Ch. 17.1 – Molly

Molly leaped over Ekaida’s lashing tail, noting the sudden appearance of a second Rift master in black armor. The figure was at the Skeptic’s side for an instant, then both vanished. That’s my boy! the Ghost Dragon exulted. Then she noticed the shadow forming over her, and Molly barely evaded the hammerfall of another tail strike. Ekaida’s using that thing a lot, the warrior grumbled.

Captain Bastion soared overhead, raking Ekaida with a spread of lightning arcs. The ancient Daimani grunted, then craned her sinuous neck to peer at the Majestic. “My scales aren’t actually metal, you know,” she noted, inhaling deeply.

Dashing beneath the Elder Dragon, Molly unleashed a powerful uppercut, knocking the wind out of her. *Hit her again!* she insisted, risking a short-range Rift out from under her massive opponent. Victor’s support made the jump almost simple.

Bastion obeyed, slamming Ekaida with waves of force. He followed that with another burst of thunderbolts. “I know,” he called down, holding out his hand. Alex’s signature sword reformed in it. “I’m trying to not hurt you.”

Ekaida’s smile was as gentle as a knife-toothed dragon could manage. “You really are adorable.” She altered her form again, body flowing like water. When the Daimani’s form solidified, she was still draconic, but upright, standing three stories tall. Her neck was a third its former length, but her arms and legs had human proportions. “I’m still going to eat you, though.”

“You’re not his type,” Molly boomed, grabbing Ekaida’s tail again. This time, the Daimani was ready for a throw, and coiled her tail around the Ghost Dragon. Pity I had something different in mind, Molly thought, fixing her Anima to the earth as she tightened her grip. *Alex, you’ve got to stop holding back.*

*This isn’t her fault!* the Bastion insisted, firing a broad mix of Blaze energies into Ekaida’s face. The Daimani reeled, Molly sensing her stunned, dizzied status through her life force. *Travis got into her head!*

*She let him in,* Molly noted, pressing her arms and Anima against the writhing tail. *I’m not telling you to kill her, Alex, but we need to stop Ekaida before Alice can help her.*

Though Bastion’s vehement frustration crackled through the bond, he gathered his Blaze, Conducting it into a single, massive power blade. Ekaida laughed. “Finally getting serious? Don’t worry, child. You can’t harm me.”

“Good,” Bastion intoned, and the entire stadium reverberated as he raised his sword, twenty feet of concentrated Blaze rising with it. “Because even you’re going to feel this.”

Ekaida threw up a claw when Bastion slashed down at her, and a shield of force formed to stop the energy blade. Weapon crashed through barrier, and Ekaida gasped when the sword flashed through her. *Her shield blunted my attack,* Bastion noted.

*Doesn’t matter,* Molly insisted. *We’re just a delaying action – whoa!* Ekaida writhed in howling fury, but that was enough to pull the Ghost Dragon into the air. Molly leaked various curses into the bond, and she let go of her foe’s tail to concentrate on her unintended flight. Alex gasped, reaching out with his telekinesis. *I’ll be fine! Focus!* He listened, if more reluctantly than ever, following up the strike with a single lightning bolt as broad as the man himself. Ekaida thrashed, breathing fire at him again.

Then the world tumbled end over teakettle, and Molly only had thought for landing. Though others had thrown the warrior more times than she wished to remember, even the old Ghost Dragon struggled to counter Ekaida’s raw might. Still no one like her, Molly mused, and stopped her wild, arcing spin with a burst of Anima and Blaze. Better. When she regained focus, the Ghost Dragon found herself staring at a rapidly-approaching field of turf. Worse!

Before either she or the ground could halt her rock-like plummet, golden wings flashed around Molly, and Akira flew her back to the battle, his hand in hers. His suit was gone, replaced by armor very like Bastion’s white dress uniform. “So that’s why Rose keeps you around,” she bantered.

“I’m also an excellent cook,” Akira chimed, winking. He brought them to land in a racing swerve, landing outside Ekaida’s tail-range opposite Captain Bastion. *Rose is incoming. If we have the Elder’s undivided attention, her initial psychic foray will be simpler.*

Molly’s eyes darted across friends and foes in a tick. *You above, me below, the Captain down the middle?* Akira nodded, a single beat of his wings carrying him between the dragon and her prey. “Trying to devour the knight, Ekaida? That’s a bit stereotypical, don’t you think?” the Anshin called down. Bastion slowly descended once Ekaida’s gaze was fixed on her angelic counterpart. Good, he caught that. A sudden increase in chatter volume drew Molly’s attention, and she noted the camera crews gaping and pointing at Akira. Worry later, Dunn, she ordered herself.

Ekaida’s laugh was deeper than before, her smile sharper. “Trying to soothe the Broken horde, halo breath?” She took a sliding step away from Molly. “I hoped to take the lovely mortal alive. You? Those armor plates will make fine gizzard stones!”

*Now,* Molly sent, and Bastion flew straight into Ekaida’s abdomen. Simultaneously, Molly delivered a flying kick into the Daimani’s enormous ankle. Akira radiated pure Woven Anima in an overwhelming wave. The Elder Dragon began to buckle.

With a snarl and a shrug, Ekaida reshaped every cell beneath her skin. Molly sensed her undo the force of the blows and right herself, all with a single thought. Christ, the Ghost Dragon swore, crossing her arms before her and blunting the force that radiated from Ekaida’s stomp. Where’s Rose? Leaping back, Molly checked the battlefield in mid-air. She should be here by-

Behind the remaining walls of the stadium, Molly felt the lancing bolts of Quadrum suppressor rifles. There’s eight of them, now? A quick check of their Vision bond confirmed the alien reinforcements. Rose was off the grid. Ekaida gathered Blaze with a wind-cracking roar. And Bastion was still reeling from his battle with the Skeptic.

Oh dear.

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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