Vincent's crazy dash towards Alexandra paid off after all; with the shield ready for the jump, Vincent forces his legs for a quicker approach, the first step towards the jump procedure. Once at ground zero, Vincent leaps with his left leg first on the shield, driven by the momentum he gained during the sprint; the moment he felt Alexandra's indubitable strength pushing against his own weight, he flexed both of his legs and sprang against her hoist, giving the wolf quite some air. Quickly calculating where he would land - somewhere next to Xilan - he had enough time to do a flip roll, just like rogues do when they jump over their target so they can quickly retaliate. Without much elegance he lands rather roughly, being forced to crouch down to disperse all of the momentum he took as he jumped over the Vanguard. With the marksmen dead again, they could all concentrate on the Vanguard, not to mention that he's got a world of problems with the Junior Heroes divided to attack him from both sides. While Vincent prepared his strike, the Vanguard gets hit both by Arianna and Xilan's arcane attacks, the wolf already growing a grin on his face; he couldn't believe his own eyes how well this all worked, so to reward himself, Vincent took full momentum with his right hand and crouched just slightly to deliver a powerful blow into the knee joint of the Vanguard with a slingshot effect. Quick and crushing. The blow itself recoiled hard into his own arm, as he could feel the leaden end crack and splinter the rotten bone of the vanguard, giving the wolf a satisfied, fiendish grin on his snout. Although his grin would soon disappear, as he wasn't ready for the Vanguard to turn around and slash at him; with a reflex formed after so many bonks he received from Arianna, he somehow dodges the blade, though his tail got in the way this time. The pommel of the sword struck him hard, forcing him to take a couple of steps back; while the injury itself wasn't really serious, he could swear he felt a dent in his snout where the pommel hit him. The real problem was that he was rendered him a little dizzy, his brain being shaken by the impact. He had to stay put for a little while before he could attempt to strike again, but it was a pleasure to him to watch his comrades work together to bring this sorry ass down.
Alexandra impaled the Vanguard with her holy sword magic, but it did not put him to rest; Xilan struck him with another arcane blast that relieved the Vanguard of it's shield, yet, it stood there defiant, leaning on it's sword. That's when Vincent decided to intervene and end this game; he pulled himself together and charged at the Vanguard to deliver the killing blow. He kicked away the sword with the full momentum of his body and with a pivot, he grabbed the lead pipe with both of his hands and delivered an upwards strike of the Vanguard as it was falling down to the ground; the wolf grunted loudly as he delivered this blow, feeling the head of the undead mash together into a bony soup of rotten flesh, brains and skull. The surge of adrenaline wearing off quickly after the Vanguard landed on the ground, Vincent started to gain awareness of his surroundings again... they brought him down. He blinked a few good times, trying to make himself believe that they just won a battle; a small one, but it was their first. He marks another scratch on the leather belt holding the tools just before Xilan puts his hand on Vincent's shoulder; normally, he'd shove the elf's hand off and reply with a "Don't touch me"
, but right now, he had this eerie feeling of accomplishment.
"We did it, we won !"
Vincent turned his gaze towards Xilan, which lifted his staff above his head in celebration, followed by Alexandra. Arianna was smiling, the lizardmen hissing with passion... it made him smile to. Not grin... smile. All of a sudden, his distinctive frown seemed to have lifted as he raised his pipe in celebration. He chuckled under his breath:
"That, we did."
While everyone back at the village was already repairing the damage and mourning the lost, the wolf started to count his stock again, also giving him an occasion to reload his weapons in peace. That's when he noticed that his wound actually bled a few droplets; he frowned, licked the tip of his fingers and washed away the already dried blood on his snout. When he reached for his pocket again, instead of pulling out a bullet, he pulled out something small, slightly warm and a tad slippery: his friend salamander. The wolf sighed in annoyance, as he met the gaze of the critter.
"You just don't give up, do you?"
The reptile gazed up at the wolf, not uttering a sound... until it gently plucked Vincent's left cheek, just under his distinctive mole with it's long, sticky tongue. He snorted, amused by it's reaction, so, he started petting it's tiny head with his fingers.
"S'pose you need a name now, do you, buddy? You'll be..."
the wolf narrowed his eyes, as his mind was looking for a suitable name for the critter. Something that would represent the salamander... Toungy? No, no... Butterfinger? No, no, no... Reaper? No way... but finally observing the color pattern of the reptile, it struck him.
The reptile plucked Vincent's nose.
On their way out of the camp, the lizard men cheered the group of Heroes, making Vincent feel rather awkward than anything else really; teh children pointed fingers in awe, some of them running along with the squad. He even saw a group of kids imitating the Heroes' fight against the Vanguard, as they were trying very hard to reconstruct the shield jump, but the lizard child that tried to jump crashed into the "Vanguard" again. The wolf chuckled and left the squad so to approach the playing children:
"Nononono, let me show you how it's done..."
With a couple of gestures, he teaches the kids how to approach the shield, how to hold the shield and boost the jumper; helping the lizard child hold the shield, they launch the "Vincent" over the "Vanguard", the group hissing cheerful when the little one landed. Though the only one not so cheerful was the little "Vanguard", forced to dress in tatters and take everyone's blows; to cheer him up, Vincent raised his right finger and pulled out one of his bullets and handled it to the Vanguard. Awestruck, the little one gawped and the projectile, up at the wolf, then back at the projectile; as soon as his playmates tried to put their hands on it, the "Vanguard" stuck his reptilian tongue out and ran with his new trophy. When the wolf returned to formation, Brandon gave his little speech:
"Fighting against impossible odds on the side of strangers you just met, winning in spite of everything and being hailed a Hero. What you experienced today is just a taste of what it means to be a Hero of Avalon....well, that and a lot of walking, still part of the order."
"Not to mention blood and death..."
he replied, although he still couldn't pull the image of the happy lizard kid out of his mind. "... and smiles."
The journey back to the camp seemed shorter, compared to when they entered the swamp; all of a sudden, the water in his boots didn't matter that much anymore. The camp was obviously ravaged by the undead, but it seemed that they held out pretty well against the invasion. Everyone was happy, miss Goldentail received the reagents for her cure, Bludvein got his scouts back in one piece, the Venomfly population got lowered by a considerable amount...But then, the whole camp fell silent when the word "Necromancer" got spilled out. Vincent raised his eyebrow at the word and the whole reaction; why would a necromancer be so interested in a casket like that, lost in the swamps? Shouldn't they be brooding over how to take over the world instead of playing roughhouse with the Heroes? But WHAT hides in that gods-forsaken casket? Hopefully the commander will sort that one detail out. It really mattered to Vincent what were they fighting for, as Junior heroes aren't your common Wall Guard. Xilan was right, at this pace, they would never get bored. Or a chance to breathe.
"At this rate, we won't be able to find time even to piss... but what concerns me is the fact that we're driving attention to smaller problems instead of dealing with political situations. Such as, I don't know, the presence of a necromancer? Or the 'Inquisition' ?"
"Only you could find amusement in things like this...oaf..."
"Watching plants grow is an amusement for our Xilan here."
When he and Xilan compared their kills, Vincent won by one... the Vanguard! Although he didn't have too much interest to get a kiss from the redhead, after leading the squad to victory and killing so many foes, the wolf's instinct called for a nice mating act; though, he couldn't pick someone around the camp, as they were leaving now... Alexandra just wasn't Vincent's speed, but as for Arianna...
"What?! No one told ME about that. Forget it !"
The wolf strikes a face of dismay and takes Arianna's hand into his paws, as he declares with an overly chivalrous tone: "Arianna... but... I t-thought w-we..."
"Well, a deal is a deal. You have to give Vincent some sugar now"
Vincent lets a very dumb grin take over his snout.
"Not to...ruin your mood, but I believe out of the 4 of us I am the one who defeated most undead"
Vincent lets go of Arianna's hand and scoffs
"And that you just did!"
After re-counting their kills, well, it was obvious Alexandra took most undead out... after all, she hacked and slashed everything that stood on two rotten legs on the front line.
"Well...damn. She's right." said Xilan, scratching his head, to which Vincent grumbled under his breath as Arianna kissed Alexandra's cheek.
"I think we've just been cheated..."
But Vincent had an idea: "And I've got JUST the thing for cheaters..."
replied the wolf in a whisper. With a wicked smile, he reached for a bulge in his duster, only to pull out his new secret weapon and friend: Freckles. He walks up to Ari, hiding his friend in the palm of his hand. "Well... guess that the leader is always disregarded for his efforts and accused for his mistakes. But I have a gift for you... This is..."
he lifts his hand and opens his palm, revealing Freckles; the reptile promptly extended it's dark blue tongue and plucked at Arianna's nose, delivering a wet, cold kiss. The wolf got bonked pretty hard for that, but he still thought it was worth it.
Before they could embark on the carriage, Vincent took a few moments to try to swallow down the reality: he marked real kills. There were no dummies, no second tries, yet, he scored kills. Venomflies... undead... the troll... the Vanguard... all of them were as real as his tail, yet, nothing went wrong and they managed to defeat all of their foes. What's more surprising to himself was how he managed to make plans during combat and efficiently apply them; but he's only an engineer, not a tactician! While his grades were always remarkable at Tactics, he was never really interested in them; history also helped a lot, learning the mistakes and victories of other tactical leaders... could he himself be a leader? The leader of their little squad? He didn't see himself as fit for it, people loathed his personality, yet he managed to pull everyone together and work as a team. Vincent reaches for the inside pocket of his duster, to pull out the Junior Hero badge he threw over his shoulder earlier today; now, it wasn't as ugly and useless to him as before. He already felt a personal attachment to the metal piece itself; although he dreamed to become an engineer and live in Freedom Island, today's events really changed the wolf's perspectives. He will have to take lead for now and when the day he will screw up arrives, he will give up his post and live the life he wants but for now...
"Think I'd might enjoy this whole Heroes affair... seeing you guys work together against all odds and succeed. You did great."
he excluded himself from the equation... after all, he was just a marksman, he didn't throw arcane bolts or hacked at undead. Yes, he did pick a few down and finish off the Vanguard, but "... neither of us could have done this for ourselves. But quoting the Heroes of Avalon... 'Divided, we fall. United, we prevail'. So, since I'll be joining the fun-fair..."
He pins the badge, strangely, on his right chest; like many other Junior Heroes, he decided to become the leader by positioning the badge on the right-side of his chest. Just like scout leaders put the badge on the right shoulder instead of the left one. He raises his view towards his team and towards Brandon, giving a confident smirk:
"Might as well smile while I'm at it."