Kohua sat perched upon a rock and cursed herself for the hundredth time. Arrogance had led her here… but then, she had a legend to uphold.
Becoming a legend isn’t hard, it’s actually the easy bit. Although when she was young she had thought becoming a legend as a Sorrian female in a human world would have been almost impossible. Yet she pursued her destiny without letting anyone or anything get in her way as she forged her legend hunting wild and mysterious creatures.
Only in time had she realised that becoming a legend was easy and that remaining one was the hard part. That was why she was here, following some fool to hunt another kind of legend.
A great Tyrannex…
She had been stupid. Mr Prosper and his men had offered her more money than she had ever seen but she should still have said no. She would be lying to herself if she said it was just the money. This job also offered her one last glorious hunt, a chance to confirm her legend and finally return to her village, enjoying her dotage to live out her days telling the stories of her hunts to the children and knowing in her heart they were true.
So here she was, having travelled miles upriver to the most dangerous place she could imagine and now along with Prosper’s men, hunkered down around a small clearing in the forest with a dead Alkeosaurus laid out as bait. She had picked the site carefully; she had tracked the beast for weeks and knew it would come this way eventually. They were now in its territory, it was just a case of waiting.
As the time passed the youngest man in the group, a mere boy really, quietly whispered to the man next to him what they had all been thinking for the past few hours.
“Can these guns stop a Tyrannex?”
The other man was Proper’s second in command, a tough looking former militiaman called Eli, who tried to put a brave face on it as he examined the freshly oiled gun in his hand.
“These guns are serious lad, the boss doesn’t mess around with stuff like this. Remember the best way to kill something is to aim for the brain… but with this great bastard that’s stretching your luck. Just put your first two shots into the eyes if you can. Blind it so its vulnerable… we can go back into the brain after that”
As he finished speaking a loud crack sounded causing all three to spin round and raise their weapons, it took her a split second to focus on the source of the noise and Kohua spat in disgust. A few feet away, looking rather sheepish with a broken branch underfoot, was Mr Prosper. Their benefactor was a short balding man with a portly body and bloated face, his jowls wobbling slightly as he mopped sweat from his brow. Dressed in expensive yet smart hunting gear it seemed to just emphasise his odd looks, Kohua could barely hide her distain for the man as she swung back to the clearing.
Prosper paused for a second before shuffling forward and squatting next to Eli and reaching across to pat the boy on the shoulder like he was some kind of favourite pet. He at least spoke in quiet tones, though his words would grate her nonetheless.
“I heard you just now my boy but don’t you worry! These guns are the finest weapons I could buy from the old arsenal and I was guaranteed by the gunsmiths that they can bring down any beast. Plus we have the famed Kohua with us and not to be immodest I am also an expert hunter, I’ve slain dozens of beasts including a mighty Yutyrannus, a dangerous foe indeed that I stalked for days but I got him in the end. Just stick with me boy and you’ll be fine, this is just another beast”.
As he spoke Kohua had to stop herself laughing, the blustering fools ego was only matched by his stupidity. She knew trying to offer advice was a waste of time but she still had to try, so she spoke up.
“This is no easy kill Prosper, nor is it a mere beast but a very different and much more dangerous creature than any you have ever faced. I warned you this would be difficult and there is still time for us all to leave alive… if we stay men will die”.
The boys eyes went wide as those final words but Prosper just scoffed at her
“It’s just like any other beast so how dangerous can it be to a dozen heavily armed men. Remember your job here Kohua, it is to lead us to the Tyrannex, not lecture me. If we lose a few men so what? I can buy another dozen mercenaries easily enough.”
Kohua started to reply but Prosper held up his hand, signalling the end of the conversation and instead turned to Eli as he issued his final commands
“When the brute shows itself you give the command, but I only want it wounded so I can make the killing shot. After that we collect the head, it will make an imposing sight above the compound gates”.
Eli just nodded and Kohua hissed at them to be quiet, as usual these city dwellers spoke to much and showed no respect… And then she felt it, a change in the mood of the forest. The Dacts went silent. All she could hear was the wind before a dull measured thumping started to sound.
The Tyrannex slowly came into view, parting the vegetation on the other side of the clearing and bearing down on the carcass. It towered over thirty feet, seemingly taller than the trees around it and its very presence made the clearing feel smaller.
It was terrible and magnificent at the same time. A giant head swung from side to side as it folded its frail claws close to its oily chest, a chest sheathed in a gleam of rough skin like the armour of a terrible warrior. Its great clawed feet tore at the damp earth of the clearing as it strode forward.
Then its mouth gaped, exposing a mass of dagger like teeth which terrified her. Its eyes were black as night, empty of all expression save hunger and savagery. This was the Apex predator. She had hunted many things and thought herself beyond fear, but this was something else. This was the king of killers and they were foolish enough to hunt it…
“Now“ roared Eli and the men jerked up their weapons and opened fire, great blasts boomed from their weapons and tore into the Tyrannex which bellowed in anger and pain. To either side of the creature bamboo traps swung into place, caging it in and for a few moments it seemed as if their plan had worked. For a few moments… But this was no ordinary creature, this was the mightiest predator found in the jungles of the Great Lagoon Network and it smashed the bamboo spears aside like they were nothing more than kindling. Then it charged.
It came on immense striding legs, thick ropes of muscle powering it on like a great evil god from the old tales. In mere seconds it covered half the clearing and let loose a terrible roar like a storm which engulfed them all in the stench of rotten flesh and the promise of death.
The rifles fired again, tearing chunks of the creature away and the monster let out a shuddering roar of agony, but it paused for a mere moment and then came on once more. The great reptile’s tail swung up and lashed sideways, scattering several men in one swipe. Then it was amongst them, tearing men to pieces, their screams drowned out by its triumphant roars.
Kohua watched in awe as she witnessed the devastation, in mere moments it had killed a dozen men and it seemed all hope was lost. She watched as Prosper turned and fled into the jungle, dropping his rifle as he pushed through the undergrowth. Lost and alone she didn’t rate his chances. Poor Eli fought until the very end, bringing his rifle up and firing just as the creature bit down and cut him clean in half.
Now only Kohua and the boy remained, his face streaked with fearful tears as the Tyrannex closed in on him. Kohua knew she had a choice; she could slip into the jungle and escape but that meant leaving the boy to his fate. She cursed again, she didn’t owe him anything so why should she stay?
Because, she knew, that’s what legends do.
Kohua raised her rifle and fired, causing the Tyrannex to turn and charge her. She leapt away at the last moment but it caught her a glancing blow and sent her tumbling into the forest where she struck a trees and rock before collapsing. The Tyrannex looked at her for a second as she lay stunned before turning away, beginning to feed on the men it had killed.
As she groaned and propped herself up the boy blundered into view The youngsters face was one of shock, his arms crossed as he shook and whimpered. His weapon long discarded, he could barely speak, but stared wide eyed at her. Kohua reached down and felt her side where the claws had struck, it felt bad, and her left leg could barely move.
“Time for you to go boy”.
“What about you? We can make it out together” he said, without much conviction.
Kohua was touched he even asked the question. Most would have taken off without another word but he seemed a good boy; naive, stupid even, but worthy of a second chance at life.
“Not much chance of that, you go for the boats…”
The boy nodded and took off, not even sparing her a backwards glance.
She wasn’t sure how long she sat there. She heard the sound of a motor roaring into life in the distance. The boy had made it to the boats. At least something good had come from all this, but now it was time to end it. Forcing herself to her feet she drew her machete and limped into the clearing. Ahead of her the Tyrannex stood, turning its great head to stare down upon her.
“Well you ugly brute,” she grinned defiantly. “Shall we see whose legend ends today?”
She raised her rifle while the Tyrannex roared once more and charged.