Summary: Rebecca and Jason discover a crack in reality made by a witchy demoness, they investigate and deal with the threat.
A forested area far North of Gotham was a stark contrast to the darkened alleys and large steel and glass structures that towered over the people on the streets. Here it was the trees that towered over the forest. The terrain was rocky and uneven and required careful traversing over to avoid an unpleasant fall. Rebecca and Jason were getting closer to their end goal. Rebecca was the first to voice that something was off though perhaps Jason would have felt it first. A hiking trip that was part field trip and part meditational retreat had suddenly become a hunt. Or at least the young woman seemed to think it was that way by the way she was moving.
She remained alert as she moved in the direction towards something that was making her gut feel weird, sounds that she was picking up that didn’t quite make sense. Her fearlessness was something to be admired, or perhaps it was just the vigor of youth. She couldn’t concentrate worth a damn when there was something picking at her senses in a way that left her feeling completely uncomfortable.
She said nothing as she moved but didn’t make any effort to shush her Mentor as they traveled. She only hoped the old man could keep up, she didn’t know what they were moving towards and reacting too much out of instinct had proven troublesome in the past. It was better to have a clear plan, it was smart to actually research something before moving forward. She couldn’t afford to have many more mistakes.
The trees eventually parted to an old overgrown dirt road. Plants had taken over what had at one time been a smooth worn path that was used regularly. There were a lot of old roads like this in this state. The townships that grew around these areas only grew for the resources that were harvested from around them. In this case, an old mine that slowly came into view. The old signs that warned those of danger and closure had been ripped off and thrown aside only leaving an opening that peered into the darkness of its depths.
“Well, this certainly isn’t unsettling at all.” commenting softly when they arrive at the mine. Jason easily keeps up with Rebecca, old he might be. But he’s probably in better shape than what Rebecca is in. The young girl was picking up on things really easily, making teaching her easier than most he’s taught. “You can count this as extra credit, if you wish.” saying as he stepped closer to the entrance. Grabbing a skinny broken two by four, and with a wave of his hand, then quick incantation. The top of the board would spark to life as a flame wraps around it, giving off light as they walk deeper into the mine.
These kinds of mines littered the countryside. Some abandoned due to the mine drying up, others closed due to … unforeseen circumstances. Jason wasn’t sure exactly what she was feeling. Maybe there was some kind of supernatural radar she had. Instead of echolocation like a bat. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary.
“Let’s go in for a closer look.”
“Sure. What I’m feeling isn’t good though,” a small warning offered before she began to carefully step past the barrier.
The light from the fire played against the carved walls of the shaft that angled downwards. Oddly enough, there was still a worn path that led down into the depths, still marked by faint prints of shoes that had since been covered by dust.
Rebecca sniffed softly, pausing to take in the smell. It was a very familiar one, a faint hint of ammonia and the dank air of the mine that didn’t have the best air circulation. At least deeper in the cave it was a touch warmer than it was outside but there was a stillness that contrasted against the landscape they had just been in.
“Bats, probably brown bats. Nothing to be startled by. Try to stay quiet, they usually start going into torpor around this time of year.”
Her words with a hoarse whisper as she took slow and careful steps where the light could show her the path. She could tell the path went deep and long, the way the sounds echoed against the walls.
“You’ve felt shifts before, the balance or….I don’t know how to explain it. Felt like the ritual site before.”
“Bats are hardly worth being startled over.” offering back as she explained about the bats. “There has been magic here, that is for sure. Though, faint at the moment. The pull is getting stronger as we go deeper. Does it feel like it’s pulling you to change?” asking as he thought about it. Kneeling down, he looks over the footprints, old. Possibly from when the mine was still being worked.
“Be on your guard, Rebecca. Mines are often hosts to demons, undead and whatever else that may crawl through the cracks of hell.” offering as he went deeper with her. The mine looked like it shared it’s fair share of collapses, and it may be one of the reasons why it had been abandoned for so long. “It’s why some of them are collapsed. Not due to structural integrity, but due to humans collapsing them to keep whatever is inside…inside.”
“No,” she replied softly as she searched along the walls.
There was something here but it must be further in. So she continued on, heeding the warnings and taking those words seriously. Obviously, this mine wasn’t sealed and it was likely being used. By what? Who knew. That’s what she was after, because something deeper inside was radiating energy.
She was quiet, mostly because she could hear something stirring above them. Tiny little fuzzy bodies crammed into little nooks and cuts along the tops of the cavernous surface. They were at rest for the most part but the noise had stirred them a little. A big part of the reason Rebecca remained silent as she continued on.
It was not what was inside the mine that was prompting her to change, it was the environment. She wanted to hold that off for as long as she could but she did find herself moving ahead of him, away from the circle of firelight that his bit of wood had provided.
The deeper they got, the warmer it became, the scent on the air even began to change. Jason would hear those sounds of flesh tearing and boned shifting before it was silent again. At a junction of a series of turns where Jason may have thought he lost his apprentice, a black hand gently pulled at his wrist.
“<i>Cracks to hell? This way. Smell it? It’s <b>open</b></i>”
Jason would follow her, when she grabbed his wrist, he lifted a brow. Obviously this was getting a job for Etrigan. Sure, it’ll be a mess. But at least the Demon might be able to help her close the cracks to hell. “Give me a moment to change into something more appropriate.” offering as he pulled his hand back, dropped the torch before saying the poem aloud.
”Change! Change! O form of man!
Free the prince forever damned!
Free the might from fleshy mire!
Boil the blood in the heart for fire!
Gone! Gone! O form of man
And rise the demon Etrigan!!”
The flames would wrap around him, going through some of the same transformation that she just went through. After a moment, Etrigan would emerge from the flames and spot Rebecca who, just a few weeks ago, attempted to eat his head, but then the smell filled his nostrils as he looked around. Brows pressing together.
“Try to eat me again girl, and we will have words. No matter what a beautiful specimen you are currently.” giving her a toothy grin as he moves past her, sniffing the air. “There are many cracks here. What are you here for, girl? Jason isn’t one to traipse around abandoned mines without a purpose.” sniffing the air again, he pauses to scoop some dirt from the ground, letting it sift between his yellow, clawed hand.
“Yes…there is something there.” growling as he looked ahead. “Follow my lead, girl. Do as I tell you.” telling her. It was a command, not him asking.
This form was more adaptable for this environment. The darkness was welcoming, her senses were far sharper. Even in the inky darkness without even the hint of a light she could make out the forms and shapes of the walls and the tunnels. Every sound that came from every finger of the mine that spread deeper and deeper into the earth. It was down this branch where she felt it the strongest. The fact is was open meant that it may have been used and perhaps recently. That left her with many more questions to consider even as she pulled her hand away when Jason began with the rhyme.
She took a few steps back, unsure of how Etrigan would react . She merely raised her hands at his warning, the toothy maw kept shut as she did so. She had already told Jason what would happen the next time she attempted to bite him. There was no need to egg The Demon on. Also, there was a matter of that promise that she made to herself. She included the demon with a purpose and a reason. She couldn’t learn if she was going to be a little monster every single time he showed his yellow face.
“As you wish.”
Slowly, she lowered her hands and crouched in waiting. The entrance was tucked into the carved walls, in a crevasse that might be a bit of a tight squeeze for the larger demon. It was likely a tight squeeze for something else as well. Dried blood was streaked around the edges.
“Hmmmm.” saying as he looked down the entrance of the crevice. Then slid his fingers along the edges where there was dried blood. Scraping a little off, the demon sniffs it then flicks it off his claw. “Hmph. I believe I know who did this.” snorting as he started through the crevice entrance, tight. But he’s able to muscle his way through. “Shouldn’t had that goat this morning.” grumbling as he continued muscling his way through.
“How are you enjoying Jason’s teachings, Girl? Have you been bored yet?” Tching as the passageway finally opened up a bit wider, he starts towards the carved entrance. Inspecting it, running his claws over the surface. “Hmph. What did you feel when you first felt the tug?” asking as he turned to look at her, lifting a brow. “Was it like someone was guiding you, or pulling? Two very different feelings.” holding his hand up to show two fingers.
“Pulling, could be a trap. Guidance, someone wants you to see something.”
She remained, watching, head tilting as he mentioned the goat. He was asking questions as he was squeezing and she stood upright to answer them. Was it boring? Not entirely. It was important in its own way even if she couldn’t quite feel a way to connect to it herself. It was his library that was more fascinating. Left to her own devices, she could explore other topics on her own, things that were relevant and that interested her. It was a much more organic way of learning.
“Slow. I’m not bored yet and they seem to be taught for good reasons. I’m not attacking you, for instance.”
Her jaw stretched open as she considered that feeling. Did it matter? It was safer to assume it was a trap. Expecting it to be nothing at all would be foolish.
“Can’t you hear the suffering on the other side? I can. This shouldn’t be here. Jason and I will need to seal it after we are done having our fun.”
Beyond the cracks of stone it lead into another large cavernous space. To the untrained it may just seem like another extension of the mine but it felt completely different, otherworldly. The ceiling stretched high above and a nudge of Etrigan’s boot would send a bone rattling across the stone floor. Human bones.
Outstretched before them, slabs of stone made into tables, one littered with jars and containers of unknown contents. On the surface of one bloody slab was the stretched out remains of what appeared to be a bat but much larger, far more menacing. An incision left its body cavity exposed but it was void of several organs.
A sight that brought a low grumbling sound from Vesper.
“Eh?!” looking down at the human bone, he presses his lips together and looks it over. “If you were to attack me, it would be in your best interest where I cannot fight back. I spared you once, girl. Your attempts to goad me when you were talking to Jason did not go unnoticed, girl. You best talk to me with respect. Be glad that I did not kill you on that rooftop.” telling her as he walked away from her, walking towards the slabs.
“Whatever is here, it cannot be good.” looking around, turning to look at the corpse of the large back, he looks into the cavity, noticing most of the organs were missing. Swishing his cape, he turns around and steps onto the table, looking over the bat. Then takes a deep breath and breathes out a swathe of fire, incinerating the bat.
Then looks up to the ceiling, watching it with interest.
“What do you see with your eyes, girl? Do you feel the presence of another here? Are the hairs on your neck standing up? Anticipating a fight?”
“And I’m sure you remember the blood oath. I do not take words sealed in blood lightly. You mistook flirtation for a viable threat. I know you’re capable of ending me if you really wanted to.”
Banter. That’s all it was as she was exploring the space. The bones were both old and new, just left in piles as if they were trashy discards. Some were even crushed open, the marrow scraped out with sharp teeth. That very clue made her stand straight and at attention.
Before she explain what was afraid, the growls began and then the walls echoed with the baying of the four hounds that were padding in their direction. The demonic beasts look half starved but that did not make them any less frightening to look at. Twice as large as any wolf and with sharper teeth and claws. They were placed to protect this area, to protect the master that placed their claim on this cavern. These beasts were not afraid.
Vesper crouched slightly, her focus now on the hounds. She barely had a moment to gather her nerves together before they attacked the half-demon and The Demon. Vesper didn’t like being put on the defense, quickly stepping aside to avoid one lunge, with another coming down at her with jaws wide open, jaws she was able to catch and twist to throw the beast aside.
When he heard the hell hounds, he narrowed his eyes as he changed his stance. As one leapt through the air to bite Etrigan, the demon simply caught it by the maw then slammed him down to the ground. “DOWN!” he shouted at the dog, growling and snarling at the demonic beast. The dog then decided it was probably best to obey him and Etrigan quickly swung around to face the other two which were just about on them.
“HEEL YOU INSUFFERABLE CANINES. I AM ETRIGAN. YOUR LORD AND MASTER. HEEL” saying with all the luster of his title. The dogs would come to a screeching halt, their ears laying flat as Etrigan reached down to grab the other dog and threw it at the other two. “AND YOU!” pointing at the one that was on Vesper. “GO JOIN YOUR BROTHERS, NOW!” pointing at the other three, the dog would stop trying to gnaw Rebecca to death and scurry to join his brothers.
“Who sent you?!” saying with a growl as Etrigan strove up to one of them, grasping them by the back of their necks and lifting it up. “Go. Find Azazel. Tell him to feed you.” snarling as he put the dog down, then turned quickly to face Rebecca.
“It seems one of my generals is attempting to take my throne. You know of Asmodeus, correct?”
Vesper was in no threat or danger yet. She had been making her own dance around the canines, reacting quickly and deflecting their attacks to the best of her ability. It was a test of her patience and her rage. She certainly felt like wanting to run them through, to remove their heads from their sinewy necks.
Another round of attacks did not come, the hounds were backing down at the mighty roars of Etrigan. Even Vesper had flinched slightly before pulling herself back together and resuming her stance of confidence. She was looking up, the creatures nested in the cavern above them were watching but they were still fearful.
“I’m still learning. I know of the name, though.”
She didn’t want to presume much more. She felt a realm like this was always in a state of upheaval, it was natural to be challenged. She was still taking in the scenery. This was too small to be the act of another Hell Lord. The old mine, the blood on the walls, the human bones.
She found herself moving towards the tablet of jars to inspect them further. The moment she reached her clawed hand to reach for one, a flash of blinding light sent her screeching, wings and arms folding over to cover her face.
“Lord Etrigan. What a pleasure to see you. I was not expecting visitors. What brings you to my humble operation?”
The demoness’ cloven hooves clopped softly against the ground as she sauntered into the cavern. Her form the very pinnacle of attractiveness as she allowed a leash to dangle between her fingers. It may be no wonder how she lured her victims to their deaths and their destruction.
” Eyes and hearts. Livers and Kidneys. These are the bits of the creatures that make magick go ’round. Fed only the finest and plumpest mortals. Did you bring me a new specimen to play with? She shouldn’t touch my things.”
“Bah! She is with me. Touch her, and I will be sure to feed whatever is left of you to the dogs.” gesturing to the now fleeing dogs. “What are you doing here?” asking as he came closer to the woman. “Girl. Behind me.” telling Rebecca to come behind him as his ‘costume’ changed to something closer to chainmail, and a scabbarded sword appearing on his waist as he narrowed his eyes at her.
“These things are an abomination! You must go back to where you came. Either by force, or of your own volition! Trust me, female, you do not wish to deal my hand.” Saying as his hand clasped the hilt of his sword.
The demoness brought her delicate hand to cover the smirk that came from her lips, ” Oh my, you are so very handsome when you are angry. These things? They are not! They’ve been here, I’ve merely put them to better use. Allow me to demonstrate…”
The realm of Hell was as vast and varied as the realm of Earth but it hit much darker and sinister creatures in its depths. The soft-skinned demoness brought her hand down to her chest.
“Drive these two out of your cavern!”
Vesper didn’t linger where she was but her vision was quite effected by the light. It was a sensitivity she would note and she at least had the voice of the Demon to move towards and hopefully behind as she crouched at the ready, her head angled downwards as she listened, as she waited and her claws dug into the ground. The woman was using the creatures, harvesting them as if they were cattle. The worst of it was she was feeding them with the innocent lives of humans that she had lured through the crack. That act alone was enough justification for Vesper to destroy her before she could cause more harm. It was the right thing to do and she wanted to leap in but it was the commands that held her back.
The creatures were swooping from their perches, angry open maws of sharp teeth coming at the two demons, the screeches filling the air of the cavern with a cacophony of horrible noise. Directing it all was the demoness and in exerting her power to control the beasts, the glamour fell away and revealed her horrible and disgusting decrepit form. Flesh hanging from bone, wrinkles upon wrinkles. Long white greasy hair streaked across her face and the hooked bill of her nose.
Roaring at the bats, Etrigan would spread his wings out and then let his hellfire breath swathe out as he started filling the air with hellfire. Then, he suddenly got an idea. His breath bought them a moment as he looked over his shoulder at Rebecca.
“Girl. I believe you may be able to control the bats. Attempt to connect with them. Show them you are the dominant one. I shall take care of the witch, spread her bones across the nine realms of hell. Make what’s left of her entrails the centerpiece of my collection.” if this works, Etrigan is coming in hellbound for the Lady that was doing all this. “You have been tried and found guilty. Your punishment?! DEATH!” saying as he opened wide and let his breath loose again. Hellfire burns. Burns hotter than any fire, grabs your soul and flays it alive.
Etrigan was hellbent on destroying her. Fully wanting to destroy her, her story, her name. By the time Etrigan was going to get done with her. She was going to not even be a blip on the radar. He’d also make right for what she did, trade their souls back to heaven as they most likely didn’t deserve this.
Etrigan had his focus on the witch, it was enough to allow Vesper to focus on the creatures. Before she could though, Etrigan would feel the weight of her frame on his back as she lept up to get closer to his ear.
“Make her suffer.”
She didn’t want to see this end so quickly, a quick death, even blazed alive like the witch she was? She deserved far worse for breaking through the veil of her own home realm, from reaping the innocents there.
Just as quickly, Vesper had hopped off and took several steps back, her wings stretched as she took a breath and raised her head towards them and just screeched. She was the bigger beast, she was louder than all of them combined and that sound sent them flailing, threw them off balance and sent them scrambling back to their safe places.
“No longer bound by the whims of this demon! Free to live without fear, free to hunt to feed you and yours. If you choose to serve me, then I shall protect you. This will not happen again.”
It wasn’t about dominance, she could lord over them and it would be not much different of a situation that they had been under. This was about doing the right thing, it was about righting the wrong. In this very Kahleesi moment, Vesper was confident, powerful, and commanding.
Etrigan leapt upon the demoness, ripping her limb from limb. Making sure she felt every inch of torture he was going to give her. When it was all said and done, he grabs her heart, ripping it out of her chest easily. Then kicked whatever was left back to where she came from. Walking back over to Vesper, he holds the heart in his hand.
“Eat this. With it, you shall gain her power. Her memories, knowledge.” not really, it was just eating a nasty piece of muscle. But, she didn’t know that. And Etrigan seemed to be selling it quite well. When she took the heart, he turned and started towards where the crack was strongest.
“You shall do well, girl. I believe you will become nothing but astonishing when you are fully trained.” telling her as he recited the poem to let himself and let Jason come back.
Gone now, O Etrigan
And rise again (or rise once more) the form of man!
A storm of hellfire would erupt around Etrigan, and when it died, Jason would be standing there.
“You realize he’s screwing with you, right?”
It was just some silly tale that had gone through humanity through the ages. Eat the flesh of the enemy, gain their powers. It was just an excuse for cannibalism. She took it for what it was though, a little offering of the remains that had otherwise been burnt and ripped to shreds. The suffering she had asked for and at the very least she could show she was thankful.
Carefully she took the morsel from his hand with those very sharp teeth, his bloody and empty palm nuzzled against with the side of her face as her teeth crushed the organ.
It was down that demonic throat before as the rhyme was recited and she took two cautious steps back, tongue rolling over the teeth to hide the evidence.
“Mmmhmmm. You first, Professor.”
She gestured to the opening, it was safer for her to take the rear and hopefully once they were out, they could seal stitch up this hole. It was a lot easier than talking about or thinking about what just happened and what she had done. Maybe those facial markings burned a little more scarlet but it was hard to tell in the darkness.