The acolyte's chanting became more rapid, the bloody pentagram that had been crudely scribbled into the cracked earth began to glow a deep, violent red. Each acolyte in turn screaming the laments of the old gods, each man in a frenzy of power, energy from the outer chaos planes seeping into the mortal realms through their unholy actions.
The crusaders approached at speed, determined at all costs to stop the acolytes from brining the evil that had once been, back into the world. Whatever the cost, they could not risk Arael returning. Each man among them ready to sacrifice their very lives in order to deny the prince of Unchanging corporeal form once more. The crusaders were so close, just several hundred meters, they could slay the acolytes and put an end to the madness once and for all. The King of Esuri himself was at the helm of the assault, powering across the landscape, crying inspiration to his fellow men, wildly spurring his steed on.
Acolyte Myrdian smiled gently behind his jet black hood, the blood had arrived. With one final synchronised cry, the cracking, dry earth became saturated with deep red blood, trickling through the cracks.
In unison, each acolyte turned to face the advancing wave of Crusaders, they knew their job was done.
"You are too late, Oh, Mighty King!" Myrdian mocked, "Arael will retu-" at that moment, the full force of the king slammed into Myrdian, tearing his limbs from his body, killing him instantly as the King's warhorse trampled the remains of his mutilated corpse. Seconds later, the full wave of the King's crusaders spearhead charge crashed head on into the small group of acolytes, who willingly, did not put up a fight. It was over in moments.
Triumphantly, the King stood with his captain upon the small mound of slain acolytes,
"Sire, it is a miracle that we got here when we did, any longer and we could have been faced with a demon lord,"
"Yes," Replied the king, "A sight that I never wish to see again, and something I would never want you, and the men to endure,"
"That is very noble of you, my king,"
"Arael is a being that I would wish on no man, not the sickest of criminal or most potent enemy. His power is absolute, and it was only by chance, all those years ago, that we banished him back to the outer planes,"
The king retracted his royal blade from the skull of a fallen acolyte.
"Did I ever tell you and the men why it is so important that we keep Arael at bay?"
"You never told us the exact reasons, only that a Demon of his stature must not, under any circumstances, be taken lightly,"
The king uneasily smiled at his captain, "I suppose it is time I told you about the last time he broke into the material realm,"
"In the book of Esuri, it is written that the great destroyer, prince of the unchanging would find a way to enter the material realm, cross the gap between his dimension and ours, and he would cleanse the world of the plague that is humanity.
Of course, the ancient book of Esuri is thousands of years old, and as such my father, King at the time, chose to ignore the prophecy that the book so clearly stated as fact.
Worst decision he had ever made.
Before long, all the signs were showing, the world around us physically shifting, the skies above us bursting into unnatural hues of red and black... but my father always had a logical explanation for the things that were happening. Secretly, I think he was scared, I don't believe that he wanted to acknowledge the fact that a demon prince could really destroy the kingdom he had worked so hard to ensure the safety of, and knowing of Arael as I do now, I do not blame him for showing fear.
That is when the acolytes showed themselves, right outside the gates of our capital, a pentagram, much like the one drawn into the ground before us, was constructed. It was by now, we all knew what was happening, and my father could no longer deny the situation that was unfolding. We could not ready the soldiers in time, and it was at this point that all of Esuri knew that we stood at the brink of annihilation,"
A solitary tear rolled down the king's cheek,
"I remember it so vividly, I remember seeing Arael burst from the ground in an eruption of fire and blood, the acolytes who had summoned him were disintegrated by the mere power that he emitted. And I will never forget his face, that terrible, terrible face, that look of utter death and hatred, lack of all humanity, it was demonic in every sense of the word. I didn't look upon him for long, but I shall never forget, in all my life. I cannot forget,"
Steel of the Outer Realm
Slashing Weapon: superior (rank 2)
"Our weapons failed to harm him, but by god, the same could not be said for his weapons. After the first assault, after we realised that we were making no difference, we fell back, we ran as fast as humanly possible, back towards the keep in an effort to prolong our lives for a few moments...
Arael brandished a completely inhuman weapon, an axe larger than two men put together, when he raised it, it blotted out the sun, leaving us in inky black darkness. As he slashed the axe in front of him, the mere force of the single swing separated two of my men's torsos from their legs, cutting them clean in half. We hastily rotated into a defensive position, it was by now that we realised that outrunning the demon prince was not an option, we had to fight an unwinnable battle for our lives. Four of my men took point, rolling into cover and drawing spears. They stabbed at Arael's vitals in an attempt to push him back. The least we could do was try to buy the survivors at the keep longer time to live.
By the time I had looked back, three of the four who had taken point had been...there is no other way to describe it, they had been ground into nothing less than human paste, their bodies crushed, pieces of their bodies mangled together with others. They did not deserve that.
I took it upon myself to confront the demon, I was captain of the guard, it was my duty to protect these soldiers from whatever the world could throw at them. Come rain, snow or even hell itself. I had to protect them.
I jumped from my cover position, drawing a dagger, I charged at Arael, his legs were my target, perhaps killing him was impossible, but maiming him? I had to try, at least.
Vanity, is what it was, trying to be the damn hero, again. Arael took a swipe at me. It would have been fatal, it would have ended my life instantly if it was not for Vaul, my captain at the time...
He was a noble one, he saw me in danger, and he felt that I, being the king's son, should not suffer the fate of the others. So he dived in front of me. Vaul took the blow.
I had to watch the man who saved my life detonate from the force of the blow, his body shattered, his innards bursting from every orifice before his skin was ripped to pieces. The back blow of the terrible swing still threw me to the ground, even though through Vaul, I had survived,"
Rage of the Unchanging
Berserker: superior (rank 2)
"Seven men...seven! Each one under my watch killed by that...that...THING! And so my illusion of heroics returned to me, as I charged at Arael again. Vaul died in vain because I did not know when to fall back. I regret it every day. Each man had families, children, wives... I can never make it up to them, even to this day, I can never fully explain to them how sorry I am for the deaths of their loved ones.
I struck Arael with the mightiest blow I could muster, my blade connected with his demonic hide, before my sword shattered in my hands, lethal pieces of shrapnel from the violent shatter flying in all directions, many pieces embedding themselves into the stone walls around us.
Like a fool, I tried again, I scooped up a nearby mace and slammed it into Arael's hip, and history repeated itself, the mace exploded into a thousand shards, but this time I was stricken by one of the stray splinters of steel, it pierced my arm, nearly severing my limb. It was so, unimaginably painful, and i screamed out in pain, as I fell to my knees before Arael. Funny, how they call him the Unchanging, his absolute power will never change...
I scrambled to my feet, clutching my stricken arm in my hand, and I ran as fast as a limp could carry me. The demon prince slowly turned, watching me as i ran. It was a horrible feeling, knowing that this animal was just watching me suffer, biding his time. He didn't wait for long, though.
I was nearly unconscious, recalling the exact events of the following minutes is something I shall never be able to do properly. All I remember was sprinting past the remaining soldiers like some fucking coward, they covered my escape. They chanted to me, they told me I was braver than the best of them, but i knew it wasn't true.
Then, all I heard was deafening roars, screaming, anguished wails erupting from behind me. Arael had toyed with us for long enough, I knew the soldiers were dead the moment I heard the demon roar,"
The Halls of Misery
Binding: superior (rank 2)
"My father could not see his kingdom die, he couldn't see me die, even if it meant him risking his own life. He was a brave man, I wish I could follow in his footsteps. I wish I could be at least half the man that he was,"
The captain nodded,
"You are a brave king, my lord, the men and I wish to only be as strong as you,"
"Well," The King replied, "I wasn't brave enough,"
Standing up, the King stretched his arms, it was a hard days riding getting here, It would be a long ride back.
"Please, my lord, how did you defeat the demon prince?"
"It wasn't me," started The King, "It was my father, and i don't know if 'defeated' is the right word, a more appropriate word would be 'delayed',"
The captain gave The King a puzzled look.
"My father decided to stop hiding, as I said, he was the brave one. He thundered his way out of the keep, sword in hand, screaming like a madman. He did what we all had tried to do, he attacked Arael head one, crying curses at the demon with every swipe he took. He desperately avoided the blows of the demon. He was the best and most agile fighter in the whole land, but even he faltered in comparison to the demon's strength. Father could go on no longer, the thousands of terrified families running from the demon knew this, the people watching from the keep knew this, and I knew it. The whole scene went silent, all the terrified bystanders stood still and watched in a mix of horror and awe as their King took one final lunge at Arael, plunging his blade straight into the heart of the demonic prince.
Then, against all the odds, Arael spoke.
All i remember was a thunderous but lifeless voice calling out to us, telling us that mortal steel was not the bane of the Demonic, he said that humanity will never be safe. He said the Unchanging will arrive.
Looking back in my memory after that, all I see is Arael suspending my father in the air by his throat, the demon mocking him about how he would spend an eternity suffering in the Halls of Misery. And then they were gone.
The morning after, all we found was my fathers body, although the magi caste had confirmed that his soul had been bound to a demonic outer plane.
That is the last memory of my father. He paid the ultimate price to save us all,"
The captain agreed, "He sounds like he was the most noble of men, your majesty,"
The King simply nodded.
"Your memory is crystal clear, you remember like it was yesterday, and that shall never change" a voice called out.
A thunderous voice, so familiar to The King.
No need to turn around, he knew he had failed, the King simply mouthed the words: I am sorry, to his captain, who had the look of utter terror on his face, that was so familiar to The King, it looked so much like the faces of the men who had died on his watch.
The acolytes had not failed, all the King saw before he closed his eyes was the great Demonic axe blotting out the sun.