On the green fields beneath the Monolith, chaos reigned. Elves stood side-by-side with the remaining White Knights, anxiously awaiting the moment when the frontline defences broke and they too would raise their weapons to fight. Magic arced from battlestaff to helpless shield, steel clashed against steel, and from the old mansion on the hill, elvish arrows rained down across the Zarosian army.
“We’ve lost sight of Seren!” a scout yelled, breathlessly. Saradomin nodded and scanned his eyes across the battlefield. The elven goddess had been missing for hours – hunting her brother, perhaps.
A shadow swept across a group of knights towards the left flank, catching his attention. He waved away the scout.
“Keep searching,” he instructed. The shadow was darting though clouds of smoke. He followed, one eye on the sky. Then Nex chose to make her move.
With a screaming battle cry, the Angel of Death descended, scattering the Saradominist forces. Saradomin raised his staff, aiming a blast of blue light at the winged monstrosity. She instinctively dropped a wing, the shot sailing over her shoulder, and dropped to the ground.
“You still believe you can defeat us?” she scoffed. Saradomin said nothing. There was no reasoning with Zarosians.
A second bolt of light scorched the ground at Nex’s feet and she hissed, snakelike, relishing the thrill of battle. She flexed her wings and in a moment the field was engulfed in smoke. The clash of weapons dulled, punctuated by coughing soldiers.
The god raised his arms and cried out. A great wave of force exploded outwards, causing Nex to stagger and the Knights hovering at the edge of the field to fall back. A shimmering barrier separated them from the two combatants – and from the deadly smoke. Saradomin raised his hand as they attempted to come to his aid.
“Your bravery is better suited to the battlefield!” he cried, “Rally! Defend the Monolith!”
Nex dashed forward, claws and teeth and rage, only to be blocked by the cold metal of Saradomin’s staff. With all the strength he could muster, he threw her aside. He barely had the chance to reach for his mace before finding himself sidestepping a vicious line of icy spikes shooting from the ground. Another blast of light sent Nex reeling. Saradomin prepared to strike when a ball of pure shadow collided with his arm. He hissed in pain, even as the wound mended itself. The barrier held.
“Perhaps you should focus on fighting, and not protecting your humans.” Nex’s voice dripped with disdain.
Saradomin had no reply. He was focusing on maintaining the barrier, the only thing between his troops and Nex’s unstoppable power. Sometimes, wisdom meant knowing better than to rise to the bait.
Clearly tiring of her magic, Nex launched into another melee attack and the pair clashed together, a whirl of light and shadow impossible for human eyes to follow. Whenever the blunt edge of Saradomin’s mace struck, Nex would slip aside – and whenever her claws found their target, they glanced off the tempered silvthril of Saradomin’s armour in a shower of sparks.
With an animal growl Nex disengaged from the fight, falling back to the other side of the arena. Her breath was ragged, her posture an exhausted mirror of Saradomin’s own. They were at a stalemate.
Outside the barrier, Saradomin’s knights were fighting for their lives. No – for Gielinor. One sliced into an abyssal prowler. Another fell at the blade of a former comrade, betrayal written in his eyes. With some effort Saradomin swallowed his fury and set Nex in his sights. If all he could do was keep this creature from tearing up the rest of his forces, then that would have to suffice.
When he’d first encountered Nex, all those years ago, he’d admired her dedication. Now he saw the truth of her – another fool driven by misplaced loyalty to a god who would destroy the world to satisfy his ambition.
Out there, beyond the shining barrier – that was what real loyalty looked like. Saradomin grit his teeth. Nex grinned. And the fight began anew.