Lines of light creep through the walls, twisting and curling into shielding glyphs that seal all windows, bar all doors and magically isolate the warehouse from its surroundings.
As the demon hesitates, it shrieks again. More Enemies! More Slaves! More food for my offspring!
Its eyeless senses detect the changes in the shadows as they howl of death and endings. The ghastly images that crawl over the walls and out of the floor, whispering broken words, their colorless eyes speaking of places where the light is never seen, where the living cannot go. They all seem to hone in on the demon, ignoring gods and mortals. From the fallen corpses of the Snatchers, simian souls rip their insubstantial bodies from flesh and bone, howling in their newfound freedom, joining the hollow chorus, dragging immaterial feet across an unseen floor. Through the roaring buzzing of their whispered calls and promises, Sky can just make out faint words.
The demon roars at the challenge, banging the tips of its limbs against the floor, making the building shake, making the windows rattle. It launches itself at Sky. He roars at its charge, crouching, shoulders flexing to take the impact. It intends to poison him, he knows, to reduce its number of opponents quickly.
Three of its crab-like legs lash at him. He blocks one with his sword, chopping deep into the joint, blood like red-black oil spurting along the blade. It jerks back so quickly that he barely manages to hang onto the weapon. Another limb nearly curls over his shoulder to try for his back, but a thin blade glowing an eerie blue-green slides into place and levers the stinger-limb away. And the third is intercepted by a flying shape of golden light like a curved blade, that slices neatly through the entire limb, causing the final two joints of it to fall to the floor.
But Sky feels a heavy punch into his belly nonetheless. A fourth limb has struck, penetrated. He groans through clenched teeth as it pushes him back several inches, his boots sliding on the floor. Then the demon is away, retreating again out of reach before any of its opponents can riposte.
“Sky!” Alma’s voice, even colored with echoes of death, is music to his ears, bringing hope amid a chorus of hopelessness. Her left hand, surrounded in the shadows she commands, grips his shoulder, and he feels her balancing him, supporting his shaky frame as his body fights the demonic poison. Though he knows she cannot heal him while her death sphere is in full strength, her touch is like a balm, washing over his pain with relief to have her here.
“Glad… Glad you’re here,” he manages. “Stay back from it. It has venom.”
In front of them, the demon stands, growling, its legs folded around it as if it were a dead spider, the stumps of its amputated limb bleeding onto the floor. Slowly, the whispering throng of ghosts makes its way toward it, surrounding it, climbing over it, covering it completely like an unworldly net.
“Did it poison you?” Gwydion asks, moving closer behind Sky. His blade glows faintly with a golden light that seems to drip, like a holy elixir, onto the floor, leaving glyphs of warding in his wake, protecting the party from any attacks coming from the rear.
Sky grunts, “I’ll be fine. You know how to banish a Walker Between?”
“I believe I know the spell,” Gwydion replies, slightly unsure. “Level Four, if I’m not mistaken?”
“Yeah,” Sky gasps. “You need some of its blood, right?”
“That will greatly speed things along, yes.”
Sky says, “Hold out your left arm.”
Gwydion sighs resignedly, but does so, allowing Sky to wipe his blade on his jacket. “Every time,” the god of magic mutters, causing Sky to chuckle.
“What about Saira?” Alma asks. “She is still alive…”
“And in terrible pain,” Sky finishes. “But we can help her after we send this thing away.”
Dion begins to chant, a different language from the one Sky used, something more well-suited to divine throats. He raises his blade and holds it against his arm, making the demonic blood sizzle against the bright, cleansing light that exudes from the metal.
And from the center of its ectoplasmic prison, the demon shrieks in a panic, terrified with the prospect of being dragged back into the unforgiving jaws of Hell. In a desperate strike, it springs to its spear-like feet, dissipating its ghostly bonds, charging against the gods, this time just trying to get past them, break through the warding spell, to escape into Three Rats, go into hiding, and build an army of its young.
As it attempts to shove past, Sky slips past one stabbing limb, knocks another aside with his blade, and stabs into the smoke-obscured center mass. Alma, whom he has barely been able to spare a glance for, follows his lead, dancing between flailing armored legs, her own long, slender sword going exactly where Sky’s does. The twin thrust goes home, penetrating…something. The creature shrieks and retreats again, scrambling back in a clatter of limbs, its blood now spattering from its hidden central body.
Gwydion’s voice becomes louder, the glyphs of light that crowd the walls and seal the warehouse begin to glow brighter, begin to travel down, crawling toward the floor, closing in on the demon, dragging their warding spells with them like walls of light that slowly rob the creature’s world of precious space.
The demon bellows and throws itself against them but to no avail. It is trapped and its cage grows smaller with each chanted word. The foul beast begins to spin in place and stumble as if it is drunk. Why do you not fall, Slave? Why does my venom not turn you into Food? Your blood is too strong. Your blood…
And then a hole opens in the already-shattered floor, multiple lashing tentacles of pure shadow reaching up and grasping the demon to pull it down. It struggles, but its efforts are futile. It is pulled through the hole, into somewhere else. The crack in the prison walls of Hell, pried wider by the sorcerer’s summoning, opens again to reclaim its escaped inmate, and allowing just for a moment the screams of an entire world – a universe held deep in the roots of the Insula, a world in which torture is a language in itself and every moment is pain that never dulls with familiarity – echo through the warehouse.
The shield of light surrounds the hellish portal like a dome, growing ever smaller, healing the rift between worlds at its passing. It shrinks and shrinks until no glyphs are left, no walls, no shield. Just a tiny speck of light that glows brightly in the middle of the floor. Still it grows smaller at each chanted word.
Dion speaks the final word of his spell and lowers his sword in front of him. Slowly, mechanically, he lowers the tip to the floor…
…and rests it against the wood.
The miniscule speck of light flashes and blinds them for a moment. The glyphs are splattered against the walls, sealing the building once more.
The three gods breathe heavily, Alma’s hand once again rests on Sky’s shoulder, Gwydion exhales deeply from the effort, and for one golden moment, there is silence.
Then a thin screech fills the air, accompanied by a pitiful high-pitched wail. “Gotcha! Stay back, all a yas! I’ll cut him! I’ll cut his pretty little throat!”
It is an old woman, cackling as if she is mad, holding the little boy who had escaped from the sorcerer when Saira took the man’s thumb off with her crossbow bolt. She is holding the knife that the sorcerer dropped, its blade sinuous and black-enameled, to the child’s throat, as she backs away. “You killed my babies! I’ll kill this one if ya don’t get outta my way! See if I don’t! I don’t give a damn! I can always make more! This here womb is fertile! Heeeeee hee hee hee heeee! And there’s plenty more where this tyke came from, too! I’ll – ahhh! Stupid cat!”
Though demanding to be let out the open door, she had been moving backwards, toward the cage in the corner, trying to put space between herself and the three gods. So when her cat slithers around her ankles, she is completely unready and trips, falling back against the cage. She drops the knife and the child as well, and shrieks curses at the child and cat as she struggles to regain her balance. But she cannot move, for the back of her brown dress is held fast in the fists of the Bunny she held captive, Sage.
Alma approaches the old woman, sword lowered, but ready to flick back to a guard position in an instant. The child runs past her, to be caught by Gwydion, prevented from running into the street, scooped up with soothing words. Alma tilts her head at the woman as shadows gather around her. The death goddess raises her blade slowly and points it at the hag’s throat. Her eyes are like a star-filled Void, and she says in sepulchral tones, “You will harm no more children, harriden. You are under arrest.”
Sage looks over the now-sagging prisoner’s shoulder, smiling brightly at Alma, his creator, his mother. Aliyah, in the cage as well, a shattered door behind them, touches Sage’s ears and says, “Come on now. All the rest are out and safe.” Sage releases the old woman, smiles at Aliyah, and departs through the broken-down door. Aliyah looks at Alma, her broad smile instantly dropping away as she gazes on the face of a death goddess in battle mode. The Constable’s face goes pale, and she swallows. Then she shakily salutes and goes back out into the alley.