Steps turn to strides as the runners hustle through the turquoise swamp. They keep their feet on and around the skirmishes of mangroves as they leave caution behind them. Clouds of mosquitoes are dispersed as they pass and the other life in the swamp is similarly befuddled. They see various lizards and amphibians but nothing humanoid. No, compared to what they do find, some creepy humanoids would be welcome by comparison.
A gargantuan beast that just exudes pressure. This creature feels as if it is at the eye of the swamp’s aura of intensity. An alligator head that could be mistaken for a rocky mountain connected to a snake-like body. This body dips in and out of the swamp water as it stretches out deep into the treeline. Cyrilla is once again overcome by memories of the book of myths. Before her is a creature that her mind would consider imaginary were her eyes not looking upon it. A beast that inspires awe with just the sheer vastness of its form. The Pygasalis.
Then, a splash.
Cyrilla only catches it at the corner of her eye but Draego has a clear view. Beings the same as the murky forms Cyrilla saw earlier, humanoids with messily-shaped and mud-dripping bodies. One of them dives into the water in which the Pygasalis has its head rested. The giant appears unconcerned until several other of the mud-people follow suit. Splash. Splash. Splash. The ripples in the water intensify until the eyes of the Pygasalis snap open. The first thing it sees is not the mud-folk who just submerged themselves.
One of its eyes, slightly larger than Draego, catches a glimpse of he and Cyrilla. With an unsuitably fast movement, its body twists and it snaps its jaws. Cyrilla and Draego barely manage to react to it as the force of the bite creates a powerful boom which blows them back. Both Cyrilla and Draego smack hard into nearby trees, shocked by the excess power of the bite. Their minds are dazed but their bodies still move, the hunt is on and it’s time for them to do their jobs. Run.
Cyrilla and Draego move as fast as they can with no room to spare their magic. Avoiding the water isn’t an option, the only way to escape from this thing is a direct path away from it. They cast spells to weave stone and dirt to create platforms for themselves and to wall off the predator’s path. The flexibility of the Pygasalis’ body allows it to bend effortlessly around obstructions and it just crashes through spaces too small for it. The runners feel the powerful bursts of air behind them every time the titanic beast slams its jaws down.
They’re making distance when they’re once again met by the same humanoid creatures. Closer than ever, their nature as living mud becomes abundantly clear. Their bodies shaped into loose imitations of Cyrilla and Draego, they follow the runners at an unbelievable pace. Caught off-guard by their inhuman movements, Cyrilla is caught grabbed by one and slammed down into a section of swamp. Thanks to its thickness she sinks slowly but the Pygasalis is only hundreds of meters behind.
Cyrilla tries to fight back against the mud-folk but only pulls away wet chunks. While her head is still above the water she starts to cast an ice spell but it acts too slowly. It won’t cover the mud-folk’s bodies before the Pygasalis reaches her. Seeing this, Draego turns and grabs one of the mud-folk who was after him. His entire body glows for a moment as he unleashes a petrification spell to instantly solidify the humanoid. He tosses the stone figure up into the air in hopes that it will catch the Pygasalis’ attention and touches down on the bank closest to Cyrilla.
He bends the earth to create a bridge towards her and attempts to pull her out but the semi-frozen mud-folk persist. They continue to pull, nearly bringing Draego down with them as another group catches up to him. A shadow casts over the scene as another boom is heard. The Pygasalis crushes the petrifies mud-folk into nothing but isn’t satisfied. It senses the struggle below and locks its gaze, readying to dive down.
Draego mind goes to teleportation but it would take too long to cast after having used up so much magic already. He has to do something reckless, he thinks. Thankfully, that’s his area of expertise. Again, his entire body lights up as an aura of magic encompasses him. His body proceeds to heat up intensely as he intends to use up all of his energy. Believing in the defensive capabilities of Cyrilla’s barrier, he sets himself ablaze as a pillar of flame erupts from his form. The swamp water boils, the mud-folk are dried out and the Pygasalis is blinded by the blaze.
Still, it doesn’t stop. It changes its course directly towards the source of the fire. Below it, Cyrilla is freed for just a moment. In that instant, Draego pulls her up and tosses her as hard as he can. The Pygasalis hits the water and Draego goes down with it.
Cyrilla takes a moment to recover from being caught up in the flames and the blunt trauma following it. Body burned and vision blurred, she shakily rises up to her feet. The swamp water slowly cascades inwards towards the Pygasalis’ body, which extends up like a gigantic tree. Draego is nowhere to be seen.
The Pygasalis slowly pulls its head up from the water. Cyrilla hides the best she can but continues to watch the creature closely. In the maw of the beast is Draego, the top half of his body hanging limply. Cyrilla can’t believe her eyes. At first, she thought the Pygasalis was a creature of imagination. Now, she wishes it was. The mosquitos begin to gather.
Unbelievably, Draego spurs. He weakly raises his head and looks towards where he threw Cyrilla. He can’t feel half of his body. He knows he’s dead but his face is still locked in a smile. There’s one more thing he can do. With his one arm that can still move, he digs into his own chest and tears off a section of his skin. On this skin flap is one of his tattoos, the one that represents his teleportation. He rolls it up and throws it towards Cyrilla. The Pygasalis doesn’t notice. As far as its concerned, it already has its prey.
The sheet of flesh lands a couple of meters away from Cyrilla. Through gathering tears, she looks at it before looking back up at Draego. Still smiling and hand forced into the shape of a thumbs up. The message gets through to her. They can’t both die here. She has to survive. It’s part of her job.
She takes the tattoo but she can’t use it right away. Her magic power is almost spent, all she can still manage is paltry protective magic. She has to find her way out of the swamp, alone. She needs to find somewhere safe. A quiet hole away from these buzzing mosquitoes.