Attack in the Night
The demons came in droves, pouring out of tears in the night sky unhindered by walls or guards. Locked doors could not stop them, and the magical wards of the holy were overwhelmed by their sheer number. There was no hope but to run, to hide, and be hunted. Walled in by their own defenses, the people were trapped with death.
Primary among the demons’ targets were those born with magic. Lexanna awoke to the screams outside her bedchamber window. She rushed to look out, horrified by what she saw below. Demons did not merely kill their prey. They fed on the flesh and torment they inflicted.
Lexanna’s father appeared at her chamber door. “Hide, and do not reveal yourself until I return for you,” he said, leading her to the heavy wardrobe.
Her parents were the most powerful magicians in the Klimok region, assigned to the town of Shirgrand as emissaries of the Ossuary of Minds. They would be the only ones capable of saving the town. Their daughter, however; was useless in the fight. She had no magical talent to speak of and required protection.
With her faith in her parents intact, Lexanna slipped into the wardrobe. As a child she often would tuck herself away behind her clothes and leap out at Mircy, her maid, to frighten her. The space was a tighter fit as a woman nearly grown, but it would suffice.
When the door clicked shut, Lexanna sat in the dark and waited. Tears streamed down her face as the noise from the battle grew louder. Even in hiding the screaming of innocents rang in her ears while she listened, helpless. If only she had been born with her parent’s skills. Instead, she was naught but a girl raised in the manner of a noble lady. Her talents of sewing and dancing were worthless in protecting others.
After some time the noise diminished. Lexanna waited anxiously for her father to return with word of their victory. She considered opening the door to peek out, but feared the quiet could be a ruse to lure people from hiding. Many minutes passed and it became more difficult to remain ignorant of the events transpiring. When she thought she could take it no longer, the door of the wardrobe opened. Lexanna flinched against the sudden light.
“Come with me, hurry.” It was Mircy, and Lexanna sighed in relief at seeing her maid unharmed. The elder woman took her by the arm but Lexanna pulled away from her grasp. “What are you doing? The house is on fire, we must go.”
“Father said I am to wait here until he returns.”
“He sent me to fetch you, quickly.”
Lexanna did as she was asked. Mircy took her by the hand, leading her down the back stairs into the kitchen. At every turn there was evidence of death. Blood smeared the walls and floor, shreds of cloth and dismembered pieces were strewn about like leaves in autumn. Militiamen and servants alike had been slaughtered. Lexanna tried not to look, but it was impossible and she felt both rage and sorrow at the losses of life.
They ran out into the court yard. Immediately she was met with a horrible truth. Her mother and father lay dead. Demons feasted upon their corpses.
“No!” she screamed, and the beasts turned in her direction.
“Here!” Mircy yelled, gripping Lexanna tighter by the arm and dragging her forward. She fought against the woman but was wracked by grief and confusion.
At the far end of the yard stood a greater demon, looming taller than the wall. His muscled form was reminiscent of a man but from his head grew curled horns and from his back were mighty wings. His skin was color of smoldering ash, the glow of fire seeping out from within. He took a step forward, and another, but as he crossed the short distance to where Lexanna struggled against the maid’s grip, he grew smaller in size. When he reached them he was the size of any man, and his demonic features were hidden by illusion.
“You have done well,” he said, his voice strange and inhuman. Snatching Lexanna’s arm from the maid, the old woman backed away.
“It is as I have promised. She is pure and untainted by man or magic.”
The demon leaned in close, encircling Lexanna’s waist with his other arm. He smelled of smoke and blood. Hungrily he sniffed at her neck. “She will serve my purpose; a child born of magic with none for herself, such a tragedy.”
“Let me go,” Lexanna pleaded, but the more she attempted to twist away the tighter he held her, pressing her body against his. She could feel the heat beneath his skin through her nightdress.
“I cannot let you go when I have only just found you.” He moved in as if to kiss her and she turned her face away, terrified. The demon began to laugh, a resonating noise that shook her soul. “You do not have a choice. I am your destiny.”
“Release the girl!” A voice from above boomed down at them, and the demon hissed as he turned in its direction.
Lexanna raised her eyes to the manor wall to see a man standing there, a giant sword as long as he was tall in one hand, resting across his shoulders. She could not guess how a single man could wield such a thing, but was grateful for the interruption.
“Kill him!” the demon commanded, and the horde of smaller beasts rushed forward.
The stranger leapt down, swinging his giant blade as he moved, and cut the demons back. The beast that held her pushed Lexanna backward and she stumbled, falling to the ground. She watched as the monster began to grow in size once more, but the stranger was unafraid.
Taking the opportunity, she sprinted for the gate, but Mircy lurched forward to grab her once more. Although the woman was old, she was faster and stronger than one would expect.
“Why are you doing this?” Lexanna pleaded. “You’ve cared for me my entire life!”
“Insolent child! Always making the fool of me but it is I who fooled you all in the end. From the minute of your birth it was known that you would be the one!”
“The one for what?”
An answer was not forthcoming. As Lexanna struggled with the woman, so too did the stranger battle the greater demon, and their fight was fierce. Both Lexanna and Mircy were forced to scatter as they moved in their direction, lest they be caught by the swinging blade or trampled by the demon.
Moving faster and with greater agility than any man should, and swinging the giant blade as if it were naught but a regular sword, the greater demon was no match for the man. Feinting to trick the demon into lowering its guard, the stranger leapt up high, as if taking flight, and plunged the full length of his blade through the beast’s unprotected abdomen. The giant demon roared in pain, flailing to knock his attacker away.
Lexanna watched as the stranger used his weight to ride the blade downward, cutting the demon wide. Its innards and black blood spilled out into the yard, and she backed away to avoid being splashed. The man was drenched in the stuff, and momentarily vanished from view until he appeared again, seemingly unharmed. The greater demon toppled backwards into the house, crushing the roof and the walls as it fell.
“No!” Mircy screeched, flying forward to attack the stranger.
He put out his arm, catching her by the throat and lifted her from the ground. She kicked her feet wildly, pounding his wrist with her fists. The man stared at her from beneath his blood-soaked hair, anger clear on his face.
“You are a traitor to our people and this world, siding with demonic forces in your ignorance and offering your own charge into the grasp of something you do not understand. There is no place for you in this world.” With that, he snapped her neck and tossed her to the ground, running her through with his blade for good measure.
Lexanna stood by the gate, frozen in her own horror. The stranger cast a glance in her direction and she took full stock of him. He was dressed simply in a leather jerkin but wore no shirt beneath. Simple trousers made him appear to be little more than a militiaman. His skin was a strange color, dark but in an unnatural shade that hinted at the ashen hue of the demons. His hair was covered in blood, but she believed it was dark color.
Turning toward the greater demon, he lifted his blade. Lexanna was born without magic, but in that moment she saw what could be described as nothing else. The blade absorbed a fine dark mist from the bodies of the dead demons, and the corpses disintegrated into ash. She watched in amazement as his body absorbed the blood, and he appeared revitalized.
The stranger looked in her direction once more when it was done. “Leave this place. It is tainted and cursed and much time and magic will be needed to purify it, if it ever can be cleansed at all. There is nothing left for you now.” Without another word, and before she could thank him for saving his life, he bounded back onto the wall and leapt down to the other side, disappearing from view.
She did not instantly heed his words, knowing other demons were still in the city. Instead, Lexanna rushed to where her parents lay dead. Mutilated, there was nothing left of the faces, and their chests had been torn opened to allow the demons to feast upon their hearts. Falling to her knees, Lexanna was wracked by sobbing. When at last the tears slowed, she reached out and tore off ruffle around the sleeve of her mother’s robe. It was red velvet, scalloped, and trimmed with gold. Lexanna had helped make the robe. It was a gift to her mother, and one she wore often.
“Here! There’s one here!” someone shouted.
Lexanna turned her head to see militiamen running through the gate. The first to enter was a young man. She recognized his face as he knelt beside her.
“How did you survive?”
“There was a man. He killed a greater demon and saved me.” She motioned to the giant mountain of ash and the ruins of her home.
“We’ll get you safety,” he said, trying to help her to her feet. She collapsed back to her knees, unable to stand in her grief. “Help me, she’s in shock,” he said over his shoulder.
Two more men came with a stretcher and carried her out of the yard to where a carriage waited. She was put inside and glad that she could not see the carnage of Shirgrand, the only home she’d ever known destroyed in a single night.
Thank you for reading the opening of my new serialized story. More chapters will be posted in the coming weeks. You can read the remaining parts on Wattpad.