Chapter 17: Wheels in Motion

Impel Down Arc


...


Lina was apparently done with the conversation, and with a gesture, the warden's entire form and the section of hallway around him ignited. Seeing a reprieve, Amelia pressed her glowing hands against the unconscious prisoner's chest, while Zelgadis' fingers moved to his revolvers. He'd seen enough to know that that wasn't the end.

His suspicions were confirmed when a humanoid figure emerged from the flames, hissing and smoking from the heat.

Zelgadis's eyes widened at the sight. The warden's body was covered in a layer of poison, so thick that the man himself was only visible as a silhouette within the liquid mass. More of the substance poured from his body, pooling on the ground and rising into the air, shaping itself into a trio of serpentine dragon heads.

One head shot forward, jaws gaping as if it meant to swallow their party whole. Pulling his hands from his guns, Zelgadis summoned a barrier of wind around their group, and the toxic mass broke against it, splattering its substance across the walls and floors. It retracted, a new dragon head already taking shape on the severed end.

Luke shifted to the left, unleashing a barrage of shrieking wind blades, while Milina attacked with a bright blue ray of astral power. Two heads bent down to block the attacks, the "wounds" inflicted already healing before the spells had even finished striking them. The third plunged into the floor, aiming to circumvent Zelgadis's barrier with a subterranean approach, cracking and buckling the stone as it passed. Amelia looked up, her eyes widening when she noticed that it was heading straight for her.

"Look out!" Zelgadis cried. He dove for Amelia, managing to throw her and her patient out of the path of harm. Zelgadis rolled to his feet, but there was no time left to dodge when the floor broke apart and the dragon-head emerged, slamming its jaws shut around him. Almost instantly he could feel the burn of of the toxin within him, ripping at him from the inside, trying to seize up his nerves and tear away control. He fought his way free of the toxic morass and collapsed onto his knees, his vision swimming in and out of focus. The sound of his companions calling out his name seemed distant and faint, barely audible over the sound of his own pulse drumming in his ears.

"It's the end for you." Magellan said, retracting his beast back to its normal length. "Your body can no longer move, and your life will be over within twenty-four hours."

Zelgadis gritted his teeth and pressed a glowing palm to his stomach, forcing a Recovery spell through despite the pain clouding his mind. The spell's effect was like a wave of cool relief, quenching the hellfire and reducing it to just a smoldering burn. He stood back up to glare at the warden, whose eyes widened fractionally with surprise.

"Sorry, but my body is part rock golem." Zelgadis said. "I think you'll find that your poison doesn't work quite as well on me."

His free hand shot out, sending a bolt of hissing lightning leaping down the hall. A dragon head moved to intercept it, but the electricity simply conducted through its neck, and Magellan groaned as the current coursed through his body. With its master distracted, the venomous construct seemed to lose direction, and Luke repeated his attack, leaving a canvas of bloody cuts on the front of Magellan's chest. Another ray from Milina pierced the warden's body, and he doubled over, coughing up a spray of red blood.

"Good work guys." Lina said as she hovered over the group, arcs of electricity pouring from her fingertips to form a glowing pentagram around Magellan. With a crack of thunder, the entire area within the formation was lit up by lightning, and the three dragon heads collapsed into puddles of liquid.

"Mr. Zelgadis, I think he's stable for now, so I can take care of that for you." Amelia approached, careful not to touch her glowing hands to Zelgadis' poison-soaked clothing. Zelgadis nodded, and allowed his own healing spell to flicker out.

"Oh, and, um, thanks for saving me from that thing." She added.

Oh. "...You're welcome."


...


Lina dropped to the floor as the last sparks fizzled out, and the smoke blew away to reveal Magellan kneeling and breathing heavily. Though he was still covered in a layer of poison, the electricity had done its work. Angry burns ran up and down his body where the current had passed, and the warden stumbled a bit as he stood and gathered himself.

"I won't allow anyone to escape Impel Down!" Magellan roared. A fresh wave of poison oozed from his body, deep crimson in color, hissing and smoking as it corroded the stone floor.

Lina was strongly considering using one of her more destructive spells to deal with the situation when a black haze rose up from the floor, engulfing the control room behind Magellan. It retracted, leaving an empty void where the section of building once was.

Magellan turned as a chunk of rubble rose through the gap, bearing a group of men - and one woman - on its surface. Several of them were dressed in striped prisoner's uniforms, stained with patches of red.

"Zehahaha, what a surprise to see you again, Magellan." The apparent leader of the group said. With crooked teeth, a black and gold coat and a wide tricorne hat, he looked every bit like a living, breathing stereotype of a pirate captain.

"Stop us right here Burgess, I need to take care of some unfinished business." He ordered. Behind him, the broad-chested man wearing a facemask nodded, and the piece of rubble came to a halt.

A thought occurred to Lina as she stood, watching the proceedings. Wasn't levitation Shiki's power? And from the way CP9 had spoken, it seemed like Devil Fruits were unique.

Lina didn't get any time to process the idea further when Magellan spoke up.

"Teach! And Shiliew!" He roared, his fury directed at one of the men in particular, dressed in a dark jailer's uniform. "Why do I see you helping him? Are you the one who destroyed our communications? Are you a traitor as well?!"

Shiliew shrugged, his hand moving to the hilt of his sword. "Hmm, why don't you take a few steps in my shoes Chief. When a man is on death row, he doesn't have many options, you know."

Magellan said nothing, but the flow of poison increased, spreading across the floor and forming a towering demonic torso. And yet, the new arrivals seemed entirely unafraid, leaping down from their perch as their leader strode forward.

Lina motioned for her party to back up a bit. If these new guys wanted to fight, that was just fine with her, but it wouldn't do to get caught up in somebody else's battle.

Magellan swung his hand, and the venom demon mirrored his movements, sweeping a massive, toxin-dripping limb toward the new arrivals. Burgess responded by pointing with a finger, sending the levitating boulder rocketing forward, colliding with the toxic mass. The poison seemed to spread through the stone, reducing it to formless sludge within moments, but it had bought them enough time.

The leader - Teach apparently - slammed a hand against the ground, sending a wave of dark smoke spreading out across the floor. It flowed over Magellan's feet, and the warden stumbled as the black morass swallowed his legs. The venom demon collapsed, pulled into the sucking darkness.

Lina watched as Teach stepped forward, placing a shadow-shrouded hand on Magellan's chest. To her surprise, the warden shuddered, and the poison covering his body hissed as if in reply. It kind of looked like he was being infected by his own venom.

"Serves him right." Luke muttered from behind her.

Magellan's movements stilled, and Teach withdrew his hand, allowing the warden to collapse face-first to the floor. Then, Teach began to scream, dropping and rolling around on the ground, desperately shaking the afflicted limb in an attempt to get the poison off. His crew gathered around him.

"That was pretty careless of you, captain, and after I warned you about underestimating Magellan." Shiliew chided. "You got lucky, it looks like the poison weakens after he's dead. This wouldn't work on Kinjite at full strength."

He bent down, producing a syringe filled with liquid which he injected into his captain's arm, and Teach's cries of agony gradually subsided. He clambered to his feet, still breathing hard.

"Well, something like that is up to the dictates of fate, you know?" He said, dusting himself off as if nothing had happened. "Hey little girl, we're going to put on a great show in just a short while. Wanna come?"

It took Lina a moment to realize that the pirate was talking to her.

"Yeah, no thanks." She waved off his request. No way she was getting involved with this bunch of freaks. Then, a thought occurred to her. "Hey wait, was that some kind of anti-venom?"

Teach nodded, and stroked his scruffy beard with a finger.

"How 'bout it Shiliew?" He said. "Think you can spare one for them? They did do us a favor by fighting Magellan you know."

Shiliew grunted and rummaged through his coat, withdrawing another syringe and tossing to Lina.

"I suggest you take your friend and get out of here while you can then." Teach continued. "Wouldn't want whatever ship you came in to be caught up in the backwash."

He nodded to his crew and two of the men stepped forward, producing a black cloth which they held over Magellan's motionless body, concealing him from sight.

"Let's get outta here guys." Lina said, leading her party back through the dungeons, while Gourry and Luke carried the man they had rescued by his arms and legs. Amelia ran alongside, injecting him with the anti-venom, then focusing her healing efforts on Zelgadis whose granite skin could not accept needles. The prisoner stirred slightly as the antidote took effect, although they'd still have to fix up the damage that had already been done.

Lina breathed a sigh of relief when they passed the entrance and found that the fog cloud and their ship were both still intact. A couple of muted booms could still be heard now and then, but the defending fleet was apparently unwilling to risk hitting the prison structure. The crew sprinted onboard and unfurled their sails, and with a blast of wind to get them going the ship was off, leaving the Marines none the wiser.

As they drifted away, Lina heard a deep rumbling coming from behind them, followed by the thunderous crash of rushing water. She turned around to look, but the fog was too thick for her to see anything, so she shrugged and went back to her business.


...


Marineford was in ruins, the air filled with smoke and the cries of the wounded. The great headquarters building was marred by fissures, while the island itself had been split across the middle by Whitebeard's relentless power. Portgas D. Ace was dead, and the surviving pirates fled at the orders of their captain, carrying their wounded as they ran for their ships.

Whitebeard stood alone in the plaza, facing the combined strength of the Marine forces. Cut, pierced, burned and blasted, he remained an implacable giant, and repeated assaults broke against him like waves upon rocks. As a father, he would spend what remained of his life to buy the lives of his surviving sons.

Sengoku cursed under his breath when even Sakazuki fell, tumbling into the canyon created by Whitebeard's final attack. Garp's struggles ceased, and Sengoku released his grip, helping the Vice Admiral to his feet. Though there was still fury etched across Garp's features, it had cooled with Sakazuki's defeat, and Sengoku felt confident enough that his old friend wouldn't try anything rash.

"Regroup and keep attacking!" He turned and exhorted the Marines. "Whitebeard doesn't have much power left! Fight together and bring him down!"

The sound of clashing weapons was hushed as a shadow fell over the island, and something enormous plunged through the thick, gray clouds. It landed on the headquarters, pulverizing the structure and shaking the ground with the force of impact. Sengoku stumbled before regaining his bearings, and his mouth gaped when the pall of dust fell and revealed the object.

It was Impel Down. There was no mistaking the multi-tiered structure of the Great Underwater Prison, with a chunk of seabed still welded to its base. A solitary figure sat atop its peak, a colossal giant like no other.

"Oh, I think they spotted me." Sanjuan Wolf said. He waved playfully with a hand, then covered his mouth in mock fright.

A chunk of rubble detached from the prison, bearing a group of pirates on its surface as it flew down and crashed into the plaza. Burgess clambered from the debris, scratching his head and muttering an apology for the rough landing, while Marshall D. Teach stepped forward, spreading his arms with a sickening grin plastered on his face.

"Good to see you old man! It's been a while!" He called out to Whitebeard. "Looks like I got here in time to witness your death!"

Sengoku felt a chill running down his spine. He couldn't see Shiki anywhere, but that levitation was undoubtedly the Flying Pirate's ability. Had the Blackbeard Pirates recruited him too?

"Shiliew, you traitor…" He said as he spotted the former jailer among the pirates. "What happened to Magellan? And where's Shiki hiding, that damn bastard."

It wasn't Shiliew who replied, but Teach.

"Zehahahaha, why don't I show you right now?" He said, his voice practically bursting with barely hidden glee. "Doc! Let 'em have it!"

Doc Q dismounted, shooing his horse away, though the poor animal only managed a few halting steps before its legs gave out and it collapsed onto its side. Burying his face in his black fur coat, the doctor coughed once, then wiped his nose with a finger.

Sengoku's eyes widened as a tide of purple poison oozed from the doctor's body, coalescing into a towering skeletal torso, clutching a venom-forged scythe within its bony, clawed hands. Burgess thrust his arms skyward, and more masses of stone detached from structure of the great prison, filling the air with chunks of careening rubble. The Marines shrank back, their faces paling with fear.

"Are you seeing this you bastards?!" Blackbeard roared in triumph. "Go on and show the world, every one of those boring peace-lovers. Call up all of the half-assed pirates, the Marines, and all those fat fools in the World Government! All of us must answer to the hand of fate, and fate has chosen me!"

"FROM NOW ON, THIS IS MY AGE!"