109 Last Stand
Four needle-toothed plant-creatures circled around Kimura Tamaki, glaring with red beady eyes and wielding sharp-thorned sticks as swords. Tamaki needed to circumvent them to get to the iron ladder to freedom.
"Gods damn it, Tamaki! Just-- just hold on, dude!!" Dragan was still climbing stairs to reach him. Every few steps he had to swing his remaining weapon, Lone's weathered longsword, stained green by the blood of dozens of feral plant-men.
Tamaki grinned. He could handle himself. He took the metal quarterstaff off his back, the former spear belonging to Invictus Pale.
He weighed it in his hands, "Oh, wow. Now that I think of it, the weight of this thing's kinda like a fishin' pole."
Tamaki changed his grip on the staff, similar to how he held his weapon of choice-- it felt just right for a reason he could neither explain or understand.
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"(WHAT IS. THIS POWER?)" The Flamebriar Monarch bled a thick, bronze sap from the vines that covered its body. But it was nowhere near enough to slay it... the vines were visibly regenerating their cuts.
Maximus looked haggard, his blood running down his dark hair, black spines stuck in his armor, "Never fought a dragonborn before? We get stronger the harder we fight!"
Rushing forward, the winged warmage jammed his spear into the Monarch's neck, "MAXIMUS!!"
Lightning mana coursed through the Monarch's body, as Maximus poured all the free mana he could into his spear. Four red insectoid mandibles lashed forward from underneath the creature's ram skull, latching onto Maximus's spear hand.
The dragonborn grit his teeth, "You're an ugly motherfucker."
"(AND THOU. ART A DEAD ONE,)" The monarch declared, its voice a thousand skitters and screams.
Maximus groaned in pain as he tried to pull his bleeding hand back. The pain was almost unbearable as the Monarch's mandibles ripped and tore at his flesh, crunching at the bloody bone. His spear-- he needed it badly. If he lost it, all hope would be lost along with it.
"Tamaki, I'm comin' to save ya-- Don't you dare d--"
Dragan finally reached the top platform. But instead of finding the mangled corpse of Kimura Tamaki, he found the blonde boy staring up the iron ladder, the corpses of 4 plant-men at his feet.
The red-headed giant jogged over to him. Looking up, the iron door had been sealed. Dragan knew right away that it was useless to climb up and bang on it-- it was made in such a way that sounds were impossible to hear through it.
Dragan cursed that he lost his axe to the Flamebriar Monarch. He didn't have a chance at prying the iron door with his bare hands.
They were going to die.
Dragan flexed all of his muscles before relaxing them all with a sigh, "Well, this sucks."
"How're we gonna escape, Mister Dragan?" Tamaki looked up at Dragan innocently. Had the possibility of death not crossed the boy's mind?
"I guess I'll go down to help Maximus. Just stay here and don't do ANYTHING. Boss will jam that quarterstaff you're holding up my anus if I let you die," Dragan began to rapidly descend back down the steps.
"You got it, Mister Dragan!" Tamaki saluted Dragan's back as he left.
Lone smashed into the edge of the platform, his legs dangling off of it. Without hesitation, Tamaki walked over and pulled him up, so he wouldn't fall back down into the fiery abyss, "I didn't know you could fly, Chosen One?"
"Ehehe," Lone managed to laugh before falling unconscious.
Only Tamaki remained (conscious) on the topmost platform.
Tamaki punched one of his fists into his opposite palm, "Looks like it's up to me to find the lever that opens up the iron gate!"
Dragan dropped down to Maximus's platform, wielding a sword that looked tiny against his massive frame. He kept his weapon pointed forward, taking slow, measured steps towards Maximus of Ezyria and the Flamebriar Monarch.
A blue-scaled blood-covered wing full of holes lay on the ground between them.
"What... what the hells are you doing?" Maximus groaned.
The blue-scaled dovahkiin knelt down, facing Dragan, with the Flamebriar Monarch at his back. The Monarch's hand had changed from vines to gnarled wooden fingers. The fae creature had one hand placed on Maximus' shoulder, and the other gripped the base of his remaining left wing.
Dragan stopped his movement. He had his range.
"Whirling Rend!!" Dragan tossed his blade. With the Monarch occupied, the blade immediately found its mark, lodging itself into the side of Flamebriar Monarch's chest.
Lone's steel didn't even make the creature flinch.
Dragan's heart dropped. The creature didn't have an enchanted armor or a mana-based regeneration ability-- Maximus would have dropped its defenses if that were true. The Flamebriar Monarch was an ancient existence so powerful that it needed specific enchantments or specially-made cold iron to combat it.
Guild Invictus had neither.
"GRAHHHHHHRGHH!!" Maximus screamed in pain as the Monarch tore the scaled wings off of his back. He discarded it like a piece of trash onto the stones.
"DRAGAAAAN!" Maximus screamed, "Get the HELLS away!! I'm channeling the last of my mana!!"
"Dude, don't do this!! Don't be dumb!!" Dragan yelled back, "Just hold on!"
Maximus narrowed his eyes, no longer having the energy to shout, "You'll die."
Dragan smirked, cracking his knuckles, "My Mana Ward will save me."
Maximus shook his head, and lowered his shield. Dragan's heart dropped upon seeing the gaping hole in the dragonborn's chest, a broken thorn half the size of a sword staunching the blood.
There was a hole in his chest. Blood was probably streaming down his back. His hand was severed at the wrist like it was torn off.
Maximus was going to die.
His spear was nowhere to be found, the last hope that Dragan had at combating the Flamebriar Monarch.
But still, Dragan hesitated to leave, "No man left behind, Maximus. Don't you remember?"
Maximus saluted with his right stump-of-a-hand to his chest, "Death to the enemies of Guild Invictus."
Maximus began to glow radiantly with an overwhelming amount of mana. The Flamebriar Monarch's rams-skull head tilted in curiosity. The collected mana grew exponentially-- all of his life essence, his scales, flesh, and bone channeled into the spell. Dragan inwardly cursed as he shielded his eyes from the light. Quickly calculating in his head, he began to layer Mana Ward after Mana Ward, praying that he'd be able to survive Maximus' final stand.
Dragan's vision was bleary. His world spun. He couldn't hear a damn thing, save the ringing in his ears. He found which way was down, and he set his feet and arms in that direction.
Stairs. He had to get up the stairs. He scrambled up the stairs to the next flight. The ringing didn't stop. It would be a real bitch if it didn't go away.
Dragan found Lone's body. Was he dead? Didn't matter. He picked Lone up over his shoulder. Strange. Why did his right arm hurt so much? Didn't matter.
Tamaki was yelling. Dumb kid. But he caught a damn good catfish. What was he saying? He was pointing up?
Dragan looked up. The iron door was open. Freakin' sweet. He grabbed hold of the iron ladder and began to climb. One step. Three steps. Lots of ladder steps.
Seven hells. The blonde kid. If he didn't get the blonde kid, Boss would kill him. Dragan looked down. The kid was fiddling with a hidden lever on the wall. So that's how he got the door open. Smart kid. He felt that sometimes, the boy was smarter than he was.
Black vines grabbed the boy's neck, thorns piercing his flesh. Was he screaming? What was he saying? Shit. Boss was gonna kill him. The boy was gone, pulled away by the Monarch to wherever the hell that bastard was.
Dragan kept climbing. He found the open iron door. He threw Lone up to the surface. Damn, did his arm hurt. He climbed to the top and dragged himself up.
Guild Trayus surrounded him. Good. They were allies. His consciousness was fading. With a heavy arm, he slammed the iron door shut, "SEAL IT! SEAL IT, GODS DAMN YOU!!"
Dragan couldn't hear himself shout. He hoped they heard him. He screamed it a few more times, even though he couldn't open his eyes. Damn. Boss was going to kill him.