A/N 1: *taps mic* Is this thing on? Hi! If there's anyone still around for this story, we're back! Last chapter I said that I hoped it wouldn't take 5 months to post again. Famous last words – it's been over a year. 2018 was a very difficult year for me, there was a lot of personal loss and I just didn't feel like writing. I doubt I'll ever really get over all the loss, but things are getting better. Best of all, it seems the muse is back! I've pulled up a couple of WIP's and have been working on those, including this one. Bossybossninja and I have worked hard to get this chapter into shape and I really hope it works, it's a long one. Enjoy!
Kate dropped beside the woman. "Medic!" she screamed.
Answering the call, a small team of people with a red cross on the helmets they wore rushed to the fallen planeswalker. They surrounded Nissa, putting pressure on the wound, and performing every action they could to save her. All around the battle raged, the sound of gunfire popping out, the screams of monsters mixing with men.
"We've got to get her out of here," the medic told Kate. "She's losing a lot of blood."
A sudden burst of fire sent the wurm back to the Æther. Chandra rushed to Nissa's side but she knew none of the planeswalkers would be able to help. They needed to keep fighting the monsters and take care of Garruk once and for all. She rushed back into the fray, sending Jace the information through her mind as she went.
Her heart racing, Kate thought back to the training that she had received.
Dammit Beckett, think! How am I supposed to heal with a spell? Think!
The image of what she was to do jumped into her head. Raising her hands, she cleared her mind and shut out the raging sounds of the battle that was happening around the small team working on Nissa. Golden light flowed from her hands, and she felt a warmth spreading from her fingertips into the unconscious body.
Kate didn't have time to react, her body was sent sprawling by a vine-covered monster's blow. Literally slammed back into reality, she had to fight to defend the people still trying furiously to keep Nissa alive.
"Gideon, help Kate! I will send for help!" Jace shouted over the clamor.
Defending the group, both the planeswalkers and a few soldiers rallied around Nissa, striving to give the medics enough time to get her on a stretcher and get her out. It was nowhere close to easy, every few seconds a new monster would assault them from a different direction, and it seemed like their numbers were endless.
A sound like thunder roared overhead as the fighter planes took a second pass over the city.
The jets had fired a second salvo that ended much like the first, hammering away at the colossal beast, but to no avail. It was just too big. The swarm of beasts that poured on the city's defenders was unrelenting – for every nightmarishly huge beast that was pulled down, another seemed to take its place.
"Just a bit longer!" They were placing Nissa on the stretcher, but several zombie-wolves were uncomfortably close.
Finally, the medical team was ready to get Nissa out of the fight. They lifted the stretcher, moved past the protection of Kate and Gideon, and jogged to the bus waiting. The planeswalkers held the line, and the medics began loading Nissa into the ambulance.
"Ajani has answered the call!" Jace shouted as a golden-white rift appeared some several yards away from the front line. From out of the portal stepped what looked like a white lion.
He was armored with stunning battle gear; white fur shining in the sun, and he was standing on two legs, wielding a double-bladed axe. An armored sign of hope, an unexpected ally, he had arrived at a crucial moment.
Ajani quickly surveyed the area, taking in the myriad of monsters battling the planeswalkers and law enforcement. His eyes stopped at Nissa nearly inside the medical vehicle, and his previously emotionless face gave way to a look of concern as he saw her badly bleeding shoulder.
"Nissa!" Ajani rushed over to the group of medics carrying her unconscious body. "Let me help," he implored.
One medic began to protest, but another stopped him; pointing at Ajani's paw. The lion planeswalker was beginning the words to a healing incantation. A blinding white orb formed in his palm, and he completed the spell by putting his other paw on her chest, filling Nissa's body with white light.
"That will help her. Now go!"
The medics jumped back into action, hastily loading her into the ambulance and slamming the doors just before peeling away, sirens blaring against the rage of battle.
His attention turning to the fight at hand, Ajani brandished his double-bladed axe and charged, jumping into the fight as if he had always been there. He was a master of battle, and with every strike, it seemed that the tide turned in their favor just a little more. With the addition of Ajani, the shape of the battle seemed to change. He was completely alien to this plane, with his resemblance to a walking lion, yet he inspired all those who watched him take down one monster after another. The line which had just been holding its own changed to a crawl, then a steady push forward. The enemy was faltering.
Jace, Gideon, Chandra, Kate, and Ajani led the firing line forward, now in a tight pack, destroying those that got too close.
"Watch the left flank!" A burning mass of plant matter was rolling towards the group, which was only stopped when Gideon threw up a magical field that stopped the flaming blob from doing any more damage.
"That was too close," cried Kate. She was beginning to wear down and didn't understand where the others were getting their energy.
Ajani gave Kate a shrewd look and muttered the same incantation as he had for Nissa. A slightly smaller orb appeared in his paw and he touched Kate's arm. Immediately, Kate felt a warmth spreading through her, invigorating and strengthening her. Everyone was full of surprises.
Throwing a quick smile at Ajani, she rushed back into the battle with the others.
"Shit, is there something wrong with the machine? None of this is making any sense!"
"That's a hell of a plastic surgery job on those ears."
"Get her shoes off! Make it a little easier for the docs when we get to the hospital."
"For God's sake keep the pressure on that wound!"
"Wish that lion could have stayed with us."
The two paramedics in the back of the bus with Nissa shouted back and forth as they worked
over the elf, not knowing what they were dealing with exactly.
Carl Jameson yanked off Nissa's boot and tossed it out of the way before going after the other.
"Holy mother of… Who – or what the hell is she?"
Amanda Wallace looked up from the monitor, confusion still marring her face. Her eyes grew
"Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "Take off the other boot, it may just be a deformity."
Carl followed her order, staring aghast at a second hoofed foot.
Keeping the pressure on Nissa's shoulder, Amanda said, "I wonder if that explains these discrepancies with the vitals… I don't think she's human."
"If she's not human, how do we help her?" Carl asked.
They stared at each other a moment.
"I really wish that lion could have stayed with us."
"Hey, Jorge!" Carl called to the driver. "Radio the hospital and tell them to prepare for something weird."
Carl looked back at Nissa's hooves and long pointed ears.
"Ask them to have a veterinarian on hand."
Amanda looked up at Carl, in question.
"Different physiology – couldn't hurt."
"I just hope we can keep her alive. We need that lion."
Another one? They're appearing like little vermin, breeding like rabbits. No matter. They haven't seen true power, they will all fall.
"What the hell is this? Why am I here?"
Dr. Jimmy Scott, DVM wasn't pleased.
"I'm a vet," he continued. "I don't work on people. These ears are obviously plastic surgery – a
good job on them, yes – but still…"
Carl held his hands up in an effort to placate the irate doctor.
"I get it, doctor, that's what I thought too. But look at the feet."
He pulled the blanket covering Nissa away from her hooves.
"I suppose this could be surgery too, but check out the shoes," Carl held one out for the veterinarian, who took it to examine. "Why would she wear shoes that would help her run like a human if she deliberately did that to her feet?"
"And check out these vitals," Amanda came forward with a printout. "I don't know if this is animal-like, but it's definitely different than anything I've ever seen with a patient."
Josh Davidson was working an ER rotation and was stitching Nissa's shoulder. He knew this had something to do with what was going on with Kate – breakup or not, when Kate came on the news, Josh paid attention.
"Let's get her into X-ray," he said. "That should answer the question about enhancements. "I'm more worried about the blood loss. I think she needs a transfusion, but if she's not human…" he trailed off.
"Artificial blood?" queried Dr. Scott.
"That's a possibility, and I've got a nurse calling on it, but it'll still take time to make sure it's compatible."
"...Lion…" muttered Amanda.
"What's that?" barked Scott.
"Just... I guess another one of the 'magic people' like this one," she replied. "He looked a lot like a lion – mane, paws, the works."
"What about him?" asked Josh.
"Well… God, am I stuck in a video game?" she shook her head in disbelief at what she'd seen with her own eyes.
"W-O-W's got nothing on this," interjected Carl.
Nodding, Amanda continued. "Anyhow, he performed what can only be described as a spell. And then a bright light appeared and went inside our patient. I'm not sure she'd have survived the trip without his help. I know he had to fight the monsters," she shuddered. "But he'd sure be a help right now."
Josh nodded, cutting the last stitch.
"Well, I think I've done all I can until we get more info. Let's get her up to X-ray."
"And we'll get back to the fight," said Carl. "There was a lineup of ambulances – coming and going. I'm sure we're still needed.
"It's probably going to be too hectic, but if you can get any information about our patient, we'll need it," said Dr. Scott as he was moving toward the elevator with Nissa and Josh.
They parted ways.
The presence of Ajani and his fearsome power had inspired everyone with a vigor that could be felt greater with every monster felled. Each time a raging baloth or behemoth elemental was brought down, victory seemed to be just a little closer.
Gunfire snapped through the air, shimmering waves of power that crippled beasts flew faster than the eye could follow, each tearing holes into the enemy, who was faltering now. All that was left was a massive push that would take them to meet the Lord of Extinction, and that would keep them out of the city. Where energy was thought to be spent, invigorating magic cast by Ajani was felt, re-energizing those that needed the help most, taking the fight forward and feeling the monsters one by one.
But such as it was, the fight was not without loss. Even a simple miscalculation led to the injury or death of another man. Nissa was already evidence of this. Jace, Ajani, Gideon, Chandra, Kate. The five planeswalkers were beasts themselves on the battlefield, pushing the line forward as the enemy took heavy losses.
In a moment that turned events, reinforcements arrived. Military forces had arrived, not only armed soldiers but at least two tanks. They opened fire on the Lord of Extinction, now precariously close to the skyscrapers of New York. Fiery explosions riddled its side, shaking the beast with the force. Like all the attempts to do damage to it, however, they failed. However, unlike the missile salvos from before, the giant creature did not ignore the attacks from the side, instead of turning its great mass towards the attacker.
Down in the city, these events were visible to all, and a great cheer went up from thousands as they were bought a little more time.
How much time, however, remained to be seen.
Now fighting a forward battle, the force pushed onward, making more progress faster the farther they went. The monsters were almost out of Manhattan, with two small groups being routed in Inwood Hill Park, and another on Broadway Bridge. The buildings in the area had sustained heavy damage, but they had been evacuated when the occupants saw what was going on.
The Lord of Extinction had crossed the Hudson River, moving inland. When it did, a single of its massive hoof had stepped into the river, flooding the nearby houses as the water was diverted and pushed onto the banks. The military forces were mostly packed onto Palisades Parkway, a street just to the west of the river. With the giant monster so close, they were forced to retreat while throwing everything they could at the giant that was giving chase.
On the island of Manhattan, the last few monsters were being killed, their bodies dissolving back into the energy that formed them. The planeswalkers and national guard were relieved, but the feeling was short-lived. They still had a lot to deal with.
Now that his forces in the city had been destroyed, Garruk felt what he had to do. Rage burned inside him from losing so much of his forces to the planeswalkers and humans. He gathered what mana the land had left to cast a trio of identical creatures, three acid spitting dragons that would certainly grab the city's attention.
These will bring me to victory, and my foes to their knees.
On the news, one news channel's video feed of the giant monstrosity was cut short. Others swerved to show the new aerial threat, a trio of dragons flying in spearhead formation, with the falling news helicopter quickly dropping out of the view. With this new addition to the chaos, the helicopters scattered like pigeons, trying furiously to stay away from the trio of acid-spewing dragons. They landed on a roof of a nearby skyscraper and released jets of dark-green liquid onto the nearby buildings, burning gaping holes that ate through the concrete and steel like water dissolving cotton candy. One could only hope that the evacuation orders had saved those inside, for people were still streaming out of the city to the east and southwest.
This attack was not unnoticed by the planeswalkers, who saw the trio of dragons begin a terrible attack run on the city. Thankfully, with the fight almost complete where they were, they could divert some of themselves towards defense.
After an extremely brief conference, it was decided that Jace, Kate, and Gideon would go to take out the dragons while the other planeswalkers would finish the job on the ground. Jace summoned a blue-white sphinx that appeared in front of him, ready for flight. Gideon summoned a chariot pulled by two pegasi, which would cause anyone to gawk for a solid hour if not in such a dire situation. Just before they got on, one of the SWAT team members gave Kate his gun.
"A bullet in his head should stop this. Hopefully." Kate nodded and got on the chariot.
The three Planeswalkers took to the air, each making a beeline for the dragons.
Dragons? Kate thought as the winged horses pulled the chariot into the air. As much as she hoped Castle was nowhere near the battle, she knew he would love to see this. His Hagrid Halloween costume last year was proof enough of that, chanting "Crikey, I'd like a dragon!" every other sentence.
However, these dragons were not as cuddly as Norbert, or even the Hungarian Horntail, fire breathing and all; these two weren't shooting fire, they were spitting some kind of acid, and everything the stuff hit dissolved like cotton candy in water.
She didn't know Garruk's plan, and the thought was getting to her. He might want to take care of the more experienced planeswalkers then play with her like a cat and mouse. But at the same time, even though she was weak and inexperienced in magic – weak in the sense that she was inexperienced and didn't know what kind of power she wielded, or could control, (the fire in Central Park a good case in point) she had her strengths. And Garruk couldn't know that.
In fact, that weakness could be a strength, Esposito's words came back to her. Garruk had probably fought Jace and the others before, and while he'd learned some of her fighting quirks, he couldn't possibly know everything, because they had never met in true combat.
Kate looked at the gun she'd been given. It wasn't her Glock, so the feel wasn't quite right, but she was grateful to have something she understood. Gideon cast a confused glance at her wielding the projectile weapon, but she ignored him. Maybe he'd been using magic too long to recognize that "primitive" could sometimes be more effective than something more "advanced," whether technology in her world or magic in his.
She didn't know if the gun would work against the dragons, non-magic weapons had worked so far on many of the weaker monsters, but acid-spewing dragons were possibly a different story. She'd definitely need to find a vulnerable spot. The eyes maybe.
In the air, Garruk had seen the planeswalkers take flight to meet him. Instead of meeting them in open combat, the three dragons dived down into the city buildings, using the giant buildings for cover, and setting an ambush. He would meet the mages on his own terms, and he had every intention of being the hunter, rather than the prey.
Jace flew behind the chariot, ready to unleash a salvo of spells if necessary. As he flew, he gathered mana from the ocean, preparing for anything. Kate and Gideon did the same, their nerves steeled for a sudden attack. They flew through the buildings, scanning for any sign of danger as they steadied their nerves.
Hearts racing, each one of them knew the consequences of failure would be dire. Kate thought she saw him, in the reflection from one of the skyscrapers, but after they had turned to investigate, he was gone. Every moment spent in search of Garruk instead of putting him out of commission was too precious to give up, but the master of ambush warfare had already settled into his element and was preparing for the perfect moment to strike.
Kate remembered the comm Esposito had given her. The fighting had been so intense on the ground that she had forgotten about it. She may well have not heard anything anyway on the ground, and she wasn't sure she was still in range in the air, but she had to try.
"Esposito? Are you there?"
It was Captain Gates who answered.
"Finally, Detective!" she exclaimed. "We've been trying to reach you for hours!"
"I'm sorry, Sir, things got loud in the battle."
"That's what we assumed, Detective, but we are glad to hear from you, and that you're all right. I understand one of the others was injured?"
The way the captain said 'others' let Kate know she was talking about the planeswalkers as opposed to the the hundreds of officers and soldiers who had been wounded.
"Yes, sir," she replied. "Nissa was severely injured. I know she's at a hospital, but I don't know her condition."
Jace called to the others, signaling to follow him. It seemed like he had found a way to track the evil mage, or was aware of something those in the chariot were not. But once again, Garruk eluded them. It was infuriating; he seemed to be laughing all around at their futile actions.
It needed to end.
They flew in formation, keeping close enough to be able to respond to attack from either side, but far enough away to get multiple perspectives, a perfect search party for the most elusive of predators.
"Listen, Captain, I don't know how long I'll be in range, I'm in the air now."
"A chopper?" asked Gates.
"No, Sir, a chariot, I'll explain later, hopefully. We're flying down ... I'm not sure where we are, it's disorienting up here. But we do have a new problem."
"Oh, yeah. Dragons."
"So we're dealing with fire now?"
Gideon gave Kate an odd look.
"No, Captain. Worse. A very strong acid. I'd suggest keeping everyone away. This stuff is melting buildings. No armor is going to protect against it."
"Good to know. I'll contact the military liaison."
There was silence a moment. Both women knew there was a better than even chance Kate wouldn't come back from this.
"So, um... if anything happens... will you call my dad and Castle?"
"I'm praying the only thing that happens is that you succeed, Detective. Good luck."
"Thank you, Sir," Kate replied, understanding what wasn't said. She cut the comm.
"That is a very small – telephone?" said Gideon, giving it the inflection of a question.
"It's a communication device, but it's not a phone," she answered, almost smiling at the mundane conversation in the wake of the battle. "It's good for undercover operations."
She did smile at the look of confusion on Gideon's face.
"If we get out of this, I'll show you how they work at the precinct."
"I also have a question about fire brea-"
It came as suddenly as lightning striking.
From above, Jace noticed a shadow only moments before Garruk's dragon was on top of him. His sphinx lowered one wing, spinning upside down moments before the flying beasts connected. Jace was broken from his grip, spinning wildly into the open air as the acid-spitting dragon bit down on the smaller sphinx. In a flash, the other two dragons flew into view, one slamming into the already struggling pair, slamming Jace from his seat and sending him plummeting below, possibly conscious, and the other dove in hot pursuit of the now defenseless planeswalker, mouth agape, steaming green saliva streaming down its scaly maw.
There was nowhere to run. The ambush had sprung, and it would take its victim, willing or not.
A/N 2: What did you think? We'd love to hear your thoughts!