Not Just A State Of Mind

July 11, 2014:

Paul discovers that Hell is real.

Hell. The Witchblade version.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The pain. It is extraordinary. Beyond anything anyone could understand. It doesn't stop at the physical, it reaches deeper, into the core of who a person is? and it sets that alight. It wipes the mind of hopes or dreams of love or joy, leaving burning coals of only hate behind. And rage. Not the rage that helps motivate, that helps drive one to better thing, but the rage that causes men to beat their wives and children to torture animals, only the darkest of things remain. And then come the deafening screams as Paul impacts the charred granite out cropping, his body bouncing painfully across the to hot stone, his naked flesh informing him that it's burning wherever he touches it. Once upon his feet he looks around and he sees? Hell. In all it's ignominious glory, infinite fire blasted planes of sulfur, fire, and punishment. Tortures no mind could fully grasp and remain sane are in every inch of space, and there is no madness for Paul's mind to escape into, forcing him to simply 'live' with the truth of the place. And there, on the field below, hang to familiar forms. The Magdalena screams as her skin is peeled away in strips by what appears to be knife-limbed scorpion like creatures, slowly, one centimeter at a time. And Jason, who stares off silently into the distance, his face devoid of anything but grief as what appears to be a paper thin blade heated to a glowing red is slid between his ribs. "Welcome to Hell Paul Manning," says a voice that thunders across the planes like the voice of god himself, "an innocent man in the fields of iniquity. Welcome and know despair."

At the voice, Paul spins, hand automatically reaching for the gun that's no longer there. "Who the fuck are you? And where the hell am I?" He either missed the whole welcome to hell thing or isn't taking it literally. THough it's difficult not to. Looking around, he searches for some kind of defensible position. Or clothing. CLothing would be good.

There is no clothing, and standing barefoot on the stone is extremely uncomfortable. A perfect man stands behind Paul, his eyes looking out over Paul's head and at the scene before them with a sort of blank expression. Literally, the man is perfect. His jaw is just so, he's tall, broad shouldered, narrow waisted, his blond hair is tossled by the blasting hot winds in something that's just /so/ pretty it would make any model cry. But it's not 'pretty' pretty. There's a brutality to the perfection, a strength of arm and will that is more then a little cowing. One cannot look him in the eyes, as if trying to were simply against the laws of nature, no one's gaze ever manages it that far, and even trying to turns strong men's knees to water. He's so striking, so gorgeous, so perfect, it takes long seconds before Paul notices the double pair of wings that lightly ruffle in the hot breeze. They're clearly large enough to carry a man his size, and when the feathers rustle, they seem to make almost metalic like sounds, though not quite. Paul's question forces a sigh of disappointment from the man, "Detroit." he says blandly, "Can't you tell?"

"I'd have guessed Gotham." Paul counters but it's more bravado than anything. His gaze shifts enought hat he's not looking directly at the winged figure. "Fine, you meant it literally. He got me here." he says, motioning to Jason. "Sort of. Can he get me back?"

The man's lips twitch slightly, "You are dead Paul Manning," he points out, "if you wished to return to the land of hte living you had but to ask." the man's gaze settles on Paul like the weight of a continent, a literal physical weight of metric tons that presses down on him with but a glance, "But before you ask such things you should ask others."

Dead, yeah. He was afraid of that. Hell was kind of a giveaway. And he remembers the hellfire. Too well. "Of course I want to. Who wouldn't." Paul answers, taking a step back as the being looks at him. Though it's not quite a request. "Ask others what? To return me to life? Why?" He's in hell! He wants to go home!

The eyes move to Paul again, and again the gaze is a blow not unlike Superman dropping the Bronx on Paul's shoulders, "I expected better." the man says in a despairing tone, "This is Hell Paul Manning. In no other place is anything less free then here. You should be asking me what price I would demand in exchange for returning you to life." the man sighs again and shakes his head, "Mortals. Selfish, small, all the same. Why me?! I want to go home!!" the man steps off the granite cliff and begins to walk through the air as if there were a stair case there, though there is not, and he decends towards the grounds below, teeming with creatures Paul will never again be able to unsee. He thought war was bad, that it would stick with him. War is kind, merciful, generous in comparisson to this place. War is where people in Hell go for respite and renewal. As if he were leashes, Paul is simply pulled forward when the man walks off the cliff, yanked by an invisible power he cannot avoid, "I did that once, released a mortal from here just to see if he would understand the cost. Now those silly vampires run amock on what will soon be my world." the eyes again settle on Paul and this time the gaze forces the dead detective to his knees on an invisible platform as they continue to decend into the teeming mass of horror, "What sort of monster would you like to return as Paul Manning? Perhaps something that feeds only on children? Or as a plague carrier, as our friend Etrigan once did centuries ago, dragging a mortal back from the Pit ripe with a torture an enterprising Devil had cooked up there for his own amusement. Your kind creatively called it 'the black plague'." the man sounds bored and once more disappointed by this. "I expected better of the Chosen's creative powers then that. As always, they disappoint."

Paul struggles against the compulsion but can't resist moving forward, nor dropping to his knees when mentally commanded. But since he wasn't told not to, he canc lose his eyes toa void continuing to see what's below. "No, I won't do that." he says after swallowing. "I won't go back if it means sacrificing others." Except maybe for him. And him and her. No one would miss them much. No, stop. "No." Pause. "Is that the price?"

The man's lips twitch slightly at the sides, "That is a better question." the man answers. Paul has seen Sara's power, the things the Witchblade can do, and he stood before the near unstoppable might of a Demon that /relished/ the pain of a Spear bathed in the Blood of Christ being run through his flesh… But they are insects before power like this. Sorry. Power, like this. Capital P. This man didn't command Paul to kneel, he didn't drag him along with some kind of telekinesis, those are the abilities of mortal things, small creatures, bacteria. If there was a God, this man is it. Paul followed him because that's what you do when this man is near, you follow in his wake, like planets orbit suns or black holes swallow light, it is just a fact of being here. Paul did not fall to his kness because the man made him, he fell because that is what one does in Hell when standing before the Morning Star, before God, before a being who's mastery of a place is so complete that unconscious assumptions of his become unshakable reality.

When the pair of reach the 'ground floor' so to speak, every tentacled, spined, many-eyed, clawed phallus, toothed vagina, toxic nightmare spewing horror, some hundreds of feet tall, some small as a hummingbird, simply drop to the floor of Hell, prostrating themselves before the archangel. He continues to move, floating a couple of inches off the ground as if not realizing it, and as they go, a pocket of bowing murmuring defferent submission moves with them. Paul, no longer floating on the invisible disk, is dragged along behind the man, unable to stand, unable to stop. It takes feels like ten miles of being hauled naked over hot coals, literally, to reach the pair of crucified bodies that Paul saw from his outcropping. The Magdalena is more raw open muscle tissue then skin at this point, and her eyes which have lacked lids since the start, roll around in unending agony as she screams and screams and screams, even though the small knife legged scorpions that were stripping her to the muscle now lay prostrate on the ground, so small they would be hard to notice if they weren't lumped in a pile as what used to be her feet. Jason however looks up and stares the angel dead in the eyes. "Jason Norwich." the angel says with a small smile, "Welcome back." Jason stares at the man for a moment, and for the first time seems to have a reaction, a sort of quiet respect though not the cow-towing of the demons, "Lucifer. Forgive me if I don't stand to greet you, I'm a bit ti…" his voice trails off as his gaze falls to Paul and /now/ his expression splits in pain, "Paul." there is true empathy there, fear, sadness, grief.

Paul can't help but cry out at the pain though he tried not to at first. But hearing it is probably what the angel/demon wants. It's with a sob of relief that they come to a halt but at Jason's voice, he cracks open an eye and glances up. "Jason. Thanks. I owe you." Sarcasm, yes. Threat and promise for sure. But it's not backed up with anything. "Since it's a better question, will you answer it please?"

Lucifer smiles a bit more at Jason, "I know that they enjoy finding new ways to hurt you Jason, and as this point even I admit it must be difficult. Him however…" the angel's eyes fall to Paul like a gut punch again, "he's new. And your fault." the gaze returns to Jason, "One day you will cease your stuggle to remain a good man, one day there will be to many souls on your balance, to much blood on your hands, and you will surrender to me. Every one like this," he waves a hand Paul's direction dismissivly, "only serves to help my cause. So, for now, I will leave him in your care." and now the arch angel grins, "Let's make this sporting shall we?" A spear, with a wickedly barbed tip, and what appears to be a rather large hand and a half sword appear thrust into the stone at his feet, and as they do, only the four of them, the two on the crosses, Paul, and Lucifer himself remain. "How long can you keep your friend sane Jason? How long before he Changes too?" he takes in a slow breath, "Please, above all… don't be boring. You've no idea how tired I am of boring." and then the archangel is just… gone. The sensasions of gravity and Power are released from Paul in the blink of an eye and all is super creepily quiet, save the never ending screams of the Magdalena.

Jason eyes Paul from his spot, "Get me down from here, hurry, we havn't much time." he says, grimacing as he eyes the nails that hold him to the cross and the serrated barbs along their length, "Quickly!" he yells almost desperatly.

Once Lucifer disappears, Paul just collapses on the spot and lies there. Jason's yelling is ignored for at least a few minutes as he collects himself but eventually he climbs to his feet and looks at the man before walking over to the cross. He takes a hold of it then takes a deep breath. He's actually surprised when he can boost. After all, he's dead. But he's not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and one quick motion cracks the cross off at the base so it, and Jason, topple backward.

Jason cries out as he lands, his face twisting in pain for a moment, "The spikes Paul, the spikes, right now! We're running out of time!" he sounds a bit like a drill sargent.

"Shut up, Jason." Paul's voice has no heat to it. He's tired and… dead. He's in hell. But he does reach down to grab Jason's wrist. "On three. One. Two." Yank. He lied.

Jason screams and his gaze settles on Paul with a look of such viril hatred and savagrey newly Dead Paul doesn't recognize it as human. Then Jason reaches over with a hand and removes the other nail himself, as the barbs only go in one direction, the one that keeps you from pulling yourself off the cross. Then the one through his feet. He leans forward, panting and grinding his teeth, "Get yourself together." it's unclear who he's talking to before he eventually reasserts his calm and will. In the mean time Paul gets to watch as the flesh that was so brutally torn during the torture, reknits itself 'slowly'. "Do you want to know what's going on, or do you wish to surrender now and simply quit?" Jason asks, turning to look up at Paul, "The choice is yours Detective."

"If I was going to quit, I'd have left you up there." Paul points out quietly. "And used the weapons… he… left for me." Speaking of weapons, he looks over to the Magdalena. "Can we kill her? Here? She doesn't deserve that." No one deserves that.

Jason shoves himself to his feet and he reaches out to pluck the sword from the ground and carries it with an ease that clearly tells Paul that Jason knows what he's doing with it. He holds the sword the way Paul's seen Detal Force hold a gun, like he sleeps with it, loves it, uses it more then he uses forks or spoons. There's a glint of dark charred steel and the cry is cut off as the Magdalena's throat is opened up and blood begins to poor down her front. She still screams, but now it's just a wet whistle, "We should go." Jason says flatly, "You cannot save her and trust me," his eyes hit Paul, "she deserves every bit of this." he nods at the spear, "I believe that is for you, though I don't understand the joke. He's big on jokes." Jason then turns to eye the blasted plane, "There is a lot to cover and little time to do it in, so just assume that whatever I tell you from here on out is truth and you are to follow my orders instantly. If you do not we will not entertain him and then there will be worse in store for us then the cross." he talks to Paul the way Paul has spoken to other fresh recruits right out of boot camp and heading into action. Sit down, shut up, learn, and maybe you'll live. If you're lucky. Except this doesn't come with a promise of life, because that time is gone.

"What if you cut off her head?" Paul asks. He glances down at the spear then walks over to pick it up. "Sara and her sword. We fought her and her spear." Maybe it was unintentional but probably not. "You were wrong about my hand. The fire started from my chest." He actually smiles a bit, pleased Jason was wrong. Using the spear to gesture vaguely, he says "Lay on, MacDuff."

Jason pauses, "You don't want to get your head cut off here. Things… crawl inside…" he says without greater clarification and then he's off and running at a good clip. Naked as he is, Paul can see that Jason's in phenominally good shape, not the muscle built, but lean, to the point of being almost ugly, he seems to be nearly fatless, like an olympic runner his body fat is low enough to show tendon and sinew taut. And then of course there's the crimson glowing runes covering him nearly head to foot, those are also not normal. "This is hell Paul, that place you refused to believe in, everything you think you know about it is the fluffy happy version of reality. This place…" he glances over his shoulder at Paul as he runs, "It eats at /you/, not the you you see, but /you/." Jason thumps a hand to his chest, "I have been fighting if for seventeen hundred years detective. I need you to fight it for as long as you can, I need you to hold on." Jason turns to look around, "You'll get thirsty soon, there is no water so ignore that. Then will come the hunger, ignore that too, you don't want to eat anything that's here. Eventually you'll become tired. Do. Not. Sleep. You don't want to know what happens when you sleep here." Jason looks around again as if maping the blasted plane, then changes direction, "This way." and off he sprints. He's a fast bugger that's for sure, and the sword doesn't seem to hamper him at all.

Paul runs after Jason, listening but not commenting. Also trying not to think about things crawling into a head. But… "No food? What happens if someone uses up all their energy reserves?" He just boosted, if only for a couple seconds. But it takes lots of energy which is why he eats so often and so much.

Jason chuckles, "You're thinking like a mortal Paul. You're dead. You don't have energy reserves." he points out, "You can never die here. They once put me in a giant meat grinder and slowly turned me into mush over two days," he says in a conversational tone, "you can't die again. You're already dead. You just have to feel everything. After a month or so the hunger pangs will go away, you won't feel them so much anymore. That's when they start letting you smell food again." he nods his head, "Up there, I have an ally there who'll give us our bareings." ahead there is a crack in the plane, narrow looking, only six feet wide or so, "We need to find out where we are, which is hard down here. Things change." without hessitation Jason leaps into the narrow fissure, vanishing into the darkness below. In the distances, the screams of hunting demons can be heard carrying across the flat painfully hot nothingness. Apparently their head start has run it's course, the dogs are loose.

Despite what Jason said, Paul hesitates to jump in blindly and follow him. At least until he hears the hounds and then he leaps into the darkness. "You better be right about this. You owe me."

The landing is not gentle. In fact, it's not a landing so much as a bone breaking crunch and splat after a fall of seconds long enough to make Paul worry there was no bottom. Jason, already down there, is screaming as his ribs are once more snapping out from a concave shape into a more rounded normal one. His leg is also slowly straightening out, the bones grinding audibly as they go and blood spraying from some sort of exposed artery, though it slows to a stop as that also heals over. Slowly. It takes nearly a full minute before Jason's breathing is back to something like normal and he's useing the sword to push himself up to his feet, "Bloody… hate… that…" he gasps, his hand on his ribs as the last couple snap into place with hollow wet noises and he spits a wad of phlem and blood onto the floor. In the dimness there's the sound of scales on stone, "Jassssson o' the Blood… You know better then to ssstep foot in my domain… What has happened to make you so… desperate." Jason sighs in a tone that sounds exasperated, but Paul, if he's looking and not dealing with his own massiver internal traumas, can see the Brit's knuckles white on the hilt of the blade, "Serpent." is Jason's only reply to the shadows.

Paul doesn't scream till he hits the ground and no, he's not in any hurry to get up even after he's healed. "I hate you. I really hate you." And he really, really hates Lucifer in a way he's never hated anyone or anything before. Serpent. He supposes he pretty much has to get up now and he rolls over till he's in reach of where the spear landed so he can use it as a staff to help himself up.

The darkness shifts again, and when it does it gives Paul a faint grasp of the size of the thing they are dealing with. Because what Paul thought was the ceiling just moved. And breathed. Forty feet over head the face of a gorgeous woman appears, red lips, high cheek bones, she looks a bit like a Hollywood starlet from a long ago era, only you know… the size of a large house. She smiles slowly, showing perfect white teeth, "Hate?" she asks softly, "Yesssss, do hate please. We like that here." when she speaks the 'S' causes a forked tongue longer then a tractor trailer slips through the teeth. The dim light flares slightly and one can see that her face leads back into a cobra like hood that spread down over her torso, ribs as thick as hondas forming a torso complete with large undulating breasts, covered in a sort of pale skin tone scale like coating. Saying she's a snake with a woman's face or head doesn't fully convey the Wrongness of the sight of her, and like much, it is a thing that will live in Paul's nightmares forever. "You will point us towards the nearest Gate, you will hold up any who follow us with your witty banter, you will grant us passage through The Pit, and you will do all of this for two reasons. One: When next I am here I will visit you personally for the entire day, and two: Because Lucifers wishes us to suffer at the hands of the demons that follow us, and extending the game will either earn you his ire for extending it, or his favor, either of these you desire." Then Jason's expression hardens, "And of course there is the third reason. We needn't discuss that, do we?" The Serpent's eyes narrow to slits and her tail thrashes somewhere a hundred yards or more away and what sounds like a mountain of stone crumbles and snaps and cracks under the blow.

Looking around for the snake didn't get Paul anywhere till the thing moved and he looks up. And up. And then he can't help but back up and away from it. Her. It. That Jason is offering to… keep it company in the future doesn't even get a smart comment. He's out of those here. This is Jason's game, let him play it. Just so long as it gets him home again. Alive again.

The Serpent is quiet for a long moment and stares at Jason, and then at Paul, then at Jason again. Her tongue flicks in the air which sends a blast of air down across Paul as if he'd been standing to close to the highway when a semi drove past. Then slowly she smiles a serene smile, a slow dip of her head, "It is so." she says simply, and her coils part with an almost deafening rasping noise, showing a very narrow opening beyond her that leads into deeper darkness, "You know your way from that entrance to the nearest Gate Jason o' the Blood, and I will hold you to our bargain…" Jason doesn't question anything, he merely takes off running, assuming Paul is behind him.

It's a long narrow tunnel, and they're barely into it before they can hear the sounds of battle behind them, "That was the Serpent from the garden," Jason explains, puffing a bit, "she was once a powerful Lord here before Lucifer threw her into the Pit, now she cannot escape and she cannot rise in the ranks." he rounds a corner, "Though she's easily the match of any Devil Lord." another corner, "She's also Etrigan's mother." oh goodie.

Paul would pass Jason if he knew where he was going. He doesn't hesitate a second once the way is clear. "I'll remember to turn down any apples from her." he pants. He's still not sure he believes any of this, at least where it comes to the specifics. There's no denying the reality of the situation but that Eden was real? "And you released him."

Jason is silent for a time as they come to an empty chamber that looks shockingly like an actual cave, normal almost, and lit with bioluminecing mold, "Yes." Jason says simply. "For a moment there I on longer cared about your world." Your. Not 'ours', your. "Don't tuch the things that glow, avoid the mushrooms, and by all that is unholy do not look down." Jason says as he begins to cross the cave, which is the point that Paul realizes the way to cross the cave is a six inch wide stone ledge like bridge that winds around various stalag-whatever from the floor and ceiling.

Seems the Magdalena is not the only one who deserves what she gets here. Until he's out of here, he's not about to say that out loud. "I have no fear of heights." Paul says instead. Not with his training. "Where are we going?"

Jason continues along the way saying nothing until they are across, "You have never stared down into the Abyss before," Jason says simply, "if you had there would be no escaping. Heights had nothing to do with it." he informs before continuing on his way, "I'm getting you to a Gate, a Gate of Hell, there are ways in and out so long as you possess a Key. Which are more rare then you can even imagine. This isn't Tartarus after all, you can't just go in and out willy nilly." Well most people can't, Jason can but he prefers not to. "Once there I can set a ward that will keep us safe for a time. I sense we have much to discuss."

"No, there's no Orpheus to come get me. Though Sara would probably try if she knew I was still alive." Paul frowns and pauses as he hears what he just said. "For certain definitions of alive."

Jason sighs and reaches down to press his fingers to his eyes, "You are dead." he says flatly, "You will never live again." he states evenly, "Hope is different from false hope, realize this, know the truth, and hope for something beyond it detective. It has been the only thing keeping me together for over a thousand years." they arrive at a flat space, a small out croping of stone, and there are a narrow set of stairs, so narrow as to a bit stomach churning to look at, and steep enough to be more ladder then stair, they are irregularly spaced, and more or less scream 'we were not made so you could climb us' at anyone who could see them. Jason stops there and sets the sword tip to the stone and begins to draw it across the ground, the blade cuts into the stone rather cleanly. "Ask your questions, I can literally see them eating you up." he doesn't stop drawing as he works.

The invitation takes Paul aback and he just stands there as he thinks before shaking his head. "I have no questions. Or rather, I have too many questions and don't know which are the important one. I have too little information. So why don't you just tell me what you think I need to know and then we can go on from there."

Paul just listens exactly as if he was listening to the eyewitness to a crime. He just lacks the notepad to jot things down on. And as Jason goes pale, he waits a moment to see if he continues but then prompts "Yes? Go on. What did you just realize? You just figured out what the Buzzard was trying to warn us about? It has something to do with Lucifer saying the Earth would 'soon be his world'?"

Jason shakes his head, "No no no! Worse. Lucifer is immortal, like Immortal Immortal, 'soon' to him means the End of Time, which is but a blink of an eye for him. He was here before there was a here, before there was time. He predates physics and chemistry and the Big Bang and everything." Jason shoots Paul a look, "Trillions of years old doesn't describe him. He was The First Created, in every way that means. 'Soon' is-" he waves a dismissive hand, "No. Etrigan told me what this was all about, why you and Sara kept ending up caught in this nonsense with the Hollows and-and I didn't see. Didn't /want/ to see! Fool!" he hisses as he goes back to the work on the stone, quickly now, "Etrigan referenced the Rapture in his mockery of me and your impending doom, at the time I thought it was a joke about how you were headed to the afterlife. He's like that, he enjoys mockery of religion, but if I guess this right, it has deeper meaning. He meant /The/ Rapture."

"The so-called second coming of Christ? The battle on the plain of Armageddon after which all the true believer will be elevated to heaven thus solving the world's overpopulation problem? In theory, anyway." Paul adds. "Personally, I s uspect if it did happen, there wouldn't be a hell of a lot of people going anywhere especially all the ones so sure they will be."

Jason shakes his head, "Most of what you know of Hell and Heaven is as accurate as what the PR companies pump out about your two American political parties. We'll cover that later though, assuming this goes as I'm starting to fear it might. I don't mean the evangelical rapture, I mean The Rapture, it is one of the thirteen Artifacts, which is /another/ talk we'll have to have if we are still around when this is done. The Witchblade is one of these artifacts, if that gives you a context to work with. The Rapture is another, it is powerful in it's own way, but not as powerful as others, what power it has however is sought after with a vengence by a certain type of creature or person." Jason shoots Paul a look, "It's a Key." he says, "More then that, but that's what it is at it's core. In fact, it's the Master Key."

"So another bad boyfriend?" Paul asks with a snort. "Sara's talked about the artifacts. Pain in the ass from the sound of them. Ok, fine. So what's it got to do with us?" Just the facts, man. Just the facts.

Jason shakes his head, "No, only a couple of them are sentient like the Witchblade is, the others aren't self aware so much as … desireous. For a time I held one, but it was-" Jason pauses and shudders, "Best left not mentioned." at Paul's question he shoots him an exasperated look, "The Master Key detective!" he says, staring at Paul as if he was daft, then he waves a hand around, "Pull your head out your arse man." he points a finger at the ladder/stair case leading up as if that was the answer, then goes back to work. Damn, magical barriers and rituals take /time/.

"Master keys are to doors. Are you saying this artifact is the key to getting out of here?" Paul obediently looks at the stairway then back to Jason. "So? Is the stairway a door out? You brought us here without this Rapture so you thought we could get out anyway. It'll be quicker if you just explain yourself instead of playing twenty questions."

"Master keys are to doors. Are you saying this artifact is the key to getting out of here?" Paul obediently looks at the stairway then back to Jason. "So? Is the stairway a door out? You brought us here without this Rapture so you thought we could get out anyway. It'll be quicker if you just explain yourself instead of playing twenty questions."

Jason sighs heavily, "I wish you had listened to I was trying to tell you both before, but no, like all mortals you had to cling to your silly notions of how things are or aren't. Bloody hell I hate your closemindedness." he sighs, "You are the only one trapped here Paul, I will be forced to leave in time when the Demon uses up it's store of power on Earth, or whenever it would be most opportune for it to go. That's the curse. While I am there, he is here, when he is there, I am here. It's how the double damned bond works, we are linked eternally he and I. So soon, or perhaps not soon, I will be leaving you and you will be left here alone. We came here because this is a Gate, a pathway out of Hell, though it is locked, it is still closer to the mortal Realm then other places would otherwise be. Close enough for me to tether a spell to the other Realm. I am building you a wall Paul, so long as you remain behind this line, they cannot cross. You will still suffer the effects of Hell, the rage, the hate, the hunger, the thirst, the exhaustion, it will prey upon you unendingly, but so long as you cling to hope, so long as you remain yourself inside, the magic will hold and they will not be able to get to you. This is a cage, but one to keep you safe until I can find a Key to get you out from there," he points up at the staircase, "because I know where this comes out in the mortal world. But we have bigger greater conserns to deal with. Etrigan set all of this in motion, I would not be surprised to discover that the spells your Magus found to create the Hollows were given to him by the summoning of a lesser demon, one Etrigan coached thuroughly. Those spells lead to Hollows, he knows I would summon him to deal with the Hollows, they are one of the few things he and I agree upon in our required choice of action concerning them. Taking that brief freedom he's done something else, I don't know what, but it served a dual purpose, to draw the Magdalena to me, forcing my location out into the light where I and those I love could be found, and putting them in danger. He knows attacks on my wife would-" he stops talking as if he were suddenly hit by something. In Hell, grief is magnified by orders of magnitude and a choked noise escapes his lips. Geraldine… oh god she's gone…

Finally, solid, concrete information. "I see." Paul scans his new home and doesn't look too enthusiastic. "It sounds like a solid plan barring a few holes. I assume you're not strong enough to keep Lucifer out if he wants to get involved. You also didn't mention how he and the snake are involved in this thing in the same way you're saying Etrigan is. Also, we didn't get a chance to ask you about it before that bitch with the spear showed up but do you know the church St. Mary's? There was an explosion underground there and lots of mystic symbols as well as claw marks. It was the same day."

Jason looks like a defeated man, his shoulders are slumped over and he's curling up in on himself, withering away as Paul speaks… but he stops, something Paul said bringing him back from the brink. "I-I…" his voice cracks with weariness, with heavy burdens… Then he takes a long breath and picks up the sword once more, setting it's tip to stone, "Lucifer won't interfere, he is not so petty as you presume. He does not care about you in the slightest, he only used you to get to me because he knew I felt guilt for your being here at all. He has entertained himself with me for over a millenia, we have… an understanding." as much as anyone can have with Lucifer that is. "You cannot guess his motivations, you cannot fathom his mind, do not try to. If he were involved in person there is nothing, no power on any plane, that could cease him from doing as he wished to you. Here, he is God, only unlike God, he gets involved from time to rarest time. The Serpent I imagine is playing a deeper game as well, but I havn't the time to suss it out, to much to do, to little ti-" in the distances, there is scrabling of claws and scales and Other Things on stone as the horde that's been hunting them enters the far far end of the cavern. Jason starts to work more quickly, "St. Mary's of the Magdalen? No wonder she found me, Etrigan used it's destruction to lure her here not doubt, to annonce my location to those who otherwise would have continued to search in vain. Magic to shield him from Holy Ground, however temporary, and an explosion… he couldn't have managed that with his powers, they would not have worked there. He must have used more mundane explosives." Jason pauses, eyes Paul, "Let me guess, gas line?" he asks, though it doesn't sound like a question. "He knew what you would call the fire at the DCS building, he would have enjoyed the irony in using an actual gas leak to blow up a church after that."

"Gas line." Paul agrees. "It blew right through the floor and made a good portion of it unstable. They were forced to move their holy relics. I'd wondered if it was a ruse to get them off of holy ground but they all arrived safe and sound in another church. Now I"m wondering if one of them is this Rapture."

Jason's lips twist in a grim expression, "It had to be. The Demon knew where to attack, he mocked me with it's name, this is all part of his plan, everything that has happened has been intentional, meticulous." he glances at Paul, "Does Sara know where the relics are now?" he then stands and flips the sword around, offering the hilt of it to Paul before he himself steps back away from Paul and onto the other side of the runes carved in the floor.

"Yes, we checked it out though we didn't go there as it's in Boston." Paul gives Jason the name of the church. "So, you expect me to just hang out here until you and the demon switch places so you can go get this artifact and then bring it back to me here?"

Jason eyes Paul across the divide, "You are more then welcome to wander if you wish detective." Jason says, his voice sad, "Here as in every other Realm, you have choices. Not as many, and none of them good, but you can decide for yourself what to do. You can pick up the spear and the sword, and you can wade into an infinite number of the damned and try to slay things that cannot be slain or described. You can choose to surrender to this place, give up what remains of Paul Manning inside you, release the hate and the rage and the pain, and become one of those here that no longer feel the horror of this place. Or you can fight. You can stand, right there, and you can bulwark yourself with hope and faith. Faith that I am the man Sara thinks I am, and hope that even should I fall, there will be others who will stop at nothing to send you home." Jason's shoulders shrug slightly, "You have but my word that I will do all I can to right this detective. Do with it what you wi-" and his words end in a gurgle as a spikey spined tail of some kind explodes through his chest and lifts him from his feet. Living worm like creatures crawl from the wound, and it takes a moment to realize they're maggots with lamprey like mouths, and where they travel they devour thin channels of flesh. The blood and flying worm things however, sent airbourne by the impact of the spike, stop in the air inches from Paul's face and sizzle on a wall of white light.

Paul backs up till he's pressed against the stairway. "Sounds like a plan, I guess." Even knowing Jason's not going to die from all this, it's difficult to do nothing. But it seems that's all he can do.

And the things on the other side of the wall know it's difficult… and so they take their time. Jason's screams seem endless and he's pressed against the wall of the spell, flattened there, so that Paul can see every thing that's done to the immortal. Done, and done again, and again. His blood exchanged for acid, his ear drums burst by needle fine claws, his eyes removed from their sockets and turned so that they must look upon the himself as some sort of gelatin creature dissolves his teeth. So on and so forth, without end as the hours pass and pass and pass. Never once does Jason complain, and he is occasionally given the chance to, pressed against the shield, his tongue regrown or his lungs replaced, he's given a moment to speak a word or two, but it's always the same. "Hope." and then it begins again, the screaming and the bleeding and the horror…

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