Cypress Wormwood: The Great Elemental Pillars - Roarok Volcano Pt.1

Written in response to: Write about someone in a thankless job.... view prompt

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Adventure Fantasy

“Mr. Wormwood? Hello? Are you quite alright? CYPRESS!” Mortimer waved his hands in front of the monster hunter’s face in an attempt to get his attention. 

The hunter’s glassy yellow eyes blinked a moment as he came back to reality. He had been thinking about Harold, his companion from the bar. He knew as soon as the man suggested distracting the gremlins on Frenrick Mountain that he was a goner for sure. He’d grown fond of the little imp, as annoying as he was, and now yet another person Cypress cared about was gone under his watch. This life and job were thankless, and it was slowly but surely taking its toll on the hunter.  

“I say, can you hear me, old boy?” Mortimer said with concern, waving his thin, boney hand in Cypress’ face again. Cypress grabbed it in his fist, nearly crushing the fragile bones with his own oversized hands. 

“I’m fine. Let’s keep moving. We have a lot of ground to cover if we’re going to make it to the Oceanid Islands.” He said to the alchemist, who was still shaking his hand from the lingering pain.

“Cypress, if we’re going to make it to the islands, we’ll need some sort of transportation over the sea.” He fumbled his words, trying not to upset his giant companion. “Do you…happen to know…or have, rather…some…way.” The hunter groaned. 

“I’ll call in a favor. I don’t like the guy, but he owes me, and he has…creatures…we can use. It’s about a day’s journey to his ranch. Let’s get moving.” Cypress readjusted his crossbow on his shoulder and waved to Mortimer to continue down the path. 

As they walked, the alchemist noticed Cypress’ eyes go glassy again, and the silence between them was killing him. He didn’t want to pry or irritate the hunter, but he couldn’t bear the quiet any longer. 

“Say, friend, is something bothering you? You know as a monk it is my sworn duty to keep absolute secrecy to those who confide in me. The same offer is extended to you. Please, tell me your troubles.”

Cypress sighed. He was far from the type to unload his feelings, let alone on someone he just met just days before, but it was boiling up inside him. 

“I was thinking about Harold. How he sacrificed himself for the cause. And all my other friends and family who have died, gone missing, or I’ve not heard from in decades because of the work I do. I was thinking about how both my little brothers are both gone now, and I haven’t heard a peep from my sister, Juniper, in almost a decade. She didn’t want any part of hunting. She left, and I imagine started a family, long ago. You know about Alder’s death.” Cypress sighed a moment.

“Oh yes.” Mortimer butted in. “T’was a tragedy for all his brother monks. I’m so grateful you’ve come to spread his ashes with me.”

 Cypress continued as if the monk didn’t say anything, annoyed with the interruption. “Right, well, anyway. His twin, Asher, got out for a little while. He managed to marry and have a beautiful daughter. They checked in every now and again. Then he got it in his head he could take out the head dragon that’s been flying to the islands from Roarok Volcano and terrorizing the locals a few years ago. He left, and never came back. I imagine he was burned to a crisp, his cockiness getting the better of him, like always. I feel bad for his wife and daughter. They ran, never wanting any part of our family ever again. I don’t blame them.” 

Mortimer was quiet for a moment, then asked “What about you, Cypress? Had you ever considered leaving the business and starting a family?”

Cypress laughed, almost involuntarily. “Me? A family? And who would help these sorry buggers get home?” But he paused a moment. He though about Lydia, the brothel fairy whom he’d grown so close to for years. She understood his work, his stubbornness, his past, and who he was as a whole. But of course, that got the best of her when the beasts attacked the brothel house. She was determined to help him and got killed in the process. He winced at the thought. Then there was Aran, the forest goddess. Their love was short lived, and it never would have worked out, but he did care for her deeply. Finally, he spoke. 

“No, Mortimer, I have never thought about a family. I could never put them in danger and worry them way Asher did. People get hurt just by being in my life, let alone sharing it. I am a lone wolf. It’s just me. And when I die, this whole business, all the work my family has done hunting and rehabilitating monsters over the years, it’ll be done.” He nodded, as if validating himself. 

“Well…” Mortimer took a deep breath. “I think you’re brave. It’s hard work, what you do. And I admire you and your dedication. As for me, I’ve married to the alchemist society. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t a monk.” Cypress rolled his eyes and smiled; he was finally warming up to the alchemist. The rest of the way to their destination, they exchanged stories about their families, and happier times than now. These mostly came from a very chatty Mortimer, but Cypress was content in listening. 

They approached the ranch as the moon rose high above them. Loud and strange noises echoed from far away.

“Are you quite sure this is okay, Mr. Wormwood? It’s late, and I suspect this gentleman may have turned in for the night.” Mortimer said with an eerie look on his face. 

“Nah, old Ronald is awake. This time of night he’s probably just gotten back from the pub, which is good news for us, he’ll be too hammered to haggle and argue. Let’s go.” Cypress waved on a very hesitant Mortimer. 

The noises got louder and more ominous as they got closer. Mortimer was close to shaking at this point. “Would you cool it? It’s just the Unua in the stable behind the house. Settle down.” Cypress scolded. 

“I’m sorry sir, the what??” The monk stopped dead in his tracks. Cypress let out a groan and wiped his hand down his face in aggravation. 

“The Unua. They’re like…well they’re like horses but with wings…and bonier.” He explained.

“Ah, so like a Pegasus?” Mortimer nodded, breathing a sigh of relief. 

“Ha…not exactly. You’ll see, don’t be afraid of them. They’re seriously misjudged creatures. Sweethearts, in fact. People judge them because they’re loud and ugly. Heh…sort of like me. Now come on, we’re running on borrowed time already.” Cypress said, approaching the door to Ronald’s ranch house. They could hear a loud thump, and a stumble inside. A short, chubby, man opened the door. He had a beer gut, and his gray hair was balding on top.

“I don’t want what you’re selling, my life insurance policy is already up to date, and I’ve long since given up on Jesus. Bugger off.” The man said, starting to close the door. Cypress grabbed the corner with his abnormally large hands. 

“Ronald, it’s me. Open your damn eyes, man. Are you that plastered?” Cypress suddenly caught a whiff of whiskey and stale peanuts. “Yes, yes you are. Doesn’t matter, I’ve come to talk business Ronald. I believe you owe me a favor.”

“I don’t owe you crap, Wormwood. Get off my property.” The man grumbled.

“Oh yes, I think you do.” Cypress said, stepping inside. He towered over the man’s petite stature, appearing incredibly intimidating, even in Ronald’s drunken state.  

“I seem to recall you getting yourself in a mess of trouble for hitting on a particularly aggressive Wendigo hybrid’s wife. And I also seem to recall me rescuing your ass from becoming shredded jerky. Now, are we on the same page or not?” Cypress asked, balling his fists. 

“Fine, fine. Yes, we’re on the same page. What do you want, Wormwood?”

“Two Unua. We need to get to the Oceanid Islands.” Cypress demanded.

“Are you nuts? I’m not just gonna give you an Unua, let alone two, just for them to be gobbled up by the freaky things that live there. No way.” Ronald said, shaking his head furiously. “Take the Wopples, hell, take the Pegasus, but don’t even think about touching the Unua. I need them to rent out to folks who want to get to the islands. That’s my hard-earned prize ticket right there!” Cypress balled his fists again, hovering over the little man. Mortimer’s eyes widened as he stood in the doorway, as not to get in the way of the hunter.

“Let’s go out back and we’ll just see what you have available. But I’m going to say this once, Ronald. You WILL give us the Unua.” Cypress said firmly, grabbing the man by the shirt and dragging him out the door toward the farmhouse. Mortimer hopped out of the way, following closely behind. As they approached the barn, Cypress noticed a smaller, weaker looking Unua, curled up in the wings of a large, tired looking one, from a distance.

“Why are those two outside, and what’s wrong with the small one?” Cypress asked. 

“That’s the runt. Waiting for it to die off. I figure the cold might help it along if the others don’t kill it first.” Ronald scoffed. “The other is the mother. She refused to leave its side, and she’s old and used up anyway, I can’t breed her anymore, so I figure let her die with the runt.” Cypress, still holding the man by the shirt, threw him violently to the ground. 

“You think that’s funny, do you? Picking on the weak and defenseless? Screw you. We’re taking those two. Get up, fit them with saddles, and I might let you keep your head.” He scolded. Ronald scrambled to get on his feet. 

“Fine, alright already, but man, you’ll kill that runt with your…size.” Ronald said, looking the hunter up and down.

“Don’t be stupid. Mort here is plenty scrawny enough, he won’t hurt the babe. Mothers are usually much larger in size. I can’t see from here but I’m sure she’s plenty big enough to support me. I’ll even put the saddle on her, don’t want you scaring her.” Cypress nodded and walked toward the Unua, Mortimer following, practically holding on to the hunter for protection. As they approached, the mother Unua stood up, guarding her baby. Her wings were practically translucent, and her bones were at the surface of her skin, almost skeletal. Her milky white eyes held pain and neglect, but also strength. Mortimer coward behind Cypress. 

“What a horrid, terrifying looking creature!” He whispered to the hunter.

“Nah. She’s a good girl. Like I said, just misunderstood.” He bowed to her, trying to show he meant no harm. She grunted and allowed him to approach her. Cypress stroked her muzzle and smiled. 

“That’s a good girl. You’re not scary at all.” He said to the beast. She moved out of the way, as if the present the runt to him. He did the same with the baby, bowing and praising him. Even as a runt, he still held a huge stature. Ronald handed Cypress the saddles, and he carefully strapped them to the Unuas. He patted the old girl’s back, and she spread her massive wings, signaling she was ready to take off. 

“She’ll do fine, but I imagine that one is a poor flyer. Never seen him even open his wings.” Ronald scoffed, pointing to the baby. Cypress shot him a glare. But the creature seemed to understand Ronald, and as if to prove him wrong, he spread his wings wide, and took off running, leaping into the air, and taking flight. He flew around the barn and then up high above the trees before making a perfect landing, kicking dirt toward Ronald. Cypress smiled and nodded.

“I think we’ll be okay.” He said. The man shook his head in irritation at the lot of them and finally screamed out “Fine! Take them then, will you? Get lost already!” And they did. Cypress helped Mortimer onto the male. 

“Hold on the reigns TIGHTLY. It may be a bit bumpy at first, but just grip the beast with your legs, and pull in the direction you want to go. They have a natural instinct for this, he’ll know what to do.” Cypress said, patting the baby. He climbed on to the mother and turned to Mort.

“Ready then? Let’s go.” He called. Leaving Ronald in their dust, the great beasts galloped to a run and took off, soaring into the air. Mortimer let out a scream during takeoff, but as the grew steady, Cypress could here him in awe of the sight below them. They were in line with the clouds now, above the treetops, rising above the mystic realm that is the veil. Cypress had traveled to the islands many times, albeit not by Unua before, but the view never ceased to amaze him. 

After what seemed like days, they finally flew over the Oceanid Islands. But as they pulled the creatures toward the Roarok Volcano, they practically halted. Confused, Cypress gave a reigns a tug, and calmly stroked the Unua’s back. 

“What is it, girl? What’s wrong?” He asked in a soothing tone. Suddenly the mother let out a shriek, and she and her baby dove for a nearby clearing. The landing was rough, but with Mortimer and Cypress still on their backs, they ran for a nearby forest, as if seeking coverage. The alchemist let out a cry, but Cypress kept his cool as not to upset the beast. As he said, they have a natural instinct for these things and if they needed to take cover, it was probably wise to follow their lead. Once under the shelter of the trees, the creatures both stopped, and the men dismounted. The mother ran for her baby, and they both directed their gaze toward the sky. In the clouds, plain as day, was the outline of a massive flying beast. It’s wingspan was at least ten times that of the Unuas, and it had horned spikes lining its head down to its enormous tail. Mortimer began to whimper. 

“Cy…Cypress. Tell me that’s not what I think it is!” He cried.

Cypress squeezed his eyes closed tightly, not in fear, but in aggravation. He knew this would be another battle he would be thrown into against his better judgement. It was his duty to keep everyone safe, after all. This really was a thankless job.

Cypress let out a deep sigh and opened his eyes. “Yes, Mort. That’s a dragon.”

November 26, 2021 20:32

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1 comment

Pixeltoast ㅤ
19:58 Jan 12, 2022

I love the effort you put into storytelling. Amazing Job Bree! : ]

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