Beelzebub’s weakened legion died. It was as simple as that. Spears shot forward from the shield wall like supercharged pistons. They drove two, sometimes three ranks deep into the horde of flailing monstrosities. Those few creatures that were able to get through the front line were hacked to pieces by waiting swordsmen. Others tried to leap over the formation into the rear. All of the Lord of All That Flies’ creations had wings. Not all had the power to fly, but it helped them jump really high.
Spears in the ranks farther back took care of that problem with the help of gravity. Getting the impaled dead off the weapons was the real challenge after the battle was finished. It was a problem because they had to break the integrity of the formation to get the bodies off. And that was a problem when seventy-five thousand more raging creatures were barreling toward them.
“Move forward!” The voice boomed through the pass.
Gerald would have recognized the General’s tone anywhere.
Reformed and ready, the legion marched forward two hundred yards to the second trench. Gerald saw what they were doing. Using every terrain advantage was going to be critical to winning this fight. But the situation on the ground was Icilius’ job. Gerald needed to focus on what was going on above it.
“Steady.” Gerald put his arm up.
Sniper’s fingers moved from the trigger-guards to the triggers. They spoke softly among themselves, designating the best targets. The rest of the airborne regiment tensed. Most crouched low and prepared to leap into the air.
“Wait until you see the whites of their eyes.”
Gerald had been present at Bunker Hill when the original command was given. He had no idea how historic the phrase was. New meat was awestruck when he spoke about being in that battle. Even if he wasn’t an Infernal Knight, he would have still been popular with the new meat.
They always wanted to know about that, and what it was like meeting George Washington in person. His response was always the same, “larger than life.” It was ironic, because he usually ended up killing them during training over the next few days.
The enemy air support was going to pass close to the mountainside, within a hundred feet. The element of surprise would keep the airborne regiment alive long enough to do some damage. They needed to make it count.
“Wait for it.” The enemy legions crossed the first trench where the two hundred skirmishers had already evaporated into ash.
“Wait for it.” The mass of rolling black slowed slightly, and a dozen gargantuan creatures charged from their ranks toward Seere’s infantry.
“Shit!” Gerald cursed.
He reached behind his back and grabbed his specially-designed spear. With a flick of his wrist the molecularly-honed blade extended to its full three-foot length. His weapon of choice had many different functions, but this was the most straightforward and it would get the job done.
Gerald and the Colonel yelled the commands simultaneously, and the airborne regiment sprang into action; but the Colonel and the regiment went one way and Gerald went another.
The sudden war-cry of a thousand legionnaires appearing on their flank stopped the enemy air support cold. The Colonel and his men crashed into the enemy like raging beasts. They dug deep into the enemy’s flank before Beelzebub’s forces were able to rally. For a short time it was raining body parts down on the enemy Lord’s infantry forces.
Gerald smiled at the thought, but needed to focus on his own mission. He beat his wings furiously and dove toward the charging berserkers of the enemy horde. The air cracked loudly around him as he broke the sound barrier and closed on his targets.
The dozen gargantuan creatures were as large as rhinos. They had naturally growing plate armor up and down their sides, but Gerald knew from experience their underbellies were soft and vulnerable. Two sets of horns extended several feet from the creature’s head, creating a natural ram, and three sets of insect wings covered its back. The heavy monsters couldn’t fly or even jump with such small, fragile wings. Lastly, the creatures charged forward on six sets of human legs. It was a sickening sight as normal legs carried the patchwork creature forward much faster than you’d think.
The creatures were big and strong, but they were stupid. All the enemy general could count on was pointing them in a direction and releasing them. The monsters would kill Beelzebub’s own soldiers as readily as Seere’s, but letting them tear into the infantry legions first would make a large hole General Icilius would need to commit his reserve to fill. That left the enemy free to pound and break through at another point along the line.
It was a simple, straightforward plan and it had the potential to work. Had the snipers been able to see the berserkers in the massive horde they would have called for artillery to destroy them, but now they were too close to friendly lines to take out.
It would be up to Gerald and the infantry to deal with them now.
Everything happened quickly. The snipers fired, the airborne regiment attacked, and Gerald struck his first target. He barreled in like a winged-missile. At the last minute he flipped over in midair, braced himself, and channeled power into his legs.
The impact still shook him to his core. He hit the closest berserker on the left flank, where the infantry line was weaker. The large, seemingly unstoppable creature exploded like a watermelon dropped from a skyscraper. Gerald’s impact shook the earth, causing two more nearby berserkers to stumble and fall. Once down, with no arms to get up, the creatures flailed around like fish out of water.
“Open!” The command was yelled down the line and dozens of rocketeers emerged.
They stood tall and fearless as the remaining berserkers charged them.
Coordinated fire cascaded down on the berserkers. Most were hit five or six times. Some were thrown off their feet, some were killed, all were injured, but not all of them were stopped. The rocketeers retreated behind the rapidly closing shield wall to reload as the remaining four berserkers finally reached them.
They hit the legions like the battering rams they were designed to be. Armored men were impaled on those long horns as the berserkers crashed through the shield wall. The legionnaires offered little resistance as the creatures smashed through into the rear. Men stabbed at the sides as they passed. Some hacked at their vulnerable legs, while others threw themselves onto the ground to get one good thrust into their unarmored underbellies before they were trampled to death.
Two of the remaining berserkers went down in the middle of the legion, but they still killed scores of men before swords and spears were able to hack them to death. The other two made it through the lines. They were bloody and limping but they were alive and they kept going. It would be up to the reserve to deal with them.
The legion had more important things to worry about. They had about thirty seconds to regroup before the front of the charging horde reached them.
But that wasn’t Gerald’s problem. Gerald climbed out of the large crater he created and flew to the nearby berserker writhing on its side. His spear found the break in the armor between neck and torso, and a quick stab and twist killed the beast. With both creatures dead he leapt back into the air just before the horde overran his position. Black arrows soared after him, several hit him, but none made it through his armor or hurt his wings. He did feel a trickle of power dissipate with every hit, but he was still strong and ready to fight. He just needed to find his next target.
Gerald flew back toward the aerial battle overhead. A quick scan showed him the tide was turning. Quantity had a quality all its own, and the airborne regiment was feeling it. Gerald skewered an emaciated creature from behind with bat wings, an overlarge head, and beady black eyes the size of small plates. As the creature gave its final death-wheeze he whipped it around and threw it into the nearest enemy. Both bodies crumbled and fell down toward the sea of black surging forward. With any luck the falling bodies would kill a few more when they hit the ground.
A bloody, winged legionnaire gave him a nod of thanks as he took deep breaths. It was one of the veterans and his spear was slick with black blood.
“Form up on me.” Gerald commanded.
He needed to gather a force large enough to form a wedge and drive back into the heart of the enemy air support. Once there he could unleash his power and turn the tide back in their favor.
That plan quickly evaporated when he heard high-pitched whistling.
“Incoming!” Gerald yelled, diving down and away from the airborne battle.
A few soldiers nearby heard him and followed in his wake, but they were only a handful. The rest were blotted out of existence as artillery rounds started to explode in the middle of the aerial battle. The screams of enemies and friendlies filled the air as blood, ash, and body parts started to rain down on the infantry legions that had just started to clash.
The sound of battle and death was everywhere now, and after so long in Hell, it was the closest thing to home the Infernal Knight had.
Gerald felt the rush fill him, and this time he didn’t hold back. The reservoir of power poured into him. His body grew, his muscles flexed, and he roared his defiance. No one could mistake the challenge. It told Beelzebub’s legions that an Infernal Knight of Seere was on the field of battle. Any who wished to challenge him would be sent back to their master in several tiny boxes.
The world tinged red, and without any thought he dove into the mass of the enemy horde. This time he didn’t flip around. This time he went in head first. He crashed into the ground, pouring power into it with his fist. The ground all around him exploded. It threw hundreds of enemy soldiers into the air. The earth rolling underneath them caused thousands more to stumble and fall. The enemy legions trampled hundreds of their own soldiers to death, while more were crushed under the combined weight of their fallen allies.
Gerald rose from the crater of bodies and laughed. The cruel sound sent the enemy foot-soldiers instinctively scrambling for cover. But that wouldn’t save them. He lunged forward in a spinning circle. His wings and spear cut through flesh and bone like butter, leaving a path of death and destruction for several hundred feet. He came out of his spin, backhanded and killed a humanoid creature with the head of a mosquito, and roared again.
His blood still boiled with the rush of bloodlust, but the red tinge to the world was fading. Killing allowed him to think more clearly now, and that allowed him to remember his mission.
<Enemy champions.> He took a deep breath before pressing his attack.
He was still in the middle of the enemy legions, so he gripped the end of his spear and swung it in a three-hundred and sixty degree circle to give himself more room. The three foot molecularly-honed blade cut a swath through the encircling enemy until it thunked into something with a loud CLANG.
There were very few things in existence that could stop a blade honed by infernal power to such a fine edge. Of those things, there was only one thing from Hell that had any place on this battlefield; Infernal Iron.
Gerald looked up and had to look up some more at the giant whose armored breastplate had stopped his spear. The thing was easily ten feet tall. It had on a chestplate, gauntlets, and a helmet of dark Infernal Iron. Plumes of multi-colored feathers extended from the back of the helmet and down its back. A blood covered beak extended from inside the helmet and above that, concealed in partial darkness, was one big golden eye.
The enemy horde continued to surge forward to attack Seere’s legions, but they split around the two Infernal Knights. Soldiers in Hell might be ready to die for their lords and masters, but they weren’t going to step into the middle of a fight between virtual demigods. They had a semblance of self-preservation.
The enemy knight opened its blood-dripping beak to caw its defiance, and that’s when Gerald struck. He channeled a huge amount of power into his legs and mind. The world slowed to a crawl around him and he lunged forward. A few steps and he was right up in the other knight’s face. The enemy knight reacted, channeling its own store of power to counter Gerald’s sudden charge.
It stepped back but not quick enough. Gerald’s fist came up and hit the other knight in an uppercut right in his unarmored chin. The enemy’s skin resisted as he focused on making himself stronger than Gerald. For a moment it was a war of wills, but Gerald’s surprise attack gave him a heartbeats advantage over the other knight.
With a thought, the armor in Gerald’s gauntlets sprouted into pointed, poison-dripping spikes. The added weight of the Infernal Iron punched through the enemy knights hardening skin and pumped the poor bastard full of black tar.
The challenging caw became a screech of pain as the creatures head was rocked back. It stayed on its feet but not for long. Spider web veins of black started to trace through the knight as the poison spread. Gerald almost felt sorry as the enemy champion tried to rip out its own throat to stop the pain of the spreading poison, but it was too late.
<Stupid animal.> Gerald felt cheated at such an easy victory.
The enemy knight fell to its knees with its hands around its throat, and Gerald saw the light in its golden eye go out as the poison took its toll. The now dead Infernal Knight of Beelzebub collapsed face-first onto the ground.
Gerald quickly stepped forward and placed his hand on the back of the dead creature. He didn’t pay any attention to the enemies still streaming all around him. No one would be brave enough to touch him after he’d just killed their own champion.
Under his breath Gerald spoke a few words. Words in the gutted, tortured language of the angels. While he chanted he felt the power of the dead knight. The power was rapidly fleeing the useless carcass and returning to Beelzebub’s kingdom, so Gerald had to act fast.
A power transfusion was difficult under normal circumstances. It required time, a precise ritual, diagrams, sigils, and sometimes a sacrifice to accomplish correctly. Sitting in the middle of a battlefield was a less than perfect scenario, but he had to make do. Gerald continued to chant the ancient words and the flow of power split in two. The majority of the power still flowed away from the battlefield, but a respectable amount was pulled back into him. He felt the exhaustion of the fight vanish, and the sizable amount of power expended in his short rampage return. He even felt a trickle more power flow into him before the tap ran dry.
<YES!> Gerald couldn’t stop another laugh from escaping his lips.
He flexed his hands and pulled his spear from the dead knight’s side. The sound of metal on metal made him cringe, but it couldn’t upset his good mood.
Gerald was literally the strongest he’d ever been, and he was going to take it out on the thousands of enemy soldiers streaming around him toward General Icilius’ embattled legions.
Gerald almost felt sorry for the poor bastards he was about to slaughter, but “almost” was the key word. No one could feel sorry for anybody in Hell. Feelings like that was a weakness that got you killed.