The hydra could hear every twig snap beneath the human’s clumsy feet, and its scent assaulted the hydra’s nostrils like the putrid, decaying flesh of an ogre. The human raced closer to the hydra’s realm, but the blue shades of its scales helped it to blend in with the marshy surroundings.
“You poor, puny manling. You dare give chase to the great hydra?” The hydra’s voice was like a hoard of yellow jackets in the human’s mind. “I am the great hydra Hrothmir. I am he who slew the giants. I am he who destroyed the entire pigmy race.” Hrothmir paused. “Know you not that I am also he who devoured your elders? I can smell their rotten scent on you. I knew exactly who you were the moment you entered these swamplands.”
The human continued racing through the marshes, using the hydra’s voice as a beacon until he could discern its camouflage. Though it only spoke to his mind, he could sense its physical presence the closer he got. He could see the beast’s tail as he rounded the river bank. He could already feel the rush of the attack coursing through his veins with every step. He would have his revenge.
The hydra whipped its dorsal head around as it heard the final crack of dead leaves as the human broke through its camouflage barrier. “Yes. I remember you, manling. You were just a small pest when I destroyed your land, hardly worth the effort. Alas, I can see now that I was wrong to leave such waste. And what a petulant creature you have become.”
The human leaped out of the brush, brandishing his sword with vengeance. “Arrest, foul beast! You may call yourself the great Hrothmir, though I do not see such greatness. Not a head on your bulbous neck could be called intimidating, you glorified snake! You will feel the wrath of Lucios!” He cried as he lunged for one of the heads.
With that, the hydra lashed out with its tail, knocking the human off his feet. Hrothmir roared in triumph, baring five slithering tongues that were thrashing to taste their prey. “Oh, decrepit manling,” the hydra hissed into his mind as he proudly circled his prey. “You dare insult the great Hrothmir? I see how you tremble in fear. I smell the trepidation on your skin. I can taste the lie on your breath. You have no bravery. You are naught but the impotent pest I left in the wake of my destruction all those years ago.”
The human leaped to his feet in rage, sending Hrothmir flying, as if he were a simple rag doll. “You underestimate me, beast, and your weak senses lead you astray. I am Lucios Magnus, slayer of beasts.” He bellowed, taking a step towards the hydra with every word. “It is not fear that you sense but fury. It is not a lie but a promise. You are a wretched beast who has infested these lands for too long. Relish that taste on your slimy tongues, whether you call it lie or truth, for it will be your last.”
Hrothmir struggled to get to its feet and paused, listening to the sound of crunching leaves in the distance. “You are not alone, pest,” Hrothmir hissed into Lucios’ mind. “I see you have brought me a full feast. How thoughtful.” Before the rest of the hunting party could break through the thick foliage, Hrothmir whipped out with his tail and sent two sets of the offensive feet flying. “You all reak of humanity, but that will not last for long. Shall we play?” the hydra hissed openly into all of the minds of Lucios and his hunting party. It was six of them against just five hydra heads. Lucios was feeling confident, even if two of his men were already laying on the ground.
The hunting party circled around the hydra, swords raised for battle. The youngest of the group, Belgar let out a shrill warcry and ran his sword straight through the first neck of the hydra. Hrothmir laughed as the boy looked at the severed head in triumph. A terrible hissing sound and a putrid steam arose from the severed head, and Lucios recognized the pattern of growth as the formidable hydra began to regrow not one but two heads. He had watched the devouring of his village once before when he was but a small child; he knew what to expect.
“You foolish worm. You dare think you can beat me?” Hrothmir taunted into their minds.”I am the mighty Hrothmir, killer of nations, persecutor of man. Your puny manling can not best me. Who’s next?”
Belgar ran forward once more, this time aiming straight for the monster’s massive trunk, but Hrothmir lashed out with a vicious snarl, tearing the sword from the boy’s grasp as if it were just a toothpick. Blegar pulled a dagger from his boot with a cry, “Die, your wretched beast!” Hrothmir snatched him up in one fell swoop and swallowed him whole.
With the taste of human flesh fresh on his palate, all six hydra heads growled hungrily in unison, the sound of a raving swarm of bees. “I grow bored of this game and will waste time no longer,” Hrothmir hissed as he lashed out from all directions, snapping at the hunting party.
The battle grew into a clashing of swords, hissing, and grunts. With each slash at a hydra head, a new one grew, and Lucios knew his men were not understanding their flawed method of battle. “Men!” He yelled, “Aim for the belly of the beast or the eyes! There is no point in making this monster a stronger force.” Lucios took count of his remaining party and saw that only few were left standing, whether snatched up by the formidable hydra or severely injured. He took a running leap towards the heart of the hydra and struck out with his mighty sword.
A terrible screech pierced the air, intensifying as the multiple hydra heads joined in the horrid tune. Lucios nimbly jumped away from the injured hydra, knowing he had successfully drawn the attention away from his injured men. All hydra heads turned to face him, teeth bared. “You putrid beast. You petulant manling. You think you have won today by piercing my flesh, piercing through my scales? Your ignorance disgusts me, and for that and your vain show of bravery, you must die, like your weak elders before you.” Hrothmir threatened as he lunged towards the mighty warrior.
Lucios took to the trees above the marsh, like a harpy of ancient legends. He knew the hydra with its long necks could easily reach him from his perch, but he was counting on that. The raging beast snarled like a rabid dog as all heads searched the foliage for Romulus.
“Oh, puny manling,” Hrothmir hissed with mock pity. “I always knew it would come to this, just as the end came for your petulant elders. You were but a small blight when their end came, but they as well took to the trees, just as you do now. Ignorance must be a familial trait.”
Lucios shifted his weight just enough to break off a part of the branch, sending it crashing down into the center of the beast. Hrothmir thrashed as if mortally wounded before realizing the branch did not pierce through the scales. Lucios recognized his target. “Hrothmir, killer of flies, runt of beasts.” He bellowed in mockery, “You call me ignorant and weak. You slay my men as if they are helpless worms. You mock me as if I am not a force to be feared. But you are wrong. You do not recognize the mighty force before you. You call me manling, for I am man, but I am not only a man. I am Lucios Magnus, slayer of beasts, descended from giants. I have known the way of the sword since the day I learned to walk. I have outgrown even the masters of Glyss. I am no puny manling, and now, you shall pay at last for the destruction you have done to my people.”
Hrothmir was a fearsome beast, but he was not fearful. He readied himself for the final blow of his existence, but it never came. Instead, he was met with a series of blows from the remaining hunting party on the ground. The slashing at his trunk and legs was irritating at best, but nothing to draw his attention from his foe in the brush.
Romulus watched proudly as the party bravely attacked the hydra, and finally his time came. Hrothmir was searching the trees with all heads pointed upward and spread out, the point of weakness was wide open and his for the taking. Romulus knew this could either be the end of him or his foe, but he was confident. With a deep breath, he steadied his sword high above his head, calling on any gods that may be, and dove right into the heart of the beast, driving his blade right through the center like slicing into melted butter.
A piercing roar tore through the forested wetlands, the heads of the hydra thrashing in all directions. “You foul beast!” Hrothmir screeched into Lucios’ mind, “I will not beg for mercy. Finish it! Be done with me at last.”
Lucios made another hefty blow through the hydra, knowing his sword would pierce all the way through to the heart, and the heads began to droop. The roaring came to a halt, and Hrothmir’s mighty form crashed to the ground. What was left of the hunting party whooped and cheered for the mighty Lucios Magnus, now slayer of the formidable hydra. His name would go down in history as a true hero of Glyss.
Lucios slashed off one final hydra head, the one in the center, and carried it atop his sword, like an ensign to the world of his great victory.