In the days following the Deviljho attack, the Military Bastion underwent an almost suffocating quietness. Hunters from all over frequently visited as usual, defending the Bastion from any monster threat. Bronton and Hydra planned endlessly. And the group of young friends huddled in their barracks, worrying.
Even a few days after the death of their friend Ryka, the gang was saddened into complete silence. Taka pondered endlessly, alternating his thoughts from possible ways to cheer everyone up to the rumors of a Taltaira sighting far away in Minegarde. His friend Relcia, with whom he had grown much closer since the fight with the hungry Brute Wyvern, simply sat next to him, clutching his arm and resting her head on his shoulder in grief. He dearly wished that he could do something to help ease her sorrow.
It was natural that they would feel so upset about this. Most hunters were so used to this kind of thing that the most they would do would be to bury their companion(s) and move on. But these hunters were just rookies, and the Deviljho fight had been their first real hunt. They weren't as used to losing friends as other, more experienced hunters.
It didn't help that Bronton and Hydra were constantly hinting that they start taking Quests from the Hunter's Guild. There had always been a Guild associate in Mediatas Village, helping what few hunters were based there. Apparently, it was about time that Taka and company were to take on simple Quests such as delivering mushrooms or hunting Jaggi.
Sighing for the hundredth time, Kiem polished his Rugged Lance. "You know," he began, "we shouldn't really be feeling this way anymore. I mean, I'm as sad as all of you are, but wouldn't Bronton or Hydra or any other hunter have moved on by now? We're hunters - I suggest that we suck it up and get on with life."
Mylie's eyes flashed. "'Suck it up'?" she repeated with barely contained anger. "We just lost a friend, Kiem! Three, in fact! You could be a little more sensitive!" Stalking over to him, she raised her hand and prepared to slap him forcefully in the face, but Illeera got in the way and held her down. "Calm down!" she ordered. "This is no excuse to fight amongst ourselves! Would Ryka have wanted it this way? And for that matter, would Hornt or Kread have wanted it like this either?"
Before anyone could respond, Hydra stuck her head in through the door. "Hey, rookies," she greeted them cheerfully. "Ready to head back home? It's time to start your official work as hunters!" When she left, everyone simply glanced at each other and began to pack their bags in preparation for the trip back to Mediatas Village.
The trip back was just as uneventful as the previous one, all those weeks ago. Everyone, despite their melancholia, began to ease up a little and grow excited about seeing their home again. They talked for the entire second half of the journey, commenting on how different everything felt.
But when they finally reached their destination, the group couldn't believe their eyes. The village, they had heard before, had been damaged by a rogue Kuarusepusu, and needed extensive repairs. But they had never been told that the damage was THIS bad. The chatter ground to an abrupt halt as they saw the scorched, torn buildings and the complete mess that had once been home to them.
The villagers, old friends and neighbours that they had known all their lives, were hard at work doing repairs. The new hunters were greeted warmly again and again, with each greeting peppered with admiring remarks about their armor and weapons as well as congratulations.
"This is a nightmare," muttered Illeera, looking around at the sheer magnitude of the damage. "And to think that we're trying to protect -" Taka violently shushed her, glancing around fearfully in case someone had heard her. To be honest, he was quite impressed at how badly a single monster had managed to demolish Mediatas Village. I'd love to see the Great Frontier for myself one day, he thought almost wistfully. Then I could see what amazing monsters live there.
The rest of the day was spent helping the villagers clean up the mess. Kiem was actually approached by the Guild Associate and given a hunting request in the Idyllic Ocean. He returned from his Conga hunt just as the sun began to set. Taka glared at the scratched, dirty hunter, Blangonga armor smelling like Conga gas. He probably ENJOYED the whole thing, the barbarian.
Finally, the work was stopped and everyone headed for a good night's rest. One by one, the villagers and hunters disappeared into their homes as the sky grew ever darker.
Taka simply stood in front of the wooden house that he shared with his sister Hydra. It had been so long since he had seen it, and he was immediately comforted by the sight of it, despite the burnt roof and several charred holes in the walls. He didn't even notice Illeera and Relcia walk up beside him until Illeera spoke up. "Home sweet home, huh?" she asked, and he unconsciously nodded.
"It's been too long," Illeera continued casually, as if she was talking to herself. "I've almost forgotten what the village looked like, and then to come home to a wreck... It's almost depressing." Taka just glanced at her, wondering why she was saying these things. It's not like her to state the obvious. he thought. But then again, we've all changed since we last saw Mediatas Village. The twinge of guilt that accompanied that thought was only minor.
Yawning deeply, Illeera patted Taka on the back and said idly, "Good night, Taka," before leaving for her own house. When she had left, Relcia hugged Taka and kissed him on the cheek. "Night," she said simply and quietly, before she left as well. Taka just stood there for a few seconds, staring after her, before finally entering the building for a good, long, much-needed rest.
Taka awoke to the sound of a shout. It was soon accompanied by the sounds of Hunting Horns and hunters running out into the night. As he reached for his Longsword, he heard more shouts. "The Warlord! The Wyvern Warlord is coming!" His heart didn't just sink; it dropped so fast that it nearly singed the Kelbi-fur rug lying next to his bed.
Please let it be just an ordinary Flying Wyvern, Taka thought frightenedly, almost desperately. Someone saw it and made a mistake in their panic. It's only a Khezu, or at worst, a Gravios. Please don't let it be - And then he opened the door and saw the monster, and his stream of self-assurances dried up immediately.It WAS the Wyvern Warlord, more commonly known as the Warlaros. It looked something like a combination of a Rathalos and the Frontier wyvern called Gurunzeburu, with immense wings, a deadly, spiked tail, and an immense horn on its head like a huge Greatsword. Its eyes gleamed crimson in the dark, and the moonlight clearly shone though the tears in its ragged wings. The wyvern's entire body was covered in scars, some smaller, some deeper, and some even slashing through its armored back, cracking it in places.
Taka had read extensively about this rare Flying Wyvern, mostly because he was terrified that he would eventually meet one. The tiny thorns on its single, bladelike horn carried an explosive charge, which would be detonated when the Warlaros slammed its horn into something. It was a master at combat, experienced in the ways of battle, and spent its entire life taking over other monsters' territories. Both its fangs and its tail spines were deadly venomous.The wyvern gave a screeching howl, even more unnerving than the Deviljho's roar. The sound struck even greater fear in Taka than the hiss of the Vengeful Gobul, whom he had actually killed some time ago. Because this time, he knew that the monster he was about to face was here for one reason only - not simply the destruction of one person, but the destruction of the entire village. This was its territory now, and nothing would stop the Warlaros from conquering it.
Or so it thinks! seethed Taka, already running for the monster, attaching Guan to his prosthetic arm. Kiem, Relcia, Illeera, Mylie, Taahnn, Hydra, and two other hunters were already doing the same. Taka calmed as he saw his friends running to do battle beside him, just like back in the Arena Terra. They went through their usual preparation routine - Mylie loaded Pierce Shots into her Agnablaster Bowgun, Illeera dipped her arrows in Power Coating, and Taahnn played some notes on his Basarios Rock.
The Warlaros's eyes narrowed as it picked out nine hunters. Disposing of nine humans, all armed to the teeth, would certainly be a problem. But the Flying Wyvern was a veteran of conquest, having once wrested territories from even monsters such as Rajangs and Tigrexes. It would have to keep its weak underbelly protected, and out of reach from the humans.
The wyvern leapt forward, snapping with its poisonous jaws. The hunters scattered, and retaliated ferociously. Taka aimed for the legs, hoping to injure them enough to topple the Warlaros. Illeera aimed her arrows at its scars, knowing that they'd be easier to pierce than its intact, scaly hide. However, the Wyvern Warlord was expecting this, having dealt with such tactics in the past, and easily thwarted their strategy. It swung its tail out from nowhere, striking Taka and driving him to the ground. At the same time, Illeera was bowled over by the side of its horn.
Illeera got back up and carefully aimed a Power-Coated arrow at its eye. On the other side of the Warlaros, Taahnn simultaneously bashed and played, succeeding in cracking the armor on its left leg. Catching sight of Illeera's arrow, the Flying Wyvern suddenly jumped straight up, propelled by its powerful legs and wings. The arrow was released, flying straight and true, but too late - the Warlaros was no longer there. The arrow sped onwards at thirty miles an hour and struck Taahnn. He couldn't even scream as the arrow pierced his kneecap with an audible *crack!*.
Arrow to the knee, thought Taka grimly as he got up painfully. That would be almost funny, if it weren't for the dire situation we're in. He inspected his body for any punctures, courtesy of the Warlaros's deadly tail spikes. Finding none, he leapt back into the battle, trying to keep his distance from the monster while at the same time trying to get some good strikes in. Not as easy as it sounds - or even looks.
One of the other hunters, a big fellow in Tigrex armor whom Taka recognized from the parliamentary meeting in the Military Bastion, put away his Hammer and helped Taahnn up, trying to get him to a sheltered area. Unfortunately, the Warlaros noticed, and it was only quick thinking from Relcia that saved the duo - she threw a Dung Bomb at the wyvern, driving it back and diverting its attention from the helpless Taahnn.
As the Warlaros prepared to attack Relcia, Taka took the opportunity to use the Spirit Blade combo. Focusing his inner strength on Guan, he began to swing the Longsword, the blade glowing with pure energy as he concentrated. Suddenly, Taka felt Guan become twice as strong and half as heavy from the mystic energy.
The Wyvern Warlord felt the glowing blade pierce its scaly armor and howled with pain. It leapt forwards, making a ninety degree turn to face Taka. Undaunted, it made a strike of its own, crashing its horn into the ground and causing a small, localized explosion. Taka dodged and slashed again, opening up one of its old wounds. It screamed again, retreating high into the air and away from the energized Longsword. The small part of Taka that wasn't focused on Guan marveled at how he could suddenly wield the blade expertly, even though he still wasn't used to his half an arm yet.
Just because the Warlaros had retreated, that didn't mean that it had fled. Attacking from the black sky, it dove down, lashing out with a sharp talon at Taka. The claw easily pierced his Qurupeco armor and sliced though his side. With a scream of pain, Taka stumbled and fell, blood pouring onto the ground from the wound. Luckily, he managed to down a Mega Potion to help heal the ghastly slash. But for now, he was out of the fight. And the Warlaros knew that.
Snarling, the demonic Flying Wyvern moved in for the kill - but was stopped dead in its tracks as it stepped onto a hastily placed Shock Trap. Ordinarily, the Warlaros would have been too cunning, not to mention experienced, to fall for such a thing. But its attention had been focused entirely on Taka, and thus had never noticed the last-minute trap. Jerking spasmodically, it struggled to free itself as the electricity snared it.
Taka painfully got up, only to collapse again. His wound was slowly healing, but blood still dripped from it, and it caused him a great deal of pain. Illeera ran to help him up, and she helped lead him to safety behind a relatively sturdy building.
Meanwhile, the Shock Trap's effects abruptly ceased, and the Warlaros spread its wings and hissed triumphantly as it broke free. Furious now, it looked for someone to take its anger out on. Its malicious eyes fell on Kiem, who was busy sharpening his Rugged Lance with a Whetstone, and it charged forward.
Kiem finished his work and looked up, only to see that the Wyvern Warlord was nearly on top of him. He yelled in surprise and moved to block the creature's charge, but it was too late. With a screech and a final lunge forward, the Warlaros's horn sliced clean through Kiem's abdomen and buried itself in the massive boulder behind him. There was a huge explosion as its horn spikes detonated inside of the rock, reducing it to fragments. Kiem blew apart as well.
Taka, who was watching the entire thing from his hiding place with Illeera, gasped with sheer horror. Bits and pieces of rock, armor, and flesh rained down around the dazed monster. Mylie shouted in anger, firing Pierce Shots at a rapid pace. The Warlaros took notice of the stabbing pains in its side and ran at her, flapping its torn wings menacingly. Before Mylie was also impaled, Relcia threw one of her Raven Tessen at the creature's leg and it subsequently stumbled and fell to the ground.
Hydra, with her own pair of Raven Tessen, began slicing at the Flying Wyvern's underbelly. Illeera, attacking from her hiding place, rained Power-Coated arrows down at its exposed side, electrifying it.
Getting to its feet, the Warlaros grudgingly decided to retreat. This miserable piece of territory was obviously not worth the effort to take. Besides, it needed to rest and heal before it got more injuries, possibly even fatal ones. Shrieking deafeningly and causing everyone to cringe, it flapped off into the moonlit night and out of sight.
The new hunters of Mediatas Village were lavishly praised for their defeat of the Wyvern Warlord. At first, the villagers, including the Elder, were worried that the Warlaros would heal and then return to finish what it started. But an exhausted and injured Taka assured them that the Warlord was intelligent, especially when compared to other Flying Wyverns such as Khezus, and wouldn't attack again now that it had tried and failed.
After a small celebration, the group slept all the way into the early afternoon. Surprisingly, the damage done in the attack was minor, as the Warlaros had made an effort not to hurt itself further by crashing into buildings and other things. The villagers continued to repair Mediatas Village all day after only a few hours' sleep.
When Taka woke up, it was to a throbbing pain in his side. His wound had healed significantly, thanks to the several Potions that he had ingested after the battle. The armor he wore would need to be patched, or replaced entirely. But there was one thing that he knew couldn't be repaired - the loss of Kiem.
He had never liked Kiem, but Taka knew from experience that it was easy to feel sorry for an enemy once they were gone. He counted in his head - his circle of friends had had a total of four losses; first Hornt, then Kread, Ryka, and now Kiem. Taka dearly wished that there would not be any more.
Consulting with the village's chief doctor, he learned that Taahnn had recovered as well. Although he could only move with the aid of a sturdy stick, the worst of the damage to his knee had been healed and the arrow had been extracted successfully. Illeera apologized to him as soon as she saw him, but Taahnn knew that it had been a complete accident and waved the apology off.
Now, the five friends huddled on the edge of the village, facing into the Wet Rainforest. "What do we do know?" asked Taahnn, wincing a little as his knee flared up suddenly. "How do we even begin to stop the war in the Central World?"
"I don't know," replied Taka uncertainly. "But I believe that we should focus on the rumors of the Elder Dragon. I don't want such a magnificent creature harmed any more than it has to be. Its species has taken too much of a beating."
Mylie chimed in. "What about the new hunting technology you told us about; the Hunting Planes?" she wondered. "How do we stop them?" Taka gave her a triumphant smile. "I've been asking myself that," he answered confidently. "I believe that it's time to take that old saying to heart: 'fight fire with fire'."
Relcia entered the conversation. "Are you saying," she began, voice filled with both caution and wonder, "that we should get some Hunting Planes of our own to rescue the Taltaira?"
"Yep," Taka confirmed heartily. "If we steal a few of those Hunting Planes for ourselves, and follow the hunters gone to deal with the Elder Dragon, we can protect it from the air!" By now, everyone was looking at Taka with something like awe.
Suddenly, a shadow fell over them and an incredibly loud screech reached their ears. The group looked up and saw that the sun had been blotted out - by an immense flying creature. Even from several kilometers below it, they could tell that it could crush the village if it landed, it was so massive. Taka whispered to no one in particular, "Taltaria... The God of the Skies." As he said the name, the sun returned and the Taltaira began to make its way into the distance.
Composing himself, Taka said in a strong voice full of confidence, "Come on, friends. Let's get to the Military Bastion and get us some Hunting Planes. Let's end this war once and for all, and save the God of the Skies!" His friends erupted into cheers.
"Hello again, Vulcan."
Taka and his friends had trekked all the way from Mediatas Village to the Magma Mountain. It hadn't taken them that long, considering that they had hitched a ride on a passing Gargwa-drawn cart carrying supplies. Now, the group of five stood facing the Rathalos.
Mylie and Taahnn looked incredibly nervous. Relcia was simply curious, and a little fascinated. Taka and Illeera were both calm. "Vulcan, these are my friends," continued Taka. "You've met Illeera, of course. This is Mylie, Relcia, and Taahnn." He gestured to each of them in turn. Vulcan nodded and smiled as he said their names, trying to make the expression look friendly and not intimidating.
You need my help, don't you, Taka? Vulcan asked shrewdly. "Yes, my friend," answered Taka. "We need you to quickly take us to the Military Bastion, without being seen. Can you do that?" Vulcan nodded his head once.
Five minutes later, Vulcan soared across the scorching, sunlit sky, carrying each of the five on his back. Whatever fears or concerns about the Flying Wyvern they had vanished. Soon, Taahnn, Mylie, Illeera, and Relcia were having the time of their lives as Vulcan flew them to their old stomping grounds.
He landed in a small, empty section of the Military Bastion. Taahnn instantly pointed out the remaining Hunting Planes, with their wooden noses and metallic wings, which had been left behind. While he and Illeera figured out how they worked, Taka said to the others, "We need these Hunting Planes to be distinct and unique to each of us. That way, we won't accidentally attack each other." After a few relatively bad ideas, Relcia suggested, "We could carve figureheads onto the front of the planes. Since we're defending the monsters, they could be in the shape of monsters."
It was settled rapidly. Each of the gang chose a Plane and began to carve a monster's head out of them. Hydra had taught them how to carve things in wood, and she had always said that carving should come from the heart. Thus, each monster rapidly took shape as everyone carved carefully and confidently.
Illeera had carved a Qurupeco, perfect for her colorful personality. Mylie's was a Barroth, funnily enough. Taahnn's Hunting Plane took the shape of a Diablos (Fitting, for his temper at least, Taka chuckled silently), and Relcia's was a Nargacuga. Taka ended up carving a Gobul. Wow. I'm just letting these Leviathans haunt me forever. ... But if it's from the heart, I can't really complain. I must really resemble the Gobul, personality-wise.
Only half an hour later, the group of five and their Hunting Planes were ready to rumble. The other hunters must have already left in pursuit of the Taltaria already, so there was no time to dawdle. Taka, however, took the opportunity to say a quick goodbye to Vulcan.
"I WILL see you again," he determinedly told the Rathalos, "no matter what." Vulcan briefly nuzzled Taka. Do not worry, Taka. he growled softly. When you return, I will be waiting for you. And then we will tell the people of Mediatas Village the truth.
Taka smiled and stroked Vulcan's scaly head, proud of his friend and determined to be victorious for his sake. "Together," he said, voice demonstrating his feelings of love and pride for the King of the Wyverns.
To be Continued...