The next day came without change and Mason could hardly believe it. The red streaks disappeared from the sky and a lone butterfly flew over camp. Casting its blue glow over his small world.
There was only one thing Mason could do now. He had no other option. He had to get information from the Intelligence Order.
A hulk of a man guarded the door to their headquarters.
"No one may pass without permission,” he stated loud and clear.
"What do I need to get permission?" Mason asked.
"Complete a simple task."
"What kind of task?"
"You have to retrieve a fang from a saber demon."
"Where would I find saber demons?"
"In the Desert of Trials there is an oasis beyond the sea of doors. A group of saber demons live there, but be warned these demons are not like the ones you have encountered here. They lost their mind long ago and have gone completely feral, even our demons avoid them."
Mason left the guard station and headed out into the desert once again. The only possession he brought with him was the dagger. He walked slowly through its dunes of sand. He trudged onward over its hills of rocks and dead remains. He passed the sea of doors and he passed the Scribe's library. He thought briefly about entering the building, but quickly dismissed it when he saw a few hellhounds sniffing around the perimeter. After he climbed an unusually steep mountain of sand Mason saw a tiny lake at the edge of the desert. He squinted to make out the prowling shapes of the sabers. From this distance he could make out three of the beasts.
He walked toward them confidently. Ever since Shards was taken Mason no longer felt fear, he no longer felt any emotions. He pulled the dagger out from his pocket. The first saber snarled at him revealing its long yellowed teeth. Similar to any saber the top canines were vastly longer than the rest. The cat's tawny pelt was ragged and marked with scars.
The cat lowered to the ground settling into a pounce position. It sprang from the back legs and launched toward him. All Mason had to do was hold the dagger straight and the saber did the rest. He barely felt remorse at his first kill. In his mind everything was clouded.
The other two sabers looked up in surprise and charged Mason. He dispatched them just as quickly as he had the first. He had never been a killer and he still wasn't one, but neither was he the innocent man from his past life. It wasn't just luck that helped him kill this demon's quickly. Even if he didn't know it then Mason had a knack for taking a creature's life.
He used the serrated edges of the dagger to hack off the six fangs. Three pairs for one trip not bad Mason mused. He returned to camp slowly watching the sky flare up with red. He stopped once to watch a delicate flower unfurl its soft white petals. It was the first flower he had seen in Hell.
The guard was shocked to see three pairs of saber fangs dripping with blood in Mason's hands. "I can't believe you killed three saber demons and you didn't even get a scratch. Our founders must have been correct when they told me to keep an eye on you. Welcome brother. Please come on in."
The double doors opened soundlessly on its hinges. The headquarters resembled an ancient cathedral. The hallway was open and airy with pillars as support beams. Mythological murals were painted on every wall. The ceiling was painted to resemble tiny cherubs handing a bloody sword to Hades.
He heard voices echo down the hallway from an open door. He pushed it open and saw Shuriken, Syphon, and unexpectedly Peony discussing newly received information.
Peony looked up in shock, "Mason what are you doing here?"
"I passed the entrance exam and I need help I can only get from the Intelligence Order. Why are you here?"
"Peony here has just completed her trial." Shuriken intervened. "And Mason here just passed my test with flying colors."
"You already passed your trial?! Congrats." Mason said.
"Yes we were all pleasantly surprised. She has the fastest time completing her trial. Most fiends take nine days to complete it. I myself needed seven, but Peony finished in a record of five days and three hours." Shuriken answered. "Now she has just joined our ranks. So Mason what can I help you with?"
"Well I need any information you have on how to get to the other levels."
"You mean besides failing the trial." This time it was Syphon who spoke.
"We know there are many entrances to the levels, but we only know the exact location of two. One of them is the hole the River of Lost Dreams flows into, the other is in the basement of the Chop Shop." said Shuriken.
"Mason why do you need to get into the lower levels?" Peony asked.
"I have to save Shards and the key to solving my trial is on a lower level. Where do they judge the fiends?"
"A courthouse adjacent to the Chop Shop. Why do you ask?"
"I need to find out what level they sent Shards to. Don't they keep records of that?"
"Yes the demons keep very meticulous files. We can take you to the courthouse, but no further than that."
"I will go with you into the lower levels Knight." Peony took his hand in hers and gave it a light squeeze. Mason didn't let go. "Maybe we can save Shards together."
Frantic running could be heard in the halls. A young fiend burst through the door. "I have just received word from one of the scouts that Aneira has returned."
Shuriken slammed her fists onto the hardwood table, "The leader of Division X?"
"The one and only, boss."
"Damn it she never returns this quickly from missions. What is her hurry?"
"Him." he pointed at Mason. "You better run she is coming for you." The scout peered directly into his eyes.
"No," he answered in a tight voice, "I am tired of running. Now is the time for me to fight back."
"Is he for real?" the messenger asked.
"No he is more than just real, he might be our savior." She motioned to the messenger and he left in a hurry.
"Tell me where Aneira will need to go."
"First she will report to Level 9 and then she will report to her headquarters where she will check in with her first officer. After that she will report to the courthouse to make sure all fiends are heading the correct levels. Unfortunately we have no idea where her HQ is."
"Is there a chance we could break into the courtroom's archives before her?"
"It might be possible. She likes to arrive at daybreak. Which is lucky for us because most of the demon's leave at night to scavenge the waste land. So I estimate we have about four hours in Hell time before she would get there. Let's move out."