The ghost did not seem to be forthcoming and Lukas found he had little tolerance for riddles. He could see for himself the graveyard was desolate, and droughts weren’t confined to a single cemetery. Most likely the lands beyond the brick walls were also just as wounded as the ground he stood upon now. Lukas turned his back on her and began to walk towards the wall. He could follow it to the gates, or if he was feeling impatient, the blow he’d struck to the sarcophagus lid was proof enough he could punch a hole through the wall with minimal effort.

 

As he passed the tombstones and freestanding crypts he began to notice the dates grow rather rapidly. Lukas Faust’s crypt was apparently in the oldest section of the graveyard, and as he neared gates, he noticed that several centuries had passed between the dates on the sarcophagus and these tombstones, that still looked as aged as his crypt.

 

The gate was wrought iron and so rusted that he had to put his shoulder into it to get it to give, and it would proceed to be the second hinged entrance hinderer that he’d knocked off its hinges. The gates fell over and Lukas stepped out into the street and wondered what world had he awoke to.

 

The street was covered in dust that had collected in piles and drifts, but he could still make out a gray floor with intermittent yellow stripes down the middle and a solid white stripe bordering the edges. However the gray ground was cracked and upheaved in places. Metal carriages were strewn about, but Lukas could see no way to hook the horses to them. A few metal signs on poles were still upright. Lukas did not recognize the language written on the signs. Around the graveyard were houses, but they were not the wooden ramshackle hovels or the stone keeps he was accustomed to. These were almost identical except for the damage done to them. It looked like a war had been fought among the streets of this ghetto.

 

Not far away, Lukas could hear the sounds of battling. The shouts and grunts, the clang of metal upon metal. He easily jogged in the heavy armor down the street, which in its prime would have been better to drive a carriage upon than any Kingway he’d ever seen. He crouched next to the building the battle seemed to be coming from behind. The side of the building was layered in a siding that Lukas had never seen before; it looked effective, until what looked like a star had crashed into the building.

 

He slowly peered around the side of the ruined home, and these homes were large, most likely multi-family dwellings because not that many individuals were wealthy enough to afford such a large building for themselves unless this world was overrun with nobles.

 

Lukas so far had been moving on gut instinct, how everything made him feel, was it familiar? Was it dangerous? So when he spied angels in their golden armor that looked as every bit as large as Lukas’ own, and massive white wings, some with swords and shields, others with polearms fighting demons, he was not in the least surprised. This must have been a common occurrence in his former life. He could not have been just born as an armored man, birthed from a crypt.

 

The demons were gray skinned, wingless, and carried massive scythe like weapons. They lacked armor and were dressed in not much more than loincloths. They were only human in appearance for the fact they had two arms, two legs and one head. Well most had one head. Like the blind lizard dog, these demons were also blind, well no eyes that Lukas could make out. They had gaping maws of teeth, and talonesque hands and feet. The demons were outnumbered.

 

The angels were all as identical as the houses they were fighting between except the one who seemed to be in charge, a redhead without a helmet, and she carried a sword, not that much different than Lukas’ except hers didn’t have the skull on it. She also seemed to be the only angel who was female among this lot.

 

The battle was not long, the demons managed to reduce the angels number by one before they were reduced to the same ashes as the blind lizard dog. The angels didn’t fly as much as levitate, the wings seemed to be there for cosmetic purposes, perhaps to show the difference between them and humans.

 

Lukas pulled his sword from back; the sensation of danger was coming and going. As if these angels could be friend or foe, he wasn’t sure and he wasn’t sure after watching them kill the demons, if he was capable of taking them all on if they did prove to be his enemies.

 

Amitiel:

And a hero of Man will win the War.

 

Usually most prophecies were cryptic, and riddles. She had waited for the hero to rise, and watched as the demons culled the humans. Amitiel had almost felt sorry for them, had she anything resembling a heart to have feelings with. The poor humans, they had learned all too soon that demons were not just inner ones and that angels were not saints and were not here to protect them.

 

Long the angels and demons had been fighting within the Shadow Realm, their war kept away from Man. He was too weak to enter the battle, and it had been proven when the battle finally spilled into their realm. Man had been crushed as with as much thought a boot gave to stepping on an ant. When the last of the humans had been slaughtered or died of famine, Amitiel began to wonder if the prophecy was misinterpreted. There were no men left to rise as a hero. The Earthen Realm had been laid to waste and the only sentient creatures left alive were the angels, she supposed a few upper level demons were also capable of thought, but these mindless minions they’d been scrabbling with lately were only as intelligent as wild dogs, only wanting to spill blood.

 

Another skirmish ended in success, well successful, they had lost one of their numbers, and were now back to the reason they’d come to this abandoned human ghetto. Amitiel had sensed something awaken in the ether. She did not know what it was, but perhaps this energy she suddenly felt could at least lead them back to Heaven. Once the battle fell into the Earth Realm, Heaven’s gates sealed. All the angels were trapped.

 

Amitiel dropped down from where she’d been hovering a few feet over the ground. She drew her sword from between her large white wings. There was something there and she cautiously approached the ruined house. She swung around the corner, swinging her sword and it clinked against another.

 

“You,” she whispered, recognizing the heavily armored man who had brought up his own sword to parry hers. He did not counter attack. Amitiel could barely see under the red hood, but she could make out the white locks of hair that hung from under the hood and the eyes glowing at her. And the permanent scowl was on that face.

 

“You know me?” He asked quickly, his voice deep and cultured. Though his words had been short and to the point, and despite the heavy armor and tattered red cloak, one could see and hear something more refined in him.

 

Amitiel quickly held her hand up in a fist as a signal to the angels behind her to halt. They did so before coming around the building to see him. She cocked her head at him, he apparently didn’t remember her. She could use this to her advantage.

 

“I do, my name is Amitiel, do you not remember me?” She asked carefully lowering her sword from where it was connected with his.

 

“I do not remember anything before only a few moments ago.” The man said.

 

“We thought you were lost to us, brother,” Amitiel said. Whoever thought angels couldn’t lie had not spoken to angels.

 

Lukas:

When she had lowered her sword, so had he. Lukas couldn’t be sure if she really was friend or foe, but he understood that look in her green eyes. She was deciding something and he wasn’t entirely sure it was for the better.

 

Brother.

 

That word sparked a hatred in him that almost caused him to raise his sword again and strike her down for calling him that.

 

Did he have a brother?

 

He had seen no other coffins in the mausoleum, or any others with his surname.

 

If so, what had happened that made him despise being called one?

 

“What happened to me?” Even if the angel was spouting lies at him, he could glimmer some understanding as long as she continued to answer his questions in a more concise manner than Eleanor.

 

“You fell from Grace, it was a great sacrifice to win the battle,” the angel began, “You saved many, many lives.” Lukas narrowed his eyes at her.

 

“Win the battle but lost the war?” He asked her. Once again that deciding look in her eyes.

 

“The War continues, but we suffer without reinforcements. Heaven is closed to us, but the Gates of Hell are as open as they’ve ever been. Tis nothing for the Darkness to create more fodder to attack us from the shadows. It would be an honor again to have your blade in service to the angels once again, brother.” She stated and Lukas seethed again at being called brother.

 

Was this woman angel the reason he angered?

 

“What of the third kingdom?” Lukas found himself asking. “Who fights for them? What sword is in their service?” He was inwardly stunned to hear himself mocking the angel. He did not know of this third kingdom that he spoke of or even where these words were coming from. It was as if he was suddenly a marionette and someone else was doing the speaking.

 

“The humans are no more, our War has drove them to extinction,” the said without remorse. Lukas stared at her a moment.

 

The humans were gone?

 

Lukas was bothered by this news and wasn’t entirely sure why. This angel said he was a Fallen, and yet his concern had not been about how the angels were doing in the War, but how were the humans fairing.

 

“Come with us, we’ll take you to our headquarters in this section,” Amitiel’s voice cut through his thoughts.

 

“No,” the word hung there in the air between them. He rehooked his sword onto his back and walked away from her like he’d walked from Eleanor.

 

“Be careful, Lukas,” Amitiel’s voice for the first time had a waiver of emotion in it. As if she was genuinely worried about his safety. He halted and looked over his massively spauldered shoulder at her. “The demon numbers are nearly endless, when they sense you; they will stop at nothing to kill you.” He continued on his path away from her.

 

So this was Man’s Hero. A vampiric paladin who was a century too late to save the race he’d nearly died to protect. The poor humans, there was no way they could’ve survived the War, even with Lukas’ sword slaughtering as many angels as it could demons. The third kingdom, may it rest in ash. Amitiel thought as she watched him walk away from her. She hoped that by telling him he had been one of them would keep angel blood off his sword.

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