The tunnel seemed to be narrowing down, as the three hooded figures continued to cross it’s dark and steamy corridors. The whole structure was massive in scale and completely dark. These misterious characters illuminated the path ahead of them; not with torches nor flashlights, but with the light emanating from their own bodies. They were walking at a steady rhythm and seemed to be looking for something Each was covered in a protective shining armor that displayed ancient markings on their breastplates. Two feathered and majestic wings, like those of eagles, were protruding from these angelic beings.They slowly and carefully made their way across the steep underground corridors. Upon reaching their objective they removed their white hoods with golden sigils. One among the three was female and was carrying a small jar tied to her waist. The other two were male; one was bulky and strong, with a silver sword on his waist and drawings of eagles on his armor while the other was twice as large as the other two and had a golden armor and sword. He belonged to a higher hierarchy and was the leader among them.
They all stood before a gigantic metallic gate. On it you could see the markings of terrible beasts. The largest one, turned to speak to the rest.
“Brothers, the gates of Tartarus stand before us. Our Creator gave us a mission. He intends to create a new world, a new race. But this forgotten place is still a threat. Beatrix, prove me your so fabled wisdom and tell me once more of how this wretched place came to be!”
The female warrior advanced. She bowed down on one knee before her superior and then proceeded to talk. “ The Creator, blessed be His name, needed a place to punish the damned and the wicked. Little did He know that they would grow out of His control in this forsaken and infertile land. They are a threat to our new world, they must be eliminated. I have been granted a jar of cleansing. Once we drop it in the Styx, the river that runs through these lands, all will cease to exist.”
The Archangel nodded in confirmation He then pointed his hand towards the other male. “Benedictus, many have told me of your Victories in battle. You have bathed in the blood of your oponents more often than in the waters of forgiveness. Tell me, can i count on you, to protect this jar on his journey into the underworld?”
The smaller angel made a bow. “My sword is at your service, as is my life. Lead the way Lord Ezekius!”
“Very well!” Ezekius turned to face the Gates of Tartarus once again. “To our very last breath.” With a swift but incredibly potent strike of his golden sword, the gates parted to reveal the dark, cavernous horrors awaiting within. It was even worse than any of them could have ever imagined. The horrible and putrid stench was all over the place and the walls seemed to be watching them as they made their way across the large open chambers. The place used to be laid out like a prison, with different caverns holding different sinners. But that was a long time ago. Now, everything was free to crawl their way through the unlit tunnels of the underworld, causing a mess in their way.
“Right through there. If we make our way across this set of tunnels we will arrive at the Styx.” Ezekius grabbed the handle of his sword. “Be cautious we are being watched.” He whispered. The three started making their way to the cursed river. Ezekius had the hard job of leading them through the darkness, using all of his instincts to put them on the correct path. Being an Archangel is much more than a rank, it’s being better than a regular angel in every sense of the Word. He had the sharpest sense and the strongest body.
“What was that?” Benedictus stopped on his feet.
“look up!” Ezekius told them. There was something grabbed to the ceiling. They were like a mixture between a bat, with the head of a snake and the body of an ape. Upon closer inspection, they noticed that the ceiling was crawling with those things. One of them started to hiss. “They have been watching us all along. I was trying to get by unnoticed, but i guess that’s it for that plan. Everyone get ready!”
All angels drew their swords. The beasts came down flying , with their mouths open, hoping to get a bite off one of them. Both smaller angels seemed to be struggling, fending off against the oncoming attacks. The Archangel though was killing them left and right. Cutting them in half with his sword, and crushing the rest with his golden boots. The few creatures that were left standing, flew away screaming and hissing their way across the tunnels.
The angels seathed their swords. Beatrix seemed concerned. She was the youngest among the three, she was the brain of the operation but lacked skills in combat. “So much for keeping it quiet! What now?”
Benedictus laughed. “Now? Now we fight!” He looked at Ezekius “To our last breath. Isn’t that right?”
The Archangel confirmed with his head. “Right. Let’s keep moving.” He had a weird tone on his voice, like he was worried. “We are very close to the styx now.”
They kept on going through the tunnels, marching to the sounds of shrieks and growls. Most beasts down in the Underworld are harmless to angels. The simple touch of light can turn them to dust. It was the cast outs that the angels were most worried about. The creations of their maker that had become so twisted and perverted that the only place where they belonged was in the dark abyss. Tiamat, the chaos monster and Cerberus the hellhound were some of them. But the most notorious among those creations was the Leviathan. No one had ever seen it, but the tales told of it were enough to make an angel lose his feathers. A massive creature, whose mouth was big enough to swallow an entire city and whose tentacles had enough strenght to crush an entire planet. Tales were told of how it spent it’s time swimming across the Styx, feeding of the souls and corpses of other beings. The creator was mostly worried about the Leviathan. It could ruin it’s plans for the construction of a new race. Only whispers had been heard of what he was planning, but they spoke of humble beings, living on a green paradise. The jar Beatrix was carrying had enough power to dry the Styx and kill the beast and all of the underworld with it.
Something made Ezekius stop. The other angels stopped too. They were curious about what it was that the Archangel was feeling. He closed his eyes and stood, quietly. Both smaller angels were afraid that by asking him something they would disturb his senses. He finally opened his eyes and gently, turned his head towards them. “Can you hear that?”
None of the angels had heard anything. Benedictus spoke up. “What was it? Voices? Growls? Their steps? Can you sense how far they are?”
“No.” Ezekius turned to face the darkness ahead of them. “Not voices nor growls.” He seemed petrified.
“What then, my Lord?” Beatrix asked. “Maybe the screams of a dying beast, or the hissing of the eternal serpents.” She suggested.
“Not that either. Oh sweet and brave angels, let me tell you of what i just heard. Not screams of agony or growls of anger. What i heard...” He stopped to take a deep breath. “What i just heard coming from that blackness ahead, was the sweetest symphony that has pleased these old ears in a very long time.”
None of them spoke a Word. Ezekius knew how crazy it sounded. It was impossible. The Underworld was a land of creatures, of destruction. Music implied creation, it implied a conscience. It implied an infinite number of things unrelated to the underworld. He noticed the other angels were too afraid to speak their minds, but he knew what they were thinking. Not even the greatest of angels were free from the curse of madness.
“Forget it. Let’s keep moving. The river is just a few steps away!” He lead them through the tunnels. He could sense the looks that the other angels were giving him behind his back. How could he blame them? He could still hear it. The Melody was getting more intense as they marched towards the heart of the Underworld. The river of dead souls.
© Copyright 2016 John Stark. All rights reserved.
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