Wednesday, November 26, 2014

End of the Line

"Is that it?" I whispered.  "Is that where the cult leader dude is hiding out?"

"Yes," Gavsot affirmed.  "According to Sebrev."

"Do we know anything else?" I asked, suddenly nervous about the impending confrontation.  "I mean, how many of his guys does he have with him?"

"I do not know," he admitted.

"Don't worry, sir," Onslaw reassured me.  "No matter who's up there, we can take 'em."

As we moved closer, we could see that the light was coming through a small circular window ahead of us.

"Is that a door?" Yelvin asked.

Dorvial nodded.  "I think so."

"Who puts a door at the end of an empty tunnel?" I wondered.

"I guess we'll find out when we go through it," Dorvial said grimly.  "Who wants to go first?"

Gavsot and I exchanged a glance.  "On the count of three?" I suggested.  He nodded silently.  I counted off and we surged forward in unison, slammed the door off its hinges, and burst into a small, dimly lit room with only two other inhabitants.

As Dorvial, Yelvin and Onslaw spilled in behind us, the two cloaked demons coolly looked us over.  "This is unexpected," one of them said dryly.  "What can I do for you gentlemen?"  I thought he sounded like the cult leader, but I wasn't positive. 

I was about to demand that the speaker remove his mask when a shower of warm blood splashed across me.  I turned toward the source in time to see General Gavsot's body disappear, leaving Yelvin in gory chunks.  The general reappeared a fraction of a second later, blowing an astonished Dorvial to smithereens.  Onslaw reacted swiftly, teleported away just in time to avoid a similar fate.

I stared at Gavsot in confusion and horror.  "What the hell was that?" I raged. 

"Very unexpected," one of the masked demons responded in amusement.  That was when Gavsot materialized in front of me and plunged a dagger into my stomach.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tunnel Talk 2

"You have actually met an angel?" Gavsot clarified.

"Yeah," I said, a little surprised by his surprise.  "His name's Salabas.  Good guy.  A little eccentric, maybe."  After a little hesitation, I added, "I also met God."  That drew overlapping murmurs of unintelligible shock from all four of my demonic companions.

"You are the devil," Gavsot finally pointed out.  "Why would God ever allow himself to be in your presence?"

I smirked.  "Apparently God and I aren't exactly locked on opposite sides of a cosmic power struggle the way you might think."

"What?" Yelvin said with a frown.  "Of course you are.  You're mortal enemies."

"Immortal mortal enemies," Onslaw agreed.

"Nope," I said, enjoying their confusion.  "He needed my help, so we're working together to repair the door from Hell to Heaven to free the souls trapped down here."

"But souls aren't trapped here," Dorvial protested.  "They're consigned here.  They don't need to get out, they belong in Hell."

"Apparently that's not the plan God envisioned when he created the system," I said. 

"Do you intend to drain Hell of the damned?" Gavsot asked softly.  He seemed almost disappointed in me.

"Not all of them," I assured him quickly.  "Just the ones who've already been punished enough.   Besides, a better demon-to-damned ration will allow smaller class sizes so that each soul can receive greater individual attention, right?"

Gavsot shushed me suddenly and motioned for Onslaw to extinguish his arm.  Once the darkness had settled back in around us, we could see a dim pinpoint of light glowing up ahead.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tunnel Talk

"So," I said awkwardly as we proceeded in total darkness.  "Anybody got a flashlight?"

A small flame appeared nearby.  Once my eyes adjusted to the sudden light in the previously impenetrable blackness, I realized that Gavsot had set fire to his palm to use it as a lantern.  I heard a quiet crackling sound and glanced behind me to see that Onslaw had covered his hand with what appeared to be a purplish electrical current.  It provided a much softer glow than Gavsot's flame, but at least between the two of them I could see the ground I was walking on.

Still unnerved by the silence of the march, I asked, "Anybody know how long this tunnel is?"

"I'm not certain," Gavsot said.

"I've never been here before," Dorvial said with a sympathetic shrug.  Maybe he didn't like the quiet either.  Yelvin and Onslaw didn't seem to mind, as they both declined to speak.

After another uncomfortable lull in conversation, Gavsot observed, "You were in the Living Realm for a long time.  I take it the invaders put up a good fight?"

I was about to answer when I realized how funny the situation was.  "Gavsot," I teased.  "Are you…trying to make conversation?"

"I am unaccustomed to being in enclosed spaces with limited lighting," he said stiffly.  "How were conditions in the Living Realm?"

"Pretty intense," I admitted.  Regardless of whether Gavsot was claustrophobic or just afraid of the dark, I was grateful to have something to talk about.  "Azraal showed up, leading a whole bunch of demons who were trying to destroy my town."

"So that is where he was," Gavsot said.

"And that's where he still is," I replied proudly.  "Well…his corpse, anyway.  We had a pretty rough battle but we kicked ass."

"Then Azraal is dead?" Gavsot asked.

"Yeah, he's toast," I nodded.  "We had some help, though.  Talamur was there.  And an angel, too."

"An angel?" Gavsot said sharply.  He turned toward me as we walked, and he was either strangely interested in this latest announcement or the fire in his hand was throwing some seriously weird shadows on his face.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Over the Edge

"It is not a bottomless pit," Gavsot explained.  "The Department of Waste Management is at the base of the cliff.  Also, the Society of Worshipful Fortitude lives down there."

I turned back to cock an eyebrow at him.  "The society of what now?"

"Worshipful Fortitude," he said.  "They are a small group of demon zealots who exist independently from the normal functions and heirarchies of Hell.  They live a somewhat monastic lifestyle as they faithfully await the return of Lucifer."

"What?" I laughed.  "It's a religious order of demons?  Are you serious?"  Then I remembered who I was talking to and added somberly, "Right, of course you're serious."

"Sir," the charcoal-colored demon named Onslaw murmured in Gavsot's ear.  "Shouldn't we be getting started?"

"Yes, of course," Gavsot said briskly.  He moved away from the Department of Facilities and stepped off the precipice with confidence.  I looked over the edge and observed him disappear as he fell.  A moment later, his arm waved out of the side of the cliff.

"So that's where the tunnel is," I murmured.  The three soldiers were already jumping into the chasm so I followed quickly.  Just as Gavsot had advertised, as I fell I saw the circular entrance situated about fifty feet down.  My four companions were already waiting inside, and I teleported to join them.

It was indeed a narrow tunnel.  There was no proper floor or ceiling and the curve beneath our feet made it difficult for any more than two of us to walk abreast.  General Gavsot and I went first, Dorvial and Yelvin were right behind us and Onslaw acted as our rearguard. 

There was no lighting in the tunnel.  We'd only gone a short distance before it was completely black.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Close to the Edge

General Gavsot returned, thankfully interrupting the awkward silence.  "My squad is ready," he informed me.  "They will be waiting for us in front of the Department of Facilities."

"Good, thanks," I said.  Turning back to Sylnie and Gus, I asked, "Are you guys ready?  You know your assignments?"

Gus nodded uncomfortably.  Sylnie said enthusiastically, "Don't worry, sir, we'll get it done."

"Excellent.  See you soon."  I stuck my arm out for Gavsot.  He gripped it tightly and transported us across Hell in an instant.

We were standing on a flat expanse of dull orange rock a few feet away from the edge of a cliff.  Turning around, I saw that we were also at the base of a cliff, and a huge archway built into the wall behind us led into what must have been the Department of Facilities.  The room behind the archway seemed poorly lit and there was a faint blinking just inside that gave me the impression that some of the ceiling lamps were on their last legs.  Three impressively muscular demons were standing in front of the archway.

Gavsot waved them over.  "This is the squad that will accompany us," he informed me.  Pointing to each of them in turn, he added, "Yelvin, Onslaw and Dorvial." 

"Just three of them?" I asked.  "I was expecting a little more backup."

"Trust me," Gavsot said, placing a reassuring hand on my shoulder.  "This is the squad we need."

"Okay," I said.  I wasn't too eager to break into the creepy cult dude's headquarters with only four wingmen, but I had to trust that Gavsot knew what he was doing.  Maybe the tunnel we'd be invading was small enough that there would only be room for five combatants at a time.  "So where is this place?"  He motioned to the edge of the cliff.  I took a few steps toward it and peered over.

"Do you see the entrance?" he asked.  "It is approximately fifty feet down."

I was too distracted by the depth of the chasm to search for the opening.  "Jesus," I gasped.  "Is this a bottomless pit?  Do we actually have bottomless pits in Hell?"  I wasn't sure if I just couldn't see far enough or if there was some kind of mist a few miles down that was obscuring my view of the cavern floor.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Laying out the Plan

Quietly, Gavsot said, “The secondary location of the cult could be in an old, unused cable car tunnel dug by the Department of Development.”

“Seriously?” I said, rolling my eyes.  “An abandoned tunnel?  What is he, the Penguin?”

Gavsot squinted at me.  “You are referring to the flightless bird?”

I shook my head.  “Never mind.  Where is this place?

“The entrance is claimed to be on the edge of the cliff in front of the Department of Facilities,” he said. 

“Okay,” I said.  “Can you take me there?”

He nodded.  “Certainly.”

“Can you provide us with some backup?” I asked.  “If it’s the right place, we’ll need some serious firepower and Jaelin is staying upstairs for a while.”

“I will have a special squad accompany us,” he said.

“Perfect.  Go get them and meet me back here.”  He nodded briskly and disappeared.

“Gus, Sylnie,” I said, “I have to delegate to you two.  Sylnie, I need you to see what you can learn in the Department of Historicity, and Gus, I need you to talk to Zyzyfus in the Department of Developstruction.”

“Sure, Boss-Man,” he said uneasily.  “But neither one of us can teleport.”

I shrugged.  “Find a demon who can and hitch a ride.  I’m going to rescue Tithenai and hopefully kick this cult leader’s ass, so I need you guys to step up to the plate here.  We can’t afford to mess up, so we have to make sure we keep a tight grip on all of these balls.”

Sylnie grinned.

“The balls we’re juggling,” I clarified, blushing.  “Juggler’s balls.  You know, the things they throw to…dammit, don’t you guys have any circuses down here?”

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Moment of Silence

“Sad to hear it,” Gus said somberly.  “Torvin was kind of a pussy, but in an endearing way, you know?”

“Sure,” I replied.  The room went silent for a moment.  Once I figured we’d been quiet long enough to briefly respect Torvin’s memory, I continued, “But there’s nothing we can do for him now.  How are we going to find the door to Heaven?”

“We could do some research in the Department of Historicity,” Sylnie suggested.  “There’s bound to be some book in there somewhere that has something to say about it.”

“Good,” I said.  “That sounds really boring and time-consuming, but hopefully that’ll work.”

“Remember Vilnius said something about a doorway to Heaven?” Gus said thoughtfully.  “Didn’t he promise to send you through if you gave him control over Hell?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “And you told me he was lying.”

He shrugged apologetically.  “Maybe there was more truth to it than I realized.”

“It doesn’t really matter anyway,” I pointed out.  “Vilnius is dead.”

Gus nodded.  “But his son isn’t.  Maybe he learned a thing or two from his old man.”

“Who, Zyzyfus?” I said.  “Yeah, sure.  We could talk to him.  It’s worth a shot.”

General Gavsot teleported in suddenly.  He seemed surprised to see me.  “Sir,” he said.  “I didn’t know you were back.”

I spread my arms wide.  “Well, here I am,” I said lamely.  “Thanks for looking after the place while I was out.”

“I have some information you might be interested in,” he told me confidentially.

“Okay,” I said expectantly.  “And?”

“I have occasionally attempted follow-up interrogations with Sebrev,” he said.  “He did not willingly share any information, but his delirious rants during his healing periods revealed something.”

“Yes?” I urged impatiently.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Back to Hell

"Well, at any rate, I need to get back to Hell and get things moving," I said.

"I'd like to stay here," Jaelin offered.  "Talamur and I can keep an eye out for invading demons and I'll come let you know if it happens."  Talamur put his arm around her and she nestled in against his chest.

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea," I replied, grateful that she was volunteering to stay clear for a while.  Despite the services she'd rendered, she'd been getting on my nerves lately.  She'd been a little self-righteous when I hesitated to drop everything to rescue Torvin, which I could understand.  But then she'd killed Niven without my approval and now she seemed to be in opposition to the plan to free the souls trapped in Hell.  I felt like her attitude was growing and causing a bit of rift between us.  It was a relief that she suggested something that would give us a little break from each other. 

Sylnie and I said our goodbyes to the demonic couple and reconvened in my office to gather our thoughts.  Then, thinking better of it, we re-reconvened in my lecture hall with Gus in tow.  I needed the white board to list all the various objectives my little gang needed to achieve.  As Gus and Sylnie watched from the front row, I enthusiastically scrawled out ideas.

"Okay," I babbled.  "So we need to figure out where the door to Heaven is.  Then we need to find all the ingredients for the spell and open it.  We also need to figure out who the leader of the creepy demon cult is and take him out."

"Or her," Sylnie interrupted pleasantly.

"Or her," I agreed.  "And we also need to find out where they're hiding Tithenai and rescue her in the process.  What else?  Did I miss anything?"

"Yeah, you said Jaelin stayed behind with that Talamur guy," Gus said.  "But where's Torvin?"

I'd completely forgotten about that guy.  "Oh, Torvin?" I said.  "Uh, yeah.  He's dead.  Probably dead."  Thinking back to the way he looked when I last saw him, consumed by flames and hurtling across the school property, I added, "Yeah, no.  He's totally dead."