Darkness gathered in the heavy mist that filled the nooks and crannies of the terrain, enveloping the tableau that was taking place within its embrace as the melee rose into a full onslaught. Serpentine, four-armed demons wielded maces of chain and spikes upon human soldiers brave enough to climb the razor-sharp stone they entwined around while their scorpion-tailed brethren, armed with onyx shields and swords as black as their hearts, alternated stinging and hacking their prey. Massive, worm-filled fliers more skeleton than flesh, flew through the air on tattered wings of leather sinew, dive-bombing their targets- lifting them thousands of feet skyward, oblivious to their feeble attempts at escape, before dashing them unceremoniously on the jagged cliffs below.
Fifty soldiers, male and female alike - yet fighters all, engaged their enemy as one mind and movement; carving their path through the falling carcasses and flying limbs of their opponents as they forged onward determined to send them back to the hell from which they came- never realizing that they were actually being herded closer to their fate.
The young stranger, out of place in the world around him, stood a distance from the massacre, desperately wanting to help them-to warn them of the ruse, but found himself unable to move- forced to remain in the role of spectator. Tears of frustration and agony streamed down his cheeks as the enemies’ plan sprang into action-revealed by the screams, shrieks and death cries that reverberated off the mountains- an audible exclamation punctuating the seeming futility of their resistance as, one after another, the fighters began to fall. The onslaught continued unmercifully until only seven ragged, and torn men of valor remained to be taken prisoner and dragged to their fate at the Demon encampment higher in the sulfur-laden battlefield.
The unwilling visitor fell to his knees as the ground beneath him shifted and turned while the scene around him morphed from bloodied terrain to the dark and crudely constructed structures that made up the hell-spawn home base. He waited for the stillness to return before attempting to stand and look about- his heart sinking at what his eyes beheld.
Throngs of demons of every conceivable appearance lined the camp entrance like spectators at a parade, cheering the triumphant fighters who marched in, egos inflated, dragging their chained and humiliated prize behind. Skeletal remains of past victims crunched beneath the prisoner’s feet as they shuffled along wearily, their ears deaf to the taunts and jeers hurled by their captors.
The prisoners were ushered through the maddening horde and led to the center of the camp where they were shackled to rough hewn stones and further beaten for amusement’s sake.
Only one spectator, the one who didn’t belong, screamed in horror as he watched body after body cruelly abused before being tossed nonchalantly into a deep pit built within a wall of pock- holed rocks that held the ravenous waves of the adjacent sea precariously at bay.
He fell to his knees in despair as he witnessed the final insult: two of the largest demons, massive beings with the head and body of a bull but torso of a man and dragon wings, took hold of a massive, oxidized iron grate that lay near the pit and tossed it over the opening, preventing any chance of escape.
Tides of nausea swept violently across his body as the stranger was once again whisked to another location - this time to the bone and personal effect- littered bottom of the pit he had just seen from above. His eyes adjusted to the sudden change in light revealing an amazing scene. Six of the seven remaining fighters, broken and defeated as they were, had dragged themselves and one another up into sitting positions forming an open circle and began praying as one in an unknown tongue. Enough space had been left in their ranks for the seventh, currently scratching around the floor and amid the bones and personal remains of previous occupants, to join in.
The visitor watched curiously as the figure doggedly searched its surroundings for an unknown object. A weathered tan hood, miraculously still intact, had been drawn over his head, only semi-revealing the destroyed yet determined face of a dying man.