Juhra cackled. He cackled his hideous, penetrating cackle.
Deadrick tried to face him off, which was difficult seeing as he couldn’t make eye contact with him.
Your kind amuse me.
“You were like us once, remember?” Deadrick said.
That made Juhra laugh again.
At one time I was, that much is true. But I survived in the Underlands for triple the amount of years I was alive. There is nothing living in me anymore.
“I know what the Underlands is like,” Deadrick said, “I have been there before,”
I know. I know all of your life, Deadrick Blade. Even the things that are locked away- the things that you can’t remember.
Deadrick narrowed his eyes.
If you gave me your body willingly, I would reveal it all to you. Then I went let you die with closure.
“You may know everything about my life, but nobody knows anything that I don’t,”
Her name was Trinity.
Deadrick’s eyes went wide. Inside his head, it felt as though a door had been opened.
Something was trickling through- images filled his mind.
A blonde woman, a beautiful blonde woman…
He knew her…
Screaming… tearing and howling.
Her unblemished skin… stained with blood.
Deadrick bent forward, gasping.
“Deadrick?” Nerui asked.
“I’m fine… I’m fine,” He told her, “Don’t play mind games with me, demon,”
That was no mind game. And you know that. You remember her now.
“Stay out of my head,” He snarled.
“Deadrick,” Danyel said.
Deadrick turned to him.
“What about the Unholy on the ground- what if they get inside?” Danyel asked, looking at the staircase on the far side of the room.
Then they will tear you to ribbons.
Danyel looked up at Juhra, shocked that he had spoken to him, but he looked away a split second later.
“No they won’t,” Bruad said, causing Juhra’s huge eye to dart towards him, “They’re charged up and want nothing more than blood. You can’t let them in because you cant control them well enough to stop them killing Deadrick,”
Juhra was quiet, and Deadrick was shocked at Bruad standing up to the Demon.
You are one of the few I cannot control.
“Yes, I am Kan Madu Gral, we do not depend on Ecrid energy. Your powers are lost on me,” Bruad said, “I know that those Unholy down there are at their most animalistic point. You can’t control them without a real form on this world,”
Deadrick smiled as he heard Juhra make a small noise of anger.
Deadrick, through all of this you seem to have overlooked one thing.
Deadrick looked up.
“And whats that?” He asked carefully.
While your friend here may be correct about my ability to control the Unholy, I am able to persuade them.
Deadrick breathed out slowly.
My power bleeds like poison through the Ecrid channels of this world- reaching every single Unholy beast in this land, Juhra spoke. His toothed mouth not moving to make the words, his entire mass moving up and down as he laboured to breathe, I could tell them all to kill in my name. In the name of their prophet.
Deadrick’s mouth became a snarl.
Millions would die; can you allow that, Inquisitor?
“You wouldn’t do that. You have more planned than that, you want more-”
I desire revenge. Who are you to gauge how many deaths are required to quench that desire?
Deadrick’s teeth began to grind.
“I give you my body willingly, everyone dies,” Deadrick said slowly, “You kill me with my own weapons, everyone dies,”
Nerui looked at Deadrick, his face was shadowed beneath his hat, but she could clearly see how much he was struggling.
“I try and fight you, everyone dies,”
The evil words sounded almost twice as sinister due to the calm and collected way they were spoken.
I’m afraid that your time to contemplate has come to an end.
“Deadrick, if you don’t look at him, he can’t control you- just don’t look!” Nerui cried.
Juhra cackled again.
I may be chained in body, but I am still powerful mentally. I shall reveal my essence and I shall possess you.
Everyone’s hearts simultaneously sank deeply.
You cannot defeat me; I have given you the choices of a painful death, an agonizing death- or a death in which you will fall with no honor to your name.
“What does a Demon know of honor?” Danyel growled.
Juhra simply ignored him, shifting his huge body slightly, making the thick chains chink together; producing a sound that sounded almost too beautiful for the surroundings it was in.
I grow weary of this. Make your choice.
“I… I…” Deadrick stuttered, “No…”
Nerui, Bruad and Danyel were almost shocked at the emotion that they could hear from their usually emotionally dead leader.
“I won’t…” He mumbled.
Your choice has been made.
There was a blinding flash of blood red light, followed by a thunderous clap of what sounded like thunder.
Juhra’s entire body seemed to shift backwards; the gaping mouth opened even further, the eye glazed over and the chains tensed.
The blood-curdling scream came again, as a pillar of red smoke poured from Juhra’s mouth. It travelled upwards, hitting the very roof of the tower. When it collided with the roof, it seemed to explode outwards with another blinding flash.
“Deadrick!” Nerui cried over the scream as the red smoke settled.
Deadrick still gazed at the floor, his face covered in shadows.
The scream suddenly stopped, and the light became dim. Nerui, Bruad and Danyel all looked up, to see Juhra’s true demonic essence, a horrific mass of flaming tentacles, with burning yellow eyes and bursts of fire erupting all over his body.
See my essence! The Demon bellowed, And knowthat it is your end!
The tentacles around Juhra began to coil up like a snake, preparing to launch forward and wrap themselves around Deadrick’s body.
Suddenly, Deadrick raised his head slightly.
“For someone who knows everything about me,” He said slowly, “Your knowledge is lacking about one of my best talents,”
And what is that?
Nerui wanted to smile when she saw Deadrick tip his hat, revealing his grinning face.
“I always have a trick up my sleeve,”
Juhra roared as his tentacles shot forward, but Deadrick was ready. He reached for his hip and pulled his blade from its sheath.
He pointed it forward, and the room lit up again as a beam of glittering green energy burst from the tip of it.
It rushed towards Juhra and collided with his flaming tendrils.
There was another burst of light as they connected, and the green beam spread outwards, all around the room, forming a great, shimmering wall between them.
Juhra’s tentacles recoiled, then struck out again. His roars were muffled behind the wall as he viciously attacked again and again.
Deadrick turned quickly to Nerui, who stared in awe at the wall.
“What is that?” She mumbled.
“That,” Deadrick said calmly, “Is a negative force of Ecrid energy, designed to keep at bay all Werewolves, Witches, Vampires and Demons. Patent pending,”
He winked at Nerui, who couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
“Then… we did it! We’re okay! You’re okay!” She half laughed, half sobbed.
Deadrick shook his head solemnly.
“No…” He said quietly, “The wall is only temporary. In a minute or so he’ll get through and he’ll take my body,”
Nerui looked at him, as though she knew what he was going to say next.
“I need you to kill me,” He said, handing her his dagger.
Nerui blinked, and then her mouth went wide.
“What?” She stuttered, “I’m not going to kill you I-“
“Don’t argue with me,” Deadrick told her, “Any second now he’s going to get through, and then he’ll take my body and everybody will die,”
“No!” Nerui yelled, “We can- we can stop him… somehow, we can do it!”
Deadrick just shook his head again.
“I need to die,” He repeated, “His host is dead, if I die during possession he’ll have nothing to revert back to,”
Nerui shook her head unbelievingly, tears appearing on the corners of her eyes. Danyel and Bruad just watched them.
“Why me?” Nerui asked.
“Because I trust you, and if I have to finally die, then I get to choose who kills me,”
There was a crack, and they all turned to see one of the fiery tendrils burst through the veil.
It shot forward and met with Deadrick’s forehead.
He yelled out in pain, clenching together his eyes and his fists.
“Do it now!” He cried.
Tears flowed freely from Nerui’s eyes; she held the knife at an arms length, muttering “No,” over and over again.
“Do it now!” He repeated, this time screaming at the top of his lungs.
Then, there came three loud pops.
The tentacles recoiled, and Deadrick looked down at his chest with an expression that looked like it was stuck halfway between shocked and bewildered.
He looked up again, to see Bruad standing a few feet away from him, holding out his own gun. The end smoked slightly, and Bruad’s arm shook.
Deadrick stood with his hand against his chest for a few seconds, feeling the blood flow through his fingers, before falling to his knees.
He looked up to see his three companions looking over him, each with radically different expressions across their face. Nerui’s mouth was open, her eyes wide.
Danyel’s face was blank, only his eyes showed the slightest bit of emotion.
Bruad still held the gun out, blinking as though he couldn’t fathom what he had just done.
“Thank you,” Deadrick managed to mumble.
With one final nod of respect at Bruad, who returned it with an unsure look, he fell forward. Dead.
Nerui screamed and fell to her knees beside him, but it was drowned out by Juhra’s roar.
Bruad had dropped the gun, and nobody had noticed it, and the dagger turn to dust.
Danyel and Bruad turned to see the wall of Ecrid dissipate, and behind it, Juhra’s astral form began to contort and twist out of shape.
Around them, the room began to shake, like some giant beast had gripped the tower and was shaking it violently.
With one final screech, Juhra exploded outwards in a fountain of fire and Ecrid. The flames enveloped two of the pillars around the outside of the room. They cracked and shattered, and the whole roof shuddered ominously.
Nerui was sobbing so hard, she didn’t even notice the Halara, Naluitha and two other riders glide through the crumbling windows.
“By the Dragons…” Naluitha mumbled, seeing Deadrick splayed out on the floor, blood rapidly pooling around him.
“Come, hurry!” The Halara yelled to Danyel and Bruad, who grabbed Nerui by the arms and tried to pull her away.
“Nerui!” Danyel cried, pulling at her arm.
“No!” She sobbed, refusing to let go of Deadrick.
Bruad gave an almighty pull, and they managed to pull her away.
“Bring him!” She screeched.
The Halara nodded to the riders, who dismounted and ran over to Deadrick, and picked him up by the arms.
They lifted him onto the back of one of the Gryphons, just as Naluitha helped Nerui onto his.
The Halara looked at the pool of blood where he had been laying, and saw his hat. He bolted forward and picked it up. He ran back to the Gryphon and threw himself onto the saddle.
“Go!” He yelled.
Simultaneously all of the Gryphons jumped into the air, their great wings flapping, and they shot out of the windows.
They flew out into the air just as the tower began to crumble.
Below, the crowds dispersed as the huge structure shuddered, and shattered, hundreds of thousands of pieces of bricks and mortar, steel and iron fell to the ground.
With Nerui’s cries still ringing out, they flew away into the suddenly incredibly cold air.