I dedicate this one-shot as tribute to all those who lost loved ones in the Temen-ni-gru during my endless slaughter of weak, annoying, low-level demons.
Journey of an Underling
"Born from dust, we all end in dust. I will not be just another victim. I choose to live. Do not confuse cowardice with the will to survive; they are not one and the same. I simply value my own uniqueness more than the rest of the swarming dead. We all have the same faces with the very same limited emotions, but I alone will leave this tower of darkness. I am born from dust, dead emotion, thoughtlessness, and a lack of conviction. Nevertheless, I will not succumb to anyone or anything."
I am a pawn. I am one of many who are manufactured from souls to watch over the damned in Hell. You could say we are somewhat privileged; we have rights over others. For that, we throw away our sense of self. We follow orders without any particular aim or even regard for our spirit. Our bodies sway in bizarre patterns of ever-shifting sand.
Rank is everything. It is decided before you are even given life, based solely upon your actions in the physical world. Mass murderers are at the top and get the most powerful bodies here in the demon realm. I am of the lowest breed of criminal, ranging from petty thefts and tax evasion to blasphemy. There are many of my kind. We are weak and spineless.
Once in a great while, there is a chance to change your destiny. Today, it came in the form of a simple order. We were to seek out and kill a half-demon named Dante. It was a mission for the low-levels. We were joined by certain members more elite than us, but just a few. They had already found the residence that this person was living at. It should have been over in mere minutes. Half-demons were a joke.
But there was no briefing. The leaders just sent out a simple assignment. From the outside it appeared to be a simple draft; demons get killed, more souls are needed to replace them. It's a pretty common thing. Half-demons still retained a portion of their human emotions, therefore in the midst of combat they could act with more regard for their fellow men and use devastating team strategies. They made for overall better soldiers. But from the inside, the whole mission reeked of deception.
Why so many soldiers to take down one half-demon? I didn't dare question my authority. There was even talk going around the gates that this Dante was a son of the legendary dark knight Sparda! How absurd I thought. We've long since felt the repercussions of Sparda's rebellion against our world. Certainly the High Council would not keep information such as this from their own men.
"Straight lines, surprise pincer formation. Get ready to manifest." The prison guard of the next highest rank bolted the orders to us. He stood at the front of our ranks, but he would go last, to finish the job if necessary. How glorious he thought he was, once dressed all in white robes, nor ordained in a crimson dress of his enemies blood. He had a skull face just like the rest of us, but the eyes were of experience. They showed no fear, for he had seen many battles. He waited for further commands from the even higher powers, unwavering, for he did not know this battle would be his last.
At last, the order was given. We rushed out of the gates and manifested ourselves in the physical world. We pushed each other, all trying to get in the fray for a piece of the action. The portals were small; you couldn't see past the demon in front of you, but you knew you'd make it to the battle eventually. As soon as I was left outside the portal, I saw him for the first time. There was no denying his resemblance to our leader's partner, Vergil.
So this was Arkham's big secret; he meant to team up with the sons of Sparda. Probably to open the door to the demon world right here in the physical world. How cliché. But it would be nice to stay here for a change of scenery. The sooner we completed this mission, the sooner we could spend our overdue vacation here.
It turned out to be a one-sided bar fight. All around me my friends fell to the shirtless half-demon. Amidst all the commotion, I snuck out the front door where there were many more of our guys waiting. We looked eagerly through the windows to see if we would be needed. We watched our command leader, clad in crimson, manifest and get taken out in mere seconds.
Dante walked out of the now broken down building and began his onslaught of the remaining squad. "Let them all die. I have more to live for." I took refuge in a nearby alley. As I predicted, the demon was more powerful than any of us could handle.
"Did my leader send us all here… to fall today?" Of course he did. We are pawns. Probably used to test Dante's power, weaken him a fraction if even that.
I was pulled backwards by some force; back into my own world. I was in a room of mirrors, a room where time didn't exist. What's more, I was among legends from wars long past. The highest ranking demons, with the power to upgrade me into something more useful, to use as they saw fit. I didn't care. I wanted it.
They touched my spirit and ripped out my very soul from under the veil I was wearing. I was thrust into a pile of sand. When I emerged, I was given a ceremonial robe, long and glamorous. I received powerful scythe as a symbol of my upgrade. And once again, I was thrown back before the half-demon I never wished to meet.
But I was stronger now. I could feel my body move in new ways. I could feel my ability to teleport and manifest in new places like a breath of fresh air I had not breathed for years. It felt like free will again.
Dante and I clashed weapons time and again. I bled him but he would not fall. My sand body began to fail me from repeated sword slashes and gunshots. My end was near before I even began. Disobeying my orders, I acted out of self-preservation and fled the scene. Finally, I was no longer a pawn. I could approach our leader without shame.
I floated higher and higher to the very top of the Temen-ni-gru and I saw my leader's face for the first time. I struggled to find the words I had felt for so long but they would not come. I could not ask why he had not briefed us properly; I could not ask why he sent us all to die. Instead I just stood there in awe of him.
Vergil unsheathed his sword and slashed at me. No words ruined the moment. No explanations justified it. And despite all that I had accomplished in my old life and the next, my essence faded away on the spot.
We are pawns. We exist to serve, not question authority or live for ourselves. That is what it truly means to be damned.