21.2 Banyan

# 2831 14 - 19 mins. 10

Everything was hazy as we entered the cloud of debris above the battle at the monster's feet. It looked like an apocalyptic land, which may not be far from the truth. The ground was shattered and covered in ice and bouts of fire. Animals attacked the feet and served as a form of fast travel across the battlefield, while purple flashes moved people to and from crucial spots.

The Avians were doing their part as well, shouting orders, and trying to search the monster for weak spots. It was chaos, and the doom drake still seemed like it was fairly unscathed. Even the arrow to its eye didn't seem to be affecting it much.

No one said anything. We flew down to the closest group of Dwarves and Saurians that seemed like they had some kind of a plan.

The ground was a solid sheet of ice in front of one colossal foot, while behind it, the Dwarves created a large spike of stone sticking out of the ground. Humans charged the foot trying to antagonize it. Flame poured out onto the large black scales.

The doom drake howled and retaliated with its own attack. Purple glowed from above and the howl became ear-splittingly loud. Everyone stopped what they were doing to cover their ears, including us. Tigala lost control and we slammed into the ground.

The scream stopped a moment later, but the pain was still there. I brought my hand away from my ears and saw blood on them.

"Lolan," I yelled. My voice was an echo in my own head. "Tigala!"

I pulled myself to my feet, feeling all of the fresh cuts and bruises with each motion. The world spun around me.

A loud crunch caught my attention behind me. I turned to see a Human get squished under the massive talon of the monster. He had dodged the patch of ice and killed many of his attackers in the process.

This is it. I thought. There is no recovering from this. We lost.

The other foot lifted and headed toward me. I stumbled forward, trying to get away, but what did it matter anyway. This is where we die. All of us.

Dirt and stone fell from the clawed foot as it pulled free from the earth.

"Kaia!" someone shouted. They slammed into me dragging me along. I struggled, trying to get my footing, but I was moving sideways, and whoever was pushing or carrying me was also struggling to keep up. They dove and we hit the ground a moment before the doom drake's second foot touched down, just behind us.

I spit the dirt and blood from my mouth and turned to look at my rescuer. It was Lolan, staring back at me. He groaned, holding his waist.

"Tigala?" I asked, starting to panic.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm sure she's fine. She can fly. Right?"

"I don't know!" I said, mad at the assumption even. "That thing is pretty big. She might need more than flying to keep safe from it."

"Let's look for her then. Can you walk?"

"Yeah," I said. I pushed myself to my feet, groaning. We started looking for her, making sure that we stayed clear of the monster's feet. All said and done, we weren't very effective against this monster. Lolan had fire magic, I had nature. But none of us had been in a war before. None of us knew how to work with teams of allies in such a large-scale fight. We could hold our own in battles against smaller enemies, but against the doom drake, it was like throwing rocks at a mountain.

I tried to find Tigala, but the world around us was a blur of destruction. The smoke and debris clouded the air and made it hard to breathe. Blasts of magic erupted all around us, and we did all that we could to stay out of the way of the attacks. But there was no Tigala.

"Tigala," I yelled. Tears started running down my face. I couldn't lose her too. After Zef had died so recently, I couldn't handle it. I needed to at least end this fight with the people who got me this far. "Tigala!" I yelled again.

I fell to my knees. What are we supposed to do? And why do I keep surviving these situations while people die all around me? Isn't it time? Isn't it _my time? How do I participate in a fight of this scale?_

Then, I heard something. In the distance, there was a blast far stronger than any I had heard so far. I looked up to see a large cone of ice stabbing out of the doom drake's leg and a cheer erupted from the Saurians and other warriors. It was quickly drowned out by the howl of the monster. They had done damage. They had actually hurt it. But how?

The group of Saurians looked bigger than what had shown up to the battle. As I looked around, it almost looked like our army grew. Was it just an illusion to make us look stronger that was put together by the Gnomes?

Then I heard wings flap behind me, and something skidded on the ground. I turned to find a wyvern looking back at me. It stood, favoring its front right foot, and wore a scar on its face.

"Tigala!" I yelled. I ran to her and gave her a hug. "I—I thought you were dead."

"Can't kill me that easy," she said.

"How did you—" I heard another large crash behind me, followed by more cheers. We were making progress. "What is going on?"

"Reinforcements," she said. "It seems our message was seen by most of the world after all."

"But how did they get here?" I asked.

"Gnomes can teleport with their magic. Sillius can. Sounds like whatever went wrong at the end of that message created a ton of portals throughout the world and they all led to that giant shifting portal behind the mansion. The people that were willing to help saw the portal as the sign you mentioned. They stepped in, and are now walking to the battle from the mansion. These are the first of the reinforcements, but by the looks of it, there are a lot more on their way."

I breathed out, unable to believe what I was hearing. We had help. Not only that, but with more people, we were actually affecting the monster. We were hurting it. We had a chance at stopping it.

"That's not all," said Tigala.

"What?" I asked.

"I found something while I was dodging the drake's foot." She led the way, not far off from where we were. There on the ground were the remains of my plant monster. Some of the vines were smashed to a pulp, but many others were okay, usable even.

I looked up at Tigala and said, "Let's hurt this thing."

I focused my magic on the monster, but as I did, I had an idea. The monster always wrapped around itself to hold the soil at its core. What if I was the one to hold the dirt?

I picked up its core and let the magic flow out of me, through the vines. They coiled around me, around each of my limbs, and grew thicker and stronger. I pushed more from the root ball to cover my chest and head. I was still essentially creating a person-shaped plant creature, but instead of me controlling it from a distance, I was controlling it from within. I told the extended legs to stand me up off of the ground, with my long vine arms balancing me on the way up. I wasn't even done yet, and I stood at double the height of Lolan. I looked down at him and smiled. "Want a ride?"

"Woah," was all he said in response. I stretched out a vine arm and pushed more magic into it to stretch it closer to him. He stepped forward and put a foot on one vine, while he grabbed another with his free hand. I lifted him up and set him on my shoulder, like when the treants let me ride on theirs. But this time, I was the treant.

I used my magic, to loosely bind Lolan's legs to me, so he could get out if he wanted to, but also so he wouldn't fall off by mistake.

"Ready?" I asked, looking down at Tigala.

She nodded and we ran for the creature's legs.

As we did, the battle became alive around us. So quickly after I felt like all was lost, I now could breathe again. There was hope. Every attack from our side was more powerful. We were finally pushing the doom drake back, instead of it destroying us with every step.

"What's the plan?" asked Lolan.

"I don't really have one," I said. I looked up at the monster as I ran. There were open wounds on its legs where previous attacks had done damage. "Let's get up there," I said, pointing to a wound on its thigh. "Maybe we can dig that wound deeper. Break its legs or something."

"Sounds good to me."

Tigala flew above keeping an eye on us. We reached the monster's leg, but before we started our climb. I took one vine limb and threw a mound of dirt at the wound. It was slightly wet due to some of the Saurian attacks, so it held together in a ball fairly well. The ball of mud hit the wound and covered much of it. Good.

With the other arm, I grabbed another scoop and buried it in the tangle of vines near my actual legs—the lower body of my vine monster.

Then we began our climb. It was easier as a vine monster. My vines slithered around the monster like an army of snakes, digging into the scales and finding good grips. And it wasn't just my arms either. My legs were made of the same stuff, so I used them in the same way, like prehensile limbs. In no time we were up to the wound.

"Keep an eye out for me," I said. "I'll tear it open. Then you can use your fire magic on it."

"Are you sure," said Lolan. "I still can't really control it well."

"You don't need to," I said. "We need fire and lots of it."

I used my vine creature to start tearing into the doom drake's open wound. It was nothing like cutting into the flesh of an animal. It was more dense—harder to move. Maybe that was a result of just how big the muscles had to be to carry its own weight, or maybe it was something else. I still was able to dig into it, it just took some extra work. I was glad to have the added strength of my vine body.

I tore at flesh, digging the wound deeper and deeper. The monster screamed as other attacks bombarded it. Still, it was overwhelmed, just at less of an advantage than before.

"Watch out!" yelled Lolan. "From the right!"

I shot one of my vines to the left, it grew longer and wrapped around the leg. I let go with the other arm and we swung around the monster's leg, landing on the back side of it just in time for its arm to swing by our previous location. We dodged a potentially fatal blow.

"Thanks," I said. We looked up to make sure the monster was done swatting at us, and then swung back to the front.

"Your turn," I said. "Blast it!"

Lolan paused for a moment and then threw his hands forward. Torrents of fire blasted out of them, charring my vine suit around him. I didn't mind. I could grow it back, and for all of the damage he was doing to my vines, he was doing more to the doom drake. It was worth the trade.

"Okay!" I yelled. Another arm was coming at us. This time though, the leg lifted to try and make the two meet quicker. I slipped out on my vine swing with only a small gap to escape through. The claw clipped my free arm and sent us spinning as we swung. I had to latch on with both arms to steady us again. That was a little too close.

"You okay?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "We need to be careful though. It has sight magic, and even without that, it's getting closer to catching us."

"Right," I said. "Maybe Tigala can get in there while we guard." I searched the skies for her and saw her circling around near us. She was transporting a Gnome who, when they got close enough, jumped off of Tigala's back and into a portal. A moment later another portal opened on the doom drake's back and then Gnome climbed out.

"Tigala!" I yelled. She turned and saw us so I waved her down. "We opened a wound on the front of its leg. Anything you can do to it?"

She nodded and flew around to the front of the leg. She landed on the wound in her wyvern form and used her large claws to tear at the flesh, digging the wound even deeper. Then, her tail readied and she stabbed it several times with the scorpion-like point of it.

"Here it comes," yelled Lolan.

Tigala jumped off and began to fly away, but she might not make it. I swung on one anchored vine arm and grabbed the incoming claw with the other. I couldn't do much against a monster that big, but Tigala was quick. All she needed was a little help. So I tangled up the arm, slowing it for just a second or two. Tigala took the opportunity to dip beneath it and out of its range.

Tigala had to run, but it didn't matter. We were making progress. We were hurting the doom drake. Others saw what we were doing and added their own attacks to the wound. A flurry of ice shards slammed into it. Humans gathered together to throw a giant fireball at it, and Dwarves worked together to launch sharp boulders at it.

The monster screamed with each impact and wasn't reacting quickly enough to properly dodge or retaliate. It backed up further, closer to the volcano. There were cheers around us as others could see our progress.

I looked up at it and the volcano in the background. Upon looking again, I saw something that I had missed before. Veins, stretching up toward the peak of the volcano. The veins glowed red. That could be a really good thing or a really bad thing depending on how this fight turned out.

I didn't have time to dwell on it now though. I swung down the doom drake's legs so I could help the forces attacking from range. Lolan was suited to it, and maybe my vine monster would be too. I settled myself among the Dwarves.

"Break up some rocks for me," I said.

The look of confusion showed they were not used to seeing plant creatures like the one I used as a suit. But they listened regardless. I'm sure most people had seen the army of treants helping serve as mobile outposts and bunkers. Many of them too were throwing large stones at the monster. When the Dwarves broke up the ground in front of me, I joined in, lobbing handfuls as big as me at the doom drake. My stones only did so much against the monster's thick hide, but in conjunction with the attacks of others, we were breaking it down, bit by bit.

Scales were tearing free, blood rand down its legs, and the monster walked with less strength than it had before. It was weakening, and it was only a matter of time until a leg gave out and we could take it out for good.

Then, there was a bright flash. The clouds reflected the bright pink glow coming from the monster's head. I looked up, covering my eyes from the light, but still trying desperately to see what was going on. The light grew for a moment and then faded out just as quickly. Once it was dull enough that I could look at the source, I saw the pink glow at the temples of the doom drake, now brighter than ever. The dragon that held Malcolm flew closer and landed on the head of the colossus. But the doom drake didn't react. In fact, it had stopped moving entirely. It was eerily still.

I watched Malcolm step off the dragon's shoulders onto the head of the doom drake. The battle had halted as we all watched what was happening above us. Even from the distance, I could make out Malcolm's words.

"Ahaaahh! I have done it!"


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