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The figure moved like lightening beneath the shadowed trees, legs tearing up dirt as it leaped towards Rum. Scrambling backwards, trying to reach his feet, Rum's hand darted to the cutlass- but even as it did, he knew he wasn't fast enough.

 

A fur-coated hand, as big as Rum's head, swung a thick-bladed scimitar toward his throat. The blade cut through the air, a horrific sound-

 

There came a sudden flash of fire, heat exploding across Rum's face. the figure was violently torn to the side, catapulting into a nearby tree hard enough to snap the trunk in half, shards of wood splintering and whizzing by Rum's pale, gawking face.

 

Skin burning suddenly in the night air, Rum blinked and looked back to see Molotov standing confidently, a ball of fire twisting and lashing about, barely constrained within his palms. The overwhelming metallic smell of wizardy emanated from all around him, his hair seeming to glow and flow, bright-red like a blazing campfire in the darkened jungle.

 

The wizard almost looked cool- were it not for the fact, Rum noted, that Molotov was still wearing his pink speedo.

 

There was a sudden noise behind him, like a boulder deciding to go for a midnight stroll. Still with his hand on the hilt of his cutlass, Rum backed his way into the clearing, taking the critical strategic position of being behind Molotov. The dark form, fur-clad, with yellow, feral eyes, loomed like a nightmare out of the treeline.

 

"Not half bad, wizard," it growled, spitting blood from its maw. As the shape came closer, Molotov's fire illuminating it, Rum let out a textbook squeak of terror.

 

The woman was a mountain of muscle, fur-clad, with vicious scimitars in both her hands. One shoulder smouldered from where the fireball had struck, and her bloody smile was all sharpened canines and wolf-like hunger.

 

At the sound of Rum's squeak, the woman cocked her head to the side. She noticed the cutlass at his hip and grinned all the more. "So you're the runt that stole the Captain's sword, eh?"

 

"Oh, no, no, I would describe myself as more of an uhm- interim holder of the sword," Rum quickly explained. "Just a warm body, providing some continuity between whoever had it last, and whoever your Captain is. I'd be most glad for you to uh, take it to her, so we can go and-"

 

The furry mountain shrugged. "Fine by me." She paused, seeming to consider the situation for a moment. "I'm still going to kill you though. It just seems like the right thing to do an' all."

 

"Oh, I'm so glad you decided to do the right thing," Rum said, his voice wobbling.

 

Molotov struck a pose, his fists enveloped in twin fireballs. "Stay back, smelly pirate! You might not have guessed it, but I'm a WIZARD! A sumptuous sorcerer, killer of the crab-king salad at Stinky Jeffries' Seafood-Steak House! Gobbler of the free cheesy biscuits that they offer! Hog-schnozer of the-"

 

Letting out a howl the woman charged forward, twin scimitars scything through the air, inches from Molotov's head. Rum dodged back as the attack continued- lit by the moon above and the fire in the wizard's hands, the pair danced and dodged their way around the clearing, Molotov always remaining just inches ahead of the whirling blades.

 

Trees, bushes, and even the ground itself weren't as lucky- branches were hacked in half, heavy cuts gouged into the earth below, dirt kicked up in tremendous bursts. Rum's eyes goggled as he tried to track the battle across the clearing. The pirate was raw aggression, holding nothing back on each swing. Molotov distracted with bursts of flame, dipping and ducking where he could- but as Rum watched, he grew certain the wizard couldn't cast anything useful under such constant attack. His fireballs were flickering, failing, growing weaker even as they peppered the side of the mountain-like pirate.

 

Rum swallowed hard. His hand trembled, flexed, hesitant on the cutlass at his side. If he just threw it into the forest, would that be enough to distract her?

 

Unless I decide to help?

 

Molotov bent backwards, his nose narrowly avoiding the sweeping arc of one of the scimitars.

 

Yeah no, I'm not going to stick my neck in that. Unless maybe... moral support?

 

After all, being a warrior-poet wasn't only about, well, being a warrior. There was the poetic-side too. And despite his fluctuating self-esteem, Rum still maintained an incredibly high opinion of his own dramatic skills. Clearing his throat, Rum raised his chin a hymn of battle echoing from the depths of his soul;

 

"O fight on brave champion! Keep fighting, yes you must!

For your honest employer, does not want to be turnt' dust!"

 

It was, Rum had to reflect, an absolutely great battle hymn. He especially enjoyed the part where it focused on himself. Unfortunately, his rousing chant didn't elicit much of a response from either combatant.

 

Not wanting to be a third wheel, and also not wanting to get his head hacked off, Rum wondered if this was his chance to make an exit. He chanced a look behind him, and began to edge backwards out of the clearing.

 

"Look out, Rum!" Molotov's shout spun his head around so fast he tripped, falling back in the dirt. Rum had just enough sense to continue scurrying back on all fours out of the way of the pirate hurtling towards him through the air.

 

Rum screamed. The pirate, sent spinning through the air from one of Molotov's firebolts, hit the ground and rolled to a stop mere inches in front of his face. Images of Rum-flavoured pancakes, smashed flat and coated in syrup, danced in the bard's mind.

 

As the human boulder rolled to a stop, Rum skittered around it, back over to where Molotov stood. The wizard was covered in dirt, but amazingly, hadn't seemed to have broken a sweat. His two fists still flickered with bright-hot red flame, and he smiled as Rum approached.

 

"Hey, you didn't get crushed! That's good!"

 

Rum, one hand to his own neck to measure his erratic pulse, gaped at the motionless pirate, still smouldering from Molotov's last fireball. "Good work, Molotov! I assume it was my words of wisdom that boosted your morale?"

 

"Oh absolutely!" Molotov beamed. "I just thought about what you said, about how you felt like a useless coward who couldn't summon an ounce of courage. I knew if I failed, you'd certainly be killed! It gave me the courage to fight on!"

 

"Oh," Rum said flatly. "I meant the rousing battle hymn I was singing just now."

 

Molotov paused. "Yeah, no, I was mostly thinking about you crying earlier."

 

"I was not-"

 

There came a sudden gasp of air. The pirate jolted upright, fur-cloaked body still smouldering with embers. She turned her head to look towards the duo, face burned, locked in a rigid snarl.

 

"Not bad, wizard," she spat, making her way to her feet. "Not a bad first round."

 

Rum shrank back into Molotov's shadow as the brickhouse who'd decided to try her hand at being a pirate, stepped forward into the clearing, the moonlight falling upon her. Cold, violent yellow eyes seemed to track him, to lock his feet in place. Rum trembled in fear.

 

"M-maybe we could think to call it a draw? Reconvene another night?" he stammered. "Me and Molotov, that is to say, Molotov and I, we had a long night of running away planned, and-"

 

"This is the perfect night, you simpering little sheep," the pirate said with a booming laugh. Stepping full into the glowing light she extended her hands outward, veins rippling and running down the length of her arms. "I don't need my scimitars to kill you... I'll do it the old way, the true way- with teeth and claw, beneath Mother Moon's pale light..."

 

Rum's eyes widened as before him, the pirate began to... change. The shift was small at first, hair growing blacker, dense along her arms. Then she was hunched forward, the feral yellow eyes twisting, pushed back as her nose shifted forward, bones breaking and rearranging. The fur-cloak across her hulking shoulders fell away, replaced by dark patches of fur, growing lush, overlapping, until she was nothing but a massive mountain of it.

 

Rum and Molotov stepped back, back, unable to run, unable to look away at the horrific transformation before their eyes. With a resounding thump, loud enough to shake the ground, a massive flat tail fell beneath the shapeshifting pirate's legs. Rearing up in the moonlight, buck-teeth yellow and flashing in the thin glow of the moon, she-

 

-wait. Buck-teeth?

 

Standing before the pair like an angel of death, was a massive, seven-foot tall... Werebeaver. It howled wild damnations at the moon above, the surrounding jungle echoing.

 

Rum's jaw hung open. Molotov quirked his head to the side.

 

"You know... I kind of was expecting something a bit more conventional?" Molotov said.

 

The Werebeaver stopped its advance, hesitating.

 

"What do you mean?" it growled.

 

"It's just you had the sorta... sharp teeth?" Molotov pointed at his own snaggle-tooth for emphasis. "And you were wearing fur, so I thought you'd be a wolf or a-"

 

"Beavers have fur!" the Werebeaver growled. "They are an animal KNOWN for their fur!"

 

"Now if I may interject-" Rum said, poking his head out from behind Molotov. "I don't think anyone here is disputing that. But your general aesthetic, it says 'wolf' to me. The yellow eyes, the cloaks, the uh, dog... smell?"

 

The Werebeaver seemed taken aback by its prey's sudden desire to give notes. It slapped its tail thoughtfully on the ground. "No, I totally see what you mean. Honestly, this isn't the first time my victims have made that mistake, I just- I mean, I don't want to give it away, I don't want to be walking around with buck-teeth in my day-to-day life, you understand..."

 

"No, I get that," Rum said with a sympathetic nod.

 

"Buck-teeth, they play havoc with any sort of food you want to eat. Only really useful for chomping through a tree."

 

"I knew I was missing something the last time I tried that," Molotov said, trying to be involved in the conversation and finding absolutely nothing useful to say.

 

"I'm just saying," Rum continued. "If you had a few more beaver...isms, maybe you won't get this sort of confusion upon transformation? Perhaps you could wear one of those hats, with the tail? It's a great transformation, by the way, just absolutely terrifying. If I had anything to drink recently I'd definitely have pissed myself."

 

"Yeah, we're very dehydrated," Molotov agreed.

 

"Oh, well thank you very much," the Werebeaver said. It paused, considering the situation. "I really put a lot of effort in, it's not always appreciated. But no, you're absolutely spot on with your critique. And it's not like my name does me much favors. I'm Luna- Luna Fenrisetta."

 

"Well that just seems like your parents were really trying to be on the nose with the whole thing," Rum muttered.

 

"Mom and Dad were always very proud of the family's were-beast lineage," Luna agreed.

 

There was an awkward pause.

 

Molotov, hesitantly, lowered his fireball-fists. "Are we... still fighting? It feels a bit weird to fight now."

 

Luna seemed to consider it a moment. "Now I don't mean this to be interpreted as like, a negative response to you critiquing of my aesthetic. What you said was totally valid, and I'm absolutely going to keep what you said in mind, maybe go for some more beaver-specific imagery going forward..." She raised a clawed finger. "BUT, I did go through all the trouble of ripping through my clothes to transform into a Werebeaver, and Captain Annay does need that sword you've picked up. So I think I'm going to have to kill you now."

 

Rum's face froze in shock. "Wait- Annay? Did you say CAPTAIN Annay? Isn't she- but she-"

 

The Werebeaver didn't let him finish. Letting out a scream that ripped through the trees, she charged forward to renew the fight.

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