The war to end all wars in this land was a cataclysmic event. The demons were invading the peaceful existence of humans to such an extent that there was fear of the human species being wiped out.
Demons and humans had lived side by side for millennia, each occupying their own space and periodically encroaching the others' territory for power or assets. But the demons had decided that they needed more space and started to terrorise the humans to make them leave. Those who didn't leave were summarily killed. The demons slowly started to take over large tracts of land and areas became no-go areas for other beings.
It got to the point where the humans had nowhere left to go, and they dug their heels in and turned to fight. They called upon the Demon Hunters, a shadowy race from across the earth to help them to vanquish the demons once and for all.
The Demon Hunters rode in on horses of midnight black, their swords raised and their faces hidden behind black veils. Their horses were monstrous sights, with flowing manes and tails that flickered with stars and sparks. Their black hooves ground sparks from the roads and their eyes glinted with red lights. Two hundred Demon Hunters answered the call for help from the humans, and the ensuing battle was bloody and long.
With human and Demon Hunter standing side by side, the demons had the fight of their lives. In desperation, they shed all semblance of human form and revealed their true selves. Talons, horns, claws and teeth were all used to tear, shred and maim their enemies. Skin of every hue from purple to deep fiery red could be seen with scales and fur and even rotting flesh exposing organs. The legions of Satan were not to be easily beaten. They used the blackest of magic to try and overthrow the Demon Hunters. But the Hunters were experienced at defying demon magic. No matter what the demons tried, the Hunters were there at every turn. For each Hunter that fell, he took a hundred demons with him.
During the battle that raged for five long years, entire communities were decimated. Homes were burnt or razed to the ground. Children were stolen and murdered. Wives and daughters were taken for procreation. Men and boys were slaughtered where they stood.
Smyth was one of a community of towns on the outskirts of the battle. Demons would storm through, and houses were destroyed, but the blood and mayhem was mostly confined to the most valuable of property - cities. Entire cities were demolished and the people ran for the safety of the countryside. Mothers smuggled out their children and men stayed to try and protect their land.
Finally, the Hunters got the upper hand. A covert operation had revealed the head coven and the Hunters ravaged the most important demons in existence. Their swords of fire melted through demon beings, their empty husks falling to the floor. Blood and sweat mingled with the smell of sulphur and phosphorus as the battle raged between demons and Hunters. But the Hunters' persistence paid off and the demon coven was vanquished. When the head coven fell, there was an immediate effect on the battling demons. They began to falter; some retook human form before dying in immense pain. Some merely howled into flame and ceased to exist. Some continued to fight, although their power had been robbed from them. Humans and Hunters easily defeated the remainder of the demons.
Smyth and the surrounding towns were saved. Ashton, Cleveton and Littleton remained mostly untouched, although their people were decimated. Most of the young male population had gone to fight, and not many of them had returned. But the women and children worked hard to keep their towns and communities safe.
Once the Hunters left, life began to return to normal. The previously sceptical people went to church more, and money lost most of its allure. A large number of people moved to live in the countryside, like Brian and Beatrice Dennis, thinking that they would be safer away from the centres of commerce. The cities slowly died and soon the land reverted to principally agrarian life. Small villages and towns thrived with the increase in farming brought about by the exodus. Roads between them became safer and more travelled. Local towns brought in sheriffs to watch over them, elected by the people to protect the people. But essentially people watched each others' backs.
But some pessimists would always claim the demons were not totally defeated. There were tales of demons thriving in other lands; demons that could fly high in the sky and demons that infested the oceans.
Brian was a big man, good with his hands, who yearned to live off the land rather than exist in the built up areas of towns. As a new young husband Brian relocated himself and his young wife in the depths of the countryside away from all the dangers and where they could raise a family in peace. Brian's wife would have followed him to the ends of the Earth, and was truly enraptured of the small house in the valley. Her name was Beatrice, and she bore Brian five daughters amid the meadows and bluebells. The girls grew up without any sense of impending battle, free and unspoilt. Natalie was the eldest, blonde and outgoing. Next came twins Alexandra and Maisie, both dark like their father and quietly intelligent. After the twins came Ann, a caring motherly sort, dark, but with her mother's natural nurturing instinct. Last, but not least, came Gloria. So named because her birth nearly killed her and her mother. The rush of emotion at a healthy baby and recuperating wife caused Brian to yell 'Gloria' from the rooftops. Gloria was unlike the other girls - or even her parents. She was reserved and shy as a child, rather plain and didn't excel in any pursuits, but was gentle and loving to a fault. Brian was often heard to say that the pixies had left Gloria as a gift. As she grew, the plain jane turned into a beautiful rose who remained loving and gentle to everyone around her, and, in the words of her father, turned out the most bonny of all his girls. The girls thrived in their little house in the valley, grew strong and healthy in the fields and bonded strongly together under the threat of war.
Gloria was seven when war broke out. It was not so much declared as dived into from many angles. It seemed as if all at once the world was on fire, and it lasted a nightmare five years. In this time all the major centres of world were decimated, new capitals were named - then destroyed.
Peace was never declared. Everything just stopped.
Pieces of broken lives were put together, small towns and villages sprang up away from the devastation of the cities.
Now the Dennis' lived in the same little cottage in the valley, surrounded by meadows and bluebells. The nearby hamlet of Smyth was the new marital home of Gloria and Philip Mantell. Their little house was on the outskirts of the town, within easy reach of both the centre and the wide open expanses of the fields. With a small parlour and kitchen, the lower floor was cosy and warm. Upstairs was one large room, the main bedroom, decorated by Gloria in myriad shades of green. It looked cool and refreshing. Another small room had been marked down by Philip and Gloria for the nursery, in the first flush of their marriage.
Before anyone knew it, it was November. The cold and lonely nights came creeping in like a thief. The bare trees seemed to mourn the passing of summer, and the bare earth held tight to any promise of Spring.
The glass of the window in the little house made Gloria's nose even colder. She shrugged her shawl tighter around her shoulders and wrapped her arms around her slightly bulging stomach. Four months married and four months pregnant, she would start showing any day now. Luckily the long dresses and work aprons would hide the evidence of Philip's depravity from the world. However, the marks on her face would remain a public reminder of his violence for a long time to come. The beautiful blonde girl was a shadow of her former self, still sporting purple and yellow bruises on her face and faint marks on her neck. Her hands were scratched and rubbed raw.
Philip was long gone now. Not a nice person, but a dark man with a terrible secret. The handsome man was just around long enough to charm the daughter of Brian Dennis, marry her, abuse her and leave her with child. In fact, the violence had started on the night of their wedding, when Gloria suddenly came to the realisation that there were evil people in the world, and she had unwittingly married one. No matter how Gloria tried to appease him, each evening he would drink hugely and then extract his frustration on his new young wife. With no explanations or apologies Gloria lived her life in daily terror of the evenings to come. Memories of the tortuous nights still haunting her, Gloria turned away from the window and surveyed the luggage waiting by the door. So much for the little dream house in Smyth, close to the church and school. Lovely though her little house was, she was going home. She was going back to the bosom of her family, with a deserted baby growing inside her.
The knocking was loud on the door, suddenly echoing in the empty house. Brian Dennis walked in, his face full of barely concealed emotions, and wrapped his arms around his daughter without a word. After a long hug full of unspoken emotion, he quietly picked up her bags and walked out. Gloria followed him without a backward glance.
(c) cq 2005