There was about one day left until Saleena had enough energy to spread a glade over the entire city. Demonic activity had started picking up, and even the human world was being drawn into the war. Xan sat on top of a high-rise building watching a tank battalion patrol the streets below. That group was only one of many. For the most part, the military was incredibly ineffective, but Xan guessed it made the humans feel safer. Parts of the city were in ruins; the demons seldom lost. Xan berated himself for staying hidden so long, when he could have been out here, trying to fight the demons head on. He pulled a cigarette from his cloak and was just about to put it in his mouth when an explosion shook the building. He stumbled, dropping the cigarette off the ledge of the building. Xan looked over the edge and watched it fall.
“Damn, that was my last one.” He drew his sword and jumped off the building, fiery wings leaving a trail of embers behind him.
He landed near the wreckage of a smoldering tank, his cloak billowing out like a flower. Uniformed men with heavy weaponry ran around, apparently trying to organize a counter attack. Xan glanced around, and saw the demon standing down the street, red blade in hand. It looked like the general Xan had killed earlier. Flanking it were two unusual looking creatures. They towered over the demon, with black wings blotting out the street behind them. They were all black, and it was difficult to make out any features apart from the wings and the horns sprouting from their heads.
“Who the hell are you?”
Xan heard the clicking of guns being loaded and trained on him. He looked around, seeing several soldiers standing around him. One man stood out; his gun wasn’t trained on Xan. Instead, it was resting at his hip.
“I asked you a question, goddamn it.”
Xan kept his sword low. While they wouldn’t be able to hit him, he didn’t want to give them reason to attack. “Right now, I’m the least of your concern. That demon is a very powerful one, and I’m the only one here that has a chance against it.”
The man stared at Xan, apparently unsure of what to do with a strange person with fiery wings. He opened his mouth to speak when men scattered and someone shouted, “Incoming!” A tank close to them exploded as a lance of black energy struck it, sending a shockwave of shrapnel raining over them.
Xan quickly pulled all the men close and his spread his wings wide over them, burning the shrapnel that would have rained down upon them. Before anyone had time to recover, Xan was gone in a flash of fire and standing in the road near the demon.
“Xanthiilus,” the demon spat. It sounded fairly normal, like the other general had. “How kind of you to let us out so easily.”
Xanthiilus answered by running his palm across the feather on his sword, silver fire leaping to life across the blade. His eyes were fixed on the demon, silver light gleaming from them. “Are you number twelve?”
The demon laughed. “You will not find me near as pathetic a fight as my brother was. He was headstrong and had hoped to kill you himself.” The demon held up its red sword, and pointed at the creatures standing by him. “My only aim is to slow you down.” The creatures lunged for Xan.
The black shapes froze as Xan walked over to them. He slashed through the throat of the first one, and used his wings to cut through the second’s throat. Xan stepped up to the demon and held his sword at its throat as the black creatures’ heads left their bodies and their corpses fell to the ground, shattering into thousands of black shards.
“You were saying?” Xan said.
The demon lifted his hands suddenly, and Xan heard a strange tinkling sound behind him. He glanced back and saw the shards flying at him. His wings closed around him, enveloping him in flame, and he was standing behind the demon, sword across its throat. The demon gasped in surprise as the shards slammed into its body, an unnatural and eerie scream filling the street. Xan pulled hard on his sword, and the screaming stopped. He flicked his blade out, shaking off the black blood that clung to it. He sheathed his sword, extinguishing the flames, as he walked toward the tank battalion.
“Anyone have a smoke?” Xan stopped in front of the troop, shock clear on their faces. “Well?”
A young soldier stumbled forward, holding out a pack of Marlboro’s. Xan accepted a cigarette with a wry look.
“Ugh. Doesn’t anyone smoke Camels anymore?”
There was a brief silence before the men started laughing. Xan smiled as he put the cigarette in his mouth and the tip burst into flame. He took a deep drag, the cherry calming to a normal red.
“So, what was that thing?” The commanding officer was looking at Xanthiilus with a strange look in his eyes.
“A demon. To be specific, one of the generals of the Lord of Fire.”
“You mean, like, the devil?” the young soldier asked.
“Not the devil in the sense you’re asking. The Lord of Fire is the most powerful demon that has walked the face of this earth.” Xan puffed on his cigarette.
“That was the first thing we’ve seen that looked like that. All the rest are all spiky and disgusting looking,” another soldier said.
Xan nodded. “How many of those have you killed?
The commanding officer spoke said, “One.”
Xan closed his eyes. “How many have you fought?”
“More than we’d like to admit. This troop is one of the few that’s killed one of the bastards. We’ve been lucky to stay alive. Usually, another battalion took the brunt of the demon’s attack.” The officer pulled out a cigarette. “It’s strange, though. After they wipe out a battalion, they always leave. Just vanish in black fire.”
Xan dropped his cigarette and crushed it underneath his boot. “That is unusual.”
A voice suddenly crackled over the radio. “…Help! We need…help…get…overrun…by…”
Xan pointed at the radio. “Do you know where that’s coming from?”
A sudden explosion a few blocks away, followed by screams on the radio answered Xan’s question. Xan grabbed a radio and stuffed it in his cloak.
“Keep in touch with me. Let the other battalions know that I’m not the enemy. I’m here to help, and I’ll do everything I can to stop the demons.” Xan barely saw the men nod before he vanished in flame, stepping out near where the explosion had erupted.
Xanthiilus spent the next few hours listening to the radio and helping the battalions out all around the city. The demons he fought were all lesser ones, and he killed them without much trouble. Occasionally, he had more problems with the people he was helping than the demons, but he either got them to understand what he was doing, or he left so fast they didn’t have a chance to try anything stupid. The killing was slowly becoming routine, as often as he was doing it. His sword arm hurt, and he was living in bursts. Some demons he killed with one strike on his way to worse demons. He kept itching to fight another general, so he could whittle down their numbers even more before the Lord of Fire stepped onto the earth, but he was having no such luck. The radio chatter finally died down, hours after he had started.
He sat on top of a building, smoking a cigarette he had bummed from a soldier. The smoke was soothing, as was just sitting down for a while. His sword arm felt like it was on fire, and a dull throb pounded in his head. Each drag on the cigarette eased his headache. He watched the sun begin to set, and he enjoyed the silence. He stood up after finishing the cigarette, and went home.