Xanthiilus stood, watching Saleena. She wasn’t moving. She was just sitting in front of her tree, a green glow radiating from her skin and small lights dancing around her. Xan knew she was almost ready, and he was getting worried. The battle with the Lord of Fire would be intense, and Xan knew the Lord would not be fighting alone. He was sure the demon had a reserve of demonic minions yet, and would do everything it could to stay alive after just breaking free from its prison.
“I’m ready, Xan.” Sal’s voice was quiet, and strained.
Xan knelt down next to his dryad, and caressed her cheek, tears forming in his eyes.
“Everything will be fine, Xan. Trust me.”
“I wish I had your confidence.”
“You will. I’ll be out there with you, in my forest.”
Tears began to flow freely down Xan’s face. “Just promise me you’ll be back.”
Saleena looked up at Xan, her skin radiating with power. She smiled, gently wiping his tears away. “Of course I will come back. I’m not going anywhere. Now, get Maryanne and Sympheros ready. I can sense a great evil about to enter this world.”
“I love you, Saleena.”
“I love you too, Xan.”
Xan started walking away, but he stopped. “Sal, we’ve been together for thousands of years. When we met, you joked we were getting married.”
Saleena nodded, her eyes closing again.
“When this is all done, I’d like to actually get married to you.”
Sal’s eyes opened and she smiled. “I’d love to marry you, Xan. Now go kick some demon ass.”
Xanthiilus continued walking out of the forest, tears falling down his face. There was a brilliant green flash, and the forest erupted, spreading rapidly through the warehouse, spilling outside, and flowing over the city.
Xan walked out onto the roof, and found Maryanne and Sympheros holding hands and watching Sal’s spell take over the city. The sun was going down, and it looked like a wave of dark green was washing over everything.
“Let’s go,” Xan said.
Maryanne and Sympheros turned and nodded at Xan, their eyes sad.
Xanthiilus, Maryanne, and Sympheros stood on top of a building overlooking what had been a rundown parking lot. It was the biggest place for the Lord of Fire to come through, and it had been confirmed by the leafy creature that looked like Saleena. It was insubstantial, just leaves twirling in an unfelt wind that held the form of the dryad.
Xan saw movement in several other buildings and on the street level. Evidently, Saleena had informed everyone able to fight. The scattered remains of military tank battalions were pulling up and scattered humans were wandering the streets and moving through buildings. Xan only hoped they were the other magic users the blue eyed girl had promised, and not random people. Xanthiilus knew a great many of them would probably die, but at least these people would have a fighting chance.
Xan sat down on the ledge of the building and pulled out a cigarette. He dangled his feet over the building and smoked, watching the sun finish setting.
“Xan? I think they all expect you to do something. They’re all watching us.” Maryanne motioned around.
Xan looked, and everyone was indeed looking at him. “I…I don’t know what to say.”
“Something heroic?” Sympheros smirked.
Maryanne hit him. “You’re a big help, Symph.”
Xanthiilus stood on the edge of the building, taking the final drag of his cigarette. He dropped it off the edge of the building, and spread his fiery wings, illuminating the roof top in the near darkness. “Saleena, can you spread this?”
The leafy creature responded, “I can do one better. Your voice will be heard throughout the forest.”
Xan sighed and cleared his throat. That wasn’t what he had had in mind. It was bad enough talking to the few hundred people here. But the whole city? “Hello. My name is Xanthiilus. I know many of you wouldn’t believe what you’re about to hear, but I know a great deal of you have lived through hell this past week. Some of you know me, as I fought alongside you to help end this threat. Tonight, the worst is coming. The Lord of Fire is breaking free from his prison, bringing his armies to try and finish what he started over two thousand years ago. He will not rest until the world has been destroyed. Tonight, we are few, but we fight with purpose. This is our home, and I’ll be damned if I let a demon destroy any more of it. Many people have died, and all of us have lost someone or something dear to us in this battle. Let that fuel you tonight. But, don’t lose your purpose. We cannot bring the dead back, but we can fight for the living, so that no more lives will be lost. Remember the fallen, and fight for the living!”
Xan’s voice echoed throughout the city as the sun dipped behind the horizon, plunging the city into darkness. Xan stood on the ledge of the building, his wings blazing like a beacon. Slowly, the noise reached his ears. The people left in the city were cheering and applauding, soldiers were firing guns and whooping, and magic users were releasing bursts of magic into the air. A giant ball of fire soared past Xan’s head, and exploded into a phoenix, causing even louder cheering. Xan looked back, and saw Sympheros smiling wildly, fire drifting along his body.
“We are yours.” Sympheros bowed.
The earth suddenly shook, and the glade covered parking lot started cracking and splitting. Red light and fire flickered out of the cracks, and a terrible roar filled the night. Xan leapt from the building, sword drawn, and cloak billowing like a black rose. He landed lightly on his feet, and began walking toward center of the glade where the ground was cracking. His wings blazed in the night, and his eyes burned with determination.
A giant, clawed fist punched through the ground, sending concrete and grass flying into the night. Slowly, a giant demon crawled out of the ground and towered into the night, fire wafting from its massive body. It stood; eyes level with second story windows. A giant black crown sat upon its horned head, and spines ran down its back and along its tail. As it stepped out of the crater, lesser demons swarmed around its feet, rushing toward the people on the streets. Guns started firing, and magic from the human magic users flew into the hoard. Demons fell, screaming in pain, but not many. The rest of the demons retaliated, throwing their own magic at the humans. Tanks exploded, rocking the night and shattering windows. Shimmering fields appeared, deflecting some of the demons’ attacks.
Xan listened as the battle raged into life around him, his eyes fixed on the Lord of fire. Screams in front of him forced his attention away, and he saw demons charging him. He breathed in the night air deeply, feeling the power of the glade coursing into him. He raised his sword and let the demons runs to him. In a flash of fiery wings and steel, the demons scattered around him, bloody limbs and heads falling to the grass. Xanthiilus heard people screaming, and he looked over, seeing a group of magic users being overrun by demons. He lifted his sword, and slashed down hard, sending a flaming silver arc into the demons. It cut through them, leaving broken and flaming pieces of demon. The magic users acknowledged Xan’s help before running off to help others out.
The humans were holding their own, driven by desperation and the burning desire to stay alive, but demons kept pouring out of the crater. The Lord of Fire drew its sword, a massive conglomeration of twisted metal as long as two cars. It lumbered over to a building where a number of people had hidden, fighting through the windows. It swung its gigantic sword and cut through the building, knocking out several floors. Xanthiilus watched in horror as the building collapsed in a heap of twisted steel, concrete and foliage.
Xanthiilus screamed with rage, sweeping his sword in front of him, sending another silver arc into the hoards of demons, cutting hundreds of them in half. There was a wide swath cut through the hoard, a mix of legs and torsos smearing black blood everywhere with silver fire burning through the corpses. Xan leapt into the air, streaking toward the Lord of Fire, eyes blazing brightly in the night. The giant demon was quick, and it blocked Xan’s attack, sending Xan flying back from the force of the giant blade meeting his own.
“God damn it!” Xan screamed into the night. People were dying all around him, and there was nothing he could do. He had lost Saleena, and he was losing this fight.
The Lord of Fire stomped over and stopped in front of Xan. “Heh, you thought that maybe with the help of some mortals you could defeat me? You cannot even hit me!” The demon’s voice roared through the glade.
Xan fell to his knees under the force of the demon’s voice. He caught himself, planting the tip of his sword into the soft ground. He heard the demon heft its blade, and he heard the rushing of air as it raced down to him. But he couldn’t move. The fire in Xan’s eyes was fading, and his wings were becoming misty. Xan looked up, and saw the blade streaking toward him. He closed his eyes and the blade landed with a solid thunk.
Xan opened his eyes and saw a large root had thrust itself up out of the ground and caught the sword, stopping the blade inches from Xan. A light breeze blew into Xan’s face.
It whispered, “I told you I wasn’t going anywhere.”
All over the field demons were being grabbed and crushed by roots shooting out from the ground.
“I would have been here sooner, but it took some time to send roots this far. Now fight, damn it!”
Xan stood up, fire bursting into life in his eyes and his wings.
The Lord of Fire grinned wickedly. “Now that is more like it. I was getting disappointed. Last time you just let your council friends almost kill you. I would like a nice fight before I finish the job.”
Xan kicked the demon’s sword, wrenching it free from the root and sending it flying out of the demon’s hand. He leapt into the air and rushed toward the demon. The demon tried to punch Xan, but Xan moved far too quickly for the giant demon. Cut after cut appeared on the demon’s skin as Xan flew around him, flashing in and out of fire.
The demon roared and clapped its hands above its head. A sudden explosion erupted from underneath the demon that sent Xan flying. The shockwave burst through the buildings, causing most of them to collapse in a heap of dust and rubble. A terrible silence filled the glade as the dust cleared.
Xan slowly picked himself out of the rubble, brushing himself off. He only hoped Saleena had managed to help the humans escape. The glade was littered with debris, dead demons and dead humans. Blood and grass and dirt mixed together, and small fires burned all around. The only ones left were Xanthiilus and the Lord of Fire.
Xan picked his way through the rubble, heading toward the demon. He shouted, buying some time to regain some strength. “What friends of mine tried to kill me?
The demon had recovered its sword and it was leaning on it, the point buried in the ground. It was grinning wickedly. “You do not remember? Well, it is a good story. I guess it is only fitting for you to know the truth, because you are responsible for my walking the world both times now.”
Xan stopped a stone’s throw away from the demon, listening.
“Those friends of yours are the council of the order you belong to. I look up to them, I really do. You see, they are elder vampires. That is why there were so many people angry with you after you killed Greyloh.”
“How do you know all of this? You could just be making it up!” Xan shouted.
The demon spat, and spoke bitterly. “I was locked away from this world, but that does not mean I could not watch what happened. So, I studied the world. There were a few times where I actually no longer wished to destroy it. Watching how happy you and Saleena were together, and others all over the world. Love really is incredible, and while I may never know it, I certainly had no desire to destroy it.” The demon picked up its sword and pointed it at Xan. “Do not think I am going soft. Hardly. There is enough corruption and wickedness in this world to drive any demon mad with desire for total destruction. We live a mean existence. We thrive on corruption, wickedness, evil, destruction… But that is all we can do. So, I win and destroy the world and I am left with nothing. But I cannot stop myself from wanting to destroy the world.”
Xanthiilus listened to the demon talk, not sure how to process what he was hearing.
“Anyway, your vampire council inspired me. They masqueraded as a noble order, ridding the world of evil. And when someone actually had the power to destroy evil, they panicked. They did not know you were the phoenix they had betrayed. For vampires, they can be pretty stupid sometimes. I guess they did not know about the rebirth. Well, your mentor did. But he was a different kind of vampire. They assigned you to my prison, hoping that in my process of breaking free, I would kill you and your dryad. You have thwarted me on killing your dryad. That seems to have been taken care of already. But I still can kill you.”
Xan suddenly heard a faint flutter of a cloak behind him, and he spun, mist rushing into the glade. The blade aimed for his heart slowly sailed past him, and Xan thrust his sword into the head of the black cloaked creature. Xan felt heat washing over his back, and he leapt into the air, the fireball exploding where he had been. Xan spun in the air and landed facing the demon, eyes narrowed and blazing. Silver fire dripped from his sword.
“I have no reason not to believe what you just told me. But you will not kill me.” Xan vanished in a flash of fire.
There was a flash of fire, and the demon’s sword slipped from its hand as the hand fell from the arm, leaving a severed stump oozing black blood. Another flash of fire, and the demon’s other hand was cut from its arm. The demon stumbled back, holding its severed arms close to its chest. In a silver streak, the crown fell from the demons head, cut in two.
Xan appeared in front of the demon in a smear of fire. “You fight for destruction and chaos. I fight to preserve the beauty of life and nature.” Xan blurred and a gash through the demon’s knee forced it to fall to its knees. “I was created by nature to preserve the balance in this world.” Xan blurred again and there was a giant gash in the demon’s chest, black blood flowing freely to the ground. “By the way, Saleena is still alive.” Mist flooded around Xan and he walked to the demon, moving outside of the demon’s perception of time. Xanthiilus jumped into the air, his wings leaving a burning trail in to the mist. He slipped his sword into the demons neck, and slowly carved through the skin, severing the head from the body. Xan cut down, his sword cutting down through the demon’s spine and Xan landed on the ground, the mist dispersing.
Xan turned around, pulling out a cigarette, and leaving the decimated corpse of the Lord of Fire behind him.
Xanthiilus walked for several hours, looking for survivors or straggling demons. He found neither, and he was almost finished with his pack of cigarettes. The information the Lord of Fire had told him echoed through his head. He didn’t want to believe it, but it mirrored closely what the werewolf had said. If they were telling the truth, Xanthiilus would soon have to deal with the eleven remaining Elder vampires.
Xan wasn’t afraid of that thought. He had been through much this past week, and he had learned what it meant to be the phoenix. Xan finished puffing on his cigarette and pulled the last one from the pack. He would head home, for better or ill, after he finished this one.
Xan looked up and saw a hooded figure standing on the corner of the street in front of him. “Oh hell, not another one.” He pulled his sword.
The cloaked figure out its hands. “No, please, I mean you no harm. I come from the council.”
Xan grunted, blowing out a puff of smoke. “Then I’m not sure you’re being honest about not harming me.”
The figure laughed nervously, a high tinkling laugh, almost like shattering glass.
“Take that hood off.”
Pale hands slowly reached up and pulled the hood down. A feminine face appeared, with black eyes and blacker hair.
“I’ve never met you,” Xan said.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” her voice was shaking. “I spent most of time in the library when you were at the order with us.”
“So, what are you doing here?”
“I come with a message from the rest of the council.”
“Oh, so you’re an Elder. That damned demon was right. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.”
She wrung her hands nervously, her eyes darting as if trying to see everything at once.
“What are you so damn nervous about? Spit it out.”
“I’m scared to death of you, damn it!” Her fangs were visible when she shouted, and her eyes were wide with fear.
Xan laughed, sitting down on the curb so he wouldn’t fall over. He finally caught his breath and looked at the uncomfortable vampire. “Of course, I’ve killed two of your kind, as well as countless demons, a general demon, and the Lord of Fire.” He tried to stop smiling and laughing. “I’m sorry. Please, what’s the message?”
“They wish to extend a truce.”
Xan sat there, chewing on the cigarette he hadn’t lit yet. “What are the terms? I expect you all to know what I am, and what that entails.”
Xan was amazed the vampire was still standing, as nervously as she was shaking. “Be careful who you kill and feed on. Other than that, fine. I never want to see a vampire again. Make sure you spread that around. That goes for lesser vampires too. I don’t want to see one trying to feast on a Halloween party again.”
The vampire had gone even whiter, and she collapsed to her knees. “I’ll pass that along.” Her voice was barely audible.
Xan sighed and walked over to her. He stooped and helped her up. “Really, I’m not some monster to be feared. I do what I was created to do. Don’t cross me, and you have nothing to worry about. No go, it will be dawn soon.” The vampire nodded, threw her hood up, and took off running down the street. Xan sighed, lighting his cigarette. A vampire scared of him. That was new.