11 – Wyrmling

“Wow, you look like shit.”

Bonnie glowered at Larry. She had a lot of reasons to dislike Larry, but his lack of tact was most certainly one of them.

A fair-skinned and dark-haired hunter in a purple coat, Lawrence Kingsley also had a reputation among the Hunter’s Union. Namely as the idiot that decided to wear a white coat for a while because he wanted to stand out from the other hunters, and failed to realize just how bloody their profession was. Add in a feathered chevalier’s cap and a small mustache, and the ponytailed man gave the impression of some foppish noble more than a proper hunter, which was something of an oxymoron. Propriety and hunterdom went poorly together.

“Well, no matter, I don’t need you looking presentable. Bonnibel, I come to you with a proposition for the greatest hunt of all time!”

Bonnie’s name wasn’t Bonnibel.

“Hey! Don’t turn away from me! You’re exactly who I need!”

Bonnie was fairly certain that was because no one else would be willing to entertain his nonsense. His arm wrapped around her shoulders and she fought the urge to snap it in half.

“Listen, Bonnibel, I have discovered a monster greater than any other, a beast worthy of the greatest hunter! I have discovered…a dragon.”

Dragons were real. Bonnie knew that. The Union knew that. Nations knew that, because dragons made themselves known. It was impossible to ignore a dragon, so there was a reason why there were procedures in place if one actually happened to wander anywhere near civilization. It was the kind of thing that warranted artillery.

There was no earthly way Larry had found a dragon. Not anywhere near the township they were standing in, at the very least.

His claims did warrant questioning though.

“Of course I am certain I found a dragon! The locals I garnered this information from were absolutely certain of it!”

Bonnie stared at him. She considered shooting him in the leg and leaving. She asked if he was going to pay her.

He scoffed. 

She drew her revolver.

“I won’t need to pay you once we slay the dragon! Everyone knows those creatures have hoards of gold! We’ll be rich!”

Bonnie felt like pointing out that most places used paper currency, not gold, and the majority of banks wouldn’t be able to actually exchange a literal ton of gold. She also felt like just getting a bath like she planned, and she further felt like shooting Larry for wasting her time.

“Come along now, we’re burning daylight!”

She didn’t do any of those things though. Instead, she followed the fop to the marsh he claimed contained their monstrous beast. 

Why would she do such a thing? She wasn’t quite sure herself. Maybe it was morbid curiosity. Maybe it was the feeling that she should just get this kind of thing over with instead of ignoring it. Maybe it was the hope that Larry actually did find something dangerous and would die horribly in front of her. There were many reasons she could have.

“Eugh, what filthy water…Now then, the dragon should be lurking here, among the reeds.”

Dragons didn’t hide in reeds. Bonnie had no idea what the fuck Larry was on about. 

Dragons had lairs or caverns or castles. They flew with flame on their breath and brought death in a dozen different stripes where they traveled. They were monsters torn from the burst arteries of a deceased deity. They were not water striders.

“Ah, there it is!”

…Nor were they small, squat, fat little reptiles. The one Larry had pointed out looked more like a scaly cylinder with a bumpy, horned head than a property monster. It didn’t even have eyes, just ridges of skin over a mouth that peeled open into four flaps of flesh as it hissed a warning at the fop.

“…Hold on, what? This is it? This thing’s tiny!”

It also plainly wasn’t a dragon. The thing could barely be considered a snake.

Then Larry kicked it.

“Ugh, filthy beast! How dare you make me traipse out here like–!”

Then it lunged up and wrapped its mouth around his head.

Bonnie idly watched as her fellow hunter screamed and flailed, struggling with the wyrmling affixed to his face as it tried its damnedest to tear his entire face off with its jaw and whatever it had on the inside of its lips. She debated shooting it off, but realistically, the creature was just defending itself and plainly wasn’t a threat to anyone aside from Larry, and she didn’t particularly care for Larry.

So she elected to leave the fop to his fate and turned around just in time to come face to face with a gargantuan thing that still most definitely wasn’t a dragon.

It looked like an enlarged version of the strange, squat serpent, but easily ten times its size. It also had arms. Bulky arms, engorged with muscle, ending in four-toed talons. It smelled of swamp water and moss, and dozens of wyrms clung to its ridged, murky-green hide, like black leeches along its back.

If Bonnie was correct, this thing was a proper wyrm. Maybe a lindwyrm, though those had wings, potentially. She wasn’t entirely confident, in large part because in the time she had been thinking about the classifications of the monstrous things that populated the murky places of her homeland, the thing had leapt for her with a shocking amount of power from its grotesquely muscled arms. 

Bonnie at least had her revolver in her hand as she found herself in the tight confines of the thing’s throat. It was foul, the pink flesh all around reeking like rotted meat. Humid heat surrounded her with the pulse of its body. She would have reached for her rifle if her arms weren’t pinned. She scowled.

This was why she didn’t like working with Larry.

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