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.


11. Chapter eleven


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“So this is the demon that once enslaved us, uh? He doesn't seem quite impressive” the despective comment was made by an obese fae dressed in exquisite silk. The Reaper's state was pitiful: his skin, torn dozens of times, revealed broken bones and pierced muscles. Despite the low value his words seemed to give the fallen colossus, Barol couldn't help but being terrified. He knew Erandiril wouldn't lie to him, but t was hard to believe that a single being could not only survive the darts of the Shadow Warriors, but also murder them like a bunch of defenseless kids. The most shocking notion, however, was that, after all, there was something in Creation capable of humilliating the invincible Aeldros Bane of the Nordheim.


Being used to hide his feelings and thoughts, he turned and spoke to Erandiril with a calmness that he was far from feeling “All right, little one, I will do as you ask, but don't think I'll be able to afford many luxuries on your stay, for the search will be implacable. No one can do what your... friend here did to the beast you have for brother and hope to survive. Even now, there are soldiers making pointy questions about a good-looking girl and the freakish man that accompanied her”.


Erandiril smiled, calmer now by her friend's words. She had saved him from a group of drunken guards a few years ago, forging a link that turned out to be extremely benefical for both parties. Since then, each time she needed information related to illegal enterprises or the underworld, she could count with an incredibly well-organized net of spies and informers. On the other hand, she didn't have any qualms about using her authority to help her friend, whether getting information on gold shipments, filtering the safety protocols on certain buildings, or giving any other sensitive data that could fall in the hands of one of the Lords' uncorruptible agents.


“I will only take advantage of your hospitality for a few days, until the Reaper is totally recovered” she said, a cruel smile on her face “And when he is, the Lords will rue the day they betrayed one of their loyal servants” with a shrug, Balor turned towards a door “Twice a day a mute servant will come with your food. Tomorrow, I will have a physician treat your partner's wounds” he then left the room, leaving Erandiril alone with her thoughts.


The first five days passed depressively slowly: she was in a dark, damp cellar, whose only amenities were two hard matresses and a few books that barely helped her cope with the tedium. Once in a while Balor would come and chat with her, telling her news of the outside world. Her pursuers knew she was in the city but, as they hadn't had any luck with strength and intimidation, they had started offering bribes and other subtle techniques, though they still hadn't got a clue about their hideout.


The physician that examined the demon was speechless. He couldn't believe that, despite getting wounds that would have killed a nordheim ten times over, the giant was recovering incredibly fast. Less than a week after the fight, his wounds had already closed, and he breathed without difficulty. Unfortunately, he still hadn't regained consciousness.


She was laying on a matress reading a boring chronicle of the earlier campaigns on the war against the nordheim, when she heard a moan at her back. She stood up and leaned closer, for the Reaper was murmuring in a low voice, as if he was chatting with someone. Suddenly, the Demon Lord opened his eyes widely, with an expression of an impossible terror, rememberance of a world that lay far beyond Creation.


He stood there, motionless and speechless, for a long while. Then he blinked, and his face slowly recovered its usual frown. She looked at his saviour and asked “What happened? How long have I slept?” he tried to stand up, but a bolt of pain sent him flat on his back. Aghast, he continued “I can't remember, how was it that I got these injuries?”.


Erandiril explained what happened, stopping frequently to answer his many questions. He didn't remember anything after the moment the guards entered the tavern. When she mentioned they were near the Southern Tower, he made several questions about it, surprising Erandiril with his familiarity with the huge building.


“It truly is uncanny” she said “The tower was built centuries after your fall, during the Age of Wonders that went before the nordheim betrayed us. How can you know so much about it?”.


“You see” answered the Reaper, a smug smile in his face “No matter how big your ancestors' achievements had been, it's impossible they'd been able to build such a wonder” As he spoke, his frown got deeper and deeper, until his face looked as if it was sculpted in stone “In a time your race cannot remember, that tower was the abode of one of Creation's most feared and hated beings. Countless were his victims along many races, both yours, the nordheim and some others that have disappeared in the mists of time. Such was his prowess at uncovering plots against me and my empire, that even the generals of the Great Legions learned in time to tremble at the mention of the Night Prowler”.


Erandiril's face suddenly turned an ashen white, thus showing the Reaper that the name was still alive in the memory of her race “Many among my own kind tried to rebel and cast me down, but he always knew. He let their plans to grow unimpeded, so they would feel sure about their victory. It was only when they were ready , sometimes minutes before their plans were executed, he and his disciples fell upon the traitors. The lucky ones died immediately, but the others could wait for weeks the sweet kiss of death” he tried once again to stand up, but the pain was too great. With a sigh, he continued “His troops were few in number, but, after my personal guard, lead by Death in the--” the memory of the betrayer made him grind his teeth “After my personal guard, they were the most dreaded troops in my vast empire”.


“Wait a moment” interrupted Erandiril “If what you say is true, then...” the sudden truth hit her so hard her knees weakened. Her face, already pale, now looked like ivory “One of the Seven Plagues that enslaved the world lies in the tower, according to the wisdom of men, until one who walks among them but isn't one of them enters its sacred ground...”.


The Reaper looked as if he hadn't heard her, yet he asked “How strong is the security around the tower?” “As strong as it gets” answered Erandiril immediately “The second largest garrison of our realm is stationed here. Besides, they know we are in the city, so they will be very watchful in all of the city”.


“I will need to rest for ten days” said the demon “Let's see if on that time I can teach you a bit of how to defend yourself”.


The next days he fulfilled his promise, training the young fae for long hours. Barol gave them a couple of wooden swords to train, and they made good use of them. Erandiril was proud and exerted herself until she could hardly breath. She would have continued and put her life on the line, but the Reaper always forced her to rest and recover, telling her about the empire that was in the ancient times, and the many races that had since disappeared from the world.


He had lived for long millenia, taken part in thousands of battles and slain countless foes. Still, it was the first time he saw someone as utterly useless with a weapon as Erandiril. He managed, however, to teach her a few tricks. The elegant subtleties of fencing were clearly out of her capabilities, specially in such a short time, but she absorbed a few dirty tricks that could give her an edge if someone thought her defenseless. Groin kicking, eye gouging, faking a misstep, all of those she mastered quickly. They wouldn't make her useful in a battle, but at least she would be able to hold her own in case of trouble.


At the dawn of the tenth day, the Reaper woke Erandiril up “It is time, little one, we have an appointment to fulfill” they quickly made the preparations for their march. They had almost finished when Barol entered the warehouse. The demon stepped in front of him and gave a deep bow to the obese fae “You have saved my life. Whatever happens, I shall remember it” the criminal started to sweat profusely at being talked to by a being taken from the ancient legends. He managed, however, to maintain his composure, and graciously bowed back.


“You can count on me, good sir, whenever you have need” he managed to reply “You have saved the life of a very dear friend, and that's a debt that I could never hope to repay. However” a coy smile crept on his face “I have taken the liberty to try”.

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