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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35. Chapter thirty five

 The demons fell upon the city at night, but its guardians were prepared: as soon as the first sentries died, their comrades raised the alarm. The waiting had been tense, but they knew the enemy was about to fall upon them, and their guard never wavered.

 

 At the sound of the horns, the garrisoned soldiers donned their armors, took their weapons and, praying for an honorable death, went to their assigned places.

 

 The invading forces were small in numbers, at least for human standards: there were no more than six thousand of them, against more than ten times that number, but each demon was an abomination sent from Hell itself. Their howls chilled the blood and their appearance filled the men with dread as they stormed the city gates.

 

 The archers were already firing when the demons started their charge. Their lines, however, were sent into disarray by winged creatures that took them and threw them from the battlements, to be devoured by the screaming horde below. Savage screams mixed with the cries of those dying, while the sky started to take a reddish tint, similar to the one that announces dawn.

 

 On the street, Holtz was getting ready for combat. According to their instructions, those chosen to enact the Wise One’s plan headed towards the southern gate, where the fighting was fiercest. They were halfway there when a deafening crash could be heard: the demons were using their own bodies to ram the sturdy gates. The ancient wood had been covered in iron, but still it cracked: it would not resist another assault.

 

 The commander or Holtz’s unit, a young lieutenant without any experience on the battlefield, made the signal. When everyone had taken a vial from their clothes, he told them “Words are useless now: for us, it’s the end of the road. Let us drink, and may the gods forgive us.”

 

Sighing, the men uncorked the small bottles and drank Beast’s blood. They had cut a deal with the demon and doomed their immortal souls, but it was a small price to pay for hurting those who would destroy their homeland. As the searing fluid ran through their veins, the men started to change. Their eyes turned red, as their skin darkened noticeably, taking a reddish hue. The madness of slaughter and the thirst for blood rose in them, and a new terror gripped the heart of the nearby soldiers.

 

 When the second charge destroyed the gates, the demons encountered a nasty surprise: there was a living wall of steel and flesh charging towards them, howling like animals.

 

 The clash was bloody. The men fought with tooth and nail, defending their land and giving time for the messengers and the civilians to flee. Their bodies were filled with unnatural strength and their minds were too gone for them to worry about survival, but it still wasn’t enough. Ignoring their casualties, the demons kept the pressure. A rain of arrows fell on them, but still they advanced, with only one thought in their still savage minds: the complete annihilation of anything that stood on their path.

 

 This was the cause of the first change in the tides of battle: focused as they were in slaughtering the men, it took them a long time to notice the shadow in their ranks. They saw a glint hear, heard a muffled rattle there, and another abomination fell to the ground, drowning in its own blood. Many fell to the Night Prowler’s daggers before they noticed his presence and forced him to flee. Knowing his power lay in the shadows, the demon went to the other gates, slaying the few remaining flying demons as they tried to throw the archers to their deaths. Between him, the Blood Sultan and the Wise One, soon there were none left to scour the skies.

 

 Soon, it was clear that the fate of the city would be decided inside the city, not in its walls.

 

 

 Those who drank Beast’s blood managed to keep the first group of invaders at bay, but a second one quickly came. Besides, many demons managed to climb the steep wall, their powerful claws finding holds impossible for a human to use. The defenders desperately threw boiling oil and stabbed the first to rear their heads, but slowly a spearhead was formed, endangering the city’s precarious defenses.

 

  On the northern gate, seeing the coast was clear, the king and his generals made their retreat, taking with them the part of the army that hadn’t been deemed essential for its survival, along with Beast and the Reaper to protect them in case the demon army trampled the city and chased them. It pained both the king and the demons to leave so many brave men to their deaths, but they knew it was the only way to keep the attackers pinned long enough for the fleeing civilians to reach safety.

 

 Inside the city, once again the situation changed for worse. Those who drank Beast’s blood were tired, besieged by a seemingly endless tide of enemies. The line, dangerously frail, stood only thanks to the valor of their commander. On top of the walls, the Blood Sultan, the Wise One and the archers fought a losing battle against the tireless horde. The situation was at a breaking point.

 

 Finally, they couldn’t hold out anymore. Almost half of the defenders had fallen, fighting with an abandon defying that of their attackers. Holtz, completely covered in blood, was tired beyond what he would have thought possible. A massive creature sent a claw towards his head, so he had to dodge. The strike tore off the head of the soldier standing at his side, but left the creature in a blind spot. A sudden rage filled Holtz, and he struck upside, piercing the demon’s unprotected armpit and killing it instantly. He was thinking a way to repeat the maneuver, when a sight froze him in his place: on their flank, a solitary demon took to the other world anyone who stood on his path. In just a few moments, his savage assault had broken the few soldiers that stood between the demons and the city.

 

  Honoring his name, Death in the Wind joined the battle.

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