Chapter 20: My Way

"A worm? Um, is this an alien thing? Because around here...well, worms are kind of small and harmless," Doc rambled, earning a growl from Graceful Melody.

"Wyrm, not worm, ya idiot. Spelled with a 'y'. It ain't rollin' around in the dirt lookin' for'll put you in the dirt, though..." the pony spat out. He and the others had rejoined Riffraff and Doc and all eyes were staring as the intense fires began to dwindle around the portal. "Ain't got much time. Reinforcements 'bout to come through, we ain't seen the worst yet." Graceful ground his teeth slowly together, rolling the cigarette between his jaws as he did. "Goddammit...we're gonna get trampled. Maybe we should make a run for it..." It looked like the words were painful for him to get out.

"We have no viable means of escape," Amdusias noted, though his voice was low. "We must fight."

"Y'all keep chatterin' about some big huge thing, but I still can't see shit!" Mahihko interrupted while gesturing angrily at the stretched portal and the destroyed bits of truck surrounding it. "I'm all 'bout fightin', but how the fuck we supposed to kill the shit outta shit we can't see?"

Amdusias grimaced, his eyes narrowing as he and Graceful saw what the other mortals could not. A trio of armored figures strode through the portal, their golden chest-plates glinting in the morning sunlight. Two appeared vaguely feline in nature but the third was fact, it looked considerably similar to Amdusias. The demon frowned and placed a hand on Graceful's shoulder. "Show them, little one."

Graceful growled, biting down harder on his hand-rolled cigarette. "They ain't gonna be able to handle it. We got this."

"Three angels, perhaps. Any more than that, we will not be able to handle it. Not on our own," Amdusias replied mildly.

The pony muttered darkly as he inhaled deeply and then threw the joint to the side."Goddammit," he hissed as smoke billowed out around him. He shoved his sub-machine gun into his long coat and began to stride forward while rolling his sleeves up. "Eyes up, jackasses."

The other four watched as an invisible force extinguished the fires around the portal, clearing the path for an entire platoon of the all-too-visible human soldiers to stream in. Mahihko grinned and tapped Donut's hip, his pistol already drawn eagerly. "Nevermind...I see somethin' I can make dead now..."

Graceful Melody glowered over a shoulder as he lifted his bare forearms to reveal two nearly-identical tattoos. Each appeared to be one half of a larger symbol, one that was unfamiliar to the others. "Keep your goddamn cool ten more seconds, dillweed." He turned his attention back to the opposite end of the canyon and then wrinkled his muzzle as two more supernatural creatures slunk through the portal. "You gotta be shittin' me," he mumbled under his breath.

"This coalition seems extremely unlikely," Amdusias observed as he readied his oversized weapon.

"And yet here it is," Graceful snarled before shoving his forearms together. A small pulse of energy thrummed out from him to kick up a ring of dust. There was a green flash as the two halves of the massive tattoo came together, the pony visibly straining to keep his arms together. "Entio visiblis, novil--" Graceful cursed as another wave of malevolent force washed across the canyon from the portal, making him slide backward on his hooves as he leaned against the pressure in raw defiance. "Fuckers're dampening the whole goddamn canyon!" he exclaimed in frustration as he grit his teeth and then slowly forced his arms together once more to again complete the tattoo. "Entio visiblis, n-novinatum!" he managed to spit out before raising both middle fingers as a pale light burst out from his small form.

Mahihko was the first to notice, blinking a few times as the heavily-armored creatures appeared seemingly from thin air. "Whoa...what're..."

Even as he spoke, one of them unfurled a broad pair of glimmering white wings, the feathered appendages spreading wide before beating powerfully to send the supernatural creature into the air. "...Fuckin' angels?"

"Oh gosh, and big doggies!" Donut cried out, pointing at the enormous quadruped he suddenly spotted loping in a wide arc across the canyon toward them.

It was easily the size of an adult chupadore running on all fours, although its furry hide was reinforced with dark, rough scales that protected its neck, chest and sides. Its tail was long but thin, almost whip-like, and a series of sharp spines ran the length of its spine, covering the flexible appendage with several of the gleaming protrusions. Its eyes glowered like fiery rubies and they flicked between each of them before it lowered its body and began to sprint toward Graceful.

Riffraff grimaced as the supernatural additions to the approaching force became visible. It wasn't his first time seeing angels, or even hellhounds. But it never failed to bring a feeling of dread. He slowly pulled out the sawn-off shotgun, remaining planted at the entrance of the base even as his enormous body tensed nervously.

Doc, on the other hand, was far from calm. Watching the gilded alien shoot into the sky was one thing...but the gigantic dog-creature racing across the canyon rivaled even the scariest of Sirca's wild animals. He whimpered and pressed himself against the inside of the doorway so only his head was poking out to observe the unfolding madness. "This...this can't be..."

"It's okay, Doc," Riffraff mumbled, only somewhat selling it as he gripped the shotgun tighter. "We're...we're safe here."

"We'll draw the fire," Graceful barked to Mahihko and Donut as the hellhound bearing down at him lunged through the air toward his throat, jaws gaping hungrily to reveal countless jagged, gleaming teeth. He paused in his order as Amdusias moved in a blur to almost gently catch the demonic creature by the nape of the neck. It squealed and immediately snarled as it tried to swipe at the two with a giant paw before its ears flattened as Amdusias glared directly into its smoldering eyes.

Graceful looked back to the other two, ignoring the yowling beast that had been but a breath away from taking him down. "Cut around again. Thin the herd. Leave the scary shit to us."

As he spoke, Amdusias's own eyes glowed amber and the hellhound twitched as the reptile lowered it back to the ground. As soon as he released it, it stumbled once and nearly fell over before it slowly turned around to face the enemy. "That will not last long," Amdusias warned a moment before the stupefied creature growled and then shot off at a drunken sprint toward the nearest human.

"Don't need to," Graceful replied curtly, producing his sub-machine gun once more. "We're fucked if we don't end this quick." The approaching soldiers were leveling their own weapons as they came into range, and the pony wondered idly if they could see their supernatural allies...or if they were even aware of their presence.

Both questions were answered rather succinctly when the transfixed hellhound sprung toward a soldier without even a flinch in response. It tackled the human to the ground and there was barely time for a shout of shock before it tore into the soldier's throat and ripped carelessly to the side to almost decapitate the mortal. The resulting panic from the surrounding soldiers was instantaneous, several of them firing wildly into the sand around them while a handful started to send uncontrolled bursts toward Graceful and Amdusias.

"I'll take chaos," Graceful grumbled in approval as he and Amdusias moved forward in tandem, both taking quick potshots at the soldiers while their attention was torn between the visible and invisible threats. As Graceful emptied his drum into a cluster of humans, his instincts suddenly screamed and he twisted to one side in time to avoid a golden arrow that streaked past him to bury into the sand. He glanced up with a sour expression and spotted the angel that had already begun to reload its glittering crossbow. "Dusey, friends on high!"

"I am working on it," the demon replied pettishly. He raised one hand while continuing to fire the machine gun with the other. But before he could execute any kind of spell, a stray bullet caught him in the shoulder and broke his concentration. He hissed in pain, glaring at the offender while far above them, the angel swiftly shifted its weapon to fire a bolt at the injured demon.

Amdusias lifted his eyes and snatched the arrow before it could drive into him. He glowered up at the other supernatural being, ignoring the holy energy of the bolt as it caused smoke to escape from his closed fist. His eyes flashed...but then blinked in confusion as a loud pop from the edge of the canyon rang out, carrying with it a shot that collided with one of the angel's wings. The flying creature shrieked in surprise, flinching and turning its attention away from Graceful and Amdusias as a small burst of feathers started to float down.

Amdusias stole a glance to the side, somehow not surprised to see Donut pointing his pistol into the sky with a look of concentration on his features. "It would appear they are not heeding your orders," Amdusias noted brusquely to Graceful before snarling as another bullet grazed just past his side, forcing himself to turn his attention to the fight at hand.

Donut whooped excitedly with the hit, calling out to Mahihko without tearing his eyes away: "Hiko, did you see that?!? Bullseye!"

"There's gotta be some special hell ya go to for shootin' an angel, but I'm all-in," Mahihko cheerfully responded. "Keep firin', hon, you're a damn natural." He grinned before his eyes flicked to the side when one of the other angels shouted something in a language he couldn't comprehend. He tilted his head and then snorted as the other hellhound twisted toward the duo before making a beeline toward them. "I got your back, Donut, bring that asshole down."

Donut nodded, showing an unexpected lack of fear despite the way the airborne angel snarled and leveled its crossbow at him. He continued to pull the trigger of the large magnum, several of his shots slamming home into the supernatural creature and making it recoil -- the sounds were more of annoyance than pain, but there was no denying that the chupadore was keeping it at bay. "Yeah, yeah, eat my hot load, you shiny jerk!!"

Mahihko laughed, practically absorbing the absurdity as he squared himself between Donut and the hellhound bearing down on their position. "Give it to 'em, sweetie, you're on fire!" His eyes flashed with another toothy grin when the supernatural beast sprung toward him, his body eagerly tensed for the impact. He dropped onto his back and bent his legs before unleashing a powerful donkey kick that caught the creature directly in its broad chest. It felt like his paws were smashing into coiled steel but he shouted with effort all the same and used the hound's own momentum to send it twisting upward.

It squealed in shock, limbs clawing wildly at the air as Mahihko drew his own pistol swiftly, still on his back while he lined up the barrel and then squeezed the trigger several times in succession. Nearly every bullet drove home into the hellhound's natural armor and each impact caused it to hang in the air for a moment longer before a golden bolt suddenly ripped into it from above as the angel growled when its shot was blocked.

The hellhound yowled in pain, its fur bursting into flame at the impact point while it tumbled back out of the air to land in a boneless heap. It whined pitifully as black blood ran from its muzzle and Mahihko quickly hopped back to his paws to focus on the greater threat again. Behind him, Donut's magnum popped open as another magazine was drained and the soldier huffed. "Gosh dangit, reloading again! This guy is really tough!"

He looked down to grab another clip from his armor and Mahihko widened his eyes as he watched the angel rapidly drop another bolt into its weapon. The wolf cursed and spun around to scramble toward Donut, leaping at him in a flying tackle an instant before the heavenly arrow was loosed. He collided into Donut as the bolt smashed into the back of his shoulder, and the two crashed back into the dry earth with a grunt from the chupadore and a hiss of pain from Mahihko.

Donut's eyes widened and he quickly rolled to one side to cover the wolf while lifting his arm up and taking a moment to align the sights. Before the angel could fire again, a magnum round slammed into the gleaming crossbow as he heard a distinctive crunch of destroyed mechanisms. The chupadore nodded once and then looked down at Mahihko with concern. "You didn't have to do that, Hiko! I have armor!"

"Yeah, well. I'm stupid," Mahihko mumbled, wincing a bit as he glanced over his shoulder. "Fuck, this burns like a motherfuck..." He tried to reach back but it was too awkward for him to easily grab the bolt. "Ah shit...Donut, hate to ask this but..."

" sure? Aren't you um. Supposed to leave shafts in, in case they do more damage coming out?"

Mahihko barked out a laugh before grimacing at the pain. "Gods, I love you. Yeah, but the arrowhead is small on this fucker...I c'n take it, just rip it on out 'fore that bitch gets down here to start some shit." He glared past Donut's head to see the snarling angel throwing the damaged crossbow aside before drawing a pair of short swords that burned bright blue. "Ah shit, hurry up, hon!"

"Okay, okay!" Donut bit his lip nervously as he reached down and gripped into the bolt, making Mahihko grit his teeth and arch into him. "One...two...three!"

He yanked it backward as quickly as he could and Mahihko yelped in agony, his ears flattening as his whole body twitched violently. As Donut stared at the bloody arrow, Mahihko fumbled his hand around to snatch up the chupadore's enormous pistol and take aim under Donut's arm, firing three quick shots at the angel as it dropped toward them.

The recoil was enough to make his whole arm feel numb, but two of the powerful rounds still smacked into the feline's chest-plate, making it stumble and land off-balance with a furious shout. Mahihko rolled swiftly out of Donut's protective embrace, tossing him the magnum and then simply rushing the supernatural creature with a stupid grin.

It didn't seem to know how to react at first, starting to raise one of its azure swords for a half-cocked attack. Mahihko lunged directly into the angel, driving his shoulder into what he hoped was a vulnerable gap between the upper and lower half of its armor. He was rewarded with a wheezing grunt as the air was driven from what he assumed were lungs. The wolf wrapped both arms around one of the angel's, using the moment of disorientation to twist the limb around to its back with a snarl of exertion. "Donut, take the shot! Go for the head!"

"I thought that was just for zombies!" the soldier wailed back while the angel roared in frustration and tried to tear its arm free.

"Works on other shit too, I promise!" Mahihko responded before wincing as the searing blade nearly clipped his leg amidst the angel's struggling.

As the angel tried to blindly stab the wolf with the opposite blade, Donut fidgeted and then finally lined up the pistol before half-wincing as he pulled the trigger. The round slammed into the near-perfect center of the angel's forehead and the feline creature stumbled back against Mahihko, losing its grip on the swords a moment later as they thumped down to the clay and sand below. It dropped to its knees, eyes blankly staring at the speechless chupadore while its arms hung down limply at its side.

Mahihko looked relieved, picking one of the swords to examine it as Donut tilted his head and took a nervous step forward. " it dead?"

"I dunno, your bullet shoulda like...blown a hole all the way through its dumb head, so..." Mahihko frowned as well before widening his eyes as he saw a gleam from the entrance wound of the feline a moment before the crumpled round of ammunition was pushed out, covered in bits of bone and brain tissue. "Ah fuck, the bastard's got magic healin' juice! Fuckin' angels, buncha fuckin' cheaters!" Mahihko complained before glancing down at the sword and then shrugging as he gripped it in both hands and swung in a neat horizontal slice through the creature's neck.

Its eyes immediately glazed over before its head slowly wobbled and then fell over to one side to roll unceremoniously away from the limp body. The brief shimmer of golden light faded from the bullet wound and Mahihko gave a crooked grin as Donut lifted a paw and clutched his pistol to his chest in horror. "Heh. Guess he didn't wanna wait in line to get back to Heaven."

Donut blinked in confusion, shifting his stare to the wolf as Mahihko winked and twirled the sword neatly to one side. "Get it? 'Cause he just cut ahead!"

Before Donut could try and parse the terrible pun, Graceful shouted at them from the middle of the field as he kicked a lifeless, bullet-riddled alien away from him: "Great job, sissies! Ya fucked up an angel -- its friends are gonna be fuckin' pissed now!" He growled something under his breath and then turned back around to release a quick burst into a soldier desperately crawling to try and reach a dropped rifle.

"I must admit I am impressed," Amdusias muttered while slamming a full drum into his own weapon.

"Quit chokin' on their dicks 'n figure out how to kill the dampener so we can shut this mother down!" Graceful barked as he watched the other two angels take wing and rush toward Mahihko and Donut. Amdusias huffed but nodded and slammed the butt of his machine gun against the head of the last standing soldier before breaking into a jog toward the portal.

Graceful grunted and then glanced up as the winged creatures flew past him without so much as a glance, their enraged glares locked onto the wolf and the chupadore at his side. The pony scowled and searched his coat before digging out a magazine engraved with an intricate symbol. "Ignore me, huh? Yeah, fuck ya both an' the blessed bitch who shit you out," he muttered as he slapped it into his pistol, cocked the slide and then aimed it up at the other cat-like angel.

As he pulled the trigger, the first few rounds glanced off the armor, and the angel swerved toward him with an annoyed expression. Graceful smirked and continued to empty the magazine, three of his bullets finding a home in the angel's shoulder, bicep and side. It regarded him distastefully, raising its crossbow with the other arm to take a return shot...only to pause as the look on its face twisted into one of confusion. Its eyes tore away from Graceful to look at the wound in its arm -- it was not healing. In smoke was oozing from the entry points. And a moment later, it shrieked as a small explosion of supernatural energy destroyed its arm, leaving only a singed, gaping wound where its shoulder once was. Golden blood spilled out to the ground below and it had only an instant to stare with horror before the third round in its torso detonated with the same force.

Its armor contained the blast, but that only served to make it all the more potent. The angel's scream was drowned out by the heavy thump of the explosion as its entire lower half was blown apart. Its legs tumbled down into the sand with a splatter of ichor, followed shortly by several bits of steaming organs. Its wings were still weakly flapping, but as its eyes glazed over, the feathered appendages slowed and then faltered entirely as the rest of its body came crashing to the ground. Graceful looked satisfied and started to search for another clip of the modified ammunition before glancing up as Amdusias shouted for him.

"Little one! Quickly, I require your blood!"

The pony frowned and looked back to Donut and Mahihko. The chupadore was taking shots at the remaining angel as it flitted about despite its muscular frame while sending a spray of holy bolts down toward the mortals. Graceful cursed under his breath, then turned and sprinted toward Amdusias. "You two numbskulls keep it busy!" he yelled over his shoulder.

His hooves pounded up the ramp of the Blue base, leaping over a charred fragment of one of the trucks before he snatched up a sharp sliver of broken armor. "How much?"

"I do not require much, I am crafting a simple area enchantment that will provide us with a modicum of--" He was cut off by Graceful holding out an arm and unceremoniously slicing deep into his hide with the piece of metal before holding his limb out pointedly as blood began to run down his forearm in several thick rivulets.

"I said I did not require much," Amdusias grumbled, holding out a palm to allow several drops to splatter over his smooth scales before placing the bloodied hand directly into the center of a symbol he'd carved near the portal. The runes lit up with a brilliant amber glow. "I cannot cancel the nullification from here. But this will at least keep the Wyrm at bay while we consider our options. However I expect reinforcements regardless."

"When don't we," Graceful muttered as he ripped off a strip of fabric from a nearby corpse and wrapped it around his wound. A sharp cry of pain sounded from behind them and they both whipped their heads around to see Donut sprawled on the ground with a golden spear through his leg. Mahihko stood in front of him with a defiant grin, the holy blade he'd acquired held defensively across his body. "Those fuckin' idiots..."

He and Amdusias jumped down from the roof of the base to assist them, but Mahihko doggedly engaged the angel, who had been reduced to only its short blade with its main weapon still buried in Donut's thigh. They traded several quick blows and the angel's strength was visibly greater by several orders of magnitude...but the wolf was quick, ducking and weaving between each broad, powerful strike while making quick jabs and slices into the reptile's exposed areas.

Mahihko began to actually drive the angel backward, his grin growing victorious as he pressed the attack...only to curse and leap back when the heavenly creature backpedaled into the barrel of Graceful's gun. Mahihko barely avoided the spray of cranial tissue, and apparently recalled what happened to the last angel, since he turned away to half-shield Donut's prone form a moment before its upper body exploded into a radiant burst of searing energy that flung singed bits of bone and scales in all directions.

"Well, I suppose I cannot deny that Tenevent deserved that," Amdusias muttered as he brushed a few charred remains from his sleeve.

"You knew that one, eh? One less asshole to look over a shoulder for, then," Graceful replied mildly. He approached Donut, who was doing his best to not let tears of pain run down his cheeks. "Goddamn, you are a tough one, fruitcake," the pony admitted, sounding almost genuine. "Lemme take care of that..."

As Graceful carefully extricated the weapon from the soldier's leg, Mahihko trotted up to Amdusias and brandished the sword with a toothy smile. "Lookit what I found!"

"You did not 'find' that. You looted it from an angel."

Mahihko huffed. "Hey, it ain't lootin' if he was tryna kill me with it. That's self-defense far as I'm concerned!" He waved it back and forth while the demon rolled his eyes and took a wary step backward. "Only thing is...I can't figure out how to light the bitch up. That holy boy made it all fiery 'n shit...where's the fuckin' on button?"

"'On button'!?" Amdusias sputtered before crossing his arms with a glower. "I do not cast any sort of favor on my previous cohorts, but you should nonetheless respect a powerful supernatural weapon! There is no...'on button'. An angel uses the natural energy from its spirit to channel the abilities of the weapon. However, a mere mortal would not be able to--"

As he spoke, Mahihko frowned and gripped the sword tightly in both hands, his eyes focused and his tongue lightly held between his front teeth. And then with a whoop, the sword suddenly burst to life as a thin column of bright purple flames flicked along the blade. "Yo, check it out! I found my spirit thingy or whatever! 'N that shit looks gay as fuck!"

Amdusias worked his muzzle stupidly for a few seconds, unintelligible sounds falling from his jaws before he finally choked out: "W-well, must have simply, ah, absorbed some of the angel's essence when its bolt penetrated your mortal form!"

"Hot damn, all I gotta do is get penetrated by these fellas to get angel powers? Sign me the fuck up!" Mahihko crowed as he swiped the flaming sword to the side. He then winked up at Amdusias. "But I'm pretty sure I did this all on my own, 'n you're just jealous."

"I am incapable of such mortal emotions," the demon replied stiffly before huffing as Mahihko snickered and turned around to help Graceful with Donut. "Damnable cricket..."

Graceful grunted as he helped Donut stand, keeping the weight off the leg with the gaping wound. "Didn't hit no major arteries that I c'n see. Let's get him over to Doc 'fore the next wave'a shit comes crashin' through."

Mahihko nodded, quickly moving under Donut's other arm while cooing softly: "Hon, you're a goddamn champ -- I owe you so many li'l bedtime rewards..."

Donut gave a tired giggle, his tail flicking up briefly to smack Mahihko's backside. "Oh stop, Hiko -- if any more blood goes to the wrong place, I might pass out!"

"Ya sure might, it ain't no pencil you're workin' with!" Mahihko sang back.

Graceful groaned but otherwise ignored the banter as the three of them began to hobble back toward Riffraff and Doc. His ears perked after a few steps, however, and he frowned and stared back at Amdusias. "Shit..."

"I feel them," Amdusias growled, already preparing his machine gun as the portal hummed threateningly. He moved slowly to keep himself between the trio and the gateway, eyes locked onto the swirling energy.

What strode through next was certain no human, nor did it appear angelic. Amdusias's glare narrowed as the freshly-emerged demon glanced from side to side before its red eyes locked onto the enormous reptile. A strange device was strapped to its bare chest and Amdusias watched with a frown as it mashed a fist into the top of the mechanism before suddenly disappearing in a crack of demonic energy.

Amdusias sensed it just before it popped back into reality in front of him and his instincts barked a warning. He thrust an arm out as the demon reappeared, his claws locking around the device and yanking it away from the surprised creature. Amdusias snorted, twisting to the side and using his long, forked tail to slap the lower demon several meters back. He quickly looked down at the satchel and then widened his eyes. "They seek a suicidal explosive attack!" he gasped, quickly flinging the device away. It soared in a lazy arc toward the dazed attacker, who had just enough time to lift its head before the makeshift bomb exploded directly above it.

Amdusias shielded his eyes from the bright flash of supernatural energy, grimacing at the smoldering crater left behind. "They are growing desperate...perhaps this is a good sign," he muttered as another demon appeared in the gateway with a similar package strapped to its gaunt, scaled torso.

Gripping his gun tightly in anticipation, Amdusias waited for the demon to teleport to him...only to watch it disappear and then hear the returning pop from behind his position. His eyes widened in horror when he saw it burst into reality right next to Riffraff, opening his muzzle in a desperate attempt to warn the horse.

Riffraff gasped, instinctively stepping in front of Doc as he winced while sluggishly dragging his shotgun toward the demon. The hellish creature grinned monstrously and slammed a hand against the object slung over its chest, releasing a piercing shriek of victory...

...Which was met with awkward silence.

It blinked stupidly and stared down, slapping at the satchel several times before staring up in disbelief as Riffraff grit his teeth and pulled the trigger of the sawn-off.. The shotgun roared and a load of buckshot smashed into the front of the demon, clipping the explosive device and removing a chunk of its natural, ashen armor.

It screamed in pain before stepping backward and erratically blinking out of existence out of sheer instinct. It appeared several feet away only to immediately poof away once again to pop back into reality right next to the portal. It stumbled drunkenly toward the swirling gateway just as another demonic soldier pushed through. They collided with a pair of confused snarls before both jerked their heads downward as the first one's explosive began to spark violently. The second tried to shove its companion away but their arms became tangled and with a shout of protest, they fell through the portal back to the other side an instant before the screen of energy vibrated violently with what could only be an enormous explosion in the opposing reality.

Amdusias could only stare mutely at the finale of the comedy of coincidence, about to curse Riffraff and his absurd luck...before he was distracted when he felt a sudden snap in the energy of the canyon's atmosphere. He blinked and raised a hand, bleating dumb laughter when an amber aura washed over his fingers. "Unholy choruses...that idiot destroyed the nullification..." He grinned and then quickly chased after Graceful, Donut and Mahihko as they helped the injured soldier into the base, where Doc quickly started to tend to Donut's leg. "Graceful! Your idiotic gambler has done it again."

Graceful glowered at the demon, waiting for some further explanation. "Observe. The dampener has been disabled," Amdusias grumbled before lightly pushing Doc's hand away from the bloody hole in Donut's thigh. The medic started to protest, but the demon shushed him and then concentrated for a moment. Amber energy flowed from his fingers and encircled the wound as the bleeding slowed and then completely stopped. "I cannot fully repair the damage, my healing is limited...but your primitive care should now be sufficient enough to finish what is left," he stated, looking pleased with himself as he pulled his hand away to show that the jagged hole was now just a raw, circular gash.

Donut gasped quietly, leaning down to poke it. "Wow, that felt weird! It was like you were inside me!"

But Doc sighed and gently nudged Donut's finger back. "Um...thank you, Amdusias -- stop that, Donut, I still need to sanitize it and wrap it up."

Graceful Melody grunted with a satisfied nod before lightly punching the demon's arm. "This ain't over. Riff, stay here -- keep the doc covered. We'll take the thief and finish this shit."

Mahihko leaned down to briefly kiss Donut, then winked and gave him a thumbs up. "You're a rock star, hon. We'll be back in no time." He then hopped up to join the other two, grinning proudly as he brandished his magical weapon at Graceful. "Yo, shortstack -- got me an angel sword. Pretty fuckin' sweet, eh?"

Graceful regarded him mildly for a few seconds. "Dusey, don't heal this dumbass if he cuts himself."

"Noted," the demon replied dryly as he led the two back out of the base. He gripped his machine gun loosely while Graceful placed another joint between his lips. "They are coming."

"They brought a fuckin' army," Graceful muttered before lighting the cigarette as several soldiers started pouring in through the portal. "Let's dance, boys."

The trio made for an unexpectedly solid team. Mahihko and Graceful brought down the shock troops as soon as they appeared while Amdusias handled any groups of soldiers with his deafening peals of automatic fire. The demon was sprinkling in both offensive and defensive magic, as well, sowing chaos in the weaker-minded enemies and regularly tossing up temporary amber barriers to protect his companions from the projectiles and targeted magic of their foes.

...But they kept coming.

At some point, Mahihko had lifted Graceful's pistol from inside his coat after his own ammunition ran dry, blasting away at the new wave of angels with the deadly rounds while the pony continued spitting bursts of modified bullets from his sub-machine gun. And when Mahihko found that weapon empty, he simply charged into the fray with only the angelic sword and a maddened cackle. Flashes of purple flame were visible in the throngs of enemies as the nimble wolf moved between targets like a hot knife through butter; Amdusias did his best to keep the mindlessly-cheerful thief covered with a protective shield, but there were simply too many weapons firing from too many directions. Eventually Mahihko took another blessed arrow in his back...and while he tore it out with a insane laugh, still ready to fight, Amdusias caught a sharp look from Graceful and quickly grasped into the wolf with telekinesis to forcefully yank him to safety.

Mahihko grumbled but took cover behind the snarling demon as soon as he regained his bearings, glowering past him at the enemies that continued to pour out of the gateway. "Aw, c'mon, I had 'em!"

"Get your ass back to the base!" Graceful barked, glaring back at the wolf. "That ain't a suggestion, you ain't good to us dead!"

Mahihko bared his teeth furiously but met the pony's stony eyes and grimaced. It wasn't easy to override the wolf's stubborn streak, though something in Graceful's expression made Mahihko curse and then nod once. "A'right. But you two fuckers better be on my ass! We gotta regroup, come up with somethin' else!"

He waited for Amdusias to fire a burst of high-powered rounds into an angel that was soaring toward them before quickly shuffling back to the entrance of the base. He looked to the side just in time to see a ice-covered demon racing toward him on all fours, enormous fangs gleaming...before a blast of buckshot smashed into its face and sent it sprawling to the side with an agonized yelp. Mahihko glanced back at the base, then grinned at the sight of Riffraff shakily reloading his shotgun. "There he is! Nice shot, hoss..."

He stumbled past Riffraff and then flopped against the doorway as he and the horse both looked at Graceful and Amdusias standing together against the rushing forces of humans, angels and demons alike. "They...they'll be okay, I think," Riffraff mumbled, although he shifted his weight uncomfortably even as he remained stubbornly in front of the base entrance. Several bullet holes marked the concrete structure around him, yet he looked unharmed. Behind him, Doc was helping Donut stand, the soldier's leg freshly bandaged and as clean as it would get for now.

Mahihko nodded once before watching Graceful and Amdusias again, reaching out to silently pat Riffraff's thigh. "Just get ready to pull back all the way inside. They're good, but no one's that good..." He frowned with concern at Doc, who gave a worried look back to the wolf. "How's the patient, Doc?"

"Donut's gonna be fine...I should take a look at your back, though..." The medic made sure Donut could lean against the wall on his own and took a step toward Mahihko, but the wolf waved him off.

"I'll be okay fer now, hon. Save it for after we get rid'a all these bastards..."

Doc caught a glimpse of the surging wave of enemies rushing toward Amdusias and Graceful and swallowed thickly. He didn't say anything, but he knew they were all thinking the same. How could they even hope to turn the tide at this point...

Graceful snarled at no one in particular as he shifted his gun from target to target, unleashing stream after stream of bullets into the nearest enemy as they stumbled and were trampled by their allies, or burst into flames, or simply crumpled where they stood. Amdusias was at his side doing the same, but as more and more projectiles were fired back at them, the amber shield he kept up in front of himself began to crack and disintegrate.

"Dusey, behind me! Just cover me!" Graceful shouted as the energy shield in front of himself began to waver as well. The demon didn't argue, simply dropping his weapon and crouching behind the pony, one hand on his shoulder to feed him a surge of his own essence while he strengthened the barrier protecting them both.

The pony fired until his weapon ran dry, but had another drum loaded before anyone could take advantage and continued laying waste to scores of the enemy, his eyes darting around coolly to measure each shot. He and Amdusias were slowly backpedaling but even with both their efforts, it was simply too much. The shield was slowly shrinking as cracks began forming throughout the surface. Bullets raced past, several slamming into the demon's arms as he cursed but refused to leave the pony unprotected, ignoring the pain to provide every ounce of his energy he could. Blood ran down his forearm and across Graceful's coat as the pegasus ground his teeth together and struggled to formulate some kind of plan.

"Retreat is our only option!" Amdusias shouted over the din before wincing as an angel's bolt glanced against one of his horns. "We must pull back! Be ready to run, I shall give us a moment!"

Graceful frowned deeply before closing his eyes and nodding his understanding. He shoved his gun into his overcoat and shook his hands out while glaring through the pale-yellow shield at the relentless forces that eagerly continued racing toward them. And then he felt a brief intake of power before Amdusias's hands thrust forward above his head with a grunt of effort.

A massive wave of force exploded outward, tinged with the same amber energy. The enemies on the ground were blown backward, most flying off their feet with surprised shouts. The angels and demons flitting above were sent staggering back as well, and several began to claw at their skulls with the powerful mental attack that accompanied the physical assault.

Amdusias gasped and stumbled forward, gripping Graceful's shoulder for support as his eyes bulged. "N-now, little one! Let us take cover!"

"Go, go!" Graceful growled, wrapping one arm around Amdusias's waist and guiding his companion back as they made a beeline for the base entrance. The amber shield followed, protecting them from a few stray bullets fired by the soldiers far enough away to be unaffected by the disorienting blast.

Riffraff looked relieved as they approached, faithfully defending the doorway with his broad body until they stumbled up to him and he quickly stepped back. Graceful shoved hard into the small of Amdusias's back to force the demon into the base, then suddenly turned around and rasped a line in an unintelligible language. His body flashed green, allowing him to leap safely through the amber barrier before anyone could stop him. He spun around in midair to slam a fist against the surface of the shield with a solid thump.

Green energy burst out again as he made contact with Amdusias's magic, and the protective barrier smashed into the concrete on either side of the base entrance. Riffraff's eyes widened and he lunged forward, only to crash uselessly into the amber force-field. "Graceful! What the hell are you doing!?"

Amdusias gasped, whipping around and limping forward to shove past the horse. "Graceful Melody!" He raised a hand and hissed a spell, only to stare down at his fingers when only a few amber sparks appeared. "! Little one, you cannot!"

Graceful smiled slightly, letting his hand rest on the shield for a moment. "I got it this time. Don't come after me, Dusey. I'm sure we'll catch up one day." He then glanced at Riffraff, who was staring at him from the ground with tears in his eyes. "Take care of him, Riff."

Mahihko was still leaning against the other side of the doorway, watching the scene unfold with a small frown. He looked up at the pony silently and they locked eyes briefly. The wolf then gave his own faint smile and nodded once. Graceful grunted before turning around and shrugging off his coat as he strode forward.

"Graceful Melody, no! No, gods damn you, no!" Amdusias cried out, slamming a fist against the energy barrier. "Come back this instant, I...I demand you come back!" His fist smashed down again and a small crack formed. "You cannot leave us!" Another dull thud, and the crack grew wider. "Come back!"

Before his fist could fall a third time, Riffraff was on his hooves and wrapping his enormous arms around Amdusias to forcefully drag him backward. "Unhand me, Riffraff! You cannot...we cannot allow him to do this! Stop...stop!!" But the horse refused to release the demon, tears streaming down his eyes as he pulled Amdusias away from the entrance, leaving Mahihko alone to watch silently through the amber field.

Graceful's wings unfurled as he walked fearlessly toward the recovering enemy forces. He stopped next to Amdusias's machine gun picking it up and looping the strap over one shoulder before cradling it in the crook of one arm as the other gripped his own automatic. With only a defiant shout, he began firing both weapons simultaneously into the hoards of soldiers, angels and demons, cutting down entire swathes of enemies with the specialized ammunition that tore out in barely-controlled bursts.

As he moved slowly forward, the dust and sand around him drifted upward to be steadily drawn toward his slight frame. A thrum of power began to build around the pony and dark-green arcs of energy raced along his arms and chest as his eyes glowed fiercely. The soldiers that regained their began to fire wildly, and several bullets tore through the pony's torso in a brutal salvo. Mahihko winced despite himself as Graceful stumbled backward one or two steps...only for the pony to roar in protest and shove himself forward once more as blood ran down his gaunt frame from multiple exit wounds. The two machine guns kept barking loudly, nearly drowning out his incoherent yells as the energy continued to billow and rush toward him.

Golden tendrils of energy started to flow down from the angels in the sky as their demonic counterparts bled dark purple and black essence, all of it swirling down into a maelstrom of power that twisted into an angry sphere around Graceful Melody. In the distance, the seal Amdusias had carved cracked apart, its magic drained by Graceful's actions...and an instant later, the massive, dragon-like head shoved through the portal with an eager bellow, its eyes once again instantly focusing on the pony.

The soldiers continued to fire their rifles desperately, but the bullets were now buffeted by the mass of gathered energy. Graceful's own weapons ran dry and the pony dropped them as he took a few more slow, pained steps forward, his face contorted into a furious but determined grimace. Above, angels drew their swords and lances and began to dive toward him while the demons bared their fangs and dropped to the ground to sprint past the humans. Partially emerged from the portal, the Wyrm's maw gaped wide, revealing not only endless rows of fangs but a deadly glow of hot-white energy that quickly began to glow brighter as it prepared some sort of otherworldly attack.

Graceful ignored it all, though. He closed his eyes as his body arched and slowly drifted upward, his hooves losing contact with the ground. His wings gleamed brilliantly for a moment and he threw his arms wide before opening his eyes and smiling cruelly at the approaching enemies. Time seemed to slow as a handful of angels and demons lunged toward him while countless bullets spiraled toward his ascending form "Memento mori, assholes," he whispered, a multitude of blinding rays shining out from his chest.

Mahihko shielded his eyes as the light expanded rapidly before suddenly bursting into a titanic rupture of energy that overtook the entire canyon. The wolf leaned away instinctively and the muted explosion slammed against the amber shield, sending deep cracks through the protective barrier as a cloud of sand and dust washed over it, obscuring the view of the devastating scene.

Behind him, Amdusias dropped to his knees with a furious sob as Riffraff knelt next to him and lowered his head, his muscular frame trembling uncontrollably. Doc clutched his chest wordlessly with one hand, a look of disbelief scrawled over his features while Donut stood by his side and wiped at his eyes even while he stared through the barrier as if expecting to see the form of the grumpy pegasus through the settling dust, scowling and demanding angrily to be let inside.

But as the debris started to clear and sunlight once more filtered through...there was nothing to be seen. The portal at the opposite end of the canyon was gone, and most of the bodies had disintegrated into nothing, leaving only a few far-flung corpses charred beyond recognition. The gigantic Wyrm was nowhere to be seen; whether it too perished or escaped was unknown, but there was certainly no sign of it in the fact, there was no sign of anything. The cracked earth where Graceful last stood was scorched while the lonely tree in the middle had been burnt away to a blackened husk. The land itself seemed intact...but nothing human, angelic or demonic remained behind Any trace of life had been eradicated. They were alone in the desolate box canyon once more.

As the barrier finally began to wither away and fade, Mahihko, Doc and Donut ventured out into the morning sun. The dry soil beneath their paws felt warm, unnaturally so. But the atmosphere of the canyon was peaceful. They looked around, Doc more wary than the others of some lingering enemy that avoided Graceful's final act. Nothing rose to meet them, however, the barren landscape enveloping them in unnatural silence. And as they approached where the pony made his defiant stand, Donut blinked and bent down to inspect something that caught his eye.

He plucked it from the ground and turned around to the others to show a single pale blue feather resting in his palm. "I...I still can't believe he did that...for us," the soldier mumbled.

Doc shifted quietly and then sighed as he eyed the surprising lack of carnage around them. The evidence of their battle had nearly been completely consumed by the pony's grand finale. "I don't understand why he would do that for a world he literally just stepped foot on a couple days ago..."

Mahihko picked up the feather to examine it before handing it back to Donut with a quiet laugh. "'Cause even though bein' an asshole wasn't just some facade...that don't mean he wasn't still a good guy." He glanced back at the base to see Riffraff and Amdusias finally standing in the doorway together, sharing a distraught expression. "Goddamn, he's leavin' a big hole behind, though..." He rubbed at hisc chest slowly and then looked up between the two chupadores. "Alright, then. We better see what we c'n do for those two, 'cause they're gonna be a mess..." Doc and Donut both nodded and headed back toward the base as Mahihko lingered a moment longer to gaze at the soil where Graceful Melody last stood before exhaling quietly and turning to join the chupadores on the long walk back.