10 – Daybreak

Bonnie pulled her coat on. She needed new clothes again.

She gathered her weapons and strapped them on as best she could. She found her knife again. That was good, it would make things easier.

She had remembered to bring a bag this time, and it made collecting the heads far easier. Most were already removed, but a few she had to saw off. It wasn’t too much trouble, and soon enough, the bloodied sack was filled.

It wasn’t difficult to carry. She didn’t mind the smell, though she knew most people would. She would have to take a bath.

The spring was too convenient. It really was.

Crystal clear water that sparkled in the sunlight. A picturesque waterfall. A genuine rainbow forming in the mist. 

Bonnie didn’t trust the rainbow. That was too much.

Her eyes narrowed, tracing the rainbow as though searching for gold. There wasn’t an obvious monstrosity there, but…

She fired at the waterfall and green blood spurted from the massive serpent that had hidden in the water. It screeched and whirled towards her, a hood of its own shed skin covering a patchwork body of scales and exposed muscle. The hood of snake skin shifted with the scales underneath, creating a shimmering effect through the near-invisible outer layer and the iridescence beneath it, shifting from a clear camouflage to a shimmering gleam in at least a dozen shades. It twisted and opened its maw wide, showing a cavernous mouth with teeth like centipede legs, more than any serpent should have, jerking with a desire to rip into flesh.

Bonnie shot it in the mouth with her rifle. The back of the ambush predator’s head exploded in a shower of viridian gore and torn skin. She took a step back as it fell, then idly studied the scales, considering how valuable each of them could be. These sorts of monsters tended to be popular with the rich.

Then she drove her knife into its tongue as it launched out and tried to clamp its teeth into her. The smaller, fleshier snake seemed to have more normal fangs, from what she could see, which were likely venomous. And the mix of blood and venom leaking from it smelled truly foul.

It was rare to find something that turned Bonnie’s stomach, but she really didn’t like having something so grotesquely juicy leaking foul smelling liquid on her hand and clothes.

Now the spring really did look tempting, even as its sparkling qualities faded with the monster’s illusory ability dying along with it…It was such a bad idea though. It was the worst idea. Every idiot knew that bathing out in the woods was such a moronic idea, the act was considered a method of committing suicide in most regions, along with attempting to hunt anything vaguely draconic and going streaking in the winter.

Bonnie groaned. She turned back to the snake and started cutting it up for easier transport. She really wanted a bath, but she wasn’t going to be stupid enough to go into an unknown body of water–

The snapping of a stick caught her attention, and she glanced up just in time to notice a pair of ogres walking it, seeming to speak with each other in their guttural, rumbling language, like the sound of gargling rocks. The pair of hulking, gray-skinned humanoids paused in their chat as they noticed her.

Ogres were a curious type of monster. They were intelligent enough to fashion clothes and weapons, with one of the pair wearing a bear pelt, including the head as a hood with the teeth hooked into the ogre’s forehead to keep it in place, and carrying a wooden club studded with iron, while the other wore some type of horned skull as a helmet and furs as a vest. In that vein, there was a question among the hunters of the Union of if they should even be considered true monsters. If they could think, could they not be reasoned with?

That question was answered by the fact that they ate human flesh. And Bonnie’s question of if she should try to talk with them was soundly answered by the human skulls both of the ogres were wearing at their belts. The smaller skulls were what sealed her decision.

As she raised her rifle, she couldn’t help but think that this was further evidence why no one should bathe in the woods.

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