[Season One, Entry Seven] The tail squeezed tighter around Daniel. "You tried to take my dagger!" the serpent said. "Why?" Daniel tried to think of something but found it hard due to the constriction. The snake zoomed its head so close that all Daniel could see was a single red and yellow eye filling his vision. "Don't you dare lie to me...Daniel." "Huh? How do you know my name?" "I know all." The snake seemed to take pleasure in his confusion. "Now then, this is your final chance, boy. Tell me, or I'll swallow you whole. This may be the netherworld, but even souls can die. I warn you: no chicanery can possibly fool me." "Please!" Daniel said. "I-I-I..." The snake's head retreated, but as it did, Daniel was raised higher in the air then positioned above the serpent. The snake tilted its head upward and opened its massive maw. Its tail positioned Daniel directly above its gullet. Daniel screamed. "A trial!" "What?" "I trial," Daniel said. "I did it for a trial." The serpent closed its mouth and lowered Daniel until he was at its eye level. The coil around Daniel loosened lightly. "Go on, boy. Tell me more." "Well, I...I was told to take the dagger to complete my trial." The snake chuckled. "And who instructed you to do that?" "A girl," Daniel said. "Well, not really a girl. More like a 'thing,' you see. I don't really know what they are. You see, this whole thing started when--" The serpent gave its tail a violent shake. "Enough! Did you really think you could just stroll in here and take my dagger unopposed?" "Well, I..." "Did you really think it would be unguarded?" "Well, I really didn't think..." "What kind of trial would it be if it was that easy?" The coils loosened, and Daniel plummeted to the ground. "Did you read the words on the door, boy?" Daniel nodded slowly. "And what did those words say?" The serpent loomed high above again. "They said, 'He sees and knows all.' " "And do you know why those words are written?" Daniel shook his head slowly. "Because I see and know EVERYTHING! I already knew of your 'trial', fool. I know of your guide--of your precious 'Ilana'." The serpent's tail slithered close to Daniel. "You're lucky you didn't lie or try to trick me. If you had, I would've swallowed you whole. It's been a while since I tasted a succulent, mortal soul." The serpent stuck out its tongue and let it loll a bit before flicking it back within its mouth. "Take a scale and place it before the dagger. Then you can pick up the blade." Daniel cautiously approached the tail and picked off a scale. While they were tightly packed, one slid off surprisingly easily. He looked at it. It was a single, octagonal scale that--while definitely dark green--shimmered like a rainbow when the light hit it. It also had the impression that it was covered in its own tinier scales. In fact, it reminded Daniel of the dagger's hilt and sheath. He turned back to the altar and approached it. He cast a glance back to the snake then placed the scale before the dagger as instructed. He took a deep breath then clutched the dagger and lifted. It was now light as a feather and rose just as easily. "Keep that dagger close," the serpent said. "And take pride for few get one. I am not eager to shed the requisite scales, teeth, or blood. Also, don't hesitate to exploit its many special abilities." It then turned to a yawning hole above the tunnel Daniel exited and slithered within. Daniel took a deep breath and exhaled. He understood he couldn't actually breathe here, now, but the act still relieved him. He strolled toward the tunnel. "Oh, Daniel," the serpent said in a singsong tone. The voice seemingly came from everywhere. Daniel halted. "Be wary of your companion. The guides aren't truly on your side. You'd do well to remember that. And you and I will meet again, and the next time won't be so benign. So don't forget Uktena."
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The devil stopped pacing. He looked at Todd. “Excuse me?” Johnson nodded, encouraging him. The inspector cleared his throat and said it again. A little louder. A little bolder. “You owe me.” “Whatever for?” “Come on. You’re the guy with the contracts and the deals. You know how this works. Someone provides a service, they need compensation. You do things for people, make them rich or powerful or whatever, and they sell you their souls. Well I provided a service. I inspected Hell. Now you need to pay me.” “I thought the U.S. government paid you.” “Is Hell exclusively an American thing, Mr. Devil?” “Some people claim it’s exclusively the state of New Jersey but that’s completely irrelevant.” Mr. Johnson nodded excitedly, egging Todd on further. The inspector crossed his arms. “You’re the ruler of Hell. You *are* the government, and you hired me. Therefore, you need to pay for my services.” The devil narrowed his eyes. “You want money? Do you know how useless that is here?” “Last time I checked, you accept souls as currency. I would like mine back, please.” The devil paused, smiled, and lowered himself into the chair. Todd grew a twitch worried. The sudden calmness couldn’t mean anything good for him. “And what would that do, inspector? You are still dead. You gain ownership of your soul and what, go to Heaven?” “Uh...yes?” Todd tried. Satan barked a laugh. “You’re still a sinner no matter who owns you, Greeley! You could pull off as much chicanery as you please but it wouldn’t do you any good! Not a trace of sin is allowed past the pearly gates. That’s why Purgatory exists. Plus, your sin is mortal. Had it been venial or had you been repentant before death than *maybe* you could get into the spiritual washing machine, but you weren’t, and it wasn’t. My domain is still the only place open to you, so I still win, whether you own your soul or not. I hope you like fire, inspector.” “What if it went back to my body?” Todd asked. “Would I live again? Would I be able to see my daughter grow up?” “How would I know? That hardly ever works. Souls don't go back to their bodies, it just doesn't happen. Once someone’s dead, they’re dead. There’s been what, two exceptions? But if you want your body that badly, you’ll get it back for General Judgement.” “I want to get out of *here*, that’s what I want!” Satan shrugged. “Nothing I can do for you there. Or would. I’m not the generous type.” Todd wilted. “Oh.” “Hey, you tried. At least you got me to hear you out. But allow me to illustrate what will actually happen to you. I own your soul. I always will. And you will stay here and suffer unimaginably with all the other souls I own.” “But I provided a service—“ “A vacuum cleaner provides a service, inspector. Do you pay it to clean your floor?” “No.” “Precisely. Because you own it. And I own you. That’s how it will be for all eternity. I’m done speaking with him, Johnson. Take him away.” Todd was shocked. He turned to Mr. Johnson, feeling betrayed. “But you said he didn’t own my soul! You lied!" Johnson’s mouth tightened. Satan narrowed his eyes. “So it was *you* who put the mortal up to this?” The devil turned, burning stare aimed toward his secretary.

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The devil stopped pacing. He looked at Todd. “Excuse me?” Johnson nodded, encouraging him. The inspector cleared his throat and said it again. A little louder. A little bolder. “You owe me.” “Whatever for?” “Come on. You’re the guy with the contracts and the deals. You know how this works. Someone provides a service, they need compensation. You do things for people, make them rich or powerful or whatever, and they sell you their souls. Well I provided a service. I inspected Hell. Now you need to pay me.” “I thought the U.S. government paid you.” “Is Hell exclusively an American thing, Mr. Devil?” “Some people claim it’s exclusively the state of New Jersey but that’s completely irrelevant.” Mr. Johnson nodded excitedly, egging Todd on further. The inspector crossed his arms. “You’re the ruler of Hell. You *are* the government, and you hired me. Therefore, you need to pay for my services.” The devil narrowed his eyes. “You want money? Do you know how useless that is here?” “Last time I checked, you accept souls as currency. I would like mine back, please.” The devil paused, smiled, and lowered himself into the chair. Todd grew a twitch worried. The sudden calmness couldn’t mean anything good for him. “And what would that do, inspector? You are still dead. You gain ownership of your soul and what, go to Heaven?” “Uh...yes?” Todd tried. Satan barked a laugh. “You’re still a sinner no matter who owns you, Greeley! You could pull off as much chicanery as you please but it wouldn’t do you any good! Not a trace of sin is allowed past the pearly gates. That’s why Purgatory exists. Plus, your sin is mortal. Had it been venial or had you been repentant before death than *maybe* you could get into the spiritual washing machine, but you weren’t, and it wasn’t. My domain is still the only place open to you, so I still win, whether you own your soul or not. I hope you like fire, inspector.” “What if it went back to my body?” Todd asked. “Would I live again? Would I be able to see my daughter grow up?” “How would I know? That hardly ever works. Souls don't go back to their bodies, it just doesn't happen. Once someone’s dead, they’re dead. There’s been what, two exceptions? But if you want your body that badly, you’ll get it back for General Judgement.” “I want to get out of *here*, that’s what I want!” Satan shrugged. “Nothing I can do for you there. Or would. I’m not the generous type.” Todd wilted. “Oh.” “Hey, you tried. At least you got me to hear you out. But allow me to illustrate what will actually happen to you. I own your soul. I always will. And you will stay here and suffer unimaginably with all the other souls I own.” “But I provided a service—“ “A vacuum cleaner provides a service, inspector. Do you pay it to clean your floor?” “No.” “Precisely. Because you own it. And I own you. That’s how it will be for all eternity. I’m done speaking with him, Johnson. Take him away.” Todd was shocked. He turned to Mr. Johnson, feeling betrayed. “But you said he didn’t own my soul! You lied!" Johnson’s mouth tightened. Satan narrowed his eyes. “So it was *you* who put the mortal up to this?” The devil turned, burning stare aimed toward his secretary.