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The form of the demon-lost-deity hybrid pressed down towards Neleh, trying to force her on her knees. The elongated head came closer and took an exaggerated sniff. “You look and smell different, but you will not fool my senses. You look weak. What happened to your imperious attitude? I so liked the darkness you showed back then.” The demon sang in a voice that went from an eerie high pitch down to a low growl and back.

Neleh managed to stay on her feet and gave a small forced laugh. “I might look weak, but unlike you that’s just the appearance. How are your brothers? Are the little bastards still as useless as before? Such a shame what happened with the Lord of Plagues.”

“We’ll see who is weak.” The demon suddenly switched all his strength to toss Neleh sideways away from the crumbling cliff and disappeared.

Neleh barely managed to bring her spear to block the attack from the demon as it suddenly appeared behind her. She might have blocked the attack but the force still tossed her up towards the tree line. ‘This is not going according to plan at all.’ Neleh thought grimly as golden wings of fire appeared behind her to break her momentum, while she took the form of a flame seraph. “Fine, if you want to make this a contest of speed, then you will have it.”

The demon made another swift attack towards her, but this time Neleh was able to follow it and deflect it properly with her spear. Despite that it was obvious that the demon was still much faster than her, as the demon made another attack from another angle which she had to block straight on and was sent sliding again.

“With speed like that, you want to compete with me?” The demons mocking laughter echoed as it again disappeared.

As it came lunging at Neleh from behind, she replied calmly. “Why, yes I do.” As she ducked under the attack of the demons upper right hand and sliced off the demons lower right hand. The demon made a predictable counter attack with both of its left hands. Neleh used the instant movement from her light spirit to move further back than she would’ve been able to do normally. As she spun around, the demon’s claws grazing at her wings, she tried to use the momentum to stab at the demon’s now unprotected side, but only found air.

Her instincts screaming danger, Neleh moved straight upwards using all the speed the light spirit could grant her, barely avoiding the wide swing of the demon’s claws that shredded the afterimage that Neleh’s quick movement had left behind. Purely on reflex Neleh had swung her weapon downwards, the blade at the end cutting off the remaining right arm of the demon. Both of them landed a small distance from one another. Neleh made a small tsk with her tongue, as she saw the demon already finishing with regenerating the arm she had lobbed off earlier. “You were holding back before. Bad boy.” Neleh said as if scolding a child.

“So were you. We both know that surprise is the biggest advantage in a battle of speed.” The demon replied with a small giggle.

“You’re not entirely wrong, but you’re not right either. Let me show the downside of the kind of speed you’re using.” Neleh said while closing her eyes almost completely, and spreading her senses around her.

The demons voice had turned into a roaring laughter. “Then show me birdy. Show me your superiority. Unlike the other two, I don’t really care about revenge. I only want a fight that excites me. So far this has not excited me nearly enough.”

The demon once again dashed at her, but this time Neleh avoided it by just a thread, by leaning to the side, while also delivering a large gash on the demon’s side. The demon tried an immediate counter, but was suddenly facing multiple orbs of pure white fire flying at it. The demon gave a dismissive scoff. “You hope to hit me with something like this? Hopeless!” It said, while avoiding the orbs of fire with a similarly small margin just to mock Neleh.

Neleh gave an evil smile and snapped her fingers with lightning speed, which caused the orbs of fire to explode all around the demon, turning the whole area into a furnace of flame and ash. Everything around the two burned in seconds, but Neleh was immune to the flame. Her clothes weren’t, but she quickly replaced them with others made of living flame. Suddenly the demon appeared from among the flames, once again striking towards the seemingly unprotected back of Neleh. “Thanks for making it nice and warm.” The demon said, almost certain that its strike would land. The fire was hurting it, but not enough to kill.

To its shock, Neleh managed to angle her spear without even looking its way, so that the demon’s strike harmlessly slid off target along the spear’s length, while Neleh tilted to the side and swung a pure white sword with her other hand, severing the demon’s leg. She had to pay a price of her own though, as the demon’s tail struck her clean in the stomach sending her flying.

Neleh had managed to use her holy power to defend against most of the force of the attack, but she still had a small trickle of blood running down from the side of her mouth. She could heal that of course, while the demon tried to do the same with its leg. “Well now, I finally managed to wound you. You’re slipping birdy.” The demon said gloating a bit, although its face was twisted in a slight frown.

“Having trouble with your leg? It’s a wonder what you can do when you combine the effects of fire, ice and a sword that specializes in fighting magical beings. Magical beings like demons and reject deities such as yourself.” Neleh gave a grin as her gamble had worked. The sword was similar to the ones they had made for Asheara, but Neleh and Elluin had designed this one to be used specifically against lost-deities.

“You think a little thing like this will stop me?” The demon growled, which sounded weird as its voice had once again gone to the high pitch.

“Not really no, but I took away that useless speed of yours. Try running with one leg for a change. Not that your speed was doing you any favors at the end. Want to know why I’ve never been afraid of fighting extreme speed freaks like you?” Neleh asked almost innocently, letting the corruption in the demons leg do its thing. She had lied. It wasn’t ice, fire or the power of the sword in that wound, but the power of death from her death spirit Morael and the corrupting power of the darkness spirit Malassa. No need to tell the Prince of Pleasure about that though.

“Do enlighten me.” The demon played for time, still trying to heal its leg. It had other weapons, but the speed was what it had most confidence in.

“The problem with speeds like that is that it makes you predictable. Even you can’t make sudden changes in direction when moving at that speed, and while my eyes might have trouble seeing you, my mind can detect the power inside your body just fine. And once you cut the legs of a speed focused being like you, you suddenly become all bark and no bite. For the record, surprise is important in battles of speed, but only when your opponent can’t predict your moves before you make them.” Neleh replied with slight glee. She might not have been afraid of fighting speedy opponents, but she did hate it. It was always more trouble than other types.

The lost-deity finally gave up on its leg. It looked like the only way was to forgo this body and take over a new one, but before that it had to defeat Neleh. Changing bodies or returning to its original body took time during which it would be vulnerable. “All bark and no bite was it? Let’s see how much bite you can deal with.” The demon pushed out a wave of its aura, extinguishing the flames surrounding the two.

It then raised its hand in straight up, and a large orb of twisting energy appeared above that hand. “I might not be able to hit you with this, but good luck protecting all those precious little elves of yours.” As it voice disappeared, the orb shot straight in the air, where it separated into a hundred smaller orbs that shot towards the elven army in the distance, which so far had managed to avoid the aftereffects of their battle. Neleh knew those orbs would explode with pure destruction energy, taking down wide swathes of the army. The demon couldn’t avoid gloating a bit before the orbs landed. “I might not be a deity anymore, but those that believe in me still give me strength. I don’t fight alone.”

“Funny you should mention that actually.” Neleh said rather calmly. With a gesture of her hand, a large golden dome rose around the elven army and warded off the orbs flying at them. As usual with Neleh’s shields, this dome too was segmented in a way that made sure that the destruction energy would only remove a small segment of the whole dome. “I’m getting some help too.” Neleh finished. Neleh might have looked flippant, but she knew she’d have trouble channeling enough holy power for another shield like that.

The demon looked a little confused. “You of all people borrowing the power of deities? Oh how the mighty have fallen.” The demon let out a small sigh.

“You know what else the holy power is really good against? Demons. As luck would have it, you chose to inhabit the body of a demon, when you really should’ve picked a dragotaur instead.” Neleh said as a pillar of light suddenly fell from the skies straight down on the demon.

The demon started screaming in pain as the holy light burned its body. As its body burned the demon gave a small sinister laugh. “You think you’ve won? You think we’ve learned nothing since the last time? Even if I die, this will be our victory.” The demon said, as a great circular rift in space suddenly appeared above it, sucking everything in the surroundings inside. A last act of defiance.

Neleh used the instant movement from the light spirit to move right next to the suffering demon and plunged her hand into its chest, pulling out a light glowing with sinister hue. The light represented the lost-deity’s soul. Even though the being’s original body might remain, it would be an empty powerless husk without a soul. She shattered the glowing light, and looked up at the rift. The best way to fight a rift like that was with something similar. “Abyss, if you would.” Neleh called for the spirit of darkness that controlled shadows.

Great arms of shadow rose up from the ground to surround the rift, engulfing it completely. There was a great orb of blackness floating above Neleh as the two powers fought each other. The orb got smaller and smaller, finally disappearing completely and taking the rift with it.

“Now what did it mean with those last words? I doubt it meant that little rift, as the Prince of Pleasure must have known I could close it. I don’t like the sound of this.” The whole fight with the lost-deity had gone outside the plan since the beginning. She had originally planned on letting her most powerful spirit Surtr fight instead of her, but that idea had gone out the window immediately. Hopefully the other lost-deities would be more cooperative, as the Prince of Pleasure had been the weakest of the brothers since it was the youngest, and she could not afford her plans going that badly against a more powerful opponent.

She looked towards the elven mages gathering around the portal, using their power to close it. Neleh had known that she would be too busy fighting to do it herself, hence she had shown the mages several methods that would help them to do what needed to be done. It would still take a week or two to hunt down the remaining goatmen, but they had managed the first portal.

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“Casualty report?” Neleh’s voice came out of the tent she was using for changing clothes. She was too tired to maintain a magical dress at the moment, and the situation allowed her the chance to change clothes.

“Fully within expectations. We did better that I thought. Apparently it was a good idea to keep our little surprise a secret as long as we did. We caught the enemy completely by surprise and managed to cut their battle potential down at the knees.” Estelar made his report, while reading the latest reports on casualties.

“What are the odds that the other enemies didn’t find out about them?” Lysanthir asked.

“Normally I’d say pretty good. We blocked any magical communications by the enemy Harbingers, who are most likely the only forces of the different lost-deities to actually communicate with each other. The problem is that I’m pretty sure the Prince of Pleasure let its brothers know. Whether they decide to share that information is a mystery, but we should assume they did.” Neleh replied, finally emerging from the tent.

“We’ll have to expect countermeasures in the future then.” Lysanthir replied, somewhat redundantly.

“Well then, keep enough forces here to deal with the remaining enemy forces, and emphasize the scouts. We don’t want any of this filth to remain in our forests. We should start moving the others towards the demon continent. We should rendezvous with Sinestra’s forces and move to intercept the enemy coming from the faerie lands. The ships are too big to fit through the arches, so send them first, preferably escorted by the gryphon riders. We wouldn’t want the ships to get intercepted over the ocean by something they can’t handle.” Neleh outlined.

“That’s kind of a danger isn’t it? I mean, you can travel almost anywhere almost instantly, but if one of the lost-deities intercepts our ships while over the ocean, then we have a problem.” Elendil pointed out.

“Which is why I have to go with them.” Neleh said turning to the guards nearby. “Gather the Legion. Those not remaining behind to guard the palace will want to join us on the ships.”

“Yes, your majesty.” The guard replied, leaving to fulfill his duty.

“Khali, what’s your current status?” Neleh asked, making a magical connection with her.

“Getting closer, but running into some trouble. Did you already finish your part? I think I felt some of the ripples from the battle all the way here.” Khali replied, sounding a little distracted.

“Yes, we had some luck on our side, though the Prince of Pleasure managed to make things harder than I expected. Are you fighting at the moment?” Neleh asked suddenly. She was hoping the distraction was fighting because she had another idea what might distract Khali like this.

“A little bit yes. Unlike you, I’m not patient enough to stand aside while my minions do all the work. I have to get in a bit of action myself. Also you’re just rusty. Shame on you for having trouble dealing with a weakling deity like that!” Khali replied

“Well I admit to being rusty. This is what happens when you don’t fight proper opponents for a while. Something the prince said bothers me though. I think we might have more trouble coming. It might be a good idea to let Gabriel know that the Enemy might be coming our way after all.”

“Well that’s bad news. Now get your sweet little butt over here so you can help me when the Changer of Ways appears. Fighting the Great Sorcerer at my current state might be a bit iffy. I need you to keep some of the most egregious magic at bay.” Khali replied with a small grunt, clearly just killing another enemy.

“Alright, I’ll help you, you big wimp. You would’ve liked fighting the prince. He would’ve been more your style.” Neleh replied with the mocking humor clear in her voice.

“I’ll show you a wimp. It’s not my fault I was born so much later than you. I’ll take the next one by myself.” Khali said, while Neleh wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince.

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