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Asterial led them into the country and down winding back roads to a valley with giant rock formations and cliffsides. Once they were in the valley, he had them go down a dark and foreboding dirt road shielded by trees on both sides to a quaint little cabin nestled into some more, taller trees at the base of one of the giant rock formations.

“This is the Devil’s hole to hell?” Jason asked. “It looks spooky but nothing like a hole to hell.”

“The hole is behind the cabin the cliff face. It’s the man in the cabin we want to meet. I have known him for quite some time. I originally tried to get full demonhood from his fall from grace, but it wasn’t to be. We still remain friends though.

“Who is he?” Penny asked.

“He’s an angel, more specifically a fallen angel, not with the original lot who came here with Lucifer. This angel was a minor angel who neglected to do his one job and was therefore cast out. He lives here as a human being. He used to be a priest, but he was terrible at that too. The local boys under his care used to refer to him as Minister Sinister if that gives you any idea of his personality. He is pleasant one moment and a jerk the next so let me do the talking and don’t let him get in your head. Answer his questions with cursory answers. If you give him too much information, he may use it against you later in an argument.” Astrerial looked specifically at Penny, “You might want to keep your chosen profession to yourself. He still thinks he’s righteous.

“Sounds like a winner.” Jason said.

Asterial turned on him, “He may be strange, but he will die to keep you safe and the Grievous Saeton out of demon’s hands.”

When they pulled up to the cabin, Asterial hopped out of the truck first. He loped up to the door where the former priest opened it in welcome. The man picked up the large cat and listened to his explanation before waving Jason and Penny inside.

The interior of the cabin looked impossibly comfortable in contrast to the impression of the exterior, as if they had entered a mountain resort. The pine and hardwood gave off a euphoric scent. It was spacious and very clean with modern rustic furniture and stylistic rugs over a beautiful hardwood floor. Giant glass windows let in natural light and the view of the valley was breathtaking. Jason though he could see the hole in the distant cliffside.

Asterial introduced them, “Jason, Penny, this is Mariel.” Mariel appeared to be in his late sixties with grey hair and a short, well-kept beard. He was thin, almost gaunt, with steely blue eyes.

“Pleased to meet you.” Mariel said, “but I prefer to use the name Mark over my angelic name if you please.”

Jason shook the man’s hand, “Pleased to meet you.”

Penny tried a curtsy, but the former priest took her hand anyway and gave it a slight kiss. “And who is this lovely creature?”

“My name is Penny.” Penny said, trying to ignore the creature comment as she knew it was supposed to be a compliment.

“Charmed.” Mark said. “Asterial tells me you need a bit of protection and maybe a place to stay for the night.” Both nodded, “Very well. I am pleased to offer you my hospitality. May I see it?”

Jason knew he was asking about the figurine. He looked to Asterial who nodded.

Mark noticed the exchange, “Oh, if is safe here and I understand it’s imprinted on you. No one can take it from you now, except if you die.” He smiled.

“That’s what I hear.” Jason said uneasily. He produced the Saeton from his front pocket and handed it to the former priest. The man examined it closely.

“Yes, this is the infernal thing.” He handed it back to Jason. “I will help you rid yourself of its curse. We have to be careful, for if the demons get it, they will enslave the world. That is their ultimate goal. Keep it close to you even while you sleep tonight. Also, beware its trappings. The wishes it grants are not always what you envision in your mind.”

“We saw some of the demons.” Jason said.

“Minor ones or you would not be here asking for my help. Eventually, the higher demons will come. It’s only a matter of time. You must be prepared for them.”

Jason looked at Penny, “I think I have realized that, now.”

“Come,” Mark said. “I have the servants preparing a meal. I will tell them to add a few extra portions for guests.” They followed Mark into a dining area with a rather sinister looking wooden table with animalist claw feet and carvings of hunters killing animals around the edges. Mark must have anticipated their shock at the depictions. “The hunt. It’s how food makes it to the table. Without the hunt, meat would be impossible.”

“There’s other food sources.” Penny blurted out. Asterial jumped near her, and Jason realized she might have said something offensive.

“Oh, like crops, fruits, nuts, and berries?” Mark said.

“Well, yes actually.” Penny said. Asterial began to circle her legs, trying to get her attention.

“So, you like meat do you not?” Mark asked.

There was a long pause and Jason thought Asterial was about to go mad with trying to get Penny to look at him. “Occasionally, it isn’t my favorite, but I am not a vegetarian.”

Mark’s concerned face turned into a sideways smirk, “Good, I’ll go see about our dinner.” Mark noticed Asterial relaxed as Mark left into the kitchen.

“What was that about?” Jason asked.

“He has a thing about meat, and he hates vegetarians. He says anyone who doesn’t eat meat can’t be trusted, ridiculous of course, but we are under his hospitality. I shudder to think what would have happened if you would have been a vegetarian.”

“I am a vegetarian.” Penny said, “I’m just not stupid. I can read people.”

“I should mention too. Mariel is in kind of under a demon watch. Just minor demons, parademons like me, so there is no danger. They’re the ones cooking the meal. You are about to eat your first demon dinner.”

“Is that bad?” Jason asked. “Will they want to get after the Saeton?”

“I just said you were in no danger, sheez, this generation. I just wanted to warn you if you see one of them. They have no interest in the Saeton, but don’t go pulling it out of your pocket either.”

“This dinner isn’t going to be an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style dinner, is it?”

“I don’t understand that reference, but if you mean delicious then, yes.”

“No, never mind. May I ask what it is we’re having?”

“I don’t know. You can ask Mark when he returns.” Asterial said.

****

Jason was relieved the dinner consisted of roast chicken, rolls, macaroni and cheese, and vegetables he did indeed recognize. There were no weird, unknown, dishes like chilled monkey brains. Conversation was light and to the point. Jason talked about college and Penny made sure not to reveal too much about what it was she did. Jason thought it was nice after the day’s events to relax and feel normal again. When nightfall came, Mark had several rooms made up for them. Penny got her own room, of course, while Jason shared his with Asterial. The night was uneventful. But, like most things in Jason’s life, when he relaxed and let his guard down that’s when things would get decidedly worse.

Asterial was the first to wake. When Jason opened his eyes, the cat was sitting on his bed staring at him. “What? What is it?”

Asterial stood, “It’s about time you woke up.”

“You could have just awakened me. You didn’t have to sit there staring at me until I got up.”

“Mark is talking to Penny over breakfast. Are you really planning on wishing her back?”

“Well, yeah. It’s my fault she’s here.” He closed his eyes and nodded, “I know why you want her to stay, but it’s ultimately her choice.”

“Is it? It’s a mistake to let her go back.”

“I’ll ask her to stay or something.” Jason said.

They both headed to the dining room with the weird table for breakfast. When they arrived, Penny was sitting in the chair to the immediate left of Mark. They were eating eggs and bacon and involved in a discussion, laughing, and nodded to each other. Unexpectedly, Jason felt a pang of disgust mixed with jealousy. She seems to be enjoying herself a little too much.

“Ah, Jason and Asterial. Welcome to breakfast.” Mark seemed in almost too good of a mood when he noticed them walking into the room. Everything was too good. Something was off.

“Please, join us.” Mark indicated for the two to sit. A box was placed on one of the chairs to accommodate Asterial.

“Now that we are all here. I will tell you of what you face.” Mark said. “So far, and according to what Penny here has told me, you are facing some middle to lower-level demons. The more dangerous ones don’t go down so easily and are much smarter. In fact, some of them have what you might call superhuman powers.”

“Superpowers?” Jason said, putting his hands in his pockets. “Like what?” He touched the figurine absently as he asked the question.”

Mark looked up and to the right indication he was trying to access his memory. “What you would call super human powers, some can mimic, some have wings, and still others are experts in using fire to do their bidding. Typical hell spawn powers.”

“How are we supposed to defeat that and save the world?”

“Demons are susceptible to certain bullets blessed by priests. Also, if you can obtain some guns and have them blessed, they will also work against them.

“I wish we had superhuman powers but all we have are wishes and guns, and we don’t have the guns yet. Maybe after I send Penny home, I can wish for blessed guns tomorrow.” He took his hands out of his pockets to sit down at the table.

After breakfast, Penny hugged him, and Jason led her to the great room of the cabin where Asterial and Mark waited.

Jason leaned in to whisper into her ear, “Hey, if I come to your set can you give me a pass? I think that would be fun to watch.”

“Of course.” Penny said. “That and more, much more.” She winked at him.

Jason smiled and took the figurine out of his pocket, “Okay, I think it’s time.”

“Remember to be very specific.” Asterial reminded him.

Jason rubbed the Saeton, “I wish for Penny to return to the spot where I wished her from yesterday, exact same spot and exact same time.” Nothing happened.

Jason cleared his throat, “I said I wish for Penny to return to the exact some place at the exact some time I wished her to me yesterday.” He vigorously rubbed the figurine again, but nothing happened. “What’s wrong with this thing? It doesn’t seem to be working.”

“What did you do?” Penny said. Her face began to turn red with anger, “Jason?”

“Nothing.” I haven’t done anything.”

“Did you already make your wish?” Mark asked.

“I don’t think so.”

Penny’s anger was apparent as she stomped toward him, “You had to have…” She stopped cold, “oh, no!”

“What’s wrong?” Jason moved to help her as she put her hand on her forehead in distress. She dropped her bag and grabbed her crotch. “My crotch is burning!”

Jason backed away. “Your crotch?”

“Yeah, it’s on fire. Oh god! Get away, get back something is happening.” A ring of fire circled around Penny’s waist and began to spin. She ran outside the back door and aimed her crotch at a tree. The fire roared from the circle around her waist and cut through the tree. It toppled to the ground, luckily missing anything vital.

“Hmm, fire crotch.” Asterial said.

Jason looked at him and desperately tried to hold back his laughter and failed, “Fire Crotch!” He blurted out.

Penny looked horrified, “When you wished we had superhuman powers were you touching the Grievous Saeton?”

Jason’s eyes went wide, “Oh shit! I think I was.”

“You idiot! You gave us demonic superhuman powers, but you didn’t specify what powers. It gave us something random.” Penny said. “Your wish gave me…well… you know!”

“Shit! What power do I have?”

Mark took a deep breath, “We had better figure it out fast. If you used the wish, the demons will be on their way.”

 

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