The Gates of Hell
Gabrielle and her troops met no opposition on the way to the Castle or even after they had entered. Gabrielle was still in the lead when they passed through two massive iron bound doors that had been made from the thickest slabs of wood that she had ever seen but the doors as grotesquely shaped as they were still swung easily and noiselessly on their fat hinges.
The light from the doorway cut the gloom in the huge entrance room. Yellow torches that gave off thick green smoke were lit in even intervals around the room. Their mellow light barely illuminated a half dozen or more doorways. But only one door way stood open. It was to their right. Gabrielle took one look around the room and drew her sword. She had not even bothered to bring a Pulse Rifle, but the pistol was strapped to her leg. Without a word she strode confidently to the open doorway. Alti wanted them here and she would happily show Gabrielle the way.
They passed beyond the light from the doorway and into the deep yellow gray gloom of the Castle. Many of the Marines turned on the lights that were mounted on their rifles. The lights were good for illuminating the strange red and yellow spiders that hung from grey webs and the scurrying rat like rodents that were seen every few feet. But they did little to cut the gloom more than a few feet in front of them. It was almost as if the darkness was alive and felt insulted that they felt the need for illumination. So it crept closer each time the light moved on to look elsewhere.
The hallway that they were in was wide and yet it felt confining. The tall walls seemed to loom over them. Their dark lichen encrusted stone was suffocating and there were no doorways that broke the monotony. The hallway went on for a hundred yards more or less without so much as a dimple in the wall for a decorative vase. But a point in the middle of the gloom ahead told Gabrielle that there was a room down there. The men behind her talked to one another in hushed whispers and occasionally she could hear the chatter of the fleet in her ear. But she had nothing to say to anyone. These men were here to form a barrier between her and Alti’s henchmen if they decided to get in the way… nothing more. She could not afford to become emotionally attached too much. It was not in her nature to shut them out but if she didn’t speak to them or learn their names she could mourn them as a whole instead of individually. It didn’t sound easier but somehow it was for her.
The light at the end of the tunnel, for that is how the dark hallway seemed, grew larger with each step. Until finally it was clear that the light was on the far side of a tall wide doorway. They drew within a dozen feet and still the light was muted, but they approached the open doorway anyway. Gabrielle did not hesitate to step through although she could hear a male voice behind her that was begging her to stop and let him or another check it out first. She knew where she was going she didn’t need anyone to check it out. She stepped into another large reception style room. It looked like it had been designed for dances or banquets. It was easily fifty feet across and possibly eighty feet long. Irregular shaped windows lined one wall and a bank of warped mirrors lined the other. Tall Greek style columns ran the length of the hall on both sides and at the far end was an ornately carved double golden door.
Gabrielle walked down the center of the room with her sword out in front of her. The shadows beside the columns moved and coalesced into men. They were tall men with oddly colored skin and some of them had tails. But they were not Demons or any Demon spawn that she had ever seen. Strangely some of them reminded Gabrielle of the lizard like creatures that Alti had brought with her when she had come to Mars. She would have to ask.
Her Marines were getting antsy to attack these strange statuary men but she held them back with a word, no. She did not bother to explain that these men were not her quarry. She walked past them as if they were not there. When she reached the golden doors they swung open to allow her entrance to the throne room.
The throne room was a larger and fatter version of the room that they had just left. The decorations were different of course, there were no mirrors on the left wall instead there were two doorways. There were no windows on the right wall instead there was a single large doorway. From the ceiling hung chandeliers that had yellow colored little light bulbs instead of candles. There were no torches in the room at all but there were several fireplaces that were all banked quite high. It was very warm in this room.
At the far end of the room sat one of the fireplaces and before it on an ornate black throne sat the Demon Alti. To either side of her in a half moon configuration were more of the strange green tinged men. No two of them were the same. Some had tails some did not, some had forked tongues that darted involuntarily from between their lips and some did not, some had skin that looked thick and slimy and some did not .It was like they were the offspring of a new kind of union that had not yet decided which genes would be recessive and which would be dominant. They did have one thing in common; all of these men and the ones that they had passed in the other room had yellow eyes.
“Welcome Gabrielle, I’ve been expecting you. Where’s Xena?” Alti said smoothly while her talon hands flexed in anticipation.
“She had other things to attend to Alti. But she will be here soon.” Gabrielle was reminded of her time in hell and her conversations with the Demon Calisto. “We should start the party without her.”
“Hmm, perhaps you are right. I see that you brought dance partners for my men. That was very considerate of you.” She grinned and fluttered her wings and stood. Her men backed away from her and formed a circle and Alti stepped to the center.
Gabrielle did not hesitate to enter the circle and face Alti. The Marines knew what they had to do. They fanned out and picked an opponent. Alti’s men from the other room entered and between one group and the other everyone had a partner. It was as if Alti had known how many men she was bringing. But of course she could have had her men count them at any time between this room and the shuttle. It was however impressive. “Always the gracious hostess Alti; it’s so good of you to make sure that everyone had a partner.” Gabrielle remarked. She was stalling to allow the men to prepare and to give Xena a few more precious seconds to arrive.
Alti drew her sword and bowed to Gabrielle’s compliment. Her talons barely allowed her to hold the hilt. But it didn’t seem to bother her any. Gabrielle brought her own sword up in front of her face in a one handed saluted. Alti mimicked the gesture with her less elegant weapon. Once again she had chosen a bulky sword with a dragon carved on the hilt. Gabrielle noted the weight of Alti’s weapon and hoped that what she held was a true Katana and not an imitation.
With the niceties observed both Demon and woman chose a defensive stance and began to circle one another. Both threw feints and parries and stayed at swords length from their opponent. Both sets of men were content to watch for the moment. Suddenly Alti let out a blood curdling scream and charged Gabrielle. She brought her sword around like a bat in a baseball game. Gabrielle saw the move and brought her sword up to block the blow. It was an easy maneuver. But she was not expecting Alti to throw her entire body and strength into the blow. When the swords made contact her blade chipped and she was driven back several steps and her arms shook with the blow. She had to drop her shoulder and twist her wrists to disengage and slide to the side away from Alti’s advance.
Alti seemed to expect such a move, it was the most likely to use under the circumstances. Because she had expected it she was not thrown off balance but instead she simply redirected her momentum and was on Gabrielle before Gabrielle had fully turned to meet Alti’s new charge. But this was not Gabrielle’s first dance. She was quick and well trained. She parried the new blow and deflected the blade away while flicking the tip of her own weapon through Alti’s newly formed wing. Alti snarled and tried to slug Gabrielle but she had moved her head and was now spinning with her Katana extended fully in one hand. Her trajectory would bring her blade across Alti’s chest. Alti saw it and brought her sword up to deflect it but at the last second Gabrielle dropped into a crouch while still spinning and brought the tip of her sword across Alti’s hips. She drew first blood and enraged Alti.
The new Demon had always had a bad temper but her new form magnified that anger and it in turn magnified her hatred for Gabrielle. Alti stepped back and screamed and when she did her men attacked the Marines and the room began to fill with even more of her men. Alti stepped back away from Gabrielle. She stepped out of the circle and returned to her throne while her men fought the Marines and came inside the circle to face Gabrielle. Gabrielle had no time to think about what was happening. She could only defend herself. Her blade was fast and deadly. She brought it across her body back and forth into the men that tried to face her. She spun on the balls of her feet trying not to get caught from behind. Her sword cut a bloody path but it could not be everywhere at once.
Her head exploded in pain and she dropped to her knees before she even realized that she had been struck from behind. She could feel the blood running down the back of her neck and her eyesight was showing her multiples of everything. It had been a hard blow that if not tended would have the potential to kill her. Somehow that didn’t matter to her right now. Her mind was full of so much cotton that coherent thought was not possible. She blinked hard and tried to regain her senses. She could hear the fighting going on around her but she could not lift her head let alone her sword arm.
“You hit her too hard! You damn fool!” Alti screamed and lashed out. Gabrielle heard a sickening splat next to her and a head rolled up into her view. The blood was an odd color. It had been one of Alti’s men, they weren’t quite human. “I want her coherent! Where’s that idiot Doctor?”
Another man scurried through the dying battle and came to stand beside Gabrielle. He quickly knelt and looked at her head. “He cracked her skull. But I can fix it.” She could hear him rummaging in a bag or something. Then he injected her with a local pain killer and then something else. He wrapped her head in clean gauze and helped her to her feet. She was still a bit dazed but her confusion was clearing and her senses were coming around.
Several minutes later the battle was over and Gabrielle was standing under her own power. She finally raised her eyes to see Alti on her throne. When Alti saw that Gabrielle was with them again she clapped and squealed in happiness. “Welcome back Gabrielle. I have so many wonderful things planned for you I didn’t want you to miss a one of them.”
“What’s the matter Alti? Are you too afraid to fight me fairly?” Gabrielle needed to buy time. Obviously Xena was not attacking Alti in the other realm yet.
“I’m not afraid of you Gabrielle. You’re nothing but a little piss ant cunt. No, I simply have a better idea. I figured out why Xena loves you… you’re just so damn innocent and pure. She’s trying to cleanse her filthy soul by hanging out with you. Lucifer told me all about it you see.” She was so proud of herself.
Gabrielle was confused. She had no idea what the heck Alti was talking about and said as much to the Demon.
“Don’t play stupid Gabrielle. Lucifer told me how Xena had plotted with him to rule the world but you had come between them and had drawn her away just long enough for him to be tricked by Michael and Gabriel to take the throne of hell. She’s no saint Gabrielle… not without you anyway.” Alti had gotten up and was now circling Gabrielle. “She’ll never leave you not as long as you can keep her clean. But she’ll drop you like a bad habit when she sees how easily you are sullied. Then she’ll return to me and Lucifer.” She was completely sure of herself and completely insane.
“Are you nuts Alti? Xena isn’t going to come back to you or Lucifer… no matter what you do to me.” Gabrielle was beginning to wonder what the mad woman had planned for her. “The only thing she is going to do is kick your ass.” Where was Xena? She couldn’t keep this up much longer. Whatever the Doctor had given her it was making her nauseous and she could never think straight when she was sick to her stomach.
“We’ll see Gabrielle…when your purity and your innocence is stripped from you.” She motioned to a couple of her men. “Don’t worry I’m going to record everything so that Xena doesn’t miss one single moment.”
“Alti what are you talking about? I am neither pure nor innocent.” Gabrielle was beginning to become frightened.
Alti looked at her and rubbed her long chin with a sharp talon. “Perhaps not Gabrielle but she sees you as both. I’m going to destroy her illusion. Then she will be mine again.” She looked at the two men that had come up beside Gabrielle. “You know what I want. Keep her alive and do not mark her face in any way… and take her sword with you put it next to her so she can feel the steel and know how helpless she really is.
Gabrielle was dragged from the throne room and down what seemed like miles of corridors and staircases kicking and screaming. The men holding her only laughed and held on tighter. She was taken to a dungeon like room. There was nothing in the room except for a curved metal strap that was attached to the center of the floor, a grated drainage hole and a water hose that trailed in from outside the room.
She was roughly stripped naked and laid on the floor where her neck was put under the strap and it was locked to the floor. One of the men had found a large sledge hammer somewhere and while the other man held her leg down the first man brought the hammer down on her ankle. Gabrielle shrieked in agony when the many bones of her ankle were shattered and crushed. She stopped thrashing. The second ankle was easier. Her body had gone into shock but she still felt it. Gabrielle thought that the worst was over for the time being but she was very wrong.
The man that had held her legs had taken a few well aimed blows to his face and body from her. Now it was time for him to get a little payback. The men exchanged jobs. The man with a grudge now held the hammer while the other man held her arm down. The sledgehammer came down onto Gabrielle’s shoulder crushing the ball and socket and then it came down on her elbow shattering it. The procedure was repeated with her other arm.
When they were satisfied that she wasn’t going to be able to fight them anymore they turned the water onto her. It was shockingly cold and it had something in it that brought her around by numbing the pain. The men were laughing and talking. “Hey now don’t spray too much of that shit down there. I want her to feel me.” One man said. He laid the Katana at her fingertips. She could feel the cold steel but could do nothing more than touch it.
“With a cock that small she’s gonna haveta have a real good imagination to feel you.” The other man jibed and they both laughed.
“We’ll just see ‘bout that.” The first man said as he undid his pants and his manhood was exposed. He knelt down by Gabrielle’s feet and grabbed her ankles sending another shock of pain through her. She screamed again. He pushed her legs open. “You keep screaming girly. That way we know that you’re alive.” He laughed and dropped his weight on top of her.
“I hope she’s got some stamina… a line’s formin’ at the door.” The second man said as he watched the first.
Gabrielle tried to ignore the smell and sound of the man. She thought of Xena and their undeniable love but her body would not be ignored. She wanted to puke and probably would. The Romans had wanted to do this or something like it before she and Xena were crucified. But Caesar had forbidden it. It caught her as strange to think that she actually would have preferred Caesar right now. She would never have imagined that a woman, even a Demon woman would subject another woman to this kind of humiliation. If she lived through this she would never walk again or hold so much as a glass of water for herself, at least not without a complete replacement of the joints that they had destroyed. Her collar bone would be next. The metal shackle bit deeply into her collar every time the creep pumped and there was a line out the door.
She detached herself from what they were doing to her body. There was nothing that she could do about it. She tried to leave her body and travel to the spirit world but the pain in her crushed joints was distracting her too much. So she concentrated on the pain. An hour or so later… it was a rough guess she felt her collar bone snap and she could feel the bone scrape against itself. Back and forth back and forth it scraped and cut into her flesh. She could no longer feel pain. But she could no longer concentrate on one thing for more than a few minutes at a time either.
The Katana still lay under her fingertips. It was still cold and strangely reassuring. It helped her to focus on her beloved Xena. She knew that Xena would come and she would be pissed. But would Xena be able to defeat Alti without her? Gabrielle didn’t have an answer to that question.