Chapter 2

The few times that Hope ventured down to earth, things were developing slowly. Mostly, Hope always had the job of sending messages of perseverance and, well, hope, during times of distress. Those times were mostly during wars. They weren't the most ideal situations and the places she had been sent were, to put it bluntly, horrible.

The place where the Archangel Michael sent her was one of those places.

It was a dirty alley behind a theater in London, near the Soho district. She had landed somewhere near the coordinates and found herself walking through the congested streets. Her wings were tucked into the ethereal plane, so as not to attract any attention from the humans, though from the way that they didn't even glance up from their little devices as she landed not three feet away from them, she probably shouldn't have bothered.

But Hope knew to keep the attention off her since there could be a lot of demons around.

She tried to be gentle as she made her way through the congested streets, apologizing profusely when she cut across the flow before she missed where she was supposed to be going. After double checking the scrape of paper given to her, Hope lingered at the mouth of the spooky, dirty alley. Hope couldn't ignore the way her skin crawled as her bare feet touched very filthy water.

"Uh, hello?" Hope called out. She clutched the strap of her bag tightly; her fingers were white. Her wings were flared out but not fully.

No need to offend whoever is here.

"I come from the Archangel Michael." Hope continued to call out, hoping that whoever she was delivering the message to would come out of hiding when she heard that she was on a mission from the Archangel herself. "I mean you no harm. Hello?"

She glanced down at her paper, wondering briefly if she was at the wrong place.

Strange, since Messengers had an absolutely keen sense of direction, so it didn't make sense when she double checked and found that was indeed in the right place.

Even stranger….

No one here.

A rat scuttled across her path. She refrained from jumping, though she didn't stop the squeal from escaping her mouth for a moment. Her lips curled up in disgust as she fought to keep the bile down.

"Look, I do not know whom I was supposed to meet here," she continued to speak to the air, slowly backing up. Hope really didn't like the feeling of this alley, this dark, oppressive feeling that pressed down on her, making it difficult to feel like her. "But, uh, I am just going to back up here. I am taking the items with me….so if you need it, just, um, call us."

She turned around to leave, only to stop when she bumped into someone.

At first, Hope thought she might've bumped into a homeless person. It sure did smell like it, the stench so bad it nearly seared the nonexistent nose hairs in her nostril. Then, she glanced up, nearly throwing herself backwards at the sight of the rotting flesh filled with maggots.

"Hello, Little Pigeon." Hastur, Duke of Hell, greeted before his half-rotted hands clamped down on her forearms.

Effortlessly, she was lifted off her feet and tossed like a ragdoll back into the alley. More demons melted out of the shadows, crowding around her, looming evilly.

Dagon was the one that she almost immediately recognized beside from Hastur. But the others were relatively unknown to her, even though they were really high-ranking. Hope flared her wings to their full length immediately, hoping that there was a chance that they would ward the demons away.

No chance, she knew but it was quite a try.

"STAY AWAY!" she growled, pushing down her fear as she attempted to reach for her Holiness. It was there, but unfortunately, there wasn't a lot that Messengers were given when it came to smiting demons. Hope flared her wings even more. "I am a Messenger for the Archangel Gabriel-"

"But no one as powerful." Hastur interrupted. His all-black eyes darted to Dagon. "The Apocalypse hasn't been quite what we planned, but this'll make up for it."

Hope didn't notice that the messenger bag was yanked off her shoulder before two grimy hands took hold of her wings right at the sensitive part where the wing met the shoulder and yanked them. Hard. To keep them from being broken, Hope followed the direction they were yanked, downward and onto the filthy ground. She grunted as pain flared into her shoulder, though thankfully her wing wasn't broken.

Although with the Dukes of Hell right in front of her, there's no telling exactly what would be broken and what wouldn't.

"What do you want?" Hope asked. She hoped she didn't sound too pathetic when the question left her mouth, though from the way the demons' smug smiles, she didn't do a good job.

"We want our due." Dagon growled. He pulled out a knife, the blade made of demonic obsidian. The runes glittered evilly in the dim light of the lampposts.

"Your due?" Hope repeated. Panic was seeping through every movement of the mouth, every finger that wanted to curl into a fist.

There was no way she would be able to fight these beings.

She was a messenger.

These were the Dukes of Hell.

She, in laments terms, was screwed.

Dagon smirked hungrily as Hastur kneeled down in front of her. Hope fought the bile that threatened to rise at the sight of the maggots moving in and out of his decaying flesh.

"We want," the Duke whispered slowly, moving a decaying hand down her face, "our War. And an Archangel was so grateful in giving us our First Blood."

He clamped down on her face, his nails digging into her face.

"We're going to take our time." Hastur whispered. "And we're going to see how long it takes a Messenger to scream."

They tortured her in that filthy alley.

Blades, punches, nails, knives.

But the worst of it came when Dagon pulled out a small lantern, holding an even smaller flame, no bigger than a nickel.

That's when Hope started to struggle. Hellfire was something that could permanently destroy a being of Angelic origin. Even the Thrones feared the power of destruction Hellfire held. She fought against the grasps of the demons holding her, not pretending to ignore the pleased and sadistic chuckles of her captures.

Throughout most of the torment, Hope had remained silent. She wasn't going to give the demons what they wanted.

They weren't going to hear her scream.

Now that they brought out the Hellfire, Hope wasn't sure that she could keep the scream down.

"Will the pretty little birdie sing now?" Dagon grumbled.

Hope broke, much to her shame and hatred. "I'll tell you anything! Any secrets about Heaven, I'll tell them. I know every back entrance."

"That's not what I want." Hastur moved forward, yanking her hair back. "I want to see hear you scream; I want to you to beg for mercy and know that you won't receive any. That's what I want." The rotting demon turned to his friend. "Unleash the Hellfire."

The demons held her, even though she struggled and fought. Dagon smile could curdle milk as he miracled the lantern away, leaving only the Hellfire. The Unholy Flame grew and grew, until it was the size of a child's fist.

Only a little bit of that could completely destroy her though.

Hope reached down to the little bit of Divinity that she had within her, striking out in fear. The demons that held her crumbled as she took to her feet and ran.

She didn't count on Dagon having a good throwing arm. And excellent aim.

While the Hellfire didn't hit her dead on, it did graze her side. Just a little bit sent so much pain through her body, thankfully only burning her mortal form and not staining her hidden ethereal form, which would've been worse.

Unfortunately, it didn't hurt any less.

Hope tripped over her feet, crashing down on the ground. There was no getting up.

"Looks like we've had our fun. Too bad, I really wanted to see the little birdie crumble," she heard Dagon whisper. Hope could feel consciousness slipping through her fingers like grains of sands. Through her darkening vision, she heard the footsteps approach her.

"Just one more thing?" one of the unknown demons hissed. Hope didn't fight the hands that gripped her wing, right where the shoulder and the bone met.

It was like snapping a twig. The bone was thin and light, meaning all it took for the demon to break it was to grip it with two sides and snap it.

Pain unlike anything Hope felt in a long time coursed through her and it was the last thing she felt before she blacked out.