The Final Layer
On the rare occasions that Richard’s army took a break, the wasps landed and allowed the enormous worms from the broodmother to eat the rocks of the abyss. Each one was a miniaturised flesh furnace, losing most of their efficiency for mobility and the ability to harvest resources themselves. They were the only way to replenish ammunition for the thunder cannons in the abyss, but they only managed two magazines for every thunder cannon in the three hours of rest.
The main problem with resting in the abyss was that the place was toxic to orderly life. Human and drone alike withered away within during their stays here, and almost everyone had a timer after which they would sustain permanent damage or even die. Only legends could resist this corrosion, and the domain from Richard’s necklace was barely enough to protect the saints. The drones weakened with every day they spent here, which was why it was so difficult to rest.
Time seemed to freeze over the coming days, with Richard leading his troops layer after layer into the abyss. The path outlined by the elves was a long one with seemingly no end, and every new layer meant an added degree of danger. The army completely ran out of ammunition in only the 20th layer, at which point Richard made the tough decision to abandon half the thunder cannons so they could travel lightly.
On the 31st layer, all of the elven druids were drained of their mana and withered away. The nature energy they required was wildly different from anything the abyss had to offer, so they were the first to perish. Once this 800-strong support force perished, battle casualties rose sharply.
By layer 44, all of the summons in Richard’s Book of Destruction had been exhausted. He could continue to summon some demonic creatures with time, but they weren’t much.
By layer 51, only 20,000 night elves were left alive, and the worms were starting to sustain casualties.
At layer 66, the number dropped to 10,000.
At the 78th layer, Richard personally joined the fray against an archlord, using the power of Issa and his over-a-billion souls to crack the demon’s will and kill it. It was the strongest single enemy he had killed to date.
At layer 86, Richard’s powerhouses started to grow weary as well. The wasps starting to die out, forcing Richard’s army of less than a thousand night elves, a dozen worms, and the legends and saints to walk on the ground. It took them a month to pass through this level, and when Richard summoned a portal to the shadows no nightmare creatures walked out.
Years passed by the time they finally arrived at the 96th layer, and all of Richard’s party was feeling numb beyond belief. Richard, Greyhawk, and Nasia joined forces to injure the archlord of that level, but instead of going for the kill the exhausted force pushed their way through the portal as quickly as they could.
There was nothing special in layer 97, simply an endless battle. Richard felt a little dazed as he entered the final portal, but seeing that this one was red as blood he and his surviving subordinates felt ever so slightly happier. As usual, he was the last to enter the passage, leaving behind a land full of corpses. A tetrahedron was spinning constantly in mid-air, shooting out energy beams at any nearby demons that weren’t completely dead. Countless indistinct faces gave this tetrahedron an erratic energy, and the hundreds of thousands of demons that were all around seemed to be overcome by terror every time they tried to approach within a thousand metres. The chaotic beings that didn’t care for their lives were paralysed at the sight of the strange object, giving rise to a rare scene of silence in the abyss.
“The… Eternal… Battlefield?” Richard muttered as he walked through the portal, startled by the image before him. He immediately rose into the sky, watching the vast land before him.
The sky here was a dark red, and thick layers of clouds covered everything that was more than a hundred metres above ground. Even Richard’s perception was distorted by terrifying energy once it entered the cloud cover, leaving him unable to see what lay behind. The sky here was forbidden to all living creatures.
The earth was a dark red as well, gradually sloping downwards into the distance to enter a crimson blur. Richard pushed his perception as far as it would go, but even 10,000 kilometres in he couldn’t see any end.
Countless demons and devils were fighting all over down below, the weakest of them being greater demons and devils while lesser lords could be found everywhere. Richard even came across dozens of greater lords and archlords during his scan!
The battlefield was occasionally interrupted by a bright radiance, giant portals dropping a horde of demons or a neatly formed devil army that entered the fray. Richard could sense tens of thousands of small skirmishes all around, and even with hundreds of deaths every second the number refused to drop. The sight made one thing clear: if not for the constant battle between the two existing sides, even 500,000 night elves wouldn’t be enough to guarantee a retreat.
With even Richard being stunned by the sight, the rest of his forces were gaping in shock as they watched the battle around them. Fortunately, they were covered by a shield of light that ensured their auras wouldn’t seep out, a barrier cast by Greyhawk protecting them from becoming a common target.
A dozen devils were gathered in a circle below Richard’s group, using their sharp ten-metre-long spears to attack a lesser demon lord. The pikes constantly pierced into the demon’s body and tore every inch of her skin; while she struggled desperately, she was locked in place and unable to break free.
Fiora suddenly howled and shot down in a frenzy, landing on a greater devil’s back and pinning it to the ground. Her small frame seemed to weigh a thousand tonnes as it crushed the opponent’s skeleton in one go, the sickening cracks followed by dull thuds as she jumped from target to target to crush them all. She turned mid-flight and roared out a breath of abyssal flames, setting seven devils on fire with one breath.
The small force of devils collapsed under the unexpected assault, giving the demon lord time to grab an intact greater devil and tear it into pieces before stuffing it into her mouth. Quickly realising there was no other enemy nearby, she stared at Fiora and growled threateningly.
Fiora’s own gaze was fierce, meeting the creature more than ten times her size with no fear as she roared back and picked up a blazing devil to smash it into the offender’s face. The lesser lord immediately turned less aggressive, retreating a few steps before picking up another corpse and beginning to munch on it.
Demons were in general much larger than their counterparts. A greater demon easily crossed ten metres of height, but most greater devils were only four to five. The difference in strength wasn’t as vast as the difference in build, but a demon lord could finish off most greater devils in a few mouthfuls. As this one started eating through the devils, dark red flames emerged on her body and started to heal her.
Fiora’s throat bobbed with desire as she saw the lord starting on a meal, her gaze landing on the greater devils nearby. She suddenly leapt towards the corpses and took a huge bite, but her teeth simply clattered against each other as Richard picked her up by the nape. She immediately shrieked like a cat and tried to reach for the devil corpses, but he sighed helplessly and gestured towards the sky a few times to pull the devils’ hearts out of their bodies.
“Just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you get to eat like a peasant,” he muttered in annoyance as he offered ten hearts to his daughter, the small meal dimming the crimson radiance in her eyes. Seeing that she’d regained her rationality, he sighed, “You really know how to give me trouble.”
A confused Fiora looked around for a moment, only for her eyes to go wide in shock. This section of the battlefield had been rather uneventful when they arrived, but now it was one of the most chaotic and intense sections around. A large number of demons and devils had been attracted by the human odour as Greyhawk’s shield broke, and were now exchanging blows with Richard’s subordinates. There were enemies on all sides.
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