“We should come up with a good name for you.” Ang said to the tiny horned, muzzled, serpent in the bag. “Why don’t we call you Rungii.” Rungii remained indifferent to the conversation. It lacked visible eyes, but still had a sense for its surroundings. It stuck its white frayed tongue, in and out taking air samples. After walking a short distance using the branch for support, Ang’s ankle throbed, his stab would twinged with every step. He had to take a break. Plopping himself against a tree, he reached into his bag for a snack, tearing off a small piece of jerked meat for Rungii. He removed his shoe, and rolled up his pant leg to inspect the ankle. It had swollen almost twice its normal size and turned a shade of bluish purple.
“I shouldn’t be walking on this ankle, and I need the cloth for my side wound. I guess it shouldn’t take too much longer to heal, then I can use the cloth on my ankle. He got me good. So Rungii, were you a part of that tree, or was the tree a part of you? Eh it doesn’t matter, you’re here now, and you're a part of Dungii, so you’re a part of the family. Just don’t try to eat us again.”
Rungii nibbled contently on the piece of meat. It seemed calm enough so Ang undid the muzzle, making it easier for it to eat. Rungii took little notice of Ang’s hand. It’s only interest the food, as he untied the knot. Its jaw free, Rungii consumed the meat in a single chomp. Ang broke off another larger piece of meat and handed it to Rungii who snatched it out of his hand. “Hey, be gentle now.” Rungii scarfed down the meat, then continued to scan its surroundings, taking samples of air. “I hope Dungii comes back soon this time.” Ang took out another piece of jerked meat, Rungii quickly turned its attention to the meat and extended his body toward it. Ang tore the meat in half, handing it to Rungii, who gingerly took it from his hand.
“See that’s much better.” Resting against the tree he promptly dozed off. He awoke in the late afternoon to the disturbing scene of the dark creatures Yoorei sent after them strewn all around. Next to him, Rungii extending its body, consumed the fresh meat.
“Rungii did you… did you protect me or were you just hungry?” Rungii continued to munch on the carcass. “I’m just gonna say it was a little of one, and a lot of the other.” Reaching out his hand he gently stroked Rungii down its spine. Rungii briefly stopped, then carried on, ignoring his hand. It had a tough body, hard like wood. Its emerald green lichen scales reminiscent of rubber and velvet. “Thanks Rungii.”
Suddenly the mushroom top popped out, the veil spread, the flower bloomed, and Dungii’s head emerged. Rungii immediately started attacking the mushroom. Its mouth still full of food. It continuously beat Dungii with its horns. Dungii in a panic, zigzagged between the bodies in a futile attempt to escape Rungii. Ang played a shrill note on his ocarina. Dungii stopped and turned in attention. Rungii continued to beat against the mushroom. Ang hobbled over and grabbed Rungii’s horns between his thumb and index finger.
“Quit it Rungii, Dungii this is Rungii. You two are stuck together now, so you’re going to have to get along.”
“Meep meep meep.”
“I know Dungii, but this is the situation now. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe Aletha can separate you two later, or Mom might be able to once we find her. Now Rungii stop hitting Dungii.” He let go of the head and it immediately continued beating Dungii.
“MEEP MEEP MEEP!”
Ang took out another piece of jerked meat and handed it to Rungii. Who quickly chewed and swallowed the meat. Finally content, Rungii idly scanned the environment and sampled the air.
“Well, at least it stopped hitting you.”
“Meep meep,” Dungii side eyed Rungii.
“Uh... my ankle still hurts, can you grow bigger?”
“Meep meep,” he looks back at his new tail.
“You draw material from the soil with your tail to grow bigger. I know, take Rungii around and have him eat. I bet if he eats enough, you should be able to grow big.”
“Meep meep,” Dungii carried Rungii next to the carcasses, chunk by chunk Rungii began to devour them. Dungii wore a disgusted unhappy expression. Ang sat under the tree while they gathered the material to transform. He untied the cloth and inspected his side wound. During his nap, it had almost completely healed. He removed the cloth and wrapped it around his ankle. After consuming almost all the bodies, Dungii attempted his transformation. He was overall bigger than before, with Rungii growing proportional to him. Rungii swallowed the remaining bodies whole, and stretched its head above the canopy, tongue flicking.
“Great, see this’ll work out. Rungii will look out for danger as we move.”
“Murp murp,” said Dungii with a tone of sarcasm.
“He protected us while we were both asleep.”
“Murp murp murp.”
“Well, yeah he’s a glutton, but this place is very much eat or be eaten, so if he eats them first, then that’s good for us.”
“We’ll try to train him on our way to the mountain, you two can practice working together.”
“Murp.” He took another glance at Rungii as It did its thing, uninterested in any conversation. Ang walked over to Dungii, but with his ankle still swollen and Dungii’s bigger body, he had trouble climbing onto his back.
“Hey Dungii could you, oh nevermind.”
“Hey Rungii, can you help me? Can you even hear?”
He tore off another piece of jerky and held it up for Rungii, who immediately turned attention to. When it came down to take the food, Ang put the meat behind his back and placed a hand on Rungii’s snout.”
“Before I give you this meat, do you mind helping me up?”
Rungii froze for a minute, then using its snout scooped him up, and gently placed him on the mushroom, Ang handed the meat to Rungii.
“Hm, Rungii doesn’t have any eyes or ears. You’ll have to be his eyes and ears.”
“Murp murp murp.”
“Just try communicating with him. It seems he can sense meaning, since he’s attached to you, you shouldn’t have an issue communicating. Just think nice things to him.”
“Murp,” Dungii closed his eyes and thought. Ang noticed Rungii’s action change. It stopped moving and the tongue instead of flicking in and out hung out the side of its jaw.
“There you go, not sure what you sent him, but he’s reacting to it.”
“Just keep practicing, let’s get going. I can’t wait to see Mom again. She’s gonna love you. She always loved and cared for all living things.”
Ang carefully climbed through the veil and bounced of Dungii’s soft back. Once he got situated, they sped off toward the mountain. As Ang predicted, having Rungii around made traveling easier. It snatched large insects and birds out of the sky, and maintained a silent vigil.
“See this is working out great.”
Night fell as they approached the base of the mountain. The moon illuminating the path. A bright flash with a deafening roar resonated above. Dungii saw the approaching fireball and rolled landing on his side. Ang held onto the mushroom. Dungii’s legs wiggled frantically in the air as he struggled to right himself.
“Dungii ask Rungii to help you up.”
“Murp murp.” The flying reptile coming back around. Dungii closed his eyes to focus on communing with Rungii. The wyverns mouth seethed with fire as it prepared another strike. Rungii struck first, breathing a stream of deadly spores. The wyvern spun to dodge. On its back, Ang noticed a person. Rungii rammed the ground, setting Dungii upright, who immediately took off as more wyvern riders circled. Rungii kept them at bay with spore blasts. Ang reached out to Rungii and said.
“Hey hold off a bit, there’s someone riding on that reptile maybe we can reason with them.”
Rungii stopped firing spores, but reared its head back, prepared to lash out. Four wyvern riders were conducting a pincer attack on the team as they traveled up the steep incline of the red dirt mountain. The loose soil making footing difficult for Dungii. Two riders came up from below, while two came from above. Maintaining contact with Rungii Ang said.
“Defend the rear, I’ll take the front.”
The wyverns below expelled a blast of fire. Rungii’s spore breath effectively blocked them. Ang swung Hue at the two riders coming from above. A strong gust of wind flung dust and rocks into the air, obscuring their vision. Ang disturbed the loose gravel starting a landslide. Dungii struggled for footing. A huge slab of rock came loose. Rungii launched its segmented body forward and rammed the stone, smashing it to pebbles. Turning Rungii slammed the ground with explosive force launching them up, over the debris. Upon landing, Dungii struggled to find footing as his many legs scrambled up the slope. They continued their assent. The four wyverns flying up to them. They caught up and together discharged a wall of fire. Rungii breathed his own wall of spores blocking the attack. The wyverns dispersed in different directions then came back around in an omnidirectional assault.
“Let's try something,” said Ang.
He climbed to the top of the mushroom and swung the axe, creating a rainbow. The riders circled their prey, and released an inescapable ring of fire. Ang dove under the mushroom. The fire engulfed them, the only thing left a pile of black soil. Confident in their victory, they turned and flew around the mountain, searching for other trespassers. Once certain they had left Ang, Dungii, and Rungii uncovered themselves.
“I guess rainbows aren’t the universal sign of peace I assumed they were. At least we tricked them into leaving. Rungii you were great, right Dungii.”
“Meep meep,” responded Dungii in approval. They turned to beam on Rungii, only to find him eating the soil.
“Oh, Rungii that’s gross, don’t eat that, we’ll find something else, here have the last piece of jerky.”
“Those people with those flying reptiles are still buzzing around, we need to get moving. Look there’s the cave, that’s where Mom should be.”
Ang crawled up the steep slope on all fours, Dungii keeping pace next to him. They reached the opening of the vast cavern with walls of smooth obsidian. Marble tiles paved the ground, and columns etched with foreign runes lined the walls. They couldn’t see far into the space, but a gentle warm breeze blew from inside. Ang gripped his axe and carefully tiptoed into the cavern. They walked a short distance in when they heard the flapping of wings and turned to see two wyverns at the entrance. They hide behind a pillar, as the men approached. Their soft feathery, ankle high sandals making barley a sound on the marble. They held a conversation in their native tongue as they strode down the path. Once they were far down the hall, Ang turned to the exit when out of the air materialized a floating electric blue creature.
“Eio,” Blurted Ang. Fast and silent, the riders advanced upon them. Spears pointed toward the intruders. They yelled words Ang couldn’t understand, but he caught the tone in which they both said ‘Eio’. Eio floated closer to Ang. “You know Eio? I know Eio, see he’s my friend.” Said Ang with a nervous grin. Then faster than anyone could react Rungii rammed a man, in the nose. Ang and grabbed Rungii.
“Rungii stop.” Eio floated closer to Rungii, his head slightly cocked to one side.
“Eio this is Rungii, he’s Dungii’s new… extension. He still needs a little work, but he’s been real helpful so far. I think even Dungii is starting to like him.”
The other rider still had his spear pointed to the group yelling unpleasantries.
“What’s going on down here?” Said a voice from down the hall. Ang’s ears perked up at the sound. He ran from behind the pillar. She held a torch with a soft blue glow. Strange markings covered her arms and face. She had wild and stringy hair, and looked worse for wear, but Ang still recognized her. She stared back and gasped in astonishment, pointing her torch at Ang, with a shaky weary voice she asked.