They crept forward through the ash. There was no obvious lair for the dragon to dwell in however this was obviously a place that it lived. The heat grew hotter the farther into the area the moved and Gardenia cast her fire resistance spell on every member of the party before quickly drinking a mana recovery potion.
“Hold.” Called out Pristallia who had the skilled needed to notice things quickly. “This is sloping down. You can barely see it but there looks like there is a hole just over there.” She pointed and others could barely see the black sliver.
Drake nodded, “That must be the lair. We need to get closer.”
The tension was palpable as the hole drew nearer and everybody could see it better. It went down into the ground and nobody could tell how deep it would go. Only that it must be the lair.
As the depths began to reveal itself there was an earthshaking roar and out of the hole came the dragon. It was big, bigger than the last one Gardenia has seen. The size difference wasn’t actually that much but ever a little bit of increased sized made it significantly more intimidating.
That wasn’t even mentioning the giant black horns that the dragon sported. The horns were bigger than an entire person. Having just emerged from the hole the dragon’s wings were pulled back keeping the body sleeker and more compact.
Rather than attempting to bite Gardenia it instead tried to use its enormous horns to gore her. She had been prepared for this can called out “Iron Shield” activating her shield arts and gaining more defense and stability. Even with that she was pushed back several feet however the damage she took had been minimal.
Drake shouted, “Split up and begin attacking it. Attack the sections of it away from Gardenia if possible.” As he yelled everybody split up to do their duty.
Gardenia pushed back at the Dragon, making sure to swing at it with her sword to help draw its aggro. Her shield arts not just reduced damage but also made her a more inviting target.
Perfect Zanth was her backup. While she could heal herself there were often times that she could not find the time to cast her own spells because she was so busy defending. He could also use his plant magic to help restrain the dragon, although the effects of those spells were lessened in the burnt ashlands they were fighting in.
Drake, Arthur Ironheart, and Steela had surrounded the dragon and were busy dealing melee dps to the monster. Arthur and Steela made sure to stay vaguely close to Gardenia so that if the dragon turned its attention to them she could interpose and protect them fairly quickly.
Drake was off by himself charging spear thrusts but nobody worried about him. If he couldn’t take care of himself against the dragon than everything would probably be doomed anyways. Besides he wore plate armor and could guard himself plenty well.
Steela had mace related arts that she was using which reduced the opponent’s defenses. The mace was an excellent weapon to use against heavily armored foes, especially bosses. The main issue was that is was more difficult to defend with a mace since adjusting the momentum of the weapon was difficult.
Arthur dealt quick repeating blows doing a decent amount of damage per hit. The attack effectiveness was practically the opposite of Steela. Two weapon fighting was about fast individual hits. It was usually less effective against a creature with high defense like a dragon but when combined with Steela’s defense dropping it did very high dps.
Vanishing Doubt had his lightning magic which he use conservatively. He had several powerful spells at his disposal but was saving them for the most opportune time. His spells had good interruption effects so saving them to break the dragon out of a particularly deadly skill was his primary job.
Pristallia was mostly a reserve member. While her crossbow did good damage her combat build was a bit specialized. She used rare and powerful special bolts which had unique effects. Most crossbow users instead used arts to inflict large damage at range. Her special bolts had the advantage over spells in that they did not use mp but instead needed to be acquired ahead of time. It was a powerful build, assuming you could afford it.
Leviathan’s only job was to stay far away from the battle and marvel at their fighting. While initially it might seem like everybody was just going their own thing it was much more complex than that. The fact that Gardenia was managing to keep the aggro from the dragon was a testament to the teamwork that everybody had.
That moment Arthur spent repositioning, the larger charge up attack that Steela used. They were all part of keeping the aggro on Gardenia. When the dragon had first burst out of the hole Leviathan had fought the fight would be hopeless for the team but instead it was feeling hopeless for the dragon.
The biggest wildcard was the dragon’s splattered blood. Many of the attacks were beginning to cause actual injuries to the dragon and splatters of blood were beginning to scatter across the ground. The team avoided those blood pools almost naturally and the green smoke coming off the small pools showed that their efforts were well rewarded.
Since, from the inside of the fight things weren’t going as smoothly as it looked for Leviathan. Everybody was straining at their edge to keep up with the giant monster. Each attack had the force of a trunk behind it and Gardenia had to successfully block every single attack. Her hp was remaining high purely due to the full effort of both her and Perfect Zanth. A single mistake from either of them could easily cause Gardenia to die and the entire team to wipe.
Drake, Arthur, and Steela had to also be extra cautious. While the dragon’s head was its most dangerous body part they needed to pay attention to everything else as well. The dragon’s tail, claws, and even its wings could cause serious damage if they did not dodge them properly. Each of them had taken small amounts of damage defending from the occasional attack however Perfect Zanth never had time to focus on healing any of them so they just had to keep up their own hp as much as possible.
When the dragon finally slammed its front legs onto the ground and began to breath in it was Vanishing Doubt’s time to act. He began casting a spell, one more powerful than anybody else was capable of casting. In the grand scheme of things the dps of the spell was not worth the mana cost however its real benefit was interrupting. Just as the dragon was pointing its face toward Gardenia and was about to exhale a giant bolt of lightning struck it. It got knocked to one side and the torrent of flames that was about to appear instead dissipated.
The dragon tried to turn its attention toward Vanishing Doubt from this attack but Gardenia used that moment to use one of her shield arts. “Anger Draw” which caused the dragon to turn its attention back to her.
While it looked seamless Vanishing Doubt only had a margin of error of about a second in recognizing the signs of the dragon and beginning casting the spell. Missing the timing would result in the dragon’s breath hitting Gardenia at full strength.
As the dragon slowly lost health Pristallia tried to call out the intervals of the health. While Gardenia could do it her hands were quite busy.
“75%” was the first call. Nobody knew precisely how the dragon was going to react to losing health so they had to be on their guard for any potential change in behavior. There was no possible way that a dragon with so much buildup could be simply slain with some kink messing things up at the last moment.
As the dragon began to lose more health the intervals between its attempted breath weapons got shorter and shorter. On the fourth attempted breath weapon the first mistake was made. Vanishing Doubt was in the middle of drinking a mana potion when the dragon began to breath in. He was unable to switch into casting his spell fast enough and Gardenia had to take the attack directly.
The heat was incredibly but she managed to survive. Perfect Zanth managed to perform a clutch heal and Gardenia received enough health to survive the horn attach which almost immediately followed. Had that been all they would have gotten off lightly, however Gardenia called out the probably almost immediately.
“The attack weakened my shield. I can take one, maybe two more of those attacks before I am no longer able to defend properly against the dragon.”
That put the fear of the dragon into them.
“60%” was the next call. While it was almost half way it felt like an endless path. If the dragon got any strong it was only a matter of time before a dangerous mistake was made and the team wiped.
They managed to continue with their same pattern until just after Pristallia called out “50%”
Just like that the battle changed. The dragon roared in anger and began shacking its body. Black droplets of blood scattered into the air. All the melee characters tried to fall back as much as they could but Gardenia was also busy defending and was only able to mostly escape.
Droplets of blood fell onto one of her legs as she tried to fall back and the was intense burning in her leg. The results were almost immediate. While the damage was quickly healed the intense pain did not fade and she found it difficult to move as easily as she had before. While it didn’t effect her ability to defend against the dragon it would greatly reduce her ability to defend for other people.
She could feel the risk and the danger of the fight previously and it had filled her will excitement. This was just making things even more threatening and she loved it.
“The blood got my leg. My mobility is decreased.” She called out. In one way it was good. She no longer needed to pay attention to everybody else. She could now just dance with the dragon.
The dragon’s movements were also getting stronger and faster. Not only that there were small speckles of blood that occasional traveled through the air. The entire battlefield felt like a war zone by this point. Pock-marked ground and stains of black smoking blood.
Gardenia could barely hear it. She was having a staring contest with the dragon and it seemed like the dragon was losing. While she had trouble moving it was still enough for her to keep the attention of the dragon.
It was here that the dragon had it. It opened up its wings and began flapping them. It was attempting to abandon the fight. Pristallia however had prepared for this. It was time for the special bolts she had prepared.
The bolt tore through the sky and it was like a giant wind storm kicked up around them. The dragon was buffeted in the air and came crashing back to the ground. Arthur yelled out in pain as he dropped one of his swords. The sandstorm had caused his arm to get splattered with dragon blood and he had lost the use of one of his arms.
It was a perfect moment to strike however. The dragon was still scrambling to right itself so the party moved in for the kill. They continued the assault however they still kept several of their trump cards at the ready. While the dragon was currently on the back foot, the most dangerous moments of any fight was alway as the very end when survival was truly on the line.