The jungle was a silent battlefield, full of color and potential to thrive, yet void of sounds and activities of life. Whenever one pushed through the thick underbrush, hacked their way through the thick vines, or traversed the lonely paths, only an aura of danger followed along. It was this feeling that Grux felt as he made his way through the jungle.
Grux constantly kept watch of his surroundings, almost as though he was paranoid. He feared that his gods would send an insurmountable foe, or foes, to enact their wrath upon him. He had angered them and now he only desired their forgiveness. Grux was willing to do whatever it took, which is how he ended up on this deadly hunt.
The village where Grux was raised had always been a very religious one. They had their Gods and they were to worship them daily. Every hunt was in honor of the Gods. Every festival was to ask for their favor. Every birth was to provide the Gods another worshiper, another tool to be used. Yet when Grux committed the sin of trying to steal their power, the Gods were severe with their punishment. The crops and local fauna withered away, and unwelcome weather plagued the village. The village, and Grux’s grandmother in particular, was disappointed and deeply displeased with Grux’s actions. They were desperate for a method to appease the Gods. One night, Grux’s grandmother had a vivid dream about a monster that stalked an infamous jungle in a region a few days from the village. The dream showed Grux hunting this prey and a battle between the two. Grux’s grandmother interpreted this as a message from the Gods and thus he was ordered to hunt and kill this prey in the name of the Gods. With his two cleavers in hand, Grux set off to find this mysterious prey.
Grux regained his focus as he trudged forward. He knew the beast was in this jungle, but had no clues as to where its home was located. Did it have a lair? Was it a monster that constantly roamed? The only information he gave was that this monster took shape of a human, though it was anything but, and that it was known as Khaimera. Rumor was that this man was quite a hunter himself, but was unfortunate enough to have hunted a cursed prey. When the man killed the prey, he was possessed and succumbed to this beast. The hunter became the prey and he no longer lived. Only his shell, inhabited by a fearsome spirit that some say is a vengeful nature god, was left behind. Perhaps this was why his Gods requested this hunt – they wanted a rival god to be rid of. Grux pondered on this as he went, reveled in the idea that he was to kill a god – that perhaps he was already strong enough to fell a spiritual being. He would gain forgiveness and prove his strength all in a single hunt. Good fortune for such a simple task. Grux grinned, his sharp teeth glinting in the light that threaded through the jungle flora, and his beady eyes closed as he enjoyed entertaining this notion.
Grux continued on and came upon a beautiful grove. A pond of clear, blue water was surrounded by lush vegetation. Grux found a bush with large, lucious berries, ate until he was satisfied, and went to pond. Grux cupped some water and brought it to his dry, cracked lips. As he drank, he admired the cleanliness of the water. It was then that a strange object half hidden in dirt at the bottom of the pond caught his eye. The more he examined the bottom of the pond, the more strange bumps and shapes he realized were riddling the dirt. Grux reached in and grasped one object that was protruding like a stick carelessly thrust into the ground. As he pulled it out with a pop and brought it above water, he realized he not a stick, but a bone. His eyes slightly opened in shock as the realization of where he may be overcame him. Only one place in this jungle would horde such an amount of bones. The corners of his mouth turned up, as though a fresh, roasted kill had just been presented to him to engorge upon. If this was the feeding ground of his target, Grux realized he had just came upon a very favorable situation. The potential to ambush his target was beyond what he had hoped. Oh, how the Gods favored him so!
Grux picked up his cleavers from where they lay on the ground beside the pond. He scanned the area for a place to lie in wait and he spotted an area not far from the pond where many large plants and trees crowded together. It was a perfect place to hide. He walked towards the spot, imagining all the different ways this plan could unfold, when an odd feeling overtook him. A lingering, awkward feeling that reminded him of when he would try to lie to his grandmother, but it was blatantly obvious she would not be taken for a fool. Grux’s eyes dart around the area and he quickly sped towards his hiding spot. Just as he came before the spot, he heard a rustle from the bushes before him, and a fearsome roar. From the very spot he planned to launch his ambush from, the figure of a man leapt with two flailing axes in hand. The plan had been foiled before it had even begun. Grux’s eyes widened in shock as he instinctively rolled to the side. Two large axes were embedded in the dirt where he had stood not seconds before. Grux ferociously let out a war cry as he stared in the eyes of the beast before him. The beast silently returned the gaze. The two dangerous auras mixed as the two hunters stood before one another. This is the fated battle, Grux thought. The battle between the god-fearing and the godless, of Grux and Khaimera.
Grux swung his cleaver first, hoping to gain the advantage. Khaimera skipped backwards without effort and he hunched over, like a tiger readying to pounce. He stared at Grux and shook his head quickly, letting out a small yell. Khaimera began to strife to right, and Grux followed suit. The two circled one another, waiting for the next strike. Khaimera fainted a movement to the left and then jumped at Grux. Grux tried to move, but his larger body was not as agile as the lighter framed Khaimera. He felt one axe strike his shoulder, cutting a shallow wound, and he protected his torso with his cleavers. The two axes immediately launched a barrage against Grux, but he was able to block most of the strikes with his large weapons. The barrage was endless, but slowed with each strike. If he could hold out, an opening would show itself. Grux clenched his teeth and focused his strength into holding the cleavers in the defensive position. He counted the seconds between each strike from Khaimera, and once the time had grown long enough Grux launched his counter-strike.
Grux waited for the next strike and the moment an axe touched his cleaver, he shoved back against Khaimera. Khaimera was put off-guard and lost balance. He tilted backwards and Grux crossed his arms. With one large cross slash, Khaimera felt two large gashes open along his chest, blood flowing from them. A low, grumbling chuckle could be heard as Grux delighted in his success. Khaimera’s eyes flared with rage. He sprinted at Grux, blood streaking down Khaimera’s chest as a second flurry of axe strikes with renewed vigor found their target. Khaimera attacked relentlessly. Grux was stunned to see that with every strike, Khaimera’s wounds healed. It was a slow process at first, but every time an axe blow found its mark, the wounds closed slightly. So this was the fearsome power of this beast? Grux cursed in a mumbled voice.
Realizing the situation he was in, Grux tried another approach. He swung his cleaver low, aiming for Khaimera’s legs. As predicted, Khaimera jumped over the swinging cleaver. While Khaimera was mid-air, Grux dropped his hands beside his waist, cleavers touching the ground, and put all the strength he could manage into his legs. Grux lowered his head, the horns lining his scalp pointed forward, and he rushed towards Khaimera. Grux felt his head ram into Khaimera’s torso as he ran, his horns piercing skin. The momentum took them both forward, however once Grux stopped moving, Khaimera slid off his horns and continued on as though he was a weak human rammed by a stampeding gorzop.
Khaimera slammed into a tree behind him. He fell to the base of the tree, crumpled on the ground. Above him, the tree was split and bent where the collision had occurred. Grux roared with satisfaction as Khaimera lay motionless before him. Grux’s cleavers carved tracks into the soft dirt as Grux dragged them towards his victim. Grux relished in the idea of taking the head of his mark and offering it to his gods. They will finally see his value and bestow their forgiveness upon him. Grux’s mind became so clouded with these visions that had not noticed Khaimera’s legs slightly twitching. Grux dropped one cleaver to the ground as he grasped the other cleaver with both hands and lifted it above his head. A smirk spread across his face as he readied for the final blow. The moment the cleaver reached above Grux’s head, Khaimera sprung up. An immense energy flew from Khaimera’s body as a ghostly beast emerged from the human figure. Khaimera’s arms crossed his body as he focused his massive strength into his axes. The ghostly beast let out a powerful bellow that symbolized the power of the two axe strikes as Khaimera swung his arms back above his head. Grux wailed in pain as the two axes cut him across his stomach and chest. This time, Grux was sent crashing backwards. Grux hit the ground a few feet back and he rolled as the dirt absorbed the impact.
Not even had a few seconds passed when Khaimera had again pounced onto the wounded Grux. Grux only had one cleaver, the other left on the ground where Khaimera had been playing possum earlier. Grux refocused, his body screaming in pain, and he crossed his body with the single cleaver as his only defense. As Khaimera landed atop him, Grux pushed back with the cleaver. Khaimera was forced off of him. Grux quickly regained his footing and struck wide with his cleaver. Khaimera dodged and retaliated with a quick strike. Grux nimbly side stepped the blow, grabbed Khaimera’s arm, and whipped around. He threw Khaimera behind him, and sprinted for his other cleaver. Khaimera growled as he landed on both feet and he pursued Grux. Again, he pounced. Grux quickly grasped his second cleaver, lifted both above his head, and slammed the two together with a great force. The force stopped Khaimera and the ear splitting ringing of clashing metal made Khaimera instinctively cover his ears, – a meaningless act as Khaimera’s vision still blurred and his head vibrated painfully.
Grux took this opportunity to strike at Khaimera, his rage building as the battle drew on. Khaimera’s upper arms and chest bled as Grux cut him. However, with every counter strike from his opponent, Grux noticed Khaimera bled slightly less and his vigor slowly returned to him. Grux knew he needed to end this earlier than later, as every second that passed gave Khaimera an advantage that Grux sorely needed. The two exchanged blows. The leaves of the fauna around them blew back as the impacts created strong air currents. Both fighters’ feet slowly dug craters into the dirt beneath them. Blood stained the grass around them. Grux’s confidence waned as his attacks slowly lost the strength behind them. Khaimera truly seemed to be a god as the rumors said. His attacks were relentless and his anger was infinite. Grux crossed his blades for one final attempt at finishing the fight. He pulled his blades across Khaimera’s chest, releasing a stream of blood. Too much time had passed however, and seconds later the wounds had quickly healed. Khaimera just looked at his blood ridden chest and laughed mockingly as he continued ravaging Grux.
A few minutes had passed when the jungle had finally fallen silent. The sounds of battle disappeared. It was as if the hunters were actors on a stage and the surrounding jungle a quiet audience anticipating the dramatic battle’s climax. Grux had fallen to his knees, blood riddling his body from the cuts Khaimera rained upon him. Dirt covered his body. His confidence had disappeared. The Grux who came here sure of his victory was no longer. Khaimera stood, back hunched over, energy visibly flowing from his body. The crumpled figure from before now brimmed with power that was invisible before. Grux could only chuckle at how drastically their positions had changed.
Grux stared at the ground in agony. Why had he failed? He was supposed to return victorious, regain the favor of his gods. He would lead his village to a flourishing future. His grandmother would no longer feel ashamed by his presence. Was that not the intention of the Gods? He wanted to shriek in frustration. He wanted to ask his gods why? Why did they refuse to place their favor in him? Why do they desire his death? He understood the gravity of his sins, but did the punishment fit the crime? He felt an error had been made, but then again, he was the one being judged. It was only natural for him to feel as such. As he was overcome with these thoughts, in a far off space in his consciousness, he felt a stern voice speak to him. The Gods. “You were too proud. You felt as if you deserved everything. You acted as though you were one akin to us, your Gods! You are no such thing, nor will you ever be! You succumbed to pride. You needed a reminder of your mortality. The beast before you is no god, but he may be the closest thing on this planet. May he remind you of what a God is truly possible of.” The Gods reprimanded him angrily. With every word, Grux’s chest tightened as he was forced to accept what was happening. He lowered his head slightly and said not another word.
Khaimera raised a single axe, roared in victory. The axe swung down. A meaty thunk could be heard as it was planted in Grux’s neck. Grux toppled over, his blood slowly running along the slight slope towards the clear pond riddled with bones. The pond slowly became tainted as blood swirled within the water. The jungle started to come to life with birds screeching, animals howling, and Khaimera pounding his feet into the earth with satisfaction. It seemed as though the jungle was sentient and approved of the sacrifice. The jungle king had reaffirmed why this was his land and why no one enters his kingdom. Khaimera could be seen slightly grinning as his thoughts were absorbed with the new skin he was to mount upon his shoulders and mask his face with, a warning to any opponent who thought they could face a god and return victorious. Khaimera grasped his axes as he slowly hunched over Grux’s body. With savage slices, the beast began to take his prize.