The Cave entrance was exactly how Raena had described it.
Lucille led the five remaining members of her Choir through the gloom of the Void realm, which acted as a buffer between the rest of Heaven and the entrance of the Pit were the Fallen had been cast. It looked like an endless realm of swirling grey cloud and bellowing mist. It was supposed to absent of any beings, Angel or fallen, yet somehow despite all of that, the Cave entrance was right where Raena had said it would be.
It looked the mouth of some giant stone behemoth; as if something had snatched that scary organ from its face and placed in the Void realm. It defied all senses. The mouth of it stood twice the height of even the tallest Angel and it was so black as to give the impression that it led only to oblivion. Yet one could walk around it in a full circle and its appearance never changed, as if it existed on every angle. It remained a yawning blackness, waiting. Before the mouth of the cave, the ground was dark gray and cracked with no dust or sign that any living thing had stirred it.
"By the Throne," said Marach. "Raena spoke the truth. Look at that, it defies all I know. How can that be?"
"Wait here," said Lucille. "Do not move until I return."
They all nodded and watched as she flew off to take a closer look. Each Angel wore their full armour and bore their weapon of choice in light of their missing comrade and the strange occurrences reported by Raena.
Lucille was dressed in silver plate covering her chest and back, silver pauldrons, helmet and leg guards the same armour of all the Angels. She bore a lance of fire. Marach bore a bow with a quiver of infinite arrows. Raena carried twin swords of fire. Arena carried a trident and net while Kyssil carried a sword and shied. Selil carried a golden spear and a horn that could summon other Angels to them if things got desperate.
"Is that where Ivan was grabbed?" Selil asked.
"No sign of him, nothing at all." Marach's senses were the strongest. "This does not bode well for Ivan."
Lucille returned at that moment. "That's not a cave at all," she said. "It's a portal to another place. Maybe even the Pit, I don't know. But it has no physical presence other than the black yawning. It's all just an image. That's why we can't see through the shadow, it's not shadow. It's nothing - a hole in existence."
There was a long moment of silence.
"But that Daemon used it to attack Ivan and presumably took him back through it." Kyssil was frowning, not liking the idea of being denied the adventure she thought they were about to undertake. "Shouldn't that mean that we can use to go where Ivan is and, presumably get back?"
"Possibly," said Lucille.
"Then that is where we must go," said Marach. "It is our duty!"
"Your duty is to the Throne," Lucille said sharply. "And when that path is unclear it is I who make that choice, Marach. You will follow me in all things, is that clear?"
Marach nodded. "Yes, of course, forgive me."
"It's all right," Lucille said, a little softer and patted him on the shoulder. "I understand your eagerness and I share it. But we are not a law unto ourselves. We must also think of all the other servants of the Throne. If one Daemon got out, it is possible others will, if they have not all ready done so."
"Then it should be reported to the Throne as a matter of priority." Selil's voice was calm. "We should report this before we take any action."
"I do not like waiting," said Lucille. "Delay may only exacerbate the situation and we do not know yet the full consequence of letting this go unnoticed. We should investigate this immediately. It only takes one of us to report this."
All of the Angels looked at one another, battling with the joy of being able to go before the Throne, their strong desire to help Ivan and the growing trepidation of what awaited them should they go into the black. In the end it was not their decision to make, for as leader, it was Lucille who decided. They all looked at her, waiting for the decision.
"Selil," said Lucille. "You shall go to warn the Throne."
Selil nodded and the other Angels patted her on the shoulder, both to congratulate and to commiserate.
"Please, pass my love to Ivan when you find him," said Selil.
"We will," Marach promised.
At that moment, they were attacked.
A forest of shadow limbs erupted suddenly from the cracks in the ground before the hole. Soundlessly they shot forward, punching through the gloom of the Void and snapping at the unsuspecting Angels. Kyssil was snared by the ankles yanked quickly away from the rest of the group before the other Angels could do anything. She let out a sharp yell and had time to outstretch her hands to her friends before the shadow tentacles thrust her through into the black hole. In a second she was gone.
"Back! Get back!" Lucille yelled, spreading her arms.
The Angels started to scatted, but the instruction came too late for Arena. As she turned to fly, she was hooked about the wrists by a couple of shadow limbs. Marach reached her at the same time, grabbing her legs. For a moment there was a contest of strength between the two Angels and the shadow limbs. But it was to last only a moment and Arena was pulled with an irresistible strength out of the clutching arms of Marach and pulled into the waiting blackness. The others could only look on helplessly.
"By the Throne, they are so strong!"
"Selil," yelled Lucile. "You must go! Warn the Throne!"
More of the shadow arms chased her but they are battered away by the combined strikes of Raena and Marach. Selil takes flight and soon is well out of reach. Lucille leads the other two Angels out of their reach to regain their composure and regroup. Seconds pass by. The struggles of Arena and Kyssil linger at the front of their thoughts.
" Marach's voice was almost timid. "And there was nothing I could do."
"Nothing any of us could do," said Raena.
Lucille frowned, fighting off the shock of having just lost another two of her Angels. "We are not helpless," she said, almost to herself. "We are never helpless. The Throne will be warned. The Seraphim will come and this will be corrected."
Marach and Raena heard the strength and confidence returning in Lucille's voice. It filled them with hope and warmth, her words giving them back what been temporarily lost by the sudden snatching of their colleagues. They pushed back their shoulders; rose tall and proud like Cherubim should and spread their wings wide. They would conquer their reservations and rescue their comrades.
"Follow me," said Lucille whirling her weapon above her head. "Stay as high as you can for as long as you can and then dip into the hole. It's our best chance to avoid those limbs. For the Throne!"
Lucille led them high above the reach of the clutching shadow limbs, until they were almost right above the yawning blackness of the portal. There were hundreds of the blackish tentacles, weaving and wriggling below them. It would take some skill to get past them and Lucille found herself hoping they would all be equal to the task because if they got hold of her, there would be nothing to save her. She frowned and pushed those thoughts away.
Closing her wings against her body and with a fierce cry on her lips, Lucille dropped swiftly towards the black portal. There was no wind in the Void so her descent was soundless, lacking even a hint of rushing air. She could however, hear the whipping and wriggling of the tentacles as plummeted closer and closer. Out the corner of her eye she saw Raena and Marach following either side of her, following her close as possible.
As she got within range of the shadow limbs, Lucille made furious slashes with her fire-sword, lopping the tips off of the whipping tentacles. Raena swept with her two blades and Marach used arrows as close rang stabbing tools. Together the three Angels managed to fight their way to the small space just in front of the black portal, the raging tangle of limbs reaching for them.
"Go! Go quick! We are lost if we stay here!" Marach had loaded his bow and was sending arrows into the dangerous limbs.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the limbs vanished; every one of the tentacles drawn so quickly back into the cracks from where they came, that the three Angels kept fighting for a few seconds before they realised their foe had gone. They stood staring uncertainly at the ground, wondering if this was another trap or if they had actually won. For a time nothing moved and all was silent.
"Did we win?" Raena asked, sheathing both her blades.
"I doubt it," said Lucille.
"Then why did they go?"
The ground shook, sending the Angels onto their hands and knees amongst the cracks. When the ground fell still there was a massive crack in the centre of the ground before the portal. Lucille was on her feet first and she peered at the new whole. It was roughly circular and over a dozen feet across. It was as black and bottomless at the portal.
"Not good," said Marach, joining Lucille.
"Not good at all," added Raena. She stood the other side of Lucille and kicked some severed bits of tentacle into it. They vanished instantly. "Another portal?" she asked.
" said Lucille, deep in thought.
Further discussion about the true nature of this new fissure was brought to a sudden stop, when the blackness inside it visibly rippled, as if it were the surface of lake suddenly disturbed.
Before any of the Angels could comment on what they saw, a face appeared in its rippling surface; it was black yet somehow a lighter black than the rest of the surface. Two red eyes, glowing like hot coals in the dark of its face, appeared in the vista. They lock onto the Angels.
"That's the Daemon!" Raena yelled. "That's the thing that took Ivan and the others."
"Are you sure?" asked Lucille.
"Show yourself, Fallen!"
There was a moment where the daemon smiled and behind it came a waves of laughing faces, as if caught in a reflection. It lasted only a moment before it faded and the daemon was grinning.
~Hello, Lucille. Welcome to the End~