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Tuesday, June 03, 2008 The Animorpher - Part 2

After doing a final check on preparations (Carolyn is the last to finish because she brings the most various and plentiful things) the champions begin to follow Dejan Pavlovic.
‘Remember, champs. The wind is ever-blowing and ever-changing in here. Sometimes a breeze, sometimes even a storm. And of course there are monsters living in this area. I’ve heard of your feats in Enia’s Sanctum, and I’m telling you, the wind tunnels were like a vacation compared to this. Mark my words.’
The champions don’t comment as a strong wind from the north blows. They feel their feet getting heavier with every step. When the wind changes direction, they work hard maintaining their balance.
Carolyn even stumbles and falls once. Hernan quickly extends his hand to help her, but she pushes it away, saying, ‘I can get up by myself, thank you. I’m a big girl.’ And she gets up by leaning on her magic trident, Esthagar. Dejan also stops and turns back to help, but Alexis walks on. Dejan shouts at him.
‘Prince Alexis! Won’t you stop and help your cousin? This is not a race, you know. We have to stick together to survive in here!’
Alexis answers, ‘And your job is to guide us. Besides, Hernan is the closest to Carolyn. So, let him. I’ll scout ahead and fight if an enemy shows up. And you, just do your job and don’t waste time and energy by doing the things you can delegate to others.’
‘You prefer to follow your logic than your heart, Prince. Well, I believe in making friends and teamwork. If you want to go on, go ahead. Andreas is lagging behind and I want to wait for him too.’
‘That’s easy for you to say. You are not after the greaves.’
‘Well, I am guarding it. My job is to make sure it’s borrowed by the right person, got it?’
‘You got some nerve talking to a Prince like that.’
‘Back in Arcadia, you lead. Here, you follow me. I’m the King of the Windy Hills. Nobody knows this land better than I do. So if you want to survive, follow me and look after each other. It’s the only way.’
Alexis doesn’t respond. He just stands there in the wind. His face turns cold. Dejan shrugs and lightly walks away to check on the other champions.
Suddenly, the halfling’s pointy ears flutter. He gets startled and shouts to warn the champions.
Alexis, Hernan, Carolyn and Andreas ready their weapons and make stances.
Suddenly, coming from the north are winged creatures, dragon-like, but a lot smaller. In a pack of eight, they dart towards their targets like winged arrows. Dejan warns them.
‘Wind drakes*)! Careful, everyone! They’re damn fast, and they can rip the hearts off your chests before you know it. One thing, the wind drakes earn their name because they always fly to where the wind blows. And remember, don’t JUMP!’
Dejan’s right. The drakes dive onto them instantly, and the champions barely swing their weapons to ward them off.
We must find a way to drive them away. It’s still a long walk. Using our skills will be our best bet, and Carolyn can be a great help, too, Alexis thinks. Then he shouts,
‘Carolyn! You better summon Aegis now and let it drive the drakes within range, and we’ll finish them off with our skills!’
Carolyn shouts back, ‘That’s a good idea, cousin. We’ll try it.’
With a certain fashion she swings her magic trident and casts, ‘An Aegis Aschi!’ A hexagon-shaped light erupts from the wand and a sparkling silver bird comes out from it. Aegis the Thunder Bird **) shrieks excitedly upon a challenge by (theoretically) swifter flyers.

(* Drakes are lesser dragons, or more fittingly named the ‘flying lizards’. With size of comodo dragon or salamander each, drakes are excellent flyers without lethal breath. Common drakes (or wind drakes) usually use Pounce Dive and Spiral Dive as their signature moves.
(** Aegis the Thunder Bird is sometimes called Quetzalcoatl in another continent.

Soon a dogfight takes place between one big bird and three drakes. The other five drakes concentrate on attacking Dejan and the champions. Being nimble on foot under heavy wind, Dejan the halfling does a good job of avoiding those creatures. However, the four champions can’t seem to hurt the drakes at all. Carolyn’s Firebolts only scorch the tip of a drake’s wing. A drake dives towards Hernan, and his multi-uppercut-thrust attack Albatross Embraces the Clouds only touches the wind of its passing. Andreas immediately casts the best defense, the Omnigalatr force field by pointing his healing pole-axe towards the champions and Dejan.
‘Hey, thanks, priest!’ says Dejan. ‘And now, let’s see what I can do with this extra security!’
The daredevil halfling looks up to the sky, and spots a wind drake making another go at the champions. He taunts the drake, making strange, rude movements, shouting, ‘Hey you puke-breath! Come down here; let Papa Dejan pluck your sorry scales!’
Dejan’s taunts gains the drake’s attention. It changes its course and dives to Dejan with twice its original speed.
‘Right, that’s a good boy. Come to papa.’
The angry drake opens its mouth to the fullest, ready to bite the little half-grown off. Then it claps its jaws, but it bites only air! The drake flaps its wing to do another dive, but something slows it down!
It looks down instinctively and sees Dejan clutching on its foot. Before the drake can do anything more, Dejan pulls its foot forcefully. Suddenly, the nails on Dejan’s free hand elongate into claws, and he thrusts into the monster’s belly! And he doesn’t stop at that. To really finish it off, he rips the belly open and spills its insides out. Such is the brutality of Dejan Pavlovic’s true power: Spirit of the Wolf. After doing that, the halfling is soaked red with blood and fat, and he looks back with a wild, beastly face, ready to pounce on another prey.
Alexis is surprised on seeing that. Ah, he looks like a weakling, sickly boy but in fact he is a daredevil with immense, beastly powers! It takes a razor-sharp sword to penetrate into a drake’s thick scale, but he did it with only his bare hands!
The situation, however, doesn’t allow anyone to do much thinking. A drake breaks away from its dogfight against Aegis and makes a dive towards the vulnerable Alexis. Another drake sees the golden opportunity too and joins the dive from another direction. Alexis is going to be pummeled from two sides.
At the last moment he pumps his aura and rotates his dual-blade glaive Colathaloc rapidly: the Last Stand of the Eagle skill. The counterattack adds another graze on the already wounded drake’s neck, and a cut on the other drake’s face. The two monsters stop in mid-air.
And Alexis leaps! In split seconds, he pulls his glaive apart into two swords, Im’colath and Im’htaloc, attacking with the multi-directional, multi-slash Phoenix Wings skill. After stunning the drakes into sitting ducks, he now turns them into mincemeat.
In the midst of his attack, a strong wind knocks him over! He falls all the way down. He’s going to crash head-first on the ground, but he quickly rolls over and crashes lying face-down instead.
His face doesn’t show pain, but horror: He just saw Lord Adamar Walthorn falling from his steed, broke his neck, and lying face-down on the ground – supposedly the same way like his fall. Grudges from the ones you slain will haunt you for lifetime.
Meanwhile, Hernan just got a big scratch on his leather armor just to reveal the sturdy Mythril Armor Eil’thanath within. As he has experienced the dive attacks several times, Hernan is now able to calculate the speed and timing of each strike. So, the split second after he got the scratch, he slices the drake’s underbelly with another uppercut slashes of Albatross Embraces the Clouds. Then a wind pushes him five paces back but otherwise he’s okay. Four down, four to go.
Aegis does another go for two of the drakes. The drakes attack in Criss-Cross Spiral Dive formation. Aegis avoids the first drake but the second one bites it by the neck! The thunder bird shrieks in pain, but its eyes emit a bright sparkle. It rapidly emits electricity all over its body and electrocutes the biting drake with an ample dose of Thundershock. The drake gets fried into crisp, ready to be served with spices and mushroom sauce, a rare and extremely exquisite royal delicacy in Meshallah.
Carolyn’s Firebolt spell that burns the wing and got into the mouth of the smallest yet quickest of the eight drakes is enough to make it and two other surviving drakes to go away. Seing that, she unsummons Aegis and comments, ‘We’ve seen the last of them, I hope.’
Dejan answers her, ‘Unfortunately, we haven’t. Drakes are numerous around here, and this is only the beginning. Moreover, more formidable, worse creatures are known to roam these hills. Just follow my lead, be careful, and HELP EACH OTHER.’
He stresses the three last words so Alexis can hear it, not knowing about the prince’s significant contribution as the top killer in this round.

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