Neil Skaren looked at the mass of bodies pouring from the hole in the world he had made with the help of other summoners he had gathered. He had violated a few natural laws putting this invasion together. He didn't care as long as he got what he wanted.

And part of what he wanted was to have his old comrade in the city to be used as a sacrifice. And that had been done without any work on his part at all.

Roland had been deadlocked so he couldn't get any closer without killing all the demons in his way. That would take him a long time. The real prize of the invasion would be done before he could punch a hole in the living barrier in his way.

We still haven't secured all the nodes like you wanted, Skaren,” said one of his minions. “The Golden Circle and the temples are holding us back from some of them.”

And you have no way of clearing them out?,” asked Skaren. He projected nonchalence, instead of the frustration he felt. The city should be cowering in front of him as a hostage against any outside force interfering. Now they couldn't seize a handful of vital places because of some knights and their clerics.

That would not do at all.

Skaren held out his hand. A picture of the city appeared in it. Most of the nodes were marked red. He looked at the three green nodes. One of them was a common house.

The demons couldn't occupy a common house. What was going on there? Had Roland done something to keep his demons from being able to get inside the place?

It looked like he would have to take a personal hand in this and seize the last three nodes himself.

He didn't have problems with getting his hands dirty. It just meant leaving his minions alone with the passing demons until he got back. Hopefully they would still be maintaining the circle while he took care of things.

I'm going to deal with this problem myself,” said Skaren. “Before I leave, we're going to call up another titan to help us finish taking the city. When I get back, we'll see about dealing with my old friend, Roland.”

Are you sure about this?,” said the minion. “Surely the demons can take care of things for us.”

They can't even seize a house,” said Skaren. “I'm going to have to handle this part myself. If I don't, we might still be trying to rout the Circle when Roland arrives to try and stop us.”

I can't believe the other three titans were destroyed so easily,” said the minion.

I told you it would be like that when Roland arrived,” said Skaren. “He's the world's strongest man. He can kill anything with his touch. Now we have to get him in his cage long enough to finish what we set out to do.”

And a titan will let us do that?,” said the minion.

Again, Roland the Cutter can kill anything he can physically punch,” said Skaren. “We need to keep him busy until we have the nodes secured. As soon as we get the titan on the field, I'm going to secure the nodes for the demons so they can hold them for us. Then we do the ritual. How hard do you think that will be?”

Harder than what you just said,” said the minion.

Skaren smiled.

He raised a hand like a man pulling a sword. The minion's head exploded from an invisible wave of energy.

The summoning circle flickered like an eye blinking. Some of the demons in transit arrived in pieces. Their fellows watched the parts turn to ash in front of them.

Skaren looked around. Demons and summoners looked at him in surprise. He smiled back at them.

We're going to summon a titan to help us out,” he called out. “Does anyone else have a problem with that?”

Everyone who had heard the question indicated they didn't have a problem with summoning a giant monster to wreck the city beyond where the circle had been cast. The first three had knocked down enough buildings to clear a space for them to work.

Skaren clasped his hands together. He began talking. His words were unpronounceable and unknowable. Energy flowed into him from his minions. He needed Paul now, but sometimes you had to make an example of someone wanting to slack off at the moment you needed them to have their nose to the grindstone.

Demons who had not fled from the circle fast enough started flowing together. They became one thing. Every demon that merged with the creation added height, weight, and strength. The new titan towered over its surviving brothers in seconds. It roared with a thousand voices.

All right, big guy,” said Skaren. “I need you to throw buildings at this guy until I tell you to stop. Can do?”

The titan roared in replied. He started off from the circle on hundreds of legs.

All right,” said Skaren. “Now that that is taken care of, I'm going to step out of the circle for a moment. Don't let it close, no matter what. I'll be back after I help the demons take the nodes.”

Skaren summoned his magic around him and propelled himself into the air. He headed south toward the one holdout farthest away. Once he had dealt with the resistance there, he could take the other two nodes just as easily.

This was the kind of thing he used to do all the time when he had first gained his ability to use magic. He had only improved in the intervening years. His command was just as good as Roland' strength, and soon it would be beyond anything the Cutter could do to stop him.

What good was a punch against the command of all reality to reject anything that could be stopped?

He knew better to underestimate Roland. The man had killed monsters and creatures deemed unkillable by their peers. He didn't want to give his brother demigod an even chance of getting out of the trap he had worked on for so long.

Once he had killed all the people, the demons, and Roland, he would have enough to elevate himself to the Grand Tiers and be a god among gods. He might be able to take the god of knowledge's seat and push the other out of the court.

That would be so good. He would be able to laugh at the other god as he fell to the ground without any power to speak of.

First he had to get rid of the idiots trying to stop his plan.

Skaren landed on a roof a few streets down from the node he wanted to secure. It was a fortified temple. He could see clerics and knights driving the demons away from the gates. He shook his head. The demons should be flooding the walls by now.

It was time for him to take a hand and get the demons past the defenses arrayed to stop them.

He waved for one of the demons to join him on his roof. The shanker arrived after taking a second to make sure he was looking at his summoner.

I want you to tell the demons to fall back and form a line,” said Skaren. “I'm going to open the temple for them. I need them to stay out of the way until they see the hole I make.”

I will pass the order,” said the wolf faced monster. It dropped down from the roof. It talked to one demon before moving on. That demon talked to one, and fell back. Soon the word had been spread that most of the demons had fallen back from the temple.

Skaren checked the disposition of his forces. There were some still too close, but most of the demon force had moved away from any potential problem.

He reached for an invisible blade at his hip. When he drew it, the gate of the temple split in two from an unseen force. The demons rushed forward.

Now he had to help take care of the other two nodes while the demons mopped up after the explosion he had caused. It didn't matter if the knights and clerics lived as long as they were out of his way.

He ignored desperate prayers of banishment as he propelled himself into the air. He crossed the city and landed on a field just inside the wall. A shack stood there by itself. Demons pounded on the walls, but couldn't get inside the shack.

Skaren took a moment to look at the shack through a filter of aether. He smiled in appreciation. Someone had created a shield that got stronger the more you hit it.

It didn't work on energy from what he could see.

The roar of the titan echoed through the air. He wondered how busy Roland was. A titan was nothing to the cutter, but moments of distraction was all he needed.

Skaren smiled. His plan was still on the rails. The gods couldn't interfere. Roland was stymied. No cleric, or mage, was strong enough to cast spells with him. He would be a god by the end of this.

And the next thing he had to do to win, was to open this cabin and send its owner on his way to his afterlife.

Skaren pulled his invisible sword. The beam punched through the shield and blasted a hole in the shack inside the mystic dome. He raised his filter. The shield was down.

The demons swarmed to the hole. The faster they made sure the owner was dead, the better it would be. The human mage was not known for his patience.

Skaren made sure the demons had custody of the shack before he flew to the last node. Once he was done with that, he had to get back to the circle to keep the demons flowing through.

The more he sacrificed, the more power he would have when he became a god.


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