In times of great darkness, or need, I always have to ask myself what it is I am fighting for, and if it is even worthwhile. What is so vital that it must be saved? Is mankind so precious that I must put my life on the line to vanquish the demons who are running rampant across our land? When I see the selfish cowardice in the faces of the people I meet, as I travel from village to village, I often believe that it might just be better to let them fall to demonic rule; they seem as mindless slaves already. Then, just as I lose all hope, I come upon a village like Ariyen, where the people band together to drive away whatever threat comes marching upon their homes. It is here where I tell my story, and explain how I died.
I had been moving from village to town, offering my blade and expertise to the people as they faced the great challenge of attacking demons. I was always readily welcomed, but I soon realized they expected me to do all of the fighting for them and be their miracle. I was only one man and could not face a horde of frenzied demons on my own, so I had to leave them to their fate. Some might have called me evil for this action, but I could only help people who could help themselves. This was the only way we would be able to defeat this threat. I was to the point where I was ready to give up, just like all the rest, when I came upon Ariyen.
Immediately, I knew this village was different. Instead of being met with cheers and hopeful, yet resigned faces, I was met by a wall of pitchforks and swords. I could not help but smile at the ferociously grim expressions that presented such a strong front, as I knew that I could actually help these people. I held up my hands and took a step back, asking to speak to the village elder. Shockingly, the “elder” ended up being a skinny teenage boy, whose father had been the previous elder, but had been killed on a scouting mission. The boy was angry and vowed that no demon, or man, would take any more lives of those he loved. It was because of his tenacity and energy that he was chosen to take his father’s place. He approached me with a strong posture, though I could see the insecurity flashing deep within his eyes. He was afraid, and rightfully so; he had no concept of what he and his people were about to face. I did, and I was afraid.
Once I explained how I wanted to help, he readily invited me into the village and we began to work. Every able bodied man and woman came to the center of town, the next morning, with whatever weapon they could find – clubs, pitchforks, swords, hoes, rakes, and even a heavy pot and pan thrown into the mix. We were a force of several hundred facing an army of several thousand. We would not arise victorious by a mere show of force; we would have to be smart. This fight would go beyond fighting what could be seen, so we had to plan for what we could not see. It was decided to house those who could not fight in the main hall, while digging deep trenches around the perimeter to force the army to bottleneck into a defendable position. The defenders would fight at the end of narrow pathways where the demons would be forced to emerge. After the plans were made, everyone worked feverishly, performing their tasks with surprising efficiency. Scouts were sent out to send early warning should the horde turn its attention toward us before we were ready. Luck was with us, as we were able to complete our work before the horde was seen.
Throughout the days of preparation, I took the time to train the villagers to use their weapons and how to fight their enemy. Even more than martial training, they had to understand that there was more to winning a battle than brute strength and the size of their army; one must learn to use his mind to be victorious. They had to look beyond the outer shell of the demon. It fought with the ferocity of an animal and had the ability to create fire upon its breath, yet also had the intelligence to plan its strategy. The latter was the true threat of their foe. The people tried to understand my words, but they could not fully comprehend them until they witnessed it for themselves. They did not have to wait long.
A few days later, our scouts returned to inform of the approaching army; it would arrive within two hours. With the advanced warning, we were able to put our plan into action and hide among the houses that had been made to look abandoned and dusty. The trenches were covered with netting and twigs to hide them, and had sharp wooden spikes at the bottom to impale any that fell into them. I was impressed by the high morale and efficiency of these people as they took their places along their chosen fronts, with weapons at the ready. We felt the ground shake as the demon army approached and we collectively held our breath while waiting to hear them falling into the covered trenches and the death cries of our enemy, but our hopes were never satisfied. Instead, we smelled the scent of wood smoke as the demons set the empty houses aflame.
I failed to prepare for their superior sight to see the traps we had set, as well as their heightened physical prowess, as they were able to leap over the trenches. Instead of controlling the battle front, we were quickly overwhelmed. The air was thick with smoke and spraying blood as we did our best to stand our ground. We killed five demons for every man and woman we lost, but it was not enough. As I sparred with the Demon Lord leading the charge, I could see my own death reflected within his black eyes. My sword swung mightily through the air, clashing against the heavy mace the demon wielded, but I had not the strength to combat this foe. Despite my wounds seeping blood along my stomach, chest, and head, I had just enough strength for one last thrust of my blade. I closed my eyes and thrust my sword into the one weak spot I could detect in the demon’s armor, just below his chest plate. Whether by divinity, desperation, or sheer luck, my blow struck true and my blade broke within the demon’s chest just before his heavy mace descended upon my head and darkness took me. The last thought I remember was lamenting the loss of these good people, these brave villagers, who refused to lie down and give in to evil. They died fighting for their freedom and refused to be taken into slavery. In my last breath, I was proud.