Book 3, Chapter 86 - Escalation

“Blasphemers, die!”

Black smoke obscured the eye, and the earth trembled. It was no exaggeration to say the scene was cataclysmic; the sky was falling, the pillars of the world seemed to shake.

The old general stood amid the darkness, a golden god of war, bathed in holy light. With the mighty broadsword ablaze in his hands, he lead the troops toward their foes. Ardent fire burned in his eyes, his puissant roars like righteous thunder that were audible even over the clamor of war.

His golden figure crashed into the front lines. Sparks surrounded the general from bullets ringing off his armor, none of which left a mark. Aegir planted his foot into a Dark Atom shapeshifter’s chest which sent it careening across the battlefield. Its hefty body collided with a group of allies with bone-breaking impact.

Aegir didn’t stop. With a triumphant war cry he jumped into the air and further into the fight. Heavy footfalls found purchase on the heads of enemy soldiers as he pushed through, causing them to burst like they’d been struck by a sniper’s bullet.

“Protect our leader!”

Dark Atom soldiers huddled around Wolfblade, trying to shield him from the incoming assault. Meanwhile the self-styled godslayer stood casually in place, easy as a spring breeze, with a gentle smile on his face. Overhead, his mysterious blade hovered as a tempest of blue energy roiled around. The sword was in the process of drinking the energy up.

All of a sudden, there was a flash of radiant blue light! 

That demonic weapon – synonymous with death – pointed toward the golden figure charging forward.

A stalwart defensive aura sprang up around the battle-hardened general. He bellowed at Wolfblade, and thrust his own weapon toward the heavens. The beam of light that erupted from it which he used to cleave the peak off of the mountain he trod upon.

Aegir gave the peak a violent kick, which sent it hurtling toward Wolfblade’s position. Shadow blanketed the ground as the tumbling rock blotted out the sun. Then, with a burst of true power from deep within, he swept his sword downward while pedaling through thin air.

Wolfblade was surrounded by an orb of power that crackled with barely contained energy. As it reached peak concentration the ground for meters all around fractured under the strain. Shards of earth rose into midair and were gathering toward the blade, but dissolved into fine sand before they reached it. Dark Atom soldiers nearby, growing pale at the sight, were pushed away from the sheer intensity and had to retreat to avoid being injured.

The inevitable clash of these two men was far beyond their abilities. It was a clash these wastelanders could not survive if they tried to get involved!

The general’s momentum rose as he plummeted like a meteorite. An unprecedented surge of vigor and strength filled him as every ounce of potential was squeezed from inside. Every bit of power from every cell was called upon. His hair, at first a luxurious satin white, turned black as pitch. His stone-like body became hard as iron.

Once Aegir’s sword met the tumbling mountain peak he released all of that pent-up might into it. But while the power he released was enough to shatter the stone into a thousand shards, it didn’t. Instead the blow from his sword left no mark, utilizing his potency to speed up its descent. For a moment it seemed like the hundreds of tons of falling rock were light as a feather, a mere trinket affixed to the golden blade.

It was closing in! At last, Wolfblade thrust both fists toward the peak and the general.

His blue demon blade reacted. The ground around Wolfblade buckled, but not from any excess force or gravity. Rather, the power of the sword as it streaked away was pregnant with the esence of destruction. All reality surrounding it, with the exception of its bearer, was immediately erased – vanished into a mist like water on the surface of the sun.

What would happen when sword and mountain met? Would the sword break? Would the mountain burst? 

Neither.

This chunk of mountain, tall as a skyscraper, hung still in the air. At the point of impact it slowly began to disintegrate, inch by inch, vanishing into the wind like smoke. Neither Wolfblade’s sword nor the mountain peak moved, yet the rock continued to dissolve.

The blue light within Wolfblade’s sword softened.

The mountain peak melted away.

Eventually nothing remained of the rock, atomized by the power contained in Wolfblade’s relic. Yet just as it vanished, so too did the blue light fade from the sword.

“He’s blocked me! Advance!”

Aegir’s thunderous voice shouted his next command, while in the moment the mountain peak dissolved he reappeared into view. He charged like a golden bolt of lightning toward his next target, the blue sword itself.

Clang!

Too fast, no one could follow his path.

Wolfblade’s mighty relic was flung four thousand meters away, where it became lodged in the side of a volcano. Cracks appeared and spread out from where it was embedded.

The successive actions seemed to drain the essence out of the old warrior. The black drained from his hair again, leaving it whiter and more brittle than before. Even still the general pushed on, indomitable, unassailable.

Aegir Polaris had studied the blade since he was eight years old.

A child from an offshoot branch of the respected military family, he rose to prominence and became commander of Skycloud’s largest standing army. Yet no matter how much he achieved, he never forget his life as a child, and the vow he made to the gods the first time he picked up a sword.

Through this sword, I will win peace for Skycloud.

Through this sword, I will earn glory for my family!

Through this sword, I will bring a thousand generations of stability!

From tender child to grizzled veteran, fifty years of practice with that sword had transpired. He never forgot those vows. He didn’t care that the sword would eventually cost him his life, his time on earth was promised to wielding this weapon and keeping his promise. Success was in his grasp, he would destroy this Dark Atom commander and bring peace to Skycloud. The fiend wielded the power of demons, but it would not be enough!

Though Wolfblade was hardly as much of a threat as a demon, his continued existence threatened the elysian homeland far more than any demon did. With his death the Dark Atom would crumble. If this was to be his final battle, killing the terrorist leader would be more than worth his life.

The elysian army erupted in a chorus of loud shouting.

Drake watched with wide eyes. Was this the power of the elder generation?

Aegir Polaris wasn’t a demonhunter. Everything he did was by virtue of his own strength and potential. If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, Drake wouldn’t have believed a human was capable of such incredible feats.

If Aegir was this strong, what about his brother Skye? What about the leader of the templars, the one they called the War Saint?

Suddenly, Drake felt stupid for worrying over his general. Aegir could cut Wolfblade apart with his holy weapon without a problem. Meanwhile, Brontes had led the van into the heart of the Dark Atom forces just in time to help their valiant general slay the terrorist leader.

He was the general of the border forces – who was Drake to assume the general, a man who earned his position, would foolishly rush in alone if he thought it was suicide? Of course he had the confidence and smarts to make such a risk, and not just throw away the lives of his soldiers. What hubris, to believe all men in power were fools!

He felt a fire roil in his veins. Holding his weapon high, Drake let his voice bellow. “Prepare for a full assault!”

As Wolfblade watched the light of the sword grow ever closer, his face became white as a sheet. But if one were to look closely, they would see his pallor was from strain, not fear. In fact, there was almost a note of ridicule behind the man’s eyes, as though he were idly watching an ape make a fool of itself. He was running toward the muzzle of a gun and didn’t even know it.

A sword of sand came sweeping past.

Simple and unassuming, it was hardly worth noticing compared to the dramatic scene from moments before. In fact, its approach was entirely disregarded by most.

Aegir felt the danger as it approached, but he was already committed. After the clash with the demonblade, his holy weapon had already suffered significant damage. So it was that when the seemingly feeble sword of sand collided with the general’s sword, the blessed weapon split down the middle.

But the sword of sand kept coming.

General Polaris’ breastplate couldn’t stop it and the sword pierced his chest. Its gritty point exited from his back with a spray of bright red blood. It almost seemed to hang in the air for a moment like a macabre fog.

Like a great eagle with broken wings, Aegir tumbled from the sky. He struck the ground a few meters from Wolfblade, while the godslayer watched with a dispassionate gaze.

Watching from a distance, Drake froze. Brontes, too. All the soldiers who saw their great general fall were suddenly frozen. When the shock wore off it was replaced with berserk fury. Brontes commanded his men to cut a path to Aegir, but it was already too late.

It was a trap! A rain of sand arrows descended on them from the sky!

They struck with more force than a spray from a minigun, easily strong enough to punch right through the armored soldiers. More frightening still, the flesh of the soldiers were reduced to sand and in mere seconds they crumbled away as though they never were. The vanguard was now nothing more than a pile of dust.

Aegir gasped as he was shocked away from a brief moment of unconsciousness. He raised his head and came face to face with a masked visage, only one eye revealed and yet still somehow refined. Wolfblade stood a short distance away, watching him with a smile, yet did not attack.

Bastard! You dare mock me?!

Aegir tried to rise, but in that moment a wave of sand appeared to submerge him from the waist down. The sand was like a giant hand, which reached up to encase him entirely. Slowly, bit by bit, crushing force pressed in on him from every direction. Any second he would be pulverized.

The elysian general was about to be smashed to paste before the eyes of his soldiers.

In this critical moment a streak of icy blue light arrived with a burst of energy. It inserted into the sand and froze it instantly in place. Jutting out was a spear of masterful craftsmanship, appearing to be made entirely of ice. Only Aegir’s face remained free, the rest of him locked in a prison of crystal and sand. However, the crushing force was gone.

The mocking light in Wolfblade’s eyes faded. He reached out with his mind for the demonblade, wrenching it from the distant cliff and calling it back to him – aimed directly at Aegir’s back. But before it could find its target, a figure wrapped in the purest white descended from above. He bore a magnificent sword that filled the area with a bone-deep cold.

In the same instant this new foe knocked away Wolfblade’s sword, the icy shell around Aegir shattered.

Frost de Winter lifted Aegir from the sand and stood between him and Wolfblade. With his feet planted firmly on the ground, he reached down and picked up his spear, Frozen Dirge. The sword in his right hand cut toward the terrorist leader. The series of changes were unexpected, and too fast for Wolfblade to react. No one was nearby to come to his rescue.

The ground in front of Wolfblade began to fracture and open up. A burst of sand gushed from the fissure to form a towering wall. Deadly icicles lodged into it, jutting out like a hedgehog’s hide. But the sword strike was enough to split the sandy shield, just wide enough for Frost to throw Frozen Dirge through the opening. The mighty spear ran Wolfblade through and pinned him to the rocky wall behind.

It all happened in a matter of seconds. One after the other, white-clad figures fell from the heavens.

There were at least a dozen, men all wearing snow-white cloaks. Demonhunters.

Frost flicked his wrist and Frozen Dirge dislodged from the wall of its own accord. It almost seemed to sing as it streaked through the air and returned to his grip. Raising his head and looking toward the sky, toward a black figure who peered down at them through burning red eyes. 

“Young man. What is your name?”

A smile spread across Frost’s lips. “I thought we were here to exterminate a few measly rats. How unexpected that the Dark Atom would be hiding a sheltering a demon. Good. Killing your kind is what demonhunters do best!”

Agents of the Dark Atom looked at one another in speechless despair. The demonhunters had arrived too quickly.

Things were different now. It wasn’t just a war, it had escalated to a confrontation between demonhunters and the very creature they were sworn to destroy. Everyone knew the capabilities of the young man, this champion of Skycloud. Though he himself perhaps was not the warrior Aegir Polaris was, he had led a contingent of veteran demonhunters to the field. They were not a force to disregard.

Demonhunters and a demon. Old enemies, face to face once more.

 

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RWX's Thoughts

Frost has entered the fray... and he's going after the person who Cloudhawk swore to kill so long ago.  Oh, the twists and turns of fate!