Note; An Asterisk represents ongoing editing, and so anything marked thus is unfinished.
Fear pierced its cold talons deeper into me as the door began to grumble open. Why was my Gran so reluctant to send me? It seemed more than just family love, something secret and hidden that I would never find out. From what i gather, as soon as we get through the door we’ll pass through a gate between worlds and be immediately captured within this demon stronghold
We passed through in pairs, cuffed by a single bracer with a chain linking us. I end up being linked with an older boy, he looks a lot less scared than the rest and in a last glance before heading through the gate i catch him grinning to himself, as if his favourite joke just made an appearance in his mind.
The whole world spins and churns when we get past the doors threshold making it impossible to make out shapes or objects, just a wash of colour and movement spinning together and separating at the same time. Its almost like im floating, nothing to plant my feet on, just hovering through endless colours. Sound is just a meld of whooshes and lapping, as though i had my ear pressed against the tide of a beach. With the motion beginning to fade, hard ground seems to materialise underfoot, its like a stiff, crunchy type of soil. Beside solid objects, sounds begin to come into focus, the swirling and whooshing shifting into screams and cries of fear and distress. As the veil of colour lifts into landscape and area, it quickly becomes clear that i didn’t end up in the right place, I wasn’t on the plate where they said we’d arrive. I could see it though, i could see the huge, decorated, metal disk laiden with crumpled bodies and gouts of blood. There were dozens slumped against each other, lots of dismembered corpses laid prone and a handful limply crawling away from the half dozen demons standing in various places around the dish.
Each demon lookes vaguely similar with a humanoid stature but huge horns rising on either side of their heads, like that from a bull. What seemed to be a fearsome face, upon closer inspection is simply a black mask with white inscriptions. All six demons had a large blade held tightly in their muscular hands, each one slightly different but all of them featuring a red diamond painted or etched somewhere on the blade.
Scanning the slaughter scene one last time, the demons argue between themselves about something I fail to understand before leaving in a hurry.“How did we survive? What are we going to do?” Said the boy to my right, crouched low over a ridge of dirt. “We’re dead, they’re dead, everyone is dead!” He continued frantically going over the events getting louder and more frantic with each passing comments until he was stood on this ridge shouting into the air for an answer. “Calm down, those demons were here not long since, they cant be far!” I whispered up to him, but he was lost in his fear and futility. When his episode of wailing suddenly ceased when he turned to me with a mix of emotions in his eyes. Two of those emotions stood out like a lantern in a darkwood forest, fear and acceptance. Looking down at me, crouched at the bottom of this ridge he closed his eyes just as the arrow pierced his neck, launching him from the ridge and into a bloody heap on the ground beside me. Alone and in fear of this unknown assailant, i leap up from my crouch and sprinted for the twisted, darkwood trees. Making a beeline for the cover of trees seemed like the only chance of survival in the few seconds that the older boy had died.
It was cold and damp just like before. It was just as as dirty too, which isnt a surprise because Demons have never been ones for cleanliness, especially since its the Defiler’s cell and nobody wants her to be comfortable. She lay in the farthest corner from the thick metal door, curled into a ball to sustain heat and warmth. The room itself was no more than four metres across and five in length; a low set ceiling which added to the forced claustrophobia and imprisonment. A trail of chains spanned from the adjacent corner to Orodice’s wrists, upon which were a cumbersome pair of rusty metal cuffs restricting her hands. No windows. No inset in the door. No light at all, despite a dull glowing orb hanging from the centre of the room. It was magical, but by no means useful in this predicament.
But this wasn’t her first visit, although she wished this time would be her last. Without the resistance, her people, there was little to fight and care fir anymore. She’d tried to mask her despair at hearing of their defeat, but now the dam had broken and tears came freely. All that she cared about and loved was gone; all those years of service work to rank so highly in the group - gone. She couldn’t bring back those eight years and now she had no reason to fight, no reason to live. Why should she carry on?
The orb in the room dimmed.
Too caught up in her despair she didn’t notice the change in lighting. The light continued to diminish, quickening in its decline until there was nothing but a flicker remaining. Only then did Orodice break from her trance and absorb her changing surrounds. As she finally caught on to the shift in lighting, the room plunged into darkness and she could no longer see. The darkness was absolute, a pure and empty void, as if staring into the deepest evil in all of existence. It was overwhelming.
But not for Orodice. She sat with folded legs preparing for the inevitable, Death. It would come for her soon, the darkness is what spreads on his coming. Her previous mood held no semblence on her face, she was back to being a steely wall of ferocity. “One must face Death with a clear mind” is the mantra of a friend of hers once, but he is long since gone.
As she recalled the memory of her past friend and mentor, the darkness rippled slightly, and began to form the outline of a humanoid, but jet black. This figure seemed to step out of thin air, and stood over Orodice, silent and calculating. The figure was vivid in the lore of this world, the one who takes and never returns and now he’d come for Orodice, with nobody to guide her judgement and nobody to stop her making a mistake, she fell into his embrace and was stolen from sight in the misty darkness.
A large man blundered through the dining room door into the room which we were sat in. I leapt up, ready to fight and fend off this burly opposition. He was both tall and muscular, more than a match for me but the primal defensive instinct burst within me, and I was prepared to face him.
"So i take it Ainsley is on his way? You never knock, and ill be having words about this." Boomed a voice from over my shoulder.
Arms folded, Gran stood glaring up at this huge man, brandishing a face that would make Death itself think twice. It wasn’t her face or her tone that caught me by surprise, or even how this man had blundered into our house, but that she knew this man and knew for what purpose he was here.
"Um, I’m sorry, he told me it was, er, urgent ma’am." He replied, avoiding eye contact like a scolded child. Which was another level of crazy, because he was big and I mean, gigantic, atleast six and a half feet with a lean body builder’d physique. How does she know him? I know everyone she does, how can she possibly have relations with whoever he represents.
"I think its about the boy, and er, that situation ma’am." He quickly added, glancing out to the door, likely for this Ainsley fellow.
"Look you, get the hell out of here and tell Ainsley I refuse to let him abuse what he have our hands on! And anyway, he’s family and I will not relinquish him to your custody." Her voice seemed to carry so much weight and force that the man was either physically pressed against the wall or he was scared witless and instinctively moved out of her warpath.
“You know who I am, you know what and who I’ve taken care of and you know my word is law!”
The stare that followed these monumental words was enough to pierce his heart and cut his soul. Taking a step forward she raised a hand, pointed her index finger and jabbed it into her chest.
"I will DIE before I see this lad-.."
And before she completed her statement, a quick interjection came from a slick, slim man striding into the room, the same way the first man had entered.
"Now Mrs D, lets not be hasty about this." Halting directly infront of her.
“You know the duty we uphold, and he must fulfill it, whether we like it or not.” His face turned stern and his charming face became solemn and sombre.
"You have a day to take him to Transition, if you fail to do so we will take him by force and you know that’s no good for anyone. Leave it to us, its what we do."
With that, he placed one hand on her shoulder, gave a little smile and beckoned on his man to exit. The first man left first, leaving Ainsley stood with Gran. Losing all her previous sternness and authority, she glared through teary eyes and whispered, “You promised me it wouldn’t come to this, that we were done.”
Expressionless he flippantly replied, “We’re never done, remember?” And left through the open door, leaving me in the room with Gran, feeling like a sheep in a sandstorm.
Turning to me she gestured to the chair I was sat on before, wiping the tears from her eyes. This all felt overly cryptic, like a scene from a TV drama with cops and conspiracies, and I was in the eye of the hurricane, knowing little of the big picture and just seeming glimpses as they flash by. Little did I know, that hurricane was about to become forty days and nights of global, torrential rain.
It was all a barrage of information, but to condense the main points, there was realm called the “Outworld” where there were real demons, demons who are obsessed with humans and certainly not in a good way. A highly important demon holds spectator contests where humans are killed in front of hordes of demons in his arena; Apparently it keeps them at bay for whatever reason and keeps us safe. That’s all well and good, but I was to become one of these sacrifices because it’s the duty of a syndicate of families to send their children as offerings to appease these demons. Which explained why Gran was so adamant and so fearful of them taking me away to them. And now I was sat here, in a room at some huge institute in the middle of nowhere, with loads of other people waiting to step through into whatever hellhole they’re sending us into.
"So how is everyone?" A young lad across the room chirped, which broke the silence in the room. His gaze darted between people, obviously waiting for a reply, a huge, joyful grin on his face.
"I’m flippin’ freezing, I’ll freeze before we get any further!" he continued, after receiving no reply from anyone. Bumping the young man next to him with his elbow, he chuckled in the same cheery tone. "Why the long face chum? You look like you’re on death row!" but his laughter was cut to an abrupt end when yet another boy stood up from his bench and bellowed what everyone else was thinking and feeling.
"Look you, through that door there is a world full of blood, horror and a shit tonne of death so let us have our last moments before we die in a bloody horrible manner, OKAY?!" glaring at the boy and still pointing at the door behind him, he sat down and retreated into his metaphorical shell. If anything would have cheered me up before I went in there, it was not that.
Saliva dripped in globules to the floor in front of the huge beast stood staring through a rusted portcullis. Its jaw was a cavern of dagger-like teeth that glistened in rows, guarding the leathery, granite coloured tongue that slithered around the creatures huge maw. The demonic animal resembled a snake in the face, with huge, unblinking eyes and large oval scales overlapping each other. With the body of a dog, this thing looked freakishly fast due to the sheer amount of muscles that spanned every visible part of the animal, rippling out as this thing stretched and moved. Turning to its eight identical companions, the hellish Dogsnake grinned a wide, maniacal grin.
Behind the portcullis on the otherwise of the area, a woman in matte black chainmail armour stood sweeping her lengthy hair to and fro over her shoulders. Simultaneously she swung two cutlasses around her, throwing them up and down and catching them while continuing to swing them around and around. A grimy scar snaked down from the ridge of her left eyebrow to past the right corner of her mouth. But by no means was she any less than fiercely beautiful. Her light brown hair, twined with gritty, foul gore, stopped swinging and the warrior trained her eyes on the portcullis, both globes burning with hatred, fear and determination.
As the great mechanical sound rung across the tunnel and out into the light, her blades came to rest neatly beside her.
"RELEASE THE DEMONS AND ORODICE THE DEFILER!" boomed a massive, fearsome voice from above.
The portcullis in front of her was quickly hoisted up despite its great size and weight. Her first step was met with a huge choral jeer from spectators in a giant colloseum-esque arena and the harsh, frosty winds biting her face. Striding towards the second portcullis which had also opened, Orodice crossed her blades, focused on the demons and broke into a sprinting charge.
Seconds later they were upon each other, the human berserker crushing the skulls of two demons instantly, with a single swing of her sabers. Following with a twist of her body she sank the blade of her left weapon down into another demons soft flesh at the side of the creature’s neck. A well placed block with her right sword hilt deflected a demon assailant from her right flank, sending it soaring off back the way it came. For many more minutes, Orodice blocked assault after assault from the circling mob of snapping jaws and sharp talons. They were simply too fast to dispatch like before, they wouldn’t underestimate her like the others.
Snagging a glance at the rows upon rows of spectators, sat in a huge obsidian observation box was a tall, looming, shadowy figure, who’s topaz eyes seemed to penetrate her very essence.
This momentary lapse in focus allowed two demons to leap in and take the opportunity to strike. One clawed at her arm, ripping two bloody chunks from her forearm, and the other hitting her with a barreling slam to her kneecap, sending her sprawling downwards to the crisp snowy ground. Dropping both her swords, caught completely by surprise, Orodice hit the the cold stone hard. The other demons fought each other in a frenzy to finish her off, scratching and mauling her too, drawing ribbons of blood. The bloody floodgates had opened and Orodice fought to stand up again, tearing at the ground and her enemies, looking for leverage or her weapons.
She couldn’t find grip on anything as the demons began to cease bickering and close in to finish the kill. Losing hope she kicked out wildly, flailing her arms in tandem trying to inflict maximum damage before her imminent death while jaws snapped around her boot dragging her inch by inch closer to doom.
Then it all went silent. The demons froze, looking up to the observation box high up in the stands, from which the shadowy figure took a step forward from the gloom and stood smiling down at the remaining demons and Orodice in a bloody heap.
"So Orodice, will you continue to fight me? I crushed the last of your fighters last time, and now you have nothing left out there to run to. You’re weak, although you were able to dispatch dozens of my minions, you cannot win and now you have no allies left to rally."
Orodice smiled up to the demon clearly visible, even from this distance. Standing well over ten feet tall, with charcoal-black skin with golden markings and runes littering his entire body. Wearing an intricate piece of armour around his waist, leaving his bare chest to show, with only thick strap holding a single pauldron to his left shoulder, sheathed to that, was his enormous claymore; This massive blade which although Onyx-black in colour, still radiated a fog and glow, was heartless named Soul Cleave. Though fearsome in his entirety, none of this softened the hatred burning in his citrine eyes; cold, bloodthirsty but most of all, scheming. The shimmer and glint deep in the soul, that even from this distance, Orodice could see as clear as day.
"You might as well kill me now, Hubris. It may not be me who carves a hole in that chest, but by the Winds i’ll see you dead." She snarled, being dragged away by two bulky, demons. Taking one last glance at the huge demon, she spat bloody and gore from her mouth, and cursed to the sky before passing out.
Another cold afternoon, the sun gently edging towards the horizon signifying a soon end to this Autumn day. I sat on a lone bench in the middle of this park, wrapped up in my hoodie. I often came here to watch the change day to day, the trees, the pond and even the people, things always changed and rather quickly at that. The leaves on the trees changed from green, to yellow, to a golden brown then to red before dying and being replaced by fresh new versions of their previous variants. But saying that, the tree might grow, it might lose some branches or twigs but it would always be there, like everything rotated around it no matter what, deeply rooted in the earth, into life and fate.
So busy gazing at the setting sun and the trees in that direction, I didn’t notice the old fellow plonk himself onto the bench next to me. Startled, I let out a little yelp, and fumbled with my clothes a little, fear gripping me for the few seconds it took for me to register that I was in no danger. He smiled and held a hand out in response to my clear discomfort.
“Jumpy aren’t you?” He commented, smiling gently in my direction.
“My name is Harold, but I know you young ones like to abbreviate, so Harry will do.” He continued, beaming at me with his hand still extended. “Well, I’m Ste” I replied reluctantly, moving to shake his hand.
He took it firmly and shook heartily.
“It sure is beautiful isn’t it?” He smiled, glancing over to me and gesturing to the now half-set sun. Looking back to the scene I’d been fixated with earlier, I nodded repeatedly.
“What are you doing out here so late? It’ll get cold soon, you should head home.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure? You young ones think you’re indestructible.”
“Hah, if only!” I turned, smirking at the elderly gentleman.
He looked frail, but he had a strong, firm hand shake suggesting he’d kept himself ship shape throughout his life.
As the sun finally sank beneath the horizon, I turned and stood up, offering a hand to help the man up.
“You’re right, it is quite late. Thank you, ill be heading home.” I said, as he stood up without the aid of my outstretched hand.
He then produced a silvery green pocket watch from his cost pocket and checked the time before returning it into it’s former location.
“Nice to meet you … Ste, was it?”
“Well, I hope to meet you again then!” He chirped, turning and strolling off to the right.
The walk home was typically uneventful, passing only a few people on the dimly lit streets. Everything seemed so much darker though, even though I was used to the nighttime conditions as I usually walked home at this time. Things felt strangely different, like something crucial had shifted in the sky and a star had been extinguished. As soon as I got in, I ran up the stairs and crashed onto the my bed.
The fried eggs and bacon were the wake-up call into this fine Saturday, reminding my brain that this day would be filled by delight and bloody good food. Grandma’s food is second to nobodies, I reckon it could be luxury restaurant material. Plodding down the stairs in an over-sized, furry, blue dressing gown that trailed behind on the higher step, I turned at the bottom of the stairs and headed through to the delicious smell. There was my Grandma, not in a typical Gran image of apron and such, but sweat on her brow, a huge grin on her wise face and two small hands thrusting those perfect sandwiches into my own hands. I took them gratefully, so thankful for this gift of true joy.
She sat at the table next to me and looked me in the eyes as I took several hearty bits of the food. Her expression was difficult to read, but worry was evident but with a burning hope and determination in her hazel eyes.
"Steven.. There’s a lot we need to talk about. You’re 17 now and our family has rules about what happens when one of you turn 18, which is not long away at all." The looked that followed set my stomach on the uneasy journey that happened when you just knew they were about to drop a bombshell. This was a look that I had certainly not seen before. and that scared the hell out of me.
See, I don’t live with my Mum and Dad like a normal kid. Nope, my mum has never been there, ever, and that hurts me a lot. But then again, I have my Gran who fills that slot hundreds of times over. Both Grandad and my Dad disappeared when I was younger and nobody speaks of why, Nobody apparently needs to. But I want to. I want to know about this big secret that is so earth shattering that I can’t know!
As if scripted, a huge crash at the front door sounded into the dining room, and both our heads snapped to the door, awaiting the culprit of the commotion.
A massive room stretched tens of metres in width and an undetermined amount length ways. Pillars rose from the floor at met with the ceiling which sat atleast thirty feet above the stone flagged floor. The room was pitch black, but that inky blackness seemed like it shifted, clawing at the pillars and any solid structure. Cracked and broken, like many of the pillars and stone items, was the large staircase that swept down from a ten foot tall stone door, which was open enough for a wide person to enter through. A grimy black moss grew heavily around most features of the room and especially abundantly around the door frame and across both big doors.
Stood at the foot of the shattered staircase leading down from the open door was a thick, muscular man who slammed his warhammer square into a stone flag. Dust swirled around the hammer’s head as it thundered through the slab. Tilting the heavy warhammer at a comfortable angle, the wielder placed an ornate, armoured boot onto the head of the weapon. Leaning across the handle, a man in full plate armour raised his hand and dragged the plumed helmet from off his head, revealing a mane of well-groomed but worn hair. Expressionlessly he scanned the cavernous room, wall to wall and up to it’s tall ceiling, the only emotion was of that in his eyes, a fierce desire. A fierce desire for something, or someone.
As this muscular, but aged man rustled and stretched in his intricate and fine armour. A lean, athletic man jumped from a ledge above to land beside him. Without even the most minute of movements, the hammer wielder announced confidently “Here. There can be no question. It is here.”
Nodding, the lean man, brandishing a large bow drew an arrow draped in cloth and passed it across the only torch in the room. It set alight, and the ranger prepared to fire it toward the roof of the cavern.
Before he could fire, two final members appeared from shadows either side of the pair.The first, a crooked woman, hunched under a cloak and clutching a dull, patternless symbol. She peered from underneath at the second figure, a slim, tall man with no visible weaponry and a wiry smile.
He seemed to share the confidence of the armoured man, that whatever they seeked, was close. With a cheery tone he chimed “Indeed it is. Lets get to it then, Al, if you please.”
Turning to meet the tall man, what appeared to be the leader, roared “I give the orders here, remember? You’re a guest among us, and will be afforded the correct privileges. Alian, provide the vision.”
Nodding in response to his order, Alian let loose his flaming arrow which sailed across the room lighting it up little by little, before disappearing several metres later. With a grunt, the Leader swung his huge hammer up across his shoulders and proceeded ahead, holding his free hand up to signal the advance.
As the party moved through the darkness, it curled and swam through the air around them, like a heavy mist. Shapes formed and dissipated in turn around every pillar, and at everywhere they looked. “Stare deep into the abyss, and the abyss stares deeper into you.” croaked the cloaked woman as she gazed down at her hand clutching the symbol.
Soon a large arch came into view and then the stairway of which it adorned. The black moss grew even thicker here and black vines draped themselves down from the archway and despite the lack of wind down in this subterranean tomb, the vines shifted around waving and taunting the group.
It was impossible to make anything out beyond the vines and the eerie shifting darkness, but trudging ahead, led by their Leader, they passed the veil of vines and began the ascent up the staircase to whatever lay within.
The temperature in here seemed to drop several degrees upon passing the vines as if life had been extracted from the group as they entered this new domain. The air around seemed to vibrate with increasingly more energy which each extra step they took.
"Hes here. Just as you predicted Mymran." The Leader turned and said in a low voice, concealing his message from what he referred to. On this news, all members of the party silently prepared themselves for something big.
In tandum, each one of then left the wide staircase and crossed into an equally big room but replacing the previous darkness was something worse, something the group could never have prepared to meet in this dark, secluded tomb.