Chapter 3: Pathfinder
How hard indeed. Harder than I expected, that’s for sure. I had to fight my way through another pack of the ambulatory Lashers just to reach the shore of the lake. At least the water would wash the blood-sap off of me. I left the crossbow on the shoreline and waded into the water. The water that was absurdly cold. I shivered.
“Don’t ask how can it get any worse,” I muttered to myself. “Just don’t. Deep breath, Destylae.” I inhaled, sharply, and dove under the water.
Draenai aren’t exactly built for swimming. Our hooves and long fingers make the task difficult to say the least. Somehow I managed, though, driving myself ever deeper down into the water. How was I even supposed to find this crystal? It wasn’t as if there was a huge glowing question mark in the air telling me exactly where to go. The lake was deep, and the longer I swam, the more convinced I became that something was watching me.
My imagination running away with me, no doubt. It had to be. I headed back to the surface and took a few grateful breaths of air, treading water and looking around. I couldn’t tell what direction I’d come from now. I’d gotten completely turned around under the water. “Fantastic…”
Nothing to do but to keep looking. I took another deep breath and dove down under the water again. Just when I thought I would run out of breath this time, I spotted something glowing in deeper water. Encouraged, I went back up to the surface, fortified myself with another deep breath, and forced myself to ignore the feeling that I was being watched, then dove down and swam toward the red glow with everything I had.
No one should ever feel the level of excitement I felt upon realizing that I had found the crystal, simply for doing something like finding a crystal. But I was desperate to be good at something, to be useful. If I hadn’t been underwater and likely to drown if I tried it, I would’ve shouted for joy. I pulled the vial out of my pocket and uncorked it, letting it’s contents flow out into the water. Forgetting that I needed to surface to breathe, I watched in fascination as the glowing purple liquid swirled through the water and surrounded the crystal, neutralizing it’s radiation.
I felt jubilant. That was two tasks in a row – two tasks that I hadn’t failed at. I turned to swim back to the surface, feeling very proud of myself. It was that moment that I realized I should have paid more attention to my instincts. If I had, then I would have realized it wasn’t my paranoia making me think I was being followed – it was that I was being hunted.
Perhaps it was that I’d turned at that moment, or maybe it was the odd purple glow the potion had put into the water, but something threw the massive beast off enough that it’s initial snap at me missed by a mile. I screamed, forgetting for a moment that I was underwater, and swam desperately for the surface. I swallowed water in the process, and felt the waves of another snap by the beast’s massive fangs barely missing my legs. Acting on instinct, I drew my sword, turned, and slashed. The monster’s roar, even underwater, seemed to shake the entire world. Blood billowed out into the water, making it hard for me to see if I was swimming up or down. I was completely turned around, terrified and swimming for my very life. My lungs burned and bubbles escaped my mouth and nose as my body tried desperately to breathe.
I felt the surge before I saw it. The beast was coming toward me through the water at the speed of jet propulsion. This time, however, I trusted my instincts, spread my arms and legs, angled my tail, and spun to the side just in time. My arms wrapped around the beast’s long neck and I held on for dear life as it’s momentum carried it not only past where it would’ve attacked me, but clean out of the water. I was thrown free when the monster breached, and gasped for breath before splashing down close to the shore. I scrambled to my feet and grabbed for my sword as the monster came at me again. We didn’t have anything like this creature on any planet I’d ever been on – it’s body was massive and it’s neck was absurdly long, topped with a head that was stuffed absolutely full of what seemed like thousands of razor-sharp teeth.
I would later find out that these creatures were known as Darkshore Threshers, and that this one was a very, very long way from home. But at that moment, all I cared about was that it was trying to kill me, and was very possibly going to succeed. I slashed at it’s snout wildly as it snapped and snarled at me. I drew blood, and it barely missed snapping me up like a canapé. I staggered backwards, trying desperately to avoid becoming a Draenai flavored snack, and tripped over something hard enough that I fell flat on my tail. I felt the wind as the beast’s jaws snapped closed right where my head would’ve been if I hadn’t fallen.
I scrambled backwards on all fours, shouting Draenaic curses at the monster, and only then did I realize what I’d tripped over. The crossbow! That hated object that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to hit anything with if my life depended on it.
Well, as my life depended on it, I was about to find out if that was right.
I snatched up the crossbow and scrambled to my hooves. Before I could even attempt to aim, the beast was on me again. I reacted on instinct, and I felt the crossbow fire twice in rapid succession, it’s magically aided reload easily creating another bolt immediately. I staggered back, trying to properly aim, thinking there was no way I could’ve hit my target. And that was when the ground shook as the beast’s body crashed to the ground not four feet in front of me. One crossbow bolt embedded deep in it’s saucer-sized eye, and the other in it’s neck. The dead creature’s blood pumped out of the bolt wound in it’s neck, and it’s one remaining eye stared at me sightlessly. My heart pounded and I stared at the creature that had only moments earlier been trying to eat me. Now it was dead. I’d killed it.
I stared at the crossbow incredulously, then let out a shout of joy and turned to run back to the refugee camp. Maybe I’d been wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe Hunter was the right class for me. I could do this. I’d finally found my calling. I cradled the crossbow to my chest as I ran. Maybe I could be of use to my people after all.