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Book 5, Chapter 94 – One’s True Face

 "Imperia is under attack from invaders! Your king demands for you to destroy them!"

The Silverwing Monarch's strained, hideous voice screeched through the air. Imperia's citizens looked at one another, stupefied. Those Enforcers who witnessed it looked either struck dumb or scowled, but none looked pleased.

What the hell was this monster? Why was it calling itself their king?

In the hearts of Imperia's people, their Silverwing Monarch was a majestic and awe-inspiring leader. Immortal, perfect, and in command of limitless power - even capable of bestowing noble blood unto lowly citizens. But this fiend that appeared before them was nothing like that. To imagine it was somehow associated with their ruler was blasphemous!

Glawyn's pupils shrunk as she stared up at it. She spotted something behind the hideous figure - a familiar form. The gray cloak, bandages, and mask were all clear markers. Wasn't that Cloudhawk, from Redleaf?

Cloudhawk hovered in empty space, staring at the creature. In a calm voice he said, "Do you think your people will listen once they see your true face?"

The Silverwing Monarch answered with a low growl. "Hmph! They are nothing but a crop I grow for my own use. Material I use to form a more perfect body! Without me they would have been destroyed and scattered long ago. I built this kingdom. I am their king! And citizens must fight for their king!"

Cloudhawk vanished, but just for an instant. He reappeared with a fist planted in the monster's body. His divine gauntlet unloaded with a burst of power, tearing off a chunk of its form and flinging it backward.

"Wake up!"

Cloudhawk swung his sword at Nessus, blazing with green fire. It came crashing down like a nightmarish meteor on the monster's head.

The terrible energy it released could be felt by the people standing below. All who witnessed it shared a single thought. Who was this man? He was so strong! Why had he shown up here now, at the same time as this monster? Why had they appeared by the Temple?

The power Cloudhawk displayed was enough to slay any Chosen in Imperia. Glawyn especially looked at him with eyes wide.

This unimpressive guy was really this strong? Her and an entire Enforcer squad probably couldn't take him. Before she had believed him when he said it was the bird that defeated Desmond. A man this strong certainly wasn't nobody. What was he doing in their country now? Why was he causing trouble in Imperia? What was his relationship with this silver-winged devil he fought?

All of these questions raced through her mind until she settled upon a single possibility. But she couldn't believe it.

The monster's enormous silver wings glowed brightly. Each feather shone like a relic as the energy it released formed into a protective shell. Cloudhawk's sword of fire crashed into it and broke apart, spewing green fire everywhere. In response the Monarch's wings lashed out, catching Cloudhawk in the abdomen and flinging him away.

"Aargh!" The monster yelled in frustration and anger. "My subjects! Fight for me!"

Tens of thousands of Imperian citizens looked pained all at once. Blue veins crept into their faces as some latent power hidden inside them stirred. It snaked up from their chest, through their throats, into their faces and up into their brain. Whatever it was took control of their thoughts.

Not good! Cloudhawk hadn't expected Nessus to be so insane. It looked like every citizen of Imperia had a fragment of the creature in them!

These fragments of the beast didn't have any special characteristics, remaining dormant most of the time. Only in a moment like this they were galvanized, awakened so that they could slither into the minds of these innocent people to deliver Nessus' commands. Within a certain range he had control of them just as he did with his other puppets. They shambled toward Cloudhawk like zombies at his behest.

This monster was an absolute terror! It was capable of controlling tens of thousands of people at once!

Abaddon and the Khan fought their way free of the Temple and raced into the fray. They couldn't allow Nessus to prevail, otherwise it would mean tremendous danger.

Abaddon hefted his Gospel and summoned an ocean of sand which roiled through the air. The Silverwing Monster defended itself against the attacks that assailed him from within the sandstorm. Under its cover the Khan of Evernight moved in close. Once he was close enough, he hacked at the puppet's arms and wings with his light weapons.

Once again, the Silverwing Monster was badly wounded. Nessus, as strong as it was, could not recover quick enough to ignore the raining blows.

Cloudhawk, the Khan and Abaddon all fought together as one. How long could the creature hold out? In the blink of an eye it suffered a devastating round of attacks.

Nessus did not continue to fight full-on. Soon his control would be absolute. Once wholly under his control the parasites would kill their hosts, but what did he care of these tiny mortal lives? In its twisted mind there was only a singular focus - kill these usurpers!

Imperia belonged to it, and it alone! Nessus still had a host of cards yet to play! It had an army of thralls, and the three-headed rocs at his beck and call. All it had to do was bide time, wait until its attackers were in a difficult place. There were only three of them after all - how could they defeat the king and his entire kingdom? That was the idea it held to as Nessus retreated.

Suddenly, the air was filled with delicate bubbles that appeared out of nowhere. They congregated in midair, forming together into one enormous orb. It appeared right where Nessus had fled to. The creature immediately felt the dire crisis enveloping it.


Nessus reacted immediately. Judas' orbs of annihilation?! It was already too late for it to escape!

Half of it managed to cross the border of the orb when Judas' power activated. The bubble popped and everything inside of it was reduced to nothing - including half of the Silverwing Monster. All that remained was half of its body below the wound in its chest. The rest disappeared like smoke.

In the same instant an armada of airships descended from the clouds over Imperia. Countless Noxian soldiers leaped from their decks into the city below. It was now an invasion.

Judas and his army had been waiting at the border of this place, waiting for its protective enchantments to fade. The moment it did Nox's army was deployed. As an Elder of his race, Judas was far more powerful than Abaddon. His sneak attack was the final nail in the coffin. That perfect body which Nessus had worked on for a millennia was completely ruined.

Nessus gazed upon the mighty demon Elder. It saw the wound in its chest that still was not healed after the battle at Sanctuary. But his wounds didn't matter, for if Judas was here it meant the fight was already over. Nessus did not have the power to turn back time.

Nessus slithered out of the Silverwing Monster's head. It attempted to escape, but before getting more than a hundred meters it rushed headlong into another bubble.

"Judas! Answer me!" Nessus was wholly in its original form, a hideous one-eyed octopus. The voice that came from it was filled with hatred and refusal, but it knew there was no escaping its fate. "Is this weak, worthless human really the chosen of the Demon King? Is this ignorant worm really strong enough to defeat the demon king?! Can he - this wretched, insignificant human - really wear the crown of our master?! Answer me!"

For a moment Judas was lost in thought. A cruel light flashed in his eyes and he replied: "Who knows?"

That was the moment Judas' bubble burst. A terrible, ear-splitting scream filled with unmitigated rage began, and then stopped abruptly. Not a single trace of the monster that had controlled this city remained.

Nessus, the Parasite, was dead. The barbs that it had in the city's population all failed. The citizens of Imperia were saved.

Before long Nox's warships had filled the sky, and its forces occupied all the major districts. It was a change as sudden as it was earth-shaking for the people of the city. No one could believe that the king who had rules over them for a thousand years was actually a puppet for some despicable monster. Worse, it had infected all of them as well.

Be it in the heart of its citizens or the strength of its enchantments, this ancient and glorious city had collapsed. From now on, it was under the control of Nox and its army.

What would become of it?

Cloudhawk scowled at the thought. "What about my blood crystal?"

The Khan of Evernight answered his query. "It is being prepared for you. But now is not the time."

His scowl deepened. "So when's the fuckin' time?"

A loud, booming voice answered. "Your time has arrived!"

Cloudhawk turned his head toward the sound.

Judas had appeared behind him. He stretched out a hand and from it poured a thick black fog. The instant it touched him Cloudhawk could feel his body going stiff as stone. Before he could react, Abaddon wrapped him up in a cocoon of sand that left him no room to move.

What the fuck?!

Cloudhawk's face went pale. Were they stabbing him in the back? But why? He felt like he could still be of use.

He struggled valiantly but achieved nothing. Helpless and angry, he growled, "This is what you call help?"

Judas met Cloudhawk's hateful glare with a smirk. "Don't worry, I said I would save you and that's exactly what I shall do. But did you really think we would accept a human as a Demon King?"

"If you won't accept me as the Demon King then what was the meaning of all of this?"

"Heh heh... simple. I intend to keep my word and help you assimilate all the Demon King has promised to you. The power of my former king's blood will restore you to perfect health. Of course there is a very important caveat, the final step that I did not share that will happen afterwards." Judas grinned at Cloudhawk, stressing every syllable. "I will erase your memories, and you will become my Archfiend. A thoughtless puppet, always serving at my side."

1. Stranger Things season 3! Does that that make Cloudhawk Eleven?

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