Author's note: This is as canon as it gets with the meager background the game, the companion comic book, and the art book provides. I do not own Darksiders, or anything even remotely related to Darksiders. The only thing I own in this story is the OC, and whatever history comes with her. As far as the religious background of the game goes, it seems to roughly follow the Christian beliefs, so I adhered my own makeshift background to that. I would advise the reader to at least skim the brief comic online or elsewhere as it will clarify why I have done certain things to the Nephilim race (such as utterly obliterating them and making sure there are no survivors besides the obvious four).
Since the comic stated in no unclear terms that the Nephilim race was obliterated before the Horsemen signed on with the Charred Council, I can only assume the famous four had been doing whatever they were doing ever since they had been created. (The comic asserts that they have combated the forces of darkness until they were exiled from the Light, and that their battle with Heaven was over the ownership of Earth, so I took it from there.) The art book comments on Samael's inverted wings as a mockery of the Angels he fought against, and with no other feasible information besides that, I gave him his own history, so he would be less neglected. At the very end, there are some game spoilers, so be warned.
Also, in case the puny scroll bar on the right does not warn you sufficiently, this is a fairly lengthy one-shot that may not have as much mindless action as the Darksiders game, so those looking for sparkling action and riveting adventures will be terribly bored and disappointed. You have been doubly warned.
The four surviving Nephilim, all gasping from exertion and various wounds, surveyed the carnage they had wreaked upon the armies of Heaven on the battlefield they had created from the once pristine Fields of Paradise. Divine beings lay strewn about them mangled or in pieces if one considers the handiwork of Fury's whip, Thresher, or War's massive blade, Chaoseater. Strife's unfortunate victims sported craters upon their armor where Mercy's and Blessing's powerful bullets and impact rounds had pierced through or smashed into with unrelenting precision. Death's victims resembled little more than patches of blood or ash on the ground, his massive scythe, Harvester, and its slender companion, Reaper, having utterly decimated them in both body and soul. The four stood in close proximity to each other in the center of the battlefield warily watching for any signs of movement.
Ever since the Creator had crafted his greatest work, Earth, both sides had felt the other to be unworthy of the masterpiece, and so fell to small skirmishes which eventually escalated into a full-fledged war. While the Nephilim were the first of the Creator's children and fought furiously against the forces of Darkness, they were usurped by the creation of Angels; sadly, the latter was to be split apart by ex-Archangel Samael's betrayal and fall from grace, his followers known from then on as the Forsaken. It was then that the Light declared war against the primitive Nephilim, whom they deemed as imperfect and degenerate, fearing that Nephilim would turn to Samael's cause. Amidst the maelstrom of two otherworldly civil wars emerged the four strongest of the Nephilim kind: War, Strife, Fury, and Death.
Though the Nephilim were on equal footing with the Archangels in terms of power, they lacked drastically in terms of numbers and despite Nephilim generals such as Malice and Arrogance having felled lesser Archangels by the thousands, even they eventually succumbed to exhaustion and death. Now, on the desolate battlefield of the Fields of Paradise, almost right outside the White City's gates, the Four seemed to be the only surviving Nephilim of the conflict. Having fought for what passed as many weeks in human time, even the Champions of the Nephilim had exhausted their strengths. They had entered battle in their respective Chaos Forms, but had stopped using them several days ago in order to conserve energy. They did not waste energy to even summon their mounts, dismissed just the day before. For their efforts, however, the crushed bodies of Archangels and Angels alike blanketed the ground for miles such that the battlefield was composed literally of trampled and flattened bodies. And yet, more were already on their way from the gates of the White City.
"Will we die simply from being inundated by their mindless foot soldiers?" Fury snarled as sparks of light on the horizon heralded the coming of another legion of Light Angels.
"I could go for another round, though," Strife said playfully, though fatigue betrayed his enthusiasm.
"Enough of this, millions upon millions of Archangels lie dead at our feet, and yet they still send more? I believe even they are grasping at their last straws and this is more than likely a vanguard sent for the sake of appearing limitless," Death, the eldest of the Four, hefted his scythe over his shoulder as he spoke, staring at the flashes of light.
"We need only survive another fight," War growled, as grim and stoic as ever despite being covered in a myriad of wounds from constantly throwing himself into the thickest frays, "and then they shall be ready to negotiate."
Banter aside, they knew it would not be likely that any of them, in their current conditions, would survive another legion of Angels, no matter how close to breaking that side was.
A sudden shift in the wind currents made them turn curiously as a neat and trim portal opened behind them. Unlike the ragged-edged portals so commonly used by both Archangels and Nephilim, this one had an air of finesse to it, implying the opener must be someone with immense control of their powers. War was the first to approach the portal, Chaoseater at the ready in case Archangels sprang out. Instead, out stepped a Nephilim, easily distinguishable from the markings on her body and her lack of wings. She was willowy, but not weak, for she carried a double-edged glaive brimming with imbued magic. Her well-defined lips were curved in a slight smile, though her eyes, glowing with the icy-blue light of all Nephilim eyes, betrayed no emotions. Her black hair fell straight to her hips and took on a wavy appearance near the ends. She brushed her long bangs to one side as she looked around at the amount of dead Archangels and Nephilim and raised an eyebrow.
"Well, after killing this much, you must be tired," she said in an amused tone, her voice smooth and inflected ever so slightly on the word 'must.'
"A Nephilim that has been hiding from the battle?" War rumbled with obvious anger. His honor would never have allowed him to do such a thing as hide to keep himself safe.
"Don't be so quick to accuse me, Champion, there are other ways to fight a battle, after all. Besides, I've slaughtered my fair share of Angels already," was her amused response, "Now hurry and get into the portal, I can't keep it open for long since the point of origin constantly shifts location in regards to the nearby dimensions."
"How can we trust a coward?" War responded, immediately swinging Chaoseater to point at her face.
"You can come with me, quickly, or you can try to tough out another wave of Divine cannon fodder. It's your choice, Red Champion," she said, putting a hand on Chaoseater's blade. Immediately War felt the thrumming of power from her, and though he still had his misgivings, it was apparent that she did not hide from battle for fear of it.
Without another word, she turned and walked back into the portal, her full-body armor shifting without making a sound, a rare material of the Nephilim world. Fury was the first to head into the portal.
"Come on, we know these fools are nothing to us. Even they will know that we do not retreat from fear," she said as she stepped through.
"Agreed, as much as I'd like another batch of targets for practice, even I need some rest," Strife holstered Mercy and Blessing and stepped through.
"Don't be stubborn, War, she isn't an enemy, at least," Death said quietly, knowing War would be easily set off if he raised his voice.
With a grunt of reluctant agreement, War stepped through after Death, finding himself standing upon a grassy knoll peppered with batches of colorful flowers. The Nephilim woman had already set off down an animal trail towards a homely mansion of sorts that sat nestled in a valley surrounded by small hills cut through by a gently flowing stream. The sun in this dimension was at its zenith, even though the sun on the Fields of Paradise had been setting. The air was clean and fresh in this dimension, and to the Four accustomed to the smell of blood and decay on the battlefield, this was a welcome change. They arrived at the gates of the mansion soon after the Nephilim woman arrived. With a ceremonious bow she beckoned them inside, all the while smiling in that amused, yet serious fashion of hers. If they had had any expectations upon entering the mansion, what they saw was not something any of them could have imagined. The entirety of the mansion's interior had been converted to a medical ward of sorts, with beds and cots set up all along the walls of the foyer filled with the moans and groans of injured or dying Nephilim, all of whom were covered in runes. The stairs directly facing the door led up to the next story where even more injured Nephilim could be seen.
"You see? I fight my own battles here," she said quietly, entering behind them and staring at the injured soldiers.
War strived to make an apology, or at least retract what he had said earlier, but before he could speak, she spoke again, her back turned to him such that she did not see his attempts to talk.
"Honestly, I was hoping I could help the four Nephilim champions the most, so I had some special rooms all set upstairs. It's the last door at the end of the hallway on the right. I would escort you there myself, but I hear Illness and Vermin groaning again. I only just retrieved them several hours ago so they deserve my utmost attention since our great Champions seem to not be in any danger of losing their innards."
"Wait! What's your name missy?" Strife called out as she ran off to one of the hallways on the ground floor.
"Fear!" she called back from a distance and turned the corner.
"You should apologize to her, War," Death suggested calmly as he walked towards the stairs.
"I will. You did not need to tell me," War responded, following suit.
Fury and Strife declined to respond to War, knowing his temperament, and instead merely looked about them at the injured Nephilim.
"Incredible! That she could have gathered so many Nephilim without us noticing is incredible indeed. Why, look, there's Deceit! I only fought nearby him several days ago and he suddenly disappeared when I turned round. I had thought the Angels had pulled him into their midst, but…" Fury trailed off as she neared the cot on which Deceit lay. He was not conscious and breathed small, shallow breaths, his chest covered in blood and bandages. A gash-like bloodstain on the bandages told the Four all they needed to know. Most of these Nephilim would not be able to fight again even if they survived their wounds. They reached the end of the right hallway in silence and entered the room. It was a very large room, with four large beds set up with plenty of space between them. Beside each bed was a small table on which large plates of food had been placed. All of the food was the tastiest of Nephilim delicacies. Since Nephilim themselves did not require food to survive, what they ate was merely for pleasure or strictly useful purposes such as healing. Strife sank into a bed and groaned.
"Damn, I needed this after a long day at the battlefield," he murmured, his voice muffled since he lay face down on the bed.
"You've dirtied the sheets already, Strife," Death commented, "Wouldn't it be wiser to take off all of your armor first?"
The other three grumbled a bit, but complied, for the most part. War's armor took up a large portion of the space between the bed he claimed and the bed Strife had sullied. Still, they were far too bloody and dirty to feel comfortable sitting on the beds. Fury, in the meantime, had found chairs in the corner and threw these to her fellow Riders with Thresher. They sat after many weeks of fighting and relaxed. Strife still lay on the bed, and in time all Four were sleeping off their exhaustion.
They awoke to find themselves clean, bandaged (except Death, who found strange healing runes on certain parts of his body that had been damaged by magic), dressed in different clothing, and lying in the beds with the covers over them. Even Strife lay in a clean bed. Death was the first to awaken, followed by Fury and Strife, who marveled at how they had slept through being moved, cleaned, and undressed. War still slept soundly, his entire body almost completely covered in softly glowing bandages that emitted a calming, pulsating light.
"I'm a bit uncomfortable knowing I was undressed and looked at while I was sleeping," Strife whispered, sitting cross-legged on the bed in white trousers and a tunic of a slightly creamier shade of white.
"You're not such a sight for sore eyes, Strife," Fury countered, her black silk dressing gown fluttering as she tiptoed over to check on War. While the rest wore clothing over their bandages, War had been left undressed save for a pair of rose-colored trousers tied at the hips with a red strip of silk painstakingly fashioned into a cute bow. Fury turned around, hand over her mouth to stifle the laugh that was doomed to come. Strife craned his neck to see the issue and immediately snorted before slamming his face into the pillow while his shoulders shook from mirth. Death, trying to be as solemn as possible in charcoal trousers and a gray tunic, attempted to pull the sheets over War's trousers and, more importantly, the cheeky bow, but it seemed Fear had other plans for she had stuffed War's sheets almost entirely beneath the mattress of the bed such that pulling them out would require waking War. Throughout this maelstrom of muffled guffaws, giggles, and rustling clothes, War slept on. He had not slept in months; believing his time to be better spent practicing his swordsmanship. Exhaustion had hit him like a charged blast from an Angel's Redemption cannon and though his warrior instincts stirred slightly at the noises around him, even they were too tired to rouse him.
After they had bruised some ribs holding back their laughter, the waking three soon realized that they had woken in the middle of the night, yet the room was lit as if in daytime. Clearly Fear had some more economical spells than the usual Nephilim curriculum allowed for, which called into question her upbringing. It was true that her perfect portals revealed a masterly control of her powers, but the fact that she had learned spells not used for killing others was something that struck them as strange. As a Nephilim grew up, the spells taught them only increased in deadliness and power. Never had the Four seen magic used in such a manner and it perplexed them, though they dared not wake War by speaking about it. Fear was not the dominant objective for their aversion to waking War, but rather a genuine concern for his well-being. He had clearly sustained far more injuries than any of them had, the nature of his sword being one of a frenzied, blood-lusting sort that sent him charging into the most dangerous of Angel squadrons.
They had all quarreled with War at one point or other, sometimes even to the point of exchanging blows with him. The only Nephilim who had ever managed to best War was Death, and even he cheated to a certain extent by fighting War only with his ephemeral body, one which could not be wounded by physical attacks. It was not a quarrelsome nature that drove them into heated arguments often, but rather War's unrelentingly stubborn personality full of pride and honor above all. They had all been not a little surprised when War had sullenly agreed to apologize to Fear for calling her a coward. It took quite an event for War to quietly acquiesce to anything, but, then again, he had called the savior of so many Nephilim a coward.
While the three sat there quietly, relishing the peaceful atmosphere that had been so far and few-in-between as of late, the door opened soundlessly. Their fighter instincts flared for a moment, before Fear stepped quietly into the room carrying a large, woven basket filled to the brim with bandages, salves, and glowing scrolls.
"Oh, you're awake? What about—" she stopped short, noticing War was still asleep. With a mischievous grin she winked at the three waking Nephilim Champions and walked over to Death.
"Anyway, I need to replace those healing runes first of all. They're on a strict timed schedule and some of the damage to your ephemeral body needs constant care to heal," she spoke softly as she motioned for Death to undress. He did so without question, trusting her professional attitude to not show any signs of unease. He did not have to worry. Fear had dealt with so many bodies now that they almost seemed the same to her.
She placed her hands over each of the glowing runes on his body and they faded into glowing wisps of air. She opened one of the scrolls in the basket, rolling it out to reveal a progression of runes from largest to smallest. Taking a medium-sized rune, she lifted the glowing marking from the parchment of the scroll and gently pressed it onto Death's back, repeating this process with smaller runes for his arms, legs, and several parts of his torso. Once this was over, she glided over to Fury, who had already stripped down to her undergarments. A slight touch from Fear's hand and the bandages on Fury's waist and shoulder unraveled themselves and obediently settled into the basket. Fear finished placing the new bandages on Fury's numerous nicks and scrapes, for none had truly gotten past the range of Thresher. As Fury put her dressing gown back on, Strife waited only half-naked, refusing to take off his trousers. Fear tapped her foot once, to which Strife shook his head. With a quick flourish of her hand, she had Strife floating in mid-air and promptly pulled his trousers off, undid the bandages on him, and rewrapped him in new ones, letting him fall unceremoniously onto the bed, his pants floating down to land on his face. While Fury and Death chuckled, Fear levitated War's sleeping body in the same manner and stripped him down to nothing, revealing the full extent of the damage he had taken. Only War's bandages were soaked through with blood, something the other three had not noticed from staring only at the front of his torso. They grimaced as the bandages unwrapped to reveal grisly gashes and tears all over his body. But it was no small feat that most of these wounds had closed up just enough to stop overflowing with blood. Fear was a powerful user of healing magic indeed.
Before putting on the new bandages, she dipped her hand into the jar of salve in the basket and gently rubbed it across the deepest of the wounds, pausing to dip her hand in again whenever the salve on her fingers ran thin. It was the salve that emitted that pulsating light the three had noticed before on War's old bandages. Fear had just finished wrapping War's body up again and had only just finished retying the bow on his trousers when he stirred and groaned. Quickly, but gently, she lowered him back onto the bed and hastily picked up her basket, making for the door.
"W-wait," War groaned from the bed. He had regained consciousness in time to notice the hands wrapping bandages all over his body and had opened his eyes fast enough to realize who it was.
Fear waited apprehensively. She knew what War thought of her, and though she did not care much for that way of thinking, it did make sense. She was essentially hiding from battle so she had indirectly caused the injuries of so many Nephilim by not protecting them on the battlefield. She had mulled this over plenty of times already and did not at all regret her decision to save those who could be saved instead of trampling over them to lead healthier Nephilim into injury and death. She braced herself for all sorts of ungrateful comments from the stubborn War.
"I apologize. That is all," War said quietly, "Do not neglect your duties to the others."
She raised an eyebrow and set the basket down.
"You four are my last patients for today. I've taken care of the rest as best I could for now and left the rest in their hands," she said, taking a nearby chair and sitting down, her white dress shifting with her slender form, "No doubt you have plenty of questions you want to ask me, so ask away. No, War, do not get up, you must stay lying down."
War, in the process of pushing himself up to his elbows reclined again and turned to Fear.
"Why did you run earlier?" he asked, no sense of tact at all.
"I didn't want to re-open your wounds by allowing you to realize that the 'coward' had bandaged you," she said, sarcasm in her voice, "But that's all passed now. Do not mention it again."
"Your magic is not limited only to killing strikes," Death spoke, "How did you come to learn healing spells and practices? It is rare among such a violent race like the Nephilim."
"My sister, Calamity, and I once found a strange root in the forests near our home. She was always a curious and reckless girl, so she nibbled on the root. A few days later, all the little scratches and small gashes she had received from various forays into the forest had healed almost entirely and it was I who eventually realized the cause of such rapid healing. After that, though I studied the usual Nephilim battle spells, I would always sneak off into the forests and experiment with the various plants and roots there, until I knew enough to heal even large cuts. Calamity never found any interest in those plants though, and only inquired of them when she needed a broken leg or arm healed in time to thrash another would-be contender for her self-proclaimed title as the best Nephilim fighter in the tribe. I never stopped my personal learning in that area, though, so there you have it."
Fear had a wistful look in her eyes as she retold the story, but the Four could not help noticing a tinge of sadness in her words.
"What are you hiding in that tale?" War asked, without caring what consternation he may cause, "Where is your sister now?"
"Hmm, whichever envious Nephilim had said that you were the densest of the Champions had better get his facts straight," Fear responded, not noticing the growl that came from War.
"To Hell with them, I am no fool," War snarled, but before he could continue, Fear turned her head ever so slightly in his direction and smiled sadly.
"Clearly. Otherwise you could not have possibly caught the details I skipped over," she said softly, "When the war between the Nephilim and the Angels began, our village had thought itself safe. Calamity called for battle though, demanding to be let loose upon the battlefield, her one dream being to fight side-by-side with the legendary Champions of the Nephilim. No one expected a direct attack on the village by the Angels though, so when it came one evening, as the rays of the setting sun illuminated the world, the guards, sleepy and lulled into a false sense of security by the peaceful days, could not warn the village in time. It was a complete massacre of innocent Nephilim who had not ever stepped foot on the battlefield. I was in the forest when the attack commenced and ran back at the first flash of Divine power. I found my parents' bodies, or rather, the pieces of their bodies, strewn about the streets and finally found Calamity bravely fending off two Angel Champions. I ran to her, spells blazing, and severely wounded the closest Champion. If there was any area I excelled in it was spell casting and self-taught healing while Calamity's physical prowess and skill with the broadsword was unmatched in the tribe. Between the two of us, we truly believed we could live to fight another day to avenge not only our parents, but our entire village... but what hope did two young Nephilim have against the endless forces of the Angels? At last, even Calamity began to tire as more and more Angels appeared with a General in tow. Long before the battle, however, I had been in the forest when a slight shift in the wind revealed a deformed portal nearby. As far as I could guess at the time, it was just another of those portals caused by slight rifts when one world touched the other ever so slightly, but it flickered in and out at that same place day after day. I thought to use that portal to take us to safety, anywhere else to save ourselves. I cast a blazing tempest which would serve to disorient the flying Angels long enough for us to get to the forest. I was foolishly optimistic, thinking the portal would be there at a convenient time for us. It was not, and though there were flickers of it, there was no viable route of transportation. The Angels, by then, had caught up to us again, and because it was night within the shadows of the forest, Calamity, new to the uneven ground latticed by the roots of trees, faltered—barely perceptible—but a hesitant instant, and the skilled General lanced his spear through her skull, splitting it apart. I backed into the flickering portal, still screaming Calamity's name as the blood pooled around her head. The last thing I clearly saw before a sudden strong flicker from the portal swallowed me up was Calamity's glassy eyes. They were no longer glowing, and when the light fades from a Nephilim's eyes, you can see an iris, a pupil, and the color of that iris, though all blended lightly into one another. I will never forget Calamity's violet eyes watching me as I left her behind. I reached out to try and grab her, futile though it may be, and succeeded in pulling her with me… partly. I was lucky to not have lost any limbs, for the portal had snapped shut right below Calamity's shoulders. I landed behind this mansion, back when it was in ruins from whatever inhabitant had used it before. I remember not letting go of Calamity's head for days on end, and finally only truly released it when, almost a month after my arrival, the Nephilim flesh finally began to decay. I had nearly lost my mind at the time, and I surely would have gone mad had not an unfortunate Angel stumbled into this world between worlds. He was only a foot soldier, and had lost his legs. No doubt the same fickleness of flickers had brought him here, the same way I had been brought here with half of my sister's upper body. I wanted to kill him on sight, but he moaned piteously and begged for help, something I could not bring myself to ignore simply to fulfill my desire for vengeance. I did what I could with the crumbling mansion and the shredded mattresses and realized that there were strange plants on this floating island that had similar effects to the ones I had studied earlier. Within days, his delirium was gone and he was able to sit up and eat on his own. I carried him, at one point, to the stream for water, leaving him there briefly while I went to gather more plants and roots. I came back to find no one there. I searched every day for him even though I hated him with every fiber of my being. Eventually I assumed he must have found his way out or was swallowed up by another portal again. It took me a long time living on this island to control portals as I do now, but since this island never stands still for long, I can hardly hold the portals for any more than 10 or 20 seconds…"
Fear trailed off, realizing how much she had spoken in the heat of the moment. It was already dawn but the Four Champions had listened to her, mesmerized as they watched her face change from nostalgia, to a desperate triumph, to a sadness tinged with insanity. She looked at each of them in turn, her pale countenance now blank and expressionless. She had not meant to reveal so much to them, but she had never spoken to anyone else about her past, and this felt almost cathartic, even if she had no business forcing her woeful stories on the most powerful of the Nephilim.
"You dwell on the past as if it controls you," War spoke after a long silence, "And you helped one of them."
"All I see on a battlefield now are the injured and the soon-to-be-injured," she said, staring down at her clasped hands, "If I succumb to my desire for revenge, I would surely go mad…. Now, I must change the bandages on several other patients. Your weapons and armor have been cleaned and lie in the armory in the upper left hall's first ornamented door. All but War should go and breathe some fresh air and stretch, just do not overexert yourselves."
She spoke in a hurry, gathering her basket in her arms again and running out, not bothering to check if the door closed properly behind her or not. She had spoken too much after all, their silence confirmed that.
After Fear had left them, the Four sat quietly, brooding in thought. Her story was not an unusual one amongst the orphaned Nephilim children, but she held no true hatred towards the Archangels, no matter how much she claimed. It was almost as if she could not bear to truly hate someone. Strife, always restless after too long a period of silence stood up and walked out.
"Huh, that sounded a bit...rehearsed. Not that it matters. I think I'll follow her. I'll ask her a few things about this place, who knows, maybe the Nephilim could gather here and rebuild their forces for another strike at the Angels," he said, heading out the door. He had resolved to follow her, but soon realized it would be impossible to find her amongst all the rooms and hallways of the mansion, so instead of heading down the stairs he turned right, heading for the left hallway and for the first ornamented door. It was not difficult to find the door, gilded as it was in gold and silver designs of wings and weaponry. He placed a hand on the door, which seemed to resist him at first. A current passed through his body, as if identifying him, and then the door seemed to breathe a sigh as it swung inward. The room was made entirely of rare minerals from the Nephilim world, minerals that were nigh unbreakable, yet malleable. Weapons lay helter-skelter about the room, the ones on the floor seeming to be of the least importance. In the center of the room, on four gilded pedestals there floated the weapons and armor of the Nephilim Champions, cleaned, polished, and in some cases, sharpened to perfection. Strife picked up Mercy and Blessing, giving a soft whistle as he stared at his own reflection in the polished metal of Mercy's barrel. His finger itched to shoot something so he holstered the guns before the temptation grew too strong. He would have to ask Fear if there was any safe place for target practice on this inter-dimensional island. He decided to leave the armor until it was time to depart from this place since walking around in that would be cumbersome compared to the light clothing he now wore.
He asked one of the healthier-looking Nephilim who was slowly getting out of his cot if Fear had passed through the main hall of the mansion, and the Nephilim soldier, though at first frightened at the thought of such a legendary figure speaking to him, shakily pointed a finger towards the back of the first story's middle corridor. Strife walked through this place briskly, earning hushed whispers and awed stares from the injured lying on beds all along the walls. There was a large, double-door standing ajar at the very end of the long hallway and he rushed through, pushing it open, mouth already forming the question he had in mind when the scene before him stopped him short. Grave markers stretched as far as the eye could see starting from only 20 paces away from the back of the door. There were large graves and small graves and in the distance he could see a particularly tall grave marker. Amidst all this stood Fear, some ways off, digging a new grave. Beside her lay the dead body of a young Nephilim soldier whose neck had been blown almost completely off. It stayed attached thanks to several ligaments on the right, but he had long been dead, judging by the blueness of his lips. Strife walked up behind her quietly, waiting for her to throw aside her current shovelful of dirt.
"Apologies, Stri—White Champion, I cannot help you at the moment. It's so busy now that several have died from their wounds despite what I could do for them. I'll most likely be here all day digging graves and giving them proper burials," she huffed as she resumed digging.
"You can just call me by my given name, you know, instead of the one I earned," Strife said, reaching down to close the young soldier's open, glassy eyes.
"I have earned no merits in battle, offered no significant service to the Nephilim army. I would be disrespecting you to the worst degree if I assumed I had the right to address you so casually," Fear responded, the shovel not pausing for even a moment.
"Well, damn, missy, you're just all sorts of temperaments, aren't you? One minute you're spilling your guts to us, then suddenly you tell me you can't be casual with the 'Champions,'" Strife smirked as he said it, knowing he had hit home with that remark.
Fear stopped digging for a moment, realizing how contradictory her actions had been. She was not used to experiencing such strong emotions again, not after she had thought them buried with her sister's head. She turned to Strife quizzically.
"So… what should I call you and the others?"
"The names we were given. Well, I can speak for Fury and Death, at least. War is another story. You might want to talk to him specifically about that," Strife motioned towards the mansion as he spoke.
"I won't bother him with something so trivial. In any case, don't get your clothes dirty unless you want me to clean you again with the same spell I use for the floor," Fear dismissed his suggestion to see War, her usual sarcasm replacing the intentionally blank tone she had been using before.
"Heh, what, still sore about what he called you earlier? Don't mind it, that's how War treats everybody. We're the closest thing he's got to family and he still doesn't give a Demon's ass about our opinions if they don't operate on that crazy honor code he follows. He's a good guy, though, so don't be afraid of him. But I'll leave you alone now, since I need to tell the others how things got cleaned so quickly," Strife rose and was about to leave before he remembered his original purpose. He turned around, "Hey, I almost forgot, you got any place on this island for target practice?"
"…In the armory, on the wall where I placed my glaive horizontally across two hooks, just push down on the glaive's staff and the wall opens into the training ground and transportation ground where I can open a portal directly to any world that the island currently touches," Fear resumed digging as she said this.
"Wait," Strife tilted his head, "that wasn't where you opened a portal when you brought us here."
"That portal chamber will be able to hold the island in place for as long as my power holds, while the ones I make on my own must obey the whims of the inter-dimensional flux," Fear glanced at him; Strife was looking bored, no doubt he did not care for the intricacies of portal creation.
"Oh, all right," Strife responded as he positively sprang back to the armory to look for the training ground.
He had no trouble locating Fear's double-bladed glaive and eagerly reached out to push down on the handle. The moment he touched the glaive, however, he sprang back, all senses on high alert as if he were in the battlefield again. There was a presence about that glaive, malicious and warped from endless millennia of semi-existence. It swirled about him now, eagerly seeking out this new, powerful wielder. He wondered if Chaoseater was of the same ilk as this glaive. No one had dared touched War's sword before, though War himself had never expressly forbidden it. He turned to the sharpened blade floating on the pedestal, realizing that Fear must have touched it in order to clean and sharpen it. If Chaoseater was anything like her glaive, no doubt she would have been used to it by then. In any case, Strife was aware of the consequences of using a possessed weapon. If one's self-control and will could not measure up to the weapon's power, the wielder would simply be driven mad. Strife's hands were on Mercy and Blessing, a reflex gained from ages of battle, though he knew there was no fighting the spirit in a weapon. Why had Fear allowed him to touch the glaive? She must have known what he would feel. Or did she? Perhaps it had become second-nature to her, so much that she had forgotten what a normal weapon felt like. War would know. Strife turned and headed for the Champions' room again. He would ask War about Chaoseater.
War was still lying in bed, surprisingly, when Strife entered the room. He and Death seemed to have been arguing again, over what trifling matter Strife did not care to hear. He removed his boots and left them near the room's door, sitting down noisily on his bed.
"She is a coward; for all the good she has done I have yet to see any courage in her actions," War was saying to Death, who seemed ready to hit him.
"You are a stubborn mule!" Death shouted, "She has saved your life and still you would give her no respect?"
"I will give my respect where it is earned," War growled in response, though he did not get up.
Strife decided to interrupt at this point, before Fear returned to find the two strongest Champions in a bloody scuffle on the floor.
"War, I was talking to Fear a moment ago," Strife said, and this acquired him both War's and Death's attention, "She said there was a training room accessible via the armory."
"…And why did you think this relevant?" War asked, not knowing whether to be bewildered or annoyed at Strife.
Strife shrugged, "You open it by pushing down on the wall hooks that Fear puts her glaive on."
"Enough, Strife, what do you want?" War chose to be annoyed at his fellow Champion.
"Woah, there, big guy, don't get angry. I just didn't really know how to ask you about this… Well, what the Hell, here goes: how do you feel when you're using Chaoseater?" Strife fidgeted a little, but did not look away from War.
"…What do you mean? I use it like I would any other sword," War glared at Strife, wondering why he was being questioned like this.
"No, I meant, when you first held Chaoseater, did you feel some sort of… presence? As if the sword were alive?"
"…Why do you ask these questions, Strife? Chaoseater is a cursed sword, you know this. It is forged with hatred and blood lust worked into the steel of its blade. Wielding it is to hold a thrashing fury in your hands. …Have you touched the sword?"
Strife grinned at this, "If I didn't before I sure as Hell don't want to now. No, War, none of us dare touch that blade. You are the only one among us capable of withstanding the effects of that sword for long. Well, among us."
"Speak plainly, Strife," War was tired of the pointless conversation. He wanted to rest again; the salve on his wounds had that sort of opiating effect on his system.
"Fear's glaive is the same as Chaoseater, I think," Strife looked at War's face for a reaction.
"…How… is this possible? Cursed weapons are suicide to forge and Chaoseater is the only weapon in the entire Nephilim world of its kind," War's eyes were wide with shock.
"How can you be sure, Strife?" Death intervened, speaking for the first time since Strife's strange conversation opener.
"Well, it's not like I touched War's sword to compare or anything, but when I tried opening the passageway with Fear's glaive, well, what I mentioned before was what I felt. Not to mention that glaive seems to be something Samael would affiliate himself with. It has all the wickedness of a Demon and none of the talons or ugly features," Strife tried to make light of it, but he could see Death's eyes narrow behind the skull mask while War was now struggling to get up.
"Stop, War, your wounds are deep. Stay here; I will bring that glaive to you, if you are so interested in it," Death said, turning to Strife, "Strife, show me where that glaive is."
Death saw the glaive immediately, his eyes could see the black aura around it that wrapped and melted, resurged and enveloped, seeming to him like pitch granted life. He did not want to touch the accursed thing, much less bring it back to War. Oh, power was there, that was for certain, but that vile miasma would kill most minor Demons and Angels upon contact. The glaive brought to mind another troubling issue though: if it was so deadly, how could someone like Fear, who had neither War's innate powers nor his fortitude, be able to wield such a glaive for so long? Surely, though, the only person who could truly gauge the thing's power would be War. A quick glance at Chaoseater made Death turn away. The sword was throbbing with a dark red aura bordering on black, having been neglected for the past few days, the blade thirsted for destruction. The darkness around Chaoseater was mindless, though, cruel and terrible, but mindless. The glaive, on the other hand, seemed to be watching them. Death retrieved his sharpened Harvester from the pedestal, pausing briefly to admire the wickedly honed edge of the scythe.
"I'll pick up one end of the glaive with Harvester. Hold up the other end with Mercy and Blessing as best you can, Strife," Death motioned as he tilted Harvester until the blade's flat side was below the right end of the glaive.
"If you're that afraid of touching it, Death, I doubt I want my guns touching it," Strife responded uneasily.
"Our weapons have been through enough bloodshed to rival the miasma from this glaive. But we will still need to hurry," Death lifted up his end of the glaive and Strife quickly complied. Ignoring the strange looks of the patients closest to the armory doors, Death and Strife walked quickly back into their room, depositing the glaive on the ground with an careless tumble. Death breathed a small sigh of relief when he realized that the fragments of miasma hovering near his scythe and Strife's guns were only temporary. However, such a powerful hatred consumed that glaive. Even several seconds' worth of contact was enough to leave lingering traces.
War sat up slowly, eyeing the glaive. He had seen the way Death and Strife had carried it in and thrown it down. Death was fully capable of holding Chaoseater without too much trouble, so why did this glaive make him so fearful that he would use his scythe to hold it? Ignoring Strife's and Death's advice to remain on the bed, War sat up with a grunt of pain as the wound on his back sent waves of agony coursing through him for a brief moment, but the salve was doing its work well and the pain quickly subsided. He stood up gingerly and walked towards the glaive. Only Death could see the true form of the miasma around weapons, but War, having been around Chaoseater for countless millennia, could easily discern the aura of a possessed weapon. He bent down and picked up the glaive by its handle, the weapon as light as air to him compared to the weight of Chaoseater. Death stood at the ready, in case something untoward should happen to the youngest of the Nephilim Champions.
Upon contact, War had already noticed the aura trying to possess him, trying to take over his mind and bend it to the will of the weapon. Compared to the blind insanity of Chaoseater, however, this weapon's crafty, sneaky ways surprised him. It was not trying to overwhelm him with senses and emotions as Chaoseater always did, but rather, it dabbed here and stroked there, feeling out which emotions it could most easily take advantage of. War scoffed at this cowardly way to attain power and spun the glaive once, driving one of its blades deep into the wooden floor of the room. The aura stopped its intrusion of his soul, seeming to notice that he would not be someone it could easily overpower. War could almost hear it hiss in anger as it withdrew back into the glaive. It had been an incredibly strong aura, powerful enough to rival Chaoseater's effects, but with much more crafty tactics. He could see why Death did not want to touch it; though Death could wield Chaoseater, it was only for short durations of time as even Death would succumb to the wild frenzy of the sword's powers. This glaive was a deadly weapon and War resolved to find out how Fear had gotten a hold of it.
"Where is she?" War thundered, "This weapon would destroy everything for its own purposes if the right person were to get their hands on it. This glaive must be destroyed."
"I think she should still be out back digging that grave," Strife quipped, glad for a chance to break the silence.
"Take me to her," War said.
Strife's prediction was true. Fear was up to her chest now in the deep hole and still she continued digging. The glaive's blade crashed down into the earth on one side of the new grave. Fear had been expecting something like this. Even as she stared up into the fearsome countenance of War, she could not help wondering why she had told Strife about the room. Even as she had said it, she realized what they would find out about her weapon, and yet she had gone and told him anyway. Strange urges.
"Why do you have this weapon?" War asked, his voice quiet, but laced with suspicion.
"Why does anyone have a weapon?" Fear replied calmly, putting her left hand on her hip , "I protect myself with it, of course."
"Do not play games with me," War growled, "You know what I am asking."
Fear sighed and looked away, wondering if she could lie to cover herself like she had done the other night. Her story would have to match up, though… then again, perhaps it would be easier to just tell them she had found the glaive somewhere magical and mysterious and let on that she knew nothing. She was just about ready to choose the second option, and had just opened her mouth to speak when War interrupted the lie forming in her mind. He had taken her silence for something else.
"…I apologize," War said reluctantly, as if the words had never been used by his mouth before, "Though you may hide from battle like a coward, I have been showing you undue amounts of disrespect. You have saved my fellow Nephilim and me, and for that I owe you some gratitude."
Fear looked at him blankly for a moment as she slowly realized what he had said. She smiled at him, and also at herself. One way or another, someone up there wanted her to tell the truth. No matter, though. She could not have lied to him after that. Whatever may have changed during her years of living with guilt, she still could not lie without feeling ashamed of herself. She stretched and climbed out of the hole.
"It's a long story… so let's bury this poor Nephilim first, and I'll tell you four a bedtime story over some food," Fear said, motioning to War to pick up the dead boy's feet while she lifted his shoulders. Together they gently set him in the ground and with several sweeps of the shovel, Fear had fully buried him. She patted the earth several times to pack down the dirt and walked back towards the mansion, throwing the shovel aside next to the back doors and beckoning the Nephilim Champions to pick up the glaive and follow her.
Fear placed the glaive on a cleared table in the dining hall of the mansion and sat down, the four Champions following suit.
"Where to begin?" Fear murmured, "To Hell with it, I'll have to part with whatever respect I've earned from War today."
"What do you mean?" War asked, his tone angry and suspicious again.
"I mean I lied to you yesterday, about some parts of my daring escape from my doomed village," Fear sat back in her chair and ran a hand through her hair, sighing again.
"…What else have you lied to us about, then?" Fury asked suddenly, glaring at her.
"Nothing else. I didn't tell you enough yet to lie about so much," Fear stared at each of the Nephilim Champions in turn, then started to talk.
"When the attack started, I was at home. I used the attack as an excuse to kill my parents with a glaive that I had found discarded among the piles of broken weaponry that Nephilim children were allowed to use as practice, and though I could kill them with ease, my sister was another issue. She may have been a fool at using advanced spells, but she knew enough of physical attacks to get close to me in between my spells. At that range, she managed to cut me from here—" Fear placed a finger on her left shoulder and ran it diagonally down until she reached the right side of her waist, "—to here. I used a portal to get out, but at that point in time I had barely begun practicing space-fold spells and I only managed to get as far as the outside of the house. Calamity came tearing through the air from the upper balcony of the house towards me and I was all but ready to die until an Angel shot her from mid-air. She had been so focused on killing me that she had not noticed the large squadron of Angels descending nearby so I managed to avoid death by luck. At that point, to survive the onslaught of Angels, we unwittingly aided each other, killing the nearest Angels and attempting to turn around to kill each other, only to be blocked by more Angels. Between the two of us, we really wanted to kill the other. Eventually, I realized that by attempting to kill her, I was only prolonging her life, so I slowly worked my way out of the battle and continued casting spells to fool her into believing I was still near. When I was far enough, I used a slow-acting poison spell that would spread, giving the illusion that I had gone nowhere. From here the story is the same as the one I have told you previously. I tried to escape using the portal I found in the woods. Calamity followed me bringing the entire blasted squadron with her, and while trying to kill me on rough terrain she stumbled a bit and was immediately killed by the Angel General. As she died, though, I noticed her trying to cast a spell on me, and the only spell Nephilim children were taught to cast with their last breaths, if they could, was a curse, a spell that uses one's own life as a catalyst. You four know this already. With a life as a catalyst the spell is nigh unbreakable, so I did the only thing I could to stop her: I tried to cut her head off. Through terrible aim I ended up slicing off half of her torso by imbuing the glaive's blade with magic, but as it cut through I could feel the spell attaching itself to the glaive, and before I could let go, it had attached itself to me. Whatever malice and hatred Calamity had for me at that moment has been imbued into the glaive, and the glaive has been bound to me. Every time I wield it, it tries to murder me in the same manner as Calamity's death, poisoning my soul, turning the attentions of enemies towards me, invading my mind, trying to drive me insane, fooling my senses so that I may stumble and die as she did. I am never safe with it in my hands, and the spell is such that I cannot discard the weapon nor stand to be away from it for too long. I am doomed to die. I tried to retrieve Calamity's body before the portal closed, in order to find some way to reverse the spell, but I knew it was already impossible. I buried her remains in one of the graves out back. It's the one with the tallest marker, so I don't lose sight of where she is."
There was utter silence following her tale, for the ring of truth in her words was unmistakable, but the atrocities she had committed were terrible to everyone present, including her.
"W-Why did you kill your own family? Or is that something normal to you?" Strife asked, repulsed by the knowledge of her actions.
Fear just looked at him sadly, not bothering to explain herself. It was a subject she dared not even broach in her own mind.
"You do not seem like someone who would kill without good reason," Death said to her, "Will you not tell us why?"
"I would rather you think me a monster than find out why I killed them," Fear responded quietly.
"Fool!" War spat at her, "So you hide here and save others to ease your conscience?"
"…In a way, yes."
"Then you do not deserve an iota of gratitude from anyone you have saved."
"I never asked for any, Red Champion. I know my actions cannot be reconciled with any notion of redemption, so I would gladly die to atone for my crimes—"
"What holds you back?"
"…Try to kill me."
War picked up Reaper from where it stood propped against the table beside the taller Harvester. Before Death could stop him, War had flung the scythe towards Fear, its edge hissing through the air as it approached her. She sat in place and smiled bitterly. Almost 5 meters from her a dark miasma formed and the lithe scythe sank into it as if it were sinking into sand. It stayed suspended there for a moment before dropping down upon the table.
"You may try again if you wish…" Fear said, "My sister will allow no one to kill me but herself and only in the manner she dictates, much like how she fought in that midst of Angels to save me, then kill me. Always such a spoiled girl, she."
"Your actions call for no less of a punishment… no matter the reasons," War added, glaring at her, the glow from his ice-blue eyes radiating with anger.
Fear's eyes met his and held his gaze, "I understand."
Without a word more she stood and picked up her glaive, leaving the dining hall. Once the doors were closed, Fury turned to Strife.
"Who knows what other secrets she may be hiding from us, Strife."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. That was a Hell of a story, and we've only been here two days," Strife scratched his neck. "Maybe we should leave, Death, before we find out any other nasty news, like maybe all these Nephilim here are injured by her so she can help them to ease her own conscience."
"No, Strife, we cannot leave her. She is one of the few Nephilim left that are able to fight and if her expertise in spells is as advanced as she claims, then we will need her all the more," Death responded, always logical.
"Hey, I'm not too comfortable with a crazy Nephilim girl who might kill us at any moment for a mysterious reason," Strife shot back, earning a glare from Death.
"Death is right, though, we need her," War said, "As heinous as her crimes are, she is still a valuable asset to us. If only we knew why she killed her own family, it would lessen her crime, perhaps."
"You talk to her, War. She seems to respond the most to your questions, no matter how utterly blunt they are at times. Honestly, it seems as if she really does want to tell us, but she's holding back from shame or fear, whichever comes first," Fury suggested with a chuckle.
A slight snarl from War and more chuckles from Fury ended the discussion. War would ask her why she killed her family, and continue doing so until she finally told him. Of course, he wasted no time on that matter, heading directly to the armory first to see if Fear was there. She was not, and he was just about to turn around when he remembered what Strife had babbled earlier that day about the training room. He looked back at where the glaive rested on the wall hooks and pressed down on the handle. The entire section full of mounted weapons swing inward to reveal a flight of stairs leading down into a dark tunnel lit at certain intervals by torches. Grabbing Chaoseater from the pedestal, he followed this path downward, hearing the door close behind him. He did not care. If it did not open again, he would break apart the foundation of the floor above him to get out. The armory was made from Nephilim-world materials, but the rest of this mansion was just dirt and rock.
The dark tunnel stretched for a long way and War could tell the destination would be very far from the actual mansion. He could hear the sounds of clashing metal in the distance after having walked some distance, and as he approached the sounds the tunnel began to lighten up. He emerged into an enormous circular room covered by a glassy dome through which bright sunlight filtered through. The dome was reinforced with steel curved in intricate patterns that allowed the sunlight to decorate the floor in spirals and undulating lines while strong stone pillars carved in the shapes of Angels and Demons supported the outer ring of the room. In the area furthest from the room's entrance was another door covered in red runes and in the center of the room stood various large posts wrapped in a column of swirling blue runes. There were moving wooden dolls armed with various weapons running about amidst the bodies of hundreds of rag dolls lying motionless upon the floor. In the center of it all stood Fear, wearing her black battle armor, cutting down the dolls left and right with a single-bladed glaive. For every doll that was cut down another was animated by a strand of blue runes from one of the posts. War walked towards Fear, whose back was turned to him, still slaughtering the dolls. One ran towards him and tried to attack with its wooden sword, but War grabbed its head flung it aside, breaking off the head from the body in the process. He watched as certain posts, free from the job of animating the dolls, picked up all the damaged ones in strands of green runes and repaired them, setting them down on the floor again to be reanimated. Another doll jumped on his back and War grunted as he swung Chaoseater in a circle, cutting a swathe through the wall of moving dolls. At this, Fear noticed him and spun around. Raising a hand towards the posts; they dimmed until all the dolls were motionless, though they still glowed faintly.
"Red Champion, why are you here?" she asked, breathless from her practice.
"Address me as War. The title of Red Champion sounds ridiculous when spoken outside of the Nephilim Tournament," War responded slamming Chaoseater into the solid rock ground.
"Then… War, why have you come?" There was a glimmer of hope in her eyes as she spoke, "Do you not consider me a monster for my actions?"
"No. You have committed heinous crimes, but we wish to know the reason for your actions," War approached her as he spoke, and she stood her ground.
"I thought I already told you—"
"And I will ask until you have answered me," War's response cut off the answer he knew she would give.
"You cannot know how much it hurts me to think about my actions, and my reasons," Fear said to him, her voice almost a whisper.
"Face your fears," was the cold response.
She turned away from him for a moment, then raised an arm straight out. A flash of black light and her double-bladed glaive was in her hands. She turned to face him with her weapon.
"Then defeat me, War, in physical combat. Knock this glaive from my hands, and I will tell—no, I will show you my reasons for slaughtering the family I never loved," she said, her voice a deadly soft hiss.
"So be it," War walked back and retrieved Chaoseater from where he had placed it in the ground and turned to face Fear. She pointed her glaive at him for a moment as the posts behind her glowed bright again. This time, though, the runes changed to a fiery orange and a barrier was erected around them. War spun Chaoseater once, then charged.
He threw the weapon upward at the last minute and jumped up after it, grabbing it by the hilt and spinning vertically in the air. Fear blocked the first strike as he threw the sword up and dashed backwards to avoid the saw-like blade that spun in the air until War finished with a ground-shaking slam of the blade onto the earth. Without wasting a second, Fear leaped at him, vaulting with her glaive until she was right behind him and slashing backwards with a low spin. War instinctively blocked behind him with Chaoseater and spun with a vertical slash already on its way down. Fear was quick though, and she side-stepped his blade, slicing at his shoulder with the other end of her glaive. He pushed himself just far enough back to block with the base of Chaoseater's blade, which he promptly thrust at her. Fear leaped up and pushed off again on the sharp edge of the blade, her armor preventing any damage to her feet. War was not surprised by this tactic and he quickly swung the blade upwards. Fear parried in mid-air with her glaive and was forced to push off the blade to the side, putting some distance between her and War again. She had barely landed when War came rushing at her with horizontal spins of his sword. She timed her jump and was right above him with her glaive when his free hand grabbed her left leg and threw her down. She hit the ground with a heavy thud and scrambled to her feet, her glaive still in hand, but in the time she had been scrambling War had closed the gap and with a roar he swung hard horizontally at her. With her other hand lacking a firm grip on the glaive, Fear tried to block with her right hand, and despite even the tenacious cling of the dark miasma on her arm, War's strength sent the glaive soaring through the air, landing close to the edge of the barrier.
Both breathed heavily from the fight, but for Fear the sense of exhilaration when she had been truly freed, even for a moment, from the dark aura of the glaive, was all she could think of. She fell to her knees shaking with excitement and… hope. She had known she could not best War in physical combat, but the goal was not to defeat him, the goal was for him to defeat the glaive. Still, the sensation of the glaive losing its control over her for a fraction of a second made her feel almost alive again. As she trembled, however, she could feel the anger resonating from the blade. It was aware of what had happened and now she felt that miasma approaching again with new designs in mind. It reached her and slid up her body like a serpent, up towards her chest, then her neck, she tried to stand up, took a few steps, then… darkness.
She awoke in War's arms, her body lying across his legs; the barrier on the room had broken with her loss of consciousness. War was sitting cross-legged on the ground, one hand resting on the hilt of Chaoseater lying beside him while the other pillowed her head. She still felt incredibly dizzy, however, and there was a throbbing pain around her neck. War was saying something to her that she could not understand through the pain and the dizziness. She felt his other hand touch her neck and the pain there shot through her. She heard herself scream and he withdrew his hand. Slowly, slowly, the dizziness faded, and though her neck still throbbed with pain, she could at least manage to open her eyes. War was looking down at her, concern and alarm in his eyes. She still could not manage to speak despite many attempts to. He seemed to notice this and shook his head at her, as if telling her not to talk. Long minutes passed as she lay there in his arms, sometimes with her eyes open and other times simply staring at him, eyes glazed over with pain. She eventually felt herself able to talk again and remembered her end of the deal should he win the duel.
"…W…War…" she managed to whisper hoarsely. He had been staring about him, but at the sound of her voice his head snapped back to her. He was waiting for her to say something else. She swallowed, the simple act sending waves of agony through her body. Realizing she could not explain in her current state, she decided on a different course of action. Her armor had been crafted through runes and spells, and she dismissed it now, the armor seeming to melt and fade away completely, leaving only the cloth undergarments. These, also, could act as arcane armor against spells and these too she dismissed. All through this she kept her eyes on War's face. At the sight of her bare arms and legs his eyes had widened. As her body was entirely revealed she heard him inhale sharply. The scars that crisscrossed her skin were a latticework of fine lines and thick, angry gashes of raised scars. Most of these were random, whippings and floggings with no real aim. Others, however, were far more gruesome. The skin on her breasts was discolored and uneven; some areas were even raised higher than others. Upon closer inspection, it was apparent that layers of skin had been removed from her body in these areas. Her arms and legs had received the same treatment along with numerous scars. Around her stomach and her thighs, however, were the most revealing of the scars. These all ran towards one location on her body, where she had been tortured repeatedly by objects meant to distort and dismember. The scars here were numerous enough to cover almost all patches of original skin. On her neck, now, was a new wound, courtesy of the glaive. It had pierced shallow holes in her neck and injected a modicum of its poisonous aura into her body; just enough to send waves of pain rocketing throughout her body causing her to spasm and twitch every so often. She allowed War to stare at the scars that decorated her body for a while, and then re-summoned the underclothing back on and tried to summon back the armor, but it flickered and faded, leaving her exhausted again. War was looking at her face now; his eyes had narrowed to slits of anger, but at what she knew not. She turned to him, tried for a customary smirk that changed to a grimace and a hoarse scream as another wave of pain shot through her body. It was enough, she could stay awake no longer so she gave up trying to stay awake and let herself drift off into a painless unconsciousness.
War was no stranger to scars, no matter their gruesome nature, but scars gained from a battle versus those acquired through less… honorable means were different things in his eyes. He had heard of rumors and whispers concerning Nephilim families who had eaten their children in desperation for enough power to save themselves from Angels, had heard of Nephilim children being beaten to death for being too weak or too powerless for the standards of the Nephilim world, and he had even heard of Nephilim lovers who were brutally rough in all their actions, but throughout all the rumors there was a common undercurrent of strength; whether there was not enough of it or more than enough, strength was the point of focus for the actions of Nephilim, born and bred to fight and conquer. He had never seen powerful Nephilim submit to any threat, nor had he ever heard of senseless carnage from a Nephilim.
Everything was done with a purpose, even if vague, and Fear's initial lack of explanation had been what perturbed the Four Champions the most, rather than the deed itself. Heinous indeed had that deed been done without purpose, but now there was a purpose; now there was a tangible reason. It was unnatural, to think of a Nephilim being forced to endure such humiliation, especially from his or her own kind—nay, from his or her own family. War was furious, more so because he could not believe his own kind could be so… Demonic, though a part of that anger abated when Fear lost consciousness. There were more pressing concerns to deal with now. Whatever that miasma had been plotting, War's inadvertent disruption of its connection with Fear had accelerated its plans. Where it would have toyed with Fear earlier, letting her drive herself mad and killing her off, it now decided Fear had to suffer before some method came about that could save her.
War had felt that miasma earlier when his attempt to touch Fear's neck was rebuffed by her scream. The glaive had lost its cunning malice and now had only one, bloodthirsty goal: torture. In some ways, the miasma could have been an extension of Chaoseater, its single-minded mania not so unlike the cursed blade. There was truly nothing to be done for Fear but allow Death to deal with her. Areas concerning the arcane and incorporeal were not War's specialty, and he doubted even Death could do anything for Fear against this miasma. A familiar, mindless frenzy throbbed dully in the back of his mind as he considered his options and his thoughts turned to Chaoseater. In this state, perhaps that blade's unthinking miasma could slow down the rivulets of black that were spreading slowly outward from the punctures in Fear's neck. War hefted Chaoseater and flipped the sword so he was holding it pointed towards the ground. He would have to be careful now, or he would end up beheading Fear. Blocking Chaoseater's screams to kill—a skill acquired through ages of practice—War nudged the base of the blade close to Fear's neck, near the wounds made by the miasma. Already Chaoseater was reacting with the miasma, and the miasma's attention seemed to avert briefly from harming Fear. A quick and shallow slide of the blade's edge cut a line through the two punctures in the neck and a violent spasm from Fear denoted a significant reaction. For better or worse, however, was yet to be seen.
With that, War had done what he could, and now he could only wait to see which miasma would win, and if Chaoseater would kill Fear no matter the results. He did not intend to remain in that training room, however, and unceremoniously threw Fear over his left shoulder as he stalked back towards the tunnels, Chaoseater screaming for blood in his right hand.
The door to the armory opened as he approached it, which negated his thoughts of making good on his promise and emerging through the floor. Fury was there, apparently admiring the finer weapons on the armory wall racks. She spun on her heels as the hidden door swung open, but when she saw only War, she visibly relaxed.
"If Strife was here, he would make a dirty comment," Fury said, smiling, "Especially when you have emerged from a dark tunnel with an underdressed woman over your shoulder."
"Help her," War wasted no words as Fury allowed surprise to pass over her features for an instant before taking Fear from War and clearing an area of weaponry.
"What happened down there?" Fury had laid Fear down and was looking at the scars with the same incredulously furious look War had given them.
"The miasma attacked her. I do not understand it fully, either, only that Chaoseater's miasma is slowing it down," War replaced Chaoseater on the pedestal in the room, where it resumed floating as spells activated and began cleaning blood from the blade.
"Chaoseater…? But that would worsen the pain in the long run," Fury looked at War, who stared back without a word. It was not a choice War would have made easily. Whatever the case at the time of his decision, the pain must have been the same either way if he would allow Chaoseater to penetrate so far. "What do you expect me to do, War?" Fury asked quietly, "You must have known there was no way for any of us to help her. The only thing we can do is give her a quick death."
"…She has yet to fully explain herself. We, as Champions, would have the responsibility of killing her if it is not justified."
"War…just…go get the others," Fury's exasperated tone drew a growl from War, but he complied nonetheless while Fury allowed Thresher to wrap itself around Fear. Fury's whip could poison, but it could also anesthetize and she was allowing it to detect the areas of pain, but instead of exploiting them like she usually did, Fury was allowing Thresher's essence to opiate the nerves and calm the body. Once War returned with Death and Strife, Fear had been fully enveloped by Thresher's pulsating purple light.
Death and Strife echoed Fury's initial question and War explained to them as efficiently as possible, all the while not taking his eyes off of Fear. She had grown much paler during the time he had been gone. He wondered if she could survive…
Death's hand flashed briefly as he cast runes on Fear's body, but even this effort was lackluster.
Fear twitched, screamed, and was still for a moment. The Four thought it was over then, but she groaned and opened her eyes, the effort itself seeming to hurt her as much as any weapon to the gut.
"W-where…" she trailed off as her vision registered the armory, "Who brought me here… War?"
A nod as she glanced at him. She grimaced, and pushed herself to a sitting position, groaning loudly as she did so while Fury allowed Thresher to slide off slowly. A grim smile played on her lips as she considered the Four Nephilim Champions standing over her as if her life really mattered all that much in the grand scheme of things.
"I should have warned one of you, tch," a groan interrupted, but she forced herself to continue, "…but I never quite got the chance to fully elaborate. This isn't the first time the miasma has become impatient and tried to attack me, though this is the first time its hold on me has been so quickly broken. I would guess that it's thanks to Chaoseater's miasma canceling the effects of the glaive's..."
"This has… occurred before?" Death's tone was grim as he assessed the damage to her body. The miasma had left only two physical marks, but it was eating away at Fear's life essence.
"'This' has occurred many, many times before," Fear corrected, "Whatever my sister had against me is truly sadistic. I was once bedridden with agonizing pain for an entire season's worth of time. It never kills me, however. I believe it just wants me to suffer until it can replicate the circumstances of Calamity's death."
"You claim longing for death, and yet your body strives to survive. Fear… that is entirely appropriate," War growled at her.
Fear glanced at him, not sure what he was referring to. It dawned on her a moment later, however, and she smiled, though it hurt her chest.
"Our vices define us," she responded simply. She stood up shakily and brushed off the last tendrils of Thresher. A slow gesture and her armor melted onto her body again while the glaive materialized under her palm. She grasped the body of the glaive and stood still for a time, perspiration running down her face. At last, she lurched towards the wall hinges and slammed the glaive into the notches, breathing heavily. Before the Four could ask anything, however, one of the Nephilim patients burst into the armory. It was Avarice, a bloated, beady-eyed sack of a Nephilim, but a powerful fighter nonetheless. He was clutching his abdomen in pain, and from the amount of blood seeping through his fingers, there was a clear reason why. Fear moved towards him quickly, feeling pain with every step and unable to contain the grimace on her face. Avarice was not aware of that, however, as he collapsed onto the ground.
"Angel Ch-Champion, woke up and attacked… killed some…" he gasped out. Fear made no response, simply turning him over and moving his arm away from his stomach. Her face did not change when she saw the gaping wound, nor did it change when she realized there was no way to save him. The weapon, whatever it had been, had almost severed the Nephilim into two. What held him together was little more than his spine and the muscles of his back. She still tried however, not wanting him to die with the last image in his mind being that of her hopeless diagnosis. She placed a hand vertically on the gaping wound, about to knit together what flesh she could until Avarice's hand grabbed her wrist.
"N-not stupid. Fat and ugly… not stupid. Kill me," he ordered in a hoarse whisper.
"…You won't feel anything," Fear whispered as Avarice's face relaxed into a smile from a combination of relief and Fear's magic. When he closed his eyes, he had already lost all sensation of touch.
Fear stood over Avarice's dead body for a while before walking out the door of the armory. She had saved a few Divine beings—that much was true, but she had kept them isolated in another part of the mansion. Avarice was in charge of making sure they did not interact with too many Nephilim, and most of them were in no condition to even lift a finger, so they generally had little choice. The Angel Champion she had saved recently, however, had only sustained severe stab wounds. No doubt she should have been more cautious, especially of Champions. Walking was painful, but her mind was growing accustomed to the pain such that it did not hurt her as much as it initially had. She could hear the Four walking in silence close behind, which surprised her. She had assumed they would regroup after she had left to discuss what they now knew about her, but it seems that news of a rampaging Angel Champion killing their injured war comrades was enough to take their minds off the recent topic temporarily. There was no small relief when she heard the metallic clicks of Mercy's spinning chamber. Strife was itching to fire them and was spinning Mercy's chamber with a restless thumb, but that meant weapons had already been readied. She would not have to face a recovered Angel Champion alone.
She led them past the main hall of the mansion, past the main doors, and into the east wing, a place the Four had yet to explore. At the far end of the east wing was another pair of ornate double doors, but they stood wide open and bloodied. There were only a few cots anywhere near those double doors, but those whom had once lain nearby had been dismembered and beheaded. The Champion in question had returned to the room beyond the double doors, waking up his fellow Angels and overturning tables and desks, no doubt looking for his armor and weapons. Other Angels were attempting to rise in the presence of a Champion, but they were missing legs and arms, while others had no wings. It would have been a pitiful sight if the bodies and limbs of bandaged Nephilim were not strewn at their feet.
Strife silently leveled Mercy at the occupied Champion—and before the nearest Light Angel could warn the Champion—fired. Once. The shot rang loudly, its echoes bouncing off the walls of the large room. In Strife's hands, Mercy was terror incarnate. Its bullet exploded upon impact, tearing off the Champion's right leg at the knee. He collapsed to the ground and turned his body as best he could. On seeing the Nephilim Champions, however, he froze. A strangled noise escaped from him, but he did not move. Fear approached him, dismissing her glaive as she did so. The few Light Angels who had been in any shape to stand did not approach her, torn as they were between their duty and their gratitude.
The Angel Champion snarled at Fear, though made no move to stop her as she kneeled down beside him. His silver hair, a characteristic trait of all the Divine, was streaked with the blood of Nephilim and his golden eyes were half-wild with fear and pain.
"…I would ask what you are doing… but somehow, I think I can guess," Fear simply stated as she looked at him.
"Nephilim… you are our enemies, fighting against the Creator's will! Justice must be delivered!" he raged at her, and was about to lift a hand to strike when he heard the cocking of a gun. Mercy's hammer, specifically, never needed to be cocked since the gun never needed to be reloaded; every pull of the trigger had left it already cocked and readied the gun for the next shot. Strife had de-cocked Mercy simply to make that noise as a warning, and Fear could not help but smile at the dramatic sound. The Champion slowly lowered his half-raised hand and glared at Fear with an ugly scowl.
"Servicing the Nephilim Champions, huh?" he spat on the ground and looked about him at the other Angels, "How dare you profane our Divine with your actions!"
"We were made by the same Creator, Angel," Fear would not—absolutely would not—strike him, Creator give her patience, "Our differences are as numerous as our similarities, but we are not mindless instigators of death and destruction. We have always wanted the same thing, do we not? We are not so different, you and I."
The Champion did not respond, hanging his head as he did so. It was all true, and he had known it, but having a Nephilim lecture him was almost more than he could bear. He decided to give up his arm.
Lunging at her without warning, he gripped her neck and summoned what little magic he had left after killing the injured Nephilim, willing the energy to slice through and sever her head from her body. Before his mind had even finished this thought, however, his arm was gone. Strife had not fired Mercy, but Fury had been in striking distance and Thresher had been more than pleased to envelope an Angel's arm in purple light and devour its essence. The Angel Champion screamed as Thresher's venom began to spread up his severed arm, but he heard Fear saying something, and the purple miasma of the whip receded and returned to Fury.
"Get back to bed, Angel," Fear addressed him, her tone blank, "Your leg needs to be cauterized or the bleeding will kill you."
"You… you must die," he rasped at her as she dragged him towards the cot he had woken up on. She threw him onto the cot and he immediately felt flames licking at his leg and arm. Several minutes of screaming later, the stumps had stopped bleeding. He was still conscious, much to his pride as a Champion, but he was too dazed to speak.
"If you kill any more injured Nephilim, I will make you suffer," Fear's voice was edged with anger, the first sign of her true feelings about what he had done. She said no more and tended to the Light Angels nearby. Some even reluctantly thanked her for sparing their Champion while others almost—almost—smiled when she came by. The Angel Champion wanted to scream at them all for neglecting their duty and allowing a Nephilim whore like that to seduce them with her actions. No doubt she had a plan for them all, and it would be better to kill her now before she could follow through with whatever ulterior motive she had for taking care of them.
He was so intent on glaring at her that he did not notice War's heavy footfalls until they were merely a meter away from his bed. He turned and almost screamed, not from pain, but sheer fear. War had hoisted Chaoseater over his shoulder and now loomed over the Angel Champion, his visage betraying nothing about what he wished to do to the Angel.
With a gall and foolishness he had not known he possessed, the Angel Champion managed to sneer, though fear made his mouth quiver.
"So the Whore of Babylon keeps herself safe by offering her body to the Champions?" he would die, he just knew it. He had insulted a Nephilim in two ways: he had compared her to Lilith, the Demon queen, and, perhaps worse, he had insulted her honor. Both were grievous insults to any creation still loyal to the Creator. Ever since Samael, once holy and beautiful, had been cast down to Hell and the Creator had retreated from grief at his holiest Angel's betrayal, the Angelic Council, consisting of Heaven's top generals, had been waging an endless war against the now-twisted Samael. The White City now fought on two fronts where once they were united. Before Angels, Nephilim were alone in their fight against the Darkness that had existed concurrently with the Creator, but Angels had arrived and allied themselves with the Nephilim. During the Fall of Angels, when Samael and his allies were battling against the Creator himself, Nephilim and Divine alike had united to drive the rebellious Angels back. Though betrayal was a knife through the Creator's already-bleeding heart, he did not utterly abandon the Forsaken, creating Earth as a substitute Heaven and temporary respite for the Forsaken, whose punishment forced them to dwell in the depths of Hell. It was at this point that the Charred Council emerged. The Creator's will brought forth mediators for the three Kingdoms that would serve to govern over balance until His grief over Samael's betrayal subsided. What the Charred Council was given in authority, however, they lacked in enforcement and this became a point of distress for them until they were eventually forced to work with Darklings, lower, weaker branches of the Forsaken who had repented, but had already taken in too much evil to return to what they once were. The original Darklings soon bred like rodents and shared the sneaky characteristics of them as well. Through the Council's permission, however, they were allowed remote, but limited, access to the Well of Souls in Heaven to power their abilities, making them efficient enforcers and spies for the Council. Despite their responsibilities, however, the Council became corrupt and enforced their laws through less-than-appropriate methods, maintaining balance built on fear and further risking open rebellion from Heaven and Hell both.
For inheritance of the Creator's masterpiece, the Nephilim fought the Divine, who strived only to follow the Creator's Word. If he had not granted the masterpiece to the Nephilim, they shall not receive it. At first, battles remained in words, but before long, however, internal conflicts over the ruling powers of Earth evolved into minor battles, which escalated into war.
Now Heaven's legions were being depleted in droves combating the Nephilim as well as the Forsaken. It was grueling, to say the least, and as the Angel Champion reflected on the circumstances that had led to such an undesirable outcome, he was aware that War had not yet torn his body to pieces for the offense against Fear. Instead, War's gaze was focused on him with a startling ferocity. He spoke after a time, though it could hardly be discerned from an angry growl.
"Fear keeps you alive for a reason. Once your use has diminished, I will kill you."
"Big words coming from a Nephilim that hides from the Divine Legions!" The Angel Champion's leg was trembling, as was the rest of his body. It was hard to argue lying down, but he could not get up properly yet. His body still believed in its missing limbs.
"You will be silent! Slaughtering your kind cannot be any easier than it already is. We do not hide from you."
"You hide, filth! And you choose to spend the last of your days with the legs of a whore wrapped around—"
Whether or not the Angel Champion made these accusations in earnest or only as infuriating insults was not known since War had slammed his fist into the Angel's face, effectively smashing the nose cartilage and fracturing cheekbones. Angels were not weak mortals, however, and they withstood damage far better, much to War's disappointment. Fear came over and peeked around War's girth.
"He'll live," she said, relief in her voice.
A few healing runes later, the Angel could breathe again, but Fear did no more than that. War watched as she finished with the other Angels and left, leaving the Four in a room filled with curious or vindictive Angels. Strife was the first to break the awkward silence.
"You know, maybe we should get rid of his wings and the rest of his limbs, too."
"As long as we keep him alive, Fear will not mind, I think," Fury agreed, wrapping Thresher around the Angel Champion's unconscious body. The intention this time, however, was not to alleviate his pain. Perhaps increasing his body's sensitivity would ensure continued pain for much longer than any being can endure.
"Somehow, we are deferring to her approval," Death mused as Thresher consumed the Angel's wings and other leg and arm while injecting its nerve-heightening toxin. There would be no pleasant sense of refreshment when that Angel wakes up. If the other Angels had any notion to stop them, they did not follow through on their thoughts.
The Four were back in their room, silent and contemplative. War's wounds had healed almost completely now thanks to Fear's expert administrations and his own regenerative powers and the others had only been waiting on his recovery. It was time to leave this peaceful island and return to the battlefield. No doubt there were still regiments of Nephilim fighting and the Champions would not abandon their own kind.
"Well, when we win, we'll be able to visit as much as we like, right?" Strife voiced their hopes out loud, if only to break the silence.
"When we left that battlefield… I did not see any other surviving Nephilim. Beyond that, I could feel no kindred lives, either," Death was standing near the window, looking out at the moonlit field that surrounded the mansion. They might never return to this small sanctuary.
"We leave. Now. There's no time to waste. The longer we spend dawdling the more time the Divine can organize and regroup," War moved towards the door as he spoke, intending to find Fear and announcing their plans to leave. That was simply his nature; no matter what he wanted, honor and duty came first and Creator help those that got in his way. No one stopped him, since they could find no good reason to. The door clicked shut behind him and there was only silence as the other three Champions put on their armor and weapons, retrieved from the armory earlier that day after the incident with the Angel Champion.
War was having trouble finding Fear. Usually she would be tending to patients who had woken up, or digging graves, or trying to calm down the Angel Champion (who had been thoroughly tied to the cot), or grinding herbs into paste in the mansion's kitchen. He had even checked the training room and the armory, to no avail. It was not like him to give up, but he could see no practical reason to continue searching for her. Perhaps she had gone back to the battlefields to look for more survivors.
As he passed the hallway leading to the cemetery to return to the Nephilim Champions' room, a thought crossed his mind. Perhaps she would simply be outside? Pushing open the large doors, he stepped through into the cool night air and the full moon's light. The blades of grass swayed in the gentle night breeze, and it seemed as if he had seen endless nights like this before the war with the Divine started. War had no particular love for peace, but fighting without an end was not war either. In war, there eventually had to be a victor, a purpose to the fighting, a reason to die. He scanned the rows upon rows of makeshift headstones and could see nothing until a flicker of movement in the far distance caught his eye. He could not focus on it, however hard he tried, since it seemed to flit through light and shadow. Instinctively, War entered the Realm of Shadows, a reflex honed through millennia of battle against enemies that traversed terrain in the cursed realm in order to conceal themselves until the last moment. Angels were loathed to travel there, but they often did so simply for an element of surprise. In the Realm of Shadows, vision was rendered in shades of black, white, yellow, orange, and red and War hated the pervasive nature of the place. It wanted to seep into the skin and settle like so much dust and filth. It was in this realm, however, that War could see Fear kneeling in the distance, beside the tallest of the headstones that she had patched together with long branches and meticulously carved rock. War stalked towards her, weaving his way through the headstones until he stood within earshot. Fear continued kneeling, her head resting against the tall headstone. From where he was, War could hear her singing something softly. He could not discern words, but the melody was one all Nephilim children knew—a simple lullaby that all Nephilim mothers sang to their children. War waited until she stopped singing, but made no movements until Fear stood up. He had thought she was aware of his presence, but it appeared he was wrong. Fear continued staring at the headstone, her back turned to him.
"Fear," War spoke. The reaction was immediate: her head snapped up, her body jumped, her breath hitched. Clearly, she had not been expecting company and she turned towards War slowly, not moving from where she stood.
"I-I was honoring my sister's death. Today was the day she di—the day I killed her," Fear corrected herself before War could point out whose fault it was that her sister died.
"You did not seem to care for your sister," War responded, though he wondered what was stopping him from ignoring her statement and getting straight to his point.
"I didn't, and maybe I still don't, but for my own conscience, perhaps, I sing Mother's lullaby to her grave every so often."
"Well, I'm here. War does not pay visits without reason I suppose."
"One's reason is sometimes meaningless to another."
"I was talking about you."
"As was I."
"I—Well, what's the matter? It looks like your wounds have all but healed."
"They have. It is time for us to depart."
"Why do you seem disappointed?" Again, War found himself talking without any clear direction.
"Well, I was going to say it would be lonely again, but that's definitely ridiculous, right? There's so many Nephilim to take care of I couldn't possibly complain of loneliness."
"Strife believes we will have time to visit once the war is over."
"…Once the war is—Oh, of course we will win! That's wonderful news! I'll be expecting you four sometime later then. Maybe by then I could give you a proper reception."
"Death claims there were no other survivors on the battlefield. Can you confirm this?"
"…I can. This," she gestured in the direction of the mansion, "is the remnant of the Nephilim army."
"…Then the five of us are the only able soldiers left."
"Four. I will not leave these Nephilim."
"You have a responsibility to fight now that they cannot."
"I also have a responsibility to care for them since I am the only one who is able to."
"There are few who will survive."
"Sometimes, just three…or four… can make the difference between the survival and the extinction of a race. There is responsibility both here and on the battlefield."
"…So be it. Send us those who recover. We will train them personally."
"When will you have a portal ready?"
"A stable portal? By tomorrow. Meet me in the training room."
War had turned around and had taken several steps before Fear spoke again.
"War… whatever happens, thank you."
"Why do you thank me?"
"Freedom. I felt it for a moment when we fought. I won't forget that, or any of you."
"…And I will not forget the Nephilim who saved our kind from extinction."
Fear smiled at his reluctant admission that they were at least cordial, if not friends. She watched as War left the Realm of Shadows and did the same herself. As he closed the mansion's back doors behind him, Fear turned and looked at the ground behind her feet. She had not moved in order to hide it. She knew that Angel Champions were treasured by the White City, but she had not realized to what extent. She had been careful—excruciatingly careful—when she destroyed the Angel Champion's armor to not allow even a fragment of it to escape destruction, and yet a portion of the breastplate could not be damaged. There was a single rune glowing and etched on the back of the Angelic metal, a portion no larger than her palm. It was obvious that Angel Champions would receive grand obsequies in the White City, but now it appeared their bodies were akin to treasure. She had been adamant on not harming the Champion any more than necessary until she could ascertain how much damage he could take before the rune registered his body as dead. Fear often used similar runes on her critically injured patients to determine at a glance which of them had taken the most damage. When one died, the rune would emanate pulses of energy with information recognizable only to the caster that indicated the time and location of death regardless of where she placed the rune. Her spells were more complicated than the one found on the Angel armor however, spells that alerted her every time an injured Nephilim felt unnatural amounts of pain or reopened their wounds to an excessive degree.
She had been attempting to alter the rune, or get rid of it altogether, but to no avail. There was a period of panic when she found the Angel Champion devoid of wings and limbs and screaming bloody murder at her, but the rune had not activated. She could safely classify it as a simpler rune that only activated upon death. Whatever the case, however, she had to get rid of the Champion. She was loath to eject an injured Angel from the mansion, and for days had been struggling with practicality and conscience. As long as he did not die, there was no danger, but if something should happen, the rune would activate and all the injured Nephilim would be killed before she could get them to safety.
Fire, blood, and the smell of Angels. No, there was no mercy for Nephilim. Not even children. The town had been razed to the ground; skewered and beheaded Nephilim littered the streets. It was hard to believe they had once been allies, had once fought side-by-side against Samael and the Forsaken. Were they not all children of the Creator? Why did he not save them? Why did he wallow in grief and bitter betrayal while his children murdered one another? There was never an answer and never would be.
She made her decision. The Champion would leave that day. Oh, but if only the halcyon days could last forever.
A sudden alert from one of her runes startled her, and once she realized the source, she ran for all she was worth, calling for help, calling for anyone to help.
The Angel Champion grinned, his face a mask of madness and hatred. Sanity had deserted him long ago and he had managed to gather enough magic for an attack, despite Fear's runes constantly draining him of magic. He had no limbs, no wings, and biting his tongue off did not guarantee his death, only his silence. With a cackle disturbingly reminiscent of Demons, he gathered the magic around his neck. A rune somewhere on his body activated at the presence of dense amounts of magic and before the draining spells could take even this meager amount from him, he issued a command. As the shock wave sent his head flying, he saw the double doors crash open; Fear ran in and cursed at him with War following close behind her, sword drawn. As his mind lost consciousness, he managed to grin at her as she approached his head. The last thing he saw was her foot approaching his face.
"Damn you! Damn you! Damn you to Hell!" Fear screamed as she crushed the head beneath her foot. Bloody son of a whore! She should have been more careful, she should have blocked all regeneration of magic instead of simply draining it. And now they would all pay the price for her carelessness.
"So the foolish Angel has killed himself. So be it. You have seen death before, so why do you scream at him?" War lowered Chaoseater. He had been ready for battle when he heard Fear's desperate screams, but when he found the source of her fear, he had been disappointed. Surely she would not have made such a commotion over one Angel's death?
Fear turned to him, sorrow and anger running down her cheeks in rivulets. Through her tears she explained to him the significance of this particular Angel's death, the armor, the rune, the devastation of his actions. War could only watch as she described to him the repercussions of the Champion's death and her regret at not ridding the island of him sooner.
"Bring the others; bring them to the portal chamber. You must leave. The Four of you must leave now. There is no time to waste," she said, echoing War's earlier statements to his fellow Champions. She made no move to wipe the tears from her cheeks as she stood up and headed for the portal chamber.
"Wait. Do not underestimate us. We have killed millions of Angels, the squadrons they send will fare no differently against us. There is no reason for us to flee," War growled, angry that she would consider running an option, especially now that the Nephilim Champions had fully recovered their strength. Chaos Form would make short work of even Angel Generals. He followed Fear as she headed towards the stairs.
"Not here. They have already ascertained how peculiar this island is by now. They will only send the best of them now, since your massacre of their forces has left them with little else but the top fighters. They will send Generals, and the Champion of the White City, Uriel, will no doubt follow her General, Abaddon. Even stupidity can be cured by repeated failures. This island will be surrounded, and you will fight an uphill battle against the very best of the White City's army and anything they can use against you, they will. Here, you will be limited by your fellow injured soldiers. Here, there is little room to fight properly. You must leave."
They had reached the top of the stairs and Fear turned to face him. "You are not running away, War. I will not send you somewhere safe. I will send the Four of you as close to the White City's gates as possible, and there you will have the advantage of surprise. We will win this war."
"And what of the Nephilim left here?"
"…There is no choice. Even if I were to send them all with you, they will die for certain in the battle that follows." Without another word, Fear headed towards the armory doors. War turned for a final glance at the injured around him. Those that were awake had heard the exchange, but instead of fear, like War had expected, they smiled grimly at him and placed an arm across their chest—those that had arms, at least—the Nephilim sign of respect and honor. He felt pride for these Nephilim, and wished he could crush the rest of that Angel Champion's body.
"What?" Strife's reaction mirrored Death's expression and Fury's open mouth. War had finished explaining the situation to them as he donned his armor and covered his head with his red hood. "We can't just leave them all to die!"
"Stop it, Strife. War's right, we have to leave now. If what Fear says is true, it will be difficult to fight here. We must save our strength for the real battle against the highest tier of Angels," Fury was already opening the door, though her face was contorted with anger.
"Let us go, then. We will honor them by murdering the Heavenly Host and painting the White City red," Death stood with Harvester and Reaper in his white-knuckled grips.
As they walked down the hall, the Nephilim soldiers applauded and cheered. Some had even gotten out of their beds and were trying to stand in the presence of the Champions. Fear awaited them outside the doors of the armory. As they approached her, a great tearing sound was heard and the mansion trembled with the beating of wings. The Divine Legion was here.
"Hurry!" Fear called to them as she darted back through the doors. They followed her; into the armory, into the dark tunnel, emerging under the domed training ground. They looked up through the glass to see a multitude of White Wings bearing down from a myriad of portals open in the sky. Fear opened the doors covered in red runes that War had noted before. There was a portal behind it, hastily made and rough on the edges. The Angels crashed through the domed ceiling and looked about the room expectantly, white wings armored and weapons ready to fire. Upon seeing the Champions, both parties struck.
Blasts of energy shattered the walls while the Champions' weapons diced through the initial wave of Angels. The Four made their way to the open portal as Fear activated the posts in the center of the room, raising not a third or a quarter of the dolls, but all of them. They attacked the Angels in a frenzy, keeping the descending legions busy for a time. Death and Fury were the first to dash into the portal, Harvester and Reaper shredding air and Angel alike as Thresher's acidic strikes melted through the Divine blocking their way. Strife fired several shots at the nearest Angels attempting to stop them and jumped through. War beheaded several Angels, and then several more, and still more.
"What are you waiting for?" he screamed at Fear, "Go through already! I must join them against the White City, why are you wasting time here!"
Fear stared at him, wide-eyed, her glaive still impaling an Angel. He had thought she would go with them…
For a moment, for a precious moment, she almost agreed. Almost laughed and darted through the portal, and she would have apologized afterwards for taking so long, and they would have faced the rulers of the White City together. Instead, she smiled at War, laughed, and waved her hand.
A wave of the nearest puppets charged at him, pushing him towards the portal. He roared and smashed half with a swing of his sword, but by now the command had reached the other puppets and they swarmed over him, the damaged ones getting repaired and adding themselves to the mob. The puppets felt no pain and no fear, simply pushing War back towards the portal. Had they been Angels, pain and fear would have decimated half of them while Chaoseater did the rest, but they were mindless, agile, and numb and War was eventually pushed towards the portal. As War struggled to help her, Fear was surrounded by a group of Angel Champions and though she severed an arm here and a leg there, the Angel Champions' spears and cannons were too much. She jumped and pushed off of the Angel in front of her, attempting to free herself from the choke hold ring, but a blast from the same Angel's Redemption sent her sprawling sideways into an airborne Angel, who grabbed her leg and accelerated upward. War saw the Angel dragging Fear through the air towards the mouth of the nearest Redemption, the speed of the flight preventing Fear from regaining control. War sliced through another wave of puppets and prepared to unleash Chaos Form, to sweep aside the puppets and Angels alike, grab Fear, and head through the portal when Strife and Fury reappeared. War expected Fury to retrieve Fear, instead, Fury wrapped Thresher around War while Mercy and Blessing tore through Angel armor and flesh. War considered releasing Chaos Form to break free from Thresher, had half a mind to, and was already summoning the fiery form into existence when Fury snarled at him.
"Would you waste your energy here, instead of saving it for the real battle? We will not leave you, War, but if we must fight you simply to bring you to the White City then you would truly be a hindrance to everything we have fought for!"
War roared at her, eyes brimming with the power of Chaos Form, intending to strike Fury down. His intentions were no mystery and Fury began to summon her own Chaos Form before she was overwhelmed by his. A shout knifed through the pandemonium and Fear crashed to the ground near their feet, thrown from a great height. Strife had succeeded in shooting off the wings of the Angel holding her and the Angel now fell rapidly, blood streaming from the ragged stumps on his shoulder blades.
"Fear, let's move!" Strife cut down hordes of Angels as she clambered to her feet, glaive in hand. She looked at Strife, made eye contact with him, then turned to War, halfway through his transformation. Fear shook her head, pointing to the portal. The message was clear: there is a greater battle waiting. War's incomplete Chaos Form dissipated and though this should have been his acquiescence to leaving, he could not seem to budge from that spot, watching as Fear turned her back to him to face the Angels.
By now the Angels, freed from the puppets' onslaught, had redirected their efforts towards War and Fear. The Angel Champions in the midst of the fighting charged toward the struggling Nephilim on fiery wings, but were decapitated by explosive shots from Mercy. It was then—as Fury and Thresher struggled to pull War through the portal, as Strife increased Mercy's and Blessing's firing rate to such an intensity that the individual sounds of firing bullets made one continuous hum—that an Angel General arrived. It was not the renowned Abaddon and his Champion, Uriel, but one just as powerful: Archangel Gabriel. He turned his white, glowing eyes to Fear, who immediately fired a spell at him that he dissipated with a wave of his hand. No words passed his lips as he swooped down and struck at Fear with his sword, sending a wave of magic out of the blade. She sliced through this with the glaive, canceling the blow as she did so, and leaped above the Archangel, striking downward and firing a series of spells at him as he dodged. Fear took this time to summon minor spirits, which she directed at the Archangel. As he killed them off, she charged, glaive pulsing with power for a deadly blow. The first strike skinned the Archangel's arm, slicing through armor, and red blood flowed freely from the wound. He snarled at her, and swung his blade in a dizzying dance, expertly using the scabbard of his sword and the armor on his wings to parry Fear's precise counter-strikes.
Fury had now succeeded in pulling War to the portal and Death had grabbed the youngest of the Nephilim Champions from the other side. War was halfway through the portal and he knew he could not fight against Fury and Death for much longer.
"Fear!" War roared at her. She pushed herself backward from the Archangel as puppets surrounded and jumped on Gabriel's wings.
She turned to War, tears on her cheeks, and shouted something. Amidst the din of battle, he could not hear her. She said it again, and this time he heard.
"Fight! Never submit! The Nephilim are not mistakes of the Creator! We are stronger than Angels and no matter what we will survive! The last of the Nephilim, I charge the Four with my last wish, survive!"
War would never see Fear again. As Death and Fury finally succeeded in pulling him through the portal, his last image of Fear was a spinning glaive flying towards the direction of the portal, knocked from her hand, the blood of the Archangel on her neck as Gabriel's hand caught her by the throat, and the Angelic sword, furiously screaming through the air as it approached her head. War did not see her die, and for that, something inside of him was grateful. The portal flickered after War fell through and closed completely after Strife dashed through, holding Fear's glaive in his hands. The Four were silent for a moment. They would be the last of their kind now. No Nephilim would survive that attack.
True to her word, Fear had sent them into the dimension the White City resided in. They could see the gates in the distance and the legions of Angels that surrounded it. War stood and looked at the now-vanished portal.
"We will do more than survive. We will win," he said to the air. He had only seen her laugh once, in all the days they had been there, she had never laughed until that incredulous moment he had told her to go through the portal. Some part of him wanted time to grieve and find her body, but he turned away from that feeling. Duty and honor came first, always.
"War, here," Strife handed him Fear's glaive, "She's gone."
The miasma on the glaive had dissipated; there was nothing left of it and the glaive was no longer a malicious entity, but a rusty weapon that broke apart as War tried to hold it. Malice was all that had sustained the weapon through the eons, and now that its vengeance was fulfilled, it was reduced to rubble. Duty and honor could wait for a moment, then. War stabbed the ground where the portal used to be with the two blades on the broken glaive.
"Your sacrifice… and their sacrifices… will be avenged," he said quietly. "Strife."
"Did you see her die?"
"…What color were her eyes?"
"I…hard to say…I thought they were violet at first, but when I looked back again, they seemed more blue..."
War hoisted Chaoseater over his epaulets and headed towards the distant gates of the White City, summoning Ruin and mounting the destrier as he did so. Strife looked at the others.
"Did you hear that, too?" he whispered.
Death and Fury nodded, both as surprised as Strife was. War had never thanked anyone before. His thanks were generally silence or a nod of his head. Gratitude grated on his nerves and he hardly ever displayed it. Behind his mask, Strife grinned and followed War on his own destrier, Death and Fury in tow, mounted and armed. With their weapons ready, the Champions of the Nephilim rode towards the White City, victory on their minds and revenge in their hearts.
In the end, the Creator granted the Earth, along with Eden, not to his warring children, but to entirely new creations: humans. The Creator had hoped that the creatures in his likeness—humans, whose souls were immortal—would be able to remind the Forsaken of Him and all they had lost, so that repeated interactions between the Forsaken and those in His image would, one day, bring them to repentance. To that end, Hell was given a purpose: to cleanse and purify the souls of humans, allowing them to return to the Creator, from whence they came. What was unexpected, however, was Samael's vicious reaction to humanity. Such was his anger at their inheritance of the earth—while the Forsaken could only temporarily visit—that he cursed all those in the likeness of the Creator, using a simple serpent to tempt the first humans to vice and ambition. Instead of the steady softening of the Forsaken as the Creator had hoped, the humans served as fodder for evil, warping the Forsaken through stages of abomination starting with their Fallen forms which eventually evolved into monstrous Demons. The Great Flood had been the Creator's one attempt to fix what he could, and his promise to never hurt humanity again in this way was coupled with grief at everything that had come to pass. His fatigue from the endless beginning and ending drew him away from what he had created, and though he remained with them, at the same time, they could no longer reach him. There was a period of time when an offshoot of the Creator's resting mind brought itself to Earth, still intent on saving the Forsaken and humanity both. It took a human form, conceived itself unnaturally in a human female and from her womb entered the human world. This offshoot had plans to use the human form—the Creator's form—to convince humanity to turn from evil, to ultimately stop feeding the wickedness of the Demons. It did not succeed, however, and humans, already under the influence of Demons and Fallen alike, rid the world of the Creator's offshoot. This nearly awoke the Creator Himself, who would have seen the state of the world he had created and despaired. The offshoot, as much a part of the original as it was not, willed its original being back to sleep by allowing its own body's death to bring peace to the Creator's slumber. It could risk no more with humanity; despair would warp the Creator Himself, a process that would destroy everything and reset beginnings and endings. So the offshoot left peacefully and quietly, leaving behind traces of Virtues in the human world, enough to combat the Sins of humanity and perhaps redeem at least human souls—life taken from the Creator, if not returned, fueled the power of Demons, after all—if not the Forsaken, themselves. That had been countless human eons ago, and though Angels and Demons were advanced enough now to create small pockets of world-between-worlds, there would never be any power great enough to create another Earth as vibrant as the first. Humans had shown themselves cruel abusers of their gift and before long they would destroy what the Creator will not make again.
As for the Nephilim Champions, their assault on the White City was so vicious and so unstoppable that the Charred Council themselves were forced to manifest without using their usual avatars of rock and fire in order to protect the remaining inhabitants of the White City. There would be no balance if every single Angel was slaughtered. Nor would there be balance if all of the Nephilim disappeared. Even if the Council could destroy the Four Champions, they would not. Instead, they offered the Nephilim Champions a deal; the Charred Council would overlook the sins of the Nephilim, the sins of their defiance against the Creator's will, if they allied themselves with the Council and swear to enforce the Council's edicts. War had been the first to disagree, cutting the weakened Archangel Gabriel in half and advancing towards the Charred Council members. Death, however, stopped him, agreeing to the Council's terms much to War's anger. It took the combined efforts of Death, Fury, and Strife to subdue War, and though Fury and Strife felt the stirrings of guilt at their betrayal of Fear's hopes, they had no wish to fight the Council members after massacring almost all of the White City's inhabitants.
When War awoke days later, the Nephilim Champions were known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, messengers and enforcers of the Charred Council, and an agreement had been drawn between Heaven and Hell. A pact was made involving the Seven Seals, which would summon the Horsemen to Earth for a final battle that would determine the true inheritors of the Earth. The Kingdom of Nephilim no longer existed, and the trinity of kingdoms that remained soon left behind the memories of the Nephilim. War felt nothing but betrayal at the events that had occurred, and forever strained against the rules and limitations of the Council. He was never as close to his fellow Champions as before, and time only distanced him further from those he once considered something akin to family.
His anger was such that he once broke away from the Council for a period of time, slaughtering the Council's private army of Darklings and humans in the process. After losing their army, the Council sent the other Horsemen to apprehend War. In the ensuing conflict, War had intended to kill Fury, but Death, wise old Death, who did not hear Fear's last wish, who bowed before the Council, who submitted and allowed others to command him, had stepped in. War had been careless then, letting his pent-up rage control him. That made it easy for Death to block War's swing at Fury and sever his left arm. With Strife's guns aimed at his head, there was nothing War could do then but allow himself to be carted back to the Council like a stray dog. The Council had commissioned Ulthane—one of the giant Old Ones—created after the Nephilim but prior to the Angels, to craft a new arm of metal that did not rust nor break. This they granted to War, and though he had cast it aside at first, Fury and Strife's cautious apology after all this time as well as the memory of Fear's cry to survive allowed his pride to accept the new arm. Ulthane had never met the Nephilim for whom the arm was intended, and had crafted it to the specifications of an Old One, but War soon grew accustomed to the large size of the arm, and he considered it a reminder of what he had failed to accomplish and those he had failed to avenge. He bided his time, waiting for an opportunity to strike at the Council.
Thousands of years later, he heard a summons to Earth, a summons that indicated the destruction of the Seven Seals. When this proved to be nothing more than the Council's trickery, however, War had valid reason to rebel. Holding up the broken Seventh Seal in triumph after the defeat of Abaddon the Destroyer, he knew even Death could not question his decision. The corrupt Council would fall, and Balance would be enforced by the Horsemen, unbridled and free.
War decided, then, that once this entire business was over, he would find that island again, that once-peaceful island amidst the maelstrom of war. He would find it and give Fear the burial she deserved. First things first, though, he had to give her glaive back. Destroy the Council with his fellow Champions, find Fear's glaive, bury her body. His duty and honor no longer clashed with his emotions. For once, he could believe that things would turn out well and that he was doing what was right by him... and her.