The grass collapsed under the weight of heavy boots. Tired body contained by a shell of steel and held up by will. His hands ached with the stress of holding his sword, of many strikes with it.
Step by step he descended towards that seemingly idyllic valley that once he spent many a youthful day on. The shadow of the tyrant castle looming large over the valley. Corpses decorated the side of the road, abandoned en masse.
Many of of them he knew, many of them he broke bread with, many days of laughter and sadness shared, now lay in piles of gore and ripped apart. Claw marks, bite marks, ones he was intimately familiar with.
The whistling wind burned his ears on approach to that darkened citadel. Where there was life, there was only death in this moment. A vibrant city turned to deafening silence that he felt deep to his core.
Within the labyrinth of a dead city, the echoes of violence found themselves to his senses. The smell of burning flesh, the pressure of an angry spirit that threatened absolute destruction. It permeated through all his body, he understood it. The Demon he was sent to kill knew he was there, its ever hateful gaze was palpable.
Still he pushed on, burning buildings, the whimpering of the dying. All ignored, he could not save them in this moment. The beast fed on such weakness, and he would grant it no feast this day. Many had died in error of this, knelt over, terrified expressions frozen to time.
His blade unsheathed, heavy, righteous steel, standing strong, blessed by priests and true in combat was let free. The doors before him splinted, broken, once strong wood, fell before a mighty pair of claws. A cathedral of death was before him, a place that had housed life, worship, faith, fallen to the beast that befouled the alter in which it sat.
The beast that stood sentinel over the alter was unlike what one would expect, but that is what made it so deadly. A girl, thin, pale skin, dark hair with darker eyes a frail thing. Her gaze turned towards the demon hunter, with a weak smile that hid venom. That smile said all it needed to within that moment.
His rough hands tightened along the handle of the blade, staring back. The fear from that smile, of what hid behind it
Her head moved with uncanny motion, quick in its cant to her right. A frail claw raised towards the challenger, making a simple beckoning gesture towards him, seeing his blade move to a strike she spoke. Her voice a chorus of monotone, several voices in one all colliding in unison.
“Do you dare?”
The venomous words flowing from her tainted the reality around her. A careful step followed forward, as he retreated she taunted.
“I know what you fear most”
Before he could blink the demoness was upon her, grabbing him by the throat and lifting him up. It was done with such ease that one could be forgiven for mistaken that he was a thin frail man, not a full armored Demon hunter. He was tossed into a local wall, his heavy armor impacting the stone wall, causing a crack in the bricks.
As he slid to the ground he had little time to react as the demoness was pressing the attack without mercy. A clawed hand swiped down at him from above. It was all he could to life his blade as a defense against that death strike.
The clank echoed through the halls, his teeth grit as he stared into the visage of the demoness. For a moment he cursed and to himself for letting the beast get the jump on him.
The demon withdrew her claws as the impact on holy steel had burned at her hands.
“I will tear your soul asunder.”
Her curses made him tremble again but this time he rebuffed with a wide swing, striking at the demoness’ side. His strike was true, causing her to roar out, shattering the windows of the cathedral and causing rumblings down to his core.
Out of desperation she clawed back, striking the man’s side and cutting through his armor. With the two trading blow for blow, he stepped back and began to pray. The blade marked in holy runes had lit up the dimly lit cathedral, giving light and extending shadows.
The demoness shrieked at the radiance, reeling back. Without delay his blade swirled again, striking the demoness in the chest and pushing her to the ground. Bashing it back to Hell where it belonged.
What was left in its wake was a girl, bleeding and pale, dead already from the strike, but at peace.
The demon hunter’s eyes welled, and he lowed to pick her up, carrying her lifeless body to the alter where he would place her. A fitting place for her to rest.
“I’m sorry my daughter. I was not here to protect you.”
He turned from her new tomb, leaving the city to be consumed by flame from from nearby houses lit ablaze by the remnants of battle. Soon it would be it’s own Pyre.
His home; gone.