He was bathed in blood. The crimson color oozed and dripped off his haggard body making puddles around his feet. Tate wiped his face with the back of his sleeve still clutching one of his newly acquired weapons. It stung as he did, and he grimaced as the gashes on his head and arms reacted to the movement. He remembered every moment of the battle as if they were each an age in length, all crawling through his mind in slow motion. How he struggled to fend off several demons at once, trying to fight his way to an ally in need. But in a flash, the battle won, it had been over as quickly as it had begun. His arms felt heavy, his neck sore, his legs like stone and his back bent, he felt like an old man! But wait, he realized, he was an old man! At least, most considered him old, many did not live very long by average in these parts, what with war, famine, and plague often marauding through the countryside. He had heard of a far off land where people lived in peace and lived until one hundred years old! 'Fiddlesticks!' He said to himself, no one could live for that long. His parents had died at forty-eight and forty-five, and with him at nearly fifty years old, Tate had begun to worry. Yet, at the moment, standing and grasping two igneous blades in either hand and feeling his sweat mix with the enemy's black plasma covered on his broken skin, made him feel more alive than ever! Alive and still young!
Seeing their rescuers drawing in the crowd of the survivors, he ventured toward them as well, eager to thank them for their heroism. He supposed that their gathering looked like a flock of mindless sheep making their way to their shepherd. Few looked shocked and most had no notable expression at all. Tate knew that he was in a company of experienced fighters, men who had seen many battles. Although some younger kids were there as well, the group mainly consisted of battle-hardened veterans, angels, demons, humans and goatmen. He was the last to make up the circle and a man announced himself as Ignis and addressed the crowd.
"Alright, humans and goatmen, you're hereby free. Come with us back to our encampment, we'll give you safe haven. Angels, you're free to do as you please, we do not expect anything from you, though know that we are fighting the hells and your assistance would be more than welcome. Demons, I don't know what it was you did to be imprisoned, but it's a safe bet to assume you're against the hells. I'll give you the same offer I gave to the angels."
"Don't spend too much time here, the demons will no doubt be coming to check on their caravan. We leave within the hour, check for any survivors and get any equipment you need." He concluded.
Resistance fighters eh? Tate mulled the idea over in his mind. He liked the sound of getting into the action and adventuring even more than he already had but this time with sword in hand and the cry of comradery filling the air as they would charge down and eliminate their foes. For a man who spent so much time on his own he was beginning to enjoy being around people even more so.
With that idea in mind he walked hurriedly back towards the wagon, he was too tired to run about any further, the battle had taken it out of him. And yet, he had seen companions barely breathing hard as they took out more demons than he ever could have, though they were alien forces, hardly human at all. That was hardly fair, he snickered to himself, comparing the two. He was alive though, and that was what mattered.
Almost limping with weariness, Tate rounded what remained of the wheeled contraption, he lay one sword down and with the other blade in hand swung at the rope restricting a large box attached to the vehicle. The box smashed to the ground and broke open as it did, scattering its contents in front of him. He immediately recognized his pick and reached down to grasp the familiar handle. He tugged at it as it was entwined in the rest of the collection of valuables. His pick suddenly flew free bringing some other packages and debris with it. Smiling, he didn't know what he would have done without his axe, holding it up to the sun and seeing its dull gleam. He had spent countless days with just him, his pick and whatever rock need to be shifted or riverbed dug. Other survivors had also began gathering their possessions from the spilled container finding what they needed and getting themselves ready to follow the mercenaries. Tate had just one more stop to make before joining the rescuers.
With his pick and sword in either hand, Tate made his way toward the driver's dead body. Quickly frisking the gory mess he found what he was looking for, a crystal clear dagger. He had only seen the deceased owner with it once but once was enough. The hell-spawn driver, thinking his prisoners asleep and likely to never see the light of day again, pulled the dagger out of its holder just for a greedy glimpse, to gaze at his recent acquisition in wonder. Tate wondered where the old gasbag had got it from as he now grasped the same hilt as it lay in its cover. Pulling it out, it felt almost weightless in his hand, how could it be so light? With sudden realization, he was half frightened and half excited that it must be enchanted. He held the dagger up to the dying sunset and gazed at its perfect cut, and suddenly the blade began to grow brighter and brighter until Tate could not bear to look at it. He shielded his eyes and quickly shoved the dagger back in its intricate sheath hoping no one had seen its brilliance. They would probably want it for themselves, or have it destroyed, he thought. Hurriedly placing the dagger and some other useful items in a newly acquired pack he pulled it round his back and walked towards the group with pickaxe slung over his shoulder and the remaining and sharper igneous sword in a sling. It paid to pay attention to detail, he thought, anyone who said otherwise was risking their neck and those around them
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"So you have come here for information? I have some for you..."
His eyes were a blur as he sat staring straight ahead with his knees at his chest, hardly moving. His head rested against the cart that held his body but his mind had escaped long ago, it was far away searching for answers, answers ever just out of reach. His tongue felt like sandpaper, dry and horrid in his mouth, he hadn't had a drink in days. 'Surely demons would want their prisoners kept alive', he thought; 'at least until their would be destination.' Why had he been rounded up and taken hostage?' That question had ever nagged at his mind since his capture. He was no one special, just a hardworking soul trying to make a decent living and minding his own business. He rarely got involved in other people's affairs, he generally kept to himself.
Did he know some sort of information that the hell-spawn wanted? 'That must be it', he thought, 'why else would they want me?' He searched his mind, countless facts and figures, stories and sagas, but he could find nothing of possibility. He must have forgotten. Oh how he yearned to know what knowledge he possessed! The day of his imprisonment seemed so long ago, almost in another lifetime. But it remained so vividly clear in his mind. Again and again he went over the details of how easily the town had fallen and how helpless he had felt. He did not even remember the name of the town he had been taken in, just another place here and there wherever he could trade in his day's takings for some coin. Often just enough for a meal or a bed or a roof over his head or a perhaps just a hayloft to sleep in. There were a lot of things he did remember but towns or the names of towns was not one of them. He did not associate himself with the populace much, he preferred to be on his own. Only as a source of uncommon leisure after a hard days work shifting rock or emptying veins, did he venture into a community. Yet the demons had been lying in wait, specifically for him, just inside the town. Sure, he would have gotten a good deals worth of coin on that day for he had found a richer stream that had ended his day early. But obviously the Demon weren't interested in the gold that still filled his pockets as they had lept on him without warning. There was nothing he could have done against those odds, and he was not a gambling man.
One demon was about to bash him over the head, when another stopped him and viciously slit the other demons throat, leaving him gagging and gasping for air as the wretch clawed futilely, sinking slowly to the ground. "Hands off!" The leader of the small group had yelled. "Do not harm this one. He may carry information that Hell needs. Hands off or I'll gut you like a boned fish." The demon's voice resembled ground charcoal he thought, an very unpleasant sound. He was then ferried away, escorted by the three remaining demons as the fourth slowly choked out his life in the dust. He was pushed into a cart with five spiked and heavy wheels drawn by massive beasts of burden. The cart's fifth wheel was enormous and was located between the front two, which it belittled and walking inside it was a large cave troll. He supposed that the troll aided the other beasts in the movement of the cart. Like the troll the beasts were large and ugly and full of power but instead yielded a massive yolk of many harnesses that slowly shifted the weight of the cart forward. Giant bones made up the skeleton of the cage, bound together with skins and different ropes and hides. And atop the wheel, though suspended above it, sat the driver, an old bloated bag of soars and scars, squinting madly into the sun at his bellowing beasts. The driver held the long reins of the team with one hand and with the other he grasped a cruel looking device in his huge hand that was very much like a whip which he lashed constantly to start out his caravan moving ever onwards. And the last addition to this odd contraption was an annoying little imp situated at the back of the wagon on a pole that rose up into the air that shouted the odds at everything and everyone, ever on the lookout.
Still thinking deeply, Tate felt his head shake, softer, and then harder immediately after and repeatedly. His head swam, he tried to paw away at the space in front of him fending off against an unseen foe. Yet his hands struck a body, surely not a human body, this body had wings and he looked up to an ageless face. "Wake up!" a voice yelled seemingly audibly uneven, the sound going in and out of Tate's mind. "Wake up man! You must get out of your restraints, I managed mine but I need my sword to set you free. Wait here!" And with that the figure ran out of the caravan hurrying to and from each fallen demons corpse. "Looking for something, he is," Tate said aloud in a daze to himself. "Hope he finds what he's looking for, don't you Mother? He seems like such a nice man. Didn't know a man who had a pair wings before, though, have you Mother? Wonder how he keeps them on? Must fall off easy, Oh! And how hard they must be to keep clean, eh mother? Bet he wouldn't want to get them dirty, have a time of it getting stains out and such wouldn't he? Awful pain that would be. Mind you Mother, I'd help the poor fellow, he seems like such a nice man" Tate's babble to himself continued until the angel returned and broke free his bonds with a touch from his blade; the chains shattering to the ground in a heap of dust. The angel then touched Tate's shoulder and spoke a few words, dispelling the intoxicating Demon powers that had settled in the man's mind.
Tate snapped awake. His brain whirred, he leaped up from the cart floor and almost hit his head on the bone structure. "What happened? Where am I? Who are you?" He shouted at the angel. The angelic being shouted back: "There's no time, we are under attack, Get out of the wagon and join the fight!" And with that the angel shouting at the others to join and the everyone remaining rallied behind him and charged out of the van to meet oncoming demons filtering out from the trees.
Many questions came and went as Tate's brain came back to reality, spinning round like a giant luscent whirlpool right before his eyes. A thousand different pictures and a thousand different words, all speeding round the limits of his vision, he had never seen that before. Pictures of his past and his family and friends lives gone and passed, all interconnected. He saw too much that scared him and too much that made him wonder, more and more questions, never enough answers. Gathering his wits with a shout and a curse he stumbled out of the wagon, his surroundings lurid and still a bit dizzy, he looked around at the dead Troll in the giant wheel and the driver's bloated body who fell off the top with an arrow through his spine and a finishing blow dealt with a sword through his eye.
Tate was the last to exit the caravan, he saw the group led by the angel battling hard trying to route to a group of humans volleying arrows and parrying weapons all about them wildly as hordes of red and black demon spawn churned around in chaos hacking, slashing and burning. He ran and scrambling amongst the numerous dead bodies, he found two heavy swords amongst them, and wielding them at either side, ran towards the defenders shouting. His voice carried a rallying cry as he hurriedly approached: "Back to the fire with you! The Highs help us!"
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"So you have come here for information? I have some for you..."