The Seven Demons: Bremen's Trial

Anubris opened his eyes and discovered that he could see.

The realization came as something of a shock to him: If he could see, that meant he was conscious. And if he was conscious, that meant he was alive.

Orperhaps I really am dead, but I haven't realized that yet

A ghostly sigh hissed past his ear and Anubris rolled to his feet, reaching for his katana—

And reached for it again, only to find that his hand closed over nothing. He felt a surge of panic and glanced down, his eyes locking on to an empty sheath.

Regardless of your affinity with the darkness, you are still a swordsman at heart. To wander into the otherworld unarmed is to invite oblivion.

Cold sweat beaded Anubris' brow as he spun around, fearful of an ambush—until he realized that he was all alone, and there was no Demon preparing to eviscerate him. There was only the echo of deep, rhythmic breaths. Anubris sighed shakily, then picked himself up and surveyed his surroundings.

He stood on a road that snaked through a valley of gently rolling hills. The sky was a grayish, sickly green, like the rest of the landscape; hazy white light poured down from overheard, but there was no sun. There was only the breathing that undulated around him in soft gusts.

Anubris kicked the dirt in disgust. "Spooked by the wind," he muttered, "and lost my sword…what in the nine hells am I going to do now?"

"Thou seeketh thine blade?" whispered an ancient voice.

A shadowy figure rose up from the ground in front of Anubris as it coalesced into a featureless, humanoid shape. "MayhapI can be of assistance to thee…"

"Who are you?" said Anubris, warily stepping back.

"Ahhh…" it sighed, its body flickering in and out of sight. "I am namelessonce, I was a warrior who sought to vanquish the Duke of Insomniabut now, I am merely a prisoner in His twisted realm…"

"This place…this is his realm?"

"Indeedthe Duke lords o'er this despicable He if t'were a godyet this realm is but an emptied helleven the sky weeps with its deathly shade of greeneven the hills oft yearn for the life of Madre-Terraand the warriors who came before, the Hazy-Eyed Duke hath claim'd them allclaim'd their souls as trophiestheir blood hath fed this ever-thirsting earth…"

"'The warriors who came before'? This Duke of Insomnia…is he Bremen?"

The apparition leaned forward, its head turning ever so slightly toward Anubris' demonic arm. "Yesyes, that namethen, thou hath come to challenge the Hazy-Eyed Duke?"

Anubris said nothing.

"Foola death wish unto thee! Never to o'er wroghtthou shalt find thy end in these raven'd barrensthou art a foollike Anu before thee, Nero before him, Fesmir before he, Zieg before the end of daysso manyso many…"

"I have no other choice," he said curtly.

"So be itthou art a fool; there shall be none to quicken thee within this realm of demonsbut if thou seeketh death, then I shall lead thee to Himto His alcazar…"

The figure turned and shambled up the road.

"So many…so…many…"