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Dec 16, 2018 12:39 PM
Ari finds himself Elsewhere
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"Can your brother handle a demonic invasion on his own, do you think, or should we send someone back to help him?"

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Fernando thinks for a moment. "The Soulstone is safe," he declares, "I am not entirely sure Felix won't pull another stunt like the one that saved your town-"

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That's unusually nervous for Fernando. "How about if you and Henry go back there? He is not that great in a direct confrontation anyway. At least Gabe and I can help Li-Ming score her kill."

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"Sounds good to me. I'll still have two big strong men to protect me, plus Lorath."

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"I'm not actually going to bother objecting to that, because everything about that statement was bullshit anyway."

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"Aw, don't be like that, plus-Lorath."

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"Alright. Be careful you all," Henry says giving Gabe a hug before Fernando flies him away.

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Li-Ming leads the boys and Lorath across the bridge. It’s been mostly destroyed; it’s frankly an architectural miracle that it’s stayed standing this long. It’s also got rather more demons than the battlefield did, but between the four of them there’s not much that can slow them down. 

They eventually come to a massive gate, wrought of iron and inscribed with a glowing rune. Li-Ming holds a hand out in front of her and frowns. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to get through this.”

“No,” Tyrael confirms. “But my blade, El'Druin, can breach the seal." He lifts his sword, which begins glowing, and a bolt of brilliant white light strikes the rune, which twists into nothingness.

Suddenly the gate shakes under a massive impact, then another, until a great creature bursts through, easily the size of a small building, with blades strapped to its massive hands. It bats Tyrael aside like a child's toy and charges directly at Thomas.

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Thomas will earthbend out of the way (though he is not as nearly as dignified as Toph). He swings his weapon at the creature.

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Its leg buckles under the blow's incredible force! It roars like twisting metal and lashes out with one bladed arm, but Li-Ming drills a purple beam through its skull before it can connect, and the arm goes limp. Within moments, the corpse crumbles into chunks of molten rock.

"That was a Siegebreaker Assault Beast," Tyrael says faintly. "Such beasts have been known to reduce fortified castles to rubble."

Li-Ming considers, then offers a fist for Thomas to bump.

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Thomas fist bumps her without missing a beat.

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"Time for more fucking walking!" Li-Ming says cheerfully.

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"We are literally descending into Hell from here on out, fair warning. So it's going to get pretty warm. But there's going to be more demons, so maybe I'll finally get to actually kill something."

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Gabe pats Lorath on the back. "Don't worry. I believe you. Also, Hell, in a way I always assumed I would find myself there someday."

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"...why? Hell's where demons come from. Are you secretly a crusader or something?"

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"It's a religious joke?"

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"The word 'Hell' is translating into a term used for a punitive afterlife believed by many Earth religions. Gabe totally qualifies as sufficiently sinful." Pause. "To be fair, so do I. More than half of our total group."

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"Oh. We just have a cycle of life energy. You don't 'go' somewhere when you die, your soul just gets sort of recycled into whatever comes after you."

This theological discussion takes place as they descend into the hellpit. A horrible creature looking like a human being messily rearranged into a scorpion, with its spine as the tail, attempts to interrupt them, but crumbles into dust as Lorath drains a ribbon of red mist from it.

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Daliath religion has a similar cycle of life energy thing. And Thomas thinks Buddhism has a similar thing going on.

Thomas pauses to watch as the scorpion thing crumbles and then resumes the story on their grandparents efforts to get the triplets married to respectable girls.

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They can spend a very companionable half-hour descending into the hellpit, then.

The geography of the hellpit is bizarre, as Hell tends to be. It seems as if they're walking through the corpse of something unimaginably vast; the ground is leathery and organic, riddled with lava flows and spires of bone jutting from the ground. Eventually they come to an upper entrance into an obsidian tower.

As soon as they enter, a woman with the lower body of a spider descends from the ceiling on a silken strand. "You've all come to see me? I'm touched. I-"

Lorath waves his staff and a bone spear punches through her chest.

She screams in pain and fury, until he gestures with his free hand, causing the spear to violently explode. Pieces of spider-woman rain down around them.

"What is it with these scantily-clad bug women trying to taunt us?" he wonders. "Once is happenstance, twice coincidence, if it happens again I'm going to think there's some kind of convention."

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"You wouldn't believe what sort of things people are into. Like, consequence of having a worldwide communication network is that we actually do."

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"Man, if demons were redeemable they would find a great market in the sex work industry."

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Lorath turns the gore which has landed within his or his companions' personal space into a fine grey dust, then dusts himself off. "Onward and downward!"

This tower, as it turns out, is full of demons. Some of them are powerful enough to give even Li-Ming pause. (She kills them after the pause, though.) They settle into a rhythm where Lorath takes out large groups of smaller demons with life-drain and the odd hail of razor-sharp teeth, and Li-Ming blasts the more powerful ones into ash but conserves her energy otherwise.

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The sorcerers are a league away from the other two in sheer destructive power, but still quite adept fighters. They manage to quickly improvise a combined fighting style where Gabe plays defense and Thomas plays offense in tandem.

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After descending an indefensible number of stairs, they reach the bottom of the crater. The Hellish geography is now completely immersed in lava, a great lake of it that bubbles and spits around them. There's a vast, horrible demon a few hundred yards away.

Lorath looks deeply puzzled. "Why does he have nipple rings? Who- how did he pierce his nipples? Does he think they make him more attractive? I have a lot of questions."

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