Einar, seeming to hover above the fallen demon without the use of his wings, raised his sword on high. “Men of the alliance!” he shouted. “Stand with me!”
Kyrie and samurai flocked to Einar. Dan struggled to do the same, but his arm was still pinned. And then he saw something which struck fear into his heart.
“Watch out!” He yelled.
He didn’t know if Einar heard him. The Valkyrie never turned. A moment later, a bolt of fire, looking like a lance thrown from heaven, streaked across the square and sailed cleanly through Einar’s chest. It exploded a moment later on a nearby building.
Einar looked surprised as he saw the gaping hole in his armor. And then he dropped from the air, hit the demon, and rolled off to land, face down, on the cracked stones of the street. A moment later, a smile of evil satisfaction on his face, a kyrie landed atop him, his foot planted squarely on Einar’s head, his axe wreathed in flame. Dan didn’t need to guess. Instinctively, he knew he was looking at Utgar.
Everyone ran. Utgar, gripping his axe in both hands, swung it in a wide arc. Energy blasted from it, lined with fire, and slammed into the kyrie and samurai, knocking them flat. Many of them did not get up.
“Your alliance is finished!” Utgar bellowed, his voice carrying far further than it should. Dan had no trouble believing the whole city could hear it. “Einar is dead! The war is won! Surrender now, or perish in my flames!”
There was a momentary silence. And then, Dan succeeded in pulling his glove from the wreckage of the cart. He could see countless warriors, soldiers of the whole alliance, stopped dead in the alleys across from him, staring at Utgar. All it would take was one word.
“CHARGE!” Dan bellowed.
As one, the forces of the alliance thundered down the alleys, aiming for the square where they all converged, and the lone Valkyrie who stood there. Kyrie took to the air, spears and swords held aloft, shouting their defiance. Knights charged atop their horses, lances leveled, swords drawn, helmets down. Samurai leapt over fallen buildings and around burning wreckage, swords out, eager to taste Utgar’s blood. Dan ran into the square, ready to blast Utgar into a thousand pieces.
Utgar laughed. Then he raised his great-axe, and let the tip of the shaft fall to the ground. Instantly, a blast of fire exploded from it in all directions. The flame seemed to pass through Utgar, and slammed into the charging knights. The horses fell as the fire struck their legs, and the knights were thrown to the ground, where a second blast of fire leveled them. The samurai were thrown down to the ground, or pinned against buildings as the fire burned them. The kyrie were blasted back by a shockwave moving upwards from Utgar, and, stunned, fell to the ground, where the flame consumed them.
Dan also was thrown back, but either by luck or some form of unseen fate, he landed behind a cart, and the fire from Utgar’s staff was blocked.
And then a different voice, this one very familiar to Dan, echoed over the city: “Warriors of Vydar! Now is the time! Lay aside all facades and join me! Defend what is yours, and drive the tyrant from our lands!”
And then another kyrie dropped from the sky, this one a blur of white and gray, and struck Utgar directly. The two toppled out of sight behind the demon. Dan knew that voice. Vydar had come. The alliance was defeated; now the battle had begun for the amulets.
Dan didn’t know who he hoped to win. Vydar would most certainly never let him see Heleer, but Utgar would hunt down and slay all those people Dan had helped, if what Dan had heard about him was true. Including Dan himself.
The two Valkyrie rose from the remains of the demon, climbing its smoking corpse as they sought higher ground. Fire flew from Utgar in every direction, but the very winds of Valhalla seemed to have come to Vydar’s aid, blasting aside the flame and knocking Utgar down over and over.
Dan stood behind the cart. Should he interfere? Or should he let the two Valkyrie destroy each other? His mind was made up for him when he heard a scream behind him. Turning, he saw a group of five orcs in the street. They had swords and lances, and wore grins of diabolical glee as they used them to poke and prod at a kyrie trapped helplessly against the wall of a ruined building. The kyrie was Caela.
Dan rushed down the street, pulling his gun as he ran. He pulled up just long enough to aim and fire, dropping one orc, and then continued running. Seeing him, the orcs turned, letting Caela escape. That was what Dan had been waiting for. Caela ran towards him. He stopped running, waiting until she was well out of the way, and then raised one glove. The orcs were flung backwards, various burning debris flying with them. Stones and burning wood fell on them when Dan lowered his hand.
Dan quickly looked back at the two Valkyrie, and saw Vydar watching him, a very strange expression on his face. He paid dearly for his distraction.
Gripping his axe in both hands, Utgar swung it up, catching Vydar’s shoulder. The Valkyrie was flung into the air, and then fell on the ground with an audible crack.
Caela let out a cry beside Dan as Vydar landed, and turning, Dan saw why: another orc had come up behind them. There was no time. No chance to defend himself. The orc raised his hand, and red lines shot from it. Instantly, Dan felt his muscles tense. He toppled to the street, as immobile as the stones he lay on. He heard Caela fall next to him.
Dan could hear the orc above them, laughing softly, but being unable to turn his head, all he could see was the two Valkyrie battling.
Vydar was clearly losing, and Utgar was pressing his advantage, striking blow after blow which Vydar only barely managed to block with his great-sword. But Vydar wouldn’t give up. He glared at Utgar and gritted his teeth in determination, and swung over and over. Auras of magic crackled around both of them, sending sparks through the air. The stones beneath them cracked as they moved, lines of electricity racing along them. With every blow of Utgar’s, flame burst from his axe, pummeling Vydar. With every blow of Vydar, lightning leapt from his blade, and great gusts of wind seemed to slam into Utgar. It was clear who was winning, but neither seemed to be able to land the final blow.
“No!” Caela screamed.
Dan could hear the orc moving over him, gurgling somewhere deep in its throat. The sound was disgusting. Dan struggled to move, but his muscles cried out in pain. He felt the orc kneel next to him.
“You first,” it whispered, but it wasn’t talking to Dan. Its voice was directed away from him.
‘Not this time,’ Dan thought. And then, even though every muscle in his body screamed in agony, even though pain like fire exploded through his body, even though he could feel muscles tearing and snapping, he moved. He turned, saw the orc bent over Caela, raised both of his gloves, and not caring what happened to his arms, blasted the orc as hard as he could.
The orc sailed cleanly off of Caela. It slammed into a building. Then through the building. Then through the wall and into the next building. Then the building crumbled into stone, and followed the orc. Part of the street was ripped up, and flew towards the orc as well. Through the newly created gap where the building had stood, Dan saw a squad of deathwalkers – Khyta soulborgs – enter the street.
The energy from his gloves slammed into them as well, and they were blasted away, smashing into buildings, walls, and the ground. A few, trying to stand their ground, simply blew up on the spot, armor and circuits flying everywhere. A dragon flying overhead caught the edge of Dan’s blast with its foot. The next second, it was on the ground, writhing in pain as every bone in its body shattered.
Finally, his arms nothing but a mass of blood-soaked flesh, his whole body shutting down, Dan collapsed onto the ground, barely still conscious.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that both Valkyrie were distracted, neither one having expected what Dan had done. They were both staring at him, their weapons lowered.
Vydar took advantage first. He swung his massive sword straight into Utgar’s ribs, sending a bolt of lightning through the great Valkyrie. Utgar bellowed in pain, and tried to bring his axe down, but Vydar merely twitched his sword, still embedded in Utgar, and the Valkyrie fell sideways to the ground.
Vydar kicked Utgar off of his blade. Then, before the Valkyire could get up, before Dan could even draw breath, Vydar whipped his sword up, dropped it to point at Utgar, and then fell on it. The blade went straight through Utgar’s chest.
Utgar let out a gasp of pain. And then fire exploded from him, covering everything: Vydar, Dan, the whole city itself.
Dan was beyond pain. There was nothing he could feel which he hadn’t already. Unable to process any more, his mind shut off, and Dan at last fell into unending, peaceful blackness.