Starvation, that sense of emptiness filled Erik’s stomach as he traversed the deadlands. His body feeling weak, his legs wishing they could give away. For three days Erik walked, sheer willpower forcing him forward.
“I won’t die like this…” he promised himself, a dragon’s pride burning within his human heart. He trod forward, dry earth beneath him while he moved about the dead trees.
The land all around him had wasted away, not a drop of water or rain, not a smudge of green in sight. Black, grey and brown were the colours of this land, joined by the intoxicating violet miasma. The demonic toxin filled his lungs with every breath, sapping his strength.
Erik’s mind though stayed strong, although he might have the body of a human, he still had the soul of a mighty drake. And nothing was more resilient of spirit and mind than dragons.
And dragons were, once, also the greatest of predators.
Erik followed whatever tracks he could find, footprints in the ashen dirt, damage to the not so lively terrain. He wasn’t just moving in a random direction, nor following memory and trying to get his bearings. The terrain had changed too much for him to remember this place.
(“How long?”) He asked himself, (“How long has it been?”) indeed he recognised what kind of trees once lived here yet he could not for the life of him remember the place. Which for a dragon, meant that he hadn’t been around here for a very long time.
Moving such thoughts aside for a moment, he continued following the slight tracks. Damage marks over the trees, strange messes in the earth alongside small, clawed footprints. He knew he was stalking some kind of demonic creature, small as it might have been, anything could be of use at this point.
(“Fiend? No, smaller…”) he tried to guess, as whatever it was it couldn’t fly and neither was it too large. His mind arriving on a conclusion just as he noticed the creature in question, quietly moving behind a fallen dried-up trunk while keeping his distance. Erik glanced over (“Imp.”), to see the little demon lying about.
A lanky humanoid creature with crimson skin, only about two feet tall with hooked black claws and two rows of just as pitch-black fangs. He watched it closely, it seemed to be asleep. (“It knows I’m here.”) but Erik was smarter, knowing how these little tricksters worked.
Imps preferred tight, hidden spaces to fall asleep. To Erik this only meant one thing, this was a trap, meant to lure him in and kill him. (“But why use itself as bait?”) He asked himself, reasoning out the answer through his vast knowledge of these creatures.
Erik guessed it wasn’t alone, somewhere out there more Imps were watching him as he watched it. (“A jest of Imps would contain…3? 4 Imps?”) he strained his mind to remember his teacher’s lessons, dragons having lived for so long had details over so many creatures…
(“They’re distracting me with the one, seemingly asleep, to then ambush me in force.”) A simple, yet effective plan. He decided he’d ruin it, for Erik did not want to fall to some measly demonic runts.
Quickly he looked around for something to use as a weapon, seeing only dry sticks and stones about he picked up the two largest rocks he could carry per hand. Erik doubted he could throw it and hit, he was too tired for that, (“Mauling it with a stone in the head should do the trick.”).
He rose from behind the trunk, keeping his ears peeled for any sort of noise while making use of all the information his puny human eyesight could provide. There was no backing off now, the imps would simply follow him.
He needed to deal with this while he knew where at least one of them was. Using its position, taking in the terrain around it and then surmising where the others were probably hiding…Erik made his move.
Dashing from behind the trunk (“Bash the sleeping one’s head in, turn to deflect the ambush from the one inside the trunk on the left and then deal with the possible other two watching fr-”) He began planning it all out in his head, before suddenly tripping over his own feet.
Erik rolled and tumbled forwards, coming to a stop, he groaned in pain and annoyance while reopening his eyes. Meeting the hungry and amused gaze of the black-eyed imp. He immediately moved to back away from it, confusing his feet’s movements once more, he only fell back and onto his ass.
The imp pounced, a hissing screech filling his ears as the creature grappled onto his left arm. Erik moved to stand while waving the creature about, as it clawed at his weak skin and bit into his soft flesh. He screamed in pain and rage, turning just as another leapt at his right leg.
They ravaged his limbs, frenzied at the taste of blood. Their black fangs and claws oozing out liquid miasma, infecting each wound.
Erik flailed about before kneeling down and bashing his left arm into a nearby pile of stones. The sound of cracking bone resonated with the imp’s scream of agony, causing the second one to back off from his now miserably clawed-at leg.
But Erik did not stop there, now having one imp within his grasp he mercilessly began beating the creature. He grabbed it by the neck and sunk his other fist into its face, over and over he punched it, putting every bit of strength he had behind each hit.
Infusing his every attack with the raw rage and guilt that filled him, blinded by the pain he barely noticed that the imp was dead. Its skull had long caved in from his relentless attacks, yet he continued, the sound of his fist sinking into brain matter going ignored as it reached his ears.
Then the other imps re-joined the attack. One pouncing over his back and putting its arms around his neck, it began to choke him. A second returned to biting away at his already injured leg, ripping off more skin before digging into his flesh and muscle.
Erik screamed out, falling to his side as his leg gave away. Enduring through the pain he began slamming his leg onto the ground, bashing the imp over and over. He then reached back with both hands and grabbed the other imp by its arms, pulling it off his neck which only caused it to grip onto his shoulders.
He felt the other imp let go of his leg, having taken enough of a beating to give up. Yet the one on his back wasn’t letting go, its claws digging deeper into his flesh. Erik also didn’t give in easily though, continuing to pull even as its claws ripped his skin. He pulled it off, raising it above himself he briefly glanced at it.
Its empty black eyes open as wide as its salivating black maw, as it screeched and screamed, clawing away at his hands and arms while trying to escape his grasp.
But Erik wasn’t letting go, as he changed his grip from its arms over to holding it by both legs with only his right hand. The creature being lanky enough to be held as such. He then rose, hearing the third imp prowling about him, hissing ferociously.
As he rose back to his knees it pounced once more, Erik meeting its attack by flailing the imp in his grasp at it like a mace. Both imps collided, both briefly gripping onto each other in surprise and confusion before letting go.
The third imp was thrown aside, rolling through the ashen earth before regaining its balance. It stood up and hissed at him, its hiss being cut off mid-way as another sound resonated louder.
The sound of bone and flesh being crushed, as Erik bashed the second imp’s head in with a stone he picked up from nearby. Knocking it out on the first hit, he turned to the last imp. The creature seeing both its pack mates taken out of the fight, turned tail to escape.
Dragons did not let prey escape.
The creature spun about to run but Erik had already pushed himself onto it with his one good leg. He grabbed its left arm, clenching tightly as it turned and hissed at him. Erik pulled it over, grabbing its other hand he held it down beneath his body’s weight.
He stared down into the imp’s black eyes, as it hissed and struggled. A fruitless effort, although Erik was weak from hunger and thirst it still had no chance to match a human’s weight and general strength.
He took a deep breath, calming himself from the adrenaline before suddenly pulling at each of the imp’s arms as he spoke “End your pitiful efforts, you vile demon spawn”. Yet it continued to struggle, even spitting in his face from anger.
Erik met its anger with his own wrath, “Cease your struggling, puny vermin!” he roared out, his voice vibrating with power as the sound wave blasted down into the imp’s face. Shutting it up entirely.
The imp stared up at him in absolute terror now, as he looked down upon it with surprise. (“My voice? If I kept my voice then…”) Erik was surprised he had kept some of his identity as kin of dragons, he now wondered what else he could still do.
(“Putting aside that Grim even left me with my powers, I don’t have control over them or this damn body. I need a safe place, somewhere to…hide out for a while”) Erik thought as he stared down at the now trembling demon.
“You speak, do you not?” He asked, controlling his voice to remain active but not blow out the imp’s eardrums.
The imp nodded its head quickly in response “Y-Yes! Yes!” it croaked out, stuttering from fear. Imps were smart creatures. Minor demons with little magical power, but cunning, and with a silver tongue.
“Good, then tell me. Where are we right now? What continent, what land and under rule of which kingdom.” Erik asked, gripping more tightly onto its arms with each word spoken.
“D-Druvia on the main con-continent!” The imp spat out, “The-The Whispering w-woods!”
Erik drew closer to its face, growling “Under who’s rule?” The imp looked up at him in confusion, to which he pulled onto its arms once more before asking “Orc? Human? Demon? Who owns Druvia!”
“Both! B-Both! Humans own! Demon kin take half!” The imp quickly responded, fearing for its life if it did otherwise.
“Huh.” Erik dropped his draconic voice, (“So the pitiful humans actually lasted a thousand years against the Devil King’s armies? Would’ve never guessed. Although I guess they did survive me…”). He chuckled, weary and amused.
He returned to the demon, “You’ll show me to the closest human city.” his voice returned to draconic, he ordered the creature.
Who nodded repeatedly, “I shall! I shall! I point great master to near humans!” assuring him frantically.
Erik didn’t believe it, imps had a knack for lies. “You will, else I’ll be killing you.” He said, before moving his left hand over and onto the imp’s neck. It thought he was threatening it…but Erik was only making sure it wouldn’t move about as he grabbed a nearby stone with his right.
Raising it high, before slamming the stone down onto the imp’s left shoulder. Violet blood splattered onto the ashen dirt beneath them, as Erik crushed the creature’s shoulder. Bashing it with the stone over and over, the imp screamed and hissed in agony throughout.
“Those pesky claws of yours will have to go though.” Erik said, before he switched hands and began bashing in the other shoulder. “While I’m at it, the legs too.” He said, moving onto crushing both the hips too.
The demon’s cries of pain turned hoarse by the time he moved onto the next step, its mouth laying ajar as it took deep, choked breaths. Both its arms and legs laying uselessly about it, as Erik slowly tore each off causing a whole new wave of agonized squealing.
The imp was wheezing, trembling from shock when he was done tearing off both arms and legs. He set them aside, moving back to the imp as it lay in bloody tears. He placed both hands over the shoulder stumps, watching as the demon’s regenerative powers came into play.
The stumps regenerated slowly, the flesh met his palms, then turned to heal inwards. No longer able to recreate the arm the rest of the way, the passive magic focused on stopping the bleeding. Approving of his little test, Erik gathered some stones from around and placed them at each stump. Stopping the healing process from recreating the limbs.
He moved back and away from his surgery patient, briefly watching as it lay on the brink of consciousness. (“It should come around in a few minutes…Until then.”) he glanced back at the two other imps, one laying as a corpse with its head bashed in and the second still unconscious nearby.
Erik tried to stand but his leg failed him once more, looking down at it, he really couldn’t blame it. The demons had made quite the mess of it, not only had they flayed a fair bit of skin off but they had bitten deep enough to rip a muscle.
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Normally Erikathyr would have taken a bite out of something and waited for the wound to heal as he slept but…Erik doubted his draconic healing powers were having much of an effect at the moment, as he watched himself bleed out from the wound.
The blackness on his flesh was just as bad, a demonic infection caused by the miasmic poison these creatures were naturally armed with. Although as he inspected the patches of darkness, he noticed that they were slowly disappearing (“So physically I’m human but spiritually I’m still a Drake?”)
He sighed in relief, demonic infection was one of the worst ailments one could befall.
But what about the bleeding? As he watched it, not only did the wound really not look like it was about to start regenerating but It also hurt like a b***h. “Damn this weak vessel.” He cursed under his breath.
Wincing through the pain as he pulled his leg ahead of himself, straightening it up. Erik then tore off his left sleeve, thankfully Grim hadn’t left him naked, giving him at least a long-sleeved white shirt and brown pants.
He tore the sleeve into two long straps, wrapping one tightly around his leg right over the kneecap and stopping the stream of blood going in. He then took off his shirt entirely, wrapping it around his leg before using the last strap to tie it in place.
Erik then began glancing about, looking for long sticks or branches. Seeing a few, he crawled up to them, ever so slowly collecting a couple. Picking out the strongest two, he inserted them in between the straps before tying the remainder around the sticks again. Creating a make-shift splint.
With the bleeding somewhat stopped and his leg laying straight, he now needed some support to help him stand. He didn’t look forward to hopping one-legged all the way. The sticks that lay about him were either too short or too weak to support his weight, so he looked around for something longer, something stronger.
Yet nothing around could serve that purpose, probably not even the tree branches, which he couldn’t reach either way.
“I’m not crawling all the way either…” Erik grumbled, before a thought crossed his mind (“If I still have my voice then maybe…”). His gaze fell upon the unconscious imp, the bleeding that came off its forehead already having healed over. Erik smiled wickedly “Worth a try.”
He crawled over to the imp, even though its wound had healed he doubted it would be waking up any time soon. Well, it might once he started. He sat before it, sharpening a thick yet short stick with several stones. Creating a wooden stake.
Holding the make-shift stabber in both hands, he raised it high above the imp. (“To the hope that the spirits are not insulted by this tainted blood…”) he thought, before moving on with his plan.
Erik closed his eyes, as he held his arms steady. Beginning to speak in a low draconic voice, a chant “Watchers of the green behold my voice, aid this brother even as he lays surrounded by vile corruption. Accept this sacrifice, as vulgar as it might be.”
He stabbed the stake down, piercing the imp’s chest and rotten heart. The creature woke in surprise, screaming out in pain before beginning to flail and struggle. Even though it struggled, it was already too late.
Its movements began to lag, its voice croaking to a halt until it fell still. Dead.
Erik remained just as still, staring down at the stabbed creature’s corpse. His expression slowly turning to hopelessness. (“Is there really no remaining life? Has this entire forest been corrupted to the core?”)
But just as he began to lose hope, the wooden stake within his grasp began to change shape. He let go and watched as the wood warped and grew, elongating and thickening as the imp’s body shrivelled up.
Before long a tall straight stick lay before him, standing where the imp’s body once was. In the corpse’s place now rested a patch of crimson skin, emptied of its contents.
“Hah…nature hasn’t abandoned me yet!” Erik exclaimed in relief, grabbing onto the stick before pulling himself into standing thanks to its support. He struggled to move still but at least it was better than crawling or hopping about on one leg.
Erik walked over to the bloody and still in shock amputated imp. Standing over it as he reached down and grabbed what used to be its left leg, “So, Imp. What do you call yourself?” he asked before taking a large bite out of the leg.
Staring down dispassionately at the creature, he ignored the foul taste and swallowed its succulent flesh. Consuming what he tore off down to the bone, slowly satisfying his hunger. The imp watched, its expression an even mixture of horror and terror, its mouth moved but no words came out.
Quickly finishing off one half of the leg, Erik glanced down at the imp once more. While turning it around to devour the rest of the crimson meat bathed in violet blood. “Well?” He asked again, speaking out with a draconic hiss this time around.
Which urged the creature to speak “T-Trix! This on-one’s name is Trix!”
Erik hummed in disinterest, as he grimaced at the taste he had to endure “Well Trix, once I’m done feasting upon your disgusting nutrients. We’ll start moving.”
Trix could only shiver and nod, as he watched Erik throw aside bone and reach down for the next limb. Tearing into it with disgust, yet leaving not a pinch of flesh over the bone.