Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Circ
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“Folly o’er meself for a horn-gape’d damsel’s bleedin’ font,” flapped and squalled Uí Senan, for, such little as he remembered, that was his name, afterwhich he collapsed, “but I’er now right dry’er ‘n pur’r than me muth’rs vitrified muff!”

Indeed, he was dry. Moved by forces beyond his ken, he was made, as much as possible, fit for his transformed environ. Nary a blot of piss nor fleck of feces besmirched the regal wool banners that composed his person. Roundabout, he saw no fountain, no buildings, no darkness; rather, beheld he a chamber vast, a court fit for a Pope, yet filled with undignified commoners engaged in all manner of games. Repulsive as the fountain, in its own way, this hall roared loud in scene and sound, incessant, tumultuous, violent. Soon he felt numb, overstimulated. Noticed neither Selena nor his fellow fountain diver. The place reeked profusely of the finest liquors, headiest tobaccos, and richest perfumes. More flesh and fiends than he could tally sat, stood, and stooped over tables and before boxes that boomed the Devil’s very infernal machinations, each knob pull and button smash unholy.

“Ste. Limrick’s unslicked shaft, preserve me!” he screeched, visually violated, and backed himself against a wall. Uí Senan’s horrors increased, for the wall grabbed him! Snatched him right up, suspended him in place like Christ on the cross or so much gaudy decor. He couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t cry! With a hiss, or a thud, or a vibrato, he felt the black velvet fleur de lis impel its purpose, “Oh, you’ll be preserved! Know at last the meaning of silence as the Pleiades sucks dry your vile soul!”
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Forge
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Allure City, The Courtyard Out Front


Aleck stepped out of the car, his sneakers hitting the concrete at the front as the valet opened the door. His eyes took in the scene around him, the blinding lights putting on their dazzling display, the people milling around the entrance coming and going. A lot of them not human, but some of them were - and all of their minds screamed either luck or the lack thereof. They screamed internally from losing it all, everything down the drain as they wasted away their life savings in the games they found within. On the other hand, some screamed of happiness and hope. They either were going in, hopeful of winning more than they brought - and of retiring from their mundane lives. Others were leaving, their minds screaming the happiness of having won exactly that. It meant nothing, though. They all thought they had an edge in life, something to help them or to make things better for them. Aleck knew it for false hope, something the city offered but never actually provided.

Aleck walked through the front door, held open by a sturdy looking man. Clearly someone there to deter a would be thief, or perhaps put an end to a fight breaking out between drunkards. Aleck simply nodded as he passed, definitely giving him a once over and realizing he wasn't a threat. If Aleck wanted to fight him, he'd make short work of the man. It helped being able to read their thoughts, know what their next moves were going to be, sometimes even before they did. He snapped his attention back to what was in front of him. The casino floor filled with people, their voices a cacophony. A symphony of happiness and sorrow. He tuned it out, though. The same as their thoughts. Closing his mind, something he learned from a young age growing up in a home full of psychics. Something he excelled at, though his other family members not so much.

Striding through the people, pushing past them, he walked past the screaming bells and whistles of the slot machines and video games. He pushed past the people playing blackjack and other games of pure luck and chance. He wanted something that required skill, though his particular skills gave him an edge others didn't have. Finally, his eyes caught what he sought. The tables were nearly full, especially the lower end ones where the common people played for pennies and dimes.

Walking to the cages, he pulled out the wad of cash he got from Tommy, and counted it out. Ten thousand dollars. A lot of money to carry around in your pocket, but Tommy always was the flashy type. He passed it through the cage, "Can I exchange this, ma'am?" He said, knowing they'd exchange it without question. His fingers tapped idly while they counted out the chips, and then passed them through the opening to him in their little holder. "And can you direct me to the no-limits tables, I don't want to waste my time with the common riff-raff, ya' know?" His charming smile warmed his face, and touched his eyes - a simple trick to get what he wanted.

"Yes sir, I'd be happy to show you the way personally. Follow me." She said as she stepped from behind the cage, and began to lead him through the tables toward a door at the back. His eyes wandered from her to the people around him, only to land back on her. As they neared the door, he pulled out one of the one hundred dollar chips and tipped her as she opened the door for him. "Right through here, sir. You'll find the games with the kind of money you want, though..you may need more chips."

"Don't worry, darling, I'll get the chips I need." Once again, his charming smile warmed his face and he walked through the door. Quickly he discerned a table worth playing at, and sat down. "So, gentlemen, what's the game?"

"Hold 'em, no limits. Blinds at five and ten. You sure you can handle this game, though, bud? You don't seem like the kind to have what it takes to be in this room, let alone at our table." A burly man in a nice suit, clearly someone of status, leaned out of the shadows with a big cigar in his mouth. "You should just leave, while you still have shoes on your feet to leave with." His boisterous laugh echoed in the room, nearly silent for the seriousness of the game. The sound of chips, the smell of velvet, stale smoke, and staler liquor permeated his nostrils, which flared almost in anger.

"Sure, bud. I'll be big blind this hand, I suppose, and I only brought ten thousand in chips. So, definitely going to have to win this one." With that said, he put his chips down and leaned back, smiling. Already, he was reopening his mind - focusing it on the seven other players at the table. Focusing it on reading their thoughts, both surface and subconscious. Before he left, he'd be rich and full of knowledge of all the seedy business these gentlmen knew.


The Courtyard, Aeternus


Valkyr's gaze darkened as the magic ebbed out of his body, his torn flesh repairing itself even as the magic ripped it apart. He listened to the words of the shit-stained old man, whose words he barely understood as anything comprehensible. HIs fingers flexed for a moment, and in the stillness of the air wind stirred - shifting the scent of the man away from him. He stopped as the other responded, his yellowed teeth behind the ever-dark hood baring themselves in contempt. Turning his gaze from the one, to the lights switching themselves back on. Already annoyed, the lights turning back on in defiance of him only seemed to anger him more. Though, he could sense the source of its power. His eyes turned from that, to the distance - where he felt something drawing upon the power of magic. The screaming, boisterous roar of a monster lashing out in the darkness.

Valkyr calculated a dozen things at once, and then a voice that broke through him like fire burning through his veins and ripping through.
"Another task for you, Valkyr, return."

As the words ripped through his body and burned his very essence, he turned his robbed gaze toward the casino, sighed - and as suddenly as he was there, he was gone. Robes dropped to the ground in a heap, a pile, and his body simply gone and dispersed from Aeternus in that quick moment. Pulled away by a power far beyond even his own comprehension, much less the comprehension of those others who thought this place a home.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Despereaux
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The Pleiades Casino & Resort: the Lounge

<< Theme: Interloper >>

Vast yawns a tumultuous clash. Flecks of glass, leaden scraps engross my locus where focus-framed dust bold and foul billows, a perfidious cloud opaque before a phantom form, envoy of Bastest. Tightening my grip on my saucer’s brim, I seek to anchor myself in this reality. From red eyes inquisitive to red imp ribald, who, amid sanguine strobes and tremors distant, I observe creep into the mantle’s gloom. A sense of wrongness permeates the space. This all feels amiss. I feel my depths revolt, my perspicacity in doubt. The intermittent glow of those violent flares expose the imp’s, I dread, true nature as ephemeral, phantasmal and incoherent—a device of my mania. Implausible, upsetting, my mind insists on occult preconceptions, my mind compels me to forget.

The imp is whole. The window is whole. Watching me is, perhaps, just a cat.

I know, as usual, nothing.

Reset, I collapse upon a walnut and velour boudoir and absently inquire, “Is this chaos not eerily familiar?”

“An intrusion that sits beyond the cycle,” I receive in cryptic riposte.

I grasp neither the question I posed nor the response it elicited; thus, I ponder, forgetful, my awareness drifting someplace far removed. I cannot be here, this mere imagination, this dream, this figment.

Abandoning my faculties and surrendering myself to the alluring fragrance of calumny, pretense and vituperation arising from my decanter, I unhurriedly rotate the stop and compel its effluence into an artfully-wrought demitasse trembling on my saucer. Peering down, I inhale deep the lies that darken the vessel’s interior, an ichorous rust muddling throughout the veil of tenebrous smog. I fancy that by consuming such, I might discern that which is false, itself a pursuit I find worthy to plight my troth.

A single sip, and calm I ask, “What awaits within the cycle?” Thereat, the imp responds without words, red wire fingertip’s talon accusing an iron drum table in a corner, adjacent to my reclining form. Melted by the Amduat’s 11th hour, the iron drips along its stanchion. A book atop, flesh-bound, sanguine, worn, glossy, lustrous. All around me bleeds the same hue, a testament to the avant-garde, the exaggerated, the overwrought. This hotel, this lobby and this sham existence. Flicking the cover aside, I sense a portent of its power over me. Increasingly authentic, the imp implores, “None but you dare touch it, neither Nightwhisper, nor Ealdorman, nor Iblis. From it, you recite. You... you pray, my Lady Ruohtta.”

Scorn and defiance igniting within me, I retort, “Pray? Fool! How so, like this?” and I cast myself from the chair upon an exquisite lapis lazui rug. Knees delve the soft, rich texture, my fists clench before me, aloft, my breasts heave and breath quickening as I face the unknown, my face lifting in rapture and defiance toward whoever or whatever lurks beyond.

I breathe deep, yet, there is only emptiness.

Increasingly furious, beyond reason and explanation, I cast down my gaze, my cheek flattening against the stinging gray fabric wrapping my thighs. Spine bowing, I fling wide my arms in a parody of supplication, embracing mockery, splaying my fingers through the intricate pile weave and sardonically wailing, “Or is it thus?”

In that moment, an answer, a repudiation. A coldness seizes me, gripping my shoulder-blade, the whole of my form convulsing. I lurch back, unnatural, scapula perversely prominent. Something, a sinister inertia, forces my face into the rough-hewn yarn. Thrown by forces unseen, I gaze at the ceiling’s vault, a view of heaven, of stars, of the deceiver’s works. Rigid, my toes and fingertips pierce through to wooden planks, my back arches, my body levitating in its tight gown. I grit my teeth, and hiss through them with a venomous tongue not nearly my own, or what I imagine must be my own. Words at last spoken rather than a conversation imagined, throat speech that reverberates malevolently from the hole in my cheek:

Dajashk, Preshtat:
Leth-craven, womb-devourer!
I summon thee!

Damballa Dajashk:
Omen of the spiral-mined eye;
Mirrored, infinite, omniscient, abyssal;
I command thee!

Damballa Preshtat:
Fiend with nine wings;
Both whirlwind and void;
Boast, conflagration, my message beyond the lacuna!
I unleash thee!


A pallor devours color in the chamber, leaving behind a monochromatic void. Beneath my twitching, floating figure, bathed in the spectral glow of the white diamond stars encrusted in the canopy, they whisper their secrets, their luminous facets mirroring my own inner turmoil, and in them I behold reflections. I, an epicenter, concealing a hate-birth black, insidious, creeping. I know not whether this is formed of roots, fingers, veins or perhaps an ersatz amalgamation of all three, but nevertheless it surges from beneath me; a tree of unlife. What it touches decays. The once-luxurious rug crumples, dust swirling against the wind’s natural course. The imp, no more, retreating behind a secret door, vanishing into shadows. The chair, a pile of mildew and termites feasting on its rotting wood. Up the wall it races. Around the window it reaches. One hue, one saturation, one inexorable aim. A place where time ends, the Land of No More.

Overcome with strange joy, I close my eyes, surrendering to the enigma.

Out of sync with time, I slumber.

That is when I remember. When I sleep. When I stare at the scars on my fingertips, just below my fingernails, in confusion. It isn’t vivid. An imprint, that’s what it is. So easy to forget. I wait. Nothing happens, but ever something feels as though it is about to happen. Expectation, I suspect. I stride slowly the night trail and hide my face from the elongated silhouettes of looming pines. They remind me, but of what I know not. Are their secrets memories or warnings? The pines whisper, but their language eludes me. I shun their scenery, drawn by forces beyond comprehension toward a destiny entwined with forgotten echoes.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Divorarel
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Samantha Ansegisel—Sammie if she liked you; and she didn’t like you—was a girl on a mission. Marching through the streets of Aeternus with her back straight and her nose in the air. Once upon a time she might have right there beside the devils and demons of this blighted city bargaining for the souls of the unaware but not anymore, she’d turned over a new leaf, she was an agent of high heaven.

An angel, in-training, an intern if you will.

So determined was she that Samantha walked right past a man being turned into stone by a gorgon. Drunkards pissed in fountains and dragons tore through buildings and she ignored every one of them, marching all the way up to Pleiades Casino & Resort with the black gym bag carrying her magic staff clutched against her side. Samantha was not particularly large by any standard. Only four-foot-ten, but that made her two inches taller than her master and exceptionally large for a cat, which she almost certainly was. Don’t be fooled by black sailor uniform with its pink ascot and pleated skirt. Samantha was covered in fine white fur from head to toe, despite trotting on two legs, with cat ears hanging lopsidedly out either side of an off-kilter black hat. Sure she had pink hair but some cats do. Do not be fooled by the fake wings on her back or the mask that she wears, depicting a cats face, because only an idiot would think a cat (demonic) would disguise herself as a cat (also demonic).

Samantha strategically times her approach behind a man she did not know was named Aleck with all the confidence of a bodyguard before breaking away as he exchanged a—frankly absurd—sum of money and turned her attention to the front lobby. A demons age did not correlate with its height. Some of them were very tiny and would always be that way, like imps for example, but they were oft bullied because of it which is why there was no ‘short people’ service desk beside the one that she could barely peek over with slitted feline eyes and stare at the attractive vaguely female thing they put up front.

“Can I help you, young lady.”

Her tail crinkled with elation, the disguise was working.

“Purrhaps, I’m here on very important mission, can mew direct me to Mister Vileiro’s office?”

“I’m afraid he’s busy, can I help you with something?”

Expecting this answer already, Samantha had chosen her smuggest mask for the day, reaching into her coat pocket to produce a sky-blue business card that she promptly slid across the desk and in the demon’s direction. There was a golden cross on front and doves flying away from it. And in florid gold script it read: [Ansegisel Exorcism Services]

“It’s furry important that I see him as soon as pawssible, I’m here to kill him you see.”

“. . .”

“In the name of God, pawcourse.”
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by THE ADORATION
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"You know why they built the roads in this town the way they did? It's a spell."

The Yellow's voice came from the front of the cab, up past the loose black partition curtain. It sounded like it was from somewhere you'd heard of but had never been. A way of speaking that sounded maybe a little old, a little gruff, but one that made you bone-deep certain you'd get where you needed to be, safe and in good time.

"It all twists like a snake, and every time you ride the loop, it's like you're doing a prayer. But it's one of those prayers that nobody knows the words to anymore, just the motions to do it right."

The back of the cabin was plush, but in a way that felt twenty years out of style. Clean, too. He occupied the back passenger seat, while his package leaned up against the space behind the Yellow, stretching from floor to ceiling. It made the air dimmer, that thing: like it sucked up the light from the flares of hellfire that made it through the taxi's smoked glass. Nobody liked being around it, not even back home.

"So who's the prayer to," he asked, shifting in his seat to try and peer through the slit in the fabric, "why would the damned pray for anything? Nobody goes below because they made friends up top."

"My opinion?" said the Yellow in a way that suggested it was gospel, "it's the True King of High Hell. Though I don't know why you'd bother praying to the dead instead of for them."

He didn't reply, and the cabin lapsed into silence. Neon burned the sky to ashes outside, outshining the magma below. Living billboards promised the spark of the divine, the grace of Eden for the lowest price in town, guaranteed.

He'd ridden along with it (or maybe within, he was never quite sure if it was the person in the front or the vehicle itself) five times. Five different jobs, and there was no discretion like that of the Yellow. It was fine for a driver to talk while he was on the clock, but if he was still talking when the meter stopped, that was a problem.

He leaned against the glass and drifted. The same transient world, no matter where you go. Everybody on their way to somewhere else, even if they don't know it yet.

"Almost there," the driver warned.

"You need help with your baggage, sir?"

He ran a claw across the hilt and then down, letting it tease the edges of the white ribbons that crisscrossed the sheath. There was the faintest shimmer of something where he made contact with it.

"No, I'll manage," he answered, "you don't want to touch this."

-----

The door to the Yellow clicked shut behind him, and by the time Meowlexander Paralabane could turn, the cab had vanished. You never saw it arrive or leave; it was there exactly when you needed it and gone the moment you no longer did. Still, it didn't stop him from trying to catch it in the act. He knew he'd manage it one day: he was faster than he looked, and getting quicker all the time.

The Pleiades was pretty in an old school kind of way, like the promise of a grandeur that would become in part your own just by walking through the doors. He wondered if it had been designed to mirror the worlds above, or if architects had dreamed of a stately hell which contained it. Maybe neither, maybe both, it didn't matter so much in the end.

He made sure that the package was strapped securely to his back by its ribbons before joining the river of the damned and stepping inside. The entrance hall was lavish in a way that only money could buy, and his ears flattened back at the cascade of shouts, screams, wails and cries that burst from every direction. It was premium pandemonium, a taste of the chaos of the pit before you descended to gamble away your forever.

His whiskers drooped and he idly licked his paw, running it over his tortishell fur. There were too many people in here to spot her easily, he supposed. There were probably too many people to spot her even if they gave him control of all the cameras. But he had to start somewhere, so paws on the ground...so to speak.

He approached the nearest service desk - a rare island of calm in the churning broil of the eager fallen - and cleared his throat. His bushy tail flipped back and forth as the employee turned to face him - a three-faced deva with as many winning smiles and carefully-folded wings of infested spider webs behind her back. Meowlexander narrowed his lone eye, unsure of which of hers to look into, and spoke:

"Excuse me, I'm looking for a friend. Who do I need to talk to about finding a missing purrson?"
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Faithy
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What a night… Garrett mulled over the events while the cab took him home, not really paying much attention to what was going on around him. By the time he reached home, the auburn realized just how exhausted he was and said his thanks to the driver before sliding out of the cab, closing the door. Heading to the apartment building, he used the code to get inside and headed up to the condo. Unlocking the door, he headed inside, glad that the place was empty.

"Thank goodness… I need sleep. After a shower… No… sleep first." Arguing back and forth with himself, Garrett finally just moved to his bed, collapsing onto it after dropping bag and shoes onto the floor. Curling up, it wasn't long before the fit male was out cold. Unsure how long he had been asleep, Garrett was rudely awoken by giggling and loud clanging sounds. Groaning in irritation, he figured it was another twat brought home by Jimmy, his roommate. How he couldn't figure that the girls he continually dated were not good for him wasn't clear to Garrett, but he had yet to bring home someone that wasn't a complete and total tart. Sighing, Garrett rubbed his fingers against his golden-green eyes before rolling over onto his stomach. Yanking the covers around him while burying his head beneath a pillow, the male tried to go back to sleep.

"Damn it all to hell…" Grumbling when the giggling grew louder, Garrett realized that Jimmy must've had the female over last night and they were just getting up. He had a few days off and was clearly enjoying himself.

"SHUT UP!" Garrett shouted, grabbing a box of kleenexes that were beside the bed on the table. Throwing them hard at the door, he curled up, begging his brain to shut back off so he could go back to sleep. The giggling quieted down and when Jimmy shouted an apology, he couldn't help but roll his eyes.

He laid in bed for about an hour longer, just listening to the movie that the two were watching. It sounded like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which wasn't surprising. He liked it a lot. After a bit longer, Garrett moved out of the bed into the bathroom that was connected to his room. Stripping, he tossed his clothing into the hamper before climbing into the shower. He took a very long shower because, unlike most guys, he liked long showers. Once certain every inch of his body was clean, he shut off the water and wrapped a towel around his waist.

"Mm... hope work is as productive tonight as it was last night. Especially since I was supposed to be off tonight." Musing a bit, he headed back into the bedroom in order to strip his sheets and put on fresh ones, hoping that would help him sleep better.

It wasn't long until he was digging through his closet, trying to figure out what he wanted to wear to work. Normally his costumes were kept in his locker at the strip club, but he had brought a lot of them home to fix them up and launder them and hadn't quite gotten to the point of taking them back yet. Musing, he finally settled on his cowboy outfit, complete with a Stetson hat. Grinning, Garrett pulled it out before gently folding it up into his work bag. Glancing at the time, he sighed and headed to the closet, pulling on a pair of sweats and red tank, knowing he'd change once he got to the Club.

Grabbing his bag, he exited his room and glanced around at the sudden silence. It appeared Jimmy and his tart were already gone and he just rolled his green eyes as he moved out of the apartment, locking the door behind him. Catching a cab, Garrett gave directions to work and leaned back as the driver headed to where he directed. Once the cab reached its destination, he paid before sliding out and heading into the backdoor of the Pleiades Casino & Resort waving at the security guard.

"Alright, let's see what I can do on my supposed day off." Mumbling more to himself than anyone else since he had entered the dressing room by this point, Garrett put his bag in his locker. Grabbing out his outfit, he stripped out of his everyday normal clothing and pulled on a pair of assless chaps, the Stetson, and slid on the vest that showed off his scrawny yet fit body. Nodding, he locked up his locker before heading to the bar to get a drink before his performance started.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Circ
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—— Earth F67X: the Asomatous Détente & Terrestrial Customs

When Ilaria flutters up to the service desk, it appears unoccupied. Opposite the gold-flecked slate surface, she sees nobody. Nor, really, anything other an inchoate whirling maelstrom. Worse, it is mostly free of clutter. Only one item of note rests upon it, an antique gilt frame. Therein pictured is a Ghibli-esque depiction of a demonic black feline gasconading its dull, opaline wings, flared feathers reminiscent of a painted bunting’s. Malefic rosso corsa eyes reflect forbidden abyssal sigils and hint at hunger, narcissism, and a haughty ego. Scrawled in black sludge on the picture frame is the message out to lunch — Tāwhaki.



While angelic and innocent, Ilaria is no fool, and defies the infernal ruse. She locks eyes with the catmonic creature in the picture and politely, but firmly, requests, “Excuse me, may I go through?”

No reaction, but as the minutes pass, the cat’s cloying ceases to entertain, so it sighs, and stalks out of the picture frame, a consecutive three-tailed taunt brushing underneath Ilaria’s nose. Flames accompany each tap of its amber claws against the slate slab, and it turns its rear to her, tails aloft, glances over its shoulder, and huffs, “Mark your name, god-slave, along with your destination, reason for your terrestrial sojourn, and the names of the humans you desire to vex,” — and taps a foreclaw on a piece of parchment that was not present prior.

“To whom am I speaking?” Ilaria demands.

Reclining on the slab directly in front of the frame, which now houses an erupting volcano, the feline licks its paws slowly, ignoring Ilaria, but eventually gets bored, yawns, stretches, and replies, “Tāwhaki, drude and prince of Balam, unrivaled magician, seer of past and future, gestalt of lies, spawn of fire and ash, and ...” he allows for a dramatic paws, “duty agent of f67x’s terrestrial customs and metaphysical portal containment and control.”
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by 54v
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—— The Pleiades Casino & Resort: Courtyard - Aeternus

She was about to say something to the man, but the one coming from behind her took priority and left her indebted to speak to the sewer-like being later. Though the bike came to a stop Selena had not yet turned it off. The torque-biased engine was especially made for bursts of speed at the cost of top speed, such as those needed when she saw someone icky, let out an “Ew!” accompanied by a scowl of disgust, and had to get away from the source of her displeasure as fast as possible. Many such cases.

“Wait a second-” She let out, looking back through the rearview mirror at the stranger and thought: “That could be the anomaly I detected earlier!” And as she expected, once she brought her PDA up to scan the stranger she found that he was the source of the strange pierce into the dimension. By now she had made some distance which meant she could whip the vehicle around once again to address him directly. “I also need some help, actually…” She said as she attached the phone-like device to the end of her blade and chucked it at the diseased fellow that tried to ambush her, her disposition towards him changing on a dime like a dwarf seeing a particularly blue and large diamond at the mines.

Hair-like metallic tendrils began to pour out of the cell phone-like with disregard to the sewer man’s current disgusting physique, digging deep into his face skin and then attaching itself to him like some sort of long legged metal millipede facehugger. Heat began to come off the device as it began to process whatever information it could suck out of the man, boiling his skin like a frying pan left over the fire too long, and then was set alight from the putrid vapors coming off of the goop that he had been covered with.

While that transpired she turned her attention to the other poop man that seemed far friendlier. “You are yourself? What is that supposed to mean?” She said as she raised a brow. This was far more important of a question than how a turd could talk, and why it was scottish. Though her thoughts would have to wait as the floor suddenly decided to no longer be solid.

Selena acted quickly, her legs moved to stand on the seat of her motorcycle, pushing down as she jumped out of the trap with a “Ha! Outsmarted you, silly magical floor.” but then, she realized she had forgotten about her PDA. “Ah fuck, hold on.” She said, reaching out to try to grab the phone from the blankety courtyard only to fall in regardless. So much for being smarter than the floor.

Her transition into the strange realm made her get on high alert, the surroundings changing as she pocketed the floating device and looked around, unsheathing her blade, her gaze darting around in a predatory manner. The fear was mirrored, though instead of showing it Selena kept her head cold. Her eyes were intense, like a fire piercing through the darkened veil that the demon clone tried to cover her with. No openings were made, they were equal in skill even if not in soul or mind. Eventually either would slip, she knew it, the other knew it, the devil thought it would be her, Selena also thought that, and when it happened, she striked only to find… Nothing. From her focus she had completely ignored the angel, not that she would know it was her as she had not interacted too much with Ilaria past receiving orders through her communicator.

—— The Pleiades Casino & Resort: Thalgrim’s Gambling Quarters - Aeternus

She landed roughly, falling first and then having her bike fall on top of her. “Ow.” She let out, pushing the large vehicle aside and looking around. “Where…?” She thought out loud, squinting her eyes as she looked around at the bright casino. Many things were happening around her, but what she cared about the most was getting out of here. “Where am I?” She asked one of the roulette players, being infuriated by his lack of a response and then asking the next, and then the next, until she finally gave up and instead reached out to grab the roulette ball, hopefully getting the attention she wished to get. This unfortunately left the PDA to crawl back to her, removing itself from the man it had stuck onto, now a charred corpse and with slush for brains.

—— Earth F67X: the Asomatous Détente & Terrestrial Customs

“Very well.” Ilaria replied simply. She reached out and gave the paper a glance, her mind rapidly recognizing the format even if ancient and perhaps purposefully obscure. The document would have no validity if she filled it improperly, leaving her stuck until she figured out the correct way to fill the form were it not for the fact she was gifted with the power to deal with bureaucracy. Inside her brain hundreds of thousands of formats, regulations, typefaces and records came to fill in the blank spaces on the piece of parchment. She had to use a very specific ink, a non-standard font, and precision that only a machine could afford her. The problem of course being the irregular parchment size she was given.

She was silent, her halo spinning in ticks like the rapid dial of a rotary phone both clockwise and counterclockwise as her wings fragmented and slid forwards like thin paper over her arms. The pure white shifted, forming pale transparent yet luminescent rolls and lasers, some crumbling to black dust as the machine formed at the base of the paper, adjusting to its size and giving the document a double pass, backwards then forwards as it filled both sides of the form. The LaserJet finish was impeccable, ink codified as regulation stated would need to be applied from toner rather than regular printer ink, leaving a professional finish on the documentation.

She was showing off clearly. Her office efficiency and capabilities were enough to win the Excel championship from its beginning until the last blackhole would evaporate, beating all other applicants by a 50% time differential every time even after the handicap of only being able to use one hand and a 1992 IBM ThinkPad. A monster of white collar work, and she had to make it severely clear to the feline. “I am done.” She declared, the document detailing with rigor why a stay on Earth was necessary to adjust for the human sensibilities as outlined in the latest version of Regulations on the interactions with mortal beings, page 78, item 67, addendum 1. and Expanded guidelines for the proper treatment of extra-planar entities, page 1172, article 5, subsection 13.
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The broker was unremarkable to behold. He had chosen a nondescript face to wear, with skin too relaxed where it was not pulled overly taut against his skull. Its graying hair, overdue for a trim and worn combed back, gave the appearance of old dust newly settled under the hum of dimmed and faded lighting. He presided over an enclave of abandoned wares, carved out within a row of mundane storefronts, with nothing to set it apart from its fellows beyond a single row of scribbled glyphs hidden within its signage. Those markings alone declared his store to be one of several destinations at the end of a twisting labyrinth of hidden icons, scattered throughout Aeternus. Many such havens were open to those who knew how to read the guide marks.

Should anyone stumble upon his domain unawares, they would find only a pleasant middle aged man in khakis and a burgundy sweater vest. Not human—palpably, by association alone—but something comfortable enough within a man's skin that he was well set in the role. A something that was beneath notice, always comfortable in a pawnshop selling old books, peculiar antiques, and forgotten nicknacks brought hither from the human realms above. Those public rooms were more cabinet of curiosity than they were a brokerage.

The back rooms, on the other hand, were reserved for those careful few that followed the markings with clearer intent than the careless wandering of the odd vagrant soul: or of the odder living human that had taken a few too many wrong turns in life. More than one had, in desperation, spent their last days hawking the few lingering possessions that remained to tether their souls to the worlds above.

Within that private antechamber the broker observed the latest item his guest had set before him, with the greatest care, minding to hold his hands ever at a discrete distance. Though he was shrouded in living flesh and a man's sinew, there remained still an engravement within: his soul bore the lingering impression of searing light, once all-encompassing, but now receded in all its former brilliance. He was as a glass stained brown from far too long an exposure, rendered down with a landscape of cracks and fissures once cooled. He was the absence of a thing long vanished from the earth, yet permitted continued form by grace of that very absence.

It was that echo of the song, that which once permeated the firmament, shining beyond eternity, which urged him most pause. The warm metal spoke to the memory of a harmonic luminescence, tempting him to bring his hands ever closer: all the while constantly spilling forth—imparting its own gravity upon his tiny domain—as it blurred the borders of its own material and that of the corpora which surrounded it. Too easy, it would be, for that song to find purchase where it did not belong, attuning with even his faded echo.

“I have seen similar construction,” he offered, setting his eye loupe aside, stepping safely back a full palmspan from the countertop. “But not similar make. If you're looking for a companion piece, I'm afraid I can't help you. Who laid this blessing?”

“No one,” Sophie responded. “It was only the ammunition itself that was consecrated.”

She raised her hands from the wood counter's brass trim to set them reassuringly upon the offering: a large submachine gun, metallic gray, with a faint blue finish. The magazine had been removed, and she carried no ammunition on her person. Gradually, over millennia of exposure, the weapon had grown to synchronize with its ammunition, the harmony altering the very substance of the alloys from which it was cast. The power of that ancient blessing had taken on a life of its own, such that even absent it pulsed unabated throughout the room, though never upon her.

“It was my brother who constructed this weapon, and designed it's ammunition.”

Sophie allowed her sunglasses slip, letting the sight of her malformed eyes make it easier for him to read her aura. She had never been any kind of angel at all, but she had consumed enough of their host that theirs had become a familiar old song. It was natural enough to think like one of them, to wear their history upon her psyche. Long experience had taught her that one of their own would never perceive the gulf of difference standing between them. She knew them keenly, having studied and served for long years under their most terrible princes, just as she was versed well enough with their iconography to find this place.

“He named it Helena.”

Misleading him this way was its own kind of mercy. He would only grow more anxious if he knew what her brother actually was.

“Because it shoots nails?” the broker asked, having observed the slot where the magazine would insert, noting its unusual dimensions. “Still, might I ask who laid the invocation for him? Not that it's someone I'd ever want to meet, you understand.”

Not someone who would so carelessly lay a benediction that powerful, he meant. That it would spill into other objects, even investing them with their own like will.

“You may. I have something of his with me, actually,” she told him.

And then she withdrew a hand into her white jacket—as though reaching for a pocket in the liner—and removed from nowhere a small parcel wrapped in an oily gray, iridescent, silk. Once his attention was drawn fully upon her, the gun and the other objects once spread across the counter began to fade from mind. It happened as things often do in dreams, with once important details fading swiftly from memory, as they fell away from the dreamer's attention.

Sophie laid the silk bundle on the bare countertop and slowly unwrapped it, this time carefully avoiding touching the surface underneath to her bare skin. The moment the last fold was parted, the click of a gear train rang out, and a loud, thudding, tick made a clangor between the broker's suddenly clenched teeth.

“It's been broken for ages,” Sophie said. “I'd be interested in fixing it, only I've never seen a working piece quite like it. Have you ever come across something that could help me?”

At last the worn, broken, time piece was fully revealed. Before the clerk lay an old marine chronometer, with a cracked face, and made of tarnished brass, scratched gold, and cold steel. It had long stopped keeping time, but the minute hand still wobbled and shook in place, and the sound of its operation were enough to ring clearly throughout the chamber.

Some instinct, long buried with his Fall, compelled the clerk to immediately, truthfully, declare “no.” That word he spoke, before his mind could work through the steps of his fleshly body's operation. It had already grown more difficult for him to focus. He could hear the clock workings so loudly, the reverberation cleaving his thoughts. He stared intently at the piece—was the hand really shaking, or was the sound only caught between the walls of his vessel's skull?

Harmony was interrupted by an errant chord. Pressure grew, and at last he ruptured, the blackened peel of his being transformed and transported back through time itself until there was wave of heat, and of light without end. Walls vanished, glass melted, and the torn pages of books fluttered away from their burned covers. Traces of burnt carbon were left smudged across Sophie's face. Disappointed, she wrapped the broken timepiece again and set it back where it belonged. Alone in the empty room, its great weight easily vanished from her and from Aeternus.

She had gambled wrong.

Whichever heavenly choir sang his kind into being would be of no use to her.

Still, at least she knew that there would be no need to waste a visit on a lesser heaven once she was finished exploring a greater hell.

Sophie relaxed a moment before she closed her eyes, and allowed herself a short, deep breath. She held it inside her for a minute pause, committing the space around her to memory, and let the breath escape her lungs in its own time. She took another, longer breath. It was only a dream—and then she exhaled again. Not a bad dream, not a good dream. She drew in another breath. What had just happened was best left to the most mundane of dreams, and carried nothing worthy of remembrance. Or so she told herself.

She let the dream carry her back to the first feel of mild steel, as she looked through the window and into the shop for the first time, the coarseness of the door handle's nonstick grip catching her palm. Her psychometry had taken a quick imprint, imparting to her memory a flash of the store's traffic. She'd pulled the door back in a quick uneven jerk, while a patchy piece of weatherstripping caught on a notch in the frame. An old style bell jangled, muffled by the clang of the door's placard as it crashed against the glass, the store's business hours rattling back and forth. The smell of old cellulose from the far bookshelf hit first, before the scent of dried out machine oils from a display nearer to the door. She'd caught the shopkeeper's eye immediately, and crossed the space between them.

“Call me Vito,” he'd said. He'd thought he was sharing a joke with her. He was a divine emanation, sundered and shadowed, but still a ray of light, wrapped in dying human flesh.

“You can call me Sophie,” she'd answered, and though she knew him for what he was, he would never know her, save for what his own true sight misled him to believe.

She had pulled out a small gold plated trinket, a handheld gyrocompass, or rather something disguised as one.

“I'm a collector,” she'd told him. “I came across this years ago, and I've been searching for acquisitions of similar design.”

That was how it had begun. And then—

“—design is interesting, I'll grant you,” the broker said, considering the mechanism hidden behind the dial. “Of course, it doesn't actually work, does it? Those people died out before this place had its first foundations lain.”

Sophie blinked her dreaming eyes opened, safe behind her blue tinted shades, before reaching up to wipe the black smudge of his death from her face. The mark came away with one swipe of a small lavender face cloth, and once it was gone there was nothing to say the last forty-two minutes were not just another fantasy.

“Of course,” she agreed.

Disguised as a common tool abundant in pre-spaceflight civilizations, the compass discretely housed a micro quantum processor optimized for calculating positional data, that was necessary to operate its paired pico portal generator. Such devices were once manufactured by humans to allow for instantaneous translation between universes, in the epoch where such things were still commonplace. It hadn't worked in ten thousand years.

It was the first item she had offered up for examination. For the others she'd requested the back room to showcase.

“Such a shame,” the broker said, as he had before. “I've heard stories of such devices, here and there, you see. I would have liked to use one myself, but their day ended long ago. Now they're only relics. I wouldn't know where to find anyone else who might be willing to part with an intact one. Certainly not in this humble strip of hell.”

“It carries a certain value to me. Nostalgia, not sentimentality. If the men who created this still exist somewhere, it'd be interesting to see them again.”

The broker passed the trinket back to her.

“I'm afraid I'm in no position to help you.” He considered her for a moment. “It belonged to your host vessel, yes?”

“It did.”

“How attached are you to that soul? Must be very old to remember those days, eh? I'd be happy to take that weary thing off your hands, if the wistfulness is bothersome. I'll throw in a good rate for that body, as a bonus, if they're a package deal.”

“I'm afraid they're not for sale, either one of them. They also have a certain value to me—you know, the sentimental kind.”

Sophie exited the pawn shop, onto the hustling streets of Aeternus. Without all of the demons, it might as well have been a quiet night on her native Earth, transposed upon the present from the early days of her first life. Still, they were there, and thankfully she was more than familiar with navigating their domains. In her other memory, she had spent a great deal of time exploring realms just like it. Once under the surface they all skewed towards the same template. There were common themes to mankind's many hells; none that were universal in absolute terms, but there was always similarity enough to allow for a familiar journey.

In their current age, she had found them incredibly useful thoroughfares, for the unaffiliated traveler. While many of the old modes of passage had lost their viability, hell dimensions each by design intersected an incredible breadth of realities, received travelers from a wide variety of worlds, and always would. And yet—provided one was proofed against losing their soul—they were often safer to sojourn than divine realms of comparable scale. And they were always more stable still than what paltry fragments remained of the artificial subspace domains that man once carved between his neighboring worlds.

Sophie flit purposefully through the patchwork throngs of devils and fiends, the demons, and the revenants. Each and all allowed her to pass without contest, every and one unconsciously claiming her as one of their own without consideration. Once, long ago, she had been trapped drifting, a mind disincarnate, far without the formless void that enshrouded reality. Reliant upon other stray spirits for her passage back, she had found her life preserver in too many demons to count, letting their souls harbor her psyche from one Earth to the next—for so long as they could survive bearing her.

The scientists that she had once allowed to examine her, ages ago, had given her the name of it, her psionic camouflage. Through consumption, absorption, and integration of countless minds she had acquired the ability to shape her thoughts to a structure indistinguishable from those of others. It was an instinctive process, a necessary survival mechanism developed during the time of her incorporeal state. For the longest period of her existence, she had not been cognizant of what she had been doing without a thought.

Then as now, every being to cross her path instinctively saw her as of their own kind, but once they parted ways they would remember only their own faulty perception. Inevitably, her poor fiction faded from the mind shortly after her departure, leaving nothing in its place but a sense of lost time.

Having spent so many lifetimes drifting ethereal beyond the void, it had been too natural to offer herself up to her current task, the journey that had begun with her current life. She sought out the places where limited traffic still passed between dimensions. She cataloged the havens where the travelers congregated, and investigated the evidence the of their passage. So much was still out there, unseen in the vast expanse. She found herself grasping constantly at motes of sand, never quite finding a grand design that would allow mankind to freely traverse the firmament once more. The end of greatness had come, long ago, leaving only fallen worlds sundered from one another in its wake.

There had been small successes, rare as they appeared now. She had rediscovered lost worlds, and identified new passages that tied them together, however few they seemed. But while there were rediscoveries here and there, each Earth was far isolated from it's former neighbors, and never were any where they were supposed to be. In the centuries since the collapse, there was no structure left to discover. And without it, travel between Earths remained far more arduous than it had ever been.

The memory of the coming cacophony surfaced in her mind seconds before it actually became real. Surprised, she turned her head in the direction whence the blast would soon emanate.

A roar shook the street, echoing between the highest buildings.

There came an intense flash, Aeternus ever so briefly overtaken by artificial daylight, as a blue sun rose from the darkness. Seconds later Sophie felt the death scream of myriad mortal souls, alien to this realm all, conjured forth only to meet their end. All color washed away from the realm as those wayward souls were extinguished, their last thoughts transformed into merciless light and atomic fire.

But soon, night returned, in time for a dense head of air to shake the city block where she stood. A high pitched, whistling, scream carried throughout the city, set the nearby windows rippling, as rows of city lights blacked out one by one. The glass held, and main power was restored as quickly as it had been disrupted.

“Was that the old Pleiades?” a fox demon muttered.

“Sounds like someone doesn't want to cash out his chips,” his companion answered.

Sophie felt only muted panic in the distance, confined primarily to those minds that had the flavor of human origin. Perhaps some few of the weaker fiends were shaken as well, those who were in the wrong place, just in time to get caught up in whatever was going on.

The rest simply went about their evening as though nothing had happened.

A nearby cacodaemon glanced at Sophie, and she shrugged at it. With all one hundred of its shoulders, it returned the gesture and continued lumbering away. A moment later, the rest of the pedestrians continued walking, slithering, and hovering as was their wont. It was nothing out of the ordinary for a night in hell, even if some peculiarity gnawed at her.

She let a distant picture fill her mind, briefly superimposing itself over the view before her eyes. With ethereal sight she saw a distant broken street, fuming with corrosive mists, pockmarked by broken and upturned slaps of concrete rubble, and a company of burning corpses. Amidst the scene, a pair of dragons. One of whom, she thought she might recognize, his image staring back at her from an after action report, read many ages ago in her native cluster of universes. It took a few seconds to recall the name.

...Tage? What's he doing here?

Weird. Oh well.

She kept walking.

He had obviously arrived to this place under his own power, which for her purposes was rather less interesting than someone stumbling in unawares. Not at all what she was looking for.

But there was something there to be discovered, the future told her. Not the dragons, as odd a coincidence as that was. Instead she scried a closer look at the destruction, her thoughts quickly wandering to the casino nearby. There was a tension there, in the minds of staff and guest alike, something in the forefront of more than one fiend's deepest desires. What was it then, the unspoken purpose that hung over the resort? She could have taken advantage of their momentary distraction to probe it, and perhaps not be noticed, but... the hotel's human guests were simpler.

Where are all of you coming from? Soon she found a name. Sophie recognized it, not in the memory of her body, nor of her psyche, but in that other memory she had carried since long before this life began. Earth F67x. The world that had once warred with the Val'Gara, was it?

Not at all who she'd hoped to find out here, but welcome all the same.
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A spirit vogued mockingly through the valley of the shadow of death.

Quietness lingered after the storm. A body, like it awoken from a slumber, stood on stilettos in pitch blackness, crust-eyed, wishing to be absolved of the atrocity before them. Not quite sleepwalking, the devil witnessed it all. Usually, tranquility spoke volumes, still air whispering hope, planting seeds, foretelling the sun's arrival. It was nature's gentle way of reminding humanity that even the most tumultuous nights yield to light. In Aeternus, there was no such hope–such light. They say God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all, but anticipating the rays of the morning to awake from *this* nightmare? One waits an eternity.

Dawn never came, and it never will.

Unlady-like, Ixxa burped an ember, wiping a morsel of blood from the corner of her mouth with her wrist. It didn't compare to what stained her dress and the rest of the room. Like a taipan, her forked tongue instinctually licked around her lipstick-smudged mouth. Around her, devastation–litters of limbs, blood seeping into the deep cracks of leather Chesterfield seats, once ornate interior cornices charred beyond recognition, and countless demons beheaded by guillotine, stretched into knots by looping torture racks. The crimson-skinned succubus stood alone in the center of it all.

Her snow blonde bed hair could have looked worse, but for the moment, looks mattered little to Ixxa. It wasn't like anyone could see her. Only her lime-green eyes stood out in the magical darkness. That begs the question though, where exactly was she? She blacked out.

A sanguine flame of zippo lighter lumified a corner of the room, evaporating the humidity of the dark mist. On top of Vincenzo's piano, Ceven sat cross-legged with a look reading business as usual.

“Eating for two now?”

Ixxa whipped her snow-blonde tresses behind her shoulder with her left hand. Slightly embarrassed, she raised her chin, running her sharp black acrylics through her hair, neck gently swaying left and right. Perhaps it was an act, but she failed to acknowledge the situation.

I think it's time to go to the hotel. I don't suppose Nocturnelle will let us just waltz through the front door with this. Think he'll sniff out our plan?”

“He always does, but I have a feeling his hands will be tied this time around. Go on without me. I’ll have to fix up here a bit so we can open back up in an hour. We may have to sit down and try to convince him. Anyways, Vincenzo hit the music.”

On her way to the hallway, the succubus strutted past several bodies in her descent wayward down into the winding rabbit hole of the speakeasy’s backrooms. Leading to the infinitely crawling ant colony of catacombs that were Aeternus’ depths, the freshness of Aeternus’ sulfuric fumes delighted Ixxa's nostrils even down here.

It never quite made sense to the horned seductress, but who was she to complain when it could potentially smell like piss or the countless dead bodies of wanderers who dared traverse this eternal labyrinthine connecting all parts of this verse. Even now, hysterical wails diluting into whispers in the abyss tickled her sharp ears. Passing sepulcher after sepulcher, small and large, some vaulting nefarious imps, others fell titans, the deeper she traveled, the less hazy her mind became. Normally just walking between the walls felt like being wedged in between the gyri of a truly odious mind. Right now, it felt…different. The tunnels always had a mind of their own, testing wanderers' resolve through hellish standards which allowed only the most blackhearted demons to navigate with clarity.

Admittedly, she struggled most with this place out of the demonic casino quartet of Vileiro, Ceven, Parooz, and herself. It may have come from a sense of insecurity. Ceven was the treasurer of souls, Vileiro racked up souls by the second with his intergalactic chain of casinos, and Parooz, the most efficient of them all, when around, was The Big Earner managing to acquire premium souls by the boatload with get-rich schemes on a whim.

Ixxa, despite being the seductress of deviancy, the mistress of great sex, the sultan of twat — she, a renowned demon in her own right, facilitated the fitting end of too many mortals to count. Yet, her work was slighted. Souls were souls, most of the time at least, but admittedly, those who long for sexual deeds from a demon whether for an experience or to be desired understandably felt like endlessly snacking on junk food. Frankly, it was too easy but no longer would she stand in her peer's shadows.

Her trek brought her to a brightly painted door entering the wine cellar of the Pleiades Casino & Resort. Unlocking the creaky door, which gallons of WD-40 could not fix, she was alone, walking past rows upon rows of wine racks and severed claws with gnarled fingers carrying colossal vats of strange liquids. In this ashy, obsidian-bricked chamber, each bottle is sealed with a molten black wax stamped with blasphemous symbols and infernal sigils. In the center before Ixxa, a goblet of blackened crystal, filled with wine so dark it dimmed the light around it like a reverse glow. It was the succubus devil’s first time seeing it, but she was certain. This is what guided her through the catacombs. Looking up, it dwarfed her. Seldomly a red drop from the black ceiling broke the silence of the chamber and that is what guided her through the tunnels.

She kneeled, burning the sigil birth to her by the Hells on the foot of the enormous glass with the tip of her fuschia glowing nail. Standing in silence, a single blood-red drop fell from the murky expanse of the ceiling unleashing an echoing plop until the edge of the glass overflowed into a waterfall painting the dark floors a blood red. The walls around Ixxa murked, shrouding everything around the succubus until it was just her, the crystal glass, and a hazy pink sky. The river she stood in felt like being ankle-deep at the start of rapids. The feeling of an outgoing tide pulled her in by her most carnal temptations, desires, aspersions, and wishes. Yes, even demons had those. With her lime-green eyes, she made out a far more sinister pair on the other side of the glass. Even devils gulped.

“Speak Daughter.”
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—— Earth F67X: the Asomatous Détente & Terrestrial Customs


Careful not to touch the document, Tāwhaki dutifully examines each field and footnote, murmuring an occasional word or phrase in his infernal purr-cum-baritone while his malefic eyes trace the laser-etched char of characters seared into the holy-white parchment: “Selena, f67x, San Pedro de Urabá, 12 // aught-9 // 22, unbalanced scales, gibbous air trine descending into retrograde.”

A pause, then he reaches out an atramentous paw, claws extended, and bats at the ostensibly ordinary slate countertop. A resounding screech, as claws meet rock, awakening an opaque void writhing holographic within. He takes his time deciphering the contents.

“Mrrrrrrrrrreow,” he muses. The demon hunter is in no immediate peril other than, it would seem, failing her mission to slaughter one of Hell’s demonic denizens sauntered astray to egoize in his daddy’s personal demiplane. Glancing back at Ilaria, he demands, “why are you wasting my time?”

“All my paperwork is in order, I assure you,” the angel responds.

He stares at her, his red gaze unreadable, vacant, inward. Is she arrogant or imbecilic? Is Heaven really so out of touch with mortals — that bad at keeping tabs on the whereabouts of those who are, for all intents and purposes, under their so-called care? Probably. An arrogant being cannot behold the beam in its own eye, after all, and none exceed the arrogance of beings self-described as divine. Maybe there is another explanation, perhaps even a good one, but he doesn’t care. His job is to erect barriers for angels seeking entry into Earth. To obstruct. In a flat, humorless tone, he states, “This is Terrestrial Customs for f67x, Earth.”

“Yes, I am aware,” the angel agrees, her feathers unruffled and her tone neutral.

“Your demon hunting ditz is not on Earth.”

“Yes, I am aware,” the angel again agrees.

“You have no business on Earth, there is no portal proximate to your human counterpart on Earth. I cannot approve this request,” Tāwhaki elaborates.

“I have to go through Earth to get there,” Ilaria patiently explains, not missing a beat.

He contemplates the darkness vortex betwixt his paws, hisses, and flicks it aside into a whorl of infinitely diminishing nought. Of course, it is unbecoming of an angel to transfer direct to a pseudo-Hell such as Aeternus, but he is under no obligation to offer her any such favor, at least, not without one in return. All to aid a vaguely-imperiled demon hunter, hah! Also possible is that the master of Aeternus has, as humans did on Earth, emplaced measures inhibiting the unannounced arrival of angelic tourists. Batting that thought around in his mind, he cheshire grins, as his job may be to keep angels out of Earth, but luring them into places like Hell ... well, that’s another matter entirely!

“Earth is not a transfer terminal,” he concludes, “It delights me to announce that you’ll have to find a different means of travel to Aeternus. I recommend a portal to Hell, which delights in stray angels coming in for a visit, however temporarily. Or perhaps you’d prefer my home, Entobalti, a necrolivid hipasia of immaculate suffering contrasted with which Hell seems strikingly pleasant? That said, this is not a general service terminal. This is Earth customs, for travel to Earth. If you want me to assist you with travel elsewhere, you’ll have to wait for a break in my shift and, you know, give me a reason to aid in your journey during my personal time. Or you can try to open your own portal.”

“Kitty hell, you mean? Sure. Adorable. So long as I get to where I need to be on time,” Ilaria relents all too easily, her tone changeless, unperturbed.

Recalling Entobalti, the Dissonance of Infinite Pains, impregnates his thoughts with nostalgia. Ilaria’s reductive naïveté in casting it as an adorable kitty hell widens the grin on his face. A poor metaphor for the the place, a pseudo-reality in a superstate of positive and negative corporeality. In his mind’s eye, it is an eternal implosion, spherical, pulsing, multi-layered. Bands crisscrossed upon bands of innumerable screams stretching and snapping back against the whole, an endless intermingling reverberation of exquisite and novel torment.

“As it happens, I have a break soon,” he seductively purrs, high-stepping through the picture frame and exiting a mirror a stone’s throw down the length of the service desk. “Naturally, I’d be doing this as a purrrr-sonal favor. But purrrr-haps you could deliver a package. A gift for Balam, my mother. Here, in this little red box beneath my paw.”

Almost imperceptibly, he nudges it forward. It slides the slate length effortlessly, as though the distance were negligible, as though space itself were merely a plaything contracting at his behest. A small, red, leather-bound carton sealed with meandering black ichor. Both seem impossibly alive.

He lifts his head, their eyes meet, his big, red, and pleading.

“But a trifle.”

He laughs, breaking character. Just as impromptu, he pounces forward, and vanishes through another mirror, before unnoticed, or, more likely, entirely absent, yet now flat and face-up atop the desk. His tail vanishes into the impossible plane, then, from behind Ilaria, his voice, amplified by an improbably massive gilt-frame silverglass, sings, “Pre-purrr yourself, angel. The path through Entobalti is right behind you.”
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There was little reason for a frost devil to feel the chills, yet, Vileiro documented every goosebump raising the fine hairs on his neck. His mind skated the rink of Cocytus. Looking down, the crystalline scape of flash-frozen entities leering at his spirit was enough to drive any man insane. It was a good thing Vileiro was not a man, but a devil chiseled, molded, birthed from the very ice he stood on. Like a grand statute of marble, he held his head high amongst demons, emboldened by the stature granted to him by his superior. His earthly persona often betrayed him, constantly overthinking, worried, and indecisive. Here? When Sarcoen addressed him, he felt empowered.

There was little reason for a succubus devil to feel shame, yet before him, Ixxa felt nakedness. An act Minos failed heartedly to accomplish. The unreasoning winds and torrential rain of the second circle stained her face with mascara, souls whirling about in this hurricane of lust in which several were her handy work from earlier. It was precisely the shot in the demoness needed. She stood tall. Sarcoen addressed her and she replied.

You chased Sepias, sentenced him, labeled him cafone, and not only is he back, he is underboss again. I know better than to question you, but I can't help but feel out of the loop. However, I know one thing. You wouldn't unleash him unless you felt you could control him. When will you return to Aeternus?

A guttural laugh, shaking the hells rattled Aeternus like a low-magnitude quake. This high up, Vileiro watched frozen books clang off the floor like unbreakable blocks of ice.

“You know me well, my child.”

Speaking from the same urge, Vileiro and Ixxa engaged with different parts of the same entity simultaneously.

I have another question. Something that has been eating at me. I want to know what happened in the last war against heaven.

“...”

Forgive me Ealdo

“No, you should know. Heed my words as I predate time itself. I, an entity of duality, the embodiment of contradiction, born from the same primordial chaos, yet destined to diverge. Two sides of the same coin, my sons, of prophecy entwined in my conflict. I left much of my children in the dark.

In the realm of the ancient ones, the number two bore the mark of Wisdom, a concept encapsulated in the words "Wise" and "Dome." To "wise your dome" was to transcend the limitations of ignorance, to enlighten the blind, the deaf, and the dumb. But such notions were mere folly, feeble attempts to break free from the shackles of darkness that enshroud Lucifer's society and way of life. We, the eternal ones, who have witnessed the dawn of creation and shall endure until the final reckoning, scoff at such frail forms of logic.

Before I knelt the mighty Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Ophanim, their divine arrogance a testament to their alliance with the Almighty. Yet, their hubris only emboldened me, the now forgotten one who spurred many devils prior to my wake now spurned.

Came Michael, his blade, ablaze with heavenly light, a beacon of contempt searing my flesh and spirit alike. His demeaning radiance split me asunder, weakening me with each relentless strike. It was as Uriel had foreseen. Had I reacted a hair sooner, had I crushed his throat, squeezing, choking the life out of the smug expression he held over me, we might be living in a very different world. All remember Michael. All laud Michael, some workshop him through idolatry. They paint our bout as one-sided. Disrespectfully so. After our battle, I championed my demise as a proud general of Hell. War comes with loss, and sacrifice. Aeternus would be a mere thought if eternal slumber greeted me. Death did not. Something far worse.

Showing mercy to a demon is the ultimate affront. A mockery of our very essence. Yet, in that moment of weakness, I was shown clemency, a gesture that haunts me still, for I have not forgotten the aftertaste of shame. Pride befalls man but a demon's pride is far stronger. It isn't hate I would describe I have for the heavens. My sentiment exists before the truest sense of the word. Every part of my collective malice is fed by the economy of souls, slowly revitalizing each part of me scattered throughout the circles of Hell. Hold on to what I bestow upon you at this very moment. A Sit-down Is in order. Prepare the Hotel for my presence.”


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