The sound of dropping water woke Gabriel up.
Something was off. His head felt fuzzy, like someone went through his brain and put it back together wrong, his vision was blurred and there was something wet and sticky on his temple. As feeling returned to his body, Gabriel became aware that he was stark naked and very very cold. In fact his whole corporation wasn’t in the best shape. His numb arms were raised over his head and there was something pressing into his wrists. Uncomfortable ache spread from his shoulders. He must be in this position for some time then. He realized that he must be shackled to the ceiling. There was enough room for him to stand up but his legs were dangling awkwardly and his ankles were scraping the dirt covered floor. Casual glance at his torso revealed a large purple bruise on the left side of his ribcage. Every breath he took woke a stabbing pain as his expanding chest moved the broken ribs. Gabriel tried to stop breathing entirely - he shouldn’t need it after all - but it only made the pain worse.
He tried to stand up but that was a mistake. Thousand tiny pinpricks exploded in his ankle, the left leg gave out under his weight and the right one, senseless from misuse was unable to support all that weight alone. He collapsed again, but the shackles around his hands stopped the downward motion of the body. The chains rattled and the cold iron bit into the skin around his wrists. His already cramped shoulders screamed in protest as they took the weight of his body. It felt like someone was tearing his arms off and over the roar in his ears he heard a distant pop and his arm twisted in an unnatural angle. The agonizing pain clouded his vision and for a while Gabriel thought he might black out entirely. His mouth opened unwillingly to let out a groan.
There were muffled steps coming his way and a figure come into his view. It was tall and thin, with long hair with hardly discernible colour - it was so matted with grime. The pungent smell that hang around the demon - for it was undoubtedly a demon - filled his nostrils and almost made Gabriel gag.
He didn’t recognize the demon but that meant nothing. Gabriel, in his position as an Archangel and the Head of Earth Operations had memorised all the higher echelons of Hell and the corporations of Hell’s operatives that popped out on Earth more than once to cause mischief, but there were ten million demons in Hell and a lot of them haven’t set foot outside the Nine Circles since they were damned. For all he knew, this one could be a local janitor.
The janitor now roughly grabbed Gabriel’s hair and yanked his head backwards to face him. He was exposed to close view of the demon’s sickly yellow eyes and rotting teeth as he grinned malevolently. The smell, too, was almost overpowering closer he got. Gabriel scrunched his nose.
“Lookie who finally decided t’ wake up.” the janitor released his hair. “Archmoron Gabriel, what a honour! Been really lookin’ to meet ya.”
So the demon knew him. That was...worrying. Probably a bit too much optimistic idea had started to form inside Gabriel’s head that this was some kind of horrible mistake. That some overeager underling had got a jump on him and dragged him to Hell’s dungeon without even knowing how much trouble he was getting himself into. Because the Host won’t stand for it. No-one takes an Archangel, least of all Gabriel himself captive without getting the taste of divine retribution. It was unthinkable. It would mean war. Michael would descend to Hell at the head of the whole Heavenly Army and she would…..except....
Except Michael didn’t know where he went.
Gabriel couldn’t fully recall what preceded to his waking up in Hell. He was on Earth and then.... he only saw chaotic flashes of memories. But before that he told Michael he was taking breather on Earth, that he needed to stretch his wings and clear his head. And it wasn’t the first time he used this excuse since the Apocalypse that didn’t happen. Lately unexplained absences had become nothing unusual for Heaven’s leader. It might be several more days before anyone will think to look for him.
Uncomfortable feeling grew at the pit of his stomach, feeling he hadn’t experienced since he was just a fledging and the Almighty caught him decidedly not attending to his duties.
Gabriel steeled himself. He was still Archangel Gabriel, one of the Almighty champion’s and he will not lose his composure in front of a lowly demon he should be able to smite with a twitch of his small finger. Or show him any hint of worry.
“You will regret this, demon.” said Gabriel and gave him his most commanding look. “Release me right now and maybe the whole Heavenly Host won’t come to crush this place into dust.”
“Whoa, whoa, can’t really do that, can I? Have orders, I have. Keep an eye on yer feathers and fetch them when ya wake up.” thoughtful look overtook janitor’s face. “Should do that now, I think.”
Once the demon turned toward the rusted and twisted door on the opposite of the filthiest room Gabriel was ever in - there was strange goo leaking down the walls! - he focused on smiting the insolent demon. Except where there was ordinarily the power equal to a blazing star there now was a tiny flame of the candle left in the wind and when he reached for it it puffed out and tiny smoke slipped through his fingers. He tried again but the result was same. The power of Heaven was denied to him.
Gabriel had never been to Hell before. In theory he knew that every particle of dust it was composed of was anathema to everything he and his power stood for. That they would mix worse than oil and water and one would naturally extinguish the other. But he always thought his ethereal essence mightier of the two. He never realized that in Hell the occult will smother the ethereal.
Reality of the situation struck him. He was powerless, chained and stuck only the Almighty knows how deep in Hell and something bad was probably coming through the twisted door very soon. Gabriel was generally an optimistic angel, but even he had to admit to himself that his situation was dire indeed.
“OI! He’s up.” hollered the demon into the corridor beyond. Then he turned around and winked.
Gabriel decided that he won’t meet whoever was coming hanging from the ceiling like a slaughtered animal and attempted to stand again. He twisted his one good hand - other was almost devoid of feeling - and got hold of the chains. It took several attempts and he almost cried out in pain, but by the time more demons were filling the room, he managed to stand on his one good leg, although he was shivering both from the cold and the exertion and a cold sweat was running down his body.
The demons who appeared were a parade of Who’s Who in Hell. Asmodeus, Moloch, Mephistopheles, Belpheghor, Belial...A few of them Gabriel met and smote personally. Gabriel cast about for Beelzebub but they were nowhere to be seen. Neither was Satan.
The assembled demons scrutinized him like a bug pinned in a display case. Most of them gave him hateful sneers, some looked bored and some of them looked at him eagerly like they were just served particularly appetizing five-course meal. Gabriel suppressed a shudder as they crowded around him too close for comfort.
It was Moloch who took the word. “Gabriel, how nice of you to drop by.”
“I’d tell you how sorry I’m that I don’t feel the same but I am not.” he gave the gathered demons a grin which in Gabriel’s opinion exuded confidence and good cheer.
“You will be.” growled Belial, cracking his knuckles.
“In your place I’d be much more polite, Wank Wings.” said Moloch waving Belial off for now. “There’s a line of demons just waiting to take a piece out of you and you don’t want to make us even more angry now, do you? You discorporated a lot of folk when we were taking you and everybody is really hot for revenge.”
So there was a fight. Obviously. That would explain the state of his physical corporation. Part of Gabriel secretly preened that he didn’t go down without a fight and apparently gave a lot of the demon rabble a fitting punishment for attacking the Archangel.
“So it’s to be a torture. Why would I expect anything else from your lot. You really delude yourselves if you think I will tell you anything. I’d rather die than betray Heaven.”
“Satan, you really are dense, aren’t you?” interrupted Asmodeus with roll of his eyes. “We don’t want anything from you. We just want to see you suffer. We were so looking towards the Armaggedon. We were supposed to finally get back on you Light Cunts for what you did to us. But thanks to you idiot, we were robbed of it. So we have to take our pleasure some other way.”
Asmodeus reached to caress his cheek almost tenderly. Gabriel jerked his head away but the hand followed and squeezed him.
“You can’t possibly hope to get away with this. How do you plan to stop the whole Heavenly Host once they come for me?” Because they will come. They must. “Satan must be out of his mind to allow you to do this.”
Half frustrated, half amused sigh escaped Asmodeus’ lips. “You still don’t understand, Gabriel. No-one is coming for you. You’ve been hanging here for over a day and no-one came looking for you. Not a whiff of white feather. Nobody up there seems to have noticed there was a occult power released on Earth.” Asmodeus grinned. “But hey, maybe they noticed and just don’t care. Maybe they are glad to be rid of you.”
Asmodeus must be saying that just to rile him up. Make him lose hope. “Do you think I am fooled so easily?”
Asmodeus gave him a sardonic smile. He thought just that. “Whatever makes you feel better. Deep down you know you will not be getting out of here. And don’t hope that our King feels any lingering brotherly love for you. Do you want to know what he told us when we dragged you here?” Asmodeus leaned in without really waiting for a reaction and whispered, his breath hot on Gabriel’s ear: “He said and I quote: I want every denizen of Hell to be lulled to sleep by the sound of Gabriel’s wretched screams.”
“Enough of the chit-chat. Can we get to the screaming part already?” Belial shoved Asmodeus out of the way none too gently. “I’ve been waiting for this for over six thousands years and you are wasting time by stupid games.”
Without further ado he hit Gabriel. His fist connected to the already tender spot on his ribcage and his chest erupted in pain. The air was knocked out of his lungs and his knees buckled again. He barely managed to swallow a moan that threatened to escape.
They wanted to hear him scream? Well, he won’t give them the satisfaction. His job as an angel was the thwart demons. You could say he was contractually obligated to do exact opposite to what they intended.
Belial hit him again, this time in the chin. Gabriel’s head jerked sideways. Turn the other cheek, he thought and composed himself to glare at Belial.
“Look, he’s resisting! Isn’t that cute? I guess that calls for better equipment.” cheered Belial.
He materialised himself menacingly looking club with sharp spikes at the end. He raised his arm to swing it. Gabriel braced himself for the impact but it never came. Moloch grabbed Belial by the wrist.
“Satan, don’t you have any finesse? You don’t just jump right into the best bits. You have to build up to that. Like a theatre. You start with exposition, don’t jump right into climax.” Asmodeus snorted at Moloch’s choice of words. “There is no rush, let’s enjoy it.”
“After all, we wouldn’t want Gabriel to croak too early and miss any of the Hell’s famed delights, do we? What do you think, Gabe?” added Asmodeus, giving his hair a slight tug.
“Go fuck yourself.”
Than he hit him again.