Erzaren Eilhana stepped out from the shadows of a broom closet and faced the approaching man.

“Tell me,” Erzaren said. “What’s it like to die?”

He didn’t give the man time to answer. No, his silver dagger was already in hand, its blade cutting through the man’s neck like butter. The man began to gurgle a reply, but stopped when Erzaren drove the silver blade through his heart.

Instead of letting the man fall, Erzaren grabbed his lapels and gently lowered him. The white lace shirt was ruined with crimson stains, but there was time to save the justacorps, an elaborately embroidered thigh length jacket, and the waistcoat. Erzaren stripped the man of both, trying not to wrinkle them. He took his cloak off. He would need to hurry.

The dead man was Jezzrin Lanford, and though he died by Erzaren’s hand he wasn’t the assassins primary target. Jezzrin was an unwitting pawn in Emperor Kalmar Chavelled III’s game. A piece of evidence to cast doubt on the Eakranait Dynasty in a bid to start a war.

Erzaren was out of his comfort zone on this one. Under normal circumstances, Erzaren would avoid the business of lords as if it were the plague. His normal fair was merchants, slavers, crime cartels, and the occasional woman scorned. The money wasn’t as good as the business between lords, and when it came to the women scorned, payment rarely included money. Sticking to small time was an intelligent decision. If he were caught he might spend a little time in the dungeons, and the likelihood of the gallows was nil. Still, the rings for this job were far too good to pass up.

Erzaren used his cloak to wrap up Jezzrin’s body, then deposited the man inside the broom closet. The cloak was embroidered with the Eakranait Dynasty’s emblem. The cloak quickly took to soaking up as much blood as it could, like a cloth vampire. Erzaren looked down at the man and shook his head. The plot was very well thought out, planned by the emperor himself. He wanted to expand his territory and needed a reason to stick his nose in the business of other nations.

He closed the door, almost. As part of his specific instructions he’d been told to leave the door slightly ajar. The issue resolved, he bent down and grabbed the waistcoat and the justacorps. A long bench, with a blood red cushion, set against a wall opposite a large window. Erzaren laid the garments on the bench and saw to his other needs. He pulled a wizard’s bottomless bag out of one boot and unrolled it. He removed his sword belt and slipped it down into the bag. The bags dimensions didn’t change. Out of the bag he pulled three dusty black spheres, and two black makeup cases. He hung the spheres along his belt and set the makeup cases on the bench beside the coat and vest. With deft hands he tied the bag on the opposite hip. A little finagling later and he was able to get it, so the hilt of his sword poked out of the bag.

Another small movement and he adjusted the straps on his gauntlet, checking how hard it would be to reach the trio of throwing daggers tucked into it. He wiped his silver dagger clean on the bench’s cushion, then replaced it in his boot sheath.

Erzaren checked his reflection in the window, his features were angular with hard planes along his jaw and chin. His eyes were a feral ice blue with flecks of silver in them. The most defining trait was the long angry red scar that ran from nostril to ear on the left side of his face.

The double doors at the end of the hall cracked open, and through the corner of his eye Erzaren could see a servant girl stepping out into the hallway. Normally, this would bring a cry of alarm drawing the attention of all the guards in the castle to Erzaren’s location. Not this time though. No, this servant girl, dressed from head to toe in a black burqa, was a part of Erzaren’s backup plan.

He picked up the makeup cases, popped the foundation open, and began to spread it over the length of his scar. For good measure, he covered the rest of his face as well. Then he applied the powder, and now—minus the elven ears—he looked closely enough to Jezzrin that he should pass for the manservant long enough to reach the ambassador.

As the last part of his preparations he picked up the waistcoat and buttoned it on and pulled the justacorps to rest on his shoulders. There was a belt to buckle around it. It would be difficult to reach the tools of his trade, but… he had specific instructions. Looking back at his reflection he tried to cover his ears, but gave up quickly. Time was wasting. He ran his hands over his midsection and tugged at the justacorps, trying to make sure everything looked smooth and proper.

Air caught in his throat. What was he doing here? The thought had been poised on the edge of his mind since before he left home this morning.

One thousand platinum rings, that was the price on the ambassador’s head. It was more money than some kingdoms saw in an entire year. It meant one thing, and one thing only: he was walking into a trap.

Why then, was he standing in this hallway?

His feet started moving—he followed, allowing the need to take over.

There was one reason, and one reason only that saw him walking towards the double doors at the far end.

The emperor had given him specific instructions but not quite as specific as they should have been.

After all, what better piece of evidence would there be than the assassin caught and killed in the attack? After he’d killed the ambassador of course. The emperor wouldn’t want him left alive, couldn’t have him spilling the dirty little secret about who it was that hired him.

Still his legs moved. Propelling him forward. On towards almost certain death. The keyword being almost. Erzaren was the best, and the best never go anywhere without a backup plan.

He stopped moving as he came up beside the girl. Her silver eyes stared through the tiny slit in the face of the body covering garment. “Why are you going through with this?” L’erissa asked.

“How many?” Erzaren asked, ignoring her question.

“Six hundred all told,” L’erissa said. “The very cream of the elite crop. If they’re not related to the crown in some way, then they’re party crashers. There are at least a hundred servants, and thirty guards, armed to the teeth.”

“How many of us?”

“Ten,” L’erissa said. “Counting yourself.”


“Hardly,” L’erissa said in a condescending tone. “We’re not equipped to handle an operation like this.”

Erzaren couldn’t help but smile at the comment. His white teeth glinted in the light and he almost began to laugh. “That’s what makes this exciting.”

“Why?” L’erissa asked again. “You’re not dumb enough to walk in there for the rings alone. You’ve no love for king and country. What sort of rational explanation can you give for this?”

Erzaren’s smile faded. He stood up a little straighter, rolling his shoulders to get them in just the right position. He could feel it then. The calm before the storm that overcame him whenever he was about to do a job. “Go back inside. Wait for the signal.”

“You’re a damn fool, Erzaren Eilhana,” L’erissa said. “I don’t know why I give you the time of day.” She shook her head and swept back through the double doors. Erzaren let them swing closed, cutting him off from everything. He needed a minute. The feeling built, and built. Soon it would spill over.

He inhaled, filling his lungs to capacity.

For one breath he would have power over life and death. With a single motion he could change the fate of entire nations. Nay, his actions could change the entire course of history.

Erzaren reached out, touching the handle. He twisted it, slowly, feeling every tick of movement. The end was approaching. The beginning of something new. The door began to open. Music worked its way through the crack. The scent of roasted ham assaulted his nose.

There was one reason he was walking willingly into a trap.

One reason.

For one breath. One. Single. Breath. He would be a god.

Erzaren exhaled.



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Featured Image Credit: Sepirgo

Short Story Saturday: A Tale of Two Demons

Thought I’d do something a little different today. This is a short story I wrote a while back. I published it on Watt Pad almost two years ago now. It was inspired by the characters myself and one of my best friends created for a Dungeons and Dragons game. Now, if you would, please enjoy A Tale of Two Demons:

The knight’s blade spun a helix around the orc’s spear, while the knight caught another orc with his shield. The bash was a clothesline that sent the beast stumbling, and the knight drew back and punched with the shield edge forward. Contact was made, and there was a satisfying crunch as the orc’s jaw disintegrated from the blow.

Then the knight caught his spinning blade in a reverse grip, hefted it, then drove it back down through the orc’s neck and torso. The blade came out somewhere alongside the orc’s spine, and as the knight removed the blade the beast gurgled some last remark. The knight thought it might have been an insult to his mother integrity, but he shrugged. He righted his grip on the sword and spun, cutting a gash with it deep into the orc with the broken jaw. That beast gurgled as he died, but his final words were totally unintelligible.

The knight, a demon elf by the name of Searanin Nightshade, drew his blade—Solus, a holy longsword with a mind and attitude all its own—from the corpse and turned back towards the battle. He scanned the field with a paragon’s eye, looking for the next fowl beast to be dispatched.

He was an anomaly, an aberration as he was born half demon, yet now he served Sol, the highest of powers, as a paladin. The armor and the weapon he used caused him physical pain with every move. The holy enchantments placed upon them were meant to protect the wearer, and aid him in battle against his unholy foes. On Searanin that armor was an iron maiden, and he used it as penance. For centuries he had served as the highest general to Marwoleath Drwg, the demon elf progenitor and the ruler of the ancient Taratulian empire. Marwoleath Drwg, with Searanin at his right, had united all of Launam under one banner and had served as the world’s third Tyrant God King. All that changed, though, and now Searanin felt every death he caused clearly as the divine might surged through his armor and his bones. He knew he would never have redemption, and never serve Sol, the god of the sun and the holy light, on the highest of the mounting heavens.

Hell was what a demon elf deserved. Eternal torment in all its many ways. And, Searanin knew, with as many evil souls as he’d sent through those gates, he was going to wind up on the deepest layer. And, his torment really would be eternal.

Still, that destiny might be eons from now, who knew how long his demonic blood would sustain his mortal form. So, he would serve Sol now, while he still drew breath, and he would battle against the forces of darkness.

Searanin let loose a war cry and charged, running heedlessly into a cluster of orcs. His sword arm worked, going up and over, cutting the legs out from under one foe and taking the head off the next. His shield was a blur of motion, it caught blows and dealt them out, moving like an extension of his arm, a solid metal fist the size of a man’s torso. The last orc fell, his head still spinning on the stump of his neck, when Searanin saw him.

If Searanin had been the right hand of Marwoleath Drwg, he had been the back hand. The most vicious warrior with the coldest eyes and a heart wrought from steel. They called him many things; samurai, assassin, hitokiri, the Shadow, all of it was the same to him. Shitenshi Amatatsu, the masked demon elf, Searanin’s only equal in all the waking world. Gods had fallen to Shitenshi’s swords.

The masked demon elf locked eyes with him. Searanin looking through the visor of his helm couldn’t see anything but the mask. The eyes that saw through two tiny wooden holes in the plain wooden mask were black stones. They gave no hint of the samurai’s plan.

Orc’s rushed him, and Shitenshi was a blur of motion. Twin katana’s jumped into the air from a pair of crossed sheathes on his back, while he drew two more from the sheathes on his hips. The first two moved of their own accord, everdancing while giving life to whatever mental commands Shitenshi gave them. Each blade moved once and the cluster of orcs dropped. Heads, arms, legs, all of them came loose at the joints and collapsed to the ground. Not a drop of blood stained any of the blades.

“Moving faster than the eye can see,” Searanin muttered. His eyes had tracked only the first motion. He clenched his teeth and started forward, started towards the masked demon elf.

This was destiny.

“They say Asmodeus fears your blades,” Searanin says loud enough for the masked elf to hear. “It’s strange that the king of Hell fears them and I do not. Maybe I’ll take hell for myself when those blades send me there.”

Searanin flicked his wrist and twisted Solus up and around into a ready position. He set his shield waiting for Shitenshi’s charge. Shitenshi watched Searanin, and made a few steps to the right, putting himself in front of the shield.

“You might want to reverse your grip,” the masked elf said. It was a surprise to Searanin, he’d rarely heard the masked elf’s voice when the two of them worked on the same side. “I know you’re not left handed.”

Searanin smiled behind his visor. “If I fight with my right, this will be over too fast.”

“So be it,” Shitenshi said. He shrugged, and vanished.

The knight closed his eyes and accessed an ethereal sixth sense, not psychic perception, but close to it. This sense used everything but sight. Sight hindered it. Searanin gave light to this sense and felt the very vibration of the air as Shitenshi moved in.

Searanin spun and brought his shield up, catching the first of the masked elf’s blades. His sword arm worked, knocking away two more blades, but the fourth landed. It came in over his shield, and struck down on his shoulder. The metal pauldron came away with a crease in it, and the blow rang through he knight’s bones. He back pedaled and gave an awkward thrust that the masked elf easily turned aside.

“I thought you were better than this,” Shitenshi said, his voice sounding hollow behind the mask.

“I’m used to my opponents breathing fire,” Searanin replied with a slight smile on his face. “Give me a moment to adjust and you’ll be little more than an orc to Solus.”

Shitenshi went to move, to vanish en toto again, but Searanin gave a simple thought and the masked elf’s body outlined in blue faerie fire. It did no damage, but made his moves easier to track, and while the masked elf could dismiss that fire with a thought, he kept his decoration.

Searanin’s sword arm worked again and again as Shitenshi moved in. It turned away cuts and slashes left and right, and while the occasional blow landed on his shield, Searanin kept that away from the thick of the fighting. His shoulder ached with a horrid pain, the bone was most definitely bruised, if not broken, and the creased metal of the pauldron pinched into his arm with every move.

He back pedaled, and kept moving, making the masked elf chase him. He avoided as many strikes as he blocked, and took more and more hits. The holy wards of his armor were pushing their limits. A time for different tactics was close at hand.

On the next swing Searanin ducked under the blade and thrust Solus into the ground. He was up, and caught Shitenshi’s wrist on the incoming swing. He pulled the masked elf close to him, and smashed his heavy steel shield into Shitenshi’s face. The attack surprised the masked elf more than it stunned him, but the hesitation it created was more than enough time for Searanin to act.

A bolt of force shot out from Searaning and caught the masked elf in the chest, it drove him back, and a little red gold bead followed him. The fireball blossomed, a new deadly flower on the field of battle. Trees caught fire, shrubs were crisped in an instant and the ground blackened.

The knight drew his blade from the ground and stood ready. The fireball would have been the end of any other foe.

Shitenshi walked out practically unscathed. The edges of his robes were blackened and frayed, and a little smoke drifted up from his ash white hair. He set up for an attack, but this time Searanin was faster.

Blink, a powerful teleportation spell, moved the knight to Shitenshi’s back, and Solus drove in for the kill. The everdancing blades caught Solus and turned the blow to the side, but even this Searanin was prepared for. He turned one floating katana up with Solus, and caught the opposite end with his shield. He drove it down to his knee and, with all the force a demon elf could muster and snapped the blade in two. A cry of anguish and death rose up from the magical weapon. It dropped to the ground smoking.

Shitenshi spun, Searanin could feel his rage, and drove both his blades down, but the knight rolled under the attack and sprung. He speared Shitenshi, knocking the masked elf to the ground.

Searanin could have pushed the advantage, and won there, simply by channeling the strength of Sol’s holy smite through his body and into Shitenshi’s. That would have destroyed them both, however. Though it was questionable that either of them were truly evil, they were both products of demonic powers and a crazed god bent on revenge against his mother. Searanin could handle using his smiting abilities in small doses, but channeling enough to destroy Shitenshi…

The knight rolled and popped to his feet. Shitenshi kipped up, and the two began to circle, their swords held down low, pointing towards the earth.

“I’d had that sword since I was a child…” Shitenshi said.

Searanin shrugged. “War’s a bitch sometimes.”

“The blood on that blade…”

“Does not equal the amount of blood on my soul,” Searanin said. “You were an assassin. You struck small targets, and took maybe a hundred lives at once. I was a general. I commanded armies that numbered in the millions. The death toll on my soul numbers in the billions.”

“I remember plenty of those battles,” Shitenshi said, his voice sounding hollow again as it came from behind the mask. Searanin wished he would take the damn thing off, not seeing anything but his opponent’s eyes was unnerving. “It was my blades that bathed in the blood of the damned. My blades that made it possible for your armies to win the day. The blood on the battlefield did not fly high enough to hit your boot on your precious airships!”

Shitenshi moved, a blur of blue fire across the battlefield. His blades went up and over, down and around, the three of them seeming to fly every direction at once. Searanin fell back on his original plan. He back pedaled, and drove off some attacks while he caught some with his shield and the rest with his armor. The dents and dings were getting too him, all the vibrating metal surrounding his bones. Just the sound of it was enough to drive a man crazy. And the aches that came with it, rising up off of him high up into his mind and driving the signals there crazy.

Searanin pushed, infusing Solus with divine power, and lashed out at Shitenshi. The sword cut a golden path through the air. Shitenshi took a step back, but not fast enough. The very tip of Solus’ blade caught cloth and chainmail and flesh, biting through all of them and leaving a sizzling scar behind. Shitenshi reeled as the real attack came through, the divine power, drove in by a single millimeter deep cut, blew through his veins. It boiled his demonic blood, and an unrelenting pain washed over him in a golden wave.

The knight felt his own blood boil from the attack, every nick and cut and scrape along his arm blazed with divine fury. Sometimes that pain was right and fine, like his god congratulating him on a job well done. Now it was a right bastard that drove him to his knees. He dropped Solus to the ground as his hand cramped and his fingers spread apart in a horrific fashion.

He heard the attack coming almost too late.

Shitenshi’s blade cut a great arc through the air. It was only one blade with this attack, one with both of Shitenshi’s hands clenched around the adamantine katana’s hilt. The blow was meant to decapitate him, giving him an honorable death after the idiotic attempt at seppuku with the smite. But, Searanin heard the blade as it cut through the air, and instinct proved faster.

The knight leaned back on his haunches, getting his head away from the blade, and brought his shield up to catch the rest of the blow. Steel screamed in a way that should never be heard as the katana cut through the shield. It sheared through, all the way at an awkward angle and took Searanin’s forearm off halfway from the wrist to the elbow.

If the pain from the smite was bad, this pain was unimaginable and the knight fell back. He scrambled backwards across the field as he cradled the stump with his good arm. He left Solus lying there beside his shield… and his hand.

“Tut, tut, tut,” Shitenshi said. He also skipped on the chance to press his advantage. He sheathed his adamantine katana, letting it join the mithril one to his left. The obsidian bladed weapon still hovered over Shitenshi’s shoulder, waiting for the opportune moment. Searanin could feel how badly that sword wanted revenge.

The masked elf stooped and took hold of Solus using Searanin’s discarded right hand.

“He’s a fine blade,” Shitenshi said. “I can feel him fighting me now, even though my flesh has made no contact with him. I can feel his hatred for all things evil. I can feel his hatred for our ancestry. Yet he does not bemoan hanging at your side. You who excelled at being everything this blade hates. It follows your commands. Is penance the word I should be looking for here?”

Shitenshi shakes his head and casts away the hand, and lays his own on the blade’s hilt. “Oh yes, I can feel so much of you on this sword. The ideals you uphold. The fight you press on and on forever through thick and thin. You must realize you’ve made yourself an oxymoron. Your life is one. Your faith is one. You are an oxymoron.”

“And what have you done with your life?” Searanin asked. The pain in his arm was beyond overwhelming, and it had sickened him till he had to take his helm off and expel the contents of his stomach. He hacked again, before he was able to stand and really face Shitenshi.

“I’ve spent centuries atoning for my sins,” Searanin said. He gave a thought and a wreath of fire grew up around his left hand. The fire crisped the leather glove and gauntlet until both fell away as ashes. The fire only grew in intensity then. He waited another moment, and his eyes caught Shitenshi’s.

“Even today I fight to atone for those sins,” the knight said, then he slammed the palm of his left hand into the open wound of the stump on his right. The fire engulfed the exposed flesh. The metal of his chain shirt and gauntlet was caught in it, and when the flames fell away it was impossible to tell the difference between metal and flesh.

Searanin didn’t scream through the whole show, as badly as he had wanted too. He clenched his jaw instead, and broke two of his back teeth, molars that weren’t good for anything except grinding rabbit food to pulp before swallowing. He spit the remains out as he held out his left hand. “You’ll be returning that now.”

Shitenshi looked at Searanin with his cold stone colored eyes, then back down at the blade. “No,” the masked elf said. “You owe me a sword, and while this one’s not in line with my usual style, I feel it will be a suitable replacement.”

“Give me the sword,” Searanin said. Shitenshi didn’t pay attention, he put the sword through two practice swings then adjusted his grip on the hilt, working to understand the weight of the sword. He sent it through one more practice swing.

“Give me the sword, Shitenshi,” Searanin said. “Now!”

“Come and take it,” Shitenshi said.

Divinus Incendium!” Searanin cried out, and the gold plated Solus burst into a holy golden fire. As soon as the flames touched Shitenshi they jumped all the way up his arm. The divine fire craved the demonic blood in the same way a fire craves oxygen. They need both to live.

Shitenshi let go of the blade with a muffled cry. He stepped back out of the flame but it followed. His arm was already a blackened husk and the flame wanted more.

Searanin was on the move too. He caught Solus’ hilt, knowing he’d never lift a sword again. The divine fire made to burn his blood as well, lighting it up and making his arm glow from the inside out. Within the time it took for Searanin to catch Solus and lead into the final attack the metal plates of his gauntlet and ring mail were dripping hissing little beads to the ground beneath them. Still Searanin thrust, and Solus took Shitenshi under the arm. The weapon sheathed in its divine fire burned away any form of protection as though it were paper. The blade entered his ribs and exited up out of the hollow between his shoulder blade and his collar bone. The fire burned behind Shitenshi’s eyes, and his last cry was long and mournful.

For Searanin would die too. The obsidian katana, still floating in midair when the attack began, drove itself down through Searanin’s unprotected shoulder, and buried itself to the hilt. Searanin didn’t feel the attack, not until the blade exited somewhere alongside his spine. He turned and looked. He saw the hilt sticking up out of his shoulder like an unwanted weed.

“Not again,” he muttered.

Their bodies fell together, and they supported one another until they were on the ground. There, in a pool of blood and fire they died together, each holding the other.

And, that’s how their lives would end, each of them knew it, but today was not that day.

The illusion fell apart as a new form appeared on the battlefield. He was small, didn’t quite come up to either of the elves hips, and was probably older than both of them. Though he didn’t look it, what with a cleanly trimmed beard and a length of it braided down to the top of his breast. His hair was cropped short and his eyes were an unnaturally deep blue. He started clapping, and as he walked towards the elves the blood soaked ground became the spotless flagstone floor of some enormous dining hall.

When he reached the elves, neither of them were wearing armor. Neither had been blackened by a divine fire. And, neither of them were on death’s door step. They weren’t even breathing all that hard.

“Are you satisfied now?” Adolphus Meridan said, looking at the two demon elves. “Twenty-two times and you’ve had the same result each time. You enter the battlefield as foes and you both die. That’s mutually assured destruction at its finest.

Searanin sat up first and checked his arm. His hand was there, fully functional. He made a fist twice and sighed with relief. Then a little mock anger rose to his lips. “You cut off my arm you bastard!”

Searanin smiled as he watched Shitenshi’s reaction.

“You broke my damn sword,” the masked elf said, his mask nowhere to be seen. He shook his head and slammed one fist into the ground. He used that fist to push himself up, and with a little flourish he kicked around and brought himself to his feet. “I want a rematch.”

“Anytime,” Searanin said. He got back to his feet the old fashioned way and stretched. Then turned to Adolphus. “Prepare the field.”

Adolphus looked up at him and cocked an eyebrow. “You do it,” he said and turned to walk away. “If you want a rematch, really kill one another this time.” Adolphus stopped, glanced back over his shoulder and shook his head. Searaning and Shitenshi were both watching him leave.

“Gah,” Adolphus said. “Children these days.” To them: “I’ve got work to do, so bugger off for a century or two. I’m bored.”

The halfling lich smiled as he walked away, then vanished en toto. He knew they were both millennia old… and still they acted like children.

The End

Consecutive Days Blogging: 6