OK, so, I completely forgot about this yesterday. But it was the day after Christmas, I had new toys! Semi-valid excuses!
Also, my computer situation has been officially resolved. I will be doing either less idling and more writing, or more gaming and less writing. We'll see. But for now...
Misadventures of the Unusuals
Chapter the Sixth: The Street Urchin, the Black Dragon, and the Guy who watches and defends
“Hey, guys, let's go get some manasabres!” It's been a week since the three of us all met up, and now Galley charges into our inn room with that unexplained suggestion.
I look up from the table where I've got a couple of quest scrolls laid out, detailing the specific requirements of quests we've taken on. I'm in the process of sorting them by location, so we can focus on the greatest concentration of them at any given time. “What? Galley, what is a manasabre?” I ask, trying not to sound worried. I'm very worried.
Hale looks up from her own quest scrolls she's sitting in the corner with. In addition to the party quest scrolls I'm sorting, the three of us also have personal quests that we take care of in our own time. She pulls her hood back slightly to look at the two of us, “What's this? What are we doing?” She asks.
“Manasabres!” Galley exclaims, as if it explains everything. I gesture for him to keep going, and he happily does. “Around town, I heard people talking about these awesome manasabre things, and when I asked what they were, a guy told me that they were swords that relied on the wielder's mana to form the blade. He said they're sharper than a dragon's claw and can cut through one's hide like butter!”
I have to admit, not to Galley, but in general, that that does sound kind of awesome. “How do we get manasabres, then?” I ask.
“Kill a dragon.” Galley replies simply. I sigh and put my head down on the desk, and Hale shakes her head and goes back to her scroll. “What?” Galley asks.
“We can't kill a dragon,” I say, looking up at the giant, “They are way too far out of our league. We should stick to...” I look around on the table and grab a quest scroll, showing it to him, “Stuff like this.”
Galley leans down and peers at the request. “Gather ten brown bear Firare scrolls?” He asks in disbelief.
I look at the scroll, then put it down quickly, “Oh, no no, that's also too high-level for us.” I say, then show him a different one.
“Kill a dozen white spiders.” Galley reads, “WHY?! We could kill a hundred of them and it wouldn't make the place any less infested, a dozen of them makes no difference at all!”
“But we can take on a dozen spiders.” I say, “A dragon, not so.”
“But there's three of us, we'll have it outnumbered.” Galley insists. “And I even heard there's a guy in Edea who can take us to them!” Before I can protest, the giant continues on, giving me puppy dog eyes literally the size of saucers, “And if we do
lose, it's not like we'll die. Nothing with Noel's blessing dies on Prism, so at the worst we'll just have to repair our gear and restock medical supplies afterward.”
I sigh, rubbing my forehead, “No, Galley, no, we're not going out to fight a dragon. It's a very bad idea, and it should be left to people who know what they're doing.”
“Come oooooon!” Galley shouts, banging his fists down on the table, “I wanna get a manasabre!”
I lean back off the table, tipping my chair back on it's hind legs, and look at Hale. “It's gonna throw a tantrum again.” She says unhelpfully.
“I know, I know.” I say, looking back up at Galley. Last time he threw a tantrum over not getting something, we got thrown out of our inn again
, and this is a nice inn; I'd rather stay. I sigh, “Fine, fine! We'll go out dragon hunting.” I say, holding up my hands in surrender.
“Yes!” Galley says, pumping a fist in the air and cracking a ceiling beam. He presses on, ignoring the damages, “All right, everyone, continent warp to Fyelma. We'll meet in Edea! Warp!”
And just like that, in a shower of glittery sparks, Galley disappears from our room in the inn and reappeares somewhere across the ocean in Fyelma.
I look back at Hale, who shrugs. “We could just leave it.” She suggests.
I nod slowly, “We could, yes.” I agree, “But you know it-- he would find us soon, and we'd get an earful from him.”
She narrows her eyes at me, “You just want to get one of those manasabres.” She says accusingly.
I shrug, “It'd be nice, sure, but I don't think the reward is worth the risk.”
Hale sighs, “Ah, poor mister boss guy. Trying to be all responsible and wise. Cute. See you in Edea.” She says, then stands up and drops her quest scroll into a stack with her others. “Warp.” Then I'm all alone in the room.
I sigh yet again, it seems I was right in thinking I would make a habit of it. I tie my turban over my head and pull the horrifically ugly robe on around me.
It feels like a sandstorm is blowing up in Edea, and I quickly move to a side street to get to the cover of some buildings. The sand is blowing so thickly in the wind that there's practically zero visibility. “Great.” I mutter; it's going to be next to impossible to find them in this weather. I'll have to lay low while the storm blows itself over and hope they have the common sense to do the same.
Sandstorms are pretty common here, really; Edea is built on a hill backed by cliff walls, so it kind of forms a natural wind-catcher. Most of the time when a storm starts up, people just close their windows and go about their day, but for those of us who don't own permanent residences, we just sit between buildings and try to have patience.
Standing against a building with my arms crossed and eyes closed, listening to the wind howl, there's not much for me to do but let my mind wander as it pleases. I think back on the old days, on my adventures through more hostile deserts than this. Filled with cutthroats, bandits and brigands, and that was just the human threats. Lowlives have never been much of an issue for me, I've been to dens of thieves, cities of killers, island fortresses filled with pirates and mischievous monkeys. I made pretty good use of the good 'ol 'five finger discount' sometimes, myself, back in the day. I learned the skills of a thief, and learned how to live around them.
Which is why, when I felt the slightest tug at my coinpurse, my hand reacts with lightning speed and an iron grip on the thin wrist of the poor pickpocket that tried to make their day's earnings off me. I open one eye and look down as the hand tenses up and the would-be pickpocket gasps in surprise from my quick, reflexive counter.
The 'thief' is just a kid, a boy, maybe twelve? Short enough for it. He's wearing a cloak so patched up I think he cannibalized the hood, letting his unkempt blonde hair loose, and raggedy clothes more weathered than most of the structures around here.
Most people think, for some reason, that all elves are have perfect living conditions and never want for anything, but that's far from true. The fact is, most of us live in a harsh desert, and some of us die, and those who do sometimes leave children to fend for themselves, leading to urchins like this resorting to petty thievery to try and make ends meet.
After a second, the boy yanks his hand free from my idle grip and jumps back, out of my reach, glaring at me all the while. “Hey, whaddya want, weirdo?” The kid snaps at me, as if I'm somehow the one at fault here. What I want is for somebody to put this kid over their knee and give him a good spanking, but I'm the only one around and I can't be bothered to do it myself.
I shrug, “Oh, nothing. Just marveling at how curious it was you happened to trip and hit my coinpurse.” I say, smirking smugly, “That's the only explanation for what just happened that I can come up with, because that? Kid, that was NOT pickpocketing.”
The kid growls and stamps his foot in the sand in annoyance. “Hey, nobody asked you! What I do is none of your business!” He exclaims. I would normally be worried that a tantrum would draw some undue attention, but the shrieking of the wind is devouring the sound of our voices before it goes two feet outside this alley.
“It is my business when you try and steal my stuff, genius.” I say, I don't want to get into it with this kid right now; I can tell he's the type who won't remember a word I say after he's left, so I don't see a point to spending my energy arguing with a kid; after all I've got a dragon to fight once this storm quiets down. I cross my arms and close my eyes again, “Try all you want, but you won't get a single gold piece from me today.” I tell him.
The urchin is silent for a moment, then I hear him take a creeping footstep closer and, even without looking, I know he's silently reaching for my coinpurse again. I let him get as close as he can without actually touching the thing before acting. In a flash, I grab the turban off my head, whip the knot out of it, and tie it over the urchin's face like a blindfold.
“You're not getting my money, but you can have that.” I tell him, going back to my relaxed posture, “It'll keep the sand out of your hair, save you the trouble of shaking it out every time there's a storm.”
I look down at the kid, who's dead silent, and see his fists clenched and shaking. For a second, I think he's about to throw a punch at me, but then he just grabs the turban and pulls it down even further, hiding his face as he turns away. I can't help but smile; he probably doesn't get offered many handouts, that gift, small as it is, must mean a lot to him.
While I'm thinking that, the kid turns around and shoots me a harsh glare, “Next time, I'm getting all your money, but even if you beg I won't take that robe!” Before I can send back a biting response, the urchin ducks into another alley and disappears from view.
“Little punk.” I mutter, going back to waiting out the storm in silence and annoyance.
The storm rages on for another hour, and then the winds suddenly calm down significantly. I peek outside, and am pleased to find I can actually see through the remaining sand blowing. I decide to go to Edea's main plaza, which is a mostly open space with a raised platform in the middle, from which several pillars reach up and hold a giant disc in the air.
When I get to the plaze, lo and behold, I find Hale and Galley huddled , separately, against the platform with their backs to the wind. They're both covered in sand, and look rather unhappy. They must have been sitting there the entire time, through the whole sandstorm.
“You're late.” Hale tells me once she spots me approaching.
“And you're both idiots. Let's go.”
For a second, we puzzle over how we actually go about finding the black dragon, and then we hear someone at the edge of the plaza shouting randomly, “We need your help! The dragon menace is at hand!” Deciding that's a good enough clue, we go and talk to him.
“Greetings, brave souls!” The guy is in all white armor and stands like he has more sand than skin under it. “Are you aware of the dragon crisis? We need your help!”
“Uh... yeah. That's what we're here for.” I say, already short on patience without some guy yelling at me from three feet away. “Where do we find this dragon? We haven't met our suicidal act quota for the day yet.”
“When you're all ready, I'll teleport you there!” The guy shouts. I turn to Hale and Galley, and we all nod.
“We're ready, take us to the dragon.” No sooner have I said it than does Edea completely fade away, leaving us standing in the middle of the vast, empty desert. With no dragon in sight.
“Think he missed?” Galley asked, spinning in a circle and looking out to the horizon.
“This doesn't look like a dragon. No sir, not one bit.” Hale says, elbowing me, “This is what we get for listening to that
I sigh, “The dragon must have moved, or something.” I say, pulling Zeltan's whistle out of my pocket, “We'll have to search for it ourselves.” We came to Edea a few days ago and got a eagle-summoning whistle for Hale, too, so all three of us have the feathery, flying mounts, though Galley's is so big it looks like it could eat both of ours for breakfast, and I almost wonder how it can keep itself aloft with the giant riding on it.
We all mount up on our eagles and take off in separate directions, deciding to fly in an extending cone until one of us spots the dragon. “I wanted to cut wheat, but noooooo. Let's fight a dragon, oh yes, an invisible dragon!” I mutter once we're in the air.
Flying around in the desert with no direction reminds me way too much of last week when I was going to meet Hale at Kaies; the endless sea of sand stretching out below me, featureless, changeless, timeless, is, for a few seconds, a truly beautiful and breathtaking sight that quickly devolves into maddening repetition and disappointment.
“Maybe we should just let Galley look for his dragon while we go back home and go back to Aelid get some actual work done.” I suggest to Zeltan, and the riding eagle seems fond of that idea, even if it does mean figuratively clipping his wings. I'm just about ready to pull back and head for town when a piercing eagle cry resounded out through the sky, catching my attention. That was one of the others, signaling that they had found something. “Well, let's see if they've found the dragon, or if it's just a poor little lizard.” I say, turning Zaltin to head toward the cry.
I find Hale circling in the air, and Galley arrives to join her the same time as I do. “Find something?” I ask, and the swordswoman nods.
“Down there,” she says, pointing to the ground, “the dragon.”
I look down and see a black spot in the sand where she's pointing, but we're too high up to be sure of what it is. “Let's go take a look, could be the dragon.” I say, angling Zaltin down. As we get closer, I can see the creature more clearly; it's definitely reptilian, with glossy black scales covering its entire body. Standing on two legs, with two thickly shaped arms leading into massive blade-like claws that look like they could tear a giant apart. The creature has a curved beak-like face with a fin on top, and two golden eyes that peer out wildly.
“Looks like a dragon.” Hale comments as we circle low in the sky above it.
“Awful small, I think.” I say, it's bigger than any of us, sure, but not by much. I've seen bears as big as this thing.
“Wooh-hoo!! Manasabres incoming!” Galley shouts, whipping out his dual guns as he dives in toward the dragon.
Hale and I both shout at him, and a second later I bring Zeltan in for a dive, Hale a moment behind me. Fighting while we fly is difficult enough to be called impossible, so we dive off our eagles and land in the soft sand to fight.
“Over here, ugly!” Galley yells as soon as he hits the ground. He raises his dual guns and begins firing condensed mana bullets at the dragon. They strike the creature's head with little noticeable effect other than drawing its attention towards us.
The second I touch down in the sand, I pull out my control bars and summon my marionette, running forward to place it in the front of the battle.
With my max running speed set to 'puppet', Hale passes me easily, swords drawn, and crashes into the dragon like a bladed meteor. Hale fights quickly, moving and weaving around the dragon's range with her swords, and the monster is too big and slow to hit her, though it does come close. But both her swords and Galley's bullets are bouncing off the dragon's scales without doing very much damage.
I bring my marionette in and have it charge the dragon, swinging both cleaver and hammer into the beast, but even that did only a small amount of damage.
The dragon lets out a stream of hot breath, steaming even in the desert heat, and rears up, straightening its hunched over body and spreading massive claws out. The dragon strikes and sends my marionette flying up into the air, and if I hadn't had mana strings connecting it to my control bars, the puppet likely would have been lost out in the desert. The dragon swings again, at Hale, who raises her swords to block but barely manages to shield herself from the damage.
Galley runs forward, firing his guns, as if he's closing in to fight the dragon toe to toe. “What are you doing?!” I shout at him, but he keeps running.
“Aaaaaawwww yeaaaaah! This is a PAR-TAY!” The giant shouts as he closes in on the dragon. The dragon swings a huge claw at Galley, but, with surprising agility for someone of his size, the giant leaps into the air, doing a half flip and firing downward as he flies over the dragon, then completing the flip in time to land on his feet.
Galley and the dragon turn to face each other, and Galley raises one pistol, pointing it directly into the dragon's eye.Click... click click click.
Galley's mana gun does nothing but click as he pulls the trigger, and he looks at it, puzzled. He brings up the gun in his other hand and tries to fire it a couple times, but it only clicks as well. He looks up at the dragon, grinning sheepishly, “Out of mana.” He says.WHUM!
The dragon rams its giant arm into Galley's stomach, throwing the giant flying through the air, away from the fight. Hale attacks the dragon from behind, and it turns to address her.
“Well this certainly isn't working.” I mutter, deciding it's high time for a change in tactics. If the dragon's hide turns blades and bullets, I'll just try something else. I dismiss my puppet, letting it disappear in a puff of smoke, then bring my hands together and close my eyes, reaching deep into the flow of mana inside me.
The desert heat is impossible to put out of my mind, and instead of trying to fight it, I draw it in, focusing on the intense heat, the light, the sun shining down to create it.
I open my eyes and look down, and between my hands a fireball forms, floating, dancing, growing the more I focus on it. “Hale!” I call, glancing up to the fight, “Get out of the way!” I will the fireball to move with on hand, raising it over my shoulder and then flinging it forward as soon as Hale moves.
The fireball flies through the air, losing a bit of mass as it goes but not enough to subtract from it's force. The flaming bolt of magic collides with the dragon's face, stunning the beast with a flash of light and drawing a roar out of it, and I'm not done yet.
The opposite of heat is cold, and I focus on that element to bring form to my mana. Razor sharp shards of ice take form and start to orbit me, like rings around a planet. I throw my arm forward and the shards follow it, breaking off from their orbit and flying in a line toward the dragon, each one smashing into it with considerable impact, shattering, but striking the dragon with great force.
As soon as the barrage of icicles ends, I see the dragon stagger forward, hit from behind, and Galley rushes out from behind it, swinging a greatsword upward and catching the dragon on the chin, knocking the beasts head upward. Galley's greatsword is taller than me standing on Hale's shoulders, and beyond the ability of anyone but a giant to wield, and Galley uses his considerable strength, not to swing it around in a flurry of strikes like Hale, but to whale away on the enemy with one powerful blow after another.
Hale rushes back in, striking the dragon on its side and knocking it off-balance, allowing Galley to get a few more good hits in. Since the two of them are getting the advantage, I summon my puppet back and send it in to help them. Between the three of us, we can manage to force the dragon back onto the defensive, and keeping all of us back at once is proving to be a great task for the creature.
Finally, with a great roar, bearing heavy wounds, the black dragon fall back and collapses in the sand, dead. The three of us fall to the ground, exhausted, but triumphant.
“Yeah, we win! Take that, reptilian species, we got one!” Galley yells.
“I'm actually shocked we were able to do that.” I say, pulling the cork off a potion with my teeth and downing the liquid, restoring a bit of stength.
“I'm just impressed that the giant's plan didn't get us all killed.” Hale says, still snarking at Galley but sounding at least a little pleased with our accomplishment.
A few moments pass while we revel in our victory and rest our tired selves, but finally the moment comes to an end and Galley asks, “So... where's our manasabres?”
I shrug, “I dunno, maybe this one didn't have any.” I say.
“Um... Better thought,” Hale says, pointing out to the desert as the dust from our battle settles, “Maybe he has them.”
Galley and I look to where she's pointing, and my jaw drops. There are hundreds of monsters like the one we just used every tool in our arsenal to defeat, but worse yet is the one, colossal dragon that towers above them all, making them look like mice. The dragon -the true
dragon- stands on four legs, each as thick as a house and covered in huge scales covering it like plate-mail. It has two huge wings folded against it's body, and it's massive head is topped by two gargantuan horns.
None of say anything for a long few seconds; I've fought dozens of dragons before, maybe even hundreds, but this is my first run-in with one on Prism, and I have to admit it's a rather more impressive sight, ten times the size of any other dragon I've seen. We're all a bit stunned, not sure how to react in the face of this veritable behemoth. Then Galley leaps to his feet and his guns glow with mana as he refills them, “Let's go get some manasabres!” He shouts, then dashes forward toward the dragon.
“Wait, no--” I try to call, but the giant is already gone, I sigh, then stand up, nudging Hale with my foot to make her do the same, and the two of us run in after Galley.
Once we're close enough for the dragon's minions to detect us, the battle goes about as ell as could be expected. The three of us had to fight like never before to bring down one of them, and with the creatures swarming over us now, we don't have a chance. We - or, more correctly, Galley, runs through the horde of lesser dragons, ignoring them and aiming for the giant dragon, and me and Hale chase along after him.
We try our best to avoid taking hits from the raptors; we want to be at our best when we get decimated by the dragon, but even a glancing blow deals heavy damage to us, and we're practically chugging potions nonstop throughout the whole sprint.
Finally, we're close enough for Galley's mana guns to hit the black dragon, and he fires away at it. The dragon ignores the attacks at first, but near the end of Galley's barrage it slowly turns to face us. The dragon's giant golden eyes take a moment to register us, and when it moves it does so sluggishly, as if it's tired enough to go to sleep.
The giant beast takes one step toward us with a giant foot, and the step throws up a storm of sand and crushes a couple raptors underfoot carelessly. The dragon reaches out with it's other foreleg and flicks a single great talon forward, catching Galley and throwing him back, far out of the crowd of raptors and somewhere out in the sand.
I look to the side to see Hale, but she's gone as well. I turn to watch and see she's run away a good distance and is now lying in the sand, playing dead in a hope to keep the dragon off of her. I give her a dirty look, then turn back to face the dragon, it's gaze now turned to me.
The dragon raises its foot and holds it over me, and I realize it's going to step on me, and I have no chance to defend myself from the crushing blow. Even if I do have Noel's protection keeping me from death, seeing the giant, clawed foot coming down to crash into me is still a sight I could do without, and I tense up, wanting to close my eyes but unable to look away as the end of the battle draws near.BOOM! CHRRRRRSH!
Just before the dragon's foot crushes me, an explosion erupts on the side of it's leg and throws the attack off course, and the massive foot crashes in to sand next to me, leaving me, barely, unharmed.
Another pair of explosions goes off on the side of the dragon's head and its shoulder, and the giant beast moans as the blows rock its body. The dragon raises a leg to stomp on me again, and I find myself still rooted to the spot, unable to turn away, much less try to move.
Just before I'm flattened, someone jumps between the me and the dragon, stopping the beast's attempts to flatten me by holding its foot back. My rescuer looks like a human, tall and slender, dressed in dark clothes, and in his hand is some contraption that looks like a stretched out version of one of Galley's mana guns with a giant-sized sword on the end. The man has both hands on his weapon as he holds the dragon at bay, and he looks back at me, a grin across his face. “Run.” He says.
I blink the surprise out of my eyes and go to move, I don't know who this guy is but he's giving me a golden opportunity to not
get stepped on by a dragon, and that makes him OK in my book. I turn and run, almost losing my footing in the sand on the first couple of steps but I quickly get my balance back and I'm off like a shot. I look back at the man and see him shove the dragon's foot back and stab his sword into it, then pull his weapon free and spin around, slicing the sword through the dragon's scales before he also turns and runs. He grabs a jutting handle on his weapon and pulls it back, and the weapon begins to glow, and after a second he shoves the handle back forward and turns, raising the weapon to his shoulder as magical glyphs form in the air around the sword, and a bolt of magic shoots out from the contraption and strikes the dragon in the head, exploding on impact. The guy starts laughing, running after me and swinging his weapon to knock the raptors away while turning to shoot at the dragon every couple of seconds.
I see Hale lying in the sand right in my path, and I grab the girl by her hood and pull her up and along with me as I pass by, and in a second she runs along with me by herself. “Who's that guy?” She asks as we run, shouting over the cries of the raptors and dragon, and the booms from the guys shooting.
“I don't know, but I'm not about to question it!” I reply. After we run for a minute we come across Galley, out cold, lying in the sand. We try and move him, but he's too heavy for the two of us to even drag through the sand, and we struggle in vain.
After a moment, the new guy catches up with us, and he grabs Galley's arm and slings the giant over his shoulder like he weighs nothing, “Well don't stop, keep going!” He tells us, and the three of us continue our mad escape from the black dragon and his horde of raptors to live another day.