“I’m sure by now there are faster ways of travel into unsafe areas. But back in my time, over the course of each expedition, things always seemed to get worse. The desert had already been all but near secured well before I began my enlistment. Most of our journeys began in the major forests before the mountains. They seemed to stretch endlessly... the further we went, the denser the trees got. Thick fog and mist would crowd the baseline all throughout the night and early morning almost every day. There was an ambush every week, if not more often: most of them small wandering groups of animals, some large groups or even herds. What I feared most was that throughout each expedition, whether it was planned or not, it always felt like we were advancing much further into the forest than anticipated. Going in the correct direction was a question left unanswered, but without a doubt we transcended deeper. The demons we faced were changing, from common wildlife to forest and jungle specific creatures. Then, in my final expedition was where I saw it. My squad had been separated by the main group during a surprise raid by a group of ape like demons and were lost among the morning fog. In our attempt to relocate them, we came across a rather peculiar demon.
Talos could only hold so much of his curiosity, now sitting straight up as he stared directly at Ronis. “What was so different from it than the rest? Was it not an animal?”
“It was, however none like anyone had reported before. It looked almost like us, a human. Its figure was long and thin however, as if it had been starving for quite some time. Yet its movements showed no signs of it. Once it laid its eyes on us, it charged in swiftly, knocking my squadmates out of the way and tackling me to the ground. It held down my arms and stared directly into my eyes, as if it was trying to look into my soul, before finally speaking.”
“It spoke to you?” Talos asks surprised. Ronis gives a slight nod, looking back inside the estate to see a few workers wrapping up for the night and turning off all the lights.
“It didn’t speak in a full sentence or anything, but spoke only one word in the most desiring tone I had ever heard in my life:heart.”
“Heart?” Talos echos.
“Indeed. It then released one of my hands, moving towards my chest as it started digging its nail deeper into my skin. The shock and confusion of it all had left me paralyzed, but thankfully my squad members were able to gather themselves after the initial blow and managed to knock it off of me. From there we quickly got up and proceeded to run off as fast as we could in the hopes to find the main group. After what felt like an eternity, we managed to do so; however we had failed to realize one of our members, my best friend at the time, had tripped during our escape and wasn’t there with us. We did our best to locate him after with the backup of the main force, but our search ended in vain.”
“What of the demon? Did you ever find it again?”
“Not at all. The battle that took place before our separation left us too small of a force to advance any further. Additionally,we had already journeyed far enough to consider valuable information to return with. However, that encounter was one that haunted me for years on end. Its near charcoal burnt-like skin, the abyssal dark eyes with nothing more than a deep bright red circular glowing coming out of them, and tears thick and red like blood that seemed to drain out the moment it laid eyes on me that ran down its arms. Its hunger seemed so overwhelming that it drained me of all power and hope. But most importantly...”
Ronis pauses for a moment, removing his shirt and pointing to the top of his shoulder, slowly dragging it down to his heart. “When it scratched through my skins, its “tears” made their way down its arm and into my wound. By the time we made it back to a safe place to set up camp, it had left a large dark scar, a color nearly that of the demon, that seemed to grow throughout my body,. Not matter how much I was inspected, neither the mages or medics seemed to find a solution to its cause. As a result I was left with it.”
Ronis grabs his shirt, putting it back on as he finally lays back in his chair once more. “Overtime the scar slowly began to fade away. It took nearly two years, but finally it was gone from my body. However my nightmares continued well after that, through retirement and during my early years of establishing this orphanage. Even through some of the years I knew you. Of course the military and kingdom likes to keep most of the efforts of the expedition hidden from the general public to avoid any worry, but knowing what I know I can only imagine that in my time away they’ve encountered more demons like the one I saw, especially after the last decade.”
“The rise and fall of Paladin Lucian.” Talos speaks. Ronis nods a bit.
“His hope was just as young and short lived as he was. The young boy who sought to re-break the barrier between mages and warriors. By his second expedition, the team had claimed to discover a secret to the origins of the demons. Then within the very the very next one, him alongside many others were ambushed and lost in the mountains to a vast horde of demons no one had apparently ever seen before.”
“That must be the main reason to why we have such low numbers now.” Talos ponders, closing his eyes briefly in thought.
“Without a doubt. A failure that large, along with the fear of many who survived and spread word of the incident has left the kingdom in quite a state of emergency. There is doubt and fear that hasn’t been felt in generations. We can only hope the King and his general have a plan for the upcoming departure... Listen Talos, I know it’s too late to stop you from going, so I wish to to gi-” Ronis goes on, however he turns to see Talos completely knocked out and snoring quietly. Ronis can’t help but shrug as he gets up from his chair and throws Talos over his shoulder.
“You definitely got a long way to go with your drinking kid.” he snickers before walking into the estate and taking Talos up to a spare room to rest. He drops him on the bed mercilessly, yet it hardly even bothered him as he was well beyond waking up anytime soon.
“Best hope you don’t have a hangover tomorrow. I got something left to teach you.” Ronis says to him before closing the door and heading to his own room to sleep.