Slashing Crane took a moment to breathe as he made his way through the undergrowth, letting the arm that held his machete rest while he wiped the sweat from his brow. The southeastern jungle was rapidly becoming his least favorite in all the places he'd traveled - How anyone was capable of standing this weather enough for them to live here was beyond him. Crane was a northeastern son after all, and part of him would kill to see snow again at this point, the young scholar pleasantly reminiscing as he readjusted his salt-and-pepper gray hair, securing it back in a tight ponytail. Shrugging his pack and loosening the top button of his yeddim-hide buff jacket for a bit of ventilation, he silently wondered for a moment why he had even come. The thought soon vanished on its own, however - the whispers in his dreams, the visions were enough, besides, if he ever wanted to accomplish something of his goals he'd need more than a few recently-penned historical textbooks to teach by, and that meant field work. Lots and lots of gritty, sweaty, humid, miserable field work.
"You'd think education gets taken for granted these days or something." Crane mused with a chuckle. His humor was gone in a flash, however, as he heard the thump and crash of massive footfalls. Tightening the grip on his machete and diving behind the cover of a tree, Crane waited for the beast to approach. One thing he'd learned very quickly in this place - at least in the evergreens, the worst one had to worry about was usually the cold. Here, anything could show up, and when it did it was usually large, hungry, and posessed of quite an array of teeth.
Crane risked a glance around the tree trunk as more of the undergrowth snapped and crashed under the whatever-it-was's passage - if something was going to try and eat him, he at least wanted to know what it was. Wandering in towards Crane's location with a swaying gait, the creature gave a low roar that was equal parts hiss and growl. Low-slung body, blue-green scales, a massive snake-like maw on a thick trunk of a body with a short neck and webbed talons. A river dragon, at least at first glance...but when two thin yet powerful three-taloned arms rose from its back, and the madness in its eyes became noticeable, Crane took a concerned breath.
Wyld-tainted, the scholar thought to himself. This ought to be interesting.
Getting back behind the tree and holding still, Crane kept his breath shallow and quiet, hoping he'd made little enough of an impact on the wildlife for the creature to not pay him any mind. Of course, it was tainted, so who could really say what it'd do? It was sniffing around, Crane could hear it shuffling around the undergrowth...probably smelling the combination of Crane's sweat and the odor of his jacket. The two three-taloned arms took hold of the tree Crane hid behind, and Crane could more or less gather what it had deduced.
Crane's caste mark flared in a moment of golden purity, the mark of the Copper Spiders clear as he gave an irritated sigh. He'd been hoping to save his essence for a real threat.
The tree was rent from its moorings like a fresh-sprouted weed, Crane springing to his feet and away from the river dragon in a flash of gold and blue-white light, disappearing into the foliage. The torn-up log was haphazardly tossed deeper into the jungle, crashing into the undergrowth as the dragon smashed aside other ancient trees in a rage. The creature knew food was here, had smelled it, tasted it in the air, yes...it had to still be here.
Crane settled himself into a decent defensive posture as he watched the tainted river dragon bellow and thrash, trying to find him while he stood behind it in this newly-made clearing. Slightly amused, Crane picked up a rock and chucked it at the beast, giving it a sound rap on one of its scaly Wyld-blessed limbs and whistling for its attention. The creature whipped around to face him, snarling and drooling.
Yep. large, hungry, lots of teeth, it definitely fits the profile, Crane mused as he stared it down with a little smirk. The creature gave an earsplitting roar, lumbering foreward as its arms swept down low, scything claws grasping for Crane. The scholar tucked and rolled, springing past them and inside their reach. Facing the creature's vast maw, Crane leapt upward with golden light flaring around him, planting a foot squarely on its snout in the stance of the Graceful Crane before springing off of it and onto its back, diving under another sweep of its extra arms. Frustrated, the creature started thrashing about the clearing with Crane on its back, the comparatively miniscule scholar maintaining perfect balance despite its raucous movement. Its claws swiped at Crane once more, just barely grazing his jacket and catching on the loose upper button, the flailing appendages unable to catch hold, but easily showing the beast's titanic strength as Crane was hurled from the tainted river dragon's back, cracking a nearby tree's trunk as the scholar landed hard against it.
The river dragon gave another vengeful roar as Crane slumped slightly, the wind thoroughly knocked from his lungs as he recaptured his bearings. Shaking off the disorientation, Crane's gaze narrowed. "Okay, I tried being nice."
Crane shot foreward with lightning speed as his caste mark burned blue-white and gold, the scholar throwing the machete end-over end at the creature's arms and taking another massive leap, the heavy chopping blade burying itself deep into the wyld-gifted limb near its base. Not half a heartbeat later, Crane was there, grabbing hold of the blade and forcing it deeper, carving around the bone before forcing the blade through cartilage. The creature wailed in agony, writhing as blood spewed from the deep wound, the arm hanging limp and useless as Crane wrested the blade free. The dragon's other arm quickly tried to lunge for the scholar once more, just as suddenly recoiling and bleeding as Crane's machete severed one of the three fingers in flight, the blade tumbling and spinning through the air to arc back into Crane's hand. Crane quickly sprang off the creature's back again, skidding into a solid stance amidst the shattered splinters of the surrounding trees. Crane found himself backpedaling almost immediately in an awkward sprawl, as the creature's neck seemed to quadruple in length in the space of a breath, its crocodilian maw snapping shut rather uncomfortably close to him. Not one to let simple things like anatomy get in your way, eh? Crane thought, recovering his footing and rushing foreward before the creature had another chance. Essence at last flared, the shape of a mandala of Old-Realm script spiraling around the scholar's body in brilliant blue, gold and white as a crane soared forth from its heart. Crane gave his best effort at a battle cry as he ran, leaping straight at the beast and burying his machete deep into its eye with one two-handed overhead stab, holding on tight as the tainted river dragon squealed and screeched in agony, its head flailing in all directions, the abused machete finally snapping off at the handle to send Crane flying deeper into the undergrowth to land in a bush as the river dragon entered its final death throes.
Covered in blood, sweat, and river dragon saliva, Crane simply stared up at the canopy for a moment as he caught his breath, realizing the creature was well and truly dead.
"Field work." Crane muttered. "It always has to be the field work."
Getting up from his position flat on his ass and groaning as he felt his back start to ache from his earlier flight into the tree, Crane slowly made his way back towards the clearing, wondering if there was any part of this wyld-mutated beast he could possibly cook.