A Bat out of Hell


A group of children run about in the night, whooping and hollering and generally being children. A fire burns a short ways off, guarded by an old man, one of the village elders, who is here to watch them. It is All Hallow's Eve and while the children are joyous, the old man is caught up in memories of times not so pleasant, when children and men alike fled inside and cowered for their lives on this night.

Still, he reflects, those were different times, with different people. The past is there only for us to learn from it. Soon the children have tired and gathered 'round him. The eldest, and the bravest comes forward to the elder.

"We want a story old man!"

"Bah! Back in my day we showed our elders respect, for we knew they were the wisest amongst us." The boy seems confused, and the old man sighs, this was a yearly ritual for them. The boy meant no real harm, and truth be told, the old man enjoyed telling tales of times long ago to them.

"Very well since you asked, and since this is All Hallow's Eve let me tell you a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seats, The tale of the Unnamable One."

The children gather closer into the fire as the old man began his tale.

"Long ago, before I, or my father's, father's, father's, father's day. A time so long ago men have lost he name for it, Heaven and Hell battled directly for the souls of Man. They fought, as they are wont to do, against one another in bloody conflicts that have spun up most of our legends, the tales of Indrihar, of Sauto, of Ademinthe. They were among the greatest Captains of the age, fighting winning many battles for the side of Good and Order."

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Paxton yelled to Indrihar as he slashed down one of the Magma-men. "There are more by the gate, if you truly wish to get to the Hellforge itself this time, then let me go on and destroy them!"

"Nay, we must stop and secure this area first. Would you wish to tell the Divine Creator himself we were stopped because of our foolish haste?"

"If we do not strike now, we will lose the day!"

"Better to lose one day than the whole of Heaven"

Paxton cursed; the fool wished to sit still while Hell was bringing more reinforcements, he had already lost Ibearn and Fiemte. How many more of his lieutenants would have to be slaughtered before the jackass realised they were too weak at the front lines? He was being ground to pieces by Indrihar's inaction.

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"And in those days, Indrihar the Fair was leader of the Hosts of heaven and he won many victories in the name of good."

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Finally, just before nightfall in the mortal realm, Paxton was forced to retreat from his position to Indrihar's rear one. The forces of Hell crowed as they quickly scooped up the wounded who had been left behind, whether their own or not. Paxton pitied those he had been forced to leave behind, a fate worse than death awaited them at the hands of the demon-spawn.

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"But under him was one whom he thought he could trust, but he could not. The Unnamable One; who even then, before his fall to darkness, betrayed the weakness of his heart. Only due to the vitrues of Indrihar could Heaven triumph over the Hell-spawned."

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Indrihar was fuming when Paxton got to him. His face, though unearthly beautiful was an angry red colour.

"What do you think you are doing! Abandoning your post like that! Have you no honour?"

"I do, but common sense as well. We were out-manned, out-matched and out-sorcelled. It was only by luck that I escaped with as many men as I did."

"And it was only by your incompetence that you lost so many in the first place!"

Paxton walked away, leaving Indrihar incredibly angry. He would have a few things ready next time that Indrihar sent him out. He would show the moron how incompetent he was!

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"And so the Unnamable One journeyed down into the depths of the Horadrim monasteries, and into the Vault of Arcana that lies beyond the Crystal Arches themselves. He read many books of lore and magic that no being save those of the purest evil could stand and be untainted after reading. And he grew twisted and deformed, yet he grew in power, until he was the most powerful Seraphim in all Heaven."

"He was self centered and thus very careless and foolish, but even then it was only through the great efforts of Indrihar, and the eternal vigilance of the angels that he was caught."

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Paxton was reliving his nightmare. The same thing was happening that had last time. Indrihar had over-stretched and Paxton's angels were being ground to pieces. Paxton knew what he had to do, the knowledge he knew, and the price it demanded of him were nothing compared to the cost of so many dead Seraphim.

Forgotten words of power, words not meant to be said by any living creature sprouted from his tongue. The very air grew still, like the calm before the storm, and suddenly it was rent with great force. Bolts of energy shot out of his very skin and began blasting demons left and right. In a few moments, all that remained were shattered fragments of bone and scraps of burnt hide.

Still the angels did not cheer at this victory, for they knew this spell, and they knew it was forbidden for any being of good to chant it aloud.The price Paxton would pay would be terrible indeed for this transgression of Heaven's laws.

Paxton did not care, for it had won the day, and that was enough. He did not return when Indrihar sent for him, nor later when he was called for again. Finally two Nephilim came and escorted him back. He knew what lay before him.

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"And so the traitor betrayed himself to the eyes of those around him, as he cast many a spell and destroyed the angels who followed him so faithfully, never knowing the depth of the evil in his soul."

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The gathered angels murmured and whispered to one another as the prisoner was brought forth to the center of the judiciary. This was the trial of one of their own, a rare event. The prisoner showed no fear or weakness as he walked calmly to stand in front of seven of his peers who had been chosen for this occasion to fulfill the duty of judge and jury.

They looked down at him with frowns marring their otherwise unearthly beautiful visages. At the center, was Indrihar, the general of the hosts of Heaven, an angry look upon his face. He was used to being obeyed, and the charge with the prisoner was facing was the most serious act of insubordination that could be committed. Finally he spoke:

"Paxton, Captain of the Seventh Host, Seraphim of the first order, Defender of the Crystal Arches; you stand here, accused of the high crimes of treason against all that is holy, reading the forbidden lore, which no good being may read, and violation of the orders of your superiors. How do you plead in this matter?"

The prisoner looked up at his name being spoken, but in his eyes was hate and malice to rival the worst demon-spawn. After Indrihar finished, he stood silent for a moment before responding.

"I am as guilty as any one of you, no more."

Fury blazed in Indrihar's eyes at this slap in the face. When he spoke next, it came out with hate and rage at least equaling that of the prisoner's.

"You would dare to call us beings of Evil! We are the good, we are the ones for whom all mankind must hope shall never fail, we are the light in the dark, that shows the way unto the souls of men towards all salvation!"

"Then you burn so brightly, you destroy the eyes of those around you, blinding them."

"Enough! I will not stand for insolence from a wretch like you! Since you have pleaded guilty to the crimes, I hearby pronounce sentence on you! Let all the hosts know this: From this day forth, Paxton is hearby cast out of the Crystal Arches, never to be allowed to return! He is stripped of his rank and title among us! All those who are creatures of good should treat him as they would any other spawn of chaos! His name shall never be spoken amongst us again, upon pain of a similar penalty being inflicted upon the transgressor! And, he is to be cast down to the Hellforge, so that those whom he has become like may deal with him properly!"

The gathered hosts were shocked. To be cast into the Hellforge, without anyone else to aid him, was a sentence worse than death. He would be tortured for all eternity by the demons, if he was lucky.

Paxton did not waver outwardly when he heard the charge, though he felt as if he was going to collapse. The Hellforge! Indrihar's pride was deep and powerful, but this should be beyond even him. He would have to take his revenge on the fool. But for now, surviving in Hell would be challenge enough.

Paxton was stripped of his sword, his shield and his armour. Even his robe, the plain white garment, which all angels were given, was taken, until he stood naked before the assembly. Two heavy-set cherubim grasped his arms and tried to drag him out. They seemed almost surprised when he walked along willingly. He would not give Indrihar the joy of seeing his despair.

They reached the edge of heaven and stood next to a flame cleft in the mortal realm. Angels had used it for millennia as the entryway to Hell for themselves when needed. As a result the Prime Evils had their most powerful hench-beings guarding it tirelessly.

He turned to the two cherubim and looked into their eyes. They had once been part of his legions, and he knew them well. They had been his lieutenants, it seemed Indrihar had not just found him worthy of punishment. He could see the hurt in their eyes, at his betrayal of their trust, and at being forced to throw the Captain whom they loved into Hell.

"Good bye my friends, we may never meet again, or at least I hope not, considering what will happen to me", he joked weakly, " but know that what I did was not wrong, merely poorly considered. 'Pride spareth no man.' But I will return. " With that he turned and leapt into the crevasse.

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"And he was found guilty in the eyes of those who were once his peers and comrades, and for his crimes was cast into the pit of Hell, to be punished for all eternity. And his name was forever cast out of the scrolls of the servants of God, and thus we may not speak his name, for even to do so would forfeit your soul to the Devil himself!"

"What happened to him old man?"

" I, nor any other living being, know the fate that befell him once he was cast beyond the Crystal Arches. I only hope it was suitable for his crimes."

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over 6.000 years later

There is a place so horrible that even demons fear to tread. It is located in the darkest hole at the lowest level, under the largest mountain in all of Hell. It is beneath the Hellforge itself, and only through the efforts of hundreds of demons can the device itself be moved to open the way. And only the Arch-Demons themselves can compel them strongly enough to overcome the fear and despair that leak out from it. It is these very feelings that give the weapons made on the Hellforge their great powers, for these are not the emotions of mere mortals, but the despair that can only be felt by immortal beings. It is where the greatest Heavenly Captains that Hell has ever captured reside, being eternally punished for their crimes against Chaos. It is where no creature ever escapes. It has no name, for the mere mention of the name of such a place would drive even the hardiest demon to babbling idiocy out of fear. It is where our story begins again.

The prisoner was known as The Seraph by others, out of mockery, for they knew the shame and anger he felt at being cast out of the Crystal Arches for his crimes, and for fear of the punishment of mentioning his true name. For even now the punishment stands, and those whom say his name are cast into Hell to be tortured by the demons. Even the other prisoners, a front of solidarity against the demons, shunned him, for they knew his crime. He had been there the longest of any of them, and though his name could not be said, he was a legend amongst them.

He had watched the Sin War come and go from the prison, for whenever the war waxed against Chaos the hordes of Evil would let up a great chorus of wails, and when they were winning, a great cheer resounded throughout Hell, even in this dark pit. He had listened to the tale of the binding of the Prime Evils from the more recent additions, and had heard the great wail that had gone up when Diablo had been destroyed physically and rebound. He had witnessed things that would have driven lesser being insane, indeed many of those around him had taken solace in insanity, yet despite his constant wish that he too could flee to the dark corners of his mind, he remained far too sane for his liking.

As punishment for smiling one day, three millennia ago, he was currently impaled on a ten-foot long spike, through his anus and up out through the mouth. He still smiled, not the deranged laugh that his guards wanted, for that would show they had won, but an honest ear to ear grin showing his happiness. Even as he writhed in pain; for those who are tortured in this prison cannot die of their wounds; the grin never left his mouth. They had been punishing him ever since that day. His wings had been torn off and the feather used to poke out his eyes, his feet had been nailed to the hot iron bars and his hands broken and wrapped around poles covered in stinging insects. He bore it all with a grin.

Finally, his guards, not he, began to break down.They begged him to relent and stop his smiling and they would take him down, but he did not relent. Fewer and fewer could stand to be around him any longer, until they set his fellow angels to watch him.

The true Seraphim hated him passionately, but they could not stand to let even him suffer so, they took him off the spike, undid his hands from the poles and let him rest for a while. Even as he slept the smile never left his face. He gradually healed, due to his own efforts and using the power he had saved up over the ages. Finally he was whole in every way, but for his wings and eyes, which he could not do. The other angels refused him with these whenever he asked.

"Did we not take you down from the spike and unbind you and let you rest? Do not tempt us to put you back there demon! You will keep these injuries as payment for your crime." And so he was left alone.

Finally his guards came back. And they asked the angels:

"Where is The Seraph? Why has he been taken down from his pole? Did we not tell you to leave him be?" And they were about to destroy the angels when a great crash resounded amongst them. There he was. The Seraph, strode in, but he was not the being they had seen before, pitiful and weak from their torture, but a powerful and mighty creature.

" I am a creature of both Chaos and Order! I draw upon not only the Crystal Arches, but the Hellforge as well, to sustain me! Why do you think I was smiling? You simple-minded creatures! You trapped me beneath the one thing in this miserable hole which would allow me my revenge!" And he was revealed to all those present as being neither of Chaos nor Order, but of both.

He looked about the prison and smote all those present, whether angel or demon-spawn, for he was more powerful than them. Yet he could not escape his prison yet. He drank heavily of all the dead, draining their life forces as they fled back to their homes. The essences filled him and he felt himself grow mightier with each breath.

He struck one of his fists against the wall of his prison and a great tone swept throughout Hell. All the Horde stopped for a moment, so great was the sound of the note. He struck the wall again and again and again, until there was a hole in the wall for him to crawl out into Hellthrough. He clambered out slowly for he had not moved much in over three millennia, and his sight was lost to him.

The four remaining Arch-Evils saw him leave and heard the tone and they said unto one another:

"Let us not allow him to escape. For surely Heaven would use one such as he against us in our wars." And they sent the legions of Hell after him. He was beset by the horde, and he looked around for an escape, but all ways were cut off save one.

And so he leapt upwards, amplified by the remainder of his powers and smashed right out of the roof of Hell. Through mile after mile of stone and ore he propelled himself upwards, seeking only to escape at any cost. Finally he emerged on a mountainside, with a great crashing that could be heard from Westmarch to the Crimson Empire and beyond.

And peasants for miles around gazed up as a light as bright as the sun broke the darkness of night and lit up the sky. Many cried it was the end of the world, that the Evil Brothers had broken loose and had come to wage war on the Heavenly Hosts. And they were not far off from correct. For truly had a being of doom come forth.

Exhausted beyond the limits of most beings, mortal or otherwise, The Seraph fell into the soft cool snow, unconscious. And for the first time in since his expulsion from the Crystal Arches, he slept peacefully.

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Paxton awoke to feel of electricity surging through his body. It catapulted him from his coma to a state of awareness instantly.

"What in Hell!" At his feet a wolf panted patiently. Energy crackled through its body, causing little arcs of lightning to ground themselves in the snow. Even without eyes, he could still sense it, the smell, the tingling feeling that lightning caused, the sound of the canine panting, when you've been blind for over two millennia you learn to compensate for not having sight.

"Well I suppose you're awake now." The wolf appeared to have spoken to him, and with what Paxton had seen, in his long life, he didn't even blink an eyelid. He had no idea if this wolf was out of the ordinary or not. It had been six thousand years, he had no idea if now it was common-place for wolves to talk. What was more important was if it was a Hell-spawn or not.

"Who you are and why do you have lightning flowing through you? Are you a demon?"

"Ikana, I just can, and I'm not a demon. I help people, sometimes. Why are you up here, what happened to your eyes?"

" I was escaping something. It blinded me." That would have to do for now. It was true, though not the whole truth. But this Ikana wolf-thing didn't need to know that for now.

At least it wasn't demon spawn. But working for Heaven was almost as bad. The story seemed to satisfy the wolf, though for how long, he wasn't sure. Finally Ikana spoke again.

"Well you'd better follow me. I can take you to a town nearby where you can get some clothes and bandages, naked people aren't too well liked around here, and maybe some food for both of us." The wolf seemed fairly helpful to a stranger it had just met, and Paxton was worried. One didn't get far in Hell trusting others.

Paxton looked down at himself out of instinct, in his haste he had forgotten about his nakedness, and his total lack of weapons. He didn't need one when he was rested, as his powers would easily overpower any mundane item, but his escape had weakened him substantially, and now that he was far away from both the Crystal Arches and from the Hellforge, it would take longer to regain his power.

"Fine, but only for now Ikana. We both have our secrets and I'd rather not have to worry about someone else right now. My life is hard enough."

Ikana grinned at him, "Don't worry, I can look after myself. Better than you can, it seems. After all, who's naked and alone on a mountain?"

"Good point. Let's go then, I have no wish to be near this place longer than I have to be."

And so he followed the talking wolf down off the mountain and into civilisation once again.

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Abadon screamed with outrage when he heard the news. The unfortunate imp who had had the misfortune of being selected to deliver it cowered in the corner. * Snikt *, Abadon flexed his hand, and the imp was no more. But even this bloodshed failed to calm him down.

"Those damned, infernal jackasses! Can't they do anything without me having to clean up after them? Don't they know I have better things to do than catch loose prisoners for them! This mission is a waste of my time and they know it!" he seemed almost to the point of outright raving when he suddenly calmed down and turned to Fuji.

"Take a company of undead and go after this escapee. He should be weakened significantly, so it will be an easy victory for you. Then come back with his head so I can send it back to them. And do it quickly, I don't want them bothering me anymore!"

Fuji nodded and quickly strode out of the throne room. Shortly after, a horde of undead left Dorado, with a vampire at its head. Their goal was as single minded as the members of the horde: kill the escaped angel.

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A week later....

Paxton had armed and equipped himself, as much as he needed to be. Though a naked blind man and a wolf wandering into town had gotten some odd looks, most people just assumed he was an old hermit who felt the need to arm himself against all the troubles of the world that had been happening recently.He was perfectly happy not to disabuse them of that notion,

He now had real set of clothes, a chain mail hauberk and a long sword, as well as a bandage for his eyes. The sight of his empty sockets opening and closing tended to scare the peasants he had learned. Not as much as talking to a wolf that answered back, though. They had been run out of more than one town for that.

Still, he was armed to defend himself should demons come looking for him. He had turned some rocks into silver pennies when no one was looking to pay for it all, but the expenditure of power was well worth the price of the gear. The chain mail shirt though, rubbed against his stumps and was slightly uncomfortable to wear, but he had suffered infinitely worse in his tenure in the prison below the Hellforge. He would rather have the protection than the comfort.

He had met Sarak, Ikana's sister the day before yesterday, while they were scrounging for food after being kicked out of a village. She had come up and laughed at them, until they had asked her to help out, when she told them that they were looking in the wrong place. With that she had dashed off and returned later with a big juicy trout for each one of them. Ikana informed him that she was by far the better hunter and Paxton was inclined to agree. It had been well over six millennia since he was last eaten, and the smell of cooked trout, courtesy of Ikana's lightning, had nearly overwhelmed him at first. After that long, he would have been happy with raw sheep's hooves, let alone real meat.

Sarak and Ikana had been wandering for the last week or so, as wolves are wont to do when food is plentiful. Paxton had accompanied them. He only wished to get as far away from the mountain, where the Horde would certainly be searching for him, as possible, as quickly as possible. The terrain turned flat and level near most of the villages; but in this part of the world it was hilly and forested, easy to hide in, even from demons.

It would be a good home.

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Fuji followed the trail of the escaped angel tirelessly. He had found where he had burst out of Hell almost instantly, as soon as he had come within sight of the mountain in fact. The smell of brimstone was thick in the air, and after that it had just been a simple procedure of following the trail of the stench that clung to him. Unfortunately, the fool always seemed to be one step ahead. In all the villages Fuji had tracked the angel through, the peasants remembered him, but he had always "just left". He had burned the villages just to be sure, but still no angel was to be found. This was quickly getting tiresome.

He had picked up the trail again. It was fresh, only an hour or two old. If he hurried he could kill this fool and be on his way back to Dorado by nightfall. And then he would be handsomely rewarded by Abadon, and gain even more power. He would kill this angel. Soon.

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Paxton and Ikana both heard the sound at the same time, or rather, the lack of it. All the birds and other creatures who spent their time whistling and whooping and generally making noise in a forest had gone quiet.

" Someone must be in here with us." Paxton agreed with Ikana's assessment, it was probably the undead or demons, come to take him back. He wouldn't let them though, he'd rather die.

He drew his sword, as Ikana bared his fangs and began running lightning through his body. Sarak had gone off earlier this morning so they didn't have to worry about her, but they were not as safe as she was. Paxton hunched down behind a bush off the path and waited.

Up ahead, a man was leading a company of undead down the path Paxton had been on moments before. He was looking for something: them, thought Paxton. The man appeared to be sniffing the air, and it looked like he knew they were there. He barked out a command and the undead began to fan out and move through the brush.

Paxton cursed softly then turned to Ikana and whispered:

"Can you deal with the undead in the woods?"

"I can blast most of them if they'll just follow me to the river."

"Good. You lead them off, and I will kill the leader, without him, they're just bones"

"Okay, but that's Fuji, one of Abadon's lieutenants. Be careful, he's a vampire."

Paxton moved slowly through the brush, towards the now lonely figure. The undead were scattered throughout the wood. He heard a wolf call go up, that would be Ikana leading off the skeletons. At last, he was just in sword's reach of the man.

He raised his blade and swung it down quickly and silently, intending to behead the vampire while he was unawares.

But Fuji must have been expecting it. He drew his hand up in a motion that brought his claws perpendicular to Paxton's. The sound of metal striking rock hard bone resounded off the trees in the forest.

Fuji looked at Paxton with contempt. " You're what I was set up against? A blind weak fool like you?"

"Don't count me out of it just yet, I've fought my way into and out of Hell. You're nothing compared to that."

"We'll see."

They both struck again and again in lethal dance of steel and claw. Though neither one was a master duelist, they were both professionals, with much experience on both sides. Paxton finally disengaged and backed off. Fuji looked at him with grudging respect.

"Not bad. Not bad at all. They haven't told me anything about you, but it seems that one of the things they neglected was your skill."

"Well, 'they' are probably ignorant of most of my life. I was a Captain of the Seventh Host back when your family was still grunting and trying to figure out what fire was. I've been wielding a sword for centuries. I've killed whole legions of demons."

"Ah! It all makes sense now. Why they want you back so badly, why no one ever says your name. You've got quite a legend behind you, you know. In fact you're prayed to quite a bit by us chaos worshippers. It would be most beneficial to Diablo to have you back in Hell. "

"Thanks, maybe when I kill you, you can tell him that I don't want to go back just yet."

"Well how about I just let you tell him in person?" Fuji punctuated this statement with a thrust of his hand at Paxton. Paxton countered and bashed Fuji's face with the hilt of his sword. It didn't do much damage, but it stunned the vampire and let Paxton reach over and grab his arm.

"When you get there, tell all of them: I've learned a few things since they caught me. They were very good teachers, but I've learned everything I want to from them. Tell them one day I'm gonna come back and teach them a thing or two."

Fuji looked down with fear in his eyes as the flesh underneath Paxton's hand started to smoke, then crinkle and smolder. Flames shot out of Paxton's hand and up the length of Fuji's arm. He screamed as the holy flame began to incinerate his pallid flesh. Flames burst out of his mouth, and soon out fo his chest. He screamed with an agony only the undead could know in his voice.

Soon his flesh began to dissolve off him, the holy fire burning him clean.He was still writhing in pain on the ground when Paxton collapsed besides him, the strain of using so much power exhausting him.

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When Ikana came back, he found a skeleton burnt black, surrounded by a fine white ash. Paxton lay on the ground, unconscious, next to it.

"A most unusual man, indeed. Wish I knew his name."