Xanthiilus woke up abruptly. The forest was dark, and he could barely make out the sleeping forms of Maryanne and Sympheros a little distance away. Saleena was asleep next to him, her hair spread out like a blanket over the foliage and her chest rising and falling peacefully. Xanthiilus looked around the forest, trying to find something that could have caused him to wake up so suddenly. He stood up silently, not wanting to wake the others. Why was the forest dark? When they had arrived last night, it had been glowing green. Would the new wards have changed that? Or had something come here.
Xan looked up at the broken skylight. The voice was incredibly quiet. He wasn’t sure he had heard it, but a star suddenly blinked out of existence as a dark form moved in front of it. In a blink, Xanthiilus was standing on the roof, naked blade in his hand. His eyes roved across the roof, looking for the dark form.
The voice screamed right in his ear, and Xan dropped to the side, lunging out with his sword. It met resistance with an earsplitting clang. Xan looked up. His sword was resting against a curved and wicked looking blade. It was red, with scratches carved throughout the entire surface. Xan quickly stood up, jumping back to give himself some distance.
The figure in front of him was the size of a human, and it wore a black cloak with the hood drawn low. The entire being seemed to exude darkness. There was only a dark form beneath the cloak; Xan couldn’t make out any discernible features, and he could not see through the darkness of the creature’s hood.
“Who are you?” Xan asked quietly.
“One of the thirteen generals.” The voice didn’t sound demonic. It sounded almost insubstantial, like the darkness that cloaked the demon.
“You don’t look like a demon.”
A low, guttural laugh drifted from underneath the hood. “Demon. If you only knew.”
There was a slight glint, and that was all the warning said had of the attack. He raised his sword, cutting a silver streak through the night. The two blades met with incredible force, shaking the roof of the warehouse. Xan stared into the darkness, wings of fire burning form his back, his eyes blazing silver.
“So, you are reborn.” The demon stepped back, readying its sword. “Good. I had been getting worried.”
Xan was prepared this time, and he watched the red blade slowly cutting through the mist as the demon lunged toward him. Xanthiilus side stepped easily, watching the demon move as if in slow motion. He swung his sword into the dark form, cutting through the dark cloak easily. Time caught up with the demon, and it twirled around, facing Xan with sword ready.
“Excellent.” The soft voice sounded pleased.
Xan glared at the demon. It showed no sign of being hurt by his attack. He passed his palm over the feather on his blade, and silver fire flared into life. Xan rushed at the demon, wings of fire trailing behind him leaving a swarm of embers that hung in the air. The demon’s red blade slowly moved, trying to deflect Xan’s attack. In a flash of fire, Xan vanished, and the demon’s sword sliced through air, hitting the roof with a crack as red sparks went flying. A flash of fire, and Xan thrust his sword through the demon’s back. It threw its head back, a scream of rage rending the night. Its voice sounded like thousands of souls screaming in pain. Silver fire licked through the demon’s cloak and Xan sliced the sword out the side of the demon. The demon backhanded Xan, shoving Xan aside.
“Now that,” the demon rasped heavily, “is more like it.” It shook its cloak to straighten it out, silver fire burning on it.
“What the hell are you?” Xanthiilus stared at the demon, wings and sword blazing.
“I told you already. One of the thirteen generals.” The demon’s breathing was ragged, and the fire still burned. “You released the seal, but there is other magic still holding the prison. It’s only a matter of time before we punch a big enough hole in the barrier for my lord to walk free. The few demons you’ve seen are nothing. They were the first to sneak through. Being the least powerful, the barrier was easier for them to slip through. It only prevents real threats from coming into this world. But,” the demon bowed, clutching a hand to its wound, “we’re almost completely through.”
“So, you’re the weakest of the generals.”
The demons blade flared a brilliant red. “Let me show you how weak I really am,” the demon spat. It spun around cutting through the air with its sword. It released a giant arc of red energy toward the open skylight. It hissed through the air, cutting into the roof of the warehouse.
“Fight for the living,” Xan whispered. The light shining from his eyes flared, hiding his eyes in the intensity of the silver light. Runes flared to life across his sword, and the silver fire intensified. In a streak of silver, he flew past the demon and landed in front of the red arc that was almost to the skylight. A silver shockwave burst through the dark as Xan swept his sword through the red arc, shattering it. The silver shockwave sped across the top of the warehouse, slamming into the demo. Xan’s wings trailed out behind him, sparks spiraling into the sky.
“Impress…” the demon choked, dropping its sword and grabbing its throat. Silver fire crept out of the hood, tracing a neat line across the demon’s neck. Darkness spilled out from the cloak and the hood collapsed as the body fell to the floor.
Xan stuck his flaming sword point down into the roof. He sat down, pulling out a cigarette. He leaned in, lighting the cigarette off his sword, and sat back against the ledge of the building, his wings vanishing with the fire on his sword.
“Fight for the living.” His lungs filled with smoke as he looked at the gouge the demon’s attack had left in the roof.
Xanthiilus woke to Saleena gently shaking him. He was still on the roof, his sword point down next to him reflecting the early morning sun.
“What happened last night? The wards activated somehow, and we couldn’t leave the forest.” Saleena’s arms were crossed in front of her chest, and her eyes were full of concern.
“I killed one of the Lord of Fire’s thirteen generals. They’re a whole new breed of demon I’ve never seen before, Sal.”
Sal sat down next to Xan while he told her what had happened last night. After he finished, they sat in silence, Xan puffing on a cigarette. Saleena reached over and grabbed the cigarette from his mouth and took a deep drag.
“Now I’m worried. I’ve never seen you smoke the entire time we’ve been together.”
“Xan, I knew we were taking a risk by releasing the seal. But I’m not sure we’ll survive this.”
Xan pulled Sal into a tight hug, and gently stroked her hair. “You would have died if we didn’t release the seal. And I won’t let you die. That demon was a different kind of fight, but I know more about what we’re going up against.”
“But what about the Lord of Fire? And why hasn’t the council tried to contact us yet?”
Xan sighed, taking the cigarette from Sal and breathing the smoke in deep. “It’s really starting to seem like the council has had something to do with the attacks against us. No one else knew where we were.”
“You’re a bright ray of sunshine this morning. The generals are starting to come through, soon the Lord of Fire will destroy the world, oh and by the way, the council may be behind everything.” Sal pushed Xan, almost knocking him over. “Any other good news?”
Xan smiled and kissed his dryad. “I love you.”
Saleena smiled and returned the kiss. “I love you too, Xan.”
“I suppose we better check on Symph and Maryanne.”
“Uhmm, you might want to wait a little bit.”
“Why? They’ll probably want to know what happened last night.” Saleena smiled mischievously. “Right now, that’s the last thing they’re thinking about. Their thoughts are a lot more naughty at the moment.” Saleena kissed Xan’s lips and slowly began kissing down his chest. “And frankly, I think they have the right idea with the way the world is going.”