I sat up and watched quietly as the crimson light erupting from my unconscious son's eyes and mouth coalesced into the translucent spirit of might floating above him. I knew the form all too well. The burning eyes and chalk-white skin striated with ancient black battle-scars. The distinctive facial markings of an Ereb'ai prince, copied by Japanese actors centuries ago in their plays. The arc of defiant horns. And of course the majestic red expanses of skin that stretched from his broad shoulders across batlike wings. The very being that wrapped his hand around my throat and, through those burning eyes, held up a mirror to my corrupted soul.
I swallowed, trying to gether the strength to address him. "Darien...he lives?"
"Yes," rumbled the demon, "he shall recover...and I am freed from his toxic prison."
I turned my gaze to the grassy soil of the marsh, which I expected would soon be a barren circle from my instant cremation.
"At least I did something right."
"Jeremiah," he said calmly. "Gaze upon me." Either he was getting larger or he was drifting towards me. "Yes, in your chemical madness you tried to conquer the world. As a vengeful ghost, you and the other Fallen of your kin tried again and failed. Twice resulting in the death of your own grandson."
"WE REMEMBER THAT!", shouted Vortex from the portal above the altar.
I nodded slowly. "That is true, Founder."
"However, you did save this world from the Fires of Apollo." He was referring the nuclear weapon I tried to disarm with Professor Antfarm. "In addition, you repaired this son after your other son stole his body."
"I remember that, too!", laughed the Vortex. I caught a telltale maniacal giggle in his voice.
"Marcus?" I turned to stare at the composite being leering at me from the depths of Hell. "What have you done?"
"Koen abandoned the Vortex collective, and Marcus took his place," Bloodwing explained with a note of disgust, "and in so doing defeated the Hydra. He...they...have earned the throne."
"Indeed we have, Father! And since you're not challenging our will to power I'm willing to invite you to..." Vortex paused as a buzzing drone grew in intensity from from his side of the portal. "Wait Poppa Legba what do you mean 'look behind me'? GYAAAAH!!" The portal instantly snapped shut in a flash of light and a lingering sound that pierced the eardrums as it slid beyond human range.
Bloodwing grimaced as he held his ears, continuing to suffer lightly from the broken portal. "What was that, Poppa Legba? A giant wasp, you say?"
I was startled again by the screech and squawk of the portable radio-wave receiver that lit up from where it lay on Darien's knapsack, placed just outside the summoning circle. Through the interference I could easily discern Qlippothic's slightly metallic voice, clear and measured even in her obvious distress.
"Mayday-mayday, invasion fleet intercepted at following coordinates..."