Neleh had been right in her assumption that the battles got harder as they pushed towards the portal and the resistance became heavier. The fact that they often had to fight in the forests made their formations less effective, but the professionalism of the soldiers served to turn the more chaotic combat into their advantage. When the enemy goatmen could no longer focus their attacks to bring about proper momentum, it gave the elves the chance to utilize their superior skill, instead of simply bracing to resist the charge. The enemy had tried to surprise them with a large number of monstrous creatures in their second forest battle, but those ended up getting cleared easily because the elves could focus their attacks on them more easily, and their vastly superior communication helped to announce the positions of the problematic enemies to the elite unit trained by Neleh.
There was also a downside. The surprise possessions of the almost dead Gor by high ranking demons were much more effective in the forests, and the demons actually managed to start causing casualties, though the quick reactions of the soldiers kept those to a minimum. The second problem was that the enemy started to send large groups of flying units ranging from harpies and swarms to furies, which were a type of flying demon. Those flying units bypassed the armies on the ground and tried to attack the cities and villages behind them, with mixed success. Most of the nearby villages and cities had been evacuated, but there were always a few people that didn’t want to give up their homes.
The cities were easier to defend, since they usually had an arch for a rapid deployment of reinforcements, and even the guards not trained by the Order were competent archers that excelled in shooting down flying enemies. The enemy flyers managed to cause some chaos, but they failed their assigned mission of raiding supply lines, because there were no supply lines to raid. The elven armies kept dropping arches behind them which allowed for easy re-supply as well as rapid re-deployment in case of trouble. Much of Nexus had turned into troops and supplies marching through to the front, and wounded being brought back for treatment.
The progress of the advance was slower than Neleh would’ve liked, but she saw the necessity of it in order to save their forces, first for a final push towards the portal, and secondly to help the other races when they managed to finish their own battle. She recognized the necessity, but she still had this nagging feeling of impatience. It’s like they were on a timer that she wasn’t aware of. Because she didn’t have any explanation for that feeling, she only settled on trying to hurry the generals along. They in turn did their best to comply without jeopardizing their strategy.
The various leaders of their war effort had begun gathering in the war room every few days, provided their forces were not currently engaged in a battle. They were currently having one of their meetings to share information and to make plans, or more precisely alterations to their already existing plans. Lysanthir was laying out the situation on the other fronts aside from the one responsible for pushing forward towards the portal. “Finally, the air raids of the enemy are becoming somewhat problematic. They are going towards the inland faster than we can evacuate the villages and will reach the first still unevacuated villages in a few days. I know you’d like to keep your other little surprise a secret for now, but we’ve been seeing some of the stronger demons join in on the raids lately and normal guards have trouble dealing with them. If we revealed our surprise now, we could remove the threat of those raids completely.” He suggested seriously. Not trying to make demands, simply presenting his own opinion.
“If we did that, then we would lose the element of surprise when it comes to the important final push. The enemy has been keeping their dragotaurs back so far, and we want to use our little surprise to take care of them once they finally take the field. Revealing them beforehand might mean a lot more casualties, or even the failure of the final push.” Elendil said.
“If we don’t react though, we will start losing a significant number of civilians.” Lysanthir replied.
“How much time can we buy if we detach large groups of faeries to deal with the enemy flyers? Their mages will be able to deal with the more powerful demons.” Neleh asked making her own suggestion.
“Two, maybe three weeks. That would weaken the armies we use for containment though.” Lysanthir replied.
“Do that then. The containment armies have faced fairly little pressure so far, and they can afford to give a bit of space if necessary. By the time they would manage to break through them even if they tried, we would be attacking the portal anyway. It’s more important to reach the portal as quickly as possible and make our first attempt count, than have a perfect containment. The faeries can buy us the time we need.” Neleh made her choice. The generals and Estelar in particular were in charge of conducting this war, but Neleh still weighed in on matters like this.
“Any news from the other continents?” Estelar inquired as soon as they had sent the orders.
“Sinestra seems to have things under control when it comes to the demon continent. The dragons and celestials are running a successful hit and run style battle against the enemies from the faerie continent. They try to separate small groups of enemies and eliminate them, instead of facing their main force head-on. However, I’m a little worried if the two races have the patience for that kind of warfare. They are both proud races and they are not used to such careful approach.” Neleh said with a slightly worried look.
“I still have trouble imagining that the dragons can have any trouble with an enemy.” Elendil murmured.
Neleh gave a small wry laugh. “The universe is a big place, and there are beings you’ve never even heard about. It’s also a matter of compatibility. To tell you the truth, we would have been a better match for the enemy they are facing, and they could have just burned our enemy to the ground. Unfortunately we would’ve wasted too much time trying to move our troops there, and it’s a bit too much to demand for our soldiers to leave while our empire is under attack.”
“Agreed. Our soldiers are extremely disciplined, but they would’ve spent most of their time worrying about the loved ones they left behind while under attack from a strange enemy. They wouldn’t have been able to give their all, and that would’ve lead to defeat. First we must safeguard our own home.” Estelar grunted in agreement.
“Moving on, it turns out that the civil war among the humans was to our advantage. As you all know, it takes time for the war engine of humans to get running, but they were already on the war footing when this happened, because they were so busy killing each other. As a result, they have much larger amount of artificial constructs with spirits inside, than they would’ve had otherwise. They also didn’t get the chance to run down their wartime production after their war with the beastmen. This turns out to be a very good thing, because the human warriors aren’t doing all that well against their current enemy.
A big problem when dealing with an army made of undead is the negative energy they use, which is harmful for all living beings. While the human soldiers are having trouble fighting, the artificial constructs are largely unaffected. The spirits of light and life elements do take some damage from the energy, but on the other hand they are also very effective at fighting the undead. The darkness and death element spirits on the other hand are simply loving all that negative energy floating around. The other spirits don’t really care.” Neleh had a small smile as she thought about the death spirits having a time of their life.
“There’s also the problem of their human dead being used as undead soldiers against them. No such problem with the spirits.” Estelar pointed out one of the oldest problems of facing necromancers. Every battle you lost, the dead on both sides would join the enemy army.
“There’s that too. The news from the beastmen continent are weird. I assumed that their continent would face a certain enemy, the one we know as the Blood God, but so far the reports make it seem like that is not the case at all. Now that in itself isn’t all bad, but it does leave one lost-deity unaccounted for. I get nervous when I don’t know the locations of my enemies.” Neleh made a small pout unintentionally.
“We’ll have to keep our eyes open then. And forgive me for being so blunt, but the lost-deities are yours to handle, while their forces are ours. As we can’t do anything about something that is beyond us, let us focus on what we can do. You said you’ve gotten some reports on the forces at the beastman continent. Can you tell us more, so we can be prepared?” Estelar asked with a small smile, glibly pushing the issue of the Blood God on Neleh to handle.
She made another wry smile as she answered. “We don’t have all the details yet, but we do know something. The enemy forces at the beastmen continent seem to be commanded by powerful wizards, and the troops are something those wizards either created or tamed personally. They have small magical constructs rather similar to those utilized by the humans, except fully controlled by magic and not by spirits, as well as larger sentinels and guardians that are infused with the power of their particular lost-deity. Their forces seem to heavily utilize the power and magic of fire, sun and sand. We’ll see the full extent of their powers later when the beastmen fully engage them. They are still gathering their clans and tribes. Unlike us, they can’t move around quite as fast.”
“What of the naga?” Lysanthir asked.
“Well that is the question is it not? I’m still keeping them in reserve for now. I was hoping they would help either the beastmen or the humans depending on which of the two started showing signs of losing first, so we shall see.” Neleh replied.
“Have you already considered what we’ll do after we deal with our own enemy?” Estelar asked.
“Originally I was planning that we’d help the other race that the naga did not help, but I think we’ll have to deal with the threat coming in from the faerie lands. That is too big of a problem to leave open. I hope that we might be able to give Sinestra an assist too, to speed things up on her front, but we will have to see how the demons manage without us for now.” She replied.
“And what happens if both the humans and the beastmen start losing, and the naga can’t help both?” Elendil asked grimly, already knowing the answer but wanting a confirmation on Neleh’s resolution.
“Then we’ll help them evacuate as much as their civilians as possible, and let the rest of their military fall while delaying their enemy as long as possible.” Neleh finished simply.
The elves started their final push towards the portal. The faeries had actually managed to push the enemy fliers back, which cleared most of the skies for their approach. As their main army gathered the best of their soldiers and started pushing towards the portal, the enemy forces finally revealed their real power. The opposite side of the field had large amounts of dragotaurs preparing to charge into the elven ranks, as well as a number of demons as big as a house.
These demons had a weird aura about them that Neleh knew would repel strikes from most conventional weapons, and even rendered their magical weapons much less effective. The demons had multiple arms, wielding an array of weapons ranging from huge swords that radiated wrongness, to large crab claws that would squeeze the life out of most enemies. Despite that, their lithe frames made it obvious that speed was the forte of these demons.
The demons were the exact type of enemy Neleh had gathered her elite squad for. They would be too much for normal soldiers to handle even with Order training, without suffering prohibitive casualties. For that reason Neleh assigned a target demon to each pair of elites she had trained. The only job of those elites would be to hunt down their assigned target, and then cause general mayhem among the enemy ranks once they were done. Two per demon was meant to assure their victory.
As the two armies made contact, the dragotaurs were positioning for their own charge, trying to gauge the best place to attack for maximum effect. They wanted that charge to be decisive enough to give the victory to their side. The messy combat between the large demons and Neleh’s students was making things hard though, as spells were flying everywhere. As the dragotaurs started moving, Neleh immediately gave the signal for their own trump card to appear.
“Alright, it’s time to show these monsters that we have an air force of our own.” Neleh said while grinning at Estelar. The man returned the grin, also eager to see their new toys in action.
The forces of the lost-deity had not paid attention to the dark clouds that had been following the elven army. What could a little storm do? At worst it would hinder the elves as much as them. As such they had not tried to use their magic to remove the low hanging clouds, which now came to haunt them. The first thing the dragotaurs noticed were large wings of gryphons ridden by a mix of elves and faeries. These gryphons were flying straight at the dragotaurs, and the large beasts could only look on in confusion before the riders of the winged beasts started throwing lances of golden energy at them from above.
As a species related to dragons, the dragotaurs had a fair bit of resistance against magical attacks, but these were weapons made and designed by Neleh and Elluin personally. They were designed purely to fight powerful beings such as the dragotaurs, and emphasized penetrative power and damage above anything else. The riders of the gryphons were all wearing a pair of golden colored gauntlets. They could then gather the golden power into the form of a lance to launch at their enemy. They could only do this about once or twice a minute, as the powerful blasts of power took time to create, so they were far from optimal when it came to fighting large groups of enemies. Big and powerful targets like dragotaurs though? Those were the intended target. The charge of the dragotaurs was cut short as the front ranks were cut down in a hail of golden energy.
While the gryphon rider’s weapons made Neleh proud, it was the next part that was the culmination of several long plans that she had made. The enemy forces could only watch in horror as large vessels appeared from the clouds. The elves had spent years remaking their navy and replaced their old ships with the ships that Neleh had designed. Most of them had been a little confused about the three large crystals at the center of each ship, humming with magical power. Now their purpose became obvious. That same navy could take to the air as easily as it could to the waters.
The decks of the ships were lined with archers that let loose their rain of death at the enemy below. In addition to that, the ships had picked all the mages from the containment armies and flown them here. As the enemy forces were focused on this battle, the surprise appearance of all those mages flinging their spells at the enemy forces made all the difference in the world. The packed ranks of goatmen were cut down as a storm of magical energy swarmed them. The elven army had held back on their use of magic, mainly only using it defensively, but they had been saving their strength for this one moment to completely break the spirit of the enemy.
Of course the ships were not unarmed either. Each of them had a large weapon at their bow, which looked like a huge sword without a grip. These weapons utilized the power of the Sources, draining the power from the mana storing and generating devices, leading it into the large blade and then firing that mana forward towards the enemy in a single powerful blast of energy. None of the ships were capable of firing more than three times and took several minutes to charge for each shot, but the effect was worth it. While the gryphon riders were focusing on killing large powerful beings, these blast of energy from the ships cut down large swathes of enemies, largely ignoring their level of power. Only the stronger dragotaurs and demons were able to withstand these attacks.
“I have to say, these new ships are scary effective.” Estelar mumbled while looking at the damage done.
“We’ll have to give the faeries our thanks for letting us keep them a secret and use them for maximum effect, as well as clearing the skies for us.” Neleh replied with a smile.
As the battle was turning hopeless for the monsters, there was a disturbance of power suddenly appearing in the midst of all that. The enemy had realized that the elves would have a straight shot at the portal after this, so it would have to appear personally to turn the tide around. One of the remaining demons suddenly had a huge amount of power gathering around it, as its size was getting smaller and more condensed.
“Be careful, it looks like my battle is about to begin.” Neleh said while moving forward as she gathered her own power.
Her plan was to strike down the enemy while it was still in the middle of materializing, unfortunately plans don’t always go as you wish. Just as she was about to attack, an indistinct shape suddenly moved with a speed she had not seen since coming to this world and struck out straight at Neleh. The Legion surrounding Neleh had no chance to react as the force of the attack swept Neleh straight along with it, both of them struck the side of a cliff almost thousand meters from where Neleh had been standing.
A four armed being twice the size of Neleh was towering above Neleh as the cliff was collapsing around them from the impact. Neleh had barely manage to pull out her red spear to block the attack from two of the arms from the left, while she was blocking the two arms from the right with another spear formed of pure magic. “Well, at least you’re smart enough to recognize the real threat.” Neleh grunted clearly struggling with the force pushing down at her.
An eerie androgynous voice replied to her in a singsong manner. “Finally found you little fire birdy!”