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Book 5, Chapter 95 – The Demon Elder

 Judas would not kneel before Cloudhawk. No demon would supplicate themselves before a human.

But if he was not prepared to accept Cloudhawk as his king, why did the Elder save him from Sanctuary? Why spirit the injured Cloudhawk to safety, stave off death while he was in a coma and then point him toward the blood crystal?

It was because Judas was clever. He knew that no matter how he struggled or denied the fact, he could not change the reality that Cloudhawk was chosen as the Demon King's successor. He had already assimilated much of his predecessor's power, and there was no denying the human had incredible potential. Without a doubt, he had come to inherit the power of the former Demon King.

So what to do? In fact, the simplest method was also the most effective. Through his own abilities and the power of demon blood, Judas would transform Cloudhawk into an archfiend! More specifically, the new Demon King would become his puppet!

It was a stark display of Judas' ambition and desire. He rescued Cloudhawk, saved his life and pointed him toward the blood crystal for this reason alone. So that Cloudhawk would become a powerful, unwitting servant.

Gods and demons had the special ability to manufacture attendants. For the gods they were called seraphs. To demons, they were labeled fiends. At the heart of each was blood from their creator.

The first step in the process was injecting demon blood into a human receptacle. Once host and blood had acclimated a series of methods were used to induce catalysis. From there the human underwent dramatic changes to adopt a portion of the god or demon's power but in turn became a tool.

Neither god, nor demon, nor human any longer.

Fiends and seraphs were possessed of inexhaustible energy. They neither aged nor died. Blackfiend was a perfect representation of a fully formed archfiend. Conversely, Autumn's Dryad was an example of a godly seraph. What they had in common was an utter lack of independent thought. Whatever had existed inside of them prior to the transformation was gone, leaving only a husk filled with otherworldly power.

There was no difference between Judas and Nessus. Nessus wanted to become the Demon King and ascend. Judas was even more insane. In turning Cloudhawk into an archfiend he would make him immortal - an undying Demon King who answered explicitly to Judas. In this way he, too, would come to possess the power of the Demon King.

And he who commanded the Demon King, commanded all demons. This was Judas' plan.

There were certain conditions necessary for the creation of a fiend. Not everyone could survive such a transformation. In fact there was a very high rate of failure for both seraphs and fiends, often during the first step. If a host body could not withstand the power of godly or demonic blood then they were destroyed outright.

But Judas' idea was inspired. Cloudhawk needed the Demon King's blood, they were already attuned. As the Demon King's successor his body had already assimilated his predecessor's power and memories. The Demon King's blood was the final step which would transform him into the perfect vessel.

It appeared Judas had all but succeeded! Cloudhawk was captured, and the Demon King's blood was in hand. Everything was prepared!

The Elder demon could think of no more suitable plan. For the future of his race, they needed a Demon King that would live for eternity. For his own ambitious soul, he needed to control that power.

Those old fools of Gehenna, calling Judas the radical minority? Hadn't Gehenna'as old guard been waiting for the return of the Demon King before making their next move? Well, from now on Judas may not be the Demon King, but the Demon King would answer to him!

Cloudhawk was bound and caught in Judas' domain of annihilation. In this field of terrible power there was no way for him to teleport to safety. He had no means of escape. The Khan of Evernight and Judas escorted their future puppet back to Nox, for the demon Elder could not wait to revel in his victory.

All the while Cloudhawk was wracking his brain for any way to save himself. All it earned him was a headache. He hadn't thought Judas was so interested in his body! Every time Judas looked at his prize the madness in those crimson eyes grew more fierce.

Three powerful men and a coterie of Black Knights. It was quite the escort. Even if Cloudhawk could move enough to fight, it wouldn't have helped him. From the instant he was captured and all the way to Nox, Cloudhawk was locked away from his power. All he could do was be led along like a lamb to the slaughter.

The blood crystal's essence was extracted, liquefied and put in an IV bag. The Khan of Evernight personally saw to affixing a number of tubes to Cloudhawk's body for the blood to pass through.

"There is no point in struggling." The Khan's digitized red eyes glowed against Cloudhawk's skin. "This is your fate. One cannot change fate."

Cloudhawk sensed his doom was near, but was not afraid. In fact he stared at the Khan with perfect calm. He saw this and asked in that robotic voice, "Do you not fear death?"

"I very much fear death, but now that it's here I guess it doesn't seem so bad." Cloudhawk felt his body grow warm as the fluid started to be pumped into his veins. "It's just a pity I won't keep my promises."

The Khan said nothing further as he locked Cloudhawk into a familiar, fluid-filled capsule. The Demon King's blood dripped into him, and Cloudhawk could feel the old injuries he'd sustained begin to heal. With every passing moment more of the Demon King's inheritance was assimilated into his body, becoming part of him.

As the same time he was aware of the creeping murkiness in his head. An intense need for sleep washed over him. Suspended in this warm fluid he imagined this must have been what it was like in the womb. He no longer needed to fear the storm raging outside, and could finally sleep in peace.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a really good night's sleep...

He appreciated it, even though he knew it was a sleep he might never wake up from. He didn't fight it, he was too exhausted to try. The idea of a good long sleep was very appealing.

As the darkness closed in through the chambers of his mind, the image of a beautiful face shimmered behind his eyelids. It wasn't until this moment when his final thoughts were passing him by, did Cloudhawk realized how much he liked her. Such a shame he would never be able to tell her...

The regret he felt for it was intense. It was the last thing he felt before he lost consciousness.

Two months passed until one day Judas, Abaddon and the Khan of Evernight were standing before the chamber. It was a strange contraption that clearly wasn't made in this world. It almost had a life of its own and pulsed like a heart. Each rhythmic beat was matched by a gentle glow of red that danced across its surface.

"It's nearly complete." Abaddon's raspy chuckle was harsh in this confined place. "The remaining power of the Demon King is strong enough to repair any damage to his body. Now he will reach his full potential. When he wakes up he'll be as mighty as Skye Polaris had been before his demise. And with the Demon King's psychic inheritance his mental abilities may outstrip my own!"

Judas did not respond. He knew this wasn't enough, what they needed was the Demon King's Cuirass. That was also a facet of the inheritance Cloudhawk had yet to accept.

The demon Elder gave his orders. "It's time to start the next stage of the process. Begin the transformation."

Cloudhawk had completely absorbed the Demon King's power. The injuries he'd sustained from Arcturus and the Cloud God were no more. It was now time to turn him into an archfiend.

One started, this process was irreversible. Cloudhawk would never again be human, rather a creature like Blackfiend that answered to a master. A mindless body with incredible power.

Abaddon and the Khan shared a glance. Judas looked at the lesser demon in irritation. "What are you waiting for?"

"Elder Judas, the Demon King can not pass on all of his power. Even his successor can only inherit a piece of it... not enough to enshrine a new Demon King, no?"

Dissatisfaction gleamed in the Elder demon's eyes. "What are you trying to say?"

"When our king passed on his boon, it was not with the intention of having his successor use this inheritance alone to kill the God King. It was intended as a starting point." Abaddon turned his eyes to the capsule Cloudhawk floated in. "Once Cloudhawk is an archfiend there will be no further growth. He will remain as he is for eternity. It would mean the Demon King of this generation would be far inferior to the God King - inferior even to the Demon King of the last generation. IS this what we want?"

"Shut your mouth!" Judas' anger flared. "You dare question my orders?"

Abaddon's throat closed tightened as it was seized by an invisible force.

"No no no... ! Why would I dare do such a thing? I was just thinking -" Abaddon's face suddenly darkened and he laughed. "- of killing you!"

There was a flash of purple light and a glowing blade protruded from Judas' chest. The Elder demon looked down with disbelief in his burning red eyes.

The Khan of Evernight had been waiting for this moment to show his hand. The instant Judas revealed a weak point, he struck. His burning sword of light was pushed to the hilt through the Elder demon's body.

Judas roared in pain and fury! He released a horrific torrent of power in all directions. Both Abaddon and the Khan was cast away.

The wounds Judas sustained during the assault on Sanctuary were not yet healed, and this sneak attack made them worse. He growled in pain and covered the wound. "Traitors! The both of you!"

"Don't make such terrible accusations, my Elder!" The sinister grin remained on Abaddon's face. "In fact it is you who betray your race by failing to keep your ambition in check! As a member of Gehenna, how could I stand by and watch you destroy the hope of our people?"

"Kill them!" Judas shouted orders to the Black Knights nearby. "Kill these betrayers!"

The ominous warriors were unmoved as though they heard nothing.

The Khan of Evernight's emotionless voice answered. "Do not waste energy. I am the Governor of Nox. The Black Knights answer to me."

Judas was taken completely by surprise. He was not prepared for such treachery. In the midst of his confusion another voice joined the conversation.

"Did you think you could rise among the Elder ranks with such clumsy planning and methods? You are a disgrace to Gehenna!" A figure stepped into view, bookish and unassuming with a single good eye.

He was followed by a sizeable crowd. Among them were Inkspecter, Squall, Ravenous Tiger, Three-Eyed Spider and other agents from the Hand of Gehenna. Leading them was none other than Wolfblade.

"Shepherd God..." Judas saw that among this invasion was a figure in a green dress. He saw her first during the battle for Sanctuary and suspected she might be the fallen deity, the former master of the Silver Kingdom. Such a prideful entity following the orders of a simple man. There was clearly more to Wolfblade than what he appeared.

"Who are you?"

"You still haven't figured it out? You continue to disappoint me!"

"I don't care who you are. You have dared to stand against me. I will erase any memory of you from this earth!"

Anger flared within Judas. His domain of annihilation bloomed, preparing to eliminate this sudden threat. But Wolfblade merely flicked his finger, and with that motion a shimmering blue blade without a hilt shot from his body. It sliced through the orbs of sinister power without pause. It shot through the Elder demon's body and in the process extracted a strange blue object.

It affixed to the sword as though it were magnetic. Judas' Hilt of Annihilation. It joined with Wolfblade's blue sword to create a complete blade.

These two incredible relics were in fact one whole.

Wolfbladem otioned once again and the reforged sword shot back into his hand. With his free hand he stroked the weapon with an emotive sigh like a man being reunited with a long-lost lover. "It's been over a thousand years since we fought with the king during the Great War. It was this sword that bit into the body of the God King. A thousand years... finally it is time for it to be born again."

Fear lit up in Judas' eyes as realization washed over him. "Grand Elder... Legion!"

Yes. The one today known as Wolfblade was Gehenna's second in command, the Grand Elder and Prime Seal of the Elder council. Legion.

Most demons suspected Legion had died long ago. None would expect a creature with power second only to the Demon King himself would reemerge in human form. He had remained in the shadows all this time, quietly manipulating events to his own ends... Judas knew in that instant that his time was done. Everything he had fought to accomplish amounted to just a small part in Legion's grand scheme.

Now, his part was done.

Legion would not allow him to linger unnecessarily.

"Thank you for all you've done for Gehenna and our new Demon King." Wolfblade waved his hand and the Shepherd God stepped forth. A sound reverberated in the Elder demon's brain, like a death knell. "Now your service ends."

1. And I think a long time ago!

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