<Bodies bodies everywhere but no one left to kill.> Gerald mused as he looked over the battlefield.
With the enemy General suffering from a fatal case of spear-in-brain, the legions of Beelzebub were suddenly leaderless. What followed was a chaotic route as Seere’s advancing infantry legions and artillery pounded the rabid horde of creatures. A few of Beelzebub’s remaining champions, another Infernal Knight in particular, tried to turn the tide back in their favor. Gerald disposed of that insectoid-looking creature as well.
After that it was a wholesale slaughter.
The pass leading into Prince Seere’s kingdom was filled with bodies. The legions under General Icilius had advanced to the mouth and stopped. As much as every single soldier wanted to pursue the fleeing creatures, breaking formation and blindly chasing after them could have lost them the battle.
At last count, roughly a legion and a half of Beelzebub’s original force left the mountain pass alive. General Icilius had lost two thirds of his own force in the battle and he needed to be concerned with a counterattack. Artillery and a company of skirmishers harassed the enemy all the way to the horizon, but they didn’t dare cut deeper into Beelzebub’s kingdom. The Lord of All the Flies would throw dozens of legions at them if they instigated a full-scale invasion.
The creature at Gerald’s feet tried to rise, but a moderate application of force and the thing was forced back down on its ass. For its resistance, Gerald twisted the thing’s arm that was secured behind its back. The grating of stressed bone and growl of pain from the enemy champion brought a smile to Gerald’s lips.
“Sir Gerald.” General Icilius and a gaggle of other officers stepped over corpses as they approached.
There was a wide circle of dead around the captured enemy champion. Most were missing important body parts or their heads.
“General.” Gerald nodded respectfully as the smaller man approached him and the prisoner.
“Has the vermin betrayed his master yet?” The General spoke like he was asking what was for dinner later.
“No, Sir.” Gerald shook his head.
Truthfully, Gerald hadn’t tried hard to get information out of the patchwork thing that looked like a half-man half-prehistoric avian reptile. The thing was an Infernal Knight of Beelzebub, and as a fellow Infernal Knight Gerald knew the thing would die before giving up any valuable intelligence.
He’d still tried, and the creature’s wings, legs, and other arm lay in a growing pool of blood around the thing as a result.
“It was worth a try.” The General sighed as the members of his entourage moved to form a circle around Gerald and the creature.
Once in position they slowly started to chant. It was the same gutted, tortured language of the angels that Gerald had spoken when he’d siphoned the power from the champions he’d killed. This was the entire reason the thing was still alive and not dead like the rest of its compatriots.
General Icilius was a fighter. Gerald had known this for what felt like forever. The man, despite his tactical brilliance, was not one to sit in the rear and direct a battle. Unfortunately, that was exactly what his current rank required. To ease his transition Gerald and the General had struck a deal. Gerald would always try to capture someone, preferably someone with power, for the General to play with after the battle was won. Today, that unlucky son of a bitch was the man-prehistoric bird creature.
Gerald gripped the thing’s remaining limb harder as it started to struggle. The General slid his roman gladius out of its sheath and pointed the tip at the thing’s chest.
Gerald could feel the fear radiating from the creature, but it kept its mouth shut. Resurrection as a lesser being was something it was not looking forward to, but it was better than resurrection as a traitor.
“Very well.” The General stepped forward and the chanting intensified.
The General slid his blade into the creature’s chest at an agonizingly slow pace. The thing screeched, its screams of pain a mix between a man’s cry and a bird’s squawk. Gerald watched it all with a detached expression. The only thing he was worried about was getting out of the way when the General’s sword finally passed all the way through the thing.
Gerald held on for a few more seconds after the creature went limp, just to make sure it wasn’t playing possum. Once he felt the power transfer begin he let the things fall face first into the puddle of blood. The resulting splash covered his armor in even more blood, but the normally black Infernal Iron had been a dripping red now for hours. A little more splatter wasn’t going to change anything.
The General inhaled sharply as the majority of the creature’s power flooded into him. Some still leaked away back toward Beelzebub’s kingdom, and a tiny sliver attached itself to Gerald, but with a full ritual the General got most of it.
“Ahhh.” The General sighed like he’d just eaten a delicious steak. “Thank you, Sir Gerald.”
“Of course, Sir.” Gerald gave his longtime mentor a small bow. “With your leave I’m going to return to the city and make my report. Is there anything else you’d wish me to convey to our Lord?”
“We will need reinforcements to hold the pass, but I’m sure our Lord is aware of that. We’ve won a great victory here today.” The General looked out from the mouth of the pass toward the red, barren, and scorched kingdom beyond it.
Gerald nodded again, spread his blood-soaked wings and sprang into the air. He climbed higher and higher into the sky until the whole battlefield was spread out below him. To the east was nothing but red, although a mass of black dots was hurriedly scrambling farther east. The pass was full of death, but beneath that Gerald could already see the changes. Prince Seere’s kingdom expanded to the west beyond the mountains, and was dominated by flowing waves of gray-green grain. It looked peaceful and lush compared to the barren desert of Beelzebub realm.
Gerald only knew the fundamentals of Hell’s Teutonic Laws, but he did know that kingdoms waxed and waned depending on the power of their ruler. With Beelzebub’s defeat the red, barren ground was already retreating from the pass and Prince Seere’s authority asserted itself. The beginnings of grain stalks were already beginning to sprout in the pass and just beyond it.
Gerald had seen the same transformation on the border along the river Styx. As Cain and his Lord jockeyed for power, Cain’s wild forests sometimes crossed the river until they were torched and beaten back by Seere’s legions. For Prince Seere to hold the newly claimed pass he would need to secure it with soldiers and power, but that was a decision for the Lord to make.
Gerald was an Infernal Knight. It was his job to kill whoever his Lord wanted dead.
With one last look at the changing landscape Gerald turned west and poured on the speed. He streaked through the air, a sonic boom cracking behind him as he climbed to his maximum speed. He had no idea how fast we could truly go, but he did know he could reach the coastal capitol city of Prince Seere in roughly an hour.
As he streaked across the sky, and the ground flew past below, he saw the smaller cities and towns of the realm. They were nothing compared to the capitol, but were situated at crucial crossroads. They were places to collect the grain and station soldiers for strategic deployment. Aside from grain silos and military barracks, they were only a small collection of buildings surrounded by a central structure. The structure fell somewhere between a manor and castle depending on how close it was to a contested border. The nearest town to the mountain pass had a large, fortified castle at the center; while the one closest to the capitol looked more like a summer palace than a defensive structure.
Prince Seere appointed trustworthy men and women to rule those smaller towns, but they all bowed to Seere. He was the undisputed Lord of these lands.
The fog rising from the sea was Gerald’s first indication that he was almost home. It created a wall rising all the way into the perpetually cloudy sky. When Gerald first got his wings he wanted to fly over the sea, but Icilius told him he could never do that. Others had tried, died, and never been resurrected. People whispered that only Prince Seere could travel beyond the fog that marked the end of their world.
Gerald slowed as he reached the air-space around the capitol. Airborne regiments flew in synchronized formation, engaging in mock battles with invisible foes, or real battles with other regiments. Those were fought with wooden weapons, but there were still fatalities.
Gerald weaved between the units, who didn’t stop their training, and made a gradual descent toward the glowing golden hall. It put every other structure he’d ever seen to shame, and he couldn’t wait to enter it. He landed outside the front gate with a squish as he sunk half a foot into the mud.
Even with the rank he’d attained he still felt the permanent cold that was etched into his bones. With a glare at the sodden ground he stomped toward the open golden gate. He climbed the steps and the mud seemed to disintegrate, along with the blood on the bottom of his feet. Seere didn’t want his hall getting dirty so the hall itself didn’t allow it.
The moment he crossed the threshold warmth filled his soul, and he sighed with relief. The gate guards gave him a deep bow, but he ignored them and started the long walk to the throne room.
Very little had changed in the golden hall since Gerald had first arrived in his Lord’s kingdom. Seere’s personal guards still lined the hall like intimidating statues in their Infernal Iron armor, but Gerald no longer feared them. In fact, he’d found the woman he’d talked to on his first day in Hell and fucked her when he’d become an Infernal Knight.
<The privileges of rank.> He grinned beneath his helmet. They’d both enjoyed that night.
Large tables were rising out of the floor as he passed, enough to seat ten thousand men. Gerald knew what that meant. A victory was always followed by a grand feast. General Icilius would return a hero and he would be honored and rewarded.
Gerald could already smell the meat, ale, and bread. The hall’s bakers made the best pastries on Earth or in Hell. He put the thought out of his head as his mouth started to water. The door to the throne room was open, but Gerald did not enter. Someone did not just enter Seere’s presence without permission.
“Enter, Sir Gerald.” The powerful voice of his Lord called after a minute.
Gerald did as he was instructed. He walked to within thirty paces of the giant Prince and went down on one knee with his head bowed so his chin touched his chest. His rank didn’t call for total prostration.
“Rise, Sir Gerald, and report.”
Gerald rose to his feet and delivered the news of the great victory.
There was once a time when Gerald feared his Lord, feared hearing his name, or being in his presence. That had all changed. Being in the golden hall, and being within his Lord’s powerful sphere of influence filled Gerald with awe. Prince Seere was truly great, and he’d given Gerald so much since he swore his undying loyalty.
The Prince smiled at the good news, his rows of shark’s teeth making him look like the apex predator he was. “Excellent. We will feast in honor of the dead and in celebration of our conquest.”
“Yes, my Lord.” Gerald bowed deeply, almost making a ninety-degree angle with his body.
“Sir Gerald.” The Prince interrupted as the Infernal Knight took several steps back and turned to leave. “After the celebration please come see me. I have a new assignment for you.”
“Yes, Sir.” Gerald bowed low again.
<A new assignment so soon.> Gerald wondered as he left the throne room and walked back toward the hall’s entrance. <It must be important.>
Usually, Prince Seere allowed some downtime between missions. It was good for morale and the soldiers’ well-being that they are allowed to return home and reap the spoils of war. Food and drink were not the only things a man could enjoy after a long and bloody campaign.
Gerald marched out of the hall and ignored the return of the chill. He made a beeline for one of the brick structures surrounding the large golden hall. It was an actual home; which was more than most people had in Hell. Most had to deal with a tents or drafty wooden barracks. Gerald had lived in both as he worked his way up the ladder.
His home as an Infernal Knight was a two story brownstone just around the corner from the golden hall. It sat on a paved cobblestone street, not a mud-drenched avenue, and had armed guards patrolling. They bowed as he passed.
Gerald looked to the Victorian mansion across the street to see the lights were still off. That was the General’s home, and he clearly hadn’t returned from the front yet. Gerald’s eyes swept his surroundings as he climbed the dozen stairs to the front door. Even in the homes of the leaders of Prince Seere’s legions you couldn’t be too careful. One of the guards would gladly stab a General in the back as long as they could get away with it.
Sensing the coast was clear he unlocked the door with his power and walked into the brightly lit space.
She was waiting for him in a kneeling position by the front door. Her alabaster skin practically shone as the overhead candle-chandelier bathed her in flickering golden light. She was completely naked and her body language communicated her total submissiveness.
Gerald’s eyes hungrily traced across her flesh. She’d done her blonde hair in twin braids that she’d artfully draped over her shoulders to cover the nipples of her full breasts. Even then he could see they were hard from the cold.
“Master.” She repeated, chancing a gaze up at him.
Gerald’s blood sang with desire. Lydia, his usual whore, had hit all of his pleasure buttons. She knew he liked to dominate his partner. He especially liked them on their knees. She knew he liked to pull her hair while he fucked her senseless from behind, and the twin braids would be perfect for that. It took everything Gerald had to control himself.
He took a deep breath and closed the door behind him. “Draw me a bath, Lydia.”
Her eyes twinkled with delight at the suggestion. “Yes, Master.”
She rose to her feet and swayed up the stairs toward the master bathroom. Gerald had a perfect view of her full, toned ass, and he had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep his emotions in check.
First he needed to clean himself up. He was covered in the sweat and blood of his enemies. Then, after he was presentable, he could have his way with her.
He stripped out of his armor and placed it on a rack at the top of the stairs. The Infernal Iron would absorb the blood and mend itself with time, so it required little maintenance. His own skin wasn’t flawed perfection like Lydia. His own flesh was scarred, burned, and bruised. Life had not been easy for him in Hell, but he’d made the best of it and risen to a position he could do just about anything he wanted. Or anyone he wanted.
Lydia was waiting in the tub for him when he arrived. She was lounging in steam that rose up and curled around her face. She remained submissive, while beckoning him with her open legs.
<The best thing about being an Infernal Knight is the indoor plumbing.>
The stray thought passed through Gerald’s mind as he sunk into the warm water and her waiting embrace.