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"A Heated Encounter"

I love you, Gracie. <3 ~Zap Aura~

By ~Awakened~Published 8 months ago 14 min read
Art by yours truly

In the Infernal plane, nothing ever grows. No fern, no forest, could withstand the conditions of the Nine Hells of Baator. Though no plant life was present in Baator, the sundering groves were far from without life. Well, as close to life as one could be living in Hell.

"Nova, hurry up with those Smoldering Scones!" barked the manager of Baator's Bad-Boy Barista.

"Yes sir," Nova shouted sarcastically, placing emphasis on 'sir,' as she rushed the steaming treats to the front counter. She approached the front where a goat with massive horns waited impatiently, tapping his hoof on the brimstone floor.

"Rackdos," Nova said, placing the devil's order on the counter. He looked up and halted his grumbling to snatch up the scones from the tray in Nova's hands, and Nova couldn't help but giggle as she realized the ironic humor of his name.

Rackdos took notice and snarled. "Nobody likes it when a pretty girl smiles," he said, stomping away to a table in the café.

Nova shrugged and went back to preparing orders for yet more unpleasant customers.

Being a rigidly structured establishment with very little positive interaction, Nova had always been discontent with her assigned environment. Sure, she enjoyed what she did, but with employers in Baator being so stingy with worker benefits, there were very few motivators to push people to work, save for the threat of banishment. Just the other day, Nova's coworker, Calamity, was used as a bear-pincushion when a certain dead wizard was dissatisfied with his order. With almost no time to recover from thirteen individual stab wounds, she was called in the next "morning" (Baator does not have a day-night cycle) to work again! It was this cruel treatment that had constantly led her mind astray. The radical ideas that haunted her were ever-present, but alas, there was very little she could do to bring about real change. It was not unusual for her to daydream of escaping her home plane. What if some heroic individual were to find him/herself in Hell? What if he or she were to sweep her off her feet and they were allowed to escape together? She knew the chances were slim to none, but who can blame a girl for dreaming?

Nova took her place back behind the counter nearby the machines, and as she did, the grumbling complaints in the cafe silenced. A serpentine voice filled the building from seemingly everywhere, hissing and spitting in Infernal tongue. Nova understood this foul language, and the message translated to:

"Wretched demons, fiends, and devils, residents of Dis, I have been informed that a minacious mortal has breached the city defenses. The mortal identifies himself as 'The Arc of the Light.' He carries large metallic weapons and is to be considered armed and dangerous. It is strongly encouraged," the voice paused to snicker, "that all residents remain vigilant and continue performing their daily tasks. Do not exit the city for any reason. That is all."

The omnipresent voice dispersed, and the silence shifted to mindful chattering. Nova immediately untied her apron and shouted across the echoey backroom, "I'm taking the day off."

When she set foot outside, nothing much had changed since the announcement; though, there were some idle passerby who had begun hurriedly returning to their homes. Nova attempted to casually stealth into an alley, trying her best to go unseen. She was desperate to catch a glimpse of this rogue "Arc of the Light." She was rather curious how he had gotten there, what he was doing in Dis, why his presence was such a threat to their safety. What were those "weapons" he carried and why were they necessary? These questions and more were what drove her burning curiosity. This was the most exciting thing to happen since she discovered the existence of other planes.

She maneuvered silently through the basalt streets of Dis, dashing through alleyways and crouching behind various unsuspecting shops. Given the incredible size of the city of Dis, the chances of finding the mortal were considerably low, and doubt nearly took hold as this thought crossed her mind. Then again, she had nothing better to do at the moment. This was a rare occurrence that may very well be the last for centuries to come. So she kept searching, minutes turning to hours as she continued tirelessly scouring the city for any sign of success. However, it seemed that success would surely find her.

Nova crossed the street and turned a corner into another alley, only to be pulled forcefully into a shadow of the narrow space. A paw covered her snout and she found herself restrained from behind.

"Please don't scream, please don't scream, please don't scream," her captor muttered, as his grip began to loosen. Nova panicked and bit his hand as he was pulling away. He yelped, and she spun around to face him. In front of her, gripping his paw, was what looked like some sort of gnoll. But this one seemed far more intelligent than the average gnoll. He carried with him a large satchel, a components-pouch, as well as a pair of strange gauntlets with mechanical parts attached, which rested at his feet. What's more, beneath a pair of goggles were his eyes; they seemed... understanding. They were far from the malicious hungry eyes of a gnoll tribesman. Her face froze with awe as she pieced together who this was.

"Fsssh, ouch," he breathed through his teeth, trying to suppress the pain.

"Oh, oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean t..." Nova said apologetically. "Wait, no, I take that back. What the fuck were you trying to do?"

"Shh," the gnoll hushed, "Keep your voice down, they might hear you."

"I will run off to the watch right now if you don't give me answers."

"Okay, okay. Just take it easy. If they find me here they'll kill me."

"Well, I mean, you're kind of already in Hell. Which brings me to my first question: Why are you here?"

There was a brief pause as he considered how best to answer. "Well first, my name is Arc Lightseeker, and I am here on behalf of my cousin, Scratch Boltheart. We were in the material plane, fighting off waves of undead creatures, defending the planar gate. But we were outnumbered and outmatched. He um... he sent me here with his dying breath." Arc was visibly holding back a sob, and it took him a moment to regain his bearings. "He told me to find the yellow star, and with it I would find my way back." Without permission, he reached out and grabbed Nova's arm.

"Hey, what are you," she protested.

"There. Right there," he said, vigorously pointing to the yellow diamond on her forearm. "I think you're my ticket home."

Nova pulled her arm back in retaliation and said, "Look, I'm flattered and all that you think you've found your golden goose, but even if I could help why should I trust you?"

Arc pulled his goggles down under his snout and stared her dead in the eye.

"Because I'm going to die if you don't. If not by the heat, by the city guard. Please... I need you. If I don't get back, every plane could be at risk of invasion."

Nova thought for a minute, contemplating whether or not he was worth the risk. Finally she let out a heavy sigh. "There's a gate hidden in Malsheem, Nessus. I would take you there, but it's way too far. We'd never make it on foot. Plus, I have a life. It may not be much of one, but I can't just leave to Nessus and,"

"We're not going on foot," Arc cut in. He reached into his components pouch and removed a shimmering stick of white chalk and a bag of jingling coins. "I'm assuming you've been to this gate?"

"My friend and I got an invitation to one of Asmodeus' parties. We may have slipped away and snuck around a bit... Why?"

At this point, Arc was drawing a circle in the basalt pavement that stretched from one wall to the other. "And um, might there have been a teleportation circle in Malsheem nearby this gate? Perhaps in a temple or something of the sort?"

"Sure. There was a shrine to Zariel nearby that had one. But..."

Arc stood and handed her the chalk. "I need you to copy the sigils you saw surrounding it."

Nova hesitated, but she accepted the chalk and said, with a frown, "I'll try my best."

It took about an hour for her to remember every symbol in perfect sequence, and much precious chalk was wasted with every failure. But eventually, Nova finished drawing yet another circle, and, crossing his beans, Arc dropped the sack of coins in the center. It vanished, and the circle began to glow blue as a portal took it's place. Arc grinned very widely for having a hyena face, but the smile quickly faded when he looked at the remaining chalk.

"This shit ain't cheap," he said, holding it up to Nova as if to scold her. He equipped his mechanical gauntlets and his welding goggles. He reached out his hand to Nova and said, "So, we take it together?"

"Sure," Nova said, figuring she may as well have an interesting day off. She took his hand and the two of them leapt into the portal to the ninth layer of Baator.

As soon as their feet met the ground, they were enveloped in a flash of magical white light. When the flash faded they found themselves standing before a pillar. Atop the pillar was the vampiric effigy of Zariel, Archduchess of Avernus. Orange stone walls rose far into the endless sky on either side of them. On the ground was a circle with the same marks and sigils that had taken them there, and a foul volcanic vapor seared their nostrils.

"This is it. Malsheem, Citadel of Hell." Nova stepped forward and ran her paw over the runes beneath the statue. "Let's hope Asmodeus doesn't sense the presence of a mortal in his realm."

Arc nodded. "Lead the way to the gate."

"This way," she said, and they made their way through the twisting fortress of the devil lord.

They descended further and further into the trench, the minutes passing like hours as they hid themselves from view of potential residents (all of which gave Nova Deja-vu). The fortress was surprisingly empty, but every sound made them jump. Even the crackling of a burning sconce set them on edge. Eventually, Nova stepped in front of a stone wall.

"This is a false wall. All we need to do is step through." She held out her hand, much like Arc had earlier, and together they stepped through the illusory wall. Sure enough, there was a hidden room behind it.

"Devils were never much for illusion magic. Clearly, Asmodeus doesn't want anyone to know that he has a planar gate in his basement," Nova said, inspecting the room to be sure she had found the right room.

The space they had entered was surprisingly large; an open room with thick stone columns rising from floor to ceiling to support the overbearing weight of the rocks above. Green steel beams ran through the ceiling and lined the walls for reinforcement. The room was dimly lit by a few blazing sconces mounted to the walls. In the center of the arrangement of columns was an obsidian archway engraved with some strange form of text. Nova stepped forward to examine the text.

"Hm... This looks like Primordial, but it's... ancient, like this gate has existed for all time."

"Can you read it?" Arc said, moving to stand next to her. "How do we activate the portal?"

Nova squinted her eyes at the strange runes. "I... I can barely make it out in this torchlight. And the dialect is different, like the language has changed over the centuries... It says here, something about a guardian?"

No sooner than she spoke, the sconces surrounding the room began to flicker, and in a surge of heat they started burning brighter, hissing and crackling as the flames leapt from their place and began to coalesce. The pair shot back, and the roaring flames met in front of the arch, swirling together in a typhoon of fire. A demonic figure emerged, and a burning body of hellfire now stood before them.

As it turned to address them, Arc planted his feet firm on the ground. Instinctually, he fired up his gauntlets and blasted two rays of scorching heat at the menacing figure, which then quickly swelled in size.

Nova immediately slammed her hands down on Arc's arms and said, "No, you idiot! This is a fire elemental. Fire will only make it worse."

The amplified hissing of the flames was the only thing to indicate the elemental's fury as it charged forward and enveloped Arc, swallowing him in a fiery torrent. Nova gasped as she watched him begin to burn alive. With the reflexes of a tabaxi, she grabbed his shoulders and yanked him from the flames. When she did, she hurriedly dragged him a few feet away to assess the damage. He was lying prone, unconscious from the attack. His fur was patched with blankets of black and his skin was badly burned. If she didn't do something quick, they were both going to burn to neatly placed piles of ash.

"I got this," she said to herself.

The elemental reared back for another attack, but Nova patiently waited, and as the elemental lunged forward, she caught its arm, the flames seemingly becoming corporeal as their arms clashed. She stood ready, fighting off the hellish beast with her reflexive combat, the bubbling waves of heat not seeming to bother her as much as it would most. Even still, her body reeled with every blow and suffered severe burns. She couldn't keep it up for long.

In a swift attempt to misdirect the creature, she stepped forward and dashed through the elemental, suffering yet more burns. She now stood behind it, and she could faintly see Arc stirring through the whirring fire. "Don't fuck this up, don't fuck this up, don't fuck this up," she mumble to herself, trying her best not to panic. She took a deep breath, calming herself for what she was about to pull. A golden radiant light was allowed to spread through her body, the energy centered on her chest expanding outward. She began gracefully waving her limbs in a meticulous fashion, shifting her weight as the energy flowed through her. It coalesced in her palm, and in a bright flash of brilliant heavenly light, she thrust forth her hand, the energy leaving her body and striking the elemental. It dispersed upon impact, both the light and the fire, and the foe was defeated. As the action died down, she turned to look at Arc, who was staring at her awestruck and in shock. She dropped her fighting stance and turned her full body to address him.

"What are you staring at?" she said. Arc averted his eyes and pointed at her.

"You might've," cough cough, "lost something there."

As Nova looked down at herself, she noticed her breasts were utterly exposed. Her leather shorts still stuck tight to her singed thighs with a mere few holes burnt into them. Here shirt, however, had not been so lucky, and was incinerated in the fight that ensued.

She crossed her arms and said, "Whoops," as Arc shook from his awkward surprise and tossed her a spare shirt from his satchel. Nova pulled it over her head and walked over to Arc, who was sitting with his back against a column. She crouched next to him, resting a hand on his leg and manipulating the same strange energy under her hand. As his wounds began to close, he stared her in the face, surprise still loosely apparent on his face.

"That was hot," he said. Nova gave him a look, and he stammered, "Uh, uh, the fire elemental, I mean. You know, heat." He coughed and she laughed.

"There, all better," she said, offering her hand as she stood. He took it, and the two of them lingered while Arc took inventory of his belongings.

Not five minutes after, a door opened within the obsidian archway. Arc picked up his bags, and the two of them stared into the portal, as if reflecting. Arc broke the silence.

"So, um, I guess this is good b-" Nova cut him off by embracing him, squeezing tight around his chest.

"I don't want you to go," she said, tears damping his charred chest fluff. Arc let his gauntlets slip from his paws, letting them clatter to the floor as he placed his hand on the vulpin's head.

"Hey, sweetie, it's okay. I understand you have a life her, and... I have a life out there, too. I have to go..."

Nova squeezed tighter before loosening her grip and wiping her cheeks with the oversized t-shirt.

"No..." she said sternly. "I'm coming with you."

Arc though for a moment. A smile began to brighten his face. "Are you sure?"

"I've never been surer."

"You understand that once you step through that gate, there's a good chance that you'll never come back until death due us part?"

"Yes, I do." She sounded confident, more sure of this than any decision she'd ever made up to this point. "Besides," she added, "you've kind of stranded me here, you jerk." They both laughed, and Arc picked up his gear once again. They stepped up to the portal, and Arc held his hand out to his side, waiting for her to grab it. Nova giggled, taking his hand one last time and pulling him through the gate with her.

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a happily ever after.

Short Story

About the Creator


Silence. Ego can be one's downfall, as well as a wall that must be broken down to breach the fifth dimension. This, you must remember in the times to come.

(In case there is any confusion, this is Zap Aura's updated page)

Twitter: @ZapAura

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