Alexander Hauer had not expected much to happen when he had
first set out on his patrol route – after all, as a Lupine scout, the lands and
passages and pathways that he traversed through were barren and most often
inhabitable, as they were obscured by overgrowth and already inhabited by many
species that it would not be particularly wise
After all, such was the delicate balance of nature – a single pound’s worth of added pressure, and the entire system would be placed into peril of crashing down upon him – upon him and the rest of his pack, his clan, his family, his species.
His right hand ever present upon the hilt of his broadsword, the blond – haired Lupine carefully ducked under the branches of a partially collapsed tree, being cautious to avoid even brushing against the curtains of moss that hung off of it for fear that this would cause the trunk to collapse the rest of the way.
If that were to happen, he thought, it certainly would not have any good outcomes – even if he somehow managed to survive, the crashing sound that it would surely make would carry and travel through the air for miles –
And there was no telling how many Serpentine scouts were also up and about in this particularly uninhabited segment of the Battlelands.
They were unlike Alexander, unlike his clan and family – they only had one form rather than two, and it was permanent, forcing them to remain constant with their human torsos and long, large, legless tails of ten or eleven feet in length – they did not have any liberty to transform whatsoever.
And yet, even against the Lupines in their feral forms, the Serpentines were masters in the wielding of the sickle sword – given that their forms allowed them an impossibly high degree of agility, it was almost impossible to dodge their strikes, as such had been what had kept the two species at this bloody stalemate for so many years.
They were a deadly enemy, the snake-men – and therefore, this made Alexander’s own job as a scout all the more important – for the more knowledge of these lands that they gathered, the larger the advantage that they held over the Serpentines grew.
Just behind him –
Out of the pure instinct that had been embedded within him so deeply during the times of his own training, thanks to his elder siblings, Alexander wheeled around in a single flash of movement, his large broadsword now drawn and held steadily in front of him as his golden – brown eyes darted back and forth, back and forth, searching for any sign of –
The very last few inches of the tapered end of a serpent’s tail, flitting just behind one of the widest tree trunks in the area.
I’ve got you now!
Alexander would be taking on this Serpentine warrior alone, yes, but he would not back down now – after all, it was his duty, and it was what he had trained for – to punish these creatures for all of the crimes that they had committed against his own kind.
His entire body tensing in preparation for the bloody combat that was surely soon to come, the scout charged forwards in a burst of speed, sword held out in a defensive stance in front of him as he prepared for the other warrior to emerge and to attempt the first strike –
However, much to his surprise, nothing of that sort occurred.
When he had reached the tree, Alexander was quite surprised to find that there was no trace of the supposed Serpentine anywhere to be found.
Had I imagined it all…?
And it had happened again then – the flash of movement, the whip of the very tapered end of the tail – except it was farther away this time, meaning that this Serpentine was most certainly attempting to evade him – and he was determined not to let this occur.
He chased after the fleeing Serpentine with a ferocity that he had never displayed before, leaping over the fallen trunks of trees and large, moss – covered rocks, easily keeping up with the evasive maneuvers of his target as his blood practically boiled within his veins.
It was his moment to prove himself – to the clan, to Hilde and the rest of his elder sisters and brothers, he would show them, yes he would, he would show them that he was worthy - !
By now, he had caught up with the Serpentine, not quite agile enough to grab hold of his green – scaled tail, but he was certainly close enough to see that he had strangely long and tangled black hair, close enough to see how this Serpentine did not, strangely enough, have his dual sickle blades strapped across his back –
However, it was much too late to consider what this meant now – placing every last trace of his effort into one last burst of speed, Alexander lunged forwards, grabbed hold of the Serpentine’s surprisingly bony wrist (and this was unusual indeed, given that Serpentine warriors most usually had incredible arm strength) and yanked backwards roughly, disrupting their momentum and sending them both tumbling to the ground.
In an instant, Alexander had clambered back to his feet, his sword out as he approached his fallen and dazed opponent, the point of his sword at the very tip of the snake – man’s throat –
And it was as if the Lupine scout had been frozen in place.
He had never looked a Serpentine in the eyes before – and now that he was doing exactly that, Alexander realized why he had been told not to so many times.
The Serpentine’s eyes were a bright, vivid green, his pupils being two long, vertical slits – and although such an image had always seemed predatory to Alexander, within his own mind, as of now, this particular Serpentine only seemed desperate.
Vaguely, Alexander could recall the numerous myths and legends that he had heard about how the Serpentine people could hypnotize – and he pressed the tip of the blade further into his throat, drawing several beads of blood.
And yet, he still did not move – not even as Alexander slid the blade forwards, hesitantly (as although Hilde would most definitely scold him for it, he was nervous about killing another being), making a shallow cut, as if indicating where the blade would once again land when he would swing, just as he had been trained, to decapitate –
But none of that had happened – for at this, the Serpentine’s eyes had rolled back into his head and he had collapsed the rest of the way onto the ground, his slender, once – tan face having turned deathly pale, presumably out of fear.
The sword slipped from Alexander’s hands, and the blonde – haired scout dropped to his knees.
So close –
And he had been too afraid, too cowardly, too weak – even though the enemy that he had faced was not real, his enemy had been frightened and skinny and equally as weak – the challenge was nowhere near as close as the ones that he would have faced within battle.
If I cannot perform this, how can I be expected to defend the clan successfully?!
Yet, regardless of his obligations, it soon became clear that he would be unable to carry through.
His mind only partially willed it (and that part had been instilled by his sisters and brothers rather than by himself), his body absolutely refused – and he feared that this was weakness, something that was absolutely dreaded in battle.
However, he now thought, perhaps there was a way – a way to gain some sort of advantage out of this, to gain knowledge rather than the bloodstain of his first kill – there would be plenty of opportunities for that later on.
Quickly grabbing his sword from where it had fallen upon the ground (for although the Serpentine did appear to be unconscious, one could never be sure), Alexander slowly rose back to his feet, now moving forwards and standing over the unusually small half – snake.
His pulse seemed to be normal, as did his breathing rate – indicating that he had simply collapsed out of fear, or out of shock, as was logical, given that it had seemed that he was to be beheaded – but this was not what the Lupine scout had noticed first.
Rather, it was the burn marks that seemed to cover the flesh of his arms and torso, it was the perfectly – perpendicular crisscrossed lines, obviously having been made by some sort of blade or metal thread, that were also prominent within his flesh, some of these wound lines still red with blood.
Surely, such patterns could not have been caused by merely snaring one’s flesh in the branches of the trees – for although injury via thorn branch could be rather painful indeed, these lines were perfectly drawn.
And it was in that instant that Alexander had made his decision.
Not out of weakness, but out of opportunity, he would take the Serpentine prisoner and return to the den – it was not likely that he would be met with much enthusiasm, no, but when he did think of it, the Lupines did have a very limited knowledge of the thought process, language, and behavior of their half – snake enemies – and this would be the perfect chance to acquire such. After all, Alexander’s older siblings had always listened to reason – he could only hope that they would now do so once more.