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Book 6, Chapter 60 - Opening

 Cloudhawk released a hundred arcs of lightning in a split second. All the Seraphs nearby were immediately reduced to ash.

As little more than puppets, their combat abilities were limited at best. But that being said, the Seraphs did possess impressive psychic force. Ordinary folk would be hard pressed to defend themselves.

Once again the path was clear. Cloudhawk and the Avatar stared at one another. Selene looked at him, flat eyes from a soulless husk.

He was caught in the same problem. Any move he made, Selene would know before he could enact it. Like a chess game, anywhere he went those Seraphs would be arranged to block his path.

The mysterious and elusive powers of space didn't help him here. She knew where he would be. It left him feeling angry and helpless.

If he faced any other enemy he might take the gamble and fight to the death. But the Avatar was Selene transformed. What she did was not of her own accord, perhaps even the opposite.

It was so sudden and unexpected, Cloudhawk wasn't mentally prepared. He was holding back for fear of hurting a dear friend.

The Avatar controlled the Seraphs. So long as the Seraphs were near the Temple they were unkillable. The ancient structure gifted them an inexhaustible source of energy.

It had become clear to the Avatar that Cloudhawk was trying to misdirect her and her people. His forceful blow toward Selene was a feint as he prepared to attack the Temple. In response, a large number of Seraphs began soaring around the Temple gate defensively.

The moment Cloudhawk turned to focus on the Temple, Seraphs raced in to meet him.

Skycloud's holy center was a tenacious structure and not easy to destroy. With the addition of the puppets and their commander, his chances of closing the gate were slim to none.

With such being the case, better to keep his focus on Selene. She was his biggest problem, for once she wholly became one with the Avatar getting her back would be far more difficult. More troubles and mistakes would occur. The last thing he wanted was to face her on the other side of the battlefield.

He couldn't stand idly by while someone close to him became a puppet of the God King!

But those eyes gave her a window into the future. What was he supposed to do? No. There was no such thing as perfection, not in this world. The future wasn't set in stone, there were variables that could change it.

The more Selene disturbed the flows of time, the more things could change. At some point she'd fail to keep up. If he found a way to overwhelm her, then there was a chance to take her alive.

Cloudhawk disappeared. As he was preparing for his assault, Selene's eyes belched a silvery-white light. Her vision was not confined to three dimensions. Those strange eyes gave her access to a fourth or even fifth dimension. She could see things mere mortals were incapable of seeing.

For instance...

Normal folk looked at something and could determine its height, weight and location in current time. Selene saw much more. She witnessed not only how something changed in space, but how it changed in time. The past and the future were an unbroken line of figures that made any pretense of illusion meaningless to her.

However, the Avatar's powers were a mere tenth of what the God King was capable of. As such she could see the flows of time but could not manipulate them to attack her foes. This meant she was not unbeatable. There was still a wide gap in strength between Cloudhawk and Selene.

However, she was aware of what was to come. Cloudhawk was preparing to launch a flurry of attacks, all of which she saw laid out before her. By her estimation, a dozen or so rounds was all she'd manage before being overwhelmed.

She completely understood his tactic, but that didn't help her when he was so much stronger. Some paths to the future were difficult to change, even when you saw them coming. Alone, even with the Eyes of Time, she could not protect herself against Cloudhawk. But this was her home turf. She was not alone.

"You believe you are strong enough to stop the inevitable?"

The Avatar's tactics changed. Dozens of Seraphs drew up close.

Cloudhawk was forced to stop - not because he feared the Seraphs, but because of those he saw among them. Aquaria, Phain and Atlas were among a group of hostages held by the puppets. They'd failed in their coup against Selene and had been captured.

Selene's cold voice reached him. "You know these mortals. They are tied to you."

Aquaria lifted her bloodstained face. It was drawn and pale, but iron was in her eyes. "Cloudhawk, forget about us. She isn't Selene anymore. If you don't act now we stand no chance!"

As the last word left her lips, the Seraph behind her thrust a sword into Aquaria's chest.

"Stop!" Cloudhawk shouted.

After impaling her, the puppet cast Aquaria away like a sack of refuse. Cloudhawk teleported to her and snatched the High Priest from the air. Just as the Avatar had foreseen.

She lashed out with Sublime Transcendence, releasing a blaze of holy light. Cloudhawk had enough time to deflect it, but not enough to steady himself. The intensity of her strike knocked him from the air and he hit the ground with a shuddering impact.

A host of demonhunters astride mighty griffins gathered round. The rest of Skycloud's strongest had now arrived and began coordinating to block Cloudhawk's escape. No sooner had he made landfall than a deluge of attacks were levied at the wasteland leader. Suddenly he found himself in a tight spot.

For the moment he paid them no mind. First he needed to see how badly the High Priest was wounded. What he discovered was bleak - Aquaria's wounds were serious, she was on the cusp of death. If he let her die, how could he go back and face Dawn?

His friend had lost her father, her grandfather and her family. Was it the fate of her last loved one to die a violent death?

So Cloudhawk took Aquaria and quickly teleported out of danger. Once away from the volley of attacks, he prepared an assault of his own.

But then the situation changed again as around the Temple pieces of it began to separate and float free. They arranged themselves into a floating, octagonal ring. An intense beam of light fired through the Boundary Portal.

Skycloud shook! Cracks appeared in buildings and streets buckled! Hundreds of thousands of citizens who had failed to heed Cloudhawk's warnings were struck by a blast of energy. The lucky ones suffered only mild injuries, but many others had their internal organs liquefied. They hit the ground, blood and viscera leaking from their mouths. All at once Skycloud's central square was a scene of wailing misery.

Those left unscathed gaped in horror. How... how could this be? Was this the miracle they'd been waiting for? Why would this divine act cause so much pain?

At last the citizens began to understand that the situation was not what they expected, and tried to flee. While they scrambled over the bodies of less fortune, more and more energy poured through the Boundary Portal. The intense beams struck the components of the octagon but rather than blast through, they were wholly absorbed.

Space began to ripple.

Cloudhawk looked on as the area in the center of the ring began to churn and warp like stirred paste. Motes of plasma-like energy undulated all around as a small black hole appeared. It was then he felt it; a spatial portal had been opened!

The sheer amount of energy required to open the portal had ravaged vast areas of Skycloud. It looked like the aftermath of an earthquake, with elegant buildings laying in pieces among shattered roads. The devastation radiated out from the city center. A storm that threatened to obliterate what was left was gathering overhead.

Even Cloudhawk was helpless against such power.

Selene watched the portal form, her silver eyes aglow. "It is done!"

It was too late, Cloudhawk knew it at once.

Yet while everyone was distracted, Phain managed to break free from his bounds! With one punch he blasted the Seraph holding him to pieces! He spun around and attacked the next closest one to try and help his fellows escape.

When Selene realized what was happening she was too late to prevent it. Her Eyes of Time were not omniscient, blind spots existed. She had been too focused on the portal to see Phain's actions.

Cloudhawk made sure to take note.

There was no stopping the Boundary Portal now. But he wasn't going to go home empty handed. Acting quickly he teleported Phain, Atlas and the others to safety. In a blink of an eye they were a hundred kilometers away from the threat looming over Skycloud.

The Avatar's scope of power was not wide enough to reach them. Selene could only see the flows of time around her. Thus outside her vision, Cloudhawk and the others had no more need to worry.

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