Through Hell and Back

10/31/2020 3:34:23 PM
I write short stories at rileyriles.wordpress.com. Check them out!
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Hell was ugly. This was of little surprise to anyone versed in demonology. Hellhounds looked like regular hounds that had been turned inside-out; demon faces looked something like if a teenager's acne was red and chitinous; even the plants were scraggly, stiff things, like those decorative potted plants whose only purpose is to slowly die.

So to a demon's eye, a human was an angel of unearthly beauty by comparison.

The demon Kanarta had had an ordinary day until then. She woke up when a bigger, nastier demon decided it wanted her blankets for itself and hurled her twenty feet away. She spent the day picking up scraps of food left over from a pyroraptor swarm's feeding frenzy and hoping she'd live until the next night. She found a nice, cozy cave with slightly less spikes and toxic fumes than normal, and tried her best to sleep with the sounds of damned souls screaming in the background.

Then the next thing she knew, she'd been caught in a summoning spell and polymorphed into a human.

"What—" She blinked and looked around. She was standing in a circle of iron links; a single woman reading from a spellbook looked up at her appearance. The woman waved at Kanarta and smiled jovially.

"Heya! Kanarta, are you?" The woman smiled at Kanarta. "I'm Mother Cenn. Welcome to the world!"

Instinctively, Kanarta took a step back; the circle of chains pulsed blue, and she felt her back against a solid wall of force. She swallowed. She was at the mercy of a magic-user. Oh, she was so dead. At least the air was clearer here—no reek of sulfur and brimstone. She swallowed—feeling her foreign body shift—and said, "Wh—what do you want from me? I'm just a hellkid, I'm no use to a mage like you. Please don't kill me."

Mother Cenn sighed. "I don't want to use you, darling. You've already been through so much. No, I'm with the Gatebreakers." She gestured at her robe; there was a small pin with an icon which could have been a stylized, broken door. "We know how terrible life is in Hell, and we believe that nobody should undergo such suffering. As such, we make it our mission to rescue the demons, devils, damned souls, and presumably other things that start with 'd' from hell."

"R-rescue?" Kanarta stared at Mother Cenn, uncomprehending. "What do you mean, rescue?"

"I mean that you're free. No more sleeping on beds of knives, no more breathing in toxic atmospheres, no more hiding from the thugs and the lordlings of your world. You can start anew. Live a human life." She smiled. "You're fr—"

"Warlock Cenn!" A deep bellow rang from the woods around them; Kanarta shrank against one wall of her prison of chains. "Warlock Cenn, this ends now! You cannot be allowed to let the forces of hell onto the mortal plane!"

A blinding, brilliant column of light streaked down from the sky, centered on Cenn. She grunted and held up a hand; a half-dome of liquid darkness blocked the blow. Seconds later, from the trees, a man in glimmering plate mail and an absurdly oversized broadsword charged in, swinging his blade in a blow meant to cleave Cenn in half.

Cenn's eyes widened in shock, and she barely stumbled out of the way. "Markus! I'm not letting 'the forces of hell' onto the mortal plane. I am freeing the downtrodden spirits who have been born in a dimension of torture and miser—agck!" Markus stomped on the ground, and the resulting earthquake knocked Cenn onto her back. "Would you just listen to me for one second!"

"Yeah, right. Listen to the warlock. How stupid do you think we are?" One moment, there was nothing behind Cenn; the next, a camouflaged man with a slung bow and a pair of knives melted out of the forest. Cenn grunted and held up a hand; a spire of black obsidian sprouted up between them, buying her precious seconds as the ranger was forced to go around—

"Seriously? This is the great Warlock Cenn we've been hunting for the past month?" A flicker of panic crossed Cenn's eyes as, with a warping of space, a man in a wizard's robe materialized. "Please. I could kill her with my hands tied behind my back."

"There's no need to kill me! I've done nothing wr—"

"Save it for the dark gods you serve!" The paladin roared, "We will listen to none of your lies!"

"At least spare Kanar—" Cenn rolled out of the way of an arcane fireball and cursed as an arrow grazed her wrist. "Fine. I see how it is. Ahem." She cleared her throat and screamed, "You foul beasts of light and order! You have bested me! Powers of darkness, you must murder the totally innocent and human girl who I have kidnapped for unnamable dark rituals, before this heroic adventuring party can save her!" She clapped both hands together, and a wave of shadows roared towards Kanarta's cage.

"Protect the girl!" The party fell back and circled the chain loop. The paladin held out his sword and obliterated the feeble shadows with a burst of divine light. In the ensuing pandemonium, Cenn had already started running away.

Under her breath, she whispered, "Sorry, kid. Best I could do for you. I'll try harder next time."