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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17. Chapter seventeen

 

 Without a hint of fear, the old man stepped into the steps, following the demon. Despite the flare of the staff, he could feel the darkness whirling around him, trying to stop him and infect him with the strange madness that seemed to ooze from the stone.

 

 “It’s a shame,” he thought, while taking a drag off his cigarette “Not being able to feel the thrill of danger or the joy of adventure.”

 

 His thoughts were interrupted when the stairs ended abruptly, leading them into a wide cave. I it the darkness seemed to back off a little bit, but he could tell immediately something was wrong. On the surface, it looked absolutely ordinary, a cave of dark stone with a roughly circular shape, without any mark or object in it. As he spent more time in it, however, things seemed to change. He could see flickers at the border of his vision, of creatures screaming in pain an agony. When he turned his eyes, however, they seemed to disappear, leaving behind a weak wail. He closed his eyes and started to concentrate. He didn’t need to breath anymore, but he did it anyway, calming himself and allowing to see things more clearly.

 

 When he opened his eyes, he understood the full meaning of the phrase “Ignorance is bliss”.

 

 He could still see the cold rock and the unsteady light of the Wise One’s staff, but dimly, as if they were mirages against the true nature of things. He could now see the creatures clearly, shapeless creatures of stone and ice and fire, struggling against each other for supremacy. Sometimes one of them would prevail, only to be snatched away by other creatures, who in turn would be caught and killed by a demon, who in turn would watch against other, bigger predators. No one was safe, everyone was trying to kill each other, and there was always a bigger predator. He was standing on a floor of rock, but beyond him he could see a sea of boiling blood. He turned in another direction and, in the distance, saw what could only be the river Styx, with the souls of damned mortals trying to catch any nearby creature and force it to take their place. The old man was mesmerized. He knew for certain Hell was a real place, where there was no hope or respite even for those who were at the top, but he hadn’t imagined such whirling chaos, such utter madness.

 

 Through the cacophony of the creatures and the wailing of the anguished victims, he could hear the voice of the Wise One calling him. He forced himself to breath steadily again, and slowly the image of Hell became a strange mirage on the corner of his vision, while the ordinary stone cave became more solid. When he finally took a step towards the demon, he noticed another figure standing at his side. It was tall and imposing, wearing only a simple loincloth. His hands seemed to be coated in fire, and his skin had the color of dry blood. His stern face looked almost human, with long black hair and deep blue eyes, but the depth of those eyes belied this illusion. Two black, leathery wings, not unlike those of bats, were spreading and folding behind his shoulders, in the same way a man would stretch his body after standing still for a long time.

 

 His burning gaze centered on the one who had awoken him “What are you doing here, brother?” The cave seemed to shake with his words “And why have you brought this stranger with you?”

 

 “You cannot keep hiding here.” Answered the Wise One “A new era is dawning, and it will be the seven of us who will determine its outcome. The Reaper walks the earth once again, as does Death in the Wind. Neither of them will be able to gain the upper hand in their war without our support.” He then turned towards the old man, who had just lighted a new cigarette, and said “This one I do not know. He walks as a man, but he cannot be one. He claims it is his duty to follow me, and so far he hasn’t hindered my actions.”

 

 The Blood Sultan nodded his head at the words of his brother “It shall be as you say, then. It’s time for me to abandon the illusions I’ve created and walk through Creation once again.” He let out a heavy sigh “I guess it’s my duty to do so, so I can redeem for denying my rightful lord and serving Death in the Wind.”

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