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Old March 16th, 2014 (3:41 PM).
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    Animus Careo
    A Dark Forest

    The group had been following Animus for a while now, and the dragon knew it all too well. Humans seemed to be less afraid of him as the Black Reaper – and they had every right to be; anything big enough to crush your entire body (and then some) underfoot certainly commanded a little more fear than something of human size. That wasn’t to say that Animus wasn’t frightening in his human form, no, it just meant that often people failed to realise his fearsomeness before it was too late.

    Animus came to a clearing and stopped. He drew his sword from his back slowly: a wicked zweihänder forged in his own flames, dubbed ‘Sicarius’. It appeared as though any man would have trouble lifting it at all, but Animus held it in one hand, turning backwards to where the majority of the bandits were lying in wait.

    “You sealed your fate by following me, humans,” He told them. “You shall all die horrible deaths.”

    A lone bandit emerged from the brush behind the dragon, rushing at him quietly with a shortsword posed to strike right in the back. Not quietly enough. In one swift motion Animus turned and slashed. His blade didn’t so much as hesitate as it cleaved through flesh and bone; a severed head dropped to the floor, soon followed by its owner’s limp body. The Black Reaper smiled. He would slay all of these blasted bandits. There was quiet for a while as the humans deliberated their situation, no sound but the chirping of birds and the soft clunking of Animus’ platemail as he glanced about the clearing. In a moment, the relative silence erupted into a choir of battle-cries; the bandits dove from the undergrowth all at once, weapons drawn, charging at the Black Reaper. Animus started with a menacing chuckle, which soon evolved into manic laughter as he drove Sicarius into the ground, engulfing the sword in hellish fire. The flames spread across the dragon’s body, fully engulfing him and yet leaving him completely untouched.

    “Meet your end, mortals!” He cried, slashing at three bandits who, despite their best attempts to guard, were cut down immediately. He brought his sword around onto another, and with his free hand knocked one more into a nearby tree.

    “He’s as strong as a demon! What do we do?” One bandit screamed. Sicarius brought a wake of fire with it, burning any near and sending many fleeing for their lives. Unsuccessfully. The leader of the bandits, who seemed to be kitted out in some kind of plate mail rather than leather or simple clothes like the others, seemed less affected by the hellfire – whether that was due to his equipment or his resolve, Animus didn’t care. With an opportunity presented to their leader, the group of humans seemed to find hope at last; in a moment when Animus’ back was turned, the armoured man brought his longsword to the back of the reaper’s helmet… and then dropped it. He clutched his burning hand, staring down at it in wonderment before slowly returning his gaze upwards to Animus.

    Animus waited for the man’s eyes to rest on him. He took one glance at his hand, and then thrust forward. The bandit leader shuddered, shakily looking down. His platemail, his entire chest, even, had cracked like an eggshell; the Black Reaper’s hand had punched right through. Animus simply chuckled as the bandit’s life drained away. He removed his hand, tossing the man away like an unwanted catch, then looked to the remaining humans. Only two were left standing: one who was frozen in place in shock – Animus dealt with him in a single quick strike – and another who was fleeing aimlessly into the forest.

    “You cannot escape death, you pitiful, pathetic human.” The dragon said, lifting the bandit leader’s longsword from the ground and throwing it like a spear. It impaled the fleeing man and pinned him to a tree. Animus gave a satisfied sigh, breathing in the air around him. That was enough killing to keep his thirst steady for a little while – for now, though, a different thirst troubled him. You know, the normal kind, involving water.

    The Black Reaper returned Sicarius to his back before heading off. He knew there was a lake around here somewhere, so he could drink from there if he wanted to. If he didn’t find it, there was always the town, he supposed – they would actually have decent water, too; lake water was often stagnant and unpleasant. And as much as he told himself he enjoyed all things bad, bad water was just… nasty. The town it was, then. If he wasn’t mistaken, it lay somewhere to the South-West. Perhaps if he passed another clearing on the way he could change back to dragon form to make the journey somewhat faster – for now, though, it was the Black Reaper heading towards town.
    Turnips shall rise.

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