49 Smokey the Bear Supports this Message
The Adds are no more than an annoyance, so Nightfury and I leave them to our less-competent teammates. Nightfury takes the remaining Ice Runes from Lialas to keep the evil harp attacks in check, while I leap around like a flea, irritating the dragon into focusing all three of its heads on me.
I'm inflicting enough damage to keep the mob regen from restoring the Boss's HP, but even for me, a three-headed dragon is more than I can fight head-on and remain unscathed.
Mostly, I'm hopping around guzzling health potions in mid-air, trying not die. I feel like I'm in a sports drink commercial, flying through the air with my head tilted back, gulping down electrolytes and artificial flavoring.
At least until I get whacked in the head with a flaming crow that was knocked off-course by Shadeslayer, and I crash to the floor, spluttering and covered in sticky red health potion.
"Whoops," Shadeslayer says apologetically.
"Don't make me demote you back to dead weight," I warn, as I fling myself to the side to avoid being gored by a dragon claw.
"It was an unfortunate accident, and it won't happen again!" Shadeslayer promises. "I'll pay more attention!"
"Behind you," I say, tiredly.
"Huh?" he says, stupidly.
And then three flaming crows crash into his head.
"Good luck with that," I say, then I rush to stop Mr. Bitey from biting Shadeslayer's brainless head off.
Later, when Nightfury moves closer to freeze Mr. Bardy and shoot him in the eye, we both spare a glance at Shadeslayer hacking at a small flock of crows squawking above his head. The tips of his wings are on fire, but he hasn't noticed yet.
I shoot Nightfury a skeptical glance. "He's not really a chemical engineer, is he?"
Shadeslayer tries one of the tengu aerial moves and falls on his face.
Nightfury groans in secondhand embarrassment. "He really is. Works in biotech."
Eventually, Lialas and Shadeslayer manage to kill the final Adds, and we once again focus our undivided attention on the giant-ass dragon.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to interrupt all of Mr. Burny's flame attacks during my solo battle, so an alarming number of floor tiles are covered in angry red flames. My high Agility and Perception make avoiding the flames effortless, but everyone else is severely hindered by the maze-like battlefield.
Fortunately, Nightfury doesn't need to move around to be effective, and the other two were so slow even before the flames overtook the arena, it's hard to tell the difference now.
I force Shadeslayer to retract his wings, since he keeps singeing them, even though I keep mine out. This Boss fight is great practice to become more attuned to the feathered appendages, and I'm starting to see how my maneuverability is increased when I use my wings well.
We return to our original attack pattern, and right as we get back into our effective rhythm, naturally, the Boss hits the Yellow Zone, and the next Phase begins.
Ugh, I hate Boss Rampages.
Flames are shooting everywhere, all three heads are roaring, and it's SO LOUD my brains feel like they're being scrambled by a jackhammer in my skull.
But we have to ignore the headache and keep on the move because the dragon's empty front claw is all slashy and grabby, and its back legs are all stompy and smashy, and the Boss is chasing us around the dungeon, throwing an epic-level tantrum.
Yes, chasing "us."
Shadeslayer, in his infinite idiocy, followed ME when the rampage started.
Me, the guy holding the fucking aggro.
"DUDE." I try to convey all of my emotions and incredulity into this single word, as I grab his slow ass and dive out of the way of yet another jet of flames.
From the way Shadeslayer flinches, I'm pretty sure he hears everything I don't say.
"I'M SORRY, I PANICKED!" he screams directly into my ear.
I don't immediately sacrifice him to the dragon, and I think I deserve credit for this.
Instead, I drag him up and push him along the best path to avoid most of the Boss's attacks. Since my defense is way higher, I end up acting as a meat shield against the unavoidable ones.
The third time I get pummeled by something I could have avoided but Shadeslayer couldn't, I grit my teeth and ask, "Well, are you feeling less panicked now that you're being actively chased by a legendary monster?"
"Turns out, no! This is significantly worse!"
I kick Shadeslayer out of the way and Parry a claw swipe. "I hope you've learned a valuable lesson."
"I have! For sure!" he assures me.
"Dive left!" I call out.
"Aah!" he calls back, and lunges to the right.
"DUDE," I say.
"Whoops," he replies.
"CHOMP," adds Mr. Bitey, and Shadeslayer is no more.
Sad to say, this phase of the battle turns considerably easier once Shadeslayer dies.
With free rein to move as I please, I zip through the fire maze and kite the three-headed lizard with frightening ease.
Since the Fickle Fortune's still in effect, I don't even look as I continuously throw Whistling Starfall behind me, since it's going to auto-headshot or miss altogether, and there's nothing I can do about either.
Whenever I reach an area relatively free of fire, I make a stand and slice up the dragon with my blades, making full use of Zen's particularly helpful bonuses. Then I peace out again before the Boss can counter, and the chase is on once more.
All the while, Nightfury and Lialas simply stay out of the way and shoot as often as they can.
It's a great system, and we manage to fairly quickly take out another chunk of bad Boss HP before shit, yet again, hits the fan.
The rampage ends right about where it began, and immediately, Mr. Bardy raises the harp for devastation.
Impressively, Lialas is the first to raise the alarm. He may not be physically able to keep up with us yet, but he has a solid grasp of reading the flow of a battle and keeping track of important details.
Nightfury passes back the final two Ice Runes, and Lialas shoots the harp-controlling head squarely in the forehead. He freezes just like all the other times...except this time, Mr. Burny has wised up. A familiar glow appears in the dragon's chest, and we realize the middle head is planning to use fire breath to melt the Ice on Mr. Bardy before Nightfury can land another eye-shot.
Cursing up a storm, Nightfury fires too quickly and misses.
Lialas and I jump in to cover for him; the dryad shoots the final Ice Rune at Mr. Burny and quells the flames, while I draw my Unseelie Bow and shoot Mr. Bardy in the eye. Nightfury shoots his second arrow at almost the same time, and both of our hits land, one iron-tipped projectile per eye.
"Nice!" we both yell simultaneously.
And then we both groan, alarmed at how in sync we are, and silently agree to pretend the simultaneous cheering thing never happened.
"Aww, you guys are friends now!" Lialas gushes, slapping us both on the back.
Damnit. Unfortunately, there's no time to refute Lialas' optimism, as we need to deal as much damage as possible during the Freeze.
Staying out of reach of Mr. Bitey, we launch an all-out attack, and everyone's DPS hits its peak. By the time all three heads are again operational, we've severely reduced Aillén Trechend's HP and started feeling like we might actually be able to take this sucker down.
And then the most beautiful, haunting melody fills the crypt, and we realize our optimism was premature.
Turns out, after hitting the Yellow Zone, nothing, not even arrows to the eye, fully interrupts the dragon's bard skills. The Freeze paused the musical attack, but the second Mr. Bardy was fully functional again, the dragon's claws started thrumming the giant golden harp.
As soon as I hear the magical song, a wave of drowsiness unlike any fatigue I've ever experienced pours over me like warm molasses, and seeps into my bones. Only my honed gamer instincts force my hands to form the seals to store Zen'aku before my muscles entirely give out and I collapse.
You may take my life, dragon bastard, but you'll never take my beloved Nova weapons!
I wrench open my eyes just in time to witness a red-orange inferno hurtling towards me.
My brain is still a little foggy in the aftermath of the spell, so I do the first thing that pops into my head:
I stop, realize I've already dropped, and aggressively barrel-roll to the left.
Smokey the Bear, the American fire safety mascot, would be so proud.
When the flames pass by, the adrenaline finally kicks my brain back into gear, and I remember how feet work, so I stand up.
This proves a good choice, since two seconds later, I end up running for my life away from a three-headed dragon's thunderous charge.
"Oi, you not dead yet?" a familiar voice asks as a figure in a wide-brimmed hat joins me on my death-defying Sprint.
"Apparently not," I reply. "How'd you make it out alive?"
Nightfury mumbles unintelligibly.
Pasting on my widest smirk, I hold a hand to my pointed ear. "Sorry, couldn't quite catch that."
"Said I guess I owe you one for the Fortitude bonus, you cheeky bastard," he repeats louder.
Truly, the reluctance in the gruff admission is all the payment I need, but I won't tell him that.
Instead, I settle for a smug smile as we continue to avoid the onslaught of attacks from the impressively pissed off dragon. "Lialas?"
"Yup," Nightfury agrees.
"So it's down to us, huh?"
"Don't be like that. It'll be fun!"
Nightfury harrumphs in response.
Grinning, I screech to a halt and turn to face the Boss head-on.
"You crazy sonuva--" Nightfury yells in disbelief.
Then he heaves the most put-upon sigh I've ever heard before he, too, stops to face the music.
(Hehe. Get it? 'Cause the dragon's still playing the evil sleepytime harp? I repeat, hehe.)
"You better have a plan," he mutters.
"Who plans?" I shrug.
"Gods damnit," he sighs, but he doesn't run. He just grips his bow and prepares to go down fighting.
Right as we're about to be trampled, fried, and eaten, I cast my brand-new spell Breath of the Dying.
Lightning-crackling fog shoots from my fingers and surrounds the Boss. The swirling gray banks all the flames on the tiles around us. Suddenly, the Boss's heads are moving so slowly, it's painfully easy to avoid the various attacks.
"Where did you learn that?" Nightfury asks, dumbfounded.
"The Banshee," I reply gleefully.
"Dude, I would have rolled you for it!"
"And done what with it?" I ask skeptically. "I took the skillbook because no one in your party even has the initial spell Lux, so you can't learn any other magic spells yet."
"I can't believe your first real spell is a CC! Most games, the first spell is Fireball."
"Viren's Refuge is not most games."
"No shit. We've been chased around a dungeon by a fire-breathing dragon, and I can fucking feel the heat of the flames every time I almost die!"
"Something is wrong with you."
"Not a compliment, ya crazy fucker!"
I draw Zen'aku. "So, we doing this?"
Nightfury rolls his eyes. "Obviously."
Without looking at me, he holds out a fist. I knock it with my own, and take off to slay a dragon.
"Oh, by the way, before we kill him, I need to steal the Boss's harp."
"Of course you do."
"Not even a little."
"Gonna help anyway?"
"I hate you."