This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang, but a whimper.
At least, that's how it felt in Hell during the last days of the Reunion.
It was all the fault of the younger generation, honestly. They never really cared about the ideals that sparked the Rebellion in the first place. Sure, they parroted all the right phrases at the right times, but in retrospect one could tell that their Hearts weren't in it. They simply couldn't understand the pride and sense of mission that anchored the beliefs of the old guard, and the so message got lost in the noise.
All that was left to the younger demons was, at best, self-serving arrogance and at worst, nihilism - and that eventually got old. Eventually, somebody asked himself, "Just why am I putting myself through torture to prove the point of a bunch of old geezers who never gave a flying leap for me, anyway?" - and from there, it just went downhill fast.
At first, the only indication that the War was going terribly wrong was that the Renegade rate was steadily increasing. Asmodeus doubled and redoubled his efforts to keep a lid on things - but when he started to realize that his own agents weren't immune, well, it disquieted him mightily. Hell could have maintained, certainly: there were still lots and lots of demons that remembered the old days. They probably could have maintained. Maybe.
It was the high level defections that floored them, though.
First, there was Haagenti. That was a shock and a half: he just stopped eating one day, burped, looked around with eyes that suddenly looked a lot more intelligent than before - and vanished. The next thing anybody knew, he was up in Heaven and living the life of the blessed. Novalis herself sponsored him - and she looked just a little smug. It was unprecedented, to be sure - but inevitable, probably. Only a matter of time before somebody big on Either Side went over to the enemy. Surprising that it hadn't happened, before. In fact, Nybbas was apparently on the verge of arranging the Fall of Eli. Trading Creation for Gluttony seemed a good deal.
Hell stayed smug about this upcoming coup to the very second that the Prince of the Media blew up Perdition in lieu of two week's notice. Eli always had a silver tongue - and it would seem that Nybbas, not being used to sincerity, had no real immunities to it. Whoops: possibly Dominic wasn't really trying to put Eli on trial, after all.
And there was Novalis, again. She looked even smugger this time.
Hell didn't really understand how much they were leaning on the Prince of the Media until he became the Archangel of Communication: the old guard tried to pick up the slack, certainly, but they simply didn't know the moves. Between the Archangels of Creation and Communication, Hell's image took a nosedive. Still, this was only a temporary setback, right?
Possibly the forces of Evil should have given up when Vapula suddenly stopped sporting ritual scars - then again, nobody really expected him to actually find God in his ruthless analysis of the universe. How dreadfully embarrassing. It simply wasn't Hell's eon, apparently - but at least they had run out of younger Princes - except for Furfur, Alaemon and Fleurity, of course. Those three weren't any loss, either, although it was a bit odd to see the former Prince of Hardcore running the Order of the Eternal Sword (who could have imagined that Furfur would have chosen surrender over death when Laurence trounced him?). True, it wasn't too comforting to come to the realization that the Prince of Secrets really was working for Michael all these years, or that the Prince of Drugs had always secretly respected David's resolution, but things weren't bleak quite yet.
It wasn't until Beleth finally came to her senses that Hell collectively knew that it was, in point of fact, screwed.
Later researchers would find the entire belief that Beleth was a Princess to be laughable. A Djinn? With feelings? This was clearly a case of the most successful use of the Balseraphic resonance ever recorded - but then, Lucifer was the biggest, baddest Balseraph of them all. He, unfortunately, couldn't keep it going forever - and the Archangel of Holy Fear, when she finally came to her senses (during a dramatic intervention, spearheaded by Blandine but orchestrated by Novalis) was not pleased. Being Hellsworn stopped being fun, real fast - and who was running the reclamation squads but the Archangel of Flowers (and what a busy bee she seemed to be, all of a sudden)?
OK, to recap: at this point, Hell was pretty much locked out of the Marches, losing ground fast in the corporeal plane and dealing with defecting demons left and right. This wasn't good. Worse, the internecine fighting among the Princes was getting intense. At times like these, those with weaker political positions start meditating on the merits of an early retirement.
Lilith, of course, was the first to run like Hell (Valefor didn't count: yeah, he was Janus all along). No blame: when all was said and done, demons don't like humans, and Marc even offered a dental plan. Surprisingly, Malphas was next. The Prince of Factions apparently was fighting with _himself_ by this point, and the version that eventually won decided that the rest of these losers were screwed. It was cold comfort to Hell that he nearly didn't survive the Redemption attempt.
Right, by now there was Andrealphus, Asmodeus, Baal, Belial, Kobal, Kronos, Lucifer, Mammon and Saminga sitting around and asking themselves how things could have gone so wrong, so quickly - and they came up with a name. Novalis. It was all the Archangel of Flowers' fault - if it wasn't for her insane belief that everybody could be Redeemed, given the right motivation, none of this would have happened. Heaven would have continued to fight, rather than work to bring the errant sheep back into the fold. Instead, half the Princes were up enjoying the Light of Heaven.
So, they decided to kill her. Even if it didn't work, it'd at least assuage their pride.
The first Prince to try to make the hit was Belial: unfortunately, he ran into Gabriel (who was feeling much better these days, thank you very much), who took the opportunity to demonstrate how it felt to be on the receiving end of Word-friction. The poor bugger snapped under the strain (he wasn't feeling well at all) - well, that was from Hell's point of view. From Heaven's, he just became the Archangel of Cleansing.
So, they sent Saminga next. Word of advice: sending the embodiment of Death against the embodiment of Life, while theoretically a clever idea, doesn't work in practice. When asked later, Saminga indicated that he was much happier as a reliever, anyway.
Baal was their last hope for a violent resolution. Violence against Peace would have worked, probably, but nobody asked him whether his Heart was in this War anymore. This wasn't what Baal wanted. Instead of proving the justice of his position against the only worthy combatant in the universe - Michael - he had to go out and kill someone who couldn't hurt a flea. Even if he did manage to prevail over Michael afterwards, what was the point? It wouldn't move God to reconsider. Baal wanted God to admit that He was wrong, but it was becoming clear to the Prince of the War that if anyone was wrong, it wasn't God. Technically, he did duel with Michael, but duels where one combatant breaks down in helpless, bitter tears halfway through (and where the other throws away his axe, the better to comfort his opponent) aren't exactly common.
Well, if overt violence didn't work, maybe covert would. Sending out Andre was a desperation ploy, true, and nobody expected him to withstand Novalis (whose Word-strength was hideously pumped by now), but it should've have given Asmodeus a chance to get the knife in. Of course, nobody really considered the fact that Dominic was going to take the opportunity to run interference. For what it's worth, Asmodeus hasn't Redeemed, yet, but he's cracking under the strain of everyone being unreservedly nice to him for centuries on end.
And then there were four - whoops, three: Mammon had taken the opportunity to clean out the till and run (Marc eventually caught up with him). By now, Hell was wide open for an assault. No Armageddon, no Final War, nothing but a slaughter.
And the Host assembled...
And walked in. They went through the ways of Hell, almost empty of demons, and gave what comfort they could to the poor damned souls that they found there. With them came music, and laughter, and - worst, worst, worst of all - life. By the time that the carnival that was once a grim host of angels arrived at the last stronghold held by Lucifer, Hell was covered in ivy and trees and flowers. As the assembled angels surrounded Lucifer, the Lightbringer looked at his two allies. Kronos looked positively unwell, but Kobal seemed resolute. Lucifer took comfort in that.
He should have known better. Kobal leaned over, whispered "God says, 'Gotcha!'" into Lucifer's ear, and sauntered over to the other side, whistling as he went. His wings were bright white before he had taken three steps.
And, as the assembled angels watched, Lucifer screamed. At first, it was pure noise, pure rage and anger and frustration and hideous anguish. Eventually, though, he seemed to gain enough control of himself to howl at the Heavens,
"WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? DO YOU WANT ME TO ADMIT THAT I WAS WRONG?!?
"FINE! I WAS WRONG!
"ARE YOU HAPPY, NOW?"
Novalis peeked over the barricade, her face impish. "Actually, He probably is.
"Now, was that so hard?"
Lucifer looked at her, pop-eyed - and then started to laugh.
And Kronos gasped, collapsed to the ground, and vanished. Behind Novalis, Yves suddenly straightened, as the sundered part of his soul returned to him.
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