When Gideon arrived at the gates of the realm the human’s called Hell, he found himself alone. That wasn’t right. There were always guards posted at these gates. To leave them unattended meant someone wanted him inside, which meant a trap. And they took the only bait that was guaranteed to draw him in. This was not good. The question still remained, who would do this?
Suddenly he was surrounded by warriors, but he did not take his eyes off of the gates or draw his sword.
“So what is the plan?” Talon asked.
“We go in, find Sara and leave,” Gideon answered calmly.
“Does anyone else think it strange that there are no guards here?” one of his warriors asked.
With his short curly sandy blonde hair and bright blue eyes, Michel looked more like the angels the humans depicted in their pictures, except for the leather armor, the quiver of very large arrows, the matching bow in his hand and the very large very dangerous looking mace at his side. No, this particular angel was one of the most feared in their ranks. Wicked smart with battle strategy along with his weaponry, Michel reveled in the interrogation of the enemy. The bloodlust that fell upon him in those instances and in battle was the reason he was under Gideon’s command. The others could not stomach what Michel was willing to do to extract information out of the enemy. There were times Gideon could not stomach it, but because of this angel they had managed to find the most dangerous lords of the underworld and put them back where they belonged.
“I was just thinking that same thing, my friend,” a dark haired dark skinned angel rumbled. At seven foot three, there was no mistaking what Aitan was. His blacker than night hair braided in rows that fell down his back between his wings was tied back with a leather thong. His strikingly sapphire eyes glanced around the cavern as he pulled his massive sword from the sheath at his back, his muscles rippling with power.
The four others that surrounded Gideon, all various sizes and coloring, followed suit with their varying weapons. Out of thin air gold shields one by one materialized on each arm not holding a weapon. Although gold was what the attacker saw on the surface, underneath was a metal only the strongest of demons could attempt to dent.
“This reeks of a trap,” Talon whispered, concern furrowing his brow.
“I agree, but who wants me down here this badly?” Gideon asked. Talon gave him a look that said are you really asking that question? “Badly enough to risk war?” Gideon reiterated in exasperation. “Lizza is not that brave, or stupid.”
“There is only one that I think would be that stupid,” Aitan rumbled.
“Loathar,” Talon said grimly. One of the higher lords under the flag of the Horsemen known as War; Loathar had a grudge match with Gideon that went back to before the angels fell. “He would also have the power to pull off that spell.”
“What spell?” one of the others, the shorter, leaner yet by no means any less dangerous angel’s asked.
“It doesn’t matter what spell he used, Loghan,” Gideon snapped. “What matters is Sara is in there and she has no idea what she’s up against, or how to defend herself.”
The others blinked at him, stunned by his outburst. Gideon never lost his composure. If he did not gain control of himself before going inside, the very air would feed off his anger, draining him and making his opponents stronger. What he needed was calm, but how was he supposed to do calm when his heart was racing with fear? Thank God his strength was returning. Whether it was because of time or because he and Sara were now in the same realm he did not know, nor did he care. What he did know was he needed every bit of his strength to rescue her. He could fall apart after she was safely at his home, and in his arms.
That thought stopped him. The only times he allowed himself to hold Sara was when she was lost in grief about her mother’s passing, and because she felt she had to stay strong for her family that was few and far between. The sense of peace mixed with something…alien Gideon felt when he held her had always confused him. Now he was thinking about taking her to the realm those of his kind resided in, which was forbidden.
No, not there. Not until he understood exactly what was going on and whom he could trust. There were other places he could take her. Places far away and that only a select few knew about.
Gritting his teeth, Gideon closed his eyes, willing himself to focus on the task at hand. Walk into an obvious trap, find Sara and rescue her. When he opened them he was calmer, better centered. He looked at his men who were waiting patiently for him to return to himself, no judgment or condemnation in any of their eyes. They trusted him to do his job, be their leader, and they would put their lives in his hands without question.
“Trap or not, the doors are unguarded and I will take whatever advantage we have. I also want you to know that I have not asked the powers to be if we can retrieve Sara from this realm. If you follow me in there, there may be…repercussions. If you do not want to follow me, I will understand.”
There was only a moment of silence before they all started to check their weapons, tighten various straps holding those weapons, swinging swords to loosen fighting arms or notching arrows. Gideon smiled. These men were his family, his brothers. They would have his back in any situation, as he would have theirs. They would risk punishment for him. However, Gideon did not think there would be a punishment. Where this may be a trap for him, something inside told him that there was a much larger force at work here. Larger than Heaven and Hell, and Sara was somehow in the center of it.
“Now that that is settled, let’s go hunt some demons,” Michel said, a wicked grin turning his features positively evil. Gideon answered with one of his own before he put his hand on the door, closed his eyes and concentrated. There was an audible click and the gates swung open.
“I was hoping for something a little more…flamboyant,” Loghan sighed wistfully.
“Ringing the doorbell before entering the enemy’s home does not bode well for living through the next few minutes,” Michel reminded as if he were talking about the weather.
“But it does have a certain flare,” Loghan offered with a wave of his hand that suggested royalty. “It says, yes we know you are badass, but we are bigger badasses and we are here to kick yours.”
“You do have a point,” Michel mused. “Maybe we should make noise as we enter.”
“If you two don’t shut it the only thing flaring and making noise around here will be you when I turn you into an angel pyre,” Talon snapped.
“Temper, temper,” Loghan clucked.
Talon started to turn to retaliate, but Gideon slipped through the gates and beyond. The questions and worry Talon had on the street surfaced once again. He only hoped that Gideon’s concern for Sara would not distract him from the fact this could very well be a trap for him. Loathar was one of the top lords of the demon world and not to be taken lightly. Normally Gideon could handle the demon, but he was still weak and his mind was not as focused as it should have been, something Talon was sure Loathar was counting on. Taking a better hold of his sword and shield Talon followed Gideon, hearing rather than seeing the others silently follow suit.
The warriors met no resistance through the tunnels that lead deeper into their enemies’ world. As the air grew thicker and the heat grew stifling, the angels slowly and cautiously kept going. When they reached the end and stood on the precipice of a high cliff, the realm the humans called Hell in all its glory, or damnation, spread out before them, they stopped to survey their surroundings.
Most think of Hell as a vast network of caves filled with pain and agony, brimstone and fire spewing everywhere, and there were those elements in the levels far below. But here, where even though there was extreme heat and an acrid smell, it looked more like something you would see on earth hundreds of years before man began to take over and destroy nature’s beauty.
Forests, bogs, fields, mountains, lakes. To one who did not know better it looked rather peaceful, except for the red haze that painted everything in its bloody tint. They would enter without knowing that the creatures that lived in the forest, bogs, meadows, mountains and lakes would rather eat you slowly, relishing in your screams of pain and terror.
Sara was down there…somewhere in that land of horror. Gideon closed his eyes as a wave of guilt ridden rage engulfed him. He should never have left her today. He should have realized that the lead he had been given was only a means to distract him, so the bastards that have hunted Sara her entire existence could take her. He could rail at Talon for allowing her to be captured, but he knew that would be useless and unwarranted. Talon had proven time and time again he would never let any harm come to Sara. No, powerful forces had been at work. Forces Gideon was for the first time beginning to fear.
“You know,” Loghan grimaced in disgust, breaking into Gideon’s self-recriminations, “no matter how many times I come here, I will never understand why everything has to be red. I mean, there are other colors in the spectrum. It just smacks lack of imagination.”
The others ignored him.
“Do you sense her?” Michel asked quietly, moving to stand next to Gideon who stood silently staring out at the vast expanse.
Did he sense her? Once again closing his eyes, pushing the fear back into the box where it belonged, Gideon reached out, searching. In amongst the anger, fear and evil, a light shone brightly. Sara! His eyes snapped opened.
“There,” he said pointing towards the large mountain.
Loghan whistled. “Do you know who lives there?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Gideon answered quietly.
“How do you plan on getting her out of there?” Aitan asked. “That fortress is the most well guarded location in this realm. Even the Dark Lords fear that place.”
“I know.” When Gideon turned to Talon, he let him and only him see the fear in his eyes. Thankfully, Talon was able to keep his composure and not let the others know that Gideon had no idea how they were going to rescue Sara from a fortress so full of evil, no angel dared enter it. Not unless they went unwillingly, and when they came out, if they came out, they were never the same. Both Talon and Gideon could personally attest to that.
“Why don’t we start flying in that direction,” Talon suggested his eyes not leaving Gideon’s, willing his strength into his leader, his friend, his brother. “She may not be in there, but somewhere in-between.”
“It’s a good idea,” Aitan rumbled looking at Michel with concern, who answered with a frown of his own. They both sensed something was not right with their leader and that made them uneasy.
Gideon looked back at the mountain praying Talon was right and Sara was not in the castle. “The longer we are here the weaker we become. Let’s go and find something to fight and return to the cleaner air of the human realm before it’s too late.”
Each of the eight fighters nodded their agreement. Then as one they lifted into the sky and headed further into the bowels of Hell.
Copyright © 2017 Heidi Barnes