Three-Eyed Spider’s words were full of confidence, but he didn’t dare miscalculate his foe.
Wolfblade had masterminded every act of the Dark Atom for the last decade. The most capable leader the organization had ever seen. His personal abilities were without question, no mere wastelander. Three-Eyed Spider threw great force behind his opening attack, but perhaps no more than seventy percent of his full strength. He needed to keep something in reserve, leeway in case he needed to back off.
The old scientist came charging toward Wolfblade on the offensive. Meanwhile, the Dark Atom leader seemed hardly concerned.
It was Cloudhawk’s expression that changed. He sensed something coming from Wolfblade’s body, a familiar phenomenon like someone plucking a string.
A relic! It was some sort of artifact he’d never felt before, strong and mysterious!
This peculiar melody was foreign to Cloudhawk. It was strangely isolated, incomplete, and yet incredibly powerful.
A moment later Wolfblade reacted. But he did not move.
A pyre of blue ghostly flames burst from him. Ghostly flames were perhaps not accurate, though – they were more akin to fluorescent smoke. Formless, shapeless, but clinging tightly to his body, the strange emission was alive with light. Sparkling color danced through it like a starry night sky, and for a moment it was like Wolfblade stood in the center of his own galaxy.
Glimmering shards vibrated in the mist. They gathered together until the disparate fragments combined to form a blade.
It was formed like a sword, with a sharp tip and razor edges. Something was inscribed along its surface and the whole thing shone with ethereal azure light. Sparkling impressively, its presence filled the study with an old and imperial air. Both real and illusory, caught somewhere between a dream and reality, it was impossible to determine if the weapon was actually there.
The hiltless sword hovered above Wolfblade’s, divorced from the rules of reality. Energy poured off of it like a mist to diffuse all around its bearer. When Three-Eyed Spider’s fist was about to make contact, the mist pulsed and deflected the concussive force back on the scientist.
Three-Eyed Spider went hurtling across the study. He landed on his feet, crushing the fine marble into powder.
“Y-you… you’re a demonhunter!” He stuttered the revelation. Everyone present was equally stunned by what they saw, Cloudhawk among them.
No one would have thought that the Dark Atom’s illustrious leader, a man who had spent his life battling the elysians, was himself a demonhunter. Dogs would scoff at such a ridiculous assertion.
In their previous meeting Cloudhawk didn’t even get the slightest inkling of a relic on or near the Dark Atom’s leader. No one had ever been able to hide a relic’s harmony from him before. What sort of person was Wolfblade? Certainly no normal wastelander!
The scholarly man stood before his attacker, his expression never changing all through the assault. He stood almost indolently with his arms folded before his chest, perfectly composed. “You all are too rigid in your thinking. That won’t do. Gods and demons both rely on servitors to fight their battles, don’t they? What are demonhunters other than a faction? Not everyone who can use relics is a demonhunter. They could be godslayers.”
Three-Eyed Spider’s arm was badly mangled. The mighty punch not only failed to injure his opponent, it turned out to be far more harmful to himself. The scientist’s face was pale, and sweat was pouring down his brow. “Godslayers? What are you talking about?!”
Wolfblade’s lips turned in a dark smirk. “It’s not a matter that concerns dead men.”
“We’ll see!” Three-Eyed Spider raised his voice to shout, “Now! Kill him!”
His cries shook the traitors for their surprised stupor. Wolfblade was stronger than they they realized but it was too late to back away now. Their faith in Three-Eyed Spider was solid, and besides that they knew Wolfblade would never forgive their treachery. Either he died today, or all of them did.
Hundreds of Dark Atom members charged at each other like tidal waves.
Civil war had erupted within Nucleus.
Wolfblade’s men were at an obvious disadvantage, but their leader was unperturbed. The mystical weapon continued to float around him, encasing him in the cloak of blue mist. This diffused power was drawn back into the sword, infusing it with ever more energy.
Wolfblade extended a single finger toward the crowd. A streak of blue light fired through where he indicated.
A dozen men were summarily butchered as the light passed through them, dead before they hit the ground.
Their bodies did nothing to slow the sword down. They fell away like dry weeds before the scythe, powerless against the indomitable weapon. One after the other Wolfblade’s relic weapon pierced his foes with the only indication that it was weakening being a slight dim in the light around it. After it was done a line of corpses trailed in its wake, and its light was spent.
The sword implanted itself into the floor of the study.
No sound came from the unfortunate men who were in the sword’s path. Their wounds seethed with blue light that spread out like cracks in a window pane. They hit the ground and shattered into pieces. Those pieces continued to crumble into smaller and smaller parts until they wafted away on the wind as tens of thousands of glimmering blue specks.
In the passage of only a few seconds nothing remained, not even a drop of blood. It was as though they never existed at all.
Cloudhawk’s eyes went wide. “That power… amazing!”
In that one display Wolfblade showed he had more ability than many veteran demonhunters. Even Selene might struggle to beat him in a one-on-one fight . Whatever this blade without a handle was, it was definitely a relic of the highest quality. The fact that it just erased a dozen people was proof of that.
Using the sword had robbed Wolfblade of his misty defense. Three-Eyed Spider seized the opportunity and came charging at him with another punch. His henchmen moved in for support. Wolfblade was pushed back several steps, back toward Vulture and the others.
While Three-Eyed Spider pressed the attack, he shouted toward the beak-nosed fighter. “Now’s the moment! Kill him!”
Hellflower and Cloudhawk froze. Had Vulture betrayed his master and joined the scientist?
Although Wolfblade’s relic was immensely powerful, even the strongest tools had their limits. He’d used it to attack and left himself open. Now, under assault from Three-Eyed Spider, if his closest people turned on him then Wolfblade would be caught in a deadly trap. Not even a demonhunter could escape unscathed when surrounded and sneak attacked.
A handful of men went on the offensive.
Vulture wrenched a poison dagger from his belt then attacked like a baneful gale. He swept up behind Wolfblade and raised his hand high.
But what happened next was unexpected, for as Vulture’s dagger was poised to stab his master in the back it missed. And bored right into the center of Three-Eyed Spider’s chest.
The scientist’s three eyes stared wild and angry, gaping at the man in disbelief. “You -”
Wolfblade looked at his incredulous expression with a smile wide enough to show teeth. There wasn’t an ounce of fear at his apparent brush with death.
The rest of the men under Vulture’s command turned on Three-Eyed Spider. He was too stricken to voice his rage, and could only scream as they closed in. He tried to flee, earning several life-threatening wounds for his efforts. Meanwhile Vulture’s poison had seeped into his bloodstream and robbed him of any hope.
Three-Eyed Spider was gravely wounded, perhaps fatally. He had not thought that the one Vulture would betray would be him. Could they truly look upon this man Wolfblade had become and remain loyal? Were they really willing to work themselves to death at his command? Did they honestly believe all his lofty promises would offer any return? Why?!
Ten or so of the Dark Atom’s elite stood by Wolfblade’s side, Vulture among them. They had their weapons raised, ready for war. And though their expression were all different the light in their eyes was the same. There was no sliver of regret or hesitation in their depths.
The hovering blue sword returned to Wolfblade.
His body once more began to release its cocoon of power. Beneath the supernatural blue light his face lost its playful charm, and instead adopted an inscrutable intensity. “Your time on this earth is more than twice my own. Yet you still cannot see?”
Three-Eyed Spider didn’t understand. Neither did Cloudhawk, for that matter.
“These men are the backbone of the Dark Atom. Faithful revolutionaries in service to our cause. They are all willing to give their lives to defeat the tyranny of Skycloud, and revolutionary men like them need a revolutionary leader. Not a man who spends his days hiding in a laboratory, desperately searching for a way to extend his own life.”
Three-Eyed Spider’s face was a sickly pale.
“It doesn’t matter what changes befall a leader, whether they are the same as they once were.” As he spoke the sword drew in the mist of energy once again, several times more than before. Wolfblade’s voice thundered through the study as though he might blast the traitor apart with the force of his words alone. “What is important is that I can still lead. We have faith! You have none! You are selfish, and you are a coward!”
The sword lashed out!
Three-Eyed Spider knew his coup had failed. He turned and tried to run, but the sword gave chase fast as a lightning bolt. More than twenty men were reduced to dust as they tried to scramble out of the way. Wolfblade’s nightmarish relic gleamed as it caught up with its target.
But in that instant a hulking black figure appeared in the air, wreathed in a cloak of metallic feathers. One arm struck the blade and was immediately disintegrated, but it was enough to alter its trajectory ever so slightly. Another ten renegades were turned to nothing.
Raven landed, grabbing onto Three-Eyed Spider with his one remaining hand.
Wolfblade narrowed his eye. The sword was already back above his head gathering strength.
It had become clear that Wolfblade’s sword was indeed powerful, but could only release its energy all at once in a single strike. If it failed to end its target, it had to recover energy before it made another attack. While it did its bearer was protected by a powerful shield, a shield which was lost when the weapon was released.
Therefore, defeating Wolfblade first required his attacker to be strong enough to evade or deflect the sword. Then he needed to have the speed and wits necessary to take advantage of his small window of vulnerability. It was the one intrinsic flaw in an otherwise marvelous relic.
Raven had arrived, but it didn’t matter. He was too late and too weak to stop the inevitable.
The sword struck a third time.
Three-Eyed Spider’s ashen face fell, yet as he faced his own demise the entire city shook from an impact. The quaking ground was so severe that for a moment up and down were impossible to discern. Great boulders collapsed from overhead, raining down on the unprepared masses below.
“Earthquake?!” Cloudhawk shouted in surprise.
“Impossible! Nucleus id protected against earthquakes!” Hellflower’s mind raced to find the most likely cause. “We’re being attacked from outside!”
Blaring alarms screamed all throughout the city in confirmation. Someone’s terrified shouts rose over the din. “The Skycloud army is at the gates!”
At last Wolfblade seemed to recognize that the situation was critical. He frowned, for although he knew their position had been revealed he hadn’t expected an assault so soon. The other members of the Dark Atom were scared and furious. Over the last few years they had been hounded by these elysian scum, and now they were knocking down the door to their home? Fate had abandoned them.
Three-Eyed Spider didn’t know how the elysians got here, but he was grateful. It was his chance to escape certain death. Raven opened his mouth and spat out a series of pellets. When they hit the ground they burst into clouds of noxious green smoke, which he used as cover to pull Three-Eyed Spider to safety.
Vulture and the others were ready to give chase, but Wolfblade called them back.
“Forget him.” He called back his sword and sighed. The scientist was dealt with, for now. He couldn’t allow the distraction. “Save your energy. The real fight starts now.”
Skycloud had arrived. It was the single greatest disaster the Dark Atom could suffer.
Ever since its inception there had never been a wasteland power strong enough to stand up to the elysians. It wasn’t just their superior numbers and equipment, Skycloud was home to a host of brilliant warriors. Without a doubt, this would be the most harrowing test the Dark Atom had ever faced.
Cloudhawk’s supernatural healing had been working on his injuries, and by now he was at least recovered enough to move. But the problem facing him now was especially fraught. Any decision he made was the wrong one: In a war between Skycloud and the Dark Atom, which side was he supposed to choose?
If he helped Skycloud, would Trespasser continue to wreak havoc through his body?
But if he helped the Dark Atom, was it not the same as throwing his life away? How were these wastelanders supposed to survive against the full might of the elysian army? Even if by some miracle he got away Cloudhawk would immediately be branded a traitor. They would hunt him for the rest of his life.
1. Pretty huge power-up, considering he had his ass handed to him when they actually scuffled
Finally, we see the term 'godslayers' emerge...