In the end, we didn’t find anything more appealing than fighting hydras. It was relatively good pay, as all such temporary things tended to be. Otherwise, fewer people would be willing to change their routines, even if the job really was important. For example, nobody wanted to let all of the hydras grow up for a few years, as it could turn into a problem with many giant hydras. That could be a danger for any nearby cities- and wouldn’t be good for any regular animals in the ecosystem either.
One thing that I took time to do before we went was compare what it said about hydras with what I assumed about them, growing up with them as fiction on Earth. They appeared in stories about Hercules and other sources. To start with the basics, hydras were sort of like short, stout lizards but instead of a lizard head they came with a large number of long, snake like necks and heads. That much stayed the same. The stories from Earth said that cutting off one of their heads would result in two growing to take its place almost immediately.
That actually left me with a few questions, especially since I was considering fighting them. First… how? How would anyone know that? Were there heads especially easy to chop off? Where did the mass come from to grow a new head? Why would anybody ever do it more than once? Where did the room for the heads to grow out come from?
Fortunately, these questions were answered to me in this world. At least, this world had a version of that which functioned somewhat sensibly. Hydras had weaker scales on their necks, and thus they were somewhat easier to attack than the body- plus the heads kept people far enough from the body that they were sometimes the only target. The heads would grow back- but not two heads, and not instantly. Instead, it took a period of weeks.
Sometimes adventurers wouldn’t be able to finish of a hydra before it fled, or they might get killed or have to flee themselves. With those cases and hydras sometimes losing their heads to other creatures in the swamps, there had been enough observation to notice heads growing back. A few weeks was terrifyingly fast recover speed. I recalled even the small lizards that regrew their tails on Earth took longer, and they only had to replace a few ounces of mass instead of tens to hundreds of pounds. Even so, a regrowth speed on the scale of weeks was not an issue in combat. It just was important to remember that a hydra would survive with even one head remaining, and it remained a threat until all heads were removed or its body and organs were sufficiently damaged.
The rumor about heads growing back in pairs was actually somewhat common in this world too- but the adventurer’s guild had notes on that as well. Quite simply, hydras grew new heads as they became older. They would only grow one new head at a time, but they might also regrow heads at the same time. Thus, there were occasions where people saw a hydra get a head cut off and then later saw the same hydra- with the same patterns and possibly scars- and saw two heads were growing.
Alhorn studied the melee tactics for fighting hydras with me. “Interesting…” he said, “Cutting of a head doesn’t kill the hydra- but of course that’s one less head biting at you. However, there is a suggestion for a better tactic.”
“Oh, what’s that?”
“Well, there are some weaknesses if you can get close enough to attack the body- but assuming you can’t, there’s still a better option. It’s more of a trick, really. It might even be easier to pull off. All you have to do is kill a head, but not chop it off.”
I understood that it would generally be easier to accomplish that, but it wasn’t immediately apparent how it was better. I thought about it for a moment before nodding, “Oh, because then the hydra has to drag that head and neck around, hindering its movement!”
Alhorn grinned, “That’s right! Though, hydras have been known to bite off other heads that are fatally injured themselves. The thing is, even if they do that- that’s another few moments that head isn’t biting at you. If they don’t, they’re slowed down.” Alhorn browsed the notes a bit more, “They noted that if you have a heavy weapon it might actually be more difficult to stop halfway through the neck. You have to stop your momentum or have a weaker swing which might be too little, and your weapon might get stuck, among other problems. However, in that case they just recommend chopping near the end of the neck close to the head and away from the body. That still leaves significant weight that doesn’t provide any benefit to the hydra.”
“That’s very useful information.” I shook my head, “Why isn’t there such detailed information on goblins?”
Alhorn shrugged, “They’re not terribly dangerous, as things go. It only takes a bit of basics to understand avoiding weapon attacks. Plus, if you cut off a goblin’s head it dies. End of discussion. Hydras have more unusual properties to watch out for.”
“That’s a good point. It would be nice to have a better guide for the goblin dungeon though. It would have been nice to know that we might be chased by a swarm of goblins after our first boss fight.”
“It still covered common tactics and traps… but I agree it could have been better.”
“Maybe we should write it. I mean, we aren’t complete experts, but we could add a few things. We have a lot of useful experiences, like that last special boss room… There weren’t enough details on what those rooms could be like.”
Alhorn nodded, “Maybe we should. I don’t think it would be a problem to ask about it anyway. I’d also like the thought of helping other new adventurers here.”