Here is the book of thy Descent
Here begins the Book of the Sangreal,
Here begin the terrors,
Here begin the miracles.
Joseph Temple let himself into his apartment and then paused, feeling as if someone had rearranged his furniture while he was out. He lived alone and visitors were rare, though usually if someone came by while he’d been out they left some kind of message for him. Sophie across the hall would often invite him to dinner this way, just a note slipped under his door.
Today? Nothing. Just the feeling that made the back of his neck itch and his gaze dart from corner to doorway.
He could see nothing, and thought with a chuckle that he was getting soft and paranoid in his old age. Still, he went to the small wall safe in his living room, behind a framed set of Tarot cards from his youth, and checked on the Cup.
It was there, of course, looking like a plain clay cup someone had made by hand on a wheel and colored with a speckled white salt glaze. He touched it gently and the clay felt warm under his fingers. Joseph smiled and replied, “Good night, old friend,” and started to close the safe.
They attacked him from behind, one man grabbing him with arms like iron bands, the other stunning him with a pistol cracked across his jaw. Joseph’s face exploded with pain and he went limp in the big one’s arms.
“Looks like nothin’,” said the big man, gazing at the Cup with disdain.
“Boss says he wants it, so we get it,” said the other as he took the Cup from the safe. Joseph tried to raise his head, tried to speak, to warn them, but all he could manage was a weak gurgle.
The big one poked Joseph with his toe. “And him?”
“May not go down easy,” said the slim one, and Joseph gurgled again when he saw the gun in the slim man’s hand and tried to wrestle out of the big one’s arms. There was one quick whoosh of air and Joseph screamed as the bullet ripped through his thigh.
The slim one sighed. “Hold him still,” he said in a bored tone and there was a second whoosh of air.
Joseph let his body collapse. “Huh,” said the slim man. “What do you know? He went down easy.” The big one dropped him to the floor, and the slim one wiped his prints off the gun and put it on the floor beside Joseph’s head. They put the Cup into a briefcase and snapped it closed, and they left the apartment, closing the door behind them.
Joseph lay on the floor for several minutes, trying to find the strength for just a few minutes more. He had to warn the sisters — he had to tell them —
He felt a hand on his forehead and tried to focus his eyes. The sisters were with him, looking at him with great sorrow and compassion, and their gentle hands eased his pain.
He tried to speak — “They took it. They took the Cup,” but the sisters hushed him with soft, soothing noises.
His head fell back on the carpet.
And so, after almost a thousand years in service to his God, Joseph Temple died.
Dean was dreaming again.
The smoke. The fires. The deafening screams. The pain — that was always the worst, the pain of having his skin flayed off or his intestines pulled out of his belly. Or maybe the worst was knowing that tomorrow it would start all over again, and the next day, and the next, and the next.
Or maybe the worst was seeing his own hands strapping another soul onto the rack, his own hands picking up the knife to slice and tear.
Their faces blended together — one bloody, begging soul was very like another. Their sins didn’t matter to him. Their bribes and pleas and weeping were just like everyone else’s. All that mattered was their pain — the exquisite rapture that came from making another person bleed.
That was the worst. Dreaming of how he’d caused so much pain, how he’d tortured dozens of souls, hundreds, and how he’d loved it. How Alastair had watched him so proudly. Dean, his best student, corrupt to the core.
Dean wasn’t sure if this was a memory or just a wish — in his dream, Hell went silent, just for a moment, like it was drawing in a collective breath before screaming with renewed rage when a burning hand grasped Dean Winchester by the shoulder and yanked him out.
Suddenly he wasn’t in Hell, and not in the pine box where he’d woken seven months before, either. He was running through a forest that was at once dense and dead — every tree was completely stripped of leaves and blackened like it had been burned, but there were so many of them and the persistent fog was so thick he couldn’t see further than the next bend in the path. If he could just run far enough, fast enough — if he could just get away and put Hell far, far behind —