A/N: Finally managed to get this out. I won't lie, I was too busy getting drunk yesterday to do it. Old friends and all that. I went a bit easier on PR, so please point out any mistakes I made. I hope you enjoy!
Seeing Khali finish off Serpentia allowed relief to flood over Neleh. That relief also eased the tension that had been keeping her going, and she found her feet failing to keep her standing. The loss of the Ignasia brought a wave of exhaustion unlike anything seen normally. She was dimly aware of both Shiori and Asheara yelling something while they rushed to support her. Almost idly Neleh noted that her consciousness also seemed to be failing her, since she couldn’t clearly hear the words they were yelling.
She was brought back to clarity by Khali’s next words. “Don’t faint on us just yet! We aren’t finished here. We might have killed Serpentia, but it will be a problem if we don’t get rid of the portal, and you’re the only one who can do that.”
With a frustrated sigh, Neleh forced herself back into focus. She took inventory of the current situation to decide on the best way to proceed. There was still a large number of Trow and Blades on this continent, and if the portal stayed open then there would be a constant stream of reinforcements. It was doubtful that the spiteful creatures would stop just because Serpentia was gone. Dealing with the ones already here could wait, and she knew they had limited time before they would be attacked if they stayed here.
Taking stock of her own situation, her body was exhausted and she probably wouldn’t be able to walk, though the others could carry her. Her internal power was all spent, but interestingly she still had a large amount of mana remaining. Serpentia’s anti-magic measures had stopped Neleh from using all of her mana and she could even drain some of the mana she had stored beforehand. Because of her exhaustion she wouldn’t be able to perform any complex spells, but summoning a spirit was something she could manage.
Channeling her mana resulted in a large fiery symbol appearing on the ground. Out of that symbol appeared a gigantic form of a man with ash black skin and a hair of flames. “Surtr greets master.” The fire spirit said while kneeling on one knee and bowing his enormous head.
“Surtr, that black portal is an affront to my eyes. Throw it with all your strength towards the sun.” Neleh said with an imperious voice, while making a gesture towards the portal still protected the now empty but still intact fortress.
“By your command.” The giant said simply.
Neleh could feel the spirit drawing on her mana, and she gave the spirit as much as it wanted. Zamekh had to raise another protective shield as the heat around Surtr suddenly surged. The giant spirit enlarged even more, growing larger with every step. They could see his black skin cracking into veins of red power, looking much like streams of lava flowing across the spirit’s skin. The air started to shimmer from the heat and flames surrounded his form. Still growing larger, the ground started cracking under the spirits feet and the sunken footprints were filling with molten rock.
By the time Surtr reached the fortress walls, he was already bigger than the central keep. The spirit swung his hand almost casually, shattering the walls of the keep, as he strode over what was left of the walls. The giant grabbed the portal and heaved it out of the ground it was still buried in. With some effort, the spirit lifted the form of the hundred meters tall portal off the ground, made a spinning motion and released the poertal straight towards the sky. The woosh of air and the boom of noise and pressure as the sound barrier was broken almost flattened the people watching by dumbly.
“Oh right, I didn’t consider that.” Neleh mumbled. Something as massive as the portal being thrown at a velocity high enough to have it launched out of the atmosphere would create quite a bit of pressure. “I’m not sure what would happen if the damn thing clipped the moon or something.”
She allowed her senses to follow the portal as it exited the pull of their planet. The speed was quite a bit slower than she had hoped. Apparently even Surtr had trouble getting enough power into the throw. At the current velocity it would take years for the portal to reach the fires of the star they orbited. There would be no more Trow or Blades coming through, but there were other beings that could survive the void of space.
In the meantime though, they had to get out of here. “Gather up the wounded and the bodies of our dead. Then start moving towards the arches. Only treat wounds to a point that the wounded survive the travel. We need to leave now, and we can take care of our wounded better when we aren’t surrounded by ash, fire, grime and death.”
Then Neleh turned her attention to Shiori and Asheara. “I’m going to have to have the two of you help me get out of here. I might faint at any moment. Just take me to Nexus. You can have Nimue look me over, but I’m just exhausted and need rest.”
The last thing she saw before fainting was Khali gathering the remains of her old rival to take them back with her. She guessed that there would be another grave for another lost-deity within Nexus by the time she woke up. The two had been rivals and enemies, but they also had held respect for each other and Serpentia had fought well enough to earn a decent burial. Neleh could respect a strong enemy as well.
Alexis was desperately trying to contact Neleh while fleeing the devastation that followed behind him. Usually Neleh would answer the magical communication even if she had been asleep at the time, but now the spell was not getting a response. Alexis could only assume this had something to do with the clash of power they had felt all the way on the human continent. Something had obviously happened to her as a result of that clash. Alexis knew the elven empress was still alive or the magic wouldn’t have worked at all. All he could do for now was to keep up hope that Neleh was ok and simply unable to act for the moment.
That said, for Alexis it was a damn bad time for the powerhouse elven empress to be indisposed. He looked behind him to see the routing troops of the main human army fleeing for their lives. Behind the humans was the untiring wave of undead hunting them down. Most of the undead horde was rather slow moving, but not all of them. Alexis was forced to watch as another unit of fleeing soldiers was cut down by the powerful Grim Riders while a pack of Wraiths swooped down for more victims. Further away Alexis could see the forms of several skeletal and spectral dragons foretelling the doom of anyone slow enough to be caught by them.
Until three weeks ago the humans had been successful in keeping the undead back, mostly thanks to their spirit magic and spirit powered magical constructs. They weren’t exactly winning, but at least they held their own. Emboldened by their limited success, Emperor Azemar had ordered the gathering of their most powerful forces for a counter offensive to drive the undead horde back. The offensive had been working until about a week ago they had sensed a great disturbance in the direction of the beastmen continent very similar to the clash of power they had felt not too long ago.
Alexis only had limited knowledge about what had occurred at the beastmen continent, but whatever it was had effected the fight on the human continent. Suddenly a great number high ranking undead like the Grim Riders and the undead dragons had surged forward to break the human forces. This alone was bad enough, but it only forced the human forces back towards the point they had been at when the counter-offensive had begun. The real blow had come after the clash of powers had started the previous night.
Alexis knew enough about the operation to know that the clash of power was most likely the result of Neleh fighting another lost-deity. Apparently whatever happened in that clash had released whatever shackles holding back the lost-deity commanding the undead forces, because the lost-deity had taken to the field of battle personally. The grim form of the lost-deity had only appeared for a short moment, just enough to make one attack, but that short moment had been enough to completely collapse the main army of the humans.
The lost-deity had appeared suddenly, as if from thin air. It had taken a form that resembled the legends of a grim reaper controlling death. That grim reaper had used a large scythe to draw a circle in the air above the human army. That circle coalesced into a doorway to what looked like a black void. Alexis with his affinity with death magic could sense enormous power of death from the other side of that portal. Everyone gathered had felt their life force being drawn towards the darkness, draining their strength.
The spirits they used to control their artificial soldiers had been the first to go. Streams of multicolored life had been sucked into the darkness and the living armors and constructs had stopped moving as if dead. Then the living human soldiers had started dying. The old, weak and wounded had gone first, followed by those who had not yet developed their strength properly. At this point the Chosen of Iarus Nicholai had used all his power to strike at the dark power. The attack had collapsed the dark opening to the darkness of death, but by that point almost half of the human army lay dead on the field.
That’s when the undead army struck. Although the remaining human forces were the strongest they had, even they had lost a large part of their power, drained by the portal. The result was the unordered rout they were now in the middle of. Nicholai had died swarmed by the undead dragons, somewhat of an irony since he was supposed to be their trump card against living dragons. Alexis tried to assert some control over the fleeing forces, but they were in the grips of terror instilled into them both by the grim visage of death shown by the lost-deity, as well as the moral effect of the undead army. Alexis didn’t know if the emperor still lived, as he had been commanding the army.
The frantic rout finally came to an end as the forces lead by Prince Sanguinius came to the support of the fleeing troops, managing to push back the undead that weren’t yet interested in pushing forward, as their strength was drained by the morning light. The chase would continue when the night fell again, unless they managed to hold the undead back, which seemed very unlikely. Their forces were tired and would not be able to recover by the nightfall. The arrival of the night would herald their deaths as the tired humans would not be able to outrun the undead any longer.
Alexis was still unable to contact Neleh, but finally managed to reach Shiori. “What is it now?” She asked impatiently almost angrily.
“What’s going on with Neleh? I can’t reach her, and I’ve been trying since last night. We need her help!” Alexis asked desperately.
“Each and everyone one of you needing her help! This is why she’s breaking, since none of you can do anything by yourselves! Try to help yourselves for a change!” Shiori retorted, anger now clear in her voice.
“Shiori, the humans are collapsing. If she can’t help us, we’ll all be dead by tomorrow! The lost-deity commanding the undead attacked us in person.” Alexis pointed out, unclear on the reason Shiori was so angry. The girl had always been protective of Neleh, perhaps too much so. The Golden Goddess certainly didn’t need much protecting!
“Well too bad for you. Neleh collapsed after the fight against the lost-deity yesterday, and has been unconscious ever since. You’re just going to have to make do by yourselves. Even if she would wake up in time, she would not be in any condition to come to your aid. I would stop her even if she wanted to help you.” Shiori’s determined voice made sure that Alexis knew she was serious.
All he could do was to sit down, losing his last hope. “Then all we can do is to try and make a last stand to buy time and take as many of them with us as we can. Even though the undead bastards will just rise up again. I already sent a word to the capitol. They’ll start evacuating the civilians through the Nexus. Can you at least make sure the civilians are cared for?”
“I’ll send orders to receive them.” Shiori relented.
“Then at least our race has a chance to survive, even if the continent is lost. We’ll try to buy some time.” Alexis said cutting off the connection.
As he walked out of his tent, he ran into his brother who was now in charge of the remaining human forces. The emperor had died during the rout, and there would be no chance to crown a new emperor now. Soon there would be no empire to govern.
“Any word?” Sanguinius asked, already seeing the answer on his brother’s face.
“We won’t be getting reinforcements. The Golden Goddess apparently collapsed after fighting her last enemy. They will start taking in evacuees as soon as the word reaches the capital.” Alexis replied.
Sanguinius could only sigh in resignation. “We put too much on her shoulders. Of course she would run out of strength if she has to carry our world by herself. I suppose it’s selfish to wish that she’d had one more fight in her.”
“Agreed. We know of her power, but there will always be a limit, and she carried us this far. Now all we can do is to buy time so that as many civilians can evacuate as possible.” Alexis outlined their last plan.
Sanguinius grunted. “Not that we can buy more than few hours as things currently stand. Not even that if the lost-deity decides to act again.”
“I don’t think it will. I think the only reason it did last night was because it knew Neleh was exhausted and busy, so it was free to act. I doubt it will know that she is still indisposed. So we will buy those few hours.” Alexis explained his suspicion.
The grim and determined human forces lined up across the field, watching the approach of an army over ten times their size and much more in pure fighting strength. They knew that they would face their deaths today, but they also knew that any time they managed to buy with their deaths would allow more people to evacuate. Those evacuating were their families and loved ones, and even a single minute of delay might mean that their own family managed to get to safety. The humans were planning to show the undead the desperate strength of a cornered animal.
As the human forces stood their ground, the undead forces began their charge. The undead dragons dived towards the human army. The impact the humans braced for never came though, as suddenly the undead faced a storm of light magic raining down on them. The undead dragons were engulfed by lighting. Alexis turned in shock as he didn’t feel any magic controlling the lighting, but clearly it wasn’t a natural phenomenon. His eyes grew large as he saw that behind the humans was a host of celestials flying to the battle, using their natural affinity with light magic to strike at the undead. At the head of the celestial forces flew an odd looking celestial with a single pair of wings, who nevertheless radiated power and seemed to be controlling the lighting judging by the orbs of lighting floating around her. The first impression of that celestial was very…proper?
Alexis’ thoughts were interrupted by a large impact at the center of the undead army. It was as if a meteor had suddenly struck the undead. At the point of impact Alexis could barely see the form of another weird celestial. She radiated power unlike anything Alexis had ever seen, aside from Neleh. That power took a tangible form by coalescing into a golden aura that eradicated any undead that came close. The celestial was hard to see properly as she radiated such bright golden light. He could see that the celestial was another two winged with huge golden wings. Her golden hair and armor shined with radiance, and she made a swing with her golden sword, producing a wave of golden light that cut through a large portion of the undead army, as if facing no resistance.
Here was another Golden Goddess who wiped out the undead with almost mocking ease. Suddenly a dozen golden pillars shot from the sky, again incinerating the undead that were caught within the light. Each pillar revealed another weird celestial with a single pair of wings, all of them radiating deadly power. None of them shined with quite the same radiance as the golden one however. Nonetheless, the undead were not able to stand against these newcomers and were cut down left and right.
“We’re saved?” Alexis mumbled, unable to believe what was happening.