There was no darkness in Gehenna, no cycle of day and night.
Cloudhawk had spent time wandering through the city, making rough approximations of its strength, population and manufacturing capabilities. What he learned was that without the Tower of Babel, the city was roughly as successful as Ark Base.
Gehenna was also a font of strength. There were many among the psionic races who had been trained to considerable levels. Such fighters would be very useful. Gehenna had one monarch and that was the Demon King. Without a doubt, Cloudhawk’s predecessor gathered these people here in preparation for a future war with the gods.
Against the encroaching armies Cloudhawk didn’t have many cards to play. That was why taking control of this place was crucial.
His lengthy tour took him through Babel and the areas surrounding it. He decided to stop. The area he found himself in was a sort of uncultivated area, with wild hills and trees laden with fruit. They were like Eboncrys, Cloudhawk noted, but also different. The fruits all glowed like hanging lanterns.
“Trouble! Spatial flows have been locked down here.”
Belial discovered the change by its absence. Flows of spatial powers had vanished – certainly not something that happened by accident. Someone was doing it on purpose.
Abaddon summoned a cloud of sand around himself. “It appears someone couldn’t wait to make their move.”
A simple sword wrapped in threads of purple lightning crackled in Cloudhawk’s grip.
The field split as a half-moon shaped streak of light swept across the area. It struck an invisible figure, which splattered into a rain of black fluid.
What followed was strange to behold. Every droplet wriggled through the air, expanding into a humanoid shape. Cloudhawk’s quick strike had found purchase, but his single target had exploded into thousands more. There was now an army facing him.
These were copies. Every one of them was its own form.
Crokel’s power was unique. A creature like him could face thousands all by himself. During the Great War Crokel earned glory by single-handedly defeating a troop of gods one thousand soldiers strong. He left the battle unscathed, his foes decimated.
“It’s the Second Seal!” Belial’s face was downcast. Abaddon also struggled against the fear welling up inside of him.
Any other foe would be hardly a problem for them here – all except Crokel. To this day no one had concocted a means to kill the demon. Of course, he would not have risen to the rank of Second Seal if he was not extremely powerful.
Several more demons emerged from the shadows nearby. These were Crokel’s own men and were here to keep space locked down or offer extra help if needed. The latter was an unnecessary precaution, for Crokel was confident that he had strength enough to deal with these three fools.
Cloudhawk was strong, with spatial powers no less potent than the King he had replaced. However, Crokel was intimately familiar with these skills and how to counter them. Under the blockade he’d built there was no escape for the human, and he was robbed of his greatest strength. How then could he compete against a being like Crokel?
“Are you sure of this choice to betray me, Second Seal?”
“This is not betrayal. I am saving the demons from destruction.” All of the Elder’s bodies spoke in unison. Their voices boomed like thunder in his mind with enough mental force to cripple a lesser man. “We demons are not tools. War is not our only course. You bring annihilation to our doorstep, so I am left with no choice but to see you destroyed.”
So Crokel had decided to act. It was a pity, Cloudhawk thought. As Second Seal Crokel had the power of Sumeru’s strongest generals. If he’d only bend his knee he could help Cloudhawk in battle against anyone but the God King itself.
But the choice to fight with him out in the open was irreversible. It meant there was no possibility of cooperation. Only one would survive.
Cloudhawk’s voice came low and dangerous. “I understand wanting to change my mind. But you were too impatient.”
Crokel’s liquid body rippled as he considered the human’s words. Impatient? What is he saying? Is the successor mocking his preparations? What have I missed?
Crokel had no choice but to act in haste. A new King had arisen and returned to Gehenna, a fact which all the Elders now knew. But the rest of his kin did not – not yet. He also had to consider a number of Seals who were traditionalists, and would choose to follow this new King.
In other words, the longer Cloudhawk remained in this city the more his influence grew. If left unchecked he could cause a rift among the demons. That wasn’t something Crokel could tolerate.
“You are too young, successor. You are not a threat to me.”
The Second Seal had lived for thousands of years. He was not one for boastful words, so he quit their meaningless back and forth. Thousands of him began to rush in like a dark tidal wave.
Cloudhawk moved quickly to cut several dozen apart. His weapon – Godslayer – was the result of Ruin and the Arbiter’s Staff combined. This combination made it more than just lethal, but also expressly capable of destroying things like relics. In theory, no substance was safe from his baleful power.
But for all its power, Godslayer was useless against Crokel. No matter how many attacks he levied against the Elder, no matter how many times he broke a liquid body apart, they always reformed into even more copies.
Abaddon summoned a wall of sand to protect himself. Belial flung plumes of black flame in all directions to try and dissuade Crokel’s copies from drawing near. Yet their efforts were in vain, for Crokel easily burst through Abaddon’s wall and passed unscathed through Belial’s fires.
Cloudhawk looked around. Everywhere he looked, Crokel’s rippling face looked back at him. Every passing second the number of them grew, closing in from everywhere. Meanwhile he tried different attacks to gauge their use – for instance, he tried evaporating the demon’s liquid body. But it was no use.
He summoned Castigation Fire in the hopes that its special qualities would defeat the beast. However, much to his surprise the green flames did not catch. Was this damn thing unkillable?!
“Are those the fires of the late Nineteenth Seal? Unexpected that they should find their way into your hands.” Crokel’s voice was cold and derisive. “Castigation Fire will not help you. The only power that can harm me here is the blade Legion carries. Unfortunately, I suspect a terrible accident has already befallen our Grand Elder.”
How had Crokel become the Second Seal? In truth his combat power was no greater than the Third or Fourth Seal. Yet if it came to conflict Crokel would emerge victorious because direct strength is only part of combat. Survivability and regenerative skills also played a role. Crokel’s greatest leverage was his peerless creation and resurrection powers.
There were six thousand of him on the field now, each one a perfect representation of the original. The Second Seal was immune to most attacks, but even if his foes had a way they had thousands of him to contend with.
The successor was at the end of his rope. Now was the time to swallow up his pitiful human life! Crokel prepared himself to finish what had to be done.Previous Chapter Next Chapter