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Book 6, Chapter 90 - Lucian vs The Cloud God

 Cloudhawk's Cube activated, carving a dimensional pocket into the space around them. Ethereal squares spread out in all directions like a cloud of bubbles. Their fragile appearance, floating in defiance of gravity, afforded the scene a sort of strange beauty. A few moments later they blended with the area, flattened, and faded from view.

Although the spectacle did not appear to present any sort of threat, Bruno nonetheless clenched his dagger warily.

It was evident that those odd squares were special somehow. He could feel the intense spatial energy they emitted. More than likely it was some sort of relic that was never recorded, and in Cloudhawk's hand any tool could do incredible things. How much truer this was for the rare and unique relics of spatial power.

"Attack!"

Bruno didn't know what Cloudhawk had done, but it didn't matter. He had a mission to accomplish.

Cloudhawk reacted by raising Ruin high then shoving it into the ground. All at once his potent mental abilities were unleashed!

Dozens, perhaps hundreds of lightning bolts reached forth. It took no time for them to fill the space, flooding through the squares their world had been segmented into. They crackled around one another like an enormous electric net with Cloudhawk at its center - or thousands of hungry snakes searching for a meal.

Bruno leaped away from Ruin's deadly kiss. One of the bolts struck the ground, leaving behind a small crater. However it did not dissipate. Glancing off the ground it reached at Bruno for a second attack. With the sword in his right hand, the demonhunter deflected the slithering tendril. He hacked it in two with his dimensional dagger.

Sparing nothing, Cloudhawk poured more of his mental energy into the field. More and more bolts of lightning danced through the air and toward a single target. Yet the Master Demonhunter's skill and weapons kept him safe.

His three companions, however, were not so lucky.

As elite warriors they deftly avoiding the lightning strikes. But it was the unassuming segments of space they did not account for. The stable cubes were easy to overlook, especially when a storm of lightning cast the area in a stark electric glare. So in their reckless attempts to avoid being blasted apart, they could not avoid colliding with them.

The briefest touch was like meeting a black hole. The warriors disappeared without a trace.

Bruno was stunned to discover that it wasn't just the men who disappeared, but the teleportation marker he'd left with them as well. It was strange, because that mark should have remained even if the soldiers died. He would be able to use the dagger's copies to find out where they were and bring them back to where he was.

There were only two possibilities. The first was that Cloudhawk had sent them beyond the scope of his powers... so far away that even Bruno couldn't feel them. That seemed unlikely, however, since Bruno's reach extended across the entire realm. The second and more likely scenario was that the man - and the daggers they'd held - had ceased to exist. They were no longer a part of this reality.

Before Bruno could puzzle out what was happening, Cloudhawk was on him. He slashed at the demonhunter with a brutal hack that left a blazing trail through the air. In fact all the errant bolts of lightning followed Cloudhawk's sword as he dashed toward Bruno. They all came crashing toward him like a waterfall, bearing so much force that he didn't even bother to try and deflect it.

Dimensional power radiated from the dagger. It spread out around him and suddenly Bruno was gone.

He let space fold, conveying him several hundred meters away. But before he could even regain his footing Cloudhawk was on him. Another staggering attack was leveled his way, forcing him to teleport to safety once again.

The two danced around one another; one teleporting, the other blinking after him. Their figures would appear for an instant then disappear just as quickly, so fast that shadows of them filled the empty hall. They clashed twenty or thirty times, locked in an intense dimensional contest of cat and mouse. A battle like this was beyond the understanding of ordinary demonhunters.

Alone, Bruno was no match for Cloudhawk. Teleporting every which way was just a way to stall for time. The wastelander was on him at every turn, as close as his shadow, impossible to shake.

At last, Bruno inadvertently slipped and Cloudhawk closed the distance. Slashing Ruin through the air, he released a torrent of electricity which wrapped around Bruno's body. Right away his skin started to burn black and his internal organs sizzled. Unable to control his body, the Master Demonhunter stumbled backward into one of the cubes.

From bad to worse!

Bruno tried at last the moment to teleport... ! But it was too late, he struck one of the incorporeal cubes. Suddenly the tiny cube expanded until it swallowed him up completely. He felt it tugging at him with the irresistible force of a black hole. He blinked, suddenly finding himself in a place he'd never seen before.

The floors, ceilings and walls were all white. They radiated with their own internal luminescence. Everywhere he looked there was... nothing. He'd never experienced anything like it before. Frantic, he began to look for a way out. Teleporting again and again all he found was more emptiness. Everywhere he turned it was all the same. Featureless. Identical. He could hardly tell if he'd moved at all.

Concentrating, he tried to use his dagger to teleport somewhere else. But no matter how far he stretched his mind the only place open to him was this small reality.

Bruno had prepared for this fight by carefully placing teleport markers in strategic locations. Locked in this place, all of his thorough plans fell apart. Without the benefit of his dagger and its markers, he couldn't summon reinforcements. In this strange and unfamiliar place, how could he hope to defeat Cloudhawk?

Speak of the devil. The wastelander appeared before him.

Cloudhawk stared at the middle-aged man before him and carefully enunciated his words. "In my domain, your abilities are useless."

Bruno's face darkened in anger and despair. He was done for. He'd known from the onset that Cloudhawk was better, but he'd been confident in his ability to escape. He hadn't imagined Cloudhawk would have a way to rob him of that.

"Shall we continue?" Cloudhawk asked.

**

Pitched battles were raging throughout the Temple. The Cloud God swept away all obstacles before him. Many of the ecclesiasts he came upon did not have the nerve to turn against their patron. Those that did were as insignificant as insects before the god's power. Subjected to his all-pervasive mental strength, they fell like wheat before the scythe.

Then a group appeared, barring his way.

Different from the others, they appeared to have been gathered here specifically to face the Cloud God. In the center was an elderly man with white hair and clothes to match. Lucian Ambrose, High Priest of Highmorn.

Lucian regarded his nervous fellows. "Do not fear. Although this beast was once a regal god, it has fallen from grace. It cavorts with demons and heretics. It is a fiend. Corrupted. A betrayer of its race. Only death with wash away its sins."

His words bore a mysterious power, for they calmed the hearts of his anxious soldiers.

The Cloud God unhurriedly gazed upon the group of humans. "It appears your powers are based in the psychic realm."

Lucian slowly raised his left hand. A formless glow fell upon him and the others, causing their fears to evaporate and steeling their will. He'd constructed a mental fortress to combat the Cloud God's attacks.

It was like trying to break chopsticks. One was fragile, but bundled together they were strong. Indeed Lucian had formidable mental control and was able to spread it across a certain distance to aid his allies.

Yet the Cloud God was almost amused. Lucian's efforts were for naught, as the deity's powers were unrivaled. Any vulnerability was revealed to his eyes. These defenses would not survive a single assault.

He reached out with that terrible psychic flood. The power coalesced into an intangible blade that lashed out at his opponents. The mental blade was a variant of his psychic attack that was both invisible and impervious to normal defenses. A blow like this was most often fatal.

Yet it appeared Lucian anticipated such an attack.

As the blade formed, the High Priest's staff burst into bloom. Its light spread through the area and caused the unthinkable. The highly dense energy crystallized before everyone's eyes, like mist turning to ice on a freezing morning.

The power from the god was squeezed until it formed a large but unstable crystal structure.

Lucian took his staff in both hands and brought it crashing down upon the crystal. Shattering from the impact, the frozen energy was again released in a violent explosion.

The god staggered backward several meters.

This old man was strong...

Lucian's soldiers watched with mouths agape. His reaction time and power were shocking to behold. What's more, both his power and his relic were unique. Forcing energy into a physical form was a very rare ability indeed.

All forms of pure energy could be condensed into a crystalline form. This fact helped to protect Lucian from the Cloud God's ire. Any energy sent his way could be frozen and even sent back to where it came from. The Cloud God had been knocked back by the residual of his own power. Even the mighty god had his defenses temporarily overwhelmed.

This was very interesting. Even the Cloud God was fascinated.

"Attack!" Lucian's bright eyes, surrounded by wrinkles, were fixed upon the god before him. In a clear and mighty voice he cried out: "Kill the betrayer god!"

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