Water had always been soothing to him. The trickling of a stream, the gentle drip drop of a soft rain, the roar of a waterfall in full stream, or the thunder of waves upon the sand of a beach, all of it soothed his soul, no matter his inner turmoil. He sat and watched the water stream over the soft dark bed of the creek, roiling around rocks, rippling and swirling, trying to capture some remnant of peace within himself. It was hard to find this time, all the light in his soul buried under violence and blood and fear.
He dipped a hand into the water, feeling the biting chill and watched it flow off his dark skin, drip, drip, drop. If only it were deeper and he could swim in it, cleanse himself of his sins. Heaving a deep sigh he stood, groaning and stretching. He should wish for a feather mattress instead of a cold pond. He really was getting too old to be sleeping on the ground. He sighed again thinking that he needed to get back, that there were undoubtedly people looking for him. There would be questions and queries and papers to sign or read. It was so much work being the general of an army. Sometimes he wanted to just walk away and let them do it themselves, but he had a greater sense of responsibility than that. So he stayed.
Still, he was loath to leave the creek. Here all was quiet except for the purling water. It was peaceful; perhaps it was the last place on this world to be so. He had found a place of solitude amidst the chaos of an army, a place unspoiled by foraging, practice, or latrines. It was somewhat of a miracle, now that he thought on it.
“Girding your loins?” said a voice behind him.
Recognizing the voice, he turned slowly, dropping the gaudy jacket he held, freeing up his hands. “Against what, exactly?” he replied, cautiously eyeing his visitor, while drawing his sword and kicking his coat away. It wouldn’t do to trip over that in the midst of a fight.
A chuckle rumbled up through the creature’s chest. “The fight you’re preparing for right now. Why draw your sword, General? I have made no threat.”
“Your existence is a threat.” It was, too. His kind had been created by accident when a overzealous wizard had taken it upon himself to open doors that should have remained closed, locked, and sealed. By mixing the essences of elves, humans, and demons, he had created an almost unstoppable being that preyed on misery and relished suffering. The first to die, he had never had the chance to help remedy his mistake. Now, here stood that very first successful cross, the beginning of the darkening of the world.
More chuckling. “My, my. That just hurts my feelings.”
The creature’s eyes glowed, giving off a sickly yellow light in the dimness of the forest, and he wasn’t positive, but it looked like the moss around its feet was smoking. He gripped his sword tighter. This was it, this was what all the fighting was leading toward, this is why the stream had brought him no peace today. If he could kill this thing, maybe it would weaken the rest enough, just enough, so that they could kill them all. Because, unlike humans and elves, demons are all connected, a hive mind, power sharers. The more there are of them, the harder they are to kill, and to kill the King is to weaken them most. And the King just decided to pay him a visit.
“Come for a drink?” He nodded at the stream, preparing for the fight he was determined to have.
“Hardly. I wanted to meet the great General everyone screams about when I torture them. You’re really not that impressive.” It pulled a black smoking sword out of …somewhere…and gestured at him. “Come, let’s try this. I could use some fun.”
It felt good to get here and he grinned at the creature, excited and confident. He didn’t speak back, words would solve nothing, but raised his sword and prepared to meet him
The fight wasn’t epic. It wasn’t the stuff of legends. There was no fancy footwork or impressive sword work. It was brutal and violent, full of determination on both sides, both parties focused and absolutely trying to kill each other.
“I’m not even trying, human. You are wasting my time! No man can kill me, especially not with a human-made blade.”It snarled at him as sparks flew from where their swords met; whatever his dark blade was made of shot off heat and magic alike.
He grinned at the creature, even as his sword grew hot, almost to the point of burning his skin. He began to sweat, and his eyebrows were singed off by the heat given off by the sword and creature. His clothing began to smoke. This is what he’s been waiting for, to be this close to this thing. He let go with his right hand, and ignored the blades coming closer to him as he reached for the sheath hidden in his pocket.
“You are hardly the adversary I was hoping for. I think I shall make you suffer before I kill you, for my disappointment.”
The creature lowered the swords even more, apparently exerting no effort. The skin on his face began to blacken and crackle and the smell of his own burning flesh filled his nostrils. He gritted his teeth and snarled as he brought the knife in his hand upward, jamming it in the center of the King’s chest.
The yowl of surprise filled the wood and was followed by a flash of darkness. It filled the wood and he blinked, trying to see, before it suddenly disappeared. The creature before him stood, dumbfounded, eyes no longer glowing, moss no longer smoking, powerless.
“A mage forged that for me with the Elf Queen herself wielding the blacksmith hammer.” He grinned at the thing, dropped his hand from the knife, and raised his sword.
He grunted as the dark sword entered his chest, piercing his heart. He felt a flash of fury at his stupidity. Of course the blade only killed the creature’s power, not his physical strength. He should have take care to defend himself. He could still win this, he just needed to finish his swing. And so with a demon sword in his chest, the General of the World’s Army struck off the head of the King of Demons.
He died to the soothing sound of water, a smile on his face, because water had always brought him peace.