It took about 30 seconds for her to realize plan “Drag the snake somewhere safe” would not be working out.
It was too heavy. She could drag it, barely, but it’d take her forever to get anywhere and wouldn’t be the safest thing to do with other animals that may want to attack her lurking around. She’d thought about slinging it around her body somehow, but it was too thick. She would basically be trapped struggling to move with this thing wrapped around her and be even more exposed.
So she decided to go with plan B, which was to just eat as much of it as she could and keep a patch of scaled skin as a souvenir. It wouldn’t be as nice as having the whole thing but that was fine. This plan had a much lower chance of getting her ambushed.
She set into the snake and filled her belly. She managed to get a chunk of skin with an adept use of saliva to dissolve the parts around her desired patch and used her claws to tear the section off. She worked it on to her head and set off.
She moved further into the forest, being much more alert for danger than she had been, keeping eyes, ears and nose out for any would-be ambushers.
It had been getting steadily brighter, but she was caught off guard when she was suddenly blasted by a beam of ocular pain from the heavens.
What is that!?
There was a patch in the sky between the trees near the horizon that had suddenly become pain incarnate. It had been getting brighter for a while but now she suddenly couldn’t look anywhere near it. In fact, as soon as it was visible it made everything hurt to look at.
Through squinted watery eyes she saw a darker spot nearby and darted over to it. The pain immediately abated, although looking at the brighter spots still hurt some. Daring a peek it looked like some of the tree branches and leaves were between her and that ferociously bright spot. It still hurt to look in that direction, light bleeding around the edges.
She should have expected this really. It had been going fine, she didn’t realize it would get bright so suddenly. Looking around, there were a lot of shadows now. It was actually pretty amazing. She’d figured out shadows before with her crystal, finding out that you could put stuff in between it and the shine and it’d block it.
She’d had a lot of fun rendering herself and other things as flat shadows on the wall. This was like that writ large. This light was so bright it made everything have a shadow! That was really cool. She decided to move on regardless. This was tolerable and there were enough shadows that she could move around without too much trouble.
There was actually more shadow than bright spots, the forest canopy being thick enough that most areas were in the shade.
She patted her head with a paw.
Yup still up there.
Blue scale patch in place, she moved on.
As she walked around, she couldn’t help but appreciate how different things were when the light was here. Not only did things look different, but everything sounded and smelled different too. It was even getting warmer! She figured it had to do with the giant ball of light. She could feel the heat coming off that thing whenever she poked a limb out of the shadows.
It just kept getting brighter. It seemed to be moving upwards and as it had the light was getting even more intense. She thought she was getting more resistant to it though. She still couldn’t leave the shadows, but despite the increase in brightness, her eye pain wasn’t increasing. She counted this as a win.
Another thing she’d noticed was that all sorts of animals were waking up. She saw quite a few kinds that she’d eaten in their burrows awake and about, and plenty that she’d never seen before.
Now, what are you up to?
She’d taken to darting from shadow to shadow, following around one creature with a large, bushy tail that she was particularly enamored with. It looked so fluffy and soft she really wanted to touch it. The squirrel darted about, nibbling on things or storing them in pouches on the sides of its mouth.
Cheeks. They’re so stretchy!
They also looked really useful for carrying stuff. She rubbed a paw along her mouth to the side of her face and sighed. She didn’t really have cheeks. Her mouth was so wide it very much intruded on the cheek area. Better for biting things she supposed, but having cheeks would have been cool. Not that she could have carried anything around in said cheeks even if she had them.
Stupid acid spit.
She refocused on the squirrel. She was content just watching it go about its business for now. Which was surprisingly something she’d needed to work at. She'd found herself getting ready to pounce forward to try to catch and eat it on a couple of occasions.
She wasn’t even hungry! And watching it was fun, she didn't want to ruin that. She filed the impulse away as another thing she had to keep aware of.
She did, however, want to try catching it to feel that fluffy tail at some point.
She was pretty sure it’d seen her during an overridden pouncing attempt, but it seemed content to leave her be and continue with its business as long as she didn’t get too close.
It was fascinating how different everything was in the day, without the swarm. Her experience with other creatures up to that point was coming upon them sleeping or seeing them running from or fighting the swarm.
She was enjoying this new perspective.
It has its own little life.
Interestingly, it seemed to be eating plant bits as its primary food source. She’d never actually seen an animal eat a plant for real before, what with all the aforementioned running and fighting. She had licked plants before but that didn’t really count. None of them had tasted particularly good, and one particularly nasty specimen she was sure was the cause of many an hour of digestive distress.
She’d had to rinse herself in the stream many times to get rid of the smell. The less she thought about that the better. She was a lot more careful if she wanted to bring an interesting mushroom back now.
It seemed to be a common trend though. Lots of things were moving about in the day and most of them seemed to be nibbling on one plant or another. Bugs also seemed to be a popular meal, which she was more in favor of than plants. She would eat those when she found them herself, unless they were particularly pretty. Some of their shells gleamed beautifully.
Her vigil was abruptly interrupted when a form plunged down from sky and pinned her squirrel to the ground with sharp talons and a tearing beak. She’d seen things like it resting in the trees before during previous outings with her swarm. It seemed a lot more dangerous now that she’d seen it move so fast, and from the sky no less.
She thought about assisting her little observee but it was quite clearly very dead given the blood and general state of manglement its body was in. Another couple seconds and the large bird took off, taking the squirrel with it. Seemed at least one thing out here preferred meat too.
I guess I’m adding the sky to the list of things to watch out for.
Easier said than done, unfortunately. Looking up caused pain and she’d been trying not to do it. She forced herself to anyways. Better some eye pain than ending up like that squirrel.
Guess I won’t be feeling that fluffiness after all. I’ll have to find another one at some point.
At this point the bright spot, the sun, was about halfway through the sky, hanging almost directly overhead. She was starting to get a headache from all the light, and was pretty exhausted if she was being honest. She would have been long asleep by now normally. She’d had a lot of fun but decided it was time to head back and rest.
Right up until she started hearing deep, booming thumping sounds in the distance.
At first, she thought she was imagining it, but as she made her way back to the cave the sounds got louder. They weren’t that frequent, a few would come one after the other before stopping for a while. She could tell the sound was coming from quite a distance. By the time she was at the cave she was way too curious to just give up and go to sleep. Not to mention she was a little nervous about what was causing all the booming, and figured it’d be good to check it out.
So after dropping off her new cobalt scale patch in her stuff pile, she darted off towards the source of the noise.
She slowed her steps as she approached, another of the deep sounds boomed out. She could feel it in the ground now, feel the impact make its way up her legs to rattle around in her torso.
This is stupid. This is a dumb thing to do. I’m going to get myself killed.
She thought about turning around again. She was getting close to whatever was making those sounds now. New sounds had joined the mix at some point, and now there were loud crashing sounds that would happen to give the deep thumping a reprieve. She imagined it sounded like the waterfall back in the cave, if all the water was hard, and there was a lot more of it falling.
Another deep thump pounded out, driving itself into her chest, and she saw a group of trees a little way in front of her shake with the sound. With a gentle whooshing and the sound of tinkling, she saw a white mist spread around their bases, and they started to grow what looked just like a bunch of her crystal, even if there wasn't any of its blue glow.
The mist seeped out and covered some of the ground in front of the trees with crystal growths as well. She shivered as an ice-cold breeze flowed over her. Her skin felt uncomfortably cold but she stood transfixed by the sight. The crystals had just… appeared from the mist, rising themselves out of the trees and ground as if it was normal. It was magical to see.
Then she was blasted by a great crashing sound as the trees exploded at their bases. Crystalline shards flying everywhere, she fell to the ground, doing her best to curl up and cover her head with her legs as she was pelted by small bits and pieces even at her distance. The trees crashed down, and as she opened her eyes again she finally saw what was making all this racket.
It was massive. She didn’t think anything could be that massive. She’d thought the big lizard they fought was huge but this newcomer would probably just step on it to win a fight between them. It had a huge domed back covered in shimmering clear crystal, its massive head and four tree trunk sized legs extending out from underneath the huge shell.
Its head was stretching down towards one of the felled trees, its mouth leaking white mist. It then started... eating the tree. The whole tree. She shook herself and moved behind a tree of her own, peeking out at the thing while it ate.
It made quick work of its meal, its tongue easily pulled the tree further down its gullet, until it took another bite straight through the trunk and repeated the process. As soon as it finished one it moved on to the next and before long it’d eaten all the felled wood. Its giant legs moved and the thumping returned.
Those are its steps. It’s so big.
She stumbled back before turning and starting into a proper gait to maintain a distance with the creature.
It didn't take long before it reached another tree and performed the same treatment to it. The white mist spewed out of its mouth and covered the tree and ground in crystals. Again she was hit with a wave of cold, despite maintaining a good distance.
The mist must be very, very cold. It makes the world cold too.
Her skin actually hurt, even through the light protection of her scales. She realized it might not be safe even at this distance for much longer as she could feel the cold seeping deeper, and was starting to shiver.
She started to back off, content to leave it be and get out of the cold. She was happy she’d gotten to see the amazing sight, another amazing wonder to add to her experiences. Luckily the big thing seemed content to just eat trees and walk forward. She could see the long trail of devastation stretching in its wake. It didn’t seem to change direction much.
She noticed it actually smelled really good too. The scent almost reminded her of her crystal if it also smelled delicious. It had some of that same tingly-ness to it, but with rich undertones that made her salivate.
Hah! As if I’d ever try to eat that thing.
And she stopped in her tracks.
My siblings would try though.
She suddenly got very worried, recalling its direction. It would probably miss the cave but it’d come pretty close. More than close enough to be in their swarming range.
Maybe it’ll pass by before the night comes back.
She thought about the speed at which it was moving, and found that unlikely.
She needed to do something. If her siblings swarmed that thing they would all die, she was sure of it.