Jezebel and Brock heard the racket of cars hurling off the interstate, and saw the plume of fire and smoke as something exploded. As far as signs went, you couldn’t be more obvious.
“Now we wait.” Brock leaned back and assumed a relaxed stance.
Jezebel tried to do the same a little distance away, but it was harder for her. The last time she’d faced off against guardians they’d nearly taken her head. She was nervous and scared of the coming fight, and she didn’t want the old god to know. Instead, she focused on shifting into a modified version of her combat form. She didn’t bulk up, and would only do that if the guardians decided they wanted to turn up the heat, but her fingernails became claws, and fangs descended from down past her bottom lip. She did it all in front of Brock in the hopes he might reconsider their decreed fucking.
It wasn’t more than a few minutes before they showed up. Two angels in Divine Steel armor soared across the buildings, and dropped to the ground to get a better look at the one Brock had knocked down. They were insubstantial up until the point they passed the warding, and then they dropped back into reality.
They immediately knew what was happening. “Ambush!” One got the full word out before Brock’s fist smashed into his helmeted hand.
The legionnaires dropped from the nearby rooftops to surround the angels, while Brock and Jezebel moved in for the kill. Brock blocked his angel from drawing its sword by smacking the angel’s hand with his elbow when before the weapon could be fully drawn. Then he lashed out, kicked the angel hard in the side of the leg to send it sprawling.
Jezebel moved in fast. Her claws flew with fury as she aimed for the weak points in the armor. Some still broke when they caught against the Divine Steel, but she fought past the stings of pain, and they quickly regrew. Speed was her best friend, and keeping the angel from drawing his weapon was essential.
She went in high and then ducked low under the angel’s swinging arm. She clawed at the armpit, and got a burst of Divine ichor for her trouble, and a frustrated scream from her enemy. She dug her heel deep in the ground to stop her forward momentum, and then burst back toward the angel to drive her shoulder into its lower back. The armor protected against blades, but blunt force trauma to that critical area of the spine could still do a lot of damage. The angel screamed in agony as it arched backward at a painful angle, and tipped forward. Legionnaires stepped into play and started stabbing with their Infernal Iron blades, while Jezebel tried to get through the crevices to the back of the angel’s knees and his Achilles tendon.
Things were going great for about ten seconds, and then a pulse of power made her stumble backwards. The weaker legionnaires toppled over, and the angel flexed its wings to get back to its feet quickly. In a blur, the sword was out, and had lopped off a legionnaire’s sword arm. The angel pivoted, and the tip of the blade came dangerously close to Jezebel’s gut. She thought she’d avoided it, but then fire exploded from the sword. Light seared her eyes, and she fell backward, her arms flailing as she tried to regain her balance and vision.
Fear seeped into her gut when her vision didn’t immediately resume. She knew how critical seconds could be, and any moment she expected two feet of Divine Steel to cut mercilessly through her body. Instead, a wave of calm, laughter, and joy washed over her. It was so powerful she giggled as her legs gave out from under her and she plopped down onto her ass. All fear, anger, and pain were gone. She felt like she needed to take a trip to the Caribbean, get nice and shit faced, and sleep with a whole resort town’s worth of men. The sensation continued for several blissful minutes before it steadily began to fade. As it faded, her vision returned along with her dread, but what she found was surprising.
Both angels lay dead on the ground. One’s neck looked like it was facing the wrong direction, and the other had its own sword sticking out of its gut. Brock stood over both of them. He had one hand over his arm to stem the flow of a silvery liquid that served as his kind’s blood, but when he saw her looking he smiled.
“I’m a little rusty,” he admitted, as he stepped over the angel with the snapped neck and removed the sword from the other one’s body. He then quickly decapitated both of them.
Jezebel just continued to stare. She knew if she was at full power she could have stood her ground better, but Brock had done much better than she expected. She was surprisingly turned on by all of this.
“What?” he grinned as he held out his hand to help her up. “They didn’t call me the god of the party just because of my good looks.” He smiled to show dimples, and Jezebel got a little weak in the knees. The next second, overwhelming arousal surged through her. It took all of her control not to rip off Brock’s pants right that moment.
“Emotional control and influence.” Brock explained, and Jezebel’s arousal vanished, and was replaced by the same light-headed euphoric feeling that had seized her during the fight. “I’ve always been able to do it. It’s easiest on humans, harder on the Divine and Infernal if I don’t have a good sense of them. If I do, I can make anyone feel what I want them to feel.
Arousal spiked in Jezebel again, and this time she couldn’t resist. She gave Brock a push so he plopped down right in the middle of the destroyed street. With a single yank she tore his pants right off, and started to give him the best blowjob of his life.
The Divine didn’t respond right away to the fire. Jeb and Gaius were all tensed and ready to go, only to have to wait a full ten minutes before the sentries Gaius posted spotted the angels passing through the wards they’d established. The three angels immediately drew their swords and approached on high alert.
Gaius had different contingencies for different scenarios, and three guardians called for him to pull out all the stops. He’d hoped he’d be able to save the ace up his sleeve for later, but there wouldn’t be a later if he didn’t take these three out now.
“Fire!” His command initiated the ambush, and was immediately met by the loud roar of a .50 caliber machine gun they’d stolen from the military when first invading the city.
Two of the legionnaires had the weapon set up on a rooftop overlooking the ambush site, and they let it rip. The first few rounds went wide, so the gunners needed to correct their aim. One of the three angels took the opportunity to leap into the air and charge the position. When the angel was about halfway there, the gunners got on target, and started hammering the angel. The angel looked like it was going to fly right through it, which his two cohorts expected, until the flying angel gave a sudden jerk. More rounds flew in to hit the discombobulated angel. Blood started to drop from the angel as it struggled to push forward, and ultimately failed. Eventually, a bullet smashed through the angel’s helmet, into its brain, and the thing fell dead to the ground.
“I can’t believe that worked.” Jeb grinned from his position behind Gaius as he shifted into his combat form, and surged forward as a swirling mist. Gaius drew his trusted gladius and followed.
The machine gun had been designed to be a distraction and keep the enemy off balance during the fight. Instead of being armed with puny, human bullets, Gaius had melted down some of the legionnaires Infernal Iron armor, and cast bullets with it. Their ammunition was extremely limited, but now Gaius knew he could take down a guardian with his new weapon system. Unfortunately, the enemy came to the same conclusion.
A bright beam of white light shot from one of the two remaining angels. The angel didn’t try to hit the gun itself. It had pulled back from the edge of the roof when it needed to reload. Instead, the beam cut through the building a floor lower, and at an angle. Gaius didn’t know if the gunners were hit, but the entire roof collapsed along with the top floor. If they were alive, it would be a minute before they got back in the fight.
Gaius quickly closed the gap to the nearest angel and let fly with a combination of slashes and trusts. The angel backpedaled to gain distance and take advantage of his larger sword’s reach, but Gaius didn’t let him. He pressed the attack, until they were passed where Jeb and the other angel were fully engaged.
The Divine Steel blade passed through the mist of Jeb’s combat form. He didn’t feel the pain of the blow then, but he would when he resumed his normal form. He might be mist now, but it all coalesced back into his body. The damage would be muted the longer he stayed in combat form before reverting to normal form, and he had no idea what would be damaged when he finally did change back.
None of that really matted at the moment as his Infernal Iron sword sang through the air to be parried by the angel’s Divine Steel.
Jeb’s head remained, as well as the arm holding his sword, as he pressed his attack, but the angel wasn’t giving ground. They locked swords and screamed at one another. Jeb took the opportunity to manifest one of his legs from the mist to lash out at the angel’s knee. The angel saw it coming, and bent with the force of the kick to avoid serious damage. He also used his superior strength to yank the swords free. Jeb saw the white glow of an energy attack a second early and threw himself to the side. Combat form or not, the white beam looked like it would do some serious damage, and it did to nearby architecture. A fire was already blazing behind them, and another one was triggered by that blast of energy, but Jeb didn’t have time to think about that.
The angel came in with a powerful overhead chop, which would have given Jeb a perfect opportunity to stick something in the angel’s gut if he wasn’t still flat on his back. He got his own sword up to block, and rolled toward his sword’s pommel side, because he knew there was no way he was strong enough to hold over that powerful attack. He was right. He blocked the attack, but his own sword was smashed downward at an angle to cut into the ground. Jeb looked up to where the Divine Steel blade had cleaved halfway through his own sword, and was sinking centimeter by centimeter as the angel pushed harder. A few more seconds, and the angel’s blade was going to cut horizontally through Jeb’s face.
With few other options, Jeb manifested a leg and lashed out. The attack caught the angel right in the divine nut sack with a dull clang. The armor absorbed most of the blow, but balls were balls, and the angel’s face screwed up with pain as he stumbled back. Jeb yanked the two swords right out of the angel’s hand. His combat form swarmed forward toward the distracted angel, now with both swords, and began to hack away. It wasn’t pretty, but Jeb cut the guardian down to size until it turned tail and retreated.
“Don’t let him…!” the resounding boom of the machine gun’s surviving gunners answered Jeb’s call. Several rounds struck the already injured angel. It only made it a few hundred feet before bullets tore through its wings and sent it plummeting back to the ground.
“Go get him!” Gaius huffed. The Infernal general was injured with several deep and shallow lacerations to his body, but the guardian lay dead at his feet. “Find the body and make sure he’s dead.” Gaius struggled to his feet, and limped away from the burning building.
They’d won, but they had no idea how everyone else was faring.
Gerry watched as Jezebel and Brock sprang the first ambush. Unbeknownst to the two other teams, he’d etched some runes into nearby buildings to give him a bird’s eye view of those fights. He also wanted to get a sense of Brock’s power and fighting ability. The old god had been on house arrest for centuries, and Gerry assumed he’d be a little rusty.
At the same time, he kept track of his surroundings. He could sense the angels heading in his direction by the parting of the æther, but he didn’t retreat or hide. He stayed right where he was, in the middle of the street, just in front of the growing inferno that was going to engulf a section of the I-77 and possible the western edge of the city if it wasn’t controlled.
His welcoming committee arrived before Gaius and Jeb were able to initiate their ambush, but Gerry got to see a little of how Brock fought, and he liked what he saw. Four angels landed nearby. Gerry sensed three were guardians, but the fourth was something new. He was something more powerful.
“Surrender,” was how the strongest angel started the conversation. “If you do, we will show mercy.”
“What…me?” Gerry took on a bewildered expression. “I was just about to call for help? The bridge just melted, and cars started to fall off it.”
“I see through your deception, foul creature. You are…” the angel seemed to half trouble classifying Gerry. “A blasphemy, half-bred, insult to the Divine.”
“Don’t sugar coat it for the sake of my feelings.” Gerry dropped the act and smiled.
“Surrender,” the angel repeated.
“Nah,” Gerry answered, so the angels began to spread out. Whatever Gerry thought about them, they weren’t idiots. They weren’t going to come at him in a single file line to take him on one at a time. They were going to hit him from multiple sides at once to overwhelm him.
Gerry didn’t give them the opportunity. He snapped his fingers and a powerful wave of æther shot forward. It caught one of the guardians and his disintegrated into ash. To the angels’ credit, they didn’t hesitate. The three remaining one’s charged, but Gerry was ready for them. He’d prepped the area just for this. One guardian only got within fifteen feet of Gerry before he sunk waist deep into the concrete. The ward Gerry created flared as it expended energy, but it would hold for a few moments. A second ward flared to life and the second guardian wobbled on his feet as all of his senses were simultaneously overstimulated.
The final, more powerful angel, spotted the ward, and brought a flaming sword down on it. It sparked and exploded. The fire that was stored, and supposed to fire a directional blast at the enemy, expanded in a 360 degree circle. The blast didn’t hurt the angel like intended, but it did blind him for a second. Gerry took full advantage of that time.
He sprang toward the discombobulated angel and drove his fist into its armored face. He made sure to wrap his hand in æther like a boxing glove before he made contact. Even then it still hurt, but the effect was immediate. The armor held for the most part, but a shallow fist-shaped dent was left. The kinetic energy was another matter. The angel’s head snapped back as it was picked off its feet, and topped backward. He didn’t get back up, but Gerry was sure he wasn’t dead, and he didn’t have time to follow up.
The other angel came in high with a horizontal swing of his sword. Gerry went low, pivoted, and swept the angel’s legs out from under him. It would have been more effective if the angel didn’t have wings, because it arrested its fall, and followed up with a second attempt to cut Gerry down to size. Gerry rolled away and drew his own Divine Steel blade. Gerry didn’t waste time circling his opponent. He attacked quickly to drive the angel back and get in a better position. The angel that was sunk in the ground was starting to fight free. The ward flared brightly as the last of its energy was expended, and the asphalt road started to crack under the pressure.
Short on time, Gerry summoned the same attack he’d used to melt the interstate, and unleashed it on the strongest angel. Unlike the bridge, the angel’s armor held, but he was forced to backpedal and gain his footing to resist the ætherial blast. Gerry used the opportunity to approach the trapped angel, and kick him in the head like he was punting a football. The angel’s neck audibly cracked as it bent more than ninety degrees. If the angel wasn’t dead, it would take him a minute to heal. That left Gerry to completely focus on the remaining angel.
Gerry’s energy attack ceased, and he took stock of his ætherial deposits. He’d used about a third of his stored energy making the wards and executing the various attacks, so he was still good to go, but the angel didn’t know that. Gerry faked a stumble, and breathed heavily.
“You’re strong.” The angel’s armor had a black streak across it, that wouldn’t come out no matter how hard he polished it. “But everything has limits.” He advanced, confident, but still warry. Only a fool rushed into battle after what they’d seen Gerry do.
Gerry met the angel blow for blow. Asphalt cracked and loose bricks fell as the shockwaves of their strikes echoed through the area. People were starting to congregate in the distance down the road. By now, the humans knew the signs of battle, but their curiosity got the better of them. They still kept a safe distance.
Gerry was patient and waited for his moment. He steadily fell back under the angel’s onslaught, and even took a few unexpected wounds for his trouble. The angel was strong, but Gerry knew he was stronger. He waited for the opening, and it came when the angel sacrificed his footing for a killing below. Gerry dodged, struck, and the angel’s sword arm from the elbow down flopped to the ground.
The angel roared with pain and jumped into the air with a flap of its powerful wings, but Gerry was faster. He jumped up, and grabbed the angel by the ankle. The angel kicked in desperation, but Gerry help on firm as he dragged it the ten feet back to the ground. Then, with a surge of strength, he smashed the angel into the ground, turned, and did it on the opposite side, and again…and again…and again.
The angel’s bones snapped under the pressure. His brain rattled against his skull, which rattled against his helmet. After a dozen slams, the angel was barely conscious, and Gerry gave one final blow into one of the deep holes those slams had created in the earth.
The angel groaned and tried to move, as Gerry swept up the angel’s own sword and hoped down into the hole. The angel had fought bravely, so Gerry didn’t draw it out. He simply kicked the angel’s helmet off, put the two swords on either side of his neck, and cleanly chopped his head off. He felt the explosion of the angel’s essence escaping to heaven, and he let it go. He wasn’t prepared to take it. Instead, he jumped out of the hole, and tossed the head in the direction of the gathered humans. No words needed to be exchanged. The message was clear. Gerry was the strongest.
Before he left, Gerry plunged his swords through the hearts of the remaining angels and cut off their heads to ensure they were dead. When the last head was removed from an angel’s shoulders, Gerry felt the æther shift. In most places there was a balance as Divine and Infernal fought for supremacy. Now, Charlotte had no Divine defenders. For now, Gerry owned the city, and he could feel its power gathering to serve him for however long he could claim it.