The crisp October air fills his lungs as if for the first time. His chest expands and stays ﬁrm. Vertigo spins the world around him. Every muscle in his body swells and tightens. He shakes momentarily and exhales. With his eyes still closed, he feels the most oppressive dry heat imaginable. He feels the hairs on his arms singe.
And then nothing. The lack of everything. He is alone with his thoughts. He hasn't yet decided if he should breathe or open his eyes. He doesn't feel the need to breathe, yet he is very aware of his being.
His eyes open. A flood of senses. The heat is unbearable. A red darkness. The smell of evil stung his nostrils. His eyes water from the stench. The sound was relentless. Waves of screams and wails, piercing his ear drums.
He is laying ﬂat on his back and curled into a glob of a man and cries to himself, shuddering as his mind wraps itself around his predicament. Suddenly all was clear.
He is in hell. He knows he can escape and is driven to. Something much larger than himself was at stake and he instinctively knew that it was not his choice. He must escape. He has no plan. He has no idea what this journey will entail. He slowly stands upright. Something is different.
No, everything is different. Physically, there is no resemblance to his living self. In the few moments since he opened his eyes, he understands more than you could imagine. He knows he is dead. Also, as if he left his body and saw himself, he is aware of his appearance.
In life, he was an obese 350 pounds, 5' 7" tall. Now, somehow, he knows he is a muscular 247 pounds and 6' 3". He is smooth, like every hair of his body has been removed. His skin is the purest white, a stark contrast to the blackened redness of his surroundings. His hands and feet are swollen, in that they are disproportionate to the rest of him. Larger. Stronger. He feels agile and swift for the first time. He knows he is much stronger and faster than he should be. He has the teeth of a lion framed in a protruding jaw. His eyes are devoid of features. Blank gray orbs motionless in their sockets.
Mentally, the changes are as drastic as his monstrous avatar. Usually an extroverted joyous man, there is a ﬁre inside as intense as the heat blistering those souls around him. Anger. Hatred.
How dare they imprison him? Where was God, to allow this to happen? Nothing will stop him. Anything that is foolish enough to get in his way, will be slaughtered.
He surveys his cell. The heat no longer affects him. And he has selectively dismissed the sounds of the suffering. His eyes cut through the darkness. He saw the room was circular. Enclosed by cavernous walls. A stucco-like texture. How must he release himself from this chamber?
His knuckles crumble from the impact of his first overhand punch into the thick wall. They heal almost immediately and as painfully as they broke. Part of his punishment. He lets loose a feral growl as he begins to jack hammer his way to freedom.
A cool wind envelopes him as he forces himself through the opening he has smashed through the sharp wall. He heals so quickly, his skin grows back around the jagged shards ripping into his sides. They tear open again as he pries himself free. Again the wounds heal before he lands face down.
Every part of him that is touching the black gravel scorches. He quickly recovers, and submits to the fact that his feet will continuously boil and bubble as long as he is here. He must catalog the pain and move on.
It's bright here. A ghastly bright, is what he thinks to himself. The white light is low on the horizon as if it was sunrise. The metaphor isn't lost on him, so he chuckles.
This area is vast, and he knows that if he did look back, he wouldn't see the cavern he had just crawled out of, that isn't how things work here. It's an empty landscape. A desert of hills and valleys made entirely of blackened stone. The cool wind and bright light give a false sense of accomplishment as the stench of decay and the immeasurable heat of the ground bring him back to reality.
It feels like it's been days, but the unmoving light source gives him no gage of time. The ground has changed, subtly. Instead of stones, it's become skulls and bones. Just as black and hot as before. The pain in his feet becomes increasingly hard to ignore with each step. He sees that the bones are small, he wants to imagine that they're from dwarfs or midgets, but he knows better.
There is something off in the distance, two valleys from where he stands. Only a silhouette against the white background, but it's something to focus on. He proceeds with a new determination.
He feels empowered. Driven. A hunger rumbles inside him. The first feeling since he awoke besides pain. He sees movement. Smells fear. Something other than himself is telling him "Feast on the blood of your enemies," repeatedly.
No, I won't.
Hunger overwhelms him. His pace quickens as his vision tunnels. Everything is black except the two figures at the crest of the hill. They are vivid, his targets. Wiry beings, slender to the point of frailty. Large heads with big eyes and wide mouths filled with hundreds of pointed teeth.
They lunge down the hill onto him. Biting and slashing into his flesh with their long sharp teeth and talons. Goblins, he thinks. As they bite off baseball sized chunks of his muscles, he revels in the velocity of the pain. He feels alive.
The spontaneity of the attack caught him off guard, and he quickly regains his purpose. Time slows to a crawl. He ﬂexes all his muscles at once, and realizes the near limitlessness of his strength. His attackers jettison off of him and land five feet away in each direction.
On its back, he leaps to the demon to his left. Straddling it, he thrusts his hands into its midsection. The demon screams the high pitched shriek you would imagine from a pterodactyl, as he pulls apart his massive hands in opposite directions. This leaves the demon separated into two halves, intestines and bowels baking on the bones of the ground.
Still crouching, he turns his head to see the other demon almost floating at him. In one movement he turns completely and lunges at its neck. His jaw expands like a snake’s and catches the neck of the demon in the air. As he lands he has nothing but the gizzard of the goblin in his mouth. He turns and sees the decapitated body has landed next to its partner and the head is not far off. He is pleased.
The hunger is still there. He must satisfy it. He picks up the head of his second victim and bites through the skull. He will not add anything more than blood to this landscape, and obliges the voice inside of him by consuming the flesh and bones of the demons he has slaughtered. His skin is stained a rusty brown and his belly is full.
The white light off in the horizon is changing. Separating into all the colors as if through a prism. He feels dizzy. Blackness creeps into his vision. Silence. Darkness again. That blackened redness. There is an orange glow right ahead.
"Cael? Is that my name?" he thinks to himself as he recognizes the voice. It's the voice from his head, but it's no longer inside of him.
He runs towards the sound and the light. It's not getting any closer. He runs faster, with longer strides. The orange glow shoots upward. Cael jumps after it. He feels weightless. He soars into the darkness, out of it, into what looks like space. He knows it isn't, it's just a mirage like everything else here. He's moving so fast it's hard to discern what he's seeing. It's as if he's traveling through everything. Everywhere at once.
He smashes through the floor of an enormous room and lands on his feet. He certainly didn't control his flight. The room is completely black marble. The veins of the marble aren't white but red. There's no stench here, but he notices the lack of any odor.
Far off in the corner is a massive throne made of the silvery gray metal that must be platinum. On the throne sits the largest being he's ever seen. The figure appears to be a gorilla. White fur, tipped at the end of each hair with red. At least 10 feet tall, though it's hard to judge from his sitting position.
"The wings of an angel," Cael thinks to himself, knowing this thing is far from angelic. The span must be nearly 20 feet wide and the feathers are jet black to the point of darkening the space around them.
Cael jumps across the cavernous room. One leap negotiates the distance. He lands with a thump that cracks the marble around his feet.
"Who are you? What is this place?" Cael asks.
"I am Abaddon. Everything belongs to me. As for this place, I believe you already know," the creature rumbles.
"I think...Why don't you just humor me?"
"You would call it Hell, I would call it home. You're special, Cael. I have great things planned for you," Abaddon says.
"Special? I'm a monster. What have you done to me?" Cael retorts.
"I've done nothing except remove your foolish human inhibitions. You should be thanking me. You never would have disposed of those scavengers if I hadn't. What of the gifts I've given you? Your strength is unparalleled. Your eyes see more than vision. Your ears can hear thoughts. There's more in store for you, if you perform, that is."
"Perform? Oh no, I won't be a pawn for you to toy with."
"This is no game. You're no toy, you're my weapon. A general to demolish my enemies. And for this you will be rewarded."
"What sort of reward?"
"Everything you've lost, will be returned to you."
"Yes, I will rewrite your wasted life and return it to you. If you fulfill your duties."
"What is it that you need me to do?"
Abaddon cannot be trusted. Cael knows this. Yet, it seems as though he must comply. Abaddon has released Cael's mind from his control but he has given him explicit instructions. It's a test, Cael reminds himself. He has to remain obedient until Abaddon trusts his devotion. Then the tables may turn.
Abaddon has made the promise of returning his life, but Cael isn't quite sure what that life was. His memory is muddled. He sees ﬂashes of himself alive and fat. Countless ounces of alcohol and innumerable grams of cholesterol. Since his mind has been released, Cael believes he will be able to regain more memory. There must be more than he remembers, otherwise the promise of a renewed life wouldn't be much of an incentive.
Cael stands at the bottom of a canyon. The orange-brown of the rocky vertical walls is almost refreshing. It's not hot here. A subjectively frigid ninety degrees fahrenheit. This is the physical plane of Abaddon's realm of punishment, where moving forward will actually get him somewhere.
The mental plane, where Cael has been up to this point, is a transitional phase. A place for Abaddon to condition his new arrivals and inflict the appropriate torture. After their indoctrination, damned souls are sent to live out eternity here, in what's affectionately called The Bowels. Not very creative, Cael thought to himself when Abaddon briefed him on the mission. Abaddon explained that it's much more interesting to leave some function and residual memory in these souls before he sends them to the physical plane. Souls that think they have choice are more entertaining than obedient mindless shells.
Cael begins his ascent. It's a long way up, but fairly easy for him. He nearly laughs at his counterparts, as the other souls brave enough to follow him up lose their handholds and plummet back down to the canyon floor.
Those who die, again, here in The Bowels, will begin the whole punishment process over. The torture in the mental plane is much worse than here in the physical.
The rocks are sharp and cut into Cael with every movement. Painful enough to remind him of where he is, yet not enough to slow him down.
Finally, he reaches the top. A perfectly ﬂat land, empty for what looks like miles. Off in the distance, it's surprising what Abaddon has allowed these souls to accomplish. A city fills the horizon. Almost futuristic, with it's rounded edges and mishmash of tall, short, tall, medium, tall, short, short, tall, medium buildings.
Behind him, Cael hears a scuffle of loose dirt and a grunt. He turns to see a man's head peering over the cliff's edge, his hands frantically reaching for something to hold onto. He raises one upturned palm to Cael and pleads.
"Help me, please!"
Cael roars the angry scream of a predator. The force is enough to shake the man free from the ledge and Cael doesn't need to watch. He turns and begins his trek to the city as he hears the man's screams fading, fading, stopped. Cael smiles to himself. Anyone foolish enough to ask his help wasn't conditioned enough by Abaddon to survive long in The Bowels anyway. Maybe another round of anguish will better prepare him.
The trek to the city is uneventful. A small group of damned follows behind Cael at a distance. They call out to him but he ignores them. He has Abaddon's plans to carry out. Cael needs to find a man called Pronto somewhere in The Bowels, in the heart of the city. That's all the instruction Abaddon has given him.
As Cael nears the city, he sees the torn and tattered woolen sheets that have been formed, along with rocks and debris, into makeshift tents. Even here, people feel the need to separate and create a hierarchy. The people hide their eyes as Cael passes, and he hears the whispers of "Demon" sneak past their lips.
Cael sees the worst punishment of all, and almost feels ashamed to be doing Abaddon's bidding. A mother, shaking in fear with tears in her eyes, clutching a naked baby to her breast. He turns to her, wanting to speak and tell her that he won't be eating her baby, and her eyes widen, then close tight as she shakes violently. He remembers his appearance and that his voice is not his own, so he turns back to the direction of the dreadful metropolis.
Cael doesn't wish to be interrupted from the task at hand, yet a man stands in his path. The man is over 6 feet tall and is quite muscular. Cael thinks he may have been a professional wrestler in his life before The Bowels. He is holding a large bone, from which animal Cael can't even speculate, that is sharpened at one end into a single edged blade of sorts. Cael smells the dangerous combination of courage and fear seeping from the man's pores.
"You will not gorge yourself on our ﬂesh today, pig" the man snarls.
"Only if you move away and lower your weapon" Cael growls.
"I am Marcus, protector of the Flats. I've dispatched plenty of your kind before, demon. I will do the same to you," he says.
"If I were you, I'd choose to live and defend your people from something else," Cael warns.
Marcus makes his mistake. It's so quick it's all a blur. Marcus raises him weapon to strike, Cael grabs the bone-sword. A thrust kick from Cael sends Marcus down and skittering across the ground. As he slides, Cael leaps to him and plunges the round joint end of the bone into Marcus' face. The force is such that it smears the lower half of his face into a stain of blood and teeth. Breath still gurgles out of the top of his neck and the hunger fills Cael. In a frenzy, he bites and gnaws the flesh and bones. Soon there is blood and nothing more.
Cael hears the sobbing of those people hiding in their tents. The Flats are without a guard, but Cael warned him. He didn't want to eat Marcus but only one thing cures the hunger. He will keep the bone-sword, he thinks it's a fitting weapon for a place like this. The walls of the city loom ahead. Cael presses on.
Cael expected gates, but there is none. People would want to escape this place if they could, not sneak in. It's hotter here surrounded by the chaotic masses and odd material of the buildings. The buildings seem to be made of a porous stone and it is warm to the touch like the outside of an oven. The color is a darker muddled red than the landscape.
These souls are giving him a wide berth. They are scared to come into physical contact and pretending not to stare. They've either seen his kind before and know what he's capable of or they're just naturally scared of his appearance. He hears everything and it's affecting him. Every thought of every passer-by is invading his mind.
He stops his movement and breathes deep. Focusing, Cael tames the rampant noise. Silence then the sound of ocean waves. He has stopped his ears from hearing and is listening with his "powers", as Abaddon called it. He looks at those near him and hears their thoughts individually. Monster. Demon. Ate Marcus. Die. Animal. Cael.
"Who knows my name?" Cael barks, actually silencing the square in which he's been standing.
"I know your name, Cael. And I let you hear me think it," says a girl, who now in the open, was obscured from his view.
"And who might you be, child?" Cael speaks to the girl, who couldn't physically be more than 12 years old, yet is releasing no scent of fear.
"I am Shae. And no, you wouldn't smell fear on me because I'm not scared of you or your master."
"I don't have time for these games, little one," Cael says dismissively.
"There are no games here, Slave. And I'm much older and wiser than you could ever hope to become," Shae bellows, her voice changing from sweet and small into large and powerful.
"I am no one's slave, whore!" Cael responds. He raises his bone sword like an ax, and swings down towards Shae's head.
Shae places a finger to her lips and utters a forceful "Shhh". The sound waves radiate away from her in a growing arc and Cael is frozen in place, the bone sword millimeters away from contact with Shae's blonde locks.
"I know the anger in you was intensified by Abaddon's will. I won't punish you for that. You are his slave, and will remain that way until you learn to fight the hunger. Then I will help you. Abaddon is the king of all lies. Anything he has promised you, will not be given. The longer you are in the Bowels, the less his hold on you will be. But there is more for you to learn, so continue on to find Pronto. You entered the city from the west, so continue east until you reach the Wrong Place. You will know it. I will find you when I need to."
The thud is sickening, as Cael's blade lodges into the skull of scrawny man. The people around scream and run. The man stands lifeless, wedged onto the bone sword. Cael disapprovingly unplugs the man from his weapon with a foot on his shoulder and a yank upwards.
"Well, I suppose I go east then," he mutters to himself. Cael begins his march, maddened by the altercation with Shae. He moves furiously, knocking over those who venture in his path. Everything about Shae seems honest, compared to the blatant lies of Abaddon. Her power was immense and Cael has no trouble believing her age is much greater than her appearance.
Soon, Cael comes upon an area of The Bowels where the streets are much narrower. Cramped. The souls here seem devoid of any discernible mood and he gathered nothing of interest from reading their minds. Their thoughts are mostly blank with scattered wishes for death. Physically, they seem weak and lethargic. Cael feels his stomach turning inside of him, not with The Hunger but with a queasiness, reminding him of life and his frequent hangovers.
The overcrowded street opens into a large quadrangle, almost diamond shaped. It is empty except for bones and blood stains, littering every corner. This must be the Wrong Place, Cael thinks.
The light hasn't changed since he's been here in The Bowels, and there is no Sun anywhere to be seen. A moving Sun, to represent day and night, would give the damned something to hope upon, as if the new day would bring better times. Yet, it isn't meant to be an inviting place and punishment is more rewarding without hope cluttering up the agenda.
A constant midday illumination allows Cael to see the opening in the center of the Wrong Place. A curving set of steps, so wide they look almost ridiculous, dive down into a darker redness. Cael knows it's Pronto's Lair, for lack of a better term. He focuses his energy and quells the riot in his stomach. Forces here definitely scream Wrong.
The steps feel endless, but Cael reaches the bottom. He feels heavier once he leaves the stairs and steps onto the sandy floor. The smell is familiar to Cael and recognizes it to be human skeletal remains. He thinks the sand is really ground bone, and it doesn't surprise him.
"You've been sent on a fool's errand, Cael," he hears from his left, and thinks yet another being that knows of him.
A man is there, 6 foot even, around 190 pounds of average. He is hung as if on a crucifix. Chains hold his arms out from his sides and razor wire secure his head to the wall behind him. Naked, Cael can't help but notice his lack of genitalia, no penis or scrotum, just groin.
"Pronto?" Cael asks, already knowing the answer.
"In the flesh!" Pronto exclaims cheerily, almost laughing as his skin appears to be nearly see through.
"Excuse me, that's a little Bowels humor. I've been here quite some time," Pronto explains.
"You know of me, then you know of my intentions?" Cael inquires.
"I know of Abaddon's plan, but you have no intention of killing me, Cael, nor could you if you wished."
Cael looks at him quizzically.
"Why do you think Abaddon hasn't killed me himself? And the bone dust you're standing on is of those he's sent before you. Don't be surprised, Cael. I know the speech Abaddon gives his newest weapons, the whole "You're special, I will return all that's been lost" crap. The only thing that's been lost is Abaddon's hold on this place. He can not control anyone within the sound of my voice. That is why I'm held prisoner here. My powers weren't always this strong, so he used these chains to bind me before I grew into what I am."
"What powers do you have?"
"Unlike you, I was given these powers by Him," Pronto points his limp hand upwards. "Not him, like you," he points down.
"What? You're an angel?" Cael seems mystified.
"No, I'm not that lucky. I'm a demon, like you are now. But of the oldest line. God created demons to assist Abaddon in rehabilitating the souls here, before Ascension. I am one of the first demons He made, and with age comes more strength. My powers are nameless, I can do many things. I can return your living memory but I will need something from you."
"What do you want from me?" Cael asks.
"I need you to break these chains and free me from this prison. Abaddon has cursed these chains and only one of his creations can remove them."
"How do I know you're not lying like Abaddon?"
"If you agree, I will return you memories before you free me."
"How do I release you?"
"It's simple. Just break the chains. You are strong enough," Pronto says.
Cael seems to contemplate for a moment, even though he's already made his decision.
"Restore my memory, already! I will free you," Cael demands.
"A warning: It may not be as great as you hope, you did get sent to hell," admonishes Pronto.
"I need to know, good or bad."
"Very well, then."
With that, Pronto closes his eyes while Cael nearly shakes with anticipation. Cael can see every muscle in Pronto's nearly skinless body tense and contract tightly, as if he's focusing energies into him. Pronto is whispering a deep chant in a language unbeknownst to Cael. It sounds as if you mixed Spanish, Russian and Pig Latin. Pronto stops chanting. The silence is intolerable as the air in the room thickens so much you can almost see it.
His eyes open. Cael meets his glare and couldn't look away if he wanted to. Pronto's stare deepens. A burst of blue lightning shoots from Pronto's eyes into Cael's. Cael stiffens and convulses. The light stops and Cael slumps to the floor while Pronto slumps as much as he can in his bindings. Cael is in in the fetal position on the floor, much like the way he came to this place. Shaking and freezing. His mind intoxicated from the flurry of images and memories.
Cael sees himself as a boy, tiny and frail. Bleeding from his nose, a large lump on his forehead, a brown and purple ring around his eye. His father stands above him screaming. Reminding him to flush the toilet after he uses it.
He sees himself as a teenager, being laughed at by the whole gym class for his lack of athletic ability.
Cael sees himself as a man, masturbating furiously to animated porno and cutting himself at the same time.
Cael feels physical pain as he watches his damning act unfold in his mind.
He responds to a homosexual personal ad on the internet. A handsome young man knocks at his door and breaks out into a laugh when Cael opens it. Something about "A fat loser like you? Yeah right! I'm gay, not desperate!" Cael grabs him by the hair and drags him into his apartment. He pounds his face mercilessly. Bludgeoning the man to death with his oversized paws. Cael smiles at his actions in his memory. Then proceeds to carve the man into portions with a Chef's knife. He cooks and eats the flesh of his victim over the next few weeks.
Shortly after, Cael dies of a massive coronary on the bus, traveling to the liquor store in the Red Light District.
Cael slowly comes to his senses and picks himself up off the floor, still affected from his mental ordeal. He's beginning to get angry. Abaddon made him think there was hope. Having his life restored to him might actually be worse than being here.
He figures he has two options. Either he lays here and cries or he frees Pronto and gets some payback for Abaddon's deception of hope. Again, he's already made his decision.
Pronto says, "Well, then?"
Without a word, Cael breathes deeper than he ever has, grabs the chain to the left and bites through with a roar. He does the same for the right side. Pronto motions towards the barbed wire holding his head in place. Cael grips it from the sides. The barbs cut into him, he savors the pain. He pulls back as hard as he can, propping his feet up against the wall on either side of Pronto's waist. With a ﬁnal jerk, the stone to which the barbed wire is fastened breaks loose. Pronto falls to the ground. Everything begins to shake.
Cael looks at Pronto, who's slowly standing up. Pronto smiles.
"I think Abaddon is aware of our activities. He won't be too happy."
"Will he come after us?" Cael asks.
"No, but we'll have hell to pay!" Pronto chuckles at his own joke. "He'll send minions. Lots of them, so let's go find Shae for some backup."
"You know of her? I'm not surprised," Cael states.
"We're all on the same team now, Cael."
"I'm not convinced of that. We'll see."
As they walk, Pronto's skin begins darkening. Cael notices the change and also notices nubs of some kind of protruding from his back. He needs to sate his curiosity.
"What's with you turning red?" Cael asks.
"I'm healing. I'll likely grow my hair back too. Abaddon's chains were poisoning me, but I am too strong. He's always wished to kill me, but Yahweh doesn't allow that. There are some rules on this plane, Cael. You see, here, one of His creations cannot kill another." Pronto says.
"Then how could I kill Abaddon?"
"Oh, that rule only applies to direct creation. You were created by Yahweh, but not directly. He created prehistoric man, then guided their evolution into homo sapiens and eventually you popped out. On top of that, you've been altered by Abaddon, essentially becoming his creation, and the created are permitted to kill their creators."
"What if someone wanted to kill Yahweh?" Cael asks innocently.
"Hehehe, no." Pronto giggles. "Yahweh has no physical form, so there's nothing to kill. He may appear to the lucky few, but he's rather ethereal."
"What's with your back?"
"I lost my wings in battle, way before I was locked away. Abaddon ripped them off when he attacked me as I rested. They won't be growing back."
Even as Pronto speaks, hair starts forming all over his body. Long apelike white hairs. Cael is staring intently.
"Alright already, we need to meet Shae, she'll be gathering the army," Pronto says as he quickens his gait.
"Army?" Cael looks puzzled.
"You didn't think we'd be going at this alone, did you? The Great Shae, The Angel of Mercy, and her Army of Ascended Beings. She always blushes when I say that."
"Angel of Mercy? Ascended Beings? What?"
"This is just a little bit bigger than Cael's revenge, friend. Abaddon has made Hell too difficult for anyone to find redemption. No one was ever supposed to stay in Hell forever, it's sort of like penance. Eventually, you're supposed to atone for your sins and then Ascend to Heaven. Abaddon's left out the whole Ascension part. And we're gonna correct that."
They've walked for what seems like an eternity. As they go, they feel a constant rumbling in the earth growing stronger. Cael sees a difference up ahead. The landscape just seems slightly askew. There's also a feeling of coolness. He knows they've arrived.
"Shae has protected this place. It's her refuge," Pronto says.
"But no one's here," Cael says as he looks around the empty landscape. Nothing but the ugly bowels desert as far as the eye can see.
"That's because we haven't entered yet," Pronto nearly laughs as he speaks.
Pronto takes Cael's shoulder and they step forward together. A ﬂash of green light ignites the air around them. The smell of freshness fills their nostrils for the first time in forever.
The scene has changed drastically once their eyes recover from the blinding greenness. A lush valley stands before them. Cool and moist. A stark contrast to the barren wasteland of the Bowels. There is a small hut in the middle of the valley, basically a shack.
"Well, where's this army? And Shae?" Cael asks.
"Inside, I'm sure," Pronto answers. "Let's go."
Inside this tiny shack it's cavernous. Cael has gotten used to the deceptive perspectives and isn't surprised at all. Also, it is nearly filled to capacity with beings. Some look demonic, some look angelic, some look human. All look ready for battle.
Shae's tiny frame is betrayed by her demeanor. She commands everyoneʼs attention and bellows like a battle hardened general, even if her appearance is that of a child. She notices Pronto and Cael at the entrance. She looses a deafening whistle that silences the infinite war room.
"Come! It's almost time!" Shae greets the two.
"Your mercifulness." Pronto bows to her.
"Oh, Pronto. You look much better! So handsome," Shae giggles.
"Are you two flirting?" Cael chimes in and shakes his head.
"What's the plan?"
"Well, impatient one. Pronto seems to think your ready, I do not. But that doesn't matter. Pronto's been released so there's no turning back. Soon, Abaddon's army will be upon us. For most of us that is all the plan entails. You're the most important one here, Cael. You, and only you, can kill Abaddon. He won't show his face until we dispatch with his minions. That's what we're here for. They will be many and they will be fierce."
"How's that for pressure?" Cael chuckles. "I can't wait to get my hands on him."
Shae begins directing everyone to the weapons lining the walls. Pronto sits, breathing deeply, almost meditating. Cael is tensing his muscles and releasing them. He feels stronger with every ﬂex. More angry with Abaddon. More hateful with every breath.
In a whisper that everyone hears, Shae says, "It's time."
It feels like an explosion all around them, as the mirage breaks apart violently. Valhalla is gone, Cael thinks to himself as the Bowels settle around them. He can finally gauge the number of soldiers here with Shae. Its in the hundreds.
On the horizon, shadows are forming. Cael focuses his vision. There's all sorts of monstrous looking demons. Spreading out over his whole ﬁeld of view. Great numbers. Its in the thousands.
Their battalion sprints off towards their enemies. Nearly 600 souls up towards the horde of over five thousand.
A volley of stone tipped spears slice through the sky towards them. Shae jumps up to meet them and whispers "Return". The spears loop back under her control and pierce the skulls of those who launched them.
The battle has begun. Shae and Pronto are the only ones empty handed, Cael has his bone-sword. Their allies have a variety of axes, swords, daggers and clubs.
Pronto takes the lead and grabs the closest enemy. He crushes his skull with one hand then uses the corpse as a battering ram, forcing a path into the middle of the fray. They're now encircled by Abaddon's army. Time to fight their way to the edges. The battle rages.
It begins to look lopsided with Shae, Pronto and Cael at the helm of their group. The three are focused and barbarous. The rest of their group fights valiantly. Piercing and smashing their enemies into oblivion. Cael easily dismembers a thousand himself. Many die, as subjective as that term is here.
After much time has passed, only The Three stand over one demon. Cael stomps its face away like a bug. Shae winces at the crassness of the act. Pronto is emotionless.
Instantly, the ground rumbles intensely and then calms. A sense of nothingness engulfs them. The Bowels' filthy red earth breaks apart in front of them like a fault line. A red glow and burst of light.
Abaddon appears. He kicks the three clear across the bloody battleﬁeld. He jumps with a flap of his immense wings and lands on top of Cael. He pummels him with his massive paws, mashing his meat and crushing his bones.
Pronto and Shae just hold hands and close their eyes. Both of them focusing on Cael. They begin to glow a blue tint. Brighter and brighter. They are sending their strength into him. Cael begins to glow the same blue color. Abaddon gets angrier and pounds him more ferociously.
Cael lets out a roar, from the bottom of his gut. Abaddon is propelled off of him. Cael jumps up and ﬂexes his bulging muscles. He dashes over to Abaddon, grabs him upside down, leaps into the air and smashes his head into the ground with sort of a flying pile driver. Cael begins his own pounding. Bloodying Abaddon's gorilla face.
Abaddon finds some strength and bear hugs Cael. Squeezing the breath out of him. Cael is struggling, trying to break free. He bites into Abaddon's hairy chest to get him to loosen his grip. He gives just enough for Cael to get his arm bent in between them. With all the strength he has left, Cael forces his hand up under Abaddon's chin in a haphazard uppercut. His fist enters under Abaddon's lower jaw and bursts out of the the top of his crown, holding Abaddon's brain in his oversized mitt. Abaddon slumps. Cael stands and removes his hand from Abaddon's skull. He crushes his brain, relieved.
He turns to see Pronto and Shae huddled together lifelessly, realizing they gave their souls for him to defeat Abaddon.
Rain pours down.