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Book 3, Chapter 59 - A Furious Battle

 Ravenous Tiger betrayed his master. It had always been just a matter of time.

This rapacious man had no space in his ambitious heart for faith or loyalty. Men of different paths cannot share similar schemes, betrayal was the destined end to their union. The Crimson One knew this, yet no matter how strong one's desire for treason, one would not throw themselves willingly to the fires. Despite the potential for trouble, however, Ravenous Tiger was useful. His connections with the elysians and the information he could provide was value enough for the risk.

Anyway, the fat governor also thought too highly of his own abilities and machinations.

You are a clever tiger, aren't you. Wise not to act rashly while your life was pinched between my fingers. It is indeed true that the covetous and faithless cherish life more than believers.

What had happened up to now was a series of exceptional circumstances. He had not expected the one who could summon the Call of Shepherd would appear in Fishmonger's Borough. The Valley's resources were integral to his plan to join the wastelands and Skycloud. This frail little girl was the key.

The normally prudent and astute bishop had thrown himself in the path of danger. He did not pause to consider Ravenous Tiger's mental state and pushed him farther than he was willing to accept. In the face of his immanent acquisition of the Valley, the governor did not seem important. Fishmonger's Borough was a means to an end, nothing more. With its value lost, what did Ravenous Tiger mean to him any longer? Govern the Millennium Vale? Even if the Crimson One were serious, Ravenous Tiger would never believe those words.

It only served to intensify their conflict.

Yet even after such insults the Crimson One could still maintain control of his fat henchman. After all, the gulf of power between them was too great, and Ravenous Tiger would never do something rash that might result in his death. His one miscalculation was that Cloudhawk might run into an old friend out here in the wastes. The sudden reappearance of this talented young woman, and the power she now wielded, was beyond expectation.

He had also not foreseen the Highwaymen's interference. Nothing indicated that this recent player in the wastelands would be lying in wait in the middle of nowhere. Blackfiend's meddling shifted the balance of power, keeping the Crimson One busy and leaving an opening for Ravenous Tiger's betrayal. Logical - everything that led to this moment made sense. He merely hadn't seen it coming.

At present most of the settlement was consumed by fire. Selene was high above with her crossblade ablaze, awash in majestic power.

With his cane in hand the old cripple's fighting abilities were greatly enhanced. The unassuming staff was flashing with internal light, releases pulse after pulse of energy. He lifted it and pointed first at Selene above, then at Blackfiend nearby. Rays of morning light erupted from his relic and enveloped both his allies. The power not only gave them a major shield, but also improved speed and power.

This left Cloudhawk startled. What an incredible relic!

He didn't think that dawnguard would be a support relic. It was barely passable as a combat weapon, but it was capable of empowering a whole squad. It was rare to encounter a relic of its like. With it in hand, their small team enjoyed a formidable upgrade.

Yet they would not allow the sudden change in circumstance to make them complacent. The Crimson One was a cunning and mysterious foe, who even up to now had not revealed his full strength. His relic was a strange and terrible one - Castigation was by no means ordinary, practically unrivaled. It was a legendary force passed down from the war that conveyed their planet into ruin. Even Slene dare not risk the briefest touch of its flames.

The Crimson One did not let Ravenous Tiger's sudden betrayal throw him off guard. He calmly turned his gaze to the other one, graceful as a cloud dragon. He looked at her almost in a trance, a complex combination of emotion. "It is not strange that you shook seek me out. I am not upset. On the contrary, your arrival brings me great joy. These years of training have made you strong, and in that time you've peered behind the veil to the truth of our existence. Yet it is not enough. You are still too young."

Selene's aloof facade adopted a dark chill. "If you knew I would come for you, then you must know why. I need an answer."

The Crimson One waved his fist, and the surrounding fires burned with fresh intensity. They kicked and danced like boiling waters. Amid their searing light he had no answers for the girl, instead turning his attention to Blackfiend. The green fires that had consumed it were almost spent, yet Blackfiend still was not dead. "I can understand why they would choose to ally against me. But I cannot fathom why the Highwaymen would chose to muddy these waters. I do not know who pulls your strings, but perhaps we can come to some agreement in our exploitation of the Valley."

A thick, murderous sense gathered around Selene. Very well - if he wouldn't provide answers, then she would put him in a position where he wouldn't have a choice.

Selene reached over and wiped her hand along the pure white light of the crossblade. The power of her burning angels flowed into her weapon, turning its pure white light to an angry red. Its crimson glare was so intense that the air around its borders warped dramatically, a weapon of the angels capable of laying low whole hoards of demons.

The bishop knew this once-in-a-generation talent from the elysian lands was preparing to throw everything she had at him. His tattered robes once more began to flutter though there was no wind, and his rough hands stretched toward the heavens. The fires responded, shooting skyward at his command and swirling around their master. A nightmarish tempest of hellfire began to brew.

The scene was unforgettable;

A beautiful woman floating in air, bearing a sword of holy fire.

A monster with eyes of green flame enveloped in terrible power, calling forth a storm of apocalyptic proportions.

"Show me how strong you have become!"

The Crimson One's deep and thunderous voice spread far and wide across the wastelands. Yet even in the face of this monstrous presence Selene did not back down. She had changed in the years since meeting Cloudhawk, but the passage of time had only made her more determined. She was one of the greatest warriors the world had ever seen - she would not retreat. No matter how strong or how frightening her enemy.

Selene poured every crumb of strength left to her into the sword. The burning sword of righteous fire stretched a full ten meters long. [1] While it seemed frail in the face of the hellfire brewing overhead, in truth it held more vigor than a hundred thousand men.

The gourd in Gremlin's hands had continued to belch black smoke. A dozen skeletons had formed around him, each with tower shields for protection. They were positioned around him, Green Snake and Squall with their shields raised, stoic in the face of the raining flames.

But the Crimson One was too strong. The firestorm he summoned threatened to devour them all.

Gremlin shouted toward Squall. "We must retreat, or we're going to lose too much. Even if we beat him we won't be strong enough to defeat the others."

Squall stared at the dreadful scene, stunned. Was this what real power looked like? He shook his head free of the shock and terror. "It's too late for any of that. Do you think we'll be able to run from that?"

Gremlin's little boy face pinched into a scowl. "What's your plan?"

Squall grit his teeth. "Not much of one - kill him, whatever it takes!"

Gremlin found his compatriot's plan reckless and dangerous, but they no longer had an option. He gently patted the gourd, and their small cadre of skeletons began to march toward Blackfiend. Meanwhile the puppet raced toward the center of the forming tempest.

The skeletons all began to fall apart. Their boney remains tumbled along the ground and through the air, affixing themselves to Blackfiend. Piece by piece they reconstructed into an enormous, four-meter tall mountain of bone with Blackfiend at its center. Plumes of dark smoke seethed from the enormous skeleton, and its eyes stared at the Crimson One like twin abyssal pools.

From below, the old man recognized Selene's posture. She was preparing to throw herself at the bishop, consequences be damned. He jabbed dawnguard toward her and once again she was swathed in radiant light. She burned like the morning sun, encased in a protective shell. The old cripple couldn't get near enough to the Crimson One to fight directly, but he could do everything in his power to protect the girl.

The storm of power around the bishop grew in intensity. The world around them seemed to buck in protest against the destruction on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Ravenous Tiger was shifting uncomfortably. The old priest had to die right here, right now, or he was finished. The Crimson Church had many eyes and ears in Fishmonger's Borough, so if the Crimson One survived he would never again know a day of peace. A growl rumbled under the fat man's breath. He held tight to his ax, stonesplitter, then heaved it with all his might into the ground. A column of yellow, earthy power rumbled through the ground toward the Crimson One in his first direct assault.

The shock wave rolled through, dispelling the fire in its path.

Blackfiend, encased in his bone armor, followed through on the heels of the shock wave to launch his attack. The green fires devoured his flesh and gnawed at the bones, but could not stop his charge.

The old man's cane continued to shine its light upon Selene, and the girl drew up all her might into a single, ultimate blow.

At last her crimson sword plunged toward its mark. It was as though the pillars of heaven and earth quaked.

Ravenous Tiger, the old man, Blackfiend, Selene... all in the same instant they gave every bit of themselves to see the Crimson One destroyed. The power thrown into this one act was phenomenal. The Crimson One answered their ardor with a hysterical roar, then released his power heedless of his wounds. When the tempest broke, its fires gathered into the form of an enormous, indomitable spirit of fire.

A crushing shockwave, followed by the ferocity of Blackfiend's attack, hit in the same moment.

From above, the crimson and gold light of Selene's crossblade came surging down.

An intense contest of power ensued.

This incredible war of godly and demonic proportions cast the wastelander spectators into madness. Their pitiful imaginations were incapable of comprehending the gravity of what they saw. A fight like this was inconceivable outside of ancient legends.

Who would emerge victorious?

Who would fate choose?

1. Someone draw this shit!