Arthurian

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Minutes Longer

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer." – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Abigail Vennard watched Aunt Chloe collapse onto the living room rug. "Aunt Chloe!" Abby shrieked as she gathered her up into the sofa. "You okay?" Aunt Chloe stared blankly at her surroundings. "What happened to you?" Aunt Chloe continued to eyeball her apartment as if she barely recognized the place. Abby waved her hands in front of her face. Aunt Chloe looked over at Abigail Vennard.

"Little Abby," she said warmly. "Is that really you?" Abby nodded intently. "I had the weirdest dream." Aunt Chloe looked around her apartment, stopping on an old gold framed photograph of her late husband, Uncle Danny. "I miss him so much, my dear," Aunt Chloe said in a disjointed haze as she lifted herself up off of the sofa.

Aunt Chloe picked up the gold framed photo. "I told everyone, even your mom, that I had sworn off all other men after Daniel." Aunt Chloe shook her head as Abby took a seat on the sofa. Something told her that she would want to sit down for this.

"Just another one of the many lies I told myself to hang onto my self-respect." Aunt Chloe sighed. "I've had more men up here than all those Sex In The City sluts combined." Abigail Vennad shook her head. She didn't know how to take away of this.

"I wanted so badly to serve as a role model for your crazy little life, someone you could look up to." Aunt Chloe laughed bitterly. "I always knew I would let you down someday." Abigail Vennard had heard the rumors. Everyone in her family had heard the rumors, the late-night visitors, the strange appointments. Abigail didn't think anything of them. Aunt Chloe had sworn off all men after Uncle Danny.

Aunt Chloe said so herself and Abby knew that, if Aunt Chloe said it, one had better accept it as the truth and move on. Abby gathered Aunt Chloe in her arms. "It's okay," Abby told her as she lowered her back down onto the sofa. "It's okay."

Aunt Chloe started to cry. Abby had made every mistake Aunt Chloe had done. The unrelenting self-denial and all the hypocrisy that came from coming face-to-face with one's true desires. Aunt Chloe could have remarried years ago.

If only Aunt Chloe had the guts to admit to herself what she really wanted out of life. Abigail Vennard needed to do just that. She couldn't just wait until her golden years for her to realize she had denied herself all the things she yearned for. Abigail Vennard held her aunt in her arms as they both started to cry.


"Come on, you cowardly crap!" Lord Belial goaded Alex in his dark booming voice. His yellow eyes glared at Alex. "Finish me!" Moses Ambrose Penn stood and watched from a distance, wondering what Alex would do to Luis Lanza. The chance of having to kill his best friend had come up in their chats during the road trip to NYC.

In said chats, Alex would always equivocate as if he would naturally find an alternative to slaying his best friend. The moment of truth came and went. Alex still didn't seem seem to know if he had the cut down his best friend in order to kill this demon. "Come now, has the once and future king lost his taste for the hunt already?" The demon was taunting Alex and he was taking the bait, hook, line and sinker.

Moses considered his options. He had plenty of magick he didn't know about. Doctor Simon Blaise had told him that. One option jumped out at him. No, not again. Moses had nearly killed himself drawing on his own life-force once before. This time, Moses would not have a witch doctor nearby to resuscitate his half-dead body.

Curling into a lotus blossom as Alex continued to fight defensively against a demon lord trying to hack him up with a machete, Moses focused on Simon Blaise. He needed to talk to him, get his advice before he tried something really stupid. Moses' eyes opened and he found himself inside an office at the hospital where Simon Blaise worked. "What can I do for you?" Simon Blaise looked up at Moses' disembodied form.

"Well, you came all this way, pity if you didn't remember why you came." Moses had problem focusing. He didn't know if this happened because he had left his body and tracked his soul across the continent. Or because his brother was in mortal danger. The doctor smiled. It had been ages since he'd seen him smile like that.

"By the way, kudos on your figuring out astral projection." Doctor Blaise nodded appreciatively. "It took me seven years to get the basics. You just figured out in seconds in a moment of panic." The doctor smirked. "See what I mean when I said you don't need my help anymore. Still, you obviously want it. So ..."

A flash of light went through his brain. Moses recalled his purpose in coming here. "I need to exorcise a demon but the spell requires me to use my own life-force." Moses sighed. "I can't do that. It nearly killed me the first time. What if I die this time?" Simon stroked his chin whiskers. He didn't have an easy answer for him.

"Roll the dice," Blaise informed him. "Sometimes, lifeforce channeling can kill you. Other times, you hardly feel a thing." Blaise rolled his eyes. "I cannot make this decision for you. Obviously, if you could kill the demon, your brother would have done it already." Blaise sighed. "Roll the dice," he repeated. "It's the heroic thing to do."

Moses opened his eyes again and saw the basketball court, lined with broken bodies and one splattered homeless guy. Moses waited for Lord Belial to come closer. As he did, Moses slammed the Staff of Merlin down onto his head. A crackle of light exploded from the staff as Lord Belial felt the bruise on Luis' forehead. "Damn you."

Moses shook his head and held the staff out in front of him. "No, I damn you." The staff pulsed with light. "I damn you to Hell." Moses mumbled the words of Latin as the beast screamed inside Luis' body. "Hold on, Luis," Moses said, trying not to lose his focus. "We'll get him out of there. Just hold on." Moses pressed the staff against his head. The demon screamed a hiss of steam came from the bruise in his forehead.

Moses didn't know how much of this Luis Lanza could take. For all he knew, he had already killed him. Alex watched helplessly as Moses went through the exorcism rite again, yelling each syllable of Latin as the demon struggled to remove the staff from his head. Moses felt his muscles tighten under his skin as the demon lashed out at him. Alex stood behind Moses as Lord Belial churned up a dust storm.

Moses fought to shield as his eyes the dust particles stabbed his retinas without mercy. Moses needed to concentrate. Moses needed one last push to drive the demon out of Luis' corporeal form. The thoughts of how long Moses could keep this up danced in his mind. Exorcisms could last hours even against the lowliest of imps.

Against a demon lord, Moses' heart could give out before he had even put the tiniest of dents in the cast-iron shackles binding him to his human host. Moses Penn pressed the Staff of Merlin even harder against the bruise. It's now or never.

Moses Penn didn't know when he had reached the tipping point. Just like that, the fire went out of Luis' eyes and his body collapsed onto the asphalt. Moses propped himself on the Staff of Merlin. The exorcism had taken a lot of him but, just as Blaise had predicted, it had not precipitated another cardiac arrest like it did the last time.


For a whole minute, nothing happened. Alexander Penn looked around the neighborhood of the basketball court. Suddenly, he could feel sets of eyes fixed on him, waiting to see what he would do. Alex knew the spotlight had a burning light on him. Alex didn't know what to do until he remembered the slip of paper in his hand.

That strange hobo had told him to go this address. It didn't seem too far away though Alex had only a cursory knowledge of Manhattan streets. Alex looked over at where the demon-possessed Luis Lanza had thrown the man. He saw the bloody print his body left in the wall but the man himself had disappeared. Alex shook it off.

Alex didn't have time to consider what had happened to mysterious homeless people. He needed to focus on the message he had left him. The man said he had to save Abigail Vennard. He knew about Abigail and wanted her to be protected. That made the hobo a friend of sorts or, at the very least, a rather unusual enemy.

He focused on how to get to this address in time. Luis had just recovered from his prolonged demonic possession. Alex and Moses nodded to each other. They would have to bring him along. Lord Belial had an army at the ready. It might seem like he had come alone but looks, like demons, often deceived the inattentive.

Somewhere, that demon had his own spies in place. Leaving Luis alone would, more or less, be the death of him. Luis looked around his surroundings in confusion. "What the Hell happened?" Luis rose to his feet. "I feel like I got hit by a bus." Alex didn't know if he even had the ability to describe what had happened to him.

Alex told him that he needed to get to Abby fast. "We're in New York, right?" Alex and Moses nodded. "Let's call a cab." Alex and Moses shook their heads in unison. "Why not?" Luis didn't remember anything about the demons.

For all they knew, Lord Belial had demon cabbies ready to take them on a one-way trip to the bottom of the Hudson River. "Hold still, Luis." Moses held the Staff of Merlin against his chest. "This will hurt." Luis screamed as something burned under his shirt. Luis unbuttoned his shirt and looked at the pentagram cattle brand. "It'll keep the other demons out. At least until we can find a more permanent solution."

Alex hadn't considered the logistics of their trek. Luis had just recovered from demon possession. His brother looked like something a cat had hacked up. Only Alex had the wherewithal to cross that distance on foot in any reasonable length of time.

Alex cursed under his breath. "Roll the dice," Moses suggested as he saw a taxicab in the distance. "It's the heroic thing to do." Alex hid Excalibur in his black backpack. Moses handed the slip of paper to the cabbie as he pulled up next to them. "Can you take us to this address?" The old bald cabbie nodded. "Then let's go."

The cabbie smirked. "Nice little walking stick you got there." Moses nodded. "Where did you get it?" Moses told him a friend gave it to him. "Good friend." The cabbie looked at the basketball court. The glamour remained. Lord Belial survived and so did his handiwork. "What brings you to this neighborhood at this hour?"

Alex fielded this one. "Friend of ours challenged us to a game." Alex looked back at the basketball court. "He lost." The cabbie nodded as the three of them piled in. Alex nodded. Moses had the Staff of Merlin trained on the back of the cabbie's head. If he had a demon in him, Moses could put a whammy on him in seconds.


Valac had signed his death warrant. Aiding King Arthur and his Round Table against the master. He would end up back in Hell by breakfast time tomorrow. Valac tried to stay focused. Lord Belial might not have brought anybody along on his trip to the basketball court. Ergo, no one else had witnessed his betrayal of the master.

That meant he still had a chance. Of course, that chance resided in the very enemies he had spent centuries fighting against. If King Arthur could kill Lord Belial, Valac would lose a job but he would have his freedom. Valac wanted to run but where could run to that the mongrel witch and her undead son couldn't find him?

Valac needed to stay cool. Nobody could prove anything. Nobody could prove he had visited the basketball court. Nobody could prove that he had given the good guys a leg up. Lord Belial would not interrupt his hunt to rat him a minion. He would want to handle something like that himself but only after he had dealt with this first.

Valac saw the vintage muscle car. He needed a ride back so he might as well travel in style. Valac did not bother with subtlety. He cracked his fist through the window, unlocked the driver's seat door and got to work hot-wiring the vehicle. Out of nowhere, a tattooed bruiser spun him around. "The hell you doing to my car?"

Valac pushed him away. "I'm in a generous mood right now." Valac finished hot-wiring the car. "So, just move along before this gets nasty." Valac heard him say something in reply but he wasn't listening, likely an inane threat of some sort. Out of nowhere, three bullets ripped through his chest. Valac shook his head in frustration.

"Look what you did. You got my blood all over my nice new car." The big guy quaked in his boots. "That's right, shiver, soil yourself and remember this. Next time you meet someone who isn't scared of a nasty fellow like yourself, ask yourself why." The big guy nodded nervously. "Now, get lost before you end up on a milk carton."

Valac stared at the gun the guy had abandoned during his hasty retreat. Valac picked up the offending noisemaker and emptied out the remaining three bullets. "What's with humans and their guns?" Valac asked no one in particular. Valac unsheathed the Bowie knife the hobo had on him. "You a knife man too? Guess we got that much in common." Silas sorted through the hobo's memory banks. A long time, back when this bum had money, he had killed a hooker to see what it felt like.

Apparently, not so good. Valac smiled. Unlike most demons who didn't care one way or another, Valac took comfort in any small sign that his human host deserved to have his life body-jacked by a spawn of the pit. A philosophical sort in times of stress, Valac marveled at the circular nature of human apathy. Humans spent all their lives only caring about their own business, turning a blind eye to the suffering of others.

Then, a few of these suckers end up on the streets like stray dogs and they wondered why no one else ever gave two craps about them. Sure, this thrill-seeking murderer deserved his current destitute state but what about all the others?

What did they do to deserve this awful fate except make one or two bad life decisions? Valac took off down the road and found a roll of twenties in the glove box. Valac saw four hobos huddled around a garbage fire He tossed it out of the window. Valac could just take whatever he needed. Those four needed this more than he did.


Alexander Julius Penn recognized the exterior. Abigail Vennard had a photo of her Aunt Chloe's place on her Facebook page. Alex stared as Moses paid the cabbie for the ride. Alex pressed the buzzer for Chloe Phillips. "Abby, it's me, Alex. Let us in. It's an emergency." Two minutes passed and they all got buzzed in. This fight wasn't over and every minute lost was a minute in favor of their enemy, Lord Belial.

Alex slipped as he walked up the staircase. The rush of adrenaline had worn off. He could feel himself weakened by that prolonged sword-fight. Alex gripped the guide rail and continued his climb up the stairs. Even leaning on each other, Luis and Moses could barely move forward. Alex hadn't meant for thing to go so south.

He had his heroic battle against the forces of evil. Instead of landing a decisive blow, he had his brother Moses bail him out at the risk of his own life. It should not have gone down like that. Lord Belial should have died on that basketball court. The hypocrisy of his hesitation stabbed Alex the deepest. Lord Belial could only die in a corporeal form. One day, he'd have to shove this pig sticker into an innocent victim.

Alex didn't have the luxury of waiting until he put himself inside of someone he could justify killing. Alex couldn't wait for such an unlikely turn of events. Tabby stared as the three entered the room. "Jesus, what the Hell happened?" No matter how many times he heard that question, answering never got easier. Even if he had all the facts at hand, he didn't have a straightforward way of intellectualizing them.

Still, Abigail needed to know what happened because it might happen again. "Luis got possessed by a demon," Alex said matter-of-factually. "We fought." Alex looked over at Luis. "I nearly killed him." Alex looked over at Moses. "Moses drove Belial out of his body." Alex looked around the room. "Now, I think that I might have pissed the demon off. I got a tip that the demon might make an appearance here."

Alex looked over at Moses brandishing a wooden bowl. "For protection." Moses carved a series of arcane symbols on its surface. "If the demon has an invite, he could come and go when he pleases." Moses placed the bowl at the threshold. "Now, if a big bad demon wants to get in, he has to go through that door." Moses sighed. "Whether or not it will even work on a demon as powerful as Lord Belial is anybody's guess."


Valac stared at the road leading back to his life with Lord Belial. Humans often fell victim to highway hypnosis on long road trips. Valac, as a demon, couldn't succumb to hallucinations. Still, Valac had a mind of his own, complete with its own unique set of worries, regrets and fears just like anyone else's, human or otherwise.

Valac sighed as the bullet wounds sealed up. Topside, Valac seemed to have it made. He could wander about, enjoy his choice of human flesh and none of the other demons would mess with him. Still, looking at his life, he began to see the cracks emerging in his seemingly stable means of gainful employment. Valac didn't even know why he had thought hanging around with Lord Belial's crew would help him.

Lord Belial had snatched him out of the pit. Him. When he could have chosen a dozen other willing hellspawn as his servants, Belial selected him and decked him up with all the benefits of the arch-demon lifestyle. No more being Hell's prison bitch.

Valac was now the servant of the baddest demon lord to come out of Hell since Beelzebub. Valac had felt the pride in those glory days. Valac did not feel the same pride anymore. Perhaps, somewhere along the line, he had forgotten Hell's torments.

No, Silas thought. Nobody forgets that. Perhaps, it just didn't matter anymore. What exactly did he have against King Arthur's crew anyways? It wasn't personal in either direction. Everything they had done to Valac occurred because of his undying allegiance to Lord Belial and vice versa. The dream had always remained the same.

Valac would settle in with Lord Belial until he could hive off and form his own diabolical legion. It never happened. No matter how much horrible crap he did for the boss, every other demon saw him as a servant, a high-ranking servant but a servant nonetheless. No self-respecting demon would take orders from Lord Belial's bitch boy.

Valac swerved back into his lane as he caught himself drifting. At the earliest opportunity, Valac would put in his two weeks' notice. He had done his part. Valac needed to get out of the game before he ended up back in the pit getting filleted by the bigger meaner hellspawn. All this hinged on King Arthur killing Lord Belial.


Alexander Julius Penn had not expected to get bored during the stakeout. Of all the things he had prepared for, this all-consuming boredom had not been one of them. Nonetheless, Alex felt like chewing on his own brain stem to end the ennui. Perhaps, Lord Belial had meant for this to occur. Get him bored and then strike when they least expected. Alex nodded. Belial certainly knew how to stack the deck. Alex stared over at Abby as she tended to Luis. Moses stood guard at his post next to the door. Chloe had drifted off to sleep, another possible demon possession victim. Alex Penn didn't know if it had been the same demon as the one Luis had in him.

If so, he had an invite to the house. If not, they needed to remain-weary of anyone asking to come in. Boy, had Alex ran roughshod over Luis' life. Alex had broken up a happy home because he couldn't stand the thought of them together.

As soon as he finished this final thing, Alex would grant them his blessing and hope for a speedy and amicable reconciliation. Alex belonged to this war. Abby belonged to Luis. An hour had passed. The buzzer from downstairs rang. "It's the police." Alex stared as Moses armed himself with his staff. "We need to come up there and ask you a few questions." Alex raised his hands as Moses mouthed the word "no." What did he mean by "no?" This cop needed to talk to them. What could Alex do?

"Actually, would you mind if I came down there?" Alex looked around at the room. Any reasonable police officer would accept such a compromise, wouldn't they? Alex waited for the reply. Silence followed. Alex picked up his sword. The moment of truth drew nearer. How would a demon-possessed cop react to this ultimatum?

"Listen, kid, I'm not in the mood for your games. We have a boatload of dead bodies a couple blocks over. A lot of grieving relatives demanding justice, alright?" The cop paused. "If you saw something, you need to let us know." A growl followed. "Either you let me in or I'll come back with a search warrant and search the place myself." Would a search warrant qualify as an invitation in the mystical sense?

Alex didn't think so but therein lied the rub. This didn't sound like a demon. This sounded like a cop desperate to nail a killer. Of course, a demon would know all the right things to say to elicit an invitation from them. Alex sighed. "Come on up." Alex knew he had made a mistake when he heard the rush of air next to the door.

"Get down," Alex ordered them. "Now!" The door flew off its hinges as the twenty-something rookie cop walked in. His yellow demonic eyes stared at the crowd. Without saying a word, he pulled out his service pistol and shot Abby in the stomach.

"No!" Alex cried. The cop smiled. "Relax, son," Lord Belial tossed the gun away. "I am a warrior at heart but firearms are so impersonal." Moses rushed to Abby's side. "I just needed to give your wizard something useful to do." Lord Belial reached for his scythe which he had felt by the door. "I believe this fight of ours has a Round Two."

Alex rushed at Belial. Cocky demon lord parried with one hand and slashed at him. "That's right, crying king," Lord Belial goaded him on. "To Hell with the rules of civilized combat. Let the animal inside you lash out at me with everything he has got." Lord Belial leaned the cop's face up right next to Alex's. "Don't hold back."

Alex looked away to see Moses knitting the gunshot wound with the glowing tip of his staff. A fresh cut across his forearm brought him back to the present. "Pay attention, boy," Lord Belial chided him. "I want to fight King Arthur at his prime and I cannot do that if you insist on looking around at your pretty little girlfriend."

Alex felt the hands of his prior lives guiding his sword into the openings in Lord Belial's defense. "Yes! That's the kingly spirit! Ha!" At once, the fight seemed to be turning in his favor. Just then, Alex looked down to see his sword hand (along with the sword) cleaved from his arm. Alex let loose a feral cry as he stared at the stump.

"Don't get excited." Lord Belial looked over at Moses. "I'm sure your wizard can glue you back together." Lord Belial placed his machete against his throat. "Not that he will ever get the chance to though." Alex could feel a couple of teeth crack as the pain drove them into each other like bumper cars. The demon-possessed cop smiled.

"Goodbye to the once and future king." The demon screamed and dropped the scythe on the carpet. Moses stood over him, mumbling the words of an exorcism. The demon lord smashed the Staff of Merlin in his fist. Lord Belial grabbed the scythe.

The demon lord lurched towards Alex, ready to finish him off. Then, Excalibur dug the demon's neck from behind until the sword hit the bone underneath. Sparks of white light glowed inside the demon's punctured neck. Luis dropped Excalibur. Moses picked it up off the blood-stained carpet. "Let's see if I can glue you back together."


Valac climbed the stair to the tenth floor of the Valentine Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. Though one of the newer additions to this desert town, the Valentine Hotel managed to exude a quaint Old World charm Valac found endearing in a country so obsessed with novelty. He knocked on the oaken door of Room 1015.

The door unlocked. Valac looked back and forth before entering the hotel room. He made certain that he had cleaned the bloodstains from his clothes and hi person. He couldn't risk that someone in a service elevator seeing a splotch or two on his vest.

Valac needed to conceal all evidence of his brief confrontation with Lord Belial. Otherwise, Valac would end up back in Hell. Room 1015 didn't look like what Valac expected from a hotel room. Room 1015 looked like a sprawling apartment with a fully-stocked kitchen and a walk-in closet. Valac saw a damn pool on the balcony.

"Ritzy," Valac commented as Morgan le Fay rested her son in the center of a pentagram. She had tracked down Mordred and managed to get him under control. Morgan le Fay could command the elements and control the weather but she didn't have the first clue about reining in the homicidal whims of her own flesh and blood.

Mordred's eyelids opened and closed in a rhythmic pattern. Whatever his witch mother had done to him, it had punched his lights out. Valac hoped he stayed this way. Morgan laid on one of the king-sized beds and stared blankly at the ceiling.

For a coldhearted bitch who would soon step on your face than look at you, Morgan had reached the end of her wits. Not as far a trip as Morgan thought but one that required singularly horrific circumstances. Valac almost felt sorry for Morgan le Fay. Almost. The red phone on the nightstand rang. The tired witch answered it.

"Of course, we'll just ..." Morgan choked on her words. "Move on. We'll just move on." A lone tear showed up under one of her eyes. "He would have wanted it that way." Morgan hung up. Valac could hardly contain his joy. He knew the bad news she had likely received just now. "Lord Belial has given his life to the cause."

Big freaking surprise there, Valac thought bitterly. The bad-ass Demon Lord obsessed with single combat got nuked by a reincarnating Super-Jesus with a Kill-Anything Sword. The only thing was a sign on his back reading "Enter Excalibur Here." If Valac hadn't known any better, he would have thought that perhaps Lord Belial wanted to die. What with all the flaws and errors he had sowed into his plans?

Valac and others trusted Lord Belial to bring about the end of the human world. In the end, he only succeeded in ending his own world and taking everyone down with him. Without him, the society would collapse from its own infighting as it had threatened to do in the past. Lord Belial was the glue holding them together.

Demons, fairies and monsters just didn't mix well together. Valac always found it quite odd how the demons didn't like the fairies who didn't like the monsters. In truth, they all came from the same source. A product of Michael casting out angels who defied the Commandments of the Heavenly Father, no matter how asinine.

Even as a human, Valac's bloodline as a mortal man descended from a fallen angel. Still, despite the commonality of their origin, the fallen didn't experience this separation from God equally. The rebel angels burned in a part of the cosmos where the primordial chaos scorched away their heavenly visages. The neutral angels, the fairies, landed on Earth, a place only considered Hell when compared to Heaven.

Then came the Grigori, the instigators of the Second Angelic War. The sexual unions these so-called "Watchers" formed with human females led to the birth of the Nephilim, a race of man-eating giants whose descendants became the first monsters.

Even the ultimate fate of the Grigori paled in comparison to the punishment levied against Lucifer. God smote him. A cunning devil, Lucifer reassembled his soul in the Outer Dark, a singularity outside time and space. A realm of pure darkness, it was home to sapient ideations of hunger that made demons look like Care Bears.

If the propaganda machines of the senior management held any truth, Lucifer spoke to demons like Lord Belial, whispering instructions and (supposedly) the means by which he could escape his nightmarish prison. The Devil would need another ear to chew on. Lord Belial had likely joined him in the Outer Dark. "Why didn't you do something?" Morgan le Fay asked in that bitter rhetorical tone.

Valac rolled his eyes. He knew this would happen. Belial hadn't even died more than a few hours ago before the accusations and power grabs set in. Morgan resented having to play second banana to demon kind. She wanted the keys to the society for herself. "What would you have me do?" Valac asked, mocking her tone.

"Falling upon the sword of Excalibur would only add another demon to its kills." Besides, these newcomers had the devil's luck on their side. They had killed their master and made it look easy. "I have met Excalibur twice on the battlefield, more than any creature ever has." Valac considered the hypocrisy of this inquiry.

If a greater demon had done as he did, maneuvering underlings, sacrificing expendable assets and finding escape routes when faced with certain death, no one would have batted an eye. They only chose to harass Valac because lesser demons were supposed to have this silly notion of dying for their masters, no matter what.

"I agree with Valac on this one." Everyone turned in the direction of the voice. Valac saw a bald man in his late twenties in a silver double-breasted tuxedo. The tall man stood in the middle of the hotel room's antechamber. "I highly doubt he would have accomplished anything terribly productive by getting himself killed like that."

James Bond sauntered toward them "I appreciate employees who work smart, not hard." By now, Morgan le Fay would have blasted Ian Fleming through the door if not for his hypnotic charm. "I watched you during the Trevena shooting massacre. You did everything that you could to salvage a botched mission. If it wasn't for Eligos' stifling management style, you could have gone quite far in this organization."

The guy in the silver tux didn't believe in taking breathes between sentences. "Which brings us to your performance in New York. A major disappointment. Eligos gave you instructions to kill Abigail Vennard and Chloe Phillips. Instead, you alerted Alexander and Moses Penn of his impending plans and tried to use his death to cover up your own sordid indiscretions." Valac shook his head as Morgan sneered at him.

"I received no such instructions." Eligos. Valac knew that name but what did Eligos have to do with Lord Belial's destruction? "He ordered me to leave Abigail and Chloe alone so that he could use them as bait." A beat of sweat formed on Valac's borrowed forehead. "I didn't betray anyone." The tuxedo-clad gentleman sighed.

"Listen." The man's eyeballs turned solid white. "I know what instructions you did and did not receive because I gave those instructions to Eligos to give to you." The man's eyes returned to their normal blue color. "You put yourself in a very bad situation. I don't have a lot of options here. I have to think of what's best for the team. I'm really sorry." Belial placed his left hand over his forehead. Valac fell to his knees.

"Please, master, don't do this to me." Pain rushed through his body as the tendrils of his spirit detached from his host. "Gimme a chance." Valac felt the heated breath of hellfire licking at his face. "They will rape me with hot knives," he screamed his lungs inside out. In that moment, the man in the silver tuxedo closed his eyes.

"I can't do this," Belial decided. Valac breathed a sigh of relief. "Morgan." No sooner than he had spoken that name, the trapdoor to Hell opened up beneath Valac. The fleshy maw of the hell-mouth crushed and melted his spirit-body as it moved his liquefied ectoplasmic remains down the passage like food through a digestive tract.


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