I hadn’t fought many things that could survive more than one solid blow from me. The warrior type boss goblins being the first exception, and now hydras were the other ones. It reminded me that high level adventurers had very high attributes- including more Strength than me. Not that anyone at my level would have more unless they were a giant. The important thing was that when my Strength wasn’t sufficient to kill an enemy in one hit, fights became much harder. Of course, I couldn’t expect to perform perfectly against new enemies but the point remained. I had relied on my Strength to get by until now, not that I had any real choice. On the other hand… I thought perhaps I should have dealt less with the body even if I could damage it through the scales. Just because I was strong enough to do that didn’t mean I couldn’t cut off heads.
As I thought about Strength, I idly looked at my attributes. There wasn’t usually much change in a single day, but today my Strength had increased by three. I wondered if it had something to do with the hydra meat, or if it was just finding something I had to use my full power on. Well, the most probable conclusion was a combination of both.
We weren’t the only ones to realize that carrying back parts from a hydra was rather difficult- we had just forgotten that detail. Merchants in Amielas already knew about the problem- and had preparations for just that. Specially trained pack mules could be rented or purchased in town.
Their special training was mostly in self-preservation. Optimally in a battle they would not be involved in the slightest- but also not run off where they couldn’t be found. Halette could probably have trained one, but we didn’t have the time and nobody sold untrained mules anyway.
“I like the one with the brown snout!” Halette declared. As a beastmaster, she was the one most qualified to pick the animal we brought with us. They all looked just about the same to me, so it didn’t matter. “What’s his name?”
“Hood.” The merchant stated. It seemed like he had the same sort of naming scheme as Halette.
Hood probably wasn’t the best pack mule available in town, but for the best we’d have to get up early and hope someone who was done hunting hydras had brought back a better one. Even so, none of the mules were going to be poor quality. One good thing about the guild is they cared about the adventurers working for them. Since this service catered almost exclusively to adventurers, they had to keep a certain level of quality if they wanted to retain their business.
Having fought a hydra up close, and seen how big their teeth were, I wasn’t at all disappointed when we managed to defeat hydras before they got into melee range. It was only the smaller ones- three heads or fewer- but they were still quite profitable in terms of experience and money.
It was very different from fighting in a dungeon. Seeing enemies from a long distance and having the room to shoot at them was a nice change. Socks didn’t get to participate in some of the combats, but she was quite happy to eat hydra bits anyway.
Of course, there were plenty of bigger hydras too. They were impossible to take down before they finished closing in, at least with our party composition.
“There’s another one- five heads.” Halette pointed it out. Five headed hydras were the biggest we would face- but there weren’t that many bigger ones anyway. The yearly hunts helped with that.
As I let loose a few arrows, I realized I should pick up a bow skill. Maybe something like Rapid Shot, which let you shoot two arrows in quick succession- faster than a hand and bowstring could normally move. If we could kill more hydras before they got to us, it would be better- and then I wouldn’t need that mana for melee.
Once again, the hydra got close enough for me to pull out my halberd. My heavy mace was magical, but the freezing effect it provides didn’t make up for its lack of damage versus a hydra. I couldn’t break its limbs, and could only shatter some scales- under which was still a lot of muscle. Chopping into it or lopping off a head with my halberd was much better.
Our tactics had developed somewhat. Socks would head around behind the hydra- it was harder for it to attack that way, and she couldn’t reach its necks anyway. From there, she could attack its hind legs or its tail. Though the tail swiping could be a danger to her, it was also part of the hydra’s mobility and balance.
Alhorn and I would stand in front of the hydra, off to each side. This was the least optimal position for it to attack us where it wouldn’t just turn around. Hydras weren’t smart, so with one of us it each direction it kept it from turning. There was the chance that it would just charge forward, but Halette, Kasner, and Kantrilla stayed well back. Hood would retreat even further behind them, watching. He still put in work, carrying hundreds of pounds of materials back each day.
I stood back, away from the body of the hydra. I had been nearly trampled when I got too close before. Two heads bit at me, and I slashed at the leftmost head while dodging further to my left. That prevented the second head from being able to attack me- with the first head getting in its way. I carved a nice gash into the side of the neck of the first head. I would have liked to take the head clean off, but the neck was too thick and I hadn’t had a good angle anyway.
Then I heard Alhorn cry out. He had been caught in the jaws of the fourth head. It lifted him up off his feet, and though he had his shield wedged in between his teeth, helping to prevent it from crushing him, its other heads were now free to try to tear him apart. We had to act fast or the results would not be pretty.