Vulcan was flying, flying high above an unknown landscape. The land was rocky and dotted with shrubs. Massive waterfalls poured down from high cliffs, and the sun burned bright in the sky. Vulcan's eyes widened, for this was the most beautiful land he had ever seen.
All of a sudden, there was a rumble of thunder. Vulcan looked back and saw storm clouds gathering impossibly fast. Soon, a downpour had started, the cold rain pelting his scales continuously. Vulcan increased his speed, hoping to find some place for him to take shelter.
The rocky highland abruptly vanished below him as he quickly left it behind. Before him stood a massive stone tower, clearly in ruins but still in very good shape. Vulcan quickly rose above the clouds, breaking free of the rain. He saw the top of the Tower poking out just above the cloudline, and he prepared to land.
Despite the absence of clouds, it was dark here. Vulcan stumbled as his talons hit the unnatural, human-made floor. He gasped - just in front of him, in the centre of the tower's platform and with his back to him, was Taka.
"Taka!" cried Vulcan, running up to his friend with long strides. "Do you know what or where this place is?" There was no response from Taka. Vulcan was puzzled, so he repeated his question in a louder voice. When there was still no reply, Vulcan became slightly annoyed and roughly turned Taka around with his wing claw.
Vulcan gasped in shock and horror. Taka's face became furious at the disturbance, glowing red eyes flicking up to glare into Vulcan's. The eyes radiated a feeling of pure evil.
With a snarl, Taka became a wyvern Vulcan had never seen before. It rose into the air on strong wings, the ribbons extending from them lashing the air with every flap. A terrifying roar ensued as Taka flew forward, bent on attacking the being that once thought that the shapeshifter was his friend.
Vulcan abruptly woke up, heart pounding. He looked around - he was back, safe in his nest near Mediatas Village. His two remaining children, Bront and Rell, were curled up beside him, fast asleep. Vulcan sighed and looked out at the cavern exit. From the look of things, it was almost dawn - no sense trying to go back to sleep now.
The nightmare involuntarily slithered back into Vulcan's mind, and he shuddered. But something stopped him. Something from the dream seemed to speak of something to come in the future, or perhaps even happening right now. Taka, Vulcan thought, what's happening to you?
Suddenly, Vulcan decided right then what he was to do. He walked out of the cavern into the fresh morning atmosphere, with the usual sight of Mediatas Village in the distance. A shadow momentarily blocked out the sun, and Reia landed in front of him, a freshly-killed Aptonoth clutched in her talons. You're up early, she commented dryly. Come to help me with the hunting, then? That would be nice.
Vulcan sighed and replied, I wish. I think something terrible is happening to Taka. He went away days ago, and hasn't been seen since. Illeera, Tenris, and Elric all went out to try and find him, but they haven't returned. I feel that something isn't right. I need to follow them, and find them, in the Great Frontier.
Reia was silent for a long time. Then she said, I know that Taka is your best friend. I also know that you would be there for him no matter what. She smiled and gestured with her head to the cave behind him. I'll take over the nest for now. You find Taka and bring him and the others back.
Heart swelling with hope, Vulcan thanked his mate and flew the short distance into Mediatas Village. Syrie and Jin were there to greet him. Morning, Vulcan! Jin yelped. What're you here for? Vulcan gave him a wry smile and told the two of them about the nightmare he had experienced.
When he was done, Syrie whispered, This doesn't sound good. I, too, have been wondering about Taka's whereabouts. If your dream was indeed trying to tell you this... then I think we need to find him.
Vulcan nodded once determinedly. I have already come to that conclusion, he told her. Taka and his friends need to be found. Jin, you're small enough to ride on my back. You'll accompany me and Syrie into the Great Frontier.
Jin all of a sudden became nervous. I don't think that's such a good idea, he moaned. I mean, the Frontier's harsh. The monsters out there would make us into Gargwa fodder if they attacked us! And a Zinogre in the Great Frontier would attract unwanted attention...
Syrie violently snapped her tail, causing a whip-like *crack!* to echo through the still-silent village. Enough from you, Jin. Illeera's your friend, and she's in trouble. If it makes you feel any safer, we'll try to spend as much time in the air as possible, in order to prevent unnecessary encounters with hostile monsters. Vulcan, when do we leave?It turned out to be immediately. Jin, however, requested some time to get his Thunderbugs together. Thunderbugs were tiny insects that usually flew around in small groups, producing electric shocks that could lightly zap a monster or human that tried to catch them. For some reason, they had, over millions of years, developed a symbiotic relationship with Zinogres such as Jin, nesting in the fur on their backs. Thunderbugs were the source of a Zinogre's powerful lightning abilities, as the normally harmless bugs gathered in the thousands when one of the Fanged Wyverns were near. Now, Jin already had a below-average but ample swarm nestled safely in his fur, ready to attack at his command.
Soon, Vulcan, Syrie, and Jin were well on their way to the Frontier, flying over the great river that separated the Frontier and the Central World. Their plan was to fly over the Great Forest and on to Castle Schrade, because they knew that Taka and Relcia had been headed there when they had initially left.
However, something was nagging at Vulcan - a vague feeling that tugged at the corners of his mind, telling him that this wasn't a good idea. But why it wasn't a good idea, the feeling wouldn't tell. Vulcan chose to ignore it for the moment.
Vulcan noticed that, as they began to make their way over the treeline of the Great Forest, the winds were getting stronger. Indeed, it became necessary for him to fight in order to maintain his course, not easy when he had a Zinogre pup on his back. Syrie, behind him, was having even more trouble - being a Pseudowyvern and not a true Flying Wyvern, she was much less proficient in her flying abilities.
As Vulcan looked back to check if Syrie was doing all right in the increased turbulence, the Nargacuga's eyes widened at something beyond him. She shrieked something at him, but the rapidly-strengthening wind was making it impossible for him to hear anything she was saying.
Then, Jin's paw hit him on the head. At first, he grunted and shook his head in annoyance. Then as Jin's tapping became more urgent, Vulcan realized that the Fanged Wyvern was trying to tell him something. He looked back in front of him and gasped. Gathering on the horizon were massive storm clouds, and it was apparent from their size that it was too late to turn back - it was already nearly on top of them.
Vulcan was able to fly for about ten more seconds before the winds began to wreak havoc on his ability to fly. He fought as hard as he could to keep himself back up, belly down, and flying straight ahead. Jin howled in fear and clutched the shoulders of Vulcan's wings even tighter in his claws, trying to keep his position aboard the Rathalos' back.
The storm abruptly increased in strength, becoming too much for even Vulcan to handle. His wings began to tire from their frantic flapping. Vulcan's hearing began to fade, and his vision grew dim. Then, as he drifted into exhausted unconsciousness, the shrieking of the wind and the screaming of his friends faded entirely as he gave himself up to the storm.
The sun was bright, and high in the sky by the time Vulcan woke up. Groaning a little, his eyes fluttered open. He was staring at a ceiling of green, with a huge, gaping hole in the middle. It took him a moment to realize that the green was actually made up of trees, and he had crashed through them.
Rocking back and forth, Vulcan was able to roll off of his back and onto his feet. He looked up through the hole he had made in the trees - there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Either he had been asleep long enough for the storm to have blown itself out, or he had, somehow, ended up a long way away from it.
Beside him, Syrie gave a yowling yawn and slowly woke up. Smacking her jaws slightly, she was instantly awake as she took in their surroundings. Oh no, she breathed. Please tell me it isn't so...
Vulcan gazed at her intently. The Nargacuga had been born in the Great Frontier, so he was sure that she would recognize where they were. It seemed like she indeed did recognize this place, but judging from her reaction, it wasn't exactly a good spot for a picnic.
This is Tide Island! she said urgently to Vulcan. I've never seen it, but my mother told me all about it - and the dangerous beasts that inhabit it. Because of its isolation from the rest of the Frontier, its caves and forests hide monsters unlike anything seen anywhere else... Syrie shivered and drew her legs up underneath her, definitely uncomfortable - and frightened.
A tinny howl suddenly echoed through the forest, sounding like it was not far off. Help! the voice called. I'm trapped! Vulcan and Syrie instantly looked at each other. J'in, he said grimly. And if he keeps on yelling like that, there's a good chance a Frontier monster will find him before we do.
Syrie nodded rapidly, clearly ready to get off this island as soon as possible. It sounds like he's somewhere over in that direction, she told him, and scampered off toward Jin's unknown location.
Vulcan found her standing at the entrance to a cave, a cave that wound deep under the surface of Tide Island, it seemed. Although it didn't look dark, at the entrance at least, the feeling that came from the depths caused an ominous sense of fear to well up within him.
As if to confirm his fears, or perhaps test his courage, another howl emanated from the depths. Syrie sighed. He's down in there. The storm must have flung him off your back and deep into this tunnel. Who knows what lurks in its hellish depths?
Vulcan knew that neither one could imagine such a thing. But he had to rescue Jin, and if that meant traversing this terrifying tunnel, then that was would he would do.
The first part of the cave was surprisingly bright, but still dim. Light flowed through the cracks in the greenish rocks, and the smell of rot pervaded the entire place. There's an awful lot of moss growing here, worried Syrie. Where there's plants, there's plant-eaters. And where there's plant-eaters... She really didn't need to finish her sentence.
They came across the first sign of monster life almost as soon as the tunnel began to wind deeper into the bowels of the earth. A small shape stood out in the dimming light, and Vulcan cautiously approached it in case it attacked. But there was no need to worry; it was a dead Bullfango.
What could have savaged this Pelagus so badly? asked Syrie, voice high from her increasing fear. Indeed, the Bullfango had been torn apart, innards almost completely missing and most of its bones showing. Dried blood speckled the ground. Let's not ask questions, recommended Vulcan nervously. Let's just get Jin and get out of here.
A little more walking caused the tunnel to become increasingly dimmer, and they didn't see the next Bullfango until they were almost on top of it. It was, Vulcan and Syrie realized, accompanied by two more, as well as a full-grown Bulldrome, all in as bad of a condition as the first. I don't like this, moaned Syrie. Neither do I, whispered Vulcan, but we must forge on, for Jin's sake.
Finally, the tunnel widened into a cavern about the size of Vulcan's own back in the Central World. It was almost pitch-black within, and it was only because the floor seemed blacker that Vulcan realized that the floor was gone, and that the cavern dropped who knows how far down.
Gulping slightly to help swallow his increasing fear, Vulcan jumped off into the more black blackness, slowly flapping and making his way down. Syrie reluctantly followed, wingbeats faltering as she shivered from terror.
At the bottom, Vulcan saw that the otherwise completely dark hole was lit slightly by small blue crystals that produced light. It was still incredibly dark, but the added light certainly helped a great deal. In particular, it allowed the monster duo to see the Fanged Wyvern trapped underneath a huge pile of boulders.
Help! called Jin from underneath, his head poking out from under all of the rocks. Vulcan, Syrie, is that you? I'm trapped! Vulcan ran over with a couple of long strides and immediately used his head to push away with some effort the top-most boulder. Help me lift these rocks, Syrie! he said urgently, to which she replied by obliging him.
As the fourth boulder clattered off onto the ground, Vulcan heard a sudden scuttling noise coming from within the shadows on the other side of the cave. A feeling of dread took hold of him, and he doubled his pace. But as he and Syrie continued their work, a sibilant voice hissed from the same corner. No! it said fiercely. The helpless one is mine!
Vulcan roared at the top of his lungs, trying to scare away the hidden monster. But its voice spoke back, this time in a completely different corner of the cave. You can't scare me in my own domain, it laughed softly. I know you can't see me.
Syrie's tail spikes sprung out as she tried to look threatening. Then come out and show yourself! she called furiously. If it's Jin you want, come out and fight for him!The unknown voice chuckled, the sound coming from yet another part of the cave. Looking for a fight, then? it asked rhetorically. Very well then... There was another scuttling sound, and the monster slowly emerged in front of them.
It was a huge, blue insectoid monster, with a round body and spear-like pincers. Several glowing blue organs studded its back, and it gazed at them with cold eyes. Syrie instinctively shrank back from it. The Taikun Zamuza, she whispered. My mother told me of ancient Carapaceons dwelling under Tide Island, living longer than most Elder Dragons and only showing themselves when provoked... This is the worst luck we could possibly have.The Taikun Zamuza hissed softly, stretching out its pincers. Vulcan spread his wings, shielding the trapped Jin from it. Syrie yowled and shook her tail, the combination of shriek and rattle blending together to make one frightening noise. But the Taikun was undeterred, and it struck with its pincers.
Vulcan quickly leapt over the Taikun's thrust, then blasted a fireball in its direction. Somehow, the Carapaceon dodged out of the way and produced a ball of lightning with its pincers. It scuttled rapidly toward Vulcan, the fizzling ball of deadly electricity held high over its head like a Barrel Bomb.
Before the Taikun could throw its projectile, Syrie swatted its legs with her tail, causing it to trip and drop the electric ball. It exploded with a flash of light and a scattering of lightning bolts, on the ground a few meters away.
The blue Carapaceon crawled forward with pincers held out menacingly. Backing Syrie up against Jin's prison, it quickly formed and hurled another ball of lightning, throwing it directly at Syrie. The Nargacuga jumped straight up, allowing the ball to crash into the pile of boulders. Several rocks tumbled off the pile during the impact, and Jin's head perked up with new alertness.
A plan formed in Vulcan's mind. He shot a fireball at the Taikun, just high enough to have it whiz over its head and get its attention. Hissing with rage, the Carapaceon flung not one, but two more lightning spheres at the wyvern, which were each narrowly avoided. Both smashed into the pile of rocks imprisoning Jin, causing over half of the rocks to either tumble to the ground or disintegrate into dust.
Enraged, the Taikun Zamuza swiped again and again with its pincers at Vulcan, trying to slice him to shreds. Expertly, Vulcan rose into the air and avoided the swinging appendages, and they once again hit Jin's prison. The flailing blows struck the boulders three times before the Taikun got control of itself and faced Vulcan and Syrie once more.
By now, there were only three more rocks holding Jin captive. With all of his strength, he pushed upward, causing the rocks to shift. He gave one final heave and the boulders flew off of him, setting him free.
Immediately, he barked an order to his Thunderbugs, and they flew out from the nooks and crannies in which they had hidden and combined their power to strike the Carapaceon with a bolt of lightning. However, having Thunder abilities itself, the Taikun only felt a small jolt. It turned and, seeing its once-helpless foe free, clattered forward on its spindly legs.
But something stopped it. A low, gurgling growl echoed from the darkness beyond. The Taikun froze, pincers waving in the air. Vulcan, Syrie, and Jin also stopped dead, hardly moving as they tried to detect the new monster.
Another growl, louder this time, sounded from the shadows. This time, the Taikun screamed in fear and rapidly burrowed through the rocky floor with its pincers, leaving no trace of it behind. That left Vulcan and his friends at the mercy of their new, unknown foe.It didn't remain unknown for long, however. Two blazing red eyes flared in the darkness, and the monster slowly crawled out of its shadowy lair. It was a massive Pseudowyvern, a little bigger than Vulcan. Its finned tail swished back and forth powerfully, and its head fins vibrated slightly. Its claws were a bright red, and when it opened its mouth, its multiple sharp teeth were dripping with bloody saliva. Vulcan realized with a sinking feeling that this was the monster that had killed and eaten the Bullfango in the tunnel that they had traversed earlier.
Syrie, what is that thing? yelped Zin, shaking madly with fright. The Nargacuga was speechless for a long time, then she answered, The Demon Pariapuria. One of the most feared creatures in the entire known world.
Suddenly, the Pariapuria stood up to its full height and roared, the sheer noise causing rocks to fall from above. Vulcan cringed at the noise, then shouted to his comrades, Let's get out of here! Jin, on my back! We need to get off this island as quickly as possible!
The Zinogre instantly leapt onto Vulcan's armored back, securing his position with his strong claws. Vulcan and Syrie took to the sky on their powerful wings, just in time to dodge a massive ball of pre-digested meat and acid, vomited up by the Pariapuria. Vulcan involuntarily shuddered and rose out of the deep hole as fast as his wings would carry him.
The atmosphere became darker as they left the dimly lit cavern. By pure instinct, not to mention desperation, Vulcan and Syrie located the tunnel leading out to the surface and flew for it as full speed. But a sound came from behind him, muffled by the additional noise of Syrie's bladed wings chopping at the air - fear stole through Vulcan's heart as he realized that the sound was the Pariapuria's wingbeats as it gave chase.
The epiphany that the Demon was chasing them made the two wyvern friends double their pace, desperately flying through the winding tunnels and turning corners in the nick of time. Another guttural roar emanated from behind them as the frustrated Pseudowyvern increased its speed as well.
Gradually, the tunnel became brighter and brighter as they neared the surface of Tide Island. Vulcan stretched his wing muscles to the limit as he pumped harder, gasping for air and having the adrenalin flooding through his hollow bones. Syrie was close behind, but the Pariapuria was gaining.
Finally, at the sight of a point of light at the end of the tunnel, Vulcan, Syrie, and Jin burst out of the cave and into the sky over the tropical island. The Demon Pariapuria followed, but hissed in fury as the hated light burnt its frog-like skin. It dove back into the cooling darkness of the cave, roaring its rage at its escaping prey.
Vulcan's breathing returned to normal, and Jin's claws relaxed their grip slightly. Tide Island was now behind them, and they were heading for the mainland. Where do we go to find Taka and the rest? called Syrie from his port flank. Where did you find him in your dream? Vulcan thought, then answered back, I was flying over a rocky, lush landscape full of cliffs and waterfalls. Then, I found Taka on top of a tower that rose above the clouds,
Syrie was quiet for a little while, and then she spoke up once more. Alright, it sounds like we need to head for the Highland, then cross that realm and find the ancient Tower. Maybe that's where we will find them.
The Flying Wyvern found a thermal and soared upward, seeing the mainland looming in the distance. We will find them, he said determinedly, almost to himself. We WILL find them, or we will die trying.
To be Continued...