Dr Gnome part 21

Okay folks trying for more details here, hopefully by the end of this you’ll have a good idea what a manticore looks like. Also tried for some strong characterization and hopefully a bit of emotion. Let me know.

***

Buck Staghorn woke with a start. Hushed words sounded outside the safe enclosure of the rocks. He sat up and focused on the whispers. Then he realized it was just Alchemy talking to a woman. They sounded far enough away that even his sharp Ursa hearing only heard them as whispers. He hoped the Elf wasn’t doing anything stupid. Stretching, he wondered what Gavin was doing. Sleeping with the warrior at his side had become natural the past couple of weeks and it felt odd falling asleep without him there as the sun had cast the eastern horizon in a pale coral pink. Hopefully Gavin hadn’t run into any trouble on his way back to Buteamore and brought Griz and probably one other Ursas along with a cart back to retrieve the young dragon carcasses.

The big Ursa stood up and looked out of the cracks between the boulders they’d sheltered in. Just up the hill, Alchemy talked with an Elf woman. The wizard suavely took the woman’s arm and the two started walking around the hill. Staghorn squeezed his large frame out of the safety of the rocks and started after them.

Then an angry roar shook the morning air. He looked up and saw a manticore skirting around from the far side of the hill and dropping out of the blue morning sky toward the two Elves. The green form of a goblin, with long ears flapping in the wind, guided the monster down. Powerful legs propelled him forward. If something happened to Alchemy, Gavin would never forgive him. The wizard pushed the woman behind him and pulled out his wand.

“Shields Up!” rang out across the hillside.

Staghorn didn’t see anything, but figured that an invisible magical shield now protected Alchemy and the woman from the manticore’s attack. The echoing boom of an exploding rod sounded as the manticore swerved to the left. One of the projectiles from the rod bounced off the shield. The woman screamed and dropped below the nearest rock.

Another roar shook the hillside as three more goblin-ridden manticores swooped down from the barren top of the hill. Staghorn pulled his great sword from the sheath that hung across his back. The thick hilt felt comfortable in his hands as he came up behind Alchemy.

“Looks like we have a situation here,” the Ursa said.

“It does look that way,” the Elf replied, as the three new manticores came in close. He flicked his wand at one and shouted “Burn!” A massive fireball seared the air toward the oncoming monster. The manticore veered away, but not before the fireball caught its scorpion tail. The beast howled in pain and turned out of the fight.

“Good shot,” Staghorn said, watching as the next two came in low from his side. Both of the goblin riders brandished exploding rods toward him, he wasn’t sure how effective the projectile weapons would be from the rough ride the goblins endured. One of them fired and the shot went wide, striking a rock on the side of the hill. The other goblin didn’t bother, and directed his manticore down, with fangs and claws extended toward the Ursa.

“Burn!” Alchemy shouted again. A fireball barely missed Staghorn’s head but this time the manticores were ready for it and with swift tuck of their bat-like wings, dove out of the way. The one closest to Staghorn, landed with its lion paws on a rock for a moment before springing at the Ursa.

Only his bear-like strength kept Staghorn on his feet as the manticore plowed into him. His massive sword flew out of his hands before he could bring it to bear against the monster. His enormous paws gripped the almost human head of the creature as razor-sharp claws cleaved into his leg. Screaming, the Ursa twisted the grotesque head in his hands and was rewarded by a loud snap as the thing’s neck broke. An equally loud boom sounded just as pain tore though his shoulder. The goblin on the manticore’s back glared at him down the smoking tube of the exploding rod.

“You’re dead!” Staghorn screamed at the goblin as he yanked the body of the manticore around before the rider could free himself from the saddle straps that kept him on the monster in flight. A look of terror clouded the green face, and the floppy ears drooped. The goblin swung the exploding stick around, trying to hit the Ursa with the heavy wooden end. Staghorn grabbed the exploding stick and yanked it out of the goblin’s hands.

Another fireball passed over him as he got his hands around the goblin’s spindly neck. Green eyes, dark enough to be almost black, widened as Staghorn crushed the life out of the little creature. With the goblin still lashed to the manticore’s saddle, the Ursa let the two bodies drop to the ground in front of him.

With the immediate threat dealt with, the pain in his leg brought Buck Staghorn to his knees. Through tear-filled eyes, he looked for his sword. Maybe the massive piece of metal could support his weight. He spotted it laying just down slope from him, resting at the base of a large boulder.

“Staghorn, you alright?” Alchemy called from behind him.

“Not the best,” the Ursa replied. “Need my sword.” He started crawling toward his weapon.

“Sheilds Up!” the wizard behind him yelled again.

The rocky ground was hard as the big Ursa moved slowly toward his sword. Fire lanced through his right leg with each movement and his shoulder throbbed with a terrible ache. He pushed on, hoping that Alchemy would be able to hold off the remaining two manticores, and that no more were on the way.

“Clank!” Alchemy shouted. Heavy chains bounced off the rocks near Staghorn.

With only a few more feet to go to reach his sword Staghorn pushed himself onward. He was an Ursa, one of the largest and most powerful races in the world of Vihrea, he wasn’t going to be undone by a goblin of all things.

“Burn!” the wizard shouted again.

A manticore screamed as the Ursa’s hands closed on the hilt of his sword. He leveraged himself up to a standing position and looked around. Alchemy and the woman stood back to back just up the hill where he’d left them. The two remaining manticores stooped down from the sky above them. One of the monsters had singed fur along the brown mane that ringed its humaneske head.

A roar off to his left caused Staghorn to turn. The monster with the flaming tail headed back toward them, smoke still streaming from the stinger-ended tip.

“No!” the Ursa roared, drawing the beast’s attention away from the elves. The manticore swung toward him. Pushing the burning pain in his leg away, Staghorn braced himself for the manticore. With a great heave, during which his injured shoulder screamed at him, he lifted his massive blade in time to get it between him and the attacking monster. Finely horned steel cleaved into the human face as the beast screamed its last. The weight and momentum of the monster knocked the Ursa to the ground. A large rock in his back forced the air from his lungs and the pain in his shoulder made his head swim.

As his vision cleared, a green face, holding a long metal tube looked down at him from the back of the manticore that lay across his lower body. Staghorn tried to push the corpse off, but the weight was too much for his injured shoulder. The green face of the goblin spit into a wide grin. Its hand moved, seeming to clinch something in the handle of the exploding rod. Smoke issued from the rod just as the goblin’s head exploded.

***

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