L’yophin skittered outside, seeing the large wall of red light along the horizon. Then the thunderclap of a meteor sent a plume of dust skyward.
“Ruth!” L’yophin shouted.
“L’yophin, my baediae, what’s happening?” Zenner replied, scuttling next to him.
“Zenner, L’yophin, come. To the Shell Shop,” Onsort ordered without hesitation.
They left Soltana inside the cocoon, they would get back to her later.
The group skittered along, another thunderous explosion rocked their legs unsteady. Then they felt it, the sickening malevolent intent, shaking them to the core.
“Ruth!” L’yophin shouted again.
“Come on, ol’ bean, can’t help her unarmed!” Zenner replied.
The Shell Shop ramp was lowered as they skittered aboard, following Zenner. Onsort led the way to a far wall of coiled metal.
What is he doing? L’yophin thought with panic.
Ruth was in trouble, they needed help, not dead ends.
Onsort pressed down on particular cabling, and the coiled wall rolled up, revealing an armory.
“Onsort! You ol’ scallywag, you kept it! You lied to me and said you sold it!” Zenner said in wonder.
“I did not lie. I did sell your old power armor. I traded it in for a Majidae MK A.
“A Mark A? Majidae! How did you do it?”
“With much personal sacrifice and the debt of one crab Scarabaeidae named Zenner.”
Zenner blustered at that but eyed the power armor suit with wonder. L’yophin stared in disbelief at the armory in front of him. A massive crab shaped suit of power armor was standing front and center, hooked into the Shell Shack nacelle trunk. On the wall was a mantis shaped stealth suit and a hydrogen definer. All defining traits of Scarabaeidae elite.
L’yophin looked on the wall seeing an array of weapons.
“I do like the K’stan,” L’yophin stated with a squint of his eyes at the other weapons.
“I always preferred the Batreor twenty millimeter, it always suited me well,” Zenner replied, adjusting his monocle.
The spider cocked his head and said just two words.
“Hive Cicatriz,” L’yophin stated.
“Hive Veil Cerpin,” Zenner replied.
L’yophin nodded, stating the roles he had.
“Caelifera: Loomer. Magisterate. Hermit.”
“Mantodea: Soldier. Sergeant. Merc. Caelifera: Council Leader. Trader,” Zenner replied in kind.
“A Dugrum becoming a Magisterate? How did that happen? Isn’t that risky?” Zenner asked, taking off his monocle.
Zenner approached the power armor suit, and backed up into it, the power armor activated and folded open, settling the crab in.
“I had a knack for speech. They thought it would be a good diplomatic technique if a Dugrum met and showed them what our silk could do. I’m surprised I made it with the rest,” L’yophin stated, straining on the last few words.
“You went in a circle for your career, didn’t you?” L’yophin inquired.
“Indeed. As the fighting intensified, everyone was conscripted who fought in the past. Near the end of it, command fell apart, as did rank and structure. I then freebooted with a group of pirates for some time before finding out the rest survived here. Settle down as a trader with ol’ Onsort.”
“Hive Veil Cerpin. Odonata: Pilot. Shipwright. Caelifera: Trader. Mantodea: Stalker. ” Onsort interrupted as he began suiting up.
L’yophin’s eyes widened at that. For Scarabaeidae, there were many different castes. Mantodea were military based. Caelifera were civilian level métier. Odonata were space-faring metiers. Onsort was a Mantodea Stalker, the Scarabaeidae elite.
“Zenner and I were together the entire time. It took a miracle to find this planet.”
L’yophin spotted the plasma cannon along the wall. The shoulder mounted weapon would mount along his thorax, firing a long arc of superheated energy.
The K’stan would wait.
He backed away at seeing Zenner’s Majidae power armor light up and move, the nacelle cabling shooting off the main chassis spine. It sported twin energy cannons along the claws. Each claw sported a new custom addition of enchanted fae steel blades; possible gifts from the fae themselves. The top of the chassis sported twin shoulder mounts of energy twiners, with the addition of well over thirty spotted laser scanners. Nestled to either side of the mandibles were plasma cannons. The eyes were set low, just above the mandible section.
Onsort equipped his suit, donning the hydrogen definer over his shoulder. It was a stealth fighter’s weapon, capable of striking a target with a projected hydrogen explosion. There were no trail or tracers, making counterattack difficult if not impossible. With such a weapon, assassinations would have been the prime purpose.
Onsort and Zenner are both surprising and terrifying.
L’yophin equipped the torso brace, the plasma cannon, and filtering mask to prevent retina burn. Plasma cannons were equal measures loud, bright, and destructive.
Onsort skittered to the others, getting a strategy set.
“Plan. Zenner, you garner attention. You are also the most agile. Keep their attention and avoid their attacks first. You strike fully if they divert.”
“L’yophin, stay far back, striking like artillery. We shall uplink with one another, giving you targets.”
“I will play scout, and strike when their attention is focused elsewhere.”
Everyone was in agreement over the plan.
“And move out!” Zenner bellowed as he stomped to the exit with the others in tow. Onsort’s suit flickered and he vanished, the veiling kicking on.
They began making their way to the battlefield, seeing a beam of emerald light flash on the horizon. The blast lit up a silhouette of a being making their way over.
“L’yophin! Thank Diniel you’re all prepared,” Basil shouted, limping over to the others.
“Fallen angels. Lucifer’s lackeys are upon us. An’a demon! Diniel is helping with Ruth, but I don’ know how long they have,” Basil stated as he slumped to the ground.
“Basil, get inside, get to safety,” L’yophin ordered.
“No nee’ to tell me twice. Broken rib, dislocate’ shoulder, cracke’ skull. Diniel di’a number on me.”
“Diniel??” L’yophin replied.
Basil was breathed heavily as he continued, pain evident on his face.
“Aye, go’me out of the way of a fatal shot and sen’me in your direction. I took the hin’ an’lef’!”
“Here, at leas’ take a boon or three.”
Basil said as he began to touch each of their weapons, with Zenner needing the most work. He was exhausted from the outpour but was still standing.
“Blesse’ye weapons with fae magic. I’ll keep eye on Soltana, now go kick those gobshites,” Basil valadicted with a swear.
L’yophin gave a spidery nod at that.
Basil limped his way to the Sigmafly to watch over Soltana.
“Alright, let’s move!” Zenner bellowed, his voice volume was increased and distorted by the power armor.
Zenner’s antigrav cells kicked and he took flight above. Onsort was nowhere to be seen, giving L’yophin the appearance he was alone.
But he was far from it.
They moved, passing the estate and getting close to the ranch area.
L’yophin saw a green form on the ground, the body of a goblin.
“Found someone!” L’yophin shouted as he skittered along and picked up the limp form of Dirk.
“Go away I’m sleeping,” Dirk complained.
L’yophin looked deadpan, dropping the goblin.
“Wah! What happened?” Dirk awoke with a start.
“You fell asleep!” L’yophin began.
“No! A strange angel thing grabbed me. I must have hit the ground hard…”
“We need to help Ruth!” Dirk began.
“We will. Go to the Sigma fly with Basil.”
“Oh-kay…” Dirk complained as he limped to the vessel.
L’yophin continued his journey to the battlefield, seeing the combatants fighting.
The pressure he felt was immense, most coming from the strange emerald beings in their suits. Two of the tall emerald horrors were holding off two other angels with their green tendril whips. Diniel and Ruth were fighting a floating angel that harried them.
“We should help Ruth.”
“Agreed. Target the floating angel. I will strike from behind. Zenner put fire into it once Ruth and Diniel are clear. L’yophin, hold until a clear shot is presented.”
“Understood, ol’ bean. Just like old times…”
L’yophin took position behind a well-placed rock, peeking out and zooming in with his mask optics, seeing the angel clothed in a tan robe with a floating head and floating arms. He was a flurry of movement, striking with his arms at both targets. He had a strange green circle above his that was steadily filling, the same with Diniel.
“What are those circles?” L’yophin asked.
He’d never seen such things before.
“Unknown, it appears to be charging up. Diniel’s ‘pie’ is not moving. Both he and the angel have it. They either have a similar ability or someone else is affecting them. The theory is the green demon.” Onsort theorized over comms.
“In position, the angel has spotted me, but is not engaging,” Zenner updated.
Ruth was holding off the attacks beautifully, displaying her Ancath and shapeshifting abilities in a well-synergized duo. Diniel was struggling for some reason, L’yophin had little idea as to why. It looked like Diniel was somehow hampered. L’yophin guessed it was due to one or more of the angels, or that strange emerald demon.
“What is going on? What happened that attracted everything to my front door?” L’yophin muttered, anger welling up in him at seeing his fine ranch and moss plains torched. The massive column of burning fire drove him over, anger boiling up.
One of the emerald demons and a one armed angel were trading a flurry of blows, with no damage caused by either side.
The tall armored angel and the other emerald demon were striking at each other, trading physical blows in equal numbers.
“Who are those two?” L’yophin asked aloud at the two green demons.
He remembered Azazel, the glowing angel of light. To him he had also been the angel of destruction.
He remembered Barthin, the fiery angel of hellfire who became stronger over time.
Both were terrors in their own right.
Both were being subdued by these new green demons.
He felt immense darkness from it, the pressure was stifling. L’yophin had little hesitation he couldn’t stand near those things.
The floating angel spun away from a volley of kinetic infused quills, spreading out away from Ruth and Diniel.
“Targeting now,” Onsort confirmed.
The angel was suddenly engulfed and a yellow explosion, sending a thunderous vacuum thump through the air.
“Intercepting!” Zenner replied, his power armor’s antigrav modules activated, sending him zooming to engage.
The angel’s attention was turned to Zenner, seeing him as the culprit.
A massive hurricane of wind bore down on the power armor, keeping Zenner pinned and huddled.
The green sphere filled and faded away, the angel gave pause, turning to the emerald demon.
“L’yophin,” Onsort announced.
The spider locked in, firing the plasma cannon. The cannon roared with fire, announcing to everyone where L’yophin was. The green electrical arc homed in, lancing into the angel. The angel let out a locomotive shriek that reverberated through the Underrealm. His body was riddled with disintegrated entry wounds, much of his upper torso had simply vanished. It turned without missing a beat, rushing to attack L’yophin.
“Oh. Oh. OH!” L’yophin panicked at seeing the large angel rushing to him, his three hands readying an attack.
The angel was struck in the back by two more smaller plasma cannon arcs and several volleys of energy weapon blasts. Zenner was pouring all fire into the angel, gathering its attention.
The angel shrieked again, continuing to charge L’yophin. A yellow explosion rocked into its head, sending it tumbling to the ground. Zenner got close, pouring fire into the downed angel; he moved in with the glint fae blades. Zenner was grasped by three hands and tossed away, his power armor crashing into the mossy ground. The angel rose, quickly rushing to L’yophin. Another yellow explosion rocked into it from Onsort’s hydrogen definer. It was within a short walking distance. L’yophin prepared to fire again, accepting his fate.
A hooked quill blossomed from what was left of its chest, yanking the angel back down to the ground. Ruth had not just been a bystander as the angel was pulled into the waiting wall of spears and spikes of a dozen arms she had sprouted. She tore into it, the massive psychokinetic energy was life-giving to L’yophin. Ruth dismembered the torso, throwing the angel to the ground. Her head and torso ripped and tore open, revealing a massive maw of twisted teeth and hooks.
Diniel struck, knocking Ruth back with a blast, sending her tumbling back to L’yophin.
“Diniel! What are you doing?” Ruth shouted as she recovered to her feet.
The angel was silent, unable to speak.
Diniel went to the beaten angel, seeing the torn robes and destroyed body. It was healing, but too slowly. Diniel kneeled down, seeing the face of his former friend.
L’yophin skittered close to hear.
“It will be only a matter of time when the Underre-” Forcas began but was interrupted.
Diniel grasped Forcas’ head with two of his arms and began to crush. Forcas’ arms grasped at Diniel, trying to gain purchase as he crushed the angel’s skull. The hollow twisted arms gripped the sword and rammed down, pinning Forca’s head to mossy earth. The sound of a shrieking locomotive rang out with the tearing wrench of metal. Diniel twisted the blade, prying it left to right. A final push with his weight crunched the metal skull between the ground and the guard, crushing him. The angel went silent, his floating limbs dropping to the ground. Forcas stilled, his life extinguished. Diniel held out his hand, grasping the soul mote and storing it in blue light. The angel’s body crumbled to a sandstone statue.
For a brief moment, the Underrealm was silent.
Diniel spoke solemnly, finding his tongue again.
“Forcas, please do no hold a grudge against me for putting you down,”
He stood to address Ruth.
“I could not allow you to devour a divine. I could not allow you to put down my former friend.”
“That was my duty,” Diniel explained. As he lowered his head
Diniel looked to the other battle. The Fallen were aware that Forcas had fallen, their countenance dire.
“It is the end,” Diniel announced.
Diniel pointed to the four.
The angels and demons froze, becoming a shade of blue. The green sphere above Diniel’s head filled completely and vanished.
Ruth was furious at Diniel preventing her from feeding. L’yophin was glad they were safe.
“Ruth! Are you alright?” L’yophin shouted as he skittered to her.
“L’yophin, you shouldn’t be here. It’s-”
“-My property which I will defend until I perish!” He shot back.
Ruth shook her head with a smile, understanding the stubborn Dugrum.
“I say! Good show, my baeidae,” Zenner exhorted as he trundled in, his armor buffed and scratched.
Onsort appeared nearby, deveiling.
“What shall be done with those?” Onsort asked, pointing to the angels and demon.
“No!” Diniel cried out.
And then everyone looked.
One of the emerald demons was vibrating, shifting, and moving. His head thrashed to and fro, his mouth going through a host of emotions in seconds. With a burst of movement, the demon rushed to the group with a shrieking laugh. He had broken free.
“Time Lock!” It shouted.
“Oh. Oh no…” L’yophin stated plainly.
Diniel went a shade blue and stilled, locked down by his own hijacked spell.
The demon grabbed Ruth around the waist and throat, looking into her. She let out a stifled cry.
“Get away from her!” L’yophin stated. Pointing the plasma cannon at the Emerald being.
The being paused, glancing to him, bereft of eyes.
“You’re a small Dugrum! I could use the silk…”
“Join me, Neon, the Emerald god. We have good brunches!” The god invited with a scoffing laugh.
“Never!” L’yophin shouted back on stubborn instinct, confused by the entire series of events.
Then he felt it. He was standing within feet of the god whose malevolent pressure should have instantly dropped him. Neon emitted no presence, nothing his instincts would react to. He was a dead zone on sensors.
“There wasn’t a choice!”
“However, that is very brave of you, tiny Dugrum! How about I just-”
“Wait!” Ruth shouted. The god paused, his head snapping to her.
“Wait. I will go with you willingly.”
“Ruth, don’t be foolish!” L’yophin shouted.
He looked back to see Zenner and Onsort crumpled over. His hearts skipped a beat in knowing that Neon could project onto specific individuals.
He now understood everything.
From that sudden malevolent pressure, he knew where it came from. His fallen friends implied he could project his presence and pinpoint it. One could guess the angels, fallen and loyal were drawn here. His familiarity with Ruth was also a hint. Ruth who was from up above. From up above where the scheming Praetarca, the last of his foolish leaders, went to conquer the humans, never to return.
His conclusion was that this was the demon that had changed Ruth. And may have been influencing not only the Underrealm but Titanyia V itself.
His burning mosslands, the trespassing, attempted kidnapping and destruction of his friends drove him over.
L’yophin’s anger spiller over.
He shrieked a spidery scream as he aimed, firing the cannon.
The being cocked his head, viewing the green arcing beam of doom with simple curiosity.
His hand grasped out, catching the arc of green electrical plasma and balling it into a massive sphere.
L’yophin mandibled mouth went agape at seeing the new mini sun in the being’s hand.
The green sun spiralled into the being’s hand, absorbing to nothing.
Neon’s hand twitched, all nine fingers splaying into random disquieting directions at that.
“Wonderful…” The demon murmured as he breathed in.
L’yophin dropped the cannon, the fight had left him. There was nothing he could do. He gulped down, awaiting the counterattack.
Ruth struggled, gathering the Neon’s attention.
“You have the Fallen angels and you will have me. In return leave my friends in peace,” Ruth bargained.
“Ah, you can’t use my wealth for bargaining. The Angels are mine. All of them,” Neon stated with a smile.
Ruth sneered back at the demon, using his words against himself.
“What about my blank check?”
“Who is the one writing it?” The demon retorted.
“Oh ho! But you? Just you? If you willingly submit, that is worth far more than an angel’s soul.”
“I-” Neon began as he released her throat, looking back to L’yophin with glee.
Ruth’s head and torso split down the middle and she struck, hugging Neon close and biting down with a hundred razors, a hundred quills, and a hundred hooked teeth. Green blood flowed and Neon did something unexpected.
He laughed in surprise.
He hugged her close, even when she tried to gain more purchase in his flesh.
“Ruth, that was surprising of you. Didn’t expect that! You have some fight left!” Neon chided, he spoke on as if it was normal for one to try to eat him.
“L’yophin, Run!” Ruth cried, trying to delay for seconds.
“Oh no, I’m not losing a tiny Dugrum. You could fit him anywhere! Do you know how useful a compact silk producer is?” Neon stated.
L’yophin felt his body go limp and crashing to the ground. His body wouldn’t respond as he was paralyzed by a sudden pressure. His mind was intact and so he witnessed to what Neon’s actions. His form flowed around Ruth, his body reforming and holding her maw-body open with limbs and tendrils.
“Do you think you could eat me? Eat me and gain my power?”
“Do you want to try?” Neon taunted, holding a finger above her gaping maw.
“Boring!” Neon shouted as he shut her down.
A drop of his flesh entered her maw willingly. Neon let her go as her form flowed back to her normal Ancath. She dropped to her knees, instantly vomiting up red viscera. L’yophin could only watch as her form twisted and turned, changing to all manner and combinations of creatures. She gagged and shrieked at whatever Neon did to her was tearing her apart. Her form degraded to a mound of flesh slime that writhed and contorted in agony. What Neon did was poison to her.
“My raw being is just too much for her to handle,” Neon stated with regret.
“Can’t have my child being destroyed…” Neon muttered as he reached out to retrieve the small droplet of his own blood. It flowed to the surface of Ruth’s fleshy mound and lept back to his finger, absorbing into the glove.
The mound of flesh shrunk, deflating to a form L’yophin had not seen since the destruction of his gods.
The place where Ruth should have been was now occupied by his race’s destroyer.
She was curled up, small and unassuming.
Her soft fair skin stood out in the dark Underrealm. Her golden hair glinted.
“Your Child? You were the one?” L’yophin asked the demon. Understanding flooded him.
“Oh miniscule Dugrum, Ruth is the bearer of my child. She is the vessel for the future. I expect you to remember all of this. It’ll be on the quiz!” Neon replied with a laugh.
The shrieking goat noise tore into L’yophin’s ears. He felt the blood flow from them.
He remembered Ruth’s heartbreak over hearing that revelation. Her trembling fear that she would be tracked. She was correct to be.
“Ruth, I expect you to remember well why you shouldn’t eat and absorb a strong divine. You simply can’t handle it just yet,” Neon tsked with a wagging finger.
“Well? Ruth, my love, are you coming?”
Neon gently kicking at the downed human.
“Ruth? Ah, she blacked out,”
He turned back, glancing in the distance.
“Here comes the other…”
“I guess I accept that as a contr-”
“You will not touch her!” A voice cried out.
A being walked into view of L’yophin. There he saw her in all her glory. She strode with mighty intent, the Seal blazing upon her forehead. Her left arm was twisted hollow filigree, meeting to a long triangular needlepoint. Her right arm was the same filigree, but meeting to an elegant five-fingered hand. Her legs were hollow twisted filigree, meeting to angled oval-shaped feet. Her body was hollow filigree as well, with a well-defined spine. Her head was a smooth and featureless mannequin head, with red eyes glowing brightly. She looked fragile, which belied her adamantite alloy. The Seal was glowing orange upon her head.
She was mighty, glorious, transcendent indomitability.
And very short.
She stood only eighteen inches high.
“Soltana, no! Run!” L’yophin managed to cry out.
“What is that?” Neon asked, turning to address the newcomer.
The god glanced back to L’yophin, shrugging his hands in confusion.
He turned to face the newcomer, smiling with glee.
Neon squealed in delight, putting his hands to his mouth upon witnessing her.
“Oh my gods, she’s adorable!”