Chapter Three: The Hunt Begins Once More

I woke groggily as I attempted to pull myself up from the comfortable thing I was sleeping on. I moved the thing covering me up as it finally clicked. I was sleeping on a dragon, and she was using her wing to cover me up and used her body as a bed for me to lay on. I rubbed my back feeling the pain of what happened yesterday and then I realized that there was no hole in my back! I swiftly took off my hauberk ignoring the holes in the chainmail and lifted my shirt to see… nothing, there was nothing wrong with my stomach whatsoever.

Not even a trace of scarring was left behind on my stomach or my back, I brushed my hands across my face to check, and yep, my cheek was also perfectly fine. As if nothing ever happened, to check I slunk out of the cavern to look at myself in the river. The morning sun glared down on me once again as I left the safety of the cave and saw my reflection, and oh boy I have looked better.

My once dirty blonde hair looked almost brown with how dirty it was, and my once lively blue eyes were now sunken in and made me look older than I was. At least I didn’t have my face scarred up though, and Beau must have removed the spines by herself because I highly doubt I did it in my sleep.

I washed my face and arms then went back inside to check on Beau. I approached her and saw the creature’s spines laying by the cooking pot. I approached her slowly as I saw her peacefully sleeping with her three heads resting on the sleeping bag that she decided to appropriate for herself.

I knelt down and stroked her heads gently, she looked so majestic and yet so peaceful right now. Even from what I’ve been through in the last couple of days it is almost unbelievable how she exists; a creature from a fantasy world was laying before my very eyes like it was some sort of storybook. I stop petting her and decide I am going to need to get some food but there is no way I am going to go out there alone again.

So I did what any other sane person would do and poked the dragon to wake her up. All three sets of eyes opened in a flash as she rose from her slumber; the left and right heads looked around in her surroundings as the middle head looked at me.

Alright now that she is up I can finally go out, “ Beau I need you to come with me okay?” I say while pointing at the cave mouth. The middle head nodded and prepared to follow me as I grabbed my armor and weapons and prepared to venture out once more.

The river flowed beside us as we trailed along the side of it, and now that the creature was gone it made the forest seem much brighter and less sinister. I can never be too careful though the last thing I want is for another one of those things to show up again so that is why I am taking Beau. It almost killed me and it could have killed Beau with its spines had I not blocked it with my body.

I let out a sigh as I came across the first trap as it was destroyed like the one from yesterday, and I am running out of materials to replace them. I guess I have to make do with six traps instead of seven.

Beau’s right head turned toward me and started rubbing against my shoulder as I walked, and my hand unconsciously started to rub the top of her head. The middle head glared at the right head in what I could only presume to be snark and let out a small authoritative shriek, which startled me a bit as the right head reluctantly drifted away from me.

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Then I saw another deer, it was a doe this time standing no more than ten yards away from us completely ignorant to what was standing nearby. I crouched down and Beau followed suit, “Okay, Beau go around and drive the deer this way okay?” I whispered. She lowered her head in response and darted around the treeline without making a sound. I whistled at the deer to get its attention. It turned around looking for what was making that noise only to have Beau jump out of the treeline and unleash a hellish battle cry.

In panic it sprinted in my direction, not noticing I was hiding by the trees only for me to stab forward nailing the creature in its head. The deer collapsed to the ground, slightly spasming on the ground. I yanked the spear from the deer and picked it up to bring it back to the cave. Beau and I quickly made it back to the cave and I prepared the deer to make some venison stew.

I scooped out the rabbit meat from yesterday to see it was a sludge that melted in the pot. After dressing the deer and getting the water ready I placed the meat into the pot, now all I have to do is wait. Beau sat down beside me coiling her tail around my lower body. I looked over at her to see her left head looking at me this time as I could see her deep blue eyes.

I smiled and petted her as I watched the stew boil on the fire, then I heard something coming from outside the cave. “ Stay here okay Beau.” The dragon nodded in silent agreement but stood alert as she watched me leave the cavern spear in hand. I stuck to the wall to possibly get the jump on anything hostile as I crept halfway toward the entrance and I heard something. Voices, human voices! I almost ran forward in glee knowing I might have found some help, but then remembered that these people might be bandits or maybe something worse. I receded towards the cavern slowly.

Only to hear the twang of a bowstring and to have an arrow land a quarter of an inch from my face. Then the drawing of swords and what sounded like shields being pulled off backs, “What happened, did you see something, Johnathan?” I heard a feminine voice say it in perfect English.

“I think I saw something up there.” Says a young man presumably Johnathan.

“You think this might be the Manticore’s lair?” Another man says

“Ha! I wouldn’t put it past that bastard to make its lair in Tyrant’s Cave!” An older-sounding man says.

“Alright men, standard formation!” Jonathan says.

I hear them shifting around down there, I need to come out to them in a way where I don’t get shot because I highly doubt I can hide from that archer guy. Hopefully, I can make it out of this alive.

I slowly drop my spear and yell out, “Don’t fire! I am unarmed!” Though I am currently stuffing the dagger underneath my shirt just in case. I hear arrows being knocked and shields being shifted into a defensive line. “Name yourself sir, and don’t try lying. I have something that tells me if you are, and if you do I won’t be hesitant to cut you down.”

I can’t take the chance that he might be bluffing and I don’t want to involve Beau in another fight. Some adventurers fighting some random dude in a cave probably won’t cause much attention, but having a dragon getting involved would probably be another matter in its entirety.

“My name is James Wilson, I woke up lost in these woods and I don’t know where I am. Who are you?”

“It appears you aren’t lying, everyone withdraws your weapons. I sense no malicious intent coming for Mr. Wilson. As to answer your question, Mr. Wilson, my name is Sir Johnathan Fairheart, the sixth of his name.” I hear the defense line put their weapons away as they part to see a figure walking towards me.

He was slightly above average in height and was wearing some very embroidered platemail that covered him head to toe. The gaps the armor didn’t cover were covered with silvery-colored chainmail. His helmet mirrored mine except he had a fine leather chin strap holding him in place with light red hair peeking out. The sword on his hip also seemed pretty expensive given its high-quality scabbard and the short bow on his shoulder as well.

I could hardly see most things in this cave with the crystals’ poor lighting but he shone like a lightbulb, and oh boy did it make me feel poor. Three other figures appeared behind him. A brunette woman about as tall as him decked out in some sort of half-plate had a pike in her hand and another similarly expensive-looking sword on her hip. She is probably his girlfriend or mistress given how close she was to him and two identical-looking men in their late twenties standing taller than I were equipped with similar armor as Johnathan and held spears and kite shields in their hands.

  Johnathan approached me with a smile, “How are you still alive?” he asked. I have no idea where that came from, but I don’t want to make the fully decked-out monster hunter squad pissed off. “I guess I’m just good at surviving?”

“No, what I meant is how has the Manticore not killed you yet?”

“The hells a Manticore?”

The entire group of adventurers bursts out laughing, but then it got awkward once they realized I had a confused expression on my face. “ Wait, are you saying that you don’t know?” says Johnathan, I shook my head.

“Well, it is an abomination of the truest kind,  a bastardization of life created by a dark alchemist and his apprentice. We have been chasing him for a while. After all, he escaped from the small hovel with his creation after we managed to execute his apprentice.” says one of the armored men.

“The creature has an elderly man’s face and lion’s body, with a tail covered in large venomous spines and we are sure that its blood is acidic. We are afraid that the alchemist might have left his creation behind to stall our hunt for him.” says the other armor man.

My heart started to palpate, so that is what that thing was, “How would one kill it?”

“Well fire would probably be the most effective but mages prefer to be stuck in their colleges and towers, studying the arcane.” says the brunette woman.

“But why would you want to know? Do you have something to hide?” she questions while glaring at me.

“Sophia! Why are you interrogating him, he has done nothing wrong.” Jonathan says.

“John, he’s in the middle of Tyrant’s Cave, and he can’t be a local because he didn’t even know what the Manticore was, meaning he is an outsider.”

“Now that I think about it, doesn’t he look like Alan Smith the rumored bandit king.” says one of the armored men.

Jonathan took a second glance at me and backed off laying his hand on his sword. “Mr. Wilson, we are going to need you to come with us for questioning.” This is bad, Alan Smith must be pretty important for them to halt in their hunt for the Manticore, and there is no way in hell I’m going to go with them. I know that once I’m brought in they’ll most likely torture me.

“Look if you give me a chance to give you all an explanation it will show this is all a misunderstanding.” I start backing away, not making any sudden movements, I lead them to the cavern and show them inside. S***! I forgot about Beau. If they see a dragon they think I am leading them to their deaths. Johnathan pushed past me as I tried to halt them, and as soon I entered I saw… nothing Beau was gone.

“Looking for something,” Sophia says behind me.

“Uh, n-no not at all.”

She looks at me skeptically as the rest of the adventurers go through the cavern. This feels like a home intrusion as they look through the very little stuff I own. “Are You satisfied?” I asked.

They scrounged through everything and found nothing obvious, but then fate decided to pull a horrible trick on me when Sophia ended up kicking the skeleton that I found in the cave. Well s***.

“I knew it, murderer!” Sophia says, pulling out her sword, preparing to strike me down. Only for Beau to jump down from the ceiling and crush her underneath her body.

I pull out the dagger and blitz Johnathan, smashing him the temple with the pommel and giving him an uppercut. “ Beau, don’t kill them!” She looked at me as she had now had both of the armored men pinned to the ground, jaws inches away from their throats. She snorts in contempt at them as she backs her heads off and grips their heads with her talons slamming them into the ground, cracking the stone below them. Well, I guess head trauma and a concussion doesn’t qualify as killing.

I rush to everyone’s sides to see if they still have a pulse. I press my fingers to the sides of their necks and thank God they aren’t dead. I know they would have tried killing me, but this was due to a misunderstanding where I could see where they were coming from.  Plus, I don’t think I could take a life unless I absolutely needed to because I am not some sort of sociopath that murders those he considers nuisances.

I rounded up everyone and used the remaining rope inside my bag to hogtie everyone and strip them down to what kept them decent — don’t want someone with a hidden dagger to blindside me like how I did to Johnathan– and until they managed to wake up I had some stew with Beau.

A few hours later the adventuring party woke up to see me having a second helping of venison stew and Beau standing behind them. Sophia was the first to notice that they were stripped down almost to their skivvies. “Y-you bastard what did you do to me!?”

I raised my eyebrows nonchalantly, “If you think I defiled you whatsoever you are mistaken Sophia, I am no rapist.” She tried to struggle out of the bindings only to feel Beau place her right leg on her back, which made her think otherwise about trying to escape. “ Hey, I just might want to let you know that I didn’t kill the first time around, I just want to talk.”

“You call this ‘just talking’” Johnathan says.

“It is a safety precaution for me in case you try to kill me, and if I wanted to kill you I would have given you more than a love tap on the side of the head.”

“Then why in the world would  there be a skeleton here?” One of the now unarmored men said. I can’t tell them apart because they are identical twins. “ I found the body here when I came to this cave and had the equipment I am wearing now, and only a foolish murderer wouldn’t throw out the body. I was also worried more for my survival rather than disposing of that body.”

That and I kind of forgot about it, because I had more pressing matters at the time. “ Besides there is not much I can get out of you besides holding you for ransom.” They all looked at me in shock.

“Wait, wait I never said I was going to hold you for ransom. I didn’t want to fight in the first place. I planned on asking you for directions if you didn’t try to kill me as soon as you saw me, and I have no problem letting you go as long as you can somehow assure me that you can keep a secret about Beau.”

“Who’s Beau?” Johnathan asks. I turn him around and point to the three-headed dragon pressing her front legs on his girlfriend’s back. He stares at her in awe and wonder, only for Beau’s right head to return to look with a withering gaze.

He unconsciously mutters out, “She’s beautiful.” The dragon annoyed by his stare turned her head away.

“Where did you find a Griffin like that?” Johnathan asked me. I looked at him in confusion, he has got to be messing with me right?

“Yes it is a real beauty, how long have you had her?” One of the twins asked. All of Beau’s nostrils flared; she really doesn’t like being called an object, so I went over to them petting her heads rubbing them affectionately. “I have had her ever since she was an egg.” These people actually believe she’s a griffin!? Maybe dragons aren’t so common that people don’t know what they look like.

Johnathan’s eyes go wide like one of those fangirls that meet their favorite pop star. “Are you saying that you are a Griffin Knight?”

“Uh, yess?”

His eyes light even more, oh no. “ I knew that you were someone important! Especially when you knocked me out with such precision.”

Only allowed on

“I am sorry my Lord, we did not know that you were one of the country’s Griffin Knights. I sincerely apologize for my party and I’s actions.”

Hold on a second, shouldn’t his ‘lie detector’ device be going off? Speaking of which, I didn’t find anything on them besides their gear. So that means his ‘lie detector’ is b*******. I say with a smile, “ Yes I am currently on a discrete mission, understand?” Johnathan and his party bob their heads, well as much as they could, they’re still hogtied.

“Mr. Fairheart I will let you and your companions go as long as you manage to take me to the nearest town okay, and what you all know needs to stay between you, your party members, and I. If I were to be compromised something really terrible could happen… especially to the likes of your party.”

They all unanimously shivered.

“Yes sir. I promise that I, Johnathan Fairheart, sixth of his name, swear to uphold what has been told to me in secret and I will not disclose this to anyone.”

Sophia looks up to me in a bit of shame saying, “ And I, Sophia Lockwood promise to uphold this vow, and apologize for the transgressions that happened before.”

The twins also looked at me with solemn faces saying, “ We Otis and Marcus Fairheart swear to uphold this vow and apologize for the transgressions from before.” Then I felt something connecting us all together as if they had signed a contract with me.

“Now that I know that I can count on you not betraying my sign of goodwill I shall be free and you will take me to the nearest town”. Johnathan once again tried to nod his head only for it to hit the stone floor again.

I quickly untied their bindings and returned their equipment to them. As they were placing their stuff back on I turned to Beau who was still giving off a feeling of hostility towards the group, especially towards Sophia given how both her middle and left head kept giving her ugly glares, which is probably why she was changing into her gear as far away from them as possible. I stride up to her and hug her middle neck, “I have to go for now Beau, I promise I’ll return okay.”

I then point to the stew, “There is still food in the pot. If you get hungry, I will be back soon.” I could feel her heads slowly wrapping around my body and could feel the sadness coming off from her as I gently tried to break free. I let her keep the embrace up for probably more than it needed to but I am technically her father figure, so I understand that she would have some attachment issues.

I gave her one last final pat before I went off with Johnathan and his adventuring group. It’s kinda crazy that I have only known Beau for three days yet I feel so attached to her. Then again my three days have been her whole life. I sighed as I left the cave wondering what would be in store for me once I got to town.

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