Chapter VIII

     You have done well, Falc. Do not hesitate in destroying the transgressor. Separated from his companions, you now stand the best chance of easing our concerns once and for all.
     Unlike his companions, this follower would not engage in direct combat against the outsider. It would take him beyond the aid of his friends and throw him to a crushing death from far above the land. It planned to drop Tim over the surrounding hills five miles from the city and devour the carcass immediately thereafter to ensure that he did not survive. This was the plan of the boy's new adversary, and for all the confidence the creature had in it, an unforseen event which would prevent success occurred almost immediately.
     Falc had only just opened its wings to fly off from the City when the monster was struck in the back by a piercing object. The beast shrieked in pain and turned to the other direction. Whatever it was, the object was pulling back on the creature. The beast began to descend over the City streets.

     Annoying had noticed the avian threat just before it crashed its way into the building. Forgetting his duty to the glider, the bane grabbed hold of one of the harpoons which had been left from the encounter with Gawron and ran to the roof's edge. He wasn't at all surprised when the red, feathered creature emerged with Tim. Annoying recognized this to be one of the followers of the Prophets and was not about to abandon his best customer to the beast. Waiting for the right moment, Annoying hurled the roped spear downward just as the monster opened its wings to ascend. His plan had been to anchor the beast, but Falc was capable of a much greater speed than he had anticipated, and Annoying found himself being tugged off the rooftop before he could locate something to which he could secure the rope.

     "What does that idiot think he's doing?" asked Drum Boy to himself, observing Annoying, screaming as he was towed behind the creature. Drum Boy sprang to his feet and ran up to the roof for the glider.

     The only way Annoying could be certain not to collide with anything as the beast jerked about through the air was to clamber up the rope which he so dearly grasped. This wasn't easy, and he was incredibly terrified, but the walls of the buildings they darted past grew closer as Falc tried to dispose of its anchor, and Annoying was forced up the rope in fear for his life.

     Tim was too concerned for his own safety to realize that there was something wrong with his kidnapper until its warm, trickling blood began to stain his cloak. Only then did he notice Annoying's screams drawing near behind and below him. Moreover, the creature's grip on him was loosening, but this brought him no comfort whatsoever.

     Falc realized it needed to land. The pain in its back was only increasing, and more blood was pouring from the wound. As long as that bane was dangling from that rope, it wouldn't get very far at all. Spying an open area beyond the buildings ahead, Falc descended at the center's edge of the City.

     Psycho and Sicko witnessed the glider's launch as Drum Boy took it from the rooftop. They ran to follow it as it appeared to be landing almost immediately.

     The initial response of the City dwellers as the threesome landed was to attack them in response to the apparent challenge, but when Falc threw Tim hard upon the concrete and charged Annoying, they backed off and waited to see who would win. After all, it would be foolish to attack first when the victor of this struggle would be favorably weakened by it, and one should never pass up the opportunity to observe an opponent in combat before engaging it.
     Falc did not take many steps before realizing its intense pain. Reaching for its back, the creature extracted the harpoon from itself in a grotesque display of agony. Annoying seized the moment to take out his protractor, and as the monster cast aside the bloodied spear, it looked up to witness the glider coming down from above. It darted back past Tim, who scrambled to rejoin his companions. Psycho and Sicko arrived, out of breath, with the new weapons which they quickly handed out.
     The crowd of powerful banes murmured in the background. This red beast was no ordinary adversary, but then this motley crew of five working together seemed rather intimidating. They moved back just a bit to stay out of the struggle until it was over.
     "We can take this thing, right?" asked Tim, readying his new, slightly heavier sword.
     "Probably not," spoke Annoying. "This is one of the Prophets' fiercest followers."
     "Oh, come now," spoke Psycho, regaining his wind. "Every opponent's got a weak spot. The key to combat is exploitation."
     With that, the monster took to the air and dove at the group faster than they could anticipate, almost grazing the tops of their heads.
     "I think it's aware of those battle tactics too, Psycho," spoke Sicko. "Run!"
     "No, wait!" called Drum Boy as the group ducked the next, closer assault. "Get him back to the ground. I have an idea."
     The crowds had moved back even further now, but they still remained within their radial zones to which they had succeeded in battle. To exit them would be denunciation of their own strength. Yet, this creature seemed too powerful for many of them, and a few on the outer circle made for the cover of the buildings.
     "Power of the Protractor!" Annoying transformed himself and he and Psycho stood their ground to confront the beast. Falc, amused by their stalwart efforts, dove directly for them, expecting them to dart away and avoid the attack. Instead, it found that the pair ducked and each grabbed ahold of its talons, such that as it ascended, the beast had to flap violently to try and shake the dead weight from its legs. Being so concerned with its passengers, it didn't notice the lasso Sicko had lobbed toward it, fashioned from the rope of the harpoon, until it was around its neck and Sicko was aiding the others in bringing the creature toward the ground.
     Unable to flee, Falc shook off its enemies one at a time and clipped the rope with its talon, but once it looked up from the ground, it discovered that there was now an expansive stone ceiling up above, spanning the entire City circle to the edges of the surrounding buildings. How it had appeared was a mystery, but the monster didn't have time to question it. With only about fifteen feet of clearance, it wouldn't be able to make effective use of its dive attack.
     As the stone roof suddenly materialized without blocking out the sunlight, more of the onlookers ran for cover, many fearing it would drop upon them and some merely wishing to escape the hectic battle. Those who remained were pushed back even further as the range of the battle continued to increase. It was a unique spectacle, and not one knew exactly what to expect from it.
     "I assume this is Drum Boy's work?" understood Tim, studying the granite covering.
     "If it can't take off the ground, we'll have a much better chance of attacking the thing," spoke Psycho. "Just don't let his concentration be broken."
     Being limited to the floor, however, did not limit the beast's strength. Falc began relying on its beak and short charges to attack and was doing so effectively. Annoying tried to put the creature into a headlock but was thrown over its back in the process. Tim tried advancing with his sword drawn outward, but the beast saw him coming and turned to intercept the charge, dissuading Tim from carrying it through. Instead he backed off and looked about to see who would try next, considering a dual attack should someone advance with him at that moment, but his sights instead fell upon Psycho who was waiting motionless twenty yards away. "Why isn't he attacking?" pondered Tim amidst his frustration.
     Falc noticed Psycho as well, and deciding the cause of his stillness to be from either fear or injury, set into charge against the bane. Psycho kept his gaze upon the monsters eyes as it dashed toward him. His companions, and the many onlookers, watched with intent as the beast came upon him, all expecting the bane to be torn to bits.
     And in an impressive, almost undetectable swing of his axe, Psycho scored a direct hit on the creature's right shoulder, sending a splash of blood into the air and pushing the beast's face off course, its beak missing the intended target completely.
     Psycho darted in the direction from which the beast had advanced before it could have a chance to retaliate, and Falc, gripping at its shoulder, began flapping its wings madly, throwing dust and debris up into the air. This was not as Falc had planned for it to be. There was never supposed to have been a battle, never any direct conflict. It recognized that it was being worn down, and recalled its objective. There, standing across it from the buildings was the transgressor, the boy whose destruction was its primary goal.
     To Tim's horror, once the creature was finished thrashing its wings about, it began to stare directly at him. He tried to mask his fear and drew his sword, but fell all to pieces when the beast set into a mad charge directly toward him. Tim turned and began to run, but recalled the speeds his adversary had attained before. The boy came to a halt, making an immediate about-face and thrusting his sword forward in a ditch effort. He was just as shocked as Falc was to strike it directly in the open left wing. He hadn't thought it to be directly behind him already.
     Enraged, Falc lifted its right arm to strike but was impeded by the pain which persisted in its shoulder. Instead, it struck at Tim with its claws, scraping at his torso. Tim jumped back in pain and struck down over the wing. He heard a loud snap as the wing was broken, followed by intense, inhuman shrieking.
     "HYAAA!" shouted Sicko as he struck the beast from behind with his staff. Annoying, too, ran up from behind and planted a stiff kick into the creature's wounded back. Tim moved to the behind as well as the illusionary ceiling vanished. All five were assembled on one side of the monster as it slowly backed away.
     Falc could do little more than retreat in its present condition. It couldn't defend itself from all five of them at once, and flight appeared not to be an option with a broken wing, so it continued its backward steps, panting heavily and dropping more blood with each footfall. It understood that Tim was its only concern, and if Falc was to perish, it would have to take the transgressor with it, so upon stepping up onto the center stone platform, the beast raised its one good arm to strike at the boy one final time, but was then terminally interrupted.
     Each of the five jumped back and shielded their faces as Falc, follower of the Prophets of Mount Eldred, was ultimately consumed in a towering, searing pillar of severely bright flame. The creature shrieked more loudly than it had when its wing was broken until it no longer had the capacity to make a sound, and the flames persisted until its final bone had been completely incinerated. The five then looked up and took note of the large, dark-cloaked figure who stood before them upon the center ring of the City, guarding the sought-after screen.

[Chapter VII] [Chapter IX]
Last page update: 4-18-99