Kaia lumbered off into the battle sitting at the center of the awkward leggy vine suit, with Lolan sitting on her shoulder and Tigala just behind them.
Man, they sure are cool, thought Geralt. It was hard not to be excited fighting alongside them. They were innovative, and somehow their purpose didn't waiver. Even when it did, there was always a core understanding of what they needed to do, they just might need a little push here or there.
Fire roared in front of Geralt as the doom drake blackened a whole swath of the battlefield. Geralt was brought back to the present. He had a task to do. It was up to him to save the day, and that started by finding Kesq.
He scoured the landscape and couldn't spot her anywhere in his immediate vicinity. He could make out a few Saurians mixed amongst other warriors nearby, but the air was too hazy to make out any identifying details. The group was working in tandem to create giant mud pools to slow the monster.
"It's time to save the day," Geralt said, raising his sword to the air.
He ran for the group keeping his eyes peeled for the blue spear-wielding Saurian.
The battle roared on as he did. It was so different than he had imagined. In his stories, they always talked about fighting. They talked about the epic duels, the catapults being launched, and losing or gaining ground. But what they didn't often talk about was the horror of it all. War was not adventurous. It was not exciting in the sense that he had always thought of it growing up. There were people torn apart. Lives were snuffed out in the blink of an eye. Many bodies were so mangled that you couldn't even tell who they had once been. And being a warrior with a sword and no magic, there wasn't much that Geralt could do to help their side win. All he could do was help the wounded. He could pull the brutally injured off of the battlefield and hope that they'd survive their wounds. He could carry the broken.
It was a painful job. It broke one's resolve. And trying to be more sincere with himself, Geralt was beginning to admit that he was losing hope. He was afraid that this all would be for nothing. He believed that stopping Malcolm, stopping the doom drake, was the right thing to do. They were going to destroy whole nations together—people that Geralt had begun to respect—people that respected him. Hatred was not the answer. He understood that now. But he couldn't help but think that those thoughts would die with him and the other warriors on the battlefield. Every time he thought they were gaining ground, they were put back in their place—not outnumbered but greatly outmatched.
But he couldn't think about those things now. He had a task to perform. Kaia seemed to have hope, so maybe he could borrow some of hers. He could tell himself that this was going to work out because someone he trusted seemed to think it would. It was all he had. It was all he was able to do.
So he ran for the group of Saurians making mud pits. As he reached them, he realized that Kesq wasn't among them.
"Kesq," said Geralt, panting after the run in his full gold plate armor. "Blue Saurian with a spear. Have you seen her?"
The group looked amongst themselves and shook their heads.
There was a loud crash off in the distance. It was Malcolm, trying to catch up to Kaia.
Geralt's heart skipped a beat. What if Malcolm catches her?
He watched intently as the Human flew after the group. He was getting harder and harder to see through the smoke as he moved slightly away from him, but Geralt thought he saw a white glow coming from Malcolm. Malcolm stopped mid-flight and turned, his eyes glowing with the Avian's sight magic. Malcolm's head turned again as if searching for something, then it stopped. Geralt tried to follow his line of sight and found a group of warriors with a tall blue Saurian standing in the middle of it. Malcolm knew what was going on.
The white glow faded from Malcolm's eyes and a pale green glow came from his hands. It stretched out in a sickly way. But what was pale green? Was it some form of nature magic?
The tendrils of pale green magic reached out not to the earth, but to the bodies that littered it. The light crawled into the corpses, and in a moment, the dead began to move. They twitched and convulsed with the magic, slowly pulling their arms beneath them to stand themselves up. The magic faded from Malcolm's hands, but it remained in the corpses, pouring from their eyes, mouths, and any open wounds they had. The dead climbed to their feet and began to shamble in Kesq's direction.
Geralt wasted no time and took off sprinting toward the same destination as the shambling dead. But they were closer. They reached Kesq's group well before he had a chance and began attacking. Humans stepped forward with blasts of fire, Gnomes with simple illusions and teleportation. Beastfolk in animal form tackled the undead, but they were outnumbered ten to one. And the corpses had no fear, no self-preservation. They attacked like it was all they could do. It was all that they knew.
"Run," Geralt yelled, but he was drowned out by the groans of the dead.
The corpses had overtaken most of the group that Kesq was in. She was now at the center with a Beastfolk in gorilla form, an Avian, and an Elf. They fought, but they were surrounded and it was only a matter of time.
The dead were just ahead of Geralt, and he didn't hesitate. He knew what needed to be done. This was his chance to live out the stories that he had read so many times as a child. He had to save them. It was up to him and him alone.
Geralt charged into the horde with his blade drawn. He struck one zombie along its shoulder blades, striking surprisingly deep. The corpse fell apart and the magic faded from it. He stabbed another through the back of the skull, sending it in a heap to the ground. Another met its end with a golden bracer smashing its skull. But he was not exactly quiet in his entry. The ones closest to him turned at the sound of metal clanging on bone. They lunged at him clawing and biting. Geralt did everything he could to stay standing, but they were too many. He was forced onto one knee.
Geralt still fought, throwing his sword into the chest of another corpse. With a second push, he drove his fist through its chest and his blade into another of the monsters. But they had all begun to pile on. The weight was oppressive, pushing him further and further down. It was only a matter of time now until the monsters tore him apart.
Or so he thought. As he waited for the end, it didn't come. He paid more attention to what was going on around him, and though he was surrounded, the monsters were trying to bite and claw him. But with his golden plate armor on, there was nowhere to bite. And with the sheer amount of them that had piled on, there was no space to pull him to pieces. He was alive, for now.
It felt like minutes that he had been under there with no reprieve. Was he running out of air? Were the dead getting heavier? Weighing on him?
There was a sudden jolt, and the load resting on him lightened. Then there was another, and the army of corpses seemed to be moving in more of a frenzy than before. They continued to lighten, moving off of the pile on that had formed on top of Geralt. enough had moved away that he was able to push to his feet. Through the crowd of zombies, he could see vines attacking, like those of Kaia. But she was supposed to be finding Grollock.
It didn't matter. Geralt needed to do his part. He raised his sword and began chopping down the zombies that surrounded him. He sliced his way through the horde in the direction where Kesq had been previously. Knowing that he was safe against their attacks, he targeted legs and knees, each swipe sending more of the dead to squirm on the ground. One after another, they went down, and with the nature magic covering his back, he was making progress.
Then he saw her. She had survived behind a wall of ice, along with the few remaining warriors that Geralt had seen her with at first. Geralt stabbed another zombie through the shoulder and caved another's chest in with the pommel of his sword, the bone turning to dust.
Those who had been surrounded joined in the fight, but Kesq stayed where she was, not moving. The Gnome teleported out of safety and twisted a head from a zombie, while the Avian stepped forward predicting the actions of the dead. In a few moments, the corpses had all been dispatched.
Geralt ran and kneeled down next to Kesq. "Are you alright?" he asked, but he could already see the answer to that question. She had been pushed onto a broken Gnome machination. A sharp mangled edge of the metal was stabbing out of her stomach, pinning her in place. Her life was draining out of her. He had arrived too late.
"I don't think I am," said Kesq. "However, I wouldn't have survived this long without your distraction."
Geralt thought back on the distraction that he had created. He looked behind him and saw dead vines and an old Treek riding away from the scene on an elk. That must have been how he had gotten out. He had almost gotten himself killed, if it weren't for the armor of the Grandsome Glories, that is. And here was Kesq, torn to pieces when she was needed to stop the doom drake.
He turned back to Kesq. "I'm sorry I couldn't get her in time."
"You did what you could, and for that I am grateful," she said, coughing up blood.
He had moments to talk to her, and he needed to make them count. "We need to tell people how to use the beacons," he said. "Kaia sent me. She said it might be how we win this."
"What?" said the Saurian, her surprise laborious. "I told her, this information is too powerful to hand out."
"We don't have any other options though, do we? We are going to lose without some kind of upper hand. We need to turn the tide of this battle."
"Yes, but if we kill ourselves in the process, what is the point?" asked Kesq.
Geralt wasn't sure what to say. He knew too little about the situation and magic in general.
"We are dying anyway," he said. "At least with beacons we have a chance at survival."
Her face was expressionless as she thought. The doom drake roared above them, shaking the ground. "This is dangerous information," she said. "You cannot let it into the wrong hands."
Geralt nodded. "Of course."
She looked him over one last time. "You need to send your magic through it. Each kind of magical beacon will feel different. But the key is not to fight its whims. Let your magic flow through the beacon. Don't try to tell the beacon how to express itself."
"Right," said Geralt.
"They will change your magic and make it stronger. Be careful where it is directed because there may be unforeseen effects." Kesq gave a slight nod and then winced at the pain in her abdomen.
"Thank you," said Geralt. He tried to keep the details in his head. there was a reason he didn't know fire magic. He was never good with the details. He always hoped it would just happen naturally, that he shouldn't have to practice something innate to his people. But it never happened for him. And now it was up to him to relay the message—to teach the magic users how to use a new kind of magic.
"You can do this," said Kesq, her voice noticeably weaker. "You have to. It's up to you now."
"No, I can bring you to someone first. Or I can get you help," said Geralt.
Kesq looked down at the blood-soaked metal stabbing out of her torso. "No. I'm already fading. Do what is right with that knowledge. Protect it. It's powerful, and others want to know about it."
Geralt nodded and tried to find the words to say. He sat with Kesq as she took her last breath.
"Thank you for your help," he said, once she had passed. He placed her spear in her arm and laid it over her chest. She looked like a warrior.
Geralt wiped the tears from his eyes and stood. He glared up at the doom drake that towered above him and knew it was time for all of this to end. He searched the battlefield again, this time not looking for anyone, in particular, just the purple glow of illusion magic. He found it and ran to the Gnome wielding the magic.
"I need your help," said Geralt.
Porthos turned to look at Geralt. "What is it?"
"I have a message that everyone needs to hear. We might have a way to take down the doom drake. Can you amplify my voice? Just to our warriors though, not Malcolm."
"Of course," said Porthos. He pulled his hands up to his ears and pulled the purple magic from them. A translucent horn shape came out, pointing toward Geralt. "You're on."
"We may have what we need to stop the doom drake," said Geralt. "Beacons. They are large concentrations of magic. There is a nature beacon on Grollock, the green glowing treant, and the other is a fire beacon at the top of the volcano. You can use these beacons even if you don't use that type of magic. You can feed your magic through the beacon. Just whatever you do, don't push the magic in a certain direction. Let it lead the way."
There were looks of confusion across the battlefield. Would it work? Did Geralt's words make any sense? Or did he get it wrong? Was he not clear enough? Did he not get enough of the correct information from Kesq? He had so many questions and no way of answering any of them.
Then, there was a bright orange light off in the direction of Grollock. It mixed with the green of Grollock's beacon and out of the battlefield rose a giant lizard. But it was no normal lizard. It was covered in leaves and vines. Large thorns stabbed up from its tail like an oversized mace and vines hung from the creature's back as it crawled on four legs toward the doom drake. Its large jaws clamped down on the drake's leg and blood sprayed as a result.
More magic flashed across the battlefield, swirling together. This was their chance to win the battle.