Ravenous Tiger positioned himself before the Elysian defensive shield, his ax glowing brightly. But before he could, a column of light crashed down from overhead, blocking his path. It was a searing beam that, as he watched, began to carve a path in his direction. The ground beneath it split apart.
“Out of my way!”
With a surprising amount of strength from his fat body, Ravenous Tiger heaved his ax at the column, splitting it apart. A second answered, headed right for the top of his head. He hastily used his ax to block it, but the impact nearly wrenched it from his grip.
Quickly engaging his defensive relic, a shield sprang up to shield him from harm. It held.
Selene dropped back to the ground with her white cloak flapping valiantly. She stood before the wastelanders as her crossblade seethed with dim holy light. With her left hand she reached back and drew a second sword.
This one was different from her relic weapon.
The Holy Crossblade was made entirely from holy energy and light, but her second sword was wholly physical. It was beautiful in its construction, a masterwork from hilt to tip. The blade itself was not steel, but a transparent material like glass or crystal. A faint light pulsed within.
Ravenous Tiger’s eyes went wide. He knew this weapon. “Master Baldur’s Transcendence?”
Anyone with a passing education knew of Master Baldur’s three mighty relics: His Sacred Vestments, his Transcendence, and the Holy Crossblade. The crossblade had long ago been bequeathed to Selene, but his Vestments and Transcendence were said to have been lost when he disappeared.
Here she appeared, bearing all three. The daughter stood before her foes with the full inheritance of her father.
Selene brandished the crystalline weapon, a perfunctory motion that immediately shattered Ravenous Tiger’s defenses. An invisible but intense energy lifted him off his feet and threw the former governor several meters away.
The Giants of Hell’s Army gathered around her, together with Blackfiend. They wasted no time in assailing her with their strongest attacks. She stood alone, a spot of peerless white with a blade of light in one hand and one of crystal in the other. She was larger than life, an invincible avatar of divine fury.
Both swords moved. No one dared test their strength. Selene kept five of the enemy’s strongest at bay with nothing but her own power.
Eckard had never met someone so young with so much strength. His face was a map of hideously twisted scars as he frowned. However he quickly saw her flaw; Selene’s attacks were too strong, too overwhelming. She wasn’t holding anything back, so while each strike was deadly they were also draining.
“How long can she keep this up? Don’t fight her now, wait until she tires herself out.”
“Don’t apply ordinary logic to her. Your tactics won’t work,” Natessa warned. “Her Sacred Vestments are among the Cloude family’s strongest relics – made during the Great War. It was given to the founding father of the Cloude family by the gods themselves.”
Eckard paused. “What’s so great about it? It looks ordinary to me!”
“That’s because this relic isn’t offensive or defensive. It looks normal during combat.”
“Neither offensive or defensive? So what the hell does it do?!”
Natessa explained . “The Vestments store mental energy. Put another way, when wearing the armor one’s energy is almost limitless. For every attack Selene does, her Sacred Vestments restore a large portion of it. We can’t wait for her to tire out!”
Eckard was taken by surprise.
Demonhunters were already living war machines. A typical demonhunter could kill Eckard with a direct shot from one of their exorcist bows. Their primary limiting factor was mental energy and how long it took to recover it. In a battle like this it was easy to become exhausted, and once a demonhunter was drained his destructive capabilities were reduced dramatically.
Now there was one who could quickly recover even after using her most powerful attacks. How could she be considered anything but invincible?
Of course, there was no such thing was an invincible foe. The energy stored in Selene’s Vestments represented whatever she poured into them before the fight. Its upper limit was perhaps ten times her typical mental capacity, a process which required days of effort.
In other words, Selene could go from drained to fully recovered maybe ten times, but would be completely spent once the Vestments ran dry. To say they couldn’t wait for her to tire herself out wasn’t entirely true, only the five of them wouldn’t be able to do it on their own.
Strong as they were, under Selene’s relentless assault they were forced to back off.
Seeing her display, Dawn was also stunned. This crazy bitch was that strong?! She had to be on some sort of drugs!
Elsewhere, Wyrmsole and Frost were in the middle of a fierce confrontation.
Frost’s attacks were swift and fierce, with his spear flashing through the air like a hundred angry dragons. Wyrmsole was caught among them, forced to defend himself against it and Rimeshard’s continuous swipes. Each time he deflected Rimeshard with his banner, a thin sheet of ice thickened around it. It was the unique function of Frost’s weapon that it suppressed the power of other relics, thus weakening Wyrmsole.
This was why he told Selene to deal with the others. He knew the sort of power contained in her Sacred Vestments, which would allow her to fend them off. She was well-equipped to battle five enemies weaker than she, but the Vestments were less effective against someone closer to her own strength like Wyrmsole.
On the other hand, Frost carried Rimeshard. With each swing he weakened Wyrmsole’s power and brought the two of them closer to equal. So long as Frost kept up the pressure, Wyrmsole couldn’t split his attention on other parts of the battle to lend aid.
Layer after layer of ice crusted over Wyrmsole’s standard, and not ordinary frost either. It was a condensed form of energy that interrupted the relic’s resonance. Normal heat had no effect at dispersing it, and after a few exchanges Wyrmsole wa already finding it more taxing to try and summon his banner’s strength.
“You’re so eager to kill me, young man. All because I once betrayed your master? In bygone years I was also Arcturus’ student, and like you I worshiped the man. Now I stand by the Crimson One. I decided to renounce my home, my honor, everything – and do you know why?”
Frost was not a man of words, but of action. In his typical, persistent style he focused completely on the battle at hand. He took advantage of Wyrmsole’s pause to speak to launch into another assault, using the edge of his blade to answer the older man’s question.
Wyrmsole methodically and steadily fended off Frost’s attacks. He could see it clear, the hostility that roiled just beneath this young man’s icy surface. There was a secret hidden here…and if he could see it, then Arcturus had to know it too.
It didn’t matter. All that mattered was making sure Woodland Vale did not fall into Elysian hands.
A surge of energy rose through Wyrmsole, summoning a pillar of fire around him. It roared with such intensity it threatening to blot out the sky. Rising like a dragon of fire, it swept overhead before descending toward Frost.
The younger man’s face darkened. Even after Rimeshard’s suppression, he could still call such power? He reeled back, spinning Frozen Dirge around in his hand like a whirlwind as he squared off against the pillar of fire.
Fire and ice collided. Steam filled the canyon from their struggle.
Meanwhile, Dawn was not idle. She continuously poured her energies into Terrangelica to bring the canyon crashing down around them. Under her power the earth shook and landslides threatened her foes, while spikes of jagged rock were belched forth among their ranks. Only the enemy was too many. She couldn’t stop them all on her own.
Where did that idiot Cloudhawk get to?! Why isn’t he helping!
No sooner had the thought crossed her mind then the canyon began to shake, and not from Terrangelica. It came from somewhere deeper. She lifted her head and looked toward its source, the stone doorway. It was aglow with power that set its runes stark against the drab gray surface, like some ancient and archaic spell. Power flooded the canyon, filling it to the brim.
The doors began to move! Cloudhawk! It had to be!
He stood at the base of the massive door, both hands pressed against the rough stone. He felt with his mind for the resonance, joining with it, and in that moment there was a threat of light that appeared. It slowly rose from the ground up toward the door’s apex while its runes flared to life. He was doing it, but he needed time – if they kept him safe he would be able to open their way into Woodland Vale.
Cloudhawk had slipped past everyone, far behind enemy lines. He was alone, isolated, and the enemy wasn’t about to let him succeed.
Dark power swirled around Squall’s tattooed arm. A taunting chill invaded his eyes when he saw what Cloudhawk was attempting and he cried out to him. “Such a disappointment. I thought eventually you’d see reason and stand with us. Instead you’ve become just another Elysian dog.”
Cloudhawk knit his brows and focused on the door. He couldn’t stop, or it would all be a waste.
Three-Eyed Spider’s shrill voice shouted orders. “Raven! Kill him!”
The cyborg wordlessly obeyed. Raven lifted an arm, preparing to attack, but was foiled by a dagger that appeared from thin air. Seething with purple energy, Deathstalker buried itself in its target’s heart.
Raven went stiff as iron.
No normal weapon was a threat to Three-Eyed Spider’s greatest achievement, but the dagger split flesh and metal like it was paper.
The old scientist’s three eyes went wide when he saw. A faint figure, almost like a shadow. Grinding his teeth he howled, “Diiee!”
A strike to the heart was deadly, especially a kiss from Deathstalker. However, Raven’s body had long had its internal organs removed. For all its toxic fury, Deathstalker could not poison metal. As a reaction, a death beam fired from Raven’s eyes right toward his shadowy attacker.
Atlas blinked out of existence, only to appear half a moment later behind Cloudhawk. He returned Deathstalker to its sheath and drew a long, sickly shadow in its stead. He dropped into a combative posture.
His voice was curt, and cold. “How long?”
“A couple minutes!” Cloudhawk shouted back.
Atlas’ emotionless gaze swept over Three-Eyed Spider, over Raven, over Squall. He could hold them off, at least for the moment. But as he set his jaw to face them two more figures emerged, in robes of green and black. Besides the clothes they looked like typical wasteland mutants, but he sensed they were much more dangerous than that.
One against five, and Atlas was not trained for head-to-head fighting. He wasn’t a warrior like Selene, but he didn’t shudder at the circumstance. He was a cold-blooded killer, and killers didn’t blink. But his pupils contracted when they landed on one of his foes. Squall.
2. ...In the middle of a fight...