Blacknail shuddered as an unnatural cold assaulted him. It burned as it stabbed through his flesh and seeped into his blood. Gritting his teeth, Blacknail steadied himself and looked toward the Doom of Coroulis.
“Keep running!” he told his minions as he raised a hand to shield his eyes from the cold. They felt like they were freezing and cracking, but he could see fine.
The mutant drake was still perched atop the remains of the ruined home. Its intense yellow eyes seemed to focus on Blacknail as the other hobgoblins ran past him. Blacknail took a moment to study it in turn. It was gigantic, much larger than even many of the fancy homes of Coroulis. The mutant had the body of a grey-scaled lizard, but with a crest of blue feathers on its head that ran all the way down its back. The Doom was without a doubt unmatched predator. Its jaws were so thick and powerful they looked like they could crush boulders, and its magic abilities were made obvious by the blue crystal spikes sticking out of its skin.
Saeter had mentioned this beast quite a lot, usually as some form of curse word. Saeter had never said it directly, he’d almost never talked about himself, but others had told Blacknail that his master had been here when the city had fallen. His master had also apparently seen the mutant with his own eyes, just like Blacknail was now. The Doom was one of his master’s enemies, which was one of the reasons Blacknail had agreed to come here. All his master’s foes needed to die. That was Blacknail’s mission. That was the hunger that drove him forward despite the pain and loss.
“Form up and activate your amulets!” Sir Masnin yelled from down the street. As the same time, many other humans began shouting and screaming. They sighted Myagnoir.
Sir Masnin’s words brought Blacknail back to reality and reminded him that he had a heating amulet of his own, so he quickly reached up to activate it. As soon as his fingers squeezed it, he felt the oppressive cold retreat as warmth flooded out of the protective trinket. Blacknail would have felt relieved, but that was when the Doom decided to hop down from the building and began stalking his way. Right. He needed to get the hells out of here. He wasn’t actually planning on killing the Doom himself. That would be beyond stupid, like something Khita would try to do.
Turning around, Blacknail sprinted toward the humans down the street as quickly as he could, which was faster than he’d ever moved before. The humongous predator behind him gave him plenty of motivation to push himself.
Up ahead, Sir Masnin was readying his force to meet the Doom. Taking advantage of the wide street, they’d formed up into two lines of riders, and Blacknail saw that many of them were armed with the mages’ heat lances. Lord Ilisti and Werrick both had them and were on either side of Sir Masnin. Behind the riders were the mages and warriors without lances. One of the mage’s was already holding up a glowing staff. It burned with orange light and the air around it shimmered lightly.
There was a loud crack as stone shattered beneath Myagnoir’s weight as he ran. Blacknail flinched and looked back. He was almost to his allies now, but the drake had closed the distance considerably, even if it didn’t seem to be moving nearly as fast as it could. Instead, it seemed aggressive but wary.
In fact, Myagnoir slowed instead of charging straight ahead at the riders. It roared – shaking the air – and then the crystals jutting from its back glowed menacingly. Immediately, frost appeared on the ruins around the beast, the air above it swirled violently, and then two huge jagged shards of ice formed above the drake. Soon, they were both larger than a horse.
As Myagnoir roared again, and the ice shards shot forth. The first went straight toward Sir Masnin and the other riders. There were fearful shouts as the icy projectile closed in on the humans, but then one of the mage’s responded. He raised his staff and it let out a pulse of roiling red flame. This wave of burning power washed over incoming spear of ice and disintegrated it. The humans were completely unharmed.
However, Blacknail didn’t have time to feel relieved. The second icy spear had been hurled his way. Panic raced though Blacknail as he reached into his core and grabbed as much magic as he could. Shoving the magic into his muscles, he threw himself sideways out of the way of the ice spear. His body burned from the effort as a wave of cold overpowered his amulet and prickled his skin, but a moment later, the huge projectile flew past him. He’d dodged it! He was still alive.
One of the hobgoblins in front of him wasn’t so fortunate. The spear slammed right into him. His body didn’t even slow it. He simply disappeared as the icy projectile slammed into him, and then they both flew into one of the ruined homes alongside the street. The impact threw a cloud of dust up into the air as the building collapsed in on itself. There was no sign of the now very dead hobgoblin, except a single boot he’d left behind on the street. It was just sitting there where he’d been standing a moment ago. Blacknail had no idea how that had happened, but he couldn’t spare it a thought. Myagnoir was still charging toward him.
As the drake roared again, Blacknail resumed his frantic dash toward his allies. As he moved, he noted that Herah was already there. So much for her never leaving his side or whatever! He would remember this.
A moment later, Blacknail reached the line of horsemen and quickly charged past them without stopping. He didn’t plan on being anywhere near them when the fight started. He wasn’t getting paid to fight city killing monsters. He’d found the thing for them, so now killing it was the humans’ job.
Sir Masnin raised his lance and began shouting more orders. “Forward knights! For righteousness, and for humanity! Flank the beast like we’ve planned and target its weak underbelly as you pass.”
As soon as he was done yelling, there was a determined cheer from the other mounted warriors, and then the paladin sprang into action. Shouting wordlessly, he urged his horse forward and it began charging toward the enemy. A moment later, the other knights and warriors followed. Splitting apart, the charging horsemen went up both sides of the road, leaving the center open. Obviously, they planned on flanking Maygnoir instead of facing him head on. This plan also had they advantage of giving the mages that had remained behind a clear line of fire, which they immediately took advantage of. Lances of searing flame and hissing fireballs shot toward the mutant drake.
Seeing the incoming fire, Myagnoir roared again and the air around him began to swirl like a miniature cyclone. Then, the vortex was filled with swirling white shards of ice, turning the exterior of the cyclone into something that almost looked like a solid barrier that completely surrounded the drake. Blacknail felt the tip of his long nose freeze for a second before his amulet adjusted. The battleground had grown even colder. Now, white sparkling frost was everywhere, on both the ground and the nearby ruins. It was a good thing that the mage with the orange staff was shielding all the humans that didn’t have amulets. They’d all probably be dead without the shimmering haze of heat that was radiating from the staff. After the battle, Blacknail would have to look for an opportunity to acquire it when no one was looking. It be nice to have over the winter.
Up ahead, the mages’ fiery spells slammed into the drake’s freezing cyclone, creating explosions of steam and throwing the cyclone into chaos. It grew more frenzied and chaotic as every blast hit it, until it began to shrink and fade.
Growling, Myagnoir eyed the charging knights and abandoned his cyclonic shield. As it faded, he came to a stop and smashed one of his front claws into the stone of the road. Immediately, the earth rumbled and an unnerving cracking filled the air. A second later, as everyone watched breathlessly, the road in front of Myagnoir erupted violently. Huge jagged shard of ice burst out of the ground, lifting up tons of earth and stone to form a huge wall right in front of Myagnoir. The mage’s fireballs slammed into the icy barrier and exploded without doing much in the way of damage.
“Forward, for country and divinity!” Sir Masnin yelled as he rode past the wall. His subordinates streamed after him. Blacknail saw Ilisti and Werrick ride past the other side as well.
Regardless of the ice wall, the knights were too close to Mayagnoir for the mages to keep throwing fire at the beast, so they lowered their staffs to watch like everyone else.
Although the ice wall was partly in the way, Blacknail could still see almost everything. As he watched, the two lines of knights streamed toward Myagnoir. The massive drake growled and swiped at Sir Masnin with one of its claws, but the paladin and his horse managed to dodge the attack and make it past the beast unscathed. This also gave the other group of knights an opening that they ruthlessly exploited. Charging in, Werrick stabbed one of the mutant’s legs with his fire-lance.
Myagnor screamed in pain but reacted quickly and smoothly. The great drake spun around, so that its tail swiped at the knights from behind. Scattering, most the knights were forced to abandon their charge, and two of them were hit by the long scaly appendage. The impact sent both men and horse flying off the road and into the ruins. Judging by the loud snapping sound of armor and bone breaking he’d heard, Blacknail was sure they wouldn’t be getting back up.
However, not all the riders missed their chance at the drake. Lord Ilsisti managed to duck under the tail and continue on. Before swerving away, his fire-lance bit deep into the side of Myagnoir, leaving a bleeding and faintly smoking gash. The drake’s scales were thinner near its belly. It was injured, but not enough to hamper it. Ice-cold malevolence radiated from its yellow eyes as it glared at the humans.
Myagnoir roared in defiance and rage once the last its foes had streamed past. The beast seemed insulted at being injured by such tiny attackers, even if it had only taken minor wounds. However, the roar was more than a scream of defiance. A blast of freezing air surged away from the drake toward the retreating knights. Thankfully, they managed to dodge the center of the icy blast, and their amulets protected them from the freezing winds that swirled around it. This seemed to infuriate Myagnoir further, it scratched the ground with one of its claws – tearing up paving stones - and let out a low menacing growl.
Turning away from the knights that were now attempting to reform for another charge, Myagnoir peered around the wall of ice and rubble it had made, and directly at Blacknail and the people near him.
“Uh oh!” Herah remarked. She’d shamelessly made her way over to his side now that it was safe.
“Bah, that stupid lizard can’t hurt us,” Khita said dismissively. She’d also wandered over from somewhere.
“Ya, we’re probably fine,” Blacknail replied. There were over a dozen humans in front of him, including two mages. While they may not have been knights or Vessels, they were still heavily armed warriors. They also had plenty of defensive magic. If Myagnoir attacked them, he’d simply be opening himself to an attack from behind by the knights while he was distracted. Blacknail almost wished he would do that.
However, Blacknail’s confident sneer soon grew lopsided. As he watched, Myagnoir took a step back behind the icy wall, spun around in a circle, and slammed his tail into a boulder that was sitting atop his wall. There was a loud cracking noise as the ice broke, and then the boulder was sent flying straight toward the center of the humans' formation. Flying with startling speed, it was headed right at the mage with the orange staff. Immediately, the mages tried to defend themselves. A shield of fire rose into the air and a fiery lance shot toward the boulder. However, the lance shattered the boulder without stopping it, and the rock shards were blackened by the shield but not deflected. Before the mages could raise a more appropriate defense, the shower of stone slammed into the center of the human formation. Screams filled the air as the rocks tore into flesh and bounced across the road.
Blacknail was out of the immediate danger area but he still threw himself further away, just in case. Herah and Khita landed next to him a moment later.
“Stupid lizard is smart,” Blacknail growled as he picked himself off the ground a few moments later. He should have known better than to ever agree with Khita. She was always wrong. Always!
Looking around, Blacknail saw that the mage with the orange staff was definitely dead. Both his body and his staff had been torn to pieces by the deadly hail, dissipating the heat aura he’d been creating. That was very bad. Blacknail saw that everyone nearby was already starting to feel the effects of the cold. He was the only one - other than the remaining mage – who had a protective amulet.
“So cold! It’s freezing, boss,” Herah groaned as he climbed to her feet. She was hugging herself and shivering uncontrollably.
Khita nodded in agreement. “Ya, it’s colder than a noble’s heart all of sudden.”
“Get out of here,” Blacknail ordered them as he gave Herah a push. She didn’t move fast enough, so Khita grabbed her arm and began leading her away. The redhead seemed to have some protection from the cold thanks to her status as a Vessel.
Almost all the nearby humans were running or stumbling away now too. With the death of the mage protecting them, their entire formation had been destroyed and become a chaotic mess. Blacknail grimaced as he looked around. Although the Doom had turned back around to face the knights charging its way, this probably wasn’t the smartest place to stand. He was exposed and alone in the middle of street. Thus, Blacknail jogged over into the nearby ruined buildings to look for somewhere he could watch the action from.
Blacknail found a perch on a nearby wall just in time to see Sir Masnin and the others make their second pass. The thundering of horse hooves grew louder as they approached with lances ready. The Doom growled at them and launched several small ice spears their way, but none of them hit. Two were blocked by a hazy shield created by a mage, and the other missed the riders completely.
Sir Masnin lead the first group of knights that charged at Myagnoir from its left. The massive drake appeared to have learned caution from its last run in with the knights. Instead of the facing its attackers head on, it swiped at the paladin and jumped back. Sir Masnin tried to dodge, but he took a glancing blow from the claws. He swayed back, but didn’t fall, thanks to his heavy armor. A few second later, he rode past the mutant drake. The other knights attempted to stab the Doom, but it displayed a surprising amount of agility. Dodging away, it avoided the knights in the first group, and then it spun around again to avoid the second group trying to flank it. As they passed, it lashed out with its tail and sent another knight tumbling off his horse. Blacknail sighed as observed the conflict. This wasn’t going his side’s way.
Sir Masnin seemed to have reached a similar conclusion, because he changed strategies. After turning around to face the Doom again, the riders shifted their formation and split into three equal sized groups. The third hung back behind the other two, who approached Myagnoir from opposite sides like before. Sir Masin and Ilisti led the forward groups, while Werrick led the back one.
As they raced toward battle, Myagnoir attempted to raise another swirling shield of freezing air. However, as the vortex began to spin around him, a lance of hissing flame shot out of the ruins and slammed into it, scattering the winds and briefly washing over the drake’s hide. The surviving mage from Blacknail’s group appeared to still be in the fight. Good. Myagnoir was undamaged by the magical attack but snarled angrily as it turned to face the riders charging it. Its blue feathery crest rippled as if to display its rage at being challenged.
Myagnoir tensed up as if in preparation to fight, but the approaching knights didn’t immediately attack. Instead, the first two groups split up and rode past it, before quickly turning around. Growling, Myagnoir could only watch as it was encircled, and only then did Sir Masnin and Ilisti lead their forces in. They moved cautiously as the advanced all at once. Blacknail smiled to himself. It was obvious Sir Masnin was planning on pinning the Doom down so that the third group of knights could get strike a powerful blow. That was a good way to hunt something so big and nasty.
The Doom of Coroulis didn’t like being surrounded. It snarled and hissed as it lashed out with its claws and tail. The riders under Sir Masnin’s command were being cautious, but they still took a few hits. Two knights were thrown off their mounts, although one got back onto his feet. As Blacknail watched, a third rider was bitten in half by a snap of Myanoir’s jaws. He wouldn’t be getting back up.
The knights weren’t ineffective, though. Ilisti dismounted from his horse and rushed in on foot. Dodging a claw, he then countered with a slash of his own. His heat-lance cut through scales, leaving a smoking gash on Myagnoir’s leg. Enraged, Myagnoir turned to face him and hunched down as if to pounce. That was when Sir Masnin ran in and stabbed one of the beast’s back legs. He’d also dismounted.
Startled, Myagnoir yelped and almost lost its balance as it flinched. Off balance, it lashed out at Sir Masnin with its tail. The paladin took a glancing blow and was knocked backwards. He then fell and rolled across the ground but got up a second later. He didn’t seem wounded. It was hard to hurt a Vessel in full armor.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Lord Ilisti charged at the beast. Myagnoir responded by swiping at him with a claw, but the beast was still off balance, and the vympir was able to duck under the attack. He then stabbed the Myagnor in the chest with the lance. The weapon hissed and smoked as it sunk almost a foot into the beast’s flesh.
Roaring in pain and rage, Myagnoir jumped back. Its eyes glowed menacingly as it gathered mana, and upon landing, there was a flash of blue light. Blacknail blinked. For second, it seemed like everyone had frozen in surprise, but that wasn’t right. Their upper bodies were still moving. Their lower bodies were simply stuck to the ground by ice that had risen up from the earth.
Steam rose from the human’s boots as their amulets fought to free them, but they weren’t quite fast enough. Ilisiti pulled one foot free, but before he could get the other, Myagnoir spun and hit him with a swing of his tail. The was a metallic ringing and the vympir was sent flying. He hit a pile of stone next to the road, sending up a cloud of dust.
Blacknail winced and then looked down the road. He sensed something was amiss. What was taking Werrick so long?