* * * *
Darvill cursed himself for his stupidity as soon as he stepped through the door. Too rash. Too hurried. He’d expected there to be security measures put in place by the portal creator to prevent unwanted intrusions. He’d searched for the obvious traps—things to maim and kill—but the portal creator had been more subtle than that.
He’d felt the shift in destination and the others being pulled away from him the moment they’d entered the door. He understood too late. The countermeasures hadn’t been designed to prevent intruders from entering, but to scatter them and leave them isolated on the other side. Vulnerable. Easier to pick off. It was a subtle redirect hidden within the operations of the portal, but one he would—should—have spotted had he not been in so much of a rush.
And now they were all dead.
Or might as well be. Four novice warlocks, alone with only their daemons for company, in hell. He didn’t like their chances.
At least he hadn’t been teleported right into the lap of a lust daemon. He’d materialised in a luxurious bedchamber, thankfully empty. There was an enchantment on the enormous and inviting bed—presumably to charm the weak-willed into climbing in and staying there until the succubus returned to fuck out their soul. The charm wasn’t very strong. Darvill ignored it and sat cross-legged in the centre of the room. He cleared his mind, focused, and carried out a weaker form of the soul divination ritual they’d used to locate Gary Dever. This time he was looking for the others as well as Gary.
He felt responsible.
Morally, he knew he should have come alone. This was too dangerous for novices, even accomplished ones.
Pragmatically, he knew he needed the support of Herbie and the others. The odds of him being able to do this on his own were far too slim.
Now, through his carelessness, he had the worst of both worlds. He’d put them all at risk and he was on his own.
He dripped blood into the bowl of water he’d placed in front of him. A swirl of a finger revealed complex and baroque schematics. This was a large structure, maybe some kind of castle. He found Herbie and Joey. Herbie was about three or four floors up, same as Darvill, but on the far side of the building. Joey was about two or three or floors below ground level, possibly in some kind of basement or cellar. Jack took longer to find. The portal had deposited him some way outside the main building and the little glowing dot indicating his presence was some distance removed from their location.
He found Gary as well. Maybe. The signal was blurry and indistinct. It should have showed up stronger now they were on the same plane. It was possible there were a lot of other souls in the same area interfering with the divination. That could be a good thing. Maybe he was being held with other humans as food for the daemons to consume later.
Later was better than already consumed.
The signal was also close by, maybe a couple of floors above him and over to the north. Of the four of them, Darvill was the closest.
It wasn’t just about finding Gary. They also had to find a way back to Earth.
Darvill grimaced as he opened up another cut in his arm and dripped more blood into the bowl. This time he was looking for the telltale folds and rents in the fabric of reality that indicated the presence of stable portals.
Oh wow, that was complex. An extra-dimensional system of tunnels and shortcuts was revealed to him. They permeated through the building like some kind of twisted root system. It was the central branch Darvill was after. He didn’t have the power to open any of the sub-branches from this side. The central branch would be permanently open, though, otherwise the whole portal system would collapse.
And there it was. Almost right in the centre of the building and not far from Herbie. Secretly Darvill was relieved it was further away than Gary. It lessoned the temptation to do the rational thing and head straight for the exit.
The lines in the bowl started to shift and blur. Darvill’s brow furrowed. His puzzlement changed to alarm as the lines resolved into the face of a young girl with spiky hair and horns. Curious, she looked up out of the bowl at Darvill.
He knocked the bowl over, spilling the contents onto the plush carpet and terminating the divination ritual. That was an unpleasant surprise. He hadn’t known it was possible to look back through a divination spell and see the castor.
He stood up and rolled his shirt sleeves further up his arms. Using his knife he carved an anti-lust ward in each forearm. He assumed the others had carried out the same divination ritual he had. They would be heading here to find him. In the meantime he would look for Gary, pull him out if he could, wait for the others if he couldn’t.
It was a plan. He didn’t like his chances, but at least he had a plan. All that was left was to execute it and hope the obstacles in the way of that plan were not beyond his ability to overcome them.
* * * *