tagSci-Fi & FantasyBlasphemia II: Deus Vult Pt. 04

Blasphemia II: Deus Vult Pt. 04

byNathanRavenwood©

"Is that what I think it is?" Filia asked.

Judith nodded. "The Amphitheater has seen better days, it seems."

"Wait, I thought this thing was called the Colosseum?"

Judith closed her eyes and made an exasperated noise. "They're one in the same."

The legendary Flavian Amphitheater lay on the next floating island below them. The structure and the area around it had been ripped up in a rough cylinder of earth, and bits of other sections of the city had been mashed together underneath it, coated with some kind of crystalline, mirror sheen. It looked like the tunnels of an ant colony, with the Colosseum as the mound on the surface.

"Huh." Filia made a face. "That just seems needlessly confusing."

Judith got the sense the succubus was baiting her once more, so she remained silent. At least things seemed to be back to their approximation of normal. The silence that has stretched between them as Filia flew them to their next destination had been monumental. It was as if neither of them knew quite what to do with themselves after the shared moment in the abandoned apartment. Judith's body was still warm from the quick, passionate encounter. She hated it.

"This is what you saw in the verde's head?" Judith asked.

"Yeah," Filia said, her eyes slowly panning back and forth across the ancient structure. The larger structure appeared untouched, just as worn-down by time as she had always known it. Nothing looked too out of the ordinary, which only made Judith more suspicious.

The succubus echoed her thoughts a moment later. "I don't hear or see anything odd."

"We should get closer."

Filia nodded and flapped her wings to get off the ground. Judith offered her arms, and Filia took hold of her and picked her up. They glided down towards the floating island. As they did, Filia circled around the structure, both of them looking for anything glaringly hostile. Judith's eyes lingered on the network of masonry tunnels underneath the structure, trying to see if there were any kind of larger chambers visible from the outside in where they might start looking for the Archbishop.

"A thought occurs to me," she said.

Filia looked down, her expression wary. "Shoot."

"You said these creatures are searching for an individual called the Lightbringer?"

"Right."

"Isn't that what...?"

The succubus made a face. "I see where you're going with this. No, it's not Satan. Trust me, if he were anywhere around, I'd know it. He exudes a presence that no Infernal can ignore. Though if he were here, things would either go in our favor or they'd be mega-fucked."

Judith arched an eyebrow. "Implying they're not already?"

"Well, okay, you're not wrong." Filia flapped her wings a little harder to give them more altitude and take them up to the top of the Colosseum's walls. "But I mean if he were here, he'd either be rolling with us and things would be a breeze, or he'd be captured by the baddies and who knows what would happen then."

"Given my previous experience with him I find the latter scenario to be highly unlikely."

Filia angled herself so that Judith could drop down a few feet and stand atop the high wall of the Colosseum. The succubus touched down next to her. "Don't be too sure about that. The Before Gods predate both my master and yours. They can probably do some weird shit that would turn our heads inside out. However, I don't think Satan could get anywhere near here in the first place."

Judith cocked her head. "How do you figure?"

"You can't feel it?" Filia raised her arm and waved her fingers through the air. "Even with the city ripped into bite-sized chunks, hanging suspended in midair like some sort of demented abstract art project, everything around us is still oozing faith. It makes my skin crawl, but I can manage because I'm just a rank and file Infernal. Imagine how Satan would fare, given that he's The Bad Guy to you people." She shook her head. "He can't get within a league of this place, even when it's like this."

Judith looked back over her shoulder at the helter skelter airborne buildings. "Either you're lying, or you're giving away crucial information expecting something in return."

"Hey, what's that?"

"Don't change the subject!"

"No, dummy." Filia's fingers closed around Judith's chin, making her skin flush and crawl at the same time. The succubus turned Judith's head towards the Colosseum below. "What is that?"

In the center of the Colosseum was an area where, centuries before, the arena itself had been. The floor had been removed from much of it, exposing the inner workings that lay underneath for visitors to see. In the center of the worn-down support columns that had once held up the arena space, a black hole ringed with crackling purple energy sparked and skittered. Darkness oozed from its depths, like ink diffusing in water.

"Something unpleasant, most likely," Judith said, prying Filia's fingers off her face.

"But that of course means we have to go check it out."

"Unfortunately."

Judith picked her way down the side of the ancient structure while Filia flew ahead. The succubus landed atop one of the columns near the black hole, careful to stay away from the dark tendrils oozing off it. Judith reached ground level, trying her best to ignore the array of personal belongings left behind by whoever had been in the Colosseum when everything had began. She didn't want to ponder their fates. Her objective had grown more urgent. If the Archbishop was here, they needed to back him up.

Filia pried off a chunk of the stone column with her fingers, tossing it from palm to palm to gauge its weight. "Here's the windup," she said, cocking her arm back. "And here's the pitch."

She hurled the piece of masonry at the portal, hitting it dead center. With a noise like rippling plastic the stone vanished into the portal. Filia hopped off the column to the ground below. "Alright, admittedly I have no idea what I was trying to determine with that, I just kind of wanted to do it."

Judith rolled her eyes, brushing past her companion. She drew Celerity as she grew close to the dark portal. She kept wary, ready to jump back from it's gaping maw at a moment's notice. The slash in reality was difficult to look at - some deep recess of her mind couldn't stop focusing on how wrong it looked. It cast no shadow, and looked indistinct from what was behind it clearly being black and in front of her, where the rest of the Colosseum's architecture was sand-colored and far away.

As she walked in a slow circle around it, an image flickered past her field of view inside the darkness before vanishing. Judith stopped and walked back a few steps. The image reappeared, like looking through a kaleidoscope at the right angle. It showed what was on the other side of the portal from that angle, but colored a neon purple and swirling in a distorted wave. Judith canted her body to the side, and the image disappeared again. When she returned to normal, it returned. "Interesting."

Filia walked up next to her and did the same. "Huh. That's weird."

"But what does it mean?"

"Well, standing around here just trying to suss it out ourselves isn't going to get us anywhere. Stand back, sister, I got this." Filia shook out one of her shadow chains. Judith stood back, then took another few steps to be sure.

Filia whipped the chain around, then cracked it forward. The length vanished into the portal, going slack as it did. The succubus pursed her lips. "Well that's a little disappoint-"

All at once the chain went taut. Filia cursed and pulled back on it, digging her heels in. "Okay, who or what has the balls?" she grunted, pulling back with all her prodigious might. The chain's links flared white-hot as she charged it with Infernal magic, trying to sear whoever had hold of the weapon on the other end of the portal. "This...fucker's...strong!" Her wings flared out and flapped, trying to give her more pull against her tug-of-war opponent.

"Should I cut it?" Judith asked, raising Celerity.

"Nope! No! I got this!" Filia grinned, grabbing the chain with her free hand and pulling back. "I totally got this!"

Then the chain yanked her forward, one step at first. Then it pulled her right off her feet. "Oh fuck, I do not got this!" Filia yelled as she was pulled into the portal.

Judith didn't hesitate. A heartbeat after the succubi's feet vanished into the darkness, she was right behind them.

She found herself in darkness, the same kind of all-encompassing blackness that she'd been surrounded by when she was dragged into the floor of the Sanctum Templar. It was like floating in space, but she could still breathe. Judith raised Celerity to cut herself free again, then spotted another portal in the blackness. This one was the same violent shade of purple that the image in the black portal had been. She ran towards it, and dove through.

Her world became that eye-searing color as she rolled and popped up onto her feet. Everything around her was a gradient shade of purple, ranging from soft lilacs to deep royals. She was still in the Colosseum, but it didn't look the same. The structure was whole again, smooth, unblemished stone rising up around her. The floor was still missing, however, to accommodate the thing that occupied the space.

"There you are!" Filia yelled as she was whipped through the air. "Little help!"

Judith was still trying to process what she was seeing. A towering pillar of flesh and bone rose from the floor of the Colosseum, looking all the world like a cotton-candy hued roasting spit. She could make out human forms within the mess, bodies stretched and contorted like taffy, mouths open in soundless screams of agony. Filia's chain was embedded in the thing's side, and the succubus was being whipped around by the thing spinning like a top. As if the nightmarish horrors couldn't get any worse.

Filia yanked on her end of the chain, pulling herself onto the thing's side. She laughed and shook out another, intending to start hacking. As she did, a section of the flesh pillar burst like a zit, blasting the Infernal away as if it were a grenade. She crashed into the Colosseum stands.

Judith reversed her grip on Celerity, practiced eyes examining the spinning pillar. How to even begin to deal with this thing?

Filia picked herself up, bursting free of the stone around her with a plume of hellfire. "Already with the throwing me into stuff, thanks!"

"Ideas?" Judith called up to her.

The succubus shook gore off herself. "Yeah, don't let it do that to you, it's got corrosive gore. Because of course it does!"

Stone split and rumbled underneath the thing's prodigious weight as it spun towards Judith. "Duly noted," she muttered, spinning on her heels and running away. She reached the far wall of the underground area and jumped with all her strength, trying to grab the lip of the area and pull herself up.

As she did, spikes of bone erupted from the edge and speared her through the hand. Judith yelled in pain as she dropped down. Her hand had been punched clean through as if it had been shot, blood oozing from the wound. "Great," she muttered. The flesh tower rumbled closer, chewing up the ground behind it. "Just great."

"Judith?"

Judith's head snapped towards the voice. It wasn't Filia's. Nor was it the Archbishop's. "Luca?" she yelled incredulously.

Above her, the scholarly man ran up to the lip of the arena. He looked like hell - even in this washed-out pink nightmare Judith could see his fine clothes were ragged and torn and he was bleeding from a gash in his forehead. Despite those things, he was beaming with relief as he looked down at her. "Lord am I glad to see you!"

"Holy shit, you have an actual friend?" Filia called from across the Colosseum.

"Who's that?" Luca asked.

"Questions later!" Judith yelled, sprinting away as the spinning flesh pillar closed in. "Luca, get to cover until we destroy this abomination!"

His reply was lost in the thunderous roar of meat and bone rumbling behind her. Judith put on a turn of speed that made her legs burn, but given the alternative was being ground underneath a rumbling vortex of viscera, she decided a little discomfort was worth it. As she ran, she half-turned, thrusting her palm at the thing and yelling an absolution. A blast of fire shot from her hand and smashed into the side of the tower.

Filia leaped from the Colosseum stands, chains scything around her in massive flaming arcs. They bit deep into the flesh tower's mass, cleaving large chunks free. The succubus landed by the thing's base, then sprang away as massive bone shards speared out and punched holes in the ground where she'd been standing. "Not this time, freak," she called. She pirouetted in midair - a motion that gave Judith a perfect view up her skirt to the cleft of her legs - and clawed at the air with her arm. Hellfire rippled forth, washing over the fleshy construct and searing it well-done in a second.

Judith added her own attack, a blast of holy fire that struck an area near the clinging hellfire. "How do we bring this thing down?" she called.

"The 'slice it to pieces' routine has been working really well so far!" Filia said. She sprang off the ground, chains akimbo to carve another piece of monster hide off.

The flesh of the tower opened wide, a maw appearing in the space of a heartbeat. "Oh come-!" was all Filia managed to get out before it snapped shut around her.

"Filia!" Judith called.

A column of hellfire burst from within the flesh pillar, blowing a massive hole in the thing's side. Filia tried to leap clear, only for tendrils of flesh to wrap around her in midair. Her chains flashed, cutting the probing things to ribbons. She landed awkwardly, bouncing off the ground before righting herself and skidding to a halt next to Judith. "Templar," she said calmly.

"Aye?" Judith asked.

A foul smell wafted off Filia as she moved, shaking bits of gooey flesh off her body. "After this I want you to bathe me in holy fire so I can get this slimy feeling off me. I'd rather endure that pain than feel like I do right now." She shuddered. "Disgusting."

The flesh tower seemed to sway where it spun for a moment, and Judith dared to believe for a moment they had won. Then it contorted like a spasming muscle, bending to and fro. From within it's form came a loud hissing noise, the sound of a million cicadas all buzzing at once. It's integrity slipped, the whole thing sagging onto the ground like a pile of ooze. Before Judith or Filia could react, it came to life again. A pulsing concentration of gore rose from the center, radiating an otherworldly green light. The assorted viscera and bone that had made up its form rose into the air and began to move around the core like a vortex, taking on a shape similar to that of a tornado. The force of the motion made the wind kick up, sand and dust beginning to cycle around them.

"It never ends, does it?" Judith muttered, tightening her grip on Celerity.

"Hey, just a hunch," Filia offered, yanking a length of chain free of her shadowy shawl. "I bet if we attack that big green core we'll hurt it bad."

"Why would it voluntarily expose its weak point?"

"Look out!" Luca called from the stands.

A hailstorm of bone shards shot towards them as if fired from a machine gun. Judith and Filia took off in opposite directions. The spread split to follow them. "Okay, we'll go with your idea!" Judith yelled.

"Cut in close, watch its motions!" Filia yelled. Her wings flared and flapped hard, turning her on a dime and sending her rocketing towards the flesh vortex. She surrounded herself with a shield of hellfire, the wicked flames incinerating bits of the putrid flesh that got close to it. Her chain dragged along the ground behind her, burning so hot it turned the sand it touched to glass.

Judith ducked a fleshy missile that flew at her head, sliding along the ground. She dug her heel into the ground and used it to pivot and change direction, running right at the vortex. A muttered psalm conjured up a shield for herself, but it wasn't as nearly all encompassing as Filia's.

Something knocked her feet out from under her, and she faceplanted hard. Judith rolled twice, winding up on her back looking up. A bus-sized hunk of flesh dropped towards her like a meteor, and there was no way she could move out of the way in time. The icy chill of impending doom spread through her chest.

Then a golden barrier flared to life around her. The hunk of flesh crashed into it with the sound of glass breaking, but the shield held. Judith looked around wildly.

In the stands, Luca stood with his palms thrust out towards her, breathing heavily. Templar tattoos burned bright on both of his arms, exuding golden light "Judith, move!" he called. "That was all I had left!"

Now wasn't the time to process what had just happened. Judith scrambled onto all fours and set off towards the center of the vortex, the golden barrier disappearing behind her. She jumped another scything length of bone aimed to trip her up again, then cleared a gap in the vortex with a well-placed leap. "Filia!" she yelled.

The succubus dropped down from above like a buxom purple comet. "C'mere, ugly!" she yelled. Judith reversed her grip on Celerity and leaped.

Both of them struck the green core at the same time, their weapons passing through like it was made of soft cheese. Judith turned in midair, doing a neat flip as she landed next to Filia.

Their joint attack was a critical blow. The moment the core came apart, all the flesh and bone it controlled became just loose bits raining down over the Colosseum. Filia sidestepped the split halves of the core as they crashed down next to her. "Disgusting, ugh," she grunted, shaking her arms out. "Gross gross gross."

On any other day the sight of the succubus flailing around like a belle who had fallen afoul of some swamp muck might have made Judith at least crack a smile. But she had more pressing matters on her mind. "Luca, are you okay?" she called up to him.

"Better now, thanks to you," the scholar said. He slung a leg over the edge of the drop-off to the floor, then dropped down with decidedly less grace than she or Filia could. He landed awkwardly, putting his hands on the ground to steady himself as he stood up.

Filia conjured a shroud of hellfire that burned close to her skin for a few seconds, burning up any offal still clinging to her body. She shuddered, turned to Judith, then stopped at the sight of Luca, all six feet tall and broad-chested. Her eyes dilated like a cat's. "Oh, hello."

Celerity hummed through the air. Judith pulled her swing a millimeter from Filia's neck. "Touch him and die." Even if she herself was damned, Judith wasn't about to let the succubus get her hands on anyone else.

The succubus made a noise. "Catty, catty."

Luca stopped short, seeming to really get a good look at Filia for the first time. "You're her. The succubus Judith encountered at Saint Bethany's."

"In the flesh," Filia purred. "Luca, is it? Short for Lucian?"

He shook his head. "Just Luca. Judith, are you hurt?"

"No." Judith gave Filia a meaningful look before spinning Celerity around and sheathing it. "What are you doing here?" she asked. "Last I saw you were being dragged into the depths of the Sanctum Templar. Where's the Archbishop? He was who we thought we'd find here."

Luca shook his head. "I have no idea. All I knew was darkness, and then the shadows deposited me in this strange place. It looks like the Colosseum, yet isn't." He gestured to the smooth stone around them. "It seems to be the structure as it was, and not how it is. What's going on?"

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