A/N: I struggled with how to follow this up. Finally, I realized that I just needed to add some threads I'd skipped over. As a result, I've gone back and inserted a new chapter. Check out the new chapter 3: Paternity, and thank you for indulging in this going back and putting new stuff nonsense. We'll get back to the future in no time though, now that that's out of my system. Hope you enjoy.
A/N: I just wanted to clarify a question that some of you seem to have: Why has Lung escalated this far? Gilgamesh would've crushed him.
Because Taylor wasn't trying to crush Lung. She was playing with him, because she wanted to see how strong he could get, and because she was arrogant enough to believe she'd have no problem handling him if things got out of hand.
Well, she kept pushing him instead of killing him, until she found herself grasped in the claws of a giant dragon, half the city burning, and things very clearly out of hand.
Now our hero's going to have to deal with the consequences of giving a giant rage-beast enough time to ramp up. Still, nothing she can't handle.
Armsmaster leaned down to decrease air-resistance as he sped through the city, clocking in at 140 mile per hour. Contrary to what most held to be common sense, he was rushing towards the giant fire breathing monstrosity. The fire that was consuming the north half of Brockton Bay had originated here. He twisted harshly, leaving skid marks in the road as he turned and got a view of the clearing created by parahuman battle.
Lung held an unmasked blonde girl in his grip, none too gently if her wince was any indication. He recognized her as the unconfirmed parahuman that had been the talk of the town the last few days. How was she related to this disaster? No matter. Regardless of any personal suspicions, he needed to help her, and help her fast. He took out his halberd and activated it's newest feature: nanotechnology he'd completed with help from Dragon. A grey mist appeared around the blade.
His engine was eerily quiet as he accelerated to top speed in a second flat. He couldn't hold back a slight smirk: his ride was, if he must say so himself, a masterpiece of tinker-technology. Two pipes extended from the back and the rockets blasted as he balanced on his back wheel, sending him into the air like he'd hit a jump.
In a move that was more at home in a BMX competition than a parahuman battle, he swung his halberd in one hand and grabbed the girl with the other. Lung roared as his hand was cleanly separated from his arm. Armsmaster landed but didn't slow, curving into a side street at the soonest opportunity. He felt the heat on his face as Lung created even more fire, incinerating a whole street of houses with one breath attack. The girl wrapped her hands around his waist and squeezed, rather harder than necessary. He winced slightly, at least a brute then. Was she angry? Scared? He cursed his lack of insight into the minds of teenage girls. Communication had never been his strong suit.
He slipped through shortcuts and side-streets like he'd lived here his entire life, thanks in no small part to the GPS he'd installed in his mask. They lost Lung, mostly because he seemed more concerned with being enraged at the loss of his hand than following them.
He curved once more, and a mess of hastily set up tents and dozens of matts opened up before them. People with horrible burns lay upon them, Panacea moving between them feverishly, still in her pajamas. He could spot several heroes, Triumph, Dauntless and Miss Militia not the least among them. Some of the Wards were present as well, huddled together.
"Armsmaster!" Miss Militia called in her fluid, exotic accent. "Where have you been?"
"I was collecting some info on how far along Lung was into his transformation, and managed to get this…" He didn't know what to call her. Hero? Vigilante? She didn't even wear a mask. With his usual eloquence, he managed to call her the most demeaning thing that came to mind, "girl. She will tell us the details of how things got this bad."
Taylor got off the bike in one, smooth, motion. She glanced at Armsmaster, taking him in. This was the closest she'd ever been to such an important hero. She didn't feel like she thought she would. She wasn't impressed, in fact more than anything she felt irritated. "Will she? Perhaps you should ask her, instead of speaking of her in the third person. And the name's not girl. My name is Taylor."
Miss Militia intervened, seeing the situation already start to degrade. "Taylor, then. Can you tell us what happened? Please, the better we understand the situation, the faster we can end it."
"I came upon Lung and Oni Lee fighting some Empire 88 capes. I scared off the skinheads and fought with them. I almost had him," she sent a sharp glare at Armsmaster, "before you and your ilk intervened." Miss Militia frowned at the hostility.
Armsmaster countered stoically, "You were going to die. I saved your life. Gi—Taylor. Do you have any idea what you've caused? Hundreds of people are dead! That's a conservative estimate. The Protectorate has classified Lung an S-Class threat. Heroes from all around the US will be coming to—"
Miss Militia interrupted him. "No. PRT headquarters has declared the situation too volatile and dismissed standard S-Class protocol as counterproductive. More capes would only escalate the situation, which would only make Lung more powerful and dangerous."
"What! What do they expect us to do then? Just let him continue his rampage while thousands die?" Miss Militia took a deep breath, as if she had the same concerns, and looked him in the eye.
"Yes. Capes on site are to assist with evacuations, but are not to engage Lung under any circumstances. If we turn this into a battle, not only will we have hero casualties on the scale of an Endbringer attack, but Lung might turn into a threat to the entire country instead of merely one city. We have not yet seen if his power has any observable limit." She said this as a soldier might, relaying orders even as he could see the disapproval she barely concealed.
He felt a cold emptiness slowly growing in his gut. "So they're sacrificing us to sate Lung's anger?"
Miss Militia's eyes narrowed in distaste, "Brockton Bay is considered an unfortunate but necessary loss. They will use the inter-city missiles once he's run out of steam and is once again vulnerable." Brandish, in her white and orange costume, approached them, Glory Girl and an exhausted Panacea behind her. Knowing Panacea, her sister had forced her to take a short break.
"We're going to have to move camp soon. We're too close, even for an emergency ward. We've directed those who are healed to endbringer shelters on south side." She glanced at Taylor, inconspicuous in her golden armor and clearly having been in a fight, if her messy hair and dented armor was any indication. "Any updates?"
Miss Militia shook her head.
Glory Girl grit her teeth, "Mom, we don't need to listen to the Protectorate! We've fought Endbringers, we can fight Lung!"
Brandish grabbed her daughter's shoulders, "Trust me honey, I understand. I want to help too. But I can't allow you to endanger yourself like that. You're still young… I was there, in Japan, when Leviathan attacked. That was the last time Lung was like this. He fought Leviathan, and he won. He didn't kill him, nothing can, but he won. And if we fight him, he'll only get stronger… as much as it hurts me to say this, the Protectorate is right. For once. The only thing we can do is make sure evacuation goes smoothly and protect your sister so she can save as many lives as possible."
Glory Girl snarled, "But Mom—"
Laughter. Someone was laughing. The girl in the golden armor stood apart, her hands holding her belly as laughed, full and loud. She quieted, gradually, looking half amused and half disgusted as she sneered down at them. "You people are pathetic. You allow yourselves to be ruled by fears and bureaucracy. This is everything that's wrong with the system as it exists. Humans, safe in their offices a million miles away, control you out of fear, unable to understand even an iota of what's really going on. People who could've made a difference are cowed into inaction." Images came to mind, of indifferent teachers and apathetic students, watching but unmoving as she suffered under her bullies thumbs, every fucking day.
She turned around and took a step, before pausing. "Go, rats. Scurry to safety, for a dragon is on the hunt. You don't belong here."
She closed her eyes, searching for mobility. She couldn't beat Lung in a contest of strength, and it would be stupid to try. But she could outmaneuver him. She had to.
A golden pool of light, the size of a house, appeared behind her. From within her vault came a machine straight out of indian mythology, a dream that wouldn't be out of place in a science fiction movie. A golden jet, a single throne in its center. Glowing green wings like a dragonfly's allowing it to hover five feet off the ground. By all modern conventions of aerodynamics, it wouldn't be able to fly, and even if it did no pilot would be able to survive sitting in the throne at any reasonable height. Her power supplied it's name: Vimana.
She took another step forward— "Wait!"
She turned around to find Panacea, the premier healer in the world, looking at her with a determined glint in her eyes. "Let me heal you."
Taylor stared at her, trying to determine if she could be trusted. Panacea could knock her out or paralyze her as well as she could heal her. Panacea lifted her chin stubbornly, "I want to heal you."
"Amy!" Brandish started.
Taylor kept staring at her, until Panacea looked away from her confident red eyes. Then she smiled, "Very well."
Panacea smiled too, and lifted her hand to Taylor's forehead, since everything but her head was covered in armor. She started to heal her—and paused, her eyebrows furrowed. "I can't. I can't even sense your biology, something is stopping me."
"So it's true," Taylor mused. "I had suspected it, but I wasn't completely sure."
"What is it? What's stopping me?"
"It seems my armor is not only extremely useful in protecting me from physical attacks, but also lends me a certain amount of protection from powers as well. The reason you couldn't alter my biology even with skin-to-skin contact was because my armor functions by surrounding me within a forcefield."
"A power nullification ability…" Armsmaster murmured. What didn't this girl have in her bag of tricks? Who did she think she was, tinker Eidolon?
Amy looked slightly disappointed. The one person she really, truly wanted to heal and her power was useless? It's not that she didn't want to help the people who came to her for healing. But that was something she had to do. She had no choice.
This was her choice. No one had asked her to heal this arrogant girl in golden armor that somehow reminded her of Victoria. It wasn't in looks that they were especially similar...it was this aura they had about them. Something awe inspiring, something charismatic. Just a presence they had, that enveloped everyone they surrounded themselves with.
Taylor placed her hand on Amy's and placed it back on her forehead. "It's okay, Amy. I trust you. Do not betray that trust." Her armor glowed, and Amy closed her eyes. She opened them again and blushed bright red, from head to toe. Taylor stood, completely naked, no shame whatsoever in her face or posture. She heard Victoria gasp behind her.
Amy felt her eyes drift slightly to the girls bosom, before she shook her head and tried to concentrate. It wouldn't surprise her to hear she had steam coming from her ears. She analyzed Taylor's body, feeling the great strength in her deceptively slight arms and legs. Any injuries were extremely superficial, perhaps a bruise or two where her armor had been dented. Amy healed them nonetheless and concentrated on the true problem.
She was exhausted. Mentally and physically, her body was unused to this kind of intense activity. Amy could clear her mind with a thought...just a tweak. No. That was against the Rules. Instead, she converted what little fat existed in Taylor's toned body into energy, that is to say, sugar, along with a few choice vitamins and neurotransmitters. That would keep her alert for hours, possibly days. She cleared her muscles of lactic acid and healed them of whatever strains existed. Taylor breathed deeper, as if a weight she hadn't known existed had been lifted from her shoulders.
Panacea took her hand back, still blushing deeply. Taylor got decent again, her armor appearing around her. It still had dents, but they had already mended a tad. Her treasures were repaired the longer they spent in the vault, though she suspected an item that was truly damaged might take months or years to regain full functionality.
"You have my gratitude, Amy Dallon."
The girl in the golden armor once again turned around and jumped into her vimana, settling down on the throne in a relaxed, regal posture. She didn't spare the heroes a glance as the vimana's wings glowed and lifted further from the earth, before speeding off with the distinct sound of the sound barrier breaking. The heroes watched her go.
Flying was the best feeling in the world. Nothing could compare to it. Her vimana responded to her thoughts, twirling, flipping, accelerating on a whim. This was true freedom: the power of mobility, the ability to go anywhere, to just get up and leave. To be one with the winds, powerful as a hurricane and soft as a summer breeze as your heart desired. Taylor laughed, and it was the laugh of a child: delighted, free of any restraint or self-consciousness.
But she did have a purpose. She moved at the speed of thought, dashing towards the living personification of fire that was Lung. He was a moving inferno, destroying entire blocks with a flick of his tail and a fiery roar. She sped through the fire, completely unaffected, until she was passing directly in front of his eyes. Time seemed to slow as their eyes met, one an all-consuming rage and the other a sharp, dangerous anger. He swiped at her and she curved upwards, soaring into the sky, her cheek resting in her hand as she relaxed on her throne. The dragon followed, leaving the city in peace. On fire, but besides that, extremely peaceful.
The sky was painted red by Lung's flames, illuminating the city in a parody of true daylight. The dragon raced after her as they flew higher and higher, his wingbeats the only sound. He suddenly sped up and took a grab at her. Taylor twisted out of the way and flew down his back, launching swords along his spine. Lung screamed in outrage and twisted, trying to bite her with his draconic jaw. Taylor felt him literally breathing down her neck before she kicked it into high gear and maneuvered into a position that didn't smell like burning corpses.
This was still too dangerous. Not for her, but for the city below them. As of this moment, her plan basically amounted to 'hit him until something sticks', but even if she succeeded his fall could damage what little remained of Brockton Bay's infrastructure. Her city's infrastructure. The flames of her outrage were reignited at the thought this beast had the impunity to damager her city. She'd show him what happened when you broke what belonged to her.
He was gaining on her and opened a jaw large enough to swallow her whole. Pools of golden light appeared around her aircraft and launched some choice swords down the back of his throat. His mouth snapped shut after he howled in pain. That was more like it. She accelerated in the direction of the ocean, and didn't stop until Brockton Bay was a glowing dot in the distance.
What ensued was a game of cat and mouse on an epic scale, with Lung ineffectually trying to catch her while she futilely struck him with magnificent weapons he healed from in seconds. He breathed fire to obscure her vision and appeared right in front of her, throwing his hands together in an awesome clap that would've squished her between his claws. She backpedaled, flying backwards as easily as she did forward. Meanwhile, Lung kept expanding, getting bigger and bigger, gaining supplementary wings and arms, until Taylor had to wonder how his body was even supporting itself under that much mass. Explosions that could be seen from Brockton Bay lit up the sky as she threw more and more devastating weapons.
But just overpowering him seemed useless. Taylor wasn't trying tooverpower him. She was trying to kill him. So she cultivated that bloodlust. It pounded in her skull, overflowed from her chest, and into her veins. She gritted her teeth, a snarl barely reigned in. Yes. This was what she needed. An outlet. She still had so much anger festering inside of her. An ugly, violent anger.
It was that anger that resonated with the treasures she needed. Not the powerful ones, but the deadly ones, the ones whose only purpose was to kill, and kill, and kill until they drowned in the blood of their enemies.
Among them, a spear jumped out at her. It was a rabid dog, mad with its own bloodlust, but it was loyal. Unlike some of these weapons, it wouldn't hurt its wielder in its attempts to cause destruction.
She stood from her throne, pulling the blood red spear from a portal by her side. She balanced it in her hands, getting a feel for it's length and weight. It's name eagerly jumped to the forefront of her mind.
Gáe Bolg. It roughly translated to "Spear of Mortal Pain", or "Death Spear". Used by Cuchulainn, the hound of Ulster, it would always strike the heart, and it's wounds would not heal. Charming.
She lifted it above her head, her Vimana working on auto-pilot to avoid Lung as best it could. Still, best not to test exactly how competent it was. Almost against her will, she heard her lips say
The air froze and neither opponent breathed, the tension almost too great to move. The pure, vindictive, all-encompassing hate was unlike anything either had experienced before. It wasn't a human hate. Just an ancient, omnidirectional bloodlust. And it demanded to be felt.
Lung wasn't frozen for long, dropping out of the sky to avoid the deadly spear. If it could be called that. It more closely resemble a blood red laser as it moved with speed surpassing a bullet, chasing Lung like a dog on the hunt. The red blur moved in hard, unnatural angles, never wavering, and Lung's hulking form wasn't nearly agile enough to avoid doom for more than a instant.
Nonetheless, Taylor saw the beast's eyes widen when the spear struck. The cloak of fire that surrounded him disappeared, and his two great pairs of wings ceased movement. His raging eyes closed. He started to drop out of the sky. Dead.
Until the flames exploded back into existence, the great wings straightened, and Lung's eyes opened to reveal baleful scarlet iris. Taylor was surprised, but probably not as much as she should be. She examined him with a critical eye. Like her power had indicated, the wound on his chest wasn't healing in the slightest. Could he really be functioning without a heart? But no, Taylor discarded that hypothesis as quickly as it formed. A much more likely possibility occurred to her.
As Lung grew, so did the number of limbs he possessed. Case in point, he now had two pairs of wings and four arms. But as he grew, was he also gaining supplementary organs in order to support his growing mass? Did he now have two hearts? Three?
Taylor felt laughter bubble up from within, hysterical. She declared, "More than one heart? Lung, you truly are a monster." She smiled at him like it was a complement, but her smile was sharp, predatory. Confident. "Come then, Lung. Let us see which of us is the bigger monster!"
She moved up again, and he followed with unnatural agility for his lumbering size. He blew fire as a makeshift flash-grenade to blind her and she flipped so she was upside down, flying parallel to the ground and through some mystery not simply falling out of her throne into the deep dark ocean. He turned too, slower, and was flying just below and slightly ahead of her.
She was getting tired of this game. It was time to end this, but she'd need something surprising, unexpected. Something incredibly risky. A golden portal appeared next to her and she unsheathed the sword it held within it. The sword was comfortable in her grip. She'd used it before, to hurt Lung. Gram, the dragon slaying sword. Last time, she'd damaged him deeply, that was why he'd grown so fast. As a result of the battle's escalation. But she'd been too general. Taylor was never really a fan of zombie movies, but if they had taught her anything, it to aim for the head. At least, that was the idea.
What she was about to do would either be incredibly stupid or incredibly effective. Maybe it'd be both. Maybe it'd be effectively stupid. She took another deep, shuddering breath. There was no time for fear. She wasn't that person anymore. She smiled, only slightly self-deprecating. Well, she'd always wondered what it would be like to skydive, hadn't she?
Taylor jumped from the safety of her ship, Gram in hand. She twirled from soaring towards him head first to an upright position, feet towards him. The sword was held in a two-handed grip, also pointed directly at his big, serpentine head. It was already glowing with it's poisonous blue light, leaving a bright trail wherever it passed. Her knees bent, bracing for impact.
She hit him like a cannonball, knocking him straight out of the sky. That was mostly Gram at work, for as soon as she plunged the blade into his skull it shined painfully bright and energy surged. The blue light emitted from his eyes and mouth as his head exploded, and Taylor was left tumbling through the air with a headless dragon. She grabbed on to a flap of neck skin and pulled herself towards the body, still hurling through the air.
A golden portal appeared below her and the vimana came through it. Taylor pushed off the dead body, landing on the ship hard enough to bring her to her knees. She exhaled deeply, hearing a splash as the body hit the water. That had been almost fun, in a life-threatening kind of way. She'd have to celebrate later, because while things weren't optimal, they were going well. The world would finally realize her greatness.
Sure Brockton Bay was half-burned to the ground, but from that ash a phoenix would grow. She'd make it better, in every way. Until she was proud to call it her city. She sat back down on her throne, turning her ship in the direction of Brockton Bay when she heard an earth-trembling roar. Really? That was the last time she used Zombie-movie logic in a real life situation.
Lung exploded from the water, freshly grown skull in place, and they rejoined their game of cat and mouse. Lung was bigger now, but his speed frankly hadn't improved much, and the dynamic of the fight stayed much the same. She smirked from her throne. This was entertainment. Testing herself against a powerful opponent, that was when she felt most alive. But nothing could last forever.
Entertaining as this game was, she needed to step it up. She needed to put Lung at a disadvantage. She had a massive advantage in agility while in the air, but Lung wasn't half-bad himself. Since he was 'it' in this explosive little game of tag, she could control the environment and he had no choice but to follow after her. So she chose the one place he lost his favorite toy. She twisted until she was perpendicular with the surface of the ocean and rushed down. Lung, after a hesitation that brought a smile to her face, followed after.
She hit the ocean seamlessly, the forcefield around her throne that prevented excess wind from bothering her during flight keeping the water from enveloping her. The wings of her vimana changed slightly, making themselves smaller as more of the same material expanded from the back of her machine in an elegant imitation of a tail. She barely slowed.
Lung, meanwhile, hit the water with so much force gigantic waves formed in all directions. The sound alone shook Taylor from her contemplation of her ship's underwater amendments. He looked around, his eyes unadapted for underwater hunting, but she wasn't exactly subtle. He used pyrokinesis and threw balls of fire at her. Underwater.
...What total bullshit.
She countered with some projectiles of her own, and decided that she just wasn't thinking big enough. Her power had supplied her with everything she'd needed since she got it. If her arms were insufficient, she just needed to think bigger.
That's when her power decided to inform her that her Vimana had had access to what amounted to nuclear warheads the entire fight.
Well, that was frustrating. Her power provided great firepower, but just because she had access to the best weapons in the world didn't mean she necessarily knew how to use them with any degree skill. Though, she'd noted, the longer she used any one weapon, the more information her power provided her with. Like the fact that she'd had access to nuclear weapons this whole fucking time.
That might be enough to finally end this pest. But first, she needed to get some distance.
She visualized light, traveling faster than any natural being in existence. Her ship rocketed out of the water at record speeds, so fast that she slammed back in her throne, feeling inertia for the first time. More distance. She needed more distance. She was a comet, burning through the air at impossible speeds. The air started to thin, and she looked down at Lung, the great beast nothing but a spec to her eyes. Good enough. Now how to do this?
Her vimana had responded to her thoughts so far. In fact, at times it almost seemed to respond to a thought before she was even consciously aware of it. Reading her subconscious desires? That could be dangerous, if she wasn't careful about it. Closing her eyes, she visualized the weapons of mass destruction.
A missile that more closely resembled a rounded obelisk complete with archaic symbols peaked out of the front of her vehicle.
Strange as the missile was, it shot like any other. That is to say, fast. Lung had started coming after her, but less than three seconds had passed since she'd exited the water. He was too late.
Taylor hid her eyes behind her hand, trying to block the light from what to residents of Brockton Bay may have looked like a very early dawn. Even through her vimana's protections she felt the heat on her face.
Taylor didn't want to believe anything but an Endbringer could survive that, but she hadn't written Lung off yet. She'd made that mistake twice. She wouldn't underestimate the same opponent three times, no matter how much her ego wanted to dismiss him as a threat. Cautiously, she drifted downward, protected from the radiation by her vimana. She tried to see him through the burning steam that still came off the ocean, which if she wasn't seeing things was boiling. Maybe that had been overkill?
In a parody of their earlier battle, Lung reached out of the boiling water with a hand like a skyscraper. A skull-like head, most likely just regenerated, burst through the water without a jaw. Okay, this was just getting ridiculous. Would nothing put him down? She'd hit him with dragon slaying swords and dropped a fucking nuke on him. He'd lost his head twice. And here he was, looking better than ever. Well, that wasn't true, strictly speaking. His arm was a melted hunk of flesh, the scales leaking like liquid silver. It looked incredibly painful...but he was still moving. Even half dead, he was still fighting.
She easily moved out of the way, his burnt crispy muscles and mind-boggling size apparently not conducive to rapid movement. Meanwhile, his skull gained red, hate-filled eyes as scales started regenerating from his neck up. He flew from the water, passing overhead, casting an impossible shadow. His wingspan was huge, but Taylor doubted any sized wingspan would hold him aloft at this point. No, this had to be some kind quirk of his power. He was heading towards Brockton Bay.
A thought occurred to her.
...Lung was very probably the largest living being that the planet had ever seen by this point.
Self-doubt started to creep in on her, for the first time since she'd acquired her powers. But was there anything she could do, in the face of such impossible power? Anything she hit him with just made him stronger. Her most potent weapons couldn't put him down for any meaningful amount of time.
Had she been wrong? Was Lung impossible to beat? Had she overstepped, by playing with him, by giving him the time to truly ramp up? Maybe she should've listened to the heroes, with way more experience than her. Maybe she should've listened to Lung in the first place, and never challenged such a powerful enemy. Maybe she should've listened to Emma, and Sophia, and Madison, and just died like the pathetic worm she was.
Maybe they could all go fuck themselves. She was Taylor fucking Herbert, and she does not lose. She couldn't lose, or she'd just fall into mediocrity, go back to being a victim. And that was a fate worse than death.
There had to be something. Her vault contained all the treasures in the world. There was nothing of value that couldn't be found in her vault. She sunk deep into her consciousness, searching for the power that would let her end this situation. She went deeper than she'd ever went before, looking for the core of her powers. Beautiful treasures arrayed before her, as numerous as the stars in the sky, but they were all useless.
Her power was useless here, her treasures worth jack-fucking shit. She was useless. And now Lung, the stupid beast, would tear down her city, and kill everyone this side of the US. There was nothing she could do about it. She might as well be a normal human.
She looked up, at Lung's impossibly large body, moving slowly through the sky. She realized, in the back of her mind, that he wasn't actually moving slowly, he was just that big. She didn't have the power to stop him. At least, not directly.
But maybe, if she gave herself up, he would stop. Taylor had started this, after all. And she could end it. It was a thin hope, admittedly. It was more than likely he'd just kill her and continue his rampage. But it was something, and Taylor had always been the type of person that acted, even if that act meant sacrificing herself. She couldn't just do nothing.
Her confidence grew, now that she had a goal, a mission. Something she could work towards. Her ship sped off, towards Brockton Bay.
A dragon's head, inconceivably large, looked out onto Brockton Bay with hate-filled eyes. He didn't know who he was, but he knew pain. Pain was all he'd ever felt. And now, he would release that pain outwards, with his fire.
A speck appeared before him. It called out a name, and something in the dragon paused.
What had it said?
He looked at the spec again, and heard, "Lung!"
That jogged something in the dragon's mind. This spec knew who he was. He stopped flying and landed, his weight crushing everything beneath him. The spec brought itself back to eye level. It spoke, and the dragon tried to understand. Most was gibberish, but he managed to understand key words.
Those were words it remembered.
The spec was desperate.
The dragon was bored of the spec, now. Understanding words was hard. What did he care, what a spec had to say? He started to move forward, and the spec stayed stubbornly in place, shooting pinpricks that hurt.
Lung was angry. He blew fire on the spec, intending to incinerate it where it stood. But the spec was unaffected by Lung's flame, and continued to attempt to get his attention. But he was done with the spec. He opened his mouth, and brought it down carefully so it would crush the spec.
So this was how she'd die, then? Sacrificing herself to an absurdly large dragon in a futile attempt to save her burning city, just days after getting her powers? Destroyed by her own arrogance?
She wasn't suicidal. The last few days were the best she'd ever had. It was heartbreakingly disappointing that her adventure would end so soon. She felt like her story had barely begun, that her whole life was still ahead of her. But would that life be worth living, knowing she'd sat back and done nothing while a monster destroyed what belonged to her? That she was as bad as all those who'd sat back and said nothing while she was humiliated?
No. That just wasn't who she was, now or even before. So she surrendered, sacrificing herself. A guilty martyr.
She supposed, no matter what heights they reached, they'd always be human. The chains of mortality weren't something we could shuck off, even with powers. Taylor would die. Lung would too, eventually.
And as the jaws of death descended, and she came to terms with her own mortality, when all hope was lost and she still stood with dignity in the face of man's inevitable fate, that's when she felt it. A sudden clarity. An idea, a concept, a treasure she'd been unable to understand or perceive. The answer.
Enkidu, the only friend of Gilgamesh, the first hero to ever ascend into legend. Enkidu, who'd been condemned to die by the gods. Enkidu, who despite having the power to contend with the Bull of Heaven, the gods greatest weapon, still died an ignoble death. Still suffered from mortality, man's greatest obstacle.
It was Enkidu who best epitomized the inevitability of the human condition. Who best symbolized the dark specter that lurked in every man's soul, patiently watching for the day when the screen goes black. Enkidu was the quiet, unsettling knowledge that no matter how high you reach, no matter how great you become, you'll still be condemned to die like a dog. Human.
It was only when she realized her own mortality that she could use these chains. The chains that bind humans, the chains of mortality. The Chains of Enkidu. And what was man's greatest weakness, death, the void, became her greatest strength.
Golden portals appeared around the dragon and from them chains flew, twisting and binding Lung's ankles, his wrists, his neck, through his jaw and around his wings, until the behemoth stood completely still, unable to move through unbreakable chains so much smaller than him. He struggled and roared, fire exploding into existence around him, but the chains were unmoved, pristine. And then he started to shrink, slowly at first, but then he was collapsing in on himself, the mass disappearing until he floated in the air, bound in chains, human.
Taylor stared at the man, who though large was an insect next to what he'd been. Would he ever reach those heights again? Would he be forever a shadow, chasing after a memory of omnipotence? She floated forward on her Vimana, and the unconscious man woke, looking up to stare at her.
His eyes showed nothing. "Who...am I?" Asked the dragon.
"You are Lung." Taylor replied. She stared at the man, feeling his innocence and ignorance and trying to consolidate it with the harsh man she'd met and the even harsher dragon he'd become. "And you are my servant."
Chains of Enkidu: A noble phantasm created by humanity's greatest fear: death. It imposes the concept of "mortality" on elevated beings, nullifying their powers. (Enkidu's been altered to fit the worm setting, since 'Divinity' doesn't exist in the wormverse, it instead restrains the closest thing in the setting, shards. Terribly broken, I know. But again, Gilgamesh is made to be broken.
I wasn't quite sure how to play it, at first. First I thought: Anything that isn't human. That'd be the Endbringer's and Scion.
But Endbringer's and Scion don't share anything, the Endbringers don't have shards and Scion's nothing but shards. So I decided, eventually, that it would restrain Shard's powers, and realized it wouldn't mean she'd end all fights she gets into with parahumans. Gilgamesh is terribly broken and technically could defeat anything in the setting by getting serious and using Ea. But he doesn't. It's extremely rare that he finds opponents who he actually goes all out against and uses Ea and Enkidu. That's his arrogance speaking.
Seeing as Gil!Taylor and Gilgamesh share that trait, keeping fights interesting is a simple matter of them underestimating their opponents.
I'm aware a lot of people might not be thrilled by Enkidu's brokenness, but be aware it is very much a "trump card", and not omnipotent. A suitably mobile enemy could dodge it, and Scion, if he stops playing around and gets serious, could simply move through dimensions.
Also, this means that Enkidu has absolutely no effect on Endbringers.)