First, there was an earthquake. Or at least that’s what everyone felt. And what followed was the shaking, cracks began to spread from exactly at the very center of The Capital. Those who were smart didn’t waste any time and continued running further away from it. Those who were not so wise stopped and looked back, trying to comprehend what was going on.
And then a lot of dust rose up quickly, together with a massive shadow that looked like an arm and a fist. Of course, that's what the closest survivors explained later. But because it was dark, it was hard to notice something else that came together with that dust. Large pieces of debris flew everywhere, destroying buildings and such around. It might've also been thanks to the fact that the hand was at least three times larger than the largest building in the surrounding area.
Many were smart and continued running. Others stayed back and kept staring at the shadow. Another earthquake followed, and even more dirt and dust were pushed into the sky. The hand rose even higher, and behind the hand was a massive body and a face. And with that, the second wave of debris flew everywhere.
And then there was a peal of deep laughter spreading throughout the down.
“Humans! Welcome to your doomsday!” a voice echoed, as the shadow demon’s two hands landed around himself and began doing full circles, destroying every building within thirty feet or so. Perhaps most people were far away from that body by that point. But what followed was a massive third wave of debris that flew close and far, with insane speed, destroying and shattering everything that was within the vicinity.
I will not tell you the number of casualties, because it was too much for me to handle. Many who decided to stay in their homes, instead of escaping, died. Some hadn’t run far enough and were in the direct path of the attack. Most casualties came from the debris. The only thing I can say with confidence is that the casualties would’ve been remarkably larger if Aldrynte hadn’t done what she did, and the alarm bells hadn’t been used.
But as we rushed towards the massive shadow demon at the center of The Capital, the shadow demon continued picking up more debris and catapulting them at any house that seemed to be holding up. The screams were heard everywhere.
Perhaps that was our first mistake - we weren’t ready, waiting for the monster’s arrival. We let him attack first. All the time we got to research the monster was paid in blood. And the information wasn’t even that useful - or so I believed.
Every part of my body told me to retreat. The Capital was destroyed. There was no point to protect it. But there was one thing that pushed me forward - buying time. We needed to buy time for people to escape. I could try to do at least that much. And I still had a few backup plans.
As we reached the area that showed more death and destruction, my eyes began to water. “Loid,” I said as we all dashed towards the shadow demon.
“You’re earth elemental, and you can copy yourself. Put all your efforts into saving as many people you can,” I said.
Loid looked at me. He probably wanted to refuse. Or perhaps it was his dignity that wanted to fight the demon. But he knew that he would be best at helping people and working to save as many as he could. “I’ll do the best I can," he shouted.
"Wait!" I said before he stopped. I pushed my hand into my backpack, removing a vial of blue liquid.
“You’ll need it more than I do. It’s my last one.”
Loid hesitated for a moment, but he took the potion and finally stopped. We only shared a nod as I and the others continued running. “Everyone who doesn’t think they can contribute, go try to save as many people as you can,” I shouted. And even more, stopped. Some turned around and ran back to help Loid. Others ran different directions.
The remaining party continued running towards Demon Lord. The party grew smaller and smaller every moment. But that was fine. The more I thought about it, it was all about buying time now, saving as many as we can, and trying to make him stop attacking the city.
"If you plan to fight, hide and try to survive. Do one massive attack when he seems vulnerable. Then run away. Alright?" As we got close enough, I touched my sword’s handle. “Spread out!” They all did so. I unsheath my sword and raised it up, trying to get the light as far as possible. I got the immediate demon’s attention.
“Ah, there you are." He turned around to face me, leaning slightly towards me. "I was disappointed that you weren’t here, welcoming me!”
I chuckled, stopped running and walked forward, slightly panting. “I'm pretty sure that I told you to wait for me...” I shouted.
He pushed his finger towards me for a moment, a large grin appearing on his dark shadowy face. “I couldn't wait. You’ve ruined my plan already. You might’ve helped this city’s population live another day, but I’ll be at least taking your life. I will diminish this light and destroy your people's hope!”
“So, you’re going to fight with me?” I shouted.
“No!” the demon said, mouth widely grinning. “I have a useless army now. Remember, the one you made useless with your alarms? They'll be dealing with you!”
As he said those last words, figures began to appear out of his shadow, and behind him, walking in front of him, weapons out. We all felt sick. They were people who were kidnapped or had mysteriously disappeared. They were the people who used to have family members. There were men and women, old, and even children. But they all just stared at me. “Don’t worry, they are all dead,” he added.
Finally, there was a rough cough. Qildor stepped forward, being at the very front of this fresh army. “You’ll never be able to defeat us with that tiny... army?” he said, smiling as widely as the shadow demon. And he was correct. While there were at least a hundred and more fighters, we had ten people standing next to me. Most of them were mere students.
It was something I hadn’t accounted for, or prepared. And everyone next to me looked very discouraged. At least we were buying time with this talk. Demon Lords have this weird curse of talking a lot to show off their obvious advantage.
But something happened, giving me hope. The demon’s smile disappeared very abruptly, almost as he had noticed something behind us. I turned around, looking at shadows walking towards us, hidden away by the darkness and dust. But my sword began to make them more clear. And there were many torches with those shadows.
“I’m truly disappointed in you, Qildor,” a familiar voice reached us first before the shadow took its shape. A fully armored slightly fat man walked towards us. His armor was trimmed with gold, and his sword was definitely a high-grade magic sword. Behind him were more than a few hundred armored soldiers, ready to fight.
Qildor spat on the ground. “Rowley,” he said, doing a slightly taunting bow. “I thought you’d escape far away, leaving your city behind."
Rowley walked next to me, giving me a nod. I wanted to cry and hug him, but I had to keep my hero’s composure.
“I’m the king. I might be an asshole of a king who goes to parties, takes people's money and enjoys a lavish life, but I’ve promised my people to do everything in my power to keep them safe. So, the last thing I would do is leave and let my people die. I will stay here and fight with Hero - even if it’s the last thing I do!”
Qildor was surprised. But it didn't stay the same for long — wide smile returned. "Oh, it will be. It will be!"
Rowley's army and guards looked promising. It was larger and consisted of ex-adventurers and spellcasters. But at the same time, the shadow demon's army consisted of beings that were almost like an undead.
“Hero,” Rowley said silently as he kept looking at Qildor. “Do you have a plan? And be honest!”
I gazed at Rowley. I had to take it all back. He might be annoying and sometimes even seem like an ass, but he was probably the best king humans have ever had. “There’s a very small chance that we can defeat him tonight. My original plan was to buy time for people to escape. But maybe with you here...”
Rowley nodded. “I already sent ravens to every town as well, letting them know of the message you sent me. If it only costs our lives to save the many, then so be it.”
I sighed. “Thank you for trusting my word and thank you for coming here.”
“You’re our hero. And if anything, you’ve proven yourself more worthy than anyone else. We will fight the demon’s army. Can you deal with the demon?” He turned to look at my blinding sword for a moment, but he decided not to ask.
“I'll try my best to make sure he doesn’t attack your army. But try to survive, my king,” I said.
“Today, I’m no king. I’m just a warrior, trying to protect the people I love.”
I looked at him for a moment, finally chuckling. “Very well, just a warrior, may both of us survive.”
Rowley raised his sword, pointing it towards the enemy army. "For our country. For our city. For our people! May our death save many!" he shouted. Everyone began to scream, as they all began to run.
Qildor chuckled, looking at his two blades. For a moment, I saw humanity in it falter. But as he raised his head, all the undead began to smile and run towards the king's army as well.
Valgrathan raised his hand, laughing. “You think that-”
I raised my own sword, making the sword spread even more light. Valgrathan immediately lowered his hand to hide his eyes. “I’m here, you monster!” I began to circle the demon to reach a different angle from the king's army. My party followed, which now consisted of me, Alice, Squeek and Aurora. It seems that the other six had either decided to join the king’s army or hide as I instructed.
“Just four of us, huh?” I said, grinning.
“Against impossible odds as well,” Alice said, grinning as well.
“You two are crazy,” Squeek said, grinning together with us.
Aurora seemed entirely focused, not even sure why she was even there. I gave Aurora a quick nod, making her use magic. It seemed that Valgrathan was considering something entirely different. But as Aurora's magic activated, his attention moved entirely to us. He looked at us differently, almost as if there was a stronger presence around us, making us more important.
“Very well,” Valgrathan said, turning to look at me, smile gone. “I will destroy you. With you, humanity’s hope will disappear. Today the king and the hero will die, and the whole world will know about me, Valgrathan!”
That’s what I had wanted. Aurora’s fright magic had made us feel a lot more threatening than we were. And that bought time for the king as well.
“Stay safe!” I said to Aurora, slightly worried. “Just keep up the pressure and the feeling, but stay safe. Stay away!”
“You don’t need to tell me that twice,” she responded hastily. She separated from us.
The situation was desperate. Things couldn’t get worse — or that’s what I told myself. Yet we all had a small smirk at the edge of our mouths. Perhaps it was to motivate ourselves. Maybe it was because the situation was so stupid that it made us laugh. We all probably had our own reasons. But we all kept running around the demon, ready to fight. And I, for one, was ready to die.
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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