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Inferno (Ch. 9)

Chapter 9: Welcome to Hell

“O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?” ~ D. Alighieri

It's not like I thought it would be here. Actually–it's significantly colder than I imagined. The portal dropped us off in a desert of snow; and icy winds.

Over there! 

Four pyramids. Each one, larger than the one before it. Tilly doesn't even seem to flinch at the butchering winds as we trek forward. I try my best to keep up without complaint.

"Which one do you think they're in?"

She looks at me with certain eyes. "The largest one." 

She stops cold in her tracks. A beautiful blue swarm of energy encapsulates her.

How is she doing that?!

"Maybe we save the light show for when we're there?" The energy surrounding her begins increasing in intensity. "Tilly?"

"I'm not doing this! It has to be Dante." She reaches into her blouse, and rips off her necklace, tossing it to me swiftly. "He will still think I have this. Adrien, he cannot get his hands on this Emerald. If Dante escapes it will be much worse than your wildest dreams–and you would be none the wiser."

As quickly as the energy appears, Tilly vanishes, and I start to feel an uneasiness in my chest.

It feels like the air is being stolen from me. I can feel my bones being shredded. I've never been this aware during a projection before. How is he controlling this?!

I don't have the time to ponder such unremarkable revelations. He'll get exactly what he wants if I still have this on me.

I look out into the icy planes.

There's nowhere I can throw this that he won't find it. I wonder–

I close my eyes and focus on the gem in my hand. I feel the ice beneath me. I focus on the ice. I can feel each of the molecules; slow, but still vibrating gently. I can feel them huddled together; connected. I follow this chain of comradery until I can feel myself ankle deep in the ice. I maintain my focus, keeping my third eye on the gem in my grasp until the ice reaches my solar plexus. It's not until I can feel the ice above my crown that I feel the Emerald is safe to release.

I drop the gem, and it seems almost instantly that the pain begins to clear itself. For a moment darkness lives over half my eyesight. I can only make out half of the frozen lake I've seemed to phase myself through. My lungs are in full panic now. Then–

Total darkness, just for a second, before hazy focus returns, and I can feel the air rush into my body. Three figures standing. Where is she?

I hear faintly, my ears still ringing from transport.

"Where is she?"

"Your daughter walks among the weary now."

"I will–"

"You will do nothing! Because you are capable of doing nothing! Your ignorance has only been made obvious in your disobedience."

I can hear walking. Well, not walking exactly. More like a slight trot.

"Great, the boy is here." Before I could blink I could feel Dante's hands around my throat. 

Hands. Human hands.

I know speaking is going to take more energy than I have to give right now, but I can't hide my shock.

Everything that Shaman said about you was a lie. You're not a beast at all. You're–you're–

"–Just. A. Man." I can feel the anger in his heart beating more violently as his grip tightens around my throat. My vision returns in full, I see now he has turned his full attention to me.

"Wrong, child! You are just a man. I am an angel forgotten." His grip tightens further.

"I am the fallen son," as his passion flares his grip gets tighter still. "I am the morning star! I am Dante, The Dark Lord!"

"Dante, stop! Please."

My body hits the ground with a thud. He scurries closer to Tilly.

"Your sentiment for them has always been your downfall, Lilith. Even after all of the gifts, I've bestowed unto you; betrayed by the inescapable disease of your humanity. Even when you were allowed to transcend to so much more."

I glance over at Dante. It takes me a few minutes, but I recognize his face–and his voice! It's the Angel from my dream–Lilith? 

Using what little energy I have left I start to lift myself.

"Where is the Emerald?"

"I–don't have it."

He disappears before my eyes, and appears behind Agustin. Snapping his neck before she could turn to see the light in her husband's eyes one last time.

"No!!!" Her cry echoes through the luxurious cavern we're in.

The location would be beautiful, if not occupied by an asshole. "Any lord," I speak as clear as I can, doubled over, hoping that a monologue would bide me a few moments to regain enough strength to project. "–even a dark one, knows when to show mercy and restraint." The words fall out of my mouth without effort.

Before I can rise fully I can feel a hoove pressing down on my spine. Then, as quickly as the pressure comes, I can feel his weight shift upwards.

"No!!!" Her cry is somehow even louder this time; shifting a few of the rocks above us. I brace myself for impact.

Clack–Clack–Clack!

I can hear the uneven hobble of the volatile giant getting further away from me. Then he stops, and I can feel once again being snatched up. My body completely void of the energy to fight; hanging, limp as he carries me towards Lilith.

"Am I not the great deceiver Lilith?"

She responds brokenly, "you are, my lord."

He leans into her face snarling. "Honestly I am more offended you think that I have forgotten you." He breathes her in, "your smell." He aggressively grips her, squeezing her cheeks between his large dry fingers, raising me in his other arm until I am eye level with Lilith, "your face."  She keeps her gaze pointed down. "You reek of desperation."

He jerks her head upward setting her eyes on me. 

"You cry for this child more than you do your own husband."

She looks him in his eyes. "Because he is just a child Dante! An innocent child! Deceived–"

"As you wish to deceive me!" His snarling intensifies. "Your priest has not only made you weak; he has also made you think I have grown weak with stupidity. This boy lost his innocence the moment you gave him the Emerald, didn't he?"

"I. don't. have. it... anymore–" They can't hear me.

"Dante, I swear!"

"Your oaths are empty Lilith. You've sworn to me before. LIAR."

"That was before–"

"Before what?"

"You changed!" Her eyes turn red with fury and terror. "Michael betrayed you. He lied to the Divine, and you fell for offenses that were not your own–" she raises a hand to his cheek. 

He flinches slightly, pulling his hand off her face to grab her hand–but he doesn't move it. 

"–But you became every bit of the monster he made you out to be." She rips a hooped earring out of his ear, and I see him.

The monster from my dreams. The one standing over Shaman's lifeless body. The one who told me to find Amaranth. The one who has been orchestrating my movements from the very beginning.

He stumbles backward, dropping me. The sound of my body hitting the ground is muffled by another noise. 

It sounds like an explosion. I feel the ground shake beneath me. 

It feels like an explosion. I look over at Dante thinking he might have hit the ground too. 

I might at least have an opportunity to escape and get back to Shaman. I know how to get to Dante now. Together we can stop him before he escapes.

To my surprise, Dante's still standing.

I can feel the ground shake again; preceding another loud bang. This one sounds like–it is–this room.

I look up to see Amaranth, in perfect health, but looking panicked. She runs over to me, but her panic turns to confusion when she notices Lilith. 

"Mom?"

Lilith bursts into tears. "Ammie?"

I reach out to grab Amaranth's hand "Ammie. Has... a ring to it." I let out a soft laugh. She rolls her eyes.

"We have to go now. We need to find your Shaman. Whatever you were talking about before. I believe you. I believe all of it!"

Now I'm confused.

"Amaranth, what's going on?!"

"No time to explain." She grabs me and materializes in front of her mom; just like Dante did moments before breaking her dad's neck. "Mom–mom is it really you?"

She glances over to see her dad hanging there. "Dad? No. No. No!" I can sense the weight of her pain.

Her third eye opens, and is completely white. "You will pay for what you've done."

"If I do it won't be by your hand child."

"Ammie we have to go–now!!"

Her third eye closes, and she takes hold of me and her mom, and projects again, this time I can see into her mind. She's not just escaping the pyramid. She's taking us home. I hope Shaman is okay.