Digimon: Devil's Ascent
Rated PG-13


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Somewhere...

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

The glaring inscriptions on the gates burned red hot, mocking him with the brevity of its meaning. The dark figure wished to abandon hope, but he was prevented from doing so. He wished to abandon hope for pride, love for lust, courage for wrath, friendship for greed, sincerity for envy, knowledge for sloth, and reliability for gluttony. He wished to embrace the deadly powers from behind the gate. But alas, he could not; for destiny had spread wide the hand of fate and bound the seven powers of hell within the power of seven heavens.

"Virtue," the dark one mused as he placed a hand on the burning chrome surface of the gate and traced the etchings. "Virtue and sin, forever opposing one another. The world is kept in balance...but now there is no sin. Only virtue...virtue and virtue...virtue against virtue. And thus to balance, does virtue become sin, and sin, virtue." The dark one let out a terrible laugh as he remembered the terrible words of a terrible prophecy.

"Sin is virtue, and virtue, sin; to loose the beasts that lie within. Born of power, darkest might; swallow all their lofty light. Break their wings, bring them fear; impale their hearts on burning spear. A crimson rage, a bright red scream; with our own hands we crush their dream. For we shall sail from bloody shore; and shatter all their hearts with war. And they shall all sing their lament; as He doth rise, the Devil's ascent."

The words sent a hot chill through the dark one's black soul, and with his spirits high, he turned away from the gate and vanished into the air before him. The time had come, as he had always known it would. It was time to open the gates of Hell and venture into the inferno. It was time to bring Heaven to its knees.

===
Paradise Eden...

"Michael. I'm coming."

The archangel's eyes snapped open as his dream erupted into flame. The Inferno roared in his mind's eye as the voice of Lucifer the Morningstar rang in his ears. Every night for the last month he had been haunted by these dreams--visions--of the Inferno opening and his brother walking free once again. Michael had prayed to God for these dreams to be nightmares and nothing more, but the dreams did not abate; in fact they worsened and became clearer. It became evident to Michael that these were not--in truth--visions, but premonitions.

He soared through the spheres of Paradise, passing through the physical and metaphysical into the pure transcendental nature of being. Only those closest to God could exist in this place; it had been the abode of the three Archangel Lords--also called the "Celestial Ones"--before their untimely demise at the hands of the Mikaboshi. Now it served again as the home for Heaven's new leaders.

They were the Seven Sacred Angels, the bearers of the Seven Sacred Virtues. Until now they had served the Holy Host as spiritual advisors and guides. They served as the religious authority while the Archangel Lords served as the Host's political presence to the world. The Sacred Angels, however, had always held the true power of rule. The death of the Archangel Lords brought the Sacred Angels to the attention of the rest of the Digital World. With the world's leadership in ruins as a result of the Mikaboshi's rampage, prayers and cries for assistance rose up to the Host and the Sacred Angels and their role expanded once more to help the entire Digital World.

The Sacred Angels were holy Digimon of the greatest power; Mega-level angels, each one's power was further amplified by their possession of one of the crests representing the Seven Sacred Virtues. Zadkiel the Seraphimon held the Crest of Hope, Jophiel the Ophanimon held Love, Cassiel the Cherubimon held Knowledge, Anael the Dominimon held Reliability, Sachiel the ClavisAngemon held Friendship, Ramiel the GuardiAngemon held Courage, and Haniel the MarineAngemon held Sincerity.

"Something stirs in the darkness," Michael told the assembled seven. "My dreams for the last month have been haunted by images of the Inferno and the voice of Pride."

"These are dreams and nothing more, Saint Michael," Cassiel assured, using Michael's new title in an attempt to calm him. "You are not the bearer of God's visions; that honor belongs to the Metatron...and the Metatron alone."

"I know when a dream is not a dream," Michael insisted. "And while these are indeed nightmares, there is a certainty in what I tell you. Someone is attempting to open the Inferno! And you are doing nothing!"

"Michael, please," Ramiel said, without the use of his new title. It was admonishment; reminding Michael of his place in the hierarchy. Saints were few and far between, and while they were spoken to and spoken of with great respect, they were not the equals of the Sacred Angels.

"The Metatron bears the visions of God," Sachiel reminded once again. "Dwell no further on this matter, Saint Michael. It will only lead to darker dreams."

"Dreams do not get darker than those of Lucifer rising," Michael growled in annoyance.

"If it helps," said Jophiel, "consider this an order."

"Your Holinesses!" Michael objected.

"It has been decided, Michael," said Zadkiel adamantly, cutting Michael off from saying anything further. "You have duties to attend to."

"I will not let this go," Michael said firmly. "If the Holy Host will not aid me, I will seek assistance elsewhere. I have new allies now, those willing act; those not so enraptured in dogmatic tradition."

Michael turned and left the sphere without another word; he left no room for complaint or objection, his exit was far too quick for the Sacred Angels to do anything more that sputter their astonishment. He descended through the spheres of Paradise and promptly left Heaven without ceremony. Upon arriving in the Digital World he set a course for the city of Babylon.

Once it had been a place of beauty to rival even Avalon, but decades of infighting and civil unrest had turned the city into a haven for criminals and the followers of dark philosophies. It was here among the filth and refuse of Babylon that Michael knew he would find his first recruit.

"Samael," Michael whispered to the shadows, acknowledging the fallen angel's presence.

"Aw, you knew I was here," Samael groaned in disappointment. "I was gonna sneak up and shank the living daylights outta ya."

"You have a distinct odor," Michael deadpanned.

"Was that a joke?" Samael asked, impressed.

"An observation."

"HA!" Samael laughed. "Wait, you're not kidding?" He lifted his arm and inhaled deeply. "I don't think it's that bad."

"I didn't come here to discuss the fine-points of your secretions," Michael said with a roll of his eyes. "There is trouble."

"Oh yeah?" Samael said, his interest piqued. "What kind of trouble?"

Michael related his nightmares and his situation; his fears and frustration that the Sacred Angels were doing nothing.

"Well what do you expect?" Samael sighed. "You're the Hand of God, and on top of that you just rose up like...ten notches on the food chain from General to Saint! Now it looks like you're makin' a play for Prophet status? Can you blame those guys?"

"I see," said Michael. He hadn't considered that possibility.

"And to put icing on the cake, you've been hanging around with pagan gods, mortals, and the likes of me," Samael pointed out. "They're gonna definitely doubt your judgment now."

"Will you help me or not, Samael?" Michael asked.

"Yeah, why not?" Samael sighed. "It's not like I've got anything better to do, you know? This place is gettin' pretty dull; there's only so many times you can beat up the same guys and call it fun."

"Do you have any idea who might be behind this?" Michael asked.

"Demon-wise?" Samael clarified; Michael nodded. "You sure that Gulfmon and Murmuxmon you smote way-back-when are really cooked?"

"Absolutely."

"Well scratch them off the list," Samael muttered. "There's probably a couple other high-level demons that either found a way out of the Inferno or escaped the initial imprisonment. Digimon have been selling their souls for centuries so you know they're still active. I can ask around here if you want."

"Do it," Michael said. "Where can I find the new Council?"

"After Avalon was wiped out the remaining Council members headed to a city called Anatolia," answered Samael. "It's a nice place."

"Meet me there in three days," Michael ordered. Samael nodded. "Why are you doing this?"

"If this turns out to be legit, I'm back in Heaven's good graces for sure," Samael said. But Michael fixed him with a penetrating stare; he didn't believe that was the real reason for the fallen angel's cooperation. "Fine, the truth? If I do this, you owe me big-time. And you're a saint now, so that's something I can't pass up."

===
Asgard...

The realm of Asgard slowly came into view as Michael soared through the cold mists of the northern reaches. The great city lay nestled high in the mountains. At the center was the hall of Valaskjalf, wherein was the throne of Asgard. Further along the city outskirts were the halls of the other prime Asgardian gods. Breidablik the hall of Baldur, Sessrumnir the hall of Freya, Fensalir the hall of Frigga, Himinbjorg the hall of Heimdal, and Bliskirnir the hall of Thor.

Michael marveled at the ability of the Asgardians to keep their realms removed from the rest of the Digital World for so long. Then again, Asgard had been all but abandoned until recently and only now were Digimon returning to the city after nearly a decade of diasporas. The city was bustling with returning life; soldiers were training, farmers were selling their produce, and merchants were advertising their goods.

The archangel soared over the city and headed towards the throne room, where he expected Thor would be. They had last seen one another in the aftermath of the battle with the Mikaboshi, and Thor had pledged Asgard's support should Michael ever find himself in need of it.

He was surprised, however, to find Thor missing from the room.

"Ah, the archangel comes to greet us," said Freya, Thor's wife and queen of Asgard. "I wonder what news he brings us. Perhaps he brings a message from my husband?"

"I come seeking Thor," Michael said, having never meet the queen, he didn't want to begin with a quarrel. "Upon our last meeting he promised Asgard's assistance should I ever require it. I am here now to ask for Asgard's aid. I have had dreams of the devil, my brother Lucifer, rising from the Inferno. Heaven refuses to take me seriously, but I know that my dreams are more than dreams."

"Unfortunately," Freya said arrogantly, "Thor is not here. After you and your merry band defeated the Mikaboshi six months ago, Thor retreated into isolation. We haven't heard from him since."

"Can I count on Asgard's support?" Michael asked.

"Your agreement was with King Thor," Freya answered. "And Thor has neglected his duties to the realm. You have no binding oaths with Asgard now, Michael."

Michael growled in frustration. "Can you tell me nothing?" he demanded. Around, the Asgardian nobility shot to their feet, hands moving to weapons. They had heard stories of the archangel's might and would not risk him attacking their queen. In the end, however, there was no danger. "Can you not tell me where he is?"

"Last I heard, he was in the mountains," Freya hissed, she hadn't flinched from either Michael's demands or the surge of the Asgardians. "If you find my husband," she said. "Tell him I--...tell him his people need him."

Michael sensed Freya tried to remain harsh, powerful and aloof, her body language had conveyed all of these things, but her voice had cracked and softened ever-so-slightly. She was not ready to rule alone, and Michael wondered what could have possibly overtaken Thor to cause him to abandon his wife and his kingdom.

===

The heavily wooded forest surrounded him, embracing him in fog, mist, and shadow. He breathed deep the air, heavy with moisture from the nearby waterfall. As he inhaled he synchronized his breath with the wind, and his heartbeat with the falling water. As he exhaled, his body mirrored the movements of the trees. His mind cleared of all unnecessary things. He breathed in again, repeating these actions in an endless cycle. In his mind's eye, a single point of light appeared, and above the sounds of the wind and water, he could hear a single note of music, perfect and pristine.

A fluttering of wings took him from his reverie, and he felt the note of music fade away. He sighed in frustration and turned to face his disturbance, though he had already sensed who had come to disturb him.

"Michael," Thor acknowledged. "How did you find me?" Michael related to him his journey to Asgard and confrontation with Freya. "So what do you think of my wife?" Thor asked with a smirk.

"She's strong, but she's alone and cannot rule by herself," Michael answered. "What are you doing here, Thor?"

"Before we confronted the Mikaboshi for the final time I sought enlightenment," Thor answered. "And for the briefest instant, I was granted it. And then again in the final battle as I struck the Mikaboshi for the final time. There was clarity," he explained. "I saw everything."

"And that's why you're here," Michael surmised. "To find that again?" Thor nodded. "But your people need you."

"I can serve them better with a clear mind."

Michael sighed; he didn't come here to berate Thor on his decision not to rule. In fact, he admired the Imperialdramon's desire to be an enlightened king. But Thor's reluctance to lead might also translate to a reluctance to assist him.

"You need my help," Thor said quietly. "It's written all over your face." Michael quickly told Thor of his visions and fears. "Lucifer again, are you sure?" Michael nodded. Thor glanced to his little corner of the world, full of silence and sound. "Very well," he relented. "Let's go."

===
Anatolia: several days later...

Over the next several days, Michael would send word to the rest of the Peacemakers to gather in Anatolia. And they came, from all across the Digital World; gathering once again in the halls of the Council, though the face of the Council had changed. Of the old Council of Avalon only Sei-Ryujin, Loki, and Ahura Mazda remained; the others had been slain by the Mikaboshi. Sei-Ryujin, however, had retired from Council life; he returned to being called simply "Seiryu" and rejoined his three brothers in far off lands to the East.

Loki and Ahura Mazda had gathered other gods and formed a new Council. Each had contacted two gods from the remaining pantheons. Worried that Loki might seek out more easily swayed individuals, Ahura Mazda contacted the most noble and honorable of his allies, Yu Huang the OwRyumon and Amaterasu the Phoenixmon. Surprisingly, however, Loki's choices were equally well-respected: Artemis Selene the Dianamon and Ijapa the JumboGamemon. The new six-member Council was struggling to repair the damage done to the Digital World by the Mikaboshi. Even Loki seemed changed; in order to shed the over-the-top pompousness he was associated with, he adopted the form of Merukimon. The Council's chambers, too, were different in order to reflect their new attitude of ruling with instead of ruling over. No longer did they sit elevated over those who came before them; instead the elevated stance was reserved only for matters of the courts: law and judicial rulings. For other matters, the Council remained on an even level with their guests.

Michael and the assembly of Peacemakers stood within the new Council's chambers. He recognized most of them: Thor, Samael, Bedivere, Caradoc, Guinier, Khep, Pyra, Gigas, Nocchi, Sha, Kole, Duo, Lucia, and Galic; but there were some he did not know: a BurningGreymon, TigerVespamon, ShineGreymon, WarGreymon, Mamemon X, Lilymon X, Persiamon, Mihiramon, and a SuperStarmon. Still, Michael would not object to their presence.

"Thank you for meeting me," he said, bringing the meeting to order. "I asked you here because I have distressing news. For weeks now I have had nightmares, where the Inferno was opened and the demons walk free. I fear we are close to Hell on Earth, that someone is attempting to break open the Inferno and release my brother Lucifer and the other Demon Lords."

"Shouldn't you inform Heaven of this?" Yu Huang asked.

"I did," Michael admitted. "But because I am only the Hand of God and not His Voice, my dreams are treated only as nightmares and nothing more. That's why I came to you, the Council and the Peacemakers, because if I'm right, then our world is in grave danger."

"And all arrows point to Mikey being one-hundred percent correctamundo," Samael said. "I did some digging...some clawing, some cutting, and my sources let me in on a little secret. The Nightmare Soldiers are gathering; they're organized for the first time in centuries. Someone's pulling the strings and uh...well, Mikey, you ain't gonna like this, but I know who."

"Who?" Michael demanded.

"Mephistopheles," Samael answered grimly.

Michael growled low, Mephistopheles was a dangerous and cunning demon, eager to make deals and sew deceit. If he was the true mastermind behind the attempt to open the Inferno, they had a serious problem on their hands.

"Demons and the Inferno are the affairs of the Holy Host," Ijapa said. "If the Host did not wish to become involved, we should honor their wishes."

"The last time the Demon Lords were free it took the entire Digital World to stop them," Michael reminded. "If Lucifer rises he will bring on the Apocalypse"

"Lucifer and the Demon Lords are locked in an inescapable prison," Ijapa countered. "We were all there when the gates slammed shut. Nothing can escape from that."

"Need I remind you, Ijapa, that it is not impossible to escape from a room without doors," Loki said, finally choosing to speak, "As I have proven time and time again. It is also much easier if there is someone on the outside working with you."

"Loki is not incorrect," Ahura Mazda said, his voice ringing clearly. "Unfortunately, Peacemakers, the Council cannot offer you anything more than ideological support. As it stands our resources are stretched to the limit trying to repair the damage caused by the Mikaboshi. You have our blessing, but that is all we can offer."

"It's better than nothing," Michael said with a nod. He turned to the Peacemakers. "I need to know now, are you with me?"

====
Elsewhere...

The Mephistomon stood in the barren field outside the wastes of Avalon. Rebuilding had been attempted, but the site was still poisoned from the final battle with Amatsu-Mikaboshi. Mephistopheles surveyed the reconstruction effort, pleased with its progress. He would intervene in time, but was content to allow the pitiful mortals the opportunity to do his work for him.

"What are your orders, My Lord," asked a hulking BlackWarGreymon. Beside him, an Andromon, BlueMeramon, DarkSuperStarmon, and ShadowWereGarurumon stood at attention, waiting for Mephistopheles.

"It's time to get to work," the demon mused. "The time has come for you to fulfill your contractual obligations. To some of you I gave power, to others I granted your hearts desire. Now you must hold up your end of the bargain, for your souls belong to me. You will help me unseal the Inferno and the Demon Lords will walk across this world again; then our rewards will be endless."

"Where do we start, Boss?" asked the DarkSuperStarmon.

"Sigma," Mephistopheles said, addressing the Andromon. "I have a task for you. Access the human world's data mainframe; there are seven children I need you to find."

"And the rest of us?"

"When Lord Lucifer rises he will set the Apocalypse into motion," Mephistopheles said. "To pave the way we will need to bring forth the Four Horsemen."

"Where can we find 'em, Mephisto?" asked the ShadowWereGarurumon.

"Everywhere," Mephistopheles said. He looked up into the night sky, where a bright red star burned. "You see. And there fell a great star from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell upon the river. And many men died. I have found War."