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Book 6, Chapter 94 - Rematch With the Avatar

 Ten thousand meters... twenty thousand meters... fifty thousand meters... eighty thousand meters!

Wrapped in the anti-gravity field, Skycloud's Temple ascended ever faster. As the atmosphere thinned the pull of the earth weakened. Pursuers fell away, unable to continue the chase.

Soon the Temple would escape the atmosphere entirely! Airships and airplanes could not reach these heights.

The Green Alliance forces had been taken by surprise when the Temple started rising. No one knew it had this ability. Their air forces were caught unprepared and what's more, how were they supposed to fight in space? The wastelands had many flying vehicles, but they were all of rough quality. Most were cobbled together from ancient wreckage, copied from half-understood blueprints.

It was impressive for their crude, motley constructs to fly at all. Faced with the added difficulty of thinning atmosphere, all they could do was watch as the Temple rose out of range.

After rising twenty thousand meters above the surface, there were only a handful of ships that could keep up. A few wasteland ships were outfitted for higher altitude combat, but not nearly enough to be a threat. Eventually they either were blown out of the sky by the Temple's defenses, or stalled and plummeted from their own faulty design.

Half an hour after it had begun to rise, the Temple finally grew still. With a mighty tremor, it spat a beam of light out into the void. Like a pebble thrown into a still lake, space rippled around the beam and spread outwards. Preparations were being made. The Boundary Portal was nearly ready to open again.

Time was running out.

The Khan of Evernight and Janus Umbra were nearing the center chamber of the Temple. It was a dais suspended a hundred meters in the air, made of pure white jade. There were no supports keeping it aloft and beneath it was a multicolored flow of energy. It surged like a mighty river, weaving through the Temple's halls.

The dais was six thousand meters from end to end. Floating all around were statues of gods, rising a hundred meters tall. Seraphs were perched on each one like nests of birds, dozens - maybe hundreds of them. A host of dull eyes watched as the invaders fought their way in. With so many here, there was no question who was waiting for them.

"Don't mind them, keep going!"

The Khan's voice was as emotionless as the Seraphs' gaze. He brandished his sword of light and jumped clear across the corridor onto the dais. Without a moment's hesitation, Janus followed. The rest of their soldiers used floating statues or mounts to make their way up.

A lone figure draped in white was waiting for them. Standing in the center of the dais, her silver eyes regarded them in silence. Not a word was spoken, but no words were necessary.

The Khan and Janus shared a glance. Without question, the woman before them was not Selene Cloude. She was a deadly foe. But although they knew this, knew what was at stake, it didn't make what had to happen any easier.

During confrontations at this level, the slightest mistake could spell disaster.

Empowered by the Avatar, Selene was not inferior to the two challengers. In fact, she was stronger. What's more, there was a host of Seraphs she could call upon at any moment. The advantage was hers.

"I heard you can see the future." The Khan's featureless mask faced Selene. "Can you see how today will end?"

"Knowing is easy. Changing is hard. Insight into the future does not mean control. The future is endless possibility." A flash twinkled through the Avatar's eyes. Speaking to her two rivals, no feeling was present in her voice. "Yet in this world, no matter how we struggle, there is one immutable truth. Maybe I can see through time. Perhaps I can see the scenes of what's to come. But whether I do or not, the end is written. Such is fate."

The silver light in her eyes grew more intense. Obviously her mental powers had improved and the one who used to live in that body was fiercely suppressed. Odds were, the woman Selene once was would never again awaken.

The eyes... The God King's powers came from her eyes. Once again Janus and the Khan looked at once another in tacit understanding.

Yet even before they launched into an attack, a frigid grin touched Selene's lips. She drew forth a glimmering blade from her back and raised it high. Light erupted from the weapon, piercing skyward at least thirty meters. Then with a vicious hack, she cast its power toward her foes in a deadly wave.

Its keen power was felt even at a distance. Selene's attack ripped across the dais toward Janus and the Khan.

Crackling purple light separated Nox's Governor from the blow. He swiped at it, striking the wave of power head on. It felt like trying to bat away a mountain, forcing him to stagger back half a dozen steps.

Selene wielded so much power in just one strike? With that mighty strike, the Avatar proclaimed the beginning of their conflict. The Seraphs who before were stagnant suddenly burst into motion. They descended upon the invaders from their statuary perches.

The puppets opened their mouths and fired beams of energy from their gullets. The attack rained upon the dais. Immediately, Janus and the Khan both felt the danger of the circumstances they were in. No matter what tactics they employed the Avatar saw through it. Nothing they did would force a misjudgment from Selene. There was only flawlessness - executing a perfect, unified assault could beat her. Yet with the Seraphs all around, such a difficult task was made much harder.

While not notably strong in a fight, Seraphs could stand toe to toe against a veteran demonhunter. Their attacks where simple and straightforward, but expansive. Even a small number could envelope the battlefield.

The Avatar swept her crystalline blade in a wide circle. Several shadowy doppelgangers were cut down mere seconds after they appeared.

She was able to see the changes in matter and energy flows through time. What threat did Janus' lurking shadows possess? Trying to defeat Selene by sneak attacks was a fool's errand.

Her sword flashed again. Another bloom of power. The Avatar jumped forward and stabbed with her weapon.

Her target was the great assassin, wrapped in shadow. At the same instant Selene's Eyes of Time were viewing what would come. She witnessed the consequences as if they'd already occurred; a purple blade of light deflecting the blow, saving Janus' life. Instead Selene made a quick adjustment, feigning an attack on Janus but shifting her sword toward the Khan at the final instant.

It caught him off guard.

Quicker than he could follow her blow bite into him, cleaving his right arm from his body at the shoulder. As the limb carrying his purple sword tumbled away, a burst of energy tore through his armor.

The Avatar was ready to seal his fate when she was interrupted by four murky shadows. Copies if Janus surrounded her on all sides and launched into a coordinated attack. Meanwhile, the real Janus snatched the Khan and his severed arm from the battlefield.

"Are you alright?" Perhaps for the first time there was a note of concern in the killer's voice.

As she looked him over, Janus' pupils contracted to small black points. Selene's attack had done more than sever his arm. The Khan's armor was damaged, his breathing apparatus ruined. Half of his body - his real body - was left exposed.

He was human, but only barely. Thoroughly remolded from head to toe.

Tubes dangled from his mouth and nostrils to facilitate breathing. What wrinkled flesh was exposed had a dull, bloodless hue. Patches of necrotic skin were numerous. Only a few spindly hairs remained. Yet in the structure of his face there was a hint of the man he once was.

He was the lost and lauded Master Demonhunter, Baldur Cloude. When Janus saw what he'd become it stole her breath. She could not accept that this was the same person as before. What sort of life had he suffered through these years?

The Avatar looked passed the shadows to her two foes. In the deepest recesses of her eyes there was a brief sadness. It bubbled up from a deep and repressed spirit, so strong it was almost too much to control.

Curious, the Avatar thought. Emotions were not common for her. Why did she feel such sorrow?

1. That's a kick ass book cover right there.

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