Chapter Ten: Archmage

Lahk’s armies rarely took prisoners… male prisoners, anyway. For the most part, they were content to murder the men and then the backline of soldiers took care of the women by themselves, keeping their bound prisoners for their own amusement. There was little need for a organized guard for captured soldiers, but occasionally, one needed to be watched.

The soldiers were upset to need to watch the dwarf… it was a punitive duty, after all. From back here, behind the lines, where was the opportunity for glory? Where was the opportunity to claim a piece of female flesh for their own, to have a slave to enjoy?

Besides, it was boring. This was an offensive war with the town under siege. What was the point of a guard garrison to watch a sorcery-imprisoned captive? To a one, each of the soldiers longed for some glorious excitement.

And now, they were about to be given cause to regret that.

The angel fell on them in a blur of white feathers and flashing steel, coming out of the smoke the filled the cavern like a ghost from the darkness. The six soldiers who were protecting the ring of inscribed runes were caught completely unaware, and four of them were dead before they even realized they were in danger, limbs removed or throats opened to bleed onto the stone.

As Caer slew the fifth of them, the sixth turned to run, realizing in the same second that he was in danger, and that he was completely overwhelmed. The angel’s outstretched hand pointed toward him, twisted into a furious claw, and white-hot fire lanced from his fingers and through the man’s chest, carving an ashen hole a foot wide in the center of body, sending him tumbling to the ground, dead before he felt the pain of the flame.

The god turned his attention next to the circle, more of that same, white flame pressed hard against the magic holding the containment. Powerful, celestial magic warred against the dark power in Lahk’s blood, and at the zenith of the war, when the powers fought against one another at the tipping point, the pair of his curved blades slashed through the wards, carving holes in the weakened circle and sending the destroyed spell spiraling off into the rest of the smoke and ruins of the fallen city.

Inside the circle, the dwarf pushed himself to his feet. “It’s about damn time,” Zegadu said, flexing his fingers.

At the mouth of the tunnel leading into the cavern, Shevarn waited, the swirling smoke no impediment to his magically augmented sight. From the vantage point, he watched the battle, waiting for the signs that it was time to commit his forces. He was only going to get one shot to hurt Lahk… or rather, one mistake. A single misstep would doom his ragtag band, but if used properly, at the right time, they could be a stab into the newborn god’s heart.

Shadowing an army was no easy feat, not even with the magic at his command. Gates were no simple task to keep open long enough for even a small army to march through, not even for a mage of his talent, but it was worth it to keep on Lahk’s tail. Sooner or late, he would overstep his abilities, and leave himself vulnerable. He had already shown himself unaccountably arrogant… it would happen sooner or later.

Behind him, he could feel the rapt attention of several of the more competent of his followers. Elves and humans, men and women born to the sword or to magic. One in particular, a golden haired elf woman whom had been rescued when he had taken the survivors from Caladwen before the volcano erupted, was calmly seated on the ground behind him, cleaning her sword and knives while the blade of her attention never left the wizard, waiting for the Archmage’s signal that it was time to move.

He didn’t want to disappoint them… especially not when he knew the kind of hell that he had taken many of them from. Failure could land them right back where they started. He would not make a mistake.

The battle itself was such a mess it wasn’t even worth observing. Instead, Shevarn mostly studied the swirling smoke. Divination was not quite his specialty, but one does not earn the title of archmage without significant ability at all kinds of magic, and he was talented enough at it to gain a better sense of how the battle was going by watching for portents in the billowing smog filling the chamber.

The problem was, what he was seeing didn’t make sense. For no apparent reason, all at once, the battle was going poorly for Lahk’s army, and he had no clear idea why… and the last thing he wanted to do was to commit his forces on a guess. Then again, everyone following him was here for a chance at revenge, and if what he was seeing was correct, this could be their best chance they would ever get.

He had promised them a chance to save their world, and cast down the foul godling that had ruined their lives. Could he look them in the eye if he shied away here?

“It’s time,” he said, the quiet words carrying as there was a quarter second of silence as people processed the meaning. Then came a roar of approval from the assembled band, nearly three hundred large, mostly women he had rescued from Lahk’s brothels or from the destroyed remains of Caladwen. The roar of pent up rage, lust for revenge, and sheer unholy terror continued as Shevarn opened a portal into the heart of the battle, allowing his army to pour into the heart of Lahk’s completely unprepared force.

One year earlier, Daggerport Brothel

Young Mara, Sarah, and Emerald would likely have been among the most popular girls in Daggerport, both among patron and the guards, based simply on their elegant beauty and youth. If it wasn’t policy never to sell a girl’s pregnancy until after they had been a whore for at least three months, each of them would have likely been purchased the day they had arrived, and been long since knocked up. However, for the staff, their true attraction came because of their relation… and because of their indignant mother.

It made them so much more fun to play with.

Everyday, each girl spent their time in their own isolated cell, being raped by dirty, horny men who had purchased a chance with their tight bodies. At night, however, when the luckier of the slave’s had time to sleep, the sisters had little choice but to entertain the church’s guards. Deep within the fortress-brothel there were rooms clients never saw, rooms dedicated to torture, training, and the entertainment of Sanguinar’s faithful… which is where the girls found themselves tonight.

On the right-hand wall, Mara stood, chained to the wall via heavy iron rings and shackles, her large breasts pushed up against the cold stone as her back was exposed to the rest of the room. Her beautiful blonde hair cascaded down over her shoulder and back, the very back which was brutally marked with a hundred or more angry red slashes that marked where the whip had struck her. The eldest of the sisters was crying bitterly in pain and it was obvious that without the shackles holding her she would simply collapse to the floor. A few feet behind her stood one of the guards, naked from the waist up as he sweat in the grim and heat of this foul city. In his hand, however, he held the long, braided leather whip which he had been using to rain punishing blow after blow onto the shapely form of the poor girl’s back.

Before him knelt Sarah, the middle child of the three. The 19 year old was once legendary among the upper class of the city, and with her family, for being a brat and causing problems by the load for her mother. Now, there wasn’t even a shell of her brattiness remaining. It had all been fucked and whipped out of her, until she was little but a cum-covered shadow of herself. Her long, nimble fingers were wrapped around the base of the man’s cock as it came out of his pants, licking on the tip with at least a pretense of eagerness. The cum already on her face, hanging from her chin in long strands and smeared over her cheeks, was a testament to how good her mouth was at bringing him pleasure, even if her wide, terrified eyes couldn’t make it any clearer how much she hated this.

In the center of the room was the main feature… a rack, and the youngest of the girl’s was stretched tight on top of it. The slim, 18 year old had her dark blonde hair falling down while her head thrashed back and forth, appearing almost green in the dark light. Emerald was stretched so tightly on the rack she could not move at all, not even an inch, and by the gods she wanted to. Another of the guards stood over her, a large, wooden cock in his his hands as he slid it slowly in and out of the poor girl’s ass, each thrust making her thrash her head harder and scream. The oil soaked into the wood burned her with each moment the phallus spent embedded in the poor girl, inflaming the pain of her already much-raped hole.

“Come on, then…” he said. “You can end this whenever you want, little girl. All you have to do is tell me,” Seldon, the guard with the dildo, mocked the poor girl as he grabbed a handful of her hair to force her to look up at her sister’s whipping. “I know your mother had lovers after your daddy died, and they certainly didn’t stick around for her ass, so tell me. How did he fuck you? Did he fuck your ass like everyone else does? I could hardly blame him… it’s your best hole. Did he make you eat his cum? Just tell me, and I’ll stop Josim over there from whipping your poor sister while she still has some skin left.

Emerald wanted to respond, she really did. The young girl was trying, but every time her mouth opened she could do little but stutter, her voice breaking as her eyes were forced to watch what was done to her sisters. A load, angry moan filled the room, and Emerald tried to look over at it, but Seldon yanked her hair again. “Focus slut,” he commanded, ramming the wooden cock into her especially hard. “Ignore things that don’t matter, and focus. How did her lovers fuck you to stay interested?”

On the other side of the room, Mara screamed as an especially savage stroke landed on her lower back, enough to send a line of blood misting into the air. “See what your sister must endure because of your stupidity? Or are you just stubborn? Maybe it was you who were the real stubborn one here, not Sarah… see how well behaved she is?” Sheldon snarled as he spat on the face of the girl. “Tell me what I want to know, or I’ll give Josim permission to unchain her and start working over her front. I know he’s dying for a chance, and I think those fat tits of her will make an excellent target.”

“All right!” the tied girl cried, tears flowing easily from her eyes “Fine! I admit it! I admit it! Just stop hurting her, please!”

“Admit… to what…” Seldon hissed venomously. He emphasized the question by abruptly ramming the dildo up the poor’s girl’s ass to the hilt, making her twist her body against the rack holding her, a process nearly as painful to Emerald as the cock itself was. Her scream was beautiful to the monstrous guards, and each of them smiled to one another as the girl writhed with the brutal instrument deep into her asshole.

“He…” Emerald choked out as soon as her voice would work again. “Oh Caer forgive me… he fucked me…” she said silently.

“Who?” Seldon insisted, still pumping her ass with the dildo.

“Oh please… stop… take it out… Agh! Ibrim! Kalin! Probably every lover my mom ever let in the house!” The girl, weeping, finally gave in to the cruel demands. “They fucked me, they fucked my ass all night! They made me suck their cocks, they raped me every day and said they would ruin my mom if I said anything. Oh gods, stop!” she cried.

Seldon’s laughter was nearly a solid object striking the humiliated girl. “Of course they did. I would have too if I had access to your home, and a choice between that older whore’s body and yours.” Seldon smiled as he gestured to Josie. “You can let her down.. For the moment. Lets see what else the slut has to say… Come little girl, tell me more about what they did to you?”

“He… fucked my ass. Hard. Oh gods… Ibrim… he fucked my ass every night. Fast and brutally, as hard as you do! He made me call him daddy, and would beat me until I did! No matter how I begged him, he would never stop fucking me…” she cried, tears of humiliation and despair running down her eyes.

The sneer on the guard’s face was like a broad, sharp gash. “And what about her other lover… Kalin, was he? What did he do?”

“He made me suck him… suck him off… He made me drink… drink his cum… or he sprayed it on my breasts…. My tits…” the girl kept saying, her face stark red with shame.

Seldon knew, of course, that the confessions were fake. Emerald had been a virgin when she was captured, and he would know… he was the first one to fuck her, in her own house the day they raided it. Still, the humiliation of making her confess to things she found disgusting was the pleasure for him. Her humiliation got him off like nothing else could.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Josie had thrown Sarah to the side, the blonde girl crumpling to the floor like a ragdoll and remaining unmoving, silently crying. He unchained Mara from where she hung on the wall, but as her exhausted body nearly fell to the floor he grabbed her and resecured her wrists in the chains, facing toward the room this time. “It seems your sister’s earned you a break from the lash. Aren’t you lucky, pretty bitch,” he grinned at her before he grabbed her legs and lifted then, forcing his body between them. Emerald could only watch, mouth trembling, as the man forced his hard, fat dick into the abused girl’s pussy. “Oh… yes… so good…” he said licking and then biting the girl’s neck as with short thrusts he began pushing himself in.

“Now,” Seldon said as he buried the dildo deep in Emerald’s ass, then pushed between her legs himself, his cock starting to sink into her cunt as well. The hot-oiled dildo deep in her ass kept her obscenely tight for him, and he moaned briefly in pleasure while she cried out in pain. “I’m sure that isn’t all they did, is it? Why settle for just one of you? Tell me… how did they fuck Mara?”

As the crying young girl told him everything he wanted to know, spilling obscenity after obscenity which had never taken place, which she had never even dreamed of until she had come here, Bellany watched, helplessly tied on the other side of the room. Her full breasts bound so tightly that they swelled with agony, screaming in pain with every breath, her cunt and ass stretched by the thick rocks she was impaled on, gagged so thoroughly she couldn’t scream or say or word… but the pain of her abused body was nothing compared to watching her daughters be so used and humiliated. It was nothing compared to the despair in Sarah’s eyes as the prone girl gazed at her.

It made her want nothing so much as to die.

Inside the chaos that was the battle of Teheras, Bellany calmly wound the ropes around her hands and pulled, her foot holding down the stirrups as she yanked upward again and again.

Rage filled the woman, a crystalline, cold rage that determined every action, one following the next. She had no idea if her daughters would ever be the same again… Caer knew that after she had finished fighting for Shevarn, she would probably fall apart herself. All she knew was that the monster that had ruined her, ruined her family, ruined her home, and now threatened to ruin the entire world had to be stopped, no matter the cost.

Bellany was not a soldier. She had held a sword before, but couldn’t match blades with anyone who truly knew the trade. She wasn’t a skilled warrior, even with the anger and hatred that fueled her every action, and even after volunteering to fight alongside the others, following Shevarn on a quest for justice, she hadn’t received enough training to be comfortable fighting toe to toe with a professional soldier.

It was why she used the crossbow in her hands.

With a small grunt of effort, she finished working the crank the pushed the bolt back into firing position and put the butt of the weapon back into the crook of her shoulder. She wasn’t a gifted soldier, but she didn’t need to be. Point. Click. Smile. As Bellany brought down the weapon, reaching behind her to grab another bolt and push it into place, the crossbow placed against the ground as she put her foot back into the stirrup and began to pull again.

One less monster in the world. Her children could sleep a bit safer tonight, no matter what else happened.

Shevarn, whirling his hands in a complex, archaic pattern, summoned a blaze of shocking blue lightning from the ground, flinging it through the air to crash against the powerful, crimson defensive spell that the wizard had erected. He frowned, annoyed at the power of the spell. He was the superior of this wizard, had fought him before and triumphed, but this mage had had time to prepare, and had strong, ready defensive magics already in place that confounded his efforts.

None of that stopped Lahk’s wizard from counter attacking, however. The madman, Helios, was secure enough in his defenses that he had no compunctions against hurling his magic at the men and women Shevarn had brought into the battle. Fire lanced from the dark wizards hands, fire and waves of shimmering, green-blue energy that withered anything it touched, and before long the Archmage was forced to spend the entirety of his attention on countering the other wizard, counter-spelling his spells or overwhelming them with one of his own.

Shevard could sense the frustration growing in the other mage. His sadism would be satisfied, and it propelled him into casting spells more and more furiously. He knew only one of them needed to slip through the Archmage’s guard to slaughters his enemies by the dozens, and that was why Shevarn couldn’t let his attention lapse for a second.

Around him, several of the men and women fought to defend him from other soldiers. A dwarf man and a human woman, a pair he had met a few months ago and had helped him evacuate Caladwen, lead the effort, the dwarf’s axe cutting down any demonspawn that came to close after a dozen or more of his fellows had pinned it in place with their spears.

Still, Shevarn wasn’t sure how long the holding pattern could be kept up. He was the better mage, but the situation forced him to work twice as hard to maintain equality with Helios. He couldn’t, however, spare the time or attention to think of a spell he might weave to help equalize the situation.

He just had to try to last.

Six months ago, Caladwen

The moment Helios entered the room, Nessira knew her captor was in a foul mood, but that was hardly surprising. The wizard was nearly always in a foul mood these days. While the captive elf knew little enough about what was going on outside of her cell, she had gathered that Lahk wasn’t running things directly anymore. The foul dwarf, Cormac, was in charge, and Helios was chafing under the duel rule of his two overlords.

As much as Nessira would love to joy at the suffering of the hated wizard who tormented her, he took out his suffering on her, of course, so it always meant she was in for a rough day. Somedays, it was almost worth it.

Today wasn’t one of them.

She knew he mostly did these things to take out his own sufferings on her, but that scant knowledge was no protection from the wizard’s wrath. His hand wrapped in her hair, he dragged her across the living wood floor until he reached a small, dark prison cell that he had clearly prepared especially for her. A low tank, about the size of a bathing tub, sat in the center of the room with a chair by the edge. It was held in place not by legs, but by some kind of rope pulley system, and the set up made Nessira’s blood run cold just looking at it.

The elf captain had no idea yet what the purpose of it was, but it had clearly been made with a great deal of effort to not use any of the elements she would expect for a common place to remain seated, so it obviously had fell intent… and the blonde girl was not looking forward to seeing what Helios had in mind for her battered body.

Too exhausted and bound to offer any meaningful resistance to the cruel wizard, Nessira quickly found herself strapped into the chair, her thighs spread, her arms tied behind her back. The chair held her weight only uncomfortably… the parts that would have supported her ass had been removed, leaving her exposed from below, and she had no illusions what that would mean for her displayed holes beneath her. Seconds after she was finished, the wizard was making some casual gesture, causing the ropes to pull and shift until the chair began to tilt, her ass coming up to point at him.

Nessira braced herself for what she was sure was coming, but there was no preparing from a cock to be shoved up her ass dry, not as roughly as he used it. It had to hurt him horribly, but for Nessira the agony was almost a physical demon, an actual presence beside her that had been ripped away from her by Helios’s cruel thrust. The elf captive screamed… but as her mouth opened to expel her horrified shriek of anguish his hand gripped in her hair, and she was pushed forward. The chair tilted further, and immediately her pretty face sank below the surface of the tank.

Caught in the middle of a scream, Nessira had no ability to hold her breath, no air to rely on. Immediately she gasped, breathing water in through her nose, and began to choke. The poor captive struggled frantically, her bound limbs thrashing against the ropes violently enough to strain her muscles as she was drowned. Even through the pain of her strangling lungs, she felt the wizard’s thick cock pumping ferociously in and out of her ass, sawing away for his own obscene pleasure.

‘I’m dead,’ she had thought to herself. ‘Finally, I’m dead. Alyssa, Liriel, I’m sorry. I can’t…’ Just as Nessira was convinced her lungs were going to fill completely with water, when the bright spots behind her eyes felt like they were going to burst, she abruptly found herself hauled out of the water. There wasn’t even time for thought. Her lithe form reacted of sheer instinct, coughing up just enough water to gasp in a single breath before Helios’s hand pushed forward again and thrust her back down into the water. His savage fucking never once stopped, but she could hear his laughter through the drumming in her ears as he raped her, even under the water. The bastard was loving this, the way her body clenched on him, and there wasn’t a single goddess damned thing she could do about it.

Helios lifted her out and pushed her back under three times before he finally came. His seed pumped into her, and he kept her down beneath the water until every last twitch of his dick had been exhausted, her thrashing body body having milked the entirety of his load out of him. “Fantastic,” he mocked her before he slapped her on the back of her soaking head, “helping” the choking girl to cough up the rest of the water that she had breathed in. “I feel better already,” he mused to himself as he walked away.

Nessira, however, took no comfort in watching him leave. After all, the elf perfectly understood that she hadn’t been untied, and had been left waiting by the tank for Helios’s return.

It was nearly a month before he tired of fucking her while she drowned. By then, Nessira felt more like an animal than she had at any time in her captivity before. For her, life had been reduced to the number of seconds between breaths, and the number of minutes between the times when the wizard Master would return to fuck her and force her head under water once again…

Helios smirked, pleased with himself as he wove together another work of flame. This is where he found his only real pleasure these days… his slavery to Lahk had grown increasingly intolerable since the taking of Caladwen, and now it had peaked in his service to the newborn god. He had almost no freedom any longer… the soulstone Lahk kept now weighed like a yoke around the wizard’s throat, pulling him where the new Lord of Suffering wished.

He was a slave, in effect, as great of a slave as any of Lahk’s whores. His only refuge was in his sadism and his hatred, his patience to wait for something to change. Much as he would like to allow this insurrection to hurt Lahk’s plans, even to hurt the god himself, the Dark God’s will pressed against him, forcing him to fight. The only comfort he could take was in enjoying the slaughter, his remaining joy in life.

He knew well the position he had the other mage in. His rival was stronger… Helios had learned that well in their duel over Caladwen… but preparation was far and away the greatest advantage one mage could have over another, and Helios’s magical protections were all but unassailable against the other wizard. Layer after layer of magic-deadening protection had been shaped into existence around him, the very fabric of magic woven by the will behind Helios’s protective spells. They would need to be torn down layer by layer before anything that arrogant mage could throw at him was a threat.

Helios felt perfectly safe… so when the steel emerged from his chest, it came as a complete shock.

His bright, mad eyes looked down, seeking the bloodied, glittering tip of the sword coming out of his chest where it had skewered him from behind before he coughed blood, slowly turning to see his attacked. Golden hair glittered down the elf’s features as she glared at him, her familiar face a mask of hatred and revulsion.

“That was for Alyssa, you murderous bastard,” Nessira snarled as he twisted the blade and sending white agony lancing through the wizard in the instant before she put her foot at the small of his back and pushed him off her blade and to the ground, laying face down in the spreading pool of his own lifeblood.

If Helios could have laughed, laughed and laughed at the irony, he would have. In truth, this was the only freedom from Lahk he ever expected to have. As the pain faded, death was almost a relief to the wizard, and he smiled in true belief that this was a better ending that he deserved.

“So your Lord and I are in agreement?” Lahk asked, his face a cruel smile. “Five hundred of his finest demons for a year of service, in exchange for my never releasing the Demon Queen?”

Lahk stood before a flaming circle on the ground, staring into the heated hellfire as his eyes sought out the imp hovering inside the summoning circle. Smoke and the foul smell of brimstone filled the room from the connection, but it was nearly a pleasant, familiar feeling for the Dark God. Beside him, the bound and helpless Kardas strained against her bonds, quiet, furious noises coming from behind her gag as she listened to the negotiation. Absentmindedly, Lahk reached down and gripped one of her large breasts, squeezing it hard like dough in his fist and giving a pained addition to her enraged sounds as his superhuman strength warred against her divine endurance.

The imp couldn’t keep his greedy eyes off of the suffering Demon Queen. “And an opportunity to fuck the whore’s brains out, don’t forget. My lord Azmodym does not yield on that requirement.”

“Of course,” Lahk smiled as he switched to his captive’s second tit. “As soon as I’m done with her. Before the year of service has expired, he will have her. I will prepare the rituals to summon Azmodym’s offerings within the week… ensure that they are prepared to serve me.”

With a wave of his hand, Lahk dismissed the summoning, sending the imp back to the infernal pits to communicate with his master once again. His attention returned to the furious Lady of Retribution, his most precious rape-toy, and laugher bubbled from his lips as he looked into her hate-filled eyes. “You have made quite an impression on the others Demon Lords,” he mocked her with a smile. “That is the third one who is more than willing to give me the soldiers I need to finish the conquest of this land if only I never let you return to your throne.” The smile became a smirk as he backhanded her with all the force he could muster. “And let them rape your arrogant fucking soul out, of course. After I rip my child from your womb, it will be my pleasure to let your worst enemies fuck you nearly to death before I finish the job, slut. That’s all you have to look forward to for the rest of your miserable life.”

Lahk was quickly working himself back up. He had raped her again in between each of his summonings to strike bargains with the other demon lords, and he clearly intended this time to be no different… but his rage began to be replaced with confusion as the amulet around his neck suddenly crumbled to dust. “What is this?” Lahk snarled, cocking his head as his divine senses reached out, examining the battle for the first time in several hours… and not liking what he was seeing.

His army was retreating, being pushed out by the rallied dwarves and several isolated groups of strong combatants. His Master Incubus, Caleb, had fallen, as had his wizard-slave… he could no longer sense either of them. Most telling of all, Uthielle herself had been taken from the fight, his general and High Priestess fallen before another. He could sense divinity moving through the battle below, and cursed not having hunted down and slaughtered Caer when he was weak and fleeing after the battle.

He closed his eyes for a second, breathing, forcing himself to calm his temper’s urging him to walk into the battle himself and slaughter the upstarts. Perhaps he could turn around this failing battle… but not without risk. Fighting another deity did not frighten him, not with his newfound power, but in truth there was no reason to take even a minor risk. He had what it was he truly needed… the only thing he really valued here was the bound captive as his feet. As long as he had her, the new vessel to hold his seed and give him new power, nothing else mattered… all else was just a setback. With the new demonic forced he was soon to possess, he would be all but unstoppable… the smart move was to wait.

With struggle, he swallowed his pride and forced himself to conceed this campaign as lost. He would be back, he swore. The dwarven lands would kneel before his feet soon enough… but only after he had stolen Kardas’s power.

“Come on slut,” he said down at her, spitting on her face. “We’re leaving. My temple at Maithum Falls awaits us… I suspect you’ll hate it there.” His fingers wrapped around her collar, summoning power enough to cause a set of demon wings to erupt from his back. With a tug he took to the air, dragging his captive behind him. He already couldn’t wait to force himself between her legs again.

With Helios dead, Shevarn had been able to turn his attention to the control of the battlefield, and with no wizard remaining strong enough to oppose him among Lahk’s forces, the battle quickly became an uneven fight. Even with as bad of numerical odds as his forces had, the presence of an Archmage was influential enough to quickly turn the tide of the fight.

Even as he fought, however, Shevarn became sure that something he did not understand was taking place here. Lahk had not taken the field against him, as he had expected… his escape plans going unneeded against the dark god’s apparent ambivalence to his army’s defeat. Equally strange, however, was the defeat itself. The army was being squeezed between his force and another from within the lands still held by the dwarven defenders. They had pushed out of their fortifications, and the church’s army was being ground to dust between them. Most of the men were already fleeing, retreating in bad order and no organization while the incubi and succubi, still acting on their last command from their master, fought on and were slaughtered.

His own forces pressed on, marching toward where he sensed the incoming force of the other army was, seeking to link up and secure their successful defense of Teheras. Slowly, as the last of the demonic soldiers were slain, the approaching army began to emerge into sight through the dust and smoke, walking forward into sight as his men and woman and the defends began to eye each others cautiously, unwilling to make an assumption as to whether these were allies or another enemy that had to be fought.

In the center, the apparent leader of the dwarven assault was not a dwarf at all. Instead, it was an elf woman, holding a large sword easily in her grasp as though it weighed nothing. A man stood beside her, guarding her back, spear held between ready hands as he kept a few paces back from her, observing, body tense.

In the crowd before her, the golden haired elf woman whom he had rescued, whom had slain Helios and brought open this battle, gave a cry of surprise and joy before dropping her sword to the stone, rushing forward toward a white-haired elf and all but tackling the slight woman in an embrace before anyone could react. Just like that, the tension seemed to evaporate, long breaths escaping from most of the warriors on both sides as they finally found relief.

Everyone except for Shevarn, who hadn’t taken a breath since the red haired elf had come into sight. It felt like his heart was refusing to beat, his lungs frozen on the spot. Impossible…

It took him catching a good look at the man beside her before he broke out of his stupor. To Shevarn’s mild alarm, he found himself walking toward the pair without remembering having made a decision to do so. As the archmage pushed through the front of the army, coming into view, his knees felt week and he allowed himself to fall down to them, kneeling before the pair of them.

“My prince…” he whispered. “Princess…” He swallowed. “Never again will I leave your side, my lords. Long live the House of the Veil.”

Liam’s hand landed on his shoulder, and until that second Shevarn still didn’t quite believe the change in fate the last hours had brought. For the first time since the War of Ascension, the Archmage had hope for the future. It wasn’t over… Lahk still lived, and until they had toppled his church-fortress at Maithum Falls and reestablished the kingdom, nothing would be resolved…

But in this moment, for this one second, everything was fine.

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