The Caliph’s sudden appearance had caught everyone off guard.
One possibility struck Cloudhawk. Perhaps while unconscious in Nox, Judas, the Khan and Abaddon discovered some way to force him to open interdimensional space. There they hid a copy of the Caliph and a number of Black Knights for this very moment.
He didn’t know how Judas had managed it, but it was clear this was a deliberate, well-planned ambush. The Khan of Evernight was the distraction, out in the open, while Abaddon waited in the shadows.
Cloudhawk’s intention had been to use his powers in a desperate attack. Little did he know Abaddon and the Black Knights lurked in wait. When he engaged the Demon King’s power they emerged, much to even Cloudhawk’s surprise. But his confusion was a hundred fold more intense for the Silverwing Monarch.
Abaddon was a demon of considerable strength. Pairing that with a sneak attack he was not prepared for, the king’s defenses were overcome.
A cavity was left from where the sand spear had pierced him, a gaping opening from front to back. Residual power from the Gospel of Sand was eroding his internal organs, turning them to grit. A wound this grievous was more than any normal human could survive.
The Silverwing Monarch was an entity that defied common sense, however even he could not avoid the consequences of such trauma.
While the Black Knights blocked Imperia’s Highblood, the Khan hacked his sabers of light at the city’s control center. The strange tree had the capacity to regrow after damage, but at least for the time being its capabilities were severed. Blocked from his limitless source of energy and facing three mighty foes, even the Silverwing Monarch was out of his depth.
It had all happened so quickly!
The king’s third eye bulged even wider, splitting the bones of his skull. A fierce depth of wrath poured from the beleaguered Monarch.
It was answered with hissing laughter from Abaddon. “Predecessor Nessus is strong. However, even after assuming the form of a legendary demonhunter, even after consuming and assimilating his power, even with my king’s blood crystal keeping this skin suit alive and drinking up the energies of all your subjects – you are still merely a fiend lapping at the heels of a former owner. A servant who wishes to steal his master’s power. That is an offense I will not tolerate...”
That was the secret! The Silverwing Monarch wasn’t himself, or a demon, or a god. He was more like Oddball, an unholy beast with some old connection to the Demon King. A pet, like Cloudhawk and Oddball.
Of course the power and grade of Nessus was a great deal superior to the likes of Oddball. It derived its power from what it attached to – essentially a parasite. It took over the Legendary Demonhunter’s body, and used the Demon King’s blood crystal to keep it alive. Then it used that same power to siphon power from others and turn them into imperfect doppelgangers.
If the Khan had not severed his connection with the blood crystal, Nessus would be impossible to defeat. Through the blood crystal it could keep healing this puppet body it had inhabited. But without this effective immortality, and with its mighty psychic energies damaged by Cloudhawk, the indomitable position of the Silverwing Monarch was quickly eroding.
No doubt about it, this was the best – and only – moment to overcome the Silverwing Monarch!
Silver wings thrust out wide, sending a thousand blades of cutting wind through the chamber. While maintaining this assault it rose through the air through an opening the Temple created for him in the ceiling, attempting to escape.
Abaddon and the Khan moved to stop it. Only, the king’s area-wide assault was too intense. The two of them were not enough.
The Khan’s eyes snapped to Cloudhawk. “Many powerful elite live in Imperia. If he escapes we lose our chance to end him. You will also lose your only chance to live. Why do you hesitate?”
Indeed there was conflict in Cloudhawk’s heart. It was obvious he had been used, a pawn under the control of Judas whose aim was to kill Nessus. Once this creature was felled Imperia would be thrown into chaos. Nox would come to take over and there was no way to know the fate of the Silver Kingdom after that. And yet a stream of faces flashed across his memory; Selene, Dawn, Gabriel, the old drunk and more… he made up his mind. More important than whether Nessus deserved to die, Cloudhawk had to live.
He had to make it back home!
Reality rippled. In a blink he was a thousand meters in the air, right in front of Nessus. Scarlet fires smoldered in the depths of his eyes; a sign of his imminent, all-out assault.
But Nessus was not any ordinary creature.
The Silverwing Monarch’s mouth stretched open, the skin splitting as it distended well passed its ears. From the depths of a ruined throat came a plume of angry fire.
It poured forth thick as lava. The heat from it made the air corrugate. Cloudhawk curled his gauntleted left hand into a fist and, a halo of light emerging around it, he thrust it forward..
Nessus’ coagulated fires were drawn into the gauntlet’s pale light and what remained scattered through the air. Some it splashed onto Cloudhawk’s body and scalded deep grooves in his flesh, but these were not fatal to him. At the same time, the Silverwing Monarch was still pelting the Khan and Abaddon with beams of light below.
Three against one and he still wasn’t at a serious disadvantage. But flaws were starting to appear!
Ignoring the risks of drawing too much energy, Cloudhawk continued to defend himself with the gauntlet and reached out with his right hand. Streaks of silver light were summoned from his palm as the Silver Serpents emerged. Dancing between them were motes of green flame. All together they were like the head of a mighty dragon, breathing Castigation Fire. As the power slammed into the king’s left wing those silver feathers began to melt away.
The foul green flames quickly spread.
Fear and madness burned in Nessus’ eyes. Of course it recognized this power, he’d encountered it a thousand years ago during the Great War. It was the power of a great demon Elder. Now, somehow, it was under the command of this mortal worm.
Fires that raged so long as one’s will remained! So long as Cloudhawk didn’t let up, those fires would continue until there was nothing left of the Silverwing Monarch.
Nessus’ puppet roared and snapped off half of its wing before the fires could spread further. It was blacked in front by Cloudhawk and behind by the Khan and Abaddon. With each passing moment this body it’d worked so hard to perfect was being cut apart. Things had turned dire very quickly.
But it wouldn’t give up. A strange and monstrous scene followed as the king’s head split fully in half.
A hideous thing clawed out from the remains of the skull. It had nine tentacle arms, like some sort of devilish octopus, and one enormous eye. Smaller feelers writhed on the underside of these tentacles, groping at whatever was close. Half of this creature’s body heaved from the top of the king’s ruined head. The remainder of it was still lodged in the meat puppet, controlling it from within.
The body of the Silverwing Monarch jerks and flopped around like some sort of nightmarish toy. Cloudhawk openly gasped.
What the FUCK is this thing?!
THIS was the former Demon King’s unholy beast? As Nessus drilled out of the Legendary Demonhunter’s skull it released a hellish screech. The Highblood below started to react, twitching and jerking horrifically. Tentacles of various sizes burst from their bodies like a million wriggling worms.
What moments before were glorious, majestic people were now hideous corpses rife with groping feelers. They all dropped what they were doing and scrambled toward their king.
“Hngh hngh hng… interesting. Trying to call back its little splinters.” A dignified and imposing light shone in Abaddon’s eyes. “Stop it! If it gathers all its pieces back together, no one can stop it.”
Nessus was a strange, powerful and unique creature. The Silverwing Monarch was its main body and the Highblood were all offshoots. One of the beast’s tentacles were in each of the Highblood controlling them, growing over time. That was how Nessus devoured the power and talent from its host and siphoned it into himself. Once the tentacle wholly integrated into the host body, all of its power became a part of Nessus.
It was how the Silverwing Monarch had such incredible, limitless power. It was the reason why the puppet could use various types of relics with perfect control. However the absorption was not complete, not until these Highblood’s tentacles were returned to its master. At that point Nessus would be at full strength.
With just the body of the Silverwing Monarch, Nessus was already a formidable enemy. Indeed, if it were allowed to reform from these dozens of tentacles to what heights of power would it reach? At that point even someone as terrifying as Arcturus may be no match for this monster.
It took only a few seconds for the first couple of Highblood to reach the Silverwing Monarch.
A split second after contact, the Highbloods’ tentacles attached to Nessus’ body. The bodies of the Highblood themselves dissolved like melted wax and were drawn into the Silverwing Monarch’s body. The king’s form swelled and bulged grotesquely, becoming even more terrifying.
The king’s severed wing reformed as Nessus used the biological material of the Highblood to heal its host. Likewise its own strength surged and its wounds recovered.
The Silverwing Monarch belched forth another gout of flame, stronger than before. There was no deflecting it.
Cloudhawk dashed backwards several dozen meters. Even in retreat the heat nearly burned his arm off.
More and more Highblood converged around Nessus, fusing back into the form that birthed them. If it kept this pace, it would only be a few minutes before the beast’s true, hideous nature was reforged.
They could not allow this to happen.
Cloudhawk, the Khan and Abaddon might have had different motives, but right now they were allies. In an inspired moment of mutual understanding, they acted. Cloudhawk summoned his dimensional power once again, dragging the others into more useful positions.
When the Khan reappeared he attacked with superhuman speed. The air came alive with countless streaks of sizzling sword light.
One after the other, Highblood in his path were carved into bloody pieces. Yet this made no difference, for the pieces themselves could move under Nessus’ control.
That was when Abaddon acted. Through the power of the Gospel, he turned the chunks into globs of sand. Now entirely destroyed, they dissolved and fell apart.
“Why are you trying to stop me?!” Nessus’ enraged shouts filled the air. “Everything I do, I do for our kin! Traitors! Traitors! Die!”
Nothing remained of the dignified Silverwing Monarch. Now, it was a monstrosity, hellish and dreadful. Although only about a dozen Highblood had been absorb, its body was bloated, repulsive and deformed.
It was like a mass of half-melted wax smashed together, a patchwork horror that was nauseating to behold. From its split skull half of a demonic octopus emerged, its tentacles writhing menacingly. Those feelers gathered together and in their midst collected an orb of intense energy!
When it was released, the orb was only roughly the size of a fist. By the time it reached Cloudhawk it had swelled several times that size to a diameter of ten meters. The intensity of it felt like Nessus had chucked a mountain his way.
Cloudhawk teleported out of harm’s way.
The Silverwing Monarch never stopped its crazed yelling. “All of Imperia is my domain! I am the master of its people and they are my crop! You think destroying the heart tree will stop me?! Foolish!”
Sour expressions painted the invaders’ faces. Cloudhawk answered its shouts. “If that’s so, then let’s show all of your people your true face!”
He teleported behind the king and took it by its silvery wings. Before Nessus could react, Cloudhawk released the power he’d been storing and the two of them blinked from this dimension. They vanished from inside the Temple, to the sky over the city.
“Some terrible creature, in the air!”
“What is that?!”
When the Silverwing Monarch was flung back into reality, its hideous form was revealed for all to see. Imperia’s citizens were surprised and disgusted by its terrible appearance. None could imagine that a fiend like this existed in their fair city!Previous Chapter Next Chapter