The stench of brimstone was unbearable. The heat was suffocating, but she didn’t register either as she made her way down the corridor that snaked deeper into the inferno like the biblical embodiment of the Underworld’s patron fallen angel. Was she bleeding? Who cares; unimportant. The last fight was harder than she expected. She had to find him. She made a vow and she intended to keep it. Even the fires of Hell itself wouldn’t keep her from him. She raised her enchanted blade and used its glowing blue light to guide her through the darkness.
She heard footfalls approaching. Probably too late, she thought, but she brought the sword to her lips and said the command word anyway.
The light blinked out immediately, plunging her into pitch blackness. She steadied her breath and waited, having heard the footsteps pause as the light went out, now rushing toward her at a near-sprint. Her worthless human eyes provided no assistance in darkness, so instead she prayed the creature (or creatures, let’s be honest) would cause enough noise that she could at least swing near them when they attacked.
She could smell them first.
Squatting down and reaching into her satchel, she blindly felt for the right vial. Her eyes never left the area from where she could hear them approaching. Once she found the vial, the footsteps were now very near, probably within a few yards. If they could see in the dark, she was a sitting duck. Even still, she did not falter. She raised her sword in her left hand above her head and said in a low, clear voice, “Leve,” and the blade shone brightly, blinding the two approaching creatures who hissed and covered their eyes against the bright light. These purple and black fiends were covered with spines, long black wings, and rows of razor-sharp teeth the gleamed brightly. The blinding light nearly caused them to drop their tridents as well, which would have been an added bonus for her.
She took this opportunity to remove the vial from her satchel and hurled it at the creature leading the charge. Her aim was better than she expected as the glass tube hit the handle of the trident and shattered, spraying both creatures with a clear liquid that instantly burned their flesh, causing them to cry out in pain.
I guess that holy water was worth the trouble, she thought as she stood up to her full height, returning the gleaming sword to her dominate hand. Sizing up the two, she decided the leader would be the first to fall and charged in. Blinded and in pain, the devil had no chance of deflecting her blade as it sliced through its torso from hip to shoulder, spraying black ichor across the wall and floor of the corridor. Slicing across its body and switching her sword to her left hand, she drew the dagger Selentan begrudgingly gave her with her right and drove it into the second devil’s gut, all the way to the hilt. It howled in pain and snarled directly in her face, so close she could feel its breath and spittle against her face.
She swung her sword to the right and leapt backward, slicing across its midsection and spilling entrails upon the dusty floor. The screams of the devil may have affected her before, but by now, she welcomed them like a child’s laughter. The first devil stabbed at her with its trident, just missing her torso as she twisted to the right. She parried with her sword, spinning with surprising agility away from the attack, and caught the creature in the neck with her dagger. Gasping and gagging, the devil dropped its trident and fumbled for her wrist to remove the blade.
“Allow me,” she said, placing her booted foot on the creature’s midsection and using it to pull the blade through the flesh of the neck and chest, ripping a gushing hole and pushing the devil onto its back. Before her eyes, the formerly rust red floor turned black as the two creatures bled out at her feet. She ran both of them through for good measure and wiped their blood from her blades.
“I’m coming, baby,” she said into the darkness. “I’m coming for you.”
Heather paused to admire her dress one last time before heading out to meet her step-father. It really is gorgeous, she thought, turning to admire the bustle and train. I’m glad we did first-looks, otherwise Jack would lose it again in front of everybody. Everybody knew he was a crier, but she didn’t need to exacerbate his emotional state today. She made sure her lipstick was even, adjusted her veil one more time, and stepped out of the suite.
The ceremony went off without a hitch. Even the flower girl she said she didn’t want did a great job and went right back to her parents after an (admittedly) cute curtsey at the altar. Their friend Phil made it through the sermon only crying twice when talking about their relationship and his platonic love for Jack. They said their vows, “’til death do us part”, yada yada yada. Then the cocktail hour, then the reception, then dancing. As far as she remembered, anyway. She had a very good time.
The next morning, as they loaded up their rental car and said their good-byes, Jack gave her a sly little wink.
“What’s that for?” she asked.
“Just winking at my wife,” he said with a goofy grin. Wife, she thought. Weird. I’m a wife. That’s my husband. As she thought how lucky she was, he pulled the hatch of their car down on his head and winced in pain.
“Smooth, babe,” she said, rolling her eyes.
When the stopped for gas an hour or so later on the way to their bed and breakfast, Jack got out to pump the gas. When she offered, he waved her away.
“As your husband, it is my duty to pump the gas,” he said, putting on his best and deepest “manly” voice.
“I could get used to this newfound chivalry from you, Jack.”
“It’s the least I could do after… Well…” She smiled as he blushed. He was of course referring to the incident the night before in their marital bed when he made a very strange sound mid-coitus.
“I’d say it happens to a lot of guys, but I’m pretty sure it’s never happened to anyone ever before.”
“You know me: always the trend setter!” She laughed and turned to admire the view. The station was situated off the woods next to a look-out point with a nearly 180-degree view of the lake below. She walked across the road with her hands in the pockets of her favorite khakis. She took a deep breath in and let it out slowly, enjoying her first real moment of calm since they got engaged almost three years ago. A weird noise made her turn, but she couldn’t process what she saw until later. It just didn’t make sense. It was impossible.
What she saw was a seven-foot devil with massive black and red wings dragging her new husband backward in a choke-hold toward a portal of flame and smoke. When the devil saw her, it flashed a toothy, horrifying grin, then pointed to the gas pumps. A streak of flame shot from its hand and the pumps exploded in a giant fireball, engulfing their rental car — full of gifts, his rented tux, and her beautiful wedding dress — in a massive wall of flame. The car also exploded, blowing out the windows of the gas station and several parked cars from the attached service station. But more important than property damage and inevitable fees they’d have to pay for the tuxedo, Heather was thrown backward twenty feet, hitting the guard rail and flipping over the side into the brush below.
Of course, she remembered none of that.
Thank god for health potions, she thought, taking a sip of the bright red liquid gifted to her by the small raccoon. She didn’t need all of it, but she had taken a few licks along the way. She had taken a moment of rest once she found a cave in the seemingly never-ending paths and tunnels of Hell she trekked, following the pull she felt from her wedding band. Corny as it may have seemed, it made the most sense that their rings would be Jack’s beacon. She was still kicking herself for not remembering what he was wearing when he was taken, but she was very tired and very hungover when it all went down. But she could picture his ring without hesitation. They had lain in bed on their wedding night, admiring their new jewelry well into the morning hours. Never would she have thought the tiny piece of metal and rocks (that she didn’t really want in the first place) would be the one thing giving her hope on her unbelievable journey.
Once she felt the effects of the potion tingle through her hands and feet, she did a quick inventory of her weapons and gear. Her sword Blade of the Dawn was lighting the small cavern. Selentan’s dagger lay on the ground next to it, freshly cleaned and spotless. In her pack, she counted four remaining vials of holy water, an item she had scoffed at initially but would have been in dire straits without now. There were three more health potions, a vial of liquid fire (which seems like throwing water on the ocean in her opinion, but she took it anyway), a bag full of sleeping powder, and a pair of snowballs which, to her amazement, hadn’t begun to even sweat condensation let alone melt in the extreme heat. Once everything was counted and arranged in her pack, she sheathed her weapons, took a huge drink from her endless waterskin (thank god for that too), and headed back out onto Jack’s trail.
The magic emanating from her ring was both calming and reassuring. She felt certain she would find him, even though she literally had no idea how to find him. The pull was strong, and she followed it, trusting the tools she’d been given as they’d gotten her this far. It was strange for her just let go like this; she was a known-control freak and not one to let someone else call the shots. She had planned their wedding itinerary to the quarter hour, for Pete’s sake.
Exiting the cave, she found the corridor now lit in the distance with a dull reddish-orange light. The ring pulled her toward it until she heard voices. She stopped and pressed herself against the wall, finding just enough cover to not be seen should something approach. The voices were a language she didn’t understand but seemed to be the language of the Underworld. Harsh, guttural, and mostly growls were the only parts she discerned and could only assume were full of malice and evil. Devils, right? Evil bastards.
Once she was fairly certain they weren’t approaching, she snuck out from her hiding spot and made her way along the walls, ducking in and out of cover as she went. She got to within a few feet of the two dark red imps without being detected and saw they were both facing the other direction, fully engrossed in their conversation. She reached into her pack and pulled out the bag of sleeping powder. Carrax hadn’t told her how much to use, so she had to guess. She smirked to herself as she felt like Indiana Jones, judging the bag’s weight in one hand. She loosened the leather tie and took out a little less than a handful. Pocketing the bag and drawing her dagger, she stepped out behind the two creatures.
“Hey there,” she said, then blew the dust into their surprised faces.
She woke up in a lot of pain. Like, a lot-a lot. She thought her left arm might be broken and was pretty sure her pounding head and nausea was almost definitely a concussion. She looked around and blinked repeatedly, trying to make sense of her surroundings. Where was the road? The guard rail? The burning rental car? Why was she inside? Why was it so hot and humid in here? She was wearing a sweatshirt when she got out of the car, but this felt like the tropics. She tried to sit up but the pain in her head wouldn’t let her. Once the spins subsided slightly, she tried again, this time succeeding in sitting upright. She moved to hold the sides of her head together as they felt like they were splitting in half, but audibly winced when she tried to move her left arm. It was wrapped in leaves and twigs. She moved it again and cried out in pain. Whatever this wrapping was, it was clearly a splint for her (confirmed) broken arm. She looked around and tried to get her bearings.
“She’s awake,” she heard from the foggy darkness beyond her fuzzy vision. The voice sounded small but commanding. She searched her field of vision for the source of the voice and nearly jumped out of her skin when a raccoon wearing clothing approached her on all fours and sat on its haunches. Why would a raccoon be wearing a hooded green cloak? She also noticed it was wearing a belt with small pouches attached. Looking into its eyes, she expected to see what she had always seen in photos online of raccoons or in that Marvel movie: dark, black eyes hooded in the trademark bandit’s mask coloring. Instead, these eyes were amber and striking. This made her recoil again, banging her injured arm and wincing in pain.
“If you’d stop moving, it wouldn’t hurt so much,” the raccoon said, shaking her head and crossing her little arms. Heather noticed a tiny silver ring on one of her fingers.
“How are you talking?” Heather asked, not entirely sure she wanted to hear the answer.
“Same way you are, daonna,” she replied, pointing at her mouth. “You need to regain your strength, fast, if you’re going to find your mate. Drink this.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Carrax. Drink this,” and forced a bowl of red liquid into her hand. It smelled like strawberries and Herbal Essences shampoo. “It’s a healing potion, before you ask. Just drink already; you’re wasting time with questions, daonna.”
Heather raised the bowl to her mouth and took a small sip. Her headache all but vanished instantly and her vision snapped clear. Amazed, she downed the bowl, dribbling some out the corner of her mouth.
“Don’t spill it, for Dias’ sake! I don’t have time to make another batch!”
“Sorry,” she said, wiping her chin with her hand. She felt almost entirely well, aside from a dull pain in her arm, but it no longer felt broken. Indicating to it, she said “Did this…?”
“It will take another day or so to feel whole again, but that should have mended it. Seletan! Get in here! She’s awake!”
Before Heather could responded, a tall, slender creature pushed aside the hanging moss that covered the doorway and stood backlit in the sun. She covered her eyes against the brightness but could make out that it was shirtless and ripped. Something was weird about its lower body though: it seemed to extend behind it further than it should. Her eyes barely had time to adjust as it walked into the hut and she realized why it had looked odd.
“A fucking centaur?!” she blurted, then covered her mouth.
“I don’t know what intercourse has to do with it,” he replied in a deep voice that gave her a bit of the tingles. “How are you feeling? Are you ready to begin?”
“Begin what? What is happening? Where is Jack?”
“Your mate was taken by the demon Drokal to his lair in the third circle of Hell,” he said. “There he will torture him for 900 years until his soul is pulled from his body and the remaining husk is left to feed the hell hounds in his charge.”
There was a silence in the hut for a moment. Carrax and Seletan waited for a response.
“This one seems to have a limited vocabulary,” Carrax said, walking to her workbench.
“Carrax and I saved you from the cliffside after the explosion. We must arm you and get you to the portal so that you can retrieve your mate and defeat Drokal.”
“Do what now?”
Carrax sighed and rubbed her face. “This may have been a mistake.”
“She must try. She is the only one with the power to find him.”
“I am? How?”
Seletan reached out and took her left hand. She winced reflexively but actually felt no pain. His fingers were very warm and sent more tingles up her arm. “With your bond ring,” he said, holding up her wedding ring.
“My wedding ring will help me travel into Hell to find my husband?”
“I have so many questions, but you’re already both very bossy, so tell me what I need to do.”
“You need to follow me.”
Heather consulted the map Seletan provided and found she was nearly through the second circle. That was surprisingly easy, she thought, then smacked herself in the forehead. Don’t jinx it, stupid. It was interesting how easily she’d learned to fight with a sword and dagger. She was never one for fantasy movies or RPGs or the like. She had played Dungeons & Dragons a couple times — and liked it — but her group never could get their shit together, so she didn’t play very many times. And yet, here she was, literally in Hell, fighting demons and devils, all to rescue her kidnapped husband. Weirdest Sunday ever.
Another drink from her waterskin and she was on her way, taking the left tunnel because her ring pulled her that way. It was kind of nice having this homing beacon for Jack because she was 100 percent sure she’d be lost without it. Then she thought how lost she’d feel without him. Technically she was without him, but she knew he was alive.
“This is weird,” she said aloud to no one. She continued on without incident for quite a while, passing intersections, pools of lava, piles of bones, and even a full skeleton that was definitely not human. But she trusted the ring and it hadn’t led her astray yet. She was actually starting to get a little bored when she literally ran into a monstrous creature rooting through a pile of bones. The creature looked like a gorilla with the face of a hideous bat. Its mouth was full of jagged teeth and it had three-inch claws on each hand.
The creature raised up to its full height — nearly 7 feet — and looked at her like a dog when it hears a strange sound. The angle of its head may have also been because at full height, it looked like it might scrape the ceiling.
“You are very large,” she said, her hand going to the hilt of the dagger in her belt. Her brain suddenly felt staticky, like someone adjusted a radio dial just past the station. She recoiled and took a step back. The creature continued to look at her in an almost puzzled way. Again, her brain was hit with a vibrating crackle that caused her to put her palms to her temples. The creature lowered down onto all fours and brought its face in line with hers.
“What are-?” she started but was hit with another wave of psychic disturbance, this time longer and more intense. “Are you trying to communicate with me?” The creature furrowed its brow and she couldn’t tell if it was frustration or concentration. The noise in her brain returned, louder and stronger. “Stop! Stop! I don’t understand. This isn’t working. You can’t speak?” It gave no indication of comprehension, only more frustration. She figured it wouldn’t work, but she tried to send a mental message to the creature.
Can you hear this?
Still nothing. She took a step back as its mouth twisted into a snarl. “Ok, hold up,” she said, left hand on her dagger and right going for her pack. “No need to get upset here. Just a communication issue.” The creature growled and the brain noise returned, louder still, this time causes white spots to appear in her vision. “I really hate to do this, big guy…”
The creature started to roar as she smashed a vial of holy water against the side of its head. Steam rose off the wound and she could hear the flesh searing. It reared up in pain and swiped at her with is right hand. She flattened out on her back on the floor to dodge the sharp claws and kicked with both feet straight up into its chin, smashing its head into the ceiling. Thanks, yoga class, she thought, getting back on her feet in a crouch. She pulled her dagger, knowing the narrow corridor might prove tricky for the Blade of the Dawn. The blow to the head dizzied the creature and it stumbled backward a few steps. Shaking the stars away, it found her again and roared.
She grasped the dagger in both hands and jumped, driving it through its chin, out its forehead, and striking the stone above. She misjudged her jump and smacked her head on the ceiling as well, seeing stars herself. She let go and staggered on her feet, leaving the blade in the monster’s skull. It pawed at the blade as it lost motor-functions, fell to one knee, then the other, then collapsed face-down on the ground.
She stood for a moment, rubbing the top of her head. “That was on you, man,” she said, lifting its head with her foot enough to grab the blade. Pulling it out, dark green blood oozed all over the floor and nearly onto her boot. “Eeeeeeew,” she grimaced, backing away from the flow. “Sorry we couldn’t understand each other. Sorry you were in Hell too. I bet it sucked.” She gave the body a polite double-tap pet on the head and sheathed her dagger. She clenched her left fist and felt the pull of her husband once again. “You’re close,” she said, and hurried on her way.
“I don’t know how to use any of this, you know.”
Heather stood before Seletan and Carrax wearing a mix of her own clothes and the gear they’d provided. Her base layer was her own: a long-sleeve white thermal shirt with green khakis and knee-high boots. She’d shed her hooded “Bride” sweatshirt that was now flecked with scorch marks and burns in favor of a chainmail shirt Seletan had called mithril or something like that. He’d given her braces for her legs and knees which reminded her of the field hockey she’d played twenty years prior. The belt had a holster for a beautiful dagger on her left hip which she actually advocated for with him and he eventually relented. Sheathed on her right hip was a longsword with an ornate silver pommel he’d called Blade of the Dawn, which to her, seemed a little over the top. Carrax had given her a satchel full of vials and bottles, a small bag of sand apparently, and two balls of ice she knew would be melted before she finished her sentence. Also, she had removed the splint from her arm as she already no longer felt pain. “You want me to march into Hell with a couple swords and bag of potions and save Jack?”
“Exactly,” Carrax responded with a look like she’d finally gotten the point.
“These items are magical and will aid you in your quest,” Seletan said, leading her away from the hut. Carrax scrambled up a tree and hopped onto his horse back. “Once through the portal, the rings of bonding will activate and you will be able to find your Jack.”
“Drokal will have the materials to open another portal to our realm,” Carrax continued. “I included instructions how to activate it in your pack.”
“Like you do.”
“Time is of the essence, Heather of the Daonnas,” Seletan said, pointing to a space between two large elm trees. Heather looked at the forest, then back at him. Carrax also pointed to the space between the trees. She looked again and thought she might have seen a ripple, but definitely not the fire and smoke she’d seen at the station. Heather pursed her lips and furrowed her brow.
“There is a portal there,” Seletan said, frowning with frustration.
“I’m sure there is,” she said, gesturing with both hands, “but I can’t see it.”
“Walk over there and you will pass through it, girl!” Carrax said, throwing her hands in the air.
“Says you!” she snapped. She waved her hands in her face as if to shoo away her mounting anxiety. “Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok. I’ll walk through those…trees and I’ll just be in Hell.”
“Yes!” Seletan and Carax said in unison.
“OK!” Heather snapped again, now stepping from foot to foot like someone who needs to pee. She started toward the trees, then turned to them.
“Before I go…”
“Dias, girl…” Carrax sighed.
“Thank you for helping me.”
“It is our honor to help you on your quest,” Seletan said, putting his hand to his chest and giving a slight bow. Heather took a deep breath and exhaled fully, shaking out her hands and feet. Summoning all her courage, she strode directly to the space between the trees, scrunching her face in anticipation for the unknown.
The ring was nearly vibrating with energy now and she knew she was close. Splattered with different colors of blood and breathing heavily, she wiped the blade of her dagger on her pants and sheathed it. She wiped the blade of her longsword on her opposite sleeve and kept it in hand. Those last three were tough, she thought. Doing a mental inventory, she counted only one bottle of holy water (damn), probably a handful of sleeping powder, and the healing potion she’d saved for Jack in case he was hurt. She could use one right now herself, but she knew she was almost there.
The halls had been skittering with demonic creatures as she got closer to Drokal’s lair. She chuckled as she remembered knocking those weird giant mosquito-things out of the air with the snowballs. She could still see how they instantly froze mid-air, then fell to the ground and shattered like the liquid metal guy in whichever Terminator movie that was. Let’s see if Jack said she threw like a girl after that. She figured her body count was somewhere near 50 by now.
Christ, that many? She shuttered at the thought of causing that much death and carnage, but then almost laughed aloud when she really thought about the situation. What the serious fuck, she thought. She held up her left hand and looked at her ring. A smile crept across her face.
Heather tip-toed down a hot, red stone corridor, holding the longsword in front of herself with two hands. “What am I doing? What am I doing?” she repeated quietly to herself. Strangely she wasn’t sweating despite the heat. Just as Seletan and Carrax had said it would, her ring was pulling her toward what she assumed had to be Jack and, rather than fight it, she followed. She had yet to come across anything but had a sneaking suspicion she wouldn’t be alone for long. She could hear screams and moans echoing throughout the halls and didn’t like the sound of it one bit.
I mean it is Hell, she thought. She heard something ahead and gasped. She froze in terror, awaiting whatever it may be until it came around the bend and she saw it.
“Oh,” she said aloud. “That’s it?” A skeleton ambled toward her on rickety legs, arms out stretched. “What are you going to do, bite me to death?” The skeleton roared at her and charged, causing her to yelp in fear and recoil. She instinctively swung the sword like a bat at the skull of the animated skeleton and knocked it clean off. It bounced off the wall and clattered to the ground. The body kept coming, though now a bit more off balance. “Ah!” she said, hacking down at the outstretched arms. They immediately came apart at the joints and crumbled to the floor, but the body kept coming. “Fucking stop already!” she said, swinging now for the spine of the lower back. Her blade cleaved the skeleton in two, leaving a wriggling pile of bones on the floor. The skull was still biting for her and the hands were dragging themselves across the dirt.
“ Oh, you’re done,” she said and drove her blade through the top of the skull with a sickening crunch. Instantly, the bones stopped moving and wouldn’t again. She pulled back her sword and the skull was stuck on it. “Oh! Gross!” she said, pushing it off with her foot. She then punted it down the hall for good measure.
“Well. That happened,” she said to the pile of bones. She took a deep breath, raised the sword once more, and continued down the hall.
Drokal was mid-monologue when the door was kicked open and a blinding light filled the room. Jack turned away as much as he could being chained to the wall, spread-eagle. He was striped naked, covered with scratches, cuts, and burns. Heather strode in confidently and shouted at Drokal, “Give me my husband, you bitch.”
“Heather!?” Jack cried, nearly sobbing with relief.
“So, you have found your way to me after all,” Drokal said with a sultry English accent. Why are bad guys always British? she thought. “And I see those vexing woodland creatures have come to your aid as well,” indicating the glowing sword in her hand. “Pity. I had hoped this would easier than the others.”
“Oh, dear me, did you think yourself special? Some warrior princess on a prophesied quest to save your lost love?”
“I mean, no… Obviously…” She kind of had.
“Dear girl, the only difference between now and the past 7,489,523 times I have kidnapped a newly-wed only to have to face their brave beau is that you are the first female to attempt the rescue!”
“Oh, yes, dear heart. I’ve taken thousands of souls from that Kum’n’Go as you call it, and I thought I’d change it up this time around and take the male of the pair instead of the female. My minions told me a female wouldn’t dare venture into my realm on her own, let alone survive to face me.”
“Sounds like you got some bad intel, bub.”
“Seems to be the case. No matter. I will dispatch you as I have millions before. But first,” he added, turning to Jack. “First, I must show you the sheer power I wield as a Lord of Darkness by taking the soul of your beloved Jack.”
“Heather, just get out of here-!” Jack cried before Drokal grasped him by the throat, choking off his words.
“That’s quite enough, young man. She’s not going anywhere. She’s going to stand there and watch your very soul leave your body and enter my own. She will-ACK!”
Jack’s eyes snapped shut and he gasped for breath as Drokal’s grip loosened on his throat. He squinted in disbelief at the brilliant pin-prick of light shining through Drokal’s throat, directly into his face.
“Blah blah blah,” he heard Heather say. “Shut the fuck up.”
The smell of burning flesh was nauseating. Drokal coughed a glob of blood right into Jack’s face, making his stomach jump even more than the acrid smell. Drokal stumbled backward a step and Jack peaked through terrified lids as Drokal reached for his throat. The bright light intensified as the blade slide further out the front of his neck, causing Jack to shut his eyes once again. The burning of Drokal’s flesh intensified with that nearest the blade beginning to ignite like parchment paper and burn away. From behind him, Heather stepped to the side and chucked her last vial of holy water over her shoulder, shattering it against the wall. Drokal stumbled and gasped, unable to believe what was happening. From this angle, Jack could see the drops of water running down Drokal’s back as they ran off the blade. Heather reached up with one hand and grabbed the hilt, placed her foot on the small of his back, and pulled out the blade. Drokal fall to his knees, gagging and gasping, until he fell face down in the dirt and moved no more.
“You just killed a demon!” Jack yelled. “How did you find me?” Heather held up her left hand and smiled.
“’til death do us part’, baby. As much as I like the idea of you tied up and naked, let’s get the hell outta here; whatya say?”
For their first anniversary, Heather and Jack decide to get as far away from the woods as possible considering what happened a year prior. Heather opted for a beach get-away while Jack wanted somewhere cold. He’s still never been able to cool off after his trip to the Underworld and she, strangely, still isn’t bothered by heat. Ultimately, she won out because she always does, and they settle into their beach chairs as the Caribbean Ocean washes over the shore. Heather adjusts her bikini top, closes her eyes, and sighs a deep, purifying sigh to welcome her imminent relaxation. The sound of the waves, the sun on her skin, the gentle breeze; all of it was exactly what she needs.
She reaches over to Jack’s chair to take his hand but can’t find it. She can’t find him. She opens her eyes but the only thing on his chair was his towel and sunglasses. She stands up instantly and looks around. That’s when she smells it. And hears the deep, ominous laughter behind her.
She turns slowly and scoffs upon seeing a massive, winged demon holding her husband several feet off the ground by the throat, starring her down with burning red eyes and a mouth full of fire.
“You may have defeated Drokal,” it bellows with a voice like thunder, “but you will not defeat- “
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she interrupts, drawing the Blade of the Dawn from its sheath on the back of her chair and saying the command word Leve. “Let’s do this already. We’ve got a couple’s massage at 3:00.”