Sha-UUr’s enormous talon took up most of Jake’s mid-torso as his eyes started to glass over; his skin became pallor as his life began to fade quickly as he looked at Alaric, then looked down at the talon piercing his abdomen and finally looked up at Sha-UUr.
Alaric’s rage began to boil over as he looked up at Sha-UUr, “You just made your last mistake. I’m not sending you back to The Pit. I’m ending you right here and now….” He started walking forward as Jake’s body began to fall off the digit of the Demlo, and it came to a complete stand once more.
What Alaric didn’t see was Jake only falling to a knee, coughing up a gout of blood with what appeared to be a giant grin on his face. Using his right arm to wipe the blood from his mouth, “and here, cough I didn’t, cough think I’d be… cough challenged again.” He stood to his feet completely as Alaric was caught off guard and turned to see what was happening.
“Jake?!” Alaric appeared just as confused as everyone else still standing around. All in shock, the man with no innards was standing back up somehow.
Jake’s grin remained as he looked at Alaric, “I’m sorry, friend, I haven’t been fully honest with you.” He said with a new confidence Alaric had never seen in Jake, the feeble-looking average man with ruffled dirty blonde hair and scruffy facial hair sparse across his face. The giant wound through his abdomen started to heal in front of everyone’s eyes, starting from the inside out. His nervous system could be seen reforming in the massive hole left through his body cavity; once the web of nerves finished, his heart began regrowing along with all his circulatory system’s veins and arteries. His growing beating heart was coupled with breathing lungs and other organs as they grew back from nothing. They were then covered in muscle, bone, and tissue as the healing finally covered the hole with bone and more tissue until it fully healed before everyone. Jake twisted his neck right and left, cracking the vertebrae, and looked up at Sha-UUr again.
“What the fuck is going on?!” Alaric looked confused as he looked back and forth between Jake and Sha-UUr as he took a step back to take in all that was happening.
Jake arched his right brow and then flexed. As he did, his entire form and all his muscles grew exponentially. He reached about twelve feet tall as all his muscles burst through his clothing, growing four times the size they had previously been, exhibiting a strongman’s build with massive arms and core muscles. There was a flash through the sky as if lightning had crackled, and suddenly he was clad in ancient Greecian armor with a helm and an oversized dual-sided axe hanging from his back. Jake removed the helm, letting it fall to the ground and bouncing away as it echoed in the shocked silence. A long flowing mane of red hair fell, draping his face and head. He also had a thick red beard and bright, almost glowing hazel eyes. He pulled the axe from his back, leaped into the air in a flash, and, quicker than anyone could see, swung the massive axe downwards on Sha-UUr, then landed in front of the Demlo. “Unfortunately for you Sha-UUr, I am Ares! And now you may die….” He then clicked his axe on the ground on his last word, and as the vibrations shot through the Earth, Sha-UUr’s body began sliding apart down the center. His guts began to spill out as he split, and he fell back into the hole in two halves. Those still around were in shock, standing in the presence of what appeared to be a Greek god, and from the appearance, they were not doubting his claim at all.
“What in the fuck! Ares?!” Alaric was standing between Ares and the hole, completely confused about what was happening.
“Honestly, Alaric, I’m surprised you didn’t realize it was me sooner. You’re the one who trained me in combat.” Ares walked up to Alaric, and as he approached, his size shrunk down to standing about six foot ten inches.
“What?! I trained you?” Alaric was searching his memory for what he was talking about and was not recalling any of it.
“Well, you did. It was well before you left. Some of us became what these mortals refer to as their gods. It wasn’t on purpose. We tried to help at times, and those of us that did end up getting named by the mortals, and they started worshiping us as well. We found that when they did that, it, well, it changed us. Hence how I became Ares, the Greek god of war.” He put the axe back on his back and started changing to his former form, Jake.
“So you’re telling me you’re an empowered Anglo?” Alaric put his weapon away finally at this point.
“You got it. I used to be an Anglo, and what the mortals did change me forever. The others as well. Of course, not all became mortal deities. There are many more Anglo, especially after your departure. You’ve been missed, but I know you want nothing to do with them. I also left sometime after ancient Greece had fallen and the worship died down.” Jake closed the distance between them.
Alaric glanced around, then back to Jake, “I think we should make a quick retreat after all that.”
Nodding, Jake responded, “That sounds like an excellent idea. Perhaps we should regroup at the apartment and devise something to do next?”
“That sounds like a great plan, however,” Alaric pointed at the bewildered Daemon, “you’re coming with us. I still have more questions for you.” He closed the distance to Daemon and threw him over his shoulder with the ease of a small child being grabbed by their parents. Daemon gave little to no protest at this point, still frozen from the sheer insanity of events that had just transpired and feared for his existence. Alaric turned on his heel and approached Alyse, the Witch who had caused all this unnecessary commotion.
“….” Alyse was stunned and shocked in silence. Not realizing the power of the book she held, nor had she truly believed that anything of that magnitude would have happened. Alaric snatched the book from her arms in one quick lightning-fast motion. Sliding the tome into his jacket where it seemed to vanish much like his sword.
“Now for you,” Alaric shook his head in contemplation and disappointment. His right brow arched up, “now you have a lot of potentials. We’ve all discovered tonight that you are one of the few real Witches out there, one with great power. That means your family lineage must come from ancient magic, as most of the families with power like that have died off by this age we are in now.” He glanced over her shoulder, taking in her aura and seeing no corruption yet. There was a glimmer of darkness; however, he didn’t see any permanent corruption from the most recent event, which he was mostly looking for.
“I… I, I’ve never….” She was still in shock that she had brought that giant Demlo here and grateful that it hadn’t been worse than it already was.
“I can see that you’re not bad. You have had some darkness rub off on you from this book. I recommend a cleansing when you can purge yourself of its taint. I also suggest you be careful with what books you get a hold of from here on out. Trust in your power and your gut. I will check in on you when I get the opportunity, as I can see from your aura that you are not evil by nature, and I trust that knowing what you know now, you will make the right decisions.” Alaric gave her a compassionate look hoping to settle her in this crazy and awkward time when he had too much to deal with to take her in.
Alyse nodded in response. Her eyes were somewhat glossed over. However, she finally did make eye contact with him and nod in confirmation that she understood.
Setting down Daemon on the curbside, Alaric turned to Jake, “Why don’t you get us a cab so we can get the hell out of here.” Hailing down a cab in response, Jake climbed in first as Alaric guided Daemon in second and took one last look around at the scene they were leaving before he climbed into the cab himself as they drove off.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Alaric, but I can’t get us back to The Pit. I’ve been banned for sneaking back too many times. I’m supposed to be a scout for them! I shouldn’t even be here with you, damn it!” Daemon said, sitting on the shabby couch in the abandoned apartment they were loitering in.
“Are you shitting me!? How the fuck did they ban you from The Pit?!” Alaric retorted.
“They cut off my fucking wings, you dick!” Daemon slumped back into the couch.
Sighing, Alaric felt bad for the Demlo “fuck man, I would never have expected them to do that to you. That’s seriously fucked to do to one of their own.”
“What the fuck, seriously?! Did they do that to you? Fuck man, that’s messed up,” Jake piped in. “Well, if that’s the case, what’s our next step to get down into The Pit??
“The only other way I know of would be going through The Gate, but I don’t know if we’ll make it. It’s always full of lost souls, and you cannot be touched by any wandering inside. Otherwise, you will become lost as well. I believe the mortals refer to it as purgatory.” Alaric explained, “I can open a portal for us to get to The Gate, but I can’t get us closer than that, unfortunately.”
Nodding along with Jake, Dameon suddenly realized, “Wait! What?! You’re expecting me to go back with you?!”
“Of course I am Dameon. We’re going to need someone familiar with the area. With your help, we can potentially get in and out. I have a bad feeling that I know who returned from that summoning circle we saw. If I’m right, he’ll let us go unnoticed to get to him and won’t expect us to win in a fight. I’m confident that we can kill him with the three of us. As you know, Daemon, we all can still die. We just lose our abilities and return to our place of origin, trapped forever with no hope of returning.” Alaric paced in front of the two others while he gave this awkward speech.
A shudder ran down Dameon’s spine at the words he was hearing, “I don’t know, man, that fucker is extremely powerful, and you didn’t stand a chance, and you think with us you can?”
“Hey! I’m no bitch you beast! I’m a fucking god! The god of war, to be exact, and I will make sure if he’s who took Kimmy, he will pay, and I’ll give what life I have left to help Alaric achieve this. I’ll drag your happy Demlo ass along if I have to to make this work too.” Jake stood up and got into Dameon’s face with a snarl.
Dameon just turned his head from Jake and rolled his eyes, “For fucks sake, fine! I’ll go willingly, but I’m telling you, shits, this is not a good idea. If we succeed, it will be by some crazy ass miracle. This world is much darker than you all realize.”
Sighing heavily, Alaric responded, “Well, are we ready for this crazy adventure to which we might not return?” He arched his right brow at the two others.
Jake grinned back, nodding in response, “I’m ready to take on The Pit by your side Alaric. It’ll be like the days of old. Perhaps you’ll remember someday.”
Reluctantly, Dameon also responded, “Let’s get this shit over with. If they find me down there, I’m dead, so we better get in without alerting anyone if any of this crazy ass shit works.”
Nodding slowly, Alaric went to the middle of the room, removed his large jacket, and handed it to Jake like before, “hold this for a moment, I need to use these feathers from my wings once again.”
Jake took the jacket from him, nodding as he noticed the feathers bound to his forearms, the same ones he used to open that portal to that other realm where he retrieved his sword. Alaric turned from them as he started speaking in the ancient tongue of the Anglo once again, Jake recognizing the words this time as he deciphered something about an opening to The Gate. He realized he couldn’t understand before due to where Alaric went. It was somewhere Jake wasn’t aware of, a place he couldn’t get to himself.
The chant continued as Alaric danced his hands around in the air. The feathers bound to his arms began to glow, some with a white light and others with a grey light. A soft ring could be heard growing in volume from what seemed centered in front of Alaric. As the sound grew, a light appeared before him, expanding quickly until a large portal opened before the large, scarred-up man. With a huff, his chant stopped as the glow of the feathers on his forearms died down until completely gone, the room now alight from the opened-up portal in the middle of the room.
Grabbing his jacket from Jake, Alaric turned to the two, “Alright ladies, let’s get into some shit.” Alaric gave an odd smirk neither of the two had seen before as he put his jacket on and stepped through the portal.
“Well, let’s kill some Demlo, just like the ancient times,” smiling Jake grabbed Dameon, “Don’t think I’m leaving without you for a second. Let’s go.” He grabbed Dameon by the shirt and pulled him through the portal behind him as he stepped through after Alaric.
The unpredictable party stood before giant doors that appeared to stand in the middle of nowhere. It would look that way to the untrained eye, but to these three, they knew they were doors between realms. No walls were needed as it was a gateway to another realm, and they merely stood before it. The doors stood at least forty feet tall and about ten feet wide each, making a twenty-foot wide doorway. They were cracked open, with enough room for a single person or soul to get through, and through the doors, it was pitch black. These doors remained open so they could leave the essential purgatory, but almost none ever did. Once lost inside, you are lost in your memories, usually ones you couldn’t resolve in life or your regrets while living. However, it was possible to escape if a lost soul found its way to this gap in the doorway. Once through, they would usually rise and enter the Anglo realm, which mortals referred to as Heaven, Valhalla, Nirvana, or whatever various religions’ afterlife might be. They all existed in the Anglos’ realm, in their variant, as all good would end up there. Those of the light, which mortals were all children of the light.
“Alright, are we ready for this suicide mission to possibly save Kimmy?” Alaric turned to the other two.
Jake nodded, “Yeah, let’s get through this and onto the real mission here, saving Kimmy.”
“Yeah, might as well. I’m here now. I can’t get anywhere but follow you two. I don’t know what help I’ll be, but who cares, right?” Dameon was feeling defeated at this point and just along for their benefit.
“Remember what I said,” Alaric warned the others again. “We cannot touch or be touched by any of the souls in The Gate. If so, we’ll be lost in purgatory, reliving some old memory or regret or something. You might not even think you have anything like that, but trust me, deep down inside, somewhere, we all do.”
The other two nodded. Jake patted Dameon’s chest, “Come on, we’ll kick ass and get a win here. We got this, man.” Giving encouraging words to Dameon for the first time in all their encounters.
The three passed through the barrier of The Gate, feeling almost as if they passed through a membrane when they went between the two doors. Once inside, the darkness faded, and a dim greyish light lit the area. The ground was a hardened grey sandstone of sorts, and as their eyes adjusted, they could see faded aspects of individuals, the lost souls. There were too many to count, and they seemed to continue to appear. Once they could see them, Dameon and Jake dodged a few near impacts with a couple instantly, giving off vulgar exclamations in their near misses with joining these lost souls.
“Shit, this might be harder than I thought getting through this part,” Jake exclaimed.
Dameon said, “I’ve never been through here and wished I never had to. I guess you guys made this nightmare come true.”
Alaric turned on his heel to face them, “Alright, this is going to be rough, but we need to get through here as best we can. I don’t know of a way to save anyone from being lost, so if one of us gets touched, including me, just get the fuck out. Mission over, I don’t think we can take on Bahlreq with less than all three of us. If I get caught, leave me, I don’t want either of you losing yourself here because I fucked up and got lost somehow. If we had a way of escaping, I’d say go for it, but we don’t unless you know of something, Dameon? This is the long way to The Pit, after all.”
Dameon shook his head and shrugged, “Naw man, I have no fucking clue how to escape this place if you become lost. It’s why Demlo loves having this realm protecting their entrance. No one tries to get in like us morons,” he rolled his eyes.
“Right, so we better start booking and trying to make good time here. So watch yourself. We will try to move as fast as possible to get this done and over with.” Alaric prepped the others for the crazy plan.
“Sounds good,” Jake was stretching out as he answered.
Sighing, Dameon responded, “Let’s get the dumbest idea over with. No one has gotten through purgatory, so either we’ll all be lost or become part of history and make it, although I doubt it.”
Alaric shook his head to Dameon’s response but had to go ahead regardless. He nodded at each of them and took off in a medium-paced jog. Darting left and right to dodge lost soles here and there. It didn’t seem like it might be all that hard as they were all trotting towards the entrance to The Pit. They could see the souls and see them in plenty of time to get out of the way. Trying to keep some sort of formation as they made their way through the crowd of souls, but diverging this way and that to steer clear of the lost that may get in the way. However, they always came back together to their triangle-type formation with Alaric in the lead.
The three had been running for what seemed to be hours now. Thankfully, all of them were not human, or they couldn’t keep up this pace. Regardless Dameon was showing some signs of fatigue, being that he was one of the lowest types of Demlo. He was powerful but much less than the other two, which showed now as he began to slow.
“Hey, do you need a rest there, Dameon?” Alaric slowed his pace, noticing the changes in Dameon.
“Naw man, I’m good, just…AGH!” Dameon stopped suddenly as he grabbed his right calf and knelt. “Shit! For fucks sake, why do I get a cramp here of all damn places.”
Jaked also stopped, “Oh shit man, no worries, just massage that shit out, walk it off the best you can, and we’ll get back on our way. I don’t think we can stay here long, or these souls might see us and try to make us one of them. I don’t know how it works, but it’s been getting rougher the deeper we get in and closer to The Pit. But we are close, I can feel it, the power from the Demlo, that energy from them, it’s familiar and close.”
Nodding, “Yeah, I hear ya, man. I’d much rather be running,” Dameon was massaging his right calf muscle with both hands as best he could.
“Alright, Jake, keep a lookout so we don’t get caught off guard. We can’t afford to get someo….” Alaric suddenly stopped mid-sentence as a soul walked up and grabbed him. His eyes dimmed grey as the soul let go and walked towards Jake, who quickly dodged as he cried out.
“NOOOOO! Alaric! Fuck!!” After dodging the soul, he returned to Alaric, “Dameon, watch your ass, man. They just got Alaric!”
“Oh, for fuck sake! Not him! He was the fucking ace man. Without him, we’re fucked!” Dameon exclaimed as he worked on his calf muscle quicker and started to hobble towards Jake, it becoming easier the more he worked it out through the walking.
“Fuck, fuck fuck! What do we do?” Jake was starting to panic, never thinking that Alaric, of all of them, would have been touched by one of the lost.
“He said we fucking ditch him. We get the fuck out of here. You heard him, man, his words,” Dameon wanting just to abandon the whole mission and leave Alaric in purgatory.
“What the fuck, man?! We can’t just leave him! We need to save Kimmy! We have to. She’s innocent in all of this crap. That fucking Demlo is using her to get to him.” Jake was with him.
Dameon said, “Well, that’s what he said, we don’t stand a chance against Bahlreq, and you know it. If Alaric is lost here, then we’ve got nothing to worry about from that thing.”
There were bodies everywhere, dead, wounded, crying out in pain, reaching for him. Alaric was standing on a mound of bodies. He looked around, and he could see winged Anglo fighting and no Demlo anywhere. It was only Anglo, giant white wings on their backs as they fought creatures and monsters that were horrific just to glimpse. Their appearances shook even slightly as he stood under a clouded sky, white and black lightning crackling overhead, emanating power he’d never felt before, or had he? There was an odd grey light in one area of the sky, a giant creature looking of death and decay, as it fought next to a being exhibiting extreme white light, each swing of its weapon slayed beasts and monsters alike. The grey death being seemed to be working with the being of light. A woman with long glowing blonde hair, her weapon of choice was a giant two-handed mace. Muddied with what looked like black blood, if that’s what it was. She was slaying things left and right. Her speed was unmatched on the battlefield. As for the decaying giant, it was flinging beings from one end of the battlefield to the other. The two of them and an army of what appeared to be Anglo were going through an army of creatures and monsters he’d never thought of. Things that towered over the battle, some things flying through the air. One thing was clear, the light and grey were winning what appeared to be an unwinnable battle.
The ground began suddenly shaking beneath his feet as he stuttered to keep his balance. Looking around, he realized the bodies were sinking, and he wasn’t actually on the ground but sinking into what seemed to be some unexplainably huge maw. Something’s mouth and its size were immeasurable. It was bigger than the galaxy even. The battle he was watching was just above this maw.
“Alaric, stop screwing around and send the Abyss back to its realm. Send it back to its slumber. This is our realm now, and we will beat back the horde of ancient gods and create a new realm of light, one of life and wonder. Do it now!” The woman of light, glowing elegantly and blindingly, her light outright killing most of those she went against before she could even swing her mace.
Ancient dark gods? Alaric thought to himself. What the fuck is going on here? He was confused but knew he was about to die if he didn’t get out of this maw. He knelt to spread his wings and realized he had none, there were no wings, no scars, yet he was covered in black sticky blood. He could feel it all over his body. The feeling was unmistakable. He turned to the closest side of the maw and rushed it. As he moved, he realized he was moving at a speed unknown to him, faster than he ever thought he could. This had to be a dream, some grandeur dream he was having or something. Having reached the maw, he slipped, not used to the speed as his arm hit one of the teeth, which cut his arm clean off, leaving a bloodied stump. He stopped in shock, looking at his arm and feeling an odd tingling at the end, as suddenly his arm just regrew right before his eyes.
“NOW, ALARIC! We don’t have time!” The woman cried out to him as she continued to mow down the hordes of creatures trying to end her.
He turned to the tooth that originally took his arm and sent a solid kick its way as it snapped clean off, and he could hear the cry out from the massive maw that was cosmic in size. The sound pierced his ears, and from that very cry, beings exploded, those of light and dark alike. Both sides lost members from the sound emanating from it. Alaric kicked up the tooth and swung it against the beast as he leaped out of its mouth. Floating without wings now, just like the glowing woman above him. He looked up at her to see her getting speared by something that sent several spikes through her body all at once, catching her off guard as he could see a blackness almost corrupting her, coming from the wounds as it began to cover her.
The decaying colossal monstrosity slammed down on the maw as well. This impact sent it down, hurtling downward and continuing to vanish from sight as Alaric looked up at the woman. He reached out for her as she reached for him.
“Don’t forget. You are so much more Alaric. You are their only hope, the last hope. Don’t forget… Brother.” She said as his vision went dark once more.
The two were dodging lost souls as they were arguing with one another, standing in front of Alaric, who stood there, eyes grey and lost. Their argument was futile as the souls began to converge on them all.
“Fuck, this is it. I guess we’re all going to be lost now,” Dameon, with his usual pessimism, added to their situation.
“Just shut up! We can do something. I just feel it! I do, you don’t kno…. Gah!!” Jake was cut off by a sudden blinding light that flashed.
“What the fuck?!” Dameon covered his eyes from the pure white blinding light as it faded.
The lost souls around them quickly began to disperse after the flash. Then in the close distance, the light came back, but steadier this time, and coming closer, as if something was bringing them light.
“There, Dameon, right there! It’s help, it’s got to be!” Jake said excitedly.
The light continued to get closer as Alaric was the only lost soul still standing in the area, his grey eyes staring at the light as if he could see it as if he was coming out of it. As the light got closer, the two standing there, shading their eyes from the light, came to realize it was a soul giving off this light. The soul of a gorgeous female, her beauty was that of legend, and Jake and Dameon stood there in awe of her.
She closed her distance to Alaric and, once she made her way to him, brought up a hand to his face, smiling sweetly as she caressed his cheek. Leaning forward, she kissed his forehead, and his eyes returned to normal as Alaric came to. He shook off the purgatory and came back to them all. The lost soul of the woman smiled bigger and said, “Brother, you have so much more to do, more hope to bring. Your journey doesn’t end here, nor does mine. But my battle has just begun, and you have given me hope once again that my battle is winnable. Thank you, Brother. I hope to see you again.” Leaning forward, she kissed his cheek, and as her light faded, her soul vanished.
“Sister. Sister?” A single tear fell down Alaric’s left cheek as she faded away.
To Be Continued…
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