21.4 Banyan

# 2545 13 - 17 mins. 9

The dragon fell, but the battle raged on. The battlefield was even more destroyed than before. It looked like an unknown subterranean land. Smoke and storm clouds blotted out the sky. Rocks stabbed up into the air, some so high that you couldn't see the tops of them. The earth was cracked and chared and frozen. Gnome machinations joined the fray. A few still fought, but most now littered the landscape, lifeless and still. And the lava was starting to make its way around our warriors. And through the smoke, was the massive silhouette of the doom drake, shown by flashes of lightning and fire.

It was a lot to take in at once. The dragon had served as a nice distraction from the real problem. How do we stop the giant with Malcolm at its side? The two of them were far more powerful than any 100 of us.

The doom drake roared above us and threw a torrent of fire at a group that I could only make out as shadows through the smoke. When the flames let up, those shadows of people were gone. We were back to losing again.

I pushed myself back onto my feet and searched around for Lolan. He was still amongst the Saurians that were helping in our attack on the dragon.

I stumbled over in my damaged vine armor, repairing it all the while.

"Thanks for the backup," I said to Lolan and the Saurians.

"Same to you," said a green Saurian I didn't know. "We were losing until you showed up."

"Do you think we survive the two of them working together?" asked another Saurian with red scales and bone jewelry.

I looked up at the looming silhouette. "I don't know," I said. "We don't have any other choice than to try."

"We do," said another Saurian. "We could give up. But what fun would that be? I'll at least do some damage on my way out."

A morbid way to look at it, but probably also a realistic one.

"We don't have much time," I said. "I'm going to try and figure out some sort of game plan. If I make it that far, hopefully, the Gnomes will be able to let everyone know."

The blue Saurian nodded. "We'll do as much damage as we can in the meantime." With that, the lizardfolk headed off in the direction of the doom drake.

"You okay?" I asked Lolan.

"Yeah," said Lolan. "Are you? That was insane!"

"Yeah," I said. "A little battered, but when am I not? I guess all of those dire situations taught me how to improve my magic quickly."

"Hah," said Lolan. "Maybe I should be a little less careful with my fire magic."

I smiled. "No, definitely be more careful with your fire magic. You could burn down a house in no time with that stuff."

He smirked back at me. "So no plan yet?"

"No. Not yet. I don't know how we win against someone who knows all of the intricacies of magic and an ancient dragon that's been stewing in magic juice for the past 500 years."

"Well I'll let you know if I come up with any ideas," he said.

"Thanks. Let's see if we can find where Tigala is helping. Maybe we'll think of something on the way."

He nodded and climbed onto a vine arm that I extended toward him. He sat back down in his perch on my shoulder and we headed out across the battlefield.

There were cries all around us. Some were of adrenaline, some of pain, and others of despair. The doom drake stood still and seemed to be using earth magic to destroy the ground in front of us. After a moment, the magic dissipated and it was clear that he hid his movement with an illusion. The warriors that stood where his foot now was were squished into nothing beneath its weight.

There was nothing we could do. Those people had just sacrificed their lives in hopes of the world being a better place for the ones they cared about. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of others in this fight alone had met the same fate. We had to make this count. We had to put everything we had into this fight. This was the final one. If we lost this, there was no surviving. Malcolm would destroy us all—all except the Humans.

But how could we stop him? I still couldn't think of any answers as I ran. I used my vine arms to slingshot Lolan and me over streams of lava. Rocks still fell from the blackened sky as torrents of rain poured and lightning cracked above.

I searched and found the shape of Tigala's wyvern form through the clouds. There was a group of Avians working with Gnomes to disperse tactics to the rest of the warriors. The doom drake must have discovered them and wanted them to stop. It threw up an arm and giant thorned vines pulled out of the ground, slamming into several of the Gnomes. Avians took flight, some with a Gnome clutched between their legs or hanging on to their necks. But the doom drake was continuing its attack.

One Gnome, in particular, was struggling to hang on to its Avian ride. Tigala saw the Gnome and swooped in, trying to catch him if he lost his grip. The Gnome's fingers slipped a moment later and Tigala dove. She flew with such speed toward the ground that it looked like she wouldn't be able to stop. She caught the Gnome and quickly changed her direction, slowing her descent.

But the doom drake, or maybe Malcolm, didn't want to see the Gnome survive. A bolt of lightning struck through Tigala.

"Nooo!" I yelled. I ran as fast as I could toward her. My eyes took a moment to adjust after the bright flash, but when they did, I saw Tigala crash into the ground and skid thirty or so feet.

I charged to her side and knelt down next to her while the doom drake's lightning attack targeted the other Avians.

I kneeled in my vine armor and reached out to her. I frantically watched her chest. She was breathing. I put my head close to her, which left the shoulders and head of my vine armor hanging far past her.

"That's a weird look for you," Tigala coughed out.

"Are you okay?" I asked. I looked up and saw the Gnome several feet away. He was burnt and black.

Tigala lifted a wing and showed a burned hole through the skin of it. "Just hit the wing," Tigala said and she began transforming back into her Beastfolk self. The wound in her wing showed on the back of her shoulder. It was a deep charred and gooey wound.

"That looks really bad," I said. "You need to get out of here."

"No," she said. "If we're going out, we're doing it together."

"Right," I said. "You're not able to fly anymore though, are you? I don't know if I can carry you both."

"I can walk," said Tigala.

Just then I heard the clacking of hooves. I looked and found Palem riding over on Bubba. It was good to see them, even though the situation was so dire.

"That's a nice wound. Let me patch you up," said Palem. Without hesitating, he hopped off of Bubba and created a green growth on the earth. A plant pushed out with wide leathery leaves. He reached down, bit the end off of a leaf and chewed for a moment, then spit it back into his hand. "Comfrey," he said, before repeating the process. "It'll plug up that wound, help stop the bleeding."

Once he had a good handful of chewed comfrey leaves he walked over to Tigala and shoved the mush into the wound. She winced at the pain, but let him do it.

Next, he grabbed a length of ripped fabric from a pouch slung around Bubba and proceeded to wrap it around the wound.

"That should hold you over for a little bit," said Palem.

Tigala rolled her arm to test it and winced again. "Thanks," she said.

I wasn't sure what we were supposed to do. How do we stop this thing? My thoughts couldn't stop wandering back to the doom drake.

Palem nodded and climbed back on Bubba's back. "Stay safe out there," he said. Then he looked at me. "There aren't many of us left."

I nodded. "You too."

With that, he traveled on to the next area of destruction in search of more wounded.

"Wait, that's it," I said.

"What's it?" asked Tigala.

"Nature magic," I said. "The answer. How we beat the doom drake and Malcolm."

"I'm not following," said Lolan.

"Grollock," I said. "Kesq said you can use beacons outside of your own magic. We just saw Sillius and Klaus do it with the magic veins of illusion magic. Grollock is a walking beacon that we can all use! It's dangerous, but it may be our only chance at taking down the doom drake."

"Oh," said Lolan. "Isn't that a 'beacon' too?" He pointed up to the volcano behind the drake."

"It looks like it," I said. "If we can get people to channel their magic through those two beacons, we might have a chance. One of us using a beacon is extremely powerful, but what about all of us?"

"Sounds like a giant killer," said Tigala.

"I need to find Grollock. But first, we need Kesq to tell everyone how to use the beacons." I searched the battlefield for her and couldn't see her through the destruction and smoke. I did happen to see someone who always stood out though. Gold shining armor gleamed even despite the air conditions.

"Geralt!" I yelled. He looked our way and I ran to meet him halfway.

"How can I be of service?" he asked. Soot marked his face, and he looked worse for wear.

"I need you to find Kesq," I said. "Remember? The blue Saurian that we met in the wandering forest."

"Yes, alright. What for?" he asked.

"I think I know how to stop the doom drake. You need to tell her to get help from a Gnome to tell everyone how to use beacons."

"Beacons?" he asked.

"She'll know what you mean. Tell her I said that it might be our only way to win this fight."

"And if... if I can't find her?" he asked.

"Have a Gnome tell everyone to try and funnel their magic through the magic on Grollock's chest and the veins at the top of the volcano."

"Geralt looked up to the top of the volcano and then back to me. "Alright. I'll make it so!" He raised a fist in the air as he disappeared into the battlefield.

Now to find Grollock. I searched the horizon for the glowing green chest in the shadow of a tall treant. It was so hard to see. I found a group of the smaller trees and shrubs attacking the doom drake's tail and headed in that direction.

"You good?" I asked Tigala to make sure she was keeping up.

"I'll be fine," she said, working to keep pace with me and Lolan riding in and on the vine suit.

In the distance behind the small trees, I could see a few of the full-size treants attacking as well. It looked like some warriors rode on them to try and get a better vantage point against the doom drake.

"I think he's over there," I said, pointing where we were heading.

A lightning bolt struck just in front of me, and then someone flew down to block my path. It was him, Malcolm.

"I know what you're doing," he said. "And I'm not going to let you slip out of my grasp this time. It's time we end this." He pulled his hands back and they glowed red. I braced for the impact.

But it didn't connect. I felt the heat, but it wasn't as hot as it should have been. I looked down to see Rodrigo holding the flames at bay. The fire formed a half dome between us and Malcolm.

"Go," said Rodrigo sparing a moment to look back at me. We'll hold him off.

Alejandra joined him in redirecting the flames and several other warriors joined the effort with their own forms of magic.

I ran as fast as I could from the fight and trusted them to keep Malcolm occupied. We needed to get to Grollock now.

There were more warriors ahead, working in tandem to try and cripple one of the monster's feet. I ran through them, seeing the green glow showing on one of the treant's silhouettes now. He was just ahead of me.

"You don't deserve to survive this!" yelled Malcolm. I looked back and saw him blasting toward me. His hands glowed again, this time with yellow magic. In an instant, another lightning bolt struck down just to my left. I wondered why he missed and found a trail of yellow magic leading to Tallesia.

"Tell me you have a plan," she said.

"I think so," I said.

She nodded and swung her arms back, sending a powerful gust of wind behind me. We kept running toward Grollock. Almost there.

"Have a boost," shouted someone else. I looked to find Amara, almost hidden amongst the other warriors. Her hand spun in a circular motion and a purple-blue portal opened in front of me, big enough for my whole vine armor suit to fit through. The three of us dove through it, and it spit us out about 100 feet closer to Grollock. I raised an arm as thanks.

"We've go this," I said to the others. "We can do this."

I looked back and saw Malcolm, further behind than before, but still steadily making his way toward us. We didn't have much time.

We ran through a group of Dwarves, and I realized who they were. Marv was in his rock form rescuing injured from the battlefield, while Dunnel and Abigail launched boulders at the doom drake.

Grollock was just ahead of us, but I couldn't afford to convince him to help from the ground. I needed to get to him quicker than that. Quicker than Malcolm would catch up to us.

"Can I have a lift?" I yelled to Abigail and Dunnel.

"Where too?" shouted Dunnel.

I pointed at Grollock, and the two Dwarves stomped and went into a horse stance. The ground beneath me and Tigala erupted and we were launched into the air. The air blew all around us, and I was afraid we might not make it. I reached back with one arm and grabbed Tigala, while I reached forward with the other, extending my vines toward Grollock. He saw us flying toward him and slowly reached up a hand. It was enough. My vines connected to his wrist and pulled us in. We swung beneath the arm until he was able to use his other arm to pull us up.


"I need you to get close," I said. "We're going to use your magic to take it down."


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