Part 5

Hellsprings.  The very name inspires terror or at the very least, a feeling of foreboding.  A town in the desert.  Known for its sulphuric springs which were unearthed by the first settlers, if nothing else..  Something which gives it a reason to be and helps at the same time has spawned and industry that has helped the inhabitants to survive.  The fact that some scientists had discovered that this was the site of an ancient volcanic added to the tourist value.

But those who know, know that there's more to Hellsprings than just a diabolical name and a reputation for sulphur laden waters.  They say the town got it's name from prospectors who had heard a rumour that that there was gold buried in the desert.  They'd dug for what seemed like an age and instead of gold, had found the springs instead, with water containing a higher than usual level of sulphur.  Much higher than usual.  The arid conditions of the place and the deathly heat led to their naming the town in disgust rather than joy.  Hellsprings!  Not exactly a name to inspire confidence was it?  That's where Oriel was.  He'd reached there by stealth and he'd had to shake off more than a few followers on the way.  Because whether one knows it or not, every corner of this earth is under surveillance.  Hell's minions abound and their lease on the earth is not yet expired.  Their population has tripled in the last few years alone.  Provided they don't draw attention to themselves, these agents can live for years at a place. But they watch everything and no miniscule piece of information escapes them.  Oriel had attracted their attention at a number of places.  The man who keeps walking and never stops to eat or sleep.  He hadn't had too much trouble shaking them off, but the fact that he'd had to was a grief in itself.

So.  Here he was.  And the next step?  Access to the underworld.  Oriel wasn't looking forward to it.  But it had to be done.  And here he was, sitting alone in a bar in Hellsprings.  It wasn't the only bar.  The town was quite prosperous, courtesy of the springs.  But he had to keep a low profile.  The last thing he wanted was to be spotted here.  This was the one place where he could walk straight into a trap.  They were everywhere.

"Stopping by or passing through?" came a voice, disturbing Oriel's reverie as he lingered over his mineral water. An short, shifty looking man with a sibilant voice and rotten teeth had eased himself in beside Oriel.

"Both," he replied laconically, with a nod of his head in acknowledgment of the fact that he'd been addressed.  He didn't want to meet eyes or get involved in a conversation.  He had a mission to fulfil.  And he would fulfill it.

"What's yer name?"  The local was a pushy type and didn't give up easily.

"Eastman.  Andrew Eastman," he replied quietly, not wishing to be perceived as unsociable.

"So what brings you here, Andrew?" Some people never give up, do they?

"I was in the area.  Thought I'd stop by and check the place out..."  As non committal an answer as one could possibly give.

The local stared at him keenly.  "You wanna meet some....." He dropped his voice conspiratorially.  "Ladies?  For company?"

"Nope."  The finality of the reply was unmistakable.  Oriel wished with all his might that he could grab the local by the collar and tell him to get the hell away.  But that would be playing into their hands and Oriel would never do that.

"You staying here?"  Oriel nodded in the affirmative, without meeting the local's eyes.  Was this local in fact one of them?

"See you around, then," the local said, moving away.  Oriel breathed a sigh of relief.  Thank God.  It wouldn't be long now.  He finished up his mineral water and left it down on the bar.  He should be in his room.  Praying.  Getting ready for the morning.  For the moment when he'd leave the relative neutrality of the earth's crust and go straight into enemy territory.  He needed to put on the whole armor of the Lord.  What had possessed him to come into a bar and put himself in the way of detection?  Was it a last minute need to linger among humankind?  The Master also loved human company.  Oriel, his servant, was no way different.  He too loved the human race and dedicated his whole existence to them, as his Master did.  And it was dedication to one human being that motivated him now.  Rebecca........there was no way he was abandoning her to her fate.  No matter what.

He stood up and went to his room.




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