Gerry watched Ava rocket into the air and dart toward Lucifer. He hated the relief that spread through him. As a warrior he was supposed to rise to the occasion, but it was clear that his survival depended on him being half a heartbeat ahead of the Dominion, and he’d barely accomplished that. Getting a breather from the fight was a welcome break.
A short-lived break.
A pressure wave washed over him without effect. He was still insubstantial, so he barely noticed it, but he did notice the gymnasium suffer a crushing blow. It was quickly followed by Satan and Michael leaving the battlefield. Gerry was fine with that. The Divine commander was way out of his league. His eyes swept the field and focused on his next target. He didn’t have wings like the angels, but he was big and strong. He bent his legs in a textbook squat and pushed off with tremendous force into a high arc. He soared through the air like an artillery shell.
He rose up to twice the height of the waring Lords before he reached the apex of his jump and began to plummet back to Earth. He got a good view of the action, and it wasn’t great. Lono was lying in a dismembered heap off to his right. Ava’s attack had greatly weekend him, and her soldiers had finished the job. Jeb was in dire straits. His Infernal form was battling two guardians and their tandem attack was getting through his defenses and wearing him down. Jezebel was missing a hand and had deep lacerations across her naked chest.
He ignored them all as he focused on his target.
Emmanuel and Lucian fought with vicious skill. The Dominion of Charleston swung his curved saber and barely missed spilling Lucian’s guts all over the ground. The Dux’s retreat left him vulnerable to a follow-up punch from a gauntleted fist. Gerry heard something snap in the other Dux from a hundred feet in the air as Lucian’s Infernal form stumbled drunkenly. He was clearly stunned, and Emmanuel moved in for the kill. He would have succeeded if Gerry hadn’t come plummeting out of the night like a falling star.
The Dominion was monitoring the æther around him, so he felt Gerry coming. He literally had eyes in the back of his head. He rotated and gave a powerful slash of his blade. Gerry barely avoided it by bringing his knees up into a tucked position and summersaulting in the air. The blade passed harmlessly several feet below him, and it set him up to land ass first.
He put a burst of power into his version of an Infernal cannonball.
The earth roiled beneath the Dominion’s insubstantial feet as ground exploded around him. The impact was enough to shatter the spell and allow Gerry to interact with the world again. That saved his life, because he was too slow to recover. Emmanuel’s blade passed cleanly through his neck as Gerry straightened out of the giant crater.
“For the love of…” Emmanuel growled before he rolled away. Lucian leapt into the previously occupied space where his claws stabbed harmlessly into the ground.
Now Emmanuel had a choice: attack Gerry and keep him from inflicting damage on the human world, or keep fighting Lucian. The Dominion made the decision immediately. He came at Gerry. The æther shimmered and made him substantial. Gerry brought his own blade up over his head to block the blow, and felt the full brunt of Divine strength plow into him. The Dominion’s downward stroke smacked into Gerry’s own Divine Steel blade, forced it back, and into Gerry’s own armored shoulder.
“AHHHHHHH!” Gerry roared in pain and the powerful angel pressed the attack and forced the blade deeper into Gerry’s body.
“Go back to Hell, spawn of Seere!” Emmanuel spat.
Gerry was all for keeping a few tricks up his sleeve in case of an emergency, but now wasn’t the time to hold back. He brought his other hand up and pointed it right at Emmanuel’s face – except it wasn’t a hand anymore. A thick barrel sat where the hand used to be with the glowing blue energy of Gerry’s æther gathering within it. Emmanuel might have been able to get out of the way but he was throwing all of his weight forward into killing Gerry with his own sword. He’d sacrificed his footing for a killing blow, and Gerry made him pay.
A blast of Infernal æther concentrated into a short beam of energy erupted from Gerry’s hand cannon and struck Emmanuel in the neck and face. The angel’s armor protected him from the brunt of the blast, but it was enough to stun him. Gerry pulled back and delivered a resounding kick to his chest. The kick threw Emmanuel out of the crater they were battling in. Gerry tripped over the far end as he stumbled backward from the strike and ended up landing on his ass. His sword was still partially imbedded in his body and he could feel the æther inside of him leaking out of the wound.
Gerry looked up and saw the Dominion stalking around the crater with his sword held in front of him ready to finish the job. He made it halfway to Gerry before Lucian jumped on his back, and this time he didn’t faze right through the angel. He landed like a predator. Hands and arms wrapped around the angel’s throat in a headlock. Legs wrapped around the angel’s waist like a python while his jagged teeth started to rip into the angel’s armored shoulder.
Emmanuel howled in pain and tried to beat his wings to gain altitude. Lucian adjusted his full body lock and clamped down on one of the wings. Together, the two combatants tumbled to the ground. They landed in a heap but neither let up as they grappled for position.
Both Lucian and Emanuel had lost their swords and were fighting with their hands, feet, and teeth. Emmanuel tried to gouge out the Infernal Dux’s eyes to get him to release the headlock. He couldn’t reach them, but he was able to grab a hold of Lucian’s elongated snout. The angel squeezed with all his might and Gerry heard Lucian’s nose and jaw break from the pressure. He let out a guttural wail, but he didn’t let go.
Gerry saw his opportunity and took it. He leapt to his feet, braced himself, and yanked his sword from his shoulder. He couldn’t stop from screaming when æther and strength poured out of him before he was able to staunch the flow. His combat form suffered by shrinking a few feet and a wave of exhaustion made him stumble, but he saw an answer to all his problems up ahead.
Emmanuel was striking Lucian repeatedly with his elbows. It was the only way he could inflict any damage on the rear naked chokehold Lucian had him in. Gerry couldn’t see the fear on the angel’s face when he saw Gerry sprinting toward them with his sword at the ready, but he did see his strikes falter. Lucian used the opportunity to tighten his grip, which sealed both their fates.
Gerry jumped the last twenty feet with the sword raised high over his head and the blade pointed down. Lucian didn’t see it coming, but Emmanuel struggled to the very end. With the amount of force generated with Gerry’s strength, the leap, and the masterfully crafted Divine Steel Blade the Dominion’s armor didn’t stand a chance. Gerry would have loved to pierce the angel’s heart, but the blade ended up coming down in the area of his upper stomach. The sword punched through the front of the armor, through Emmanuel, through the back of the armor and into Lucian.
Both combatants roared as pain seized control of them, and Gerry made it even worse by twisting the blade and torqueing it back and forth. It didn’t take long after that. To Emmanuel’s credit, Lucian died first. The Dux of Charleston exhaled his last breath and an explosion of æther erupted outward from him. Gerry drank in as much as he could to heal himself, but without preparation he didn’t get more than a fraction. It was still enough to bring him back to one hundred percent and then some.
Emmanuel’s expiration wasn’t any different. Despite their opposite sides and centuries of hatred for each other, there wasn’t any difference between how the Dominion and Dux of Charleston perished. Another explosion of æther announced Emmanuel’s death, and Gerry tried to drink in any of that æther that he could. It filled him with energy and something else. He couldn’t describe it, but there was something there that hadn’t been present before.
He didn’t give it much thought as he yanked his sword out of the two dead ætherial beings. He had other things to worry about.
In the heartbeat between disengaging Gerry and turning her attention on Lucifer, Ava focused on Uriel. What she saw reaffirmed her faith in her leadership. The archangel who commanded her was fighting two Infernal Lords by herself. This was the stuff legends were made of.
Ava beat her wings fanatically to come to her commander’s aid. Uriel parried a thrust of Seere’s sword, dodged a blast from Lucifer, and whipped around to bring the butt of her spear crashing into Seere’s head. The Great Dissenter bellowed in pain as he crashed into the ground, and it would have been an opportunity for Uriel to strike a devastating blow, but multiple blasts from The Morning Star drove her back. Seere recovered quickly and resumed his attack.
Ava knew what she had to do. The last exchange showed her the best course of action. Even injured, Uriel was a better fighter than Seere. All she needed to do was draw Lucifer’s attention for a moment so Uriel could strike a crippling blow. That would even the odds, and both angels could turn their full attention on the Prince of Lies.
A micro-correction with her wings had her on a new course and barreling toward Lucifer. She didn’t expect to catch a former member of the Seraphim Guard unprepared, but she was willing to take any luck her Father provided.
All of it happened so fast Ava didn’t have time to react. Another energy blast erupted from Lucifer’s helmet and speared through reality toward Seere and Uriel. The beam was almost to the battling giants when it stopped. The brilliant strand of energy hovered in the air for a fraction of a second before Lucifer whipped his head around toward Ava. The beam followed its master’s eye line, snapped toward Ava…and went right through her. She, in turn, continued rocketing forward and flew right through Lucifer’s shoulder and halfway to Seere and Uriel before stopping.
<No.> There was nothing but the glow of energy behind the Infernal Lord’s visor, but she could have sworn he was smiling.
Now she had a choice to make. She could abandon Lucifer to wreak havoc and assist Uriel, or she could transcend back to the physical plain and press her attack. She hung suspended in the air for several seconds staring down at Lucifer who seemed content to wait for her to make her decision.
Death made the decision for her.
She heard the ætherial scream of Emmanuel as he died and felt the explosion of his æther out into the world. She sensed most of his essence escape to Heaven and another’s descend into Hell.
<He went out like a warrior.> She took comfort in that small fact. It was how he would have wanted to die. <It was how Maria would have wanted to die.>
Her fleeting thought for her fellow Dominion and lost daughter cost her the initiative. Lucifer launched another assault on Uriel, which confirmed Ava’s final fears. The spell containing the Infernals had finally failed. She didn’t know if it was the release of æther from Emmanuel’s death, or the cost of battle, but either way there was no way to contain the Infernals now.
“Ava,” Uriel gasped as she fought off another relentless attack by Seere and Lucifer. Everyone was substantial now, and the Infernals were like sharks smelling blood in the water. “Fall back and regroup!” She ducked under Seere’s blade and lashed out with her fist.
The Great Dissenter dodged the punch, grabbed her arm, and tossed her like a sack of potatoes. Uriel twisted in the air, flapped her wings to right herself, and took a full blast from Lucifer in the chest. Her armor buckled, and the smell of burning flesh filled the air as the archangel was blasted backwards. Now that she was substantial, her fall was lethal.
Like many schools, the location where Armageddon began was in a residential area. So far, the damage had been localized to the school’s property, but that all changed when Uriel fell from the sky like a two-hundred-and-fifty-foot meteor. She crashed into a housing development back first and flattened half a dozen houses. Ava felt the souls of those humans being snuffed out by the impact. Uriel didn’t stop there. She skidded across the neighborhood like a car hitting the breaks. A dozen more houses crumbled and nearly fifty more humans died before she came to a stop. Her spear and orb carved up another few dwellings as she instinctually kept hold of her weapon, and anything the orb touched went up in flames.
By the time Uriel came to a stop every home in the neighborhood was either destroyed or burning to the ground, and it was only going to get worse. Seere leapt to seize the advantage of having his opponent on their back. He landed short of Uriel’s prone form, but the impact shook nearby houses right off of their foundations.
More people died, and Uriel was slow to shake off the powerful blast. Her chest was smoldering and black where Lucifer had breached her armor, and golden ichor was dripping from other wounds she’d sustained. Seere moved with a purpose to end the battle. He towered over her, raised his broadsword for the killing stroke, and that’s when Ava hit him. She barreled into him like a missile and hit him center of mass between his wing joint and hip.
Pain tore through her as her body folded under the impact. One of the first things she remembered being taught when she learned to fly was to never fly through something unless you knew how tough it was. Going insubstantial was always a better option.
She had no idea how tough Seere was until she hit him, and she instantly regretted it, but she completed her mission. Seere’s sword went wide and dug into the earth to the side of Uriel’s head and the Infernal Lord stumbled to the side. It gave Uriel enough time to come to her senses. Her long leg lashed out and caught the Infernal in the side of the knee. The crunch of bone echoed through the destroyed suburban neighborhood as his stumble turned into a fall and he involuntarily released his sword.
With their positions reversed Uriel moved in to finish the fight. Light flashed as Lucifer did what he’d always done and prevented Uriel from capitalizing on Seere’s weakness. The archangel snarled her defiance as she brought her orb up to deflect the blasts and backed away from Seere. There wasn’t anything she could do with Lucifer keeping her at bay, but Ava was free to do as she wished. Lucifer could only target one person at a time and if her targeted Ava, Uriel would spring into action. Both angels’ eyes met in a flash of understanding and they set their plan into motion. Uriel started to circle them. She stayed within range to strike at a moment’s notice, but she kept Lucifer’s attention focused on her. Ava would have the honor of finishing it.
That didn’t solve the problem of the weapon. Ava had lost her sword earlier in the battle, and she wouldn’t be able to pummel the Infernal lord in his combat form, so she rushed to the only weapon in view.
Seere was struggling to get to his feet. Uriel’s kick to the leg must have done more damage than Ava thought, so he was more concerned about finding something to help himself up with than what Ava was doing. Seere’s giant broadsword was nearly twice as tall as she was, but like all weapons of Divine Steel it conformed itself to its wielder’s will. The hundred-foot blade shrunk to fifty feet – still as tall as Ava – but she needed the power to do the job.
She held the weapon like a knight holding a lance and charged. She beat her wings like her life depended on it and she threw everything she had behind the attack. All she needed was a split second. A split second where Seere was more concerned with his pain then what was going on around him. The slight lapse in situational awareness would be the end of the Great Dissenter.
She was almost there when blue light washed over her. It was pure power focused into a beam of energy. It wasn’t Lucifer, or Uriel would have swept in for the kill, but that didn’t matter. Pain overwhelmed Ava as her skin crackled and burned. Her armor held but the pain and kinetic force of the blast were enough to throw her off course.
It was enough for her to miss her mark.
Instead of piercing Seere’s heart with his own sword, the blade went high and to the left. It impacted, cut through his armor, and into his flesh just below his shoulder.
Seere’s guttural scream of agony washed over Ava with the force of righteous retribution. This man had helped drive the dagger into her daughter’s heart. He’d helped kill her youngest child, and exacting her pound of flesh felt glorious.
She put all of her fifty-foot self into driving that blade deeper into the Infernal Lord’s body, and she succeeded for about two seconds before a second blast of blue light – weaker than the first – but still strong enough to knock her off of Seere’s back. The sword remained in his back like a flag planted in him saying, “Ava was here”. She smiled at the sight, picked herself up off the ground, and turned to face her attacker. She wanted to finish the Infernal Lord off, but someone stood between her and that goal, so she’d just have to kill him too.
Gerry slumped to the ground. His arms felt heavy and his vision swam as dizziness washed over him. He’d emptied his well of power into those final two blasts. All that remained was the power he’d siphoned from Emmanuel and Lucian’s deaths. His demesne responded to his need and began to refill the void inside himself.
He was visibly exhausted. The bright blue fire the normally coursed through the crevices in his armor was a subdued glow now. He’d shrunk to twenty feet – barely better than a guardian – as he expended his power to save his Lord. It was worth it though. If his Lord had died, Gerry would have died as well. At least that’s what he’d been told.
It had been almost three millennia since an Infernal Lord had died. It had been during the never ending wars of Hell. Gerry heard the tale from General Icilius who heard it from his commander, who’d heard it from his commander, and so on and so forth back through the oral tradition of the Legion. The legend changed depending on who told the tale, but it never ended well for that Lord’s servants. From what Icilius said, Gerry got the impression that anyone with a direct link would die when their Lord died. In his current state, that fit Gerry to a T. Other servants like Legion members, administrators, and whores in that Lord’s kingdom wouldn’t perish, but they would probably prefer death.
It would be a free-for-all for every other Lord of Hell to conquer that dead Lord’s lands, and that included all of his people. Gerry could imagine the pain and suffering the servants of Prince Seere would have to endure if the beasts of Beelzebub or patchwork soldiers of Cain invaded through the mountain passes or sortied across the Styx. It would be mayhem, death, and destruction for everything Gerry had defended for over two hundred years.
Some losses would have been acceptable if Gerry would live through the event, but since he wouldn’t, allowing Seere to die was not an option. Seere needed to live at all costs.
Gerry had fallen to his knees after the second blast zapped the strength from him, so he hauled himself back to his feet. He was a little unsteady, but he was ready to face his opponent.
Ava picked herself up off the ground. She was hurt. Gerry could see the etches of pain on her face. She was favoring her side, so he guessed at least a few broken bones and maybe a dislocated shoulder. His energy blast had done some damage to her right wing as well. It hung at a weird angle and shuddered every time she tried to straighten it. For once they were on a level playing field…for now.
Ava was shrinking to speed along her recovery. She was still twice the size of Gerry, but this was as good as it was going to get. Gerry summoned what power he had collected and felt it reinforce his weary combat form. It felt like a hit of crack as it spread through him, his senses became clear, his sense of his surroundings expanded, and he felt the comforting grip of his Divine Steel blade beneath his fingers. Ava had no blade, but she didn’t shy away from him. Her eyes were locked with his as he cautiously approached.
They circled each other less than three hundred feet from the body of Prince Seere. He was doing his best to remove the blade from his shoulder, but the angle was wrong. He couldn’t reach it.
“Do you think I’m extraordinary now?” Ava closed the distance between them by tightening the circle.
Gerry didn’t answer. He needed to concentrate. He tracked her body with the æther. He felt her every movement, every twitch of her muscles, and every breath of air she took. They both stopped circling as the tension ratcheted up. She was on the tips of her toes and her whole body was loose and ready to react. Gerry’s was tense and ready to strike. It felt like the whole universe froze for just a heartbeat before he lashed out.
An overhead chop would have cleaved the Dominion in two from the navel down, but she nimbly sidestepped the blow. Gerry expected it and followed up with a horizontal slash that would have spilled her intestines at his Lord’s feet. She backpedaled and Gerry pressed the attack. A downward diagonal cut forced her to take a step back with one foot while he thrust at her other leg. She jumped back to avoid the stab and countered with her good wing.
The blow caught him right on the jaw and his world exploded. He felt unconsciousness creeping up on him as he spun from the force of the stronger Dominion’s hit, but he fought it back. He rotated his core and slashed behind himself to avoid her taking advantage of his momentarily stunned state.
The sword made contact with something hard and pushed against it for a second before cutting through. Ava’s scream indicated he’d struck home, and as he turned to bring her back into his wavering vision a fountain of golden angelic ichor splashed across his face. His haphazard blow had lopped off the Dominion’s arm below the elbow and it was fountaining the angel’s essence.
The angel’s ichor wasn’t the only think leaking from the woman. His situational awareness sensed the æther flooding out of her, and he jumped on it with desperation. He sucked up anything he could like a drowning man gasping for air. It only lasted for a few seconds before she staunched the physical and metaphysical bleeding, but it was enough for Gerry to feel Divine æther enter his body and nestle into a part of his being where he’d stored Emmanuel’s æther after his death. The two æthers melded together and created something totally new. Like before, it was a foreign but comforting sensation, and it gave him hope.
Hope was a dangerous thing to have, and Ava proved that by lashing out. The kick was so fast and powerful he didn’t see it coming. It struck the side of his head, picked him off his feet, and threw him into the burning wreckage of one of the houses. He landed head first, felt the Infernal Iron of his weakened body crumble, and lost all sensation in his extremities. He didn’t need to feel it to know he’d lost his sword.
Aether flooded into his injuries. It repaired the sizeable dent in his skull and straightened his neck from its awkward angle, and returned feeling to parts of his body that had gone numb from the strike. It all happened in a matter of seconds, but when he struggled to his feet Ava had his sword in her hand. The blade grew and ignited with Divine fire.
“You are still extraordinary,” he finally answered the question as he saw death advancing against him.
He’d been in enough battles to know when he was facing a superior foe, and he’d died enough times to know the feeling that was creeping through him. He just hoped he’d bought his Lord enough time.
Heavy footsteps brought his defeatist thoughts to a screeching halt.
Light flashed overhead and Lucifer pushed forward into the fray. Uriel fired back with her orb, but he dodged with such quickness it seemed like he disappeared and reappeared in a second location in the blink of an eye. Before either Ava or Gerry could react, Lucifer was standing in their midst.
Lucifer fired blast after blast and drove Uriel back. The injured archangel was barely keeping up with his relentless assault. Blasts were getting past her guard, bashing in her armor and scorching her flesh. Despite her valiant effort, Uriel was going to lose this fight.
One blast made her stagger and she nearly dropped her spear. Lucifer pressed the offensive and poured a continuous beam into her helmet. He heard her screams as the Divine Steel melted and fused with her flesh. Out of sheer will she kept ahold of her weapon and brought the orb in front of his beam, but it was too late. The damage was already done. Lucifer advanced to finish the job, but she launched herself into the air. He fired again, aiming for her wings, but she spun in the air and his shot went wide. Her instincts saved her. One minute she was two hundred and fifty feet tall, the next she was less than six, and on the third she vanished.
<Retreat was wise, sister. We will meet again.> The war had just begun, and he had no doubt they would cross paths on future battlefields.
He walked forward, crushing a human who had survived Uriel’s destruction of the neighborhood like a bug beneath his foot. He scanned the area for more threats. Seere was down with a sword protruding from his back. His Dux was engaging and failing to defeat Charlotte’s Dominion, and there were a handful of guardians still skirmishing with other lesser Infernals on the periphery.
“Brother,” Lucifer walked over to Seere, but still kept an eye on the Dominion.
“Brother.” Seere wheezed. “Help get the blade out.” He pointed with his thumb over his shoulder at the sword.
“Stabbed in the back with your own blade,” Lucifer shook his head. “Look at you.”
“What?” Seer had managed to get up onto his hands and knees.
Lucifer placed his armored foot in the center of Seere’s back and shoved him back to the ground.
“We had a deal, Lucifer,” Seere coughed as he pulled his back out of the ground.
“We did,” Lucifer replied, “and it has been honored. We broke the seal and each of us took from that what we agreed upon.” Light began to build behind his visor.
“This is madness!” Seere sneered up at his older brother. “We’re on the eve of something momentous. The border between Hell and Eden is crumbling. Soon our armies will pour into this realm and take it by force. We will rewrite the rule of the æther, consolidate our forces, gather our strength, and then march against Father.”
“I will march against Father,” Lucifer corrected as he grabbed the hilt of the sword and twisted the blade.
Seere screamed as flesh ripped and Divine Steel cut into more vital organs.
“You will be remembered, Brother. As the Great Dissenter you stood up to Father with me and highlighted the disparity between us and them. You showed how he treated his creations better than his own children. I will always be grateful that you stood with me on that day, but that’s what your best at…standing. You’ve never been a great warrior. You are a thinker and an administrator. You were a Throne for a reason. What is coming next is best left to minds like my own.”
“I can work for you,” desperation crept into Seere’s voice.
“No,” Lucifer shook his head sadly. “I don’t need you brains, I need your power. Satan will drag us all down the wrong path if there is not someone there as a counterweight, and to be that counterweight I need to be stronger.”
With a sweeping gesture runes on Lucifer’s armor glowed to life.
“Brother, please,” Seere pleaded.
“I really am sorry, Brother.” Lucifer pushed on the blade until it went all the way through Seere and exploded out his breastplate.
The Great Dissenter’s screams shook the earth and flattened trees and homes like a nuclear shockwave. In one fluid movement Lucifer pulled the blade from Seere’s back. As he raised it above his head it enlarged to over a hundred feet long while the blade itself grew thicker and sharper.
“I will miss you.” With a THUNK Lucifer beheaded Seere and soaked up the former Infernal Lord’s power.
His body swelled even more and he grew larger as more æther than Lucifer had ever held in his life poured into him. The light in his helmet grew brighter, and the Morning Star laughed as he spread his wings and took to the air with a blast that flattened what was left of the several square miles around the high school.
Gerry felt like the rug had been pulled out from under him. On top of that, it also felt like a yellow school bus filled with rambunctious, overweight Sumo wrestlers backed over his head, put the bus in drive, and then drove back over him for good measure. It felt like someone had reached inside his chest and ripped out his heart, and then kicked him in the balls repeatedly.
His whole world came crashing down when Seere’s head was removed from his body. He felt Lucifer’s laughter in his bones as the Infernal Lord leapt into the air and vanished in the opposite direction of Michael and Satan. Gerry didn’t know where he was going, and he didn’t care. It was over, done, kaputz.
Gerry had felt something snap when Seere died and Lucifer consumed his æther. It was like gravity had ceased to exist. Everything Gerry had done, his afterlife purpose in this universe, was to fulfill the will of his Lord. It was an incredibly freeing feeling for a moment, but the weightlessness was crippling. He was a dinghy in the middle of a hurricane, and he could see the sea rising up to swallow him whole.
Seere’s body was already beginning to disintegrate. He was deflating like a balloon while his form flaked away like ash in the wind. It was for the best. Gerry didn’t want anyone to see the once mighty Lord like this. Not that it really mattered. No one was going to see Gerry again.
That was what hurt most about it all. Gerry knew he was going to die. He knew Ava was going to defeat him, but when Lucifer arrived he let hope in. The emotion, one of the most powerful and terrible in this universe, seeped into his mind. He thought, just for a moment, that everything was going to be ok. Images flashed through his mind of him leading a great force to battle against the humans and the Divine. He imagined himself scaling the Pearly Gates and throwing angels from the ramparts of Heaven. He imagined himself in God’s throne room standing at Seere’s right hand as he distributed true justice to the realms.
Now, all of that was gone, and he was left with Ava. The Dominion looked just as surprised as him, but it wasn’t any consolation.
“Infernals.” She shook her head and moved. Suddenly,she was standing within striking distance.
The link between him and Seere being severed was taking its toll. He was already beginning to wither, and he wasn’t able to follow her movements anymore.
“Just do it.” He sank to his knees and lowered his head to present a target. If he was going to die, he was going to die quickly like his Lord.
He heard her footsteps as she approached but he didn’t dare look. He felt her hand on his head as she jerked it back and made eye contact. Angelic met Infernal and Gerry half-heartedly wished they could have continued to play the cosmic game with each other. She was a worthy opponent.
It was his last thought before she rammed her sword hilt-deep into his chest. His severed heart, shattered ribs, and shredded lungs exploded out of his back like he’d been hit by an artillery shell. He gasped and lurched forward into her arms. His Infernal Iron form began to crack and crumble revealing more and more of the swirling æther within him. It leaked out of him like a waterfall. He instinctively tried to repair himself, but it was like trying to plug Niagara Falls with a wine-bottle cork.
He was dying. This was the end.
The pain was brief but extreme as his mind cut the connection with his body. He was left feeling nothing as the darkness started to creep in on the periphery of his vision. Again, his instincts fought back, but there was no stopping the inevitable.
“What happens next?” he gurgled with the last bit of oxygen he had left.
He’d died as a human, and that sucked, but there was something that came next. He’d died dozens of times in the Legion, but reincarnation was usually on the table, so death didn’t worry him. He’d even shed his human soul and embraced the existence of an ætherial being before becoming a Dux. That transformation had hurt more than most of his deaths.
<But what now?>
What happened when and ætherial being died? Normally, he would return to Hell and the land his Lord ruled, but what happened when there was nowhere to return to. He had no doubts that Seere’s Kingdom was in upheaval, possible civil war, and being invaded on both sides for starters. Gerry had no link to that land anymore, so he had nowhere to go. There was no gooey pit for his body to rise from the ashes of defeat.
“Nothingness.” Ava shrugged as she held him close and twisted the blade in his chest. He didn’t feel the pain anymore, but he felt the loss of æther quicken. “Whatever it is, it is too good for you.”
“That’s fair.” Gerry reluctantly admitted as his æther levels dropped dangerously low. “I’ve never been a great man. In life I thought I was good. I thought I died for a noble cause, but the system put me in Hell, and I just did the best that I could to survive.”
Ava didn’t answer. She didn’t need to. The look on her face was a mix of anger and pity. He couldn’t tell is she felt sorry for him or if she saw him as the most repugnant thing on the planet.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Ava whispered as the sword ignited with Divine fire.
The fire consumed what was left of Gerry’s Infernal essence. His vision was already narrowed to a pinpoint, and it quickly faded to black. His last sight was of the angel’s face shrouded by the smoke of his burning corpse. There were worse ways to die, but as far as last sights went, it wasn’t half bad.