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Thursday, March 22, 2007

3.2.8.5. Mind Game Part 1

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Robert, Christopher, Iris, Andreas and Carolyn are startled. Zal’fira points her Viper Cane upwards, and a hexagram-and-circle light appears on the mount cavity above her. It’s a typical Summoning Charm, but the creature coming out from the hexagram can’t normally be summoned that way. It requires a strong, unbreakable spirit link between them for this to happen.
The creature is enormous. As he comes into full length, any idiot can see without mistake that he’s an ancient black dragon. Its scales are entirely jet-black with purple shades appearing in the sections hit by light. The color of the hides on his neck and in front of his body is luminous dark purple, adding to its ghastly, ultimately terrifying figure. Like Algaban’s, the shape of his head is unique, like a cobra’s except that he has five similar-shaped, ruby-red eyes on it, red sharp long fangs positioned very oddly on his jaws. His torso and limbs, like Algaban, is human-like, so he can also stand on two feet. Altogether, he is slightly larger than Algaban.
The black dragon lands on the space next to Algaban. The landing makes the people there feel as though it’s an earthquake. Seeing his arch-rival, Algaban, the dragon roars in a deafening tone.
‘Behold my ally, the great Tiamat, Omegron,’ says Zal’fira very proudly. ‘Ah, I guess he’s too excited on meeting his arch-enemy at last. He’s a wild ancient, you know, so pardon if he doesn’t speak.’

Footnote :
Bahamut and Tiamat are known as ancient dragons. Their lifespan can reach to several thousand years, and some of them can actually speak (for very special reasons like Spirit Link and other magically invoked abilities) and have superior intelligence to humans. They are thrice or four times as big and as powerful as ordinary dragons. There are only nine ancient dragons known to exist in Eternia by the time of Bahamut Algaban and Tiamat Omegron. A few of them have died, and the others will maybe appear in other stories about Eternia. Tiamat is also believed as the ‘Dragon of Doomsday’, and Bahamut is the ‘Dragon God’.

Algaban says, ‘I knew he would come. Let me handle him, my friends. I leave the sorceress to you.’ Robert and friends nod at Algaban as response.
‘Predictable, as always,’ says Zal’fira. ‘Five against one old woman? It’s an unfair advantage, you may say, but believe me I can take you all by myself! And here’s my “unfair advantage”, my insurance! Omni skülag kraal gehreisen!’
Eerie, faint screams echo behind Zal’fira. The sounds come from the cave entrance.
Robert yells, ‘It’s Raise Dead spell! She’s summoning more allies! Attack her! Kill her quickly!’
The hunters rush towards Zal’fira at once, and Algaban flies upwards. Omegron, naturally, soars up to strike her down. Algaban flies farther up to avoid smashing the sealed cases and hurting her friends. And the two gargantuan dragons fly out from mount Hvalgarr through its vast crater cavity.
Zal’fira sneers at Robert’s party, saying,
‘Let the games begin!’
Chris is the first one comes nearest to the necromancess, and he’s about to strike her down with Spinning Jump Slash. But his sword Wyrthal is parried with a morning star club. Chris is shocked to find that the blocker is a skeleton!
To his and his friends’ terror, more and more skeletons charge on them, accompanied with some zombies. Many of them still wield their armors and weapons when they met their demise, and many of the skeletons and zombies are incomplete: without their heads or their limbs.
‘They... they are the skeletons we saw around this area!’ says Chris in shock.
‘Right you are, clever boy,’ says the necromancess. ‘Algaban slew them, and I reap the fruits. You might think that I have an unfair advantage now, but you really should thank Algaban for providing me my army. Well then, I’ll let you play with them while I browse the merchandises around here.’
‘Oh no you don’t,’ says Iris, quickly shoots Zal’fira with her Wysteria Bow. Zal’fira, however, doesn’t make a move at all. It seems she deliberately lets the arrow hit her. But the arrow dissolves into ashes about two inches away from Zal’fira’s forehead, as though it’s consumed with an invisible fire.
‘Is that all you got? How pathetic!’ says Zal’fira mockingly. ‘Don’t bother me, will you? It’s useless. Just play with the bone squad!’
Soon enough our five friends are surrounded by a horde of skeletons and a number of zombies. The ‘bone squad’ is brittle and relatively weak individually, but an undead legion against five, that’s totally unfair.
Chris and Carolyn are panicked in this situation. They think they’ll surely die. Andreas tries hard to keep himself calm and stations himself in the middle of the formation. Iris looks somewhat very excited, because this is a more challenging situation for her than Enia’s Sanctum and some of her later quests. Robert is the only one who can keep calm and cool, although the chance of their survival is five to a thousand.
Although he seems calm, Robert is actually thinking very hard to save his friends. There are too many of them, and I bet there are more out there.
He slashes through three skeletons with a single rotating slash, and faces an awful lot more. His mind is still racing.
Sooner or later these boneheads will break us, and we’ll be too tired to fight Zal’fira even if we defeat them all. There must be a way to raise our chances... Think, Robert. Think.
Robert slashes horizontally again. This time he launches a Fire Slash to split fifteen skeletons and zombies in a tight group in halves. Suddenly, he remembers something.
Wait! Fire Slash... The first time I use Fire Slash was when I fought A’bong – in a cave!
Then Robert shouts to his comrades, ‘Carol, Iris! Make way through them to the entrance!’
Iris is puzzled, saying, ‘What? Mustn’t we get to Zal’fira instead?’
‘Just-follow-me! Trust me on this! Now!’
‘Right on! Eshmyriad!’ The Hurricane spell is cast by Iris.
Carolyn also follows Robert’s plan by casting Fireblast on the skeletons.
‘Pyroagnios!’
Together, Iris and Carolyn break the ranks of skeletons and zombies, making a way through for their friends, and shattering yet another lot of walking bones. There are still rows of skeletons blocking their way to the cave entrance – they are not ‘safe’ yet.
‘Chris, we attack now!’ says Robert, slashing two times with his kiliji, the Crossfire Slash. Christopher also charges forward with Ten Point Chain Slash combo. Andreas and the two girls run through, following them in a tight formation.
The hunters crush the remaining skeletons and zombies on they way through the dome entrance, and finally arrive at the smooth entrance section of the cave, where skeletons are considerably fewer.
‘Halt! Turn around and make your stand!’ says Robert, after making sure that no more skeletons come from the entrance.
Robert and his party turn around, making an in-line formation to block the way in and out of the cave. Andreas stands in the middle, Robert and Chris stand on his left and right, Iris and Carolyn stand on the flanks.
‘Hold the line! Buy us time!’
Then Robert says in his thoughts. Algaban, if you can hear me, send big fireblast into the dome now. Please.
Yes, Robert, I can hear you. Just hold on, firepower is on the way.
It was Algaban’s response. Robert is relieved, but seeing Iris’ shoulder grazed by a skeleton’s falchion sword, he becomes fully alert again, shattering the skeleton who hurt Iris with his Exploding Fireslash.
Algaban, help us or we’ll die.
Meanwhile, Algaban is still dogfighting with Omegron high in the air. She tries very hard to find a chance to blow fire into the crater, but Omegron doesn’t seem to give her chance at all. Omegron blasts a black light at Algaban from his mouth. Algaban flies downwards, and she is quite fast enough to avoid the black light, but her tail is caught by that light. Blood gushes out from Algaban’s tail, it’s hurt but at least it’s not lost.
Algaban roars in pain. And then, seeing Omegron drops his guard after the shot, the red-gold dragon uses her whole body, ramming towards the black dragon. Omegron is caught unprepared. Algaban hits him squarely on his side, knocking Omegron to a great distance. This gives Algaban time to go back to the crater and help her friends.
I’m ready, Robert. Clear away from the line of fire.
Ah, at last. Go ahead; we’re almost outside the cave.
Brace yourselves, my friends. Hell’s going to break loose.
Algaban retracts her neck. Her beak is opened, and a ball of fire accumulates in it. Instantly, Algaban straightens her neck and shoots a jet of Fireblast into the crater.
The pillar of fire seems concentrate in-line when it enters the dome, but when it hits the floor, the fire spreads rapidly to the entire dome, incinerating everything on its way. Blood-chilling shrieks are soon heard, and smell of burnt bones and burnt rotten flesh spreads even to outside.

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Zal’fira, unexpectedly, protects herself with her Wall of Souls force field, covering herself from fire damage, reducing its effect to less than ten percent. The necromancess can’t do anything but seeing her skeleton-zombie army entirely disintegrates into ashes. Zal’fira grits her teeth. She certainly knows about Robert and Algaban’s spirit link but her powers and Omegron’s can’t stop Algaban from delivering that fateful blast. The nine unopened cases of Adair’s Arsenal are still intact.
After delivering the Dragonbreath Fireblast, Algaban becomes content and is about to accumulate fire energy again for the next blow, but suddenly something bits her neck. It’s Omegron! Algaban roars painfully again. The bite would be fatal for her if she doesn’t have scales and hides as tough as adamantium. But the pain doesn’t drain Algaban’s energy. She tugs her neck forcefully and bites Omegron back on his neck. Omegron roars and releases his bite. Then the dragons keep on wrestling, biting, scratching and knocking each other, making a very attractive and acrobatic dogfight.
Meanwhile Robert and his friends shatter the last skeleton from the horde and immediately walk back to the dome to face Zal’fira. As they enter the dome, Zal’fira is still standing, supporting on her Viper Cane. Her Wall of Souls is vanished now after absorbing and consuming so much fire damage. Nevertheless, the ten percent damage breach affects Zal’fira – she falls on her knees, still clutching her Viper Cane.
The hasty Christopher sees this as a golden opportunity to strike Zal’fira down, he charges towards the necromancess. Just as Chris is about to strike Zal’fira down with Spinning Jump Slash, suddenly his sword Wyrthal is met with Zal’fira’s Viper Cane, with a powerful impact between two infinitely opposite forces: light and dark; the field effects of the forces look like an angel and a giant grey skull.
But, Zal’fira still reserves lots of energy. Her mystic power overpowers Chris’, and flings the red-haired knight to the back. Chris lies there, stiff, with pain all over his body from the effect of dark energy. If Chris is not protected by Omnigalatr, he could be dead.
Zal’fira sneers, wiping a bit of blood from her robe and says, ‘Too weak, kid. You better take a nap and leave this to the pros.’
Then she casts a spell, ‘Lullabio!’
The spell hits Chris’s head, and slowly he falters, falls and lies there, assuming a position one can’t mistake from a deep sleep. Seeing this, Iris is shocked, and realizing the cause she shouts to warn her friends.

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‘She COUNTERED my magic ward! Be careful, my friends!’
Another attempt to cast another magic ward will be futile, so the four remaining active hunters continue to rush forward to attack Zal’fira.
‘Surround her! Attack her together!’ Robert yells to his comrades. ‘Andre, cover the back!’
‘Aye!’ says Andreas Marvellini.
The four other hunters quickly surround Zal’fira, with Iris as the quickest at Zal’fira’s back. She quickly shoots the necromancess with an enchanted arrow but is blocked again with the Viper Cane. Iris quickly chants a summoning spell, ‘An Eshmyria Aschi!’ while Zal’fira was busy with her arrow so her spell can’t be countered. The Guardian Spirit Eshmyria emerges from the hexagon-circle field just as Omegron did, but Iris made it. She immediately acts as Iris’ shielding guard. At the same time, Carolyn casts the spell to summon her guardian spirit.
‘An Aegis Aschi!’
Aegis the Thunder Bird comes the same way as Eshmyria, flying, circling around Carolyn like a lightning wall, and lands in front of its summoner.
‘Well, well,’ says Zal’fira. ‘Taking advantage while my guardian is busy, you think? Well, think again, because I’ll let you taste THIS!’
Without saying the incantation, Zal’fira shoots four times directly towards the four hunters. In each shot, a dark energy bolt in form of an overlarge wraith flies towards each of the necromancess’s opponents.
One dark bolt hits Eshmyria, her apparition becomes distorted and weakened. Aegis, on the other hand, is quick enough to deflect the dark bolt with its spark-emitting wings.
Andreas uses his axe-staff Gloria Vadis to defend himself against the incoming bolt. The bolt explodes when it hits the staff. However, the fractures of the bolt hit Andreas’ protection field, hurt him a bit and send him flying backwards. Andreas falls sitting down on the floor, and then stays there, rubbing his painful butt.
‘One breach and I won’t feel this pain or anything anymore.’
Robert, on the other hand, launches his Fire Slash to break the bolt flying towards him. The crescent-shaped fire bolt clashes with the wraith-shaped dark bolt and both break apart with an explosion. Shards of the broken energy bolts are still darting towards Robert and Zal’fira. Robert blocks the rest of the shards with a timely and accurately applied Ten-Point Chain Slash. Although his defense is a success, Robert stares cautiously in front of him, anticipating Zal’fira’s next move and seeing whether any of the fire shards hit her or hurt her. But Zal’fira is not there! And before the kiliji-user can turn and look around, a voice whispers in his ear.
‘Boo!’
Relying on his reflexes alone, Robert swipes his kiliji around, but all he cuts is thin air.
‘Miss me?’

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