“Riley, hurry up!” Vanessa called up the stairs, annoyed that her little sister was taking so long. “We’re already late! Mom and Dad are there already!”
“I’m coming! Just gotta put the shoes on!” Riley called back down. The seventeen year old huffed; Riley had wanted to make her own costume for the party, and with her mother’s help had been working on it all week. When Halloween rolled around however, they found she still wasn’t done. She had been up in her room for the last three hours, frantically sewing and hot gluing her green and blue fairy princess costume together. Vanessa, being a Responsible Teenager, had volunteered to stay behind and drive her to the party later.
“You’d better hurry up! I’m leaving in five minutes with or without you!” Vanessa said, checking the clock on the wall. She twirled the brim of her black witches’ hat; she would be in attendance as the Wicked Witch of the West, and her boyfriend was going as a flying monkey.
“I’m ready!” Riley said, bouncing down the stairs, butterfly wings flapping on her back. While it would win no contests the dress, tiara, and wings were well done for a first attempt. Vanessa smiled. The eleven year old was so disappointed to learn that Trick or Treating was cancelled, but that only made her more determined to have the best costume she could at the party. And Riley looked adorable. The doorbell rang.
“Huh? The door? I thought everyone was at the party.” Riley said.
“Should be. I’ll get it.” Vanessa said, crossing the living room and opening it. A well-dressed older man, perhaps in his forties, in a black overcoat stood on their porch. He smiled and removed his hat, revealing his greying hair.
“Good evening, and Happy Halloween, miss.” he said cordially. “My, how lovely you look tonight. May I assume you and the young lass behind you are attending the party tonight?”
“Uh, yeah...” Vanessa said, unsure. “Pardon me, but do we know you?” She pepared to slam the door.
“Well, no actually. I merely saw you from the window and decided to warn you to be cautious. There are many devils out tonight, all hungering for a treat such as yourself.” He smiled wolfishly.
“Yeah,” she said, skin crawling and thoroughly creeped out. “I’ll take it under advisement. Goodbye.” She quickly shut the door in his face.
“Vanessa, who was that?” Riley asked.
“Don’t know. Think I’ll call the cops though, he’s-” The door clicked and slid open, and the man stepped inside.
“How careless of me, may I come in? I forgot to tell you my name. I am Grahglin, Infernal Count.” he said politely, exuding an air of menace. Vanessa jumped in front of her sister.
“Whoa! Why are you here? Get the hell out of my house!” she barked, but the man only grinned.
“Miss, I’m afraid to tell you neither one of you shall be making it to the party tonight.” he chuckled. He licked his lips, and Vanessa’s eyes went wide when she saw it was thin and forked, like a snake’s. “I did warn you, there are many devils out tonight.”
“Raaaahh!” Vanessa grabbed an ashtray off the coffee table and swung it with all her might into the stranger’s temple. He stumbled, but didn’t fall. He touched the side of his head, feeling black ichor drip down and heal instantly. He saw his fingers and laughed heartily, his face becoming sunken and shallow, pointed teeth elongating, ears stretching and lengthening.
“Wonderful.” Grahglin said as his hairline receded, eyed bulging out as his skin became a pale, sickly yellow. Riley screamed, and was scooped up by Vanessa as she bolted for the kitchen.
“Come on!” She left the laughing daemon behind and opened the kitchen door, silently cursing how much Riley had grown. She immediately stopped when she saw what was outside; Riley ceasing crying in shock.
Zombies. A horde of them, rotting and shuffling around through the streets and yards. The dead, risen. At the sound of the door opening, the closest ones turned their heads to them, and started shuffling over. Vanessa shrieked and closed the door, hearing the daemon’s footsteps slowly coming closer, humming a slow tune. Through the door’s window curtains she saw the zombies approach and start to tap on the glass.
Vanessa, sobbing along with Riley, seeing no escape, her adrenaline-fueled strength fading, sank down into a ball, curling around her sister.
“V-Vanessa, w-what’s gonna h-happen?” Riley asked, tearfully, clinging to her sister. Vanessa hopelessly shook her head.
“Shh. D-Don’t.” She gulped. “Don’t worry about it. It…it will be over s-soon.” she sobbed. The daemon entered the kitchen.
“Ahh, indeed it will miss. Indeed it will. You are wise to see the truth.” he said, licking his lips and walking over, looming over them. “Now then…” He reached down to take hold of Riley. The sisters screamed.
The window on the door broke, a grey and pushing through and flailing wildly, the groans outside getting louder.
“What? What is this?” the daemon said, snarling. The door was blown off its hinges under the weight of the undead. “What is this!?” Upon seeing him, the zombies descended upon him.
As a necromancer, Scott had a passionate love of zombies. Undead with all their flesh rotted away like Bones were fine, in their own way. But had he been there, he would have given a loving entreaty on why fresher undead were better. Simply put, they had actual muscles. While skeletons were lighter and quicker, with necrotic energy animating them zombies could exert the full power of the muscles still on them to devastating effect. It is a well-documented fact that the human body has much greater strength than what is normally displayed, in order to prevent injury, and the dark magic allowed them to exploit that fact to the fullest. As the daemon was finding out.
“Curse you!” Grahglin grabbed one, and ripped it in half, but the two pieces started attacking anyway. He growled and his fingers snaked out, impaling them. But to no avail. They simply crawled up, ignoring the wounds, for what did it matter to the dead? Fists, feet, heads swung into him with enough force to shatter concrete. He snarled and retracted his hands, his raw strength every bit equal to theirs. But while he was more than a match for one, there were many more than one of them swarming over him, unkillable berserkers biting, bludgeoning, and mauling him. Shapeshifting was useless, they relentlessly grabbed and tore into him no matter his form; human, animal, tentacled monstrosity…his energy was depleting as his wounds accumulated.
“Wicked!” Riley screamed as Vanessa took advantage of the distraction to run them up to her room, locking and barricading the door behind her. “Vanessa, look!” Riley cried out while peeking out the window.
The daemon had managed to escape the house, seeking to gather his wits and his breath. Had Scott been there, he would have happily explained another facet of zombies; their normal unfocused, slow, shuffling gait was because they were mindless. When given an actual goal, say by an ambitious necromancer…the traditional “slow zombies” could be quite swift indeed.
The mob fell upon him in an instant like a pack of wolves, ripping and tearing him apart, spraying black blood everywhere. Vanessa, lifelessly tried to cover her sister’s eyes, but she pushed the hand away. In moments, it was all over and the zombies rejoined the shuffling mass, the only remains of the daemon a patch of dead, burned grass where he had expired. He had left his mark on the mob, many with holes and dangling limbs. But it was no matter to the undead. They marched forth anyway.
Vanessa shuddered, grateful and horrified at the same time. She felt like she was going to be sick, but Riley turned to her with shining eyes.
“Next year, I’m gonna be a zombie princess!”
“This is a bad idea, you know.” Leo said mildly, a small smile on his face. A fang pointed out, making Evangeline giggle. Hair slicked back, black cape flying in the wind, dressed in his finest formalwear, he was the picture of a classic vampire. She adjusted her horned helmet.
“Aw, c’mon Leo. We don’t get to go out that much. I’m all for a comfortable evening in, but I really miss going out and doing stuff together.” Evangeline said as she wrapped an arm around his shoulders, bunching up her fur cape at an awkward angle. She had decided to take advantage of her incredible physique and attend the party as a Valkyrie.
“But everyone in town will be there.” Leo continued, absolutely no heat to his voice. “Someone might see us. My family might see us, my sister can’t keep a secret to save her life.”
“Exactly. Everyone will be there, it’ll be a huge crowd. Who’ll notice a vampire making out with a barbarian?” she said mischievously. Leo raised an eyebrow.
“Barbarian? I thought you were a Valkyrie?”
“Pssah. Valkyrie, barbarian, it doesn’t matter. Tonight I’m your northern muscle-bound goddess either way. Just as long as you know what to do with those fangs.” she said, licking her lips.
“I promise not to bite too hard.” he said, pleasant tingles running up and down his body. ‘God, I love her.’ he thought.
The red convertible had to come to a stop at a red light, unlike his pulse. He breathed in the cool, crisp autumn air. Leo didn’t know how things could be any better than this.
Suddenly, there was an impact on the driver’s side, making the car lurch. A flat, toad-like face peered over the door, staring at them with baleful green eyes.
“What have we here?” it croaked.
“Sir, what is going on? If you are uninjured, please step away from my vehicle. Though that is a very good costume.” Leo admitted in a stern voice. Evangeline gripped his arm. He turned to see five more creature round the corner. Two could be mistaken for realistic werewolf costumes, but one was a plain silver mask, walking on anatomically impossibly spindly, fuzzy black strands. Another was vaguely human-shaped, he guessed. It was wrapped in a dark shroud, visible body parts only seen in strange, unearthly colors when the light hit it at the right angle. The last was a feathered avian fiend resembling an illustration of a harpy Leo had seen in a book on Greek myths when he was younger, hideous and snarling. It glided through the air, landing on the street with the others.
“Those aren’t costumes.” Leo said quietly.
“They look like trouble.” Evangeline said, narrowing her eyes and cracking her knuckles.
“Gzzaltias, what have you found?” one of the werewolves asked, forming up on the other side of the convertible.
“A pair of tasty morsels,” the toad thing said, grinning gleefully. “Appetizers for the main course in the square.”
“Do you mean the party!?” Leo said sharply. The monstrous daemons laughed.
“Of course! Wanton destruction is pointless with no one to flee in fear. But we shall savor the cattle penned up in the village center later. Those are not your concern.” the harpy said, running a metal tongue over needlelike teeth. “Come, brethren!” Leo and Evangeline heard more gibbering monstrosities approach down the street.
“I see. We must warn them.” Leo threw the car into reverse and hit the gas to the floor, peeling out. The toad daemon casually grabbed the fender and lifted the front up, keeping it from moving. The rear wheels smoked.
“Fools!” The werewolves howled with laughter, and the harpy ripped off the passenger door. It caught a boot to the face from Evangeline, making it stumble back.
“You want it freak, bring it on!” she snarled, bursting out and ramming her shoulder into the harpy and driving it into a store wall.
“Eva! No!” Leo howled, unbuckling and reaching for her. The toad daemon opened its’ mouth and wrapped its’ long, slimy tongue around him, lifting him from the car. “Put me down!” He slammed his foot into the daemon’s face, but the mouth only opened wider and wider. The tongue drew him closer in, and Leo realized with horror that the foul beast intended to swallow him whole. “Please! No!” Time seemed to slow, the world losing all color as he approached the gaping maw.
Without warning, the daemon was engulfed in a brilliant column of flame. Leo fell to the ground, the tongue loosening and severed. He looked around. The world really had grown grey and still. He saw, eyes wide, his beloved Eva frozen, grabbing a werewolf by the throat while trying to fend off the harpy and black threads of the mask. “E-Evangeline? What’s going on? Hello?”
Six bright orange flames burst in the air above him. Leo ducked, then looked up to see the strangest sight yet.
The flames hung in the air, then slowly spun in a circle, pausing when they replaced the previous one in the cycle. When the full rotation was done, the space between them seemed to warp and spasm, making Leo’s eyes hurt. The bizarre warping ceased, leaving a blackness deeper than the night surrounding it. The darkness lifted, unveiling a floating, golden eye between the flames, staring straight at him.
Be not afraid.
Leo shook his head; the…being didn’t speak, nor had he heard any voice in his head. It was as if the eye had twisted reality so Leo had the memory of the words implanted into his brain.
“H-Hello? Can you tell me what’s going on, please?” Leo said, trying to keep calm. It wasn’t easy under the eye’s unblinking gaze.
I am Lagdinras, Messenger of the great Zet-Mathaig, Protector of Order in the universe.
“Oh. Pleased to meet you, I guess.” Leo said uneasily. The eye was making his brain hurt; he couldn’t decide whether it was flat like a picture, or rounded like a ball. He suspected if he looked at it from different angles it would change.
You, the human known as Leo Manning, have been Judged by the great Zet-Mathaig, He who Arbites beyond the stars. I have interceded to destroy this foul daemon, not only because It was a being of Chaos and Disharmony, but because He has Judged. The concept you know as Time has been put aside for now so that I may speak with you.
“J-Judged? Am I in trouble?” Leo asked nervously.
Yes, and also no. you along with the human race, is indeed in trouble. Daemons from Beyond have invaded this world, seeking to lay it to waste. Knowledge, forbidden to this world, has been unleashed upon it. The fabric of this World, of this Fate, has become twisted, and the time of the End may approach.
However, fear not the Judgement of the great Zet-Mathaig, Wielder of the Purifying Sun. He has Judged, and found you…worthy.
Leo couldn’t be sure, but he had an impression the eye had smiled at him.
There are Many, who have received His blessing. This is a solemn Duty that I ask of you, Leo Manning; once accepted, there can be no turning back.
“And, what do you need me to do?” he asked.
What all beings of your Nature have done, when confronted with great Evil and danger. Rise up, and confront it. Drive it back. Protect those who need it. Uphold Order in the universe.
Leo Manning. Beset by the forces of Evil. Will you stand against it?
Leo gulped. He recalled all too well the hideous strength of the toad daemon.
“You want me to fight those monsters?” he said. He glanced over at Evangeline, frozen in fury, daemons clawing at her, hopelessly outmatched. He smiled gently and nodded to himself. It seemed that his choice was really no choice at all. “Yes. I will stand against them. I don’t know how much I can help, but I’ll see what I can do.” He received a smiling, pleased impression from Lagdinras.
Good. I suspected you would. But I do not ask you to do this alone. Behold! The boon of the great Zet-Mathaig, Scourge and Bane of all villainy! Leo, take up your sword!
A small column of flame erupted in front of Leo. When it faded, there was a longsword there, floating in midair. It gleamed in the grey moonlight, straight and sharp. Leo grasped the hilt and lifted it. It wasn’t nearly as heavy as he thought.
“Whoa. I hope I can use this well. I haven’t trained in any martial arts or anything, and I never used a sword before. I don’t really know how to.” he said sheepishly.
Allow Me to educate you. The sharp part goes into the enemy. You are intelligent, you will figure it out. Now then.
The holy Sword is your gift and burden. As long as you hold it, you must uphold Order. The Sword is unbreakable, for it is unyielding in its duty. It will always be sharp, for it is keen in its duty. It responds to your cause. Against mundane matter, it is merely a hard, very sharp metal. Against, say, one who abuses the young, it is the hardest, sharpest sword in existence. Against evils beyond that which humans are capable, it will CUT and BURN, reducing the magics they possess to as nothing.
“Wow.” he said. The sword was light, and sharp. He could feel it reaching into him, humming in his soul. In fact, if he wanted…
Leo pulled back. The sword snapped onto his wrist, a sword-shaped charm dangling on a leather bracelet. With a flourish, the sword appeared in his hands again. Lagdinras emanated the pleased feeling.
Excellent. You and the Sword are one. It will respond to your desires. Now, Leo. Away. Away with you, and save your people.
“Wait, Lagdinras. I have a couple questions. Why me? Why is this happening?” he asked, discarding his jacket, cape and fangs for battle. For the first time, the eye looked away, shifting form one side to the other.
There is much that you do not know, or can understand. Or that I may know and understand. Fate has been twisted, turned on its’ head. The other Gods have begun to stir. I can forsee great danger. You who are Worthy, do what you must. I advise you. Seek out the Necromancer. Against the natural order, he improbably seeks to prevent harm.
No go. Do your Duty. Save the day. We shall meet again. May you find favor with the great Zet-Mathaig, He who Protects the cherished happiness of All with His many tentacles. Farewell!
The eye closed and the fires faded away.
“I will do my best to protect everyone. Wait, tenta-what?” Leo said, but color and motion returned to the world. He glared at the daemons assaulting his girlfriend.
“Why is she so strong!?” the werewolf she was grabbing by the throat complained. The black threads tightened, and she saw the harpy swing its’ talons at her face.
The sword burned bright, cutting through their bodies as easily as air. The forms of the daemons fell apart and withered, fading away. Easily dealt with by the burning blade. Eva stumbled, not sure what was going on. She didn’t care though as she was bent back as Leo swept her up for a kiss, muscles rippling and sword bright.
“Mmmph-Leo?” she said breathlessly. He gave her a winning smile.
“I’ll explain afterwards.” The other daemons grew closer, hissing. “Would you care to dance, my lady?” he said, a twinkle in his eye as he sized them up. She grinned and cracked her neck.
“You got it, lover-boy!”