Everything happened at once. I saw Alhorn covering himself in a barrier spell- it wouldn’t do much, but it was better than nothing. His shield was wedged at an angle in the hydra’s teeth, but most of his upper half was inside its nearly closed mouth. He was straining to hold the shield in its position. It might have been possible for him to let go of the shield and slide out- but if the shield slipped he would be snapped in half by the powerful jaws, even with somewhat magical armor. He curled his legs up as much as he could, so that they weren’t dangling free for the other heads to bite.
I dashed forward, but before I could move more than a single step Kasner had flung lightning at the situation. It arced between the rightmost three heads, including the one with Alhorn in it’s jaws. It wasn’t enough to kill the hydra, but it momentarily delayed it.
I slashed into the neck that was holding Alhorn with my halberd. The entire axe head sunk into it… and then it couldn’t go any deeper. The side of the shaft hit some of the hydra’s neck, and though the spearhead on top slightly penetrated with its side… the halberd was stopped.
That was how I found myself being hurtled forward while hanging onto the haft of my halberd. The hydra was trying to run me over, but with my tight grip it only moved me forward with the halberd. Unfortunately, my hands started to be covered in blood pumping out of the neck. It was slippery, and I wouldn’t be able to keep my grip long. Then the neck slumped.
The hydra’s momentum carried it over its own head and neck. For a few moments I couldn’t see as I tumbled, and I lost my grip on the halberd.
Once I caught my bearings I found myself next to Alhorn. He appeared to be mostly intact- at least he was still in one piece, though there were some puncture wounds and blood on his armor.
Past us was the hydra, struggling from its back to its side. I saw its tail- or the stump of its tail- flopping about trying to help steady it. Socks dashed past my vision, blood soaking her jaws. She immediately went for the back of one of the necks- the rightmost one that was also now the one on the bottom.
I stood up quickly. Fortunately, I still had my heavy mace. I considered attacking the relatively less protected underbelly of the hydra, but since it could flop over several tons of mass on me at any time, I decided against it. I went around the back and started attacking the rear legs- that way even if it got up it would be even less mobile.
Alhorn moved to the front and stabbed his sword into one of the neck, dragging it along lengthwise. It wasn’t deep enough to bisect the neck, but it should have at least been cutting through the trachea.
Soon enough the hydra stopped moving- though I hit it a few more times just to be sure.
Kantrilla had already stopped most of Alhorn’s bleeding with magic, but she was working on patching him up and doing a more thorough job of closing the wounds. Upon looking at them closer, all I could really say about the ring of puncture marks around his waist was that it was better than being bitten in half. Somehow he stayed conscious, but I couldn’t imagine the pain.
It was a good thing he had just the armor he did- it was just enough to protect him. Could we say it was Luck? I shook my head. No point in going into that spiral of confusion again.
“How did you survive the hydra tumbling over you?” I asked. “You were right in its jaws… I thought it would crush you.”
“Ah, its jaws loosened up just enough for me to get out.”
Halette added, “I got some arrows into its eyes- it wasn’t moving its head as much with you in its jaws, and with the lightning. Of course, your halberd in its neck was also a large contributor, Llyr.”
Kasner coughed, “I would like to point out that I remembered Alhorn had lighting resistant armor before casting that spell with you in its mouth. That armor is a very important part of my tactical decisions.” From anyone else, I might have thought he was just saying that after the fact… but he was rather good at not hitting allies.
Alhorn just sighed as he sat heavily, “I’m just glad everything worked out. Five headed hydras were… a bit more dangerous than expected.”
Everyone nodded at that.
Hood, the pack mule, had returned while we were sitting around. That reminded me I should start dismantling the hydra. I was mostly uninjured- though as I moved around more I felt several significant bruises from when the hydra rolled over me. It really was mostly over me, and with the soft ground it hadn’t crushed me or Alhorn- which was good, because I didn’t want to be a pancake.
“Well,” Halette said as she looked over the party, “This seems like a good time to return. Even if Alhorn wasn’t injured, this hydra will have just about all that we can carry, even if we only choose the good stuff.”
Hydra meat was still rather tough and stringy, but I was getting used to the flavor. It still wasn’t great, but I did appreciate it helping with Strength growth- and maybe other things as well. It also helped that everything tasted better when famished, and nothing was better than a battle for making an empty stomach.
As I munched on the meat- thinking about how my Strength actually helped with things like chewing- I thought about the battle. I would need a new weapon- the halberd had been mangled pretty badly. I could get another one, but I thought I would rather have something with a larger edge. I might actually be able to cut off a neck more than a foot thick that way. That would help a lot against four or five headed hydras. Strength wasn’t my limiting factor there, and even if I only got halfway through- half a neck wasn’t particularly useful for a hydra. While they were slightly more effective with a partially chopped through neck than a human, that was only because humans died from that much more easily. At most, a head of a hydra on a half-attached neck would flop around.
I couldn’t ignore what else had happened though. I was smaller than Alhorn, and that meant I could easily be picked up and snapped in half by a five headed hydra, and the four headed ones could still cause me significant peril. I needed something to help with that, and all I could think of was a large shield. If it was big enough, they couldn’t fit their mouth around it- which would prevent biting down. If they could only headbutt me, it wouldn’t be so bad.