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Chapter 44

Chapter 44: Facilitator

The door slit anticipates Alecto’s movements. Edges curl and retract before she even takes a step. As she glides into the chamber, the wall behind her brightens like an inverse shadow, responding to the proximity of her flesh.

Alecto wears a hooded robe spun from the sapient fibers that comprise her house, although the ones she wears seem calmer and duller than the aggressive worms swarming her walls.

She looks young, mid-20s at most, with little sign of the weathering I have noticed in other, otherwise young looking denizens of Lethe. She is slender at the torso, her calves are wiry, her thighs muscular.

“Bad. Very bad,” says Alecto. “Both of you. I wish I had room enough on my crosses for two.”

I wield the obsidian spear in a fighting position. The fibers on the wall prickle with agitation.

Alecto wheels to face me. Her sharp, intelligent eyes seize and hold my gaze. “Put that down,” she says. “Go. Save yourself while you can.”

Instead, I step between her and Sabonis. He is still on the floor, too weak to rise.

“You’re making a big mistake,” she says. “You may think you’re Fallen, but you can easily retrieve what you’ve lost.”

“You know? Where I’ve been?” I say.

“Of course I know,” says Alecto. “My house tells me everything that happens on this mountain.” She pets the wall like it was a cat. “Don’t you, house? A girl has to keep her house happy, no? I have a happy house today.”

She turns to the door slot and makes it dilate fully. She steps aside. “Go on and go,” she says. “We won’t harm you if you leave right now. Get back on that mountain. Take your time this time, when you climb. You’ll find there are much better ways to spend eternity than what your current path will bring.”

She scowls down at Sabonis. “Not much left to this one, anyhow. We’ve drained him out pretty good, the pest. Three pests in two days. Not a bad haul. Now, go, before you make a pest out of yourself.”

“He’s coming with me,” I say, poking the spear towards her spear.

She smirks. “But why? You’re not like him,” says Alecto. “You’re Fettered. You won’t get far, even if you are a Primentor’s pet.”

“He’s my … friend,” I say. Sabonis rolls back on his haunches. I can see he’s gathering his strength.

“Fool. This man has no friends. He’s a parasite. He exploits souls to his own ends. Just like Delgado and Schneider and Andali before him. There will be more Unfettered Ones crawling out of Avernus. That’s inevitable. But that’s why we have Facilitators like me, no?”

“Don’t move, or I’ll gut you like a fish,” I say. “We’re leaving. Marco, can you stand?”

Sabonis lumbers to his feet. He wobbles towards a wall. Strands loop out and attempt to snag him, but he is out of their reach.

Alecto speaks to her robe. It bunches and slithers off her sleek form, configuring itself into a squid-like creature, with a tapered body and tentacles in front. It squirms across the floor and latches onto Sabonis’ leg. I jab it with the obsidian spear. It hisses, loses its grip. Sabonis kicks out his leg and flings it against the wall. Threads slither out to knead and caress the creature’s wound.

Alecto screeches and charges Sabonis, long fingernails flashing like stilettos. I spin towards her. The spear catches her beneath the ribs and keeps penetrating. She gasps but does not scream. I use her momentum to push her against the wall, pinning her against the writhing threads.

The wall flares bright. Turquoise threads spin out and engulf Alecto’s body. Some enter her wound and tug at the spear, pushing it out of her. Others sop up her blood and knit closed her damaged skin.

Alecto, her face contorted in a rictus of rage, tries to come after us, but the strands restrain her. Ropy tendrils slither down her throat, squelching her voice.

The aperture seals to a thin slit and pulls taut as a drum head. I slash an opening diagonally with the ultra-sharp obsidian. The membrane curls away, shriveling like a leaf touched by fire.

I grab Sabonis by the wrist and haul him outside. The entire complex writhes. Paroxysms of light emanate from Alecto and pulse around the ring.

I drag Sabonis through the scrubby shelf to the crosses on the hillside. Sabonis looks foggy but at least he can move.

“Where ya goin’?” says Sabonis, slurring the words like a drunk.

“Delgado’s here,” I say. “Maybe you might like a word with him.”

“That … rat … fucker,” says Sabonis.

We reach the crosses, and find Delgado inert. The shadow limbs that had protruded from him are gone. Only dead flesh remains, waxy and stiff.

“I had just spoken to him,” I say.

“This one’s still got some juice,” says Sabonis, looking up at the next cross.

“But ….”

“Cut him down,” says Sabonis. “This one’s moving.”

I slash at the thongs securing Mr. Corduroy spread-eagled across the limbs of the X, and he drops. He tries to speak. No sounds emerge from his mouth.

Sabonis reaches up and fishes through Delgado’s coat pockets. He pulls out a golf ball, a cigarette lighter, half a pack of cigarillos.

“Let’s get out of here,” says Sabonis.

Foot beats pound up the path.
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