Vale Of Shadows

At the Vale of Shadows, he dismounted and regarded the body of a young girl.  She had been set upon by the men whom he had chosen not to slay for their crimes.
He knew remorse.
From the shadows crept a demon shaped as a man, with the scales of a snake and the fangs of a wolf.
“Whither thou goest, thy guilt follows thee.”  The demon’s speech grated with a metallic sibilance.
“Be not familiar, beast, and take you back to the offal that spawned you.”
“As thou speakest, so mote it be.”  The demon melted into the shadows.
Having carefully laid her to rest, he rode on to the Mount of Heaven, wherefrom he spied a burnt and wasted farm.  The farmer and his family now blackened upon spikes erected within the fields they once tilled.
He bent to the task of relieving at least the abuse of a noisome death and laid low the spikes of impalement.
From beneath the wrecked foundations, there rose a demon of fierce mien.  A beast born of dragon and man with talons of iron and eyes of coldest lead rose upright.  From its gaping jaws flowed venom and speech.
“From thy soul drips a poison like unto mine own.  Thou art, indeed, reviled in all wise.”
“Vile demon, take your words and your form from this scene of maleficence, else I should set upon you and grant you the true death you so richly deserve.”  So saying, he brandished his axe.
“Violence shall avail thee not at all.”  The dragon demon dispersed into a cloud of ash.
Replacing his ancient war axe, he mounted and marked the traces of those he sought, tallying the score against their souls as he rode past the four smallest of the six cairns he had built.
Knowing the men he hunted to be within his grasp, he disdained rest and crossed the Marches of Swee, sighting a small village along a fierce and narrow river at the edge of the great plain of Fuirst.
The trail came to an end within the village, among its thatched roofs and meager shops and stalls.
He dismounted and sought among the fishermen and farmers for those whose doom he carried.
Their base natures gave them up, and about an ancient vintner there arose an outcry and row.
He drew his greatsword and ran to the fray, laying into the four beasts who walked as men.  Striking quickly, he cut down first the beast of shadow, then next the venomous demon of ash.  The two remaining turned from their prey and attacked with a strength born of desperation.  But in the end nothing availed them.  For the blade that sang death sang for them all.
At his feet lay the men who had paid for their crimes.  No more could they slay the innocent and hapless, no more need he hunt for their deaths.
With his oiled cloth, he swept the blood and gore from his greatsword and sheathed it.
About him rose a cry of dismay mingled with oaths of revenge.
He sought his detractors in the gathered townsfolk.
As if wax touched by flame, the faces and bodies about him melted, flowed and twisted into misshappen visages born of nightmare.  Demons of shadow, of blood, of ash, demons born of every sin of Man.
He leapt upon his mount and found passage through the roiling mass of beasts and human mockeries to the river path beyond.
He rode till weariness threatened to throw him from his saddle.  He rode till froth and sweat sheened his powerful mount.   He came upon a still inlet from the swift river that promised peace and forgetful rest.
He drew off his helm and sank to his knees at the water to slake his thirst.
A demon in armor stared back from the water at his knees.

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