Erik walked out into the village’s dirt roads, seeing hundreds of villagers standing around with Thea and five other knights at their lead. Lioness immediately rushed to grip onto Thea, as she approached Erik alongside the other knights.
“Erik, these are my comrades in arms.” Thea began gesturing at each, “My younger sister, Kayle Selene.” Kayle was shorter than Thea but with similar features, long light-brown hair and dark brown eyes. Unlike her elder sister, Kayle wielded a longbow.
Thea named off the other four, Simon, Nerick, Victus and Kim. Yet Erik did not pay much attention to either, putting the names to memory albeit doubting he’d need to remember most.
“And this is the village mayor, George Kolev.” She gestured at one other man that walked forth with them, an elderly human with greying short hair but a strongly built body.
George forwarded his hand to Erik, a human gesture of friendship he remembered before taking the man’s hand. “Colonel Selene tells me you’re a trustworthy mage? How do you intend to aid us get through this apocalypse?” George asked, his eyes sullen, his smile barely a hint of hope to show. His tone, full of dread.
Erik stretched his fingers after the handshake, the man was strong for his age. He then spoke with a raised voice for all to hear, “I am Erik…Fireborn. A traveller from afar, a caster of magic and a study of demonkind. Escaping the hell that is about to be upon you will be no easy task.”
Everyone turned to look at him, silent as to hear him clearly. “Escape now and you shall be trampled over. That much I can assure you. What I cannot assure you is that you will all survive. It is a fact, many of you will die.”
“Then why are we listening to you?” Asked one of the knights, Nerick if his mind served him right.
Erik turned to the spearman, “Because, I can at least show you the path to where some will survive. And better some than nobody at all wouldn’t you say?” Nerick did not respond and so Erik turned back to the rest. “Retreat is a fine course of action, but premature retreat will only cause your destruction. Instead, I have an alternative suggestion.”
“Here, you have walls. Resources, knowledge of the terrain and the advantage of it.” Erik gestured around at the village, “You will not run. No you will stand here, in this village. You will fight.”
“Fight? Are you mad?” Exclaimed one villager, “If we stay we’ll be slaughtered!”
“No, if you run you’ll be slaughtered.” Erik corrected with a stern tone, “You will never make it to Druvia alive. None of you will. The fiends alone will run you down like lions chasing cattle. But if you fight, then at least you stand a chance.”
“What chance do we stand?” grumbled Nerick once more.
Erik glanced at him, then at the rest of the village. Morale was non-existent. Worse so the villagers themselves began whispering to each other, of how the walls were too short, the gates too weak, how the army of demons will barely feel their bones as they step over them.
“Yes, the walls are short. Yes, your gates are puny. But do not mistake yourselves. What marches towards Beckton will not be the entire demon army but a chunk of it, as the rest breaks off to raid the entirety of this land.” Erik explained, raising his voice further to speak above the whispers.
He glanced at the walls, “You aren’t alone either.” Deciding he needed to do something about the morale. “You say these walls are too short?” Erik smirked as he kneeled down where he stood, placing his right index finger into the dirt beneath him. He drew a circle, designed the interior with strange twists and turns before inscribing stranger characters within.
He stood once more and took a step back, “You, place your palms over this circle.” He told Nerick, who looked at him with confusion while pointing at himself. “Yes, you.” Erik repeated, and after a nudge from Thea the man did as told.
Kneeling with his back to Erik, Nerick placed both his palms over the circle. “Don’t move, don’t say a word.” Erik said, as he kneeled behind the man and placed his right palm over Nerick’s back. Erik felt the mana suddenly surge through his right arm and into Nerick’s back, retaining control over it he used the man’s body to lessen the impact over his own. Flowing the energy down into the circle, then into the ground below.
Erik chanted, “Earthen spirits grant us your favour, such as you raised mountains, lend us that power.” Infusing his voice with mana as not to use his draconic tongue. “I summon forth your energy, I summon forth your element. Earth School; Fortress of Stone!”
He let go of the man’s back right after ending the chant, standing up with a slight numbness in his arm and a brief moment of dizziness. Nerick on the other hand, fell back onto his ass, sweating profusely as he took several drawn out and weary breaths.
“You say your walls are small. I order otherwise.” Erik spoke as he gestured forwards, suddenly the brick walls exploded upwards. The earth beneath it had begun to rise, flowing upwards while retaining the wall’s shape. It grew, several dozen meters higher it grew.
“Let us see a fiend leap over that.” Erik smugly exclaimed, as all stared in awe at the now ninety feet high wall of stone. About thirty feet thick all around it also had long staircases along its side, going all the way up to the top while stopping every two storeys, taking through a doorway and inside the stone wall itself. The gates though were not stone, but instead solid iron and three feet thick. A tunnel from the outside taking to each of the two.
Feeling the numbness slowly dissipate, Erik turned to face George as he also spun about, staring at the wall in awe. “With my aid, I will make sure that the people here survive. As many as possible. But, I cannot force you to fight. You have to decide for yourselves.” He said.
Erik did just as he was taught, not to hold their hand and force their way. No, Erik gave them an option, and it was for them to choose.
George’s gaze fell upon him, studying the man that looked all too young to be this powerful a mage. A man that comes with word of doom if they escape, and hope of survival if they fight… Should he trust this man? Should he bet the lives of his entire village to this man?
He was unsure, Erik had saved Thea’s life, a knight sent here to aid the villagers in evacuating… So he turned to her, “What do you think, lady knight?” he asked. “If what he says is true, then fighting is our only chance. But that begs the question of how true his words are.”
Thea was staring up at the wall, her eyes shining with a hope that hadn’t been there before. “It’s been two days since the last attack. A harassment that had occurred each morning or night. I too find it suspicious. To be completely honest Mayor? I believe him.”
George sighed, as he caressed his greying beard. “Tell me Erik Fireborn. What do you get out of this?” he asked, turning to meet his eyes. “I like to think that I’m an excellent judge of character. And you do not seem like the empathic type.”
“M-Mayor!” Thea objected.
“No, knight. He is correct to assume so.” Erik said as he met George’s eyes, “Indeed my objective is not the defence of your people but the contrary. My goal is the destruction of all that comes to corrupt nature. And at the moment, the Devil’s kin are at the very top of my extermination list.” He explained solemnly. “Our objectives simply seem to align.”
George hummed thoughtfully, trying to discern anything about Erik. Was it revenge against the demons that he wanted? No, he saw something similar in his eyes but not quite the same. He had seen the eyes of vengeance before, Erik did not wear them. No, Erik had something else in his eyes, something else in his heart that George could see.
Erik was out for blood, but not for any sort of vendetta. What George saw in him was a thirst for redemption, a resolve to redeem himself.
“Very well then, we are in your very capable hands. Mage.” George said, turning to stare up at the wall once more. He knew what it felt like to want to redeem a mistake. It was a powerful force that drove many, even him at some younger age in the past. (“But will it be enough?”) he asked himself, remembering also his own failures.
Several hours later
Nerick stood above the wall, staring off at the dead forest in the distance. The weariness of before having dissipated, it was replaced with a thirst for action, as an unknown energy flowed through him. What was it? He did not know, but if felt like a rush of adrenaline that he had no control over.
He glanced back at the unknown mage below, standing next to the stone well alongside their platoons priestess, Kim. (“If this works…Lord be I’ll buy you as many drinks as you want.”) Nerick grinned, trying to calm his own nerves with humour.
“There!” suddenly exclaimed Kayle from below, the only archer remaining in their platoon. She was put in charge of the villagers wielding bows, while he was in charge of those at the very top who wielded long spears.
He turned to look at the forest, and sure enough as night fell the demons began marching out. His heart sank, true to Erik’s words it wasn’t the entire army but there was still more than a thousand monstrosities walking right towards them.
Alongside the fiendish beasts there were also other creatures of hell. Dark shadows that oozed about the demons wielding long pitch black and jagged blades, shade-wraiths. Tall humanoid creatures, shorter than the normal fiend these had bodies of black armoured carapace and leathery black wings, pit-fiends. Then lastly there was the abominations, humans or any other kind of non-demonic sentient being, corrupted to the core and turned into a servant. These were thralls, and they made up most of their numbers.
Nerick watched as the small army gathered outside the village’s fields, every step they took the corruption flowed out further, killing all matter of crops and drying the land of life. They stopped, forming a long line of horror.
From the very centre walked out a different being altogether, humanoid still but taller than even a fiend. This creature had molten red skin, shining bright gold and violet from the raw energy that flowed through its body. It wore a crimson set of armour that shone of just as much corrupted heat as its own body while wielding a similarly demonic axe.
“Aww, the humans made their wall taller.” The demon purred, amused and elated at the challenge. His voice permeating the air, not loud but through his magiks, reaching their ears nonetheless. “Know my name, measly rats. I am Jekozon, Demon Lord of my sire’s, servant of the Devil King Azruxan.” He swung his axe ahead of himself, the weapon’s blade trailing violet flames behind.
Jekozon raising his axe forward, the fiends roared hungrily, the shades hissed thirsty for blood and the pit fiends bellowed their war cry. “And for the Devil King Azruxan, I claim your souls.” The army charged forwards, thralls rushing ahead of anything else, running on all fours with greater speed than any human possibly could.
Nerick had never felt so afraid in his life, watching the demonic army charge after hearing their lord’s voice took all the fight out of him. Glancing about he saw the pale faces of the villagers too, each one ready to drop their weapons and take off. (“This is bad…”) he thought, (“This is very bad.”) all it would take was one deserter and he felt that their entire force would abandon their given posts.
Then, he felt something. A feeling he had only felt once before, a pull at his mind, as he turned to look down at Erik. Sensing something aloft, as if attracted by the mage’s spell he turned to watch.
Erik held his palms over Kim’s back as she held hers towards the stone well, a large piece of parchment being held up before her by some villager. He could not hear the words Erik spoke, but the quaking ground beneath his feet told him that everything had begun.
Just as Erik had explained, he’d make the first strike. As suddenly the well exploded, a massive rush of water gushing out and blowing the top off in its wake. The water did not fall yet though, no the water flowed about in the air as more and more rushed out to join it. Until there was a bubble the size of the entire village above them, dimming out the moon’s light as it floated over towards the south.
Hovering over onto the charging demons. As all but the thralls stopped mid charge, to stare up in confusion at the mass of water that suddenly began falling down upon them.
With great force the bubble of water drenched the army, forcing many to the ground with its weight. The water spread out, sinking into the tilled earth, turning the entire field into a lake of mud. Nerick watched with renewed vigor, very little of the demons were injured but the attack had done its job.
The entire army was severely slowed down, as only the shades who hovered above the water and the pit-fiends who leaped with their wings could traverse without too much trouble. The thralls and fiends, on the other hand, had to fight against the water and mud, thralls having to swim while the fiends struggled to even walk properly.
“You think a little rain will stop us!?” Exclaimed the demon lord, chuckling in amusement as he himself hovered over the water, its surface beneath him boiling into steam. “Go my minions, serve your liege! They have only prolonged their doom!”
Roaring out once again the army of demons continued forward, the shade-wraiths flying ahead of everything else while the pit-fiends lagged slightly behind them, leaping with each stop as they could neither swim or float.
“Ready yourselves!” Nerick shouted, urging the spearmen nearby him into action, readying to deal with the shades and pit-fiends that were sure to come first.
He heard Kayle shout from below as well, “Archers nock! Draw!” she ordered, “Loose!” as a rain of projectiles fired forth from within the wall’s slits then upon the approaching shades and pit-fiends.
The villagers were not trained bows men at all but with the sheer number of arrows raining upon them, several shades began to fall as the iron-tipped projectiles pierced through their shadowy forms. Most going right through and dealing no damage at all, but some hitting their mark through sheer luck and destroying their hidden cores.
Dispersing the shadowy figures.
Yet what mostly suffered from the arrows were the pit-fiends and thralls. The pit-fiends having difficulty moving through the muddy waters they were forced to use their wings to leap, wings all too small to allow them to actually fly. The thralls were just massacred in droves, unable to evade the coming rain of arrows as they swam and sunk in the mud.
The bestial fiends though resisted the arrows, their bulky bodies barely feeling the needle-like attacks. Regenerating whatever small wounds, the arrows made. Pushing through the muddy waters, held back by their large forms but tall enough that they did not need to swim.
Nerick prepared to face the coming shades, spear ready to stop the first charge to then switch to his short sword and engage the rest. He waited, watching as the trails of shadows approached the wall.
When he then heard, Erik’s voice from below, as if it permeated the air just like the demon lord’s. “Arm your bow, archer.” He said.
Erik rushed over towards the wall, “Gust” he casted quickly, as an explosion of air occurred beneath his feet. Sending him flying up, then gently landing him at the wall’s second storey where the archers lay. He walked in, and glanced about looking for someone while villagers shakily fired volley after volley.
“Keep shooting until I say so!” he heard Kayle’s order, urging the villagers that had frozen from fear to continue firing.
He approached her, just as she fired two arrows at once. “Arm your bow, archer.” He told her, placing his right hand over her left shoulder. Kayle glanced back at him in surprise, “Take aim, for the fiends.” He told her and she simply nodded in response.
Kayle nocked and took aim, “They’re still far but…I can hit the front row.” She told him.
“Good enough.” Erik said, “But ready yourself, this is one of my main elements after all. You might feel more than just numb after this.” He warned her. (“Normally to cast this I wouldn’t need a chant but… best lessen the brunt of mana usage. For me and her.”) he decided, then focusing on flowing his mana into the ranger.
“Coming before the thunder it wrecks havoc upon all and every.” Erik began to chant, ”The blinding light sears like a god’s crooked blade as it befalls upon the unsuspecting.” Bright blue electricity suddenly surging from his palm, into Kayle’s body, and converging on her bow.
”Surge with the powers of balanced destruction and life.” Kayle felt the energy flow through her, a numbing surge of power seemingly at her very finger tips. She did not resist, she let herself go entirely, allowing the energy in. Allowing it through, as it formed at her arrow tip.
“Lightning School; Lightning Call!” Erik exclaimed, and in response Kayle loosed the arrow. Sparks of blue lightning still clinging to her fingers as it flowed into the arrow, while it flew, trailing the energy behind it.
Erik took a step back, his arms falling uselessly to his side, no feeling what so ever coming from either of them. Yet he stood, holding himself up even through the nauseating dizziness that followed. “Did you know, archer. That water can only conduct electricity with impurities? Impurities like soil. Therefore mud, as ineffective as it might sound, is also a conductor.” He explained with a wide grin, watching through the slit in the stone.
Watching the arrow whistle through the air, and falling upon the fiends. It embedded itself into one’s forehead where it sparked a few times, seemingly uselessly, as the fiend reached up to pull it out…
Yet suddenly before it could, its entire body exploded, bright blue electricity surging out into its surroundings like many lightning strikes. Many a fiend was incinerated by those, but what truly decimated them was how the attack reacted with the terrain.
The electricity surged through the muddy waters, spreading out across the entire field. Electrifying fiend, pit-fiend and thrall alike.
Any remaining thrall or pit-fiend were electrocuted to death. The fiends, on the other hand, took massive amounts of damage, but resisted most of it. The tough leather that made up their skin was mostly fried but in turn, saving their innards. Although many a fiend collapsed from the sheer shock anyway.
Kayle and the other archers stared out in frozen awe, briefly frozen, as the elation within them rose into a bellow. They cheered, cries of renewed resolve filling the wall as they all returned to their shooting.
Stopping in surprise, as dozens of shades flew past their windows, flying up the wall with horrifying ease.
Erik clicked his tongue in annoyance, the fight had only begun and he was already out. His arms too numb to form magic circles, much less cast mana. He heard the clashing above, spearmen countering the shade’s first charge as he ordered them to. Using the spear’s ease of use and precision to massacre many a shade by piercing their cores.
Yet still he heard the cries of pain, as men and women alike died shitting themselves. The merciless horrors that were shade wraiths, running through them albeit being completely outnumbered by the villagers.
“Archers! Drop your bows! Unsheathe your swords!” He shouted at the villagers on his level, “Stop those shades!” he told them, and as Kayle strapped her bow and unsheathed her dual blades everyone else followed.
He watched as the dozens of villagers rushed up the stairs.
Nerick plunged his spear forward as the first shade flew over the edge before him, missing the hidden core within its shadowy body he immediately backed off before striking once more. This time hitting the blasted crystal, shattering it on contact and dispersing the demonic shadow. He glanced about as dozens of shades rushed up, charging into his spearmen, very little of them being killed as most flew right through.
Slicing, dicing, tearing and ripping people apart with their dual blades of horror. Splattering blood all around them, flesh no more than butter beneath their heated knives.
“Disperse!” Nerick ordered, and just as Erik had told them the large group of spearmen broke up into two groups. Dropping their spears, they ran from the shades, each group moving further down either side of the wall.
“Regroup! Reform!” Nerick told them, as each turned and unsheathed their swords, hammers and axes. Picking up shields that lay ready on the ground for them, makeshift wooden thrash, nothing like the kingdom’s military but they had to make due.
The shades, done with ripping apart the stragglers, charged their two reformed lines. When suddenly a resonating cry came from behind them, as even more villagers charged up the stairs. Surrounding the shades that had also broken up into two groups, to attack both lines of shields men.
Outnumbered even more. Yet the shades were fearless. Charging the humans with relentless bloodlust, cutting apart shields before ripping flesh and slicing bone. Each strike followed by another, born and bred killers they were, incomparable to the untrained civilians.
But outnumbered they still were, the villagers surrounding the shades as they spun about freakily, attacking in abandon. It was a bloody fight but ultimately, the last shade fell. Nerick charging through its shadowy body and bashing its core out, slicing it apart as the shadows tried to re-converge around it.
He stood, staring down at the fragments of dark crystal bathed in blood. Glancing about, their numbers were severely cut down. Many a dozen man and woman laying on the ground, sliced apart and ripped open. Their guts, blood and limbs making up the floor beneath the survivors.
“The fiends are coming!” Then exclaimed his comrade at arms, the paladin Simon.
Nerick turned to the wall’s edge, following Simon’s mace he looked down the wall to see several fiends slamming their claws into the stone. Gripping it, they climbed. Leaping with each move, clawing onto the stone again to hold on before leaping once more.
“Grab the spears!” Erick ordered as he stumbled up the stairs, his arms laying uselessly by his side and his expression paler than paper.
Nerick had turned to see him, understanding what he meant. “Sheathe your blades! Hold your shields and pick up those damn spears!” He ordered too, sheathing his shortsword and rushing back to his beloved spear.
Turning, he readied himself. Spear held forwards once again, preparing this time not to counter a charge but to stop the fiends from even reaching the top. Standing close to the edge, their speartips ready to stab at anything that climbed up.
“Form two rows!” Erik continued to order, “Swordsmen at the front! Spearmen at the back!” he told them. Confusing many. “Damnit do you want to survive!?” he then exclaimed.
Nerick, having seen the mage’s earlier power and success so far, did just as told. Stepping away from the edge Nerick and the other spearmen stood behind the sword, mace and axe wielders.
“Spearmen pass on your shields to the front row! Two hand those damn spears!” Erik ordered, and everyone complied without a single complaint. Albeit confused, some trying to aim their spears around the line of swordsmen, yet most held them up unable to.
“Back row step back and hold those spears up! Front row! Move onto the edge!” Erik ordered again, as he fell to his knees from the weariness. And once more everyone complied, a row of spearmen standing several feet away from the front row of shield wielders who stood at the wall’s very edge.
Nerick was still confused and so was Simon as he glanced back at him from the front row, shrugging and smirking madly he awaited what was to come. Hoping, praying to any and all gods watching, that this mage knew what the f*** he was doing.
Long harrowing moments passed by, as they waited, listening to the fiends climbing up. The sound of claw shattering stone, the sound of the wall rumbling beneath them. When the first fiend appeared.
Its leather hide burned to a crisp, the smell of charred demonic flesh almost made Nerick keel over and empty his stomach. But he held, he watched as Simon stepped to. Slamming his shield hard into the fiend’s rising face before crushing its left claw as it gripping onto the wall’s railing. The fiend fell back, roaring out in anger.
The sound of a heart-wrenching splash below ended its roars, the muddy water doing little to soften the fall.
All hell then let loose, as a dozen more charred fiends reached the top. Villagers on the front row engaged them, slashing away at their hands, trying to block their ravaging claws and fangs. For the most part they held them back, albeit some being pulled off the wall by the fiends and thrown off.
That was when Nerick realised what severe mistake he was about to make, what Erik swiftly corrected with his orders.
As half a dozen fiends leapt up the wall and over the first row, eyes wide in surprise as they fell. Five to six spears per fiend, turned towards them as they fell upon the back row. Each leaping fiend was shish kebabbed, stabbed over several times while being held up by several men and women.
Some survived the stabbing, but they were held in place and unable to do much but wait as the front row turned on them. Stabbing away at their feet and then backs. Killing every single fiend that had jumped over them.
The back row released their spears from the demonic corpses, many staring in awe at the dead creatures before them.
“Raise those spears!” Nerick commanded, snapping many out of their daze and urging them back into action. Preparing for the next demonic rain, he smiled wickedly. Madness in his eyes, as the adrenaline and exhilaration, filled him with vigour.
Then the ground shuddered, alongside the sound of screeching and bending metal from below, filling their ears with pain. Again, the ground quaked, the entire wall trembling. Nerick glanced back to see the metal gate had been blown off, and flew off into the distance. Crashing into the wall on the other side of Beckton.
With such force that it dug half way into the wall, embedding itself inside the stone.
“You puny maggots dare…You dare damage the fiends and shades my liege left beneath my command! You! You shall pay dearly for this!” The Demon lord’s voice resonated through the air, making Nerick’s vision blur from a sudden dizziness.
Through the blurriness, Nerick watched as more fiends climbed up the wall, glancing back he also saw that…
Erik was nowhere in sight.