Neleh and Khali quickly made their plans of attack. They already had plans in place before Neleh noticed the trap awaiting them, and surprisingly the situation had made less of a difference to those plans than expected. They still planned to rely on speed and a smaller group of elites, instead of trying to bring a huge army through. The elven mages would still focus on bringing down the fortress around the portal, while the people trained by Neleh and some of the strongest members of the Order would protect them from the enemy forces.
The major difference lay in Khali’s role as well as what Neleh was supposed to do during the whole operation. Khali came via a doorway hours in advance of the other forces and started to fiddle with the ‘Imprisonment’ spells surrounding the crater as soon as she stepped through. Neleh wanted to give her as much time as possible before they were detected and opening the arches would draw attention, even when hidden outside the crater. Neleh knew the enemy forces had to be paying attention, seeing as their arrival was being expected. Nevertheless, the plan made by the enemy necessitated allowing Neleh to bring as much forces here as possible, otherwise the trap would be wasted. So they would not interfere. They would start getting ready as soon as Neleh’s forces were detected however, and she didn’t want to give them too much time to get ready.
As soon as Khali gave the signal that her work was done, Neleh opened several temporary arches that could easily be collapsed once they were done. The elves had been waiting and were very swift and quiet in moving through the arches. They formed up into pre-arranged formations and moved into position to wait for the whole group to come through. Neleh recognized her mother among the people guarding the mages, although her presence didn’t really surprise her. She was walking alongside Zamekh, who had also decided to join in on the attack.
Shiori had mentioned that Asheara had been trying to meet with her, but there had been no chance for that so far. As soon as they had returned from the events of the beastmen continent, Neleh and Shiori had left for the trek through the desolate wasteland of the faerie continent. The attack had already been delayed and Neleh had been worried about losing the opportunity. There had been no time for being social and she hadn’t even taken the time to rest before they left. Normally traveling would’ve been almost as good as resting, but the speed they had to keep up, as well as the need to stay concealed had made that hard. Neleh knew she was pushing herself a bit too much, but the current war gave no consideration for her comfort.
As the last of the elves came through, they rapidly moved towards their destination at the edge of the crater. Once they reached their assigned positions, they noticed that the enemy was more ready for them than they had anticipated. “How did they react this fast?” Neleh wondered speaking out loud as the enemy forces were streaming out of the fortress and grouping up to meet the elves in battle.
“I think they might have sensed me fiddling with the ‘Imprisonment’ spells. That might be my specialty, but you know that magic isn’t my thing.” Khali replied, not really worried. The enemy had allowed her to do her work, mostly because the enemy had only felt Khali doing something, and they weren’t sure what that something was. As such, stopping her activities was difficult without alerting her. “Don’t be so concerned. We were hoping that a large part of their forces would be buried along with their fortress, but that’s why we brought all those mages. No plan survives perfectly through enemy contact.” She also noticed that there was still a decent portion of the enemy forces inside the fortress. Moving that many large beings took time.
At their signal, the elven mages began to cast their spells, combining their powers for more effect and power. Only a portion of the mages were skilled in the use of earth magic, so the others either lent their power to them or prepared to face the coming enemies. The elven plan was shattered with the appearance of a single woman at the head of the enemy army.
“SERPENTIA!” Khali yelled in anger as she recognized her old rival and one of the oldest surviving lost-deities.
The woman looked calm and emotionless, as her steely grey eyes looked at the elves on the edge of the crater. She was dressed rather simply, with her top covered by a white cloth tunic while legs were covered snugly in what looked like grey metallic scale pants that had snake leather highlights wrapped around her legs. Her silvery grey hair billowed in the wind as she lifted her weird sword above her head, before she swung in a wide arc, sending a wave of force straight at the gathered elves.
“Oh no!” Khali breathed as she recognized the attack and understood the implications. However, it was too late to stop the attack due to its nature. The elves that were not already in the middle of casting spells tried to erect protective barriers either with magic or ki to protect the rest, but this turned out to be the wrong answer. The attack launched by Serpentia didn’t harm any of them directly. However, it shattered all the magic and spells it came in contact with.
“Null-magic wave.” Khali mumbled the name of the technique. The wave’s only purpose was to destroy any magic it came in contact with. It wasn’t powerful enough to destroy magical items such as the enchanted equipment used by the elves, but it completely shattered every protective spell cast by the elves beforehand and in an attempt to stop the wave, as well as disrupting the spells that were about to be cast to destroy the fortress. Having all those spells forcibly shattered had consequences to the mages casting them, as the feedback struck most of them down in unconsciousness.
Yet the purpose of the wave was not finished. The other purpose was to release all the enemy reinforcements held by the ‘Imprisonment’ spells at the same time. This was not the way Khali had expected the spells to be canceled, and hadn’t really designed her own surprise to match. The spells were supposed to collapse when released by the casters, killing both the being held inside as well as the caster. The majority of the spells still collapsed but with a lesser effect. Khali noticed that the majority of the Consortium mages had collapsed from the feedback that had also struck down the elven mages, but many of them had also died in agony as Khali’s little surprise triggered.
Only about half of the imprisoned Trow and Blades materialized and they were all a fair distance from the current location of the elves, as Khali had paid more attention to the ones imprisoned closer to their location. She had made their surprise extra nasty, before getting bored and half-assing it with the distant ones. That still didn’t make the situation very good, as the elven mages had just collapsed, there were thousands of new enemies and the fortress was still undamaged. It looked like Serpentia’s trap had been more successful than theirs after all.
Khali watched with trepidation as Serpentia summoned her whip which transformed into an enormous metallic serpent, the same one that had attacked the elven fleet before getting pushed back by Neleh. The lost-deity also showed the true nature of her weird sword as it grew longer and longer and looked meaner and meaner. The sword resembled one of those whip-swords some idiots tried to use once in a while, except it wasn’t segmented. It was just very flexible and extremely long, ranging several hundred meters with edges serrated with almost arm length blades. Serpentia controlled her weapon easily by running her ki along the blade, and almost seemed to be strolling lazily towards the elves and holding the grip of the blade in her hand with almost a casual ease.
“Can you delay Serpentia?” Neleh suddenly asked.
“For how long, and what will you do?” Khali asked back.
“I’ll have to deal with the enemy forces and that big snake. Our mages are down and the warriors can’t deal with all the enemies by themselves. I have a way, but I can’t do it if Serpentia interferes with me.”
“Leave it to me.” Khali said with confidence she wasn’t sure was warranted. Serpentia had been a powerful enemy even at her old strength, and she had reached only maybe half of her original strength at this point. This would not be a simple matter. Yet she charged forward, determined to delay Serpentia as long as possible. Together with Neleh, they would be able to take the lost-deity down.
“Shiori, stall the snake a bit while I deal with their other forces.” Neleh commanded, and the psion flashed forward towards the snake.
As the two were about to collide, Shiori used her psionic power to deliver an invisible blow to the side of the huge metallic serpent’s head. The strike diverted the serpents lunging attack, and allowed Shiori to attack the same spot she had attacked before, driving a powerful kick enhanced by her powers at the fractured scales, forcing the serpent to the ground. She dove after the same spot, driving her sword through the broken scales at the same spot. Shiori was a precision fighter, not a power one. Despite this, she wanted to be worthy of Neleh’s trust and wanted to exceed her lover’s expectations. Not only would she delay the enemy, she would destroy it!
Meanwhile, Neleh gathered her magical power, and several streams of magical symbols started to rotate around her. She needed to have the others delay the big threats because casting a spell like this took time and concentration. She wasn’t worried about Serpentia using another Null-magic wave, because that could only affect magic below a certain threshold. Neleh was about to exceed that threshold by a wide margin.
There were four spells that she had always considered to be her most powerful creations. They were something only she could have created due to her understanding of the elements as the Spirit Emperor of Fire that specialized in destruction. She could still use those spells, though their power would be lessened a bit by her current limitations. Of the four spells, she could only use one in the current situation, not because she didn’t have the power but because the others were not suitable for the current situation. She had tried to create a spell for all situations.
One of the spells was not designed to be used while on the surface of a planet. It was for the rare case when she had been fighting against other beings of similar power in the void of space, and utilized the celestial bodies for its effect. That spell would have dire consequences to the world. The second spell was only designed to be used against a single target and would drain all of her power, so it was unsuitable for the current situation of facing an army. The third spell was the most powerful, but it would also be the last spell she would ever cast in this life, because it would burn her ability to use magic as a price, but would kill her target without fail.
So she was left with the last spell, designed to be used against large groups of powerful enemies. When a twelfth ring of magical symbols appeared, they all disappeared. Then an enormous amount of small lights appeared around her. All of the lights were pure white and no larger than a thumb. It looked like a billion fireflies had decided to gather around her. She breathed a small sigh of relief. The spell was done, and all she now had to do was control it. “Tears of the Phoenix.” She said to herself in a quiet voice.
She imperiously swung her hand down and pointed her finger at the enemy forces closing in on the elves. Like a river of glowing lights, the small orbs dashed at the enemy. Despite looking small and fragile, the lights went straight through the enemies, as if there was no resistance. Like a tidal wave, the lights crashed into the enemy ranks, burning their way through the helpless enemies and then seeking new targets. The stream of lights first circled around the elves, killing all targets in their vicinity and then started hunting more distant targets.
In seconds, the majority of the Trow and Blades had fallen, and the hungry wave of lights started moving towards the metallic serpent. Seeing this, Serpentia finally got a slight look of anger and annoyance on her face. Losing some troops was one thing, she had more where those came from, even though the Soul Forgers had been among the first to fall. Her beloved serpent was another thing entirely, and could not be replaced as easily. The serpent’s death would also free the remaining elves and Neleh to attack Serpentia instead. “Oh no you won’t!” She said angrily.
She managed to push the demon woman she had already managed to recognize as Khali back, and slammed her fist on the ground. Chanting the words required to activate the technique, she spoke. “This is my kingdom, my ground, and I shall not suffer those that trespass it. May the foreign elements be removed, and we shall give them no quarter. Listen to my command and hear my decree, this area shall not suffer the touch of strange power.”
A wave similar to the Null-magic wave spread out with Serpentia as the center, but this time the effect didn’t go away. Reaching several kilometers from Serpentia, the whole area was dead to all spells. Even Neleh’s spell fizzled and the orbs winked out as she could no longer supply them with mana. She had expected Serpentia to be able to stop her spell as it lost power the longer it lasted, but the way she had done it was a problem. Now Neleh wasn’t able to cast anymore spells to attack her enemy.
Khali gave a small whistle of appreciation. This was one of the ultimate techniques of warriors, designed to fight mages. It was extremely effective, but Khali knew that maintaining the effect was also extremely draining. “It seems you’ve improved Serpentia. You really haven’t been wasting time, have you?” Khali was forced to compliment her old rival.
“Unlike you I might add. You’ve grown weaker.” Serpentia said, returning to her almost emotionless state.
“Well, dying and getting reborn can do that to a person.” Khali replied in almost chipper voice. If Serpentia was satisfied with wasting time talking, then she was happy to oblige.
“Bah! I never expected you to be so weak as to be killed by some chumps.” Serpentia replied, sending another attack towards Khali, who was focusing more on avoidance and defense.
In retaliation Khali used one of her favorite techniques. She momentarily turned into an orb of pure ki, and then the orb separated into a dozen streams of power that surrounded Serpentia. The streams materialized into twelve identical copies of Khali that dashed straight at their target. Only one of the copies was the real Khali, but they all carried the power to kill almost any target.
“Too weak! Do you think your old tricks will work now that you have less power?” Serpentia yelled, as her weapon exploded into a deadly rain of metal, striking at all twelve copies of Khali.
Unfortunately for Khali, Serpentia was right. This was an attack that Khali used to kill countless of enemies, because none of her opponents had enough strength to destroy all twelve copies or resist their combined attacks. And the trick of the technique was that even though only one of them was real, the real copy was not determined beforehand, as Khali controlled all of them. The real copy was always the last one to remain as the others got destroyed, combining both a deadly attack and an almost unbreakable defense. That’s why it was one of her favorite techniques.
Only problem was, she no longer had the same power she used to. Serpentia had the ability to attack all of the copies at once, and use enough power to destroy all of them at the same time. Khali was thrown away from Serpentia. One of the blades that had serrated Serpentia’s weapon was lodged in her shoulder and she was bleeding from several other injuries. The only positive thing was that she had managed to scatter Serpentia’s weapon all over the place, so the lost-deity was now unarmed. Not that this made her vulnerable, as Serpentia was perfectly capable of fighting unarmed.
As Neleh managed to recover from her spell vanishing, she noticed that Khali would no longer be able to delay Serpentia any longer. On the other side, Asheara had joined with Shiori to combat the large serpent, and the two seemed to have an upper hand, with Shiori distracting the serpent, while Asheara delivered heavy blows with her large sword, shaving off huge chunks of the serpent with every strike. At least Neleh could take solace with the fact that the weapon she had made with Elluin was effective.
“Can you strike her down if we give you time?” One of Neleh’s students suddenly asked.
“Yes. But I doubt most of you will return alive from this.” Neleh replied with confidence. She had other power besides magic.
“Then it’s about time we lay down our lives to protect our world.” Her student replied, and as one they all charged at Serpentia without a regard for their lives.
“Now the small fry come to throw their lives away!” Serpentia said with slight anger as she drove her fist through the chest of a male elf, who instead of using his power for defense, decided to dedicate his body and all his power at tying Serpentia in place and denying her the use of the arm she had driven through his chest.
“Not you. I need you to shield the others when I release my attack. I can’t hold back to protect the others.” Neleh said to Zamekh, who was about to join the fight. She knew the dragon was the only one strong enough to protect the others.
She gathered all her internal power while watching the grim determination of her students as they threw themselves at Serpentia. She pulled out her trusty spear that she was still using shrunk down into a hair ornament. This attack would have to carry a price. She didn’t dare to hold back, because if she failed then she wouldn’t have enough strength for another attack.
Shiori and Asheara finally managed to defeat the large serpent, which seemed to anger Serpentia even further. The two decided not to join the frenzy, as they had used most of their power against their previous foe and they would only be throwing their lives away needlessly if they tried to attack Serpentia. Suddenly they felt the gathering of great power around Neleh, and heard her send all of them a mental command to pull back near Zamekh.
Not all of Neleh’s students managed to make it, as many of them were too injured. Despite that, Shiori and Asheara watched as Neleh leapt into the air with her spear raised, with streamers of extreme heat radiating around the spear. Neleh brought her hand down in a throw and the spear struck faster than any of them could see. Anyone aside from Serpentia that is, as the lost-deity raised her hand and managed to push her power out to form a multi-layered shield in front of her.
As the attack was not a normal throw, the spear started penetrating the layered shields one at a time, as the power of the attack pushed it forward. In less than a second, the spear pushed though most of the shields and then exploded. They all cowered under the protective field created by Zamekh, as the world around them turned into a sea of flame. Asheara noted that only half of Neleh’s students had managed to get inside the protective bubble. Even the bubble starter showing cracks and signs of shattering when all the power suddenly collapsed inwards, and the sea of flame imploded, as if sucked into a void created at a single spot.
Neleh looked towards the center of the explosion. Her own attack couldn’t hurt her, but that didn’t mean she was fine. The spear she had thrown was no more, and the Ignasia on her legs and back had disappeared, never to return. She would not regain the power of those Ignasia, as she had sacrificed them to power the attack.
As the dust cleared Neleh was disappointed to see that Serpentia was still alive. She was kneeling and clutching the remains of her destroyed arm, possibly in attempt to overcome the corrupting power that prevented the arm from recovering. Most of Serpentia’s clothes had been destroyed and she was wounded all over, but she was still alive. ‘Will I have to use my power as Destroyer after all?’ Neleh wondered. Destroying someone as powerful as Serpentia would carry a dire price.
Her thoughts were interrupted as a blade suddenly stabbed through Serpentia’s chest. “Finally got you. How does it feel getting killed by a chump? I guess now you can sympathize with what happened to me.” Khali said in a vengeful tone and swung her weapon, severing Serpentia’s body in two.