Blatce, Czech Republic
Houska castle looked down on the valley from a steep rocky cliff. The baroque style, square, stone structure was perched onto the edge of a cliff above a forested hill.
Only the full moon breaking through the thick clouds shed some light on the steep, lonely road leading up to the castle. Michael hoped that Baal took Amanda here. It was the only lead he had.
Walking up the hill, he recalled a conversation he had with Amanda just right before Baal took her.
“Where exactly will we find the roulette wheel once we get to the castle?” Michael said.
“The chapel. Supposedly the chapel was built directly over the Gate of Hell. That’s where I believe we will find the wheel,” Amanda replied.
“But why would it be at the same spot as the entrance to Hell? That makes no sense. Should it not be far away from there?” Michael asked.
“I believe your ancestor hid it there because Satan has to be stopped at the entrance to his kingdom. It’s no coincidence that the Codex Gigas, the gate to Hell, and the roulette wheel are all from and in the same area,” Amanda pointed out.
At the top of the road, the castle appeared before his eyes.
Michael looked at the illuminated walls. He walked up to the tall, wooden door and gave it a slight push. Nothing.
Would’ve been too easy.
He looked to the sides. No entrance. The wall was tall and smooth. No way he could climb this.
It has to be through this door.
He examined the door. Meticulously analyzing every inch of it. It was huge but dilapidated. The wood had gaps. The blackness seeping through them was reaching out to him, trying to find him.
His body stiffened. His breath loudened. He closed his eyes. Calmed his breath. With newfound focus, he slid his hands along the gaps feeling the roughness of the etched wood.
His hand rested on the rusted handle. Rapidly he pushed the handle down, digging his shoulder into the door at the same time. His face reddened. His shoulder sagged.
Suddenly, the door sprung open, sending an ear-piercing shriek from its hinges.
Michael fell into the darkness.
His eyes widened. He looked upward. Calmly he reached for his pocket.
His flashlight illuminated the dark interior. The castle walls were covered in large tapestries depicting dragons being slain by knights and archers.
There was a sign with the word “Chapel” written on it and an arrow pointing down a hallway.
Tourists must be asking the same question all the time as well.
He couldn’t resist a smile.
He walked down the corridor, passing many paintings of old barons and baronesses looking down on him.
“Here it is!” Michael mumbled, stopping at a golden plaque attached to the wall indicating “Chapel.”
He took a deep breath, not knowing what to expect, and slowly shoved the door open. A flush of adrenaline tingled through his body.
He searched the room with his flashlight.
There must be a light switch somewhere.
He found the switch and flipped it.
The overhead lights lit up the room. It had a high ceiling with three windows aligned next to each other. The red-tiled floor and the gray walls gave Michael a fluttery feeling in his belly. A window on the lower level marked the center of the pentagon-shaped room. A table was placed before the window, and four chairs, two on each side of the room, faced it. Michael could recognize the remnants of different colors and depictions on the walls. One stood out to him. The depiction of an angel aiming a bow and arrow toward many more angels facing him.
“That’s the Archangel Michael,” Amanda said, standing at the entrance behind him.
With a slow-building smile, Michael said, “How did you escape…?”
“I didn’t escape,” Amanda interrupted him.
“What do you mean?”
Michael’s posture stiffened.
“I’m sorry, Michael, but I needed you to trust me so you would follow me to this place.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Baal,” Amanda said, focusing her gaze on Michael.
A sudden coldness hit Michael at his core.
Suddenly, Baal appeared at the entrance to the room, holding a metal case in his hand.
“You work together?” Michael said with a heavy feeling in his stomach.
“Let me explain,” Amanda said, taking a small step toward Michael. “We’re not the evil ones. Baal never intended to hurt you.” She smiled.
“We needed to make sure you are going to follow us to this place. Baal needed to scare you to make sure you wouldn’t give up.”
“He tried to kill me,” Michael said, stepping away from Amanda.
“No, he didn’t. Baal is one of us. He’s one of The Thirty-Six. As am I,” she said and pulled up her sleeve to reveal the two parallel vertical lines in a triangle tattoo to him.
A painful lump built-in Michael’s throat. He felt his energy slipping away. His arms hung at his side. His thoughts were racing. He knew he just lost his ally in the fight against The Thirty-Six Legion of Demons. Now it was up to him alone to stop this once and for all.
He tightened his muscles. He could feel the increase of his body temperature and heartbeat.
“Whatever you are planning to do, I won’t let you,” he said and thrust his chest outward.
“Michael, you are our archangel. Leading the fight against all of these devils. We are with you and we need you. We need you to help us bring the true God back to earth so he can reign over us and bring us harmony and peace.”
“You’re insane,” Michael said in a steady lower-pitched voice.
He looked over to Baal and saw how he carefully laid the metal case on the ground and opened it. Inside was a heavy wooden roulette wheel. The wood was chipped and faded.
“You had it all along?” Michael said with a dazed look.
“Yes. We got it from your ancestor. After he hanged himself, we entered the room and took the wheel from him and kept it safe, and ever since, we’ve been waiting for the chosen one to use it.”
“No, no, that can’t be true. His notes said the game would be here.”
“Don’t be so naïve Michael. We wrote that. We knew that we’d one day find one of his descendants to help us. We weren’t sure how we would find one, but we knew we would. We left a clue in his notebook to find the roulette wheel here.”
“If you had it all along, why did you play me? Why pull me into this and make me believe I’m trying to find it?” he said feeling a heaviness in his body.
“We needed you to trust us. Only an ancestor of the pact maker and the descendant of the Antichrist can play this roulette wheel and set Lucifer free. And it has to happen at this special place,” she said making strong eye contact with Michael.
He opened his mouth but nothing comes out. His look is blank.
“Do you really believe the great Lucifer would show himself to anyone and make a pact?” she said and added, “Only the truly worthy are allowed to see and engage with him. Your ancestor had that privilege, because he was a direct descendant of Cain, the first Antichrist, just as you are.”
His chest tightened.
“You’re insane. This is crazy. I am no descendant of the Devil because there is no Devil.”
His chest loosened again.
“You’re very special, Michael,” she said breathing evenly.
“If all of this was pre-planned to get me here, why did you need me to get the Codex Gigas?”
“We tried to get it from the old man, but he refused to acknowledge that he even had it. But we knew that he would show it to a descendant of the pact maker. So we needed you to go there and have him show it to us. Lucky for us, you were able to find it in his shop. Baal tried but was not that lucky.”
“He tried? Are you saying he was the one that killed the old man?” His expression was hard.
“He was refusing to help our cause. He was against us. He was evil and against the good,” she said, taking the page from the Codex Gigas out of her pocket.
“We need this page to complete the ritual.”
“You need to stop this right now.”
“I once thought like you, Michael, but I saw true evil with my own eyes,” she said. “Little children starving to death. Wealthy countries looking away instead of helping just because helping does not benefit their agendas. No, Michael, if you believe in protecting these kinds of people and this kind of world, then you’re the insane one.”
“Your father would be proud of you, Lilith,” Baal said, looking over to Amanda.
“Thank you, brother.”
“You said you want to fight evil?” Michael said, taking a small step toward her, “and killing is evil. You’re not evil, Amanda”.
He reached his hand out to her.
“You’re evil, men are evil,” she said and clenched her jaw, “But together we can stop evil. Help us, Michael”.
Baal laid a long, golden dagger beside the roulette wheel.
Michael pulled his hand away and took a step back.
“Michael, we need your blood to play this final game. Only if you place your bets with your blood can the Devil accept your offer and be freed.” Amanda’s voice was now cute and understanding.
“Never. I’d rather die than help you do anything,” he said, his breath quickened.
“Michael, we are not your enemies. You are like Jesus to us, a direct descendant of Cain.”
“If that’s so, then obey me and stop this madness.”
“We can’t. You have to bring a sacrifice to save humanity. Just as Jesus did.”
“You’re truly insane.”
“Michael, we will get your blood.” Amanda’s voice now turned dark and demanding.
“Why are you doing this? What is she giving you?” Michael said, looking at Baal.
“Revenge,” Baal said unwaveringly.
“Revenge? For what?” Michael said raising his voice.
“You will give me revenge.”
Baal walked slowly towards Michael. His walk was steady.
“Michael, be with us,” Amanda again urged him.
He took a step back away from Baal.
Michael clenched his fist, his pupils dilated.
Baal got up close to him and punched him in the face. Michael went to his knees, punching upwards towards Baal’s torso. Before Michael could get back on his feet, Baal wrapped his hands around Michael’s throat and started to squeeze with all his strength. Michael’s face turned red, the veins on his forehead popping.
Suddenly Baal let go of him.
“Will you help us?” Amanda said again.
“Go to Hell,” his voice was hoarse.
“No,” she smiled, “Hell will come to us.”
She gave Baal a look. He started to choke him again. Baal’s mighty body was pressing down on Michael’s chest, pinning him.
Again, Baal let go of him.
“Michael, help us so we can help you. You don’t have to feel any pain. Help us,” she said and took a large, deep, savoring breath.
Michael shook his head without saying a word. His look was flat.
“Okay then,” she said with a wandering gaze, “If you don’t want to, we will make you.”
She picked up the dagger and waived Baal over with it.
Baal wrapped his arms around Michael’s chest and dragged him over to the roulette wheel.
“Hold his arm,” she said with wide eyes showing the whites.
Michael tried to keep his arm close to his body. Ball forcefully knocked his knee into Michael’s rib cage. He now grabbed his arm and held it out over the roulette wheel.
Amanda gave Baal a crisp nod and then cut Michael’s arm with the dagger. The blood dripped on to the roulette wheel. She spun the wheel and said “What number?”
Michael looked to the ground.
“What number?” she said again and slapped him in the face.
She looked at Baal and nodded. Baal let go of his arm and chest and now wrapped his hands again around Michael’s throat.
Amanda kneeled and looked Michael into his eyes, “What number?”
Baal let go of Michael.
“You’re gonna tell me?” she said raising her eyebrows.
He looked at the roulette wheel. He thought of his father’s dead face looking at him from the bathtub; he could see his mother’s lifeless body lying on the floor. He turned his gaze upward toward Amanda. She smirked down at him. His nostrils started to flare, his arms and legs started to shake, his lips pulled back, baring his teeth. Quickly he knocked Baal with the elbow in his face. He flipped his body to turn on his back. He gave Baal a kick to his torso. Baal stumbled to the side off Michael’s body. Amanda held the dagger to Michael’s throat.
“Let’s relax,” she said in a sharp tone.
Michael held still, staring at Amanda without blinking. Baal looked down at Michael and punched his rib cage.
“Let go of him!” Harris screamed from the entrance of the room, aiming a pistol into Baal’s and Amanda’s direction.
Amanda’s eyes bulged as she looked at Harris.
“Drop the knife.”
Amanda glanced around uneasy.
“I won’t ask again. Drop it.”
Her hands shook. She calmly pulled the dagger away from Michael’s throat.
“Now kick it over to me, Miss Hokfield,” Harris shouted.
“How do you know…” she stammered.
“…I know who you are, and what you are trying to do.”.
“What are you talking about?” Amanda said taking shaky breaths.
“Don’t try to fool me. I had your face identified from a security video.”
“That can’t be,” she mumbled.
“James Hokfield,” Harris said.
Her eyes squinted.
“For sure he’d be proud to see his daughter like this.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“Enough to get you busted. Father was one of the leading demonologists, you a former superstar and that monster over there one of these Thirty-Six Legions of Demons idiots.”
Baal made a careful step toward Harris.
“Stay right there, or I’ll use this,” he said, clicking the safety button of the gun.
“How?” Amanda said shaking her head in denial.
“After everything that I saw and heard, and then seeing who your father was, I did some more digging and came across your little sect and its purpose.”
Suddenly Baal leaped toward Harris.
The sound of two gunshots echoed through the room and Harris was knocked on the ground.
Amanda picked up the gun. She waved it at Michael and Harris.
“Stay where you are,” she said and continued, “Baal, come over here.”
Baal did not move.
Blood flowed from underneath Baal’s body.
“No,” she cried, now aiming the gun at Michael.
“You did this. Nothing matters anymore,” her body shook.
Harris got back up, saw Amanda, and instinctively lunged for Michael, standing close to him.
A shot echoed through the room.
Amanda dropped the gun and ran over to Baal.
She patted his scarred face.
Michael got up and took the gun from the ground, now aiming it at Amanda.
He looked over to Harris, “Are you okay?”
“She got my arm. But it’s fine.”
He walked over to Michael and took the gun from him, still pointing it at the weeping Amanda.
“Take the phone out of my jacket pocket, and call the police,” he said to Michael.
Amanda’s grief over Baal’s death overshadowed everything else.
“You believe me now?” Michael said with trembling hands.
“Yes, I do. After what I heard and saw, I also believe you’ve been through enough already. Take the roulette wheel and go. I’ll tell my employer that you didn’t steal anything,” Harris said, jutting his chin, “Go. I’ll handle this on my own.”
“But your arm?”
“Just go. This is nothing.”
“Thank you,” Michael said, picking up the case with the roulette wheel.
With stiff eyelids, he looked over to Amanda and then left the room.
Outside the castle, the full moon was illuminating the surrounding woods. Michael could see red and blue lights flashing through the trees surrounding the mountain road below him coming closer.