228 Chapter 225 Behemoth
In front of them, the corrupted covered the land like a blanket. Millions of creatures: elves, humans, dwarves, and others, were all mixed together. The forest had died obviously. After several thousand years, only a few petrified stumps remained. The world tree darkened the sky above them. All of the leaves had fallen off already, or even the sporadic light wouldn't have made it through the branches that remained.
"In the past, the tree gave us a soft green light, so that you couldn't tell if it was night or day," Stella said after a moment of reflection. "Kreesto?"
"What?" asked Joseph, turning to look in the direction she was turned in.
"That, in front, at the roots," she pointed out a giant figure.
Joseph couldn't recognize the creature that was there. It was over forty feet long and looked kind of like a panther, but the tail was too thick. The tail more closely resembled that of a crocodile, yet oddly enough, looked appropriate on this thing. Two giant horns were jutting forward, like a bull.
"It looks to still be coherent," he said, studying the missing patches of fur, and the puss covered patches that remained.
"That left eye looks blind," she said softly, with a grimace.
"Yeah, the green ick leaking out of it is a pretty good indication, but what is it? You called it Kreesto?"
"Elder Ceana once found a behemoth kit and entreated it to the hunters to raise it. Oh! Joseph do you think this is the same kit? That means the poor thing has been corrupted for millennia!" Stella covered her mouth in horror at the possibility.
"What are the chances it isn't your behemoth? Even from here I can tell it's gone insane, Stella. Even if I could remove the corruption, I'm not sure I could restore it…"
"No. It's suffered enough. If it loses all its memories like my mother, it will attack us anyway. Let me deal with this please. I see Elder Ceana down there, too."
"She doesn't look corrupted. Wait, weren't all the elder's guys? That is obviously a girl."
"Yeah, Ceana was the only woman among the elders. I never said the elders were all men."
"Fair enough. I'll stop her from interfering with your fight."
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Stella flew at Kreesto, pain in her heart over losing something she had thought already gone. This poor beast had once been a proud hunter and guardian of the tree. Its fur had been sleek and covered in the faintest of spots. Now it only elicited pain and horror at the sight of it. Pulling out her daggers, she prepared to end it.
As she got closer, it sniffed the air and bellowed at her. The area around it was cleared of all corrupted, having been stomped into paste as they got too close. Stella could see that it had a thick chain around one leg, keeping it contained close to the tree.
Attempting to charge at her, it swung its great head side to side, as if to hit her with those long horns. Pausing in her flight, she watched a sickly green glow light up the horns and build in intensity, before a blast was shot her way. Dodging it, she swooped to the side, slicing a chunk of diseased flesh from its right shoulder, and then swooped back out of its reach.
Stella wasn't sure what would happen if she actually touched the behemoth, so this had to be a touch and go fight.
Waiting for it to turn in just the right angle, she dodged the blasts and then swooped in to slash at it. Once she was able to get the tendons, the fight was over very quickly. Landing on the ground before it, she watched it labor to breath. The blood that poured out of it was a thick black, with no resemblance to red blood left.
A cold layer of ice began to develop in its horns, and with a look of panic, she jumped to Joseph's shadow.
He half turned in surprise as she peaked out, looking at the area the beast had been. Below them, a thick layer of ice covered everything within forty feet of the behemoth.
"It used to have elemental attacks, but the corruption has messed with its mind so much, I guess it tried to use ice to kill me," she explained, flying away from him to examine the carnage. He was in the middle of a fight with Ceana, who was not very thrilled with the interruption. Stella had no problems dodging the blades she flung in her direction.
Reaching its frozen corpse, she took her god blade and slashed at it. She had to be absolutely sure this thing was dead, because she didn't want it waking up and attacking at a bad moment. If she could separate the head from the body, it would be truly dead. Her blade slid through the ice like butter, and soon, the putrid hide was exposed.
Sliding her blade along the vertebra of its neck, she cleanly severed the connecting tissue and jumped back as the head fell forward, no longer connected to the body. Turning to leave, something caught her eye.
There was a faint sparkle to the corpse that wasn't just the ice playing with a random beam of light. As she drew closer, her eyes grew large in surprise.
Sylva had heard of a how a behemoth came to be, and it seemed the story was true. If a behemoth was killed by a worthy opponent, the beast would be reborn as a babe, to be cared for by the killer. Her breath caught in her throat as she reached down and pulled the tiny figure out of the mess that was the corrupted behemoth. Its dark fur was slick with slime, that she quickly washed off, and as it turned to nuzzle her arm, her heart melted. Being the size of a kitten, there was no way she could set it down with the corrupted reclaiming the space around her, to help Joseph fight.
There was nothing for it, but to keep the tiny behemoth kitten with her. It's glowing golden eyes opened a slit as it looked at her, then closed again, to snuggle in for a nap.