"Thanks for coming," I told the General. "Are you ready?"
He nodded solemnly. "I am."
"Gus, prepare the spell, please," I said.
"Boss-Man," he began in a low, pleading voice.
I cut him off. "Prepare the spell."
With a snort of frustration, he began to gather the ingredients from where he'd stored them in my desk. I turned back to Gavsot. "So you know General," I told him half-jokingly, "I'm going to need this office back once I'm done in the Living Realm."
"Of course," he replied humorlessly.
"I can count on you to step down without any trouble, right?" I pressed a little more bluntly.
"Of course, sir," he replied just as blandly.
"Good," I said. "Great, good. Um…let's get on with this then. Gus?"
Gus had dutifully—if angrily—prepared the ingredients. He offered me the little bowl of brownish sludge and said darkly, "Bleed in it like you're sending Hell to Hell in a hand basket."
I laid my hand over the rim of the bowl and mentally split the skin of my palm, dribbling a few drops of my precious human-devil-hybrid blood into the mixture before sealing up my psychically-inflicted wound. "Take a good long swig," I said grimly, handing it to the Director of Enforcement.
Gavsot threw his head back and poured the entire disgusting concoction down his throat in one gulp. He closed his eyes, almost as if he were savoring the undoubtedly revolting beverage. Then he let out a long sigh.
"I can feel the change already," he announced. He sounded excited—thrilled, even. For the normally reserved and inscrutable general, this was concerning. Was there some truth to Gus's warning? Was the authority to act as supreme ruler of Hell really something that could never be entrusted to a demon?
This was General Gavsot, my loyal follower, my respectful military advisor, my friend through many adversities. I was sure I could trust him—pretty sure, anyway. And besides, I had a very important appointment with a horde of invading demons in my home town. I had to go and I had to go now.
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," I told Gavsot with a nod. I stepped past Gus and whispered, "Keep an eye on him for me."
"What am I supposed to do if he gets power mad?" Gus said. "Your Hell Phone doesn't have service in the Realm of the Living."
"It's an expression!" I hissed. My exasperation with him was intensified by the fear that he might actually be right. "Just…keep an eye on him!"
I moved over to where Sylnie, Torvin and Jaelin stood waiting. "Good luck," I told my aide and his new boss. Then Jaelin took Sylnie's hand, I gripped Torvin's shoulder, and the four of us returned to the place where I'd almost finished growing up.