There first mission was simple enough, to explore the woods as far as they could and report back when they found an impediment, but so far the monsters alone were impediments, and they had to fall back after a few hours.
The four fell into the chairs around a table near the door, trying to catch their breath from their hearty jog to the Wolfe from the woods.
"That was crazy, those monsters were...too strong." Byrd wheezed.
"Agreed," Cathryn gasped, resting her head on her arms laid out on the table, "but if we do that again, we're going to get stronger, though, it'd be nice to have a crutch on the way."
"Huh, thought you was a little proud for a crutch, Cat." Byrd chuckled.
"I'm not stupid, we're sorely outclassed out there, we need to get rid of the monsters faster." Cathryn sat upright and made her slow but steady way to the kitchen.
"Maybe she's hungry?" Kokoso wondered, shrugging.
"Probably going to get some water." Byrd groaned, head pressed to the table.
"Food and water sounds good about now." Maria sighed, feeling too worn out to exert herself to get something to eat. Maria looked up to find Cathryn returning with a tray of four plates and cups.
"You're my hero!" Kokoso screamed, leaning back, eyes fixed to the plates, "Hmm, steak, how is this already done? I expect it to be rare or something, but...hmm!"
"I had this in the oven before we left." Cathryn explained, "It was already cooked, it was just staying warm."
"Foresight won the day!" Byrd exclaimed, eagerly cutting his steak to bits before digging in.
"After this, let's try to find patterns in our attacks that will allow us an easier victory next time," Cathryn suggested, "Kokoso could bash any target with his shield, or he could shield, let the enemy hit it, and then Byrd or I could strike, if it's Byrd, then Maria could dash to the monster's flank and strike, and when it turns to her I could bring down the ax, but if I strike before Byrd, I suggest he stabs the enemy to give me some distance."
"It's good for a slow battle," Byrd remarked, "but sometimes force and speed are key, we could enchant our bunny's weapon with multiple elements and I could drop him into the battle, he could devastate the enemy from there."
"Or we could give her the enchantments," Kokoso pointed at Cathryn, "if she could swing that axe faster, she could wipe through entire armies of those wolfish monsters!"
"I think we should work on trying to fight alone, together," Maria began, "that way we'll be able to split the enemies and fight the five or ten monsters we might have to fight one day, so I say we should take turns, watching each others backs and swooping in if we get overwhelmed."
After lunch the team opened the restaurant, and after that they planned strategies, discussing points in the woods that could give them an advantage.
This routine lasted for a few days, though something seemed odd to Maria, it was in the very air, but it was likely just that winter was subsiding, leaving spring to take over in it's place.
The next day Maria noticed the sky was an unearthly red, she darted outside to find the whole village had poured out to witness this phenomena, through the chatter she could find Kokoso's voice, near those of Byrd and Cathryn.
She waded through and found them, like everybody else, in their pajamas.
"Maria, the sky!" Cathryn exclaimed, shaking her head, "It's not supposed to do that!"
"Meet me in the woods as soon as your dressed." she turned around and Byrd grunted like he'd been struck.
"What, that's not a monster!" he blurted, words tumbling over one another.
"Still, could be related." Cathryn shrugged, "It's the first astronomical day of spring, aren't the seasons just as much part of nature as man and beast?"
"Fine, I'll go get my armor." Byrd sighed, "We ought to consult Mother Goose first and foremost."
"As much as I'd love to ask her advice," Kokoso said, pointing at the blue lightning, dancing along the arch of the sky, in the midst of the red sky, seemingly radiating from the midst woods outward, "something tells me we don't have much time, that red part is inching it's way to us!"
The group split off and quickly dressed in their armor and grabbed their weapons, then met up outside the woods. Maria's shack was closer to the woods than anyone else so she had the opportunity to look inside, but one look revealed red auras and blue and black fog surrounding the monsters, and kept her distance.
"What's with those monsters?" Byrd wondered.
"I think they're strengthened by the Spring Eclipse," Kokoso said, smiling sheepishly as the group gave him quirked eyebrows and curious frowns, "what, this is like an eclipse, and I don't feel especially warmer, so it's like...there's an eclipse."
"Fine, good name." Byrd nodded.
"I think the Eclipse is coming from whatever the monsters are already affected by," Cathryn hefted her weapon in front of her and led the approach, "the closer they get the stronger they become, but that source is also stronger now...if that's true, then these monsters will hurt far more than usual."
"So we're testing that now?" Byrd coughed.
"Well, time's not on our side," Maria shrugged, "and we're use to these guys by now, we've got this!"
Suddenly Cathryn rolled towards them, stopping so she was poised to dart back into the battle, "Try to dodge these guys, squirrely here hits harder than usual!"
"Might I recommend," Kokoso began, "that Byrd tries 'winging' it?"
"Bad pun," Byrd rolled his shoulders, "but I get it."
"We're right behind you!" Kokoso shouted, as the three followed Animen.
Byrd flew up and sent a gust of air rolling the squirrel monster towards the team, who commenced their attacks, Cathryn danced around to the monster's back, and Kokoso gave it a heavy bash with his shield, at that time Cathryn had time to enchant and raise her axe and bring it down on the enemy with a fiery thud, and Byrd swooped down to strike it with his icy lance, freezing it, Maria finished the team's attack with a claw engulfed in a gale, which had the added effect of sending the squirrel monster into a tree, where it fell and dissolved.
"What a team!" the group jumped and turned to find Mother Goose watching them, a slight smirk on her face, "You're stronger together, one day this unified might will surpass my own, I look forward to that day."
"Mother Goose, I wanted to consult you," Byrd explained, "but the red was already bleeding across the sky, should we have come to you?"
"No, not at all, not if it was against your judgement." Mother Goose approached where the squirrel monster fell and sighed, "Thank goodness, this material is the same as always, that means the monster is only more powerful, and not a more powerful form, this means that it has the same attack as before, knowing where the openings are and when to strike is crucial...though I take it that the feat you've accomplished has resulted in what I call "leveling up" because it levels the battlefield."
"Yeah, I feel a little tougher than before." Cathryn nodded.
"So, it's like that, is it?" Mother Goose smiled, "Then you will find it easier to increase your power, which comes from harnessing the power of this land, or by defeating these monsters, breaking their bond to the land and setting them free, but of course, that comes with the risks that you're already aware of, more risk often means a better reward...just be sure to gauge the situation carefully before taking risks."
"There's no turning back," Maria turned to the path leading deeper into the woods, "the only thing to do is stick to our plans."
"You four really are something else, I'm glad that our home is protected by you." Mother Goose bowed before leaving.
The four delved deeper into the woods in utter silence.
"Something's wrong." Kokoso sighed, "It's too quiet to be normal, there's not even a bird or bug around here."
"They must be drawn to it's power." Cathryn concluded.
"That didn't take long." Byrd gritted his teeth and stared at the ground.
"Ha, you two are funny," Kokoso chuckled, "always at odds, it seems."
"No...not this time." Byrd sighed, "Usually she'd have to explain it, but I see her thinking."
"Hmm, what's this about?" Maria asked, suddenly yanked from her thoughts.
"If you had a chance to become stronger, wouldn't you? Then these monsters still possess thoughts, seek opportunities," Byrd groaned, "the animal they were still has a mind, somewhere in there, and basic tactics with it."
"But what tactics aren't basic?" Maria folded her arms and smiled at her companions, "Smash shield to head, stab with lance, bring down the axe, strike with claws from the flanks, all basic and...honestly, pretty pathetic, but when used together, they seem like pretty smart moves, huh?"
"Yeah, but unlike them," Byrd sighed, "we don't get to change form and become even stronger than we were, we maintain size and form and still have to struggle."
"It's that struggle that makes the end worth it," Cathryn said, unaware of her faint smile as she stared ahead, "to overcome is a grand feat, one I aspire to."
"Okay, things got personal." Byrd chuckled.
"What, I can't help if I want to be pur-oud of myself." Cathryn winced as Byrd gave her a sad smile, "Yeah, I know that sounded weird, okay? Not over the purr thing yet, but I will be!"
"It's good to have goals outside the current situation." Kokoso said cheerfully.
"But?" Byrd and Cathryn inquired.
"No, just...that, I mean it, I think we should all have something to come back to!" Kokoso leaped to the front of the group and turned to face them, walking backwards, "One day I'll be closer to my siblings, and I won't be just a means for them to explore the Wolfe!"
"That'll be the day!" Byrd cried, clasping Kokoso on the back, "I want to stick around to see that happen!"
"Well, Maria, what about you?" Kokoso inquired, "You have something, right? If not, we'll help you figure it out!"
"Hmm...I...want to learn what it is...that I want to find out." Maria said slowly.
Byrd chuckled, "Well, that sounds like a pretty great start, after that?"
"After that, I'll accomplish that goal." Maria said with a content smirk.
"It works." Cathryn nodded, "Though, it's not like this will keep us from getting killed."
"That's not the point," Kokoso shook his head, "the point is to never forget ourselves beyond the daily grind of keeping the monsters at bay."
"I can work with that," Byrd smiled, "we all need something to keep us from running out to be heroes."
The three fell into silence at that, but they weren't silent for long, as something fell from the trees behind them. Before them was a giant hummingbird, staring at them with with it's large, beady eyes, wings sending gusts of air at the four, before lurching forward. The young heroes jumped backwards to find the hummingbird hadn't darted out like they thought it would.
"This is going to be tricky." Cathryn growled, fleeing with the others, slightly bent forward as she kept the axe drawn.
"Not really, it's got a lance, so do I." Byrd smiled.
"Yeah, but that lance is a part of the monster, your lance is something recently forged." Cathryn pointed out, "I'm afraid this one's out of our league, unless someone decides to reveal some kind of incredible power."
"I'll wait until it stabs me to figure out if I've got some kind of godly powers, until then, I'm just going to keep on running!" Byrd shouted, "So...what now?"539Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡTNa0piQINx
"Cathryn, how would you fight Byrd?" Maria inquired, looking over her shoulder to see when to dodge the monster behind them.
"I would back into a corner, let him stab, dodge the stab, and then counter." Cathryn replied decidedly, "I see your plan, there's a tree on that cliff, if we can trap its beak and cut the tree down, we could let fall to it's death a cruel method...but we're out of options. Be aware that hummingbirds are famous for flying backwards and forwards, seemingly unlimited in their options of sudden movements."
"Okay, work on the tree, hummingbirds are too fast for your weapon type anyways, your axe might not cut it this time!" Byrd remarked.
"I think it will." Cathryn replied easily, "It is a tree after all."
"That isn't even close to what I meant." Byrd groaned.
Maria, Byrd and Kokoso turned to face the giant bird monster and took up defensive positions, "I'll stand between it and Cathryn!" Kokoso announced.
"Good, I'll see if I can't teach it a lesson in lance techniques!" Byrd smirked, then turned to Maria, "I think we should strike when the hummingbird hits his shield."
"Good idea, and I'll experiment with elements, and tell you what works." Maria replied.
The heroes followed that pattern, Maria wielding two elements at once, one for each claw, striking until the attack didn't bounce off the feathers, "Ice works, but lightning does even better."
"What are the upsides to either?!" Kokoso shouted losing his nerve as the hummingbird stabbed repeatedly into his shield, he knew it was only a matter of time before his guard was broken.
"Lightning will stun it, ice will increase it's defense, but after a few hits the defense shatters, making each strike more and more deadly, and when used on the wings, it makes it harder to fly," Byrd held his lance with both hands and focused on the element, "just leave the ice to me!"
"I'll stun him silly!" Maria announced holding her claws so the talons of each threaded together, pulling them apart when the charge was built up.
"Cathryn, how's that tree?!" Kokoso shouted, staggering backwards before his guard broke and the bird stabbed him, once, twice, three times, and as he squinted he heard a solid thud and a squawk, he opened his eyes to find Cathryn pinning the bird down with her axe firmly on it's neck.
"Tree's coming along just fine, now heal up, I'm about to turn him loose!" Cathryn warned, struggling to hold the monster down.
"You did good, Koko, didn't know you could take three hits to the chest." Byrd laughed, more relieved than amused.
"Aw, I knew you cared, under that armor of feathers." Kokoso teased, as he sunk his blade into the soil, concentrating on drawing out it's magic to heal him, "So downy-soft, best pillow-heart ever."
"You wouldn't use his feathers now, would you?" Maria chuckled, kneeling next to the hummingbird and wrapping her arms around it's throat, careful not to graze her arm on Cathryn's axe.
"Only if he starts molting." Kokoso replied, a thumb in the air as he withdrew his blade from the soil.
Cathryn turned to the tree again, "Do you think you could hold that guy for fifteen more seconds; I should be ready then."
"Go ahead!" Maria shouted, the hummingbird lurching forward as the axe on it's neck lifted.
"Kokoso, you just keep cutting at it!" Maria shouted, as Byrd held down one of the monster's wings.
"Got it!" Kokoso confirmed.
"Okay, tree ought to be ready!" Cathryn turned around and waited for the bird to be released, but when it did, it backed up before it charged, and its wings glowed green, and when it charged, the three heroes were dragged into it's wake, even as with a resounding crack the bird pierced the bark and toppled it, and unwittingly sent itself and the tree over the side of the cliff.
They were dragged along as the bird crashed below and watched in horror as the ground rose swiftly to meet them.ns 220.127.116.11da2