With a roar, Bloodburn charged forward into the oncoming Typhons, which were pouring out of their ship and onto the surface of Nether. The winged creatures pulled out weapons, and began to fire, but he heeded them not. He cut several down in seconds, and obliterated most of the rest with well-aimed plasma beams. But for every Typhon he killed, two more charged onboard the ship.
"Where's Deadflame?" said Bloodburn into his radio, "He should be here by now. Even I can't hold these things off forever!"
"He's coming," said Dusk, from back on the Armageddon, "He's running down to help you right now."
Sure enough, Deadflame came running to his side, with a troop of Shaytan and Goblins. At the same time a fresh horde of Typhons clambered on board, shooting stolen firespitters in their direction.
"You're late", said Bloodburn, tearing the head off a Typhon lieutenant.
"Sorry," said Deadflame, dismembering an enemy sniper, "I was busy."
"With what?" asked Bloodburn, before blasting aside another horde with a plasma beam.
"Er... I was dissecting an Angelus."
"What? I needed you here!"
The Typhons had been completely destroyed at this point. All survivors were fleeing in terror.
"I apologise, father. It will not happen again."
Bloodburn gave his son an icy stare. "If it ever does," he said, "I will rip you apart. Twice."
Dusk's voice issued forth from the radio. "Father," she said quietly, "Master is on board. He says he has another task for you."
"Tell him I'm coming."
Casting a withering look at Deadflame, he stalked towards the Armageddon.
Bloodburn walked into a large room, where Hectocapitus sat in a large throne.
"You wished to see me, Master?" said Bloodburn.
"Yes, Bloodburn. I have need of you again."
"I await your command."
"Very well," said Hectocapitus, "Here is your task. Recently, two of my Gehennians rebelled against me, following the example of the traitor Flamegift. They defeated the forces of Death's Shadow and Umbran, who as you know, are highly experience generals. They have fought their way to Unda, an oceanic world in my dominion."
"So," said Bloodburn, "You want me to go to Unda and capture these traitors?"
"Yes," said Hectocapitus, "That is it precisely. However, you must be wary. They have assembled an army of Grakk, and they are quite competent. Their names are Paleblast and Furyfrill. They were commanders of mine, until they decided to go against our system. They've captured Unda, having subdued all of the major islands."
Bloodburn smiled. "Well, they won't hold Unda for long! However, I shall probably need reinforcements."
"That can be done," said Hectocapitus, "You shall take Cthire and Soulbane. Do not scowl that way! Soulbane is just as competent as you are, and this operation requires both of my top commanders. Surely you can bear being around him, in my name and service?"
"Yes, Master," said Bloodburn with a slight frown, "When shall we leave?"
"Almost immediately. You shall drop me off on Inferno, and then head towards Unda. In the meantime, go into the back rooms, and brief your companions on the mission."
Bloodburn obediantly turned, and entered the back rooms. There, Cthire and Soulbane were sitting comfortably, discussing their favorite kills. Bloodburn quickly explained their assignment.
"It's a pity that Paleblast betrayed us," said Cthire sadly, "He was a good commander. He could have been a Seven someday, if one of us were to die." He smiled. "Not that that would ever happen, of course. We are near invincible."
"I met Furyfrill once," said Soulbane, "I didn't like him. He was too ambitious. Just the type to become a traitor. I hate traitors." He smiled wickedly. "Of course, I do like playing with traitors."
"Soulbane," said Bloodburn, "Do you ever think of anything other than torture?"
"I named my ship the Torment. Of course I don't."
Bloodburn shook his head. The ship stopped moving, and they heard Hectocapitus' pod leaving the ship.
"I know that sound," said Cthire, "We'd better get going. Onwards to Unda!"
Trees quaked and waves formed as the Armageddon hovered above the ground. A bunch of Grakk were standing a hundred yards away, watching intently. It had been a while since one of the Seven had come here. And now not just one, but three were here!
The three Gehennians stepped onto the tropical beach, and looked around. Zahhak secured a perimeter around them.
"Well, we're here," said Cthire, "Now what do we do? Where're the rebels?"
Bloodburn did not answer. Instead, we walked to the very edge of the water, and gestured at a large island with steep cliffs out in the ocean. "Most likely there," he said, "It's harder to access, and those other islands nearby provide enfilade defense. It may be the most defendable island on this world. We should try first."
"Well, what if they start shooting at us?" asked Soulbane.
"Well, we'll know where he is then, won't we?" he replied.
Bloodburn ordered the Grakk and Korgrath accompaning them to stay on the ground and hold their position, and then he, Cthire, Soulbane, and their Zahhak spread their wings and flew towards the island.
Once they came closer to the main island, they came between the two smaller islands in enfilade position. Just when they were between the two, both opened fire.
Instantly, a small battle began. Zahhak began flying towards the islands, attempting to destroy the enemy. The Gehennians flew higher, and launched plasma beams downward. After a few minutes of fierce fighting, and the loss of most of their Zahhak, they had destroyed their antagonists. Closer study proved that the gun operators were Minotaurs.
"I don't get it," said Soulbane, "The Grakk serve us, not rebels. Why are they doing this?"
"Well," said Cthire, "Grakk were bred to follow any Gehennian. Which means any Gehennian can control them. Unless they've been explictly ordered not to serve a particular Daemon, they'll follow it to the ends of the Daemoniverse."
Continuing onward, they found a cave entrance. Slowly and not particularly enthusiasticly, they climbed down into the depths of Unda.
They walked down through twisted tunnels for a while, and then found a large door, guarded by several Kobolds. After making short work of the wretched creatures, they walked through the door.
On the inside, they found something highly surprising.
Paleblast and Furyfrill were casually reclined, chatting. Slowly, Paleblast turned his white head towards them
"Bloodburn!", he said with a smile, "Soulbane! And the other one, whose name escapes me."
"It's Cthire," said a scowling Gehennian.
"Yes, Cthire," chuckled Paleblast. In any case, I've been expecting you. You've been sent to capture us, correct?"
"That is true," said Bloodburn, "you have this one chance to surrender. If you surrender, I can promise you that your end will be swift and painless."
Paleblast laughed loudly. "I'm not going to surrender," he said, "you should know that. But think of it this way: right now, you could not defeat my forces in pitched battle without losing several of your warships. I still have a few ships of my own not far from here. Things could get messy. And you can't hit us from orbit without damaging this planet. And that wouldn't do at all."
Bloodburn scowled. Paleblast was right; although the Armageddon would emerge victorious, unnecessary damage would result.
"And so, I propose another way of solving this," said Paleblast, "a duel. If I win, Hectocapitus will let me alone. But if you win, we will surrender. Do we have a duel, Bloodburn?"
Bloodburn smiled. No one could defeat him in single combat; this was a futile gesture. "You do indeed," he said.
Ymir was in a great commotion, as dozens of Grakk and Korgrath rushed about, preparing an area for the upcoming duel. Paleblast had requested for the duel to be held on Ymir, as the Daemons had yet to place any significant bases on the planet. (Bloodburn made a mental note to assign Darkshriek or one of the other Gehennians to the planet after the duel.)
Bloodburn spent the day overseeing things. After a particularly nasty incident involving a Grendel sitting on a Rakshasa, Soulbane came rushing towards him in a violent rage.
"BLOODBURN!" he roared.
Bloodburn sighed softly. "What have I done this time, brother?"
Soulbane glared. "I think you know what I'm talking about," he said icily, "I am ALWAYS your second in these duels. Ever since your first single combat, I've been your second. Me, brother. And now you're getting Deadflame as your second?" Soulbane was definitely outraged.
Bloodburn chuckled. "I thought you hated being a second, Soulbane. You always complained about me not being your second. I thought this would be a nice change for you."
Soulbane scowled fiercely. "I won't forget this," he said with an evil tone in his voice. "You'll be sorry."
"The only thing I'm sorry about is that you were ever born. Now go away."
Soulbane stalked off in anger. A few moments later, Death's Shadow and her pet Imp came forward to speak with him.
"If that thing tries to have sex with my leg again," said Bloodburn warningly, "All the Angeli in the Daemoniverse won't stop me from killing it."
The last time the Imp had done so, Hectocaptius had laughed, and let the Imp go in peace because it was "amusing".
Death's Shadow laughed. "Don't worry," she said, "I think I trained it out of that. It only tries to mate with Shaytan boots now."
Bloodburn grunted, and edged his paws away from the lusty vermin. "Is there something you want to talk to me about?" he asked irritably.
"As a matter of fact, there is," said Death's Shadow, "Paleblast may have equipped some... unconventional weaponry. Darkshriek saw him unloading a rather large crate out of a small starship. Bloodburn, it set off radiation counters. He's going to use something radioactive."
"So?" said Bloodburn, "Our scales can protect us from radioactivity."
"It's the fact that he has an unknown weapon that bothers me," said Death's Shadow, "I just thought I should warn you." With that, she turned and walked off, taking her Imp with her.
Bloodburn started to go back to his quarters, when his daughter Dusk came running forward. "Dark Lord," he said, "will the distractions never cease?"
Dusk looked away sheepishly. "Sorry, father," she said, "I just wanted to wish you luck. I am so worried that you might get hurt, I mean, anything could happen..."
"OK, cut it off," snapped Bloodburn, "what do you want from me? A new slave? An upgraded plasma beam? What is it this time?"
Dusk smiled. "I want my own starship."
"Why not?" whined Dusk.
"Because you're too irresponsible," he said, "Last week, you took one of my lesser warships on a joyride, and almost got yourself killed by a fleet of Angeli. I said no."
Dusk glared at him with a silent fury. "I hate you," she snapped, tears in her eyes, "And I want you to DIE in this duel!"
She ran off, weeping.
Bloodburn, irritated, went back to his quarters while he waited for the duel to commence.
A couple of hours later, Deadflame stepped into Bloodburn's chamber.
"The duel is ready for you, father," he said.
Bloodburn nodded, and followed him onto the stage.
Once he got there, he saw Paleblast standing still, in front of Furyfrill. "Hello, Bloodburn," he said with enthusiasm, "so nice of you to drop by. I am ready to begin the combat when you are."
Bloodburn smiled. "I'm ready now."
Paleblast laughed out loud. "I was hoping you would say that." With that, he opened up his jaws and a blast of cryogenic vapor shot towards Bloodburn.
Bloodburn simultaneously fired a plasma beam into the blast, creating an explosion and a huge cloud of steam. Mere seconds passed before Bloodburn had leapt into the steam, swiping Paleblast in the head and knocking him to the ground. He then smashed his tail towards the rebel's skull, but Paleblast was too quick. He jumped up, and managed to slash Bloodburn in the chest.
The two began to circle one another. The first tussle had shown them both what the other's strengths and weaknesses were. Paleblast smiled. "You can not win this," he said, "Even if I die, my cause will live on. Surely you do not think the Daemon Empire will last forever?"
Bloodburn didn't answer. Instead, he fired another plasma beam at his enemy, which was easily evaded.
"I see you do not wish to chat at the moment," said Paleblast with a sigh. "That's what's wrong with you people. You can never just sit down and talk."
The rebel suddenly flew up high into the air, to the point to where he could only barely be seen, and then came diving back to the ground. Straight towards Bloodburn.
Bloodburn began to fire plasma beams at his enemy, but again Paleblast's superior agility aided him. He avoided the blasts, and continued his descent. Bloodburn jumped out of the way just before impact.
Paleblast slammed into the ground, spraying ice and snow all over the place as he formed a deep crater.
Bloodburn smiled. "That's the end of him," he told Furyfrill. Now you come up and fight me. Let's see how you do."
However, Paleblast shakily climbed out of his crater. Pieces of Gehennian armor were falling off of his weak body, but he was still alive.
"Hold that thought," snarled Bloodburn.
Paleblast paused, and then spoke. "I tried to kill you," he said, "I did everything I could. But now, I have to do something drastic." He turned to the audience.
"Daemons," he said, "You are about to see the beginning of a new era. A new era, in which Hectocapitus and his Seven slaves will no longer exercise rule over the Daemoniverse. Today, we shall put an end to the Daemons, and forge a new beginning."
Paleblast put a paw to his head, and pulled a switch. He began convulsing terribly, choking out blood. Bloodburn watched in disgust, vaguely wondering what would happen next.
Suddenly, Paleblast exploded in a flash of light. His body was disintergrated, leaving behind it something Bloodburn recognized only too well. A Dimensional Rift. Bloodburn sensed what was coming through before it appeared: around fifty Julth.
Bloodburn immediately switched his plasma beam over to his Energy Converter Weapon, and attacked. The first Julth disappeared in a burst of flaming hydrogen, but the others continued onwards.
Bloodburn began to issue orders.
"Umbran, Death's Shadow, you protect our flanks while Soulbane and I..."
He was interupted when a plasma bolt from a large Julth blasted him backwards. Full of rage, he turned towards Furyfrill, demanding an explanation. However, when he looked, Furyfrill had ducked into the Rift, against the flow of invading Julth. With a snarl, Bloodburn returned to the battle.
Most of the Grakk were already dead, and only a few Korgrath remained. So far, they hadn't lost any Gehennians. So far.
He fired beams and destroyed several more Julth, before he was surrounded.
You are outnumbered, Bloodburn. Give the order to surrender, and you shall be spared.
At this point, Bloodburn was in a firey rage, seeking nothing but the destruction of his foes. He flew into the air, and began to fire blasts down below, annihilating several more instantly. He then took a look around the base, to see what was going on.
There were now several hundred Julth here, causing chaos. None of the lower Daemons were left now; there were only Gehennians and a few Zahhak. A few lower-ranking Gehennians were dead.
The Seven were the only individuals effectively combating the Julth. However, Ravana had been wounded, and was being carried off by Cthire and Darkshriek. This was a nightmare. With a rage unequaled by any other Daemon, Bloodburn dived down into the torrent of violence below, and fought harder than any of the others combined.
Meanwhile, Dusk had a somewhat brilliant idea. Pulling Deadflame aside, she told him of her plan.
"This had better be good, sister," snarled Deadflame.
"Oh, it is," said Dusk, "I need you to fight over at the left of the Rift, and distract all of the Julth over there."
"I need to get to the Rift. I have a plan." Dusk smiled widely.
Deadflame considered this for a moment, and then heard a large explosion. "Fine," he snapped, "but this had better be good."
- This story is practice for another, upcoming work.