. She was limping back, but the hydra was down to three heads. Odds were not good in either of them surviving the battle. I was not sure if hydras had venom or not. Seems the histories I read were not clear on that. Perhaps it was just not worth studying. Probably no one that got that close survived to be studied. I was not willing to watch as she died so I did the only thing that came to mind. I slipped the fire gem into my mouth, hefted my mace and jumped.
No one saw that coming. There was a moment of discord as the elves turned their attention to me. I had to fall nearly four stories before I would land on the hydra who itself stood nearly a story tall at the shoulders, not counting the three remaining heads which were on long, sinuous necks.
Surprisingly the moment I leapt, the moment their attention was diverted, the hydra stumbled. It side stepped for three great lumbering strides and its heads whipped around wildly, confused. I would hazard a guess that the elves where controlling it somehow. It was a wild animal, a beast of low intelligence, the elves could use it to attack with more finesse than it had on its own. That’s the impression I got from the shock that echoed in my mind. What these fools did not realize was that the animals natural instincts were likely significantly more deadly than any alterations they would make by directing it.
Yes, that was a lot of thinking to do for such a short amount time, but falling like that toward a creature that could bite you in half allowed for a certain amount of racing thoughts. Besides, I never made it to the bottom. Before I was more than half way something launched from one of the balconies that filled the upper levels of the arena, caught me in eight legs and bore me across the arena on a web as thin as my thumb, and as strong as a steel chain.
It was the elder, Biter. We landed gracefully on another balcony and I looked up to see the others pouring from the gallery. Alfred jumped down two levels, his swords drawn, and landed in the back of the hydra, smashing the beast to the ground. Rufus rolled from Alfred’s shoulders, landing on the ground between the hydra and Blargle at a run. He was pretty spry, that one.
I reached with my right hand to remove the gemstone from my mouth and had a moment of confusion as my mind registered the fact my right hand was gone. Instead I fished the fire gem out of my mouth with my left, while juggling my mace, an awkward moment that could’ve only been more awkward if I’d set the thing off. “Where are the others?” I asked Biter when he set me against a stone column so I wouldn’t fall.
“Scythen leads them into the pits to free the rest,” he said, scurrying to the edge of the balcony. “Where is your love?” he asked me, turning so one bulbous set of eyes watched me. “Lilith explained about her, about your quest, who you are.”
I shook my head. Too much input. “Liz is in the pits, if she’s alive,” I managed to say. “Lilith told you who I am?”
I paused. This should be interesting. “Who am I?”
A rock the size of my head exploded against the limestone balustrade where we stood, sending broken stone outward. Biter staggered back, ichor oozing from his right side where the stones had flayed into him.
He fell back onto his belly, his legs splayed. “Danger,” he whispered, his voice strained with pain.
I crawled to the edge of the balcony and looked between the stone railings. Two levels below me stood three of the blighted ogres. The elves had decided they wanted to play.
“Game on,” I said. I placed a hand on Biter, caressing his spiky fur. “Stay here,” slipping the fire gem in my mouth once more and leapt over the balcony to land on the one below. Imagine my surprise when I found it occupied by one of the blighted ogres, preparing to throw a broken bit of masonry at Alfred. Or into the arena in any case.
See, ogres are large, and the blight made them extra nasty. We’d fought one on our first foray into the city and I had help. I swung my mace as hard as I could before it had time to register my existence. I so dearly love this mace. Luck was with me on that swing as it coincided with his throwing and the combined momentum knocked the diseased thing against the broken balustrade where for a split second it teetered, reaching toward me.
I swung the mace at it again, and it raised its arm to fend off the blow, but that was enough to send it toppling down into the rows of benches below. I didn’t bother to see if it survived, but ran around toward the next ramp down, on the far side of the arena from the remaining ogres. With the others here, there’s a chance we’d survive.
You know how absolutely unlucky thinking like that is in the heat of the moment. It’s a jinx, I know it. But I could not let go of my foolish optimism. I had thought to die fighting the hydra and here I was with allies and a plan to win the day.