Cloudhawk was preparing to reduce the Temple to rubble and abscond when the whole structure began to quake. Something from outside was slamming into it.
“We’re surrounded! We don’t know where they came from, but they’re attacking the Temple!”
Frost and a handful of his men raced into the chamber carrying a huge block of ice. Anxiety was written on their faces, like a pack of wild animals were close on their heels.
“What’s going on?”
Cloudhawk didn’t understand. The Avatar had surrounded herself with capable fighters but the Temple could only house so many. Her forces weren’t highly motivated to start with, and they had been badly ravaged by Cloudhawk’s team. Had they somehow rallied and launched a counterattack in less than an hour?
No. That wasn’t right. Frost wouldn’t be so alarmed by an Elysian strike force.
The ones attacking them came from someplace else. Skycloud’s main forces were down on the ground and were engaged with the Green Alliance. What kind of force could come all the way up here to assault the Temple?
The Cloud God released a pulse of mental energy, sweeping the area. It revealed the entire scene to him.
Thousands of elite troops were pouring into the front doors of the Temple. Most were wearing the garb of demonhunters, with demonhunter weapons. However their style was not from Skycloud. That could only mean…
The god connected his vision to the others so they could see. Their faces slackened when they saw for themselves.
Cloudhawk scowled. “They’re from the other Elysian lands. The Boundary Portal is open, we’re too late!”
The Avatar, with her ability to see into the future, had planned everything. She had probably envisaged her own defeat but made preparations to ensure the portal succeeded. Suddenly things had turned very bad for Cloudhawk and the others. They didn’t know who these foreigners were or how many had come, but it seemed obvious their small force was not enough.
“We have to leave.”
“Leave? I don’t think we can!”
By now the Temple’s front doors were sealed off. There was a whole host of enemies waiting right outside! Not to mention they were tens of thousands of meters above the surface. Only Cloudhawk could escape from a situation like this. He could try to teleport them all, but in all likelihood he would get caught himself. It was a dire problem.
“Don’t worry, I have this.”
Cloudhawk pulled out a slender dagger that looked like it’d been carved from crystal. Its complex structure was beautiful to behold, a real work of art. It was the Riftshard dagger, he’d taken it from Bruno Argyrys.
His own dimensional powers had limitations. The dagger was more effective for what they needed. Bruno had already placed markers in Skycloud city, markers they could use to escape. The distance between the Temple and the surface was nothing for this relic.
He didn’t have time to explain. The sound of pounding feet was drawing near. If they stayed even another moment they would be surrounded.
Cloudhawk reached his mind into the relic and created a slew of copies. “Everyone take a dagger. Hold on to it, it’ll get you out of here.”
Riftshard was able to make copies of itself. The copies were not relics, but markers which only existed for a period of time. Aside from the ability to move the bearer from one place to another, they had no other function.
Cloudhawk grit his teeth and got to work. Although the dagger facilitated moving as many people as he needed, it was extremely draining even for him.
Figures began pouring into the chamber. They surged from the corridors and leaped onto the dais. But just as they came in range, all they saw where flashes of white light and then – nothing.
Inside the Temple was a different sort of space, almost like a separate dimension. Before they could use the daggers, Cloudhawk had to bring them outside first. They blinked into existence and when confronted with the whole scene, they stared in utter shock.
The pyramid-shaped Temple was suspended high in the air. Below the earth was distant, its features small. Above them the sky was no longer blue, but a deep and eternal black. They were at the cusp of the atmosphere, another twenty thousand meters or so above them was the vast emptiness of space.
The Temple had risen this high already?
But if that was the only thing they saw it wouldn’t be so surprising. What shook them to their core was what hovered around the Temple: a fleet of a hundred airships.
These vessels had been specially outfitted. Their energy pylons released enough energy to get them into high altitude while protecting the crew from a lack of gravity and oxygen. There wasn’t any mystery where they’d come from. These were the armies of the other four Elysian realms.
From these lands came capable warriors, numerous as the clouds. Cloudhawk and his allies couldn’t stay here.
The assumption was that these vessels had all come through the Boundary Portal, but in fact that was not the case. News of Skycloud’s troubles had long ago reached the other realms and in response they dispatched this armada to make the long journey over land.
Farther in the distance Cloudhawk could make out the shapes of other enemy forces closing in. He should of known the world was much bigger than the wastelands he wandered! However far these other realms were, they could still reach Skycloud by ship.
Lifting the Temple was a calculated move by the Avatar. On the one hand it protected the structure from attack, while on the other it made it easier for forces from the other Elysian lands to come to the rescue. Skycloud’s Temple hung above the world like a satellite, but not in stationary orbit. As the world turned below it brought the building-turned-spaceship closer to the other realms. Here the Elysians could regroup, recover, and prepare for their assault on the Cloud God’s domain.
All told the force wasn’t enormous – about a hundred ships in total. Several tens of thousands of soldiers could be expected to have come along. However, without a doubt this would be considered the vanguard. That meant these soldiers were their elite.
“We’ve located the enemy!”
“Kill them! Shoot them down!”
Suddenly attacks were launched at Cloudhawk’s group from all directions. He activated the Riftshards without hesitation. “Take your men and go!”
A white light spread from the dagger’s copies, swallowing up the bearers and teleporting them to safety. Cloudhawk was left alone. His mission wasn’t finished, so he couldn’t go yet.
He spread his arms and space rippled at his call. Moments later the ripples became too great and the skies shattered like broken glass. Enormous rocks were flung into being, dozens of them immediately caught by the tug of gravity. Their trajectory brought them toward the Temple.
“What is this?!”
It was the first time soldiers from the other realms had seen anything like it. They had never encountered Cloudhawk before and did not know how to defend themselves. When the first meteor struck – the size of a small mountain – it rammed into one of their ships. Huge kinetic force smashed it to pieces and flung it aside as the falling rock continued its charge.
More came screaming through the formation, one after another. The Temple was difficult to destroy outright, even for a meteor storm, but at the very least Cloudhawk’s attacks would cause tremendous damage. If he could do enough harm, perhaps the Boundary Portal would become unstable and collapse.
The Temple’s anti-gravity mechanisms started to fail. It pitched to the side, slamming into a couple ships. Gravity reestablished its control over the massive structure and it began to plummet. No question about it, no matter what the thing was made of the Temple wouldn’t survive slamming into the ground from this height.
But then… suddenly…
Four dark spots appeared, stark against the flickering light of the collapsing Boundary Portal. Great cheers arose from the soldiers when they saw them. Their perfect forms, stalwart figures and mighty presence – there was no doubt, these were the remaining four Supremes.
One of them, wrapped in iron-black armor, dashed beneath the Temple. It slammed its arms up to the elbows into the building. How much could the Temple have weighed? Certainly as much as a mountain! Large as godly bodies were they were still minuscule in comparison. Like an ant beneath an elephant.
Yet somehow, in an astounding display, this ant began to slow the elephant’s fall.
This was the War God, one of Sumeru’s mightiest generals!
Its companions spread out to help. One was larger than all the others, its armor like some sort of relic. When engaged it seared with golden scales and a pair of titanic wings spread from its back. Dragenmere’s patron, the Dragon God, was aptly named.
Wings extended, it raised its arms toward the falling rocks. Waves of invisible energy burst forth and smashed the meteors to pieces. Nothing remained but clouds of dust, eliminate the threat to the Temple.
Seeing this Cloudhawk prepared to make his escape, but two flashes of light appeared before him. One was a brilliant white light in a humanoid shape, and the other was a form composed of living lightning. Both appeared as beings of pure energy, but their blazing eyes and the outline of their forms were visible beneath the glare.
In the instant they arrived two intense bursts of power were released toward Cloudhawk. With shocking ease they tore through his defenses and into his body.
It’d been a long time since Cloudhawk had been wounded seriously. Faced with the coordinate strike from two Supremes, he could not avoid it on top of preparing to flee. Taking the blows, he wrapped himself in dimensional power and blinked out of reality before the gods could strike again.
The War God had stabilized the Temple and brought it back to its original altitude. Once again it hovered above the earth like a stationary satellite.
“It appears the Boundary Portal is again damaged.”
“No matter. We have arrived, Sumeru has also begun to act.”
“The God King has given its order: Destroy the demons. Destroy the betrayer.”
The Four Supremes huddles together, suspended in mid air and conversing telepathically. One of them alone was terrifying to face. Four now had their sights trained on Skycloud, backed by their armies. Never since the Great War had such power been levied. Yet most terrifying was the prospect that Mount Sumeru would soon become involved.Previous Chapter Next Chapter