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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26. Chapter twenty six

 Erandiril, restless, moved in her mount. Despite being reinstated to the rank she had before her fall from grace, she still didn’t feel comfortable around her comrades-in-arms. After all she had gone through with the Reaper, she wasn’t the same anymore. How could she forget the trials her own kin had put her through? Did they really think she would just forgive and forget?

 

 No, her place wasn’t besides the fae anymore, but someplace else, away from their senseless slaughter in the name of dead lords. She let her gaze wonder to the Reaper, mounted in the impressive warhorse given by the Lords. He seemed to also be lost in his thoughts, ignoring the shadow warriors that joined them, supposedly to make sure their travel south went without incident. After the herald abandoned them, his mood had turned even grimmer than usual, trapped in his own memories and accepting without thinking the Lords’ suggestion of going south to ensure the cooperation of the human realms. To his right rode the Night Prowler, with one hand always on the hilt of one of his daggers.

 

 The journey went without incident. A few days later, they arrived to the city of the southern tower. It was obvious that the inhabitants hadn’t yet gotten used to the change in the landscape. Before, they had looked at the huge construction as a sign of hope: no matter what happened, the tower would still be there, like a solid proof of their race’s pride. But now it had become a menacing shadow, looming over the city like an ominous doom.

 

 They went through the city without an incident, ignoring its inhabitants’ terror. A few hours later they got on the road south towards Forwald, the nearest human kingdom, and the only one with which the fae deigned maintain a modest trade.

 

 As the hours passed, the terrain became barren, the fae farms giving way to seemingly endless plains. Time passed slowly, in a green desert that seemed to absorb even the passing of time.

 

 The soldiers’ sudden agitation broke the monotony. When she looked around, she noticed three people walking on the road towards them. As she got a clearer view of them, she understood their guardians’ confusion.

 

 One of them was an old human with a long, white mane, who walked at a pace many younger men would have envied. To his left there was what seemed to be a hunched elder covered by a black cowl that hid his face. To Erandiril’s surprise, despite being completely wrinkled, it walked at the same speed that the other man.

 

 Behind them was the most imposing figure Erandiril had ever seen. He was undoubtedly a demon, almost twice as tall as the white maned old man, of wide shoulders and arrogant manners. His skin, leathery and rough, was of the same color of dry blood. On his back there were two bulks, that were revealed as two folded wings as they got closer.

 

 Upon seeing this last figure, the captain unsheathed his sword, but before he could move the Reaper held his horse’s reins. “Don’t.” Was all he said, the menace in his voice enough for the captain to comply, watching the newcomers advance until they were a few meters away.

 

 The Wise One walked towards the Reaper, looking him in the eyes. “It has been a long time, my lord.” He said, his voice thick by emotion “The traitor who brought doom to our race walks once again, and both the Blood Sultan and me have decided to take revenge for his actions. Would you accept our help?”

The Reaper got down from his horse and clasped the Wise One’s wrist, and then the Blood Sultan’s. “It will be an honor to fight alongside you once again.” Both of them gave a slight nod to the Night Prowler, who intently watched their “guardians” in case they thought of betraying them.

 

 A burst of laughter made them look at the old man that walked with the demons. “A touching reunion, undoubtedly. Four old comrades reunited to take revenge for a doom of their own making.” His voice suddenly became serious “As you waste your time here, Beast of Agarod prepares for what might be his last battle, down in the south, in Brugenmord.”

 

 When he said this, the Night Prowler seemed to flow off his horse and walked towards the old man, his daggers unsheathed. “Give me one reason not to kill you right now, seraphim scum.” He said, his voice barely above a whisper.

 

 “Because not even you are stupid enough to give it a try.” The voice of the old man had recovered its joyful tone, making the menace in his words even clearer “So step back now, before I decide to send you back to the fetid pit you crawled out of and reignite the eternal war.” As he spoke, a halo of authority seemed to engulf him, making the Night Prowler seem small and insignificant in comparison. The demon finally took a step back, his hands shaking with barely contained fury. The memory of Hell was dim in the demons who had been so long in Creation, but still they feared to return to it.

 

 “Perhaps it’s too late.” Said the strange old man, walking north through the road. A strange fog seemed to materialize around him, engulfing all of them. “You must learn to leave the past behind, Night Prowler, for the war for the fate of this world ended a long time ago. It’s now time to let go of those weights and focus on stopping Death in the Wind, for otherwise there will probably not be a world to fight for when the time comes.”

 

 The fog became thicker, to the point where only a white glow could be seen. From within the fog came the voice of the old man, barely audible “Don’t struggle, my friends. I swear on the name of my master that this will help you in your efforts.”

 

 Grudgingly, the demons forced themselves to relax, allowing the fog to enter their bodies, making them feel light as feathers. The sounds and smells of the plains were slowly dissolving, and a strange calm filled their hearts.

 

 Time seemed to disappear for them, until faint sounds were heard again. First they were senseless murmurs, but soon they gained strength and volume: they were the unmistakable voices of merchants selling their wares, of discussions and haggling, the hooves of horses and slowly advancing carts. The smells changed too. Instead of the plains’ grass and clear air, they were invaded by the stench of oil burned a dozen times too many, vegetables kept for too long and the dung of ill-fed animals.

 

 Suddenly, a gush of wind cleared the fog surrounding them.

 

 The three demons and Erandiril were in an unknown city, whose inhabitants seemed quite angry at the strangers that interrupted their visit to the market.

 

 There was no trace of their escort of shadow warriors.

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