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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41. Chapter forty one

 With an impatient growl, Beast lifted the fallen tree trunk impeding the company’s swift advance. Ignoring the murmurs of surprise and fear, he kept walking. He was there to aid them in their march, not to make friends.

 

 Friends… He wondered if he had ever had them. Enemies, comrades, superiors and subordinates he had certainly had, but friends? Someone with whom to share his few hopes and fears? A person that could help him cope with the infinite tedium of existence? Beast didn’t think those kind of relations were meant for beings like him. Perhaps it was the price to pay for being different even from other demons. His might earned him a high place among the armies even before the rise of the Reaper, when they took Creation from the voracious hands of the so called “Angels”, only to later lose it to some upstart slaves because of Death in the Wind’s betrayal. Even after thousands of years, the thought filled him with rage.

 

 That was the true stigma of his race: they came from a terrible place, of a kind mortals happily couldn’t dream of even in their most excruciating nightmares. Not even he could remember it exactly, despite being the only one who still bore a spark of the insanity that oozed from there. Howls, screeches, an eternal maelstrom of death and renewal on which no predator was powerful enough to avoid becoming prey if it let its guard down.

 

 How had they known they could abandon such a world? How was it that Hell Screech and his armor came into his possession, and why did he know the story behind both of them? He had no answers, only a mission to fulfill, and he wouldn’t—

 

 A movement.

 

 Confused, Beast looked around him. The soldiers were already mounting camp, though they hadn’t walked for even a full day. Truly, this world wasn’t what it had once been. But something had snapped him out of his thoughts. Where?

 

 There. Two soldiers had already mounted their tent and joyfully chatted, sitting on the grass. Behind them, a slight movement on the bushes. Both idiots kept talking, ignoring the death that crept upon them. Perhaps he should let one of them die, to teach the others the lesson of caution. But that would mean disobeying the order of procuring the force to get intact to its destination.

 

 And that would be unacceptable.

 

 The soldier thought his life had come to an end when he saw the demon jump towards him. He could barely raise his hands when the panther lunged, encountering to powerful hands clasping its neck. The creature twisted savagely, tearing at the demon’s flesh, but he stoically took the animal’s onslaught. A few seconds later, its movements became erratic. A sudden twist of the mighty arms and the panther ceased struggling, its neck broken.

 

 After fixing a furious glare on the soldier whose life he had saved, Beast left his prey at the side of those tasked of preparing the meal for the night and walked away from the camp.

 

 A few hours later, he was still trying to remember. Unfortunately, the soldiers seemed to have some reason to celebrate, for the smell of roasted meat and the noise from their singing could be clearly perceived. From the camp, he could see someone getting closer. It turned out to be a young man, little more than a child, who would’ve looked more in place in a ball room rather than in a battlefield. On his hands he had a plate with a huge chunk of meat.

 

 “Won’t you join us?” He asked, his voice still high “Tonight we’re having roasted panther.”

 

 “Get lost, kid” Was the rough answer “I have no time for your nonsense.”

 

 The boy looked him in the eyes for a second, as if making sure the demon was serious “I was afraid you could say something like that, so I brought you a little meat so you won’t be hungry.” With trembling hands, he left the plate at Beast’s feet and went back running to the camp.

 

 Beast couldn’t understand those men’s feelings. It was natural for them to be grateful: the cat would have probably killed two or three of them before being put down, or perhaps it would have fled and return at night to feed on them. But to stay awake and drinking would simply tire them for the next day of travel. Did they truly cherish life so much? Did they fear the specter of death so much that its denial gave them such joy? It was a puzzle for him. Only the chains of loyalty bound him to life, and it was probably his might that prevented him from enjoying it. Perhaps there was something he could learn from the humans after all.

 

 With a sad smile on his lips, he took the plate and went to the place where the sound of songs and the smell of roasted meat came from.

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