Wind flowed through the branches of the woods like a dragon might fly through a cloud. The strength of the blustery weather was matched only by the threat of it becoming more stormy as the light slowly faded from the evening sky. Noise, dust and orphaned leaves pelted the large shape lurking in the undergrowth of the wood, waiting still and silent. Yogoloth had been waiting for nearly two hours and he was as miserable as the weather itself.
He was a strange creature, half dragon and half gryphon. Not exactly forbidden, but certainly not normally welcome by either of his parent's species. Yogoloth had overcome a lot in his life and was prepared to face whatever life decided to throw at him in the future. From his dragon mother he had gained his green hide, sharp claws and draconic head sporting a pair of strong ridged horns. From his gryphon father he had gained his furry brown mane, similarly coloured broad feathery wings, feathered tail and ears. Where he'd gotten his purple eyes and flesh he had no idea.
He shifted his weight a little and stretched an aching hind leg. The big hybrid yawned and shook his head a little, working out some cramp. Yogoloth wondered if this was what the civilised races felt like when they got old. He chuckled to himself, enjoying the knowledge that his half-dragon blood would mean he would never truly become old, merely become larger and stronger as the years, decades, even centuries passed. Not that he was even that old anyway, at nearly one hundred and ten years, he was a young adult at best.
Yogoloth sighed as he settled back down. Not long now he hoped.
Tatsu cursed his luck as he tried to shield his eyes from the stormy weather. Wind chilled his already wet fur and the darkening skies did little to calm his urgent desire to be in front of a warm hearth. The young canine gripped his cloak as tightly around his body as he could as he approached Gibson woods. He grimaced in relief, the woods would provide just a little extra cover from the wind and rain. Then it was only a little further to his home town. Today had been a very annoying day.
Tatsu was cross between a civilised wolf and another canine of some sort; he'd never actually been able to pin down exactly which sort. His fur was mostly white and grey with sky blue highlights on his muzzle, ear tips, tail tip and toes. His fur would normally be well cared for and luxurious under his simple cotton and animal hide clothes, but today he was soaked through.
The storm had not been unexpected as such, this time of year had always been unpredictable, but Tatsu had not expected the broken down cart to be quite so difficult to find and repair. In the end he'd had to spend twice as long looking for it and twice as long working. It was almost as though someone had moved it and damaged it further. It didn't make any sense and now he was heading back home far later than he'd planned.
"Ugh... just think about a warm broth... and an ale...", he muttered to himself as the shadows of the woods began to claim him.
Keen eyes and senses far more acute than nature alone could manage peered down the wooded trail. A shape, subtle movement, a distant sound; Yogoloth took an imperceptible sigh of relief.
His ploy seemed to have worked. There had been too many patrols in the day and no traffic through these parts at night. Yogoloth had to improvise and after two days he had spotted an opportunity and taken it. These civilised folk were predictable and now a hastily thrown together plan was coming together.
The wolf-like person was hiding under an oiled leather cloak, shielding himself from the rain. He looked young and flustered, clearly more worried about getting a chill than keeping an eye on the path ahead. This worked perfectly for the concealed hybrid's goal. Attack was not part of the large predator's plan, but he knew that such thing could easily be expected. No, things were working well and Yogoloth should be able to get a conversation out of the creature with a subtle interruption.
"Stranger! I know you seek the town ahead, might I travel with you?"
Tatsu froze, his normally carefree attitude suddenly banished and in its place a sense of sudden caution.
"Who's there!? Show yourself!", he replied, stopping on the spot and casting his gaze around. His eyes, better than most at penetrating the shadows, but still not identifying the source of the voice.
Yogoloth grit his teeth a little although he knew this moment would come. He forced himself to relax and let out a sigh. This was all to be expected and required.
"I might not appear to be as you expect...", he said with caution.
The civilised races were not ignorant of large feral creatures such as he was. Gryphons were well known to be generally peaceful even though many had not even seen one. The problem was that meeting a stranger as night approached was generally treated with caution regardless of species. This was a risk, but one that was worth taking. Yogoloth stepped out into the path only a few paces ahead of the canine.
"My name is Yogoloth and I too seek shelter at the town."
Tatsu's eyes widened as he took an involuntary step back. The wind and rain forgotten for the moment as he took in the creature before him.
The woods were dense and the light was weak. The storm did a good job of obscuring a lot of details, but the young canine could still see he was dealing with a gryphon... probably.
He'd only seen a gryphon flying in the air before, and that had been many years ago. He seemed to remember more fur and this creature had no beak. But he wasn't an expert on such things and one of the two inns in town did have a gryphon stable for travellers to stay. He supposed that the gryphon didn't seem aggressive.
"Why do you seek the town?"
Yogoloth genuinely shivered. "Look, I'm cold and hungry and wet... I promise I'm not about to rob you."
Tatsu sensed a genuine desperation in the gryphon's voice and was eager to get out of the storm himself. He'd never actually met a gryphon himself, but he'd heard good things. This was all rather exciting.
"S- sure...", Tatsu shivered. "Why haven't you... flown ahead already?"
"I... ugh... wasn't sure how people would react. I know gryphons are not a common sight around here."
"Oh!", Tatsu replied brightly, that made sense. The town's militia were a surly lot and a gryphon swooping down unannounced might cause a bit of a fuss. "Of course."
Yogoloth smiled, turned to the side and lowered himself to the ground a little. Tatsu stared for a moment in confusion and then his eyes widened again.
"You... you want me to ride you!?", the canine exclaimed in shock.
"Of course, instead of an hour in the rain, it'll take a few minutes by air...", Yogoloth paused a moment and gave a sheepish look. "I... I'm sorry for using you like this... but..."
Tatsu's mind span like a child's wooden spinning top. He was overwhelmed by the idea of actually riding a gryphon, he'd not even heard of such a thing before. He'd just assumed that gryphons, although large, were not strong enough to carry passengers; but this Yogoloth was pretty big... very big actually. To see the lands from the air, powerfully muscled wings moving below him, would be incredible.
"Sh- sure...", he heard himself saying as his body moved forward to mount the gryphon ahead of him.
He seemed in a trance as his climbed up and settled between the gryphon's shoulders. He felt powerful muscles shift under green hide as Yogoloth took a few steps towards a gap in the canopy above. Tatsu held on tight to the gryphon's furry mane and his breath caught in his chest. Then they were airborne.
The wind was stronger now than before he entered the woods, but it didn't matter. Tatsu was exhilarated and his muzzle hung open as the gryphon turned in the rain filled air and soared. This was totally amazing and a grin soon replaced the look of shock on his face. Powerful wing beats pushed them forward and water pelted his fur, but he felt nothing but the gryphon below him and clung tight as Yogoloth flew towards the town; but it wasn't long before Tatsu realised that something was wrong.
Tatsu had never seen the world from the skies, and the rain and failing light didn't make things any easier, but he recognised enough to know that they were not heading towards his town.
"Wh- where- isn't the town the other way!?", the canine shouted over the roaring wind and rain. The gryphon didn't reply and his wing beats simply grew stronger.
"You're going the wrong way!", Tatsu yelled out, but Yogoloth obviously couldn't hear him. Probably couldn't hear him.
A deep dark sense of foreboding descended over the canine as he clung onto the powerful gryphon below him. His paws gripped the furry mane but his eyes were drawn to the green hide and he frowned. He'd been too hasty in trusting this creature, far too quick to jump on its back. Now Tatsu wasn't even sure this Yogoloth was even a gryphon at all. Now he was helpless but to wait for his ride to land, wherever that might be.
He didn't have to wait long before Yogoloth began to descend. The rain had thinned, but as the light faded further and the creature below him turned and dipped, Tatsu had quickly lost track of where he might be. He clung on tightly, trying to convince himself that whatever awaited him on the ground would probably not be as bad as a long fall onto that same ground. Tatsu was a fair runner, it would probably be best to be in a fit state to run when he finally got down.
The ground came up suddenly and quickly and Yogoloth suddenly pulled his wings up and beat at the air with practiced power and skill. The young canine on his back, caught by surprise at the sudden change in speed, nearly lost his grip as the winged creature landed heavily on his paws. Suddenly Yogoloth reared up and shook his body violently. Tatsu who was unprepared and already slightly off balance, fell backwards onto the sodden ground.
A great roar filled the air, not at all like a gryphon. "I may have lied to you a little before.", Yogoloth chuckled as his roar faded to more audible levels. "But I am definitely hungry..."
Tatsu stared for a moment, the situation slowly sinking in as the vast predatory shadow loomed closer. His eyes widened, his heart quickened and his stomach sank. He was going to die here. The monster raised a fore paw and took a swipe at him and the canine instinctively ducked down and scrambled backwards. He had to get away from here. Tatsu swallowed, quickly rolled over and jumped to his feet. He didn't look back as he ran blindly away from the creature that sought to murder him.
Yogoloth slowly grinned as his prey ran panicked towards a distant copse of trees. He wasn't even sure if the direction was intentional or the poor creature was filled with such fear that any direction away from him was as good as the next. Either way, the big gryphon hybrid was pleased that this one was a runner, he'd not had a good chase for some time.
The hybrid took a deep breath and looked up at the sky. As Yogoloth's breathing slowed slightly from the strenuous flight, he closed his eyes to let the rain sooth his face. He shook his body, starting with his wings and tail, then to his body and hind legs and finally finishing at his head and forelegs. He opened his eyes and stretched out his senses to find his quarry. A distant mote of warm life moved ahead and reached the light cover that the leafy copse provided. Yogoloth started into a run and his stomach rumbled in anticipation.
The canine had covered a good distance and although not as fast as Yogoloth, the two legged races made up for it with stamina and cunning. A deer could be ran to ground, ambushed, trapped; but the intelligent races could run for hours and could plan and anticipate. They were far more enjoyable to hunt even if their meat did not taste as pleasant.
"Run little snack!", the big hybrid roared as a grin grew across his snout; they could also be driven forward with threats and terror. Yes, this one would provide a decent chase.
It wasn't a fair chase of course, even without the ground stamina that the canine had, Yogoloth was bigger and there had never been any danger that his senses would fail him. However, for as long as his prey ran, he would be an ever present shadow lurking just on the edge of perception. When the time came, he would strike and then the feast would begin.
Yogoloth hadn't always been an eater of men, far from it, he had once held an oath never to dine upon a sapient ever again. Times change however and the dragon/gryphon hybrid had lost what he had once held so dear, and with that he had lost part of himself too. He wasn't an evil creature, he was simply following his instincts regardless of the cost to others. In the end, the strong take what they want from the weak; that was the dragon way.
Tatsu cursed his own gullibility and then quickly stilled his tongue. Although still windy and increasingly dark, he had no idea how well this monster could hear or see through the storm. He took a nervous glance behind him, over the fallen tree that he'd briefly hidden behind. Nothing. He turned back and launched himself forward further into what he'd hoped would become a dense forest; a hope that seemed to be fading fast.
This Yogoloth was big, far larger than he was, so it would become difficult for it to manoeuvre if the trees came closer together. With a deep sense of rising dread, Tatsu realised that the creature had probably picked this exact area for its light woodland and open, rocky areas. There really wasn't much cover at all and the trees wouldn't hinder his pursuer at all. Tatsu pushed a few low hanging branches out of his face with his arm and ploughed through.
The canine could hear branches snapping behind him and a hungry growl. He glanced back as panic rose inside of his chest once more, but he saw nothing but blackness. Then something caught on his foot and he stumbled, only just catching himself on a nearby tree trunk. He gasped then whimpered as he forced himself to push forward. Then suddenly there was no ground beneath his foot and he toppled forward down a sudden slope.
As Tatsu fell, he tried desperately to stop himself as he bumped against small rocks and bushes, but nothing he managed to grasp was strong enough to arrest his fall. Then he suddenly came to rest in a slightly muddy ditch and all he could hear in that moment of stillness was the rain and his own ragged breathing. A roar from the darkness penetrated the silence as sharply as it drove him back to his feet and onwards.
His legs ached, his clothes were torn by grasping branches and his heart beat so hard it felt about to burst. Lungs rasped too little air as he cleared the tree line and cried out in desperation; the next slope was more like a cliff. He couldn't see the bottom and it was far too steep to climb. He heard a crashing behind him and a growl as something big and angry brought down what sounded like half the woodland. Tatsu took a few steps away from the edge and looked back sharply, his muzzle panting and his eyes wide with fear.
The monster pushed itself between the trees, it's own purple tongue panting in its toothy maw. A deep sound rumbled from its chest in a dreadful mockery of a slow laugh. It was clearly tired as well, foliage and mud marked it's feathers and hide. Tatsu's legs failed him and he fell to his knees, his eyes now moist with more than just the rain. He sobbed briefly and whimpered. This was it.
"You-", the monster swallowed between its own breaths. "You gave me quite the chase...", the dark rumbling laughter returned briefly. "For a moment... I thought you might stand a chance!"
"Please...", Tatsu cried out, his tears flowing freely now. "I don't want to die here... please..."
Yogoloth padded closer, rain running down his green hide before falling to the ground below. The trees had previously cloaked him in shadow, but the dusky light now revealed the half-dragon's broad grin. Tatsu had simply slumped, his head hanging down, his hands resting uselessly in his lap; defeated prey to the dragon's eyes.
"You had a good run...", Yogoloth spoke in almost somber tones. "But prey rarely escapes me."
"Just don't... don't eat me... please just... let me go...", Tatsu gasped between sobs. His head throbbed and he couldn't even catch his breath properly.
The big hybrid had padded right up to Tatsu now. They were close, both easily within each other's reach, but neither moved nor spoke for a while. The dying rain still mixed with Tatsu's tears as he sobbed quietly, defeated. Yogoloth sighed then shivered slightly in the cooling air.
"Hush now...", the big hybrid said in a voice softer than the defeated canine expected. "None of this whining please."
Yogoloth reached forward with a fore paw and slowly and firmly pushed Tatsu onto his back. The rocky ground of the cliff felt cold through Tatsu's shirt, he briefly wondered when he'd lost his cloak. Soon the half-dragon had positioned his rump on top of his prey's legs and a fore paw pinned Tatsu's chest to the ground. The canine's arms, still free, uselessly pushed against Yogoloth's fore leg, but they could never fight the shear weight of his attacker.
"Ugh.", Yogoloth grunted. "Let's get you out of those filthy clothes."
A slightly more panicked look returned to Tatsu's eyes as Yogoloth grabbed the front of his prey's shirt with his teeth and tore upwards. The canine's hands grasped and pushed at the hybrid's big snout and triggered a quiet unhappy rumble. Another slightly less careful bite tore a piece of cloth away and Tatsu's tiny claws grasped and dug into the sensitive flesh of a nostril. The hybrid growled louder as his prey began to fight back.
Shifting up and a little to the side, Yogoloth managed to get a fore paw around Tatsu's leggings and tore them open. The young canine cried out as claws accidentally bit slightly into his thigh and he thrashed and kicked. One foot harmlessly struck Yogoloth's belly but the other one hit the softer ridge of scutes between the half-dragon's hind legs. A growl escaped Yogoloth's maw at the discomfort, the blow had been weak but it was rather sensitive back there.
"Keep still!", Yogoloth growled as he rested more of his considerable weight onto his prey and batted a grasping hand away from his snout.
He quickly pinned Tatsu's left arm and right shoulder before roaring directly into his prey's face. Sharp claws protracted from Yogoloth's fore paws and sunk into flesh. Tatsu cried out in fear as much as in pain.
"While I appreciate a good fight...", Yogoloth growled. "If you keep that up and I'll bite your hands off...". Tatsu stopped struggling and whimpered softly. The big hybrid decided that was as much of a confirmation of cooperation as he was going to get. "I'm going to eat you, fighting will just make it worse for you."
A couple more bites and swipes of his claws and Yogoloth had reduced Tatsu's clothes to little more than tatters of cloth. Thankfully the canine had muddied his clothes more than himself during the chase; there was just a little more mud between his pinned back ears. So Yogoloth gave his prey a long lick on the head, cleaning off some mud in the process. He paused a moment after a second lick.
"What's your name?", he asked casually, as if the situation were perfectly normal.
"T- Tatsu...", the terrified canine replied, confused but too frightened to resist anymore.
Yogoloth gave his prey another lick, this one across the shoulder he'd wounded moments ago, and the subtle taste of fresh blood made his own blood race. His stomach rumbled and he hummed softly in anticipation. Tatsu shivered but was too thoroughly pinned to do much else, his free hands rested on Yogoloth's thick neck, not fighting, not resisting, simply there.
For a few wordless moments the two of them simply existed together. Predator and prey locked in an intimate embrace. Yogoloth's tongue gently and slowly lapped at his prey's wounds and Tatsu's hands roamed his predator's muscular neck. The panic that had gripped the young canine's heart slowly faded to a distant sort of acceptance. Yogoloth began to purr quietly.
It was a strange bond between a predator and his prey, something that had no equivalent elsewhere. A bond where two lives become forever entwined. A bond where one dies so that the other may live on. It had been a dance, and no matter how slim, the chance that they may have gone their separate ways had always been there. Now time had simply caught with both of them. Neither could alter their fate now.
"I j- just... will it hurt...?", Tatsu sobbed softly, all the fight gone out of him. The half-dragon slowly reared his head up to look Tatsu in the eyes.
"A little, yes.", Yogoloth replied, he'd grown to rather like this Tatsu. "But not for too long. It'll be fairly quick."
Yogoloth opened his mouth wide, rows of sharp teeth rested in fleshy purple gums. He sat up a little, removing much of his weight from Tatsu's body and suddenly engulfed his prey's head with his hot moist maw. The canine struggled and a muffled cry came from within the predator's snout as he instinctively batted at Yogoloth's hide. The half-dragon's lips and teeth pushed against Tatsu's shoulders but didn't pierce the flesh as he lifted his meal up to his feet.
Large fore paws grasped Tatsu's arms and held them against his side as he kicked out in panic. Yogoloth's throat opened and then swallowed, pulling the helpless canine's shoulders all the way into his maw. The big hybrid's muscular throat squeezed tight against his prey as he took a deep breath and swallowed again. Tatsu was lifted off the ground mostly by Yogoloth's strong paws but also partly from the swallowing action of his throat.
Sat firmly on his rump, Yogoloth lifted Tatsu upside down above his head and swallowed again. The canine's legs flailed about in the air as his head was pulled into the hybrid's throat. A muffled cry was all the sound that Tatsu could make as he slipped deeper into the strong fleshy passage. Neither predator nor prey could breathe now and Yogoloth was eager to get his meal into his stomach as quick as possible.
Another gulp and his meal's shoulders entered his throat and another forced Yogoloth to let go of Tatsu's arms as they too disappeared into his tight fleshy inards. The canine wriggled his body and kicked his legs before Yogoloth grabbed the offending limbs with his fore paws and held them still. Another gulp and Tatsu slipped further down toward the hybrid's stomach.
As Tatsu's belly flowed over Yogoloth's tongue, the hybrid caught the many flavours of his meal. No where near as many as he would if he'd have eaten him piece by piece. But he couldn't afford there to be any trace of his prey left behind. Another gulp and Yogoloth's purple tongue pushed across Tatsu's furry sheath and up between his legs. The scent of maleness added to the complex flavours and Yogoloth's stomach rumbled again as if impatient.
Yogoloth's lungs began to complain and thankfully the hardest part was over. Opening his maw wide to encourage his throat to do the same, he released his meal's legs and swallowed again. Tatsu's feet gradually vanished and Yogoloth was able to close his jaws completely. His throat contracted around the doomed canine and pulled him down into the tight confines of the half-dragon's stomach.
"Oooh...", Yogoloth sighed with a smile, he loved feeling this full.
He still felt the weak struggling squirms of his meal as he slowly settled onto his flank. Yogoloth flexed his slightly sore jaw and licked his snout as he began to feel sleepy. A good sleep often followed a large meal and now would be no exception. He smiled as his meal settled and the struggling gradually slowed.
The rain had dwindled to a soft drizzle as the light finally faded below the horizon. Yogoloth stretched his hind legs across the rocky ground of the cliff and flexed his clawed toes. He yawned sleepily and happily shifted his swollen belly a little. The pleasant wriggling in his stomach had stopped and he sighed in bliss. The rain would probably stop completely soon and the sky would almost certainly clear overnight. It was actually a rather nice view from up here, it would be lovely to be woken by the sun rise in the morning.
The big hybrid yawned again, smiled and settled his head onto his fore paws. He slowly let his heavy eyes close and soon he drifted into a deep satisfied sleep.