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Spike

The Underworld - Rivers of Hades (part 1-3)

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The angry, sun-less sky hung over the barren valley like a dark omen, it's crimson horizon accentuated by grey clouds like dirty brush strokes over a canvas of gore. Making slow progress down the rocky mountains, Colonel Alexander McMillan and Corporal William Hendry trudged erratically onwards.
"Reminds me of Death Valley", Hendry commented as he balanced the weight of his weaponry against the downward trek. "I took a trip to Nevada a few years back while I was on leave. Spent most of the time in Vegas, though. Nice birds there..." He laughed at his own memory. "Something tells me that the women round here won't be that clean."
McMillan chuckled softly, enjoying what little humanity he could. Too many years of isolated fighting had a way of changing a person - he'd never really appreciated human company until his arduous experiences fighting Hell's denizens. "Vegas chicks ain't exactly clean, either", he retorted.
The Corporal stared down the valley towards the river mouth that lay several hundred meters away, blood-falls pouring down its banks from the mountains above. All around, enormous twisted trees and stunted shrubs grew precariously from the barely fertile soil like contorted bodies. This was truly a barren place.
"Funny the way things work out, isn't it?" Hendry said. "My parents kept me away from religion - said I was free to make my own choices about the world. I thought Christians were naïve, full of false hopes and screaming out for certainties..." he nodded up towards the scarlet horizon. "And they were right, weren't they? They were so right."
"I wouldn't go that far," McMillan snorted, dropping from a small outcropping to the plateau below. "A crucifix doesn't go very far against these things. And what did the church do against these bastards? Nothing, that's what. They believed for so long that they became complacent. When their apocalypse came, they might have well just sat back and welcomed the fuckers." He hawked and spat in disgust. "They're no better then the demons."
The Corporal nodded fractionally, taking that statement in. Nothing like a demonic apocalypse to shake your faith.
The deafening blast came from nowhere, shattering a large boulder mere feet from McMillan.
"Sniper! Hit the deck!"
McMillan and Hendry dived in opposite directions, skidding down the remainder of the descent and rolling to the floor for cover. Both marines bought weapons to bear on their would-be assassin, scanning the rocky hills for any sign of movement. Then McMillan saw it; the faint glint of a long-barrelled sniper rifle in the arms of a crouching figure in Athens-base regalia. Survivor? He decided to chance it...
"Name and rank, soldier" he called out into the accusing silence. His words echoed round the distant hills, eventually falling silent once more. Several meters to his left, Hendry leaned up against a small outcropping, loading his shotgun and sweating profusely.
"Private Acacia Kalliope" came the sudden - and most definitely female - reply, heavy with accent. "Identify yourself or I kill you."
McMillan took a second to mentally run through her file. "Colonel Alexander McMillan - we're friends, Private".
"Who else is with you?" she asked.
Hendry cleared his throat nervously. "Uh, Corporal William Hendry. Kalliope, is that you?" He peered carefully over his vantage.
"Yes, asshole, it is me." She had made her way over to their vantage, scowling down at them like a vengeful goddess. Ruffled, blood-soaked fatigues masked any figure she may have had - her pants were torn in several places. She fixed each of them with an intense, dark-eyed stare for a moment, then the lines round her eyes softened visibly.
"I thought I was the only one. Colonel..." she nodded to her superior. "Hello Hendry." She said, not bothering to even glance in his direction.
"Hey, I'm you're bloody superior too, Private"
"Whatever"
"Stop bitching", McMillan interjected. "We're vulnerable out here. The least we can do is find some cover. And for fuck's sake, keep your voices down." Kalliope and Hendry shot each other icy glances before following the Colonel's lead towards the crimson river.
"How're you holding up, Private?" McMillan asked, falling into line beside her. She scratched absently at her close-shaved head.
“This is madness, Sir. You must see that yourself.” She led them to an ominous ravine that continued on for another few hundred feet. A bloody trickle from the looming mountains flowed beside them. The Colonel stopped beside her, and fixed her with an angry stare.
“First question private. Where do you think we are?”
A few feet behind, Hendry flicked his gaze between Kalliope and McMillan. Her lips worked silently as she struggled to force out words that she knew all too well were madness.
“Sir, I never believed I would see the day. I never wanted to see the day, but…”
“Answer the question, Private.”
She looked down for a moment, then cocked her head to one side. In the near distance, Hendry too could hear a deep, bellowing roar that echoed through the ravine.
“Colonel… we have stumbled upon the Underworld. And Hades will not allow us passage…

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Heh, I believe we have a reaction to our li'l discussion about Christians and Satanists eh?
I won't bore you with further comments on the "Christians being no better than demons" part(after all we're not purely evil).

You have upheld the same great quality that you've shown us so far - great work.
I do find it a bit strange that Private Kalliope isn't satisfied with the fact that there are two humans talking to her (she insists on gettin' a clear identification of them both).
But then again, I believe that the situation is enough to make one more than regularly paranoid.

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dsm said:

Heh, I believe we have a reaction to our li'l discussion about Christians and Satanists eh?

[/b]
I kinda had this idea from day one, but i guess recent, ah, 'discussions' have fueled it a tad :)

I do find it a bit strange that Private Kalliope isn't satisfied with the fact that there are two humans talking to her (she insists on gettin' a clear identification of them both).
But then again, I believe that the situation is enough to make one more than regularly paranoid.


Yeah - after McMillan nearly mistook a chaingunner for a human, i figured it'd be interesting to have the same done right back to him. The next part will detail bits of map03 (River Phlegethon) and the beginning of map04 (Lethe).

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Hendry followed silently behind, observing the conversation between Kalliope and McMillan with renewed interest. First Hell, now Hades, he thought idly. This was getting a bit too much to stomach.
The mountainous passage narrowed into a towering ravine, the blood stream having stemmed away through the craggy walls.
“Where d’ya suppose they are?” Hendry spoke up.
“Who?” McMillan replied.
“Elvis fucking Presley. Who d’ya think? Your demons.”
McMillan edged round a sharp turn in the ravine, checking the gauges on his combat shotgun. Motioning the Private and Corporal to follow, he led them on… into a valley of death.
The streams flowed back though the mountains in a great downpour of blood several meters below the dull, brown banks, passing through a grated overhang farther downstream. The only route available lay in the narrow paths at the canyon walls lined by green torches. McMillan heard the sharp intake of breath from Kalliope.
“The fires have been quashed,” she muttered. “Yet Phlegethon remains.”
The Colonel, keeping his eyes on the gory river, leaned over to the Private. “What’s a Phlegethon?”
“River Phlegethon. The river of fire… lost in blood.”
Hendry suppressed a grin, staring past his companions at the narrow plateau. Did he just see something move in the shadows?
An ear-piercing shriek echoed through the canyon, startling the marines into action. McMillan and Hendry trained their sights on the distant caverns that littered the rock face, while Kalliope covered the river itself. A thought suddenly occurred to the Corporal.
“That was a human,” he commented. “You think anyone else made it through?”
McMillan was about to answer when he saw the figures emerging from the caverns. A mob of imps were dragging a screaming human towards the river, their razor claws drawing blood in their deadly grip.
“Help me! Oh god, you bastards, get off me!”
Eyes widening in recognition, Kalliope broke into a sprint, surging forward past her comrades and on towards the murderous creatures. “Antonio! Hold on!”
But it was too late. Hoisting the accosted marine over their heads, the imps threw him headlong into the river.
“No!” she screamed, flying into frenzy as she whipped up her rifle. The first snap shot gouged a hole through one of the creature’s heads; it’s body staggering ponderously for a moment before dropping into the river after Antonio. The imps turned towards their attacker, bringing their leathery palms to bear. Before she could get off another shot, a scorching burst of fireballs streaked towards her, slamming into the rocky walls as she dropped to the ground. With a deafening roar, Hendry opened up with his mini-gun, shredding the imps beyond recognition. Kalliope rolled onto her stomach and peered over the high, mountainous banks.
Far below, Antonio flailed about, waist deep in blood. His eyes flashed wildly from left to right, thrashing his arms in the scarlet liquid. “Oh god, they’re coming for me.” For a moment, his eyes locked onto Kalliope, pleading with her to save him. “Oh god, help me! I can hear them!”
Hendry crouched beside the Private, laying his mini-gun beside him. “Colonel, you happen to bring any winch rope with you?”
McMillan found himself staring along the river. “It doesn’t matter. He’s already dead.”
Kalliope shot him an acid glare. “Shut up and help me. We can save him.”
McMillan shrugged easily. “The ghosts will get him first.”
The Private’s angry glare became questioning. “Ghosts?”
Antonio screamed.
All three marines stared back down at their anguished comrade. A blurred shape shot past him, slicing a deep gash into his arm. Then another, this time tearing open his belly. Grasping uselessly at his coiled intestines, he dropped to his knees, gagging on his own vomit as he struggled chin-deep in the warm fluid. With a final, invisible tear, his head was torn from his shoulders, silencing his anguished cries.
Kalliope stared in horror at the sinking corpse, retching silently though her tears.

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Nice
/Me goes to the index to make a tiny update

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Why spank you :) i shall endeavour to further my creative writing to bring you gory nasty tales of disembowelment and mutilation.

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You've heard of thrown to the dogs? This is 'thrown to the specters'.

I hoped it would come across in a sacrificial vein - i always thought that demons were more about torture than out-out killing.

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PART III

McMillan allowed his gaze to linger on Antonio's floating corpse for a few moments before turning and heading on down the narrow ravine path. Kalliope simply stared down at the fallen marine.
"Why didn't you help him?" she sobbed, unable to avert her eyes from his mutilated form.
Hendry put her arm over his shoulder and slowly eased her back to her feet.
"No point" he said in a matter-of-fact tone. "They wouldn't have allowed him to live."
Corporal Hendry adjusted the shoulder strap of his mini-gun. "We're here, and we're alive. Should have been dead a few times over by now. Want to explain that one to me?"
McMillan simply walked on.
The river swept downhill for maybe half a kilometre of quiet endurance. The Colonel, silent and stoic as he marched onwards. Kalliope, her nerves taut as violin string. And Hendry, wondering when he was going to wake from the nightmare he'd been thrust into.
You fight for your country, he thought. You fight for peace and justice, you build up your life, find people you trust and love and long for. And something indiscriminate and indifferent comes along and shatters it all without a second thought.
That's life, he mused.
McMillan stopped suddenly in his tracks, flattening himself against the rock face and signalling his companions to do the same. Concentrating hard, Hendry listened out for the sounds that had alerted the Colonel. He heard the soft howling of the wind in the mountain passage. Heard the quiet splattering of the blood as it flowed below them. And then he heard the hissing.
A pair of the brown, spiny bastards burst into view from a small cavern on the other side of the river, scuttling away for all they were worth. Turning in unison, they launched a volley of fireballs up towards the edge of the ravine. A cacodemon floated ponderously into view, spitting ball lightning in rapid succession towards the retreating imps and screaming wildly.
McMillan jammed his hands over his ears and began sprinting down the rocky path.
"Run for it!" He yelled over his shoulder.
Hendry and Kalliope caught on quickly, breaking into runs behind their Colonel.
"Shouldn't we kill them?" Kalliope asked Hendry.
"Let them duke it out", he replied with a grin. "The winner gets a date with a mini-gun."
The Private looked back towards the demons. The cacodemon spat a blast of lightning that hit an imp square in the chest. It convulsed wildly, blue-white electricity dancing over its body like blinding tendrils, until it collapsed in a heap. Opening its gaping maw, the floating beast lashed out with a mass of tentacles from its mouth that ensnared the brown corpse. Enraged, the imp's brethren leapt forward and began tearing at the bloated red creature with it's claws. The smaller creature's weight pulled the cacodemon towards the river, sinking slowly as it penetrated the surface with its meal. A moment later, the invisible creatures joined the fray.
Sprinting on, Kalliope couldn't help but wonder if this truly was where the souls of the dead resided.

The river finally shrank and forked away an hour later, it's waters running into a moat that framed a large structure of moss-covered stone. A single bridge of rotting wood and rusting iron heralded their passage.
"Do we even know what we're looking for?" Hendry asked.
Once more, McMillan avoided the question. "Follow my lead, both of you. Don't take a piss without my permission". The bridge led to an immense iron gate, framed by twisted bodies hanging in cages. Judging from the marks on the bodies, they hadn't had the benefit of a quick death.
Hendry passed Kalliope his shotgun, rubbing his temples absently with gloved fingers.
"You ok?" she asked him.
"Fine," he replied. "Headache. Can't say I'm surprised either."
The Private nodded, noticing the rusted lock on the dilapidated door. Bringing up her shotgun, she chambered a round and blasted the lock away.
"After you, sir" she saluted to the Colonel.
McMillan nodded with a smile and moved in, followed by Kalliope.
Hendry shuffled on, trying to ignore the laughing in his head...

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Nice, I like the idea of tentacles coming out of the caco's mouth but tell me one thing: Why did the imps and the Caco suddenly start duking it out without provocation?

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dsm said:

Nice, I like the idea of tentacles coming out of the caco's mouth but tell me one thing: Why did the imps and the Caco suddenly start duking it out without provocation?

A pair of the brown, spiny bastards burst into view from a small cavern on the other side of the river, scuttling away for all they were worth. Turning in unison, they launched a volley of fireballs up towards the edge of the ravine.



The imps were already being pursued by the caco - i'd like to leave the reason for it up to the imagination of the reader, as it adds a bit more mystery about the demons social habits :)

A cacodemon floated ponderously into view, spitting ball lightning in rapid succession towards the retreating imps and screaming wildly.



It's noted in 'Shores of Hell' that there are gutted Barons adorning the walls in E2M8 and E2M9; i'm sure people could imagine the demons duking it out over food.

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