The commander of the elite guard saw shifting, kaleidoscopic images spinning in the air as he dived through the portal. He saw shining sigils, symbols of war and peace, of law and chaos. Then dark red pentagrams emerged from the portal, coating him in darkness and smoke. He cried out once in shock, then was silent, standing firm as the images overtook him.
A grey gap in the shape of a four-pointed star emerged from the writhing air of the half-dead plane. The commander fell from it, easily landing on the soft red soil of the dark plane. He looked furtively around him, his grey eyes flashing with reflected charnel light from the surrounding area. The demon-guards better not spot me, or I'm toast. Then I'll never report to my master. As he darted around oddly organic-looking rocks and into small pits in the bloated surface of the Karanta, the home of demons, his features became more and more demonic in the red light of the fuming torches that lit the dark realm. It might have been the light, but it looked oddly like he was taking on the features of the denizens of the plane.
After hours of darting past lone sentries on crumbling towers like fingers reaching out of the trackless wastelands, he spotted the bleached white fortress that was the home of his master. The great one, whose name had once been Kaazen, had carved it out of the skull of a colossal demon while the giant was still living. The behemoth still lived, in fact: the plane's surface, for many feet down, was made of the rotting flesh of the still-living enemy, and occasionally, the heartbeat of the giant demon caused the ground to shudder. However, the demons of the plane were more pragmatic then that, and ignored the deathless heartbeat of the elder demon.
The ground shook, and the commander shrugged off. It's a common occurrence here, no need to cause panic. His eyes slowly widened as he saw the cause of the shaking ground. That's not...
Walking, ghastly in the infernal light from greasy torches their leaders carried, were millions of demonic creatures. In the front, masses of dead souls shambled, whipped from behind by the cowardly imp-soldiers. Behind those, the berserkers of the Karanta stalked, as tall as evil trees in patchwork armor that was covered in abyssal blood. Their huge axes were held with practiced ease. The demonic cavalry, in resplendent mockery of gilded armor, spread out to the flanks, pressed silently forward on their nightmare steeds. Behind them all, the blood-giants marched; rank upon rank of titan cadavers animated by the lord of the Karanta. It was an army the likes of which the commander had never seen before, and he'd been serving his master for a long time.
His eyes widened- don't let them get me before I reach Master, please- and he dived behind two boulders on the slope of a nearby mountain as the army passed him. Evil horrors uncounted by rank and file went by. Finally, a magnificent warrior, taller than the mountain that the commander hid on the slopes of, cased in black armor and carrying a sword as big as a warship that emitted an aura of pain and torture (he knew that, a bit too well, from past experience) strode in yards-wide strides, came up behind his army.
The huge demon turned to him, red eyes blazing with soot and flame.
"HELLO, RED SWORD. HOW GOES THE WAR?"
The deomn lord's voice was an explosion. His teeth were curved tusks that pierced his bloodsteel helmet. They currently were in the features of a bestial smile, which seemed contrived on such a horrifying visage.
"Not well for my former allies, I'm afraid."
"What is this army? Our agreement was that you would clean up the remnants of the devils, but this army looks equipped to handle two armies. Don't try to lie to me and say you're overpreparing, because demons don't prepare."
"POOR RED SWORD. YOU REALLY THINK A DEMON LORD WOULD PASS UP THE CHANCE FOR SO MANY SOULS TO EAT? YOU MUST BE LOSING YOUR TOUCH."
"We had a deal!"
"YEAH, LIKE A PERSONIFICATION OF CHAOS KEEPS DEALS ALL THE TIME."
The commander gritted his teeth. "I. Will. Kill. You. So. Hard."
"HOW? YOU'RE MY WARLOCK. MY KILLING OF YOUR PEOPLE IS A FAVOR. YOU WILL BE THE KING OF KYLORIA. KING OF THE FALLEN KINGDOM. HAS A NICE RING TO IT. DON'T THINK YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. WE ARE SOUL- BOUND, SO I CAN CONTROL YOU WHENEVER I WANT. REMEMBER THAT EXTRA LINE IN THE BOND THAT YOU HAD TO RECITE BECAUSE I WAS SO POWERFUL? THAT GAVE ME POSSESION OF ALL YOUR POWERS."
He was right. I had to be so careless just once. The commander glumly trudged along beside his lord. "How will you get through to my city?"
"I CAN EITHER ASK YOU NICELY TO LET US THROUGH, OR KILL YOU TO WIDEN THE PORTAL. YOUR CHOICE."
The commander sighed, flexing his hand at the portal, and red energy pulled on the portal's seams, producing an eerie whistling noise. The dead souls first, the grinning legions of the Karanta poured into the dying city, crushing the unsuspecting devils beneath their rapid advance.
* * *
The hundred or so elite mages, soldiers, and knights left were desperate. Their commander had left them, and the devils were still killing them wantonly. They had only reduced the devils to about several thousand, as far as the eye could see at night.
Then the demons came, and the devils focused on their hated enemies. The two evil armies attacked each other with elemental hatred, for now ignoring the few mortals huddled in the fortress's farthest end. The devils fought with clockwork efficiency, killing many demons each, but the demons were many more times numerous. As the chaotic fighting raged, a cloaked figure wove through the shadows to his countrymen.
The youngest of the mages, shocked, pointed a trembling finger at the warlock.
The warlock held out his hand in a gesture of peace.
"Yes, me. I know what you saw; I made a deal with the demon lord to try to save you, and it backfired. You can join me to fight the evils I have unleashed, or you can escape and try to resist them in hiding. Your choice."
His voice was weary but full of his former nobility and strength. His eyes scanned the crowd of warriors.
About twenty of the very best, his former comrades before he had become the leader of the elite guard, stepped out and fanned around him, forming into a guard around him. The eldest of them, a mage only known as Old Timothy, rumbled, "We're with you."
The rest silently went to the harbor, going down the empty streets to try to escape into the wild ocean. They were disgusted at their former commander, and didn't care about him any more. They just wanted to save their lives and as many civilians as possible with them. The few living civilians flocked to them, stumbling to the dark, rotting timbers of the dock under a mocking moon.
* * *
The devils had reduced the demons in number greatly but fled, and only a few thousand demons remained on the nearly-dead island to dispatch with the puny humans. The remaining forces were the demon elite: the blood demons, the nightmare cavalry, and the Demon Lord himself. The huge demon lord strode out to the commander.
"WELL. SO IT ENDS. HAND THEM OVER, AND I WILL GIVE YOU YOUR PROMISED OVERLORDSHIP OF THE DEMONS AS MY LIEUTENANT. YOU DID A GOID JOB."
The few weary warriors looked at the commander uneasily as the mocking moon leered at their laughable state. They were half-dead, a tiny force fighting thousands of elite demons. It was a cosmic joke.
The commander hung his head. In drooping steps, he walked to his lord's foot and knelt before it.
The huge, armored hand of the titanic demon lifted up the grey-cloaked warlock. The commander now saw the huge face of his lord, burning bright with ugly fires that were his eyes.
"BY MY POWER, I KNIGHT THEE FIRST KNIGHT OF KANTARA, COMMANDER OF DEMONIC FORCES. YOU ARE NOW THE GREATEST MAN IN THE WORLD. DO YOU ACCEPT THIS LIFE OF LUXURY AND POWER UNLIMITED?"
It was a ceremonial phrase, odd for a demon. But it was a great moment for the Demon Lord, so the archaic phrasing seemed ominously appropriate.
The warlock channeled all of his strength and leaped at the demon's eye, swinging his fist with fury. The human burst through the flames that were his outer eyes, landed in the area that was his slimy inner eye. With savagery, he bit and clawed into the center of the eye socket, tearing into the demon lord's brain.
The demon howled and tore at the eye, ripping deep into his own head. The mountainous demon collapsed, fires spurting from his dead eyes. The dying, powerless, deep-burnt commander limped out of the eye and grimly smiled with his remaining teeth.
"My name in Kerast Riventooth, and I like it. You kill my kingdom and break my deal and kill my chance of saving anybody, and then try to take my name? No. Bring it on, demons. You see your doom before you. Who's with me?"
The twenty elite soldiers shouted, their unanimous assent ringing in the dead city for a short time. Too short.
Then the demon hordes attacked, pouring into the twenty-one men. Swords clashed on sword, spells hissed through the air and demon claws ripped into armor among the empty towers and walls of the stone fortress. The final fight for Kyloria was on, and, though it was doomed, it would go out in a blaze of glory.