Sammael knew he was in the right place when an old man by the side of the road told him to leave before sundown.
His eyes locked on the dimming sky, he braced for the rush of unease and doubt. But as he watched the sun disappear behind the mountain, leaving the sky with not even the stars to spare, all he felt was the weight of responsibility.
He’d been combing the world for Dark souls for millennia now, but for Sammael, there was no such thing as true Light. He saw Darkness everywhere. They called to him from all corners on Earth. They filled the silence in what masked as tranquility. They screamed from the darkest recesses of his mind. It wasn’t redemption he craved, not really. But if it was the only way to silence the Darkness, he was willing to crawl back to the Light.
He’d been banished for treason. He didn’t side with the Rebels when the First War happened, but he also didn’t side with the Kingdom. Father did not like that, of course. Now he was one of the Fallen.
He leaned on a tree that was standing right in the middle of the cluster of huts. The sky had nothing. Unseen clouds made the sky look like a dark, blank slate.
An old man waddled towards him with a makeshift cane. “You should’ve left the village when I told you to.” Now, that was no threat. San Isidro was barely a village. A group of a hundred people at most behind a mountain, surrounded by trees, and infested by mosquitoes like a good, old medieval fantasy setting. Though there were neither horses nor proper carriages around. All it had were carabaos and some kind of big, low-techie sled thing that even in third world country standards should be outdated.
Actually, now that he thought about it, San Isidro reminded him more of 15th century Egypt—the poorest villages there. Or was that in 5th century? Wait, had Jesus already been born then? Bah, it didn’t matter.
Sammael turned around to see the old man standing a few feet away from him. The old man was even smaller up close, smaller even in Asian standards. A few times eating like kings when a group of unsuspecting tourists came around weren’t enough to banish the specter of malnutrition-due-to-endangerment of their species.
Sammael took a deep sigh. “I don’t even hear any crickets. Is that what you eat when you don’t have humans around?”
The old man snarled, curling back and hissing. Sammael shuddered at the sound of the replying hisses he heard from all directions. He couldn’t even remember what they were called, but he felt Darkness from all of them, and that was all that mattered.
“You are one of them, eh boy? The ones who think they could hunt us all down?” A brusque tone for such a small creature almost made Sammael laugh. It’d been so long since anything was arrogant enough to not cower and run to the other direction when he made his intentions clear.
“Some even thought they could heal us,” the old man cackled. “I thought we’ve had the stupidest ones, until you came riding here alone.”
“You’re right.” Sammael peeled himself from the tree. “They were pretty stupid. We all know there’s only one cure for the likes of you.”
The old man paused. In all his years he’d never heard of an actual cure, because what he and the other villagers had was not an illness. If anything, it was a curse. For what, he had no clue. But all they were doing was surviving, ever since the first drop of blood they had tasted. It wasn’t an abomination. It was the way of life. Humans were not at the top of the food chain as they wanted to believe.
Still, if there was a cure that could make their lives easier to lead—if there was something to free them from the constant hunger and the ever tantalizing satisfaction of feeling good enough for once—he did not want to feel it, but he felt hopeful.
Sammael locked his eyes with the old man’s, and held his hand out to his side.
He swung his arm in a swift arc, and two thuds bounced off the ground. Moonlight reflected from the long crescent blade, where the Dark blood evaporated.
Dark creatures came crawling out of huts, trees, and shadows. Every single one now had long sharp claws, dark scaly skin, and shark teeth. Sammael twirled his scythe as a low tik tik tik tik reverberated from all around him. He spun his scythe above his head until the glow from the blade formed a sort of halo that grew larger and larger as it spun higher and higher. There was now a fiery circle above San Isidro.
Sammael cocked his head slyly. “Any last words?”
The hoard of tiktik—he remembered what they were called now—lunged at him all at once, claws and teeth bared. He slammed his blade down, and the halo dropped onto the small Dark village like a laser screen, incinerating every Dark creature within the radius.
The old man might’ve been right about the stupidity of quack doctors, but he also got one thing wrong: Sammael was not there to hunt them down.
He was there to reap them.