1.03: Pushed to the Edge

A lustrous, bony blade carved through the black rock of the underground arena like a hot knife through butter with Nemesis barely managing to roll out of the way of Alythess’ latest attack. Within a moment the swifter of the demon sisters was already upon the soul-hunter and Nemesis had to again struggle to deflect the assault.

Nemesis was offered no respite as Alythess’ third attack followed quickly after the second, unable to bring her demon-blade to bear in time Nemesis was struck, the blurred demon’s arm blade scraping the soul-collector’s armour as she zoomed passed, knocking Nemesis off kilter.

With Neroth’s hound reeling Sacaya surged forward and once again struck Nemesis, this time in her side with a left hook.

Nemesis was tossed away by the force of the crimson sister’s attack, crashing through three walls before slamming into the ground.

The taste her own blood in fresh in Nemesis’ mouth as she began to get back on her feet, pushing away sizeable pieces of ebon debris.

‘I’m never going to win this if I let them come to me,’ Nemesis thought to herself, gripping the hilt of her blade particularly tightly.

The two sisters stood together, just like they did after their last assault, with Alythess draped across her crimson sister’s shoulders.

“Isn’t this over already?” Alythess moaned, rolling her eyes.

“Seems this human we had heard so much about is a little tougher than we guessed,” Sacaya replied to her increasingly irritated sister.

“I don’t even see how a human could contend with us this long,” Alythess scoffed to her sibling.

“I hear tell that Neroth favours the Human after she killed Sourak,” Sacaya explained, to the best of her knowledge anyway.

Nemesis grimaced, she was annoyed that she had almost seemingly been forgotten by the sisters who nattered and shared long glances at each other. Unable to sand it any more Nemesis blasted forward, her sword held ready to strike.

The blade of Nemesis ruthlessly cut the air, howling as it sought to part either Sacaya or Alythess’ heads from their shoulders.

The attack struck with a heavy slice, the force of the swing tearing at the ground and sending clouds of black stone dust into the air, when they settled Nemesis looked on in dismay as she saw her attack was blocked by the back of Sacaya’s left hand, shielding her sister from Nemesis’ onslaught, a small trickle of black blood streaming from the shallow wound.

The crimson sister smiled at her armoured attacker, she drew back her own fist, knowing Nemesis had no way of defending, she had left herself open and Sacaya planned to take full advantage of her opponent’s inexperience.

“Monstrous Pulveriser,” Sacaya said as she continued to draw her right fist back, as she did the bony growth around her fist grew until her hand was barely visible underneath a mass of bony spikes, blades and plates.

The demon swung and all Nemesis could do was look on and brace herself, but she could never have been prepared for anything like this. As the demon’s fist struck Nemesis’ gut the stone of the entire subterranean arena shattered and Nemesis was sent rocketing away like a ball fired from a cannon towards the surface.

Nemesis burst from the black stone street of Black Scar and continued to be carried away by the force of the Sacaya’s blow. Nemesis felt agony the likes of which she had never known before and although the armour she wore had repaired any visible damage to itself Nemesis was sure she had taken significant internal damage.

The attention of all the demons of Black Scar was immediately drawn to the flying soul-collector, being carried across the city, a contrail of dirt, stone and other debris marking her journey.

The Lylus sisters tore their way through the grim stone and barren earth they were trapped under as the building behind them, the front for the illegal arena collapsed.

Sacaya breathed more heavily than before, Alythess was quick to support her as she sat on a nearby piece of rubble.

“You put a lot in to that, didn’t you?” Alythess asked her panting sister.

“I wanted to end this quickly,” Sacaya replied.

“Understandable, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Neroth’s lackey, we would have been better served sticking to our usual strategy,” Alythess said with a wicked smile.

“No human, no matter how strong could have survived that!” Sacaya blasted, slightly angered by the suggestion that Nemesis was somehow still alive.

“Calm yourself, I can’t work with you when you’re angry, besides, think about what Lord  Ozmorath would do to us both if you destroyed any more of his city?” Alythess asked, trying to placate her hot-blooded sibling.

Sacaya huffed and folded her arms angrily, she knew her sister was right, of course, but she didn’t want to let her know that she was.

Alythess moved her head suddenly, as if she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye, or as if she heard a noise and she turned her head ever so slightly to hopefully hear it better.

“I think she’s back,” Alythess spoke softly to her sister with a devious smile, “she’s a little clumsy, I even think I can smell her sickening human scent on the air.”

There was an eerie silence for a moment as the sisters waited to see if Nemesis would make a move.

With a surge of energy and movement Nemesis blasted forth from the rubble, skirting the lip of the crater she and the demon sister’s had created, she leaped forward about half way, rose her dark blade above her head and swung mightily as she descended, with gritted teeth, determined to cleave one or the other sister in two.

Sacaya stood, pushed her sister back a step and rose her bone covered fists.

There was a tremendous clash, dust and small chips of stone were kicked up and scattered for meters around.

A crowd of weary demons stood some distance away, hoping to view the battle, many daren’t get any closer, such was the sheer power of Neroth’s slave and the Lylus sisters.

Nemesis’ blade was caught between Sacaya’s crossed, clenched fists, but as with one of her previous strikes Nemesis did manage to lightly cut the red demoness’ skin.

“I will flense the flesh from your bodies you miserable mortal!” Sacaya screamed as she threw her assailant backwards.

Nemesis managed to land steadily on her feet but before she could even draw her next breath the impossibly fast Alythess was already upon her, arm blade poised to strike.

Nemesis hurried to sidestep the attack, but despite her own haste the sister’s blade still glanced her armour, sparks flying as she passed.

The soul-collector glanced at Sacaya who stood still, watching Nemesis intently, as if waiting for something.

Alythess’ second offensive began quickly after the first, she swung about with momentum she had already gained, surging forward towards the hound of Neroth, who, for some reason was looking at her sister, Sacaya.

Nemesis turned back and almost instinctively brought her blade to, hopefully, block Alythess’ next attack and sure enough as soon as her weapon was in place it was struck as the demon blazed by, the attack knocking Nemesis slightly off balance.

As Nemesis regained her footing she turned about, not only because Alythess’ next attack would likely come from that direction, but also to see exactly what Sacaya is doing.

Sure enough Sacaya was still standing still, watching Nemesis’ every move with burning, intense eyes.

‘I think I understand how they fight,’ Nemesis thought to herself as she waited for Alythess’ third attack.

Sure enough the third attack came quickly, Alythess blasting by Nemesis, striking her again, causing her to stagger back a step.

Nemesis made little effort to defend Alythess’ strike, instead she keenly watched Sacaya, if she was right then as soon as she was struck the crimson sister would make her move and make her move she did.

Sacaya ran forward, right fist drawn back as before. With Nemesis reeling from Alythess’ last attack she could never hope to defend against this one.

As Sacaya’s blow met with Nemesis a loud, bellowing thud echoed throughout the city as Nemesis was tossed into the rubble like a child’s toy.

Nemesis’ body ached all over, she regretted taking that hit, but it was necessary to learn what she had learnt.

The soul-collector shoved a large piece of debris off of herself and began to stand, her face was streaked with blood and dirt, she was sure she had broken several ribs. Nemesis stooped down and picked her heavy demon-blade back up before beginning to walk through the path her body had cleared through the broken remnants of several buildings.

As Nemesis emerged from the trench she had carved through this tiny portion of Black Scar Sacaya looked at her, incensed.

“Sacaya, calm yourself, if we just keep this up she can’t win,” Alythess said, stepping forward, preparing to charge.

“Enough of this, my next attack will finish her for sure,” Sacaya spat, the bony plates on her hands growing until it was like a boxing glove of sharp bone.

“It’s time we ended this,” Nemesis replied to both sisters claims.

“I do so agree,” Alythess responded with an evil smile upon her lips before seemingly vanishing from Nemesis’ sight.

The hound of Neroth made a brief note of Sacaya, once again she was standing, impatiently, just watching Nemesis’ every move.

Nemesis swung her sword around in an effort to block the attack she knew was soon to come and as the blade reached its destination she heard a terrific clang and a sound not dissimilar to the slice of a sword as it cut the air as Alythess’ opening attack was blocked.

Nemesis continued to note Sacaya’s positioning, eye movements and actions as she repositioned for Alythess’ next attack, her attacks had become marginally easier to defend against now that Nemesis had noticed patterns in the way she moved.

It seemed Alythess usually attacks from her opponent’s left side first, then spins about and attacks from their right before attacking again from centre-left.

Sure enough as Nemesis mounted her hasty defence she was struck again, this time her defence was not as sound as before, Alythess’ blistering speed was still something the debt-collector could not wholly compensate for.

‘This is it,’ Nemesis thought to herself as she prepared to execute a gambit of her own that would get her off the defensive and on the attack.

It had been roughly half a second since Alythess’ last attack, she was due to strike soon and in preparation Nemesis dropped her guard, purposefully waiting for the demon sister’s attack.

An instant later and Nemesis was struck, the pointed end of Alythess’ arm blade scraping against her demonic plate mail.

Now was Nemesis’ chance, fighting through the pain caused by the attack the soul-collector threw her arms around the demon sister and caught her tightly.

Blood trickled down from Nemesis’ dark lips as she smiled sinisterly at the demon she had finally caught.

“You sought to break my defence once again and leave me open for your sister, but repeating the same pattern left you even more exposed,” Nemesis spoke relatively calmly.

The demon was powerless to fight against Nemesis’ far superior strength, but a sudden realisation came over her that frightened her far more than her current predicament, quickly Alythess looked to her sister to see she was already mid-attack.

“Sacaya! Stop!” Alythess cried from Nemesis’ demon-steel clutches, but it was too late, Sacaya’s bone encased fist was already deep within her sister’s gut, the intense pain blurring Alythess’ usually hyper keen vision.

The force of the blow sent Nemesis, with Alythess in tow thundering away, crashing through half a dozen ruined walls and other piles of assorted rubble.

Nemesis tossed the motionless body of Alythess off of her and began to clamber to her feet, her movements were slow and laboured, her armour seemed a great deal heavier than it did just a scant few minutes ago, it was clear to her that she was tiring, all the constant abuse she had endured was taking its toll.

“Alythess!?” Sacaya cried off in the distance.

The next sound Nemesis heard as she staggered forward was the sound of stone exploding, struck by incredible force. The soul-collector looked back at the limp, unconscious body of Sacaya’s sister.

Nemesis slowly made her way back to the clearing where she and the demon sisters were fighting, Alythess slung over her shoulder.

As Nemesis made her way back she saw Sacaya approaching her from the opposite direction, a new kind of hateful fire in her eyes.

Nemesis and Sacaya stopped, several meters separating them. Neroth’s soul-collector tossed the carcass of Alythess back to her sibling.

The body hit the clutter strewn ground with a heavy thud and immediately Sacaya rushed to her fallen sister’s side.

“How!?” Sacaya growled angrily as she looked at her sister.

“It was you,” Nemesis replied coldly, attempting to look calm and composed despite all the pain she felt.

“What!?” Sacaya barked looking up angrily at her opponent.

“I noticed that as we fought you never took your eyes off of me, you never moved, until your sister’s third attack in a row. I don’t think you could track her movements any better than I could, that’s why her attack pattern was so predicable, she sought to create an opening for you to exploit by her third attack,” Nemesis explained, “I wonder how many you two have killed with that exact same strategy?”

“You’ll be sorry you ever messed with us! I will tear you apart!” Sacaya blasted, waves of pure anger and rage washed over the ruined district of Black Scar, Nemesis seemingly felt the very air around her get heavier, an unseen force pushing at her, she had felt this before, in her dream when she stood before the swirling torrent of emerald power and when she was first brought before Neroth in his dark chambers.

Sacaya stood from her sister’s side, she had a far crueller expression on her face than before.

“This is the end for you human!” Sacaya bellowed, the bony growth around her hands growing and growing, eventually spreading to her wrist then up to the rest of her lower arm until everything below her elbow was no longer visible, instead there was just a huge club-like bone casing on one arm and a large claw like growth that consumed her other arm.

Sacaya rushed towards Nemesis with far more alacrity than she had ever shown before and struck her face with her club like arm, the force unleashed by the attack demolishing several large pieces of rubble some way behind the pair.

Sacaya’s assault was not over, she struck at Nemesis again and again within what felt like the same instant, smashing her with a storm of blows the likes of which she had never experienced before.

Nemesis was flung away effortlessly by the sheer, unbelievable strength of Sacaya’s vicious assault. The soul-collector carved a trench through the dark stone of Black Scar.

Nemesis slowed and eventually stopped, shaking with the intensity of the pain she felt. It was as if almost everything in her body was utterly destroyed, she had never seen rage that intense or known strength that overwhelming.

As blood streamed down Nemesis’ face she began to lose consciousness, her body unable to bear any more punishment.

Nemesis once again found herself on the cold, black flagstone floor of that chamber from her dream.

She stood wearily and looked around, this time she noticed that the door out to the large hall where the demon was chained and the great swirling river of green energy was already open and something told her that that is where she should go.

As Nemesis stepped out of the small, black stone cell out into the main hall she looked around, the room was now in near ruin, the stone of the wall was cracked and crumbling with small pieces of rock that had fallen from the basalt of the ceiling.

Nemesis walked towards the surging torrent of power only to find that even that was significantly diminished and more unstable looking.

“You have returned,” came the same, deep, horrifying voice from before and as Nemesis turned she once again saw the bound demon, but even he was battered and broken looking, great wounds covering his body and one of the massive, down-turned black horns atop his broad temple was broken.

“Why am I here?” Nemesis asked.

“You have lost consciousness, you have reached your limit, without my help we will all die here,” the demon explained.

“What can you do to save us?” Nemesis asked.

“Loosen my bonds human and I shall unlock all the power you need to destroy these wretches,” the demon said boastfully.

Nemesis thought for a moment, on the last time she was here, but the more she did the more she itched to set the demon lose, some part of her wanted the power he offered, the part that had long since forgotten her true name and the faces of those dearest to her.

The soul-collector found her large, demonic blade in her hand, she could sever the chains that bound this beast so easily.

“I will free you, so long as you can assure me that with your aid the Lylus sisters will meet their doom?” Nemesis asked the chained demon.

“Of course, let me loose and we can grind them both beneath our heels,” the demon replied, his voice was sounding all the more convincing and seductive the more Nemesis heard it.

The huge, armour clad woman stepped forward and raised her sword, ready to cut the chains that bound him.

“No, you can’t!” Screamed a little voice from behind Nemesis, who tried to swing but found something prevented her from swinging the demonic blade.
Nemesis looked about and saw the same little girl as before, dressed as before in a night gown, for some reason this girl looked pristine, despite the broken down and injured look of the chambers and the imprisoned demon.

“You can’t free that monster!” The little girl implored.

“I have no other choice,” Nemesis replied coldly, turning back away from the girl and towards the demon.

“You always have a choice! If you free that monster they will never accept you back,” the girl said, once again having the two silhouettes, one of a small child the other of what looked to be a grown woman appear beside her.

Nemesis looked back at the fuzzy, black outlines of the two people, once again the hound of Neroth felt a deep-seated connection to both, but she could not tell exactly what it was. However, the more Nemesis looked at the shadows of the pair the more convinced she was that freeing the beast was her only option.

“I’ll have to take my chances, if I don’t free this demon and let it grant me my own power, or it’s power then I die here, in the depths of hell, no one ever knowing what became of me and I will not let that happen,” Nemesis said authoritatively, gripping the hilt of her sword tighter than she ever had before.

Nemesis strode up to the demon, sword ready to destroy the chains that held it in place, but once more the little girl, who looked on at Nemesis with a slight tear in her eye implored that the demon be kept caged.

“If you free that monster then I’ll be gone and only he will be left, he’ll destroy everything you were, before you fell into this dank abyss,” the little girl whimpered, hoping to make Nemesis see the light.

Nemesis swung her blade, the black iron chains that bound this muscle-bound monster firmly in her sights.

Sacaya stood over the seemingly unconscious body of Nemesis, utterly blinded by anger for what the soul-collector made her do to her own kindred, she raised her large, club like arm into the air, readying to bring it down and crush was little life remained in the body of the demon lord’s slave.

The demon threw down her arm with enough force to split a solid slab of hellish ebon-stone apart, let alone an unconscious Human’s skull.

With a tremendous crash that seemed to rock the entire lower quarter of Black Scar Sacaya’s clubbed hand struck, cracking the earth and stone all around Nemesis and scattering a great cloud of dust into the acrid air of hell.

As the dust settled Sacaya was amazed to see Nemesis conscious and blocking her death-blow with the broad side of her immense demon-blade.

“You miserable human! Why won’t you just die!” Sacaya screamed as she continued to push down, pouring much of her immense strength into her club-like hand, hoping to crush the soul-collector with brute force alone.

With new found strength Nemesis pushed the demon back easily.

Sacaya looked down at her bone morphed arms then back at Nemesis, “how did you do that!? Where did that strength come from!?”

The demon rushed forward and struck out again, this time with her bladed arm.

With another heavy clash Nemesis’ blade met with Sacaya’s arm, the two vying for supremacy, or so it seemed on the surface. Sacaya struggled, using all of her ample strength yet Nemesis’ blade stood unmoved and while Nemesis’ face was a picture of cold serenity Sacaya’s face was twisted with inhuman fury.

“Let’s bring this to a conclusion, shall we?” Nemesis said coldly as she threw her opponent backwards.

As Sacaya landed Nemesis brought her sword in front of her and uttered, “Scythe of Damnation.”

Nemesis quickly pulled dark power to her, infusing it with her own, creating a jet black extension of her blade, its outline a bright, hellish red. In mere moments Nemesis’ blade had grown to twice its normal length, then she rushed forward with the kind of speed Sacaya only knew Alythess to possess, but before she knew what was going on Nemesis was already airborne and beginning to spin about.

By the time Sacaya sluggishly looked up Nemesis was already a black tornado of blurred movement.

Sacaya drew back her fist, thinking to punch the ebon dervish that Nemesis had become but as she threw her club like first forward to strike Nemesis fell from the sky, her incredible momentum keeping her spinning all the while.

As fist met blade there was not a massive detonation of kinetic and magical forces as Sacaya had envisioned, instead Nemesis’ blade, empowered by the Scythe of Damnation sliced through her arm and through the rest of her form as easily as wheat reaped by a real scythe.

As Nemesis slammed against the ground her blade also cleaved the dry, inhospitable earth and black stone that laid before her for at least a score or more meters. The edges of the fissure Nemesis had created smouldered and glowed a faint, unearthly red.

Sacaya’s two halves fell gracelessly to the ground, burning up as they did, leaving only a substantially powerful soul in their wake.

Nemesis absorbed the soul into her gauntlet as she had done every time previously before she began to walk to the resting place of Alythess, who was likely still incapacitated from her sister’s powerful blow.

Slightly to Nemesis’ surprise Alythess was slowly dragging herself to her hooved feet, spying Nemesis as she approached.

“Sacaya… she is dead isn’t she?” Alythess asked sorrowfully.

“Yes,” Nemesis replied heartlessly.

Alythess nodded to herself, although she knew her sister had been defeated she felt that affirmation would some how ease her pain… she was wrong.

The surviving demon sister snarled and rushed toward Nemesis who could now see every move the demon made and rather leisurely brought her sword to bear and sliced through the weaker of the two sisters as she ran forward to strike, a solitary tear falling from her eye as she did so.

The second of the sisters fell and as before Nemesis claimed her soul before beginning her journey back to Neroth’s black palace in the upper hells.

As Nemesis left Black Scar, crowds of demons parting before her as she went so not to incur her wrath, she thought of what happened while she was unconscious, like her dream the night before she remembered it all.

She remembered raising her blade, ready to break the chains that held the demon in check, a beast she did not fully understand herself, she remembered the words of the girl and how they had changed her mind. Nemesis remembered cutting only a single chain, freeing the beast partially but far from wholly and while he was not best pleased the demon showed his gratitude, somehow giving Nemesis the power to defeat both of the Lylus sisters.

Nemesis remembered the demon’s ominous words after she severed the single chain that bound his right arm.

“You are lucky,” the horned demon begun to speak, his second horn regrowing and his wounds closing and healing right before Nemesis’ very eyes, “I need you, so this time I will give you the power you need, but next time and mark my words girl, there WILL be a next time the cost will be that much greater.”

A day and a half later Nemesis finally arrived back at Neroth’s fortress, her body nearly entirely drained of energy, it seemed whatever power she had gotten from her bargain with the demon had worn off.

Nemesis walked briskly to Neroth’s chambers, but little did she know that Neroth knew the result of her latest task in intimate detail, all had gone as he had hoped and waiting in the wings was his most sinister plot yet, he was not about ready to relinquish his much prized soul-collector, not yet, not when he had such grand plans for her.

Nemesis forced open the black doors of Neroth’s sanctum, she saw her master, sitting in a high backed chair, flicking through some old demonic tome.

“Enter,” he said, his raspy voice belied his dark intentions as he used his magic to slowly close the doors as Nemesis strode in.

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