“Ash is dead.”
The Avatar sat within the Temple, like a statue of a mighty queen. Her long black hair, snow-white clothes, silvery eyes and beautiful face made her appear both imperial and intimidating.
She spoke the words with calm, as though recounting something far away. But the faces of Lucian, Bruno and Phoenix changed. They’d suspected Ash wouldn’t be able to stop Cloudhawk, but his death came much quicker than expected.
“Skycloud’s defensive line is broken. For our safety we must engage the anti-gravity engine and retreat from the battlefield.”
Visions danced across Selene’s visions. She knew what was to come. Cloudhawk and the Cloud God would lead a team of Elysian soldiers and demonhunters into the Temple. A fight would ensue between the Avatar forces who lay in ambush and Cloudhawk’s men. They would break through, then split into four groups and make for the focus devices.
The Avatar’s mastery of the flows of time was limited. However, with this knowledge at her disposal it was already a great advantage to her people. She knew how he would break through, with how many, and for what targets. As such she knew how to respond.
Not long ago Selene had ordered Bruno to gather the realm’s focus devices using his dimensional powers. However these foci alone were not enough to spread the enchantment across the whole of Skycloud. No, the true heart of the realm was its Temple.
The purpose of the foci were to spread out and stabilize the power of the Temple. They served as anchors to ensure the vital energies were constant. Rather than produce the power Skycloud relied on, they served to utilize and recycle it.
Once the Cloud God joined the human rebellion, the Avatar knew remaining in Skycloud was no longer feasible.
Several years ago, Adder had used a nuclear weapon to destroy the stability Skycloud’s enchantment. Cloudhawk and the Cloud God seek to do much the same. Although even their combined might was no match for a nuclear bomb, they were still incredibly dangerous.
Skycloud was being abandoned, but its focus devices retrieved. Shrunk to much more manageable proportions, the field could be maintained easily around the Temple. The benefits of such a decision were clear.
First, it meant their defenses were sturdier and more consolidated. Second, contracting the energy field made it more potent.
With the field only around the Temple, it was easier to accumulate the energy they needed for something like a defensive barrier or to escape from the battlefield like they were doing now.
The Temple floated over the city because it was equipped with an anti-gravity engine. The Avatar ordered more energy put into the engine, forcing the Temple to rise higher. The aim was to not only escape Skycloud, but the entire atmosphere. She wanted the Temple to rise into outer space. No airship – be they Elysian or wastelander – could reach them there.
The Temple couldn’t move as it pleased like other vessels, but through its anti-gravity engine it was capable of escaping earth’s atmosphere. Once they got ninety percent of the way there, not enough atmosphere was left for airships to get close. The Green Alliance efforts would fail.
Once it shed earth’s gravity and rose into space, the Temple would become a low-orbiting space vessel. Once the energy field reached critical mass they could then open the Boundary Portal and no one would be able to stop them. All they had to do was take care of Cloudhawk and his team, then victory was assured.
The Avatar had prepared a number of traps and ambushes for their uninvited guests. She knew exactly the path he would take and thus crafted her net with precision.
“Cloudhawk will attempt to attack the focus devices. Phoenix, take the east. Lucian, west. Bruno, south. I will be responsible for defending the northern device. Stop at nothing to make sure they are not damaged.”
“As you command.”
Lucian, Bruno and Phoenix left to their posts.
A few minutes later, Cloudhawk teleported his small crew to the outer platform of the Temple.
The structure was protected by a circular field of protective energy. They were over eight thousand meters in the air and below them Skycloud was shrinking away.  Several batteries from airships and other weapons were aimed at the Temple, but its shields protected it from harm. It was like water droplets striking an iron skillet.
Beside Cloudhawk stood the Cloud God, Frost de Winter, the Khan of Evernight and Janus Umbra. In addition there were two thousand soldiers from the Drake Corps, and over three hundred demonhunters.
The soldiers were all mid-level officers or higher who were very capable in a fight. The demonhunters, led by Blaze, were mostly from the League. They were also of good quality, but few in number. Such a small army against such a mighty building… it seemed like a fool’s errand.
There was no other choice. They had to fight! Cloudhawk knew they were walking into a trap, but he was going to run right in anyway.
Cloudhawk took the fore and forced open the Temple’s doors. As he thrust them open, on the other side were several thousand Temple warriors laying in wait. Opening the door released a blinding torrent of power as the defenders unleashed all their might. Power from their relics surged through the opening like a flood.
Under such dense fire, how were they supposed to break through?
Cloudhawk had prepared himself, but even so the opposition was more than he’d anticipated. There was no going back, so he had to run headlong into the hurricane. Steeling himself for the fight to come, he acted. Spreading open his arms, a white light emerged from his body and filled the space. Deafening sounds of attacks roared as they smashed into his shield.
No good… I can’t hold it!
Cloudhawk was being shoved backward. His shell of energy was beginning to crack. Part of the deluge leaked through and eradicated a dozen of Cloudhawk’s allies nearby. Human bodies were ill-equipped to survive against such an assault, so they were torn apart like paper. Meanwhile the pressure against his shield was increasing. It would soon collapse.
The Cloud God was first to answer. In an instant some untraceable, ubiquitous power filled the space. The deity’s mighty mental powers were most suitable for their plight.
Fierce mental power lashed out at the nearest targets. It tore through their mind, delivering a devastating psychic blow that forced them to their knees. Hideous screaming ensued as some fell unconscious. Others bled out and died in an instant.
Cloudhawk heaved his arms forward. His shield of white energy pushed back against the onslaught. The walls and floor of the Temple were beginning to collapse under the pressure.
Janus responded by sending out several dozen shadows. They slithered along the gaps between the floors and walls, appearing among the enemy. Springing up from nowhere, they delivered lethal sneak attacks. Nearly every one of her copies claimed a life. Frost de Winter and the Khan of Evernight moved at the same time. The rest of the soldiers, driven by fervor and a lust for vengeance, charged after them.
“There are ten or twenty thousand troops stationed in this Temple,” Cloudhawk shouted at his allies. “We don’t have the numbers to face them head on. We’re not here to kill anyway, we have to stop this thing from rising!”
The Cloud God’s thunderous voice answered. “The focal devices once stored at the border fortresses have been moved here. We can separate into four teams and attack them in unison. Disrupting the energy field is the best way to achieve our goal.”
The Temple was vast, destroying it was unfeasible. Cloudhawk agreed that teams were needed, so he quickly called them out. He would guide the first team; the second would be led by the Cloud God; Frost was responsible for the third; the Khan and Janus would take the fourth. Each team would bring a group of soldiers and demonhunters as well. Once their task was complete and their focal device destroyed, everyone would rendezvous at the center of the Temple. It had to be done as quickly as possible.
Cloudhawk decided in this course of action for one very important reason.
The Avatar’s Eyes of Time. They could only see so much. When they split up she could only focus on one at a time. In other words, three teams would be able to sneak by right under her nose, increasing the chaos and uncertainty of the battle.
“Alright, let’s get moving.”
The four teams raced off toward their objectives.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter