Goldie Leraje lowered her rifle. “Hey Bon Bon. You doing good over there?”
She didn’t look like she was. Blood caked that black fur all across her body, a mix of red and white that matted it down. Not quite staining it, since the pitch-black shade was steadily absorbing it, but still clinging and clumping.
Bonnie didn’t respond, but Goldie hadn’t really expected her to. She did have her mouth full of ivory. The bastard poacher’s legs were the only thing hanging out of her maw as she kept crunching down. She threw her head back to let gravity assist with her swallowing, her teeth flashing in the dim light as she chewed.
One sharp, final bite at the ankles saw the dead man’s feet fly free, boots smacking into the dirt as Bonnie finished her meal.
Then those baleful eyes looked towards Goldie.
She met the gaze without flinching. In all honesty, part of her couldn’t help but find the look beautiful, in a surreal way. She always did like gold and shiny things, and Bonnie’s bestial eyes fit both adjectives.
“Hey, Bon, it’s me. You remember your friend Goldie, right?” She smiled without showing teeth as she holstered her rifle. It was a bigger show of trust than if she’d set it down on the ground. She’d pulled that trick more than once. “You helped me out a whole lot before. You’re not looking to hurt me. You’re just pissed at these pricks, and they’re all dead now.”
The eyes that studied her weren’t unintelligent. There was a wariness there that did almost hurt to see, but logic said a beast that wasn’t wary of hunters was a very stupid creature. And for as weird as she was, Bonnie was a very smart girl.
“You’re still in there, right? You’re looking different, but you’re not wearing your own skin. You’re still you.” Unless she wasn’t like a varc. A mor didn’t rip its way out, it was a transformation. But those things were soulless. It didn’t mean they were dull or apathetic, but simply lacking in humanity. Whatever values they had as a human were gone. And Goldie didn’t think that was the case for her friend.
There was nothing wrong with massacring a bunch of shitheads trying to put her head on a mantle. Really, shooting an ivory was a public service. Fucking scabs deserved whatever fate they met by picking on folks stronger than them.
Bonnie continued to stare at her, then loped closer. Her stride was calm. Languid. She moved like a big cat, powerful and confident. Her muscles were obvious beneath the shaggy fur. She could probably tear a man’s head off with one hand, assuming she didn’t just swipe and smash it like a melon.
She stood much taller than Goldie too, and when she leaned in close, she breathed through her nose. Smelling her friend.
“…I feel like I should pet you while you’re like this.”
Bonnie chuffed, then leaned her head down. Some white blood still dripped from her lips, but the intent behind the gesture was obvious.
“Heh. That’s friendlier than usual. Alright, so…how do we turn you back?”
Bonnie rolled her shoulders in what might have been a shrug, then opened her maw enough to let her tongue free as she licked up the side of Goldie’s face, her rough tongue scratching against the blonde’s skin.
“…Alright, you’re either being affectionate or messing with me. Well, either way, I’ve got a cabin if you need somewhere to bunker down while this wears off. Assuming it does. If not…well, you wouldn’t mind being my pet, right?”
Judging by the immediate warning growl, Bonnie most definitely did mind that suggestion.
“Alright, alright, don’t bite my head off. C’mon, we oughta get there before the sun gets too low,” Goldie said as she stepped away, walking without concern over the dismembered poachers and leaving her back entirely open.
She wasn’t worried. She knew she was safe with Bonnie.
“I’m telling you, it’s a genuine dragon!” Ella claimed, tapping the photograph she’d placed on the round tea table.
“Hm…no, I don’t see it,” Goldie replied, studying the picture. The thing in it did have red scales, but all that could really be seen was a faint head wreathed in smoke and hints of a neck. “Could just be a firewyrm.”
“No, those are way fatter! Bon’s seen one before, right?” The redhead glanced at her quiet friend, who idly sipped at the water in her canteen. “Hey, Bon, don’t wyrms look more…froggy?”
“No, no, they’re more like leeches,” Goldie countered, prompting a scoff from Ella.
“They’re definitely not leeches–Hang on, that doesn’t matter! This thing doesn’t even look like a leech!”
“Sure, but it doesn’t look like a dragon either. Maybe a tarasque?”
“Those are spikier! And they have shells! No, this is a genuine, bonafide dragon, I guarantee it!”
“And what good does it do you if that’s the case? You need teams of specialized paladins to deal with a dragon. That or cannons.”
“You can take down a dragon with a cannon?”
“Not one cannon, and you’d need howitzers if you wanted to pierce the scales. They’re too hardy otherwise.”
“You sure? I coulda sworn there were stories about a weak spot at the throat that’ll kill them in one hit if you get it.”
“I call bullshit on that. Besides, do you really want to get that close to a dragon’s mouth?”
“Greetings, oh beautiful huntresses!”
Every woman at the table couldn’t help but sigh, before Goldie took initiative and raised a hand in greeting to their purple-coated colleague. “Hey Larry.”
“It’s Lawrence. And good tidings, Gilda! I see you have Eleanor and Bonnibel for company today!”
“You know you can call me Goldie, right?” she asked, choosing not to comment on how he had gotten Ella and Bonnie’s names wrongs. He wasn’t the type to listen. Besides, she had a better question in mind. “Is that a cow?”
“Indeed she is!” Larry declared with his usual flair, patting the pure white cow on the head, “For you see, I have been tasked with a very important job that only a skilled hunter, such as myself, can take on! One passed onto the union by the archbishop herself!”
“It’s a church job?” Ella asked, raising a patchy eyebrow.
“I just said that, yes! For you see, I have been given the responsibility of looking after this sacred cow!”
Goldie and Ella stared at Larry. They then turned their gazes towards the placid cow.
“…So are they paying you in beans?”
“What? No, of course not. Who would pay someone in beans? That’s inane.”
Goldie huffed and turned her attention back to her tea and cake. “Sure is, Larry, sure is.”
“My name is Lawrence,” he reminded, looking annoyed, while Bonnie idly glanced at the cow. It looked very cow-ish, though it lacked the black spots that many people would consider necessary to the image of a cow. Still, it was pretty enough, and seemed perfectly calm. Almost serene, actually. Just fully relaxed to the point that it was drooling…wait.
Bonnie frowned and looked closer. The cow wasn’t drooling. Or at least that wasn’t saliva coming out of its mouth. It looked like ichor. Gold ichor, bleeding from its lips and dripping onto the ground.
Its big, dark eyes stared placidly until it seemed to notice her. Then it stared.
The ichor was dripping at a faster rate now, leaking from its mouth in a growing stream. Its eyes seemed to bulge. She could see steam coming off of it, from behind its eyes.
She nudged Ella and pointed, subtly, and she felt the redhead stiffen beside her, seeing what she was seeing.
“Ah…hey, Larry, your cow’s leaking.”
“What? What in the world does that–…Uh…”
Well, that was concerning. It was rare for Larry to be at a loss for words, but even he had some instinct towards self-preservation and seeing golden blood running down a cow’s mouth was a decent signal to something being very wrong. Especially when it started bleeding from its nose and ears too.
Goldie picked up her cake and went inside the cafe, electing to avoid having her dessert ruined.
A fair decision, given that there were cracking noises coming from inside the cow.
“…Should we shoot it?” Ella asked right before the cow’s back tore open with a sickening, ripping squelch. Its spine split in half in a spray of fluids and ichor, its back opening like a chrysalis, and the comparison proved very apt extremely quickly as something ripped its way through the flesh in one forceful push.
Golden blood sprayed, staining the streets, the windows, and the table that Bonnie had shoved in the way of the eruption, hunkering down behind it with Ella and, to her faint annoyance, Larry, who she seemed to have pulled down with her on reflex.
Sometimes she cursed her own instincts.
“Larry, what the fuck?!” Ella hissed, “Why does your holy cow have a parasite!?”
“Wh–How is this my fault!? Clearly the church let their cow get infected, this isn’t on me!”
Bonnie ignored the pair of them and peeked over the table.
The thing that had ripped its way out of the cow’s back could loosely be described as insectile. Golden plates of chitin covered what seemed to be a largely humanoid body, segmented over pink flesh dripping with clear fluids. Compound eyes glittered like onyx above black jaws that clamped down onto the cow’s head and began to tear into the flesh there, burrowing into the skull and consuming the rigid beast’s brain as its long, lanky body twitched with a frantic energy.
Black claws like hooked fingers dug into the sides of the cow to support the creature while its long legs scraped the inside of its body with insectoid talons. Something at its own back twitched, before a pair of wings suddenly spread. Big, feathered, and white, twitching like an insect’s.
The thing reminded Bonnie of a wasp, but those wings were more like a moth’s, and as they spread, it was easy to see they were covered with eyes.
The thing pulled back its head, ripping through what remained of the brain as it choked the meal down, before it turned its gaze towards the overturned table and met Bonnie’s eyes.
<BE NOT AFRAID>
The thing’s voice echoed in the wind, before its wings spread wide and in one large flap, it flew up into the sky, soaring away in a shower of gore. The cow’s intestines were stuck to its foot.
“…” Bonnie pushed herself up, using a hand on the table to support herself, and just stared.
“…What the fuck.”