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The Conclave of Judgment’s establishment was done by and around the Crimson Church. In doing so, it absorbed many powerful organizations. Some of these were Seeker organizations with the knowledge and resources to create. While individually they could not rival the Dark Atom, together they were much stronger than the old terrorist organization.

In regards to weaponry, the Crimson One’s coalition would surely have more weapons than the Dark Atom. He also called back all his agents from around the wastelands back to defend them. For all intents and purposes, now was when the real fight between the expeditionary force and the Conclave of Judgment began.

All manner of grotesque, patchwork airships were spat from the sandstorm. Their numbers were hard to fathom, a hundred at least and more coming. The ancient and repurposed war machines that had been affixed to them sparked to life in preparation.

The Conclave’s first offensive began. Hundreds of eye-stabbing light shot from the choking dust.

Projectiles were hurled toward the Elysian warships from cannons big and small. Streaks of angry fire were left in their wake as missiles and other deadly weapons streaked across the sky. They started pummeling the invaders with tremendous speed and force.

“Overconfident,” Skye muttered with a cold glint in his eye. “Aegis!”

The warships rearranged themselves into a defensive position. One ship, perhaps a hundred and fifty meters in length, took the fore while the rest arrayed themselves in orderly fashion behind. They steamed toward the enemy in a semicircular formation.

All the energy of the formation was funneled into Aegis and its enormous shield.

This matrix of ships produced a huge amount of energy to the shields, expanding it to massive proportions – easily large enough to protect the entire formation. As the missiles and other projectiles struck it, the shield shimmered but held. No Elysian ships were harmed by the enemy’s opening salvo.

Skycloud’s warriors stood fast on the decks, watching as the missiles blew themselves apart against the shield like raindrops on a window pane.

The din was terrifying, but for all its fire and fury it produced no effect. The fleet remained protected in their advance behind the shield, so that even an errant gust of wind couldn’t squeeze through.

However, the Conclave’s offensive was by no means weak. They fires enough artillery at them to level an entire city! And yet, against the thousands of ships coming for them, this effort from the wasteland alliance was as effective as a mayfly trying to topple a willow.

Energy from dozens of ships was what powered the shield protecting them. By all appearances, no weapon the wastelanders possessed could overcome it. Even if one or two did manage to slip passed, one missile was hardly more than a tickle to the Elysian warships. After all, each individual ship had its own shield as well.

It was an expensive use of weapons and artillery, only for it to produce nothing of value.

On the contrary, it only bolstered the morale of the Elysian troops. Yet, a problem emerged.

Wastland ships could missiles at vast distances, but the Elysian ships relied on beams from their energy towers. The benefit of their energy weapons were that they were intensely powerful, but weakened quickly the further from the source they traveled. 

So long as the Conclave’s vessels remained out of range, they could continue to pummel the expeditionary force without fear of reprisal.

Now, the Crimson One was the leader of this rabble, and their forces were almost certainly commanded by the Giants of Hell’s Army. Before he was the Crimson One, Sterling Cloude was a formidable commander. He and his lieutenants knew their strengths and weaknesses, and thus that their enemy could be whittled away by a prolonged, long-range assault.

Ten days of chasing the Conclave through the Barrens had already taken its tole on the expeditionary force. They would need everything they had to win a full-on engagement. So long as the Conclave had enough bullets, there was a chance they could win this war through attrition.

All the while, the expeditionary force advanced. The wastelands ships retreated to maintain distance. Conclave forces used the sandstorm to their advantage, peeking out to fire their weapons then darting from view.

The sky was alive with balls of fire.

Before long, the expeditionary force was closing in on the edge of the sandstorm. A few meters more and they would delve into unknown territory. No one knew what waited for them on the other side of these churning black clouds.

General Skye faced a problem: Charge ahead into Fallowmoor and whatever perils awaited them, or retreat and wait to be blown to pieces.

“When did the Crimson One become such a coward?” Skye paid no mind to their impotent attacks, but he knew the engagement had to be finished quickly. The longer it dragged on, the more danger they were in. It was time they felt a little pain, so that the wastelanders knew just what sort of enemy Skycloud was. “God Spear!”

Once again, the Elysian ships adjusted formation. A unique ship slipped to the front.

God’s Spear wasn’t a big ship. Its most immediately difference was that its hull was gold, instead of the typical white of other warships. It was not ornately carved, either, but rather etched with strange runes in a series of loops.

Several nearby ships activated their energy pylons and directed their payload to God’s Spear. They appeared as streaks of white light that shone upon the golden ship. God’s Spear gathered them all together, then fired a beam of light thick as a barrel.

It fired across ten thousand meters in an instant!

As its name implied, the attack was like a spear of pure energy. It could through the sky, scattered the flames and parted the black clouds in its way. Any wasteland vessel caught in its path was immediately destroyed – blown into pieces no bigger than a man’s fist.

What incredible, frightening power! Certainly worthy of its name, the Spear of the Gods!

After the stunning blast, the Conclave’s offensive slowed. Its fleet pulled further into the cloud cover so that the Elysians were left with fewer targets.

A second spear came. Then a third, and a fourth! Each time the golden streaks of light erupted from the Elysian armada, oblivion rained upon the wastelanders. They couldn’t escape it, nor could they survive a direct hit. The fury it delivered shook the pillars of heaven and shook the foundations of the earth. It was indomitable, like the will of death given form.

Roc called out. “The enemy is almost routed, we should launch a full attack!”

“Don’t rush!”Skye called for their fervent hearts to cool. “Send the first and second battle groups first.”

Clusters of ships broke off from either side of the main armada, sixty or seventy vessels in all. Each one was roughly eighty to ninety meters in length. All told it constituted maybe a tenth of the expeditionary forces’ full strength.

Under cover of the massive shield and God Spear, the two battle groups advanced on the enemy.

These ships were carved with delicate frescos and their hulls were white as jade. Exquisite beyond compare. The energy pylons jutting from their decks gleamed dangerously, giving power to their weapons and shields. They formed up in a semi-circle around Aegis and God Spear and all together pushed forward.

Each ship was encased in a hazy shell of white light. Enemy missiles continued to assail them, but all were destroyed before getting within ten meters of their target. Aegis’ defenses continued to protect them. Meanwhile, God Spear proceeded to punish the enemy forces with its main weapon.

General Skye’s superb tactics were on full display. No one questioned why he had held the post of Commander-in-Chief for all these years. Under his astute direction the expeditionary force was adaptable and dynamic. It was destructive and defensible, moving ahead and falling back when appropriate. In a word, his command was impeccable.

“Kill them!”

The vanguard began its attack. All of their pylons sparked to full power as they plunged into the darkness.

The world was engulfed in black clouds. Shadows, faint silhouettes. All around them were the ruins of ancient buildings and shattered mountains. Some were pieces of warships blasted apart by God Spear.

What made it dangerous was the fact that nothing was falling. The massive, jagged chunks of rock and burning detritus simply hung in the air all around. Once the Elysian ships crossed the black cloud border everything immediately felt weightless. The swirling gusts threatened to sweep them away like a current.

The black clouds were created by the cracks between realities. Here, gravity and the rules of physics struggled to maintain control. The battle group officers took all relevant measures to retake control, and the warships regained some measure of stability. However, as their forward charge continued a flood of debris came roaring their way through the dark.

The rocks and other debris numbered in the thousands and hung in the air like meteors. At present, they were slowly converging on the ships’ position.

Of course, normally rocks would not be a concern for Elysian shields. However, close inspection revealed that these rocks shone with a faint glow.

“It’s a trap!”

Here among the rocks and dark clouds, the wasteland forces had only feigned disarray to lure them in. Now that the Elysian ships were in inhospitable and disadvantageous territory, the enemy reemerged and began to fire their weapons once more.

They no longer cared about maintaining their range advantage. They were now prepared to go head to head with the Elysians. Full-on melee. It was likely they hoped to break through the ships shields and board the enemy vessels. But that was much easier said than done.

Even if they managed to slip passed God Spear’s attacks, the battle group ships were strong on their own. Energy sparked as it traveled up their pylons, condensing at the top, then firing off as bolts of lightning through the dark clouds. Fire and lightning flashed as the opposing sides engaged a hundred meters apart.

Elysian warships cleaved through their foes with energy blasts keen as swords. It was almost laughably easy for them to blast the inferior wasteland ships to pieces. They were simply too weak!

They couldn’t even handle a single attack! As expected, for these were god-given weapons of war. How could wastelanders and their vain reliance on science protect them from the might of the gods?

Rocks floated closer from the darkness, seemingly attracted to the Elysian ships like magnets. The closer they got, the faster they became.

Boom! Boom-boom! Boom!

Plumes of fire briefly lit up the darkness! When the rocks collided with the ships they detonated, spewing fire across their shields.

The Elysian vanguard was lost in a world of fire, smoke and thunderous impacts. The ‘stones’ that hung in the air here were mines, strategically placed by the wasteland forces. Using the weightlessness that was part of this place, they arranged them as a floating minefield so that anything that tried to pass would be blown apart.

It worked. Several ships saw their shields fail as a number of mines overpowered the pylons. The beautiful Elysian ships started to see their hulls damaged. It wasn’t critical damage by any means, but for the first time since the start of this fight, the wastelanders were making a dent.

“Worthless heathens!”

More shields were starting to fall.

One by one, wasteland ships swooped in to try and board them heedless of the danger. The soldiers scrambled onto the ships, clad in explosive vests. They were determined to eliminate this Elysian threat even if it meant they would have to blow themselves up in the process.

It didn’t take long. Several were rocked from explosions, listed to one side, then became just another hunk of debris in the darkness.

Their bitter war continued, both sides desperately trying to inflict as much death to the other as they could. A mutual, burning fervor overtook them that promised mutual destruction.

Although it was difficult to see through the black clouds, General Skye sensed that his vanguard had been stopped. He ordered a second and third group to advance as well.

It didn’t matter how many ships they had hiding in that hellish cloud. None of their tricks and machinations were enough to stop them! They had to find Fallowmoor, and destroy the heart of the Conclave of Judgment!

Destruction and victory! At all costs!

When General Skye felt that it was time, he called the next order. “All ships, full attack!”

Dozens of glimmering white ships lurched back into motion. With no intention of turning back they plunged into the darkness, a host of shining stars in defiance of the encroaching night.

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