Taka was beginning to grow worried. The sun had set five minutes ago, and Mylie was not yet back safely in Canyon Village. He paced nervously in front of the entrance to the Desert Ravine, hoping that she'd show herself soon.
He turned in response to a soft noise behind him. He saw Relcia and the others walking toward him, their faces showing that they were just as worried as he was. He rapidly closed the short distance between them and stood there with a stoic expression.
"Mylie's been out there for a while now," said Illeera. "I hope she's all right." Taahnn looked nervous as he said, "I know that the war's over and everything, but what if she encounters a monster like that Pariapuria? What if it's out looking for easy prey, and since she can't speak the monster language..." His voice trailed off at that point.
Tenris stepped forth. "I sent her out there looking for Cactus Flowers," she said, clearly guilt-ridden. "What if something happens to her, like Taahnn said? Then it'll be all my fault..." Elric tried to encourage her, but it didn't do much good.
Relcia looked concernedly at Taka. "What should we do?" she asked him. Taka took a long time to answer - he had never liked the concept of being a leader. He had led them well enough during the battle with the Taltaira, but that was really the only time he had done so.
"If she isn't back within ten minutes, we'll send out a search party," Taka finally said with all the confidence he could muster. There were nods all around. He continued, "I doubt that Mylie is in any danger, because with the war over, it's unlikely that a monster would attack for no reason."
A shadow passed over the ground. Taka looked up and gasped as he saw a huge, winged shape descending from the sky. Tenris breathed, "Necrocula... A Necrocula is landing in the village!" Everyone drew their weapons, except for Taka. He wanted to know what was going on. This was obviously not a common occurrence.
The Necrocula landed, almost immediately spotting Taka advancing upon it. Surprisingly, it made no move to attack - instead, it assumed a non-hostile pose, wings held tightly against its sides and head bowed. You are he? it asked tentatively. Taka knew that it was talking to him. The shapeshifter of which the other monsters speak?
"Yes," said Taka quietly. "I am Taka, the shapeshifter. What is going on? Why are you here?" Even though the Necrocula's eyes were completely covered by dense fur, Taka could tell that it was looking at him, almost with sadness.
It is Tartu, the beast growled simply. I saw him wandering the Sandstone Desert. But that was after I met the other hunter. Taka felt his blood run cold. "What other hunter?" he demanded, then lowered his voice again. "What other hunter are you speaking of?"
The Necrocula paused, trying to gather its thoughts, before continuing. I know not who she was, but she wore strange armor. It was orange and spongy, and covered her like a coat.
Taka got that sinking feeling. It was Mylie! "What happened?" he asked the Necrocula, voice carrying an undercurrent of panic inside of it. The monster agitatedly shifted its feet and fluttered its wings, not wanting to go on.
Finally, it spoke. She woke me up, it said in the same simple voice. I was curious, and my echoes blurry. I did not know she was human. I attacked. Only after I did so that I realized that she was human. But that was when Tartu rushed to her defense.
Now Taka's friends were walking up beside him to hear the story. Elric and Tenris looked at everyone else in confusion as their faces grew more and more frightened. The Necrocula's voice pounded in their ears as they listened. No one could believe what they were hearing.
I assumed that the two were allies. I attacked again, aiming to kill Tartu. But just as I was about to, the other hunter knocked me unconscious. She defended him. By now, everyone was listening in complete horror, but the Necrocula kept talking. There seemed to be more to the story.
I came to almost immediately, the Necrocula continued, but I stayed still, hoping to learn more about their obvious alliance. Tartu asked the other hunter for help in his plan. She accepted. Hearing more than I wanted to, I rose and flew off. Knowing that the shapeshifter was here from the other monsters in the Desert Ravine, I came here to tell him.
There was a stunned silence. Tenris angrily broke it by saying, "That traitor! Mylie actually joined Tartu! I would never have believed such a thing possible!" Relcia looked at Taka again, this time with a fearful expression in her eyes. "Why would our friend do such a thing?" she asked worriedly. "Doesn't she know that she's turning away from us, her life-long friends?"
Taka looked the most grim out of all of them. "Thank you," he told the Necrocula. "You did the right thing, bringing this... unnerving news. But now, we must act on it." The Necrocula nodded in recognition and left, stirring the air violently with its wings as it took off from a standstill.
The Chieftain appeared amongst them so suddenly that it was startling, to say the least. "This is bad indeed," she said sadly. "With two people preparing to meet the Renalimas - if indeed it does appear - I'm afraid bad things will happen to this village. Bad things, indeed."
Illeera stepped up cautiously toward the Chieftain. "Why was Tartu banished?" she asked, getting right to the point. "Why does he want Renalimas to appear so badly?" Mulling over her question for a bit, the Chief nodded once to herself, and then began to explain...
"Not many people of Canyon Village know this, but Tartu comes from an ancient tribe that lived in the Central World, and has long since become dispersed. This ancient tribe was a race of barbarians, killing everything that they came across and leaving a trail of utter devastation in their wake.
"One day, the lengths to which they would go to achieve this destruction went too far. The Emperor of all Bird Wyverns, the legendary monster known in old folktales as the Imperidrome, grew fed up with the slaughter of his brethren. Collecting an army made entirely up out of Bird Wyverns, he led them against the tribe, crushing it in the ensuing battle. Those few that survived fled to a faraway region, this region in fact, the one that you call the Mysterious Beyond.
"The Imperidrome never forgave this murderous race of humans, and declared war on the entire human population. This war, as you know, is still going on, and has only recently been stopped in the region it originated in - the Central World.
"You may be wondering where Tartu comes in. Well, he is one of the ancestors of this ancient tribe, a tribe said to have been cursed by the Imperadrome, so that misfortune follows them like a persistent spirit. So you can imagine how the villagers reacted when he wandered into this village fifteen years ago. He was lost, and only five years old at the time.
"I took him in out of pity, and found early on that he had the gift of seeing the future. Not only that, but I also found that he could see which elements that a certain few humans had the potential to control. Obviously, this includes the four of you - Taka, Relcia, Illeera, Taahnn - and Mylie as well.
"However, as he grew older, he began to predict things that only brought the village misfortune. Although he did occasionally see good things to come, this became rarer and rarer. The rest of the villagers wanted me to send him into exile for this, but I assumed that his predictions were true, and came from fate itself. Of course, now I know I was wrong. It was his curse at work.
"For a long time, Tartu was fascinated by the legends of the Misfortune Raven, the Elder Dragon more commonly known as Renalimas. This unnerved the villagers even further, since the appearance of this Dragon would plunge Canyon Village into such misfortune, it would be mind-boggling. But still, I ignored this and let Tartu stay in the village.
"Then, just a few days ago, he predicted the appearance of Renalimas. I was shocked beyond belief, that my little Tartu, whom I had raised as if he were my own child, had finally seen the arrival of the creature he had been almost entranced by. I had no choice - I had to banish him."
The six were left in total shock by this story. Questions flew through Taka's mind. Tartu's ancestors caused the war that still rages today? The legendary Imperidrome is real? And Renalimas will come soon? He grew sad as the truth settled within him like a stone. And Mylie chose to join him. Mylie chose to help him with his plan.
Such thoughts were interrupted by the sight of another shadow flashing across the ground. Taka looked up, expecting the Necrocula from earlier, back with yet more bad news. But his heart skipped a beat as he saw a familiar shape descending from the sky. It was Vulcan!
Relcia seemed to have read his mind. "It's Vulcan!" she cried, causing everyone to look over at the Rathalos. Already, Taka was rushing to greet his friend.
Taka! Vulcan said in joy. How nice it is to see you again at last! ... I was finally able to find some free time in my fathering duties to come get you - no, the eggs haven't hatched yet! Vulcan chuckled at Taka's unasked question.
So, you and the others ready to go? The Flying Wyvern looked over each of the group in turn, including Tenris and Elric, who were staring in complete surprise at the his appearance. Hello again, Taahnn... Nice to see you again, Relcia... Likewise, Illeera... And who are you two?
Taka introduced Tenris and Elric, and Vulcan nodded in greeting. Elric managed a kind of shy wave, and Tenris gave him a mildly flustered smile. Obviously, the idea of communicating with monsters was still new to them.
Where's Mylie? asked Vulcan, looking around the cramped village. We need to pick her up before - what is it, Taka? He had taken note of Taka's worried expression at the mention of Mylie's name. With a deep breath, Taka hurriedly explained the recent events that had been conspiring, with Relcia and Illeera occasionally pitching in.
When they were done, Vulcan looked very grim. We can't just leave, then, he said at last. We need to stay here and help the village until this Renalimas has been vanquished and Tartu and Mylie have been stopped. Taka nodded determinedly. He hadn't had an adventure like this since the Taltaira rescue a year ago.
Suddenly, he heard the Chieftain gasp behind him. As one, Taka and his friends turned around and saw them. Walking into the village as if he owned the place was Tartu, and behind him was Mylie!
"Plotting against us, hmm?" Tartu asked casually, eyes darting around and taking in the scene before him. "Not a very good idea, Thunder. You see, soon Mylie and I will be the ones with unstoppable power, and you all will be helpless against us." Mylie nodded in agreement.
Vulcan growled at the sight of the traitor, making Tartu cast a bored glance his way. "So this is the Rathalos that you had been telling me about, Mylie?" When she nodded, he went on, "I'm not impressed. This wyvern will be insignificant against the might of what is coming."
Tenris took a step toward the pair and snarled, "Let me guess. Your precious Renalimas, right?" Tartu chuckled at this and replied, "Yes and no. Renalimas is still a long way away, but the misfortune it brings is already beginning to affect us. You see, a horde of monsters is converging on the village - by some rotten luck, they are all lost and hungry, and are coming here, desperate for food and ready to tear anything that gets in their way to shreds."
Everyone stiffened at the words "some rotten luck". They knew what he meant, of course - with Renalimas steadily coming closer to the Mysterious Beyond, the bad luck they would experience would just get worse and worse.
A faint, echoing roar emanated from the exit out of Canyon Village. "Would you look at that," smiled Tartu - an evil, twisted grin. "My prediction was right on time."
To be Continued...