Irregular Bane: Part Seven
Art by saro_the_legendaerie
Hefting the Fire Sword in one paw and the Obsidian Dagger in the other, Bane tried to force his heartbeat to slow down to a more reasonable rate. He had never been so scared in his life, not even standing before Rancru the first time. Because this time, he knew there was no escape. It was do or die now.
Ferns and moss squished under his feet, sunlight though the dark leaves casting an unnatural blue-green glow on everything before him, flickering over the forest floor and making the undergrowth quiver as if in terror equaling his own. His short life flashed before him in his mind; his creation, all the times spent in the training school, bathing in the Rainbow Pool with the Darigan Paint brush, his little Ghost Fireball... and that sad, sad day his Owner had tossed him in the Pound. He had met Lyce there, and together they had escaped and met Danter soon after. How wonderful his life had been...
He had taken everything for granted. Now, the only thing he could do was try to make things right by his friends, and put an end to Rancru's heartless reign.
With a firmer step and a slowly building resolve, Bane entered the clearing, seeing only Rancru coiled up in the mouth of the Open Tomb.
"It's been a long time, Bane." The Hissi blinked coldly. "But I won't make any mistakes this time."
Twoscore Dark Irregulars stepped out of the shadows, Bane recognizing only a few. There was Paerleye the Striped Shoyru, Surka the Robot Ixi, Teshi the Skunk Aisha, Buteo the Zombie Pteri, Danter the Halloween Bori and there, on the far side of the clearing, was Lyce. All of them were armed with Obsidian Daggers, and Danter had looped a Broken Heart Keyring over his tail, his favorite trinket to wear in a fight.
Bane's insides twisted themself into a fresh knot as a new weight descended upon his shoulders. This wasn't just about him- this fight would decide the fate of the band of thieves.
Bane guessed Paerleye to be on his side- she had been openly angry about her friend Zhar's crippling, and perhaps the two young Blue Meercas who had shown a defiant streak would be on his side. Other than Lyce and Danter, that was it.
Now that it was time, Bane had become detached and oddly calm as he stepped forward, watching the faint blue-green light bounce off Rancru's scales and cover the area with flecks of bright light as the Hissi slithered down the stone steps.
"It ends today, Rancru," Bane stated, sounding calmer than he was.
"So do you."
Then the Hissi grabbed a Thief Dagger from the ground beside him and launched himself at the Cybunny with dazzling speed. Bane ducked and rolled, bringing his Fire Sword up in a quick block as the Ice Scimitar came smashing down. Sparks of magic exploded, and steam from the combination of fire and ice obscured the battlers. Then Bane heard Danter's snarl and Teshi's hiss, and the area around him exploded into chaos.
Blades flashed faintly, jabbing past Bane without touching him as he grappled with the Hissi in the center of the fight. Surka's robotic breathing sounded close to his ear, and he ducked as her hoof whistled past his head, just scraping along his cheek and drawing a line of pain across his face. Moving quickly, Bane slashed the Fire Sword at the Hissi and scored a nasty hit, then leaped to the side as the Scimitar swished by again, but not to safety. He leapt right into the path of Rancru's Thief Dagger.
The power behind the blow sent the Cybunny skidding across the clearing, digging in with his metal-covered front paws as he scrabbled to his feet, only to be knocked down again as an Alien Aisha dashed past him, lobbing a Ghostkerbomb into Surka's face.
Greenwing? What is she doing here?
A beam of light screamed past his ear, and Saosis darted over to him, handing him a Healing Potion as she blasted Teshi with her Wand of Supernova. "Come on, Bane, let's get this lot finished off. You've got a shop to run."
"What are you doing here?" he panted, chugging the magical fluid as the Uni warded off a few more attacks. Saosis scowled. "Lexy told me and Greenwing everything, and we came as soon as we could. You should have told us what was going on, Bane- we don't care what you were, but who you are now. And you're our friend."
Then, just as Bane caught Lyce's eye, three things happened at once.
Behind Saosis, Rancru shot across the ground and prepared his Ice Scimitar for a devastating blow.
Hurtling out of the shadows, Lyce shoved Bane out of the way.
And Saosis took the full power of the blow.
The Brown Uni never stood a chance. Her body simply could not handle that kind of attack, and she crumpled to the forest floor in a heap of torn blue dress and messy brown mane.
Bane scrambled across the ground to where she lay, and cradled the Uni's head in his hands, holding the half-empty bottle of Healing Potion at the ready. The Uni pushed it weakly away.
"It's.... ok. I have... an Owner.... who can....take care of... me...."
Then she was gone, teleported back to Neopia Central.
Lyce shook his shoulder. "Bane, Rancru went into the Tomb! Go, quickly, before he gets in too deep that you can't catch him. The Uni will be just fine, so go!"
Wiping the back of his armored paw across his eyes quickly, Bane nodded and got to his feet. "Stay safe, Lyce."
Normally, the Usul would have brushed away his worry with a cackle and a joke, but she stayed sober as she replied. "You, too, Bane. Fyora knows what else lurks in that Tomb."
After an uncertain moment, the Cybunny sniffed and dashed across the clearing, taking the stone stairs two at a time as he raced for the door and the Ice Hissi he must destroy.
The darkness and silence of the Tomb took him off guard, as tangible and thick as the cobwebs he brushed aside. Sniffing the air for Rancru's icy scent, the only thing he detected was the damp smell of decay.
Laying one hand against the wall and stiffening a claw, Bane began his slow walk into the depths of the Tomb, scoring a line along the wall as he did so, in the hopes of it leading him out once this was all finished. Guided by the faint light from his Fire Sword, the Cybunny eyed an unsprung trap warily, taking every step with extreme caution.
The distinct sound of scales sliding across the stone floor, coming from around a turn in the passage before Bane. He pressed himself against the wall, scarcely daring to breathe and shoving the Fire Sword into a broad crack in the wall behind him to douse the light as the sound grew louder and louder.
Bane held his Obsidian Dagger at the ready, and jabbed it forward with unnatural speed at the source of the sound came around the corner.
The Quetzal blinked coolly as Bane slashed at the air above its head, feathers moving faintly in the wake of the weapon, continuing on its solitary agenda and slithering along the passageway to be swallowed by the darkness shortly after. Bane made a face at his own foolishness. Come on now, Bane, focus. Too much is dependant on this for you to get scared by a petpet and let your nerves get the best of you!
"The big bad Darigan, scared by a Petpet. How humiliating."
These words did not come out of Bane's mouth. They were laden with malice and ice, and echoed around the Cybunny, impossible to pinpoint the source of but not impossible to recognize. Bane thought he would recognize that sibilant, cold, calculating voice even ten years from now. Rancru.
"Show yourself, Rancru!" Bane spun around, wielding both swords as he searched for the Hissi. "Come out and fight!"
"Now, now, Bane, what kind of Neopet do you take me for? Why would I ever come out and fight you when I can wipe you off the face of Neopia from where I am?"
The Cybunny pinned his ears in frustration as Rancru went on, savoring the helplessness of his opponent. "I hold here, in my hand, a Ghostkerbomb 'donated' by a friend of yours. All I have to do is toss it at that pillar behind you and this entire room will come crashing down." He paused as Bane started to turn for the exit. "Move and I throw it."
Bane narrowed his eyes, hoping to call Rancru's bluff. "If this room falls, we're both buried in here forever."
The Ice Hissi chuckled, the soulless sound chilling the air. "Not quite, my dear little Cybunny. I hold in my hand a Ghost Scorchio Morphing Potion. One good swig and I float out of here, free to create a new life under a new identity. I've had it all planned out from the beginning, you see. But I had help."
Bane's legs and resolve suddenly gave way, and he grabbed the wall with his metal-covered claws as a new voice spoke from behind.
"Oh, now, that's not fair, Rancru. I wanted the big reveal."
To be continued...