1.01: The Collector of Souls

Demons sat sparsely around what might be described as a bar, supping boiling concoctions of blood and bile from vile chalices of bone and filth streaked iron.

The beasts came in every shape and size, some were immense behemoths of rippling muscle, adorned with a dozen horns and fangs scattered about their body or atop their brow while some were small, fragile looking creatures with chattering teeth and warped features.

In the deepest Hells, the place where demon-kind dwell, the souls of man and angel alike are currency, the more powerful, purer or more virtuous the soul the greater its value.

As in the world of men above there are those demons that lend vast quantities of souls to others with contracts written in the dark blood of those who wish to borrow. Should they not repay in full within the time agreed however the soul of the very borrower itself is forfeit to the lender, be it demon or in some cases a human.

All demons who enter into these unholy contracts know the terms, however, few honour them, they believe they can outwit the soul-lenders, after all the Hells below, the human world above and all the worlds beyond are vast, surely it would be easy enough to hide in the furthest recesses of any one of these realms and elude those you owe?

The large, grooved black stone doors of the bar explode open with one swift boot and in from the crimson tinged street walks a woman clad in thick demon forged armour. She appeared human but her eyes were black and soulless, her face was set with an intense, grim expression and jet black hair peaked out from a crimson hood drawn about her head to frame her face.

The woman’s cold, merciless eyes scanned the bar until she spied her quarry, a small, shaking demon that carried a platter of dire brews gurgling and frothing in the skulls of humans.

The woman strode forward, her steps were heavy and loud, almost like those of a charging rhino. She grasped the straggly little demon by its thin, weaselly neck and slammed it against the bar.

“I am here to collect what you owe,” spoke the woman, her voice was not a normal human voice, it was stronger, more unyielding, it echoed with the rage of her master and screamed with all the torment she had suffered.

“Owe? I owe nothing,” the measly demon whimpered.

“You owe Lord Neroth three thousand blemished souls,” the woman thundered at the demon in her mighty grasp.

“So, you’re Neroth’s new hound eh?” Croaked the demon, this time more bravely than before, “how about I send you back to him in pieces!?”

The demon suddenly began to change, his muscles bulged and his bones snapped and then snapped again before setting into their new shape.

The monster continued to change until he was an immense creature, larger than any other in the bar. This demon now seemed like a Gorilla, hunched over and supporting himself on his disproportionately large arms as well as his rather small legs.

The beast swung one of it’s massive arms at the woman, the force of his attack sending her crashing through the black stone of the bar, out onto the hellish street.

The demons inside the bar laughed heartily.

“Never send a human to do a demon’s job!” The massive beastly demon said mockingly at the armour clad woman who stood unphased from the rubble of the bar wall and drew a massive demonic blade from a scabbard at her back.

The blade was almost as tall as as it’s armour encased wielder, on the faces of the blade were shifting, screaming souls set against the molten appearance of the weapon with veins of blazing red and orange streaking their way from the hilt to the tip of the sword.

The woman rushed back into the bar, leaped through the gaping wound in the dark stone of the bar’s construction and with an open gauntlet she grasped the demon’s face and with the strength of one hundred men she drove the massive gorilla like creature back and through another wall, into the stores of this rank establishment.

The hooded woman stood from the rubble and raised her colossal sword as the disproportionate demon scrambled to its feet.

With a heavy slash the woman brought her sword down, cutting effortlessly through layers of the demon’s hide and its bright, red muscle.

The demon howled and arched its back in an attempt to get away from the blade but the hound of Neroth’s weapon was lodged in its flesh.

The immense demon looked back around and in desperation flung its left arm backwards in an attempt to crush the woman who hunted him, or at least separate her from her blade, but with a colossal crash and a sound not dissimilar to the snapping of mighty, tree trunk sized bones the demon’s enormous arm was stopped by a single of the woman’s waiting hands.

The demon roared in agony as the women tore the blade from its back and flung him aside, sending the beast crashing though row after row of shelves, barrels and racks.

The woman followed, each of her heavy footfalls was followed by the sound of cracking glass or splintering wood until she stood, looming over the head of the demon who sought to elude Lord Neroth.

“I take your dark soul as payment for my master,” the hooded woman spoke coldly.

With a hideous squelching the woman cleaved through the neck of the demon, causing its black blood to spill out onto the rubble strewn floor as it’s head rolled away. After a few moments the body of the beast began to blacken until cracks started appearing in its flesh.

As the monster’s skin flaked away the corpse started to burn like paper. Within minutes the vast corpse of the demon was gone, leaving only a mote of ash and a red, seething orb floating above it.

The woman turned her left arm over, part of the armour she wore shielded her hand, forming the likeness of a demonic mouth with a maw of great fanged teeth which slowly opened, yearning to consume the soul of the demon. The woman pointed the open jaws towards the creature’s corrupted soul and in an instant the small, wailing orb was sucked up and consumed by the armour’s maw.

The armour clad warrior sheathed her blade and turned, walking back through the gaping hole in the wall she had created, the proprietor of the bar thought to lift one of his right arms to ask the lady how she intended to pay for the damage she had caused, but after that display and the mention of the Demon Lord Neroth he decided it was prudent not to.

The armoured warrior left the grubby and now slightly wrecked bar and within hours returned to the impossible floating fortress of the Demon Lord Neroth.

The Demon Lord’s citadel perpetually hung in the ruddy, crimson skies of Hell, a black monument to his power and status within the dark abyss.

Her lord’s infernal keep was virtually untethered and unconnected to the floating isles that made up this higher level of Hell, but that was not uncommon, most demon lords had their own vast keeps and fortresses separated from the main cities of the upper Hells.

Despite her master’s fortress floating gracefully in the blood red sky the warrior-woman strode towards it, ground sprouting from the isle of hell and growing as she continued to walk, forming a path before her.

As the soul-hunter approached the spiked, nightmarish gates of Neroth’s citadel they parted with a blood chilling screech that was more akin to a deathly scream.

The woman stepped through the blasted courtyard of her master’s fortress. She looked coldly at the scattered, skeletal trees that bore aloft cages filled with demons and, in a few cases humans that had displeased her master immensely, she knew their demented screams and pleas for a death that would never come pleased her lord who listened from high above in his black sanctum.

However the constant, mulling cries and whimpers of Neroth’s prisoners did not give the hound cause to stop or delay, she was here to deliver the soul of the slain demon to her lord.

The corridors of Neroth’s keep, in which the woman now found herself were made from the same black stone that most of Hell’s buildings had been hewn from.

The walls were lined with braziers, each one a horned, hollowed out demon skull that belonged to one of Neroth’s minions that had failed him in ages past. The skulls glowed with an unnatural fire born of Neroth’s dark magic, the flame inside each skull was itself an eternal prison that forever scorched the soul of the failed minion.

Some way in the distance, at the end of this corridor and along another the doors of Neroth’s great hall opened and a few moments later shut with a heavy slam, breaking the near serene silence of the Demon Lord’s black citadel. The woman, who herself headed to Neroth’s great hall then heard another heavy set of footsteps, other than her own, but these footsteps were not the thudding of demon-steel boots but the sound of great hooves slamming against the cold, ebon stone with each stride.

A large figure began to turn the corner, the woman recognised the figure immediately as she continued to move forward.

The new figure was quite considerably larger than a man and seemed far more broad, his body was a mass of demonic muscle and horns jutting from his bare flesh. The beast’s skin was a deep, dark blue that looked not dissimilar to a dark night’s sky back on Earth.

As the two neared the large, dark blue demon peered down at the passing woman with a look of deep hatred, the kind of hatred that few could foster, even if they tried.

“Haven’t you gotten yourself killed yet Nemesis?” The demon spat, clenching his left fist in anger at the mere sight of the woman before him.

The woman, Nemesis did not answer, instead she looked up into the eyes of the demon that had confronted her.

The demon’s eyes were as intense and would be as intimidating to any other being as the rest of the large monster, with a series of three red vertical slit like irises in each eye, with the one in the centre being the largest and most prominent. The rest of the beast’s eyes were a pool of lifeless black.

After a few moments of uneasy silence the demon’s rage grew greater, he wished to strike this human scum but knew he could not, she was Neroth’s new favourite, though he did not know why, nor did he think a lowly Human worthy of the dark gifts Neroth had bestowed upon her.

“Human scum, do not think yourself my equal! Even if our lord favours you, you are still nothing!” The demon bellowed, finally overcome by his intense rage.

The beast raised his right hand and thrust it towards Nemesis, aiming to grab her tiny, human head in the palm of his hand and drive her into the nearby wall, but without a glance the woman brought her left arm up, grabbing the thick, spiny wrist of the demon, stopping his assault before it had even begun.

“Locar, I do not consider you my equal,” the woman spoke coldly, her voice reverberating and echoing with the demonic power she had either been gifted or consumed.

Locar trembled with barely controlled anger at the mere human’s calm, condescending tone yet struggle as he might he could not free his arm from Nemesis’ grasp.

Nemesis cast Locar’s arm aside, causing the great demon to stagger away behind her.

“I have no more time to waste on you Locar,” Nemesis uttered as she once again began to walk forward, towards her meeting with Lord Neroth.

Nemesis turned the corner and pushed the great doors open to Neroth’s main hall. The hall was enormous, the walls seemed to go on forever. Nemesis looked overhead, she saw a vast chaotic network of dark, wooden beams adorned with skulls of enemies and black iron chains.

The great hall was lit by rows of braziers, the same kind that were out lining the walls of Neroth’s labyrinthine corridors, as well a great fire pit at the head of the room, the fire in the bit glowed a cold looking blue and used the bones and souls of enemies and failed minions alike as kindling for the ever burning flame.

Neroth hovered close by, looking away from Nemesis, a tome open before him, suspended in the air much like his own fortress in the bloody skies of Hell, and in his other skeletal hand he held a goblet filled with demonic wine distilled from the anguished souls of children who perished before their time.

Neroth stood far taller then a man, at least nine feet tall, perhaps closer to ten. He had no visible feet, or legs, or if he did they were hidden behind the layers of black, slightly ragged cloth and vast collections of arcane curios that hung from his large belt.

The Demon Lord’s belt was not made of leathers, or hides but dark metal, it sat comfortably, several inches away from Neroth’s withered waist. The belt was part of a larger contraption, as from the back of it came a half metal, half flesh tendril that snaked its way up Neroth’s back to reinforce his spine.

Neroth’s upper half was dressed in dark occult looking robes that always seemed to be blown ever so gently by some ill breeze, indeed, Nemesis thought that this gave her master quite an ethereal appearance. The Demon Lord’s face and what was visible of his arms looked old, almost skeletal and decayed. His features looking almost human and yet at the same time completely demonic.

Neroth turned ever so slightly so that Nemesis could catch a glimpse of his glowing blue eyes, he then outstretched a single, skeletal hand and beckoned her closer.

Nemesis approached before lowering herself to one knee before her master.

“You have returned, with the debtors soul, I take it?” Neroth asked in a cold, raspy but well mannered voice.

“Yes my lord,” Nemesis replied without hesitation.

“How did you fare? Did you crush the weakling beneath your heel?” Neroth asked in response.

“Yes Lord, the ghorra was stronger than the rest, but still no contest,” Nemesis said in answer to her master’s follow-up question.

“As expected, you are nearing the eight hundredth debt I have sent you to collect, but it is clear that even these lower-mid power demons are beneath you, so I shall entrust you with a task that shall be more worthy of your power,” Neroth uttered.

The Demon Lord summoned another large tome with a slight hand gesture, he made another and the book opened, then he swept his hand above the open pages from right to left and just as he did several pages of the tome turned as if blown by a gust of wind.

Neroth’s bright, burning eyes scanned the page until he came across the name of a debtor that had eluded him for some three hundred years and had killed three of his previous collectors.

“This is the wretch I wish you to find and destroy,” Neroth chattered as he literally pulled the name from the page and held the burning letters betwixt his skeletal fingers.

“What of the ghorra my lord?” Nemesis asked as she accepted the name from her master and put it within her own small tome she kept on her belt.

“That demon’s soul is worthless, it is always the message, rather than the prize with those weaklings, keep his meagre power for your own,” Neroth responded.

Nemesis nodded her head to her liege in feigned thanks.

“Will that be all, Lord Neroth?” Nemesis asked.

“For now, you have your task but exercise caution, this demon will be unlike the other scum that infests the lower reaches of Hell,” Neroth said, warning his debt collector of a more difficult challenge to come.

Nemesis bowed her head before standing and leaving the chamber.

As the large doors to Neroth’s hall closed with a heavy slam a voice came from behind the Demon Lord.

“So, do your plans move forward Lord Neroth?” Spoke a humanoid figure in the shadows.

Neroth turned to face the figure, “yes, the woman is a capable warrior, with every day that passes she loses more and more of her humanity, soon she will be completely under my sway.”

“That is good news, many of your fellow lords, myself included would be pleased to see you returned to the Lord of Sin’s favour,” the man responded, slowly stepping out of the darkness.

The man appeared human, with a white coat resting upon his shoulders, what seemed to be a white tunic or large waistcoat, with a deep, crimson sash around his waist and baggy white trousers that lightly sweep the floor with each stride. The man’s shoulder length dark brown hair is swept back and staid unnaturally still.

“I shall return to the dark lord’s good graces soon enough if all goes to plan,” Neroth says, looking to the entrance to his great hall that Nemesis had not long departed from, “with Nemesis as my weapon my return to greater power is all but assured, soon I shall sit amongst the prime evils once again.”

“Your return is long overdue,” the man replied with a slight but confident smile.

“Lord Arathar, you should take your leave, if certain other lords knew we were meeting in secret our plans could all be for nought,” Neroth rattled, clenching a bony fist.

“Of course,” Lord Arathar replied before stepping back into the darkness, where only his faintly glowing red eyes could be seen, until even they faded into the shadows.

Nemesis stepped out, back in to the inner courtyard of Neroth’s infernal palace, she strode across it briskly, her thoughts were focused on the new task she had been given, she had to find and slay the demon Sourak.

As Nemesis put the name of the demon into her own tome the page filled with information which she had been reading as she left her master’s keep.

Sourak was a powerful dominator, a kind of demon that has an affinity for magic and little talent for physical combat. Sourak came under the tutelage of Neroth himself but quickly betrayed him, stealing valuable scrolls of forbidden, demonic power as well as a number of high value souls, he has already killed three others Neroth has sent to destroy him.

Recent sightings of Sourak are rare, what little information Nemesis had placed the demon on the lowest levels of hell, on the far reaches of the Claws of Norr, it is believed Sourak is recruiting similarly gifted demons to make a bid for ascension to demon lord.

Nemesis had been in the service of Lord Neroth for some four years now and from what she had learnt demon lords were born, or rather, spawned into positions of power, it was exceedingly rare, nearly unheard of, as far as the soul collector knew for a so-called ‘lesser demon’ to rise any higher than their subservient rank in the society of hell.

However, Nemesis did not care for demons or their plights, goals or schemes. All Nemesis cared for was collecting one thousand debts for Lord Neroth, then she would be free… although in recent years and even more so in recent months her memories of her life before her arrival in hell had faded, when she thought back to her time before she donned the demon armour and blade of Neroth all she saw in her minds eye was a shifting fog that clouded her mind.

“Have I staid in this infernal pit too long?” Nemesis wondered to herself as she walked through the blasted, barren wastes of Hell.

“I can’t even recall my own name… it has been so long since I have heard it,” Nemesis thought to herself again.

Her journey was long and arduous, she first descended to the bottom level of the deep Hells, commonly referred to as ‘The Abyssal Dreg’, but the Abyssal Dreg was vast, larger than any single continent on earth and was home to countless demon-kind throughout thousands of great black cities or tiny backwaters that littered the barren landscape of Hell like a pox.

The Claws of Norr, as they were known were an unnatural rocky outcrop in the likeness of a large and demonic clawed hand that hung precariously over an endless sea of shifting magma.

Nemesis knew nearly nothing of the history of the claws, save for the fact that they were all that remained of a battlefield where two demon lords of considerable power met in an age long since passed.

Within three days Nemesis finally stood on a craggy, heat blasted precipice of obsidian like stone, with the Claws of Norr on the horizon.

“At last, I’m here,” Nemesis thought to herself.

As the soul collector continued to approach the demonic city she noticed a perimeter of  outer slums that formed a half ring around the outside of the city’s tall dark stone walls on what might be considered the wrist of the protruding arm that gives the city its name.

When Nemesis had come some way closer to the city she saw a large, closed gate at the end of the battered dirt road she had been travelling on.

Nemesis continued to approach the looming gates of the Claws of Norr, passing through the slums as she did, she saw all manner of beast in more forms than she could imagine living like vagrants, sheltering beneath parasite infested blankets, hissing and snarling at one another for the few resources that existed beyond the walls.

When Neroth’s hound finally stood before the gate she clenched an armoured fist and struck it with enough force to be sure that her presence was known to those who stood beyond it.

After a few moments of waiting a hatch some feet above Nemesis’ head opened up and revealed a piercing pair of demonic, yellow eyes.

“What is it!?” Barked the guard, his voice was harsh and his tone was guttural, Nemesis surmised that this demon was an ‘oppressor’, a huge, muscular demon species that was prized by demon lords for the fear they preternaturally inspire in other, weaker demon-kind as well as their massive strength and impressive toughness.

“I have business within the Claws of Norr. Open this gate,” Nemesis said in reply, her voice strong and her tone authoritarian.

“I open this gate for none,” the large oppressor bellowed in response.

“I am here on the order of the Demon Lord Neroth, I demand you open this gate,” Nemesis ordered.

The demons around began to chatter at the mention of the Demon Lord’s name.

Nemesis faintly heard the oppressor muttering to another demon who quickly scurried off.

“Perhaps this dreadful place is under the rule of that Sourak, now he knows a servant of Neroth is here he may flee, I cannot delay any longer,” Nemesis thought to herself as she drew her great demon blade from its sheath on her back.

With one swing of her mighty blade Nemesis cut the black gate in twain, causing the two great, shaped slabs of obsidian-like stone to fall heavily about her.

As the dust and dirt kicked up from the two pieces of the immense falling gate settled Nemesis saw that awaiting her was not one, but two oppressors, both standing at least twelve feet fall, their entire bodies appearing as a skinless mass of muscle, tendons and sinew with great horned heads and two large, almost tusk like fangs jutting out from their great maws. Both of these behemoths carried great black, spiked maces that many other demons would not be able to lift, let alone wield as deadly weapons.

One oppressor strode forward, bringing his gargantuan weapon to bear and striking down on the hound of Lord Neroth.

The force of the attack sent out a shock wave that knocked the two broken pieces of the gate flying, as well as scattering several makeshift demon fires and tents and kicking up a large cloud of dust and debris.

As the cloud of smoke, dust and rock shards began to disperse both oppressors and all onlookers saw the hound of Lord Neroth standing beneath the shadow of the massive demon’s great weapon, holding his blow at bay with a single hand.

The second oppressor roared, the raw power sending yet more dust and lesser Demons flying, yet the only effect it had on Nemesis was blowing her deep crimson hood back to reveal a full head of black hair, black, lifeless eyes and a scar above her right eye reaching up onto her forehead and then her scalp.

Nemesis threw the weapon of her assailant aside, she knew she didn’t have time to waste on these creatures when her quarry yet awaited.

The oppressor staggered a few paces to its left, carried by the weight of its weapon, until it crashed into the other great demon who barred the gate beside it, sending them both to the ground in a heap.

Nemesis quickly jumped into the air and prepared her weapon for a diving attack, she planned to skewer both demons before they could recover, but as she fell towards them both oppressors opened their mouths wide and blew a great jet of deep, orange fire at the descending warrior.

Oppressor’s are known to have a natural ability for breathing fire, and that the fire they breath is especially intense and searing, often it reduces whoever, or whatever is unfortunate enough to be in its path to little more than blackened ash.

After a few moments Nemesis burst from the forming ball of flames looking as if she was completely unaffected by the inferno.

With a great, thunderous strike Nemesis plunged her demonic sword through the chests of both oppressors, who howled and roared in pain as the blade sunk ever deeper into their bodies until at last they were silenced and the only sound that followed was the gentle crackling of fire as their bodies burnt, leaving only their seething, red souls, which were quickly snatched up by Nemesis’ gauntlet as she continued to walk deeper into the city.

As Nemesis continued to carve her way through the city, meeting resistance, however trivial at every turn the demon who watched the gate with the now defeated oppressors finally scurried into the largest building in the centre of the claw.

The small demon looked rather beast-like and was clearly built for speed and ferocious quick attacks, rather than for brute strength like the oppressors.

The demon rushed passed some guards who were slow to react to the beast’s intrusion and into a room filled with strange smelling mists and aromas.

“Master! Master!” The beast like demon exclaimed to a robed shadow in the darkness who sat still, with its eyes shut, breathing in the strange mixture of herbs, magical essences and smokes.

The guards posted outside the room burst in with weapons drawn and pointed at the small beastly demon.

“Fell pup! None are allowed into Lord Sourak’s meditation lounge! Prepare to die!” One of the larger, snarling demons shouted, raising his weapon to strike.

The meditating demon’s three eyes opened, as they did the attack of the guard was stayed.

“You are the pups, you worthless wretches! This small hakkai demon managed to get passed you both and reach me before you even had the chance to react!?” The woken demon hissed angrily as he stood up, both guard demons beginning to choke and fall to their knees as he did, “were this a beast of any real power I could have been harmed while I meditated!”

The robed demon flung aside part of his all encompassing garb to reveal a charred arm of nought but bone. The demon, in his rage clenched his skeletal fist, as he did two heavy cracks came from the weakling guards, who then fell lifelessly to the ground.

Sourak’s third eye, sitting atop his forehead looked about until it once again spied the small, bestial creature that had sought him out.

“What is it brother-Solacki? Why have you interrupted my meditation?” Sourak asked, looking down at the cowardly demon before him.

“An agent of Neroth, at the gate,” the demon said, nervously blurting out the information all at once, rather incoherently.

“Is that the power I can sense? My old master seeks his old scrolls, and my soul, as compensation for what I took from him… this servant is stronger than the others, but certainly not in my league,” Sourak mused, unconcerned with the threat of Neroth’s debt collector soon at his door.

Nemesis cut down the last of her immediate opposition as she neared the town square, her blade was slick with the black blood of demons and her gauntlet was feasting on their meagre souls.

“The tome said Sourak’s last known location was here, not that he controlled the whole city!” Nemesis thought to herself angrily as she continued to scan the myriad streets, alleys and twisting walkways of the Claw of Norr.

As Nemesis walked into the midst of the town square, by a broken monument to the demon lord of old who controlled these territories; Norr, the wooden doors of the largest spire creaked open to reveal a small, athletic looking demon with furry skin and sharp, bladed claws as well as another demon hidden beneath a large robe, limping slightly as it walked.

“So, you are Neroth’s latest slave?” Sourak croaked from beneath his cowled robe.

“Who, or what are you?” Nemesis asked in return, deliberately deciding to ignore the demon’s question.

“I am Sourak, the demon you have been sent to find and bring to account,” the robed demon admitted with a rather unpleasant chuckle.

Nemesis looked about herself and noticed that a small crowd of demons had gathered around the square, she clutched her blade tightly and readied for any incoming attack before looking back at Sourak.

“They will not interfere, besides, none of them are on your level and I wouldn’t want my ‘brothers’ to suffer in defending me,” Sourak hissed from beneath his hood.

The demons around the square cheered their apparent leader.

“You look surprised to find such unity soul-collector? We are a brotherhood here, we are near equals in my eyes, in the society I have built here it is not a case of master and servant like the rest of the Hells,” Sourak explained as Nemesis continued to scan the crowds of demons and watch for incoming attack.

“My information said your last known location was here, not that you ran this city?” Nemesis spoke in such a way to make her last sentence sound like a question.

Sourak began to laugh, “did it really? I think ‘lord’ Neroth has sent you in a little unprepared, the demon lords above have known of my occupation of this city for some years now, yet they have done little to combat it and I know why, because they can’t! I have attained the power of a demon lord, although I am not recognised as such. Neroth is the first to send a servant to combat me since I took this place, and like all the others he has sent to hunt me over the centuries you will be sent back to him in piece by piece.”

Sourak flung aside his cloak-like robes to reveal a body twisted and cursed by evil magic, his flesh rotted away to reveal pulsing internal organs and charred bone. His uncovered right arm was also nothing but the bone that would have once been covered in layers of muscle and flesh.

Sourak had a horn protruding from his chin curving downward, away from his form, the eye on the less magic scarred half of his body was a an almost luminescent pearly blue while his other was a perished looking white.

The demonic sorcerer wore a long, flowing dress like robe from the waist down, it was covered with blood red runes and liturgies.

The sorcerer brought his hands together and power surged about him, forming what appeared to be translucent plates of armour.

After a few moments the plates of sorcerous armour seemed to cool as if they were newly forged, eventually fading away as if they were never even there.

“Come forward, slave of Neroth and have your pitiful existence ended,” Sourak chattered boastfully.

Nemesis wasted no time in attack, blasting off towards the demonic wizard but before she drew too close Sourak threw up what seemed like a wall of dark magic that blocked her way.

“Obviously a short range fighter, I shall have to keep a little distance between us,” Sourak thought to himself, teleporting away from the wall of magic he had conjured.

The sorcerer then reached out with one arm, pointing towards Nemesis. The air warped around him as strange spears of dark power came into being. With a simple gesture from his other, decayed hand Sourak’s wall began to dissipate as he flung his volley of malefic projectiles at the hound of Neroth.

Nemesis charged through a break in the wall and saw the dozen or so missiles headed her way, quickly she brought up her blade to defend herself.

Sourak smirked but as he did Nemesis seemed to completely disappear before reappearing in the air just above Sourak, her blade above her head, ready to deliver a powerful blow.

“Such speed!?” Sourak thought to himself in surprise as he quickly worked to reinforce the sorcerous armour he hoped would protect him from any physical harm.

As Nemesis fell she swung her demon blade, striking with vicious force, ripping and tearing the ground for meters in all directions, yet, her blow did not hit her target, instead her blade struggled against one of the near invisible plates of demonic magic that floated around Sourak, she could see what appeared to be a crack in the air against her blade.

“This one is strong, I will not underestimate her again,” the demonic sorcerer thought to himself.

With a broad, sweeping motion of his arm Sourak created a tremendous wave of force that knocked Nemesis back slightly, in the respite he had won himself Sourak teleported again, his being exploding gently into a cloud of quickly dissipating purple and blue smoke before appearing on a building’s roof on the other side of the town square.

Sourak began to charge his decayed hand with dire energy, as the magic power built up it became all the more visible until it looked like a dense glove of crackling demonic power.

“Die, slave of Neroth!” Sourak exclaimed, loosing the power he had conjured in a vast beam.

The power and magic used to form the beam was crude, it was unfocused and rushed, it’s spread was too wide, Nemesis was able to cut the magical torrent easily, splitting the tide of demonic magic like a tall stone in an ocean slicing apart the incoming tide.

Sourak’s power carved a trench in the ground, split by Nemesis’ defence, it had destroyed a handful of buildings to either side of the soul-collector and left dozens of Sourak’s ‘brothers’ as nothing more than charred bones.

As the beam’s energy died away Nemesis once again employed her greater speed to appear in front of Sourak once again and strike at him, but once again all she struck was the warding spell that protected the demon from harm.

Sourak laughed at Nemesis from behind the safety of his conjured armour, but as he did he began to shimmer and distort.

“A copy!?” Nemesis exclaimed, looking behind herself, seeing Sourak even higher in the air with another, far larger volley of dark magic missiles ready to be loosed.

Sourak cackled as he threw both arms forward, sending his cloud of crackling dark blue, purple and black projectiles forward to rain down upon his foe.

Nemesis leaped towards Sourak, dodging the hail of magic as best she could.

Seeing his opponent darting at a speed he could barely keep track of Sourak summoned up much of his remaining power and formed another wave of black magic bolts which he hurled below, he was sure this would be enough, although for a moment he considered Nemesis’ strength and he was at least somewhat impressed, after all, none of Neroth’s other hunters were even half as capable as this one.

Nemesis continued to weave her way through the storm of dark magic, slowly drawing closer to Sourak with every dodged missile, but she had spent much of her strength fighting through the demons on the way here and even more in this fight.

With her power slowly depleting Nemesis could not help but slow and as she did, she was struck by a single bolt, the dark magic caused her searing pain and knocked her back ever so slightly. As she tried to recompose and continue she was struck again and then again until she was caught, pummelled by scores of sorcerous blasts.

The hound of Neroth plummeted to the town square, which has been decimated by Sourak’s attacks.

The bombardment continued as hundreds of projectiles had yet to fall to Hell.

Damage to the city grew greater with each passing detonation of dark power. Sourak smirked and began to descend from the sky, he had won but he realised he had been more than a little sloppy, and wasteful with his power, but with this servant of the demon lords above defeated his position would be assured, once he let it be known, of course and the body of this slave sent back to its master.

Sourak touched down upon the ground, his breathing was heavier than usual, almost all his power was spent in that last attack, but still, his loyal ‘brothers’ would no doubt rebuild the city if he asked it of them.

“We have won,” Sourak spoke to the somewhat slightly scattered crowd of demons, “now the lords above must recognise me, they must recognise us!”

The demon crowds cheered and roared in loyal admiration of Sourak.

“No longer are we slaves to those who rule above! We shall let it be known that Lord Sourak, demon lord of the Hells below would welcome all as brothers and when our streets swell with our own brother-kindred, when our armies are vast beyond measure we shall rise up and over throw the prime evils and the dark lord who rules them!” Sourak exclaimed against the loud bellowing and praise of his followers.

“How can you defeat the lords of hell when you can’t even overcome me?” Came a voice from the pitted desolation caused by Sourak’s last attack.

“What!? No, impossible! You could not have survived!” Sourak exclaimed, attempting to summon up what little power he had left.

Nemesis stepped out from the smoking crater produced in the form of dark magic, her armour was slightly charred and marked but she seemed to be suffering no other ill effects from Sourak’s sorcerous assault.

“Why won’t you just die!?” Sourak screamed violently, throwing an orb of concentrated dark magic at the slowly approaching warrior.

Nemesis took in a breath and swatted the orb of magic away, causing it to fly off and detonate somewhere else within the Claws of Norr.

Nemesis suddenly appeared in front of Sourak and grabbed him by the throat and using her incredible strength sent him plummeting into the ground.

The hound of Neroth then stood above her foe, her blade ready to deliver the final strike.

“Wait! You are a slave to Neroth, like so many others. Join me, join us, together we can bring the lords above to their knees!” Sourak implored as he desperately struggled.

“You never had a hope of bringing down even a single demon lord, I have stood in Neroth’s presence and for you think yourself his equal in power is little more than delusion. You will die here, demon, and in so doing you bring me one step closer to my freedom,” Nemesis explained as she drove her demonic blade through the demon sorcerer.

As Sourak’s body burnt away like paper held above an open flame Nemesis pulled her great sword from the ground. When Sourak’s form was nought but a mote of blackened dust Nemesis stooped down, sealed his soul inside her gauntlet and picked up a few of the possessions he had in small packs and satchels and putting them in one of her own.

Nemesis turned and began her long journey back to the great fortress of her lord, the demons who lined and crowded the streets parting for the mighty warrior, they felt as if a slight haze had been lifted when Nemesis slew their brother-lord.

Next Story: 1.02: 998 Down…


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