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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20. Chapter twenty

  Trying not to look down, the Reaper held tight to the rock, lifting his heavy body over the top of the cliff. The small fae girl was clinging to his neck with her frail body trembling in the cold. A few instants later the Night Prowler arrived, easily climbing the nearly vertical wall. With both of them up, the Reaper threw a rope to help Erandiril.

 

 Once she was up, they kept advancing, wary at every movement. Erohim lay on the other side of the mountain, so they had to be very cautious to avoid nasty surprises. The detour had been long and tiring, but they hadn’t encountered any patrol on their way.

 

 After going through a steep slope they finally saw their destination: the capital city of the fae empire. Despite the distance, the constructions were truly imposing, rising to the sky as if they wanted to pierce it. None of them, however, stood out as much as the great palace from where the Dream Lords controlled the destiny of their subjects.

 

 Despite the beauty of the buildings, the sight was intimidating. They could see the bloated shapes of the nightmare beasts in the sky, in their endless search for new victims. Erandiril couldn’t believe her eyes: there were at least a dozen abominations. She knew many of the biggest garrisons in the northern frontier couldn’t boast such large numbers. Did the Lords really fear the Reaper that much?

 

 The situation was complicated: they had to reach the Lords, avoiding the troops that guarded their palace. After a brief discussion, they decided to hide themselves until the day arrived and went away.

 

 The waiting was tedious and unpleasant. All of them were expectant about what would happen next. The Reaper and the Night Prowler were engaged in a discussion about what should they do once night fell, while the fae child just lay on the ground and slept peacefully. Erandiril, tired after the long walk, followed her example, but, despite her exhaustion, she couldn’t sleep.

 

 Her mind kept going back to the way her life had changed, from favorite servant to hated traitor. She wasn’t even sure of what she wanted anymore. She hated her old masters, but she at the same time she knew it was impossible to harm them, even if the two demons joined forces. After all, it was the Lords who defeated the demonic armies so long ago, making pacts with powers both ancient and mysterious.

 

 Incapable of sleeping, she stood up. The Reaper was still discussing with the Night Prowler. Seeing her up, he asked her about the troops garrisoned in the city.

 

 “I’m not sure.” She answered “Erohim is still quite far from our northern borders, where we wage war against the nordheim, so usually there aren’t many troops. Before, the biggest amount of troops I’d seen were a couple infantry battalions, a few Shadow Warriors and one or two nightmare beasts, but it was more a display of force than a real military necessity. The palace itself doesn’t have any guardians, at least during normal times; it seems your presence has stirred things up quite a bit.”

 

 The demons listened intently. When she finished, the Reaper said “It’s obvious they’re waiting for me to show up, and that they still fear me. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have taken so many valuable assets from their precious war. We will go at night, let’s see if the Lords are willing to finish the job they gave to their lackeys.”

 

 They spent the afternoon planning. They couldn’t make a fire for fear of the smoke, so they were forced to feed on the meager roots and fruits they could find.

 

 As the day went on, dense cloud covered the sky. When night fell, they started walking. The stars were completely gone, allowing the group to creep in unnoticed.

 

 When they arrived at the city, they found it was completely dark as well. There wasn’t a single light on the windows, and the only torches they saw were those of the patrolling soldiers. They advanced slowly, walking through narrow alleys towards the great palace.

 

 It was past midnight when they finally reached it. The main gate was a ghastly image, for a darkness strange to Creation seemed to ooze out of it. After a few minutes of observation, they noticed that not only the soldiers and Shadow Warriors avoided the dread gate, even the mighty nightmare beasts refused to get near it.

 

 They carefully advanced towards the building, wary of any movement. As they approached, the darkness surrounding the gate seemed to ebb and flow, as if it wanted to escape its prison and engulf all of Creation. They finally went through it, finding themselves in absolute darkness.

 

 Incapable of advancing or going back, they stood still…

 

     And then the horror started.

 

 The voice of those they had met in the past swirled in a maelstrom, lashing their skin and making their blood boil. They tried to resist, but the voices slowly weakened their will, forcing them to their knees. The fae child, however, stood there, seemingly unaware of her companions’ agony.

 

 Erandiril was about to surrender her soul when the voices stopped. She struggled to get back on her feet, noticing that the darkness had retreated, revealing strange shapes in the limit of her vision.

 

 A faint whisper was heard, booming as if it came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time “Your presence is not welcome here, Reaper.” The sound was soft as velvet, seemingly made out of hundreds of voices with different tones “Not even you can defy us in our sanctuary. Say what you will, and we shall grant you a quick death.”

 

 The Reaper stood firm and spat on the surrounding darkness “I fear nothing. Not you, and certainly not anyone from your races of slaves!” He thundered, not caring about the fate he could suffer in that accursed place “Death in the Wind has come back to this world, and he wants to summon the hellish hordes to raze it. You can leave your idiotic war and survive, or you can keep on with it and see your precious empire turned to ashes.”

 

 The answer came in the shape of tendrils of darkness that sprang out to hold him. He immediately sprang to action, ripping them as they came near. The Night Prowler did the same, his daggers going tirelessly up and down, keeping the tide of darkness away. Erandiril, barely conscious, could only watch the combat, vaguely wondering if her wounds were numbing the horror she thought she should feel. The fae child stood steady with her arms behind her back, examining the scene as if she was waiting for something to happen.

 

 Finally, a tendril seized her by her ankle and lashing wildly, made her strike head-first against the floor.

 

 The envoy smiled: the time had come.

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