Intro/A Storyteller's Musings
Disclaimer: Monster Hunter is copyright Capcom. All the characters in this story are mine.
In this world there are many stories. Vast are they in number, matched only in multitude by the number of those people in the world who have the desire to tell them. For hundreds and thousands of years we have collected them, most times with no reason to do so then to entertain ourselves and anyone who we would tell them to. And for every moment that passes beyond our grasp, we create new tales, and clutch tightly to them so that we may share them and pass them on, or keep them purely to ourselves for our own comfort and peace of mind.
We have yarns and fantasies of all lengths and genres in this world. We tell legends of the past, rumors of the present, and imaginings of the future. We tell of great hunters slaying mighty beasts. We tell of depraved madmen crushing the weak underfoot. We tell of historic events come and gone from our world, occasionally hoping that such things come again. We tell of our opinions and visions of the future, of fantastic things invented and designed by our own hands and built for the sake of all.
The strange and unusual are not uncommon, and truth is often ignored in the stories we weave. A simple story can easily gain strength and elaboration as it passes from one person to another. What once may have been the small tale of a young hunter killing off an over populous herd of Jaggis and leaving with a broken arm can easily grow into a tale of a brave hunter taking on two Diablos at once and winning with naught a scratch! Foolish of us to extrapolate, perhaps, but what good is a boring tale?
All these stories and all these exaggerations we weave for as many listeners as we possibly can. And yet, despite our desire to spin a yarn, there still exist two tales that have hardly changed a bit, through countless generations of storytellers: the mysteries of the old ruins, and the terrible tale of the elder dragon Alatreon.
The consistency of our tales involving the old ruins that exist everywhere in our world can hardly be blamed on shoddy work from storytellers we hear them from. Simply put, it is complete ignorance that keeps us from creating a good story from the rubble we find out against fields and against rock outcroppings. For centuries, historians have sought truth from the remains of what came before, repeatedly returning with nothing to show for their work.
But what we see, we tell with fervor. We know that whatever kind of civilization came before the stories we tell, it was surely something great. Ruins found to the west show the remains of great structures, monumental creations towering over people and visible from distances far, made of strange and mysterious metals unfamiliar to even the most genius smith. Ruins to the east show the base stones of great buildings, vast enough to hold the populous of whole cities within. Though we know nothing of their lives, we know for certain, the people who came before us were most certainly architects of fantastic things.
And that is what confuses the world as we know it. The ability to create such magnificent structures with such mysterious materials, and yet they have left us nothing with which to show how they lived. Such advanced peoples, and they vanished. No books, no histories, not even pictures on the walls of caves.
All we have is their strange and powerful weapons, and perhaps that is the most mysterious thing of them all. Scientists today advance themselves further constantly, and recently a new understanding of the aging of things has come about. A study done in the field has shown the world that though the structures of old have lay in ruins for countless years, the weapons created have not. Rumor has it that the weapons, all of them, were created and set up at nearly the exact same moment in history, though scientists claim not to know exactly what time that was. Hundreds upon thousands of battle-ready weapons lay strewn across this world of ours, each powerful enough to heavily damage an elder dragon, unchanged and unmarred by the hands of time, and yet they all came to be at once.
But why? What terrible thing came crashing down upon the people of old to make them require such terrible and powerful things? What so surprised and terrified them that they needed to build such powerful things to stave off the threat? And most importantly, how did they fail, with such great things that they had made? Such fearsome questions keep the scientists and storytellers awake at night, both of them wondering and imagining the terror that would inspire such desperate measures, yet still fail.
As opposed to the mystery of the ruins, the Alatreon retains its unchanging tale for a different reason than the mystery of the ruins. The reason our stories of the great winged demon remain the same after so long is simply this: the horrifying power and ruthlessness of the great elder dragon, the Alatreon, is so great and notorious, that not a single altercation to the tales are required to inspire fear of its horrifying strength.
What is it, though, that makes the Alatreon so incredibly horrifying to citizens and hunters alike? Is it the beast's power, its frightening control over four elements, where any other elder dragon can only wield one or two? Is it perhaps the storms the beast allegedly creates as it flies across the world in search of prey? Or could it be the monsters near absolute fatality rate, which show that out of the hundreds of hunters that have sought the beast's blood, those that have returned alive only did so because they could not find or keep up with the beast?
No, the likely reason is most certainly the last: our fear comes from the Alatreon's immeasurable wrath against humans. While other elder dragons may remain in their normal habitats and stray towards a town or city only when aggravated, the Alatreon moves around, more often than not intentionally gravitating toward human habitations for the sake of devouring any hunter foolish enough or unfortunate enough to meet it.
And may the spirits protect us all should a hunter deliberately hunt the Alatreon with its death at the forefront of his thoughts. For its wrath against humans is boundless, and should one of our kind raise a weapon against it, its retaliation is swift and merciless. Dozens of cities and towns have vanished from this world in a blaze of fire and thunder as punishment for a team of hunters who desired the Alatreon be gone from this world.
With such proficiency does the beast tear at our people that we do not even have a certain opinion on what the creature looks like! Why do you think there is no picture posted on the notice boards at hunter pubs when Alatreon warnings are posted for certain areas? None have ever gotten close enough to the beast to describe it well enough for us to create a proper image! All we know of the beast are vague guesses that go as far back as the civilization before ours: the Alatreon flies on wings of the darkest black with steely scales that glow with the power of the lightning it controls.
In this world there are many stories.
But in the end, whether it be the mysteries of the past or the troubles of the present, sometimes all we can do to waylay the issues we have in front of us is to pass around tales we've heard or ones we've only just made up. And while the tales of the old world and the Alatreon play an excellent part in entertainment due to their mystery and intrigue, they never do seem to really become the favorite tales of the children or adults of the world. No, even the timeless stories fail to truly captivate the world as much as one other type of story, whether it is true or not. These are tales of adventure. These are tales of action. These are tales of gallant warriors. And occasionally, these are tales of romance (for those that enjoy them). These are not tales of the monsters, but of those who slay them.
These are tales of hunters.
The color white consumed the land. Snow and wind erased the world of the north from sight as a great blizzard ravaged the mountainous land. Nearly all the creatures dwelling in the area, both monstrous and miniscule, had retreated to their homes. Caves and cliff overhangs became crowded and uncomfortable as Baggi, Giggi and other creatures sought shelter from the fury of the storm. Those injured outside of the caves, those too tired to return, or those so foolish as to venture out in search of food, surely were considered doomed by the members of their packs or hives.
The blizzard had raged for days in the Tundra, and no sign of it ending was in sight. The Hunter's guild had announced a hunting ban in the Tundra after the numbers of frostbitten and hypothermia-inflicted hunters had jumped several dozen over a single week. Not to mention the cold-induced deaths had gone over twenty, the hunters' bodies returned to Loc Lac with not a scratch or bite on the body, but blood in their bodies frozen in their veins. Even those hunters traveling through the area with packs laden with drinks to protect them from the heat were soon overpowered by the sheer force and unrelenting frozen fury of the terrible weather. The threat had been deemed so great that even the transport boats specializing in travel through ice-congested waters had been decommissioned by the guild, to prevent headstrong hunters from venturing carelessly to their own deaths.
Guild members stationed just south of the Tundra watched the weather impatiently, contemplating sending an advisory to the Guild council suggesting they end the hunting season for the north early. Even without the storm, the hunting season for the northern climate was nearing its close as the days grew shorter. Once the sun began staying below the horizon for longer than eighteen hours of the day, the average daily temperature would drop far below the advised temperature protection of the Guild's specially made Hot Drinks. Even with Hot Drink sales skyrocketing as the temperatures dropped, the Guild couldn't afford to lose hunters to something as simple and easily avoided as the weather.
So it was that the simple base camp so often used by hunters still remained in the Tundra, worn and battered by the unrelenting winds with no one able to keep it maintained. The hunters' boxes, containing torches and maps rendered useless from the snow and ice, were neatly covered in snow, hiding their locations save for two lumps of white near the tents. The blankets and beds, once a soft and warm comfort from the frigid air, now had frozen and shattered away under the stress of the low temperatures. A small herd of Popos huddled together under the barely-stable tent flap, attempting to keep themselves alive in the very place they and other monsters avoided with fervor during the hunting season.
As the winds howled and roared through the valleys and crevices of the mountains, a small shape slowly emerged through the flurry of snow, weaving and curving chaotically. The Popos watched and tensed as a human form took shape from the shadow, aimlessly continuing forward. But the Popos soon relaxed. The human bore no weapon or shield, or even a pouch to carry food or other goods. No armor covered the body of the human, the garments worn by it barely a shield against the cold, much less the claw of a hungry Baggi. Legs knee deep in snow trudged on, and a thin hooded jacket covered the upper part of the human's body. Unthreatened by the human, the Popos returned their focus to keeping their young warm.
Less than thirty yards away from the tents, the human collapsed, disappearing underneath the fresh powder of snow that blanketed the ground. With effort, the human struggled to its knees, attempting to return to its feet. As it planted a foot on the ground in an attempt to stand, its strength gave way once more and it collapsed onto its side, breathing hoarsely through the rough fabric of its coat.
Hands blue from the cold reached up from its side, clawing at the collar and tearing it away, revealing the face of a young man. He gasped for breath, and then wheezed violently as the frigid wind chilled and seared his very lungs. With effort the man rolled onto his back, staring with blank eyes up into the sky of white. Shallow breathes were drowned out by the sound of the wind, and steam from the crack of the man's mouth was hurried away with each breath.
The man clenched his eyes closed suddenly, reaching up his fists to his forehead, as though trying to crush away some phantom pain dwelling deep inside. With a sudden rush of air to his lungs, the man expelled a loud and terrible cry of suffering, filled with pain and misery beyond that brought upon by the harsh and unforgiving cold. The Popos shivered with fright and worry as the horrible sound bled through the roar of the storm to their ears, chilling them despite the cold. The terrible howl of the man continued for what seemed to be far too many painful moments, and died away as the wind finally left the man's lungs. A silence hung over the area as the Popos waited and wondered about the human.
A deafening roar abruptly surged through the clearing, as if in response to the mournful cry of the man. Every living creature within one hundred yards of the base camp cringed and hid away as the fearsome and menacing sound echoed off the ice walls and cliff faces. Terror seized the Popos, and as one of the horrified young burst through the protective ring of elder Popos, the fear became too much for the herd and the group mindlessly stampeded away from the comfort of the base camps, risking the terrible storm for fear of the beast so close behind.
The man's eyes barely wavered as the roar died away. With effort, he tilted his up and stared blankly at the wall of white in the direction the sound had come from. No reaction showed as a large and fearsome shape stalked through the blizzard towards him.
After what seemed like endless hours, form took hold of the shadow, showing a tall winged beast. Rugged white fur coated the whole of the monster. Two fearsome fangs extruded from the dire maw of the beast, leading a four legged body through the snow. The terrible Barioth stood tall as it entered the base camp, its eyes flickering around in search of its prey. Finally it eyes stopped, meeting the empty eyes of the man on the ground. The man gazed back without a twitch, half dead and becoming increasingly buried as the snow raged on.
The Barioth stared at the man for several moments before growling a low guttural sound that carried over the snow, despite the howl of the wind. The man continued to show no response as the sound echoed into his ears. Uncertainty showing on its face, the Barioth barked a challenge at the man in the snow. Still no sign of recognition showed. After several moments, the Barioth slowly stepped forward, uncertain if this was a trick of the hunters. It continued forward, until it was standing over the half-snow-covered body of the man. The two's eyes remained locked, one questioning, one blank, as the Barioth leaned forward to the man's face and sniffed at him, checking if the man was still living. With an unsatisfied grunt, it flicked its claw at the man's arm, tearing the weak fabric of the jacket and letting bright red blood flow over the snow.
With the blast of sudden pain to his senses, life rushed back into the eyes of the man as he emitted as struggled cry of pain and quickly clutched his frostbitten hand to his arm to stop the flow of red. The shock of the sudden act startled the Barioth, sending the great beast sprawling backwards across the snow. With the rush of adrenalin flowing through his body, the man quickly rolled onto his front and climbed to his feet, tenaciously clutching his wound. He turned warily to the Barioth as the great wyvern regained its composure, lowering its head and baring its fangs at the man in warning.
The man stared back at the great white drake of the north as the beast emitted a guttural growl at him. Fear finally showed in the man's eyes and on the man's face as he took in the appearance of the beast before him. The pain in his arm was momentarily forgotten at the realization of the threat before him. The Barioth huffed in satisfaction as the scent of the man's rising terror reached its snout. With increased confidence in its superiority to the man, the monster began to stride forward in slow, cautious motions. Terror of the beast caused the man's feet to match the steps with those of his own, backing away fearfully from the approaching creature.
But the man's eyes suddenly hardened, the frightened look on his face vanished. The trembling legs, once carrying his body away from the threat before him, ground themselves into the packed snow below him. The shakes of terror slowed and calmed, and his fists clenched into fists, and his stance dropped into a rough and inexperienced fighting pose.
"No." The word was lost to the wind. The Barioth halted its advance, seeing the lips of the man move and the attitude change from fear to aggression. "No." The word was louder this time, as the man gritted his teeth at the beast. "No! Dammit, I won't let you kill me!"
The Barioth looked curiously at the man. The reckless defensive stance passed even further into aggression, the look of determination that vanquished the fear from the man's eyes was vanquished itself. The Barioth cocked its head, trying to decide the threat of the man, and the new emotion he displayed. Finally, the smell of the man's emotions reached the Barioth's nostrils and the creature quivered in revulsion. It had smelled such a scent before from other creatures. Baggi half dead from hunger. Popos suffering from the horrible disease that had spread across the Tundra many years ago. And most recently, a Gigginox the Barioth had watched die to the hands of a hunter. The great crawling beast had emitted this terrible scent as it wildly thrashed at anything that moved at the abject terror it felt towards dying.
Madness. Terrible madness. The man before him, so close to death and suffering wounds both mental and physical, had reached the breaking point that his mentality would allow of him. His mind had latched onto a single idea and would not release its grip until its desire was satiated.
"I can't die!" the man screamed at the monster before him. His eyes filled with fire and rage as he ranted at the beast. "I won't die! Not now, not here! I won't! Not until it's dead! Not until that damn black demon is cinders below my feet! You can't kill me! I won't let you dammit!"
The Barioth nearly pitied the creature before him. His mind nearly gone, and so physically drained, the man was doomed no matter if the madness wore off. But what to do about the man? It was no threat, but his body would make a fine meal, despite being nearly frozen. The wyvern's decision on the matter was quick. The man would not be eaten. The Popos disease from years ago spread to those monsters foolish enough to eat from the corpses. Such tainted meat from this human would endanger the Barioth's sanity.
But the man would have to die. His madness had to be snuffed out. He was a threat to the creatures to the Tundra, and though the Barioth had little care of the state of the Baggis and Giggi, his food supply of Popos could not be allowed to be tainted. With a bark of aggression, the Barioth gave the madman his fair warning before crouching to charge forward. The man responded in turn with a hoarse yell of his own.
"Screw you! I'll kill you first then! Then the demon! Then all your kind that took it all away from me! All you damn monsters are corpses!" Finally giving in to his mad rage, the man charged the Barioth, fists raised as blood flowed down from his forgotten wound. The Barioth roared its response and leapt toward the man.
Snuff the disease, it thought. Remove the malady.
Thanks for reading if you did! Please review if you would and point out any spelling/grammatical errors I may have made.
I hope to come out with the next chapter, which will have a lot of character introductions, within the next couple of weeks.