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21.1 Banyan

# 2192 11 - 15 mins. 8

This couldn't be happening. How did it know where we were? And how was it possible that it traveled so fast? This monster was always one step ahead of us, mostly just by being infinitely more powerful than us. This did not look like a battle we could win.

"Fallback to the others!" yelled Tigala, as the monster gained its footing after the teleportation.

No one discussed it. We all just ran to join the others.

The monster began its attack by setting the battlefield. It conjured up a massive storm. Clouds stirred above us and the wind swirled. The sky flashed with lightning as the clouds hid the sun.

Small localized tornados formed and charged in our direction.

"Watch out!" I yelled. I dove at Kesq, pushing her out of the way just before one of the small tornadoes touched down where she was headed.

We kept running. No time for thanks. Next, the ground began to rumble, making it harder to keep our footing. Luckily we were out of the lava field. At least, I thought we were lucky until I realized what the doom drake was doing. The ground rumbled behind us. I snuck a glance over my shoulder to see several pillars push up from the ground. Each one shot up from beneath the lava field. After a moment, the sharp black rocks landed all around us, pelting us with jagged debris that tore through skin. I stumbled, but Lolan was right there to catch my arm and keep me on my feet.

Geralt was just ahead of us on the large bird, slowing down occasionally to make sure we were all okay.

When we finally reached the group we had only a moment to catch our breath before the monster continued the onslaught.

Rodrigo was there, and I was very glad to see him. "This is our final stand," he said. "This is all that we've got. The best we can do is hurt this monster so that others can come together and stop it."

There were cheers and yells all around. We couldn't have had a battle plan for this fight, but we had been preparing for this mentally. We always knew this could be the way it ended for us. It wasn't a good thought, but at least maybe our sacrifice would help others.

"Spread out!" Rodrigo yelled. "Work with each other in any way you can. The only advantage we may have on this thing is that there are more of us, and we all carry different magic. Overwhelm it, and—"

He didn't get a chance to finish that sentence. Fire blasted out of the monster's mouth, enhanced by its magic, and possibly the volcano behind it. A red glow brightened behind the beast and smoke began to pour out of the volcano. That didn't look good.

Humans stepped forward and blocked the blasts of fire. Rodrigo joined the effort as soon as he realized what was going on. He turned his head as he held back the flames and mouthed a strained "Go!"

We all broke up, giving the monster more than a single target to go after.

I stayed put looking up at the members of the wandering forest in our ranks. At the very least, maybe I could work in tandem with Grollock and the others with my magic. I had no concrete ideas, but it was worth a shot.

I charged through the chaos, through the army of different races, and through the rubble of the already destroyed battlefield. The treants surrounded the group and were beginning to spread out like the rest of the group. I had to get closer.

Where is he? I thought.

There was an explosion of water in front of me, a tidal wave that swept away twenty or so people, slamming some of them into large pillars of earth that were recently created by the Dwarves as cover.

This wasn't working. I looked around to see a wyvern charging my way.

"What are you looking for?" asked Tigala. Lolan was already mounted on her back.

"Grollock," I said. "I was hoping I could work with him somehow."

There was a loud noise in the distance. "Get on!" yelled Tigala.

I climbed on her back and we lifted off just in time for a large boulder to roll beneath us.

She flew in a tight circle, gaining altitude. We joined the ranks of several Avians hovering in the air as they tied to use their sight magic as a warning system for others below them.

"Are you guys okay?" I asked Tigala and Lolan.

"Yeah. Let's stick together this time though," said Tigala. "We might not make it out of this one. Might as well go down with friends."

"Yeah," said Lolan. "Besides, we work well together." He gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder.

"Okay, do you see Grollock anywhere?" I asked.

"No, not from here," said Lolan. The battlefield was chaos. Smoke rose. The wind whipped around us.

"Do you see that?" asked Lolan.

I looked up at the doom drake. It stood tall above us, on the side of the volcano. And through the rain and smoke, I could see a faint glow near its head. It was a pink glow. "Did Malcolm already get control of it?"

"I don't think so," said Lolan. He pointed to show what he was talking about. I followed his finger to the silhouette of a dragon, appearing through the clouds as lightning jumped from cloud to cloud. It was Malcolm. He was here, and not too far behind the doom drake.

"Why is he still trying?" asked Tigala, mostly to herself. "Help us, or at least give up already."

"He sure is determined," I said. I watched the silhouette, only visible when the lightning struck. Then Tigala took a hard dive to the side. A large vine shot up from the ground and clawed at the air where we had just been.

Once she recovered, I said, "I'm not seeing Grollok. Let's go up to the doom drake's head. Maybe we can do some damage to its eyes or something."

"Worth a shot," said Tigala. Her wings took deep flaps and we began to raise into the air. The time it took to reach the monster's height showed just how big it was. Our friends and allies stood below us, small enough that it was hard to make out who was who.

When we reached the creature's head, Malcolm was still trailing behind the colossus on his dragon. It would be another minute or two before he arrived. This might be our best chance at doing some damage without Malcolm trying to stop us.

"To the eyes," I yelled. "Let's blind the beast."

Tigala turned us toward the eyes. They were enormous, each one was about the size of that ogre that Lolan and I ran into our first day out in Daegal, and that was just the monster's eyes. I didn't know if we had it in us to take down something this big and powerful.

As we got close, Lolan began nocking arrows. He let them fly, one by one. The monster's eyes flashed white for a moment, and before each arrow would have landed, its head twitched and turned, letting the arrows fly past it or bounce off of the monster's scaly hide.

"Keep trying that," I said. "It's bound to make a mistake at some point. We just need some kind of advantage."

I grabbed a pocket full of dirt and yelled, "Hold!" as we hovered close to the doom drake's head.

I ran and jumped off of Tigala, landing at the back of the monster's head. I climbed my way up and threw the dirt down where I stood, pouring my magic into the small amount of fertile soil. With the magic started, I ran back to Tigala. She anticipated my return and was already slightly lower than the top of the montster's head. I jumped and Lolan threw out an arm to keep me from overshooting and plummeting to my death.

I continued the growth in the small handful of dirt that I left behind. Maybe I could actually do something this time. I made the plant grab the clump of dirt like a talon clutching a fish. Then I grew the limbs out of it. Two touched down, and then two more. A body grew, thickening as I fed more of my magic into it. The plant creature stood up at my bidding and continued to grow. I thought of my family, my new friends, and the good we could do. I thought of the people we would save from these terrible fates if we could stop the doom drake, and the small sapling grew to a small treant. It wasn't much compared to the towering colossus, but it was something.

"I'm sending it in," I said.

Lolan readied another arrow in response. And we held our position next to the monster's head.

The monster's eyes flashed white again. It was expecting something. It raised a massive claw to swipe at the treant. I told it to duck at the last second. The claw still ripped off one of its limbs, forcing me to spend my time regrowing it. But I didn't have a chance. Tigala swerved to dodge the claw as well, leaving us struggling to hang on as we were jerked through the air.

"How are we supposed to have any kind of success when it's ready for every attack?" I asked feeling defeated.

"It's not ready for everything," said Lolan. "Look." He was pointing down toward the base of the monster. One of its feet was now trapped in stone. Others were preparing alternate attacks as well as a result of the distraction we caused. "Now let's take advantage of it being distracted by them!"

He readied another arrow and took a shot. The arrow slammed into the eye this time, with a squishy impact.

The monster howled in a way that shook the air around us.

"Keep your eye peeled Tigala!" I yelled, anticipating an attack.

I stood my plant creature back up and dug its remaining arm into the scales at the top of the doom drake. Then it jumped off of the drake with its arm still connected. It swung down and landed on the monster's eye, next to the arrow. The drake was trying furiously to blink away the arrow, and now my treant, but it was unsuccessful. It began to flail its head around, howling all the while.

I told my treant to yank on the arrow before Tigala had to fly us out of range of one of the doom drake's arms, coming up to swat us from the sky.

We rolled through the air. Lolan, who was already hugging Tigala to stay put used one arm to hold onto me.

It wasn't enough.

I fell from his grasp, unprepared for the quick maneuver, and started my plummet toward the earth. The wind rushed past me, but it was a great view of the battle below, beautiful in its own way. The glow of all of the different types of magic made a rainbow light show. Smoke and dust billowed out diffusing the lights. With the wind rushing around me, it almost didn't even feel like a war. It looked like a colorful cloud that I would land on.

Reality snapped back as Tigala swooped next to me, diving at the same speed. Lolan grabbed me again and Tigala pulled beneath me to catch me. She tried to ease my landing on her, but it didn't really work. I hit hard in my stomach, with my arms hanging off of one side of her and my legs off the other.

"Ow," I gasped when I finally caught my breath.

"The ground would have hurt more," said Tigala.

I looked back up at the monster's head. The dark shadow of the dragon and the glow of pink magic showed that Malcolm had caught up.

"Malcolm's back," I said.

"Should we go back up? Maybe we can get his help?" asked Lolan.

"No," I said. "I've talked to him enough times to know that he's never going to help us stop the doom drake. He stops when he controls it, or when he dies."

"Where to then?" said Tigala.

As I stared up, I saw that the drake had managed to sway my plant monster from its eye. The plant creature fell from the sky and disappeared into the cloud of colors below.

"Let's go back down. Maybe we can work with others or find Grollok," I said.

Tigala changed course, heading for the chaos of the battle below. I looked up at the monster's face as we descended. Malcolm wouldn't give up, and we could use his help most of all.

Just before we entered the cloud, I saw something on the horizon. A flash of color in the dark stormy landscape. But what was it?

We were swallowed up by the cloud before I could make any guesses.

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