©Eric Mac 2015 Chapter 3 There be demons… I want to say I was brave and took to the challenge like Warren, but that would be lying—which I have no difficulty doing, mind you. I could lie to your face and steal your food while you were pondering what I said; however, I have no such need in this recounting. Do I? Don’t think too long on that question, especially if you have some tasty morsel on your person I have been eyeing. As if nature itself, all of Sanctuary, were heralding the coming event, a wind picked up from out of nowhere. It came at our backs, verily pushing us toward the red glow that rose up from the flat, squat and unimpressive mud and stone desert dwellings. What was impressive was the fear that rose in the pit of my stomach. You have to understand, it wasn’t entirely because we were about to meet some demon hoard and possibly have our innards adorning their blunt or sharp instruments. I was afraid because of Warren. I didn’t exactly tell you the whole truth earlier. Yes, I admire the man, the being that he is. But a lot of that admiration comes at the cost of fear for what he could do to me should things…”slip”…again. You see, I have a multitude of scars on my body, and not a few on my soul. One in particular, a long slash across my right chest muscle, was caused by Warren, or I should say, “what Warren became.” I lost the use of that muscle for nearly three months, had difficulty bringing my right arm in to open a door, for instance, or to button my shirt after a dalliance with some local constabulary’s wife…as an example, you understand. It’s not like I would actually be caught doing such a thing… Well, not get caught at it, at any rate. My inoperability was caused by my beastly friend, Warren, while he was in the throes of his blood lust, a berserker rage during which he lost focus on some very important things—namely, my good looks. My chest wasn’t as large as his…bulky, strong, shapely under a thin tunic…um, those sorts of things, mind you, but it had something his didn’t: it nearly glistened with beauty. I might be somewhat biased in that description, but I stand by the words of more than one woman in that assessment. And Warren lost sight of that little pronouncement, slashing the tip of one of his older swords into the meat of my good looks as I was trying to tell him all the living around him were dead. Actually, they were undead, but that’s neither here nor there, you get the point. And so did I. It was my incredible speed and agility that kept him from chopping into the bone of my ribs and reaching my more delicate lungs. I think it was my scream of incredulity that actually snapped him out of his blood rage. Yes, scream, I’m not too proud to say. There’s a point in battle where the mind leaves the body for just a brief moment and your little child—that you thought you had left tucked away in your mind and past stealing and eating candy from…well, that part’s not important. What is important is that your little child will come out when a red-faced berserking brute takes to the meat of your chest with a look on his red face that says he enjoyed the damned scenario. My scream, my child’s scream—I won’t admit to having my adult self having screamed like that—broke him out of his fever and helped instill a mild sense of regret and guilt, which I nourished into full-fledged guilt over those three months of healing. That’s one thing that keeps me with Warren and not running from him: he does have a conscience in him that I can tap into readily and use at will, should I ever have need. Did I mention he cut my heretofore uncut chest? Don’t hate me for making him feel that way. I need to practice what skills I have against his mammoth self. So when the wind kicked up, all the world pushing at our behinds to get into some battle with demons, you can see why my stomach wanted to run in the other direction. But I didn’t. He would need help, after all. Demons liked human flesh and, well, Warren had plenty of that. I followed my friend—at a discrete distance. What in the hell was it with that wind? If I didn’t know any better, I would think Sanctuary was a woman the way it caressed my backside. As we got closer, the light of the fires gave way to pained sounds emanating from the epicenter of this little hell in Sanctuary the demons had made for themselves: they were roasting a human. We breached the outer circle of stone buildings, each just a remnant of an ancient desert mind—hollow, dusty, unforgiven. Warren rushed forward, so intent was his desire to kill them that he didn’t think to look around for traps or lookouts—that was my job. I sent three arrows into one of the Fallen perched above the spectacle. The demons, by the way, were also called the Fallen for reasons I won’t explain here. Suffice it to say that one was easy pickings, as it was focused on the human-roast orgy: three icy arrows in its ugly head. It slumped over the edge of the roof dead just as it noticed Warren breaching their party. Then I heard it, a scream. The scream wasn’t from the poor soul roasting on the spit, the man who had the shaft of petrified wood shoved up his nether and coming out his shoulder; no, that one had expired. It came from a Fallen Overseer. My heart stopped just a little hearing it. I let loose two arrows without much in the way of accuracy because I was startled. One arrow sank into the standard the Overseer was using to rally his party. I startled him as much as he me, I think. The look of shock on his face was welcome, and I sent two more arrows into him, this time in his throat, in the hope he would be unable to scream again. Warren’s armor reflected the unnaturally red fire in the center of the clearing. Twisted, evil shadows danced about the decayed buildings and made Warren’s armor seem alive. Warren screamed. His was a battlecry that caused all the Fallen to stand shock-still, paralyzed as much as I was emboldened by his call. I have to let you know, I wasn’t sitting still while Warren massed over them, bringing down his scythe in one motion and his sword on the follow-thru, cleaving the nearest two Fallen in half and leaving a bloody spray across the sand like some horrendous art only a barbarian could master. I flew. Well, not actually flew. I move with a particular grace other mortals admire. You might say I danced. There is something in me, and it has always been there, that instantly picks up all sorts of details of my surroundings that my body can use to support my directives. My directive was to kill these little bastards for roasting one of our own, and my body leapt from an old broken buckboard to a mass of crates, to the overhang of one of the smaller buildings. I fired three times in that journey, hitting the Overseer who hadn’t gone down on the first shots. He went went completely stiff—mid-scream—and fell onto his back dusting the air just as I made the overhang. Warren’s scream didn’t hold the Fallen for long. They recovered quickly and leapt into action—yes, actually leapt at Warren in their lust for his blood and flesh, not caring that his countenance should give them the same pause his scream had earlier. They were fearless, though, and their spiky clubs of sharpened bone beat down on Warren mercilessly. I saw him stagger as one little demon stuck its weapon into the meat of his thigh, just beneath the silvery plate of his armor. I fired, sinking arrows into the side of that one’s neck and shoulder. War swung his sword in a backward slash that decapitated the demon, its body continuing for a second or two trying to dig its point into War’s leg before collapsing to the sand next to its head. I saw War’s face then, the fierce heat in his eye peering at me from beneath his helm as he raised his sword high above his head and fell to one knee, bringing his sword down hard. Whether the drop to his knee was from the damage the demon had inflicted on his leg, or because it was a purposeful movement on War’s part, I knew not. I didn’t have time to ponder. War’s blade slammed into the sand between three demons, and for an instant I worried for him. He missed them completely. Then I felt it, a thunderous crack in the earth the boomed loud in the air. Shockwaves of…power, burst into and across the sand extending outward from where War had struck. A line of demons burst and fell back and away. Yes, burst. From my vantage point, I could see the organs of the demons nearest him burst inside their skin, causing their stomachs and chests to swell violently and their eyes to explode and spray black into the air. I crouched down, holding onto my place on the overhang as the shockwave settled down. I looked at War in shock of my own: he had never done such a thing before this. I held my mouth open too long with that surprise; sand flew into it and my eyes. I reached up, reacting to the pain and temporary loss of sight just as the overhand broke and fell out from beneath me. I fell forward to the sand below, rolling as best I could as my shoulder hit something hard causing me great pain. I raised my hand defensively, unable to see, as I heard the flesh-hungry hiss of the approaching Fallen.