The Chains of Fate
Part One: Serdian War
Chapter Seven: Bale Bonds
Rose stood with her arms folded as she leaned her weight to one side, sticking her hip out while staring out into the dense forest. The air felt thick and almost toxic; Rose could feel her lungs straining under pressure to breath, but thanks to her being a Dragoon, her spirit stone protected her from most ailments – as it would for Dart as well.
"The air feels so close in here…" Lavitz commented as he, Dart and Shana approached Rose, who had traveled a bit further ahead.
"It's the dragon's poison." Rose replied. They had stopped next to the thin river that snaked through the forest floor, and where the path split off to the left.
"I see, it makes sense I suppose." Lavitz noted thoughtfully. "The poisonous air provides a natural defense for the dragon, most people wouldn't be able to stand around here for long – it's the perfect place for a nest." He said.
"Indeed – " Rose began when Shana suddenly fell to the ground.
"Whoa~!" Shana mumbled woozily. "O-oh my!" She gasped, clutching a hand to her chest.
"Shana, are you alright!?" Dart exclaimed worriedly as he knelt beside her. He looked at her face placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"I just...feel a bit dizzy, that's all." Shana replied, shaking her head.
Lavitz frowned. "I guess it must be hard for a – " He paused and glanced at Rose, who now turned to face Lavitz with a raised eyebrow and her hands on her hips.
"For a what, Lavitz?" Rose asked, glaring at him knowingly.
"F-For a – " Lavitz tried to sputter out.
"For a woman?" Rose finished for him.
"Well...yes." Lavitz admitted with a frown, rubbing the back of his neck.
"I'm a woman too, in case you haven't noticed." Rose pointed out.
"You're special!" Lavtiz replied defensively.
"Special, huh?" Rose said with an amused look. "Whatever, I don't capitalize on a woman's frailty anymore...let's just keep moving." She said.
"Hang on." Dart cut in as he stood up. "Shana's not feeling well, we can't push on until we know she's alright – "
Shana closed her eyes and tried to ignore everyone. She didn't want to be a burden, she didn't want to feel useless; she just wanted to be strong like Rose. She suddenly stood and looked at the group. "It's alright, I'm fine!" She said. "See? Rose if fine too! But, I...I just need to go rest a little." Without warning Shana turned and walked off down the path to the left.
"Shana – wait!" Dart yelled before running off after her.
Lavitz sighed and Rose mumbled something under her breath while rolling her eyes, though neither ran off after the other two.
"Shana, wait!" Dart yelled as he caught up with her. Shana was sitting on a fallen tree beside an odd looking plant that looked to be overgrowing and blocked off an unknown path. She looked at Dart as he stopped beside her and smiled at him weakly. "Are you alight?" Dart asked, slowly walking up to her.
Shana nodded, though her skin still appeared slightly pale, and her breath somewhat labored. She could still feel her chest tightening, but it seemed to be getting easier to handle. If Rose can then so can I. "Yeah, I feel a lot better now – I guess I just needed to sit down for a second and get used to the air..."
"I know it must be hard for you, having never really left Seles..." Dart said as he scratched the back of his head. "Do you...want to go back?" He asked, looking at her hesitantly.
Shana swallowed hard and shook her head. "No, of course not." She replied resolutely. "If I turn back now then there would be no real meaning for me to have come." She said, staring at the dirt ground. Shana watched a lone ant hefting a dead insect that was probably three or four times its size, but no matter what it never gave up. "This journey is just as much about me as it is about you and the others, I have to see it through." She looked up at Dart and he smiled at her.
"Good, I'm glad." Dart replied. "Now let's get back to the others." He said before standing up.
Shana nodded and the two walked back.
"Is everything alright?" Lavitz asked as Dart and Shana appeared walking back down the left path.
"Yes, thank you, I feel a lot better now. Shana replied with a bright smile.
"Then we should keep moving." Rose replied coldly. She didn't even look back at Shana as she led the way through the forest.
Lavitz smiled at Shana, "I'm glad you're okay." He said before moving on.
"Thanks Lavitz." Shana replied with a smile before following him down the dirt path.
"Shana, hold on a second." Dart said as he took her wrist and pulled her back gently.
"What is it?" She asked with a surprised, yet not unwelcomed, look on her face.
Dart swallowed hard and gave her a serious look. "Please don't run off like that again. What we're doing – it's dangerous. Apart from taking on a dragon we have Sandorian soldiers to worry about. What would happen if you suddenly ran off unknowingly into danger and I couldn't do anything?"
Shana opened her mouth in disbelief to speak, but only broken and confused words came out. "I – I, I didn't..." Her jaw tensed and then began to quiver as she looked down at her feet. "I'm sorry, it won't happen again." Shana said as she felt her eyes burning. She fought off the tears and was glad that nothing showed.
"It's alright." Dart replied softly. "But we just have to be careful." He said before walking ahead.
He passed Lavitz and Rose, the latter or whom gave Dart and Shana an odd look. "Are they playing brother and sister...?" She wondered as Lavitz neared her.
"Yup, they're always like that." Lavitz replied with a smirk.
The forest grew darker as the group ventured deeper and deeper, and already the group was feeling a sense of unnaturalness around them. Dart grasped his sword but didn't draw it as they continued on. "I don't like this..." He said as he looked around apprehensively. They were forced to stop when their path changed into a giant hole covered in webbing. The stream split with one half traveling down the hole and the other continuing onwards, where a large amount of sunlight could be seen emanating from further up the patch.
"This is the end of the forest...did we take a wrong turn somewhere?" Lavitz wondered as he walked up to Rose and Dart, who were standing over the edge of the hole.
Rose shook her head. "The dragon's nest must be here somewhere..."
Unbeknownst to the group, a giant spider had been carefully making its way towards them. It clung to the shadows like a demon and venom dripped hungrily from its large fangs.
A twig snapped and everyone jerked their heads around. "Did you hear that?!" Dart asked as he drew his sword. The giant spider stopped moving and hid in the darkness only a few feet from them, but made no sounds or movements as Rose, Lavitz and Shana glanced around.
"Probably just some forest animal." Lavitz said with a sigh of relief.
Dart lowered his guard and nodded. "Right, well it looks like our only way is down..." He said, trying to see through the gaps of the thick webs, but there was only darkness. Suddenly there was a loud roar that seemed to be coming from below them.
"Does that answer your question?" Rose asked as she drew her rapier.
"Right, let's start cutting." Dart said as he began to slash as the thick webbing. Rose and Lavitz joined in while Shana hung back and watched. The giant spider began to move once again as all eyes were focused on cutting through the webbing.
"Alright, that should be good." Dart said after a wide enough gap had been made. "We should be able to climb down...Shana, are you rea – " Dart began to say, but when he turned his head and looked back at Shana his eyes widened in horror. "Shana, look out!" He yelled as the giant spider hissed and swung its legs at the group.
Shana screamed and threw her hands out as the spider lunged for an attack. Dart grabbed Shana by her waist and pulled her backwards just as the spider's legs came crashing down. "Run Shana!" Dart yelled as he, Lavitz and Rose stood in front of her. "Down the hole, quick!" He said to her.
Shana nodded and quickly began to travel down the gap as the spider tried to lunge at the group once more. It pushed Rose and Lavitz out of the way with its legs and tackled Dart to the ground. His head landed near the gap and he could see Shana climbing down.
"Dart!" She cried worriedly.
Barely grabbing his sword in time, Dart held it above him in a horizontal fashion as the spider brought its large mandibles down on him. His sword was now stuck between the spiders teeth as they both fought for control.
The giant spider suddenly howled in pain and stumbled off of Dart as he looked up in confusion to see that Lavitz had stabbed his lance through its side. Thick, purple liquid oozed from the wound as Lavitz withdrew his lance. The spider hissed and knocked Lavitz back towards the giant hole with a powerful swipe from one of its legs.
Lavitz hit the ground and rolled near the edge of the hole as his lance fell down through the gap. He clenched his teeth in anger and looked back at Dart and Rose as they fought off the wounded spider.
"Just go!" Dart yelled. "We're right behind you!"
"I'm not leaving the two of you - !" Lavitz yelled back stubbornly as he stood up.
"There's no time! Besides Shana will be all alone down there!" Dart tried to explain, but the giant spider was growing more and more impatient and angry at the wound it had received.
"Dart, Lavitz!" Rose cried with an annoyed look, trying to get their attention, but it was too late. The giant spider dove at the three, knocking them down, and Dart and Rose both ran their blades through the spider soft underbelly as they all crashed through the webbing and down into the darkness...
Her eyes flickered open to see Dart, Lavitz and Shana on the ground around her. Dart and Lavitz stirred and slowly got to their feet's with groans.
"Shana!" Dart cried.
Rose sat up with her legs outstretched and her arms propping her body up as she looked over at Dart, who was huddled over an unconscious Shana beside a small, crystal clear pond.
"Shana, wake up!" Dart said as he gently shook her, but she didn't stir. "No good..." Dart sighed and looked around the area; rock wall surrounded them and there were a few paths leading off in different directions from the looks of it. And apart from the pond and large amounts of spider webs, there didn't seem to be any sign of life at all.
"Looks like we're in a cave." Lavitz observed as he walked around. "I had no idea this was beneath the forest...ah! There you are!" He exclaimed suddenly before running a few feet away, returning with his lance in hand.
"It might not have been before the dragon came along..." Rose commented as she stood up and brushed herself off. "We can't be far now."
"What do you mean?" Dart asked, momentarily looking away from Shana.
"The dragon's magic has warped the forest, the air is noxious and based on how we were just attacked by a giant spider I would say that the dragon is having an effect on the life around here." Rose explained.
"Hmm, now that I think of it I've never heard of knights – or even my father – make mention of any such monsters in Serdio." Lavitz noted.
"Ah-ah..." Shana suddenly groaned as he eyes flickered open.
"Oh, thank Soa you're awake!" Dart exclaimed as he knelt beside her.
Shana groaned and looked over at Dart, who was looking down at her. Her eyes softened and she smiled at him. "Dart..." She whispered.
"I'm here." Dart said with a nod. "We fell pretty far down, are you sure you're okay?" He asked.
Shana nodded as she slowly sat up, placing a hand to her head. "Yeah...I think so." She said before glancing around. "Dart? Where are we?" She asked curiously.
"In the heart of the dragon's nest." Rose replied with her back facing Shana.
A loud and angry roar somewhere nearby suddenly broke through the silence and echoed throughout the underground caves as the group looked around anxiously, save for Rose. "Well, at least we don't need to look for Feyrbrand anymore." Dart chuckled.
Rose smirked. "Oh? What confidence you have, is that the dragoon talking or you?"
"I'm not sure yet..." Dart replied. They stared at each other in silence for a moment when suddenly Shana began to stand up. "Take it slow." He said, standing up with her.
"I'm fine, really." Shana said as she looked around at the ground. Her bow had fallen a few feet away, but her quiver was still slung securely against her back, though she had lost some arrows during the fall. She walked over and picked it up before drawing an arrow and notching it. "I can keep going." She said reassuringly. "Besides, if we wait any longer the dragon could attack again!"
Dart glanced at Lavitz, who shrugged and then at Rose, who appeared to be searching for the correct route to take. "Alright then, I guess we're fighting Feyrbrand now." Dart said as Rose now glanced at him. " – for the forest and for all the lives lost...we can't fail!"
The group traveled further into the caves, stepping over hundreds of various sized bones and skeletons that were haphazardly strewn across the rock floor. A horrid stench soon filled the air as the tunnel they were walking through began to open up wider, and a faint light could be seen at the end.
A loud rumble shook the caves and everyone stopped walking as dust and small rocks began to fall.
Lavitz looked at Dart, Rose and Shana and they all nodded at each other. Emerging from the tunnel, the group entered an enormous cavern where they found more bones and a very large area in one of the corners that looked to have been repeatedly sat on by something big. Near one of the walls was a rock ledge that touched a wall covered in plants and thick vines that led back up to the forest. A lone man garbed in green and black armor, with a green stone set into the chests center, stood on the top of ledge looking down at the group with a lance in one of his hands, propped up like a cane.
"Who are you!?" Dart yelled as he drew his sword.
"N-No...it can't be!" Lavitz suddenly whispered as he slowly walked ahead of Dart.
Dart frowned with confusion as he lowered his guard and glanced at Rose and Shana, who appeared equally confused as he. "Lavitz, do you know this man?"
"...Lavitz? Is that really you?!" The mysterious man asked, clearly shocked.
Lavitz swallowed hard as his eyes started to redden. Looking back at Dart and the others with an angry expression, he said, "I'll never forget that man."
"Who is he?" Shana asked, looking concerned.
"His name is Greham..." Lavitz growled.
"Welcome Lavitz! I can see that you have finally become the knight Servi wanted you to be – " Greham began.
Lavitz pointed his spear threateningly at Greham. "Don't you dare say his name!" Lavitz growled furiously. "Don't you dare mention my father's name! You have no right!"
"Father...?" Dart whispered in shock.
Greham jumped from the rock ledge and landed with a loud thud a few feet from Lavitz, with the others a few feet behind him. "Don't tell me you're still holding on to that grudge even after all these years?"
Lavitz's eyes widened as he clenched his teeth. "Grudge? Grudge?!" He spat. He could feel his blood boiling over. Never had he expected to see Greham here of all places, but a part of him was glad he had. Because now he could avenge his father. "You...you're a monster! How can you stand there knowing that you killed your best friend!? A man you had fought beside for years! A man who trusted you!"
Greham smirked as he ran a hand through his short, black hair. "Is that all?"
Lavitz's body began to quiver as he flourished his spear and shook his head. "You betrayed King Albert! You betrayed every single person I know!" He shouted as tears began to stream down his face.
"Lavitz – " Dart began to say as he took a step forward.
"Stay out of this, Dart! This is between me and him!" Lavitz growled.
"Is that the wrath of a patriotic knight, or a man filled with vengeance?" Greham jabbed with a laugh.
"Both!" Lavitz replied. "Greham, the time has finally come for me to avenge my father!" The sound of steel being drawn and a bow string being pulled back could be heard from behind him, and Lavitz glanced back to see the others ready to fight.
"Hmph, foolish boy." Greham said as his smirk faded away, replaced with a hateful scowl. "You know not the power I have– or the lengths at which I had to go to obtain it!" He yelled before driving his spear into the ground. The green stone in the center of his chest suddenly began to glow brightly. "Emerge, power of the Dragoon!" The green light grew brighter and enveloped the entire cavern before dimming out to reveal Greham clad in an elegant and formidable looking armor. Two large wings protruded from his back like elegant leaf blades. His lance had changed too, warping from a simple lance to a thicker base with two grooved handles placed apart about twelve inches apart, and the tip was a bit longer with a three-bladed head now.
Everyone stood in shock and disbelief. That is, except for Rose. "Y-You are a Dragoon?!" Lavitz exclaimed with wide eyes.
Rose smirked and shook her head. "I should have known...I should have realized it once it became apparent that Imperial Sandora was using the dragon."
"Rose, what are you talking about?" Dart asked, looking confused.
"It's not easy to control a dragon – actually it's impossible. Unless you're a Dragoon, who hold power over dragons and can manipulate them to their will. I should have known...behind every dragon lies a - " Rose began to explain when suddenly a loud a thunderous rumble shook the ground. A low growl could be heard from one of the dark corners of the vast cavern and there Feyrbrand emerged from the shadows. It stood a mountain on its own, towering over everyone as it stood protectively behind Greham.
Lavitz swallowed hard as everyone now had their guard up, looking nervously up at the looming, green-tusked dragon. Rose scowled and pointed the tip of her rapier at Greham. "You! Obtaining this power is no easy or simple task, where did you get the Dragoon Spirit from?!" She demanded angrily.
Greham seemed surprised by this as he raised a curious eyebrow. "Oh? I am amazed that there is still someone left in this pathetic world who still knows..." He said with intrigue as he scratched his chin. "Fine, I suppose I could tell you. After all it's not like any of you will be leaving here with your lives...the power you see before you, and the power Imperial Sandora will use to crush anyone who opposes us was all given by Emperor Diaz to fulfill his desires to right the wrongs of the past."
Rose scoffed. "Is this some sort of joke? Everyone knows that Emperor Diaz died nearly eleven thousand years ago during the Dragon Champaign...along with his lands, the Holy Imperial Gloriano."
Greham shook his head and laughed. "If this is a joke then how can you explain the power that stands before you?"
"Because you're not the only one with that power!" Dart yelled as he stepped forward. Calling upon his Dragoon Spirit, Dart was encased in a bright red light until it finally dissipated, leaving Dart standing in his Dragoon form.
Greham glared at Dart in disbelief. "I-Impossible!" He yelled with wide eyes.
"Greham, I don't know why you're doing this, and I have nothing to do with your past with Lavitz. But Serdio is my home, and when Imperial Sandora attacked my village, killing mercilessly just for one girl – I couldn't stand by and watch that happen to others, I won't! This is all Doel's doing, and he will answer my questions before his surrender." Dart growled.
"Girl..." Greham whispered as he eyed Shana. "So, you must be the girl His Majesty Doel requires...I see, then it was fate that I met you all here today, not only to end your petty squabble with me," He growled at Lavitz, "but also so that I may deliver this gift to my master...who will greatly reward me for my service and loyalty." Greham smirked as he glared at Lavitz.
"Greham!" Lavitz growled warningly as he shifted to a defensive stance.
"One Dragoon makes no difference. Come! I will you give you this one chance to avenge your father, if you have the courage to fight both Dragoon and dragon!" Greham yelled as he lunged at Lavitz.
Feyrbrand roared and drove it's large, clawed front legs down at Rose, Dart, Shana and Lavitz. Dart burst with speed and grabbed Shana, using his elegant wings to fly set her down off the side while Rose and Lavitz rolled out of the way as the mighty dragon slammed its front limbs to the ground. "I can fight – " She tried to yell.
"No! Stay here Shana, this is too dangerous!" Dart yelled as he flew back to Feyrbrand, who was now setting his sights on Rose.
Greham smirked and rose to the air using his powerful wings, landing on the rock ledge that stood almost to Feyrbrand' belly, before returning to his normal self.
"Greham..." Lavitz growled lowly as he glared at the retreating Dragoon. Lavitz clenched his teeth and glanced back at Rose and Dart, who were having a little trouble handling Feyrbrand. If Rose transforms I bet they could take that dragon on...as for Greham...he's mine! He thought angrily to himself as he sprung to his feet and sprinted towards the bottom of the rock ledge.
"Lavitz, no!" Dart yelled as he flew through the air, dodging Feyrband's attacks. The mighty dragon roared fiercely and opened its large mouth, lined with razor-sharp teeth, and tried to bite down on Dart. But he was too fast as he quickly flew between Feyrbrand's open mouth just before he closed down. He roared angrily again and swiped his claws at Rose horizontally, but amazingly she flipped and twirled over it just as it passed by her. As Rose came down he slashed her rapier at his hand, slicing through his flesh. Feyrbrand roared with anger and knocked Rose back with a power jab from his other hand. Rose was thrown several feet back but never hit the ground, instead she felt herself being caught and held in someone's arms. She looked up at who it was and froze at the red-armor clad Dart as his wings flapped gently behind him.
Rose stared at Dart oddly and looked deep into his eyes as she turned to face him. "Is it...is it really you?" Rose gasped, looking utterly shocked.
Dart frowned and stared at Rose in confusion. He opened his mouth to say something but quickly flew out of the way as Feyrbrand's tail came crashing down against the side of the cavern. Large chunks of rock crashed down to the ground as Dart flew Rose behind the dragon and set her down. "Rose, I need you." He said to her with a serious look on his face as he placed one hand on her shoulder. "I can't do this alone."
Rose swallowed hard and nodded. "Right..." She said, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me." Feyrbrand roared and turned around to face Dart and Rose. He released a plume of smoke from his nostrils before roaring ferociously only feet from them. Rose smirked and called upon her Dragoon Spirit, but as she did Feyrbrand snapped his jaws and tried to attack her. Dart quickly jumped in and slammed his body against the Dragon's head, knocking it to one side.
A purple ball of light surrounded Rose and a magnificent pair of violet wings sprang forth from the ball before is vanished like a puff of smoke, leaving behind a woman clad in elegant, dark violet armor.
Greham snarled angrily. "You've made some powerful friends, but it won't save you!" He yelled at Lavitz as he climbed up to the ledge. Pulling himself up with the aid of his lance, Lavitz stood at the top of the ledge with Greham standing a few feet from him.
"Greham! It ends here!" Lavitz growled, flourishing his sword.
Greham smirked. "Indeed it does..." And with that he leapt towards Lavitz with blinding fast speed, thrusting his spear at him.
Lavitz sidestepped to right, dodging the attack. In one fluid motion, Greham twirled around in place and smacked the flat of his lance against Lavitz's back. Lavitz howled and stumbled forward as Greham laughed.
Dart and Rose crisscrossed each other in the air while Feyrbrand's slashed his arms and snapped his teeth at the two, but they were too fast. Feyrbrand roared and tried to blast them with a milky green substance that ejected from glands in his mouth. The green liquid shot towards Dart but he flew under the blast as it struck one of the rock walls. Immediately the rock was slowly eaten away by the substance as bubbles and foam frothed over.
"Watch out! He doesn't breathe fire, but whatever it is looks just as dangerous!"
"It's poison – " Rose began to say before she struck by Feyrbrand's stumpy back end, sending her flying off in the opposite direction.
"Rose!" Dart yelled as he flew in front of the dragon, getting's its attention. Feyrbrand looked directly at Dart and growled lowly before opening his mouth shoot another poison blast. As he did, Dart summoned a fireball and smacked it up in the air. Feyrbrand ejected the poisonous liquid again but Dart twirled to the side and flew up towards the fireball that loomed over Feyrbrand.
Dart screamed and then slammed his sword into the ball, sending it hurtling towards Feyrbrand. The dragon roared and looked up, but before he could react the fireball struck him in his head before exploding in a torrent of flames. Feyrbrand writhed and roared in pain as the enormous beast violently shook its head and body to rid itself of the flames.
"Bastard!" Greham yelled angrily. He looked back at Lavitz, who was getting back up to his feet, and then at Feyrbrand before clenching his teeth and tightening his grip on his lance. "You will all die!" He snarled before sprinting after Lavitz, leaping in the air to deliver a powerful downward thrust with his lance. Lavitz raised his own lance horizontally, blocking Greham's lance and pushing it up. As Greham landed on his two feet, Lavitz drove his boot hard into Greham's chest, knocking him backwards.
Without pausing Greham got back up to his feet as Lavitz was now sprinting towards him. The shafts of the lances clashed as the two exchanged a flurry of attacks. Lavitz spun low and swung his lance out wide in an attempt to knock Greham on his back, but amazingly Greham flipped sideways, dodging the attack, as their lances connected once again. They fought for dominance until finally Greham got the upper hand. He forced Lavitz to fall to his left, but then quickly used force being exerted from their lances being pushed together to punch Lavitz hard across the face.
Lavitz stumbled to the right as blood dripped from his mouth. He thrust his lance into the ground to stop himself from falling, however Greham was giving him no moment to rest. He spun around and thrust his lance at Lavitz, who awkwardly jerked his body back to dodge the sharp spear, but was forced to leave his lance in the ground as Greham thrust again and again with great speed and deadly accuracy, pushing Lavitz further back.
Finding his moment, Lavitz dodged a thrust from Greham and quicklt grabbed onto his lance. Lavitz yanked Greham's lance back, causing the man to stumble towards Lavitz, and raised his right arm in a fist and tried to punch him.
Surprisingly, Greham caught Lavitz's punch in his left hand and pulled Lavitz towards him before slamming his head against Lavitz's. Lavitz felt the world reel around him from the blow but Greham wasn't done. Temporarily phased, Greham forcefully grabbed Lavitz and drove his knee into the knights' stomach as hard as he could.
Blood sputtered from Lavtiz's mouth as he fell to the ground, clutching his stomach in pain while Greham stretched his body and walked over to his fallen lance before picking it up. "How pathetic." Greham said, sneering at Lavtiz as he tried to sit up on all fours. "Did you really think you could stop me? HA!"
Meanwhile, Dart flew over to Rose who was hovering high in the air, still reeling from the blow she took. "Rose! Are you alight?" He asked.
"Idiot." She muttered under her breath. "Don't worry about me! Focus of Feyrbrand!" Rose yelled back.
Dart stopped in mid-air and stared at Rose with an odd expression. Feyrbrand roared angrily, breaking the moment as Dart and Rose were forced apart again as Feyrbrand lashed his sharp claws at them.
Dart dove straight for Feyrbrand and brandished his sword as Feyrbrand swiped his claws at him, but instead of dodging the blow Dart parried the attack with his blade. Rose soon joined in and helped to confuse and anger Feyrbrand even more as he tried to focus on one and then the other as they flew around him. Dart spiraled under Feyrbrand's arm as he lashed out again. Slipping between the gaps and appearing behind the dragon, Dart dragged his blade against dragon's side, twirled around in mid-air and then slashed again at the freshly made wound before twirling in the opposite direction as he slashed again at the beast, finishing off his attack by driving his blade into the side of Feyrbrand.
The dragon howled in pain and twisted the upper half of its body so that it could see Dart. Before he could do anything, Feyrbrand slammed his left arm against Dart, sending him crashing towards a rock wall. Dart struck the wall hard and fell to the ground with a groan as he sat up on all fours; dirt covered his face and a thin trail of blood was now trailing down his forehead and face.
Rose's eyes widened at the sight of Dart on the ground and injured, and a light sparkled in her eyes as she glared back at Feyrbrand. Rose soared high in the air, dodging lethal swipes from the dragon's claws and a blast of poison with intricate corkscrews and elegant twirls. Finding her moment, Rose front-flipped in the air and threw her rapier at the dragon. It struck Feyrbrand in his soft belly and Rose raised her arms up over her head as a dark-violet energy seemed to be draining from Feyrbrand.
Lavitz groaned and tried to crawl away as Greham slowly walked towards him. When Greham was standing over Lavitz, the knight stopped crawling when he felt a sharp tip touch the back of his neck. "It's over." Greham said. "Your friends will die, Serdio will fall and Endiness shall be ours. It's time I sent you to your father –" Greham yelled as he pulled his lance back. Lavitz glanced beside him on the rocky ledge and caught sight of a small puddle of water that was able to catch Greham's reflection. Just as he brought down his lance, Lavitz jerked his head to the right and spun around quickly as he grabbed Greham's lance. Without pausing, Lavitz rolled back and pulled Greham down with him before thrusting his boot into Greham's chest and flipping him over his body. Greham hit the rocky ground hard and groaned in pain as he slowly rocked from side to side.
The dragon howled in pain as the dark energy swirled around Rose. "AAAHHH! She screamed as more energy was sapped from Feyrbrand before finally her rapier withdrew from the dragon and flew back to her, unleashing the magic upon her comrades. Both men felt a surge of energy enter their injured and tired body's, healing their wounds.
Rose gently flew back to the ground and knelt down on one knee and stuck her blade into the gound, exhausted from the use of magic. Feyrbrand roared angrily as blood oozed from his many wounds. It was weak, but not so weak that it wasn't a threat still. Rose clenched her teeth and looked up as the dragon approached her, its enormous body shaking the ground with each step. He growled lowered his head slowly to Rose's level, barring his ferocious teeth at her. Feyrbrand roared loudly inches from Rose's face and opened its mouth wide to snap down on her.
"Rose!" Dart yelled. Renewed with strength, he burst forth towards Feyrbrand as fast as he could, but they were too far for him to reach in time before Feyrbrand would attack. "No!" Dart yelled as Feyrbrand was about to close his jaws on Rose, but suddenly an arrow struck the dragon in his eye and her jerked his head back, howling in pain.
Dart and Rose glanced over further off to the side of the cavern, where Shana stood tall with her bow in hand and another arrow notched, aimed directly at Feybrand. The dragon roared and swiped at its face with its claws, trying to dig out the arrow. Blood oozed from its left eye, but it could still see with its right. With Rose now forgotten, Feyrbrand turned to Shana and sunk his head down and into his chest before rearing up and opening his mouth wide.
"Shana, run!" Dart screamed and slammed his blade into the earth. The ground shook violently and cracks formed as a column of fire shot forward with ballistic speed. Feyrbrand unleashed his poison at Shana just as Dart's attack struck the dragon.
Shana screamed and barely jumped out of the way as the globular substance struck the ground only inches from her. Shana stumbled and fell to the ground as the pure poison that combined with the air entered her lungs and her bloodstream.
The ground beneath Feyrbrand began to cave as fire and magma engulfed the beast. Feyrbrand burned helplessly, until finally its blackened body tumbled lifelessly to the ground, kicking up large amounts of dust and rocks. "NOOOO!" Greham shouted as his face turned to pure rage.
"It's over Greham, give it up!" Lavitz said as he stood over the former knight. Greham cackled and turned over to look up at Lavitz. "Over? Oh no, it's not over. It's not even close!" He screamed as he quickly hopped up to one knee and summoned his Dragoon Spirit, knocking Lavitz back from the power that was unleashed.
Lavitz groaned and sat up as he watched Gerham sped towards Dart as rage took over him. Dart had only a few seconds to prepare himself as Greham neared him. He quickly angled his sword and raised it over his head with two hands as Greham front-flipped in the air before slamming his dragoon lance down with all his might.
Greham's lance crashed against Dart's sword and clouds of dust, dirt and rock blew all around them. The force of the strike was so powerful that the rock beneath Dart began to crack and spider-web around him. Greham tried to against Dart harder, but the red dragoon stood his ground resolutely. Pushing back against Greham, Dart flapped his wings and rose in the air a few feet before quickly strafing to the right with a speed only a dragoon would be capable of.
Greham, who had been pushing his spear against Dart's sword with all his might, suddenly fell forward in mid-air from Dart's sudden movement. With Greham's backside open, Dart moved in to attack, but when he thrust his blade Greham shifted at the last second. Dart's sword slipped between Greham's left arm and the jade dragoon grabbed Dart's arm with his right, pulled him closer and then slammed the back of his head into Dart's face.
Greham turned to face him, wearing a dark scowl on his face. "Once you three are dead, the girl will mine to take to His Majesty Doel, and Endiness will forever be changed!"
"Not if we have anything to say about it!" Dart yelled as he rushed Greham, using his wings to propel him forward. Greham smirked and took to the air as Dart followed him. To the dragoon's clashed in the air as they flew around the cavern as they repeated attacked each other while their weapons reverberated like church bells of varying pitches.
Lavitz climbed back down the rock ledge as fast as he could before running over to Shana, who was sitting against a large boulder about a foot from the pile of poisonous goop from Feyrbrand. "Shana, Shana are you alright!?" Lavitz exclaimed as he fell to her side.
Shana had her eyes tightly closed but she nodded. "Y-Yes...I think so...I just feel so dizzy...I can't..." She groaned, unable to finish her sentence, as her hands came up to her head.
There was a loud explosion and all three looked up to see a fireball strike Greham. "He did it!" Lavitz exclaimed as he was about to raise a fist triumphantly, but his smile disappeared quickly as the fire and smoke vanished as if they were being sucked in by some unknown force. "N-No way!" Lavitz cried as Greham floated in mid-air, spinning his lance with super-human speed in front of him.
"Wind magic!" Rose yelled as large gusts of wind began to whip up around them. So powerful were the minds generated by Greham's magic that large chunks of rock began to hurtle around them, and many were heading straight for Lavitz and Shana.
"Hang on!" Lavitz yelled as he went to pick her up and move, but there wasn't enough time, the large rocks were only seconds away from hitting the two. Lavitz slammed his eyes shut and used his body to shield Shana. But the rocks never hit them; Lavitz opened his eyes in amazement to see Rose standing before them with her wings outstretched, shielding them all from the hail of rocks.
Dart zipped through the air, dodging the larger rocks that Greham tried to hit him with. He sent more rocks at Dart with powerful gusts of wind that made it difficult for Dart to stay in control while in the air. Dart sliced through a set of larger rocks and burst forth between it as it split in half, and shot towards Greham. They crashed together again in a flurry of attacks they exchanged between one another. Greham thrust his lance at Dart, who quickly jerked to one side as it passed over his left shoulder, centimeters from his neck. Dart quickly ducked under Greham's lance and moved to his back right side while slicing through his armor; cutting Greham from his lower rip hip to his mid-section. "GAHHHH!" Greham cried in pain.
The rocks and gusts of wind that had been holding the others down soon dissipated due to Greham's injury and fatigue, and Rose lowered her wings so they could watch.
Without warning Greham slammed the butt end of his lance into Dart's side as hard as he could. Before Dart could do anything, Greham had moved in front of him within seconds and slammed his knee into Dart's stomach, causing him to keel over as drops of blood spat from his mouth.
"NOOOOO!" Shana screamed as he stood up and ran towards Dart, pushing past Rose and Lavitz. "Shana wait! It's too dangerous!" Lavitz tried to yell, but she kept running.
Greham grabbed and still keeled over Dart where his wings attached to his back and spun four times in a circle, picking up more and more speed each time before released Dart, sending him hurtling into one of the rock walls. Dart's body slammed into the rock and disappeared from view. Shana stopped mid-run as her hands came up to her face in shock. "No! Dart!" She cried.
Greham clenched his teeth as one of his hands fell to the wound Dart had inflicted. Raising his hand up, Greham glanced down to see his own blood covering his fingers. Groaning, Greham lowered himself to the ground, and when his feet touched the rock floor a blinding light enveloped him before vanishing, leaving Greham standing in his human form. "Damn, I didn't think the enemy possessed such power...but it's not over, not yet." Greham struggled to say as he leaned to one side using his lance for support.
Rose smirked and raised an eyebrow as she slowly approached Greham, stopping a few feet before him. "Yet?" She repeated. "You can barely stand...I doubt you could even best Shana at this point..." Rose jeered.
"You bitch!" Greham growled as he moved to an attacking stance.
Rose brandished her rapier and her wings stretched behind her as she prepared to fight, however before she could Lavitz walked up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "It's alright, Rose, I can handle this." He said, looking at her firmly. Rose just stared at Lavitz oddly and, for a moment, it seemed like she would ignore him. "It's my fight." He added, giving her a stern look. Rose lowered her rapier and gave him a curt nod before she noticed Dart climbing out from the large chunks of rock he was stuck under, and flew to his aid.
"Give it up, Greham, it's over." Lavitz shouted as he approached the ex-knight with his lance in hand. He stopped about a foot from Greham and stuck his lance in the ground. "You can't win, you must see that – " Lavitz tried to reason, but Greham wasn't hearing any of it.
"Grrrra – I will never surrender!" He yelled before leaping in the air with one last effort.
"Lavitz!" Dart yelled as he ran towards the two with Rose right behind him.
Greham jumped forward and thrust his lance downward at Lavitz, who dodged the attack by rolling forward, and then he thrust his own spear through Greham's armor as the ex-knight came down.
They stood frozen for what seemed like several long minutes; Lavitz was in a kneeling position with his arm outstretched, still clutching his lance as blood dripped from its tip, while Greham stood hunched over Lavitz with his mouth agape, with the tip of his lance slowly brushing against the surface of the ground as he grew weaker and weaker.
Lavitz glowered as he withdrew his lance from Greham, and the man fell to his knees. Lavitz took a step back and looked down at Greham as the man covered his wound with one hand and tried to hold himself up with his lance, his breathing growing heavier and heavier. "Argh…" Greham groaned as he swallowed hard. "You…you have his strength…Servi…" He spoke with difficulty. "S-Something I could never have, even after betrayal..."
Lavitz swallowed hard and looked down with grief. "I still don't understand..." He said with a shake of his head. "Why? Why did you betray my father? The Greham I knew was not always like this..."
"Your father possessed a strength no one could match." Greham began. "We were...f-friends, the very best. We fought many times side-by-side...I-I admired him, s-so much!" Greham said through clenched teeth. "But his strength was the one thing I could never conquer, and therein lied my downfall. I pushed it away, that desire to be stronger than Servi...but, as time went on that feeling of admiration turned into something else. A fear from realizing that these are the limits of your abilities, that this is all you shall ever be! And that fear never left me, it changed me..." Greham said, lowering his head in shame.
Lavitz shook his head. "But why did you defect to Emperor Doel? That did nothing to overcome by father's strength!" He shouted angrily. "It only caused more pain, more suffering!"
Greham shook his head. "Doel had...a power...a new power he said he had obtained."
"The Dragoon Spirit..." Rose cut in as she and Dart slowly approached Lavitz.
Greham nodded. "Y-Yes...he said that if I joined him – by betraying Servi – I could have that power. I-I could finally be stronger than him!" He said through quivering teeth and tears streamed down his face. "But I was b-blind! Blinded by greed and power...I see now that my greatest power was that of the friendship I had with your father." Greham said, looking at Lavitz and locking eyes with him. "Lavitz...don't be like me...live true and honest and...keep fighting for what you believe in...live strong..." Greham said has his voice grew shallower and shallower.
"Greham!" Lavitz shouted as Greham slumped over and fell to the ground. "Greham, hang on! We're getting you out of here!" Lavitz yelled as he leaned over the dying man.
"N-Now I can...finally go...g-go to be with Servi..." Greham whispered before the light in his eyes vanished. His head slouched to the one side lifelessly and Lavitz remained hunched over, unable to move.
Lavitz felt a hand touch his shoulder and he glanced up, with tears in his eyes, to see Dart standing over him. "I'm so sorry..." He said.
"He was lucky." Rose added as Lavitz stood up.
"Lucky?" He repeated, looking almost offended. "He betrayed his best friend, killed hundreds by controlling a dragon and then died by the son of his best friend. Tell me, how is that lucky?" Lavitz asked, fuming.
Rose blinked and then looked away from everyone. "Greed for power eventually conquers you, corrupts you...and unleashing that power can only create more sorrow. He was lucky to have died now and avoid even more sorrow..." She said.
Lavitz softened his gaze and nodded, knowing that Rose only meant well. Suddenly a bright green light glowed from Greham's chest. It pooled together to form a small orb that rose in the air before stopping in front of Lavitz.
"Wh-What is this?" He gasped.
Rose's eyes grew wide as she turned and looked back at the sight. She stared at the green orb and then at Lavitz. She appeared puzzled at first, knowing full well that it meant for Lavitz...if he accepted that is, but there was something more, something else that confused her.
"Lavitz, maybe you're a..." Dart began as he eyed his friend.
"A dragoon?" Lavitz whispered. He eyed everyone and then looked back at the floating green orb before him.
"Dart is right." Rose said. "The Dragoon Spirit of the Jade Dragon has recognized you as its next master."
Lavitz appeared shocked. "ME? I-I'm a dragoon? I deserve to rule dragons?" He asked.
"Yes...but more than that it is your duty to accept your fate. What will you do?" Rose asked curiously.
Lavitz looked at everyone once more and nodded resolutely. "Greham must have left this for me – maybe he wanted it to pass on to me, maybe that's what he meant when he said to be better." He said as confidence began to build. "I understand now! I can use this power for good! For justice! Like Dart and Rose." He said, smiling at his friends.
Rose scoffed and looked away but said nothing as Lavitz accepted the Spirit stone.
"Good for you, Lavitz! I'm glad you were chosen!" Shana exclaimed as she neared the others. But, as she neared the group she appeared weak and pale. The skin under eyes were red and she was sweating profusely. "And, I'm so glad you're all alright...especially you, Dart...I was so...so..." Shana suddenly stopped walking and appeared to gag.
"Shana? Are you okay?" Dart asked as he walked up to her.
Shana raised her hands to her throat and shook her head. "I-I can't b-breathe!" She coughed as he eyes grew wide. "I-I c-can't b -breathe!" She gasped and fell to the ground, growing weak.
"No, Shana!" Dart yelled as he caught her and lifted her up in his arms. "Shana hang on – what happened?!" He asked, looked at Rose and Lavitz.
"A blast of Feyrbrand's poison almost hit Shana. It missed, but the toxic air from its purest form can be deadly...too much must have gotten into her system – " Rose began to say.
"Well do something!" Dart yelled as he began to shake.
"We can't go back." Lavitz said as he began to think. "We'll never make it over Villude in time, which only leaves Lohan!" He said in relief as the thought crossed his mind.
"Lohan?" Dart asked. "But that's a commercial town, how can that help Shana?" He asked impatiently.
"There's a doctor there – Dr. Sanator, I think. I've heard he's the best doctor in all of Serdio!" Lavitz explained.
Dart nodded. "Right, let's go – "
Shana's eyes suddenly fluttered open as he gazed up at Dart while raising a weak hand to touch his face. "D-Dart...?" She whispered through ragged breathing.
"Don't say anything – save your energy!" Dart said as he hugged her closer. "We're getting you out of here, you'll be back up on your feet in no time!" He said with a smile.
The thick vines that ran up the section of wall that led up to the surface of the forest was too high for one of them to carry Shana, and they were all too weak to transform into Dragoons. So Lavitz climbed to the top first and they cut down long vines and tied Shana to a makeshift chair they made from wrapped vines and flat rock. Once Shana was pulled up to the surface, Rose and Dart climbed up and the group the forest through the exit on the opposite side of the large spider-web covered hole they had all fallen through hours ago.