Apart from the dripping of rain water, and maybe the scuttling of little rat feet on the cold, stone floors, there was but absolute silence.
The air was still, the dead were asleep, yet, screams from decades ago could still be heard throughout the many hallways and corridors that turned, twisted, and dropped into a labyrinthine maze.
400 years. It had been more or less 400 years since my soul was first bound to these very walls, chained to my call of duty for the eternities to come.
For the however-many centuries I have remained entrapped within the prison confines, my rest had been without disturbance.
But now, now comes a band of god-forsaken misfits who, without a doubt, lusted for the riches and wealth buried underneath these very lands. I was quite upset -- no, actually -- utterly pissed.
See, I was perfectly content with my current charge: "protect the riches chasms below, and execute any soul that dares taint the gold with their filthy hands.
" That was more or less the extent of my duty, and I was more than happy to abide by them -- I mean, how often do a band of raiders invade a historic prison in the middle of nowhere?
Quite frankly, I never thought so either, but evidently, I am mistaken.
Despite the dark that clouded their vision, my eyes scanned the room with perfect clarity.
There were five of them -- lightly armed with puny daggers, crossbows, and swords; little to no magical training; but most importantly, they were humans. Thank god for that last bit.
For a second or two, I had thought that some dull-headed sorcerer had sent demons to fetch the riches for him. But no, the intruders were but pathetic humans. Perfect.
"This is foolish," said one of the bandits. "Father is delusional to believe some fairy tale."
"Hush, now," said another. "Father has his reasons to believe what he believes. There has to be cause behind his hysterics."
"The contradiction being?"
And at this exact moment did I decide to make my presence known amongst the squabbling pipsqueaks.
From the darkness emerged a being with undying rage -- the same rage that would spark in one's soul after being rudely woken up from centuries of sleep.
Heck, I probably would have spared their lives if they had just knocked instead of slamming the front door open.
"Gentlemen," boomed a voice from the shadows, ripe with amazingness. This was mine, of course.
The bandits looked to one another, torch still flickering lazily in hand.
The eldest one stepped forward, sword unsheathed and ready to strike me down -- little did they know such blade could hardly even scratch me. "Who speaks?"
Out of shadows and into the light stepped a knight in rusted armor, eyes flaring like fire in a darkened forest.
What little confidence and bravado their faces retained vanished into complete nothingness.
This was thanks to my magnificent glory, of course -- nothing to do with the massive claymore I swung around so effortlessly with one hand (although that may have helped a smudge bit).
I decided a little self-gloating was in order. "It is I, the guardian of these sacred grounds. Who dares ask?"
The bandits looked to one another. Perhaps they have finally noticed who they were addressing so arrogantly. Perhaps they have finally come to recognize my godly presence.
Perhaps they have finally -- tink!
I turned my head at the noise. Lying roughly three feet from where I stood was a steel bolt that had apparently bounced clean off my shoulder pad without leaving so much as a mark.
The eldest of the bandits lowered his crossbow. "What manner of beast are you?"
"Beast?" I spat the words out. The audacity of this vile man! He dares call me a beast?! "I am no sort of beast, human!"
"Then what are you?" asked the scrawny one. "Wraith? Revenant? Phantom? What be you?"
I let the claymore drive itself into the ground and adjusted the spiked gauntlets that gloved my undead hands. Oh boy was I prepared to introduce my mightiness to these fools.
"I am Al-Nashur, Iron Warden of East Escardia.
I have built the great Imperium palace brick by brick, mason by mason; I have torn down the Navylan States man by man,
ruler by ruler; and I have guarded Solomon's greatest treasures below these very grounds for centuries to come. To whom am I addressing?"
The youngest bandit turned to face the cold stare of his elder. "Perhaps we should leave, brother."
The eldest one turned to face his companions. Some greeted him with nods and reassurance; others with dubious looks and blank faces.
I could tell from their whispers that they were contemplating whether this whole fiasco that they had seemed to plan so meticulously was worth their lives. It was not of importance to me.
As far as I was concerned, I still had to uphold my charge -- there was no exception to that.
"Leave?" I interjected.
They ceased all chattering and turned to face me. Some drew their blades; others, their fists and bows.
The claymore left the ground. "You can't leave. Not just yet."
Blades unsheathed, bolts loaded into crossbows, fighting stances were taken up. Certainly, they intended to not just roll over and die -- now that was quite a pity.
The prison doors slammed shut and locked themselves. "My charge is absolute and defined, gentlemen. I am to eliminate any intruder who attempts to steal my master's riches.
If it were up to me. . . Well, to be honest, I still would have killed you all -- perhaps in less gory ways."
Four sets of bolts rushed at me. One was easily avoided with a tilt of my head, another blocked by a swing of my claymore, and a third crushed mid-flight by a quick jab from my fist.
But the fourth was quite an unpleasant surprise.
Instead of simply bouncing off my gorget and falling onto the stone floors like a fly without wings, the bolt erupted into a maelstrom of fire that enveloped me from head to toe.
"That ought to be enough," said one of the bandits from beyond the whirlwind of fire.
"Is it?" said another.
"I have yet to see a being survive the Vargas Inferno."
The tornado of fire vanished into thin air, and so did I.
Listen, the Vargas Inferno had little to no effect on me, but being inside a vortex of searing-hot flames did not feel the slightest bit pleasant, and I had no intention getting a burn.
I'd even go as far to say that it hurt -- just a tiny bit though, nothing much.
I took in every slight bit of their movement down below. Up on a parapet, a revenant of great power (guess who?), watched intently.
I spun the claymore around, holding onto the handle with the back of both my hands. In almost a flash, I dropped from the ceiling above and drove the blade through one of their skulls.
There was a short cry, a crunch, and a gasp of utter disbelief from the others.
The man's body had been reduced to but mushy piles of flesh, shards of broken bones, and puddles of oozing blood.
I know this sounds rather sadistic, but in hindsight, it was quite comedic, actually -- take my word for it.
"Bastra!" hollered the eldest. "What have you done, demon?!"
With a tilt of the head and a mock gesture, I responded with one of the many snide remarks I could have come up with right there and then. "I have upheld my charge, dear sir."
Overcome with both rage and stupidity (I mean, honestly, who would ever want to pick a fight with someone as mighty, glorious, and legendary as myself?
), the eldest bandit reached into his coat pocket and retrieved something small, spherical, translucent, and wine red.
Almost immediately, I recognized what that something might be. It was a Demon Sphere -- a summoner's favored tool. Think of it as a cage, but for demons and other malevolent spirits alike.
When broken, the demon within would be let loose and bound to the summoner's will. In my case, it was an extra opponent to slay. Good grief.
The eldest bandit hurled the Demon Sphere at a nearby pillar, immediately shattering it into a million (an exaggeration, for those who are unenlightened with the arts of language),
shards of glass.
I stood watching the shattered glass clatter onto the floor, and so did they. For the next few seconds, not a single word was so much as muttered.
Here's the thing about Demon Spheres: they require quite a great deal of knowledge to be of use.
Failing to abide by a strict set of instructions meant that the entrapped demon could possibly escape, and could very possibly take one's life on its way out.
In this instance, the former had happened, but regrettably not the latter. It truly was a pity.
I was about to laugh at another one of their anti-climatic, pathetic, embarrassing defeats (I had to, how could I not?), when a voice from the shadows cut me off.
Inhumane, ominous, and sounds like a dozen different voices in an instance? Yep, I knew quite well whose voice this was (a little, quite too well, might I add).
I turned and bowed to the shadows behind me. "Astoscillis."
"They pit us against each other once more."
"It seems they have."
"Fate is cruel, no?"
"You're one to talk. Whilst I slave away for an idiotic brat, you're free to roam the lands however and whenever you please."
"I say otherwise."
Into the light stepped my opponent -- Hell's very own famed Death Baron, Astoscillis Void.
From head to toe,
he was dressed in a shade of black that blended perfectly into the shadows: jet black coat with ragged and torn sleeves; charcoal trousers that masked his in-humaneness; and a set
of dark oxfords that clicked on his every step -- these were Astoscillis' guise (a very pathetic human guise, might I add.
One could still very clearly see two sets of bone-white horns protruding from either side of his face).
"Enough!" Cried the eldest bandit. "Demon, I command you to destroy this entity!"
Astoscillis sighed. For a second there, he almost, (a great emphasize on 'almost'), sounded sympathetic. "I apologize, Nashur."
-Read the full story at the official Ravens & Qrows website!-