Despite what people might think, getting to Hell was the easy part. Gerry had God to thank for that. Whatever he was now had retained some characteristics of his former Lord, Seere. Since Seere was a Throne before being exiled, he’d been bestowed with unparalleled transportation powers. Gerry had been on the receiving end of those abilities when he’d been transported to Earth what felt like another lifetime ago.
<That’s because it was.> He reminded himself of his death and subsequent resurrection as something new.
That old part of him made the nearly-instantaneous transportation possible, and the physical throne sitting in his new underground demesne made it even simpler. The realm of Seere was gone. The Infernal Lord’s connection with the land had been severed with his death, but the throne’s connection, which had funneled power into the land for eons, was stronger. Even so, so long after Seere’s death the connection was tenuous at best. It was a good thing they were undertaking this now.
Gerry had already tapped Pete for the expedition, but he could take others too. Vicky was out. As a Soulless, there was a slight chance her presence might alert Satan to Gerry’s arrival, or even worse, throw off their course and put them in the wrong realm. She didn’t like it, but he put her in charge of getting the nightclub the demesne was connected to up and running. Having the first place where people could unwind after supernatural disaster after supernatural disaster was going to bring in a lot of money. Money that could then be used to expand Gerry’s network and influence.
As much as he didn’t want to, Gerry knew Gaius needed to come. His knowledge of the former kingdom was second to none, and he was a skilled fighter. When they ran into trouble – not if – Gaius would be needed.
Gerry felt comfortable carrying one more person, and the logical choice was either Jeb or Jezebel. Both had pros and cons to their participation. Jeb and Gaius had been consorting a lot, and Gerry knew his former commander was sowing dissent. It was the way generals operated back during Seere’s reign. If there was a hint of weakness in one of their opponents they would exploit it, and then when that person failed, they would attack. Seere didn’t care. To him, competition was healthy and beneficial to his army, which compared to other Infernal Lords’, was modest. So, if Jeb accompanied them back to Hell. Gerry would need to keep a close eye on the two of them.
Jezebel’s issue was the opposite. He’d seen a link form between her and Brock after their shared adventure taking down the guardians and reestablishing Gerry’s claim to the city. He was also sure they were fucking like bunnies, so not bringing her along would lead to complacency in his rear detachment. Since he wanted to retain control of the city, it was important he left people in charge who weren’t too busy sucking dick or eating muff.
In the end, Gerry needed to make the call based on a worst case scenario outcome. He needed to assume he wouldn’t find Hell’s Primordial, and he would return empty handed. “Jezebel, you’re with me,” he decided.
She looked disappointed, and shot a look over her shoulder at Brock as she walked over to Gerry. With Pete, Gaius, and Jezebel now surrounding him, Gerry turned his focus inward and concentrated.
The teleportation wasn’t complicated, but pulling three other people with him took a lot more power. Thankfully, his throne had been busy collecting æther from the surrounding city for days, and it had more than enough juice to get the job done. Gerry made sure his personal tank was topped off before teleporting.
Just like previous times it felt like someone had hooked him behind the navel, attached the hook to a pickup, and then floored it. He didn’t have time to be uncomfortable. One moment he was in his demesne, and the next he was on hard-packed, red soil. Instinctually, Gerry did a three hundred and sixty degree assessment while the rest of his entourage collected themselves.
<This is wrong.> Gerry’s sight clashed with his memory.
The sea was to their right, so there was no mistaking where they were, but everything else was different. He’d deliberately dropped the group well outside Seere’s former capital because he was sure enemy forces were still pillaging it. Time didn’t move the same in Earth and Hell, and hellspawn took their time when it came to pillaging. If Gerry focused hard enough, he could hear the screaming in the distance.
<Not my problem.> He turned to the sea, but the surroundings still looked foreign.
This had once been a road leading north toward the River Styx. Seere’s legions used it to quickly move troops to the front when Cain pressed his attacks. The road was kept meticulously clean. Souls that weren’t drafted into the legion, working the Elysian Fields, of subsumed by the land itself, were tasked with keeping the roads maintained and clean. It was a thankless, never ending job, but someone had to do it, and you didn’t get much of a choice in Hell.
Now, it looked like a road never existed. The gray-green of the fields that once occupied either side was gone. It was now a barren desert of red as far as the eye could see. Even the rolling hills were gone, like a giant had flattened them.
“The Tectonic Laws of Hell,” Gaius followed Gerry’s eyes. “He who owns it can do whatever the hell they want with it.” Gaius’s expression was unreadable, but his eyes were hard and he kept glancing back in the direction of the city. He could hear the screams too. “You remember when we defeated Beelzebub’s horde in the pass before you became a Dux. Almost instantly, Seere began to exert his influence and change the landscape. This is just it on a much larger scale.” Gaius sniffed the air. “It smells like sulfur to the south, so I’m guessing Beelzebub has laid claim to most of the kingdom. The north is sweet and sickly. I smell rotting growth, so Cain has finally pushed past the Styx, and probably ceded some of his northern land to Lilith as compensation for assisting with the war.”
Gerry had no reason to doubt Gaius’ analysis, but it also didn’t affect their mission one way or the other. They weren’t heading north or south.
“Let’s…” Gerry began but stopped when the rattling of metal against metal sounded from all around them.
Creatures popped up from beneath the sand like spiders while others appeared from behind a bend in the road that camouflaged their position with a rock face. A quick assessment showed thirty creatures, but it was their disposition that confused Gerry more than their sudden appearance.
The creatures that popped out of the ground to spring the ambush were clearly from Beelzebub’s horde. They had a few tell-tale human characteristics, but extra-long, hairy legs had been added along with thin wings like mosquitos. He knew that because their leader had a pointed snout they could only be designed to penetrate and draw blood.
The group that emerged from behind the outcropping were the cursed soldiers of Cain in varying states of decay. Their leader’s skin on his face had sloshed off the point you could see entirely through the opening, into the mouth, and all the way to the other side of the opposite cheek, which look like it only had a matter of days until it joined its opposite’s fate.
Lastly, and certainly not least, was who Gerry assumed was the commander of the entire force. She was big, at least eight feet, with bulging and defined muscles, but wearing nothing more than an armored bikini. The bikini was Infernal Iron painted over in gold and with numerous precious stones attached. To a seasoned fighter like Gerry this meant one of two things. First, the woman was a moron, and more interested in looking good then winning battles. That thought was quickly discarded because it was a thought that belonged on Earth, not in Hell. You didn’t survive in Hell by simply looking good. You just became a stronger person’s bitch.
That left the only reasonable alternative. She was a strong, skilled, seasoned fighter who didn’t need armor protection to get the job done. Judging by the blood-stained battle ax she easily hefted onto her shoulder Gerry was inclined to believe she’d done her fair share of pillaging.
But most importantly, she was clearly a member of Lilith’s tribe. That was three separate factions of Hell working together. Gerry was impressed by the amount of teamwork on display, but that didn’t stop the fact that he needed to go through them to continue with his mission.
There was no banter before the fight. Gerry could see the bloodlust running through the enemy’s veins. Most of the eyes were glued to Jezebel’s curves, but the big woman was looking straight at Gerry. He could practically see her though process. <Kill the rest and have some fun with this one and the slit his throat before moving on.> Gerry was sorry he’d have to disappoint her.
Gaius moved first. He was never one to go on defense, and he sprang at Cain’s soldiers. They had normal human characteristics, and he made easy work of them with his trusted gladius. Jezebel and Pete turned toward Beelzebub’s abominations that scurried toward them on wrongly-placed appendages. They coordinated their attack to limit their power usage. They had no idea how long they’d need to go before recharging.
Pete laid down a suppressive layer of fire like a human flame thrower. He caught a third of the beasts in the blast. They shrieked as the fire burned through skin, flesh, and bone. Some retreated to the cliffs above the ocean and threw themselves into the mercy of the water; completely ignoring the dangers of what lurked beneath the waves. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. They continued to burn as they sunk into the shallow depths and were dead before they hit the bottom.
Jezebel darted in after the wave of fire passed over the enemy. She was partially transformed into her combat form. Fangs and claws lashed out at lightning-quick speeds and removed heads, arms, and multiple legs in single wipes. When the beasts regrouped, she nimbly danced backward, drew them forward, and let Pete hose them down with fire. It took less than two attacks to completely decimate them.
That left Gerry to face the leader. She was calm and confident, even when she saw her allies being chopped to bits and burned alive. She gave a few experimental swings of her axe, seeming to test the weight, before suddenly swinging into action. Gerry read her intentions a mile away, and reassessed her prowess. She was undoubtedly a good fighter, and powerful, judging by the speed of the blade as it sung through the air toward his throat. However, she also appeared young and full of herself. She hadn’t had enough trips to the resurrection pit to learn some valuable lessons.
Today, Gerry would be her teacher. He was moving nearly before she was, and the blade passed through empty air. Expecting to meet some resistance, the warrior over rotated, and Gerry took advantage of the opportunity. He could have drawn the blade of Divine Steel he was carrying with him, but if any Infernal Lords were nearby they might sense the blade touched by God. So, Gerry decided on good, old-fashioned brute force. When the warrior over extended, he directed a powerful blow directly into her side. The warrior woman expected her body, which she’d been directing æther into for days, to stand up to the punishment. When Gerry’s fist nearly went through her, pulverizing bone and internal organs in the process, she realized how seriously she’d miscalculated.
She tried to reverse her swing, but her body wasn’t obeying her commands. A follow-on kick snapped her femur and nearly wrenched her legs from her body. She went down hard, but didn’t give up. Gerry had to admire that. In the shock of the first blow she’d lost her ax, but she doggedly crawled toward it. Gerry drove his boot into her extended arm when she got close, and picked up the blade itself.
“Nice quality,” he said to himself as he brought it high and down on the warrior woman’s neck. He then channeled his own æther to absorb the woman’s. “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He shrugged. The warrior would never have the chance to rectify her mortal mistake.
Gerry quickly used the gathered æther to top of his lieutenants who’d been forced to use their power. It still left plenty, and the smidgeon Gerry used to defeat the woman was inconsequential, so he used the rest of the considerable power to wipe the land clean and ward against what happened. The last thing he needed was someone else happening upon the scene and alerting their superiors. Gerry and his team were powerful, but he didn’t want to go up against an Infernal Lord.
The remainder of the absorbed æther he dispelled into the ground. Where he released it a well-manicured square of grass appeared. It was healthy, green, and a total contrast to everything around it. Gerry quickly kicked some red dirt over it to hide the abnormality before turning back to his team.
“So, that was fun and all, but what now?” Pete was looking around clearly not impressed with what he saw.
“We start our search,” Gerry replied calmly, as wings sprouted from his back and he unfurled them to their full length.
“Where?” Pete didn’t have wings but the air around him started to ripple with heat and he rose into the air.
“There,” Gerry pointed out to sea. “When I was in Seere’s legion it was drilled into us from day one not to venture out beyond the fog wall.” Gerry gestured at the natural barrier that obscured everything beyond the shore. “We know all the Infernal Lords of Hell and where there kingdoms are. We’ve studied maps, planned contingencies for invasions, but we’ve never looked that way.”
“That’s true.” Gaius’ own wings had sprouted from his back. “We never went out to sea, and that complacency lost me the capitol during the defense. I can honestly say if anyone was looking for Hell’s Primordial they haven’t looked out there. If they have, they never returned.”
“That’s great,” Jezebel was standing with her hands on her hips. “Slight problem.” She pointed at herself. “I’m not a big fan of water, and unlike the rest of you I can’t fly.”
“Gaius will carry you.” Gerry ignored the slight squinting of Gaius’ eyes that showed he felt disgraced by the order.
Gerry didn’t care. He was looking out into the sea, past the fog wall, and to what could possibly lie beyond it. As far as Gerry knew, no one had mapped all of Hell. Anything could be out there.
<Including what I’m looking for.> Without another thought, Gerry flapped his wings, lifted off, and headed out to sea.