Already, tendrils of mercury had made it up to the third floor. Hector leapt away from them with the aid of more platforms, scraping the broken ceiling with the back of his breastplate and jostling another boulder loose. It fell toward Melchor, who slapped it aside like a volleyball.
Meanwhile, Xuan was busy laughing. “That Darktide sure is a tough bastard, isn’t he?”
Hector landed with a metal thud and promptly launched himself away again. “Please stop distracting me, Lord Xuan.”
Midair, a tendril caught up to him and found his shield. Hector gripped the handle with all his might and wrenched it free, but the tendril settled for his bare leg instead. And when Hector landed again, a second tendril was already there, snaking around the other leg and crushing its armor.
He was in no position to run away this time, he knew, and in a moment, the mercury would surround him again, preventing even his ability to materialize iron. So he used it while he still could. He poured everything into adding spikes to his armor. Maximum volume.
The spikes exploded out, each one thick as a tree trunk, covering his armor and his shield and creating a small pocket at the center for Hector and his three passengers. The spikes also appeared on the back of his armor, lifting him off the floor and sending his giant cluster of iron needles over the third floor’s guardrail.
They fell, though Hector could hardly feel it from inside. He couldn’t see the fruits of his concentration, either, but it didn’t matter, because he just kept pushing for more. More spikes. More iron. More defense.
Hector’s work quickly filled the length of the chamber and caught on the second floor’s porous walls and crumbling staircase. They were stuck fast now, suspended above the first floor like some kind of grisly ornament, all while the iron spikes continued to grow, touching the ground and even reaching toward the ceiling.
Hector pressed his soul into the iron, hoping the shield’s passive enhancements would be carried along as well, but unfortunately, that did not seem the case. And with no light, he couldn’t see Xuan’s progress. He could only hear the muffled crack of iron above him and feel the fierce vibrations in his metal cocoon.
And then Darktide broke through. The foyer’s dim light poured in, along with a river of living mercury, searching and grasping for Xuan.