Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it-Faust.
Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it-Faust.
The Gate of Death, Pandaemonium:
Three months' time had lapsed since my hands and body had turned grey. I looked at myself in a mirror and saw a monster, skin the hue of ashes, eyes that shone with violet instead of white, hair turned indigo. Runes burned in my flesh. We met four lords, the Tetrarchs of this strange and unholy sphere. Angra Mainyu, Ahriman. Lord of the Abyss, King of Pandaemonium, God-Emperor and Anti-God who sat on the great Obsidian Throne and ruled with an iron fist and a will of terror. A being of towering proportions in jet-hued armor with a roiling red cape and four glowing eyes, the rumbling infrasound undertone within his voice like a hammer to the face. Jvarasura, known to the Sumerians as Nergal, God of Plague. Though in his case less God and more an Asura. A rail-thin skeleton with a light hue of sickly green flesh and maggots weaving in and out of his body. Known as the Hand of Death to his followers we detested him most.
Then there was the sadistic Prince of Pleasure, Ravana. A Rakshasha who'd managed to best the previous such deity in a clash for the title and now that deity was reduced to being his chamberlain. Ten heads and ten arms had he and he was a figure of towering destruction and death, and all who beheld the lascivious gaze of twenty eyes shuddered and felt befouled save the other Tetrarchs. He was a master of weaponry and bellowed in triumph and delight at his mastery, where to Angra Mainyu he was simply a fop who'd usurped his true master and no love was lost between them.
And of them too there was Indra, an Asura who was like a thundercloud rewritten in the form of a man. Of them all he scared us more even than the King of Pandaemonium did, for his were hands that cast lighting and light in the darkness and Unlight of that realm. His hands that scarred flesh and proved able to break invulnerable flesh to create oozing wounds that were then cauterized in scorchingly painful fashion, and at each of their hands had we suffered. Each time one of us sought to shield the other we were punished for success or failure as our captors wished, but each time we did so we learned more of the nature of the monsters beyond the Veil. And of the means to leave this place.
Three months' time passed and our bodies were scarred as thoroughly in Azarath, and my sister Rachel had an adornment placed on her face by Angra Mainyu when he sought to give her another 'blessing' as his father. A gemstone set in a chakra with a dark black hue when he'd placed it on her but in defiance she'd glared and summoned against it the power of her soul-self and it became red. He snarled then and sought to cast her down but I shielded her in turn and darkness mercifully swallowed me.
She'd come to understand, however, that Pandaemonium had several gates, and the one that could be fled from to another corner was one marked, of all things, in Latin. And on it did these words appear: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.
Some part of me fueled by the growing power of my kindred among the Urhalzantrani recognized this and realized the nature of the place, and its ties within the greater complexes of Hell, a realm ruled by what in some takes was its Eighth Pit, the Malebolge. A Dark Dimension of sordid terror and nightmares where Hell was made manifest in all its foulness. And yet next to the everlasting light and the blades and the laughter of the God on the Gilded Throne one was light and one was dark and that was all I could see then as a gap.
So we came then to that gate, together, and the Tetrarchs seemed unaware of it though in truth we knew that we would be in a race between their power and hers as a native child in half her heritage of that dimension. She levitated in a lotus position and began a set of chants from a book we'd found in the Azar's library, the fiendish works of the Mad Mullah, the Heretic Hazred whose works revealed the Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu cycles and the rise of the Great Empire of Xoth vingtillions of years before all that was now was present.
As she finished her incantation, part of me understood the words spoken and I learned later a great lesson in power and simplicity alike:
By Ten Thousand Eyes and Ears I the gates of Yog-Sothoth declare open, the gates between the realm of joy and of sorrow, flesh and blood, reality and rhyme. Open unto these spheres the power of Yog-Sothoth who made all things and is beyond them, the Old Ones were, the Old Ones Are, the Old Ones shall be. Not within the spaces known to mankind but between them walk they!
An eerie glow began to form and there was an element as of a river of glowing bubbles that burbled and spoke with ten thousand voices, and she extended to me her hand and I took it as we managed to step through the gate. It was then that Angra Mainyu rose behind us as a towering being in red wearing only a loin cloth, the semi-Elizabethan ruffle, and carrying the vast white Sceptre as he sought to reach through the gate to take us.
She formed a strange sign akin to that of a Magen David and spoke words of banishment and the Elder Sign closed the gate of Yog-Sothoth, the monster in Pandaemonium howling in fear and in pain.
Then we looked in shock. We were standing once more at the gates of the Doors of Night, clad not in the armor in which we'd been sent out but in torn blood-stained rags, scars and still-bleeding wounds visible, and we were at the foot of the massive throne on which the God that sat there leaned forward, lips peeling with that hideous squelching sound and eyes igniting like suns.
Well done, Good and Faithful servants. You have ascended from children to women, now.
My sister bellowed:
I am no-one's servant and neither is she!
And with that I in turn looked at her and the disconcerting smile on her face and as she leered downward, she unleashed the same shadowy bird from Pandaemonium, a great corvid form that hurled itself forward at the God on the Gilded Throne and began to peck and claw at her face. The God screamed and my sister and I turned and spoke a second incantation:
Yog-Sothoth knows the gate, Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth.
The Gate opened and we were carried through with a scream as the God on the Gilded Throne descended and tried to lunge at us. As we fell through the skies, we landed with an echoing boom in a park in a city that at the time I did not know.
Dusting ourselves off, I asked her:
So where we are we now?
Then I looked around and blinked, relieved more than words could say that shifting the color of my eyes was but a shift in the color, not the nature or kind of my vision.
I looked at her and her face went from the exhilarated rush of escaping two monsters to the kind of quiet stone face I would come to know all too well.
We're home. The Earth we were born in.
How do you know that?
She pointed to a sign that said: Memorial to the Massacre of Gotham.