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Book 5, Chapter 61 - The Demon Elder

 Four peak-level warriors and one superhuman faced each other in the midst of a pitched battle.

"Indeed a worthy foe, Master Arcturus." Abaddon's crimson eyes were fixed on the Governor. His twisted lips curled into a grin. In that uncomfortable demonic voice he said, "Two against one and here you stand without a scratch."

Arcturus remains still. His eyes turned to the god. "Abaddon I am familiar with. You are..."

Autumn's eyes narrowed. She had no intention of holding a conversation. She twirled the flute in her hand and it released a blast of cutting energy. Arcturus merely stepped aside allowing it to pass him by. The gash her attack left in the ground stretched for ten minutes.

A simple flute with so much power. It was no wonder she'd been able to go blow for blow with Skye Polaris.

The Caliph of the Sands chuckled and produced his relic tome. Tendrils of rasping grit formed from the sandstorm around them and gathered around the demon.

Vulkan and the Khan had found themselves in a desperate, losing situation just a moment ago. Now, however, they stood alongside a demon with the power to stand against Arcturus. The woman, Autumn, was not to be discounted either. Between the two of them as well as the Khan and Vulkan, even Arcturus might have to struggle.

Arcturus commanded power to rival the legendary demonhunters of old, but he was one man - and one man had limits. The fiercest tiger could be felled by ants if there were enough of them. This group that congregated around him now were hardly ants, either. They were a pack of bloodthirsty wolves.

For wastelanders, the destruction of Sanctuary was not the most important goal. If by some miracle they were able to kill Arcturus Cloude it would be a resounding victory, even if they were all wiped out. To the Elysians, their last Master Demonhunter was orders of magnitude more important than a fortress. Skycloud owed its years of peace and prosperity to this man.

What an enticing target for the wastelanders. And how rare that he should leave the protection of his mighty city. Indeed, even having a chance to kill this man was not easy to attain. In choosing to participate in this fight Arcturus exposed himself to these four deadly figures. It was such a rare circumstance, one in which - if they succeeded - Skycloud could be destroyed in one fell swoop.

Vulkan and the Khan of Evernight rushed back into the fight. They were quickly joined by their two divine allies.

As the dire situation unfolded, Arcturus knew it was not one he could shrug off. His empty palms blazed with electric energy, which quickly coalesced into the form a blade. Ruin, his legendary weapon, crackled with ominous anticipation.

It was perhaps the strongest relic in Skycloud's records. In all its history, only Arcturus had the power to wield it. Its stark glare lit his face as Abaddon, Autumn, Vulkan and the Khan of Evernight converged on him.

Light, sword, flute and sand. A myriad of weapons closed in desperate for blood.

These four, representing the apex of wasteland power, focused their ire on one man. Their efforts could not fail. Arcturus had nowhere to go. But as the cold light grew in the Governor's eyes it was evident he would not lay down. A staggering amount of power began to rise up within him.

A dazzling light swept across the sky. It was the expression of five weapons reacting at once - four vertical and one horizontal. Their clash was epic, and its echoes were felt across the battlefield like someone had detonated a bomb. The earth around their collision was destroyed for a hundred meters all around and awash in lightning. Lights burst to life and faded in the sand and dust as though their conflict had summoned a thunderstorm.

All five were shoved back several dozen meters. The end result was a stalemate.

Cloudhawk, Selene, Frost and the others couldn't hide the shock from their faces. Four against one and still they could not win the upper hand against Arcturus! It was a potent show of what this ultimate demonhunter was capable of. Arcturus truly was unsurpassed in power.

Witnessing this display Hammont could not put into words how he felt. It was incredible to him that a man who possessed this staggering level of prowess was, on any other day, simply an amicable public official. Someone who chose to spend his time with a lowly servant like Hammont!

It was insane!

While everyone was distracted, Janus tried to conceal himself and move in for a sneak attack. Yet as he vanished a streak of azure light shot right for him, forcing the assassin to deflect it with his blade. His sneak attack was foiled, and his invisibility dispelled.

Wolfblade gently shook his head. "That was just the preamble. We haven't even begun the first act yet. It would be rude to interrupt."

Janus glared at the one-eyed man, revealing for the first time any sort of emotion in that dead gaze. Any other man and that stare would have scared them stiff. But Wolfblade looked back at him entirely relaxed. He did not seem at all frightened of how the assassin might retaliate.

The sand sword in Abbadon's hand began to shift as he faced Arcturus. "You are strong - stronger than any human I've met. But are you confident you are strong enough to fight off all four of us?"

"You're welcome to try," Arcturus responded without malice.

They obliged, each of his four enemies tearing at him with their full strength on display. Each collision summoned a gale of energy. No one dared involve themselves much less draw near, for merely standing too close could be a deadly mistake.

The five combatants traded dozens of blows. At first glance it still appeared that no one was gaining ground, but closer inspection revealed the advantage belonged to Arcturus.

Abaddon and Autumn were half a step too slow. The Khan and the drunk were exhausted. As such even at full strength weaknesses began to peak through. As the conflict raged those openings became more frequent. Thus Arcturus did not press the attack, but countered when such flaws became available.

There was a flash of electric light. The drunk was blasted backward with his skin burned black.

Another flash. The Khan of Evernight lost his right leg and could no longer stand.

Autumn and Abbadon continued to trade blows, though they shifted from an offensive posture to a defensive one. Now it was clear they were outmatched. Another five exchanges and the Caliph's sword of sand was blasted apart. With a swipe from Ruin both god and demon were sent flying.

In the end it was clear. Even the four mighty warriors together were no match for Arcturus Cloude.

However it had not been easy for him. The Governor's gray robes were dirty and torn in places. The silvery hair as his temples was slick with sweat. They were strangely human details in an otherwise superhuman display.

"The four of you still aren't enough." Arcturus took a deep breath. "This fight has continued for long enough. I think it's time we brought it to an end."

"End it? So naive!" The Khan cried out to Arcturus in that robotic, emotionless voice. "If you think this will be the end of our struggle then you are sorely mistaken. We are only just beginning!"

A wrinkle appeared in Arcturus' brow. A disc-shaped aircraft broke through the cloud cover overhead and descended toward the fortress.

The Khan and his allies retreated toward the ship. Everyone turned their eyes toward it in curiosity and wonder.

Its doors opened slowly and from within strode forth a towering figure. The first, most striking revelation was how much it looked like Abbaddon. His body was encased in dark armor and a pair of burning red eyes gleamed brighter than the sun. However the sturdy armor he wore was far more complicated than Abbadon's. His hideous and contorted silhouette was uncomfortable to behold.

A demon! Another demon! The soldiers from both armies gaped at the sight. Abaddon was a known figure, but this new fiend was completely unexpected. And judging by his look and bearing it was a demon of even higher status than the Caliph.

Arcturus' eyes were fixed on it. Within them was an exceptionally rare glimmer of dread. However, ever a slave to decorum, he greeted the monster. "Your Majesty, you are..."

"Sovereign of Nox, General of Gehenna, and Elder of the Thirteenth Seal. You may call me Judas." The demon elder provided a string of lofty titles and with each one he took a step forward. Those burning eyes never blinked and never once turned from Arcturus. "I have heard your name, the legendary Arcturus Cloude. Of all the names scribed in your history of demonhunters, yours ranks among the top."

That was their ploy. These first four were just the first wave. An appetizer, whereas the real meal they'd prepared for Arcturus was this demon elder.

Judas? It was a name Arcturus had heard before. Not unexpected, as all the famous demon elders only rose to great prominence if they participated in the Great War. Most were slain in the conflict, but the remainder skittered back to the shadows of Gehenna to recover.

Judas also held a unique position among his people. He was a leader of the radical faction who believed, with the Demon King's absence for over a millennia, that the time of inaction was passed. He led a coterie of demons who thought like him from Gehenna and established the city of Nox far south of Skycloud. He was the undisputed master of that mysterious place.

Any demon active in the wasteland these last many years had some connection to Judas. Most, if not all, heeded his commands. Abaddon was among them.

"You are as strong as the stories claim. In truth, there is even a chance you may survive against me."

"So to better your chances, you sent your lackeys to soften me up."

Judas was frank in his response. "Correct. I suspect you now have very little strength left."

A frown pulled at the corners of Arcturus' lips. He'd long suspected a demon held the reins of power in Nox. He did not expect it to be an elder demon.

"I came today not just to end you, demonhunter." Judas' voice shook the earth in seismic waves. The very foundations of the fortress trembled. Every syllable was clear far into the distance. "I have come to rip away the mask of your realm and reveal its hypocrisy!"

1. Take a moment to pause and remember between Mantis and Abaddon, so long ago.

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