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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12. Chapter twelve

 

The enormous sarcophagus lay in the center of the cavern, covered with the dust of centuries. In front of it, two encarnations of an evil that was ancient beyond reckoning watched gleefully, knowing that soon there would be one more of them dedicated to enslave the lesser races of Creation.

 

On the outside, at the base of the mountain they were in, a town struggled desperately for survival. The dead had come at night, throwing themselves with abandon against the walls. Luckily it was a mining town, so they were used to being attacked by bandits. Thus, they were able to hold on until the defenders could prepare. Now they were fighting desperately against an enemy that was slow and clumsy, but resisted blows that would kill a man thrice over and didn't know either fear or exhaustion.

 

The tallest of the two servants of darkness took a step forward and, touching with his hands the enormous stone coffin, yelled “Brother! The time of your dreaming has come to an end! The Reaper has come back from his long exile, and the winds of change threaten to topple the very basements of this world. Rise, and may Creation bow before our might!”.

 

As he spoke, the ground started to tremble with increasing intensity, until a small crack could be seen in the immaculate sarcophagus. It quickly extended, until it covered the whole surface of the ancient stone. With the sound of rocks turning to dust, the ancient coffin collapsed over itself, revealing the demon inside.

 

It was an incredibly muscular figure, huge beyond the ken of any mortal. His skin was black as night, and was completely covered by grey tatoos, depicting the great battles on which he and his legions had fought. His only garbs were a rusty mail coat and leggins, torn and covered in blood. Two massive horns went out from his forehead, and in his eyes shone the unmistakable spark of madness.

 

With an agility unthinkable of something of his size, he stood up and looked down on those who had awoken him “My dear friends” he said with a voice full of mockery “It is a most unexpected pleasure to see you again. It's been a really long time since last we saw each other, is it not? Yes, those were truly interesting times, full of poison in the wine and stabbing in the back”.

 

“Silence, you fool” snapped the Vermin Lord “Our decadent age has passed into oblivion, and now it is time for us to take what was taken by those lesser creatures. I can feel in my bones that the reign of those who defeated us is at an end. We must prepare for the coming battles, and for that we need your infinite strength. It is our only hope of prevailing, for the Reaper has returned, and we think he will seek to wreak havoc upon those who swore loyalty to a new lord”.

 

“Well, well” answered the giant “This opens up a lot of very interesting possibilities. Do you pretend to murder him, like the last time? His power knows no limit and he is terrifying in combat, but he's not invincible, is he?” when he said this, he looked Death in the Wind straight in the eye, enjoying his displeasure.

 

“His death was inevitable” answered the former Demon Lord “He stubbornly refused to slay those who dared raise their hand against us. Instead of burning their homes, sowing their fields with salt and burning them in front of their women and children, he just took them as slaves” he pointed at his brother with a trembling finger “You know all this! The betrayal couldn't be avoided if our empire was to survive, and only I had any chance of success. If I hadn't done it, any of the Seven could have tried and fail, and the consequences would have been devastating”.

 

“More devastating than the anihilation of our race and our confinement to stories to frighten children? I don't think so” he stretched out his shoulders and raised as tall as he could, towering over his brothers as they towered over common men “The few who were stupid enough to try and manipulate me are no more than ashes and dust, brother” madness had gone out of his eyes, replaced by a deep scorn “Not only are you bold enough to come into my abode and tell me what I have to do, but you think me dull enough to fall in your tricks and lies” he took a step forward and faced the Vermin Lord “Your paltry hordes invade my domains and your bastard sons slay those who are under my protection. I shall not tolerate this offense!”.

 

He raised his right hand, and his sword appeared in it. Hellscreech it was called, for each time it was taken into battle, it screamed with the wail of the damned, filling the enemies' hearts with terror.

 

Another gesture, and a massive armor covered him entirely. Forged in the scorching vales of Hell itself and templed in the icy waters of the Styx, many foes thought themselves capable of piercing its invincible protection, only to fall under the blade of Hellscreech after their weapon was shattered.

 

Seeing that Beast was once more armed and ready for war, fear took root in the heart of the demons, for they knew that even the Reaper avoided him when he was possessed by the frenzy of battle. The Vermin Lord, fearing his end was near, prayed to the dark powers he served, disappearing from view along with his lord and master. His mocking voice, however, could be heard clearly.

 

“It's true that you are the strongest among us, Beast, but you are not the most powerful among the Seven. You can see how your limitless strength availed you nothing as my sons slaughtered those you have vowed to protect” his voice turned into a mad cackling that faded away in the caverns, as the demons went in search of a new sacrifice for their lords.

 

Once the demons were away, a strong tremor could be felt in the bowels of the earth. The dead had already wiped out all of the town's population, eating their flesh and drinking their blood. Filled with the dark power emanating from the Vermin Lord's will, those who were killed rose up again, yearning for hot flesh and blood. Equalled in death with their slayers, they now stumbled down the caves, looking to devour the one who had been their guardian and protector.

 

“Excellent” thought Beast before the battle frenzy possessed him again “At last a chance to drown my sins in blood”.

 

Joined by the wail of the damned and yelling the name of his true master, the demon rushed to the slaughter.

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