Welcome to Hell
“Welcome to hell.” Said Eric. “It’s cooler then I expected.”
“Yeah.” Said Chedrick quietly. “Quieter too.”
They looked over the dark landscape, it was just dirty and grimy and bare. They were on some high ground and could see a valley of sorts, filled with dirt-covered people just hunched down or wandering aimlessly in the dirt. They were obviously suffering but they couldn’t see anything obvious happening to them. There were some people in clean white clothes going from one to another.
“Definitely smells nasty though.” Said Eric.
“Is that Heaven?” asked Eric. Gesturing to a bright white and green land floating in space across a rainbow bridge.
“That would be my guess, but what is going on there?” asked Chedrick.
They could see a dark figure cross the bridge, be warmly greeted but after a few moments the figure ran back across the bridge and dived into the dirt.
“I don’t know, but look, there’s the Earth.” Said Eric. They turned.
The blue, green and white planet hung in that empty space beside these realms, no bridges visible, but the beauty of the world took their breath away.
“Where are the demons?” Asked Eric.
“On Earth, tempting people.” Said Chedrick turning, “I have to give your father-in-law extra thanks when we get back, he put us down right where we needed to be.”
Eric turned and stepped back. They were next to a tall, winged castle that looked to be made of blackest lava.
“Come on.” Said Chedrick, shoving his satchel behind him.
They peeked around a dune of black sand at the entrance.
“Oh bother.” Said Chedrick.
“No guards. This is going to get a lot harder before we get home.”
“No kidding. Just be ready.”
Eric unsheathed his sword and hefted his shield. Chedrick took a deep breathe and then they entered the castle.
As they climbed a twisted stair Eric stopped, grabbed Chedrick and pointed out the window. The castle stood as a green shrouded peak behind Chernabog’s home.
Chedrick nodded, then gestured up the stairs. Sword and staff held ready they penetrated further into the castle.
The found the great hall on an upper level and a large display of small clay jars arrayed above the hearth.
“That’s a lot of jars.” Whispered Eric.
Chedrick nodded, then “Shh. Do you hear that? One of them is beating. Let’s find that one.”
Gesturing to the other side, they split up and came to the jar at the center. In place of honor was a little clay jar with curved horns inscribed upon the side.
Chedrick licked his lips, “This is way too easy.”
Eric was looking pale, and nodded. “Let’s do it, then get to the castle.”
He positioned himself facing the door at the far end but looked around.
Chedrick picked up the jar and after looking around and not seeing a response looked inside. There was a heart, almost all black, but with streaks of red and a thin thread of white running through the core of it. He stroked it with a finger and a strange feeling made him shiver.
“Come on, let’s go.” He said quietly as he strode quickly for the doors. He fumbled with the jar and staff as he tried to bring his satchel forward.
“One down, one to go.” Said Eric as they approached the doors.
“We’ll certainly be able to surprise Maleficent when we have this.” Said Chedrick.
The doors burst open and Maleficent rushed in with elegant haste.
Everyone stopped in stunned silence.
She glanced at the jar in Chedrick’s hand.
“Surprise.” Said Eric weakly.
Chedrick threw himself forward at Maleficent. He knew they were no match for her but if he was close and always attacking her maybe he had a chance to keep her from getting a spell off.
Light flashed as the magic staffs touched.
Maleficent clutched at the jar.
“Eric!” Chedrick threw the jar at Eric who made a fumbling catch for it.
Maleficent tried to get around him. He put his arm around her waist and danced her away from them as her hand just missing the jar in Eric’s hand.
Maleficent’s head turned back to him, and after looking him in the eyes, kissed him before spinning away.
Chedrick’s head spun even as he whipped his staff around to brain the witch but she blocked the blow, with her own staff above her head but she had to twist away as Eric’s sword sought her exposed side.
Dark blue sparkles left Chedrick’s staff and met green flames from Maleficent’s magic.
Eric tossed back the jar as Maleficent rounded on him again.
The fight was too close and fast to launch any but the simplest spells which when wide anyway.
Steel and staff flashed as they danced in the darkened hall of the King of Hell.
Maleficent kicked Eric in the chest which sent him flying. Chedrick caught her horns in his ribs and went sliding across the floor, his staff flying from his hand though he still gripped the jar to his chest.
Maleficent stood tall wrapped in green flame as she raised her staff between them trying to find the jar.
Chedrick desperately scrambled for his staff, then the lid on the jar slipped and as he grabbed his staff to try to defend himself he hear the most agonized scream he had ever heard.
He saw a sword fly across the room.
“Hang on, Eric!” Chedrick fired off a spell that blasted a hole in the far wall, but there was no Maleficent standing over Eric.
He looked down past his feet, Maleficent was on the ground flailing around and screaming for all she was worth. He saw his other hand with the heart. His thumb was pressed deeply into it. It was hurting the owner of that heart.
He threw a sleep spell on the witch and let go of the heart.
Leveraging himself up on his staff he saw Eric rising slowly as well, his armor has a bootprint in it now.
Eric nodded. “Thought you were a goner there for a minute. You?”
“I thought you were about to buy the farm. Tried to throw my sword at her but she went down hard. What did you do?”
Chedrick held out the jar, “I was pressing on her heart, apparently that hurts her.”
“Yeah, but she is under a sleep spell now. ”
Eric strode over to his sword and came back. He held it point down grinding into the stone of the floor. His look at the sleeping witch was grim.
“She has caused so much pain to so many people and especially my family.” His gauntleted hand flexed around the hilt of his sword.
Chedrick could see the battle within Eric. He was ready with a spell to stop his brother.
“Too bad that would only let her get away again.” Eric sheathed his sword.
“She won’t get away this time. It’s safe.”
“Not safe enough for me.” Eric pulled out some rope and tied the helpless witch wrist and ankle.
“Happy now?” asked Chedrick.
“Better. Let’s get to the castle.”
“Fine.” Said Chedrick as he levitated Maleficent and let her float behind him like a large black and purple balloon.
As they exited the castle Eric got out his sword again.
“Not bad, one objective plus a bonus.” Said Eric spinning his sword in his hand.
“Don’t get cocky. We still have a long way to go and we haven’t even hit the hard part yet, even having captured her.” Chedrick flung a thumb back at the witch behind them.
Eric sobered, “True, but it actually feels like we have a chance to win.”
As they exited the castle and went around to Eric’s home, they saw dirty people huddled in the dirt. They moved fearfully away from the warriors and witch.
“I don’t know why, but I really thought hell would be worse then this.” Said Eric.
“Oh, it is much worse then you can imagine, young mortal.” They turned to see a man in bright white walking toward them. “You shouldn’t be here, you know.”
“Ah, yes, but we have come to try to rescue them.” Eric gestured to the castle before them.
“Oh good. They definitely don’t need to be here, but the spell that is on them is very strong.”
“Who are you?” asked Chedrik.
“In life, I was a shepherd. Here I am trying to help them.” The man gestured toward the dirty people. “Please, let’s keep going, you shouldn’t stay here long.”
The two young men looked at each other then continued walking.
“On Earth they talk of fire and brimstone and all that.” Said Chedrick.
The man smiled, “Yes, I remember that. That is true but when we come back we learn what we were like before and what the effects of what we did on Earth were. That can be quite terrible, and their souls are pained by that knowledge.”
“Ah, I understand.” Said Chedrick.
“Probably not, but maybe a little.” Said the man. “So, if I may ask, how are you going to break the spell?”
They traded a look and Chedrick shrugged.
“I am going to give my mother True Love’s Kiss.” Said Eric.
“We are in hell! We’ve fought the Mistress of All Evil! All without a clear plan on getting back out! If that is not True Love, nothing is!” Eric rounded on the former shepherd.
The shepherd stepped back, opened his opens and bowed, “As you say, mortal. Good luck on your quest.”