The iron bars of his cage clattered from a savage kick. He woke with a start, and he smacked his head against the bars of the cage.
The cage was perhaps large enough for a marsh wolf, but the man imprisoned with in was forced to curl up in a ball. The powdery ash of the Forgotten Quarter stung his eyes and left his throat as dry as parchment.
The lantern hanging from a remnant of an equine statue bathed the area in gold. At first he thought it was a woman looming over him, with shoulder-length scarlet hair that matched the tailed jacket. But as his tears drained the dust from his eyes he saw the horns that arced from beneath the locks. Then he beheld the malevolent stripes of black and red that framed the bone-white face in a perpetual scowl....staring straight at him with eyes burning like coals. He began to tremble.
"Mr. Thomas Griffin..." Bloodwing knelt beside the cage, brushing some ash off his boot with a white glove. "You were apprehended trespassing on the grounds of the Brass Embassy, in the act of burglarising several offices...including my own." He rose to his feet again. Thomas recognized the devil's style of dress from old pictures from the surface. Pictures of fox hunters.
"It wasn't my idea! It was Jameson's!" He shouted. "It was the Lord's work, he said!"
The devil shook his head, and grinned very slightly. "A common misconception. In fact...stealing from Hell still counts as a sin..." He slammed the ball handle of his brass cane against the cage. "YOU JUST MADE IT PERSONAL!"
"J-J-Jameson..." Thomas whimpered.
"Oh, your friend?" Bloodwing pointed with his cane to the gentleman behind him. He was likewise dressed for the Hunt, but only his burning eyes could be seen. Had has skin vanished like a ghost? No...a flash of fangs as he licked a streak of ash from his lips. His skin was the same shade as the absolute darkness of the Neath.
"Roger Jameson was ransacking the office of my coworker, Mr. D'Wir'X. He made the astoundingly stupid mistake of fiddling with his favourite telescope..."
A wet smack as D'Wir'X hurled something large against the cage that dropped to the ground. A head caked in ashes stared back silently at Thomas, frozen in a scream. A feathers of a long dart protruded from an eye socket.
The other devil hissed, "Beware of Medicis bearing gifts." Thomas screamed and shook the bars of his tiny prison in desperation.
Bloodwing continued as he drew a key from the inside of his jacket. "I read you're quite the accomplished mushroom-hopper. I so crave a real challenge." A turn of the wrist and a heavy click. "That's why I've waived the manacle requirement." A tap of the cane and the door of the cage swung upen with a long deep groan.
Thomas rolled out of the cage into the ashes. He stumbled a couple times before he rose to his feet. His working-class brown outfit was ruined, and his shoes were missing.
"After we catch you, the contest will be between which of us will rip you open to find your soul first!" He aimed his cane towards the desolation of the ancient boulevard of shattered stones that once was the Fourth City.