Chapter 115: Sacrifice
Source mountain of the southern wastes.
Dark clouds hovered in the sky, pregnant with tens of thousands of wailing souls. A steady stream of them were ripped from the mountain and drawn into the vortex in the center of the clouds.
Chaos continued to feast on the energy of the fallen, growing stronger by the moment. Southern Capital scrambled to respond.
Thousands of airships converged on the mountain from all directions. Dawn stood upon one with her hands on her sword. “Blow the fucking thing out of the sky!” She roared.
A tempest of attacks were released, sending angry streaks across the sky. Deafening explosions came in quick succession, loud enough to shake the earth. But no matter how furious their assault, nothing slowed the vortex.
“Dammit! What the fuck is this thing?!” Dawn growled the curses helplessly. Suddenly the deck pitched beneath her feet as a horde of spirits rushed their way. They screamed toward the ships and detonated against their shields.
“I’ve got it!” The hellish scene sparked something in her mind. Her plan would cost lives, but she couldn’t let that stop her in this dire moment. “All hands, listen up! Fly into the vortex!”
Without hesitation thousands of ships charged forward. They positioned themselves before the vortex, effectively plugging it. As the souls were dragged up from the mountain they had no way to slip through and instead exploded against the ships.
Dawn’s soldiers had placed themselves directly in the path of a terrible flood.
The sky was on fire from the constant blasts. Screams and debris filled the air. From time to time a ship’s shields failed and the vessels were quickly overwhelmed. Wreckage rained from on high like a grizzly rain.
“There is no retreat! Hold! Hold!”
Dawn held Terrangelica aloft and screamed her orders. She leaped onto the back of a dragon and led a vanguard of riders toward the mountain top. Her golden hair flowed behind her in the wind and her armor gleamed bright as a star. Like a Valkyrie she charged directly into the stream of souls.
“If we can’t hold them here then the capital falls. Humanity dies! Everyone, with me – let’s stop them here!”
The image of Dawn leading the troops filled them with battle spirit. They shouted war cries and raised their weapons. The worst that waited for them was death, and if Lady Dawn didn’t fear it then neither did they!
As Dawn raced ahead she heaved Terrangelica with both hands. Any spirit that came in range was hacked apart. Their twisted, crystalline bodies jerked and exploded in her wake. She cut down dozens of them, but many others succumbed to her Abyssal Scale. It drank up the energy from scores as they passed, causing them to wither into nothingness.
Yet for all her valiant showing, the souls from the mountain below were too numerous. Each one contained a frightening amount of energy. Dawn was only one woman, a drop amid a sea of angry screaming spirits.
She slammed into the heart of a large group of them. Dawn screamed a challenge and swung her sword with all her strength, but there were too many. Several got past her swings and detonated. The dragon beneath her had sturdy scales to protect it, but not against an attack of this gravity. It was buffeted by the explosions and gravely wounded.
Dawn was protected by her armor but saw that a large flood of spirits had swept by her. The battle had come to her soldiers, who fought fiercely against the tide. They were not trained or equipped to find ghosts so the fight was a costly one.
“Son of a bitch! If we die, we die together!” The gruff promise came from a Greenland soldier. His eyes were filled with the sight of their airships being blown apart. With his jaw set he urged his dragon forward, headlong into an oncoming spirit. He was devoured by the explosion, leaving almost nothing behind.
“Brother, I’m with you!” Another soldier turned his mount toward the spirits and dashed forward. He died as his companion did. Gruesome though it was, others saw that the method worked. Grim resolve took their faces as they lowered their weapons and launched into suicide dives.
Dawn watched her troops fling themselves into the enemy like moths to a flame. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she couldn’t help them. She was surrounded by angry spirits.
The ghosts were mindless, angry things but could react instinctively to danger. Dawn was a threat so they raced toward her to try and eliminate her. It didn’t take long for her mount to succumb.
She was forced to jump off its back and started free falling. All around her was a storm of light as souls closed in. She couldn’t dodge or escape.
Is this where I die? She couldn’t stop the thought from worming through her head. Dawn wasn’t afraid of death, but she didn’t welcome it. If she had to die she would rather it be by Cloudhawk’s side, not at the hands of some mindless spirit.
Her thoughts were interrupted when a small, swift ship streaked past. A swarm of figures jumped out and one of them shouted out among the din. “Protect the Lady!” 
“Roc, Rio – you’re here!”
Dawn recognized them right away. Rio, Roc and all the rest were loyal members of the Polaris family. But instead of relief her face filled with worry. “All of you fall back right now!”
“Lady, we promised to fight for the glory of the Polaris family. Our duty is to protect the Lady of the house. We will not forsake our vows now.”
“Warriors of the Polaris family, take heed! Advance on the enemy!”
“Hold!” Dawn tried to stop them but the order was given.
Roc called on his relic and flew into a thick group of spirits. The souls immediately swarmed around him.
“I’ll take the first step.”
Roc saluted Dawn with his own good arm. Soon the terrible energy would rip through him, but was far enough away from Dawn to fling her harmlessly away.
“We go to see General Skye. Please, Lady, don’t worry for our spirits.”
Rio had also attracted a cloud of spirits. The explosion that followed was blinding. As Dawn fell past, nothing remained of the Talon of God’s former colonel.
Dawn was forced to watch as members of her family were blown apart, willingly giving their lives for hers. She couldn’t do anything but scream in pain and frustration.
From the corner of one moist eye she saw a group of figures hovering in the sky. Janus, Phain and others were on the way. Thanks to the sacrifice of her family members, they were able to get in close enough to retrieve her. Dawn, however, was on the verge of madness. “Kill them! Kill them all! Let me go, I’m not leaving till there’s nothing left!”
Of course there were too many. She couldn’t stop them.
A third of Southern Capital’s armada was in ruin. Every second the remaining ships suffered under constant bombardment. Troops and vessels Cloudhawk had fought so hard to gather were sacrificed before ever having a chance to fight the gods.
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