Prologue: Glimpses of Two Worlds

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Upon the peak, a purple portal gaped, demons pouring forth from it. The infernal creatures of Aead strode onto human land, their very presence defiling the soil, souring the air.

Near the foot of the mountain, an army stood to meet them, light glinting off plate and weapons. A man stood in front of the rest, a banner clutched in his hands – a white star against a yellow field.

“FOR GLORY!” the man shouted. “CHARGE!”

And the men charged.

The army rode onto the battlefield, horses and armor and blades, knights encased in steel and footmen with deadly pikes. They rushed ahead, for the honor of mankind.

The demons, vile fiends of every shape and size, ran towards them. Fierce, dogged determination drove them – the determination to claim that to which they had no right.

The armies clashed, and the forces of darkness were pushed back, the sound of drums punctuating the triumph.

The land was all red, cracked rock, not a single other sight to be seen. From the stony ground an enormous coliseum rose, a single bastion standing in defiance of the wasteland around. Its walls were a beautiful white, its arches plated with gold. It made an impressive sight.

Inside sat hundreds, the seats lined with spectators. Not humans, no – each and every one of them was a demon. This was the world of Aead – where they came from.

One stood, addressing the crowd. He shouted speeches and said the words of ceremony, preparation for the main event. For what they were all here for.

Finally, someone stepped through one of the arena’s gates. At first glance she may have looked like a human woman. But all it took to dispel that notion was a look at her eyes – eyes the orange of burning flames. They marked her out as a demon, as much a fiend of the underworld as any of the creatures that surrounded her. Her right hand gripped a broad sword, and her eyes were focused on the other side of the arena.

From the other gate, another demon walked. This one was not similar to a human at all, except perhaps in the basest of ways. His skin was pitch black, leathery, like the hide of some animal that emerged in the night. And his face… his face was a twisted thing, almost like that of a bat, and two massive glowing green eyes were set within it. In his own hands he held a sword too, a thing with a gently curved blade, and he faced the other demon.

Steel rang out, and a warrior of mankind slew a demon, its limp body falling to the ground. Another came, but before it could do a thing, another man struck it from behind, and it too collapsed. Arrows rang out, felling a horde of them at once. The sound of hooves came, horses rushing towards the enemy forces, and the demons scattered.

And then a great beast appeared, its bulk towering over the other demons. In its twisted, bestial hand it held an enormous blade, and men scrambled to get away from it. It swung its weapon, splitting a man’s head in two and letting his brains seep out onto the grass.

More came, more of those furious beasts, and slowly, the human forces stepped back. One struck, its blade cutting an arc through the air, and a man toppled to the ground, his body split in two.

The batlike demon struck first, sword singing as it danced towards the other. But the other demon brought up her own blade, and with a mighty swing, the curved sword was knocked aside. As the demon staggered backwards, the humanlike one pressed forth, her sword slicing hungrily at her opponent’s black, leathery skin. He stepped back. It was all he could do under such an assault.

Finally, the bat-faced demon saw his opportunity, and struck even as he dodged his opponent’s swing. But with her other hand she gripped the demon’s wrist, and with a simple twist, a bestial screech came from the bat-demon’s throat and his sword clattered to the ground.

The human forces retreated, pushed back by the sudden appearance of those terrifying beasts. Dread filled their hearts and minds, and not a soul of them would have dreamt of trying to fight one of those things. But with the twang of a bowstring, a volley of arrows flew forth, striking down hordes of demons – and an arrow lodged itself in the head of one of those fiends, drawing a roar of pain from it. Another arrow struck it in the eye, and it collapsed to the ground, slain.

Seeing that even those champions of evil could be destroyed, the people rallied. They struck forth, pushing the demonic army back once more. The great beasts tried to stop them, but the humans did not fear them anymore. Even those seemingly unstoppable titans were overwhelmed and brought down, the glory of humanity reclaimed.

Many died that day, but their sacrifices were not in vain. The human forces, their spirit now indomitable, struck again and again, and soon, the demons retreated, crawling back to whence they had come.

The bat-demon crumpled to the floor in pain as his enemy raised her blade. Desperately, it tried to crawl away, to save himself from his fate.

But the sword fell, and with a flash of steel, a life ended.

Someone stood up above, overlooking the battle. The demon looked down at the slaughter, despair in his eyes.

The retreat was sounded, and the demons below scrambled to get away.

In the audience above another bat-demon sat, eyes fixed upon the arena as he saw the loser bleed to death.

As he saw his father bleed to death.

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