Monday, July 22, 2013

An Important Call

Gavsot collapsed.  "The prisoners' cocktail!" he groaned. It seemed Azraal had dipped the knife in the mixture used to incapacitate imprisoned demons.

Niven stepped over him and glared at me, his deformed nostrils flaring.  Azraal approached from the opposite side, menacing and triumphant.  Torvin cowered off to the side.

My phone rang.

I tossed it to Torvin.  "Answer it!" I ordered, right before Azraal charged me.  As I prepared to evade him, Niven seemed poised to attack me once I got out of the demon's line of attack.  I solved that problem by teleporting a few feet away, behind Azraal.

"H-hello?" Torvin said nervously into the phone.  He looked up.  "It's Jorge!" he yelled.

"What does he want?" I asked.  I tried to teleport to Niven's location in the hopes of blasting his body to pieces like I'd done with Azraal's goons.  It took me a couple tries, but I finally succeeded in jumping to a space that Niven already occupied...only to feel myself slide out of the way until I was occupying empty space.  He seemed to be telefrag-proof.  That was not an encouraging development.  Azraal was closing in on me.  I had to keep moving, so I jumped again.

"He says Halkkor's army is mobilizing," Torvin called out.  "Four of Jorge's scouts are dead."

"What?!"  I screamed in frustration.

"And he has reports that Halkkor is leading them," Torvin added.  "Three scouts confirmed it."

Great.  My strongest ally was currently out of commission.  Two guys were currently trying to kill me and one of them planned to use my blood to cast a spell that would give him my throne.  Halkkor's army was on the move, probably to continue its invasion and destruction of Hell.  And Halkkor himself seemed to be alive, at the helm, and out for blood.

I watched warily as Niven and Azraal approached me from opposite sides.

"I have never been more unconditionally fucked than I am right now," I said.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal

"Azraal!" I shouted.  "Good timing!  We might need some help restraining this fugitive."

Azraal smiled at me and raised his hand to reveal the dagger he was holding.  That did not strike me as a good sign.  "What makes you think I'm here to help?" he asked.

Niven attacked.  My attention was divided so he chose me as his target.  Gavsot quickly teleported in front of me, knocking Niven's blade out of the way and absorbing the force of his charge.  I dodged to the side as they tumbled past me.

"You learned how to kill Lucifer's Firstborn?" I asked Azraal with a growing sense of uneasiness.  I knew he was going to turn on me, and I knew he was going to pick the worst possible moment to stab me in the back, but somehow I was still surprised that it happened to be this moment.

"Yes," he shouted over the grunts of Gavsot and Niven's combat.  "So I'm going to use them myself!  I alone will liberate Hell from this invasion and amass a following of grateful demons who will help me usurp the throne!  And that's making the cautious assumption that I don't defeat you right now and use your blood to take over."

Niven slashed a thin red line across Gavsot's cheek.  Gavsot responded with a hefty blow to his opponent's chest, sending the freakish creature sprawling backward gracelessly.  Torvin skittered timidly out of the way.

"Right, because the other four hundred eighty two times you've tried to mutiny me have worked out so well," I taunted Azraal.  "We can still work together, you know.  If we all have your information we'll be much better equipped to take on Halkkor's army."

"I like it better this way," he shouted back, brandishing the knife.  "Because I'll save Hell, I'll get all the glory, and now I'll have the added bonus of seeing your plans fall apart in front of you."  He threw the dagger.  I ducked instinctively but it wasn't headed for me.

It buried itself deep in Gavsot's shoulder.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Azraal's Return

My hell-phone rang, snapping me out of my revelatory reverie.  I put it to my ear.  "Yeah?"

"Yo, Boss-Man," Gus said, sounding uncomfortable.  "Azraal is here and he's not trying to kill anyone.  He says he has some information for you about Lucifer's Firstborn."

Had Azraal figured out how to kill these seemingly unstoppable monsters?  "That's great news, Gus.  Have him teleport to me in the Department of Enforcement immediately!"

"Will do, bro," Gus said dutifully.

I snapped the phone shut.  "We might be able to kill these things soon," I announced hopefully.  "How long has Niven been trapped in there?"

"Five minutes," General Gavsot replied wearily.  "Maybe ten."

Suddenly the door to the cell blew violently off its hinges, clipping me on the arm and knocking the general flat.  Niven emerged swiftly, slashing at Gavsot while he was down.  I tackled Niven from behind.  We rolled but he easily threw me off.  I sprang to my feet as quickly as I could. 

Niven was poised to attack, but both Gavsot and I were ready for him.  His eyes flitted between us, as if he was trying to choose the weaker target.  If he was surprised to see me alive, it didn't register on his face.  Torvin babbled uselessly behind us.  

"You're outnumbered," I reminded Niven.  "Are you sure fighting is your best option?"

"I may be outnumbered, but that doesn't mean I'm outmatched," he sneered.  Then his eyes focused on something behind us.  

I turned to glance backward.  Azraal had found us.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Catching Up with the General

"Gavsot!"  I blurted, much happier to see him than I'd expected.  "Are you okay?"

He looked up at me in confusion and exhaustion.  "You are alive?" he said dubiously.

"Yeah, but are you?" I asked.  He had his hand pressed against his abdomen, and dark blood was seeping from between his fingers.

"I will live," he winced.  "Did not pierce my heart.  Not even close, actually," he added with a touch of pride.  "I trapped Niven in there."  He gestured wearily toward the closed cell a few feet down the hall.  "It took some doing."

"I'll bet," I said, impressed.  "Sorry about the whole getting-myself-killed thing," I added sheepishly.  In the presence of a no-nonsense demon who bravely went toe-to-toe with a creature he didn't even know how to kill and seemed to have emerged victorious, I felt like getting my throat slashed was some kind of rookie mistake.

"I do not understand," Gavsot said. "You are mostly human.  Your heart stopped beating.  You were dead."

"It's true," Torvin echoed pointlessly from the shadow behind me.  I'd almost forgotten I'd brought him with.

"I guess I pulled a Gandalf," I said.

"Who?" the General asked.

Choosing not to explain the reference that I doubt he'd understand or care about, I summarized.  "I died, but wherever I went, they said they needed to send me back."

"It is surprising that you went anywhere to be sent back from," Gavsot said.

I had a sudden realization from the back of my churning mind.  The familiar man in the lab coat from my brief brush with a second death--I did know him.  He was my predecessor.  He was the old devil that tricked me into taking over his job.

I knew it was him.  I could see his face in my mind so clearly now.  But what was that place, what was he doing there, and why did he send me back here?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Following the Trail

I was back in the eerie Department of Enforcement hallway, standing next to the still-bleeding corpse of an unlucky pit guard.

Torvin was with me.  That was super-helpful.  But I figured even if, when push came to shove, he decided he was a pacifist, he could still be useful as a shield.  I kind of surprised myself at how quickly I'd come to the decision that I didn't like him.  I was also surprised at how easy it was for me to disregard the lack of reasons to dislike him. 

Whatever fight Gavsot put up, it clearly traveled in a specific direction down the hall.  I had no hunting or tracking experience, but it seemed logical to follow the blood, the pit guard entrails and the fragments of rock that seemed to have been hewn from the wall.

I moved forward, and, of course, Torvin hesitated.  He was standing squeamishly beside a severed leg, trembling in fear.  Now I was feeling more justified in disliking him.  "Come on," I ordered, and he followed me obediently, whimpering.

We took a few turns down the winding hallway, passing scores of other cells.  The amount of blood spilled on the floor had dropped drastically since the first few cells.  I hoped this meant that Gavsot was still alive.  I'd assumed most of the blood was from the pit guards anyway.

After almost ten minutes of searching, we rounded a bend and saw Gavsot slumped against the wall in a half-seated position.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Sacrifice

"Torvin," I said, "What happened?"

Torvin looked upon me fearfully.  "You died, sir," he replied in a thin, pinched voice.  "The pit guards spooked.  Niven tried to escape.  When I left, General Gavsot was the only one left fighting him."

I couldn't lose Gavsot.  He was the only demon that had willingly sided with me.  As loyal and as useful as Gus had been, Gavsot was my strongest ally by far.  I turned on Torvin a little too quickly.  "And you just left Gavsot to die?" I shouted.  "What the fuck is wrong with you?"  Angrily, I shook him by the shoulders.

I think he thought I was going to rip him in half.  "Please, sir," he begged.  "The General ordered me to leave."

"What?  Why?" I snapped.

"Because you were dead," Gus said, coming to the sniveling demon's aid.  "That spell we worked before you left to stop your family from getting murdered at your funeral was still active.  You died and all your authority reverted back to me.  Gavsot was trying to make sure someone at your office knew you'd been killed so that we'd be able to keep some semblance of leadership in place."

"It was a very selfless act," Sylnie added.  "He may have sacrificed his own life to preserve your dynasty."

"Dynasty?  Sacrifice?  What?" My head was starting to hurt.  Despite all the important stuff they were explaining to me, in the back of my mind I couldn't stop thinking about the mysteriously familiar man in the lab coat who'd injected me when I died.  Where did I know him from?

"Whatever," I said to no one in particular.  "The point is that Gavsot is the only one keeping Niven from breaking out of the Department of Enforcement, roaming free, and reconnecting with Halkkor's beheaded army.  I have to go."  I pointed at Sylnie and Gus.  "You two stay here and keep, you know, the normal stuff going."  I pointed at the most cowardly demon I'd encountered so far.  I briefly wondered if it was coincidence that he was a disgusting mustard color and had the smallest demon-dick I'd yet seen.  "You," I said crossly, "are coming with me."

I gripped him roughly around the wrist and teleported the two of us back to the hallway beside Niven's former cell.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Back Again

My eyes opened.

I was laying on my back.  I didn't feel weak anymore.  Where was I now?  I spryly got to my feet, enjoying the feeling of strength again.

I looked around at the room in which I'd died.  Blood was smeared along the floor, and plenty of it was still on my clothes.  Near the exit were what appeared to be the corpses of a few pit guards.  Everyone else seemed to be gone.

I stepped warily into the long, dimly lit hallway.  Another pit guard lay beheaded and eviscerated a few feet away from me.  It seemed pretty obvious that Niven had fought his way out.  But I didn't have any concept of how long I'd been gone.  Was Niven's escape still in progress?

I decided to go back to my office and see if I could get my bearings.  Then, if Niven was still in the Department of Enforcement, I could jump back here and, well...follow the blood.

I appeared in my office again.  Sylnie and Gus were both there.

"Sir!" Sylnie gasped.  I took a moment to enjoy her skimpy outfit.

"Boss-Man!" Gus said happily.  "We'd heard you were dead!"  He actually hurried over to hug me.

That's when I noticed a harried, bloodstained Torvin standing in the room.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Death--Again

I died.

I didn't mean to.  But I kind of couldn't avoid it.

It was notably different than the first time I died.  For starters, it was much, much quicker.  It didn't take long for me to bleed to death from the wound in my throat.  Or maybe I asphyxiated.  It was so hard to tell, and I had so much other shit going through my mind at the time that the exact cause of my death kind of escaped me.

The first time I died, I was beaten to death until everything went dark and I woke up sitting in the waiting room in Hell.

This time, when everything went black I woke up laying on the floor of an unfamiliar room.

Shaking from my death-or-something-near-it experience, I slowly sat up and looked around.  I was the only thing in the small room, but something about the walls and the colors gave my surroundings an unmistakably medical atmosphere.  There was a windowless door on one wall.

I felt feeble.  My arms trembled as I propped myself up and I was beginning to think that it wasn't just from fear.

"Hello?" I called out.

A big red light above the door switched on with a low hum.  Moments later, the door opened and an imposing, irritable man in a lab coat entered.  "Damn it," he said, seeming to speak to me and to himself simultaneously.  "You shouldn't be here," he continued.  He seemed angry.  As he knelt down next to me, I realized that he also seemed familiar.

"Who are you?" I asked weakly.

He ignored my question.  "You have to go back," he said sternly.  "Do it right this time."  He withdrew a large syringe filled with a pale green liquid from his coat pocket, gripped my arm tightly, and injected me.  Then he stood up and walked toward the door.

I tried to shout after him to ask him who he was again.  I knew he looked familiar.  But my weakness combined with whatever he just injected me with held me back.  I let out a hoarse whisper and collapsed onto the floor.

Everything went black again.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Final Moments

I staggered back in shock.  My hand went to my throat, which was pretty stupid, because it's not like I could hold my gaping wound together and keep myself from dying in the next few seconds.  Unnervingly warm blood was running down my hand and onto my chest.  My vision was going kind of blurry, or maybe it was just the effect of whirling around in panicky death throes.

Niven was remaining motionless, staring at me with this really creepy disaffected gaze.

The pit guards were staring in horror.  A few of them dropped their weapons and backed away.  One of them whispered something in awe but I didn't catch it.

General Gavsot began barking orders to them, shouting at them to pick up their weapons and restrain the captive.  They seemed hesitant to comply, which made Gavsot shout even louder.

Torvin suddenly returned with a big wooden box which must have contained the interrogation weapons I'd requested.  As I lay on the floor in a pool of my own blood, I watched him enter, gasp, drop the box on his toes, and scream like a child.

I was this close to literally dying of laughter.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Beginning the Interrogation

I stood in the center of a ring of bristling, well-armed pit guards, facing Niven.  He seemed unimpressed by my presence.  As intimidating as I was trying to be, I couldn't change the fact that I was shorter, less muscular, and less visceral in appearance.  I was the tiny little kid on the playground trying to bravely stand up to the bully who was three grades ahead of him.

"Torvin, my associate," I informed him, still trying to intimidate him with a persona of a sinister Hollywood villain, "Is fetching me a set of tools.  Tools I will use to extract the information that I need from you, slice by slice, cut by cut and blow by--"

"You don't have a fucking clue," he interrupted.  His voice was wet and rough, like he was about to spit saliva all over me with each hard consonant.  And his attitude...well, it seemed clear to me that I wasn't held in much regard.

"You don't know how to hurt me," he continued bluntly.  "You don't have the slightest idea how to extract"--he spoke that particular word with extra disdain--"anything from me.  Your bluff is as obvious and pathetic as--"

I lunged forward and grabbed him by his thick, surprisingly squeeze-resistant throat.  "You will speak when spoken to," I snarled.  His eyes widened slightly, only breaking his coolly contemptuous countenance for a fleeting moment.  Perhaps I'd managed to rattle him a bit with some surprise aggression.

He nodded once.  "Okay," he said simply, quietly.  Something about his tone was maddeningly rebellious, despite his ostensible contrition.

I released him slowly, glaring at him.  "Good," I said.  "I'm glad we've established how things will work from here on out."

In a flash of movement too quick for me to react to, Niven swung his right arm at me.  With mute horror I felt the blade extending from his wrist slice my throat open.