Escape From Hell

July 18, 2014:

After Sara retrieves the Rapture, Jason delivers it personally.

Hell. The Witchblade version.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Hours never seemed this long in the real world. But in the real world, people who scream, eventually die or pass out. One can do neither in this place. Dead, alive, there is only so much the human psyche can survive, especially when it's emotional defenses, those of fond memories and warm thoughts, the 'safe happy places' in ones mind can't be found or don't summon the strength they once did. Because nothing good can come of Hell. Nothing grows here, nothing ends here, there is only infinite suffering. Because it's Hell.

So when Jason's screams are cut short suddenly and in their place is a roar of rage so loud it causes the floor to shake beneath Paul, it's actually a welcome change. Etrigan stands, armorless, bleeding, great gaping holes in his flesh that appear burnt around the edges, the skin and muscle flaking away like ash as blackish blood oozes from them. The burning eyes look around quickly as a hacking cough splatters black blood against the spell that keeps Paul separate from the rest of Hell, it sizzles there and poofs away in smoke. The action draws Etrigan's attention while the demons that were moments ago torturing Jason creatively, now cower in terror at the sight of the yellow demon prince. "Youuu…" he says, his gaze locking on Paul and there's a blurring surge of motion as Etrigan covers the short distance between the two of them to fast to follow, only to slam into the spell wall hard enough to again shake the cavern. He grunts, surprised, then eyes the spellw ork and grins, "Oh clever boy… but not half clever enough. Mortal spell work does not last long here. Didn't he tell you?"

Hope. Paul does his best. He hopes the demons stop. That's not going to happen. He hopes the demons spontaneously combust in hellfire. That's not happening either though if he were a mutant with the power to burn things, it would surely have manifested by now given the whole 'if looks could kill' thing. He hopes Jason disappears a lot more quickly than he anticipates so he can get out of this hell ho… Well, maybe hoping does work. He can't help but flinch back as Etrigan rushes him. He also can't help but grin a bit as the demon slams into the barrier. Wait, it's not going to last? "Of course he did. This is hell, after all. Nothing beneficial can last long. Except maybe this." He hefts the spear thoughtfully and eyes Etrigan. "This was made by…" He thinks twice about saying his name. "The guy who runs this place. He seemed amused at the time. I wonder if he made this to seriously hurt you? After all, he certainly knows what's going on and wouldn't want you to get your hands on the Rapture. Want to test it and see?"

Etrigan's lips part showing the maw of fangs smeared with black blood, "I have seen you with a spear," the demon reminds him, "it could have been gifted from the Creator himself and be no greater danger to me then if it were made of vapor." Etrigan looks down at the spell work, then reaches out with a clawed hand and presses the claws against the edge of the spell, which sparks where he touches it, and with a grunt, the demon presses. Hard. More sparks. More grunts. Then /just/ the tips of his claws start to poke past the sparking wall. No more then an eighth of an inch before there's a rebound that blasts Etrigan back into the cowering horde of demons there, his fingers smoking and charred. Apparently it's not a bad spell at all.

Paul grasps the spear a bit tighter and is about to poke at Etrigan when he goes flying backwards. Now that's worth a little hope all by itself. "I wonder if that big snake lady decided to follow us. She seemed to let us pass with a lot less argument that expected. Course, if she's working with you know who, I can see why. They'd both want you out of the picture. I know nothing is final down here, but I bet they can do things to you that you'll really hate for the next hundred years and make sure you're not threat."

Etrigan pushes himself back up to his knees and turns his eyes on Paul, "So… he made a deal with the Serpent." Etrigan says, nodding, "As expected." he grunts again as he pushes himself to his feet and he stumbles once, "Did you think there is anything you or Jason or any of you could have done that I have not seen coming? Your minds are limited and so …" he makes a face and spits blood to the side, "human." when the blood is spit, the demons he landed on, those he's ignoring, watch it fall away with a universal turning of their heads. Then slowly follow the track back up to Etrigan and stare at him. It's stubtle, but it's there. Something's changed.

"If I were you, I'd worry about what the serpent and her boss have planned. They aren't human." Paul points out. "And I bet they both want the Rapture for themselves. And anyone helping you? History." he adds, frowning at the sudden change in feel of the demons.

Etrigan chuckles softly at that, "Lucifer has no more use for the Rapture then as a trinket he could use to tempt others with, and the Serpent…" Etrigan grins wider, "Who do you think made the arrangement with her first? Jason in his mere minutes in the Pit, or I with my years of free time and planning?" The Demon steps up to the wall of the spell again and licks it, his tongue sizzling as it passes over the invisible barrier, not unlike it did when he licked the spear, "You think yourself clever, trying to sew doubt where there is no fertile ground for it to bare you fruit. You've no idea with what you are dealing tiny manling. But you will. You will be awake, alive, and watching when I drag those you love down here before you. I will visit upon them agonies you cannot fathom, I will make them bleed, I will make them scream out your name, and you will be unable to even look away, to stop anything. And when you break, because all your kind break, I will leave them out for you to devour so that you can taste their fear and pain on yo-" he's interrupted by a wet slopping hissing noise that takes a moment to be clear is speech, "You talk Princeling… you talk… and talk…" a sucking breath that just sounds gooey, "but you do not tear down the sorcerers wall…" a demon that looks like it is part ooze, part the bones of victims, part tentacle monster and part… corgi maybe? oozes it's way over to Etrigan, a single slimey line of it flicking out with surprising speed given it's 'walking' speed, to flick over the charred blackened wound. Then it's tentacle jerks away, hissing, "You have tasted Holy Weapons…" the demon thing sounds almost pleased by this, and the horde behind it shivers at the words, not in fear but rather in something closer to arousal. Voices raise in chorus. "Weeeeeeeeak…"

Paul's a bit more prepared for Hell than lots of people would be. He's from Gotham. Gotham is like the foyer to Hell. And he's a cop. He's seen exactly what the worst of people can do to each other, especially once they're in prison. And what's Hell but a giant prison. Prisons, and Gotham, share something else with Hell. Weakness in the powerful means the less powerful see a way to climb the ladder. And that means hope. For Paul, anyway. For Etrigan? Well, he hopes it's something more than annoyance.

Etrigan's eyes narrow at the chorused word and he turns his back on Paul now to face the horde, which Paul may note has moved forward a little bit. The walkway they are on is not so very wide, a handful of meters, and beneath is stretches the thing that Jason said Paul shouldn't look into. Etrigan reaches out casually with a hand and with a swat, sends the oozing thing off the path and down into the Abyss, "Weakened." he corrects, "Not weak. If you wish to know the difference, I will happily educate you." flames lick up from the corners of his mouth and the horde pauses, uncertain. From behind, Paul can see the wounds now, and using the mind of a cop, he knows how bad they are, one of them appears to have started from the top of his chest near his collarbone and exited out near the base of his spine. The kind of wound something long and thin would make, that burns. It's an ugly wound and would be mortal for anything that /was/ mortal.

"Weakened is all it takes." Paul points out. "All they need is to get lucky once. It must suck being a minor player in Hell for all eternity so really, what do they have to lose?" Depending on what's down there, maybe a lot but he's not going to point that out. "Packs can take out much larger predators that are weakened. They'll probably even earn favor because of it."

Etrigan's growling noise carries well in the cavern, "Oh the manling is playing at tempter! Do you hear his words? The whispers of a true demon into the ear of a soft gullible mortal, echoed back at you now. Do you not feel it? How he pokes at your weakness, goads you to foolish action." his clawed hands curl slightly, "You could not defeat me, no matter how weakened. You know who I am, what I am, I will not fall to you, and when you have been beaten back, hurled to the Abyss, rent asunder and made ash by my rage you will have only the knowledge that you allowed a /human/ to lead you to such folly to keep you company. A small comfort in your agony I imagine." It's a fine speech. Prolly be more powerful if Black Stuff wasn't still slowly oozing out of him.

"I'm not talking to them." Paul tells Etrigan. No, of course he isn't. "I'm talking to you. They decided their own course of action themselves. They got tired of bowing and scraping to your overblown ego and want to better themselves. By the way, you're bleeding badly if you didn't realize it. You should probably flee them before they hurt you. Hurt you more, I mean, since you already let mortals hurt you this badly. It was Sara, right? The young woman who kicked your ass?"

There's an out blown breath, "It was the Witchblade combined with the Spear of Destiny," he says flatly, "the woman is hardly more annoyance then you, though I am beginning to upgrade your personal level of irritation the longer you insist on speaking." Witchblade, the word hangs in the air, then the bit about the Spear and everything in the cavern seems to hold it's breath…. Then the Horde shifts forward slightly and Etrigan realizes his mistake. He admitted not to being hurt, but /what/ hurt him… something that could, genuinely, /truly/ do him damage. "When this is over," the demon says quietly, "I am going to kill her you know. Because of you, I will see her trapped here with me for all ete-" he never finishes the statement as the Horde surges at him and he's forced to launch his large bulk into their midst in a blast of Hellfire and hate. Never let it be said that even wounded Etrigan was a coward. The impact of the clash between the countless demons and Etrigan shakes the cavern again, and this time cracks form in the stone of the hanging stalag-whatevers.

Some people, and demons, just don't know when to shut the fuck up. Thank you, Etrigan, for that bit of hope. Paul leans on the spear watching the brawl. Go little demons, go. Strange to be rooting for demons of any sort especially the ones who were just torturing Jason en masse. As things shake and cracks begin to form, he climbs up the stairway a bit to get off the ledge just in case he needs to beat a hasty retreat.

The fight is… actually pretty brutal not to mention short lived. Paul gets to see first hand the sort of monster he's dealing with as Etrigan lays into the Horde. There's no control, no abandon, there is just fire and blood and pain, screams and the crunch of bone and wet tear of muscle fill the room and Paul is witness to the horror that is the Demon Prince unleashed with nothing to lose. It is mere moments before the Horde turns to flee, Etrigan hurling the corpses of their comrades after them hard enough that the impacts of the bodies upon the fleeing breaks bone and in one case literally causes another demon to explode as if he were on the bad end of a speeding truck.

Then silence reigns. Etrigan turns and begins walking back towards Paul, the two of them now alone on the cracked and pitted stone path. The Demon's left arm is missing, the shoulder an open raw wound that pours black goo, and it takes Paul a moment to realize that Etrigan is dragging his severed arm behind him with his good one. His skin is torn, gashes to the black bone are easy to see, burns from acid or the lick pit him, and he appears to have lost an ear to something with teeth. But even as he watches the Demon walk back to him, the wounds are closing, the ear growing back from exposed skull. "Jason warned you before manling, you've no idea the powers you mock." fanged teeth flash again, and as he looks, a broken tooth is simply pushed out of the gums by a new one growing in it's place. The broken one clatters to the stone and is brushed into the Abyss with a flick of the Demon's foot. He holds the severed arm up to the gaping hole and the flesh of both halves literally reaches out for the other half, and there's a wet slurping sound as the joint rejoins and begins to reknit itself, "Perhaps you begin to vaguely comprehend the tru-" and then Etrigan is gone and standing there is a naked, exhausted looking, but fully healed and no longer tortured to death Jason. Who instantly falls to his knees panting and looking pained, "Gaaaaah." he says, spitting something pinkish from his mouth, "Ack! Gaagh!" another blob of spit. "Ow." he settles on finally before flopping over onto his back and eyeing Paul. He flashes the cop a grin and holds something up in his hand, a golden double cross with six black gemstones in it's ends on a golden chain, "G… got it…" he says breathlessly.

"Gooooooood." comes a voice from nowhere as something long and red and sinewous snakes out of the shadows the Horde fled into, "We had an agreement little mortal, and it isss only polite if a houssse guessst bringsss a gift…" The tongue of the Serpent tightens around Jason's ribs until Paul can hear them crack, and Jason's eyes widen as he makes the realization and the connection. He made an agreement… the next time he returned to Hell, he was hers for a day. All hers. And he just returned. He screams as he's suddenly, viciously, jerked back into the shadows, and with him goes a small glint of gold…

So that's what intense, utter, relief feels like. Paul practically sags against the so-called step he's sitting on as Jason appears. "Your timing couldn't have been be…" Oh hell no! Jumping down onto the ledge, he rushes out of the warded circle and throws the spear at the serpent. Surely he can't miss something that big. And like he told Etrigan back on Earth, he might not have ever fought with a spear, but he has thrown a javelin. "Jason!"

Running full out Paul can keep Jason in sight as the tongue drags him across the stone floor, bouncing him and jarring him about none to gently. The spear flies true and it manages to stick into the Serpent's tongue, but not the snake herself. She's to big to fit through the door into the cavern to begin with. Though the spear strike does cause her to scream an ear shattering sound of rage and anger. It seems like a much shorter dash this time back to the Pit then out of it was at a walk, though it takes some creative parkour on Paul's part to keep up.

As Jason is sucked back through the small doorway and into the darkness beyond, Paul can hear the sliding hiss and scrape of the scales as the Serpent pulls Jason up and up and up into the darkness, until Paul can no longer see him. "Miiiiiiiiiiine…" the creature hisses from far away. Something small and golden glints glints in the faint faint light of the Pit as it begins to fall from on high…

Paul's eyes fasten on the glint. It's got to be what Jason went to get and he'll be damned - ok, poor choice of words - if he lets it fall into the hands, tentacles or anything else of a demon. He leaps for it, hand outstretched…

Fire is an odd thing. It bring pain untold, it destroys all it touches, it devours anything in it's path, and hot enough can burn anything. It can also cleanse. As Paul's fingers close around the golden double cross he can feel it, the fire inside. It lashes out through the contact in his hand, the pain is there, but distant somehow. It pours through him, pumping through his veins, hitting his heart like a hammer blow from a sun, and then explodes out of him, incinerating his skin, his muscle, but unlike the last time the flames touched him, this time they don't bring death. The cleanse away what the Hellfire left behind. His mind clears, the press of Hell itself is lifted, and for the first time since his death, Paul feels… like Paul. It was so easy to forget down here that one shouldn't feel so hopeless, so angry, so hateful, to easy to forget really. As the chains about his heart are burned away, so to is his mortal weakness. The Dark that was so oppressive becomes clear, the ache of hunger, the pain of a hundred minor wounds, the thirst, the exhaustion, vanish. His eyes settle on his hand, and he can see that it is black ash and scorched stone, veins of Hellfire pumping beneath the blasted blackened surface of his skin. As he stands, he is… taller. Much much taller, which is an odd sensation, granting a new perspective on things. And strong. He can feel it in his arms, something different, something in the way he moves feels so much more effortless, despite the suddenly added bulk and height. It feels… Good.

A quick glance up however is more then enough to stamp out any sense of vast overwhelming power he may have been feeling. With new eyes he can fianlly see the full size of the Serpent and it's clear she is ENORMOUS. The snake like body is nearly forty feet thick and she's coiled in around the massive chamber in a manner that makes her over all length unimaginable. Jason continues to rise into the air, dragged 'skyward' by a tongue as thick around at it's base as a van, and narrowing to the 'petite' width of a telephone pole near it's tip, which currently is wrapped around the dangling form of Jason Blood. That is one big bitch.

And because Paul is Paul again, he starts for the Serpent because it's just the right thing to do. But no one's called him stupid. Well, lots of people have but they don't count and he stops where he is. Jason knew what he was doing. He made the deal. And he came back to give the Rapture to Paul and get him out of here. He's not going to throw that away. "Jason, I'll see you… topside." he calls and turns. It's time to get out of this place and he runs for the stairs.

Jason stares down through the darkness as if he could see Paul as clearly as Paul could see him… and he grins. Paul's right, Jason made the deal and he's a man of his word. Besides, after all Paul's been through, even to the point of tricking Etrigan into ticking off a Horde of demons… Jason doesn't blame him for running. "NO!" the Serpent wails as she realizes his prize is gone. "Where isss it?! What have you done with it!?" she asks. Paul can hear Jason's breathless laugh cut short with a squelching noise as he disappears into the small dark door. Her rage causes the floor beneath his feet to begin to break apart and the pathway ahead suddenly begins to lurch and twist.

Paul's bigger than most people who do parkour. He's learned to make the most use of his size and strength. And now he has even more of both. His stride is longer, his leaps cover more distance and he barely even feels the impact when he rolls. He learned running along roofs and girders in abandoned warehouses. His sense of balance is as good as most gymnasts. When he gets tot he oddly shaped stairs, he barely pauses as he goes up it much as he'd do one of the obstacles in the gym. So long as there are hand and footholds, he rarely needs to break stride.

The cavern doesn't begin to fall in around him so much as one might expect from movie cliches or Disney classics, however the floor beneath his feet seems to get noticably unstable, narrower, and the harder the impacts of Paul's leaps and runs, the more damage done. Scaling the nearly vertical switchback staircase, once reached, is a far simpler feat then it would have been had he possessed merely human strength. Five minutes of upward stair 'climbing' later, it becomes clear that superhuman stamina is nothing to scoff at either. Twenty minutes later it's a godsend. The far distant rumble of cracking stone is now gone, and only the deep crack-fire sound of his breathing sounds in the air around Paul as he continues to climb. Jason never said how the key worked, or how to use it, or even where it would take him… … …but as the thoughts enter his head, so to do the answers. An hour climb in total. The key requires no actual activation to function, merely the possessing of it opens the Gates. Turkey. It even helpfully shows him /where/ in Turkey he'll appear, which is roughly in the smack span middle of fuck all nowhere.

"TURKEY?!" Paul exclaims as he suddenly knows where he's going to be. "That the hell? He brought me to a door that leads to Turkey?" He's definitely going to have a talk with the wizard once they're back on Earth again. As he climbs, he starts making and discarding plans to get himself back home. Finding a phone to call Sara is probably the simplest one. Assuming he can find one. Or maybe the US Embassy. Somewhere. In any case, it'll be easier than escaping Hell so he's not going to complain. Much.

The staircase leads to … nothing. Or actually, it leads to a flat bit of stone, which Paul can pull himself up onto, though as his hand crosses from beneath the flat shelf of rock to atop it, the feeling of the stone changes. By the time he's climbed his way atop the shelf and looked up to see a stair case leading to rather blinding sunlight, he realizes… he's flesh and blood again. Climbing the steps he exits a sort of carved stone arch and into what appear to be ancient ruins of some kind. He's naked, it's the middle of the afternoon, and despite there being some sort of 'do not enter' cordon set up around the ruins as though they were a sight for study or something, there doesn't seem to be a human being in sight.

Paul can't help it. He stands still, closes his eyes and tilts his face up to the sun. Light. Warmth. Fresh air. Who knows how long he stands there communing with life. But even the pleasure of being alive again has to fade if not actually disappear. There's a stone under his foot. Opening his eyes, he moves his foot and then drapes the chain over his head so the Rapture lays flat against his chest. If this is an archaeological site, maybe someone left some clothes lying around.

Clothes? No. But some rope and twine and a drop cloth that's kinda dusty/dirty… But all things being equal, whatever's unhealthy for you on that cloth couldn't possibly be less healthy then the stuff that got on him while he was down where he just was…

Right. A makeshift loin cloth and sandals. All the fashionable escapees from Hell are wearing it. Once inadequately garbed, Paul starts following the road/track to wherever the archaeologists came from. Odds are, it's the nearest town.

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