After sending Ilisti flying with a swipe of his its tail, Myagnoir shifted its weight and hunched up defensively. Most of the human warriors had already managed to get themselves or their mounts free from the ice that the mutant drake had bound their feet with, and they were now closing in to keep up the attack. Sir Masnin was the most aggressive. Ducking under a slash from a claw, he hacked at the beast’s ankle before backing off. Red marred the drake’s scales. It looked like he’d drawn blood.
Werrick had been hanging back with a squad of knights, but at that moment, he finally urged his men forward toward the drake. Blacknail hissed in annoyance as he watched them. Werrick had certainly taken his time, a suspicious amount of it. Either he was a coward, or he was playing a very dangerous game.
The clatter of hooves on stone filled the air as the knights charged, causing Myagnoir to glance in their direction. The drake then turned and opened its mouth, as if to roar at them or assault them with magic, but Sir Masnin immediately leaped into action.
“Press the attack! We must keep the beast occupied!” he yelled as he jumped forward to stab the beast in the leg again. Pulling his lance free, he then stabbed at Myagnoir’s underbelly.
At the same time, several of his subordinates were also moving in to threaten the mutant drake and hack at its vulnerable spots. This forced to Myagnoir to turn back and confront them, lest it leave its soft belly vulnerable to their glowing weapons. The great beast stumbled back and bit at them with its humongous jaws. Wary of the creature’s jagged teeth, which were the size of men’s forearms, all of Sir Masnin’s men were pushed back. Even the armored paladin would die instantly if bitten.
However, it had never been Sir Masnin’s job to wound the drake. His squad and him were only supposed to surround it and pin it down, which they’d accomplished. Crouched defensively, Myagnoir was completely open to the charge from Werrick and the knights. Galloping at full-speed they made a close pass against the drake with heat-lances levelled. Myagnoir’s back was covered by thick scales, but the magical weapons managed to cut through it. As knight after knight rode past, almost a dozen long smoking wounds appeared on the drake’s hide.
Roaring in pain, Myagnoir swirled around and lashed out at Werrick with a claw, Blacknail grinned expectantly, but the bandit lord saw the attack coming and managed to lead his mount out of the way of the blow. That was disappointing, but Myagnoir wasn’t done yet. Still roaring, the beast attacked with his other front claw, and this time he managed to hit his target. The beast’s claws ripped into an armored knight, going right through his steel plate armor and severing the man’s arm. He fell screaming as his terrified mount ran past.
Blacknail watched all this with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation. The battle was fun to watch, and his allies had gotten in some good blows, but he wasn’t sure they were winning. They’d lost almost half a dozen fighters, and he wasn’t sure they’d done any real damage to their foe. If the beast didn’t start to grow tired and weak, it seemed unlikely that they’d win this fight. Ilisti’s fall in particular had severely hurt their chances.
Sighing, Blacknail began to make his way closer to the fight. He should probably check on his vympir ally. He could do that without getting too close to the giant murder drake, and it might turn the fight around. Blacknail needed the humans to win this battle. His own plans depended on it, and he’d rather not deal with the boggarts alone.
As the last of Werrick’s mounted warriors rode out of the fight, Myagnoir was free to deal with Sir Masnin and the others again. Their battle resumed as the warriors worked together in an attempt to keep the beast distracted and prevent it from moving around too much. They needed to keep it on the road. The drake bit and slashed at them as they ducked in and out of combat.
Soon, Blacknail reached the pile of rubble where Ilisti had fallen. Amongst the shattered stone and dusty bricks, he easily spotted the vympir’s dark armor. It glinted in the sunlight despite the dust.
Looking the scene over, Blacknail saw that Ilisti seemed intact, although he appeared to be unconscious. That, or dead. It was hard to tell. Thankfully, his armor seemed to only have a few small dents in it and he didn’t appear to be bleeding everywhere. Grunting, the hobgoblin removed some rocks from atop the vympir and then pulled his helmet off so he could get a better look.
Ilisti’s black hair was plastered all across his pale face and his eyes were closed. Blacknail studied him for a moment, and then poked him in the cheek several times. That failed to provoke a reaction, so Blacknail put his finger under the man’s nose to check for breathing. His first thought had been to lean over and listen, but he’d quickly discarded that idea. For some reason, he was concerned about the unconscious vympir lurching awake and biting his neck.
That turned out to be an unnecessary worry. A moment after Blacknail had put his finger under the vympir’s noise, his eyes fluttered open and he began coughing. Ah, he was definitely alive! Blacknail grinned happily. Time to get him back in the fight!
“Ack, what is that smell?” the vympir groaned before coughing weakly again. His black eyes seemed unfocused, and he collapsed a second later.
Oh, no. Ilisti was still clearly still out of it. Blacknail sighed as he withdrew his digit. Unlike a human, he knew he smelled great. Ilisti was definitely still out of it. Yep.
Before deciding what to do next, Blacknail took a moment to study the ongoing battle. He didn’t want to be caught by surprise if the flow of the fight suddenly changed or if Myagnoir headed his way.
Sir Masnin and his subordinates still had Myagnoir on the defensive, although it seemed that they’d lost one or two more members. Blacknail wasn’t the best at counting, but that’s what it looked like to him. The warriors and knights surrounded the beast and kept it busy by lunging in to attack its scaly body before it could counterattack.
Meanwhile, Werrick’s mounted force had finished turning around and was coming in for another charge. Every one of their lances was pointed straight toward the drake and they shimmered with constrained heat.
Seeing his allies’ approach, Sir Masnin redoubled his efforts and began yelling orders. “Keep the beast constrained and we can end this! Don’t let up.”
As the knights thundered closer, the paladin ran in to distract Myagnoir again. Moving quickly, he stabbed one of the beast’s front feet while it was looking the other way. The drake snarled but couldn’t spare the time and focus to do more than half-heartedly try to backhand Sir Masnin away. The clumsy counterattack missed. Myagnoir was being pressed in on all sides by the other human fighters. It had to keep turning and snapping to keep them away from its belly.
Seeing the horsemen closing in again, Myagnoir attempted to raise another shield of freezing air. All the fighters stumbled back away from the swirling vortex, but that simply gave the remaining kingdom mages a clear shot. Almost immediately, a beam of fire shot out of the nearby ruins and seared through the shield, dispersing it.
That cleared the way for Sir Masnin and his men to dive back into combat. Myagnoir caught one mounted knight and violently slapped him and his steed aside with a claw, but the others kept up their attack. Blacknail found their tenacity impressive, or maybe they were simply desperate now. Regardless, several of their weapons bit into Myagnoir’s flesh as they put themselves at risk to distract the beast from their charging allies. Leading from the front, Sir Masnin threw himself right into the fray. Perhaps realizing that they desperately needed to land a solid blow on the mutant drake soon, he challenged Myagnoir head on.
“For honor. For humanity. For divinity!” the paladin roared as he ran straight toward the beast’s head.
Accepting the challenge, Myagnoir let out a vicious growl and turned to give the paladin an intense glare that caused both its yellow eyes to glow intensely for a moment. Then, its neck extended like a snake’s as it snapped at Sir Masnin with lightning speed. Moving just as quickly, the paladin blurred as he dodged the closing teeth by throwing himself sideways. He then slashed at the beast’s neck. His lance parted the scales, leaving a long gash that quickly began gushing out blood. It wasn’t a shallow cut. The Doom of Coroulis had been truly wounded now.
However, now Sir Masnin was off-balance and exposed. Blacknail glanced toward Werrick’s force and growled angrily. The bandit lord had slowed down his charge for some reason, and that meant Sir Masnin was alone and unsupported. If Werrick hadn’t slowed, his force would have hit Myagnoir already and drawn his attention, but now the beast could focus on the annoyance in front of it.
Rearing back, Myagnoir swiped at Sir Masnin with one of its front claws. The paladin tried to dodge by jumping back, but the tips of the claws caught the edge of his silver armor, causing him to stumble. Off-balance, he was stuck in place as the Doom of Coroulis snarled and snapped at him again. Blacknail’s heart skipped a beat as he watched. This time, the drake’s huge jaws closed down on the paladin, piercing armor and cutting deep into flesh. A flick of Myagnoir’s neck then pulled the man up into air, so that the drake could to flip him into his mouth. The beast then began chewing as an incredibly satisfied expression appeared on its face. Blacknail winced. This was bad for so many reasons. He’d actually liked Sir Masnin. He was rather fair and practical for a human, despite his suicidal need to fight monsters and protect people.
Only then did Werrick begin his attack, while the drake was still chewing and swallowing. The bandit lord and the rest of his mounted squad held their heat-lances steady as they zoomed toward Myagnoir’s exposed side. Werrick led the way and was the first to plunge his lance into the drake’s side as the riders made their second pass. The weapon sizzled as it slid over three feet into the beast. It then got stuck, and Werrick was forced ride on without it. The assault didn’t end there though. All of the other riders brought their own weapons to bear on the drake’s side. Myagnoir screamed in pain loudly enough to shake the air and hurt Blacknail’s ears. He winced, and a ringing noise lingered even after the beast fell silent.
As the knights rode past, they left Myagnoir’s hide a bloody mess of long bleeding wounds. Despite the creature’s immense bulk, Blacknail knew that he’d been gravelly injured. He just wished Werrick hadn’t been the one to do it, and that Sir Masnin hadn’t been chewed up and swallowed like a dry biscuit. Blacknail found the timing of Werrick’s delay deeply suspicious. It had been a little convenient for him and far too inconvenient for everyone that stood in his way. The Wolf was obviously making his move, so Blacknail would have to be wary and accelerate his own plans. Being all alone in the ruins made that difficult though. Where had all his minions ended up?
Blacknail’s dark thoughts were interrupted by the sound of rubble tumbling behind him. He glanced over his shoulder at Ilisti, but the vympir hadn’t moved. He was still lying on the ground. Instead, the noise appeared to have come from further back, out of sight. Blacknail frowned as he studied the ruins, but he didn’t have to wait long. A man stepped into sight a moment later, and he was swiftly followed by a woman. They both quickly spotted Blacknail and gave him furious glares that made their unfriendly intentions clear, before briefly glancing at Ilisti’s fallen form.
Both humans were familiar to Blacknail, which was unsurprising. The idea of some random unknown humans wandering into Coroulis at this time was rather silly. The man was one Werrick’s thugs, who had stuck close to his leader over the entire journey. He was tall with a smooth face and a bald head that Blacknail approved of, although his intelligent and convenient hairstyle didn’t make him any less of an enemy. The longsword he was holding made that clear.
Blacknail instantly recognized the woman. It was Werrick’s lieutenant Zelena. Her long blonde hair, feminine elegance, and stylish furs made her quite unique among the expedition members. Even Blacknail would never mistake her for any other human. She wasn’t armed with any obvious weapon, but delicate gold chains hung from one of her hands, and Blacknail knew not to underestimate her. She had caused trouble for him before and was one of Werrick’s most trusted subordinates.
“What are you doing here?” Blacknail asked them as he gripped the hilt of his sword with one hand.
Zelena stepped forward and smiled in a way that failed completely to be anything like friendly. “I would ask you the same, but it’s obvious. We both came here to check on the wounded. Why don’t you leave this to us?”
“No, go away now,” Blacknail replied coldly as he drew his weapon. The blade slid free of the sheath with subtle ringing sound. There was no way his guests had good intentions. They certainly had no reason to help Ilisti, who was Werrick’s enemy.
Instead of replying, Werrick’s minions stepped forward to confront Blacknail and their expression’s hardened. Warily, Blacknail moved to intercept them. He didn’t think they were stupid enough to not realize how amazing he was, so he stayed light on his feet and ready to move. They undoubtedly had some hidden weapons of their own.
The hobgoblin was right, as usual. Zelena raised her chain covered hand, revealing her palm and the golden disc nestled there. There was a very magical looking white crystal in the center of it.
Blacknail was already dodging sideways as a blast of lightning shot out of the crystal and tore through the space he’d been occupying less than a second ago. Still moving, Blacknail dove toward the swordsman, so that he could use him as a shield against further magical attacks. He got within range of the man easily enough and then unleashed a flurry of vicious slashes.
Surprisingly, the swordsman managed to defend himself. Steel loudly clashed against steel as their blades met in a storm of incredibly quick blows. Blacknail grunted in effort as he kept up his attack. The man was not only skilled, he was also too fast to be a normal human. He was a Vessel. This complicated things. Blacknail had been right to be cautious. He was up against both a mage and a Vessel. Werrick must have gone to quite some effort to keep their abilities hidden from the rest of the expedition.
Hoping to knock his opponent off-balance, Blacknail tapped into his core and began radiating his fear aura as he slashed down at the man’s face. The magical terror hit the enemy swordsman, causing him to flinch, but he recovered instantly. Blacknail’s attack was sidestepped, and their clash continued.
While Blacknail was fighting the swordsman, Zelena attempted to slip around and get a clear shot at Blacknail, but he didn’t let her. Keeping one eye on her, he made sure to maneuver the swordsman between them whenever she moved. He didn’t feel like getting hit by lightning.
“This isn’t working. Push the savage freak away!” Zelena suddenly ordered the man.
Nodding, the swordsman suddenly stepped forward to block one of Blacknail’s attacks. Their blades met with a loud metallic ring and then locked together as the fighters’ muscles strained against each other.
Blacknail attempted to gather up mana to empower himself so he could overpower his arrogant human foe, but then the air around the man began to shimmer. Immediately, Blacknail tried to disengage, but he was committed to his attack and couldn’t just flee. He tried parrying his enemy by stepping to the side and redirecting the blow, but he was too late. The shimmering suddenly stopped, and then the air around the swordsman exploded. The blast wave hit Blacknail hard, lifting him up and throwing him back several feet, but he managed to land on his feet. He didn’t seem injured either, or at least nothing worse than bruises. He could keep fighting and the pain simply made him angrier.
“That’s cheating. Fight fair,” Blacknail complained as he steadied himself. Magic was so unfair. He hated it. What kind of jerk used magic like that in the middle of a sword fight?
The real problem was his positioning. Blacknail winced and readied himself for trouble. The swordsman had taken advantage of the blast to step backwards, clearing Zelena’s line of fire. She was already aiming her mana stone his way.
Lightning burst out of the white crystal and reached for Blacknail with incredible speed. He tried to dodge, but he was slightly too slow. The edge of the bolt caught his arm, sending burning pain through his entire left side and setting his coat on fire. Thankfully, it was only a small flame that quickly went out. Of more concern was the numbness. Blacknail’s left arm felt limp and weak. He wouldn’t be able to fight properly with it anymore.
The swordsman smirked as he approached the hobgoblin. “We’ve got the bloody creature now. To think this subhuman has caused the boss so much trouble. He’s nothing much!”
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