Work Header

The Gates of Heaven and Hell Open

Chapter Text

From their red velvet chaise longue in the middle of the Tower's summit, a floor higher than visitors had access to, the Ethereal Queen observed the Maze of Tribulations’ most recent guests. All of the screens of her vast array of security terminals, floating mid-air in a circle of holographic windows, showed the same sight. She was perfectly capable of seeing into the past, present and future at once, or of looking at several different possible futures based on the outcomes of a decision. That she chose to focus on this one specific strand of fate told of its importance to her. In fact, if it had been any more momentous, she would be unable to tune away from it, the Universe would have been so insistent that she, a particularly important quantum observer, saw it. Considered part of the Seraphic Gate that separated the mortal from the divine, the Maze itself crossed over several time periods, locations and perceived reality, existing in a separate dimension with its own rules. All that occurred in the Maze was considered important by the Universe but in a way slightly sideways to, definitely outside, normal cause and effect. However, there were still variations in what could happen here, normally. This was one such instance of the Maze, one that happened to interest the Queen a lot more than usual - a miracle in itself, as, having seen almost everything in her long aeons of existence, she was easily bored and notoriously difficult to please.

Her twin brother, Gabriel Celesta, third in power only to the Ethereal Queen and the Goddess Tria Herself, materialised in the room with a silver tray containing a tea set and a plate of cakes. He set the tray on a coffee table in front of them, then sat next to his sister, his posture straighter than his sister's near sprawl against the arm of the sofa. She muttered a thank-you, reached across as lazily as possible without falling over, then grabbed a cake and a cup of tea that he had just poured for her. He sat silently with his own tea and cake, watching the activity on the screens.

"I'm not going to be needed on the floor for a while," he commented, "Those four aren't even halfway up. The other girl a couple of floors higher..." he frowned, his normally serenely impassive face wrinkling in concern, "She's showing a worrying ability to interfere with the structure of the floor she's on but I don't think she can do so from another floor, so her efforts are keeping her there."

"She doesn't seem all that good at it," noted his sister between messy mouthfuls of cake, "She's let that big monster go out of control twice now. I've half a mind to let it eat her, as a lesson about not messing around with official Celestial property."

"The most likely consequence is that it would persist on the floor and we'd have to deal with it ourselves, while also dealing with the narrative backlash of her death and the... problems caused by one of the other visitors, that is unlikely to go away either."

"Those two meeting up might cause just as many problems," the Ethereal Queen pointed out, reaching for another cake and spilling the tea down her black gown in the process, "They already know each other, I think. If they don't already recognise each other for what they are, it'll become obvious when they meet each other in this situation."

"Normally I'd say neither of them are competent enough to actually live long enough to cause a problem in a place like this," he sighed, "However, the girl on Floor Five is with some powerful friends, enough to actually make it up here between them if they go about it methodically."

"They're already acting like they know Santa's on this floor," observed the Queen, "They won't be hurting for equipment. Although if they buy from that asshole they'll be hurting for cash afterwards."

"If your intelligence is correct, they're at least friendly rivals with the girl on the eighth. Given the opportunity, with this much danger around them, they're most likely to team up," Gabriel mused, "Still, there is a policy for such things. I'll head back downstairs if I see them heading to the top, give them a fair fight, hand them a reward if they pass, something big and shiny enough to satisfy the adventurers they obviously are, while distracting them from the door to this place, which you'll hopefully have fully sealed off by then."

"Normally that'd satisfy me as enough," she answered, "But those two are both 4D Beings, probably from the Sphere. The brat on Floor Eight acts like one of the Sphere agents, except without a clue what she's doing. So, probably completely unregulated. You know what assholes those 4D types can be at the best of times…"

"These don't quite feel the same," countered Gabriel, "They've acted with enough moral integrity so far..."

"Towards each other, and people they think are 'real'," the Queen pointed out.

"The one in the group, at least, has not broken any of our rules," said Gabriel, "It is not illegal, only strictly monitored, to know of or to travel via the Sphere. The more creative one... has not actually broken anything irreversible, or even acted with any great malice."

"So, what, you want to wait for her to do just that, giving us both a harder time of it?"

“I want to catch up with them both before they do any such thing,” he replied, “Maybe they would even be powerful allies if watched over and trained by someone reliable, someone other than the Sphere.”

“This room doesn’t fit three people in it,” she snapped.

“This room is near infinitely malleable...”

“Tria would never trust them.”

“She trusts us and our judgment, though,” he said, “Frankly, I do not think she would even bother to look at what we were doing unless it seemed like an emergency we couldn’t handle.”

“And they’re not THAT powerful,” she muttered, “Still, I think I’m gonna get involved in the trials myself, if you don’t mind. The level of responsibility you’re talking about giving them requires more rigorous standards.”

“You’re going into the Trumpet?

“You hand it to them as one of the prizes if you lose,” she said, “Don’t tell them straight up that it summons me, I want them to at least be able to work that out for themselves.”

“If you think its the wisest course of action to intervene that much,” he frowned, well aware of the impact that her raw power could have on the world simply by interacting with it at all. The trumpet would be a focus for a link to a pocket dimension where they could battle without harming anything, a kind of miniature, concentrated Maze of Tribulations, “Personally, I do not see how it involves the other three you’ll be getting involved in this.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” she grinned, looking up at the screen and applauding when another entire wave of Floor Sixes monsters were destroyed by their well-planned defensive tactics, “Those three have potential.”