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.


9. Chapter nine

The strange old man took a drag of his cigar, enjoying the tasty smoke, and wondering where was the one he was waiting for. He certainly stood out in the desolation of the high mountains, a human whom youth had abandoned a long time ago, though he seemed to retain its joy and vigor. He was a bit taller than was usual in his kind; his face was neatly shaved except for a thick mustache and his white hair fell to his waist. The clothes he wore were hundreds of years old, and even at the moment of their embroidering they had been out-of-date. The cold no longer meant anything to him, but the wait was tremendously annoying. He would have prefered being in a warmer place, but unfortunately Creation could be at risk if he followed his desires instead of his duty, so he stayed.


With a sudden gush of wind, reality itself blurred and another ancient figure appeared at his side. The old man threw his burnt cigar, smashed it about the heel of his boot and took another, greeting the newcomer “At last!” He cheered “You come with an amazing delay, my good fellow. I thought you had lost along the way and that I'd have to go looking for you!”.


Unfortunately, the withered demon wasn'r precisely in his best mood. His sleep of centuries had been interrupted, and two of the most terrible beings ever to set foot on Creation strode its soil once again, bent in each other's death. Thus, it isn't strange that his first reaction was to say “Give me one reason why I should not kill you where you stand, old man” in a tone that would have given a Nightmare Beast pause.


The old man put a hand in his pocket and took out a small wooden box, without the least worry in his face. From it, he took another cigar, which he lighted with a snap of his fingers. After a long drag, he answered with the same exquisite courtesy “I will do better than that: I will give you three reasons. First, you have learned a valuable lesson from the Reaper's demise and your kind's past mistakes, mainly that an empire can't resist if it's foundations are hatred and murder.” he stopped to give his cigar another drag, then went on “Second, both you and your former lord want to stop that regicidal maniac called Death in the Wind, and I can help you with that. Finally, if you kill me now, you will ask yourself what else I could have told you. I understand you well enough to know that you claim to have a deep understanding of every kind of lore, O “Wise One”, so I guess you will let me live at least for a while, even if it's only to see if I can say something interesting or intriguing”.


The demon was petrified by surprise. Not only did that senile scum know who he was, but he also knew his purpose and knew about the return of both demon lords. “Who are you, old man?” asked the Wise One “It's impossible for one of the race of men to know so much about our kind”.


“Well, well” cheered the man after another drag “If I told you everything you wish to know, what reason could you possibly have to let me live? I'll only tell you that my work now is to join you and try to make your way at least reasonably smooth. After all, you will have a big pile of trouble in a very short time”.


A smile slowly crept at the demon's lips “All right, come with me” he said with a resignated sigh “But if you get in my way, I will rip your heart out and give it to the dogs, understood?” the old man said nothing, so the demon kept on “Now follow me. One of the Seven rests in this mountain, it's time for him to abandon the dream and join the coming war”.


He then started walking. Little was left of the small road that had covered the area, but it was there, if you knew how to look. After a while, he went through a narrow way between cliffs, always with the old man at his back. The winds were strong and the air was freezing, but neither the Wise One's cloak nor the old man's cigar seemed to be shaken in the least. Despite the white layer that covered the mountains, there wasn't a single speck of snow on the road they now walked.


When the day was almost over, they got to the end of the road. There, a massive wall of ice and snow waited for them. The demon approached it and, murmuring something, softly touched the wall with the tip of his staff.


Immediately, the thick crust exploded, revealing a huge stone door with intrincate designs on it, depicting the many victories the demon had won over the heavenly hosts, in a time so remote that the memory was fading even from the demon's legends. One word from the Wise One and it opened completely, revealing a deep, dark corridor. Without looking back, he stepped into the dark halls, followed by the strange old man.


The darkness was deep, but he had been here many times before their empire's fall, and could find his way without much trouble.


As he walked through the silent halls, he could feel the presence of his brother, dreaming the eternal dream. Small slits in the ceilings allowed the light of the day to reach the halls, making the darkness feel a bit less oppressive.


Marvels went by as he walked through the ancient abode of the Blood Sultan. Unlike most other fortresses, the armies of the fae and nordheim never found it, so its contents hadn't been sacked or destroyed in honor of the rebels' dark gods. There were many scrolls, ancient beyond reckoning and containing lore that made even the Wise One tremble in fear. With a shiver, he kept on walking, ignoring the granite statues made by the forgotten dwarough and the half rotten tapestries depicting the victory of the demonic army against the seraphim, and the pact that ensured the survival of Creation.


The old man stayed a bit behind, inspecting closely the statues and the tapestries. Once he was done, he took one of the scrolls the demon had shunned and opened it. After a few minutes, he carefully rolled it back, put it in its stand and, with badly trembling hands, took out a cigarette, lit it (barely avoiding the temptation of burning the scroll stand) and gave it a few frantic drags before following his partner. His gaze was now firmly in front of him, and he didn't look to the wonders of the Blood Sultan's home even once.


When he finally catched up with the Wise One, the demon was tapping the floor impatiently, looking at a stair chiseled in stone that went to the entrails of the earth. He then pronounced a few words, and his staff started to burn with a red flame, giving them light for the road ahead. Then, without further ado, the demon walked down to find his brother.


Happy to put distance between himself and those cursed scrolls, the old man followed him without hesitation.

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