The Blood God was pressuring Asariel back. She successfully parried the attacks made by her opponents axe swings, and dodged the lashes of the whips that kept striking from odd angles. The demon was powerful and skilled, but Asariel kept up her end of the fight. She retaliated by pushing the demon back with bursts of her psionic power, which managed to damage the demon but not seriously enough. Any lesser wounds kept regenerating. By all appearances Asariel was losing.
Yet why did the demon have such an ugly grimace on his face? Why had Asariel sent the other celestials back towards Gabriel’s fight instead? There was a rather simple reason for that. Despite all his efforts and seeming upper hand, the demon had not been able to land a blow on Asariel. If the current stalemate continued, Asariel would be able to defend against the demon for as long as she wished. And that was a problem for the demon, because the elusive celestial was a psion.
Even if you considered all the weird and fantastic abilities a psion could possess, one of the most fundamental and dangerous ones was the ability to affect their opponents mind. Against enemies as powerful as the Blood God, it would take time to bypass the robust defenses protecting his mind, but inevitably the time would come when those defenses would not be enough. As such, a battle against a proper psion that was even relatively close in strength to you was always a race against time. Once that time ran out, the psion would be able to affect your mind, and do things to you that ranged from involuntary movements to illusions and temporary paralysis. In fights like this, a small mistake could lead to a quick death and a psion could force that mistake on you.
The demon was losing that race for time. Yet, that wasn’t entirely against his plans. He could feel the annoying celestial worming her way through the defenses he had set up. He’d rather be able to deal with the pest before she got into his mind, but he knew he had ways to retaliate if he didn’t manage that. The demon growled as another burst of psionic lighting forced him back. The damn lighting stung even if it wasn’t dangerous!
Suddenly the demon felt his mind getting invaded, and tried to limit what she could access. However, the celestial suddenly disappeared from his sight. He tried to use his senses to find the celestial, but suddenly felt a blade penetrating his chest. Only the tough hide as well as his fast reaction managed to prevent the blade from going into his heart. Another invisible sword strike struck at his leg, severing several tendons and limiting his mobility.
“Well, if you can’t see your enemy, all you have to do is attack everywhere.” The Blood God said loudly, and suddenly a powerful blast of force struck everywhere around the demon, shattering the surroundings. The battle had moved over land as they were fighting, and now the surroundings suffered from that.
The Blood God was able to notice Asariel’s presence, as the demon’s attack had disturbed her control over his mind, and immediately lashed out with his whip. Asariel became visible again, as the flaming whip bound her, and screamed incoherently as the Blood God pulled her close. A flash of the axe, and a fountain of blood. The Blood God laughed in glee as the celestial’s head flew from her shoulders and bounced on the ground. This rain of blood was what he lived for.
Khali was more and more certain that her enemy had some limited ability to glimpse into the future. Her attacks were clearly getting predicted! That was the only way her enemy could keep up with Khali’s faster movements. Although her enemy did seem to get a sudden burst of speed and power every now and then, whenever she showed some type of opening. She had several wounds as proof of that burst of power. Only her quick reactions and careful avoidance of risk kept her alive so far. It seemed like her enemy was trying to give a wrong impression of his abilities and take her by surprise.
“Fine then. If your opponents knows your every move, then the only way to defeat him is to make an attack that he can’t avoid even if he knows it’s coming.” She said to herself glumly, her words eerily echoing those spoken by the Blood God in another place.
She once again used her favorite technique. Serpentia had managed to turn it back, but she refused to believe this pile of metal was as powerful as her old nemesis. Unlike Serpentia, this enemy hadn’t seen Khali using this attack earlier either. Khali turned into an orb of pure ki and the orb once again separated into a dozen copies of her. The dozen identical copies dashed at her target.
The silent opponent took a wide stance with his blades separated, while the two shields at his shoulders became active again. The copies all attacked at the same time, while their target moved in a controlled dance of blades that redirected the attacks in the way of other copies, disrupting Khali’s attacking rhythm. Any attack that he couldn’t deflect got blocked by the shield. However, unlike with Serpentia, none of the copies was getting destroyed so the stream of attacks continued. It was only a matter of time before one got through.
The first attack went through the armored opponent’s leg, breaking his stance, which allowed two more copies to plunge their blades into the chest of their enemy. As the attack had finished, the copies disappeared, and only one remained with her blade though the armored chest. However, Khali was not happy. In fact, she now realized she was in deep trouble. The armored form twisted at the waist, wrenching Khali’s blade out of her hands, as his sword descended towards her head.
‘There’s nothing inside the armor! The fucking armor is empty!’ Khali thought while trying desperately to dodge the attack, now realizing why the feedback to her fist striking the enemy’s chest earlier had felt weird.
She frantically dodged the first attack, and dove below the second. The third attack would’ve hit her, but the attack struck the shield protecting the city of Nan Yanoi. The shield had recognized the attack as a hostile attempt against the city, thus saving Khali who had barely managed to roll into momentary safety. Now she had lost her weapon however, and while she was adept at unarmed combat, fighting against two large holy swords didn’t seem like such a great plan.
As Gabriel and the red dragon were exchanging blows, it was time to put their real plan into motion. Neleh had known beforehand that this would be a battle of attrition, so it would be easier if they got some help to waste the Enemy’s strength. At her signal, the arches suddenly opened, and a flood of warriors started to come through each arch, taking position on the elevated positions around the valley.
Hundreds of mages suddenly started throwing spells from the ridges on the left at the large dragon, while on the right, thousands of warriors started throwing any and all long ranged ki attacks at the same target. Any warrior not skilled with external attacks was lent one of the magical crossbows used by the Order, which made bolts out of the user’s ki. None of the bolts were strong enough to hurt the large dragon, but it had to defend against the attacks anyway, because among the hail of bolts and ki attacks were some Great Silver ranked people launching their attacks that were capable of doing some harm.
In a storm of attacks like this, no one was able to differentiate all the real threats from those that simply wasted your power when defended against. Hence you had to defend against all of them. This was one of the reasons Neleh and Gabriel had wanted the Enemy to take such a large form. Attacking a large dragon with a swarm of fire like this was rather easy, but trying to hit a human sized target moving rapidly and in combat with Gabriel? That would be a problem. This was also why they didn’t want to make the battle happen in the air. Hard to hit or even reach something buzzing around in the air.
Neleh had to grimace as she saw the defensive spells used by the Enemy. The ki attacks on the right ran into a segmented magical shield made of hexagons, where any destroyed segment got replaced immediately by another pushing into the empty place from below. The spells on the left ran into a murky black and violet spherical field and simply disappeared as if eaten by the odd shield.
Neleh had known that the Enemy specialized on defense. She had after all learned both of those tricks from the Enemy during the previous time they fought. The shield on the right was not really a problem, as that was what they hoped the Enemy would do. The method of defending was highly efficient, but that why they used this method to drain the Enemy’s power. The problem was the shield on the left that seemed to eat the spells. Neleh knew that method to be less efficient than the other one, but there would be another problem that would surface later on.
Suddenly the bombardment intensified heavily as the elven flyers reached this place. Their flying ships aimed their main weapons straight at the dragon, and the huge blasts of power landed on the defensive shield of the monster. The gryphon riders threw their golden lances and followed Neleh’s orders to retreat after attacking and prepare for another pass. The hundred or so flying vessels soon exhausted their blasts in a hail of destructive power while the gryphon riders kept up a constant barrage of attacks as they rotated in and out of battle, performing hit and run attacks.
“So this is how you want to play it this time, huh Destroyer?” The booming voice suddenly sounded. “Not a bad plan as such, however you didn’t think it would be this easy, did you?”
Suddenly the void shield from earlier showed its sinister side, and the reason why the dragon used such an inefficient method of defense. The shield seemed to invert somehow, and all the attacks that it had eaten suddenly flew back out towards the flying ships and the people on the cliffs. The attacks eaten by the shield didn’t just disappear. Neleh wasn’t the only one able to use pocket dimensions, and the Enemy stored all the attacks that hit the void shield in stasis within a pocket dimension. When the shield was inverted like this, those same attacks were accelerated back out and against his enemies.
A hail of power hit the flying ships as well as the cliffs surrounding the valley. This was one of the reasons Neleh had placed so many priestesses on the cliffs for defense, as the defensive spells using their holy power were much more effective. The cliffs had been covered in protective magic as well, and several magical formations flared into life before being shattered. This was why preparation was important. The cliffs managed to withstand the attacks.
The flying vessels had their own defenses, but most were not enough to survive a hail of power like this. Two dozen of the flying vessels came crashing down into the ground wreathed in flames, their crews shredded before the crash, or burnt to death. Neleh had known that the flying vessels would only get a single shot off, and had decided to make most of it in the first surprise attack before the Enemy figured a better way to deal with them. The losses were expected, and Neleh was actually positively surprised that most of the ships had gotten away with limited damage. The gryphon riders were luckily agile enough to avoid most of the barrage. Some of course got hit and were obliterated almost immediately, but the losses were much smaller.
Gabriel had backed off during the worst barrage, and now swung back to attack the large dragon. At this point the bombardment had reduced in intensity, and had instead turned into a slow but continuous rain of attacks, as the people on the cliffs rotated back into the Nexus to rest. This allowed others still fresh in the Nexus to take their place. The idea was to keep up a constant barrage of attacks that drained the Enemy’s power.
At least that had been the plan. To Neleh’s surprise, she noted that the people on the cliffs were not retreating. They instead stayed to retain the intensity of the attacks. “Estelar, what is going on? Why aren’t they pulling back?” Neleh magically demanded from the general of the operation.
Estelar replied solemnly. “They feel it’s time they finally took a stand against the lost-deities and refuse to retreat. Even at the risk of their lives, they want to stay and take off some of the burden from their empress. Anyone who runs out of power plans to rush the Enemy and use their body as a sacrifice to drain the enemy. Even if they are not strong, the Enemy will have to waste their power and attention to deal the killing blow or he will drown in elves. It’s time to show the world what it means when we say ‘Glory to the Golden Goddess’.” There was clear note reverence in Estelar’s voice. There was also a slight tint of madness.
‘Oh no, the aura of the Enemy is getting to them.’ Neleh thought with slight panic.
“I’m moved, but this is not the time or the place. Such gestures will not work against this opponent.” Neleh tried to convince Estelar.
She was too late. A booming voice could be heard once again, as the dragon managed to hit Gabriel with its tail, which flung the celestial away for a moment. “Well, well. It seems you came with a proper plan this time. Too bad you fought me alone last time. I didn’t get to show most of my abilities.”
The dragon had a bloodthirsty grin as it rose on two feet, and made a rumbling growl with a single note that suddenly carried across the valley. Neleh could feel hatred, malice, bloodthirst and resentment in that single note. She was able to resist the effect easily, as sound magic was one of her specialties, but the forces on the cliffs weren’t as lucky. She watched in horror as the people started attacking each other in a haze of negative emotion.
She wasn’t sure if she should be happy or not, when she noticed that the members of the Order were not attacking each other. Even in a haze like this they remembered their strict training and stood as one. However, they stood as one against all the other people. While the others were quite happily attacking each other, the Order members cleaved into their ranks with methodical but gruesome effectiveness. The cliffs turned into a slaughterhouse.
“Dammit, even if we win this the other races will carry a grudge against us if we kill off their most powerful members.” Neleh cursed.
Apparently the Enemy was not yet finished, as the elves and faeries weren’t dying in sufficient numbers, and made a roaring attack against the cliffs. Since the priestesses were no longer defending the cliffs, the sonic wave emitted a pressure that shattered the cliff sides, causing rockslides and the ground started collapsing beneath their feet.
“Well then. Let’s try this again.” The voice had become more normal, as the dragon suddenly shrunk into a fair sized humanoid shape. The blood red eyes and pale skin hinted at a vampiric origin, as the Enemy now resembled one of the rulers of the night, with dark features and a slight beard.
“Plan B!” Neleh signaled everyone still capable of listening.
Gabriel leapt back, and a specially prepared doorway appeared behind the Enemy. Neleh summoned Jormungandr just for the purposes of the great wyrm pushing the Enemy forcefully into the doorway. This doorway didn’t lead to Nexus, but instead allowed access to a special battleground she had prepared beforehand in a rather barren pocket dimension.
“I wish you could just shut the door and trap him inside.” Gabriel grumbled as she entered after the great wyrm to distract the Enemy, while Neleh did what she had to do here.
“I agree, but he would break out soon enough.” Neleh replied. The doorways weren’t prison doors; they were just doors that opened both ways. Even if they were locked, the Enemy was perfectly capable of forcibly opening them. Trying to collapse the pocket dimension with someone inside would just expel them back outside, so that was out too.
Neleh gathered her power and whistled a single long note that lasted almost ten seconds and remained echoing in the air, not fading in the slightest after she stopped whistling. Everyone around her started falling asleep, and the dark aura started slowly dissipating as the being causing it had left. She felt very tired. They should remain asleep and wake up with a clear head, assuming they managed to defeat the Enemy. That wouldn’t help the dead and the dying though, and she didn’t have the power to waste on trying to heal such a large number of people.
She also had to close the arches leading into Nexus, to avoid other people getting affected by the aura that hadn’t yet disappeared completely. She gave a deep sigh. “Although the attack against the Enemy was quite effective, I wonder who really wasted more power in the end? I have a feeling that we might have not come ahead in this exchange.” She said mostly to herself, as she moved towards the doorway while pulling out one of the containers she used to store mana in preparation for this battle. These containers would be only so effective, as the mana she could gain from them was limited and had diminishing returns. That had never been a problem before, as she only used them to boost a single spell, but would become one in this battle for certain.
She also checked that Asheara was still ok hidden within the shadows, protected by Abyss, Neleh’s darkness spirit. She would follow along inside the pocket dimension. After a small thought, Neleh decided to leave the doorway open for others as well, as it was possible the others would finish their battles before her and come to provide help. With another sigh, she entered the doorway.