Wendall left his tent to get some air. The inter-planar excursion into Orchid's mind had left him all together too buzzed. Ten stiff drinks, mixed with a feeling of peace, just about summed up his headspace. I’ll just take a few more minutes to gather my thoughts before reporting to Kreesan. Wendall thought. He stretched out his legs and took a swig of mouthwash. There wasn’t much in the campsite by way of alcohol but he did what he could to appease the cravings.
Confidently, Wendall strode over to the main pavilion where there was a short line of trainees sharing their progress. There was a bouncer of sorts letting people in one at a time; on seeing Wendall the bouncer moved to usher him to the front. It was only a few short minutes before Wendall stood inside the pavilion face to face with his mentor, or master as he preferred.
“Sooooo? How did it go?” Kreesan asked him with an ever so pleased expression across his visage.
“I suspect you already know the answer to that, but for the sake of being thorough… I was able to implement the messages into the subject’s dreaming mind. She reacted very strongly to the images of fallen friends and loved ones.” Wendall replied, trying to feign ignorance on who exactly that subject was. He had no trouble remembering Luther or his resistance soldiers.
“Well little Wendall, congratulations. I think it’s appropriate to move you along to a higher level of study. Consider yourself privileged for the secrets I’m going to impart in the coming days. Your next task will be to travel through the astral realm and keep an eye on her. Don’t worry though; I’ll make sure you’re well prepared beforehand. Conscious astral travel can be hazardous to even the most practiced minds.” There was a tense seriousness in Kreesan’s voice as he explained the next part of Wendall’s objective.
All Wendall could do was wonder why Orchid was so important. What exactly did Kreesan and his order of chaos have to do with her?
Orchid and Evalle were thrust through the portal, and into a setting all too familiar for Orchid. The magic that bound the portal took the wielders to a place intuited by their wills, and Evalle let Orchid guide it. They found themselves out in back of Trojigar’s club. It was only natural, since Orchid wanted to start things off by showing Evalle a good time. She only felt it right to repay Evalle’s display of loyalty with a little nostalgia.
They circled out to the front and ahead of the line, Shift eyeing them warily. For a change of pace, it had taken the form of a man-sized gecko, with grey speckled scales. “Why would you do this to us Orchid? If our clientele saw us letting an angel in with you there would be trouble.” Shift said with a mixed air of disinterest and apprehension.
“Let trouble come sweetheart, you know I’m ready for it. She is too.” Orchid replied, making a swift uninvited entrance. Shift thought to stop them, but frankly, like most demons, he looked on a genuine angel with a hint of fear. Evalle stepped past with the confidence befitting of her situation.
The club was packed tonight. Word on the street was that war on the heavens was coming again, and to demons that usually meant partying. Though they were generally not so keen on fighting opponents who could put up a fight, this was different. Earth was theirs and the only things in their way of keeping it were the angels. Evalle and Orchid caught a lot of wayward stares as they gallivanted through the club. They made their way to the bar, the tender there stopping long enough to give them a disapproving glare.
“...What’s it gonna be?” He asked rather despondently.
“Two gin and tonics; you can have the angel's bra or something for them.” Orchid grinned as she made the offer on Evalle’s behalf.
“What?? Hey wait Orchid that’s not fair!” Evalle exclaimed.
“Just go with it sweetie. We have to get our drinks somehow.” She retorted, snickering, and gestured towards her counterpart’s breastplate. The demonic bartender seemed amused.
“I’ll do it myself!” Evalle went through the tricky manoeuvre in the middle of the bar and handed over a little bit of lace. Their drinks were already waiting.
As they collected their drinks, a very slimy variety of demon was boisterously telling a story about a fish he had imploded. His hand gestures got over-enthusiastic and a large glob of slime was slung to Evalle’s cheek, in her hair, and even a little in her gin as well. There was a long moment of silent fuming and controlled breathing. Orchid, however, had other things in mind. She spun the oozing demon around with a force effect she created in her mindscape, and shouted. “Hey slug boy! Watch it!”
The startled oozing demon growled menacingly, baring his rather long fangs. The two gorilla-like demons he was orating to drew closer as well. Meanwhile, Evalle was cleaning the slime out of her hair and off her face.
Orchid lanced out her right chain to wrap around the offending demon’s neck at a short length to avoid using the blade. She dragged the demon to his knees at Evalle’s feet, and she yelled again. “Kiss those boots if you want to live! And dance! Kissing boots and dancing!”
Evalle perked up at all the commotion just as the two gorilla-like demons charged. She whirled in place, drawing her blade, and cleaved off one of their heads in a fluid motion. Meanwhile, Orchid yanked forward and upward on the chain, pulling the slimy demon in front of the other one charging. The dust of the collision cleared into a tangled mess of two angry demons on the floor. At this point the whole room was becoming aware of the brawl. “What did you start? They’re going to kill us!” Evalle exclaimed.
Orchid retrieved her chain and smirked to the oozing demon. “You get to live this time, Slimy, but you owe us new drinks. Deal?”
The oozing demon gruffly choked out a reply. “This is no place for her kind! What do I care about her drink? I… I… Fine!”
As things settled down the bar went back to business. There was something to be said for free entertainment, and the demons were enjoying the negative attention Evalle brought. New drinks were provided shortly after, as per the agreement. Turned out the oozing demon’s name was Vindal, and he was an out-of-towner.
“Vindal… Vindal… Weren’t you a niche porn star that did very well shortly after the war?” Orchid mused, practically with herself, since she didn’t much care to look upon Vindal’s figure.
“Porn star? Ha-ha lady, you’ve got some nerve; though I like that in a girl. I was an important overseer in the first demon-human collaborative science research project. They took away my job when I told my superiors something they asked me for would never happen. See, they wanted a device that would allow them to teleport objects through the planes without a point of reference on the other side. Likely they wanted to send some kind of human nuclear weapon to the celestial realm…” Vindal rambled carelessly.
That struck a chord with Evalle who suddenly became interested in the conversation. “Why wasn’t that possible? Are they still working on it?” Orchid wrapped an arm around Evalle’s waist and smiled, pretending to care. She was already a little tipsy, and after her last encounter with the angels, indifferent.
“They’re still working on it, but it’ll never happen. It’s more than just transporting things from one place to another. The magic that separates planes are like giant rifts which need to be breached beyond technology; either someone knows the way in or they don’t. No amount of tinkering is going to just allow objects to pass through. Without any inkling how to get into the upper planes such a device just isn’t feasible. It’s amazing that none of the fallen remembers; kind of like some mind voodoo going on with you celestials huh?” He went to poke Evalle in the belly but the wrinkling of her nose and a step back was a clear indication that she didn’t want to be slimed any further.
She looked to Orchid and cast a rather weary gaze. Orchid wasn’t sure if Evalle was trying to tell her that she wanted to go, or not, but chimed in anyway. “Alright well nice meeting you Vindal. I’ve got to get the missus home, past her bedtime.” The two strolled out of the club and passed an angry-looking Shift on their way.
Orchid decided their next stop would be the refuge where Wendall and some of the resistance stayed. The night air was a touch colder than usual; it was the dead of winter after all, and the river of hell underneath the pavement was barely more than a match for a Canadian winter. Hand in hand, the drunken pair laughed about the whole bar experience. It was just like it used to be, wreaking havoc on Earth with wanton abandon.
They passed the burned out orphanage on the way and Orchid stopped to pay her respects. Evalle prayed in silence, knowing only that Orchid had lost something important to her here. With a little rummaging Orchid retrieved something that had survived the fire, the tongs that were used for grilling on the makeshift barbeque. She stowed it under one of her chains. Shortly after, Orchid and Evalle continued on their way.
“Earth belonged to mortals you know. I know that I asked a lot for you to come, and well… I hate feeling indebted, but they need us…” The fallen angel shared a moment of weakness and opened up.
“Pum… Orchid, don’t be ridiculous. I’d follow you anywhere and well, it’s complicated… I never got to tell you why I came.” Evalle fidgeted with her fingers nervously while speaking and averted her gaze. It was confession time, which Evalle took seriously. “We were good friends right? We used to do all kinds of wacky not-so-angelic things on Earth together? The truth is I did those things because I loved you, in that human way...”
Orchid was one step ahead of the conversation and fuming. Her eye twitched, and her claws clenched into fists, however briefly before relaxing. “You mean to say it was you who reported my tryst on Earth to our superiors? Because you were jealous?”
“I’m so sorry Orchid… I know this doesn’t make it right, but I felt dumber than a potato when they sent you away. Then you came back to us, and there was this energy I haven’t felt in ages… I was alive again. You wanted me to leave with you and I did, which is what I should have done the first time. Can…? Can I be forgiven?” Evalle bore a pleading expression, puppy eyes and all. They were near impossible to say no to, and Orchid wasn’t immune.
A serious tension creased along her brow and Orchid pinched the bridge of her nose. “The sad part is... you were the only thing I missed about that place... As I was saying, this world belongs to the mortals. We gave it to them. What was the point if we can’t defend it in their stead? Giving them the chance to present a unified front is one thing, they couldn’t. It’s our duty to give it back.” She didn’t want to dismiss Evalle’s feelings so readily, but she wasn’t sure how to respond yet. Instead she chose to deflect the statement and revert to the original topic.
Continuing her rousing little rant, Orchid added a few points of interest. “I felt like I lost a lot, in fact most of the people I cared about. Compared to the scope of everyone living here I’ve lost nothing. The humans had a whole civilization going, with neat trinkets and treasures, like poutine. Do you know what that is? They put this kind of squeaky cheese on French fries and gravy. Now where in the hells are people supposed to get a poutine? This world is flavourless, and far too devoid of squeaky cheese.”
Evalle made an ‘oh’ expression with her lips and answered. “The whole world isn’t like this Pumpkin. The humans didn’t lose entirely, only there’s no real way for them to contact one another without physically going to a potentially unsafe city. A lot of Europe consolidated around the Vatican’s surroundings and held firm; eight million people living in relative security there. The war only ended for them six years ago and they’ve been rebuilding since. Also some Middle Eastern and African groups survived by going nomadic...”
“You’re not kidding right? This is a huge deal! You’ll meet the local resistance soon, but they’re not nearly that large. If we could get some outside help… or… I don’t know!” Orchid was giddy at the prospect of civilization having survived, and as an aside, a staging point for helping reclaim the Earth.
“The thing is, without magic there’s no real way for the humans to win. Some kinds of demons are resistant to bullets and explosives, maybe not the garden variety, but like any good demonic ‘salad’ it should have some fanciful nuts. Wait… Did that even make sense?” Evalle pursed her lips as she mused over the metaphor.
“Actually, it kind of does; I’ve seen humans with magic before though. There’s a shamanistic tribe on the outskirts of town here, they seemed to know a thing or two about spiritual magic and herbalism. Anyway, we can stay with the resistance for tonight and party it up… but tomorrow... let’s see some viscera alright? Preferably not our own.” Orchid’s attitude was growing optimistic, and it was reflected in her voice.
Orchid came to a full stop in front of the bank where they planned to spend the night. She waved to Wendall who was watching from the same window again and urged him to come down. After a brief, but stern, chat about Orchid getting too comfortable visiting they were allowed to stay.
That night, Orchid held Evalle close, under a blanket made of sewn dish rags. She wasn’t sure how to feel about her dear friend anymore, but one thing she was plain as day… there was nobody Orchid was closer to, and she always craved the warmth of another body at night. At least for now it would be Evalle; the last thing she wanted was to spark the seeds of jealousy again.
Fevered dreams came to Orchid that night in the form of sleep paralysis. She felt a lurking monster looming above her slumbering form, but in her lucidity didn’t realize she was still asleep. The inability to move, defend oneself, or even scream was the nature of these types of nightmares; a lucid dream gone wrong. The mind wakes up a few minutes before the body, which creates the confusion.
The apparition put its hands to her forehead and they sunk inside incorporeally. Meanwhile, Orchid couldn’t do anything but wait for it to end, in horror. An image flashed from outside of the dream, a man holding a twisted knife, and standing over a decapitated rat. The details were fuzzy, as with any dream, but the knife seemed familiar… In fact the same kind she had seen with both Wendall and the resistance medic. Fear gripped her consciousness as the ghostly hands reached deeper into her subconscious, trying to drag something out. She was starting to feel the sweat forming on her body, the cold kind of sweat that came from fear.
Then, suddenly, there was a warm feeling on her shoulder. At first a slight shake, and then a soft pressure against her lips. Orchid awoke from the nightmare to find Evalle pulling away from a kiss. “Hey those are my lips! Damnable kiss thieves!” She protested.
“You were getting all clammy, and trembling... my comfy friend. No nightmares on my watch.” Evalle exclaimed, and poked Orchid’s nose. Of all the dirty rotten things! At least it worked. Orchid thought.
They were both wide awake now, and it was barely light out. Orchid had a hunch that Wendall was up to no good, somewhere; so they decided to explore the building. “… Why does everyone want to get inside my head? It’s just full of cheesy porn and whatever memes I can still remember.”
“What do you mean Pumpkin?” Evalle asked, as oblivious as ever.
“In my nightmare I saw an ethereal creature reaching inside my skull and trying to pull something out. I figure it was a memory or a thought… and I also saw someone holding a kind of ritual knife over a dead rat. Pleasant waking images, no?” Orchid’s reply was a little sour at best. She took Evalle’s hand and guided her to the stairs leading up.
“Do you know why we came for you Orchid? Somewhere deep in that thick skull of yours is the means to activate a portal from Earth to the celestial realms. If the demons got their hands on that knowledge you could bet there would be another war. Your mind is valuable, and we came to protect that... or Kill you.” Evalle coughed out the last couple words.
Along the stairs, Orchid explained further. “I’ve seen a couple members of this human force using the same kind of ritual knife as the figure in my dream; I’m fairly sure anyway. Is it possible they would want to barter the portal information to the demons?”
The few humans that were awake early enough to watch the pair going upstairs conferred with an alarmed manner. One of them breathed rhythmically a few times, to centre himself and sent a telepathic message to Wendall. They know, and they’re coming for you. The power Kreesan bartered for is proving useful, but be on your guard.
By the time the girls got upstairs to Wendall’s room, he was gone. His belongings were strewn about, in an obviously hasty retreat, and the bed’s surface was still warm to the touch. The two girls stopped to search the room for anything of interest. There were all kinds of powders and essences, ones typically used in demon magic, a family photograph with Wendall standing beside a wife and kid, and finally there was a half-drunken bottle of whisky. For Orchid the last was the greatest find of all.
Wendall had to admit that his foray into spiritual learning had given him a lot of insights about the world. He felt connected to something greater, like every mortal being on Earth was somehow a part of him. It was that sort of cosmic awareness that made him feel safe in his own skin; in part, he understood people better and they understood him as well. The shamanistic commune had trained in dealing with past lives and how to interpret the messages those lives were sending.
Kreesan had told him a few times that, generally, if a past life had something dire enough to share through a dream or vision that it was worth listening to. Wendall wasn’t so sure about that now that he had learned how to implement dreams into a foreign entity. Orchid’s mind felt disconnected from the collective. All demons were the same way; distant and foreign to him. It certainly made him wonder whether angels and demons shared the same collective of souls and past lives that everyone else seemed to.
Why start a war? Wendall thought. Kreesan only hinted at it, but he thought that chaos was the way of the future... that these disconnected souls would kill each other off. Was he trying to create a perfect unity? Kreesan also said Orchid would be important to making this happen, and in order to do so she would have to be independent from the warring demons and angels.
The means to enter the celestial realms, that’s what they wanted from her. Wendall had tried to coerce the memory from Orchid despite it being deeply repressed. There was a great internal struggle and Wendall was cast out of her mind, jarringly, as the girl was awoken… but not without what he came for.
Something about Kreesan’s philosophy is horribly wrong… All the same Kreesan was the most powerful seer around, and if anyone here knew how to save the world it would be him.