A/N: So we come to the last chapter. I will post the epilogue in few minutes, so keep an eye for that. I could’ve put this along with the epilogue, but I thought I’d better leave it as it is, a clean finish. It’s been a long road, eleven months, and much funzies have been had. I tried to avoid asking for ratings and stuff along the way, but seeing as you managed to hold on to the end, now might be a good time to throw a rating my way. The story was worth a read since we got this far, so it should be worth a rating.
Beyond that, I want to thank all my readers that managed to tolerate my meanderings this far. I enjoyed writing this story. It started off as a kind of “let’s see what happens” kind of thing, and during the journey I wanted to bring the journey of Neleh to a proper conclusion just as much as readers might have wanted to read that conclusion. To those that are asking, yes I’ve got a new story in the works, which I hope will be better and more refined as this one. I hope I’ve learned something on the way after all. The link to that will eventually be in my signature, so if you think you might like another story crafted by me, then it’ll be easy to find. I hope to see many of you there. When will I start posting it? I don’t know yet.
Well, without a further ado, I hope you’ll enjoy!
The Blood God suddenly felt something penetrating through his back, and could see a clawed and bloodied hand coming out of his chest. The hand was holding something that looked suspiciously like his heart. He managed a feeble cough, as blood flowed from the side of his mouth. He tried to look behind him, but failed pathetically. His neck refused to move.
“Well how about that? At least you got to feel the sweet taste of victory for a moment.” The voice of Asariel calmly said from behind his back.
The headless body of the celestial suddenly disappeared from the ground. The blood that had spurted from the corpse’s neck also vanished. The demon fell to the ground as Asariel loomed over him, holding the demons heart still in her hand. The celestial’s other gauntleted hand showed that it wasn’t actually her hand that was clawed, but the gauntlet itself was formed into a shape that could tear her enemies to pieces. Her real weapon was not in fact the sword she had used, but those gauntlets on her hands.
“How…long..?” The Blood God managed to sputter out part of a question.
“Hmm, how long have I had you on the palm of my hand? Well, I’ll give you a hint.” Suddenly the devastated surroundings disappeared, and the demon could see they were in fact standing on a rock jutting out from the ocean.
They were nowhere close to land, and he had in fact never even used the burst of power he had thought would bring him the advantage. Everything that happened after he had felt Asariel attacking his mental defenses had been in his head. He couldn’t even figure out how much time had passed, as his memories were all false.
“How?” He managed to ask.
“I learned long ago that a soft touch is much better when invading someone’s mind, rather than trying to force my way in. You mind will bring me in all by itself if I just aimlessly drift nearby. The defenses only work if they detect hostile intention, while I’ve learned to clear those thoughts away.” Asariel explained feeling that there was no harm in giving honor to the dying. However, it was time to finish this for good.
“At least now you’ll get to join your brothers in death.” She said quietly, as her hands slashed down, glowing with psionic power, looking like the claws of a bird of prey that had found its mark.
Her enemy was pacing in front of the city shield, trying to figure the best way to get inside to strike at Khali. She was trying to figure a way forward as well, as her sword was still stuck in the metallic chest of her enemy. Suddenly she felt a signal in her head, advising her on how to proceed. A group of fifth Order assassins suddenly jumped at her enemy while several magical spells attacked him from the walls at the same time.
The assassins weren’t actually really trying to attack a target they had no chance against. They were only a distraction. The spells from the walls avoided hitting the assassins, and were also there as a simple distraction in an attempt to keep their enemy of balance and not thinking. During this, Khali charged her ki into a burst of power, which she shot towards what she now realized to be a hollow armor controlled by a separate will. This attack was not something he could ignore, and he layered his two shields in front of him.
The two shields shattered under the pressure of the attack, but he managed to slash the ki with his blades. However, this too was just a distraction. While he was busy dealing with the attack from Khali, Shiori slipped behind him, masquerading as just one of the assassins, no different from the rest. Except there were two important differences.
First was her white dagger that sunk into the back of the magical helmet like into butter, revealing the shining core inside the helmet. The second difference was the skill taught to her by Neleh and refined by her and Asariel. A skill she had learned as something she could use to kill a lost-deity if given the chance and something happened top Neleh. “Warp.” She muttered the activation phrase of the power, and leapt back from her target.
A small grey orb of power exploded inside the helmet, twisting and rending the space around the point of impact. The space inside the small effected area shattered as gravitational fields tore the space in opposing direction twisting and turning. This was a horribly effective skill, but the affected area wasn’t too large, and the effective range was small. The small grey orb could be launched at a distant enemy, but it moved so slowly that a sleeping sloth would be able to avoid it beyond a limited range.
The shiny silver armor was completely rent apart from the head down to what would be the stomach area in a normal human. In this case there was nothing but empty armor below of course. The two large swords fell to the ground with a thud as the hands holding them had been severed at the elbow. Or at least the armor holding them had been destroyed.
“That worked better than I though.” Shiori mumbled to herself. The energy drain suddenly forced her to her knees. It would be several hours until she could move again. A skill like that was not supposed to be used by someone with Shiori’s level of power.
“Remind me not to get you mad enough to use that skill.” Khali said half lost in thought. She had felt the destruction of the lost-deity controlling the armor. She still didn’t know who that lost-deity was supposed to have been, and probably would never find out. It had been a worthy enemy however.
“I suddenly realized. I’ve now killed the same amount of lost-deities as you, oh great lord of Inferno.” Shiori muttered with some glee. “And the kill you have hardly even counts.”
“Pshaw. That one was hardly all your power either.” Khali replied somewhat miffed, realizing Shiori was right. “Also, I would’ve preferred that you didn’t destroy my sword while you’re at it. How am I supposed to go help Neleh now? It’s not like I can just pick up a random sword and have it be useful against the Enemy.”
“Oops?” Was the only thing Shiori could offer.
The battle within the pocket dimension had intensified. Gabriel was barely managing to keep up with the Enemy, who was now using a pair of red swords that seemed to be made of blood. Jormundgandr had already been destroyed and returned to the spirit plane, as a swirling vortex of red power had corroded the great wyrm’s body beyond recognition. Neleh supported Gabriel via summoning her spirits to help the celestial in battle. The spirits were an excellent way to waste the Enemy’s power, as all the spirits had powerful effects in their spells that were difficult to stop with a simple protective barrier.
Normally Neleh would only be able to summon two powerful spirits at a time, but there was one way to ignore that limitation and waste as little power as possible. That way was to summon the spirits at the cost of the connection that they had formed. She simply provided the spirit with as much mana as she could and severed the connection between them. Then the spirit would fight on its own until it ran out of the mana she had provided and then returned back to the spirit plane. That connection would then be lost forever, and any permanent benefits that spirit provided her would disappear.
Currently she was using all of her spirits except Malassa, and severed all other connections aside from her, Surtr and Abyss. She had to keep Abyss’ connection to keep Asheara safe, and Surtr’s connection because she would need his power in her final attacks against the Enemy. Malassa would be her trump card before the end. She had drained several containers of magic, and knew her limit was fast approaching. But this too was part of her plan.
Jormundgandr wasn’t the only spirit that had fallen. The light spirit Blazing Glory had also had her body destroyed by the red blades the Enemy wielded. Morael and Shiva, the death and ice spirits were making their final attacks against the Enemy as their mana was running out. ‘Still not enough.’ Neleh thought. ‘We need something more’
“The celestials that went after the Blood God are outside. They are asking if they should come in, although they’ve spent most of their power trying to heal the people outside.” Gabriel sent a message, as she was once again pushed back, and the last of her ‘Fateguard’ shattered. The golden power protecting her was also starting to dim. She had attracted the attention of the Enemy this whole time and suffered his heavy blows. She had also given her own share of attacks against the Enemy, enough to not shame the position of Executor of the Celestial Host.
“Do they have enough strength left to be useful, or will they just be throwing their lives away?” Neleh asked, suspecting the answer.
“I doubt it, or else they wouldn’t have asked. They would’ve just come here. They had to stop the enemy’s first attack, and I’m pretty sure there was plenty to heal outside.” Gabriel said with some resignation.
“Then let them save who they can. No point in having them commit suicide, when they won’t even help.” Neleh replied with some resignation. She had gotten a message from Khali and Asariel. Both of them had won their battles, but it would take them some time before they could come and help. Khali had lost her weapon while Asariel wasn’t even close to a doorway, while the battle and flight had drained most of her strength.
Apparently their discussion had distracted Gabriel enough that the Enemy managed to slip inside her defense and managed to land a powerful blow on the celestial’s chest. The last of the ‘Fateguard’ had vanished earlier, and the last of the protective golden power was now gone. Her armor was clearly cracked, though she was not too badly hurt. Yet. She would be if she continued to fight though. Neleh made the choice for her, and had Shiva use the last of her power to carry the barely conscious celestial outside, while Surtr and Morael distracted the Enemy.
As the Enemy slashed away the weakened death spirit, and used his powers to force Surtr back, his gruff voice sounded again. “Well then, it’s just you and me now Destroyer. How many worlds will you destroy this time to force me back? Do you have the power to even do that anymore? You better act fast, or I’ll make sure that your little celestial friend won’t be able to escape. It was such an easy job to come back this time due to all the resentment from the dying planets you drained to defeat me last time.”
Neleh gave a small sigh. It was time to throw her remaining cards into the game and hope that they had done enough. “I’m not alone quite yet. Malassa, if you would.” The feeling of utter weakness as Malassa exited her body almost knocked Neleh out. Unlike the other spirits, the spirit queen of darkness used her own power to materialize instead of Neleh’s remaining mana. However, the price was the lost connection and the loss of all the power and strength she had gained from the spirit, which was a heavy price. She had come to rely on that power in the preceding years and now she felt as weak as a kitten as she lay there on the ground.
As the black and purple dragon dove at the Enemy, firing beams of strange purple energy from the numerous eyes decorating her wings, Neleh started to drain what little power she could from the remaining wells in her possession. She felt her senses dull as the spirit and the Enemy struggled, causing the ground to shake. Normally she would’ve been glad to observe a battle as impressive as the one unfolding in front of her, but she was too tired to really focus her eyes. She could also feel the corruption inside her spreading and taking over. The wanton waste of mana she had done had its consequences, and the worst was still to come.
She wasn’t sure how many minutes had passed, but she saw a burst of scarlet power, and felt the spirit leave this plane. “Was that it Destroyer? If it was, I’m very disappointed. I didn’t think you’d be the type to push the battle to the shoulders of others.” The voice mocked her.
“No, that wasn’t it. You should’ve figured by now that we were just trying to waste your power. We were doing it for one purpose.” Neleh replied with a small chuckle. She saw from the corner of her eye as the Enemy suddenly dove straight at her, trying to prevent whatever was about to happen. He was too late though.
“Final Flame of the Phoenix.” Neleh activated the final spell her current body would be able to cast as the spell burnt away her ability to use mana. For a short moment she returned to the glorious form of her old life, as she took the form of the white hot phoenix of cosmic flame. For this moment the heat of the sun was present within this pocket dimension, but that wasn’t the end of it. Otherwise she would’ve lost her ability to use mana when her sister died. No the real attack was to come next as the form of the phoenix burst with the energy and heat of a supernova, incinerating everything.
There was a reason Neleh had prepared this pocket dimension beforehand, even though she wasn’t aware of the Enemy’s ability to turn people against each other like that. This was the reason. The explosion was even more magnificent because she used Surtr’s power to draw on the elemental plane of fire to enhance her flames. She could now let go of that connection as well, as it had served its final purpose. The only connection left was for Abyss, as that spirit was responsible for keeping Asheara alive during the inferno.
As the raging inferno passed, all that was left of the pocket dimension had turned to nuclear glass. The landscape could even be described as somewhat beautiful. Neleh found herself reclining against some slag, which would’ve burnt anyone else, but heat and fire held no risk to her. The heat slowly dissipated into the emptiness surrounding the dimension, and a semblance of normalcy returned, although the whole pocket dimension was still a hellscape almost too hot for breathing without searing your lungs.
Unsurprisingly, the Enemy was still there although his charred feature told a clear story of how his protective powers had finally buckled. Yet, he was still alive, just as Neleh had feared he would be. “Well, that certainly surprised me. Though I suppose it shouldn’t have considering what you used to be. I didn’t think that power had carried over to this life. Too bad you fell a little short though.” The charred skin was dropping away as new skin healthy appeared on his face and body, as his regenerative powers did their job.
“Well, I suppose it always had to come to this.” Neleh said sadly. She had one last card to play with her broken body.
The deities of this world had promised to give their own power as recompense for Neleh’s power as a Destroyer. She could not designate the source her power used as fuel, but something like the deities could choose to feed into her powers. It was time to collect on that promise, and hope that the power they provided was enough. She gathered all the holy power she could hold for one final attack, and flung it at the Enemy.
Someone of the Enemy’s level could use his own strength to resist the power of a Destroyer, which had been the reason so many worlds had disappeared the last time. She could feel the holy power draining from within her as the Enemy slowed the progress of destruction. His arms were the first to go, turning into black dust, ever so slowly. Next came his feet, as he struggled against the destruction with a pained grimace.
Neleh could feel the power within her drying up, and knew that if she went further, the price would be paid by someone else. Then she felt the presence of several beings behind her. She could feel a hand on both of her shoulders, although the hands felt insubstantial. The deities had come to do their part. The power of the gods flowed into her, and she channeled it into the power annihilating the enemy. It was working, but would it be enough?
She could feel a silent discussion that went on within her mind. The gods knew that some of them would have to be sacrificed to feed the power, and they were deciding who would go. Neleh was shocked that Alarae and Loki were fed to the power inside her forcibly. She had not thought the gods capable of punishing the two like that. The two would almost certainly come back as lost-deities if her plan didn’t work. But it was still barely not enough.
Finally their eldest, Satai stepped forward. “I think my time has passed. My race has reunited with their lost cousins and doesn’t need my protection. If she can give herself to the cycle to defeat the Enemy, so can I. May the Destroyer take wing once again, and may her power save us all from the clutches of Death.” The god recited the cryptic line of his blessing seen during Neleh’s Awakening ceremony.
As the Protector God of the Dragons disappeared, Neleh felt a burst of power and could feel the Enemy finally giving up, as his body disappeared. Now came the moment of truth. They had won, but will it be a temporary victory, or will the threat be gone for good? As the spirit of the Enemy searched for another body to take over and continue his conquest, the only one available was Neleh. Normally the heroes that came after him were the best new hosts, as they were the most powerful beings in the universe. Some managed to resist, some didn’t. Neleh had resisted easily last time. However what did he have to lose? If he failed, he’d just come back in a millennia or two anyway.
When the Enemy reached for Neleh, he expected hate, resentment and other negative emotions to give him power. What he found was acceptance. That made him weak and vulnerable. Neleh allowed the Enemy to freely start taking over her body, only slowing the progress a little. Usually the bodies of the heroes were great, even if they were exhausted or wounded. Not this time.
What the Enemy found this time was a body that was worn and about to collapse. It had no ability to use mana, it had severed the spirit connections, which had left the body weak and with no ability to become stronger. The power of the gods would not be available to the Enemy, no matter how he asked. Worst of all, the body was corrupted and dying. It was nothing but a husk. That had been Neleh’s plan.
With no power left in the body, the Enemy was unable to resist and it was vulnerable while taking over. While in the middle of taking over, it could not escape. Instead of a new body, the Enemy found a trap and a prison. When Neleh sensed that the Enemy was committed, she latched on with all the power in her shining soul. ‘If I’m going back to the cycle, I’m taking you with me.’ Neleh sent the thought to the other soul struggling for the control of the body.
‘Struggle while you can. Once I’ve taken over completely, I can just escape again.’ The Enemy replied, clear hate clear in his voice. No other being had given him such problems before.
‘Unfortunately, you won’t get the chance.’ Neleh said with glee, as the white blade of a sword she had helped create went through the heart of the body the two inhabited.
“Thank you, mother.” The voice of their body managed to say, as it looked into the tearful eyes of Asheara, who had been waiting for this moment. It was not easy for a mother to bury their child, and it was much harder to end the child’s life with their own hands. She managed it only by thinking that she was ending her child’s suffering. It was Neleh’s wish to die for a reason, and her body would’ve collapsed soon enough anyway.
Neleh had always said that she was not a hero, but she would die as one. Asheara wanted to make sure of that. She idly wondered what awaited her as the slayer of the Golden Goddess, but told herself that she would be gone with Shiori and Gabriel soon anyway. As Neleh had said goodbye to them earlier, she had told them that she would be reborn, although she didn’t know when and where. She had told them to find her.
With her last strength, Neleh sent the message to the people waiting. “Remember, find me!”