Sea Lion, Lumeus, Palacia, Legion Ex, Glasskull, Rick, Nay
Red tried to see through the opaque walls of the sphere to see what was happening out in the cavern, but that proved unnecessary as the sphere ejected him through an opening in the bottom. Being ejected from the sphere was very much like being pushed out from a soft, moist, fleshy hole, an experience Red would never ever discuss with anyone for the rest of his life. The adventurer landed on his knees and palms, covered in thick black goop and shaking like he was freezing.
“Wha-Wha-what the hell was thaa-ughhhhh!” Red attempted to talk but his body had other ideas, vomiting chunks of the black ichor unto the floor and all over his hands.
“Oh jesus that shit was inside meee- ughhhh!” This time the idea of having the black ichor inside his stomach activated his gag reflex and he vomited again.
“Oh no, oh no, no no no no, I haven’t vomit-I haven’t vomi-oh man, just brea- just brea- ughhhh!” A large stream of foamy, black ichor came exploding out of Red’s mouth, it would have been almost comical if the group hadn’t spent the past ten minutes fighting for their lives.
Red took deep breaths and audibly counted backwards from ten, after a few tense moments Red felt better and slowly got up on shaky legs, looking at the group to make sure everyone was fine and then to Palacia, who apparently had the birdman Alex on top of him.
“What-what the hell happened, and how the hell did Alex get inside Palacia’s sphere?” Red rested both his hands on his knees as he took a few more deep breaths, he was cold, tired, and hungry and incredibly embarrassed by the fact that he had been trapped while the members of the trip had to fight to save him.
“Nobody’s dead right?” Red inspected every member standing before him, Nay, Benjie, and Kiri all looked beaten, Red was pretty sure Nay had a broken arm which caused a pang of guilt and shame to hit him right in the stomach,” Is...is everyone okay?”
The bottom of the sphere containing Alexander and the unconscious soulmancer went out, and they fell to the ground, the former on top of the latter. A wave of nausea washed over the bird, and he had seconds to stand and run to the nearest corner, before doubling over and vomiting up all the black ichor. Once it stopped, he slowly straightened, moaning softly, dreary, and shivering. He made his way back to Palacia and curled himself around him, placing his head in his feathered chest.
A beam of yellow tinted light swept across the cavern moving from one Collective member to the next, careful not to blind them.
“Ah, here you all are.” Lumeus said stepping out from the tunnel, and a torrent of fresh oxygen followed him.
“Nay, did you know your arm is fractured in three places?” Lumeus’ eyes pulsed white for a second as he numbed her nerve endings, set the bone, repaired the muscles, and realigned the tendons.
The oxygen pouring in to the cave did more to revive Nay than anything else, although she was still pretty groggy and her head was pounding. She looked numbly down at her arm and flexed it gently once the repair was complete. She hadn’t felt anything since the initial impact, most likely running on adrenaline. “Thank you, Lumeus.” She said quietly, the sincerity obvious in her tone.
The injuries sustained by Benji and Kiri were less severe, and their repairs required half the time it took to fix Nay.
“Now, where might the dragon be?”
“Maybe somewhere else. But I think the thing we just killed might happen to be the dragon. Heck, the damn thing even grew wings and dragon claws.” replied Omega L who is now helping his minion stand up. Jaervis’ wounds seem to be healed earlier than expected due to the blood in the surface of his flesh wounds freezing. “For now, we must rest.. I think.”
Lumeus seemed a bit dejected by the news, and a flurry of questions came to mind: why would a dragon need to grow wings and claws; why did they have to fight it in the first place; were they certain it was dead; was it actually a dragon or was it a different creature with wings and claws that had been mistaken for a dragon? The list went on and on.
Judging by the groups appearance, they likely didn't have answers to most of Lumeus’ questions anyway, so he decided it was better not to ask.
“That was not like any dragon I’ve ever heard of,” Nay said, as her senses began to return. “I really am sorry for bringing everyone down here!”
Red flexed and stretched, loosening up and attempting to work off the soreness he felt all over his muscles.
“Yeah, I don’t think that was a dragon, from the little I could see that...copy was just doing what I could do,” Red finished stretching and noticed a few members of the Collective staring at him,” I mean, I can turn into that demon looking thing, but I haven’t! I can fly without the use of wings if I wanted, and the whole claws, fangs look is tacky. I can kick ass as it is.”
Red went over to Benjie and Kiri, kneeling down and patting both on their head.
“You two did good.”
Benjie and Kiri leaned into to Red’s hands, perfectly happy at being petted by their captain.
“Just doing what you and Palacia would have done,” Kiri purred.
Red gave them a smirk and stood, turning back to the group.
“I..I don’t think we are done here, something trapped me and Palf, and i’m guessing we all heard him speaking-”
“Hng, hng, hng…”
“Agh, there it is again! And stop laughing with your throat, it’s so gross!” Red yelled out, turning every which way, searching for the source of the voice.
“Thiiisss Worrld willl beee miine, youuu willl beeee miiine, thisss reaaality willl be miiine.”
“The fuck we will be-” Red spotted the black mist rush at them from the corner of his eye.
It had remained near the back of the cavern, swirling and waiting, and now the voice had activated it once again.
“Not again, asshole!” Red crossed his hand in front of him into an X, forming a shield around them as the mist came crashing around them.
The mist swallowed the group, beating down on Red’s jade green force field. It licked and ate away at it, but Red opened the endless source of energy within him to keep the shield from coming down.
“Everyone, this would be a good moment to wipe the confused look from your face and get ready for whatever is coming for us-” The mist dissipated, replaced by sun rays and fresh snow.
They were outside the mine, right next to the entrance.
“What, what the hell happened?” Red wiped his eyes as they adjusted to the sudden brightness.
“Hng, hng, hng, the more you exert yourself, the more power I drink from you, little one.”
Red turned around, ready to get into a fight, but there it was...the dragon.
...And a being of what appeared to be inky black shadow. It had a head, but no features, just continually warping and shifting into different shapes, it’s arms were tendrils of smoke, it had a simple black cloak and no legs. It floated a few feet away from the group, unmoving. The giant dragon was just behind him, sleeping. The gigantic creature had veins of pulsing black web all over it, a clear sign of the corruption the shadow being was spreading.
“ I came to this reality by chance, but I have found this place to be providence. It nurtures me, feeds me, grants me gifts,” It motioned towards the dragon,” that allows me to know power beyond what I have ever imagined possible. Now it has brought you all to me, an offering so that I may grow stronger...it is truly a blessed day.”
Nay’s hand’s were trembling with the effort of trying to keep her power contained but the more the shadow thing spoke, the angrier she got. She wanted nothing more than to burn it to ashes, but without the benefit of a lack of oxygen protecting her friends, she was worried she’d injure more than her intended target.
“F-friends?” Lester whispered, still on his knees and holding his stomach. “I hope you won’t need my help, because controlling the archmage’s artifacts and keeping them in balance is… Difficult. Right now I barely control them not to rip me to shreds and I cannot take them off until I get to the Library. And that place is, again, out of my reach.” He took a deep breath and shakily stood up. “I have one last option to power up, but… I’d rather not use it. Ever, if possible.”
“Jesus, Lester, don’t say that within earshot of the big bad!”
The snow bit at his skin and he shivered from both fear and the cold, curling around the still-unconscious soulmancer to try to keep both of them warm. When he saw the grotesque shadow and dragon, the bird’s white feathers ruffled, and the only sound he could make was a fearful squawk.
Lisa looked at the shadowy presence and frowned. “I could use my powers to think him out of existence, but that’s not really a good idea because I would probably take other people with him!” she sighed. “So you just want to rule the world? Is that it? Corrupt everything? Sad excuse of an existence if you ask me.” she frowned at the shadow.
Lumeus let out a long sigh. The group had been transported elsewhere by magical means, and he had been left behind. Again.
Lumeus worked the beam of the flashlight along the cavern walls, tracing the veins of purple corruption that sprawled across the stone surface. He wondered if the blight was drawing on the geothermal energy below, or if it served some other purpose; a mere side effect of the other-worldly entity’s presence perhaps.
Lumeus unscrewed the head of the flashlight and poured the two alkaline D batteries into this hand. Supposing there was magic involved that would prevent him from affecting the veins directly, Lumeus walked over and shoved the batteries into the ichor, one end negative the other positive, to act as intermediaries, and then placed his index and middle fingers on the tips of the protruding batteries to complete the circuit. He wasn’t certain all the veins were connected to one another, but this would be better than nothing.
The amount of electricity Lumeus sent through the batteries and into the foreign substance could have powered all of Wales for a month. The power was so excessive he had to constantly repair the twin batteries to keep them from melting and exploding.
Lumeus wasn’t even certain his actions were helpful, but he thought it best not to just leave something like this to grow in the cavern.
“Yeah, man, just, like, what exactly is the plan here? You kill us? We kill you? Sic that big ass dragon on us? You put us in those fucking pods and milk our powers...that sounded wrong, anyway, are you going to talk all day, or...?”
“You,” The being pointed an ethereal finger at Red,” I have drank from you, and it was nourishing, you have given me great power.”
Red’s brow furrowed. This black gas had taken some of his own power, like the clones had been made from the stolen energy of Red and Palacia.
“Wait, does that mean you are holding my power inside you? Palacia’s power? All of their power?” Red extended his arms to include the rest of the Collective.
“I have taken nourishment from them, and I shall take more.”
“Hmm,” Red tapped his chin, thinking, planning.
Red raised a single hand into the air, extended his fingers...then closed them into a fist. The shadow being jerked forwards, letting out a small cry.
“Wha-what was that? You can cry out?” Red grinned, this thing had ruined his vacation and now it was going to pay.
“That’s always the problem with villains, you give out way too much damn information. You have my energy inside you, but it’s not part of you, is it? You lock it away, like our clones, just energy to be used up,” Red brought his hand down and the shadow being fell on the snow, withering in pain.
“What is thissss! What are you doing to meee! Aghhhhhh!”
“Jesus, you’re are loud, we should do something about that,” Red brought his hand to his chest and the being flew towards him, but before he could reach him Red punched him, hard.
“Alright everyone, this is what we call a beat down, so go wild.”
"This is for beating up everyone!" Jaervis began, forcefully sending a blizzard full with a multitude of razor-sharp, body-freezing ice shards (That's what Blizzard Skinshred is). The blizzard then slowly gets harsher towards the monster to the point that flesh can literally get ripped off if unescaped. Omega L, at the other hand, just steps forward and snaps his fingers to replace all that ice with orange cutting energy, removing the freezing capability but tripling any damage the opponents can receive.
Nay’s control finally snapped, “I’ve had enough of this shit! This is my
home you’re trying to take over, and my
friends you’re using to get your creepy power! You need to just fuck off!” She lifted her hands and a burst of flame shot out of her fingertips. The concentrated anger seemed to be enough to direct the flame and it arched across the field like a lightning bolt, heading straight for the shadow thing.
Red held on to the shadow being tightly as Nay’s powerful blast hit it right on its constantly shifting face. It screeched, it thrashed, it attempted to consume the energy from the blast, but it was too much, too fast.
“Fuck, fuck, this little creeper is going to pop!” Red shot his arm up, sending the being flying into the sky as it exploded in a brilliant shower of fire, ichor, and bright jade energy.
Gelatinous chunks of ichor flew down all around them, but they disintegrated into dust not long after. Red looked around, waiting to see if the creature would reappear.
“Is...is that it? I think we got em! And fuckin’ Nay with the grand slam at the end there, who knew she had it in her!” Red slapped Nay on the back, maybe a little too hard, but he didn’t notice.
Her face flushed slightly, but she was too tired to say anything so just smiled sheepishly. Her head was pounding and she swayed a little on her feet as Red slapped her back, only just managing to stay upright.
“Now what the hell do we do about this dragon?” Red cautiously walked up to the gigantic creature on his tiptoes, as if the loud explosions, cursing, and screams a mere moments ago didn't just happen.
The black ichor veins that pulsated on its body slowly began to wither and die, the black corruption on its scales faded, revealing a dazzling aqua marine. It began to move, each shake making the ground quake. It extended its claws, shook its wings, testing if it was fully in control of its body once again. Once he was satisfied with the results of his tests, the dragon turned to look at the motley crew of Collectivites.
“H-hello, d-dragon, sir,” Red gave an awkward wave as his mind tried to process the fact that real life dragon was standing before them.
“Are you the little ones that saved me? I am in your debt.” It spoke without speaking, his powerful voice could only be heard in their minds.
“I crashed landed here long ago, in an attempt to recover, I went into a deep sleep. Unfortunately for I and the people of this place, that being discovered me in my deep slumber. It corrupted my being with its unnatural powers, using my energy as a conduit for its dark schemes. With me under his influence it managed to control the very minds of the people here, bringing them into the cave and turning them into unspeakable monstrosities.”
“That explains a lot,” Benjie said, nodding his head in agreement to his own comment.
“It does indeed little one, I...I am back to my old self and it is time I return home, that creature was not of this reality or any known reality, I must investigate this further, so long, and good luck.”
The air around the dragon twisted and warped as a tear in reality opened. On the other side one could see giant towers of intricate designs with hundreds of dragons flying around them.
“Bye, mr. dragon!” Alexander called with a wave while watching the gigantic lizard disappear into the portal. “And, thanks!”
“Thanks for what, it didn’t do anything, hell, if it hadn’t crash landed here we wouldn’t have gone through this whole mess,” Red whispered to Alexander as the dragon walked through the portal, its heavy footsteps shaking the ground around them.
Alexander bowed his head shyly. “Um...the explanation.”
Lester, once again in his usual, brown Librarian robes, frowned a bit. “Something doesn’t add up here. How could he have ‘crash landed’ in this reality if his inter-dimensional travel seems to be based on the instantaneous portals? That and, while I do not know much about dragons, I know for a fact that usually when a dragon hibernates, it’s nearly impossible to find, unless you actively seek it.”
Nay stared fascinated at the land of the dragons making a mental note to try and visit one day. Once the portal closed back up she turned her attention back to the others, “Maybe he was intending to travel elsewhere but he was tired and miscalculated? I also wouldn’t put it past that, that… thing to have been seeking out a dragon.”
She swayed again and clutched at her head. Now that the adrenaline from the fight was leaving her body she felt drained and the pounding in her head was just getting worse. She looked around at everyone else, they all seemed worse for wear. “Maybe we should head back to the ship and head towards our next destination?” She asked quietly.
Lumeus emerged from the mine sans flashlight. A quick inspection of the group's vitals told him there had been more fighting.
“So, what did I miss? Was it the dragon?”
Omega L casually replied "Yeah. Pretty nice dragon. It's the black thing that needs a beat-up. Also, the dragon went to some sort of dragon-land.", shrugging as he said the last sentence.
“Ah, I see. Disappointing, but probably for the best that we did not meet,” Lumeus conceded.
“Excellently put, Omegle,” Red patted Omega L on his shoulder as he walked towards the center of the group.
He replied back to the mispronunciation-added compliment with “Thanks. And it ends with an ‘A’, not an ‘L.E.’” before a comfortable spot within the group together with his unnoticed minion.
“Alright, everyone, I think that does it for Wales, we came, we shopped, we got beat up, and we killed three living creatures. If that’s not the start to a great road trip, I don’t know what is!” Red chuckled to himself as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out one bud of grenwurm, tossing it into his mouth and masticating.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here, everyone in the car!”
Quaking, legs and feet numbed by the cold, the birdman slowly stood, struggling to lift Palacia. Once he was halfway up, the man cradled to his chest, Alexander blundered forward, panting, “W-W-We’re c-c-c-coming!”
Energy flared out from Palf, minor with little potential to cause harm but enough to be felt. Earlier, much much earlier in the fight Palf had overloaded his own soul vessel with what he’d thought to have been enough energy to shatter the imprisoning sphere. And to be fair the energy released would have probably been equivalent to Tsar Bomba. Though that clearly hadn’t worked, instead it created a feedback loop. Bathing Palacia in raw chaotic energy, and even for Palf in his far ascended state it was too much. Damaging and rendering him completely unconscious, but now his body had healed and his mind was ready to awaken.
Feather, he felt feathers, strange. At about this point he realized he was being carried, his body reacted faster than his mind could process. His body twisted with a sudden surge of strength carrying him out of Alexander’s arms and on to the ground, eyes flashing. Tapping into the Arc Animus several crystalline soldiers formed around Palf interlocked tower shields now obscuring Palf. Giving him the time to process everything, his first thought was to locate Red, then to locate Kiri, then Benjie, and then finally the other collectivites.
He breathed a sigh of relief realizing his reaction was unnecessary, releasing his bound golems they slowly dissipated into showers of glimmering shards. “Oh, okay, cool, problems have been solved. Dope… Red, who’s the chicken man, and why was he carrying me. And goddamn I need some Grenwurm. What the fuck is this day.” His voice reflecting the chaos within his mind.
Alexander screeched When Palacia flew out of his arms and the crystalene soldiers appeared, then disappeared. He jumped back, white plumage flying in all directions. Raising his thin arms in a peacemaking gesture, he cried, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy there, buddy! I won’t hurt you!”
Palf’s eyes traced the avian creature, “Right,” He reached into one of his pouches and pulled out some Grenwurm. The adrenaline fading from his body, the dull aches, sores, and fatigue taking effect.
“I’m being serious! I’m one of them!” the bird pleaded, taking another step backward.
Palf’s face puzzles for a moment, “What are you doing birdman, I think we’ve already established I’m not going to hurt you. Anyway, let's head out.” Palf shook his head and followed Red upwards and out of the now very dull and boring mine.
“It just seemed you didn’t believe me,” the bird went on, walking beside the soulmancer.
Red took the driver’s seat, started the car, and then pealed out of the dirt road, heading towards his ship with a very tired group of Collectivites.