Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language, violence, and mature content.
Samuel Inari was going through the old ritual of martial arts training in his private sanctum deep in the earth. His full suit of plate armor clicked and clanked as he threw punches and kicks, spun and swept. Only his head was exposed, and his eyes cut through the dim atmosphere with there deep red luminescence. He concentrated intensely, focusing his power, each punch causing a thick, meaty sonic boom, each kick producing a sound like that of a sword being quickly unsheathed and swung with deadly force. Only that invasive awareness of the Slayers' essences spoiled his absorption, that feeling that every crevice of his psyche were being seiged by a powerful, untiring opponent. It was Hades' desire he felt, his desire to reclaim Samuel's body and mind and to have his most powerful Slayer back at his side.
Since he'd found this cave and the stones within, Samuel had easily pushed back the seiging force. When he left the cave, the balance was tipped in the attackers favor. This idea frightened Samuel, gave him nightmares, and so he had stayed in this inglorious hole as much as possible.
He trained in a circle of great stones that emenated a light blue glow which reflected off his black, gleaming armor as he moved, as well as the surface of an adjacent pool of spring water. The surface was completely still, save for the ocassional ripple caused by a drop of water from a hanging stalagtite.
He suddenly froze mid-kick, his leg hanging high in the air. He remained that way for a moment, then slowly brought it back to the ground. That ever-present cognizance had just grown in intensity, slightly but noticeably, and Samuel understood what this meant.
"So he succumbed. Damn!"
He fell backward onto his rear and crossed his legs, placing his hand on his knees. A stance he'd taken countless times, though these days he couldn't close his eyes to help with concentration. A deterioration of his eyelids had cursed him with eternal vigilance, and his large, round eyes saw so very much.
He again focused, and soon he was in darkness. He went deeper into the dark, and that invasive, creeping presence grew stronger. In that abyssal darkness, he heard strangled screams and shrieks, as though the void were filled with death and dying. Samuel began to visualize the sources of the Hades' presence, the portals for his will to be manifest into this world. The Slayers.
Samuel gazed across a vast expanse of nothing, and in the distance he saw four of these portals. Four coronas of the deepest crimson, filling his vision and overlapping each other, coalescing and swirling through one another. This aura swept over him and Hades' hatred filled his mind. His desire to destory Hades and free the minions he controlled swelled within him, the king's loathing infecting his psyche and bringing him close to rage.
I'll erase you from this world, bastard!
Samuel's logic attempted to overcome his emotions, and after a tug of war, won. He gradually fought the anger down, and control reasserted itself.
Get it together, Sam. There's plenty of killing to come and you'll get your fill.
Back under a semblance of control, Samuel eyed the portals warily. He felt completely exposed here in the endless void, gazing at his pursuer from afar. He understood that the stones that surrounded him had a masking effect against Hades' searching presence, but he didn't trust it fully. Glimpsing these portals graphically displayed his strength and reach. He had to be quick.
He turned away from the portals and searched the infinite dark. At first he saw nothing, but as he allowed his vision to settle on a single vector, an orb formed in the void. The obsidian orb was covered in fissures and cracks, and the auras emenating from the portals seeped into these cracks, seeming to invade every crevice.
Adre... you may have just damned this world.
The orb was in the direction of Ophem, which was seperated from the barbarian territories by a desert wasteland.
Samuel removed the anchors and cast himself from this nightmare realm. The screams faded below him. His consciousness slowly rose, and he felt the tendrils of Hades' sick, hot grip loosening, but not letting go altogether. The former Slayer had long ago accepted that he'd never be truly free.
Samuel came to in the dimness, sighed heavily and shook his head as if to clear it. Now came the dangerous part. He rose and strode into the antechamber where he slept. There were two items here. On a shelf that had been cut into the rockface lay the physical manifestation of his self-denial - a long, white mask. The same mask that had filled Adre with fear and confusion.
Samuel took the mask and placed it over his face, covering his flat nose and long, shark-like fangs.
This damned thing is more a face than my own. At least people don't try to burn me when I'm wearing it.
Samuel grunted laughter and threw his cloak around his shoulders.
"A journey through the endless sands. It's poetic."
He turned and dramatically spread his arms. "Let us begin the journey, friends!"
With that he flipped his hood up and strode from the cave in the direction of Adre of Ophem.
Adre rode at full stride from Ophem, heading eastward. He would pass through Tyfor, where the barbarians had established a foothold in the city.
You'll all pay. I'll see to it.
He rode through the night and felt no exhaustion.
It was early morning and Chieftain Heath Abrand was readying his forces to assault the path leading into the aristocratic district, where the defenders of Tyfor were holed up.
Today will be glorious, yes, a great victory for the clan. I can't wait to wring the life from that bastard general.
He strode from his tent, emerging into a large camp of such tents. There, the barbarian footsoldiers applied war paint, sharpened weapons and ate breakfast.
We outnumber them ten to one. An easy victory indeed. Their fortification is impressive and many of us may be slain, but we will win the day. It's inevitable.
Abrand surveyed his soldiers and nodded in satisfaction.
A scout came down from the ramparts over the western gate and called to Abrand.
"Rider! A rider approaches!"
"Hmm?" Abrand recalled his orders to eliminate a lone soldiers brandishing a great sword. He started toward the ramparts, pushing soldiers out of his way as he went. He climbed up and peered over the wall.
A rider was indeed approaching, though at this distance it was impossible to tell what sort of weapon he might be carrying.
Abrand turned to one of his lieutenants. "Send a party. Ten cavalry. Kill him."
The lieutenant nodded and hurried down the rampart.
Use all my men to kill this one man? Ridiculous. He can't be that powerful.
Abrand grunted and followed after his lieutenant.
Adre could now see the gates of Tyfor. He realized his vision had improved immeasureably, as he could make out barbarians on the ramparts. There were several, and one was particularly large and seemed to be the commander. Adre slowed his horse's gait as he saw the gates open. Ten riders charged out. They would be upon him soon.
Adre dismounted and walked out in front of his horse. He drew his great sword and waited. Soon the riders were only thirty yards away. They did not break stride as they approached, and drew their weapons. Adre took a fighting stance and waited.
Nine barbarians cut around Adre, and one came right toward him. As he passed he swung down at Adre, who ducked below the strike and cut through the horse's legs. The steed collapsed on its side and crushed the rider's leg. The barbarian howled in pain.
Close one. Adre looked around at the other riders, who seemed hesitant to attack.
Very well, then I'll attack!
Adre raised his left arm and aimed it at one of the barbarians. He pulled the trigger twice on his crossbow and two bolts fired with a whump. The bolts collided with the rider who slumped off his steed and fell heavily onto the ground.
The other cavalry looked exchanged nervous glances.
"Come on, you cowards! Come at me!"
One barbarian let loose a war cry and charged. Another found his guts and followed.
I've got to pick one off before he gets to me, I can't deflect two attacks at once.
Adre quickly pointed his arm at the rider in front and pulled the trigger twice. One bolt found its mark in the rider's chest, the other squarely in the forhead. He fell backward off his steed, which continued toward Adre. Adre side-stepped the charging steed and took a fighting stance, focusing on the remaining attacker. He came at Adre head-on. Adre pointed his great sword below the horse's head and thrust forward. The blade was buried deep into its body, but its momentum pushed Adre back several yards before he skidded to a stop. The horse collapsed and Adre pulled his weapon from its body.
Without his mount, he'll be easy pickings.
The rider had jumped off and was now charging Adre. Adre took a fighting stance and waited. The barbarian approached and swung down.
Adre side-stepped the attack easily and retaliated with a full force horizontal swing. The blade connected with the barbarian's gut and continued cleanly through. The barbarian fell forward, his upper body separating from his legs.
Adre looked around. "Who's next?"
Again the riders exchanged nervous looks.
"R-retreat!" one called, and the others eagerly obeyed. They turned and took off toward the gates.
Adre grunted laughter and picked off three more with his crossbow.
*My power, my speed... this power will truly allow me to take my revenge.
He sheathed his weapon in the scabbard that hung from his back and walked on toward the gate.