A story in the world of the Rime Celestial
|“Time’s up,” Andrith threw back his hood, “Shadowcarn.”|
Calling someone Shadowcarn was the worst insult in the whole of the Black Academy. Norid Shadowcarn had been Siranov’s first apprentice. A very promising individual, Shadowcarn was lightning fast and his combat skills were legendary. He could defeat Karad, second in fighting to Siranov only, in five seconds flat. However, near the end of the Icecarver War, Shadowcarn betrayed his master and attempted to kill him. Shadowcarn failed and was expelled from the Academy and bound in an extradimensional prison, but his name became a curse, a word that meant traitor.
“Why… are… you… doing this?” Korit forced the words out from between his clenched teeth”
“Revenge. As an apprentice, I was never popular. Despite your reputation as a fair and just student, you were always at the forefront of those bullying me. I was always an outcast, always the ugly duckling, thanks to you. This is payback.”
Korit had been following Wraith out of the castle when Andrith had blocked his way. Now, his old rival was forcing him into a battle… this time to the death.
Andrith’s fighting style was seemingly savage, but in fact it was perfectly controlled. Lunging at Korit with his jagged knives, he let out a snarl of rage as Korit’s smooth-edged; more elegant daggers blocked the swipe. Andrith was a shark: savage beast and calm hunter in one. The perfect killing machine. Korit dodged to the right as his opponent took his second slash.
“You… are… the… traitor!” Korit gasped for breath, winded by the ferocity of the battle.
Andrith somersaulted over Korit’s head. When directly above Korit, his leg shot out and Siranov’s apprentice barely ducked the kick to his temple. However, Korit had time to turn around and was, still crouched, facing Andrith when he twisted in midair and landed facing what would have been Korit’s back had he not turned around. Milliseconds after Andrith’s feet touched the ground, Korit’s arm shot out; trying to slice Andrith’s ankles before Andrith’s brain fully registered its situation. Unfortunately for Korit, just as they had learnt at the Academy how to execute the manoeuvre, they had also learnt how to counter it. This was just one of the many times when Andrith used his Academy training to his advantage, using his momentum to perform a backflip that allowed him to escape. Only now, he was cornered. Korit dashed forward, only to be met by a roundhouse kick to the stomach that sent him flying backwards. The reckless charge had been Korit’s first mistake…
Wraith was about to nock another arrow to his bow, when out of his peripheral vision, he saw Sendri coming through a rocky pass. Sendri!
Wraith turned around and quickly abseiled down the wall of the castle.
“Sendri! You’re alive!”
“Sendri never was alive… Wraith.” The voice was cold, harsh.
And them a bolt of red lightning struck Sendri, revealing his true form. ‘Sendri’ was a gigantic muscular man, half naked and scarred. His eyes were red. He had red Demonic wings, a massive flaming red sword and a blood red tattoo of a flaming Demon’s skull on his left shoulder… and he was half Demon.
“By the Archangels…” Wraith breathed. He recognised the man immediately. He was Athian, former lord of the Icecarvers, resurrected in this grotesque, half-Demon form.
“I am the Chaos Revenant!” he roared, and plants wilted at the sound of his voice. The Revenant swung his sword and a fiery bolt hurtled towards Wraith. Wraith rolled to his right and dodged the blast. The Revenant swung his sword again, and another bolt flew towards Wraith, who avoided this one by diving to his left. The Revenant cast a final bolt which Wraith escaped by jumping up and clinging to the castle wall, which he then scaled, reaching safety in the archery turrets.
The Revenant continued to lead his host of lesser Demons through the pass. “Demons!” Wraith called out, instantly wishing that he hadn’t. His reckless alarm caused widespread panic as almost everyone who heard the warning or saw the horrific and grotesque Demons began to panic or flee. Wraith cursed himself for his carelessness.
Siranov watched the chaos in a deceptively calm fashion. He ordered his men telepathically to now fight only defensively and kill if only absolutely necessary. The Lycans followed suit. Good, Siranov thought. Then he took an item from his cloak.
The object was a metal disk, about the size of Siranov’s palm. There was a small circle at the centre of it, made of crystal. In the crystal was engraved a symbol that identified Siranov as the owner of the disk: Siranov’s personal seal. The seal was a vertical dagger plunged through a skull in front of the Rime Celestial Seal. The skull symbolized Necromancy, the dagger combat, sacrifice and assassination, and the Rime Celestial Sorcery.
The disk was, in fact, a Magical artefact known as a communication disk or a comm. disk for short. It was used to communicate with others who possessed a comm. disk. In this case, Siranov was communicating with Wraith.
The first thing that happened was the insignia in the centre of the disk glowed and then changed to Wraith’s seal, two crossed arrows in front of an oak tree. A three dimensional miniature image of Wraith was projected from the comm. disk. Finally, Wraith broke the silence.
“Er, I’m a little busy right now. Have you noticed the Demons?”
“Yes, actually. I was calling you about them.”
“I want you to persuade Sarito to order a reverse charge.”
“Are you bloody insane?”
“Do I look like I am?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
“Yes, if you’re going to answer truthfully.”
“Fine, you don’t look insane. But even if I could persuade Sarito, the chaos that it would cause would probably reduce our numbers to 1000 men. That’s a fifth of our current numbers!”
“That would leave our joined armies with a solid defensive line of 2000 men. A solid defensive line of our best men is precisely what we need right now.”
“I’ll do it then, but I might not manage to persuade Sarito. Oh, yes, there’s something else I want to tell you.”
“What is it?”
“The Demons are being led by Athian.”
As Siranov struggled to grasp the fact that the barbarian king whom he had killed had returned as a half-Demon warlord, Wraith mounted his chestnut mare and galloped off in pursuit of Sarito.
Riding through the carnage and madness of battle, the Ranger at last drew level with Sarito, whose brow gleamed with sweat.
“Sarito! There are Demons behind us! We must join forces with the Academy and for a defensive line against the Demons! Order a reverse charge!”
“Never! I’ll never join the Academy!”
“Commander, you must drop your grudge!”
In reply, Sarito tore his left shoulder plate from his armour, revealing the ice blue tattoo of a flaming skull that marked him as Prince of the Icecarvers.
“Siranov killed my father.”
“Turn around”, whispered Wraith.
Sarito turned around and saw his father, twisted both mentally and physically, his very being warped with Demonic essence.
“Go to your people, Prince of the Icecarvers, and lead them into battle. I will give the order.”
And so it was that as Sarito rode into the distance, Wraith blew his horn and ordered the reverse charge.
A panicky general gave the order to his platoon charging, but only half obeyed. Under Wraith’s ruthless orders, the general was forced to kill those who did not obey, which he feared that he could not do, but was forced to deal with them.
Thwack! He decapitated one of them, plunged a sword into the heart of another. However, the general was saved from having to kill any more when Wraith opened fire on his platoon, killing those who had disobeyed in a deadly barrage of arrows. Aneki led his remaining men to stand with the Academy in defensive formation.
As Korit attempted to get up, a double roundhouse kick from Andrith smashed into both of his cheeks, returning him to his previous position.
Andrith cast a binding spell on Korit. He grinned, thinking of how carefully he had thought of the binding spell he would use. This one was particularly painful, taking the form of an extremely tight invisible spiked chain. It also could not be broken by anyone except its caster, for it required a special Magical ‘key’.
Andrith raised his dagger, and then hesitated as he realized something had happened. The Academy, the Lycans and the King’s Army had joined forces in a solid defensive line of 2000 men against the Demons.
At this point in time, two things happened. The first was that the greater Demons arrived: Dam, Esh, and Ashan, the triumvirate of blood fire and smoke, Arbeh, Lord of Pestilence and the Acolytes of Destruction.
The second thing that happened was that a comm. disk smashed through a nearby crystal window, flew through the air, and came to a halt, hovering in front of Siranov. It bore Lithia’s seal, a snowflake in the shape of the Rime Celestial. The image of Lithia gave the Necromancer a message: “I am giving you command of the Army of the Dead, but my father is mine to kill.” Seconds after the image flickered and vanished, a section of the mountain range exploded, and the Dead entered the fray. The battle that followed was spectacular, filled with flames and Magic, Demons and heroes, blades and claws. The Dead, the King’s Army, the Academy and the Lycans gave it their all, fighting the darkness. There were shrieks of agony, screams of bloodlust, cries of war and cheers of victory, before the united armies retreated back to a defensive line. Slowly but surely, the Demons were winning; despite the fact the Lithia’s as yet unseen presence was working Magic with the element of frost, freezing Demons where they stood and sculpting an icy labyrinth among their infernal ranks.
There was only one thing to do. For the second time during that battle, Siranov activated his comm. disk. It was time to contact the Angel Team.
The comm. disk’s symbol glowed and changed to a golden sword with Angels’ wings, which was the symbol of Kaleeta, the leader of the Angel Team. Kaleeta’s three-dimensional image appeared on the comm. disk’s surface. The Archangel was dressed only in golden armoured underwear, revealing her beauty. Slender but strong, she had pearl white skin and golden hair, perfect features and a curvaceous body. Her most distinctive features, however, were the majestic Angelic wings, white feathers with golden edges that sprung from her back. But she was by no means a whore, a dishonourable tart marked only by her infidelity and disrepute. On the contrary, this was Kaleeta, the Archangel of Light and the leader of the Angel Team, a crack squadron of eight Angels representing the eight elements.
The Angel Leader, call sign Archangel, was beautiful but deadly, a divine soldier. More than one man had underestimated her strength, and fallen victim to her blade.
“Siranov, we meet again.”
“It has been too long, Kaleeta.”
“Yes, it was 20 years ago that I last saw you. Much has changed since then. I have heard that you have become the leader of the Academy and that you killed the Chaos Revenant. Have you taken an apprentice yet?”
“Yes, I became head of the Academy and I have taken on two apprentices. One betrayed me. The other is fighting for his life as we speak. But I did not kill the Athian, or if I did, he is not dead.”
“You seem very sure that he is not dead. And why is your apprentice fighting for his life?”
“Why is my apprentice fighting for his life? Because we are at war. With whom are we at war with? Athian is whom we are at war with.”
“Yes, Archangel, the Revenant has returned. He is half Demon and is leading a Demon horde against us. I need you to locate and shut down the Demongate. The fate of the whole realm, including the Icecarver Wilderness, the Amazonian Jungle, the Necrotic Ranges, the kingdom, the Vast Plains, the Great Canyon of Thrakkor, the Treacherous Pass and the wasteland beyond, depends on your success.”
“For you, Siranov, I’ll do it.”
“Good luck.” Siranov blew her a kiss. “You’ll need it.”
The image of the beautiful Archangelic warrior flickered and the Archangel abruptly vanished. Kaleeta, leader of the Angel Team was gone.
“Archangel, this is Inferno. I’ve located the Demongate.”
“Inferno, this is Archangel. Where is the Demongate?”
“Archangel, this is Inferno. The Demongate’s in the Great Canyon of Thrakkor.”
“Archangel, this is Quake. I know this canyon, and it’s a dangerous place. Watch out.”
The eight Angels had just left their base at the core of the Amazonian Jungle. Now as they flew in formation, Inferno was attempting to use her scrying abilities to locate the Demongate.
The formation was as such: Archangel was in the lead, with Eclipse and Quake flying, respectively, behind to her left and behind to her right. Behind them, from left to right, were Deluge, Inferno and Blizzard. Below Archangel and slightly behind was Twister, whereas Doom flew just above the Angel Leader and about wingspan further back.
The Angel Team soared majestically over the raging battle, riding the thermals as they crossed the realm diagonally to travel the shortest route to their destination as the crow flies. Kaleeta was a born leader with an incredibly sharp mind, a skilled warrior who was calm in the face of battle, but not too calm as to appear cold-hearted. As the one of the Angel Team, Kaleeta possessed one of the 8 Arcblades, the legendary Swords of the Flood, her blade being Judgement, which gave her power over the elemental realm of light. With her striking body, her raven black hair streaming out behind her, her brilliant (though scarce) golden armour and her stunning white Angelic wings with gold edged feathers, the Archangel truly looked like an Angel. Though she was, in reality, 45, Kaleeta, like all of the Angels, didn’t look a day past 25.
Eclipse and Quake were Kaleeta’s closest friends within the unit and they couldn’t have been more different. Eclipse was slender and agile, with olive skin and long, dark raven hair and wings the colour of night. She had a beautiful, elegant figure and had glistening silver armour, though again, like all the Angels, not much of it. Her Arcblade was Fate, the Arcblade of darkness. Quake, on the other hand was beautiful, but could not have been more different. Her slender figure showed off her powerful stomach, arm and leg muscles, her perfectly bronzed skin shone with sweat. Her powerful bronze armour complimented her figure, exposing her hawk’s wings, biceps and calves. Though she may not have been as young as say, Inferno, she was strong, devoted with a fierce loyalty to Kaleeta. With Vengeance as her Arcblade and Earth as her element, one thing about her was for sure: she could be relied upon.
Inferno was a passionate warrior. Her armour was made of flaring plumes of flame and her wings were those of eagles. She had a fiery aggression in battle and was the most reckless of the Angel Team. She was beautiful and stylish, with fiery, golden skin and a spirit to match, the second youngest of the Angel team at only 27 years old. Her closest friend was Surge, her elemental realm fire and her Arcblade Retribution. Sometimes, however, her passion for battle overcame her and she needed the help of some of the calmer and cooler Angels, such as Eclipse, Deluge and Blizzard to calm down.
Deluge was calm, the best healer of the group and almost always able to keep her head in battle. However, behind her mask of calm lurked a fury that sometimes even she could barely repress? Only once has that fury ever been unleashed, and when it was, Deluge almost destroyed the world. She also had the uncanny ability to know the consequences of the group’s actions in advance, and as such Kaleeta often went to her for advice. With Albatrosses’ wings and powers of water, she and her Arcblade, Chastisement, made a formidable team.
There was only one Angel calmer than Deluge: Blizzard. The Angel of ice, with the wings of the arctic tern and the Arcblade Punishment, had icy pale skin, cold blue eyes and was extremely cool and calm. Blizzard never lost her temper, and was a ruthless, concentrated fighter with a cold efficiency. Blizzard was also a very mathematical fighter, calculating the effects of her moves before she performed them. Merciless and precise, Blizzard was definitely a force to be reckoned with. When the Angel Team had found Blizzard, she was an autistic infant who had been cast out into the cold by the Icecarver tribes to freeze to death. They had considered her lack of emotion unnatural and had decided to kill her, though fortunately she was rescued by the Angel Team and taught how to feel sympathy and empathy. Now, she had saved the Angels many times by not letting her emotion interfere with her thought. Also, now she had learnt mercy and proven her ability to forgive by sacrificing herself to save the very people who had once tried to kill her.
Twister was the Angel of Air and Wind, the best flyer of the group and a graceful fighter who fought almost like she was dancing; Twister had the wings of the Peregrine Falcon. With the Arcblade Tempest, Twister could create massive storms, whirlwinds, tornadoes, hurricanes and cyclones. She could also focus air into any given area to punch a hole in almost any substance. However, none of these were anything compared to her most devastating ability: Twister could hold all air within a specific area in the palm of her hand, thus creating a perfect vacuum. Living enemies could not breathe. Fire elementals did not have the oxygen they needed to survive. Any other Wind or Air Elementals were destroyed instantly, and almost all corporeal enemies were crushed to dust as their various different forms compacted due to the absence of air within them. Thus how Twister could wreak havoc and destruction on the battlefield.
Doom was the last Angel, the Angel whose domain was the chill realm of Death. She spoke little and rarely displayed emotion in any for greater than a wry grin, a raised eyebrow or a knowing wink. However, Doom was by no means placid and was not at all bitter. She simply liked the intimidating factor that her apparent lack of emotion added. She was also a close friend of Siranov. Her Arcblade was Finality and her gifts included the ability to manipulate life and death in such a fashion that her creativity allowed her to not only cause death, but also to create life. Doom also had an unnerving aura, the expression on her face always made to mortals that she knew something about them that they didn’t. Doom could be morbid at times, but she was a committed and lethal fighter and a valuable member of the Angel Team. And those who and fought her ended up knowing just how well she embodied Death itself.
As the Angel Team flew over the battlefield, Kaleeta saw something that made her stop in midair.
“Wait at the lip of the canyon. I want to do one last thing before I die.”
And as the others flew on ahead, the Archangel swooped down before Arika Sariona. Arika halted mid-stride at the sight of the beautiful Angel.
“Arika Sariona, I am your mother.”
Arika’s jaw dropped. She was speechless.
“I have been watching you from afar for a long, long time. Now I have finally met you.
“Let me say this. I am proud, proud of your head and your heart, of your blood and your bone. I have watched you grow with pride.
“I am going on a mission from which I will not return. I have some final advice for you: You have no destiny. The path you choose is yours alone. Choose it wisely.”
“Wait! Don’t leave!” Arika had tears in her eyes, but by now the Archangel was no more than a distant star.
“Angel Team, this is Quake. The canyon’s approaching.”
“Angel Team, this is Blizzard. Demonic Swarm approaching. Demon alert.”
“Blizzard, this is Archangel. Request information re Demonic Swarm.”
“Archangel, this is Blizzard. Demonic Swarm outnumbers us a million to one and seems to have been created by siphoning excess energy from the Demongate, a technique invented by the Channeller Strike, I believe.”
“Angel Team, this is Inferno. Let’s kick some thorax!”
“Inferno, this is Deluge. Cool it there.”
“Angel Team, this is Archangel. Activate wakes.”
A stream of elemental energy flowed from behind each Angel, obliterating any pursuing Demons.
“Angel Team, this is Archangel. Ready Arcblades.”
“Angel Team, this is Inferno. En garde.”
“Angel Team, this is Blizzard. The Demonic Swarm is approaching in Delta formation. Convert to reverse Delta.”
The Angel Team changed formation, resolving in a backwards Delta with the centre at the backmost point, facing the Swarm Delta.
“Counter strike… now!”
A reverse Delta of the eight elements burst from the ranks of the divine squadron, a destructive welcome to the charging hell spawn.
“Angel Team, this is Archangel. There are too many of them for an organized fight. This is a true battle. I trust that you know what to do.”
“Archangel, this is Eclipse. Acknowledged.”
“Archangel, this is Quake. Acknowledged.”
“Archangel, this is Inferno. Acknowledged.”
“Archangel, this is Deluge. Acknowledged.”
“Archangel, this is Blizzard. Acknowledged.”
“Archangel, this is Twister. Acknowledged.”
“Archangel, this is Doom. Acknowledged.”
The canyon erupted into a dazzling display of true Angelic power. Twisted insects burst into flame, while others were snap-frozen right beside them. Deadly showers of sandstone bludgeoned countless Demons, while tiny focused whirlwinds ripped untold others to shreds. Still more were destroyed by pure Angelic light or turned on each other, driven mad by an absolute darkness. Blades of compressed water pierced many of the infernal locusts, and others were simply cast into the black abyss of death itself.
“Too… many… of them.” Quake grunted the words under the pressure of the battle.
“Archangel, this is Inferno. Help me out with a heat shimmer technique here.”
“Angel Team, this is Archangel. Preparing to undergo heat shimmer technique. Eclipse, could you cloak us while they attack the Shimmers?”
“Archangel, this is Eclipse. Affirmative.”
To an observer or pursuer it would seem that nothing happened, but exactly five seconds after Eclipse spoke the word ‘affirmative’, the Angels became invisible and simultaneously an illusion, or ‘Shimmer’, of each Angel appeared, copying the actions of the Angel it represented on a 10 millisecond lag basis. The Shimmers also appeared to take damage and their Magical sensor field made sure that attacks did not pass through them.
“Angel Team, this is Archangel. The tunnel is approaching. Convert to single file. As you enter the tunnel, cast your seal over the entrance, deactivate your Shimmer and resume visibility, in that order. Do not stop, hesitate or falter until the Demongate is down or you have drawn your last breath.”
Single file, the Angel Team entered the tunnel and cast their seal upon the entrance. First the Archangel, leaving a barrier of pure light, that no creature of evil heart could pass through unharmed. Then Eclipse, whose seal was a window displaying the pure wonder of the Heavens. If a creature whose intent was deemed malicious according to the Angelic Code saw such true glorious beauty, his very being would be inverted by remorse. Quake’s seal caused madness, for none but the strongest-willed and most determined could with image of primordial chaos, while the seal of Inferno was gate of fire that weighed up all the actions of the one who wished to pass, consuming those deemed unworthy. The seal cast by Deluge was a memory of the Great Flood, utterly wiping out the all memory of those who were sinister inside. Blizzard left behind a glimpse of a world without emotion ruled by absolute cold logic, inspiring insanity within the minds of those who viewed it. Twister wove a whirlwind of memories that wrung the souls of wrongdoers inside out. Doom’s seal, however, was the cruellest, for it left no room for hope. None who entered it ever returned, evil or not. All were cast into the unforgiving black abyss of death, the bottomless pit of cold finality, forever trapped in their eternal last breath.
Kaleeta felt their presence and, followed by all the other Angels, turned to face the 10 beings that had appeared unprecedented behind them. Rodefim. The ultimate Demonic counterstroke, the Rodefim had been cursed with virtually eternal, yet agonizing life that left only one way to achieve their ultimate goal of death: by shedding the blood of a pure Angel. These were the perfect Angel hunters. They could not die and would stop at nothing to destroy Angels. Every pure Angelic face turned towards the Archangel in fear and unspoken question. Kaleeta had no choice but to respond to the bewildered expressions of her exhausted and despairing fellows.
“We do the only thing we can. We run and hope that one of us reaches the Demongate.”
Still in single file, the Angel Team flew as fast as they could towards the Demongate, pursued by the ever-gaining Rodefim. At the rear, Doom’s pursuer finally reached her. There was a flash of light and both were gone.
Twister and her nemesis were having a lethal flying contest orbiting each other, spinning, diving and back flipping. One wrong move on the part of the Angel and she would lose. Finally, the Rodef reached her and Twister experienced the sensation of every single tiny air sac in her lungs bursting individually. Desperate and doomed, the messenger of the divine wind left a colossal blast of wind as her legacy while, buffeting the remaining Rodefim and giving the remaining Angels a greater chance of survival.
Blizzard now knew fear as she created icy storms between herself and her enemy in a futile attempt to delay the inevitable. Cut and tortured by millions of minuscule razor shards of ice, Blizzard’s last thought as precise freezes in her neuron pathways destroyed in agonizing convulsions was the contentedness of her final learning of self sacrifice, leaving in her wake an infinitesimal, yet essential, time freeze only experience by the Rodefim.
Deluge’s calm finally failed her and she unleashed her true rage. Unleashing the remnant of the Great Flood hidden inside her she encompassed her pursuer with the remorseless tide of holy retribution. Yet the waters of the flood parted before the Rodef, barely even slowing her. Eventually the Rodef tagged her, a sure sign of her undesirable fate. The instant before all of her bodily fluids vaporized, Deluge barely had time to unleash a second Great Flood within the confines of the tunnel. The Rainbow Oath was broken.
The waters of the Flood did not; however affect the divine techniques of Inferno. The fiery wake of the beautiful warrioress passed through the Seas of Retribution unquenched to strike her pursuer, who dodged and travelled above the potentially lethal oceans to strike the Angel, scalding her back and leaving a far more deadly mark. As each individual cell of Inferno’s dazzling body burned to ash. The Fires of Heaven mingled with the Seas of Retribution, creating a far more dangerous obstacle to the Rodefim.
Quake flew above the chaotic terrain carrying dust and rock in her wake, which the Rodef simply smashed through. For the time being, the continual rock barriers that Quake left behind slowed her enemy, but the Rodef was gaining. Eventually as the Angel collapsed under her own massively increased gravity she sent a seismic wave throughout the whole tunnel, creating a deadly tsunami of the Fires of Heaven and the Seas of Retribution.
Eclipse’s pursuer managed to keep outflying the gargantuan wave as she struck the second last Angel with the cruellest blow possible. For though now the Rodef was gone, Eclipse herself was now a Rodef.
Eclipse and Kaleeta fought now, as the last original Rodef waited to see the result, knowing that only one of them could survive. The Archangel knocked Fate into the raging waters, but Eclipse summoned a vorpal Shadow Javelin. Eclipse somersaulted over the head of the Archangel as both then twisted to face each other. Once best friends, now the Angels had become each other’s worst enemy. Eclipse now singly stood between the Archangel and the Demongate. Kaleeta tried to strike, but the being that was once Eclipse parried with the shaft of her javelin and knocked the Arcblade back, clearing the way for a stab that was barely knocked aside. With an elbow strike, Kaleeta disarmed Eclipse once more. With tears in her eyes the Archangel dealt the agonizing fatal blow to she who had once been her closest friend. And in a desperate last gift, the true Eclipse gave the last Angel and essential boost.
Now pursued by the final Rodef, Kaleeta hoped with her complete soul that she would make it to the Demongate. Her pursuer was gaining but she was almost there. She was about to reach it, yet the last Rodef was about to reach her. She was unsure whether she could make it or not. Only a few more wingspans to the Demongate… She was so close, yet so far away. She was going to make it… yes… no… yes! In a desperate final attempt to stop her, the final Rodef threw her sword, Doombringer, towards the Archangel. And the sword hit, severing her dying body in half… and propelling her torso, still breathing, towards the Demongate. With her last breath, the torso of the Archangel collided with the fiery portal of the Demongate. There was a blinding flash of white light, which slowly dimmed to reveal an empty ring of stone looking out on a deserted canyon.
Far away, on a rocky ledge, Doom breathed two words into her comm. disk before she collapsed.
Siranov barely acknowledged the words from his comm. Disk, nor how as they were spoken the Icecarver armies stormed through the shattered mountains, united once more as if in challenge to their former leader. For at that moment, the Necromancer felt a new presence within the Black Academy.
“He’s here. Athian is in the Timekeep.”
A portal rippled into being from Siranov’s outstretched arm. The Necromancer dashed through it into the Hall of Hourglasses, closely followed by Karad. The Chaos Revenant stood before them, arms extended in a gesture of mock welcome. He looked from one man to another.
“Shadowblade, Battlesplinter. Welcome.”
“Maphteach!” Korit broke his bonds and sprang to his feet, only to take a vicious elbow strike to chest. Recovering rapidly from the blow, Korit back flipped, kicked off a marble pillar and sent a flying sidekick towards Andrith’s head. Andrith grabbed Korit’s ankle and shattered it, then sent a knife towards his throat. The Necromancer’s apprentice regenerated the bone while airborne, and then flipped, caught the knife between his toes and threw it back at his enemy. Dodging the knife, Andrith used Sorcery to hurl Korit at the wall.
The forces of the Order of Light arrived at the scene of battle, led by Manethal, the young and talented Kasam of Light. Demons fell as they were pierced by holy light and blinded by the suns rays. Working with Lithia to create icy mirrors, Manethal created a deadly network of light Magic.
Enraged, Karad Battlesplinter rushed towards the Revenant, sword drawn.
Karad froze mid-stride, halted by the Revenant.
“Let him go, Athian. Even when we fought in the Lightning Circle the one thing you kept was your honour. Don’t lose that now.”
“I am no longer Athian. I am the Chaos Revenant!”
“I guess I’ll have to force you.”
The Necromancer lunged at the Revenant, sword raised. In response the Revenant threw Karad across the corridor and parried the blow with the Warkey.
Pulling himself to a horizontal position in midair, Korit used his feet to push off the wall, somersaulting to land on his feet.
“Barak!” A stream of lightning exploded from Korit’s palm, hitting Andrith in the chest. The traitor, caught off guard, staggered backwards and fell. The Necromancer’s apprentice was upon him before he hit the ground, dagger in hand. Grabbing his opponent by the neck, Korit began to throttle his adversary, provoking a kick to the groin from Andrith. As Korit reeled back, Andrith got to his feet and had whipped another knife from his belt, this one with the telltale gleam of venom. And with a lightning pounce, Andrith embedded the knife in Korit’s chest.
Beams of light burned and blinded Demons, as hailstones pelted the dread denizens of the hells and ice crystals shattered, their deadly shards piercing the hides and hearts of Demons. Yet despite the fact that they were fighting two Kasam, two of the Eight Orders, the Army of the Dead, the Defenders of the Kingdom, the united Icecarver tribes and the assembled Lycanthrope packs, the Demons still seemed to be winning, for they were deadly and hard to kill, often felling many before they were themselves slain. There were almost as many Demons as those willing to fight them, and the fear inspired by the sight of such an infernal army would make many men cower and flee. And then the floodgates opened. Colossal storm clouds rapidly covered the heavens’ vast expanse, bursting to release dazzling, perfectly reflective, droplets of water, fatal to those who came from the hells; harmless to those whose hearts were good. And the sacred rains that heralded the arrival of Talsar, the Kasam of Water and the School of Fishes began the turning of the tide of battle.
The Necromancer lifted Shadowblade, the Blade of Broken Souls, over his shoulder, sending it crashing down with a mighty blow to the Revenant’s right shoulder. His demi-Demonic opponent parried the blow with the Warkey, forged from frozen blood melded into metal. The lock caused the Blade of Broken Souls to slide down the Warkey till it reached the cross-guard, at which point the Revenant broke into a riposte, pushing the Kasam of Death back with inhuman force, the push inadvertently giving him just enough time and distance to backflip to escape the slash. At the top of the flip’s arch, Siranov’s feet connected with the celestial imitation of the corridor’s ceiling, followed by the Necromancer pushing of the ceiling to fly straight toward his enemy and somersaulted to land facing the Revenant about 5 feet away. Immediately the wielder of the Warkey swung at Siranov, who quickly steadied himself from his landing and parried with Shadowblade. The Warkey pressed against Shadowblade, pushing it down and exposing the Necromancer to attack. Thinking rapidly, Siranov pulled his sword out of the lock and brought it down over the Warkey, thus putting him in a winning position for the ensuing lock. However, the Revenant brought his blade upward, knocking away Shadowblade and slashed Siranov across the shoulder, sending him careering away. But before the being that was once Athian could perform a killing blow, Karad ran up and placed himself between the Revenant and Siranov in en garde position. Battlesplinter looked the Revenant squarely in the eye and told him four words that stated his eternal defiance:
“It’s not over yet.”
Korit burst into a million dust particles as the treacherous blade made its mark. Milliseconds later, a roundhouse kick smashed into the small of Andrith’s back at the speed of 129 kilometres per hour, shattering his spine and sending him flying motionless across the room.
“Clay clone”, Korit explained to the apparent corpse. “A real human being just made out of dust particles.” Korit’s voice showed not a hint of mercy for the tortured traitor, however unwilling his betrayal had been. And then the “corpse” turned. It was Andrith, alive, though twisted more than ever. Andrith lunged for the gloating Korit, grabbing him around the neck. As his demented former colleague began to throttle Korit, the Necromancer’s apprentice kicked Andrith in the groin and broke free, coming to his feet and drawing twin daggers. His opponent recovered quickly, and upon returning to a standing position also had two knives in his hands.
The earth shook. The mountains shattered. The ground spewed forward stone spikes. The sky rained rocks. All of these signified the arrival of Kore, Kasam of Earth and the League of Stone, also known as the Lost. As the battlefield was torn apart in great chasms and canyons, swallowing up Demons where those who fought with the Magi walked over the great gaps in the crust of the earth as if on unseen floors. Great spikes thrust forth from the ground impaled Demons. Circles of protective earthen walls surrounded lone garrisons struggling to survive. But the greatest act of all performed by Kore and the Lost was the return of the Golems, massive men of clay with the strength of a thousand men, sworn to defend the League of Magi and its allies until every last atom of its gargantuan body was ground to dust. Apart from the abovementioned method, there was only one other way to kill a Golem: to erase the first letter of the three-letter inscription written on the brow of every Golem, thus changing its obligation to truth to a commitment to the grave. 100 Golems were created as the sacred guardians of the Rime Celestial, half-existing in a state of hibernation when neither called nor needed and 99 Golems remained to storm the battlefield on this day. The one and only Golem ever destroyed, its destruction caused by the latter procedure, was destroyed by the Eight Kasam in a united effort, after it went out of control and almost destroyed the Rime Celestial itself. And so it came to pass that the Golems awoke and returned.
The Chaos Revenant struck at Karad, who parried, kicked his opponent in the shin and knocked the Warkey away. A vicious elbow strike to the demi-Demon’s chin only jerked his head upward, where as it would have broken the neck and jaw of most mortals, but it was enough for a strike that the Revenant could barely parry. Karad then struck again and again, each strike harder for the Revenant to parry. Then Karad’s opponent ended the sequence of strikes with a lightning roundhouse kick to Battlesplinter’s side, knocking him to the ground. Returning the favour, Karad tripped the Revenant before he could do anything else. As Karad got to his feet in a backwards handspring the Revenant leapt up to attack Karad, Battlesplinter’s showy move having lost him the time to parry. But Karad was saved as Siranov, Lord Necromancer and Kasam of Death sprung up to parry the Revenant’s would-be killing blow. And now, best friends stood together against the greatest enemy either had ever faced.
Korit and Andrith circled each other, daggers in hands, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Suddenly, Andrith lunged a Korit, who somersaulted over Andrith’s head, both turning to face each other at the same moment. They then began to circle each other again within the confines of the great circular white marble room, as the carnage reigned around them. Then their gaze locked. No more false starts. Both moved in for close combat. This was it.
Andrith struck at Korit, who blocked, dodged and returned a slash attack with twin knives. Both knives were blocked and knocked away by Andrith, who then unsuccessfully attempted to gut Korit. Korit struck, Andrith blocked and held the lock, both warriors sweating uncontrollably. The look in their eyes clearly stated that both knew that this was a fight to the death; at the absolute most only one of them would emerge alive, let alone victorious. Korit struck and Andrith parried. Wrists whirled and knives twirled in the fight to the death between archrivals.
The world burst into sacred flame, destroying Demons and those of corrupted heart as Shiran Tarid, Kasam of Fire, and the Pillar of Fire set the battlefield alight, destroying those of twisted soul and mind. Fire rained from the heavens and rose from the earth, bursting from the horizon to paint the skies white with holy smoke. Pyrotechnics and explosives blasted the hellish legion. The inferno was as vast as the dominion of the blood red setting sun; arcs of flame and burning clouds were by far one of the most impressive sights ever seen on a battlefield. And impressive the works of the Pillar of Fire should be, for they were the flag bearers of the Rime celestial, and the banner of the Rime Celestial was wreathed in smoke and flame. And the Pillar of Flame led the united armies of the Rime Celestial against the Demonic hordes.
Siranov and Karad together fought the Chaos Revenant, the sounds of Rimesteel, Shadowmetal and Bloodiron mingling. The Revenant raised the Warkey above his head and struck, only for his blow to be double parried by his two opponents. Karad struck, and as the Revenant blocked Siranov introduced his own slash, which the creature that was formerly Athian scarcely managed to parry. This sequence went on for a while, wearing the Revenant down, until the Chaos Revenant struck out, catching both men of the Black Academy off guard. Karad was knocked to the ground and the Revenant grabbed Siranov by the throat and prepared to impale the Necromancer with the Warkey…
Andrith’s daggers met Korit’s in the clang of steel, the noise of the battle a symphony of metal on metal. Dagger on dagger, knife on knife, the battle seemed like a never-ending turmoil, an almost-stalemate that could go in any direction. All of a sudden, Andrith dealt a savage elbow strike to Korit’s stomach, knocking him to the floor. Instantly, Andrith pinned Korit to the floor, though he would already be unable to get back up for at least a minute. Andrith pressed the blade of his dagger to Korit’s jugular…
Wind howled, storms crashed and tornadoes shrieked in an orchestra of beautiful destruction as Satil Pentra and the Legion of Cloud arrived, unleashing the sheer power of the air we breathe. Mountains and canyons were torn apart as the very heavens seemed to be torn in two. Demons were scattered by the eight winds and the forces of good were granted the opportunity to achieve mankind’s primordial dream: true free flight. The Demons were confronted with flying warriors, miracles and plagues from six different elements and some of the greatest militaries ever to exist on the face of the world. This was the will and might of those who fought for the Rime Celestial.
As the Warkey moved towards Siranov’s chest, Karad jumped up, tore his friend from the condemning grip of the Chaos Revenant and parried the strike. However, the force of the blow knocked Karad’s sword from his hand, disarming him. And as the Warkey tore through the heart of Karad Battlesplinter, the best friend that Siranov would ever have, he spoke his last words:
“Do not pity me. I could not have died a better way.”