Orchid rallied the troops for what she hoped would be one of their final excursions in this city. The surrounding demonic forces were growing thinner by the moment, and scouts reported mutinous acts by human slaves; presumably they'd gotten wind of Orchid's successes. The time was ripe to launch a massive series of attacks, and free as many people as possible. Once everyone in her entourage was assembled she orated.
“This day has been a long time coming. Freedom for humanity can become a reality; it all starts here, but the power is in your hands! We are going to launch three separate strikes at the same time, all on targets of opportunity.” She pointed to a map of the city, and marked several places with pushpins, all in close proximity to one another. “These three locations are all related: A corrections facility, a labour camp, and a barracks local to both. Recently rebelling humans are being broken in the corrections facility... only to be moved to the labour camp. Those that 'redeem' themselves in the eyes of their demonic captors are allowed to join a task force at the barracks. If we hit all these targets at once their defences will buckle.” Orchid spoke with a different kind of confidence than what she usually exuded. Leadership wasn’t a role she was accustomed to, but in light of Evalle’s absence she was doing her best.
Now that Orchid had their rapt attention, she divided them up into groups. With a clipboard outlining their individual skills, laid out by Evalle before leaving, she was able to assemble three teams with as few gaps as possible in regards to necessary roles. Each team would need combatants, medics, and people with technical knowledge in a variety of subjects, like engineering. Each group was then assigned an objective. “My crew will hit the barracks, where we expect the heaviest opposition. Wendall’s group will take the corrections facility, which still has a large security presence. The labour camp is the least protected, but I’m sending our largest force there. Without my help, or Wendall’s guidance, I’d like to be extra careful. Pack everything you need ASAP, I’m expecting us to finish before it gets dark. The demons will have a distinct advantage if we let them get organized.”
The three teams departed together, as they were heading in vaguely the same direction. They stood out in broad daylight, but nobody was going to give a group that large any trouble, demon or otherwise.
Once splitting up was warranted, Wendall gave a combat safety pep talk, as a precautionary measure. He wanted some useful information to be fresh on their minds. “Everyone remember to watch out for your squad mates. If anyone gets injured, carry him or her to the backlines to get help at your first opportunity. If you have any ranged weapons don’t be stingy with suppressing fire. This will give the melee fighters, who are the majority of our number, the chance to get up close with little danger. Trust your instincts, the minute you second-guess yourself is the minute you get yourself killed. Most importantly of all, remember what you’re fighting for. Once this city is liberated the rebuilding process can begin!”
Though they both walked their own path to the same goal, Orchid really wished Evalle was there to lead the last group… or even there at all. Our whole argument was just silly; with some time, maybe I could have learned to like being shackled into a relationship. Orchid resolved to tell her exactly that if she ever came back, and make things right between them once again.
Orchid’s team was the smallest, and going up against the heaviest resistance, but she had celestial magic to offer. Pound for pound that magic was a lot more dangerous than its demonic counterpart. Angelic power was only limited by the will and ingenuity of the wielder, whereas demonic power had tradition and ritual to fuel it. Alarms had already been sounded a minute or two before they arrived, but Orchid never planned on a stealthy approach. This was war; upfront and bloody.
The barracks themselves were fenced in with barbed wire, and had a few rows of sandbags to shelter the task force. Demons and humans alike lined up behind those sandbags for cover, with a few of the meatier demons out in the open; they were too large anyway. Orchid flew over the fence, while her troops got to work cutting a sizeable hole through it.
The plan was simple enough. She would buy them some time by exploding a burst of magical sunlight into the main field of engagement. In the blinding brightness the enemy ranks suffered severe disorientation. Still, stray bullet and arrow fire blazed into the air around where Orchid hovered. With some quick aerial manoeuvring she flung herself out of the way, and prepared a second piece of magic. This time she created a wall of sheer force out in front of the fence. The wall paved the way ahead of her troops, to protect their advance as long as possible. She took advantage, and hid behind it as well.
Some of the demons tried to flank the invading insurgents. This was all part of Orchid's plan and picking off a few of their numbers before the fight would be a welcome advantage. Purposeful holes formed within the wall of force to allow the human rebels to shoot outwards towards the enemy who had strayed from their entrenched positions.
Once the armies were staring each other down at about forty feet in distance, Orchid threw the wall forward; knocking aside sandbags and enemy soldiers alike. In a flash, the fight had begun.
Orchid's chaotic miasma of flying bladed chains thinned their numbers at an alarming pace. One of the huge demons managed to grapple her in the confusion. Though Orchid’s troops tried to help, their weapons careened uselessly off its rugged hide skin. The grotesque creature was squeezing the life out of Orchid, crushing her in a bear hug. She spat up some blood, and tried to fight back, but it was far stronger than her.
With every ounce of will she could conjure, Orchid tried to take the form of shards, all while the pain was becoming unbearable. Finally, before her breath gave out, she shattered into tiny pieces. The angel shards rose and reformed a short distance away, free from the hulking demon's grasp. Orchid was backpedalling to catch her breath, but the giant demon was unrelenting in his pursuit, charging her headlong. The urgency of the situation kicked Orchid’s adrenaline into gear, and she flicked out her wrists in a snapping motion to send the chain knives flying forward at high velocity. Both of the demon's eyes were gruesomely plucked from his head, and he toppled to the ground at a skid before reaching her.
At the sight of the largest among their numbers falling in battle, most of the enemy lay down arms and surrendered. They were put to death anyway at Orchid’s command, the demons at least.
Casualties were surprisingly heavy for such a short, well-executed, battle. It was over quickly enough though that Orchid tried to catch up to group at the labour camp in flight. Before leaving she instructed her group to return to the clock tower with the wounded. Those with enough strength left in them were to salvage whatever weapons they could from the battlefield; particularly the guns.
At the end of all the fighting, it wound up being a pyrrhic victory. Many humans were liberated, but at the cost of many lives. At least their demonic oppressors were dealt with, and that was something worth accounting for.
One thing remained at the forefront of Orchid’s mind, despite all the good she was getting accomplished. Kreesan and his goons haven't yet suffered for what they’ve done… and if I can't find them anymore, then maybe Trojigar can. Her hand trailed the texture of her tooth necklace. With her vow of vengeance coming to a head she felt a sense of bitter peace.
Wendall decided it was finally time to confront Orchid with the truth if he could. After witnessing her heroics, he knew she was definitely on the right side, and it was critical that she have fair warning that Kreesan was orchestrating her death. He wasn’t sure he would be able to get the words out of his mouth when the time came, but he had to try…
Late in the evening when the dust had settled, he stole away to meet Orchid at the nightclub.
Evalle spoke the command words to each of the three stones in the hedge maze, opening a portal to Earth. She didn’t have any indication of the time Orchid would meet her end, but she did have an idea where it would happen. The scene in her vision looked far too familiar; she swore she’d seen it before. Retracing her steps wasn’t a huge problem given that she could fly. First, she checked around the now abandoned resistance hideout at the bank, then the surroundings of the clock tower.
One of the rebels saw her flying in the sky above, and waved her down with both arms excitedly. Once she landed, the recruit spoke ecstatically. “Lady Evalle, how wonderful to see you!”
Evalle forced a smile in return, and replied. “I need to find Orchid in a hurry; things are, umm, dire... Please tell me you know where she is.” There was a certain hope lingering in her eyes, that what she saw in the obelisk could be circumvented; or maybe it was fear. They seemed inextricable from one another in Evalle's heart.
“What? Why? What’s wrong? She… She went to that club downtown, where all the demons hang out. I think she's going on foot to blow off some steam. We had a long hard fight today and…” The recruit meant to continue, but Evalle had already flown off with, more than, a touch of haste.
Laurent slammed his fist down on the table. “What do you mean she’s gone?! Where did that insolent little girl run off to now?!”
The celestial gardener shied away at all the yelling, and spoke in a meek voice before the impassioned Laurent. “I saw Evalle invoke the power of the portal at the hedges Sir. She seemed to be in a rather foul mood, and hurried out without even a goodbye.”
“Treachery! She went running back to her precious Orchid I imagine; probably from what the obelisk showed her. This is the last time we make allowances for that girl. Bar them both from entering; get every scholar on it if you have to. I’ll see to them myself in the meantime.” Laurent fumed out his answer.
He stormed out of the room and faced both guards at the door to his chambers. “You’re both coming with me. We have some rogue angels on our hands, and the situation needs to be dealt with. They’re highly dangerous, so come prepared. If they won’t stand down peacefully this could get messy.”
The guards looked to each other, and then back to Laurent. With a submissive nod they formed ranks. All three made their way down the winding stairs that led towards the hedge maze, but partway Laurent raised his hand to stop them, and sighed. “I’m going to the library, to take a look at the obelisk myself. Evalle, despite everything, is one of ours... and I should give her the benefit of the doubt. I need to see what happens before I act rashly.”
And so Laurent got visions of Orchid’s fate at the sensory obelisk just like Evalle had. The only real difference was that Orchid was standing over a dead angel's body, one he didn't recognize. The intent with which Laurent wanted to go back to the human realms suddenly became a whole lot clearer. If Orchid was going to slay an angel then he hoped to get there in time to stop it, and put her to an early grave.