Grolus groaned as he sat up. He had five tails left. It would take time to regenerate the rest back. And he didn't have that.
He knew Skaren was trouble. He should have turned the mortal away when he had asked for the deal they had struck. Now he felt a crushing weakness in his body and thought he had lost too many of his subjects.
Now the magician and the cutter were battling through his throne room, seeking to kill each other. What should he do?
He should let one of them kill the other. Then he could kill the survivor. That seemed simple and easy to do. Killing the cutter should be a lot easier than the magician. Skaren could move a lot faster, and attack from a distance in ways that the other couldn't do.
At least he didn't have to abide by the partnership rules anymore. That made things easier already.
The two enemies traded a series of spells and blows as the cutter tried to get his enemy into a position that he couldn't escape. Grolus knew the next move after that would be to keep pounding on Skaren's shield until it collapsed and he could actually reach his enemy. The fight would be over after that.
Did he want to take on the cutter? That was a good question. He was the more physical and stronger of the two. Skaren's magic was formidable, but easily resisted if you wanted.
It would be better to help kill the cutter. Then he could see if Skaren wanted to make another deal.
And it would be good to put down a human hero. It would be one less individual trying to oppose his expansion into the mortal world.
Grolus climbed to his feet. He slid across the floor, swinging his fist on its long arm. It struck the cutter before he could turn at the sudden interference. The hero flew into a wall and was stopped before he went through.
The king of demons laughed in raspy squeaks as he swung the other fist at Skaren. He might as well kill the other one before something happened.
The magician created a wall to protect himself. Grolus nodded. That one spell had saved the man quite a few times during their fight.
It wouldn't save him for long. Once he knocked it down, he should break Skaren easily. Then he would have a soul to eat.
“How many more times do I have to kill you?,” said the cutter. Pain ran through Grolus's leg. He went down to one knee. He turned his upper body to swat the cause of the pain away. A stabbing pain in his side signaled his ribs trying to escape from the other side of his body. He coughed up black blood as he tried to bring his hand back for a slam. His skull deformed from an impact first. One of his tails burned away.
Grolus's eyes snapped open. He only had four tails now. He needed to stay away from the fight. He couldn't afford to lose his last four lives.
He had forgotten how strong the cutter could be. He should have made sure the human was down for good before turning on Skaren. That had cost him his life.
He decided to wait this time until he was sure one of his enemies was completely out of the picture. Then he would attack the other with his full power. Once he had dealt with the survivor, he could heal up and regenerate his powers and tails.
He would have to write off his subjects loose in the upper world where he couldn't go without a summons. The underworld would generate more out of the grief caused by the rampaging demons on the loose.
Skaren threw blades, death clouds, vines of irons thorns, and other things at his enemy. Each attack was diverted as the cutter evaded the attack, or blocked it with a piece ripped from the throne room itself. The magician seemed less than confident at the failure of tactic after tactic.
Grolus knew that feeling. When you expected your enemy to go down from the first blow, you were thrown off step when he didn't. A small amount of fear entered the system if the enemy was as implacable as the cutter was turning out to be.
The cutter exploded in motion. His charge took him right through Skaren. The magician tried to use a shield to block the ram. Either it was ineffective, or he was too late. He slammed into the wall and rebounded to the floor. He was in no shape to stop the fist smashing his head into an unrecognizable shape.
“You should have stayed in the real world, Neil,” the cutter said. He blotted the blood on his face with a hand. He grimaced when he looked at his palm. “You could have recharged your magic all you wanted up there. Coming here cut you off from the flow.”
Grolus grimaced at the explanation. It meant that the longer the fight went on, the weaker the magician got until his personal power fell below what he needed to deal with the other demigod. If he had knocked the cutter out of the fight when he had the chance, he would have been able to wear Skaren down as long as he could avoid any death spells.
What was he going to do about the cutter? He should wait for his chance, and then attack in overwhelming force. The man looked like he had suffered more in the fight before he had delivered the death blow.
He couldn't let himself think that the cutter would be an easy victory even wounded. The man was responsible for killing untold numbers of enemies among the upper world. He had fought against three demon surges.
That was enough to warrant caution on the part of the king.
Grolus climbed to his feet. He took a moment to consider what he was committing himself to before he acted.
He flexed his fingers. The talons on the ends extended outward. He would slice his enemy apart before he could be stopped. Once he had ripped the cutter apart, the battle was over.
Then he could rest on his throne until his strength came back.
Grolus attacked, trying to be as silent as possible. As long as the cutter didn't know how many lives he could burn, he had a small advantage. He had to use it to win the battle on the first blow.
An extended battle would burn up the rest of his lives if he let the cutter move into action against him. Putting him down had to be done before he could counterattack.
Grolus's hand came down, talons cutting the air as they moved. This was the end for the cutter. The greatest enemy of demons everywhere would be exterminated by his hand. The ending of this story was excellent.
The cutter turned at the last second and knocked the blow out of line. He looked at Grolus with anger in his eyes. The blood on his face was a red mask.
“This could have ended peacefully,” said the cutter. “No one else had to die. You could have remained in place without a problem. Now it's going to go another way.”
Grolus swung his other arm. He put everything he had in the blow. He was looking at being executed by his enemy. He had to kill the other first.
The cutter knocked the giant claw aside. He snarled in his anger.
“Don't you get it?,” he asked. “Neil was the tougher of you since he had a resource he could have used to do things I couldn't counter. I had to run his power out so I could deal with him. You, I can just punch.”
He leaped upward. His fist swung at the top of his arc. Grolus's head exploded from the blow. The demon fell as another tail burned away before he hit the stone floor of his lair.
The cutter waited for the king to recover before he struck again. He repeated his action until the last tail was gone. Then he sat down and took a long breath.
He was stuck at the bottom of the underworld with no way home. What was he going to do about that? He doubted he could get any assistance to pierce the veil from the other side. He might be stuck there for the rest of his long life.
He wished there was some water around. He felt the need to wash the blood off of him. He closed his eyes and thought about what he should do next.
He decided that he should look at where he had punched through to the underworld and see if he could punch his way out and back to the city. Then he could see what he should do next.
Beaver and his friends had shut the circle down so he didn't have to worry about more demons unless they followed him through the hole he had to create to get home.
He doubted the hole would stay open long enough to become a problem for the defenders. They had already fought a demon surge to a standstill. A few more was not going to change the outcome of the war at this point.
He stood and walked out of the throne room. He would have to get some new clothes and a new coat when he got home. He looked like the victim of a mugging.
He wondered how many bandits would try to rob him now. He supposed there was someone stupid enough to try. He looked like someone had already put him through a ringer. How easy would it be to put him through the ringer again?
He looked around before he spotted the hall he had come through to meet the king. It's regular shape stood out from the damaged interior of the hall from the fight. He looked for the way up.
He didn't envy the demon stuck with cleaning everything up.
It wasn't the first time he had created a mess and walked away without cleaning it up. It probably wouldn't be the last.
He smiled at that. The clouds of ash from the destroyed demons would have to be swept aside by anyone cleaning up the city after the surge. That wasn't his problem either.
He made his way out of the tunnels at the bottom of the world. Breaking through any cave-in was child's play for him. He found a committee of demons waiting for him when he finally reached the open.
“Your king is dead,” he said. “Any of you that get in my way will join him. Give peace a chance for a bit.”
“What if we don't want to give peace a chance?,” asked one of the demons that had combined a sunflower with a wolf.
The cutter smashed into the demon. The monster blew apart over his fellows.
“Who's next?,” asked the demigod.
The demons stepped aside to let him pass.