Warning! You are Ravenous.
Your fiendish nature and recent birth cause you to experience hunger at elevated levels. The longer your body remains without sufficient sustenance, the greater the subsequent impact on your judgment and general state of mind. Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS), and Mental (MNT) attributes suffer a penalty. Conversely, your Strength (STR), Agility (AGI), and Endurance (END) receive a boost, without increasing your maximum health. HP maximum is reduced by 10% and HP will not regenerate until hunger is satiated.
The hours-old cambion dismissed the notification almost immediately. He had a sense for what the notification was saying even without taking the time to comprehend it fully, but there simply wasn't time to study it, as he was presently running for his life through dense woods in the middle of the night with hounds literally dogging his heels.
Angry voices rose and fell in the distance. They seemed far enough behind him, but he knew if the dogs caught him, he was done for.
It's amazing they haven't caught me already. This body is definitely faster than I was when I was 12.
His thoughts were jarred as the echo of his former life crashed against the reality of his circumstances. He couldn't remember who or what he was before he was suddenly born into this world as a matricide inducing monster, but every time over the last few hours his mind wandered close to some realization, his mind recoiled. Eventually he would give himself time to think and reflect. Perhaps with time he might make sense of his peculiar circumstances.
At present, however, the vicious slobbering beasts with maws full of deadly teeth were his principal concern.
The cambion's body had undergone a metamorphosis in the short hours since his birth. He had evolved from an infant to a toddler to a preteen at an astounding rate, each growth spurt preceded by an influx of energy that he had been able to capitalize upon, as when the energy surged through him, it granted him a burst of speed and strength to evade his pursuers. Unfortunately, along with his body's growth, so too had his ravenous hunger grown.
He very nearly compulsively turned to face his pursuers on the chance he could bite into them to satisfy his need. His fear suppressed that desire for now, but he could feel himself losing that battle if things went on like this any longer.
A bark, a snarl and a snapping of jaws very nearly took a bite from his heel as the cambion slipped on loose foliage and lost his footing.
Time seemed to slow as instincts took over and he twisted his body with impressive agility, out of the beast's way. He rolled then sprung to his feet, kicking off a fallen log and jumping through a web of vines and over a narrow gully.
The dogs followed but were caught off guard by the sudden drop in elevation and rolled into the ditch below.
The cambion who now had the appearance of a naked and filthy, malnourished 12 year old boy hit the side of the gorge hard, pulling himself up on thick vines and plunging himself into the heavy woods.
He knew this move would scarcely buy himself a short reprieve, but his hunger was overwhelming. His hunger-heightened sense of smell caught whiff of something in the wood of the tree near him, and he surprised himself when suddenly his teeth were sinking into the bark and tearing off chunks of bark. The flaky wood had no sustenance, but underneath there was something sweet and in a blind fury, he tore chunks of the material and chewed it even as he forced himself to keep running.
His feet were sore and his skin bore innumerable scratches where vines and nettles had torn into him, but his adrenaline and boost in abilities from his ravenous hunger kept him going. The bark in his mouth made for poor nutrition, but he was compelled to stop every so often and devour more.
His noticed his senses could pick up on a peculiarity in the trees he had been drawn to take a bite from. Instincts that were new to him perceived the subtle presence of a life force that coursed through them. It was also present in the animals that were chasing him, and in the people that pursued him. He knew that it even coursed through himself, though his own nature was quite different from theirs, even if he couldn’t say how or why.
Not all the trees contained this vitality in equal measure. In some trees, he could barely feel it at all, though he knew it must be there. He was certain, however, that eating the bark from those trees would provide less than the little he was getting from the ones that did.
The cambion compulsively bit from the trees with this life force, taking several bites before moving to the next.
I must say, my teeth are pretty damn strong to be literally taking a bite out of the trees. I bet cavities won’t be a problem… probably.
On one tree, he perceived more potent amount of the energy in the mushrooms that grew from it. Despite the darkness, they glowed a dull purple and pink and radiated power. He scooped the handfulls he could see into his mouth and wolfed them down with a mouthful of fresh bark.
Congratulations, you have unlocked your Natural Ability: Devour!
Your fiendish bloodline and unusual outworlder nature have granted your metabolism the uncanny ability to metabolize and replicate the attributes and skills of that which you consume. Devour skill triggered. You have unlocked the skill Barkskin.
Expend mana to harden your skin and reduce incoming damage.
Well, that's convenient. How the hell do I expend mana? Is that like a magic thing? Like, do I have magic now?
The existence of magic should have been a foregone conclusion for a creature that grew as unnaturally as the newborn cambion. His mind from the before, however, was still coming to terms with his current existence, and he had yet to consolidate the two.
Suddenly, he sensed movement to his left as a dog leapt from the darkness toward him. The cambion had been caught in the middle of his thoughts and in an awkward position. He raised his arm to intercept, and the animal's jaws clamped down on his forearm, its teeth digging deep into his flesh and grinding his bones.
"Mother fuaaaaaaah!" the cambion shouted, hearing his voice out loud for the first time was almost as jarring as everything else he had experienced so far. In a distant part of his brain, he complained to himself that his prepubescent voice sounded like a girl's.
Suddenly, another status update clouded his vision.
Hunting Dog inflicts bite for -6 HP.
Your arm has suffered a fracture.
Mobility in your right arm has been compromised.
You are bleeding.
"Like I can't fucking see that for my fucking self, you fucking shit-for-brains status update. Why don't you shut the fuck up and do something useful like activate that Barkskin bullshit instead of getting all up in my face when I got a fucking dog gnawing on it!"
Something shifted in the cambion's brain and the status screen disappeared. Not as if it had been dismissed, but almost as if whatever power supplied him with an update had shyly dismissed itself. It was a sensation like a scolded child slipping away to sit in the corner of its own accord.
The cambion was left stupidly staring at the terrifying sight of the hunting dog playing tug of war with his own arm.
Pain swelled to anger, and a sudden burst of energy surged through him, not unlike the influx of power that preempted his growth spurts, but somehow different. He felt his body reflexively angle the energy into his arm, the memories of trees flooding through him.
Memories of trees? As if my mind isn't scrambled eggs enough, now I remember what it was like to 'once upon a time' be a tree?
His skin darkened, the skin becoming tougher, less pliant. The dog's teeth were pushed back, as whatever was happening to his skin shoved against them. The pain now lessened, and the surge of energy still swelling within him, the cambion swung his arm, lifting the hunting dog with it. He smashed it against a nearby tree. He did it again, twice, three times.
The dog growled and whined, but did not release its grip, even in death.
The man who was a preteen cambion paused for a moment. In the back of his mind, he felt the echo of a status.
“I know it's dead, Status,” said the cambion to the air and no one in particular. “And I know I killed it. How about you just stick to letting me know the important things, okay? Please don’t show up in the middle of a fight when my life depends on being able to see what’s right in front of me. And now you got me talking to myself. This is all your fault, Status.”
The cambion paused for a moment, as if listening for something. When nothing happened, he focused on the task at hand, and carefully pried the creature's teeth from his arm, noting how the texture of his skin near the wound was flaky and dark. Despite being covered in blood, it did somewhat resemble bark.
He gingerly opened and closed his hand and grimaced. His arm hurt, but he could work through the pain. He had a feeling that if he just ate something, the wounds would begin to close and heal on their own, probably just as impossibly fast as his body was aging.
I don’t want to eat a dog. Even if it tried to kill me. A dog is man’s best friend. Not food. I like dogs. I think I probably had a couple back in the before. This one I just killed was probably not an asshole when it wasn't trying to take you down. He was just a good boy doing what he was trained to do.
Surely there would be more dogs following close behind and could use urgency as an excuse to avoid having to eat this one, or any one for that matter.
It didn't seem like his hunger would give him a choice, though. His body moved of its own accord. He fell to his knees and his body angled downward, his mouth open, salivating.
He could smell the wet dog smell, the blood. He could feel the warmth that still radiated off the fresh corpse.
With his mouth mere inches from the flesh of his meal, a status window suddenly appeared before him; and just as he had wished for, it was, indeed, something very important which precluded him eating the dog, or eating anything else for that matter.
Warning! You have attempted to digest poisonous mushrooms.
You have ingested a potentially lethal dose of a poisonous substance and, as such, your digestive system has been compromised.