The battlefield burned. The last of Zaros’ followers had backed themselves into a clearing where Azzanadra lay, apparently incapacitated and obscured by thick smoke. At intervals they’d hear noises – human screams, or maybe battle cries, the sharp crack as a TokHaar finally fell.
“We can’t stay here forever,” Nex snarled. “What’s wrong with him?”
Wahisietel – still in that ridiculous disguise – looked up at her and shrugged.
“Becoming a god isn’t easy,” he said.
Nex scoffed and turned away.
“Perhaps he’s just not as worthy as he thought...”
It was a cruel thing to say, but she felt it in every bone of her body. Zaros had left them. Azzanadra was his second-rate replacement. And Char... Char was...
Nex blinked away the tears in her eyes (from the smoke, of course...) and spotted something. A shadow among the embers. A TokHaar. With a primal growl she pounced, ready to rip and tear until it was just another pile of rocks.
It didn’t move. It didn’t have to. With the kind of disinterested look Nex might give a fly buzzing around her head, it raised an arm and caught her mid-leap. She dropped to the ground and countered with a blast of shadow magic, forcing the TokHaar to stumble back.
“This is anathema,” it said. “It must be destroyed.”
Nex took the opportunity to aim a ball of shadow right at its face. The TokHaar made a sound like metal scraping against rock and swung its massive arm towards her, but it was too late. She sidestepped and aimed another spell at its shoulder joint. Steam curled from the wound as the TokHaar frantically pushed her back, and Nex grinned.
“So these are the armies of the Elder Gods? Pathetic.”
She’d angered it, now. The ground trembled and, remembering the fate of the shadow behemoth, Nex took to the air. There were more of them, somewhere in the fog of war – was it summoning them? She had to finish this quickly.
Claws at the ready she went into a dive. The creature readied itself – clearly used to fighting its own kind – and when she feinted to the side, it was helplessly exposed. Another barrage of ice. Another piercing screech from the TokHaar. Nex saw her chance.
Digging her claws into the rocky chitin around its face, she pulled hard, upsetting the creature’s balance and sending it crashing into the ground. It lay there, pinned to the floor like some baffled, oversized beetle.
“Why are you doing this?” Nex hissed. “Why even try?”
The TokHaar’s arms pinwheeled behind it, trying to catch her off guard.
“Answer me!” she growled.
“It is… the protocol,” it gasped. “The protocol must be followed. The impurities must be eliminated. Those are… our orders…”
“And when you’re done?” Nex asked. “What happens to you?”
The TokHaar was silent.
“Do you think your gods will spare you?”
The TokHaar took a moment to answer.
“The masters’ word is absolute.”
Nex felt the flames lick at her face a fraction of a second too late. Time slowed to a crawl as she turned, saw the TokHaar-Hok, registered the jet of lava spewing from its hand and raised her arms in a last-ditch effort to shield herself. She thought of Char, waiting for a rescue that would never happen.
Mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur.
But death never came. Nex opened her eyes to see a wall of flame, mere inches away, held in place by a shimmering barrier. The flames died, and her rescuer was revealed.
“It seems I was timely,” Saradomin said.
The TokHaar-Hok flexed its limbs with a pop, gearing up for a second attack, while the other that Nex had pinned finally forced itself once again to its feet. The fight was on.
As one, god and zaryte leapt into action. Saradomin’s mace slammed into the TokHaar-Hok with enough force to send it stumbling across the field, where Nex was waiting with a wall of icy spikes. The smaller TokHaar charged towards them, only to smack into another barrier. Ice and shadow swept across the scorched earth as lightning arced through the air.
Out of the corner of her eye, Nex could see more TokHaar converging on their position, the hive mind coordinating to surround them.
“Behind you!” she cried out. Saradomin whirled around, striking another TokHaar with his mace. As it fell, two more stepped up from behind. They would soon be surrounded.
Neither of them noticed the sudden chill falling over the battlefield. It was only when Nex spotted curls of steam rising from the TokHaar-Hok’s shell that she realised anything was wrong – and by then, it no longer mattered.
A wall of ice descended around the TokHaar-Hok and, with a colossal cracking sound, it shattered, exploding outwards in a pile of obsidian chunks.
Azzanadra stumbled out from the smoke, leaning heavily on Wahisietel’s arm.
“What did I miss?” he croaked.