by Myra Karine
Hydra fight a skeleton army to take back the swamp.
|The Hydra had gone from two heads to four-hundred and thirty-six in under ten minutes. That’s what you get for being in the front lines of an army filled with skeletons. It was widely known that the necromancer had an unbeatable army, because the soldiers never died, but no one took into consideration why exactly the other side lost. It wasn’t because the skeletons couldn’t die, it was because the other side got sick of fighting. Face it, necromancer dude, bones don’t have muscle. A tap from a stick could send a skeleton tumbling to the ground, and it took a minute or two to reorient itself. During that time creatures like the Hydra took the force of the oppression.
Head number twenty-two stifled a yawn, dodging lazily around the club of a bumbling ogre. She’d been in the back ever since heads sixty through eighty grew in front of her, and with the elder expert members in the back she wasn’t worried about getting scratched. A moment after it swung the ogre was torn apart in six directions, along with twenty more of its kind. How the other army got ogres on its side was no wonder to head twenty-two. If she had any say in the matter she’d take the whole family away from this mass of broken bones. She’d seen so many brothers and sisters cut off, seen many more born, and in the end nothing was gained. At the end of the last battle, with more than a thousand heads, the alchemist had produced more than a thousand vials of a solution that put the heads back in the body of the Hydra so they could be born again with another head. Each time a head drank the vial their shell shriveled and fell from the main body, until it was reduced to a manageable size. It wasn’t death in the sense of ceasing to be in the absolute, but it sure felt like hell. Head TT had been in storage more than two-hundred times, making her one of the middle-junior members of the Hydra.
Originally when it was recruited by the necromancer the Hydra had only three members, the parents of all those who fought for him now. One of these parents had died in the last battle, which was why all the heads fought so ferociously this time. The memories of any head could be shared among the other heads, so the loss of an elder member was like partial amnesia. Titi had never been very interested in what the elder members had to remember, as it didn’t seem to matter anyway. All they ever did was fight these battles, accidentally trampling on skeletons in the process, to a point where Titi could predict with surprising accuracy where each member of both sides of the battle would go at any given time.
The ‘lephanti is heading over here, she remembered to the other members, including an image of the great wrinkled beast for the benefit of the newer children. The heads looked to the elders for a decision. Coordinating what was now almost five-hundred heads to move the Hydra might be more work than taking down the ‘lephanti, which was almost the same size as the whole snaked contraption. The ‘lephanti had speed, bulk, and armored skin on its side, but not a lot of brain or willpower. Left to themselves the ‘lephanti tended to be a mild grazing creature that would rather stand like a statue than do anything, they were harnessed mostly against their will and had no stakes in who won the war.
The elders made a decision to get rid of the ‘lephanti, which made Titi worry a little. Fighting that great beast would take out hundreds of her siblings, compromise her own life, and weaken them for the next wave that would follow the ‘lephanti. Titi could see the leaders of the other army giving orders, and she was sure they would use the chaos of the ‘lephanti’s charge to send in their best warriors. The necromancer always won, but the other side always tried to take as many with them as they could. Why, though? They all only come back, it’s not like these strong attacks would weaken the necromancer’s army or conviction. He was going to take over the world, and when all he had to do to decimate armies and send warrior kings fleeing was to reach his hand out of his hole and animate a few bones, Titi had no doubt he would succeed. She wasn’t likely to see that day, and it wouldn’t matter anyway, because once the world was owned by those who could never die she didn’t think anyone would be able to figure out how to keep on living. Once he had the world, what would the necromancer do with it? Titi seemed to be the only one concerned with such a question, but in light of her inevitable demise, it didn’t seem prudent to bring it up.
As the ‘lephanti came closer, Titi caught a memory from one of the elders, of a dank, stinky area with bubbling waters and dreary trees. The water soothed the Hydra’s skin, the trees bore fruit that popped sweet flavors under the tongue, and the stink kept those who would bother the Hydra away. Titi met the elder’s eye, and understood she wasn’t alone in her feelings, the difference was that she had never known anything besides the drone of battle, where the elder knew the crisp satisfaction of happiness. Titi suddenly realized there were more options than being killed or fighting for eternity, and one of those options sounded pretty good to her as she realized how large this particular ‘lephanti was. The ‘lephanti get bigger as they get older, and this one must be close to two-hundred years old. When its great armored skin wasn’t covered in the soot of army fire it would be home to types of lichen and beetles until it resembled a mountainous boulder.
The ‘lephanti, Titi thought, would appreciate this move as well. Instead of standing there and waiting to be bowled over, Titi mustered control of the Hydra and started to move. As the heads realized where she wanted to go their combined strength and head swimming let them gather speed until they were galloping through the sea of skeletons faster than the ‘lephanti, straight to the caverns of the necromancer. Take down the master, and the servants all fall. Take down the master, and the slaves are free. Titi smiled, showing her jagged teeth, and her family smiled with her. The Hydra would rule the swamps once more.