Okay, everyone. I know it has been yet another really, really long time since I updated, and again, you have my sincerest apologies. I've been going through some rough times (those curious can see my notes in Consequences of Revelation or Ratchet and Clank: Legacy for more details) and my constant fear about these next few chapters becoming overly redundant due to me repeating myself (something caused by the fact that these chapters were first written when I was in a very intense part of Law School and there was often months between updates, so I might have forgotten certain things and mentioned them more than once. I am currently in the process of trying to clean that up).

I've also changed law firms since last month, and there's a backlog that I've been working on that's kept me quite busy. But it's a nice challenge and the pay is better than my old one, so I can't complain too much.

Again, my thanks to everyone for your patience with me. I really appreciate it, and I can only hope that this chapter and the ones to follow are worth the wait.

Chapter Thirty-Eight - By Inferno's Light

The whirling vortex of Slip-Space disappeared and revealed before the Master Chief a wasteland straight out of a religious text. Bubbling pits of ooze and muck dotted a plane of gray, crumbling rock. Sensors on the Class Twenty indicated that the atmosphere was a poisonous combination of sulfur and vaporized nitric acid, and the temperature a scorching three hundred degrees centigrade. It was much like the surface of Venus, only instead of yellow clouds and rolling thunderstorms, the sky above was the same shale-gray as the ground.

He only paid enough attention to that information to calculate it into his battle plans. What held his attention was what was on the plane before him, rather than the plane itself. Before his eyes, stretching for scores of kilometers, was a vast demonic army. With a thought, the Spartan zoomed in on the horde, trying to pick out the individual species of Demons that were present within them. It was like trying to pick out how many micro-organisms were in a drop of seawater. It was as if the entire Abyss marched towards the mighty portals that he could see in the distance.

What made this all the more sobering to both the Spartan and his A.I. compatriot was the knowledge that all the millions arrayed before them were not the entire invasion force. Indeed, it might not have even been the primary one. This was but one part of an advanced force, designed to smash most of the resistance that might be mounted against the Dark Elves and their demonic allies.

"There's no way Faerun could ever stand against something like this," Cortana whispered, and the Master Chief could feel her calculating the numbers they were looking at, a readout appearing on the far side of the visor. The number already had seven zeroes behind it and counting.

The Spartan silently agreed with her. Most of these troops appeared to be Dretches, Babaus, and the like, but he could still make out thousands of the bigger ones, like Glabrezu and Mariliths, and the enormous, toad-like, Hezrous. Balors were plentiful as well, their fangs spread wide at the thought of the carnage and destruction that they would soon spread.

Or so they thought.

"Midgard here, engaging the enemy." He let his voice echo over the master comm. channel.

"Omaha reads you," Keyes voice sounded back.

Other groups from the Prime also echoed the call of the UNSC Commander.

"Ready to give them a nasty surprise?" Cortana inquired.

The Master Chief's response was to raise his Telo rifle and sight up the largest demon that he could find, a massive Balor arrayed in splendid battle armor. It raised a flaming blade high into the air, barking out orders to the many minions it commanded.

The great Demon never knew what hit it. The blue-white bolt of energy ripped into it, vaporizing it into a cloud of steaming ash in a microsecond. Scores of Demons around and behind it also ceased to exist as the round continued onward. Before the great wing of the army could even begin to react, more rounds were ripping into them. Thousands died in the opening seconds as the Spartan systematically targeted the commanders and generals of Demogorgon's invasion force.

He hadn't activated the heavier weapon systems of the armor yet, or started to use the time manipulation devices on the Class Twenty. He wanted to keep those as aces up his sleeve for when the real prey arrived. The less that Demogorgon knew about his capabilities when the mighty Demon Prince arrived, the better his chances of victory. And the Spartan suspected that as powerful as the Class Twenty was, he would need every advantage that he could get.

"Monitor EM activity and psionic chatter, keep watch for our primary target," he said to Cortana as he targeted another Demonic battalion and erased it from existence.

"Wilco," was the A.I.'s response, spoken almost like it was a growl. The Master Chief noted the unusual aggressiveness in Cortana's voice, and frowned as he logged it into the back of his memory.

The Demons by now were triangulating where the powerful shots were coming from, and not much later, the survivors of the opening attacks had figured out where he was. EM sensors spiked as Balors started to teleport in. One appeared behind the Spartan and he twisted about, drawing his sidearm and firing. The heat from the explosion washed over the armor, but he ignored it. Faintly, he thought he could feel them trying to psychically probe him, as if to ascertain what exactly it was that was slaughtering them.

However, between the armor's innate defenses and the additional warding provided by Helm and Cortana, it was like trying to throw eggs at a steel wall. Nothing could penetrate, and the Demons were left with an enigma. And then they died.

Judging by the reports coming in from the surface of Faerun however, for all the causalities that the Spartan was inflicting upon the forces of Demogorgon, he was doing little, if anything, to stem the constant tide of Abyss-spawned fiends that were streaming through into places like Waterdeep and Neverwinter.

"Cortana, scan as far as you can, locate anywhere else where the demons might be invading, even if they're on other planes," he said as he fired off another bolt into a massed group of his enemies.

There was still no sign of the great Demon Prince himself, or even of the Death Knights that served as his lieutenants. At the rate things were going, it would appear as though the Master Chief and Cortana had yet to even register on the radar. The Master Chief was tempted to arm and fire off a few compressed anti-matter missiles, or let fly a few bolts from the massive particle cannon built onto the suit's left shoulder. But he needed to keep those under wraps until Demogorgon showed up, he kept reminding himself. Instead, he limited himself to his rifle and pistol.

He kept telling himself that it wouldn't matter how many lives he temporarily saved by wiping out greater swaths of the Demons if Demogorgon was able to prematurely observe his heavier weaponry and adapt counter-measures. He kept reminding himself that his goal was to kill or delay the Demon Prince himself. Anything else was secondary to that.

On the other hand, it was possible that if he started manifesting at multiple invasion points, he could not only disrupt the Demons plans a little more, but increase his chances of drawing Demogorgon out of the Gaping Maw and into the field of battle. If the Demon Prince still refused to show, the Spartan knew that he and Cortana would have no choice but to try and take the fight to him.

"I've located all the planes that are currently manifesting portals onto the Prime," Cortana announced. "Displaying now, in order of the number and size of portals."

There was a burst of light, and the Spartan paused just long enough to fire off another barrage of rounds into the larger formations. Then he was gone.

He appeared on a plane of hellish cold. Temperature gauges read at nearly absolute zero, cold enough to instantly freeze the unprotected. Only the more powerful Demons seemed to be present here, the ones capable of resisting and ignoring such potent cold. The sharp sound of cracking ice echoed like rifle shots as the Class Twenty slammed into the ground. The Master Chief again shouldered his rifle and started to fire. As before, he found he could slaughter the Demons with impunity. Those few who managed to survive the opening barrages of pulse rifle fire died as they tried to enter melee combat against something that totally outclassed them.

Both occupants of the armor, however, grew increasingly frustrated. Still no sign of their true quarry, and once more, only a minor disruption in the invading forces. He was reminded of Reach, and the mounting rage that he had felt as his brothers and sisters had come under attack, and no matter how many Covenant soldiers he had slaughtered, there had been nothing he could do to distract or divert attention away from them towards himself.

He held the power of armies in his hands, but it would mean little if he could not accomplish his objectives.

"Maybe we're killing them too quickly?" Cortana mused for a moment. "Give them a few more seconds, some of them seem to be psychically communicating with something. Maybe a distress signal of sorts?"

"We'll see," the Master Chief responded, targeting smaller formations for a few seconds. If nothing happened, well, he'd try the next Plane.

He decided to trust Cortana on this one, and his mind even began to work a strategy up to where he could lure Demogorgon into underestimating him. He suspected that the Demon Prince would quickly wise up, but even if it only allowed for an alpha strike, that was one more edge that he would have when all the cards were on the table.

A pair of Balors teleported in next to him, and the Spartan dodged backwards, trying to evade their blows, allowing himself to move slow enough to where he could just barely keep out of harm's way. Going by what Cortana was feeding him, they were still communicating with something, and he sensed that they were likely sending mental pictures of him to whoever it was on the other side of that psychic channel.

He jumped back once more, making it look as though he needed to stay clear of the two Demonic generals in order to use his weaponry and properly line up a shot. Then he opened up a Slip-Space portal and 'fled' through it. He emerged into the polar opposite of what he had been in before. Whereas the former plane had been full of ice and a deathly chill, he now emerged into what appeared to be the middle of a volcano. Fire elementals and other heat loving fiends were massed here, and once again, the Spartan took aim and cut down as many of them as he could without mercy.

"Psychic chatter," Cortana said. "They're trying to contact their boss. They may be on to us soon."

"Roger, keep monitoring them," the Master Chief responded as energy pulses streaked through the air.

It was like trying to stomp out a swarm of army ants. No matter how many he killed, they simply kept coming, never stopping. Granted, many of them tried to charge the Spartan, or teleport in near him, but they were but trickles in an ocean.

Another Balor suddenly appeared in front of him, only to die just as quickly. There had been a handful of Dretches that had been brought along, probably to try and swarm him. The Spartan ignored them as the handful that hadn't been killed by the proximity of the energy bolt screamed and ran. He was reminded of Grunts for a moment. Then the Balors came again. In pairs this time. Again they challenged him. Again, the pulse rifle destroyed them. The Spartan took some grim comfort in the fact that while killing a Demon on the Prime or another realm usually just meant their banishment, here, if they were killed then they stayed dead.

"Status of the surface cities?" the Master Chief asked, as he opened fire on the endless mass before him.

"The Lords' Alliance is holding so far," she said, "but the Elvin cities aren't doing so well. If this keeps up, we're going to have to start breaking out heavier firepower." She gave an irritated grunt inside of the suit. "I told them we had weapons to spare, but they had to do it themselves."

"Stay focused. We can't help them right now." Her partner told her.

"Will do, Chief," she said, and went quiet as the cyborg destroyed another company of Demons.

On and on it went, rushing through the various planes, slaughtering and trying to distract the hellish host that marched on Torril, but no good seemed to come of it. The Master Chief grit his teeth behind the holographic display of the battlefield in front of him, while he tried to come up with a secondary plan of action.

"Any feedback?" he asked Cortana.

"The big guy's been notified, and he knows that something is killing a lot of his troops, but right now, he looks like he's staying put." The A.I. seemed to frown, and the Master Chief detected a hidden anger in her voice. There was something about this that was getting under Cortana's skin. "I think he's figured out that we can't stop his troops."

"Then we're going to have to make this more personal." the Spartan growled.

He opened up another Slip-Space portal, and ducked into it. The vortex roared in his ears and the colors flashed in front of his eyes. Then it was over, and he was in a new realm. The Gaping Maw stretched before him, and the Chief looked around, hovering in the air with his thrusters. All before the eyes was a stormy, gray ocean, and overhead were broiling clouds of a sickly yellow color. A few craggy peaks stuck up above the sea, and off in the distance, the cyborg could see it. Zooming in, he could see the top of Abysm, Demogorgon's palace. The massive, skull shaped minarets of the twin spires stared back at him.

John narrowed his eyes, and activated the missile system on the right shoulder of the armor. One of the panels on it swung open, and out streaked a single missile. Among the enchantments that Helm had placed upon this suit was to give many of the weapon systems with solid projectiles their own pocket dimensions that were positively stuffed with ammunition. At least he wouldn't likely have to worry about running out of bullets, so to speak.

A moment before the missile impacted, he activated the time manipulation systems of the suit. The missile slowed to a crawl, and then it hit. The anti-matter and matter in the warhead mixed, contained for a brief moment by an incredibly powerful energy field designed to ensure maximum efficiency of the payload.

Then a sun began to form on the horizon, blue fire filling the air. The Chief watched it slowly grow, inch by inch, while the shockwave crawled towards him. He was not left waiting long. The scanners on his suit and Cortana warned him at the same time, and their target appeared on a peak some six kilometers distant from the Spartan's position. This was not the first time that the cyborg and construct had gazed upon the Demon Prince, but it was still different for them, a new experience. This was not some computer generated copy. This was the greatest Demon to ever live, a being that even the Gods on high feared.

Nearly seven meters tall, more so when one added in the long, serpentine necks that supported Demogorgon's twin, mandrill-like heads, and weighing more than six tons, the Prince of Demons was a sight to behold. His tentacled arms lashed in fury, and as the Spartan suspected, even as fast as he now was, Demogorgon didn't appear to be moving sluggishly. They were equals in speed, and probably strength as well, the Master Chief thought. This would be a battle of skill.

He felt a tickling in his skull, but it could not probe any deeper. Nonetheless, a powerful, grating voice filled his mind.

Who dares assault us? Four eyes bored in on the visor, and the Master Chief suspected that the Demon Prince was trying to charm him, or destroy his mind as he typically did. A hint of a smirk teased at the edge of the cyborg's mouth. Not this time.

Demogorgon, though, seemed unperturbed, even curious. Who are you? Who are you, foolish enough to strike us where we are strongest? The voice continued to hiss. The Master Chief continued to watch for signs of an attack.

"We are your executioners," Cortana said, "We are your angels of death."

The Master Chief detected a spike of psionic rage from the monstrous creature apart from him. The twin tentacles on each arm reared up and smashed into the rock around the Prince of Demons, sundering the peak that he was standing on, except for the part where his feet were.

You dare make such a claim? We are immortal, undying, eternal! We are Demogorgon, Prince of Demons! the creature screamed at them.

"You may be a Demon Prince, but you will still die like a dog!" Cortana shouted.

The first strike came from neither Spartan nor Demon, but next to the cyborg there was faint pop, and a Death Knight stood, its blade raised to strike the intruders. The Master Chief blurred, and raised his rifle with a single arm. At this range, there was no way to miss, and the bolt ripped into the undead fiend. Its hellfire eyes never had a chance to register what had happened as the sheer power of the bolt erased it from existence.

Not waiting for another attack or would-be ambusher, the Spartan immediately angled the rifle, gripped it with both hands, and opened up on Demogorgon with well-timed bursts. The Demon Prince's initial shock let the first two bursts hit him, and the twin heads screamed in pain and shock, before he vanished. The Master Chief knew what was coming next, and jetted away from where he was. He had barely cleared it when Demogorgon reappeared. His physical strikes missed by scant centimeters, and when it was obvious that they would not connect, both heads inhaled. Bolts of lightning tore from their mouths, and the Master Chief dodged to the side, evading one strike, but the second one hit him along the arm.

Will-o-the-wisps crackled over the Class Twenty and the suit's shields dropped by a small fraction, before quickly beginning a recharge.

The battle became fully joined then, as Demogorgon flew away to one side unleashing dozens of spells towards his foe, while the Master Chief retaliated with well aimed fire from the Telo rifle, and Cortana fired off a few mental attacks towards the Demon Prince.

Behind them, the explosion of the anti-matter missile continued to slowly grow as Abysm was shattered and vaporized, looking like the rising of a sun upon the surface of the Gaping Maw.

Lord Nasher stood atop the battlements of his castle, staring down at the center of the Blacklake District of his city. Where there normally would have been street artists and gathered nobles, there was instead a battle for the very survival of his city. A massive tear in the fabric of reality burned in the center of the district, more than a hundred feet wide, and out of it spilled all the hosts of the foul Abyss. It seemed as if all of Demogorgon's forces moved against him and his people.

But Nasher knew better. The sober realization that this was but a trickle, likely nothing more than a probing attack against his people. At the very least, though, they were holding for the moment. The sound of automatic weapons and grenade fire reached his ears, and a small group of Dretches and their Glabrezu leader were reduced to a bloody smear upon the cobblestones of the streets.

But how long could they keep it up? Their guns each had thousands of rounds of ammunition, but even that would eventually be exhausted. And when that time came, the brave souls defending Neverwinter would be forced to go back to their old weapons. Swords, axes, bows. And he knew how long they would last against such an invading force when that time came.

"At least the civilians were evacuated."

Nasher turned to see Sir Casavir standing next to him. The old Paladin of Tyr was adorned for war, his warhammer and shield held close. Over his armor though, was something new: A tabard of the Nine. Casavir has been promoted into Nevalle's place, and he was now an inadvertent reminder that there were no guarantees in a battle like this.

"We're going to need a miracle," the Lord of Neverwinter whispered softly.

The Master Chief ducked underneath a powerful swipe of Demogorgon's right arm, before vaulting over the other one. All the while he kept firing the pulse rifle into his foe. He landed, and jetted backwards, while Cortana unleashed her arcane talents, creating a telekinetic wave that blew the Demon Prince off of his feet.

The Master Chief kept pouring the fire on, before activating his Slip-Space drives and teleporting away as the ruler of the Gaping Maw jumped back up to his feet. The cyborg emerged out of the portal several kilometers away from the Demon Prince and opened up with the missile launcher once again. The missiles operated with independent timing fields from the suit, and he set them to a much slower time field, before firing off all nine tubes.

Then he moved again as the missiles crawled away, waiting for the next set to appear while firing on Demogorgon with the pulse rifle. The Demon Prince was busy as well, and as the cyborg flew, the skies suddenly opened up. Armageddon was the only way that the Chief could describe it. The rules of the universe were tossed aside and bolts of lightning lashed down everywhere, shattering the peaks that stood up above the ocean while their concussion waves kicked up tornado force winds that threatened to toss the suit about like a leaf upon a maelstrom.

One of the massive bolts connected with the Master Chief, draining the shields heavily and suddenly blasting the suit down into the frothing waters of the Maw. The Spartan grunted as he smashed against the surface, the time dilation making the surface as hard an unforgiving as rock. All lights were still green and all systems optimal, but he needed to avoid those bolts. He reoriented himself and surged towards the surface, blasting up out of it as his sensors told him where his foe was.

"Got you," Cortana hissed as she highlighted the Prince of Demons. He was quite some distance off, casting another spell. Moments later flaming rocks the size of office buildings and balls of what the Master Chief could only think of as pure energy joined the rain of lightning. He recognized the spell from one of the combat simulations. Demogorgon didn't have to worry about a thing, as the spell's nature would not allow it to harm its caster. He was trying to tip the battle in his favor by turning the very environment into a weapon.

"You know the procedure," he muttered to Cortana.

The A.I. said nothing, but he could sense her response. She was adapting to the suit faster than he was, and as he resumed fighting, the Master Chief found their minds growing closer still. It was unlike anything he'd ever experienced before. Cortana had always been distinct and separated from him, even when sharing the Mjolnir suit. Now it was like that barrier was dissolving. They were thinking almost as a joined entity. Both still different, but united together as never before.

He felt the computer's consciousness expanding, analyzing and predicting where the next obstacle strike would be. He was given a split-second mental warning before the maneuvering thrusters kicked in, and blasted him onto a new course. The lightning strike was so close that his power scanners blared alarms. The Spartan ignored them, and kept firing. A dozen rounds struck the Demon Prince in the left head, and he screamed curses that grated on the Master Chief's mind and caused the wards on the armor to flare.

He refused to relent as the gigantic demon took to the air, firing off a trio of missiles at Demogorgon. They screamed through the air, and the two headed monster teleported away to try and evade them. The small warheads shifted course and tracked him as he emerged some distance off. However, it gave time for Demogorgon to raise a shield. The missiles impacted against it, and exploded harmlessly.

Then the great Demon was in front of them. The Master Chief rolled to one side while Cortana lashed out with her arcane powers, throwing the ruler of the Gaping Maw away from their location. The Spartan came up onto a knee, steadied his rifle, and unleashed its fury once again. Firing on full auto, dozens of energy bolts tore into the Demon Prince's body. Demogorgon, though, was far from critically wounded, and his flesh was already knitting itself back together when the twin heads spat foul, arcane words at the cyborg. The wards on his armor flared again, holding against an assault that would have otherwise struck him dead.

The Master Chief had seen enough of the Demon Prince's brute strength to know that he needed to be able to keep his foe from exploiting that edge. He activated his Slip-Stream drives again, and teleported away.

Move and dodge all you wish, pathetic fool. It cannot save you from us. Demogorgon's twin voices echoed inside the Spartan's mind, and he felt his foe probing again. The Prince of Demons wanted to know exactly what it was that he was up against. I can see the sigils on your armor. I know that you have been sent by Helm, he growled as the Spartan unloaded his rifle again, scoring more hits along the Demon's flank and tail. Demogorgon countered with another rain of hellfire that seemed capable of scouring a city from the face of the world. You are strange for a servant of the Watcher. But know that it will save neither you nor him. We will crush you, peel you from your armor, and feast upon your soul. Then we will devour him as well.

"Not on your life!" Cortana screamed suddenly. The A.I. reached across the great gulf that separated her and her partner from their opponent, and another one of the massive bolts of lightning streaked down out of the sky, smashing into Demogorgon's form before he could evade or counter it.

The blast knocked the Prince of Demons down into the ocean, but both Spartan and construct knew this was far from over. It would take many times the level of punishment that they had unleashed to kill the great fiend of the Abyss. The Master Chief kept his sensors trained on the area where his adversary had fallen, expecting a teleport or some other means of rapid relocation. At the same time, Cortana blasted them onto a new course as another one of the Demon Prince's flaming meteors nearly connected. A mountain underneath them crumbled into dust and made the landscape even more blasted than it already was.

Then their foe was behind them. Full power was given to the armor's thrusters to evade another series of physical strikes, while the Spartan twisted around and fired off more rounds from the Telo rifle. His foe growled in pain, and lashed out again. A beam of raw, arcane power slammed into the Class Twenty, catapulting it across the shattered plane, and into the slowly expanding anti-matter blast. The Spartan smashed through the weakened walls of Demogorgon's palace, his sensors still tracking the great beast. He wasn't certain if his foe could see him though, and the Spartan remained where he was and let his shields recharge.

The suit began to rebuild its defenses in earnest, while the Master Chief analyzed the situation before him and Cortana. He had not yet taken things to the extreme, such as putting the Telo rifle at full power, using his missiles as often as he could, or the particle cannon or other weapons on the suit. At the same time, there was no reason to suspect that Demogorgon was going all out himself right now. Only a fool showed his best moves in the opening round of a conflict of this nature, and the Demon Prince would not have survived at his position as long as he had without taking that lesson to heart. Despite all the training and mock battles against the simulated versions of the beast, the Master Chief had to assume that the Demon Prince had tricks up his sleeves that even Helm didn't know about.

Such were his thoughts as the armor's shields reached full charge and he shot back out. He appeared in front of the Demon Prince, a few klicks off, and opened fire again. Demogorgon seemed only mildly surprised, and the Chief knew better than to have hoped to catch him completely off guard. Helm, after all, would not have sent anything short of his most powerful champion down to this level of the Abyss to try and battle the ruler of the Gaping Maw.

The Prince of Demonkind let out a roar, and rushed back into battle.

Corellon looked around at the raging battles within the heart of Myth Drannor. The Demons poured through like an unending tide, but the Avatar of the Elvin God refused to despair. The green colored links of his mail armor seemed to sing in the hot wind that ripped through the Elvish capital, and he marched at the head of a large column of war priests and paladins. The northern sector of the city had been overrun by the hosts of the Abyss and its defenders slaughtered.

That particular section of the city was home to a great number of magical universities and temples dedicated to the Seldarine. The arcane artifacts located within them could either be subverted and corrupted by the Demons to bolster their forces, while the divine temples might be used as focus points by the defending elves to channel the natural magic of the city and its people to help repel the forces of the Abyss. Corellon could afford for neither to be in the hands of the enemy for very long. And so he marched, while above him the forces of Bahamut soared and dove, the dragons unleashing their own magic and breath weapons on the Demons in hellish strafing runs. But for every one that was killed, ten more stood to take its place.

Ahead, in the heart of the district, a great fireball suddenly rose up, and even from this distance, Corellon could feel the heat, while the pressure wave buffeted his mortal compatriots. He could feel the screams of his people as they bled and died before the Demonic host, and felt himself growing slightly weaker.

Things were not going well.

The Master Chief grunted as Demogorgon managed to land a blow on him, sending him tumbling through the air as he and Cortana worked together to try and stabilize the power armor. He was able to use the thrusters to stabilize himself and twisted himself back to proper orientation, opening fire yet again on his foe. The Spartan flew backwards as he let fly burst after burst of pulse rifle fire on the Prince of Demons. The great fiend was unphased, both heads chanting on how they would rend and tear his body, capture his soul and visit agonies upon it supposedly so terrible that the proper words to describe it had yet to be invented.

But the Spartan was equally unphased. The ruler of the Gaping Maw was not the first one to promise such a death or such tortures. The cyborg landed on one of the tooth-like peaks that were sticking up out of the water. His adversary followed, landing right in front of him as the Master Chief continued to fire away at the two headed monster. Then he closed the trap. Demogorgon had forgotten about the missiles that the Spartan had fired off earlier, and one of them was less than fifty meters away, still crawling through the air. Cortana sent a signal to the warhead, readjusting its time dilation mechanisms. A moment later, it synced with the suit and detonated.

The Spartan was gone through a Slip-Space portal as soon as the blast went off, but Demogorgon caught the warhead's full fury as it washed over the Demon Prince, destroyed the mountain and vaporized countless tons of the ocean below them.

The twin heads gave a roar of pain and wounded pride, quickly teleporting out of the blue hot fireball. The fur of his body was charred, and he looked even more infuriated than he had been earlier, but he was far from finished. Both heads inhaled, and spat bursts of hellfire that washed over the suit before either Spartan or A.I. could make a move to evade. The shields of the suit held, but were dropping. The Master Chief quickly jumped away, appearing above the Demons head and firing down onto him. The Spartan was slowly increasing the power to the Telo rifle, trying to get a feel for how much it was hurting his foe.

The Spartan's mind was throbbing, reminding him of his battle with Matron Baenre, but he had to keep fighting. He didn't think that Demogorgon had yet been enraged enough to commence a withdrawal from the Gaping Maw and have the Demon Prince follow him.

You cannot run! You cannot hide, little champion! Demogorgon roared from behind them. The Spartan dove down to where he was just skimming over the top of the water. His sensors told him that the Demon Prince was right behind him, no more than thirty meters. The Spartan shared a thought with Cortana, and in the blink of an eye, they had pivoted around.

Still moving backwards, the Master Chief opened all the missile ports on the launcher, and fired. Nine missiles streaked out, impacting against the ruler of the Gaping Maw, who was too close to have a chance to react. The warheads detonated as they impacted, forming a small sun in the heart of Demogorgon's realm. The shockwave sent the Spartan flying backwards even faster than he had been earlier, and it was a contest to maintain control at this altitude. He had to climb and get both distance and height on the explosion.

"What makes you think we're trying to run," Cortana hissed, and the Spartan could feel her charging a magical attack, ready to unleash it when their quarry revealed himself again.

The Prince of Demons appeared about a kilometer and a half away from their position, directly northwest and a few hundred meters higher than they were. A small storm of lightning surged off of the Class Twenty, streaking towards their foe and impacting against him. The Spartan zoomed in on his opponent, noticing that while he was healing rapidly, the last attack had actually managed to hurt his foe. There were parts of Demogorgon's chest where the fur and armored hide had been blasted off and muscles that were exposed. The Chief quickly raised his rifle and began to fire.

Then the great beast was in front of him. The Spartan tried to react, but could not evade as the tentacles slammed down against him, charged with some kind of magical energy. The world seemed to explode and the next thing he knew, he was down in the water again, his shields down to half power and stars exploding in front of his eyes. The Master Chief groaned as he righted himself. That had hurt. A lot. He needed to make certain that there wasn't a repeat of it, whatever it had been.

But at the same time, there was a silver lining to this setback. The crackling energy that had coursed over Demogorgon's limbs didn't resemble anything he or Cortana had faced in the simulators. Their foe was starting to reveal the aces that might have been up his sleeve.

As he broke the surface of the water, the Master Chief decided that it was time to see if Demogorgon had target fixation. He opened up a portal, and retreated to another of the Abyss' layers.

You will not escape, minion of Helm! his foe bellowed in his mind, causing the Spartan to grit his teeth at the raw power behind the voices. We will chase you into the heart of Baator itself! To Mount Celestia if you flee there! Your broken corpse will serve as a warning that none may defy our will!

Well, the first objective was accomplished, at least.

They emerged over one of the many swarms of Demons that were crowding to get into the Prime Material Plane. They almost seemed to be frozen into the stillness of death, and as he roared along above them, the Master Chief fired off a few bursts from his rifle and ripped the ranks of his helpless foes asunder.

As he emerged in pursuit of the one who had dared attack him, the twin minds of Demogorgon were at a loss to understand this strange champion of Helm. The so called God of Guardians had always been more pragmatic and vicious than his allies, but Demogorgon had never seen one of his servants so nonchalantly slaughter an adversary so utterly incapable of fighting back. It was a disregard for the rules of 'fair play' and 'honor' that would have made the Demon Prince salivate and chuckle if it hadn't been his forces that were being obliterated.

As he watched, another one of those strange arrows left the shoulder weapon of his foe, and streaked towards the largest cluster of his troops. Moments later, they ceased to exist. He had to end this, and end it quickly, or there wouldn't be much of an army left on this Plane to invade the Prime.

In the back of his minds, he began to grow concerned. If this strange foe was able to destroy his army in these numbers, and keep that effort up for an extended period of time, he would not only have to worry about lacking the numbers to invade the Prime, he would have to worry about having enough troops to keep the other Demon Lords at bay. Orcus and Graz'zt in particular would love to have a go with him, and if they sensed weakness…

The Demon Prince snarled, and teleported in front of the being. He was not as fast or as powerful here as he was in the Gaping Maw, but he still had tricks he had not yet revealed. He had full confidence in his ability to best any champion of the Gods. He had crushed countless ones underneath his feet before, and hung their desiccated corpses on the walls of his now destroyed palace as trophies. This armored one would be no different.

They met in a clash of pulse rifle fire and raw magical energy that shook the plane to its very bedrock.

Corellon growled as he leaped backwards to avoid the strikes from a pair of Balors. The Avatar grimaced within the depths of his war helmet. The attempts to retake the northern parts of the city were not going well. The Demons had managed to get firmly entrenched in the few minutes it had taken him to marshal his people and bring them up here. His Paladins and Clerics were falling in droves, swarmed and overwhelmed by the sheer number of foes that they had to face. If he were to hazard a guess, the Elvin God estimated they might be outnumbered by as much as thirty to one. At least some of his other strongholds were fairing slightly better, and the Avatars there making a more rapid headway against their foes.

He summoned up a cone of hellish cold, blasting one of the Demonic generals with it. The Demon gave a scream and staggered backwards. Corellon's Avatar blurred forward, driving his sword deep into its gut, before tearing it out to the side and disemboweling it.

The fiend screamed and fell to its knees, before a second strike took its head from its shoulders. Corellon grimaced as the blood spattered all over his armor, but then turned to face the other one. Behind him, his people were getting bogged down under an ocean of Dretches, Babaus, and other lower demons. The Elvin deity realized that he would need to be careful, or there could be a good chance of being cut off from his support. An Avatar was tough, virtually an army unto itself, but it was not invincible.

He renewed the Haste spell that he had cast upon his form, the world around him slowing down to a crawl as the Balor he'd slain started to explode. He ignored it, and quickly cut its compatriot down. Then he cast another spell, opening up the sky and sending a column of holy fire descending out of the heavens. Scores of Demons died in an instant as he twisted and maneuvered the pillar like it was a massive tornado, burning them to ash and dust.

Then pain wracked his form, knocking the Avatar to the ground. He rolled instinctively and leaped back up to his feet, only to see a large, armored form in front of him. It stood nearly seven feet tall, wreathed in armor blacker than a moonless night, with two burning red eyes. One of Demogorgon's Death Knights.

It raised a large, two handed blade, and marched towards the Avatar, while another host of Demons swarmed in to fill the gap Corellon's attack had created. The Avatar knew that these were no ordinary undead creatures. Each crafted by Demogorgon's hand, they required powerful magics to even wound, let alone slay. Even by the standards of Death Knights, they were powerful.

And now, cut off and separated from his troops, Corellon would have to face it alone. Overhead, two of the Gold Dragons that had been flying top cover for his troops noticed his plight, and their Hastened bodies dove, screaming towards the ground. The Avatar desperately tried to warn them off, but it was too late. The Knight turned its head, and uttered a harsh word that seemed to echo, as if the voice was not entirely of this Plane. The two dragons crumpled, slain instantly, and their once powerful forms crashed to earth, landing amongst the Elvin troops they'd been trying so desperately to assist and crushing a number of them.

The Death Knight turned back to face him, flourished its blade, and then rushed forward, extending its hand and firing off bolts of sickly green energies at the Avatar. A few of them connected, and Corellon could feel the necromantic energies draining his strength.

There was a phrase that came to mind in this moment, one he'd heard one of Helm's new Humans mutter when things seemed to be bad. The word 'shit' did indeed seem an apt, if crude, description of how the battle was going right now.


Hope that was halfway decent, at least, and worth the wait. I'm proofing Chapter 39 (as well as my "Legacy" story, if anyone wants to check that out) as well. Hopefully my job will calm down enough for me to finish this up soon. I am really, really sorry that you guys have to keep waiting forever and a day for me to upload these.

Feedback as always, is appreciated, especially constructive criticism. And thank you all once again for your patience with me. I can only hope that I can continue to reward it. Please stay safe in the meanwhile, and have a pleasant day.