I sighed. Walking around in a swamp wasn’t fun. Even when there weren’t hydras we had to watch out for other things like snakes and poisonous insects… Not that regular snakes were a big danger, but they were an annoyance. Without a cleric they might have been worse, but Kantrilla could remove poison if anyone actually got bit. Not that Alhorn and I had much to worry about unless the snakes could bite through thick boots and metal armor. If they could, we had a whole other problem.
Halette sighed as well, “There seem to be fewer and fewer hydras. We’re probably getting near the end of the hunting season…”
It hadn’t actually been a real season yet, but unlike with animal hunting seasons, hydras were intentionally hunted basically to extinction. At least, in the outer areas of the swamp. Nobody was worried about whether or not there would be more the next year. If there weren’t, adventurers would find other work. Because of that, hydra hunting season was only expected to last a month or two.
Alhorn shrugged, “We’ve done plenty well for ourselves. I think we accomplished our goal here. The levels and practice will help with whatever we go up against next… whether that’s the minotaur dungeon or something else. We could probably find some more hydras deeper in the swamp but…”
Kasner shook his head, “I think I’d prefer to live longer, thanks. I’d rather not be a midnight snack for anything.
Everyone’s expressions soured at the thought of going deeper into the swamp. Not only would that mean more unpleasant trekking, but it also came with more risk of running into stronger hydras- and other creatures that lived in the swamp. Combined with having to stay in the swamp at night, the risk became much greater than the potential reward.
Having not found a single Hydra, we started to return to Amielas. About halfway back, Halette called out, “There’s one! Five heads.”
“Well,” Kasner grinned, “At least we didn’t waste all of our time today then.”
By this point, we were all used to fighting hydras. That didn’t mean that our routine made us careless, but rather we had grown more aware of what they could do, and more prepared for it. A moment of carelessness could still be a problem, but we were more able to avoid them.
I prepared a spear, as was the norm now. I’d had some chance to practice on live hydras, which was much different from a stationary target. Not that they were actually harder to hit- they were much bigger, and even moved closer. The bigger problem was penetrating through their scales… but I had a skill to use now, and I was getting better at it. It still didn’t feel like Ruslan’s… but I would just have to practice more until it was. As long as I was fighting something large enough, spears would continue to be useful. As for smaller things… I could carry a number of javelins, which were just smaller throwing spears. Strictly speaking, there were many things called spears that weren’t really designed for throwing, but enemies wouldn’t care about how specific I was with the name of my weapons when they were bleeding out.
Halette had become amazingly accurate with her bow, and even though she used skills to increase that accuracy that was also part of her ability. She could quite consistently hit a hydra in an eye or shoot an arrow into an open mouth and into their throat. She hit several good shots as the hydra approached.
Alhorn also had been practicing with the bow. I might have attributed his skill to the elven side of him, but I knew how much effort he put into his training- and I wasn’t going to diminish that. He could use paladin type skills to add light attribute damage onto his arrows, which increased their power. It would be much more effective against undead or darkness based enemies, but against hydras it still helped. Training in that area would also help him in melee combat, since it wasn’t limited to being used with a bow.
Meanwhile, I had a number of skills exclusive to either melee or ranged. I would probably pick up even more. That lack of focused training could be a problem, but I noticed that I could apply learning from different types of weapons to increase training speed. That was probably true in general, but Martial Apprentice likely helped me there.
Once the hydra was close enough I threw my first spear. It just felt like a normal throw, though I could feel that I successfully activated Piercing Spear. The one thing that I noticed was most different was the sound the spear made as it went through the air. It was just a bit cleaner… Of course, that was only mentioning the travel of the spear. Once it hit the hydra’s chest, the crisp sound of slicing and breaking scales rang out, along with the squishy sound of hitting meat.
The entire head of the spear sank into the hydra, around a foot of metal. That wasn’t necessarily deep enough to pierce any vital organs, but it wasn’t a light wound either. As the hydra continued closing in at a rapid pace, I threw a second spear while it was about thirty feet away. There was another whooshing, cracking, squelching sound,the latter of which were much clearer at the closer distance. The second spear wasn’t far from the first- at most a foot or so, which was very little compared to the hydras width.
Finally lightning from Kasner caused the hydra to topple over in front of us. The party was now capable of killing five headed hydras without entering into melee combat- sometimes. In this case, we were relatively fresh except for the trekking throughout the day. We all were full on mana to use our skills, and we didn’t anticipate more combats either. We didn’t have to reserve too much energy for subsequent fights, otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible to defeat the hydra so easily- unless we were lucky. That happened sometimes.
When we got back to town, we heard news of why there were fewer hydras. It was true that the season was almost up… but beyond that, there was a boss hydra out in the swamp. We had probably only missed the announcement by a short time- and if we’d heard that, we wouldn’t have gone out that day at all. Hydras were already dangerous in single numbers… what would a swarm of them look like? Well, we’d have the chance to find that out if we joined with the eradication expedition. We technically had the option not to… but all adventurers in the area who had been hunting hydras were strongly encouraged to join.