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The Reedshark



Claw, Tooth and Fin
By Allan Maki, Turbine Entertainment Software

Kelen Seln's journey had started well. He had met his friend Symone Paik near what was once Arwic. She recounted the tale of the city's final days to him as they headed toward the shortcut through the mountains. They sprinted most of the way as the creatures they encountered would have easily cleaved them in twain.

They came to rest at the bottom of a small hill and looked up to see a singular guardian barring the way to the Vesayen Isles. They would need to run by it to access this final portal, but that would prove a simple task.

"What are we going to hunt on these islands?" Kelen asked as Symone made ready to cast a protective spell upon them.

"I'll tell you when we get there," she smirked at him. "You're not afraid, are you?"

"I'm not afraid, just prudent. I don't like running off willy-nilly into the seat of danger. It's not fear. . . it's caution. . . I am not in the habit of throwing that to the wind." He had spoken too long. She was preparing for the journey, infusing her robe with protective magic before focusing the unseen tendrils of mana around herself. He grumbled and pulled his shield tightly onto his arm and withdrew his mace. "You'll be the death of me."

She chuckled between casting her spells and turned her attention toward him. Placing the protective magic of the heart around him like a blanket against the cold.

"Ready?" she asked.

"No. . . but let's do this anyway." He forced a smile to his lips and took off running for the portal. The guardian, a singular Olthoi, swiped at them but the protective magic protected them against the assault.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" She smiled, breathing a little heavy from the run.

"No worse than running into a pack Reedsharks." He chuckled softly.

__________

Kelen had just arrived in Nanto when he met Symone. They discussed their experiences and adventured together, becoming fast friends. They had many victories in each other's company, and often faced defeat as well.

One day, early in their friendship, the two set out to journey along the countryside. They faced a host of creatures that proved to be of little challenge to them. Bolstered, they ventured further into the dark woods of the Sho wilderness.

After a few moments they saw what appeared to be a small creature in the distance. It stood on three legs, no higher than their knees. Symone cast protections on them and they ran toward the creature.

Its hide was leathery, almost scaled, covered in a patchwork of mottled red and brown. A single fin rose off its back, slight, but obvious. It was tailless, and the three legs ended in vile, sharp-clawed paws. The only feature more terrifying was its maw. Three rows of needle teeth spread wide across its head. Above its mouth two observant eyes scanned the horizon and focused on Kelen and Symone. The creature reared onto its hind leg and howled.

Kelen swung his mace and thumped into the hide of the small Reedshark. It whimpered like a small child as a wound opened and spilled deep red blood onto the ground. Symone unleashed a hail of whirling blades against the critter and it wheeled, refocusing on her. Kelen pursued, striking the beast with quick, accurate blows.

As the creature fell under the onslaught from the pair, they heard the unmistakable sound of growls closing in around them. They closed ranks and positioned themselves back to back.

"What are they?" Kelen asked.

"I think they're its parents." Symone replied, and swallowed hard.

Around them, silver-gray and rust-brown hides shifted side to side. Deep rumbling growls coursed through their bodies and echoed off the trees. Deep gouges marked some of the silver Reedsharks, testament to the many battles they had seen. Their maws dripped a foul ichor and housed rows of dagger-sharp teeth. The brown sharks stood as support to the warriors, their hides were thick but lacked the scarring of the older stronger ones.

At the head, a singular white-silver Reedshark stood. Taller than the others, its flesh was scored with deep gouges and its eyes contained hatred and anger unmatched. It issued a howl that sent shivers down Kelen and Symone's spines. Slowly the fin on its back rose, and the blood-red mark on the crest of the fin became visible.

"We're in trouble." Symone quaked with fear.

Kelen swallowed as the fins on the Reedsharks rose as one and the world spun into the place between life and death.

__________

"C'mon, you lummox." She smiled, and began removing heavier layers of clothing. The tropical Vesayen Isles were much different than the mountains of Northern Osteth.

"Why are we here again?" He asked as he packed away his winter wraps.

"I'm told that there are good creatures to hunt here, but we've got to watch out for. . . Reedsharks." She chuckled.

"You're kidding." He stopped packing and stared at her his mouth agape. She shook her head. "You're not kidding. But we didn't survive our last encounter with a pack of those things."

"We'll be fine, Kelen. We've both grown in ability since then." She smiled. "C'mon."

"Famous last words. . ." he mumbled.

They set off along the beach and fought Armoredillo that trolled the shore for fish wandering too close to the shore. The jungle about them teemed with the sounds of drums and the mass of life within. Large stone structures, carved in the shape of Mosswarts, lined the beach and edges of the jungle. They evaded the poor-sighted creatures by staying close to the shore, sometimes skulking through the water.

"See, nothing to this," Symone stated firmly. A mana field broke around her, and she cursed. "I need to recast our protections, hold here a moment."

Kelen warily scanned the shore and beach. A band of Mosswarts crept closer.

"No time--Mosswarts!" he bellowed.

In the water behind them a singular fin rose. Kelen took one step forward as Symone summoned protective forces about him. The Mosswarts cast the antithesis spells of the heart, voiding her efforts. As Kelen charged headlong toward the band he bellowed furiously.

The Mosswarts broke as he hit hard sand. They scattered, tossing aside spears and croaking madly as they ran into the jungle. Kelen slowed his pace and watched, curiously, as they retreated from him. A sense of pride swept over him and he turned back toward Symone with an immense grin etched on his face.

"Obviously they've heard of--" Kelen choked on the words.

Over Symone's fresh corpse, half covered in the surf, a green-skinned Reedshark stood triumphant. Red gore surrounded its mouth and it barked out to others whose fins were cutting through the surf. Kelen swallowed hard and stifled tears. Though dying did not mean the end here on Dereth it was painful and something one did not forget.

The Reedsharks reared and howled. An instant later they closed on him and bit through chainmail, tearing flesh and limbs free from his body.

__________

"We'll be fine, Kelen. . ." He mocked at the Lifestone.

"I thought we would have been." She responded with a dismal tone in her voice. "What did you lose?"

"My breastplate, a ring, and an orb. . . you?"

"Nothing of consequence. Are we going back for your breastplate?"

He shook his head as a form coalesced. A man, shirtless, cursed aloud as he came into being.

"What got you?" Kelen asked.

"Dune Reaver." The man replied.

"What's that?" Symone arched a brow as she asked.

"Reedshark from the desert." The man said.

Kelen and Symone looked at one another and laughed.

Reedshark2 small The Reedshark is a peculiar carnivore, a six-foot-long, hairless doglike creature with two forelegs and a single, strong hind leg. It also sports a fin-like crest on its back: the sight of these fins moving through the swamps is what gave this creature its name. They attack in packs, and fight quickly with claw and fang. They can be found nearly anywhere, except for mountains and waterways. Tumeroks are known to keep them as "guard dogs."

Dangerous
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