Return of the Reaper

Thousands of years ago, the Reaper, Demon Lord and ruler of all Creation, was betrayed and his empire turned to dust. Now he has returned, and is looking for revenge on the one who betrayed him.


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8. Chapter eight

The sun was just raising above the horizon when the last man of the village surrendered his soul to the curse.

 

The rats came in the dead of night and silently crept on the homes of the villagers. Having worked since before dawn, they were utterly exhausted and didn't notice anything until it was too late.

 

The attack was as fierce as it was unexpected. The peasants were used to face wolves, wildcats or other big creatures, but they were defenseless against the creeping tide that fell upon them, biting and scratching everything that fell into their maws. The most fortunate managed to give their loved ones the sweet kiss of death before falling to the onslaught, but most of them didn't even get that final mercy.

 

When the sun finally rose, its rays revealed a spine-chilling view, for the rats were still biting the corpses of their victims, tearing out their eyes, drinking their blood and gnawing at their bones.

 

At the entrance of the dead town two entities faced each other, the distrust clear in their eyes, as if they were enemies that came face to face after a long time and were unsure of the other's intentions. After long minutes of tense expectation, Death in the Wind lowered his gaze “I see you haven't lost your abilities, Vermin Lord”.

 

The other figure was even taller than the deposed Demon Lord, though his luxurious garments revealed a thin and gaunt figure, almost as if he were nothing but bones. The stench of death followed him wherever he went, marking him as one who plays with the line between life and death like they were nothing more than tools at his service. Plants withered and died wherever he went, and only the vermin seemed to thrive in his presence, thus giving it his name. His bony hands clutched a staff made of rotten and cracked wood, and the symbols drawn in his cloak revealed him as some sort of priest.

 

His frown didn't change in the least when he answered “It is not with honeyed words that you will make me forget the results of your stupidity. What are you doing here, and why do you break my slumber?” With his skeletal hand he pointed towards the town, their inhabitants devoured by rats “Look around you, fool! This is what you caused to our glorious empire. Our kind is nothing more than a legend for those who live in this lands, and the rivers turned crimson with our blood after we accepted your guidance. Do you wish everything to happen once again? Do you want us to rally under your banner? That will not happen, brother. Ever”.

 

“The world has changed while we slumbered” answered Death in the Wind “Those who dared raise against us are now stuck in a senseless war for a few morsels of what used to be ours” He gave a step forward and pointed to the prosperous town, now inhabited only by the rats “Look, brother, you didn't need more than a thought to finish of this scum” He took another step towards the Vermin Lord “However, it is this same scum that makes those cursed fae run like scared little girls, using the fear and superstition of men to avoid their anihilation”.

 

The warlock seemed to retreat unto himself, carefully pondering the situation. After a few seconds, he looked Death in the Wind straight in the eye and said “I guess you now want me to serve as a conduit before the Conclave, so the hordes of Hell can once again enter Creation and raze it in blood and fire. So it shall be, then. However” Suddenly, his voice turned to a low growl “I hate to be trated as a fool. So tell me what is it that you're trying to hide and stop your games, or you won't remain in this world long enough to repent”.

 

Death in the Wind took a step back, afraid. However, he immediately recovered his aplomb and replied “The Reaper is back” This time it was the Vermin Lord who seemed to lose his valor, as a chill ran through his spine “And now he wants revenge. I woke the Wise One from his slumber, but he wouldn't follow me. I'm sure the Reaper will try to wake the others and convince them to join his cause. You know we can't afford to have another empire under the yoke of the Reaper. He was too soft with our slaves and servants, unwilling to do what was necessary to ensure our domains weren't struck by rebellions”.

 

“It shall be as you say, Death in the Wind. We will take the help of those of the Seven who share our vision, and those who oppose us shall be condemned to terror and oblivion” The Vermin Lord gave a crooked smile, rose his staff and drove it deep into the earth, yelling “Rise, victims of my fury! Stand up, slaves of my will!”.

 

Hearing the irresistible voice that called them, the dead slowly started to leave their tombs. Men, women and children, everyone answered to the whim of their new lord, standing up and walking despite the rats that still chewed on their bodies and hung from their faces and entrails.

 

The old dead of the village, buried in a nearby graveyard, also answered the call, despite the sacred soil on which they were supposedly laid to rest. Rot claimed the small valley when the ancient dead rose, some covered by worms and strips of skin, others with yellowed bones whose flesh had rotten completely, making a creaking sound as they walked. Without another word spoken, the small army started moving to the east, where the nearest city lay, looking for fresh blood to quench the unholy thirst that now tormented them.

 

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