The nearby nature reserve was roughly 50 miles across. Just large enough for him to hide away, while keeping close enough to the city if things went according to plan. The entire forest was fairly standard, with large pine and oak trees scattered sparingly, each attempting to claim as much light as possible for themselves, leaving the forest floor covered with the faint streams of light that made its way through. The small river running through it could only help him if he needed food.
He took a moment to brace himself, and thought of the offer.
A sharp pain lanced through his head and he grimaced in pain, holding his head for a moment. “Ah dammit, why does it always hurt..” Looking at the offer again, he saw the same warning. As a beast race, the effects of the transformation are unstable, and may end in failure. Be warned. The risk is worth the reward.
“Tch, risk is worth the reward my ass,” he muttered to himself. The only reason Drake was considering the offer was the danger of rampaging members of the newly transformed beast races.
Wait, I almost forgot.
Drake quickly flipped out his phone, and brought up Taylor’s number.
He quickly sent her a text. “High elf would be best for you, stay safe, and keep out of the cities.” He mumbled. The cities would likely become a hotbed of monsters the moment a week passed, and if Taylor became a high elf, it’d suit her pretty well. He couldn’t imagine someone like her fighting with monsters in close combat, and she’d always been somewhat of a pacifist.
He thought back to what he saw on the television, of the large griffin picking up and carrying off a whole man, and scowled slightly.
“I need to become strong to survive, and humans simply don’t have the ability to kill something that powerful without serious danger.” Looking at the offer once more, he thought, “I accept.”
Drake glanced over to his right, noticing for the first time that a thin film-like substance was floating towards him. It seemed to wave through the air like a silk ribbon, leaving him curious. Reaching out to touch it, he immediately felt a deep burning pain. His previous demeanor disappeared as the burning feeling slowly spread from his hand into the rest of his body, overwhelming him with pain.
Screaming in agony, he stammered, “AHHHHH!! WAS IT SUPPOSED TO HURT… THIS MUCH?!” As seconds passed, more and more of the substance floated towards him, flowing into him like water is drawn to a sponge. As it did, he quickly began to feel overwhelmed. The unknown substance seemed to burn his skin like fire as it passed into him, and he collapsed to the ground after only a few seconds.
Looking at his hands, he could see his skin was starting to slowly grow a layer of dark red scales, similar to a snake. Drake crawled forward, trying to somehow escape the pain that wracked his body.
“I can do this, I need to. I need this… I want to live… I want to … survive!” After he spoke, a darkness seemed to overcome him, and quickly passed out on the ground.
As he laid there, his body continued to change. His body grew until he was roughly seven feet tall, with large, lizard-like talons emerging from his feet and hands. Growing too quickly, his clothes and shoes tore apart at the seams, leaving his transforming body covered in rags. The scales that initially appeared on his body seemed to harden and grow thicker, with his head extending and becoming more snake-like. Horns started to grow from the top of his head on both sides, extending out behind him. Spines began to extend from his back with a sickening pop, and continued onto a tail that slowly extended from his tailbone.
After thirty minutes of agonizing torture, Drake woke up. Groggy, and still heavily feeling some of the pain from the transformation, he rested for another half hour. Looking around, he felt that his perspective had changed drastically from before. Propping himself up on one arm, he discovered he was much larger than he was before, and as his clothes had almost completely torn into tatters, it left him looking like a very convincing wild monster.
He laughed to himself, slowly managing to stand to his feet. “That was a lot worse than I expected. Although…”
He gave himself a quick glance, staring at the drastic differences between his old body and new. He smiled in a sarcastic manner, sighing exasperatingly as he did. “Heh, so much for getting a girlfriend. Anyone who saw me would probably run right away.”
He listened for a moment, hearing the slight babbling of a nearby creek. Following the sound, he soon came upon a small stream flowing through the area steadily. Still feeling the aches from the transformation, Drake slowly walked over to the stream to get a better look at himself.
Eyes widening in surprise, he took in his new features. “It seems like everything went well, and I don’t have any problems controlling myself. Although I have to say I look scary as hell.”
The large, almost stereotypically dragon-like face surprised him at first. His entire body, from his hands and feet to his head seemed custom tailored for killing. Laughing to himself, he shook his head sadly. “I wish I could do something about my lack of clothes. I don’t imagine there’s a shop for Draconians out yet.” Out of the corner of his eye, he began to see the film-like substance float towards him and solidify in front of him. It slowly began to write, the ribbons of matter seeming to dance in place as they created words. Congratulations on your ascension. As the first being of your race, you have been granted the ability to absorb mana from others. We look forward to the destruction you cause.
Dumbstruck by the vague message, Drake only stared at the strange message in front of him. “The destruction I cause, what the hell is that about?” Sighing, he looked excitedly at the later part of the message. “It seems I was given an interesting ability; the only problem is I have no idea how it even works. What is mana anyway?”
Drake looked around for a moment, taking in the new lights and sounds around him. Since he first transformed, he could feel something was different about himself but he couldn’t tell what it was at first. Now that he was getting more accustomed to his body, he began to tell the difference. The lights and sounds he knew from before all seemed to be amplified, and he could even see strange strands of some type of matter floating through the air, occasionally entering trees, nearby birds, and even the ground.
Lost in thought, he instinctively tried to interact the strand of light. It seemed to be drawn to him, and whenever he tried to focus on it, it would pause, before it began to try to enter his body. He hesitated, thinking back to the intense pain from before. Keeping his hand in place, the strange, almost ribbon-like matter floated towards him, and he touched it, feeling a brief flash of warmth before it quickly entered his body.
Intrigued, he excitedly began to try to experiment with the ribbon-like strands before a thought hit him. “Wait, now that I’m actually the race I was supposed to transform into, can I learn what my abilities are?” Pondering to himself, he said, “It seemed easy enough to absorb that strands of light, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to.”
He took a moment, bracing himself for the imminent pain, and thought about the offer. he expected the painfully annoying buzz. He waited… and there was nothing. No pain, no buzzing in his head, nothing. Frustrated, he tried something else. “Abilities.. I was given an ability; can’t I see what else I have?” Again, nothing happened.
Drake sighed, clearly annoyed. In this type of situation, the easiest thing to do would be to test things out yourself. He looking around, gazing at the various trees until he found a particularly tall one, covered with hard bark.
“Well, this is better than nothing.” He smirked for a moment, took a deep breath, and began to focus. At that moment, what Drake hypothesized as mana began to be drawn to him. As he focused, he felt that the flash of warmth he felt before begin to grow. It began to build slowly, and as the seconds passed, he felt the warmth begin to grow. At first, it was only a small flame, just a wisp of power. Then, it grew into a small flame, then an inferno. At the moment he felt he couldn’t hold in the power, he threw a punch, the wind whistling as he did.
*CRRAAAAACKKKK* As the punch reverberated throughout the tree, Drake began to hear a large cracking sound, as the tree seemed to split open from the inside, and toppled down to the ground, pieces raining around him.
Blinking unexpectedly, he smiled. “Well that certainly was strong.”
He began to think to himself. It seems this power, whatever it is, is a lot stronger than I first anticipated. If I’m right, whatever entered my body when I first transformed was probably mana. I was given an ability to absorb mana from others, so it might be this race’s natural ability to absorb mana to grow stronger in the first place.
Drake began to think of endless questions about what had just been discovered. Could mana be absorbed to grow stronger over time, and not just be used to attack in short bursts? If the ability that was given to him as the first of the race can absorb mana from others, how is that even done in the first place?
All the while, with Drake pondering his new situation, a large shadow began to fly above him. Unlike Drake’s transformation, the griffin above him seemed entirely feral. Circling the entirely oblivious Draconian, the griffin dived down, intending to incapacitate his prey before it was noticed.
Hearing a peculiar sound above him, he looked up, only to notice a large griffin, roughly twelve feet long diving straight towards him.
Drake suddenly felt a deep, burning sensation throughout his body. His eyes narrowed to a small slit, and he growled, “Damn creature thinks he is equal to me.” Almost as if he was going through the motions, he waited for the right moment, and leapt towards the griffin in the air. A blast of condensed mana followed him, sending him twenty feet in the air, and straight towards the griffin. Not expecting its prey to leap straight towards it, it broke off its dive, instead choosing to evade the incoming Draconian.
“Oh no you don’t!” Extending his arm, he grabbed the wing of the griffin, twisting himself onto the back of the beast. His usual calm demeanor gone, his body started to draw in and envelope itself in a thin layer of mana, leaving a pale blue streak behind him as he flew on the griffin. His previous human-like eyes were fully condensed, leaving the small, slit-like eyes of a snake. Inside them, lurking a strange malevolence.
Smiling a crazed grin, he yelled, “NOW YOU DIE!” Instinctually biting down on the neck of the griffin, Drake sent them both crashing out of the sky, the griffin screaming in agony. The griffin, powerless to stop the strange creature eating its way into its neck flailed angrily, crashing into trees and branches as they both hit the ground.
Diving off the side of the Griffin, Drake rolled on the ground, growling in an almost feral manner. Heavily injured and angry, the griffin looked up at the creature who had caused it so much pain.
Through the eyes of the griffin, it could see what mana in the air that was nearby was being drawn to the creature. The previous attack against it, that feral bite, also seemed to drain its power severely. It was almost all it could do to stand up. In its short life span, it already killed a few dozen humans, viewing it almost as a sport to learn its capabilities and limits. Against any normal attack, it had always been able to shrug off any hits that had attacked it before. Modern weaponry like machine guns would be repelled against its skin, and the heavier attack from the Goliath that had transformed would normally heal given an hour or so. The attack from this dragon-like creature was different. It had stolen the mana the griffin, and with the severe lack of mana in the air, it was impossible to gather any quick enough to recover.
Laughing to himself, Drake roared, “Such a weak griffin, you actually thought you could harm me!” The griffin drew away, staring at the red, dragon-like creature who was roaring into the forest. Drake dashed towards the griffin, cutting it off. “After all the trouble you put me through, you aren’t getting away,” he smiled cruelly.
Taking his hands, Drake ruthlessly sunk his claws into the griffin. Mana funneling into him, the sounds of tearing flesh and the crunching of bones quickly followed, breaking the spine of the griffin. The griffin slumped down, like a puppet whose strings had been cut, collapsing onto the ground dead. Looking down at what he had done, Drake felt a chill come over him. He hadn’t even thought about what he should do when fighting. Attacking the griffin, ruthlessly killing it, it all came so naturally.
All of that wasn’t even considering the meat from the griffin… that bite he made, it felt so natural. And the meat itself was so delicious. He originally planned to simply force the griffin down to the ground. Once it was there, he could fight it on fair grounds but when he came so close to it, he felt he had to take a bit, he had to eat.
He began to shake his head uncertainly, feeling a sick feeling come over him. After a moment it passed, and he looked down at the corpse of the griffin.
“I’m one of the few that knows what that Griffin actually was. If the aliens kept their end of the bargain, then the griffin I killed was almost certainly a human that had lost control when they transformed.” Drake felt a strange sense of victory come over him, but quickly pushed it down. It was a human at some point, so should he really have killed it so easily.
Thinking back to the beginning of the fight, I didn’t act like myself. Normally I would have been scared out of my mind if I had seen a griffin before I transformed. It was exactly the type of creature I was so worried about meeting.
He looked down, his inhuman hand covered in blood. “If this is the power of a Draconian, how else has the transformation affected me”, he murmured.