The Silverwing Monarch hovered in the air, glaring at Cloudhawk from his lofty perch with scornful eyes. The chill in his expression mingled with hatred and anger.
He didn’t understand. Why would the Demon King choose this mortal as his successor? Why wouldn’t the Demon King accept him?!
For a thousand years the king had toiled, turning this body into the perfect successor. He had built an immortal body with access to boundless energy. He had the faith and determination to sacrifice everything against the gods – even his own life.
What was he missing? How was he inferior?!
He was once the Demon King’s most trusted comrade-in-arms, so why had he been shunned in favor of this weak human? These feelings of unfairness and inadequacy were why he looked on Cloudhawk with such hatred. The fire in them threatened to spill out and consume this insignificant creature.
What did Legion and the Demon King see in him? Was it the ability to use dimensional power? Some other unique ability?
No matter! He would be consumed!
The Silverwing Monarch was confident that whatever he lacked, he would take it from this piddling successor just as he had with all the others. He would devour his will and his talents and assimilate them to make his body even more perfect.
Because the Demon King had to be perfect!
Undying, unaging, powerful, without weakness! If he was not how could he defeat the gods? If he was anything less than perfect how could he defeat the God King?
He was the only being in this world with the strength of will, the strength of body, and the right to take on this responsibility!
The roiling power within his demonic eye continued to grow and was reflected in the eyes of the Highbloods. They were all connected by some unseen chain of energy, stretching from the monarch and into each of his disciples. All of their power and will was joined together.
When Cloudhawk saw this he finally understood. These Highblood were nothing more than the king’s puppets.
But whether it was the Highblood or the Silverwing Monarch himself, they were all just shells. The king and his hundred lackeys shared a single consciousness – all just puppets being tugged by an unseen string. Whatever vast intellect controlled them all was the true king of Imperia!
The Silverwing Monarch launched into another attack. A blast of psychic force was fired from his third eye. It streaked through the air toward Cloudhawk like a lance.
Spears of psychic force like this ignored most typical defenses. Besides the Cloud God, the Silverwing Monarch was the strongest psychic talent Cloudhawk had ever come across. However, the Khan’s warning had turned out to prescient and the mask he wore was well suited for this conflict. He reached his mind into the relic to protect himself.
The psychic blast crashed into and was deflected by a shield of mental force. The sound of this contest was deafening to Cloudhawk’s ears.
Mighty though the mask of a thousand faces was, the Silverwing Monarch’s mental assault was intense. Cloudhawk became dizzy and his vision blurred. It was just the opening move of a deadly assault, for the Highblood were moving in to surround him.
Light continued to pour from the central tree. Surges of energy flowed through the monarch and his subjects. The king’s mental energies were empowered to new heights. His terrifying voice echoed through Cloudhawk’s brain.
“You are not worthy to be Demon King!”
“You are not worthy to be Demon King!”
“You are not WORTHY to be Demon KING!”
Cloudhawk hid behind his gauntlet and the reflective field it summoned, but was also hard pressed to call on the mask’s powers to defend himself from the king’s mental assault. It felt like he was being crushed by the weight of a mountain. Blood trickled from his eyes, ears and nose.
The Silverwing Monarch’s psychic attack was monstrous! Even with the mask Cloudhawk had to throw much of his power behind it.
He felt like he was caught in an iron cage with electric saws closing in on all sides. They were not cause deadly wounds but the pain was excruciating.
Meanwhile, the king’s voice was like hot pokers in his skull.
“Enough! How much of this to you think I’ll accept?” Anger sizzled up to the surface, bubbling through the pain and torment. “I never said I wanted to be Demon King! I never wanted to be Demon King!”
One desperately wanted to wear the mantle of the Demon King.
One tried his best to resist.
One toiled to no avail.
One tried to run but could not escape.
If he had a choice Cloudhawk would throw this destiny, this power away in a heartbeat!
He didn’t want to be Demon King, a creature feared and despised by men. He didn’t give a shit about being considered a hero, either. From the moment he could think, from the very beginning, his goals had never changed. All Cloudhawk ever wanted was to live a simple, quiet life. Instead, fate threw him in the deep end. This was all his efforts for peace and quiet had earned him.
The Silverwing Monarch felt Cloudhawk’s rage, felt him struggle. Looking through the ferocious mask he could see two eyes burning with crimson fire. Those were eyes he would never forget – because those were the eyes of the Demon King!
What residual will of the Demon King remained was locked inside Cloudhawk. It came alive and burst free, stabbing into the Silverwing Monarch’s mind like a knife.
For the first time he was wounded. Blood poured from his third, vertical eye as he staggered backward. If he wanted to consume Cloudhawk’s powers, first he had to destroy his will. But in the course of his efforts, instead of crushing his quarry a powerful psychic blowback answered. Now the Monarch’s own mind was reeling.
Bastard! Even dead he protects his successor!
Blood continued to dribble from the demonic eye. Engorged blue veins snaked across his face like hideous centipedes beneath the flesh. The eye with the vertical pupil opened to twice the split, threatening to split the skull and bulged forward. Suddenly the majestic Silverwing Monarch had turned into a hideous hellspawn.
If he couldn’t destroy Cloudhawk’s will, then he would obliterate this worm’s body!
There can be only one Demon King!
The king could no longer call on the full brunt of his psychic energy, but he was still stronger than Cloudhawk could contend with. In addition he had a host of Highblood to aid him. They were constantly infusing him with more power so that his stores were nearly limitless. This insignificant mortal wouldn’t last a minute.
Cloudhawk knew he was up shit creek without a canoe.
If this kept up he was as good as dead. The flows of energy were far too chaotic here for him to teleport, so that being the case…
He gathered up his energies and coalesced dimensional power in the space before him. Reality warbled in response. He only had one thing left, something that would mean the destruction of Imperia.
If he summoned from another world some piece of a mountain or other enormous thing, it would obliterate the chamber they were in. Imperia’s Temple would fall, and soon after Imperia would begin to collapse. Maybe them he would have a chance.
But would this gambit confound the Silverwing Monarch? He knew right away what Cloudhawk was planning.
Beating his giant wings he leaped in front of the central tree to defend it. A field of energy shimmered into being. It didn’t matter what Cloudhawk tried, nothing would force its way through a shield of the king’s making. This was the thought in his mind as Cloudhawk fully unleashed his psychic force.
The air before him shimmered intensely. Reality peeled back to create an unnatural fissure.
A pitch black figure emerged from the portal, bearing a spear made of yellow sand. It threw the spear with all its might at the Silverwing Monarch’s shield. It pierced into his chest, threatening to drive right through into the tree beyond. But at the last moment, the king grabbed onto the spear with both hands stopping it in place.
What happened? Cloudhawk was stunned.
He had been planning to sheer off the top of a mountain or something like he had the last time, aiming to crush the tree and this whole temple. Why did that figure appear instead? And not just any figure – the Caliph of the Sands, Abaddon!
What was he doing hiding in an outside dimension? A host of twenty figures poured from the portal.
The Silverwing Monarch understood when he saw them. “Nox… Noxian Black Knights!”
Abaddon hissed a foul laugh. “I was asked to deliver Elder Judas’ regards to the honorable Nessus.”
Imperia’s king was taken entirely by surprise.
“You also wish to kill me?” His hands were still holding fast to the spear in his chest when the king released a supernova of energy. The spear burst apart, as did Abaddon and all the Black Knights. “You will all die!”
Abaddon’s body melted away into eddies of sand. They drifted back half a dozen meters then reformed.
The Monarch’s silvery wings were like daggers as he lashed out. Abaddon blocked them with a pair of weapons composed of sand.
The Silver Monarch prepared to finish off this simulacrum of the Caliph when he felt something approach from behind. He turned his head just as a dark figure darting on the outskirts of the fight, toward the tree.
In each hand was a blade of light which he drove into the heart of the central tree. A frightening burst of energy was released in a staggering wave. The tree detonated from the inside.
The Khan of Evernight had planned his sneak attack expertly. With just his two blades he had destroyed the central control of the Temple.
In the following moments the Temple lost its ability to generate external energy. The Highblood who drew their power from it were immediately weakened.
Cloudhawk, meanwhile, was still at a loss as to what was happening.
Wasn’t Abaddon supposed to be with Wolfblade? He knew Abaddon was working with Judas to destroy the Silverwing Monarch, but how had he appeared here? And how did he appear in such a fashion, through Cloudhawk’s own power?
Abaddon and the Khan of Evernight began their assault on the Silverwing Monarch.
Strong as he was, Cloudhawk had wounded him mentally and Abaddon had injured him physically. The source of his limitless energy was gone. The source of his energy was robbed from him, and that changed everything.Previous Chapter Next Chapter