The world had turned to ashes around them, and the air was full of the stench of charred flesh.  Had they been an invading army they would have been glad to see their work done for them, as no resistance barred them from the city gates.  However, though their leader bore a sword, violence was the furthest thought from their minds.

            The cloaked figure at the head of the column knelt down in the dust and closed the eyes of a corpse lying bent around cracked rubble, a grimace of terror etched on its battered face.  His followers could see a brief flash of sorrow pass across his visage before the strong lines of determination returned.

            “It has already begun.”  He said, nodding to himself.  “We have to hurry.”

            With that, he led his prayer warriors into the city of the damned, intent on their mission of mercy.

 

***

 

Neal stood on the balcony of the Hall of Elders, looking out over his domain.  In his mind the sounds of battle signified his soldiers’ successful defence of the Citadel.  He smiled smugly to himself, convinced that his leadership had groomed them into an efficient, professional army.

            No matter how efficient, the Citadel’s defenders found themselves ineffective against their current opponent.  Their arrows missed the mark, sword slashes and spear jabs were evaded regularly, almost routinely, and with every moment that passed, they felt victory slipping further and further away.

            This was particularly frustrating, given that their opponent was only one man.

            “CHARGE!”  A captain of the guard shouted, and a platoon of soldiers ran forwards.  They swooped down on the lone figure in the street with their captain in the lead.  He swung at their target with his sword, only to chop through empty air as the figure stepped neatly to the side.  The captain hardly knew what happened, as their enemy moved with unbelievable speed, but afterwards he realized that their adversary must have dodged and then grabbed his arm, redirecting his aim.  A heartbeat later, and his sword was lodged in one of his men’s intestines.

            By the time he turned around, the captain saw that all ten of the men who had followed him into battle were dead.  He saw the last man die, his head torn from his body by their foe in a burst of blood.

            “No man can move that fast.”  The captain moaned, incredulous.

            “Who ever said I was a man?”  Donovan Reza laughed.  He shoved his thumbs into the captain’s eye sockets and pulled off his face.  “Men feel fear.  I feed off it.”

            Reza looked up at the black tower, his smile clean white in the scrim of red blood on his face.  His hands and clothes dripped with it, spattered by an entire city of the dead.

            “I feed on fear, and it’s almost time for the main course.”

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