39: Ashes to Ashes
Lincoln and his followers surrounded Andrea. He used a hand gesture, and in moments, Oliver was quickly dragged off the street and away from view into separate buildings. “Now, you will feel Bhuul’s punishment.”
Andrea had been in Devil Traps before and knew how to get out of them now. “I did not like you before; don’t make me hate you.” She started her concentration, and she would wrangle the power of her grace, the power she held inside. With authority granted by Katalina, she would twist reality around her. Moments later, the sigil on her chest burned a bright red, followed by her body a glow. Her eyes burned fire as she smiled, “Now feel the power of Katalina.” She stepped forward, and the sigil on the Devil Trap flared a bright yellow. And she stopped, the fire burned out of her eyes, and her crimson sigil died down. “Wait; what?”
Lincoln waited a moment, enjoying the look of surprise on the Demon Lord’s face. “Grace counters grace. The Devil Trap was traced with the blood of a god, containing her grace. Now Demon Lord, I punish you in the name of Bhuul. You are the loose hand of a God, one who does not deserve to exist. You reject Bhuul; you reject your faith and choose to follow an abomination.” Lincoln was done with his lecture. Raising his hand holding his holy symbol, the Circled Axe, “Devil Trap: Punishment.”
The runes activated, forming glowing lines of power until the sigil was complete. Andrea watched as the area around her slowed. She could see movement outside the Devil Trap, slow. A bird in mid-air slowed to a snail’s pace. A rune complex and forced into her succubus form, the painful uncontrolled transformation made her wince. Andrea wondered what was happening, a temporal rune in the sigil? No, her mind had been spun up to a faster speed, but why? She heard something that sounded like a clock ticking, and after sixty tics, she could hear a loud GONG. Then her body burst into a blue flame. The blue fire danced across her skin, burning small flakes off at a time. Andrea screamed as she had never screamed before; her flesh was being consumed slowly by Holy Fire. Her demonic core, what made of the demon’s flesh, was being burned away. Andrea’s mind had been speed up to allow her to feel the pain longer.
Andrea fell to her knees, “Katalina, HELP ME!” There was no response; the goddess was silent. The fire died down. Small amounts of her flesh had been turned to a powdery white ash. Gasping for breath, “Good, it’s coming to an end.” She could still hear the ticking in the background, then another loud GONG. The fire started up again. Andrea howled and raged against the blue fire. Cursing the name of Bhuul, the pain of being burned alive and slowly roasting was too much for her to bare.
Andrea knew the golden rule, grace trumps grace, but even the amount of grace available has its limits, and The Devil Trap had been embodied with the power. Andrea pulled more grace from Katalina, and the Devil Trap began to burn; she could feel the energy starting to break. I can beat this before I roast alive!
Behind Lincoln, he heard the sound, a twisting chime. He turned, expecting reinforcements from the Demon Lord. A swirling white portal formed a dozen feet behind him.
Andrea could see a large black war warhorse trotted through the swirling portal. The blue holy fire flared from the horse’s eyes, leaving trails of flame as the animals walked forward.
The horse wore heavy black metal armor, a form of adamantine known as god steel. The symbol of the circled ax is displayed prominently on the embossments of the horses barding. The rider visage is equally impressive, outlining the healthy body; the dark steel plate was highlighted with gold trim. His black braided beard flowed from his chin while his eyes glowed with a divine bright white light. A large god steel ax with celestial runes glowed with a soft blue color. He was looking down at the gathered Purifiers.
Andrea looked up at the god; her heart dropped. Andrea’s world collapsed. As if all hope had been taken away from her, she could not believe what her burning eyes showed her. Standing in front of her was her older brother, Alexander. “Alex! No. not you.” The last time she had seen her brother was when his bloody swollen body had been taken from the cells in West Bale, and Andrea took his place. She had become a sacrifice in her family’s stead.
Andrea recognized the voice as her brothers, but the words of Bhuul spoke in thunder. “You, unlike your brother, made his sacrifice and held to his belief. I have a special place for those who betray me. Andrea Wellington, you are an unworthy servant. Not worthy of being the Hand of a God. Your soul is not fit for any god to take. I will sunder your soul for myself; the tortures I will put you through will make a demon beg for mercy.”
Through Andrea’s pain, she felt her mind being rustled from her; Katalina’s presence filled her body. She was now feeling the full exposure of Bhuul’s Devil Trap. Katalina’s rule is she deals with the gods herself.
“Nice to see you, son.” Katalina winced as her Hands body was being burned alive. The Devil Trap now began to dissipate faster as the more experienced god pulsed her power in and around the trap.
Bhuul stretched out his hand, the Circled Axe symbol glowed brightly in front of him, and the Devil Trap began to repair itself. “Don’t call me that. I am not your son. You are not my mother.”
A vortex disrupted air opened up nearby. He looked to the side, the swirling purple portal leading to the city of Floastone, specifically directly into Calidor. He could see through the vortex, the other avatar of Katalina. He was looking at a nearly identical to the one burning alive in his trap. Two short blades appeared out of the air, one golden, the other made of dark metal. He recognized one, the weapon he feared the most, the short golden blade, the Immortal Bane.
Katalina spoke from her burning Hand. “Why deal with just one of me?” Katalina pulsed more grace, but not from her trapped hand, but the one in Calidor. “You always loved to play with my toys Bhuul.”
Portals began to open in and around the City of Cormanworth. The Portals lead to the entrances of the various levels of the Pit of Calidor. The Mother of Monsters was coming, the way she usually comes in force with creatures of all sorts and sizes.
Animals and people began to become frightened about the portals that opened up in the city. Nobody had ever seen anything like this before. One curious bystander looked into the swirling vortex, and he could see a set of double doors made of some sort of black granite standing maybe fifteen or so feet tall. The door rumbled opened, and a giant of a man, twelve feet tall, quickly stood with a giant ax. His thick brown leathers are patched together with human skin. Hair from the sewn skulls made a disturbing pattern across his chest. The giant yelled his battle cry, “We serve the Goddess of the Pit! KILL!” With a short step, the giant moved forward through the portal and into the streets of Cormanworth.
Bhuul shouted, “Now, Charon. Close the Portals. Katalina, I know all of your tricks. You have nothing new to show me.”
A shadowy figure appeared next to Bhuul. He was a pale, gaunt figure but rather a strong outline. He held a Golden Scythe embodied with several gems. “With pleasure, my friend. He was carrying a small device designed to counter portals and demons summoning in small armies’. The golden sphere had risen into the air. Charon’s eyes filled with black, the absence of light. His symbol blazed into the air, the circle scythe. Dozens of black-robed skeletal figures appeared before the newly formed portals. The monsters gathering behind them posing to charge through were disrupted by the undead swinging their black scythes into the magical vortexes. They were disrupting the portal’s sustaining magic and closing them.
“Unlike you, I have allies. Ones who will stand by me and fight your tyranny.” Bhuul presented his ax forward.
“No new portals or summons will work in the immediate area. We are now alone.” Charon’s pale head looked down at the burning goddess.
Katalina readied herself for a personal fight with her son. Something she had been looking forward to for some time.
“Where do you think you’re going?” the voice of the child coming behind her; Joshua had made his presence known. The flashing multi-colored Soul Stone whipped around Katalina, making several passes before finally hovering directly in front of her.
“I am going to go collect my first prisoner. He’s right there!” As she stepped towards the open portal to Cormanworth, Charon’s undead minion stood before the vortex and closed it. The voice of a giggling child stopped her.
Another voice swung around, “This Hand is the Warden; you can not leave Avalon. Your presence is required here.” Justin the Soul Stone of Law, Joshua’s counterpart, warned Katalina of her action.
“Well, it looks like I may need a new Hand after all of this is over. Two gods vs. one is not good odds.” Katalina stood back and leaned against her red pulsing crystal altar.
Cracks in the burnt flesh glowed hot coal red; her nerves were on fire. She brought herself to a stand again. Coughing, ash out of her mouth, pieces of her bone on her hands, face, and feet were showing. The people were slowly moving about, staring and pointing at the horror they were witnessing. Her eyelids had been burned off with the last burst of blue holy fire. BONG! The blue fire again engulfed her body.
Lincoln watched as Katalina slowly died in the trap. Time inside the bubble was increased, the duration of the punishment would be the same, but she would experience a long and painful burn, just as Bhuul wanted. “Praise be Bhuul. Now we wait, be on guard. Insure her followers are secure; we can more than likely save their sinning souls after we perform the Rituals of Purification.”
Curious onlookers watched Katalina’s hand struggled inside the Devil Trap.
Her body burned and collapsed, bit by bit; Katalina’s flesh burned away, leaving only dark blasted bones. They all watched a crawling mass of burning flesh circle around inside the Devil Trap until the burning arms and legs finally detached. She screamed until she could no longer scream.
Lincoln moved to ready the last part of the trap, to send the remains back to the hell realm where it spawned. To become part of whatever demon’s decoration that would take the charred remains. “Devil Trap: Banish” The Devil Trap flared one more time; the bones stayed on the ground. The only bits of the Demon Lord that remained were the golden dagger, a small golden chain broach, and a large emerald gem.
Lincoln signaled, “Box’s Now. Don’t touch the bone fragments by hand. Use the tongs. Do not place any bone fragment that was next to each other in the same box. We are going to scatter the bones of this Demon Lord as far from each other. So there is no way for The Goddess of the Pit to put this hand back together.”
Bhuul stood proud, looking down at the gathered Purifiers, “You have done well, Purifier G’nisleh. You have brought down the Demon Lord Ka’Azalin before she could break our world again. Your name will be praised as a true hero.”
Charon waited, “Soon, I will be able to collect her soul. We must make sure that Katalina’s presence has fully retreated from her Hand.”
Lincoln wanted to bow, but the danger was not over yet. “Thank you, my lord.” He did lower his eyes for a moment. “We are in the process of separating the parts of the Demon Lord so that we can either scatter them or find a way to destroy the bones.”
Bhuul surveyed the area around him. He smiled with the satisfaction of a well thought out plan of action. Tristan, the god of war, had developed the battle plan and had Bhuul and Charon execute it. His mother’s hand had been stopped; the Council of Eight would have to build a new body for Katalina’s Immortal Bane. “To bad about the weapon, I would have loved to add that golden sword to my collection.”
Charon spoke, “That explains why we did not find The Council of Eights, Immortal Bane when we searched her Hands liar here. Katalina has kept the sword in the cotidal.”
Bhuul nodded in agreement and watched his followers collect Ka’Azalin’s bones and place them in the specially prepared box. The Trinity had won; Bhuul, Charon, and Tristan had won this battle.
Katalina held onto her Hand’s mind, and her link was about to be severed as the flesh had burned away. Katalina had taken the brunt of her Ka’Azalin’s pain, something that was truly horrifying. The levels of grace quickly dropped to barely sustainable levels. Katalina could not push anymore into the vessel. Bhuul had countered grace with grace, and in a way, Katalina could not continue to oppose. Katalina entered Andrea’s soul cage, the vision of her heaven or hell she had created in her mind. She could see her past victims on the shore of the dried river bed. The serpent, the one she called Torment, was not moving or slithering around. Andrea laid on the dried floor of the river bed; she was not moving, not breathing. The vision of herself had been severed in different pieces, a hand a leg all were scattered about. The only sound was a slow breeze. The ambient light was slowly fading into darkness.
Katalina’s presence manifested as a pair of red eyes circling the fallen girl. “Well, my Ka’Azalin looks like this is where we part ways. I was unable to see this coming.”
Nothing stirred in the consciousness. Katalina thought this was strange; she had felt this same sensation before, but when she had herself succumbed to becoming one with the void where gods go to die, this was odd for her Ka’Azalin was not a true god.
The light continued to fade, and the only light remaining was coming from Katalina’s eyes.
Andrea finally spoke softly and only in a barely audible whisper, “The pain has finally stopped. I am so tired, am I going to dream?”
Katalina voiced her thoughts, “Yes, child, dream. However, your dreams will not be pleasant. You will be alone with your past sins until I can collect your soul. Your Oliver is going to die horribly at the hand of Bhuul. My son has your true love; he will also shortly have your feathery fool Charmeine. You were a good Hand. Good-by, my Ka’Azalin. Now close your eyes and sleep.”
Katalina felt her connection with her Hand fade, and only darkness was left.