Level 28 ~ Andrew cont’d

“Hee-hee-hee!” A high voice hissed from the trees behind the party as they stood at the cliffside after disposing of the klurichir. “Andrew Banisher and friends… You certainly don’t disappoint!”

They all spun around to see the small oily-black serpent demon watching them from the trees. Andrew could tell from Naomi’s expression she hadn’t sensed the demon either. What exactly was this thing that it could hide its presence from both Andrew and Naomi? Its aura of evil was too powerful for Andrew to even comprehend it… What the hell was this thing?!

The serpent demon coiled around onto its back to click its claws together, “Oh, forgive my manners! My name is… Hhmm, well, you may call me Rusty.”

“Are you the one who sent the klurichir?” Andrew narrowed his eyes dangerously and gripped Banisher for a quick strike should he get an opening.

Rusty’s beak opened in a sort of smile and he gave a clicking laugh, “Got it in one! You are perceptive!”

Before anyone could react, Rusty seemed to channel energy down from his horns to his talons and into a blast that swept Andrew and Taecendar over the edge of the cliff. Both men tried to defend, but Andrew realized too late they were dealing with some sort of entrapment spell instead of a direct attack. Vixie reached after them with a cry of worry, while Naomi fell to her knees with a shriek and Andrew saw the little girl’s counter-spell fail violently.

“You!” Vixie whirled back on Rusty with flames blazing over her claws, “Let them go!”

Andrew sunk his stance as he re-assessed his current situation. They seemed to be trapped in a box of pure energy, separated by a wall, and balanced on floating disks. Andrew glanced back over his shoulder; the whole set up was designed to drop them back into the planar portal in the back. Based on the smell of sulfur, he was willing to bet the portal led to Hell, though the Abyss was a distinct possibility as well. But there was something off about it, almost like he and Taecendar were on opposite sides of the same scale…

“Now…” Rusty curled himself around into an infinity symbol and rested his beak on his clasped fore-claws. “Why don’t we play a little game?”

Taecendar was having no trouble balancing on his side of the scale, and predictably it did not seem to be weight the scales were measuring.

“Wait!” Andrew reached out toward Taecendar as the other man was about to try and break through the front of the box with his holy staff. “Something’s not right here!”

Vixie and Naomi made brief eye contact before Vixie flung herself at Rusty and Naomi turned back to the box with magic blazing through her now visible aura, “I’ll get you guys out!”

Rusty disappeared from Vixie’s attack path and reappeared on top of the box with a bored expression as Naomi lashed into the box with magic in an attempt to disassemble it and release its captives. Naomi strained for a moment before Rusty gave a bored yawn. Falling to her knees Naomi stared in disbelief at the unaffected box.

“Why? Why can’t I…?” Naomi grit her teeth and stood back up, “I have to be able to break this spell!”

Rusty shook his head. “I’m afraid even at your power level, there are some things you just can’t do. You see, if it is strictly necessary for maintaining the balance of the world, an undamned soul can be irrevocably and indefinitely imprisoned in Hell. And, well in this case I’m afraid it is very strictly necessary.”

Andrew scowled. “The Pact Primeval. Since when are demons able to call on its power?”

Rusty shrugged, “I’m sure I haven’t been keeping track. But I am willing to be sporting about this. See? I’ve got two of you in there, but I really only need one. I’m sure you know which one. But I’m feeling so sporting about this I’d be willing to release either of you, so long as it’s your choice to damn the other.”

Andrew and Taecendar made eye contact. Andrew could see the fear in Taecendar’s eyes. Vixie and Naomi were still trying to bring down Rusty, but even with Naomi trying her best for the first time since Andrew had met her they weren’t getting anywhere. If Rusty was using the power of the Pact Primeval, in many ways the ultimate Law in the multiverse, then he wouldn’t have any more power to break his own terms than Naomi had. Whether the demon liked it or not, they could trust the options he’d presented to them.

Andrew raised Banisher in a warrior’s salute, and made sure to make eye contact with Vixie, Naomi and Taecendar. Taecendar could give Vixie a much better life than Andrew could have, and there would be plenty for him to do in Hell for the rest of eternity.

Andrew stepped back off of the scale and felt a rushing sensation as he fell back into Hell.

 

 

 

 

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