Bardass! Quest 29 – Red Dragon Blues

So, this chapter took a bit longer than I planned.  I could have put in two reviews in between, but I spent a weekend so sure I could finish the chapter, but unable to do so.  Twice.

This chapter actually went on a bit longer, but then I took some scenes out and shoved them into the next chapter because I felt they fit better there.

I think I’ll double up on reviews to make up for the lack of updates.

Oh, BTW, Rankalocke status update!

The team did really well, then was massacred at Olivine City to Jessica’s Steelix.  I put too much trust into Riot (Beedrill)’s Fury Cutter when the entire party was 5 levels behind.  That is where the official run ends, but I continued (under the same rules) and did some grinding.  Every time I would lose, I would just load at an earlier save and grind more and continue, just to prove that under different situations, the playthrough could be done.  Like I said, the official run ended at Olivine; I just “cheated” because I did NOT feel like starting from the beginning again.  My greatest achievement so far is having the patience to grind my Dratini up to level 57 so it could learn Hyper Beam sooooo many levels earlier, before finally evolving it into Dragonite.

Elite Four Team:

Arco (Dragonite) lv. 60
Riot (Beedrill) lv. 42
Turf (Nidoqueen) lv. 42
Nightmoves (Haunter) lv. 40
Flutter (Crobat) lv. 41
Anubis (Tentacruel) lv. 40

Lessons learned: Beedrill is awesome up to a point.  Twineedle and Fury Cutter utterly wrecked shit up to the mid-30s, but it got tough to level him up against the flying types and rock type wild Pokemon prevalent prior to the Elite Four.  Haunter is depressingly weak and has few offensive capabilities.  Strangely, its moveset is built for attrition, but its low special defense makes it OHKO fodder.  Still, being a Ghost type is invaluable as a switch-to against Pokemon that tend to Selfdestruct or Explosion.  Zubat and Golbat are OK, but once it evolves into Crobat, shit gets real.  And lastly, the Legendary Dog Pokemon are, ironically, pussies.

Well, enough of that.  On to the chapter!  This one ended up being heavy on the flashback, but that means I get to get a lot of it out of the way to focus more on the present next chapter.

Quest 29 – Red Dragon Blues

–25 Years Ago–
–Mt. Harligg–

Exolith: [What have you become?  For something so simple as a human absorbing a Dragon’s blessing, you cannot be this challening…  Is it really from becoming part human, part Dragon?]
Balken: For a five-wing, you’re pretty stupid.  You think this is a power-up?  This is something else entirely.  We are not two sides of the same coin.  Arco is Balken’s shadow, and Balken is Arco’s shadow.
Exolith: [Such a thing cannot exist. I can see clearly you are not what you say you are.]
Balken: What you see is only what you can comprehend.
Exolith: [But I need not comprehend you to defeat you!]

Exolith flew forward and snapped its fearsome maw at Balken, who disappeared in a black haze and reappeared behind Exolith.  The Dragon sensed the movement and flung its tail, which passed through its target harmlessly.  Exolith then spat a ball of flame above him, where Balken suddenly appeared.

Exolith: [Such feeble human trickery!]

Balken’s eyes widened when he saw the unavoidable flame.  Instinctively, he crossed his arms in front of him to block the attack.  The swords in his hands merged with his arms, becoming two black, scaled wings.   The wings protected him from the attack, but he was not unharmed.  The force of the blast sent him helplessly tumbling through the air.

Balken crashed into the ground.  As his allies rushed to him, the Harlian warriors made their own preparations, ignoring the boy who had given them their opportunity to strike.

Balken: Ughh… Not enough…
Silvia: Balken, are you okay?
Jegan: You did well.  Latham should be back soon with a Cleric.
Silvia: We can’t wait for a Cleric!  We have to do something NOW!

Balken, still lying on the ground, slid his arm to the side and picked up a black scale.

Balken: This is our only shot.  Can you shoot with that arm?
Silvia: I have no choice but to.  But what do you want me to…
Balken: No time to explain.  I trust your eyes.  ARCOOOOO!

A shadow shot out from Balken’s body and flew straight at Exolith, who was now diving towards the lava pool.  The shadow took the form of Arco, the Shadow Dragon, and charged into the Magma Dragon’s body, slamming it into the volcano wall.

Silvia: Balken… He’s not…
Jegan: Focus, Silvia.  He is allowing us one final opportunity.  Be prepared to strike at any moment.

Silvia affixed the black scale onto one of her arrow shafts and prepared her bow.  She winced as she attempted to pull the bowstring with her burned arm.

Jegan: Can you do it?
Silvia: I can handle this much pain… But what did he do?  Why is he…

Silvia’s throat tensed up as she glanced down to the motionless body of the boy she long considered her rival.  Though they often disagreed with each other, she felt she would deeply regret never letting him know how much respect she had for his talent.  She turned back to Jegan, whom she respected even more, and was puzzled by his calm demeanor.  Certainly, he was always calm, but she felt there was something unnatural about being calm after seeing a fallen comrade in a hazardous battleground, faced with a threat far greater than they imagined.

Jegan simply took a deep breath and addressed her without turning his head away from the two Dragons.

Jegan: Arco is his Familiar.  Normally, that means he forms a blood pact with a lesser creature, granting that creature a small amount of his power in exchange for its service.  But Arco is also a Shadow Dragon.  Think of a shadow’s properties.  They take on the shape of another, and depending on the time of day it can grow or shrink.  During the day, you would say a man casts a shadow.  But what about night?

Silvia’s gaze shifted between the battling Dragons and Jegan.  She felt like she was on the verge of understanding, but something inside wanted to reject her suspicions.

Jegan: Never forget that, as a Dragon, Arco is naturally superior to humans.  It makes no sense for a human to take on a Dragon as a Familiar.  If he wills it, Arco has the power to reverse their roles.  Arco would be the master, and Balken his Familiar.  What happens then?
Silvia: If that happens, then… Balken would be Arco’s servant, and in exchange… Balken would borrow Arco’s… Wait, that means…
Jegan: Yes.  When we saw Balken fighting with Dragonic powers, it looked as if he was in control.  But in that form, it is Arco who was the master.
Silvia: And now it’s Arco who’s fighting, but…
Jegan: Balken is in control.  Even though his body is like this… Well, that’s because he put all of his energy into Arco.

Exolith was still much stronger than Arco, but Arco refused to release his grasp.

Exolith: [What can you hope to achieve by yourself?  I have the might and knowledge of 500,000 souls flowing through me!]
Arco: [Then this should not be a surprise to you.  Chill Blast!]

Chill Blast: An intermediate close-range spell that releases an intense burst of cold air.  Not a particularly damaging spell, but capable of slowing down an opponent by covering it with frost.

Freezing air was released from Arco’s mouth and covered Exolith with a layer of frost, which melted almost instantly.

Exolith: [A human spell?!  Unincant-]
Arco: [Lightning Flight!]

Lightning Flight: An expert absolute-range spell that turns the caster into lightning, strikes a target, and rematerializes.  The longer the distance between the initial location and the target location, the greater the toll taken on the caster’s body.  Although often used as a transportation spell, the primary purpose of this spell is as an attack.

Arco turned into lightning and flew through Exolith.  Arco’s body was magnitudes larger than that of a regular human, so the effect was a lightning spell so powerful, it caused the five-winged Dragon to convulse.  Arco reappeared and repeated the attack several times.

Exolith: [Im… possible…  That spell… can’t be used more than once in succession without harming the caster!]

Silvia, who had been following the battle, was distracted by Balken’s body, which had begun jolting about the ground.

Silvia: What’s happening to him?  He’s… Wait… His mouth… there’s frost on it… Don’t tell me.. Arco’s transferring all the damage from that spell to Balken?
Jegan: Or Balken is taking all that pain into his body.  Keep your eyes on them.  I’m going to do what I can to help with the Dreadspire.

–Present Day–
–Wynn, Dragon’s Tail–

Nutmeg: I’ve never heard of anything like this before, but if it’s some kind of internal burning, I might be able to do something about it.  It might hurt…
Karen: I’m already in pain.
Nutmeg: Right.

Nutmeg grasped Karen’s right hand and placed her own to Karen’s chest.  The young Monk closed her eyes and drew a deep breath.

Nutmeg: Holy light, drive out the disorder wracking my ally!  EXPEL HAMMER!

Expel Hammer: A Monk technique that drives a small amount of the user’s life force into the subject, curing it of ailments.  Unlike Cleric purification magic, Monk expel magic requires precision and close proximity, and the one receiving expel treatment experiences a powerful shock throughout its entire body. After this initial shock, however, the subject’s sense of pain is considerably dulled.

Karen: Ugh….
Nutmeg: Did it work?
Karen: Aaaaaagh…

Karen’s breath started to become more rapid, but her body gradually started to calm down.

Karen: I think… It helped…
Nutmeg: But it still hurts?  Wha… AAAAH!

Nutmeg released Karen’s hand and pulled her own hand close.

Nutmeg: It’s that burning sensation again… Did it move to your hand?

–Mt. Harligg, Mines B4–

Brier stared at the flaming figure in front of him.  Beyond the flames, he could see familiar eyes so filled with disdain.  His eyes dropped and barely made out the punctures in her legs and shoulder.

Brier: If you’re not a trick of the mind…

He slowly backed himself up into one of the shaft walls.

Brier: …then, what do you hope to accomplish?  Killing me won’t change anything.
Silvia: It’s only fitting that the last of the Seven Stars die at the hands of another Star.  You made it so we couldn’t even be remembered as the heroes we were.  You forever buried our legacy!
Brier: Legacy… I never…
Silvia: We could have died as heroes!
Brier: No… Heh…
Silvia: What are you smirking about?
Brier: The pain’s gone.

Brier grasped the flaming arrow in his chest with his bare hands, then drove it through his body and into the wall.  The arrow instantly shattered.  He quickly grabbed a handful of Obsidian and threw it at the fiery apparition, causing it to briefly disappear before it reformed.

Silvia: Uwaaaaah…
Brier: Not a Flame Wraith… more of a Flame Phantasm.  If that’s the case, then Obsidian will slow you down.  As will these…

Brier grabbed a handful of enchanted arrows and tossed them into the phantasm of Silvia, then ran away.  While fleeing, he rummaged through his pockets and pulled out a small vial, opened it, and drank the contents.

Brier: Just one Panacea left… Arco, are you okay?
Arco: Gaooo…
Brier: What did you do back there?
Arco: Gao?
Brier: That fire arrow hurt so much I could barely move… But then the pain disappeared.
Arco: Gao…
Brier: Don’t try to hide anything from me, Arco.  Well, whatever.  Once this Panacea kicks in, we’ll both be just fine.  But I don’t think Silvia’s going to stop chasing after us until Valast is killed.
Arco: Gaooo!
Brier: What, and waste all this loot?  No.  We’ll just have to find those supply carts.
Arco: Rao?
Brier: Ah, they’ll be fine.

–Mt. Harligg, The Heart–

Arbel: Is this all you can do, Dragon?

Arbel and Valast were equally matched.  Arbel’s full Obsidian armor set made him immune to Valast’s fire breath, limiting its attacks to physical blows.  Arbel’s specialty was in absorbing physical damage, and he was capable of hurting the Dragon, but Valast was too quick for him to land an attack with his spears.

Arbel: This is getting us nowhere, coward.

Arbel planted his two spears into the ground and leaned his back into them.

Arbel: COME AT ME!

Valast flung its entire body head-first at Arbel, hoping to overcome him.  Arbel met the attack by catching the Dragon by its snout and planting his feet firm into the ground.  Despite the Harlian’s reputation as “The Immovable,” he was forced backwards by the Dragon’s force.  The lances he used to brace himself slid back, leaving twin trails in front of him.  But even Arbel didn’t count on being able to meet force with force, though he secretly hoped he had reached that level.  He put all his strength into pushing the dragon to the side, veering it into a trap.

Arbel: Southeast siege, fire!

The catapults stationed at the southeast released their payloads, hailing the Dragon with a barrage of solid iron spheres.  The snipers in the area let loose their arrows and cheered when they were finally able to damage the Dragon.

Valast was knocked back to the ground, where Harlian soldiers rushed in and hacked away at the Dragon with their melee weapons – swords, axes, warhammers, maces, spears.

Arbel: You fools!  It’s too early for that!

The warning was drowned out by the warriors’ visions of glory.  Such dreams were cut short when Valast spewed fire from its mouth and incinerated everyone in its vicinity.  The Dragon let out a mighty roar and started drawing fire into its mouth.  The Heat Wraiths throughout The Heart were also drawn in and absorbed by the Dragon.  Valast’s body shone brightly for a brief moment, then dulled to reveal that its armor-like hardened scales had returned.  The newly-armored Valast swung its tail at Arbel, knocking him away at least 10 meters.  It then flew to the southeast siege stations and spat balls of fire, destroying most of the siege engines and burning their operators alive, turning them into Heat Wraiths.

Arbel: So, you had that to fall back on all along, eh?  Quite devious, aren’t you?  Maybe I had this all wrong… Northwest siege, withdraw ballistas and start setting up more catapults!  Anyone near me still alive, clear out the southeast and perimeter of Heat Wraiths!  Southwest, keep that shaft clear and stay alive!  Once it loses its armor, I want the Dreadspire armed and ready!

Hiding in the southwest shaft were Coleen and Avery, who barely managed to avoid Valast’s last major assault and watched in safety.

Coleen: Avery, head back down the shaft and see if you can help speed up the delivery of the supply carts.
Avery: What about you?
Coleen: I’m going in.
Avery: You’re challenging the Dragon?  Shouldn’t you wait until after it loses its armor?  That scale bomb attack is deadly!
Coleen: No.  My father faced the last Dragon head-on.  I won’t allow myself to do any less.  After all, I…

–25 Years Ago–
–Mt. Harligg–

Jegan walked up to a a siege site and addressed a small band of Harlians.

Jegan: Are you setting up the Dreadspire?  What can I do to help?

All but two of the men ignored Jegan.  The first was a young Cyrus – the man who would later become one of Balken’s Four Generals.  The other was a slightly larger, younger man who appeared to be Cyrus’ superior.  His name was Gunter.

Cyrus: We still need the last parts to launch the ballista, and the Dreadspire itself hasn’t arrived yet.
Gunter: The men escorting the Dreadspire are all valiant warriors.  They should have arrived by now.
Jegan: I’ll check to see what’s holding  them up.
Gunter: No need.  I think we can see the cause clearly.

A terrifying howl came from the southwestern shaft.  A massive Heat Wraith, larger than any had ever been seen, emerged and slowly paced deeper into The Heart.

Jegan: That beast is a Heat Wraith?!
Cyrus: That Heat Wraith… I can see him…
Gunter: Aye.  It’s Bodolf.

Beyond the flames and warped air was the figure of a single large Harlian.  Hanging onto his body were several more flaming figures – other Heat Wraiths that had attached themselves onto him.

Cyrus: He must have died long ago…
Gunter: And yet he still carries on with those wretched beasts still on him.  That’s a true Harlian.  But if it turns on us…
Bodolf: HWAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

Unlike the cries of agony from the other Heat Wraiths, Bodolf’s was like a war cry or a curse – pure anger and hatred directed outwards.  The other Harlians stood ready, their blades pointed at Bodolf, ready to attack.  But Bodolf ignored all of them and continued walking slowly to the center.  He stopped short of the pool of lava and reached for an axe lodged in his back – or at least, it appeared to be lodged in his back; the weapon was actually stuck on one of the Heat Wraiths lying on his shoulder.

The flaming Harlian threw the axe with all his strength.  The axe barely managed to reach Exolith.  Just one of dozens of attacks that landed on the Dragon throughout the battle.  It was hardly a damaging attack, but the gesture seemed to please him.

Bodolf: I… made it…

Satisfied, Bodolf leapt into the fire.

Unexpectedly, the Harlians erupted into cheers.  Though they lost one of their great warriors, he was also able to resist the curse of the Heat Wraiths and make a defiant strike at Exolith.  Just then, the final suppliers arrived with ballista parts, as well as the Dreadspire.

Dreadspire: A colossal weapon designed to slay Harligg, the first Magma Dragon.  Two tons of adamantine forged into a screw-shaped hollow harpoon.  On the opposite side of its blade was a long chain used to anchor it down or reel it in. When it was used on Harligg, it was coated with the Dragon’s blood, further strengthening it.  Since then, it has been a vital tool in finishing off the Magma Dragon in each subsequent Dragon Hunt.

Gunter: Hurry, while the Dragon is still weakened!  We need to set up the ballista quickly!  Drive the Dreadspire into its heart before it dives into the lava!
Cyrus: This isn’t all the parts!  Is there still another cart lagging behind?
Duggan: One of the carts got damaged by Bodolf’s charge.  This beam looks cracked, but maybe you can still make use of it.
Cyrus: No, it’s busted.
Arbel: Heat damage.  If it had been plated with Obsidian, this wouldn’t have happened.
Gunter: Lessons for a later generation.  It’s up to us, then.  We have to throw the Dreadspire under our own strength.
Cyrus: Even a Berserker doesn’t have the power to do that.
Gunter: There are six of us here.  And we’re Harlians.  If anyone can do it, it’s us.  Everyone!  We’re throwing the Dreadspire!

Another cheer let out, and the Berserker squad crowded around the Dreadspire.  Their morale maxed out, and their armor shattered.  The increased power boost allowed them to lift the Dreadspire with some effort.  As impressive a feat as it was, throwing the Dreadspire would not be an easy feat.

Jegan stood beside the Dreadspire and upturned his palms in front of him.  He slowly lifted his hands.  At the same time, the Berserkers slowly lifted the Dreadspire higher.

This was magic, but it was not a spell.  Jegan had full control over air and used it to help carry the Dreadspire.  It wasn’t exactly a secret, but it also wasn’t something he liked to show off.  It was a skill he relied upon only when he felt it was necessary.

Duggan: Hey Boss, what are you doing?
Jegan: Clearing a path.

Across the lava pool, the two Dragons continued their fight.  Despite Arco’s additional abilities from reproducing Balken’s spells, Exolith was still able to overpower him.  The Berserkers were about to throw the Dreadspire, but directly in their path was Arco.  Exolith had Arco in his grasp and charged forward.  If they threw the Dreadspire now, Arco would be killed.

Air swirled around Jegan.  Then, he appeared to shine, covered by a thin layer of lightning magic.  He levitated briefly.

Silvia knew what was about to happen.  He, Balken and Silvia often employed combination attacks that started with that very attack.  Jegan would fly directly at a target, then fly away.  Jegan’s flight would create a vortex that changed the currents in the air.  Silvia would sense the shifts and fire an arrow at an accelerated speed.  Sometimes she would fire an arrow with one of Arco’s scales tied to it.  Arco had a special ability to teleport things attached to one of his scales to his location, or the reverse: to teleport himself to one of the scales.

Silvia: Arco has to get out of there, or…

Silvia aimed higher.  Maybe she could shoot the arrow outside of the Dreadspire’s path.  But Arco was busy struggling with Exolith.  His back was to the Dreadspire.  He wouldn’t know to teleport.  Even if she screamed, Arco probably wouldn’t be able to hear her voice.

Jegan started shining brighter.  He was about to make his move.  Exolith charged forward, planning to thrust Arco directly into the path of the incoming attacks.

Silvia: It’s not a fake-out… He’s going to follow through!  What do I…

She looked down at Balken’s body.  The connection he had with Arco worked both ways.

Silvia: Heh.  Well, at least a Cleric will be by soon.  Sorry about this!

Jegan flew straight at the Dragons.  The Berserkers threw the Dreadspire with all their might.  Silvia immediately released her arrow.  Her target was Balken’s thigh.

Arco screamed in pain, then immediately disappeared.  Exolith had little time to react before Jegan’s lightning-covered fist drove into Exolith’s eye.  The Dragon’s head reeled back, and he was temporarily blinded.  This was the opening the Berserkers needed.  They threw the Dreadspire immediately.

Jegan’s vortex made it easy for the Dreadspire to hit its target.  The colossal spear struck Exolith directly in its heart.

Arbel: It is done!
Gunter: Don’t celebrate yet!  Reel him in!

The Berserkers pulled on the links of the Dreadspire’s chain.  Exolith flew frantically around, trying to shake them off, but it was no use.  The hollowed weapon rapidly drained the Dragon of its blood, and its strength would soon give out.  Gunter stared into the Dragon’s eye and caught a faint glimmer.

Gunter: (That foreigner… We might not have done this without him.  Truly, that man is…)

–Present Day–
–Mt. Harligg, The Heart–

Arbel twirled his twin lances with unexpected speed, running back and forth in the vicinity of the entrance to the southwest shaft.

Arbel: Weaklings!  Why am I the only keeping this path safe?  Don’t let any Heat Wraiths through!  If I’m wasting my time here, who’s weakening the Dragon’s armor?

Just as Arbel finished saying that line, Valast roared in pain.  Dozens of giant cones of ice crashed down on the Dragon, dealing considerable damage to its armor.

Arbel: Well, at least someone’s doing something.  Who was that?
Coleen: Coleen Eiric.  I’m a hero.
Arbel: Ha!  I like your boldness.  Men of Harl!  Are you going to let this child show you up?!

–Present Day–
–Mt. Harligg, Southwest Shaft–

Harlian Warrior: Heat Wraiths!
Harlian Brute: An ambush?  Why isn’t the front line doing anything?
Avery: The path to the Heart is clear!  Keep moving!  I’ll slow these ones down!
Harlian Brute: And who are you?
Avery: I’m… just some hired help.  How many more carts are we waiting on?
Harlian Warrior: Two more carts before the Dreadspire.  Progress has been slow because of Heat Wraith ambushes, though.  I never thought they could use tactics.
Avery: I see.  I’ll do what I can to speed up the lagging carts.  But from here on, you have nothing to worry about.

–Mt. Harligg, Northeast Shaft–

Brier and Arco managed to locate two supply carts hidden away, guarded by Harlian Vigilants.  Without needing exchange a single word, the two approached from different sides; Brier walked in plain view while Arco snuck around behind them.

Harlian Vigilant: Halt, foreigner!
Brier: Hey, ease up!  I just noticed you two standing around, and I figured you needed an escort to the Heart.  Are those siege parts?
Harlian Vigilant: These carts stay here, and the contents are none of your business.  If you want to be of service, go to the northwest or southeast shafts and help with the carts there.
Brier: Eh?  How dull.  I wish I had your job so I didn’t have to lift a finger and still get some reward.  Must be nice.
Harlian Vigilant: Shut your mouth.  Our duty carries great importance.  This Obsidian will forge a new era!
Brier: Obsidian, huh?  Interesting, interesting.  Well, if it’s really that important… Arco!  Venom Bite!

Venom Bite: Arco’s saliva secretes venom.  The type of poison depends on Arco’s diet, and the amount of venom he can secrete is limited by his intake.  He used to be able to produce venom naturally, but lost this ability when Balken was cursed.

Arco leapt out of the shadows and bit one of the Vigilants in the neck.  Normally, a Vigilant would have seen a surprise attack coming, but these two had their attention solely on Brier.  Besides, Arco was a small target that specialized in lurking unnoticed in the shadows.

The target immediately collapsed to the ground.  His partner knew to be on guard and took a leap back to create distance.  He readied his spear, ready to strike at Arco if he got any closer.  Arco chose to stay at a distance and spat at the Vigilant’s eyes, blinding him.  The venom took effect a few seconds later, and he fell, dead.

Brier: Great job, there.
Arco: Gaoo!
Brier: Looks like this cart is exactly what I thought it was.  It’s loaded with confiscated Obsidian.  Now, let’s find my lute quickly before…

A sudden light was reflected by the Obsidian in front of Brier.  He turned around to find a Heat Wraith standing nearby.

Brier: She’s here already?  Wait, that’s not…
Arco: Gaooo…
Brier: You used the poison gases from the mine?  Well, that figures… There must be something about this mountain that turns them into Heat Wraiths.  Question is… Is it the poison gas, or something that goes into it?
Arco: Gao!  Gao!
Brier: Unfortunately, I think I used up the last of my arrows.
Arco: Ksssshaoo…
Brier: Yup.  We’re gonna have to run.

–Mt. Harligg, Southwest Shaft–

Avery: There it is…
Harlian Warrior: The Dreadspire is under attack!
Avery: From what I heard, it won’t be destroyed, but… There’s too many Heat Wraiths here… How did they surround it?

The idea of Heat Wraiths attacking the Dreadspire escort from behind was unheard of.  Heat Wraiths normally spread out from the heart of the mountain to Harl.  Even if additional Heat Wraiths appear, they would attack from the heart.  Even if soldiers in the rear died and became Heat Wraiths, this was too large a force.  Avery concluded that these were Heat Wraiths that somehow exited the heart through the northwest and southeast shafts and entered the southwest shaft.  Avery avoided the melee and continued past them.  Another suspicion of his was realized: the exit was closed off.

Avery: Damn… It’s because of this that we aren’t getting enough reinforcements to take out these Heat Wraiths…

Avery pulled out a vial, but hesitated before he could act.

Avery: I don’t know what’s out there.  I could clear this blockade and be met by another wave of Heat Wraiths… No, that can’t be right.  Harl is full of reinforcements.
???: Trust your doubts.
Avery: Wha…?
???: Exploring the unknown is admirable… but some risks you shouldn’t take.
Avery: I can’t agree with that.  If people don’t take risks, we’ll never make true progress.
???: Perhaps.  But why take a risk for potential reward when you can do what works for the same reward?
Avery: What do you mean?
???: The Heat Wraiths.  Why don’t we put them to use?
Avery: S… Soul Binding?
???: That’s right.  I knew you would understand.  You always were bright.

–Wynn, Dragon’s Tail–

Patron: Hey, how’s Karen doing?
Patron: She going to be back anytime soon?
Nutmeg: It’s hard to say.  She seems to be doing better for now, but I suggested she get some rest.

There was an awkward silence in the bar, as no one present felt there was anything more they could do.

Nutmeg took on bartending duties and served both the regular patrons and the curious tourists, but the atmosphere felt heavier than usual.

Regular: Hey, Meg… do something. It ain’t Dragon’s Tail if it ain’t lively.
Nutmeg: What is there to do?

Nutmeg glanced around the bar and knew something had to be done.  It was not as if Karen had died.  Even so, her absence had a profound effect.

Nutmeg: It would reflect poorly on me if I let Karen down…  Alright, I’ll show you guys I can be just as merry as she is!

–Sakar–

Kent: Word is getting around that you make the best weapons in Sakar.
Svennia: Yes, but that hardly means anything if there is no demand.  I can charge a premium, but I’m lucky to get more than one customer a day.
Kent: Hey, what’s that you’re up to?

Kent pointed at the cloth on Svennia’s lap.

Svennia: I’m sewing.
Kent: You can sew?
Svennia: It’s something I picked up while I was traveling with Brier.  He was always stingy with money and said we couldn’t afford to buy me new clothes, especially since I was particularly tall.  So I ended up having to make my own clothes out whatever we could get our hands on.  Pelts that we couldn’t sell, torn up clothes people threw away, curtains we stole from inns…
Kent: Can you sew for other people?
Svennia: I’ve never done it, but… maybe.  Why?  You want me to make you a dress?
Kent: No.  I’m saying you can make and sell clothing on the side.  Most of the people here wear robes and tunics.  That’s where the demand is.  If you can make stuff like that…
Svennia: Hmm… Maybe.  But if I want to do that, I’ll need two things.
Kent: Those are?
Svennia: I’ll need fabric to make the clothes out of.  And… I’ll need a model to make test clothes for.
Kent: I’m not dressing up for you.  We’ll get Sarisa to do it.  Speaking of…

Sarisa barged inside, breathless.

Kent: Hey, what happened?
Sarisa: There’s some trouble at the gate… It’s Hayle!
Svennia: Hayle?  He’s alive?
Kent: I thought he stayed back to defend Etrium.  What’s he doing this far west?
Sarisa: No idea.  Some guards found him unconscious just outside.  So far no one knows about his connection with us, but we can’t afford to let him get taken away either.
Svennia: Hmm…

–Mt. Harligg, The Heart–

Arbel: I know that look… Take cover!  It’s about to release its armor!
Coleen: Spirits of water, construct a frozen shield to fortify my allies!  Diamond Barrier!

Diamond Barrier: A spell that encases the caster and allies in a durable block of ice.  In exchange for being able to withstand powerful attacks (up to a point), the ones protected are unable to move.

The soldiers that were unable to retreat into the mines were frozen inside thick blocks of ice.  Unlike before, the scales failed to hone in on individual soldiers; the scales scattered at random, dealing minimal damage.  However, they still exploded, releasing fiery blasts that Coleen’s Diamond Barrier helped protect against, but couldn’t completely negate the damage.

Arbel: Hm, not a bad move, there…
Coleen: Its armor’s off…  I’ll end it with my stored spells!  Icicle Storm!

Icicle Storm: An ice spell that rains icicles from the sky and covers a wide area.

Coleen’s Icicle Storm had some success in hitting Valast, but the Dragon was much faster now that it lost its armor.

Coleen: Gah!  I’m not going to kill it like this!
Arbel: Hahahaha!  Such high aspirations!  But if a spell like that can’t hit that Dragon, we won’t be able to hit it with the Dreadspire… W-wha…

Arbel was taken aback by the sight of the Dreadspire being carried into the heart of the mountain by a group of Heat Wraiths.

Arbel: Heat Wraiths took control of the Dreadspire!
Avery: Nothing to fear.  They’re all under my control.
Coleen: Avery?  (Or is it the other one…?)

Watching from the opposite side of the lava pool was Brier, who had retreated into the heart to avoid another Heat Wraith.

Brier: The Dreadspire… Ah!  And Arbel!  That punk… He’s using a full set of Obsidian armor… Heh… But he probably doesn’t know that even that armor won’t protect him from poison.  Arco, think you can hit him with Poison Mist?
Arco: Ksshao…
Brier: You’re right… We can’t risk putting ourselves at a disadvantage against Valast yet.  Hmm… Coleen’s trying to use Icicle Storm.  It’s not going to be any use at that speed.

Coleen: It’s good that you managed to bring the Dreadspire in, but if the Dragon absorbs those Heat Wraiths, he’ll regain his armor!

Avery: Not a problem.

With a snap of his fingers, the Heat Wraiths exploded, and the Dreadspire dropped to the ground.

Avery: I just shattered their soul bindings… including the bindings that give them their form.  So, how do you plan on throwing the Dreadspire?
Arbel: Heh… Men!  Get to work on that ballista!

The supply carts were uncovered, revealing large, black ballista parts.

Avery: That’s… Obsidian?
Arbel: That’s right.  This is a pure Obsidian ballista made specifically for the Dreadspire.  You fools are late!  We should have had it built during its slower armor phase!
Avery: Coleen, we should help slow that thing down.  I still have my scepter… If we can get Brier here, maybe you can use a powered up spell like last time.
Coleen: Maybe… but if I use too powerful an attack…
Brier: Your opponent is a Dragon.  As long as you understand the risks, it’s fine to go all out.
Coleen: Brier!  Wait, but didn’t you say not to use…
Brier: Obviously, that’s a technique that could kill us all.  So could an out-of-control Icicle Storm.
Coleen: So what do you suggest?
Brier:  Chill Blast.
Coleen: Chill Blast?  To slow it down?  Then I’ll follow it up with…
Brier: No following up.  Just focus on slowing it down for the Dreadspire.
Coleen: But…
Brier: You’re going to make an invaluable contribution to taking down Valast.  Who cares if you don’t get the final hit in?
Coleen: I’ll care.  My father never got the credit he deserved… I won’t make the same mistake!
Brier: Your father, huh…?

–7 Years Ago–
–Dark Capital Aria–

Balken: So this is it.  The great hero slays the villain at long last?
Jegan: Heroes… Villains… We were supposed to be above that.  But I guess it was foolish of me to think I could change you.  After all, you were always obsessed with that idea.  Though I never thought you would take it this far.
Balken: You never had the guts to do what needed to be done.
Jegan: You have it all wrong.  I was always willing to do what needed to be done.  As long as I never had to make a sacrifice.
Balken: And look where that got us.
Jegan: This was all your doing.
Balken: There used to be seven of us.  Now it’s down to four.  If those three weren’t a sacrifice, then that makes them victims.
Jegan: The world can be cruel.
Balken: You shall find I can be far crueler.

In the next chapter of Bardass!  The Dragon Hunt continues, but what course of action will Coleen take?  Meanwhile, what is behind Hayle’s sudden appearance at Sakar, the strange-acting Heat Wraiths, and the events that drove the Seven Stars apart?  Even with all these questions and more left to explore, the end of the battle brings to light yet one more important mystery!  The battle finally comes to an end in Chapter 30 – Black Interval!

2 thoughts on “Bardass! Quest 29 – Red Dragon Blues”

  1. I don’t know what scenes you took out, but it works pretty well as-is. I like seeing the complexities of the past be slowly revealed, and this whole segment seems to rest on the parallels (contrasts?) between the present and past.

    It’s not a big deal, but the line after “Gunter: (That foreigner” is missing a “-Present Day-“. For a little bit I thought it was focused on past!Arbel, but then I saw Coleen.

    Also, “Nightmoves”: workin’ and practicin’? Levelin’.

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