Wolfblade’s sword gouged a path through the air, leaving a wake of energy and a loud blast behind.
The energy rippled through Terrangelica, into the woman who held it. Luckily Dawn was still protected by her Aegis mirror, which shuddered but protected her from the impact. Cracks appeared on an intangible surface which sounded like breaking glass. What was before an invisible shell of protection was now clearly visible from the spider web of cracks.
Dawn wasn’t strong enough to fight off Wolfblade. Her treasured sword would soon break, and her life would be in danger.
His actions were a mystery. If he wanted Cloudhawk dead he had the power to, it would be a simple act. Why was he wasting time? Wolfblade also seemed to have a strange familiarity with Cloudhawk, and a relationship like that didn’t grow out of thin air. He just couldn’t read this strange man.
Despite his injuries, Cloudhawk managed to find his feet. Then, all at once, he disappeared.
He blinked back into reality between Coal and his victims. Silver light extended from his sleeves and the Silver Serpents, like some ethereal rope, entangled Brontes and Drake.
The two Elysians hardly looked human anymore.
Brontes looked like he’d been pummeled to death. Drake miraculously was still conscious, but his wounds were bad. All of a sudden Coal became enraged, like a child whose favorite toy was taken away. He roared in frustration.
“Coal, that’s enough. I can’t watch you do this!”
“You do help them. Why stand in my way?!” Coal’s eyes burned with fury. “Your friends lives are important. The chief’s life was important. My people’s lives – the children!”
Who was right and who was wrong? Cloudhawk knew that if he was in Coal’s position, he would never forgive Drake or the others.
He was a wastelander, or at least used to be, so he understood Coal’s heart. A million excuses ran through his head but they didn’t even sway Cloudhawk, so how could he choose any to try and dissuade Coal?
He had no right to stand between Coal and his vengeance. But he also couldn’t watch Drake be killed.
Coal had so much potential, then the Dark Atom sunk its claws into him. Cloudhawk knew what this meant – that if Coal got the vengeance he wanted here, he would forever lose a piece of himself. Was it the right decision?
In the eyes of the Dark Atom, Coal was the perfect warrior. Without a doubt they would use him as a tool in their dark schemes.
Coal rushed at them like a hurricane, his flaming fists clenched and raised. He’d been empowered by the mysterious methods of the Dark Atom, and anger had him drawing on the limits of his potential. With the force he put behind those punches, even at peak condition Cloudhawk would be hard pressed to protect himself. Weak as he was, this made the mutant even more dangerous.
Suddenly Cloudhawk’s legs were caught by grasping vines. He was prevented from grabbing his compatriots and fleeing. Instead, he heaved his arms and threw the two men over toward Hammont and the others.
“Aaahhh!” Coal was incensed, hardly able to speak. “You are not my friend! You are not my friend!”
Cloudhawk stood with his back tall, watching the mutant’s flaming fist come. “But I saved your life!”
A shudder ran through Coal. His fist stopped an inch in front of the Warden’s nose.
Cloudhawk’s dark eyes never blinked. Anger had consumed the mutant, but he knew that beneath the pain and fury Coal was still in there. He was trying to think of something to say, anything to help him snap out of it. But vines continued to slither up his body like vipers. He was violently wrenched to one side.
Coal’s eyes were dragged back toward the Elysians, where the source of his pain still lay.
Instigating words hissed from Wolfblade. “Will you leave your responsibility half finished? Go! Take the vengeance you deserve.”
Hammont looked between this enemies and his battered allies. “Fuck,” he said, unable to keep from getting involved. “They insult and attack our Elysian people! Everyone, fight with me and let’s kill this freak! At worst we all die together!”
The other Skycloud soldiers were also eager to join the fight. Hundreds of angry faces turned on the Dark Atom murderers, prepared to fight. Most of the attention fell on Coal, and without a second thought they let loose a storm of crossbow fire.
Elysian solders were the warriors of god, zealous and unflinching!
Anger relinquished its hold on Coal’s mind – just for an instant – before another bitter memory rushed forth.
He remembered being surrounded by soldiers much like these. They forced him down as they killed his people. Never again… never again would he allow them to humiliate him like that. As his mind descended once again into rage, the crossbow bolts broke against his skin like twigs.
Coal jumped into the air, over the bulk of the arrows. He came crashing down onto one of the soldiers with his palm on the unfortunate man’s head. The soldier in his beautiful armor was crushed like an empty can. Blood and flesh burst from cracks in the armor and caught fire from Coal’s flaming proximity. A sickening stench filled the valley.
Coal roared at Drake, and the fat man protecting him.
Cloudhawk was wrapped so tight in vines that they were like a cocoon. They dragged him roughly across the ground and up onto the back of the crystal dragon. He was kept there by vines extending from the right hand of Autumn’s Dryad. Strangely, the monster’s grip not only kept him from moving but also greatly affected his mental powers. He couldn’t reach out to the phase stone to blink away.
Autumn looked at the insignificant human with cold, dispassionate eyes. “It would be in your best interest to remain still. Wolfblade is unwilling to kill you, but I have no such qualms.”
Coal continued his rampage, punching through the crowd of Elysian soldiers. They were defenseless before the mutant’s unhinged assault.
“Autumn – no, you aren’t Autumn. You’re Silvana, right?” Cloudhawk stared at the figure, both familiar and completely foreign. “You call yourself a god? You associate with demons and provide for wastelanders. Do all the noble gods act like you?”
Anger flared within Autumn. Even if this whelp was the successor to the Demon King, he was merely an arrogant human! What right did he think he had to speak to a god in such a manner?
She stabbed her flute at Cloudhawk’s forehead like it was a blade. But in the last instant she felt her hand jerk as another consciousness within her stirred. Her muscles seized.
Cloudhawk caught the sudden change. Was that Autumn, still locked somewhere in there? She knew what was happening in the outside world. She hadn’t been completely destroyed!
Dawn was locked in place, and each moment she couldn’t get the upper hand filled her with indignation. She always thought she was so strong. There was hardly anyone in Skycloud that could compete with her!
She was forced to come face to face with the depths of her conceit and complacency. It was becoming clearer that Selene had far surpassed her. Frost as well. Even Cloudhawk was at least as strong as she was. In believing she was beyond compare, Dawn allowed herself to fall far behind!
The calamity that fell upon her grandfather could not be undone. Those responsible smiled to her face and acted like friends while she was powerless to do anything about it. Now Cloudhawk needed her and she couldn’t even handle one of their enemies. Meanwhile Elysian soldiers were behind slaughtered by that mutant. She was the greatest representative of her family, and a protector of Skycloud – and she couldn’t do anything!
Damnit, damnit, DAMNIT! I can’t let this happen. I can’t live like this!
Dawn had always turned her nose up at the weak. Never had she suspected one day the weakest person she knew would turn out to be herself. A fire of anger and frustration with nowhere to vent grew in her heart.
All the while Abaddon hovered among them, unmoving. One of the Elysian generals tried to sneak up on him. In response, the demon lazily lifted a hand and the officer was jerked off his feet. The doomed soul was dragged into Abaddon’s grip. With dagger-like talons for fingers, the demon thrust them through the Elysian’s armor and into his body. The officer opened his mouth to scream, but the only sound that came out was an unsettling rasp.
In an instant, all the moisture in his body vanished and he became a statue of loosely packed sand. Abaddon flung the corpse aside without a second thought. When the officer’s body hit the ground it exploded into dust. Never once did the demon’s unemotional facade change, and his eyes remained locked on the scene.
Wolfblade, meanwhile, was smirking at what he saw. He sensed Dawn’s resolve rise sharply.
She was a fine young talent, he thought to himself. Her potential should have been unlocked long ago – he was determined to help her find it.
He thrust his hand forward once again. His relic dashed into another bone-crunching attack.
Dawn was knocked backward. Blood sprayed from skin split by the bursts of lethal energy that ran through her.
She was pushed back another ten meters. The cracks on Terrangelica became deeper and more numerous. Just as it seemed she could handle no more, everything that had been brewing inside of her was released in a torrent.
Terrangelica flashed with power. Wolfblade’s attack was knocked away.
“DIE!” Dawn followed up by shoving Terrangelica’s fractured blade into the earth. The light from inside it poured forth and rapidly spread out. Stone split as a thunderwave of yellow energy traveled through the ground toward Wolfblade.
A fissure one hundred meters long opened up between them. It slithered forward like it had a life of its own, even avoiding obstacles. Despite the distance traveled it lost none of its power as the wave reached its intended target.
Wolfblade was ready to evade. The fissure snaked passed him and struck the wall of the mountain where it climbed upward at a ninety-degree angle. It continued along the wall for another hundred meters leaving a crack like it’d been cleaved with a sword.
Wolfblade was genuinely impressed. “Not bad.”
His praise was hardly past his lips before another sword came at him from above. This strike wasn’t from Dawn, and was even more powerful. It came crashing down on the terrorist leader like a lethal waterfall.
Phain had just finished dealing with one of the mutants. He pulled his sword from its skull before launching himself toward Abaddon. The streak of his sword was nearly too fast to follow.
The demon chose to react at last. A sword of tightly packed sand in his hand rose to meet Phain’s, and the two weapons met with shuddering impact. The Grand Prior was flung away like a bullet into his Templar compatriots.
He recovered and surrounded both Wolfblade and Abaddon with his contingent of warriors. Templars! The greatest warriors Skycloud had to offer! Each one of them possessed formidable demonhunter powers. With Phain’s leadership, they were a force to be reckoned with.
In the same moment a contingent of soldiers dressed in demonhunter equipment appeared among the valleys. There weren’t many demonhunters among General Skye’s expeditionary force, but they still numbered in the hundreds. Two hundred relic-wielding warriors of the gods were nothing to sniff at. Only the best of the best joined their ranks, especially those who joined the army. Not just any green horn earned the position they had.
All at once, as the Elysian reinforcements arrived, the situation took a radical turn.
“We’ll meet again. Behave yourselves.” Wolfblade had no desire to fight to the death today. He shot a final enigmatic smirk toward Cloudhawk.
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