The Firewalker glided along the Ocean Inferno in pursuit of the Black Ship. The Shadow Riders were pulling away, leaping the flaming waves, heading into the Sea of Fire. Much further and Capt. Asmoday might find himself incinerated by the Sun Inside the Earth.
His crew was already down to its bare bones, having been cut down in the skirmishes with these vile creatures up on Hades Hill. That had been one of the worst slaughters he’d ever experienced in his centuries as a soldier in the Crimson Guard. He had battled creatures from all planes of existence and pulled out more victories than defeats, but he’d never seen anything like these beasts. They were as ferocious as any demons, angels, gods, or devils he’d ever encountered, but they were better organized, stronger, faster, and more determined. There was some sort of undaunted instinct that drove them onward. Whatever their mission, it was worth their lives to them. They flew into death headlong if it was necessary.
It had come as a relief during the battle when they finally started to drop. At first, he wondered if they could even be killed. The way they did not flinch even as vicious blows impacted their smoky bodies was a shot to his squadron’s spirit far worse than wounds of the flesh they received in battle. It took hack upon hack of the heaviest weapons to drop these tenacious beings, but they were not invincible. Eventually, they could be brought down.
Capt. Asmoday had no idea what realm they came from. In all his years, he had never even heard of any race like them, let alone seen them. They were all red clouds of undulating smoke that took on solid forms. They had arms, legs, and heads, but their eyes and mouths were hollow sockets that blazed with spiraling yellow light. They wielded no weapons save their arms and hands, which they swung with sharp, fatal accuracy. Each limb had a slicing effect that gashed skin and muscle and ripped apart bone. Their bodies radiated ever-changing auras of heat and cold so extreme that it either made you blister or freeze in just seconds if you were too close. Trying to fight these powerful foes while maintaining a relatively safe distance was almost impossible.
Eventually, through sly use of the surrounding elements–combating their heat with cold and vice versa via Asmoday’s own sources of magical energy–his battalion succeeded in weakening their ranks and pushing them back down the hill. From there, they fled onto their ship and sped across the bubbling sea towards the reddening horizon. The captain wasted no time giving chase. He could not allow the Shadow Riders to make land anywhere else. The damage they inflicted was always too great as they plundered every inhabited stop along their way to whatever destination their trail of devastation was to take them.
Out in the open fires, that dark vessel could run. He was not sure what their motivation was, or the endgame they sought. All he knew was that they were more than just a force, they were a scourge, and they were mighty enough to rip right through all of the Underworld Kingdoms, leaving an apocalypse in their wake.
“I don’t know where you came from,” he said to himself. “But, I’m going to chase you all the way back there, or I’ll burn trying.”
His troops were all in. As they boarded the Firewalker from the hill, he had turned to them and said, “I am going to chase these monsters right over the edge of oblivion if I have to. They will not continue to take liberties with every land they set foot upon, not as long as I ride the Ocean Inferno. The only reprieve they’ll get from me will come when I am thrown overboard and left melting in the fires below us, for then I will be one with the Inferno. Only then will I stop. If you wish to stay behind, so be it. I will not force you along.”
After a brief silence, one of the crew declared, “We signed up to fight for the Crimson Guard, not wait on Hades Hill for a rescue party. I say we sail, now.”
No protest was offered, and the chase began. Now, they were fighting the mighty flames in pursuit of their own demise. They were sailing deeper into the Red Lands, where the Inferno seared the Earth above and below them. The Sun Inside the Earth roared in the distance, miles and miles away, screaming like an angry monster. These were lands few dared to venture to. Even Capt. Asmoday had never been. No infantry of the Crimson Guard had ever come this far. But, these creatures had to be stopped before they defiled the entire Underworld, sending it back into a state of chaos like it was over millennia ago when the Angry Gods escaped.
That was not going to happen on Capt. Asmoday’s patrol. Not as long as he lead the Firewalker through the Inferno.