Wrapped from head to toe, he became a shadow, showing only his shimmering storm-grey eyes, flashing every time a crack of lightening ravaged the grim sky. His skin ran pale, almost as grey as his irises, visible in the narrow strip of his dark mask. He pulled his black cloak tight across a lean, muscled body, stopping it from flapping wildly in the wind and lowered his hood against the storm.
He could smell the rotting odour of decomposing bodies and old sweat. Unwashed bodies had a sickeningly sweet smell that hung on the air, invaded the nostrils and seemed to seep in to his very pores. It was a smell he had become accustomed to over the passing months and, in truth, in all his years living in Aria it was not the worst smell he had come across.
The darkly clad man lowered in to a crouch and moved in a predatory crawl to the edge of the steep hillside. Armoured demons thundered far below him on a beaten trail leading away from the town of Dirra in to The Plains. A town, he thought coldly, they had devastated and destroyed. He had watched them burn poorly made huts with flickering torches, forcing families out on to the streets where they were cut down with no remorse. The men were slaughtered, children torn apart, the women raped and tortured and slain. The bloodbath had not lasted long. No more than a few hours. From bloodcurdling screams to heavy silence.
He knew none had been left alive, there was no need to search Dirra for survivors, but he would wait until the armoured demons were a safe distance away and do what was required of him.
Keeping to the shadows, the dark man walked steadily down the hill and disappeared through the smoke and fire. He checked every house, every throat of every corpse still intact, even some that were not. Once satisfied none had survived to tell the grisly tale he moved fast to pick up the stinking trail of the deformed monsters.
The demons had already destroyed Meresa and Throm, and before them they had slaughtered the people of Corus and Midere. Soon all the border towns would be nothing but blackened, poisoned land. The demons would make their way to the Citadel of Morenna and the Humans, as diminished as they were, would fall.
The demons were easy to find. The odour they left in their wake could be smelled for miles. The dark man followed them to a camp where they were resting after battle, where they feasted on the limbs of men. He watched as one tore the fingers from a hand it had brought with it from the slaughters. Blood spurted in a bright red stream across its face and a forked tongue greedily flicked out to lap it up, not wasting a single drop.
Disgusted, he turned away and found a place nearby to wait. He was not allowed to end their pitiful lives, and nor did he care to expend the effort to do so. He would follow his orders, and that was all. He would watch and wait until he found survivors. That was his only mission.
Finding a damp patch of grass beneath a shelter of fallen rocks, he rested, sighing at his seemingly meaningless task. In the three seasons he had been following the beasts they had left none alive. They were careful, thorough, and lusted for the slaughter.
Sighing once more, he stared up at the roiling sky. Watching the way the lightening travelled across the purple-blue clouds, brightening the land in rapid bursts, and then leaving it in murky darkness. He longed to follow the storm, to chase the wind wherever it may lead. He wished for it to take him far
from this poor, barren land. To a place where there were lush green forests, the hum of animal life and the silken skin of women. Elf women. He preferred their willowy bodies, rich scented hair and strange coloured eyes, but in this moment he would settle for a hardened Tiberian woman, or a brash speaking Alac-Narian. Any woman to love for a few hours, to pass away the long, dark nights.
The dark man closed his eyes and filled his mind with memories of the many women he had lain with over the years. He breathed in the spices of perfume and soap, remembered the feel of satin clothes falling to the floor. He was so immersed in his dream he nearly missed the delicate thud outside his shelter. Most would not have heard it.
He did not stir. This was a sound familiar to him and he felt a small, uncommon smile twitch at the corners of his lips.
“One day I will care enough to ask how you always seem to find me, Nikira,” he said. His voice was soft, with only a slight growl at the edge of his words. “Come. Stay here with me. The night is much too cold for you to be running around alone.”