A/N: Finally managed to have enough time for this. Hopefully this'll whet your appetites for the future. Do point out any mistakes, as I rushed the PR a bit. Enjoy!
Khali was once again observing from a good vantage point as the demons were fulfilling her battle plan. Unlike what the elves had done, the demons were not frantically pushing towards the portal. Instead they were drawing the majority of the enemies away from it. As the demons had already used a similar kind of tactic to draw their enemy into their deaths near the volcano, the enemies weren’t really stupid enough to fall into a similar trap twice. Unfortunately for them, they had no choice for the same reason. The majority of the powerful mages and warriors in the enemy army had died either falling into magma, or cut down by the demons. That left the demons with a vastly superior position magically, and they were taking advantage of the situation by bombarding the enemy forces with spells from a safe distance.
Khali gave a small smile as she saw that the enemy had no choice but to try and engage with the demon army. Once the two armies were mixed in a melee, the demons would be unable to use large scale area magic to cause massive losses at once. That was the thought at least, but the demon army kept pulling backwards, drawing the enemy along and staying out of full contact. Of course an army charging forward moved faster than an army that was backing away, which is why the enemy kept up their chase, seeing that they were getting closer.
Of course it was not Khali’s plan to have the demons run for too long, all she needed was for the enemy to bring their forces away from the portal. As soon as they were far enough for Khali’s purposes, she led a small group made up of the most powerful demons towards the portal itself. The group was made up of Shazhar and the majority of the Great Silver ranked demons still alive. Their numbers only reached thirty, and their small group made it impossible for the remaining enemy to bring enough numbers to bear against them at once, while the demon elite swiftly cut their way through the confused enemy. To make matters worse, the enemy had been forced into sending their strongest members against the demon army to stop their forces from being annihilated in a hail of magic.
The group rapidly closed on the portal as the remaining enemy just couldn’t muster enough strength to stop their progress. The demons cleaved through the enemy like a hot knife through butter and soon surrounded the portal. The mage oriented demons lead by Shazhar focused on trying to shut the gate, while the warriors kept the enemy away, forming a protective circle. Khali on the other hand kept her eyes open for the inevitable and wasn’t disappointed. While this attack was meant to stop any further enemy reinforcements by shutting down the portal, the main purpose was to draw out the lost-deity behind the portal.
“Here it comes!” Khali yelled to get everyone’s attention when she felt the power gathering around an enemy mage.
The mage had all his veins turn bright blue from the power coursing through, shining so bright that it shined through the armor the mage was wearing. The struggling body of the mage rose up from the ground to float several meters in the air, and they could hear the screams of the mage as his body expanded and transformed. Suddenly there was an explosion of power with dust rising into the air, and black smoke expanded outwards from the place the mage had been previously. The demons could all hear a shrieking call of a bird of prey covering the lands surrounding them, and they had to cover their ears to protect their hearing.
As they looked back up, they could see a majestic form of a demon standing before them. The demon was huge and its appearance draw the eyes of everyone gathered, with a plumed body and vast multicolored wings. Its head was that of a monstrous, predatory bird and its scaled legs and arms bore talons as sharp and deadly as any eagle. The demon’s feathers kept changing color, but were always extremely bright and radiant, reflecting bright yellows, brilliant reds and rich blues. The demon wore a gold and white robe with several magical patterns and a great golden staff with a living flame at the top.
The demons following Khali felt that the gaze of the demon penetrated into their very souls, exposing their innermost hopes and fears. The demon radiated dark glory and they felt their movements get slower and sluggish, as fear took hold in their hearts. They noticed that the staff the demon was holding had something moving inside and they could see twisted and screaming faces surface every now and then. The staff seemed to twist the reality around the majestic demon and they could all feel that it was a very bad idea to get close to that staff.
Khali was wholly unaffected as she walked closer to the demon. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Changer of Ways himself. How very brave of you to come within my reach.”
They could feel and hear a cackling laughter coming from the surroundings, not from the large demon itself. “If it isn’t the ruler of Inferno herself. So this is where you were hiding. We were wondering why you didn’t show up earlier. I’m afraid your subordinates aren’t doing so well in the war, with their illustrious queen in hiding. What’s the matter? Afraid the Celestial Host won’t be able to save you?” The voice laughed, knowing Khali’s disdain of the Host, and trying to make her angry.
“Oh you’ll find out soon enough. You’ll need to try harder than that to make me angry.” Khali grinned while pulling out a blood red blade, with several blue veins of power crisscrossing its length.
The laughter sounded again as several other mages around them started going through the same transformation they had seen earlier. “Why would I need you angry? I just wanted to savor the moment. It’s not every day one gets to slay someone as famous as you.”
“So this is how you want to play it, huh?” Khali said as five other demons exactly like the first one appeared from the smoke created by the transformation. “Well, two can play that game.” She made a gesture with her hands and slammed her fist to the ground. A five pointed star surrounded her, and a copy of her with the exact same look and equipment appeared at each point of the star. “Let’s dance!” She declared with a smile as the six forms all dashed towards the six huge demons.
All six demons jumped backwards as if one, flapping their multicolored wings and taking some distance. Several streams of flame flew towards Khali which she carefully deflected with her blade. Khali knew immediately that this would be one of the biggest problems when fighting the lost-deity, as she couldn’t sense the strength of those spells flying towards her. It wasn’t that she couldn’t’ sense the power, but the power kept changing. Even the Changer of Ways himself couldn’t tell the level of power those spells would have when they made contact. As such, Khali had to treat every attack as if it was a serious attempt to kill her.
She was already stretched to the limit controlling the movements and actions of all six copies of her, and now she had to treat every attack as if her life depended on not getting hit, as it most likely did. This wasn’t her first time using this technique however, and as such she could keep it under control for now. While some of her copies had to dodge away from the fires, two of them made it into close contact with the demons and got their weapons swings deflected by the staves. The power surrounding the staves clashed with the ki surrounding her weapons and the demons were pushed backwards. The Great Sorcerer wasn’t a stranger to close combat, he was very good in fact, but his ki could not match Khali’s strength.
Two other demons attacked from the sides targeting the copies that had pushed the demons back, and stopping them from pursuing the demons that got pushed. This however freed two other copies of Khali to suddenly surge towards the two distracted demons, while the final two copies of Khali covered their approach. The first two Khali’s now flashed towards their original targets that were now getting back up, and got pushed back by a surge of flames.
The six copies of Khali and the six identical demons kept fighting while covering each other, but it was becoming obvious that the cooperation between Khali’s clones was better, and finally they managed to cut down one of the demons in a hail of focused ki attacks. It was a key turning point as the remaining demons would not be able to fight back when down on numbers and they both knew it.
“Marvelous work Queen of Inferno, however I wonder if you have the luxury of taking your time with this fight.” The demons screeched in small laughter and pointed towards the portal. Or where the portal had been, as it turns out. Khali’s subordinates had been successful in closing the portal, but were now getting swarmed by a frenzy of flaming demons laughing maniacally. Khali could see that every time she deflected one of the large demons magical attacks, the flames turned into several small demons that launched themselves towards her subordinates.
“I can open a new portal, but I wonder how big of a loss it would be for you to lose such fine subordinates. Also, while the coordination between your little clones might be better, I wonder how you’ll fare in a battle of attrition. You don’t seem to have quite as much strength as you did when we started this fight.” The voice laughed again.
Khali turned back to see another of the enemy mages in the middle of transforming into a large demon. This seemed like it would be endless. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. Neleh, are you about done with your little ritual?” Khali asked the empty air.
Neleh appeared out of the thin air, removing the invisibility spell she had been using. “All done. I was just waiting for you to ask. You seemed to have such fun that I didn’t want to interrupt you.”
“Well get to it then, we don’t have all day!” Khali said a little disgruntled that they had to use the plan they had hatched, instead of Khali simply beating her enemy straight up.
Neleh gave a wicked smile and tapped her heel on the ground, suddenly sprouting an enormous magical formation that covered the entire area surrounding the portal, except the area around Khali’s subordinates. “I would use my ki for protection right about now if I were you," Neleh said to Khali.
Their surroundings twisted as if folding on itself. The enemy forces surrounding them got torn to pieces by the twisting reality and gravity. Even Khali had trouble keeping her meal inside her stomach and was forced to dispel her clones to focus on protecting just the main body. She cursed in her mind as she was gagging and heaving on the ground. ‘Neleh’s spells can be really nasty when you really give her time to prepare them.’
Once she could straighten up again, the surrounding devastation dumbfounded even her. There wasn’t a piece of flesh or bone bigger than a pebble in one piece, and the ground around them was completely destroyed. Only one of the large demons was left alive, and even that was bloodied and had its wings broken. It also had no more enemy mages to use for new bodies, and they could feel the soul of the enemy focused inside that one body. “You went a bit far there, don’t you think? You couldn’t have just turned everything into a sea of fire or something?” Khali complained while still heaving and struggling to breathe properly.
“Sorry about that. I usually don’t get that much time to prepare my spells and went a bit overboard, I suppose. Was a nice bit of stress relief don’t you think?” Neleh said, while her voice made it obvious she wasn’t sorry in the least.
The two walked towards the struggling demon to finish things off when they heard it laughing. “The Queen of Inferno and the Destroyer in one place. I’m sure master will be happy to hear about this. You might have won the battle, but with the two of you gone, only the leader of the Host will be left to oppose master.”
“You don’t really expect us to let you go home to report, do you?” Khali asked incredulously, while Neleh had a worried frown, remembering the words of the Prince of Pleasure.
The demon laughed. “Not me, but my brother. He could observe everything that happened through the eyes of myself and my other brother, and he will happily report what happened to master. You didn’t think we had no precautions did you?”
“Well, we’ll deal with that when the time comes.” Khali said fearlessly while ripping the soul of the lost-deity out of the demon’s body, and shattered it. Of course that glowing orb was only the embodiment of the soul, and the real soul flew into the River of Souls to be judged. Even deities, lost or otherwise, were not immune to the judgement.
Khali looked into Neleh’s eyes. “It was never about whether we win our not, but what the cost will be. I think the cost just went up.” Khali was alluding to Neleh’s powers as a Destroyer. If the worst came to pass, they still had that one card left to play.
“We better get in touch with Gabriel. She’ll want to be here to face the Enemy. I think we’ll need her. I’d rather we had a planet left once this is over.” Neleh said with a sigh.
“Do we really have to? I mean I know you like this planet and all, but is it really worth it when you consider the smug grin Gabriel will have once you ask for her help? Even more so when she knows she’ll be bailing me out as well…” Khali whined a bit, eliciting a laugh from Neleh.
“Enter.” Gabriel said as she heard the familiar knock.
Asariel, looking as prim and proper as usual, came through the door carrying a message. “Another message from Little Flame.” She said with a small and knowing grin.
Gabriel’s face brightened immediately. “Ooh, I wonder what surprises she has in store for me this time.” She had quite enjoyed Asariel’s reports once her assistant had returned from her mission. Neleh’s antics made her smile every time, and she felt bad that she couldn’t go visit in person.
As she read through the message, her face both darkened and got excited at the same time. This was just the sort of chance they needed, but it could also go horribly wrong. At least she now had an excuse to follow her heart. “Gather the council and prepare for departure. We know where the Enemy will be going.”
Asariel looked up with a sharp gaze. She could read between the lines. “So what’s the plan?”
“I’ll leave Michael and the others in charge of the overall war. I’ll need them to form a front with the Asura War Gods keeping most of the lost-deities away from that world. Hopefully we can keep additional attacks to the minimum, while the Enemy will be lured to go there personally. I think we know enough of his nature that the knowledge about the whereabouts of both Khali and the being who defeated him last time will be too hard to resist.” Gabriel replied, already making plans.
Asariel had a small grin too, as she knew where this was going. “So we’ll be going in person?” She also thought to herself. ‘Please don’t even imagine leaving me behind. All the drama I’ll be able to see will be priceless!’
“Yes, gather your gear. I’m going to reclaim my rightful place beside my beloved.” Gabriel replied, without even noticing that she had answered out loud.