“Now see here, as a fellow demon-”
Your words are drowned out by a powerful roar as the oddly shaped monster reaches you, slapping your legs out from under you with a sickening crack. Wriggling your fingers in the dirt, you hurriedly try and crawl away but a powerful grip lifts you into the air.
As you dangle above it’s open maw, you remember Victoria warning you that the weapons you chose might be needed. Looks like the demon costume was more about a pitchfork than a forked tongue. It’s a good moment of clarity, but the grip releases you just as you have it, and your next sensations are of darkness, pain, and an instant empathy for every piece of food you’ve even eaten. Somewhere in the crunching shadows, you think you hear a voice whispering. Though it’s hard to make you, you’re almost positive you hear the words “at last” in the mutterings.
It was a noble effort, but there’s a reason emergency responses aren’t fight, flight, or polite discourse. For this version of you, things have sadly reached a…
* * *
As the giant monster races toward you, your mind floods with images of what it will do if it gets you in its grip. Horrible, graphic pictures of being eaten drive all thoughts of civility out of your head. Fuck all that noise, you’re out of here. In one frantic motion you spin around, lift the rear of your cloak, and start booking it like all get out.
You tear across the hellscape for a long while before you finally chance a glance over your shoulder. The bad news is that the scorrillapider is still giving chase, the good news is that whatever it was built for, speed wasn’t a part of the equation. You’ve got a healthy lead on the thing, now you just have to focus on getting the hell out of… well, hell.
Slowing down to a jog, you begin to notice occasional bits of buildings dotting the landscape. They’re charred and half-destroyed, but they give you an idea. Redirecting your route, you start heading for one of the larger ruins hoping to find what you need there.
You’re over halfway to your goal when you notice the buzzing that’s begun to fill your ears. Looking up, you see several large shapes floating in the air. They look like mosquitoes crossed with some sort of lizard, and their bloodshot eyes are all tracked each movement you make. In the time that you watch them, you realize they’re slowly lowering toward you. One darting glance over your shoulder confirms that your original pursuer is also still on your heels. So, what was once a wild hope of salvation has now become a life or death long shot. Oddly, you feel more at home with this situation than the first.
With renewed speed you race over the scorched land, finally arriving at an ancient building that’s been blackened with soot and degradation. The buzzing is so loud you can all but feel it in your teeth; the wind from their wings is ruffling your cloak. Your eyes dart about, desperate for a familiar shape, until they finally spot it. Racing across the broken floor, one that you realize seems curiously familiar as you run over it, you hurl yourself at the familiar object: an old half-rotted door.
There’s no knob, but that makes things easier as you slap your crystal doorknob into the slot. For a second, you’re afraid this whole line of though was pure wishful dreaming, then you feel the knob click into place and the door swings open, revealing more inky black darkness. Without pausing to wonder what’s on the other side, you dart through. As you leave the hellscape, you feel a slight tug from behind, then it’s gone and you’re swimming in darkness once more.
This time when you pop out, it isn’t in a desolate charred world, it’s in a rather nice looking study. Over-stuffed chairs, large collections of books lining the walls, the pleasant smell of cinnamon in the air. Honestly, the only thing this place has in common with your last destination is the pleasant fire crackling in the hearth.
“Well, hello there. Don’t get many visitors through that door.” An older man wearing a sweater and slacks is resting in one of the chairs, reading from a large red leather bound book and smoking an old-fashioned pipe.
Turning around, you notice that the door you came through is the only one in the room. “Is there another option?”
“Oh, they all come through there, those that are lucky enough to find this place, anyway, but they rarely use a doorway from hell. That place tends to kill most everyone who lands there.”
“Yeah, sounds about right,” you agree. “Are you a prisoner here, or someone else navigating the gates?”
“No, far from it. I’m the one who built the gates. You can call me Virgil.” He inclines his head politely in your direction.
“So you’re one of the Garrotes then?”
“Heavens no. My gates and I have been around long before the first of them were even born. I just agreed to contract my services to them for this All Hallows Eve. But let’s not talk about me. You’ll be needing to get a move on soon. This is one of the safest rooms you can find, but it’s also one of the most dangerous because it’s right next to The Warden’s room.”
You hear another roar, like the one from the great hall of doorways, that seems to come from the fireplace. For a moment, you think you can see the shape of a horned head in the flames, then the vision is gone.
“He can’t enter here, though he can get himself into the next room and wait for you. See, there are several paths that lead in here, but the outward do only goes in one direction. That’s why you shouldn’t dawdle.”
“Right, got it, time to go.” You turn around and prepare to stick your crystal doorknob in, when Virgil calls to you.
“Hang on now, you found my room. Don’t you want your prize?”
“Prize?” You half-turn back around.
Virgil nods and holds out a small book to you. “It’s a book of you. Use the right words, and you can call forth all manner of things from throughout your life. One shot deal, of course, but damned handy in the right situations.”
You walk over and accept the book. “Thank you.”
“Least I can do,” Virgil replied. “Also, a bit of advice, since you made it through hell: There’s a door in the next room that will get you out of here. Direct route, do not pass go.”
“Which one is it?”
“Dunno, haven’t been in that room since I built it. Won’t be hard to spot though. Just look for whatever door The Warden is guarding. That’s the one that gets you home quickest.” Virgil turns away from you and back to his book.
You go back to the door at the front of the study and stick in your crystal doorknob. It opens easily, more inky darkness, and you step through. The transition is almost instantaneous, you find yourself in a beautiful garden hedge maze under a full moon. Your sense barely have time to register the smell of grass and flowers before you catch sight of the hulking form only forty feet away from you.
The Warden is huge, at least twelve feet tall, covered in shaggy- you know what, you know damned well what a minotaur looks like. It’s that, it’s exactly that. The Warden is a minotaur and he is staring you the hell down.
Through his thick, shaggy legs you can see a stone door a few feet behind him. As you get your bearings, you also notice that there are a pair of doors to the right and left of your location. One has an orchid carved on the front, while the other has a rose. You can probably get to them before the minotaur charges, but it will be close.
Since he’s got his eyes on you, time to make a judgment call.