The first chapter, a prequel to a more main story. This prequel was written a while ago.
The moon shone hauntingly over the harsh pine trees protruding from the stiff ground like a stake from the heart of a vampire. New layers of snow fell on the cold, hard ground of the forest, covering prints that had been created there earlier that day. In the centre of Newgrove Forest a river ran fiercely and deeply, splitting the forest in half. Beyond the eastern section of the river stood a great manor-house, some what out of place in the eighteenth century Albanian woodland surrounding it. The house was humongous and daunting, a charcoal-burned monstrosity towering over its extensive graveyard, with hundreds of memorials and tombstones protruding from the ground at various angles.
Of all the various windows lining the stone walls of the house, only one was lit; and through it was a collection of the most curious and fearsome creatures that human eyes had ever witnessed. There were twelve gathered in that room - eleven of them daemons clothed in nothing but their thick skin and lusting for flesh. Every one of the monstrous beasts was different from the next, with various differing characteristics; some bore horns and piercing crimson skin, others with a mucus colouring, and several limbs more than was normal. These eleven were gathered around a twelfth, who was clothed in hooded grey robes. Human, the twelfth member of this estranged committee appeared to be preaching to the impatient creatures around him.
“Daemons of the vortex, too long have you been imprisoned within these walls! Too long have you been prevented from wreaking havoc in this world of man! And too long you have had to wait in dear anticipation for your next kill.” The man spoke in a harsh rasping voice that echoed throughout the room. “There is one who can help you; one whose death would bring forth the dawn of the new age- the age of the daemon.”
The surrounding daemons began to holler and scream in excitement: they knew that this man was talking of freeing them from the house forever.
“Who is this man?” asked a repulsive purple daemon, who seemed to be the leader of the daemons present.
“Why, the only offspring of the long-dead monarchy of Albania,” commented the hooded figure, smugly.
“Impossible!” muttered the head-daemon. “We wiped out those scum long before we were imprisoned here! You had better not lie to me!”
“Well you missed one - didn’t you?” replied the man, now starting to become impatient. “All I know is that there is a boy, close to seventeen years of age, who has been branded. I saw him with my very eyes.”
“Why haven’t I been informed of this?” screamed the head-daemon. “The Remok- they tracked down my enemies sixteen years ago! How could they have missed a child? I will see the end of this. Bring them forth! They will bring the boy.”
“No! I mean... I will see to it that the boy is brought here as soon as possible.” The man, for the first time, showed a hint of fear; the Remok were not to be messed with.
“Very well - I expect him by full moon. Six days.” replied the daemon. This marked the end of the conference, and he and his minions left, allowing the human to show himself out.
Meanwhile, beyond the western side of the river perhaps fifty miles away from the water lay a small village within a clearing, consisting of twenty sawdust huts, held together with mud. In a hut much like any other slept a teenage boy on a mattress made of straw. Visible on the boy’s left wrist was a black tattoo- resembling an eye, impaled upon a spear. The detailing of the tattoo showed that the artist must have been of a superb standard. For now, the boy slept on.
Later, when the sun was at its prime, the boy’s eyes shot open. The light was slicing through holes in the thick fibres of the wall. He screwed up his eyes, stood from his bed, and stepped from the hut. Today marked an important occasion for the boy, as it was his seventeenth birthday. He was now permitted to leave the village to search for a livelihood for himself. However, the boy had already vowed that he would leave- not to find a job- but to find his family. When he was a month or so old, the boy had been found outside the hut of the local healer, Theo, who raised the boy and called him Yan. For the next seventeen years Theo brought up Yan as his own son. He was honest with the boy, letting him know of his mysterious heritage, but Yan had always been curious, and there was no stopping him leaving the village. Now that day had arrived, Yan could not leave soon enough.
When Yan had collected his belongings and retrieved his mule from the village stables, he set off on his journey, which would take him through the woods, and ultimately to the river-city of Hoelra – the city of the water.
Yan travelled for three solid hours through the dense cluster of trees that had formed between his village and the river before reaching the town of Glaera, where he would stop for the night. Yan wandered through the town increasingly warily - there were dead and dying people cluttering the streets of the town, many of the dead had weeping relatives draped over their lifeless corpses. Something had happened there the previous night.
Yan lowered himself from his mule as a woman collapsed at his feet, howling with pain and despair. Yan put a hand forward to lift her face and quickly recoiled. Where the left side of her face would have been, was a great bloody hole with brains and sinew cascading from it - like some daemonic waterfall.
Yan had never seen anything like it. He had, however, heard tales of the last rulers of Albania- seventeen years before. The great daemon king Komen had led his gathering of greater daemons through the void between their universe and our own, and proceeded through Albania - destroying whole cities, and wiping out the previous royal blood line. Just as it seemed the great empire would fall beyond repair, the daemons suddenly disappeared.
Yan considered leaving the town behind him and proceeding on his journey, but he had no provisions or food to see him through the journey, and he had only covered a fifth of the distance he would have to cover to reach Hoelra. He tried to ignore the desperate pleas of the townsfolk as he made his way to the Old Hose inn.
In the tavern, Yan ordered a drink from the old barman who was pulling ale for the less injured townsfolk who were in dire need of distraction. He sat on a table by the fire with an elderly man who looked less drunk than the others. The man gave Yan a wary look, and went back to his ale.
Yan took out his pack and removed an old, frayed piece of parchment. He had read this document many times over the years - it was the only clue he had to his past. It had been found with him when he had been abandoned as a baby, and the only thing he had of his parents. It merely explained that they could not look after him, and that he should not search for them. Below the quickly-scrawled writing was the same symbol that had been indented onto his wrist. As Yan rolled up his sleeve to look upon his strange mark, the man across the table grabbed for his arm, and held it exceptionally tight for a man who had drunk two litres of ale in the past hour.
“Who gave you this marking?” hissed the drunk.
“I’ve had it ever since I can remember,” replied Yan, shakily
The man dragged Yan to his feet, and pulled him out of the door. Yan dared not ask where he was taking him, as they marched out of the town and into the woodland. The man cornered Yan to a wall, looked him up and down, and let him drop to the ground. Then he revealed something to Yan which would change his world forever.
“Boy, do you know who I am?”
“No sir,” responded Yan bravely.
“My name is Raun. I was a friend of your parents.”
“You know who my parents are?”
“I know who your parents were. I knew them seventeen years ago, when they ruled over Albania. Don’t gawp, boy. You never wondered about that fine tattoo? It was the royal mark of Queen Idlanzi and her descendants.”
“A prince? I can’t be a prince! I just can’t!”
“People are looking for you, boy. Well, people are not what they are- I mean Daemons. It took a hell of a lot to keep them in The House, and you’re the only one who can free them. It’s written in the very spell that I cast upon them.”
“Is that why the town was destroyed? Was it my fault those people died?” Yan could not believe what he was hearing. Five hours ago, he was the apothecary’s boy. Now he was a prince and hunted by daemons? It was too much to comprehend.
“I’d take that as a pretty good sign the daemons know you’re alive.” Raun replied to Yan’s query- not exactly revealing what he wanted to know.
“But this isn’t the work of daemons. This is the Remok. The Remok are the slaves of the daemons- once they were human, but they sold their humanity for a taste of the ‘high life’.” added Raun at Yan’s inquisitive gaze. “And now thanks to you, we’re gonna have to hunt them down before they do any further damage.”
“We? I never asked to get caught up in all this!” Yan quickly replied.
“You were born into ‘all this’ lad- like it or not. Can you fight?”
“Yeah but I-”
“Good. We’re taking this straight to the top. Straight to the house.” And with that, Raun headed back to the scarred town to retrieve their horses, with a protesting Yan at his heels.
The next four days were spent riding solidly through the woodland to the river. They had decided not to stop on the way there, so that they would not run into another Remok.
On the fifth day, they reached the river. They had stopped on the borders of Hoelra in order to avoid recognition from any Remok, but that did not stop Yak falling in love with it the moment he saw the great city. It consisted entirely of marble, and was at least three hundred feet high – it was more of a man-made mountain than a city, with the buildings built into the side of it.
When they had scaled the perimeter of the city wall, they caught the first sight of the mighty Newgrove river, rushing down-hill, further than the eye could see both lengthways and across to the other end. Men rarely attempted to cross the great barrier of the forest- and when they did, they seldom returned.
There was an old hut outside the city which rented fishing boats and nets, which was where they would acquire their vessel to cross the gushing waters. Raun and Yan carried their adopted boat across to the water, where they boarded their little row-boat and set sail into the unknown.
After an hour and a half of rowing, the other side of the river came into view- and with it, The House. Outside, there was a pile of corpses, freshly slain, and as they came closer Yan started to recognize some faces as those from his own village. He knew that they had only been slain because of him, and he vowed he would avenge their deaths.
When they reached the shore, they quickly stowed the boat in a bush, and scurried up to the lake-side gate of the house.
“From this point on, there’s no turning back. As soon as we enter the grounds, we are their prey.” Raun told Yan.
“You never really gave me a choice in this whole thing, but I think I need to carry on with this,” replied Yan- much more bravely than he felt.
They continued into the grounds, swords in hand, ready to kill anything which got in the way. They made it through the graveyard and to the entrance without injury, and banged the large brass knocker. A mucus-coloured daemon answered, licked his lips hungrily, then stopped and walked away into a great hallway, and then into a small chamber. Yan and Raun followed him into the room where eleven daemons were gathered, waiting for them. Out of the window, Yan could see the full moon shining.
“You have brought him forth Raun- for this I thank you,” stated Komen, the head daemon- his eyes deep pools of blood shining red in the night.
“I am forever your servant o’ lord.” replied the traitor. Yan felt sick. The man who had found him, told him who his parents were, protected him, had betrayed him. He made a break for the door, but Raun cast a spell that halted him, and drained the energy that had spurred him on.
Two daemons caught hold of Yan before he fell and dropped him on the cold stiff floor. Two more caught hold of Raun’s arms.
“Raun... I am forever grateful for your services in tracking down this one. But it’s not your penance paid. You put us here in the first place - do you not remember? You did it once we killed your friends, and for that- we cannot forgive you.” The other daemons squealed with glee, and gathered in a ring around Raun and Komen, leaving Yan by the door.
“My master... please,” pleaded Raun.
“No- I shall kill you now and be done with it, you wretched beast.” And with that, Komen reached for the wall, took a spear from the mount, and swiftly bore a hole in Raun’s gut.
Raun fell to the floor and writhed on the tiles, his entrails spilling smoothly from his stomach. A daemon stepped forward to finish him off, but Komen stopped him, and told him to leave him.
Another daemon lifted Yan, and the twelve of them formed a procession out of the haunted manor and through a different door that lead to the front garden. In the graveyard, Komen ordered the minion that was carrying Yan to dispose of him on the stone altar by the front gate, and then took a long curved knife from his pocket.
Yan could only watch as the daemon plunged the blade into his chest, and felt the surge of pain as blood spilled from the cavity that had been formed by his heart. The boy fell from the altar, and stared desperately at the gate. In some hope, Yan crawled to the exit like a worm from a bird- trying with all his might to escape the wrath of the being so much more powerful than himself. But try as he may, Yan did not reach the wrought iron gates that separated this insane world from the familiar homeland which lay beyond before he blacked out and sunk into the land beyond the living.
Yan’s last sight before his eyes closed for the last time and he drew his last breath was of the troop of daemons- venturing beyond the gate that had trapped them for so long, to wreak havoc once again on the world of man.