From the Darkness - 1,014 including title.
Like a spring tide against boulders, the first charge shattered on the Ker-uskan shield wall, with the lethal young warriors proving as inexorable as those they fought. Efficiently they applied their spears and shields to the task they had been prepared for all their lives; toiling specialists holding at bay a flood of screaming madness.
The first assault was blitzed in only a few seconds. The thin line not only held but even advanced past its first victims, with spears clattering against shields in audacious challenge. The demons perished screaming and blaring. Those who did not die immediately received their death blows as the shield wall proceeded. A fresh stench of blood and piss spread across the battle field, mingling with the older, stale stink from the forum.
Then another rush of nightmarish shadows and a second wave struck... and a third.
Fendrel watched on from his elevated position, stone cold with terrified awe. The Ker-uskan force kept cutting the oncoming lines of demons to ribbons. Meat into the grinder. The boy clenched his fists and jaws, when he saw how the dead monsters began to pile up in front of the impervious shield wall. Never did the thin line waver. Yet now it was slowing; choking under the immensity of the task. Many a spear had splintered under the severe surges and been replaced by purposeful axes and tireless swords. But the flood of demons gushing from the darkness between the huts did not let up. Yet another wave washed over their own dead and splintered against the Ker-uskan rock. And another.
And then a huge beast sounded its horn and a ragged group of surviving demons limped back to disappear in the night. The tired ‘Young Stags’ of Ker-Uska were unable to give pursuit, exhausted as they were after the sublime massacre they had just delivered. The demons did not even turn around to throw profanities and challenges at their vanquishers but just slunk away towards the darkness. Before they were able to enter the night, however, it spew out more of its children. Bigger monsters than Fendrel had ever seen lumbered onto the moonlit village green. If the surviving smaller demons had hoped to escape the scene they were severely disabused of such a notion. Hope is a bitch also in the realm of Chaos but Fendrel doubted that it bit deeper than those gigantic monsters scythe-like claws. The dispatched demons simply disappeared under the feet of the advancing herd.
Cold fingers of fear closed around the boy's heart and squeezed it painfully, when he tried to count those monsters, who trampled over their dead in eerie silence. Only the muffled thumps and shuffles of their feet and splashes of water and blood puddles could be heard. Moonlight occasionally illuminated their closed ranks through the curtain of rain and sleet. But where there should have been the reflection of metal, everything remained black. The Black Demons! Fendrel bit his hand till it bled, his mind refusing to believe that the nightmare of a myth could be true. He called out a warning. And then watched. Shivering.
It was only then that he noticed several warriors lie about motionless among the dead beasts. The shield wall had closed its gaps too fast for him to realise that death had taken its toll also among the ‘Young Stags’. Fendrel's mind was numb and confused, as he tried to estimate the extent of their losses. When finally he lifted his eyes after what seemed an eternity of fearful gazing he was shocked to see the black herd stand only a few yards in front of his brethren.
The Black Demons were about half as tall again as the tallest Ker-uskans and stood head and shoulders even above their captain, Garrik. Close up in the light of the dying fires one could see the black ring mail that protected their upper bodies, almost twice as wide as Garrik's, their grotesquely muscled arms and tree trunks of thighs. Most of them clutched serrated scythe-like swords or heavy mean looking axes. Some hefted mighty hammers of war.
Their leader uttered something, guttural and sharp. Those around it gnashed their teeth, roared and stepped forward.
Suddenly, a lone figure emerged from the shield wall and opposed them. Even from his distance Fendrel knew it must be Kris.
"Garrik, to me! The Demon! Kill their leader!"
And with these words, Kris lifted his greatsword, facing the amassed demons all by himself. Pride swelled Fendrel's heart and pain cut it to shreds, seeing that Kris would only be the next to die. But then four shadows rushed past him. The Captain, Garrik, the veteran Armin, the mighty-axe wielding Arnulf and the ferocious Wulfgard threw themselves at the beasts, who roared and bellowed in surprise, stumbling back into the ranks of the amassed Chaos spawn.
And then the four Young Stags began to dance, turning their refined moves into instant death and their battle brothers' backbones into steel. Following their leaders in a wedge formation, the remaining warriors charged too and helped them cut a swathe into the bulk of frozen monsters. But all too soon they found themselves surrounded and beset by the beasts. Black swords and axes came shivering and screaming through the air, loping off spear tips, hacking chunks out of the Ker-uskan shields and biting with crunching noises into shoulders, arms and heads. Many died both demons and humans. But while ever more monsters appeared in the places of their fallen, the number of Young Stags dwindled rapidly. In the end, all their courage, all their thirst for revenge, all their martial brilliance could not stand up to the crude power and inestimable numbers of the demons.
As the last Young Stags vanished, only two of them remained untouched; Captain Garrik, who was invincible in his wrath, as he cut a path through the Black Horde towards his motionless target. And then there was the target himself - Kris - who had not joined his brothers after sending them into their last, lost battle