When you face down a huge fire-breathing, not to mention skeletal, dragon, your options are somewhat limited.
You can run, you can pray for a quick death, or you can fight. My choice became clear when I charged.
I had not even crossed half the distance when all three heads breathed fire in my direction. It covered the ground in front out, as well as the left and right of me in flames.
Apparently, this monster was actually smart enough to come up with a plan.
Fortunately though, I had picked up quite a bit of tactics over the years from spending so much time with Annabeth.
I leapt above the flames which were a good twelve feet high. A feat that was quite easy now that I had practice calling on all the power of Ouranos I could muster after the many months of hands on monster fighting.
I managed to get enough lift and momentum that I was able to lash out and sever the left most neck from its body. The power coursing through my blade assured that no replacement head would be growing back anytime soon.
Unfortunately, I had a feeling that same tactic would not work again.
My suspicions were confirmed when the dragon rose to it full height with all its limbs on the ground , its necks moving away from one another, and its wing raising to their full wingspan.
"Great," I thought.
With it in that position, I might be able to sever another head, but the other would be ready to set me on fire. And if I tried to move quickly, I would not be able to stop in time. I would miss the flames which is a good thing, but I would hit the wings. Which I noticed were sharp, very sharp.
I needed someway to negate the flames of the dragon, a feat that was impossible for me at the moment. I didn't have any water to douse it, nor enough raw power from Ouranos to negate it.
Then I face-palmed.
I didn't have enough power now, but there was still a piece of essence just sitting on the altar that I had completely forgot about in the heat of the moment.
Apparently the dragon was the only defense system it had, and it was still glowing merrily on the altar. The only challenge now was getting to it.
I decided to go with a classic to distract the dragon. I threw Riptide and guided it towards the dragons neck. As I expected, the dragon easily knocked it aside with its wings, though it did slice several bones off of them. The dragon then turned its attention back to me, ready to tear me apart since it knew I didn't have a weapon anymore.
Or it tried to rather, for I was no long in its field of vision. I had run as fast as I could and was already at the altar as the dragon roared and quickly turned to face me, but it was still too slow.
I put my hand on the orb, I already knew thanks to Ouranos that I would not pass out again, and I concentrated as hard as a guy could with an undead, three-headed, fire-breathing dragon in the room.
Sure enough, I felt the power slam into me, which caused me to stumble slightly. I was still awake though, and more powerful than ever. The dragon roared in fury and tried to bathe me in flames once again.
There were now hundreds of things I could have done to not be hit by those flames, but I decided not to go with the easiest.
The easiest involves me turning the fire back upon the dragon, but I went with the one that would give me the most satisfaction.
I moved so fast, it seemed that time was standing still, and seemed to appear on the dragon right in between its two necks. I swung Riptide in a large arc, going from low to high, left to right, and severed both necks so quickly, that they both fell to the ground at the same time.
I proceeded to hop off what was left of the body before it could crash into the ground. The power that animated the body now fled it, and instead of returning to the arch it seemed to flee the very room.
Relaxing and stretching my shoulders, I summoned my pack to me. I had thrown it into a corner when the dragon had began to form and it had managed to avoid taking any damage.
I then made my way to the mouth of each dragon head. Using a knife I had taken from the monster camp all those months ago, I pried out its teeth one at a time.
Soon I had exactly one hundred dragon teeth that could be used. I had already discarded the few broken ones there had been as they would do nothing if planted.
I decided to play with my new power a bit and focused it on the teeth fusing them all together into one. I hadn't created one large tooth, in fact the tooth I held was the average size of a dragon tooth.
Instead I had bound them all together magically so I wouldn't have to carry them all at once. I had also taken the precaution of binding them more heavily than other spartus.
I had noticed with the spartus summoned by Frank's spear it had been slightly wild. I had no intention of letting that happen with these teeth.
I then looked around the room, and noticed several god rods that looked like they were used to hold candles on top of them. I selected the one that was in the best shape and focused my power on it.
The gold rippled and symbols started appearing on it. I cared little for the symbols, my eyes were on the Roman numerals that formed at the top that seemed to keep shifting endlessly. I grabbed the enchanted tooth from the floor and with a flash of light fused it with the top of the rod. The numerals stopped shifting so that one hundred was clearly displayed. I held what was now an imperial gold spear with a dragon tooth tip on it at arm's length and ran a quizzical eye over it.
It shared similarities with the spear Mars gave to Frank on his first quest, but it was slightly longer. With the patterns on the shaft giving it an air of beauty where Frank's spear had been a plain shaft. After some more thought, I altered the spear in one more way. I made it so that the spear could still be used if it was recharging, or if the bearer didn't want to use a charge. The bone tip would simply be replaced with a gold tip, and everyone would be happy.
"Well, except for who ever is getting speared by it," I concluded.
I stuffed it into my bag, for I had no intention of using it for myself. In addition, even with all my knowledge, I had no idea if the summoning would work in Tartarus. I was naturally loath to waste a charge on testing it out.
I put my bag around my shoulder again, and set out, glad to be leaving this dark temple.
"I am never getting out of here," I said glumly.
The final piece of essence seemed to be taunting me ever since I had left the temple. Which had started to collapse on me when I left the dragon's room by the way. I never got a chance to explore its ruins either since it seemed to melt into the ground.
I figured that Ouranos's essence had been bound to it in someway, and with its departure the temple had lost its power.
I didn't even know how long it had been since the temple, I had lost track of the day while I tried to figure out where the last essence was.
You can imagine my surprise when I felt the familiar tug of the essence calling out to me, but instead of continuing upwards like I had done three months before the temple, it was down. Right back the way I had come, like one big practical joke.
Admittedly travel was much faster, as there were few monsters left on those levels, and the few I did meet easily fell before my new power.
I was originally concerned that without a challenge that my skills with my blade would become rusty. It was for that reason that I took the utmost precautions when I finally reached the levels of pit I had never been to before.
My concerns went unfounded, for even going a month without an opponent my skills were as great as ever. It was those encounters that led me to the conclusion that, thanks to Ouranos 's power, I would not have to worry about my skill decreasing. Indeed, with my power increased again thanks to my trip from the temple, my skill cap seemed to be increased again.
I delved deeper and deeper into Tartarus, and the monsters kept getting stronger and stronger, but my combat skills were once again increasing exponentially.
Like my trip upwards, the scenery kept changing as I delved lower and lower. As I expected, the previous levels where lighter, and their scenery was remarkable similar to scenery in the surface world.
As I went deeper and deeper, the semblance to the real world faded. In fact, their resemblance to reality faded as well. I saw a level of rolling sand, with ships fighting naval battles on it. One looked like a flat surface with a sandstorm raging on it until the sands began to form armies of skeleton warriors before they dissolved into what I realized was ground bones.
The monsters kept pushing me in both body and mind, and for the first time I began to appreciate falling into the pit. It was dangerous beyond belief down here and terribly lonely, but it was the greatest training regiment that I could ask for.
I massacred thousands of monsters, each more powerful than the last as I slowly approached my goal at the deepest depths of this infernal pit.
Surprisingly, none of the monsters I killed left behind any more spoils of war. I was curious about it until I remembered the knowledge I contained. After a few seconds of thought, I concluded that the reason nothing was dropping was because nothing they dropped could enhance my combat skill. There was absolutely no reason why I needed to lug around simple trophies, never mind the endless pack.
My luck changed however when I reached the void creatures.
It was in one of the deepest levels of the pit, for I had traveled for a lot longer than three months. While I had slain thousands of my foes if not hundreds of thousands down here, this level gave me the jitters.
This was due to the all consuming vortexes of darkness that seemed to populate this level. No light was on this level but the light from Riptide, and that seemed drawn into the vortexes like a black hole, though I felt no pull towards them myself.
I was very on edge while I was traveling through this level because I was already halfway through it, and I have yet to meet a single monster.
It was a good thing to, for one of the vortexes began to alter itself and form into a vaguely humanoid shape with very large claws that looked like a scythe was fused to each limb. Its body acted exactly like the way the vortex was before, devouring all light that was near it. Its eye were the only exception to the rule, they glowed red brightly and steadily.
It gave the most terrible shriek I have heard in my short life, a cross between Aphrodite's squeal and Grover's music before he became good at it, and it leapt to attack.
I quickly regained my wits, that screech was truly terrible for any being to here, and instead of leaping back or sideways, I stepped forward. The monster was certainly surprised even if it gave no indications of it, because I highly doubt it expected to get stabbed.
My blade sank into what I assumed was its gut and a dark fluid began spraying everywhere, covering my lion skin clothes in it.
I was wiping some of it from my cheek as I watched the things body deflate as the fluid leaked out of it when I stumbled forward. I quickly turned around and deduced that one of the twenty void creatures now behind me had attempted to stab me in my back, not aware of the power of the Nemean Lion pelt clothes I wore.
With a shout, Riptide blazed up again, eager to end the lives of more monsters.
The battle I fought lasted longer than the other fights I had in Tartarus. The creatures dissolved just like every other monster that came into contact with Riptide while it was a focus for my power. But it was hitting the creatures that was tricky.
Often I had struck at a one whose defenses I had overwhelmed, and it simply vanish to a few meters away, usually behind me to catch me by surprise.
I quickly caught on to this strategy and realized it was all the strategy these void creatures had. I quickly turned the strategy against them. I forced them to shift behind me, and stabbed behind me every time they did, hitting one every time because of their stupidity, and wiped them out of existence for a few decades.
When it was over, I looked down at my clothes, and stared incredulously at them. The blood of the void creature had somehow spread to cover all of my clothes, giving them the same effect as the creatures body, a blackness that seemed to absorb all light.
"Well, at least I finally am wearing a color I like," was my thought.
A hint of danger rolled up my spine, and I immediately threw myself backwards as one last void creature came out of nowhere.
This one being smart enough to attack from the front at my face. I had no time to swing my blade, or even curse myself for being stupid. Time seemed to slow down as my thoughts sped up, and I saw one of the claws mere millimeters away from my neck and closing in. I knew that there was no way I could physically prevent that claw from shearing my head from my neck.
I thought what I thought would be my last living thought, "Gods I wish I could shift around like they could."
That's when things got weird, I was now looking at the backside of the void creature. Not planning on wasting my good fortune, for the creature was now off-balance due to no resistance meeting its attack, and sheer surprise.
I swung Riptide, and the creature dissolved. I checked to make sure there were no more around, then I looked down at my clothes again.
"Interesting," I thought.
I can't flash anywhere I wanted yet, that required more power than I had at the moment. Not to mention it takes a decent amount of energy to do so, so I knew it wasn't that.
My suspicions proved true when I now felt myself shift a few meters away.
"So, that blood did more than just give my clothes a make over I see."
I experimented a few more times, and realized that while the range wasn't great on my new ability, it took no energy to perform it. So I could quite literally dance around any battlefield from now on.
"This is going to make life very difficult for monsters," I thought as I set up my camp for the night.