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Hell’s Civil War – The Battle for Dis

Hell's civil war the batlle for dis

Estimated reading time — 23 minutes

Read part one here

I awoke with a sudden gasp, my eyes shooting open as they slowly adjusted to my new surroundings. I felt a stifling heat and struggled to move, soon realising I was lying upon hard, molten rock – facing upwards as I looked upon a blood red sky.

My whole body ached and every movement was agony, but eventually I was able to lift one arm, and then the other, slowly raising my hands up to my face so I could touch my cheeks. I couldn’t explain it, but my skin was ice cold even though the temperature was boiling hot.
And suddenly, my ears were filled with a cacophony of sounds – shouts, screams, animalistic roars, gunshots, and the clink of metal against metal. I had awoken to chaos, and my instincts told me I was in mortal danger.


I used my hands to push myself up off the rocky surface, but my head was spinning and I felt dizzy. And suddenly I was aware of two figures standing over me. I couldn’t focus on their faces in that moment but could hear their voices as they spoke.

“Fresh meat for Minos’s Army.” said the first.

This voice was deep, but I could tell it was a woman.

“Come on soldier, on your feet!” said the second, gruff male voice.

The unidentified man put his hand out to help me up. I paused for a moment, feeling hesitant as I naturally didn’t trust this stranger. But in the end I accepted his assistance, placing my hand in his. The mystery man’s palm was ice cold but his grip was true, and so I was soon pulled up onto my feet, my legs shaking for a moment before I steadied myself.
Next, I looked to the man who’d helped me up – noting his scarred, weathered face and the cold look in his emotionless eyes. He wore a tattered, grey uniform which looked like it belonged in a museum and held a rusty but still sharp machete in his other hand.

I recognised a seasoned warrior when I saw one, but the soldier didn’t speak – instead looking me over with suspicion and perhaps contempt. I broke eye contact with him, instead looking to the woman standing to his right.


She was smaller and leaner than her male companion, but no less intimidating in appearance. Her dark hair was cut short and her uniform was a more modern set of camouflage fatigues. She had a crossbow over one shoulder with bolts attached to her utility belt.

I noted how there was a spark in her eyes which was missing from her male companion, and she had a thin smile on her face as she looked me up and down.

“Well, he’s not the best recruit we’ve seen.” she proclaimed sarcastically, “But I guess we need every man we can get.”

“Yes.” the man replied hesitantly, “Well, we best get him kitted up, armed and prepped.”

I had held my tongue up to this point but could do so no longer, as I opened my bone-dry lips and practically spat out my words.

“Excuse me, how about you tell me what the fuck is going on, and where the hell I am?”

They both looked at me like I was stupid, and the woman smirked as she answered.
“Interesting choice of words my friend. Why not take a look over the horizon?”

I did so, slowly turning my head and casting my eyes upon a scene of utter horror. The three of us stood upon a barren hill of molten rock looking down upon a burning city under a blood red sky. On the far western horizon, I saw a dark body of water which surrounded the urban landscape and noted the war-like sailing ships anchored offshore.

The city itself was vast – stretching for miles in every direction. The structures appeared to be medieval in design – consisting of stone houses, narrow alleyways, high bell towers, and defensive battlements. To the north sat a grand tower of black iron, hundreds of feet tall and surrounded by thick and high walls with many turrets.

The huge fortress was at the centre of the city and dominated the skyline, but the narrow streets and smaller buildings below it were in a state of chaos, as structures burned and thousands of souls fought running battles in the squares and down the back streets, filling the thick air with their war cries and screams.

I stood there on the hillside for a long moment, awestruck as I observed the vast urban battle play out in a hundred small skirmishes. I was no stranger to combat, but this battle zone was alien to me, appearing like no war-torn city I’d ever seen.

It all seemed unreal and I told myself there must be a logical explanation. I still believed this right up until I saw the beast emerge from the dark waters – its horned head and hideous maw rising above the surface, soon followed by its huge body adorned in heavy steel armour.

The beast roared as it pulled itself out of the water and stepped onto the dock, its heavy hooves cracking the ground as it came. The beast was thankfully some distance away from us, but I could see its entire form, noting how the monster towered above the harbour and buildings below it.

Every aspect of the beast was terrifying; from its minotaur-like body, its horned head, burning red eyes, and maw filled with razor-sharp teeth. And when it roared, the hellish sound carried across the vast space and chilled me to my bones.

In an instant, the minotaur unveiled a sword of fire and thumped along the city streets, smashing houses under its huge hooves as it came. And then it started to attack people on the streets, slicing the small figures to pieces with ease as it roared aloud with bloody fury.
It appeared as if nothing could stop the giant marauding demon, but the man-sized figures fought back in the most extraordinary manner, as dozens of attackers jumped onto the demon’s goat-like legs and started to climb upwards, soon swarming the beast as they spread all over its mighty body.

The demon reacted with fury, ripping the attackers off its legs, arms and chest before snapping them in two or throwing them into stone walls. But the attackers kept coming, and before long there were hundreds of them swarming all over the furious demon, stabbing him with short swords and machetes.

The beast couldn’t kill all of its attackers and was soon overwhelmed, bleeding from a thousand cuts as it slowly fell – its roars fading as its huge frame heavily collapsed to the ground. The surviving attackers who avoided being crushed cheered in triumph as they finished their deadly assault.

“What the fuck?” I swore under my breath.

“Welcome to the party. It’s quite something, isn’t it?” said the woman, as she walked up beside me.

I swung around, glaring at her smirking face before I turned to see the deadpan eyes of her male companion.

“Where are we?” I asked through trembling lips.

“You were right the first time.” the woman replied, “This is Hell. More specifically…Violence, the fifth circle…the City of Dis.”

My jaw dropped and my blood turned to ice. I hoped she was joking, but when I looked to the man he nodded firmly to confirm. I was literally left speechless, my mind racing as I desperately tried to make sense of this madness.

But the woman surprised me by approaching and placing her cold hand on my shoulder before speaking sympathetically in my ear.

“It’s a big adjustment, but we’ll help you through. My name’s Isabelle by the way.” she turned her head towards her companion before continuing, “And that jarhead over there is Sebastian.”

I nodded my head nervously, feeling that the introductions brought some degree of normality to this otherwise insane situation.

“Um…Hi, I’m Jacob.” I nervously replied.

“Nice to meet your acquaintance, Jacob.” Isabelle said with a half smile as she removed her hand from my shoulder, “Come on. We’ll get you kitted up and show you how things work around here.”

Isabelle and Sebastian turned their backs on me and started to walk down the hillside, presumably expecting me to follow. I hesitated for a moment, looking back over the burning city and seeing the body of the butchered demon, but to my horror I saw another two monsters emerge from the dark water, repeating the previous assault as they drew swords of fire, roaring with fury as they went to battle against the horde.

This was my introduction to the Battle for Dis, a savage civil war for control of Hell’s capital. I’d had a taste of the horror and bloodshed, but this was only the beginning of my hellish odyssey.

I followed my new companions down the barren hillside and towards the city. I was still in a daze, unable to believe that any of this was real, and still holding out hope that I was experiencing a vivid nightmare or hallucination. But all the details persuaded me otherwise – from the stifling heat, the blood-curdling screams, and the foul stench of burning flesh and creeping death.

But it only got worse as we progressed down the dirt path. I saw the spikes driven into the hard ground on both sides of the pathway, but it was only when we got closer that I realised the horrifying truth. Each spike was adorned by a severed human head. There were dozens of impaled skulls stretching for the best part of a mile. All were in varying states of decomposition, but I noted how their eyes remained open and staring out towards us, and their mouths were trapped in silent screams.

My jaw dropped and I felt a sickness rising from the pit of my stomach. I’d spent a lot of time on the frontline and had witnessed some appalling atrocities, but this was an act of medieval brutality. I didn’t want to look into the faces of the dead men and women but couldn’t help myself, as I was mesmerised by the sheer horror of the spectacle.

But there was something else. I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me; but as I looked closer, I saw the victims’ watching me as I walked past – their eyes filled with madness as they attempted to move their bloodied lips to scream.

“Holy shit!” I cried out in dismay, stopping in my tracks as I did so.

Isabelle turned to face me, frowning as she offered an explanation.

“Deserters.” she said coldly, “Minos and his enforcers don’t take kindly to dissent within the ranks. Don’t feel sorry for them – they got what they deserved.”

I was shocked by her coldness but also baffled.

“But their eyes are moving!” I exclaimed, “These people are still alive!”

Isabelle shrugged her shoulders before replying. “Technically speaking, we’re all dead already. You get a physical body when you arrive here, but only the one. They’ll burn you, mutilate you, chop off your head – but there’s no release…no end to the pain. Even if your physical form ceases to exist, your damned and disembodied soul will still inhabit this hell for all eternity.”

She paused briefly, perhaps for dramatic effect, before continuing.

“Sometimes you can hear their voices in the wind – mad laughter and insane ramblings. The product of demented minds.”

I stared at her for a long moment, a cold chill running down my spine as the terrifying implications of her words hit home. Next, I looked to Sebastian in desperation, hoping for some reassurance from the giant man of few words. But all I got back was a hard stare and an uncompromising order.

“We need to keep moving.” he said sternly.

I didn’t think it was wise to go against this veteran soldier, but I’d reached the end of my tether, experiencing a fiery defiance as I spoke out.

“No!” I cried, “This is bullshit! I’m not taking another step until you people tell me the truth! What the fuck are we doing here?”

Sebastian response surprised me, because he bellowed laughter before he spoke.
“We’re doing what we’ve always done, soldier. Fighting somebody else’s war!”

I turned to Isabelle in confusion, noting her intense expression as she spoke with an urgency in her voice.

“Listen Jacob. I’m only going to explain this once. We don’t have time for malingerers, so you need to get your shit together and start pulling your weight! This is Hell, and we are at war! Our leader is Minos, Hell’s gatekeeper and former lieutenant of Lucifer.

Minos long served as the recruiter for Satan’s armies, but no more. He’s risen up against the Devil, and now all nine circles are in bloody chaos. But Hell’s politics don’t mean a damn to us. We’re doing what soldiers have always done – fighting for our comrades and watching each other’s backs.”

I shook my head, breaking eye contact with the woman as I looked back up at one of the severed heads, focussing upon his crazed eyes and watching as his dark pupils dilated.
“Am I going to end up like him?” I whispered fearfully.

“You might do.” Isabelle answered with brutal honesty, “But that’s the worst-case scenario. Believe it or not, there’s still a glimmer of hope for us. It’s a long shot, but there’s a way out.”

I noted the slightest of sparks in Isabelle’s tired eyes and it did give me hope. I wanted to ask more, but she cut me off before I could speak, saying – “You’ll find out the details soon enough, but right now we need to get back to the camp. We don’t want to wait for Minos’s enforcers to come looking for us, believe me.”

With that, she turned and started marching briskly down the hillside with Sebastian striding beside her. I took one last look at the mounted skulls before lowering my head in shame and disgust. And then I continued to follow my companions, realising that they offered my best chance at survival in his deadly hellscape.

I was sweating profusely by the time we descended the hill as the temperature seemed to increase the closer we got to ground level. And the ground we walked upon was so hot that I could feel the soles of my feet burning, even through the heavy boots I still wore. I thought about commenting on this to my companions but soon reconsidered.

Eventually we reached a large camp located on the outskirts of the vast medieval city. I was not impressed by the ramshackle base which consisted of a collection of dirty tents and a mob of poorly disciplined soldiers who all appeared unmotivated and exhausted. I observed the rabble who stood or sat amongst the tents, noting the dead and empty expressions upon their faces as they kept their heads firmly down.

I noted how their often-tattered uniforms were an odd mixture from throughout history – everything from the tunics and bronze armour of Roman centurions to modern and camouflaged combat fatigues. I guessed that these men (and a few women) were soldiers who had fallen in battle throughout history before being dispatched here to Hell.

This gave me pause for thought. In the short time since my arrival in Dis, I’d had little opportunity to consider the circumstance of my death. I tried to think back but found there was a gap in my memory. The likelihood is that I was killed instantly in combat, either in an IED attack or artillery bombardment.

In a sense, it didn’t really matter how I’d met my end. I knew it was only a matter of time until the war took my life. But why had I ended up here, in the depths of Hell? I was raised in the Church but had long since turned my back on the faith. Even so, deep down I think I always knew I was going to end up here.

I’d tried to justify my heinous actions, repeating the much overused phrase – ‘bad things happen in war’. Perhaps some of the lives I took were justified – soldiers killing soldiers in honourable combat. But then there were the other killings – the shedding of innocent blood.
My mind was taken back to that fateful day – the house burning fiercely while the tiny bodies lay on the grass in the foreground – their innocent, lifeless eyes staring up into the blue skies above. I shook myself out of that memory as my body shuddered. I didn’t wish to revisit that day, even if it meant facing the terrifying reality of the situation around me.
Still, even in the midst of the mass of filthy unwashed bodies and dead stares, there were fresh horrors to witness. I saw a substantial pit on the edge of the encampment and made the mistake of walking over to the edge and looking down.

Inside of the long and deep pit were hundreds – perhaps thousands – of broken bodies. Not dead of course, but dismembered and mutilated beyond repair. Some were cut in half – their intestines hanging out in a grotesque display. Others were little more than severed heads, and many were missing limbs. But all appeared to be conscious of their horrific situation, staring up at me whilst moaning or pleading – all begging for a final release from their suffering. But I was powerless to help them.

Isabelle came up behind me, making me jump as she whispered in my ear.

“Minos’s rejects.” she explained, “Soldiers so badly wounded that they can no longer fight. The trench will be set alight in the coming hours – their flesh burnt to ashes while their souls remain trapped here forever. That’s what we’re trying to avoid, Jacob.”

She left me by the side of the trench as I attempted to process the horror. I noticed how the able-bodied soldiers avoided looking into the pit and did nothing to help their stricken former comrades. Perhaps it was predictable that Hell was a cruel domain where compassion and mercy were all but non-existent.

And before long, I followed the example of my companions, turning away from the pit and ignoring the pained moaning of the damned.

The three of us soon joined a long queue of soldiers waiting to be armed and equipped. After some time we reached the top of the line, where a scarred faced armourer with a black patch covering his missing right eye allocated us weapons and body armour without comment.

I saw how Sebastian was given an ancient, bolt-loaded rifle which looked like it belonged in a museum, and Isabelle received new bolts for her crossbow and a sharp bowie knife. And the armourer gave me a short sword and circular shield.

I looked at my allocated weaponry with bafflement after we were ushered away from the line. In life, I’d been a 21st century soldier fighting with an assault rifle, shoulder-mounted missile launcher, or a remote-controlled drone. But here in Dis, they expected me to fight with weapons that might have been used at the Battle of Troy.

“What the hell is this?” I asked Isabelle.

She smirked before replying. “Look around you Jacob.”

I did so, noting how only about one-in-five soldiers carried firearms – most of them obsolete rifles or muskets. Most of the rest of the ragtag army were equipped with hand-held weapons – swords, spears, and bows. And some of those present held no weapons whatsoever and so were presumably expected to fight with their bare hands.

“I don’t get it.” I said whilst shaking my head.

“Dis doesn’t exactly have a thriving arms industry.” Isabelle explained, “And besides, why would Minos waste his best weapons on scum like us? We’re cannon fodder Jacob – fit for nothing better than human wave attacks.”


I looked into her eyes, hoping Isabelle was joking – but my gaze was met by a stone-cold glare.

“Jesus!” I swore in despair, “We’re totally screwed!”

“Probably.” Isabelle replied with a nod, “But this isn’t our first rodeo. Stick with me and Sebastian and you might just survive this.”

I took little comfort from her words but had little time to dwell on them, because a moment later and the din of trumpets blared, drowning out every other sound. I didn’t know what this meant but soon saw thousands of soldiers suddenly standing up and marching towards the centre of the camp.

I followed the mob, and we soon reached the ruins of a Mayan-style pyramid located in the middle of the ramshackle military encampment. I saw an officer standing on top of the pyramid – a moustached commander who wore what appeared to be a second world war Wehrmacht uniform.

He cast his emotionless eyes over us – the thousands of foot soldiers – as we assembled and stood awaiting his commands, but the general only spoke when the trumpets stopped.

“Soldier of Dis!” he exclaimed in a booming voice which carried across the void, “Soldiers of Dis! Prepare to honour our glorious leader – Minos the Great, King of the Underworld and Liberator of the Nine Circles.”

A half-hearted cheer went up from the assembled crowd as the soldiers attempted to show some enthusiasm. Meanwhile, I stood in silent, shocked awe – watching as a giant emerged from beneath the ground and took his place at the top of the pyramid.

The giant humanoid stood at least twenty foot tall, towering over the noticeably fearful German general who stood beside him. He took the form of a huge, bearded man with cold, analytical eyes – but what drew my attention was the long and thick snake-like tail which wrapped around his body, giving Minos the appearance of a monstrous hybrid between man and serpent.

I imagined he could use his vast snake tail to crush a human body, and the malice behind his eyes told me he wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

I noted how the entire crowd went silent as all looked up at Minos in terrified awe, all waiting for our leader to speak. When he finally did so, his voice was booming and God-like, probably carrying for miles across the war-torn city.

“My soldiers! My loyal followers! My children! Our time has finally come! We have suffered thousands of years of oppression, cruelty, greed and incompetent rule under the tyrant Lucifer. But no longer! Today we begin our journey to liberation…to a new Hell that we will reshape in our image! You brave men and women will play a central role in this battle.
This company before me will have the honour of seizing the Iron Tower, Satan’s final redoubt in our great city. Today you heroic warriors will achieve a glorious victory, one which will seal your place in Hell’s history for all eternity!”

It was undoubtedly a rousing speech, but Minos’s call to battle produced a lukewarm response from the assembled troops, as a few half-hearted cheers went up, but otherwise there was silence.

It seemed that Minos’s cause held little appeal to these damned foot soldiers. Nevertheless, our God-like leader seemed unconcerned as he descended back into the ground, leaving his general to complete our pre-battle briefing. Although, as it turned out, the officer had little to say about strategy or tactics.

“All right soldiers. Your orders are simple. Advance down the Street of Lost Souls and eliminate all opposition. Once you reach the Iron Tower, you’ll need to fight your way inside and secure each level one at a time. But remember, whoever survives and secures the top floor will be rewarded with a second chance at life.”

This final sentence evoked the enthusiasm which Minos’s speech lacked, as thousands of soldiers cried out in excitement and joy at the prospect. When the shouting died down, I turned to Isabelle in search of an explanation.

“That’s what we’re fighting for.” she said with a sly grin, “Fuck Minos and his crazy rebellion, and fuck Lucifer and this hell. If we make it to the top of that tower we get reincarnated – sent back to Earth with a new body where we can start over. That’s what every one of us desires more than anything. This is our incentive.”

I nodded my head as I finally understood. This war wasn’t being fought for us, but it presented a once-in-eternity opportunity – to escape from Hell and return to the mortal plane where we could correct the mistakes we’d made during our first lives. This was a cause worth fighting for.

With our orders delivered, our company surged forward – leaving the encampment and advancing into the city. In truth, we were more like a mob than a disciplined army, and I had no idea who was in command. Instead of an ordered advance, thousands of dead soldiers armed with an assortment of weapons piled down the narrow avenues and twisted alleyways of Dis, with the crimson sky above us and the sound of distant battles and disembodied screams in our ears.

We continued our chaotic invasion despite the stifling heat until our disorganised force pushed through a barricade, climbing over the barriers and past a collection of bizarre orc-like creatures with thick, leathery skin. There were a dozen of them in total, each one facing forwards and manning heavy machineguns aimed out towards a seemingly empty avenue.
I glared suspiciously at the ugly and heavily armed creatures, whispering in Isabelle’s ear once we passed them.

“How come those freaks have heavy weapons?” I asked.

I swore the woman winced before she answered under her breath. “They have their purpose. You’ll see soon enough.”

Shortly after crossing the barricade, we reached what I guessed was the aforementioned Street of Lost Souls – a wide avenue with tall stone houses on each side. I looked up to the darkened windows and high rooftops, soon realising we were very vulnerable to ambush. But my comrades seemed unconcerned about this potential threat, and our advance continued unabated.

At the far end of the long street was our objective – the so-called Iron Tower of Dis. The ugly metal structure dominated the skyline, towering above every other building and casting a vast shadow over the vile street. I noted how the tower was surrounded by a high stone wall with thick metal gates that remained firmly shut. We had no siege weapons that I could see, so I was left to wonder how we would get inside. But this was a problem for later, because all hell was about to break loose on the street.

I froze when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, turning in time to glimpse a dark shadow darting across the rooftop above me. Soon there were others, their darkened figures appearing in the windows all around us.

And then the first arrow was shot – its tip set alight for deadly effect. I could only watch in impotent horror as the projectile struck the chest of a man in front of me and set his body on fire. The soldier screamed in agony as the flames engulfed him, and many more flaming arrows soon followed as shadowy archers emerged from the windows and rooftops, firing down upon us like we were fish in a barrel.

“Ambush!” came the cry.

I cursed, taking no satisfaction from the fact that I’d predicted this development, instead wondering why the hell this had been allowed to happen. Worse still, I had no means of fighting back and so could only use my shield to parry the arrows whilst I took cover.
I saw Isabelle and Sebastian both drop down on one knee, cynically but effectively using the burning bodies of their comrades for cover as they returned fire towards the buildings. My eyes scanned the street as I witnessed multiple soldiers struck down, their bodies burning fiercely as they squirmed in total agony on the cobbles.

Some attempted to flee back towards the camp, and that’s when the machineguns stated firing, adding to the noisy chaos as they cut down the retreating troops. It seemed this was the purpose of the orcish monsters we’d observed at the barricade. Their ruthless elimination of deserters meant we only had two choices – stand and die or fight our way forward.

I acted quickly, staying low as I grabbed a discarded rifle from the road, loading it and joining my comrades as I fired upon the upper windows. Our force took horrific casualties, but by sheer strength of numbers we succeeded in beating off the attack, firing upon the archers until they all either fell or withdrew.

I breathed a sigh of relief but there was little to celebrate, as dozens were either burnt to a crisp or riddled with arrows. Either way, there was nothing we could do for them now, and so we ignored their screams and moved on.

The advance was more cautious now, as the survivors of the first attack were understandably paranoid, glancing up at the stone houses on either side as we expected a further assault at any moment. We’d marched for a few hundred yards, leaving the carnage and screaming soldiers behind us as we approached the fortifications surrounding the Iron Tower.

The approach seemed a little too easy, but inevitably we were walking into yet another trap, although not one I could have predicted.

“Heads up!” Isabelle suddenly cried, “Harpy attack incoming!”

In a panic, I looked up into the blood red sky in time to see dozens of black dots soaring through the air – winged creatures growing larger as the descended upon us, our ears filled with the high-pitched shrieking of the hellish beasts.

I saw the first wave just moments before their aerial assault – bright red, winged demons with long and sharp claws and crocodile-like teeth surely capable of chomping through flesh.
I raised my rifle, targeting the first attacker in my gun sights and noting the predatory glare in its burning eyes. Then I fired, feeling the kickback against my shoulder. A split second later and my bullet hit its mark, striking the winged beast in its torso and knocking it out of the air.

I had little time to celebrate this small victory however, as dozens more of these murderous harpies descended upon our company in a lightning assault. Some were shot from the air, while others got cut down with spears and swords, but many more reached our lines – literally tearing into our troops in a savage attack.

I tried in vain to maintain my rate of fire until my ammunition inevitably ran out. Then I could do little but watch as the massacre played out. I saw men decapitated, lifted into the air, and torn in half by fighting harpies – their screams filling the air and blood pouring down the street.

Joining the survivors, I hurried towards the fortifications ahead of us, reuniting with Isabelle and Sebastian as we organised a desperate last stand.

“We need to get on the other side of that wall.” Sebastian shouted, “Otherwise we’re dead meat.”


“The gate is locked.” I cried back, “What chance do we have?”

“Just wait.” Isabelle replied whilst she simultaneously took out an attacking harpy with a crossbow bolt, “Minos has one more trick up his sleeve.”

I wondered what she meant, but the answer soon became apparent. On the far horizon – beyond the flight of bloodthirsty harpies and their desperate victims – appeared one, two, and then three balls of flame rapidly heading in our direction as if guided by some unseen force.

“Get down!” Isabelle screamed.

I didn’t need to be told twice, hitting the ground alongside my comrades as the fireballs whizzed over our heads. A wave of heat and debris swept over us, and the smell of burning flesh and metal hit my nostrils.

Once the attack was over, I lifted my head and waited for the dust to settle before observing the scene of carnage. The fireball attack had destroyed the gate, melting the iron and creating a hole large enough for a small army to march through.

Meanwhile, every being in the immediate vicinity had become collateral damage – with damned souls and harpies both burnt to ashes throughout the kill zone.

“My God!” I exclaimed, as I slowly got to my feet.

Isabelle and Sebastian had survived, but many others hadn’t. I saw broken and charred bodies strewn across the street. Many were beyond help. In fact, I estimated that we’d lost at least half of our soldiers – with many of the survivors having severe injuries or agonising burns. But everyone who could still walk would keep going, because they knew what the alternative was. As for the harpies, many of their number had been burnt alive, while the survivors fled back into the blood red skies.

I shook my head, looking to the melted gate and the dominating tower beyond. This was our objective and a great prize awaited whoever could make it to the top, but I felt a cold foreboding as I looked up at the cold, dark metal structure – sensing that a great evil dwelt inside.

Isabelle surely picked up on my apprehension, walking over to my side and placing a firm hand on my shoulder.

“It’s fucking terrifying, isn’t it?” she stated frankly.

I shook my head, not quite knowing how to respond.

“I thought it would be better defended.” I eventually said.

“It doesn’t need to be.” Isabelle answered coldly, “The true terror of the Iron Tower lies within its walls.”

I turned to face her, seeing a fear in her eyes that I hadn’t witnessed before. Next, I looked to the ever-silent Sebastian, but even his hard exterior seemed to melt away in the shadow of this vile structure.

I took a deep breath before asking my next question. “We’ve fought against monsters and survived. What more can they throw at us?”

Isabelle scoffed before replying. “You have no idea, Jacob. Hell isn’t all demons, zombies, and monsters. The true horror is in here.” she pointed at her head before continuing, “The tower is like a living entity. It has the power to delve into your soul – to dig out all the darkness, all the primal terrors buried deep within your psyche. It might sound like a cliché, but all your worst nightmares will come true once you step inside. That’s the dark magic of the Iron Tower…the evil we must fight to get home.”

I glanced back at the wicked structure, creaking my head so I could see all the way up to the ugly spire at its summit. I didn’t wish to look upon the tower as the mere sight provoked a sickening terror within me. But yet I couldn’t avert my gaze as I stood frozen on the burning, blood-stained cobblestones.

“Let me tell you something Jacob.” Isabelle continued, although I didn’t turn to face her as she spoke, “Sebastian and me, we’ve been down this road many times. This isn’t the first time we’ve fought our way down this street. But we’ve always chickened out at the last moment. Not this time though, right Sebastian?”

“No, not this time.” Sebastian replied solemnly.

“The two of us have made a pact.” Isabelle continued, “We can’t stay in Dis any longer. It doesn’t matter what horrors we’ll face or that our odds of survival are low. We’re going into the tower and taking our chances.”

She paused, pointing back at the host of soldiers standing behind us. “I don’t expect many volunteers from this lot. Most don’t have the balls to go through with it. But you Jacob…I’m taking a leap of faith here, but I think you might have the stomach for this fight. Sebastian and I could sure use a good soldier like you to watch our backs.

Still, its your choice my friend. Either you stay here in Dis and spend all eternity fighting Minos’s war, or you come with us and take a chance at winning your freedom. So, what do you say Jacob?”

I heard the vulnerability in her voice and realised she was terrified of what lay ahead. This didn’t bode well, and my instincts told me to run for the hills. But where could I go? I looked back towards the company of dead soldiers and the scene of suffering, devastation, and bloodshed on the street beyond. Looking further, I saw the war-torn city – noting the screams, the howls, and the many fires burning throughout the ruins of Dis.

On the far horizon, I could just make out the harbour of dark water, watching as yet another giant demon emerged from below the surface, roaring as it stomped through the shallows and assaulted the shoreline. I came to a stark realisation in that moment. I didn’t want to stay in this circle of Hell. I couldn’t stay here. The Iron Tower promised psychological tortures that I could not imagine, but if there was even a slim chance at making it home, I had to take it.

Turning back to face my companions, I nodded firmly and said – “I’ll do it. I’m with you guys.”

Isabelle’s tired face lit up, and even Sebastian managed a half smile.

“Good boy.” Isabelle replied before pointing towards the destroyed gate, “Well gentlemen, there’s no time like the present.”

Taking a deep breath and dismissing my fears, I took a step forward alongside my comrades. We slowly and cautiously approached the smouldering remains of the iron gate, but developments on the street added an extra impetus.

We all heard the thunderous roar from above, looking up to see an alpha predator emerging from the clouds – a winged monster which dwarfed the fleeing harpies in size and ferocity.
“Oh God!” Isabelle exclaimed in terror, “It’s him!”

I watched for a moment in awestruck horror, observing a huge, jet black dragon rapidly descending upon us – its red eyes burning with pure hatred as its vast wings flapped furiously.

“Run, damn it!” Isabelle screamed.

I paused for only a moment, watching as the dark dragon spat out a stream of blue fire, engulfing the company of soldiers who stood behind us, their flesh burning as their agonising screams filled the air.

I turned and ran for all my worth, joining Sebastian and Isabelle as we sprinted through the demolished gate and the dragon’s horrific roar rang in our ears. Charging across the courtyard, we frantically searched for an entrance into the tower. There wasn’t a door as such, but rather a swirling vortex of black and red at the tower’s base. The portal was far from inviting but it was our only chance of escape from the winged monstrosity pursuing us.
So, the three of us ran towards it, Sebastian jumping through first as his body disappeared into the vortex. Isabelle followed a second later, leaving me alone on the killing field.

The huge dragon was right above me now, its hideous roar deafening me as I smelt the foul stench of burnt flesh from its gaping maw. Next came the fire, a stream of napalm which set the ground behind me alight. My clothes were burnt, and my skin was singed.

The portal entrance was only mere feet away, but I didn’t think I’d make it. I drew every last ounce of strength from my exhausted body, fighting through the pain and fear as I screamed and jumped. I hit the vortex mere seconds before the fire, my body being sucked into oblivion as the darkness consumed me.

I must have lost consciousness for a time, because I awoke in a dark and evil place, violently thrust into the next chapter of my hellish odyssey.

Credit: Woundlicker


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