The first rays of sunlight were beginning to pierce the sky. Elrith finished putting on the last piece of his red armor and stepped outside of his tent with his feathered helmet underneath his right arm. A tower shield that was wider than he was hung on his back, its bottom scraping against the ground and its top rising slightly over his head. His white hair was longer than Raea’s, extending past his shoulders. Traces of stubble could be seen on his jaw.
Close to two thousand soldiers stood in formation. The majority of the soldiers in the front were saluting with their lances in their right hands, tips pointing towards the sky and ends on the ground. The soldiers in the back were demons of varying sizes, each equipped with their own specialized weapons. Two soldiers appeared by Elrith’s side and folded his tent within five seconds before dashing off towards the elephants standing behind the army. Elrith nodded and placed his helmet on his head. “Passable,” he said. He whirled around and began to march along the road at the speed of an average person’s run.
In the distance, Ishim was watching Elrith’s army with a telescope. The angel in black robes stood behind him. “This will work, right?” Ishim asked. His brow was furrowed, and the telescope trembled underneath his grasp.
“Of course,” the black-robed angel said. “I will take care of Elrith. Your men just need to distract his troops and sow confusion among the ranks. You will approach from behind and assist Igor in destroying their supplies. An army of that size is doomed to failure without their supply lines.”
“I understand, Lord Solra,” Ishim said and lowered the telescope. He pressed on both ends, shrinking it down in size before placing it into his breastplate. He turned around and glanced at the forest. His men were on the forest ground, their bodies prone and their eyes glazed over. Only a small handful of angels had clear eyes, their bodies trembling from either excitement or fear. Igor sat behind a boulder with his eyes closed. His arm was no longer bandaged, and his body was in perfect condition. Madison was resting in a nearby tree, preening her feathers.
Footsteps echoed out through the forest, scattering the nearby birds. Madison raised her head and narrowed her eyes. A smile formed on Solra’s lips as he tore off his cloak. His hair was patchy and disheveled, and one of his eyes was covered by an eyepatch. He opened his mouth and whispered, “Begin.”
Thousands of glassy-eyed angels rose up from their positions on the ground and surged towards the road from both sides. There was no possible way for the soldiers on the other side of the road to hear the command, but they still rose up and charged. They all had cloth pouches in their hands that they threw towards Elrith’s army. The pouches exploded when they made contact with anything, bursting into clouds of flour which obscured the army’s view. Immediately, a gust of wind blew past the army, removing the white powder, revealing the glassy-eyed angels surrounding the army.
Elrith snorted and dislodged the tower shield from his back while turning around. He picked it up with both hands and slammed it against the ground. His voice echoed throughout the forest as he shouted, “Surrender now and you will be spared!”
The glassy-eyed angels charged forwards, their lances and armor shoddy compared to the ones in Elrith’s army. Elrith snorted and let out a shout. His back seemed to explode with light as a humongous chain burst outwards and reached towards the sky. The end of the chain branched out into thousands of miniature chains and flew towards the glassy-eyed angels. “Seize them,” Elrith said. His body trembled slightly, but his voice didn’t quaver at all. His soldiers let out a battle cry and charged towards the restrained angels in an orderly fashion.
A bird cry pierced the air, silencing the battlefield, and Madison flew down from the clouds, her body twisting rapidly in the air. Her hands were stretched out towards the side as if holding onto the handle of an object. Her body seemed to shine red, the sunlight bouncing off of her. Not her, but the translucent hammer in her hands. It was growing in size as her body twisted like it was being stretched out with each turn of her body. Elrith’s eyes widened and twenty chains flew towards Madison, releasing the angels they were restraining.
The hammer in Madison’s hands collided against the chains as she spiraled downwards, shattering them into fragments of light that dispersed before reaching the ground. Elrith’s soldiers didn’t even look up as they continued to subdue the glassy-eyed angels, either by breaking their limbs or burying them in the earth. Their faith in their general was unwavering as they followed his previous order, ignoring the calamity in the sky. Madison let out another bird cry before shouting. Her voice sounded melodious like a harp, yet there was a hint of bloodlust, “Not going to pay attention to me?”
As more and more angels were subdued by Elrith’s army, the chains restraining them flew upwards to stop Madison’s descent. The surface of the hammerhead was large enough to encompass the whole of Elrith’s army, but it shrank every time it collided with a chain until it was the size of a battleaxe. When Madison was a hundred feet above the army, the chains suddenly stopped and the hammer rapidly expanded once again. Elrith seemed to be stunned as the chain extended from his back dispersed. He whirled around to see Solra standing behind him with his finger pointed at Elrith. Elrith shouted, “Solra!” at the same time Madison swung her hammer towards the ground. Over a hundred soldiers let out short screams before they were instantly flattened, leaving behind nothing but a puddle of blood and shiny metal. Madison’s eyes were wide as she smiled at her reflection in the lake of blood before jumping upwards and ascending once more.
“You bastard!” Elrith shouted and charged towards Solra with his tower shield in one hand.
“No need for such harsh words,” Solra said as he turned around and dashed away. Elrith gnashed his teeth and stopped his pursuit. He was too slow compared to the armorless Solra due to his armor and tower shield. Instead, he slammed his shield against the ground, causing a massive wall of earth that was over twenty feet tall and three hundred feet wide to rise out of the ground, separating the retreating Solra from Elrith’s army while displacing the trees in the forest at the same time. Shouts and trumpeting echoed from behind Elrith, and he whirled around to see black flames engulfing the elephants. A lone figure was dashing through the flames, going from elephant to elephant, ripping their heads off in less than a second.
A few of his soldiers that wielded the powers of charity were dispelling the flames, but the majority of his soldiers were busy fighting against the hundred demons that had suddenly regained their freedom. Elrith gritted his teeth and shouted, “Back to the basics!” An invisible surge of energy exploded from his body and dispelled every single power in the area. The black flames vanished, and the rebelling demons found that their powers no longer worked. Elrith’s army was also affected, but they quickly adapted and subdued the demons with their numbers. Elrith’s face was expressionless as he walked towards the center of the army, surveying the damage. He hadn’t used his powers of charity against Madison because he thought it was unnecessary, which proved to be a mistake. Elrith’s army stood in silence with their heads lowered. The injured angels gritted their teeth and didn’t say a word as blood dripped from their bodies to the ground.
Elrith closed his eyes and the giant wall of earth in front of the army collapsed. The glassy-eyed angels that were subdued regained their clarity, but they remained silent due to the oppressive atmosphere. The rebelling demons were riddled with wounds and lying on the ground, a few dead. Elrith spoke, “Where is the demon who killed the elephants?”
A soldier saluted and raised his head. “We fought against him,” he said and gestured towards the four angels behind himself, “but he chose to flee. We did not dare overextend so we did not pursue, but he was definitely injured with a near fatal wound.”
“Very well,” Elrith said, face still expressionless, “and the bird demon?”
“She fled after the initial strike.”
Elrith nodded. It was hard to tell what he was thinking. A tremble ran through the angel who just responded to his question. “That was my fault,” Elrith said. “We were misinformed, and I underestimated her. She was an archdemon.” He put his tower shield back on his back. “Pieyah, deliver a message to General Michael. We need to rendezvous in the middle before the rebels can regroup.” An angel nodded and jumped on top of a demon that looked like a cheetah mixed with a rhino. The demon sprinted off into the distance, leaving behind a dust cloud. Elrith’s eyes narrowed. “As for those rebelling demons … kill them.” Screams rang out as the soldiers complied. “This is your fate if you choose to go against me,” Elrith said towards the remaining demons. Some shuddered while others snorted.
Elrith turned around and gazed in the direction Solra ran off to. “So you thought destroying our supplies would weaken our resolve?” he muttered. His eyes narrowed and he raised his head towards the sky. His arms fell to his sides with his hands open, palms facing up. The ground shuddered beneath the remaining army. A massive cube of earth rose from the ground, towering way above the tree tops. The bottom half of the cube fell back into the ground, revealing eight pairs of spider-like legs. The cube began to scuttle towards the outpost that was just a brown dot in the distance. The soldiers stared at Elrith’s back with fear and reverence in their eyes.
“He’s like a mountain,” one of the captured angels murmured. A demon snorted nearby and kicked the captured angel off the walking cube. The angel screamed until his voice was cut short by the collision with the ground below. The demon glared at the remaining captives who cowered in fear. His eyes seemed to speak to them, “If you talk, you die.”
Elrith didn’t say a word or make a single movement. His soldiers couldn’t see it, but his usual red face was as white as a sheet, and perspiration dripped from every pore in his body, soaking his clothes underneath his armor. His jaw was practically glued together to prevent his teeth from chattering. He had to be strong. A weak tyrant would be overthrown in an instant. The spider-cube marched on.