The last attack seriously wounded Crokel. The Second Seal was a beast with no weaknesses, and Oblivion destroying even half his body wasn’t enough to end the demon, but it did rob him of a lot of his power. It was difficult for him now to maintain the advantage.
It was time to push the limit!
Crokel’s body began to swell once again and from the cracks poured a raging energy. The air around him shuddered and warped from the strain. Everything in the area was drawn toward the Elder by some invisible draw.
Signs of self-destruction.
In detonating his body a torrent of energy would be released, destroying everything in a thousand meters all around. Even Cloudhawk would be caught in the blast. It was a desperate act of mutual destruction, one that would not kill Crokel but cost him decades of time in recovery.
If the smallest portion of him survived this explosion Crokel would recover. Nothing was more important at this moment than destroying Cloudhawk.
“You forced this! A death of your own design!”
It was the demon’s final thought as his gravitation pull reached critical mass. Gehenna’s sub-dimensional space vibrated erratically as though the inevitable blast could destroy this pocket reality.
Suddenly, a light shot down from overhead and enveloped Crokel. The Elder demon shifted immediately from immanent detonation to frozen solid.
Obviously this was not what Crokel was expecting, but it didn’t take long for him to understand what had gone wrong. A baleful roar was released. “Korath! Betrayer!”
A dozen figures descended from above. Leading them was none other than Crokel’s close ally, the Elder of the Third Seal. According to their plan Crokel was supposed to handle Cloudhawk while Korath killed Legion. Clearly that had not happened, for Legion floated imperiously by Korath’s side.
The Elder had brought with him many others from the council, or notable warriors of their kin.
“I beg your forgiveness, Second Seal.” Legion was the one who spoke. “Korath has always been a loyal friend to me. I knew that this day would come, so I prepared for it. Crokel, you underestimated me.”
Korath’s kaleidoscopic pupils were ever in motion. Crokel’s self-destruction was halted and his body frozen. The only motion was his form slowly shrinking away from the brink of detonation. He knew Korath’s power, just as well as he knew the Third Seal himself. The snake wouldn’t have gone after him head on, he would have lost.
Instead he waited for the moment when Crokel was weakest. Korath wasn’t strong enough to kill him, but he did have the power to keep him sealed. The Elder of the Second Seal was caught without hope for escape.
For all his cunning Crokel could not know all. He would never have known that his oldest ally from a thousand years ago – the demon he’d shared power with all this time – would turn around and stab him in the back.
“Why did you do this? Must we fight another war against the gods?”
“I agree with everything the Second Seal feels,” Korath replied. “Everything except turning on the Elders.”
Had turning on Legion crossed Korath’s mind? Of course it had. The Third Elder had ambitions of his own, including dominion over Gehenna. But he also knew Legion and his methods. If he chose to turn against the Grand Elder it was the same as committing suicide.
It had surprised Korath as well that Legion had so many other Elders in his pocket. Before this moment all of them had worked individually with Legion and did not know of the others’ loyalties. If he had gone along with the Second Elder’s plan then he would be down there as well, staring into the abyss of death.
Legion spoke to Cloudhawk. “If my King would return my sword?”
Cloudhawk threw Oblivion back to its owner. It had always belonged to the Grand Elder and Cloudhawk was too drained now to make proper use of it. Legion would have to be responsible for what came next.
Crokel knew how bad things were and tried to hcange tactics. “Grand Elder, spare my life. If you let me live I pledge everything that I am – pay any cost – in service to you. My strength will be priceless in the war against the gods! You need me!”
Demons had infinite lifespans, they didn’t want to give up any potential minute. And Crokel was one of their strongest.
For the last thousand years he had enjoyed the taste of power. It was intoxicating to have thousands of his kin bow and scrape. But he didn’t want to die, especially not like this. Demon or human, it didn’t matter who held the blade to his throat – this was his final, desperate performance.
The Grand Elder fixed Crokel with a piercing stare. “Do you recognize your error?”
Crokel’s crimson eyes pivoted to Oblivion. Its fearful blue light was reflected in his stare.
“Gehenna has only one King. Demons have only one monarch. There is no one above our sovereign. Your error was asking me for mercy. For this, you are condemned to death.”
The Blade of Oblivion pierced into Crokel’s body. Everyone watched in thinly-veiled alarm as the powerful Elder of the Second Seal was devoured by the weapon’s power. Long moments of agony stretched on for what felt like ages, and then Crokel was erased from reality.
The Elder was dead. Forever gone.
Korath opened his eye wide and looked out across Gehenna. No trace of his colleague could be found. No question remained, the former leader of Gehenna was no more.
After executing the Elder, Legion helped himself to his relics. He took them to Cloudhawk. “There are holdouts we must eliminate, but from this moment on Gehenna belongs to you, my King. No one dares challenge your command.”
Belial and Abaddon were taken away to heal. Cloudhawk brought Legion back with him to the Tower of Babel where several dozen demons were waiting. These were not Crokel’s allies, but were other Elders who had been plotting Legion’s ouster. They were among Gehenna’s highest leadership.
“They know the King has returned, but rather than pledge allegiance they worked in the shadows to your detriment. Their fate is yours to decide.”
His judgment was quick and curt. “Kill them.”
Legion conveyed the order without hesitation. Cries for mercy fell on deaf ears as the demons met their end.
The next time Gehenna’s elder council was summoned, its numbers had shrunk from forty eight to thirty six. Lesser in numbers and strength, but with the memory of their comrades’ fate fresh in their minds no one rejected the King’s leadership.
Haborym led a small group who presented themselves before Cloudhawk. “I pledge my allegiance to the Demon King. I will fight in your name, and for our home.”
“We pledge allegiance to the Demon King!”
“We fight for King and kin!”
The Elders all knelt in supplication before the frail-looking figure. Small though he was by comparison, they all now knew their new King could have them all destroyed. The silent, overwhelming aura that poured from him filled the demons with fear.
They believed it now.
This was an even more ruthless and powerful King than the one who came before.Previous Chapter Next Chapter