To Battle

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Sleepless nights and restless dreams plagued my company since the death of the messenger. The demons no doubt wanted revenge, and they would no doubt take it. The only question remained “when?”

Xierra returned to the demons, promising us time, but little more than that. Her name still held authority among her brethren, but not enough to hold them back forever. She dissuaded me from relocating; they were watching us. Our best hope was to fortify our home underground. We set numerous wards and barriers for protection, but enough to discourage the attack?

In the meantime, I continued my manuscript, spending hours documenting the history of the archdemons. Our conflicts with the excessively violent demons, our moral turmoil in a world of sin, our tortured fate and impending doom. This is where I found myself when I broke down. The obsidian dagger haunted me from its resting place on the shelf beside my desk. My attention wandered from the blade to the miscellaneous items of interest I couldn’t bear to part with. A book on herbal remedies, a ring that conjured shadows, an everlasting calla lily from an old friend. I needed to get away from it all.

I rose and crossed the room, my feet almost subconsciously moving around the spot where the demon’s body once lay. With a shudder, I pushed open the old iron door and stepped into the hall.

And stood face to face with a wall of muscle.

“Aerya!...” Quick reflexes spurred gentle hands to hold my shoulders, halting me from bumping into the solid chest that occupied the space directly in front of me. My gaze darted up to his face, a familiar, grinning face, his sea green eyes laughing down at me through fringes of dark hair. The face belonged to Kuro, a long-time friend of mine. Next to Xierra, he was perhaps my closest and most trusted ally.

“Oh, sorry...” I blinked up at the amused expression on his face and took a step away. “I wasn’t expecting you here.”

The taller archdemon offered a slight nod and lowered his arms to his sides. After a moment, his smile seemed to fall, and he shifted restlessly from one foot to the other. “We’ve received word from Xierra.” He wet his lips in anxiety, the dim light from the crystals on the walls flashing off his fangs. “She’s on her way. The demons march to battle as we speak.”

I stared at him, struck by sudden despair. Of course I knew this moment would come. I suppose some part of me still hoped for the demons to change. I took a moment to regain my composure. The war between the demons and archdemons had begun.

Our base only had one entrance, a vertical shaft from the surface to a hollow chasm where the majority of social life took place. It was a civilization of a few hundred archdemons, built away from oppression in the dark of the dirt. Branching off from the main chamber lay countless tunnels, at the end of each lying either dead ends or separate quarters such as my own. These served as hiding places or storage rooms in case of emergency.

The situation at hand most certainly qualified as an emergency. Kuro took off down the corridor the way he came as I spread my wings and raced after him. After a few curves in our path designed to frustrate pursuers, we burst into the light of the cavern.

I ascended sharply and headed for the entrance tunnel while Kuro rushed to a thick cord of rope strung to a bell mounted higher up on the wall. The chime rose above the voices of the archdemons murmuring amongst themselves and pointing up at me in confusion. I knew the majority of them personally, putting their faces to their names as I soared above them. Jonas, Odessa, Yassín, Samuel… My friends. And to think that I brought such danger to them all… I tried not to think about it as I neared my destination. The alarm continued to ring out clearly as the faces I knew fled deeper underground, bewildered faces, terrified faces, broken faces. Aye, we were a broken people since the day we were born.

The demons were upon us. I heard the stomp of their feet and the clash of their weapons. Reaching the runes that lined the entrance, I slammed my palms into them and laced my energy with the seals. They began to glow a bright blue as I reinforced the barriers that were keeping the demons out. I felt them pounding against the earth, screeching and roaring and howling in a primal symphony of wrath. I pressed harder against the runes, struggling to hold the demons back.

“Aerya…” Kuro’s voice sounded quietly by my side. He placed his hands over mine, feeding his own energy into me. “Xierra’s still out there.”

My eyes widened. “Oh no…” I drew my fingertips away, preparing to break the seal.

He grabbed my hands swiftly and held them firmly in his own. “No, wait. You’re not going out there alone.”

“My sister is out there alone!” I cried, panic rising in my veins. I tore away from him, bursting out from beneath the ground and shooting into the air.

The scene that lay before me was nothing like I imagined.

The fires of Hell were parted, the soil already soaked with blood, and the remains of dead bodies littered the battlefield. The sight instantly filled me with sorrow, the nauseating stench of death choking my lungs as I observed in silence. The demons were already engaged, not with archdemons, but angels themselves. I saw a mere few of the holy beings, only visible as streaks of light leaving behind a trail of pure destruction. Their divine glory radiated from their essence, a surreal grace and majesty punctuating every lethal move of their bodies. It was both terrifying and magnificent. Never had I witnessed such a brilliant slaughter, nor had I expected the angels to be so ruthless.

Kuro came up beside me, watching in awe as the angels systematically cut down the legions that threatened us. The same repulsion crossed his face, taken aback by the vicious massacre before him. Then, a sudden realization – we were safe. He took me in his arms, overjoyed disbelief etched on his face. “The angels came to save us… Aerya, they - …”

His words were abruptly cut off with a flash of angelic light, his body lurching forward, and I felt a sudden warmth seep through my sleeves. I looked down in horror at the blood that spurted from the wound in his sides. A nearly perfect cylindrical hole had been drilled horizontally through his ribcage, and I tore my eyes away. He choked up dark globs of blood, and I listened to his breath die. Stricken with fear and grief, I slowly turned back to my best friend, meeting his gaze one last time before death claimed him. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t think. Staring down into his face, once so alight with peace and happiness, I felt the adrenaline die. I sunk to the ground, my wings powerless to keep me afloat, on my knees, the blood of demons and archdemons alike now staining my ivory garments. Kuro was wrong. The angels were not there to help us. I pressed my lips to his cheek, the heat fleeing his skin only to be replaced by a cold, crawling stone. The angels killed demons merely for being demons, no other reason. They didn’t differentiate between us, between good and evil. The tears flowed freely now, singeing my eyes as they fell, and I held him closer, clutching to some shred of hope that I knew no longer existed. The screams of my people deafened me as the angels flooded underground, their voices echoing through the abyss that was once our sanctuary. I collapsed in the crimson sea, one lifeless body among thousands, one demon in a world of sin.

And for the first time in my life, I wanted revenge.





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