The Hero of Legend

Chapter 30: The Archfiend

I am close, came Ramia's voice in the heads of the members of the second team. Be prepared to leave immediately.

Suzanne and Thomas waited anxiously in the spot that Ramia was to return to. Along with them were their three teammates: Captain Gileen of Portoga, a wizard from the Romalian Empire named Wilnoc of the Gold Robe, and Moonarrow who was also called the Mercenary King. Ramia landed and the five quickly climbed onto her back.

"How is the first team doing?" asked Suzanne.

We made a clean landing according to the plan, answered Ramia. But I could sense a large number of monsters moving towards them as I left. We have not a moment to spare.

Ramia took off and they flew towards Venorl Castle with all the speed the phoenix could muster. Down below, the group could see that the battle was starting to turn against the humans. They were getting driven out of the mountain pass and this was exposing more of their flanks. If the humans were driven completely out of the pass the monsters could begin to surround them and it would be a slaughter from there.

Seeing Ramia in the sky some aerial monsters flew up to try and attack her. But Ramia's speed proved to be far too much for them. Then some monsters flew up in front of her to cut her off. She cast lightning spells to pick several of them off, giving her a hole to fly through. None of the monsters that tried to engage her were able to impede her progress.

They reached Venorl Castle and noted grimly that there seemed to be a lot of activity below. I do not sense our comrades at the drop-off point, said Ramia.

"From what you have told us you can only sense the living," pointed out Moonarrow.

"Ramia, can you sense a pattern in the enemy movements?" asked Suzanne. "Is there a point or area they are converging at?"

Yes, answered Ramia. They appear to be moving inside Venorl Castle. I cannot yet tell if our comrades are there. There is too much life for me to sift through at this distance.

"That's where the first team is," declared Suzanne. "They must have been pushed from the drop-off point into the castle. Ramia, take us towards the castle."

Ramia did as she was told and brought the second team to the castle. I can sense them now, reported Ramia. They are underground. They appear to be engaged with a large group of monsters. Despite that, only a few monsters appear to be fighting them at a time. They must be in a narrow hallway.

"They likely found a spot that provides a good defensive position but has made it impossible to escape," said Suzanne. "Ramia, bring us down."

Very well, responded Ramia. I will drop you off and then fly for the third team.

"No, you'll stay to help us, at least for a little bit," corrected Suzanne.

"That's not what our plan is!" protested Gileen.

"Our plan is to bring as many of our best fighters as we can against the Archfiend," returned Suzanne. "There's too many monsters down there. Without Ramia's help we may lose an entire team's worth of people by the time she returns. That would do us little good."

"Wilnoc, if we were to fall you could slow our descent, correct?" asked Suzanne. The wizard nodded. "Very well. Ramia will drop us from mid-air on the castle's side. Dip down low enough so that the walls will obscure our jump from the enemy's eyes. Then, Ramia, I want you to act as though you intend to storm the castle by yourself."

"You're putting her at too great a risk! She's too valuable to our operation!" yelled Gileen.

"I am well aware of that," responded Suzanne. "Ramia knows how to take care of herself. And the enemy has been taking a great interest in defeating her. Her presence should draw a good deal of the enemies away. That should help us sneak in and help the first team. Ramia, can you do this?"

I will do what I can, said Ramia.

Ramia flew next to one of the walls of Venorl Castle and dropped the five humans off. Then she gave a loud shriek and flew at the entrance of the castle. As expected, a number of enemies immediately stopped what they were doing to engage the phoenix. The monsters included maroon skeleton monsters and turquoise shadows; monsters that Suzanne's party had seen in the caves of the Necrogond. Some moving, stone statues also came out of the castle to fight Ramia.

The monsters' attacks proved wildly ineffective against Ramia. The phoenix could fly out of their reach while raining down magic on them. The only thing they had that could reach Ramia was the shadows' killing magic which did not affect Ramia at all. With the monsters leaving the castle distracted, Suzanne and the others quickly moved for the entrance.

Upon reaching the castle entrance the humans were spotted by some of the monsters. Most of the monsters decided to ignore the five so they could rush out and attack Ramia. However, Suzanne correctly guessed that some of the shadows would try to take some quick shots at the five with their potent magic. Using magic and Moonarrow's archery skills they were able to bring them down before they completed their spells. Unfortunately, this earned them the attention of some of the other monsters. Suzanne realized that they were in a bad position to fight the crowd.

"Ramia! Help us out!" she shouted. Ramia obliged by calling down lightning on one of the monsters that was about engage the humans. This drew the group's attention away from the humans. The five were able to sneak inside one of the buildings on the interior of the castle that the monsters had been converging in.

The building consisted of two large chambers connected by a wide hallway. Since all the monsters had vacated the building to fight Ramia this left the interior empty. In the second room there were two staircases: one ascending and one descending. Remembering that Ramia said the first team was underground the five took the descending staircase.

On the right was a narrow hallway from which the five could hear the sounds of fighting. They rushed forward and soon found a line of monsters: skeletons and statues. Suzanne and Gileen fell upon the beasts with their weapons. The monsters were distracted, allowing the two warriors to strike crushing blows against the enemies immediately in front of them. Moonarrow sent some missiles at the wounded creatures. Wilnoc brought sharp spires of ice from the ground while Thomas conjured up a small tornado and sent it through the crowd. The five's opening assault brought down a number of enemies.

The battle was not so easy after that. Suzanne and Gileen brought down two more monsters as they tried to turn around but soon had their hands full fending off a couple of statues. The statues were not as fast as the skeletons nor did they have any breath weapons but their tough skin made them difficult to bring down. The thin hallway also made it difficult to dodge their strong blows. However, Suzanne and Gileen were able to stand their ground which allowed Moonarrow, Thomas, and Wilnoc to unleash mayhem on the monsters without fear.

A male human's voice came from the end of the hall, "The monsters are being attacked from behind!"

Alice's voice could be heard in response, "It must be the second team!"

"Alright! Reinforcements!" came Ron's excited voice.

"I can hear the first team!" yelled Suzanne to the others. "We're almost there!"

Emboldened, the two teams fought with added ferocity. The skeletons tried to unleash their burning breath on the second team. Suzanne and Gileen took the brunt of the breath and were paralyzed. However, Thomas was easily able to undo the effects while Moonarrow and Wilnoc used their ranged abilities to keep the skeletons from killing the two front-line fighters.

One of Alice's explosions rocked the other end of the hallway. Soon, Ron and Commander Glennard came around the corner, cutting down monsters as they went. The monsters were caught in a pincer attack. A few more blasts of magic combined with the sword-work of the four warriors brought an end to the fight.

"Good to see you're alright!" said Suzanne as the two teams met. "Where are Viron and Theron?"

"Dead," answered Glennard. "Bad luck. Viron fell first. One of the shadows killed him with their magic. Theron was run through by a skeleton. With Viron already gone, none of us could help him."

"Alas, the time to grieve must come later," declared Suzanne. "We have to go back upstairs and let Ramia know she can leave!" said Suzanne.

"She hasn't left yet!?" asked Glennard.

"This woman had Ramia stay here and fight!" yelled Gileen accusingly.

"What!?" exclaimed Glennard. "Are you crazy!?"

"There was no other way to get to you!" answered Suzanne.

"Bah! Let us hasten to Ramia's aid!" said Glennard, taking the lead. Unfortunately they would turn out to be too late. As soon as the eight humans returned to the ground floor they heard the phoenix give out a cry. Unlike its other cries, this one was one of pain.

My comrades! cried out Ramia. She was obviously trying to keep her mental voice calm but it nevertheless betrayed the pain she was feeling. My wings have been seriously injured. I will not be able to keep flying for long. I must retreat. Do not worry about me. Even on the ground I can fight and evade the enemy.

The eight returned to the castle entrance and saw what it was that had put Ramia in peril. In the air were half a dozen wingless dragons. These dragons had blue scales and were breathing out powerful blasts of ice and snow at the distressed phoenix.

"I told you that some dragons prefer the cold," said Alice to Ron. Her voice lacked the usual joy it had when Alice was proven correct and Ron lacked the motivation to make a retort.

A couple of large fireballs suddenly came from the top of the castle walls and flew at Ramia in the distance. The eight looked up and saw a collection of robed figures on the battlements.

"Those aren't monsters; they're human," noted Moonarrow as he looked at the robed figures.

"You stupid bitch!" yelled Gileen, rounding on Suzanne. "You've killed us all!"

Suzanne did not need to be told of the mistake she made. She realized what had happened: the Archfiend had hidden the dragons and spellcasters as a trap for Ramia. The Archfiend realized that Ramia was the only one that could reach Venorl and the only hope for the alliance.

"I'll take full responsibility for my decision later," said Suzanne. "But now's not the time! We have to continue the mission!"

"There is no mission!" answered Glennard, furious. "Didn't you hear Ramia? Even if she can escape those beasts she won't be able to fly back to our camp! The third team isn't coming!"

"We still have to go onward!" said Suzanne.

"You're not in command, and thank goodness for that!" said Glennard. "We retreat! We try to find Ramia and help her fend off the monsters! Hopefully we'll be able to heal her. If we can't find her we'll teleport back to the camp and hope that she returns."

"There's no time!" protested Suzanne. "We've tipped our hand by coming here! The Archfiend must know what our plan is now. It will recall its forces to crush us in no time! You saw the battle as we flew over. The battle is going south. It won't hesitate to take some of its forces off the front lines now!

"You'll forgive me if I don't listen to you," scoffed Glennard. "We retreat into the mountains and that's final!"

"We won't get another shot at this!" said Suzanne.

"You idiot!" yelled Glennard. "We don't stand a chance against the Archfiend now! Viron and Theron are dead and Ramia is seriously wounded. And whose fault is that? But by all means, if you want to throw away your life I'll welcome your efforts!"

"You coward! This isn't about completing the mission!" retorted Ron. "You don't think we stand a chance so you're turning tail and fleeing!"

"Ron's right! You're only trying to save yourself!" accused Alice. "You probably won't even join the fight when you get back to the camp!"

"Don't you dare call me a coward!" roared Glennard, pointing his sword at Alice. The other seven quickly brought their weapons to the ready. "I've been fighting since before you fools could lift a weapon! We have no chance against the Archfiend without reinforcements!"

"I told the king we should have never joined this alliance," said Gileen. "These rabble from Aliahan can never be trusted!"

"Well, what will it be?" asked Glennard. "If you fools want to challenge the Archfiend then I encourage you! Better we be rid of all Aliahanians."

Suzanne looked at Ron, Thomas, and Alice. All three nodded. "It would seem you will have your wish," she said. "What about the rest of you? Will you turn and flee and stay and fight?"

Moonarrow did not hesitate, "I was hired to assist three teams in killing the Archfiend. I'll need to be paid extra before I take on a tougher job."

"Enough stalling. We're leaving!" declared Glennard. He, Gileen, and Moonarrow began walking away. Wilnoc remained behind for a moment. He looked at the other four and sighed. Then he took a ring off his hand and gave it to Alice. Without a word, he went to join Glenanard's group.

"What is it, Alice?" asked Ron.

"It's called a Wizard's Ring," she answered. "This thing can restore magical power."

"Nice of him to leave it," said Thomas bitterly. "Would've been better if he stayed himself."

"Let's just go," said Suzanne. "We have a job to do."

Venorl Castle was oddly quiet. A large number of the monsters had left to chase Ramia. Suzanne wondered if the other four had drawn some away with their retreat. Nevertheless, Suzanne's group was not taking any chances. They stayed close to the walls and moved quickly whenever they had to go out into the open.

As they walked, Thomas and Alice took turns drawing magic from the ring that Wilnoc had given them. The ring replenished a good amount of the magic they had used up until this point. However, the ring could only do so much. After some time the ring crumbled in Alice's hands.

"Looks like we got all we can out of it," Alice noted darkly.

After going up one staircase and then down another the group came across a dangerous stretch of floor that was sending up sparks. It looked a lot like the trap that had been guarding Ramia's egg. Thankfully, Alice's levitation spell allowed the four to cross over the floor without harm.

As the four made their way through the castle they often found themselves going up some stairs only to go back down another staircase soon after. Venorl was not a tall castle but the constant switching between floors made it difficult to navigate. Fortunately, the four faced little resistance on their way, only facing a few isolated groups of monsters.

The group passed by a throne room as they made their way around the castle. The throne room was unoccupied except for a skeleton which sat upon the throne. This one was not animated.

"Probably the king that had this castle built," guessed Thomas. "I imagine the Archfiend keeps him on this throne to feed its own sick humor."

Outside of the throne room the four saw a small lake to their left. A path ran to the center of the lake to a descending staircase. The staircase was guarded by more of the dangerous floor that the group had encountered. Alice recast her spell and the four descended.

At the bottom of the staircase was a large room. The room was unfurnished except for torches along the walls and two large braziers towards the back of the room. Between the braziers was a pyramid-like altar. Standing atop that altar was a monster.

The monster was a large humanoid, between the size of a human and a troll. It had sickly yellow skin and wore green robes. Around its shoulders was a purple cloak. It had a bright ruby pendant around its neck. It mouth was elongated and looked like a duck's bill. It had a snout-like nose. A large bump came out of the top of its head. Its ears were nothing more than holes in the side of its head. Its hands and feet had three claws a piece.

The monster spoke to the group with a deep and gravelly voice, "So you have finally made it here, eh Suzanne?"

Realizing what the monster was, the group quickly adopted their ready stances. Weapons out, they prepared for the slightest hint of aggression from the monster.

The monster continued talking, "But alas, too soon. For you and yours do not know yourselves well enough to oppose the Archfiend Baramos!"

"Now we finally have a name to call the bastard by," muttered Ron under his breath.

"You will regret your coming indeed!" said Baramos, laughing. "You will be dead for good for I will surely feast on your innards!" As if the punctuate his point, a drop of slimy drool came out of the Archfiend's mouth onto the floor.

"Even with your huge army, you face us alone," declared Suzanne. "The four of us together are mightier than any single force in this world!"

The time for talking was over. The battle with the Archfiend had begun. Alice cast a spell on Ron to increase his physical strength. Suzanne and Ron charged at the Archfiend but the two were some distance away from Baramos. Thomas began casting a spell but unfortunately the Archfiend was able to act first.

Baramos took a deep breath and unleashed a nightmarish blast of fire at the four. At the same time, Baramos cast a spell of its own and the four were engulfed in a humongous explosion, an explosion much larger than any Alice had ever conjured. The devastating attacks left all four humans on the ground gravely wounded.

Alice and Thomas cast healing spells upon themselves. Thomas had learned to cast an even more powerful healing spell; he was bathed in sparkling lights that were able to heal all his wounds. Up front, Suzanne and Ron quickly got back on their feet and renewed their charge at Baramos. They knew that if they did not get in its face and force it to fight them in melee it would only unleash its devastating power again.

The Archfiend cast another spell and sent a fireball at Ron's feet. Unlike other fireball spells that Ron had been hit by this one exploded into a tower of flames. The spell not only gave Ron additional severe burns but also sent him flying off his feet again. Ron sluggishly got back on his feet but knew his strength was quickly leaving him.

At last, Suzanne was able to climb up the altar and attack Baramos. The Archfiend then exhibited surprising strength and dexterity. Baramos caught her blade between two of its claws and turn it aside. It brought its other hand down in a crushing blow meant to slice open Suzanne's head. Suzanne was able to block its blow but the Archfiend's strength combined with the higher ground it stood on forced Suzanne to a knee, almost knocking her backwards off the altar. The Archfiend had nearly devastated the group and had yet to suffer even a scratch.

"Sapphire Ron!" called out Suzanne, a code for the group's next immediate actions. If Thomas did not trust Suzanne as he did, he might have disobeyed. This code had Thomas, the group's best healer, casting a non-healing spell with Suzanne and Alice wounded and Ron near death. Nevertheless, Thomas executed as he was told. He cast a spell which bathed the four of them in a gentle, blue light.

Ron also would have had some reservations if he had less confidence in the group's leader. Almost done for, Ron nevertheless charged at Baramos again. Taking notice of its near-dead enemy, Baramos sneered at Ron and prepared to finish him off with a spell. Just before the Archfiend finished its spell, Ron could feel the soothing effects of two healing spells, courtesy of Suzanne and Alice, erasing his wounds. Although still hurting, Ron knew he could take whatever Baramos could dish out now.

The Archfiend sent another devastating fireball at Ron. Through sheer strength and force of will, Ron somehow charged right into the ensuing tower of flames and pushed through, staying on his feet as he climbed up the altar. But the attack did knock Ron off balance and Baramos was bringing both its hands down for a crushing claw strike. Unable to adequately defend himself, Ron made a leap forward, spinning around to strike at Baramos's hands as he did so.

Normally, such an attack would not be effective as leaving his feet would reduce the strength of Ron's strike. But with Alice's enchantment Ron's attack cut deep into Baramos's arms. Consequently, the Archfiend's attack was thrown off and it only managed two glancing blows to both of Ron's shoulders. The four had finally managed to wound the Archfiend. Unfortunately, Baramos's wounds began closing before the group's eyes.

Nevertheless, the group was no longer scrambling for their lives. Alice cast a strength-enhancing spell on Suzanne while Suzanne cast a healing spell on Ron. Thomas cast a spell to erase all of Suzanne's wounds. Now the two front-line fighters were set up to deal some damage to the Archfiend.

But Baramos was not going to stand around and let that happen. With Ron on the ground following his dive, Baramos kept him on the ground by aiming a strike at his midsection. Ron surprised the Archfiend by defending with the Thunder Sword instead of his shield. Although Ron was unable to connect with flesh he was able to cut off one of Baramos's claws. However, the attack fulfilled its intended purpose of stopping Ron from getting up.

Once again showcasing its ability to multi-task, the Archfiend unleashed another blast of flames from its mouth. Fortunately, the soft light that Thomas had cast upon the team was meant to help counteract such an attack. Although all four still suffered burns, it was not anywhere near as bad as the first time Baramos had used its breath weapon. Thomas brought Ron to full strength while Alice healed herself.

Finally, Suzanne was able to join Ron in fighting Baramos up close. The Archfiend growled as it knew it would have to allow Ron to stand up or else be run through by Suzanne's blade. Once again, the Archfiend surprised Suzanne with its dexterity. It backhanded the flat of Suzanne's sword, knocking it away harmlessly. Ron had some more success as he buried his blade in Baramos's other hand.

This time, the Archfiend used its mouth to chant a spell instead of breathing fire. The room was once again filled with a huge explosion. Realizing the bad position it was in fighting two magically enhanced warriors; Baramos then tried a risky maneuver. Flanked by Suzanne and Ron, it spun around to face Suzanne. Instead of trying to claw her, the Archfiend used its strength and weight to push Suzanne off the altar. It then used its speed to spin back around to defend itself against Ron.

At the start of the fight Ron might have been surprised by Baramos's speed. But now Ron had seen enough of the Archfiend to know not to go for the knockout blow despite the supposed advantage he had. Ron took a quick sidestep to avoid Baramos's wild spinning hand and then finally drove the Thunder Sword into the Archfiend's torso, dealing a serious wound to its right shoulder.

The Archfiend put its full attention on Ron. Ignoring the wound in its shoulder, it brought its left hand around and managed to land a strong blow on one of Ron's shoulders. It used its other hand to cast a spell at the same time. Yellow waves spun around Ron's head. Instead of launching another attack at the Archfiend, Ron looked around confused and then charged at Thomas.

The other three quickly realized that Baramos's spell had affected Ron's mind. Unfortunately, none of them knew of a spell that could counteract the Archfiend's. The only cure they knew of was to give a good knock to Ron's head which would be easier said than done. Even worse, Alice's enhancement of him would now be turned against them.

"Alice!" called out Suzanne. Alice knew what that meant; the team had practiced this scenario. Suzanne ran and cut off Ron before he reached Thomas. Alice had her own sword out and began to circle around the two as they began a quick duel. Suzanne knew they had to settle this quickly as the Archfiend would begin picking them apart with its magic with nobody on the altar to stop it. She launched a couple of high attacks at Ron, knowing she was leaving herself open as she did so. As expected, Ron took a shot at her midsection. His attack cleaved through Suzanne's armor and deep into her flesh. The might of Ron's strike caused Suzanne to fall backward.

Baramos cackled and took advantage of the mayhem Ron was causing. It cast two spells: a fireball that scored a direct hit on Suzanne and a huge explosion. Suzanne was left with horrendous burns and bleeding out on the ground. Thomas knew he would not be able to heal her with the spell he had been using throughout the fight. He would have to cast his more powerful, but less reliable spell. He did his best to maintain his focus as he cast the difficult spell. He was rewarded when a beam of light dropped from the ceiling and reached Suzanne's body. Suzanne was then able to get back up on her feet.

Meanwhile, Suzanne's risky maneuver had paid off. Having put all his strength into his strike and then further distracted by the explosion Baramos had conjured, he was caught unawares by Alice. Fighting through that same explosion, she brought the flat of her blade down at Ron's head with all her might, desperately hoping she would hit him hard enough to break the spell but not hard enough to knock him out. Like Thomas, she was rewarded as Ron ceased attacking his comrades. He took a brief look at the situation and, realizing that nobody was attacking the Archfiend, ran at the altar.

Baramos did not want Ron to rejoin it on the altar. It launched another fireball-explosion combo. This time, the fireball was aimed at Ron. Ron stumbled as the fireball exploded and was forced to slow down his charge to get back on his feet. Thomas and Alice were left in bad shape by the explosion as they had not healed themselves in a while. While the two of them healed themselves Suzanne healed Ron hoping that he could make it to the altar soon enough to stop another magical assault.

The Archfiend took a risk by repeating its fireball-explosion maneuver. Ron was left in horrible shape but fought through the agony to the top of the altar. The pain kept Ron from dealing a mortal blow but he nevertheless dug the Thunder Sword into Baramos's chest. Thomas eliminated all of Ron's wounds while Suzanne healed herself. Suzanne took a risk by having Alice re-enhance Suzanne's strength instead of healing.

Suzanne's risk turned out to be a safe one as Ron's melee assault proved too much for the Archfiend to ignore. Ron fought aggressively, allowing Baramos to land some claw strikes on him in exchange for dealing harsher blows to the Archfiend. Ron was well aware that his friends were still hurting and he needed to buy time for Suzanne to join him. Ron worked his way inside the Archfiend's defenses, forcing the monster to devote its hands and even its head to dodging and blocking blows.

Although Baramos landed some terrible blows on Ron it turned out to be for naught as long as the healers could undo Ron's wounds. Baramos tried to push Ron off the altar but was only partially successful; Ron maintained his balance and only gave up a couple steps while he left a gash in one of Baramos's arms in return. However, that amount of room allowed Baramos to turn its body so it could better defend itself with only one of its arms. It immediately cast a spell with its other.

Ron's head was once again surrounded by wavy, yellow lines of energy. Ron was befuddled for a moment but was able to fight off the spell this time. This proved to be costly for the Archfiend. The lack of another explosion allowed Thomas and Alice to catch up on the healing and Suzanne to finally join Ron on the altar. The two fighters were once again flanking the Archfiend.

The battle went downhill for Baramos from there. Suzanne and Ron were now getting used to the Archfiends' speed, strength and movements. They also realized that they had to fight with little regard for their own well-being, trusting in their friends to keep them alive. The Archfiend ran Suzanne through with its claws, taking advantage of the opening in her armor that Ron had created. Thomas and Alice patched her up. Baramos dealt a crushing blow to Ron's head that send him falling down the altar. The attack left it wide open for Suzanne's attack and she delivered by severing its other arm. The severed arm began regrowing itself but it would take some time for it to grow back to the point of being useful.

As Ron got back to his feet, the Archfiend tried to push Suzanne off the altar again. Suzanne was ready for the move and sidestepped, leaving Baramos severely off balance. The Archfiend did a controlled tumble off the altar to get back into a combat stance without leaving itself open to Suzanne and Ron. It was another impressive move but this one would turn out to be a mistake.

The Archfiend took advantage of the space it created to unleash an explosion and a blast of fiery breath at its enemies. But Thomas's soft light spell continued to protect the four and now Baramos was no longer on the top of the altar. Suzanne quickly moved to cut Baramos off from the top of the altar. She launched a complicated series of sword strikes at the Archfiend. Baramos barely managed to defend each one, even using the stump that was its regrowing arm.

However, Suzanne's attacks were meant to keep Baramos occupied. Ron ran to the top of the altar and made a leap at the Archfiend. He brought his blade into Baramos's head with the force of his strength, his weight, and Alice's enhancement combined. Ron and Baramos fell backwards off the side of the altar. The weight of the monster nearly crushed Ron and kept him from taking advantage of his enemy's fall. But there was nothing stopping Suzanne.

She fell upon Baramos with a flurry of blows. Desperate, the Archfiend clawed her across the face and managed to send a fireball at her. It wasn't enough. Thomas and Alice were still healing wounds with impunity. Ron got out from under Baramos and joined the assault. Their blades cut and sliced through the Archfiend's skin.

Their assault became so relentless that the Archfiend was no longer able to counterattack. Thomas ran forward and joined the attack. Alice began casting her most powerful magic on the fallen Baramos until she could no longer cast any magic. Baramos screamed in agony and rage as it was literally cut into pieces.

As the Archfiend let out its death scream a warm light suddenly engulfed the area. Though the four should have felt exhausted after the battle they suddenly felt invigorated. The three spellcasters could feel magic flowing back into their bodies. Although their bodies were brought back to full strength, their minds struggled to comprehend what just happened.

"Is…is it over?" asked Alice.

"I think so," said Ron. As though to test his point, he cut a few more pieces out of the Archfiend's body. Baramos did not move.

"It might not be over," said Suzanne suddenly. "There's still a war going on. Let's get out of here. I don't want to risk that that thing can regenerate from pieces. Let's take its head with to ensure that nothing grows out of it."

The four left the Archfiend's chamber with its head in their possession. They were able to quickly exit Venorl Castle. Not a single monster lingered in its walls. Even the humans that had attacked Ramia appeared to have left.

From the cliffs near the castle the group could see a good portion of the battlefield. The monster army was much smaller. The monsters that remained were busy destroying each other. The four could see that the human army was withdrawing and that a negligible number of monsters were pursuing them.

Thomas was the first to speak, "It is over. The monster army is devouring itself. The threat is over!"

"It's over!" echoed Alice. "The Archfiend Baramos is dead!"

"This is a battle that'll go down in story!" said Ron with a huge grin. "Can't wait to hear how they describe me!"

"As the boisterous loudmouth who kept getting the group in trouble?" asked Alice slyly.

"Look who's talking!" retorted Ron. Instead of getting into an argument the two burst out laughing.

Thomas walked over to Suzanne. "You're oddly quiet," he observed. "Anything wrong?"

Suzanne paused before answering. "No," she said at last. "I just still can't believe it. We won. We won!"

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