Welcome to the Jungle
A build for Lands of Roawia (LoR) online role-playing game. LoR features motivating contests and character-driven stories.
Dinosaur heavily inspired by senteosan's majestic Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus on LEGO Ideas.
Abner landed on the shore with Scraff and a handful of marines just before dawn. They waited in silence while the launch returned to the Spirit of Lenfald to retrieve the rest of the party. The boat returned after a short time with the rest of the men. Scraff and twelve marines would accompany Abner on his expedition inland to discover what wonders New Lenfald held for them. Toliver had remained aboard the ship to “chart the seas,” though Abner suspected the decision had more to do with the bull tortoise encounter then Toliver’s interest in navigation. Regardless, Abner knew the navigator would be of more use on the ship; Toliver planned to sail south along the shore in search of an easterly current. If this new land was an island, as Toliver suspected, the Spirit of Lenfald would await the expedition on the far side where it could be spotted from the top of the mountain range.
Abner turned to the men on the beach. “Gentlemen,” he started, “I will keep this brief. I understand that you are outstanding marines- the best, in fact, in Roawia. However, I caution you to remember that your skills are tailored to life and battle at sea. The land is a very different environment, and it is my territory. I am a ranger, trained to survive in the toughest terrain and to go unseen by my enemies wherever I travel. Trust me, do as I say, and stay close. I will guide us through this land. Now come, follow me.”
Scraff trotted up to Abner as they began to move inland. “The men will follow you, Abner. I think they’ve quite forgotten that they planned to have your head just two days ago.”
Abner shook his head, bemused. “Unbelievable. I can’t even fathom how they can change that quickly.”
Scraff smiled. “Ah, but I can. My marines are used to the harsh life at sea. They’re, ah, adaptable.”
Abner raised an eyebrow. “Adaptable?”
Scraff shrugged. “Best I could come up with in the moment.”
They reached the river before noon and turned west, following the water’s course as Abner had the previous day. They skirted the place where they had encountered the bull tortoise and continued inland. The terrain grew rougher and the trees grew larger and closer together. They had reached the foothills of the great mountain range and it seemed that dense vegetation could be expected for the remainder of their trek. Abner called a halt.
“We’ll make camp here for the night,” said the ranger, turning to address the marines. No one said a word of complaint. They were all dripping with sweat- it was extremely hot and humid and it took a great deal of effort to move through the undergrowth.
“Why did you choose this spot in particular?” questioned Scraff, looking about with his brow furrowed. “I assume you have a reason for doing so. You always seem to have a reason for things. I don’t see why you can’t just do something for the fun of it. It’s a pity, really. Anyhow, why have you chosen this spot to make camp?”
Abner chuckled. “Scraff, you really are an interesting fellow. I’m quite glad to have you along with me,” he said. “But to answer you, I chose this location because it will protect us from whatever might seek to harm us in the night.” He pointed to his right. We’re just below the crest of the hill, so we won’t be sitting up there in plain sight. But we’re high enough that anything passing by will simply go around the slope rather than climbing up to us,” he gestured around him. “The vegetation is rather thick so it will hide us, but it thins out downhill so we can see anything that might try to approach us. We are close enough to the river to draw water but far enough to avoid contact with any thirsty individuals,” he stopped. Scraff was looking at him incredulously. “What?” he asked.
“All of that just to sleep?” said Scraff. “No thank you. I’ll take a bunk or a hard deck over that any day,” he said, dropping his pack on the ground. He looked at Abner. “You think we might not be alone here?”
“It’s possible,” replied Abner. “There hasn’t been a sign of anyone living here, but even a bear or a pack of wolves would be devastating to us if we weren’t careful.”
Scraff grinned sheepishly. “Or a bull tortoise.”
They ate a hearty supper of some very tasty fish the marines had caught in the river and some foraged fruits that Abner had determined to be safe to eat. The men turned in at sundown, half of them standing guard while the others slept. It was an uneventful night and the men rose eager and well rested at dawn. They broke camp, being careful to erase all evidence of their presence there.
Abner showed the marines how to cover their tracks and hide the ashes from their cooking fire. They caught on quickly and they were on the move again before long. Abner led them up through the thickening plants, pushing through them as often as he could and hacking his way when he couldn’t.
“Ever been in a jungle before, Scraff?” he asked jokingly.
“Curse you, Abner, and your blasted curiosity,” swore the big marine. “I’d give you a knock on the head if I could just find you in this mess right now!”
Abner laughed aloud. “Hah, a ‘knock’ from you would end me. It’s a good thing I’m a better woodsman than you.” He darted through the foliage and jabbed Scraff with his elbow, immediately feinting back into the bushes.
“Why you little-“ said Scraff, flailing about in the plants. “Where’d you go?!”
Abner laughed again as he heard the commander crashing about in the foliage. He turned back to the party. “Head count!” he called.
The marines each sounded off in turn, Scraff bringing up the rear with a string of curses. Suddenly he stopped and called out, “Captain!”
Abner turned towards his friend’s voice and pushed his way through the jungle to where Scraff stood. “What is- whoa!” he exclaimed. In front of them stood the strangest plant Abner had ever seen. It looked like an enormous flower, its petals each the size of a man. On a thin vine rising from the center of the plant dangled a large fruit the size of a watermelon. Its skin was like that of a peach and it looked incredibly delicious.
“Finders keepers!” said Scraff, starting forward excitedly. Abner yanked him back quickly.
“No, Scraff!” he ordered.
“What?” cried Scraff. “You can’t just pull rank now that there’s a plump, juicy fruit on the line! Not even fair. See, if I-“
“Scraff,” said Abner. “No one is going near that fruit, or anything like it for that matter.”
“What are you talking about?” demanded Scraff.
In response, Abner plucked a rock from the ground and hefted it through the air at the center of the giant flower. The second it touched the plant’s center, the petals snapped up from the ground violently, smashing together like jaws with a sickening crunch.
“I see,” said Scraff. “How about I don’t touch anything any more?”
One of the marines spoke up. “What was that?” he questioned, looking at Abner.
“That, Felnor, was a trap plant,” replied Abner.
Felnor shrugged. “Doesn’t help.”
“There are some of them in Lenfald, too, though none close to this size,” Abner continued. “In Lenfald they are about the size of your palm and they eat mostly insects. By the looks of it, this one has much larger prey in mind.”
“Wait, so now there are carnivorous plants?” Scraff said. “This place just gets better and better!”
“The good news is, they don’t chase you!” replied Abner jovially.
“You really just can’t let that whole bull tortoise thing go, can you Abner?” asked Scraff.
At that moment Abner felt the hair on his neck begin to stand on end. He looked around him quickly, but nothing in the brush seemed to be amiss. He knelt to the ground and closed his eyes.
Scraff looked down at him, bemused. “Abner, I daresay you-“
“Shhhh!” Abner hissed.
Scraff motioned to his marines and they knelt quietly as well, turning outward and grasping their weapons.
Abner felt something- something so slight and unassuming that he wasn’t even sure what sense had detected it. Puzzled, he lay flat and pressed his ear to the ground. He felt a miniscule vibration, heard the ground rumble just a bit. Then it happened again, then again, in perfect rhythm. Still baffled, Abner focused as hard as he could, straining to make out what exactly he was detecting. The rumbles grew slightly louder, like drumbeats, as if from a distance. Abner opened his eyes as the drumbeat grew louder. The ground now shook visibly, ever so slightly whenever the rumble sounded. Abner’s eyes widened and he sprang to his feet.
“RUN-“ a monstrous roar shredded the stillness of the jungle, a deafening sound that rattled the men to their very bones. A sound more terrifying than anything they had ever heard.
“Go! This way!” screamed Abner, shoving one of the marines ahead of him into the foliage. Abner counted the men out of the little clearing as they plowed back into the jungle, jumping in behind Scraff at the back of the column. The marines up front had drawn their blades and now hacked through the densest vegetation as they ran. Leaves and vines still struck them all as they careened through the foliage.
The ground now shook violently and another earth-shattering roar ripped through the air.
“I suppose you know what that is, then, ranger?” yelled Scraff, his ears still ringing.
“I haven’t the foggiest!” Abner called back, ducking under a low-hanging branch. He was fiddling with an arrow as he ran.
“Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to run with sharp objects?” called Scraff, grinning insanely.
“She’s a healer, Scraff. She just patched me up after I did!” replied Abner. “That thing is getting closer!”
The ground was now rumbling as if shaken by an earthquake and they could hear the booming footfalls of whatever monster pursued them. Suddenly a cluster of squealing lizard-things burst through the foliage and darted past the men as if oblivious to their presence. The creatures were extremely fast, sprinting by on two legs with long tails extended straight back behind them. They were like nothing Abner had ever seen.
“Well, it’s a day of firsts even for me!” yelled Abner to Scraff, who had fallen back to motivate the lagging Felnor. As Abner turned to look back at the two men, his world seemed to go into slow motion. Above the marines, the jungle canopy suddenly tore apart, the trees bending like saplings and leaves flying everywhere. Then the most terrible thing Abner had ever seen burst through, its massive head descending towards one of the lizard-creatures- and towards Scraff!
The beast was enormous, dwarfing elephants, buildings, and even the dragons Abner had heard about. Its monstrous jaws were filled with rows of jagged teeth and giant horns protruded from its face. Time slowed even more for Abner. He raised his bow and nocked the arrow he had been holding to the string. The monster’s jaws descended towards Scraff, passing the lower jungle canopy. Abner drew back his longbow with all of his strength, its sturdy wood groaning in protest. The beast moved down, down- it was almost upon Scraff now! Abner let his arrow fly.
The scene seemed frozen in time. The shaft crawled through the air, moving unbearably slowly towards the marines and the great beast. Abner saw Scraff’s determined expression- there was never fear on that man’s face! – and Felnor’s look of terror as he sprinted with his crossbow. There was terror in the eyes of the lizard creature, too- it heeded nothing but its own feet as it tore through the jungle, its only thought to escape the monster that pursued it. The arrow carved its path forward, flying just over Scraff’s head and clipping off a piece of the feather that adorned his hat. The terrible beast’s jaws opened fully and it was now merely feet from Scraff’s body.
Then the arrow struck it. The missile flew straight and true, burying itself in the giant tongue of the monster. The massive beast reeled in pain, whipping its head up and snapping its jaws closed blindly, missing Scraff and Felnor by just feet. The two men continued to charge ahead, Scraff screaming at his young companion to move faster. Abner did not hesitate for a moment. He dropped his bow, drawing his short sword and running forward towards the wounded creature.
Scraff saw him turning and shouted something back at him, but Abner did not hear him. Abner’s world grew quiet, and he saw only the monster in front of him. It clutched at its scaly throat desperately, scratching at itself with its ferocious claws. Its face swelled and its eyes turned upward, its legs suddenly growing limp. The beast fell down, down, crashing through the jungle and snapping trees like twigs beneath it.
Scraff turned back and screamed something at Abner again, his eyes widening.
Abner, who was now directly beneath the creature’s neck, raised his sword calmly above his head, pointing it right at the beast’s throat. The monster descended towards him, as if Abner’s whole world was crashing down around him. Abner closed his eyes as the world went dark around him.
Scraff looked on in horror as the enormous monster slammed into the ground.