Long were the night hours, and for long hours Belial flew under the silvery moonlight. The land was dark beneath him for he had flown farther from London from Luna’s manor, which was in the outskirts of London. A dark stain of woods and grassy lands laid beneath him, but he also saw scattered lights from mortals houses. A river twisted among the hills, and the river went down to the city like a silvery snake in the night. Belial found the hills familiar, and he followed the trace of old memories.
Not too far away, the ground rose beside the river and ancient trees gave black shadows on an old graveyard. The low wall around it had been built by the Romans, and part of the paved road subsisted through the centuries. There was a more recent section to the graveyard, for the cemetery had been adopted by people who had moved to the region in the last century, and their neat, clean graves contrasted against the worn out Celtic crosses and tombstones, and the roman-style stone graves. Before the Romans, others had been buried here.
Angel descended from the skies and his foot barely touched the top of a Celtic cross as he stood on it, moving his huge yet graceful wings to keep his balance. The night wind had unmade his braid and the long black hair floated in the night air like a black flame as his black water-like robes weaved slightly. Angel’s silver gaze shimmered in the shadow and his face was of an inhuman, dark beauty. Angel floated to the ground and closed his wings. He put his hair behind his ear as he gazed around. Ghosts of memories from the past appeared before his eyes. Again he saw the witches of Britain scratch the tombstones and dig as they murmured cantrips, pulling the dead out of their tombs to eat their flesh. Strange rituals against vampires carried out in past ages, where the peasants and lords corpses were beheaded and buried with their heads between their ankles and a stake in their hearts, appeared in the gray mist that fell on the cemetery. Beyond the wall, the ruins of a church defied the skies, like dead stomps after lightning. Angel walked among the visions and stopped by one of the oldest tombs, next to the remains of the eastern wall. The wall had been broken centuries ago, and this tomb was not in holy ground, for it was the tomb of one who committed suicide. His brother had cracked the wall open in one last desperate try to mend his deed to some extent…
Angel smiled and closed his eyes, enjoying the cold wind blowing on him. Next to the tomb but on holy ground, there was another. The tomb of a woman, with a fish and a peacock carved on the stone slab: ancient Christian symbols for the name of Christ and Eternal Life. It was an old love story, but the dark in the heart of the man buried beyond the wall had been stronger than the love of this woman. His evil would have gone unnoticed, but in his pride and lust of power he one night dared to invoke the Necromancer presence, and out of boredom and curiosity, Belial attended his request. He took a human form and went into his house for some months, teaching him sorceries of infernal according to the man’s skill level. Britain was dark and savage in the dark years when the Romans crossed the waters and set foot on what would later be British land.
Angel wondered why he had found this soul of value. He hadn’t been but an average warlock. Limited in power, the man did limited evil and even though he killed hundreds without remorse, his wife’s death drew him insane. The woman had been certainly annoying and the warlock’s brother, trying to gain Belial’s favor, killed her. Belial had been surprised. The woman was a seer, a fey. She had seen Aramis one night when he walked out of Belial’s sleep, and she never forgot him. Belial’s dual nature hadn’t fully manifested by then – he still hadn’t done… Torn between her love for her husband and the fascination for the angel she had seen within the demon, she dared to believe she could rescue her husband’s soul by means of what she believed she saw. For little could she imagine the horror she wanted to face.
Angel opened his eyes. The warlock in his despair took his own life to follow his lover, but little had he imagined he had already sold his soul to the Necromancer. His intent was futile. The brother, however… He had deprived Belial of a servant and the satisfaction to hunt down the woman’s soul, for when she died a watchful angel of death ran away with her soul. Angel had got quite upset and did something about it.
Angel perceived a presence, a living soul. Tilting his head, he saw a light in the mist. Angel assumed his human form and pulled a cloak on him. The lamp came closer and a dark form became human as he walked to the wall.
“Be God Blessed!”, the watchman jerked back as he held a stick in his hand, surprised at seeing a man there. Angel’s brow twitched in disgust, but he didn’t move.
“Goodnight”, he gravely said.
The watchman lifted his lamp and warily examined Angel.
“Milord”, he said, “Are you lost? I didn’t hear you come in, mind you. This part of the graveyard is old and abandoned. Could it be… could it be one of these are your lordship ancestor?”
“No. Far simpler, I’m simply lost. I guessed this grounds would be safer to spend the night than the road.”
Above them, a mighty oak rose by the wall; its roots had made it crumble some. The wind suddenly howled in the branches, shaking them furiously; the watchman rose his arms to protect his head and stepped back, but Angel did not move. He rose his silver eyes to look at the tree and his eyes shimmered strangely beneath his thick black eyelashes. A human soul hung from the three. Looking human enough to be recognizable, it looked like a dead carcass with the ribcage ripped open, lacking of entrails but a black beating heart. The skin floated about and exposed boned clattered in the night breeze. The wind shook the tree again and the carcass writhed and howled in despair and pain. It was the warlock’s brother.
The watchman looked up, following Angel’s gaze and only saw a rather common oak; but the darkness about the branches seemed to be thick and malevolent; the watchman took a step back.
“This area of the graveyard… it’s said to hold strange things.”
Angel looked at him, thoughtful. “I’m sure as a graveyard keeper you should know ghosts do not exist.”
“Are you sure, milord? There’s stories about that grave beyond the wall… I wouldn’t tell them but in daylight, though!”
Angel smiled. Another howl ripped the night’s silence, but only Angel heard it. The wind shook the trees.
“It would be rare… an old graveyard with no stories.”
“Come with me, milord. I have some food I can share with your lordship, if you don’t mind. There’s still hours before dawn.”
Angel smiled again, darkly amused.
“Why don’t we stay here?”
“Ah sir… there’s a bad air about this place.” The watchman started to walk and Angel walked beside him. The mist was getting thicker and the soul under the spell in the tree howled and wailed; the echoes got lost on the darkness.
“Have you ever heard the wailing of the Dead?”, Angel suddenly asked. The watchman looked at him and found the shimmer of his silver eyes unnerving.
“Good for you.” Angel smiled, this time gently. The watchman didn’t reply. He led him to the other side of the graveyard and both of them stood next to a bench. The watchman put the lamp on the bench and picking up a small box turned to offer his guest something to eat, but when he turned he only saw an empty space. Silver eyes shimmered in it. The man jerked back in horror.
“Jesus Christ!” A dark laughter was all answer. Huge wings could be heard, catching the wind and in a strong wind Angel left. The watchman couldn’t say a thing for a while, but he began praying loud and as fast as he could. He didn’t leave the graveyard, but when he reached his home on the next day, his wife was astonished to see his hair had turned white during the night.
Angel flew back to London. The day had been quite interesting and entertaining, even productive. Still laughing within at the graveyard incident, Angel watched the river far below before leaving its course. He found himself in an excellent mood. He passed swiftly by a church tower and across the park to the mansion he resided at for these days. Landing on Aramis’s balcony, he passed through the closed glass doors and found his twin still fully dressed and reading in a divan.
Aramis rose his eyes from the book to look at Angel, regarding him with a cold glance. Then he went back to reading.
“You look happy”, he muttered.
“Won’t you ask me how things went?”, Angel teased.
“I already know.”
“It’s pleasant to tell about them, though.”
Aramis kept on reading. Angel spread his wings and the moonlight shone through the edges of is outer feathers.
“Let us go out.”
“No quiero. Estoy leyendo.”(1)
Angel took his book from Aramis and closed it.
“I don’t see you reading”, he said.
“What’s with you?”
“I know you’re upset about today. I noticed when you left with Belphegor! We can share that later, but for now let us see where the Archangels went!”
Aramis looked at him with a start.
“¿Así, nada más?” (2)
“Yes!” Angel snickered. “Let us see where they went in such a hurry.”
Aramis wanted to protest, but he complied and followed Angel outside. He took his angelic form and both of them flew over London invisible to all eyes, searching for the angels trace.
Moloch hovered over the chapel’s highest spire, enfolded in her blood red wings so that nothing beyond her armored feet and head were visible to Other eyes, and completely invisible to humans.
Her crimson eyes swept the city; she could feel Belial’s presence nearby… But it seemed as if there were two of them, and that was not possible… Unless something very, very peculiar had occurred while she had ‘slept’. She released her wings and floated gently down a half meter to stand with one foot upon the pointed spire. It was a quaint conceit, but she enjoyed it nonetheless. She spread her wings against the sky, color of blood and revealed her armor and her heartstone. The breeze whipped her black and red hair back as she released the Scorpion from her body. If Belial felt hostile, she would be ready.
Aramis and Angel flew side by side, using each other’s air flow beneath their wings to keep a tight closeness. A thunder rolled in the skies and Aramis got a slight shudder. A light drizzle began to fall. “Angel.”
“I have a bad feeling.”
“Well, that’s good.”
Following the trace, Belial snickered.
“They part. Their group is not tight and they don’t seem to keep a formation. Their guard is down.”
“I do mean it when I say I have a bad feeling.”
“Will you shut up?”
A wave of power reached them: an aura, a known presence. Angel snorted.
“Moloch. She’s not far away. Is this what you meant?”
“No. It isn’t. It’s… something else.”
“Well, whatever.” Angel laughed. “I don’t feel like socializing. Let’s see if she feels like coming along.”
Belial described a curve and flew to the archangels location, soaring above the rainy clouds.
Moloch smiled cruelly… So, they won’t be coming to us? An open invitation for her to join them. They must have sensed the angels. She absorbed the Scorpion back into her body, thrilling at the pain.
Moloch spread her dark crimson wings, embracing the fading light that revealed the gold in her feathers. Her heartstone, a dull red thing, glittered malevolently as her dead eyes shone with a malicious light.
Silently, she follows their traces, easily catching up. They were not flying quickly… One had the essence of angel, and the other of demon. So… He had split his basic element, hmm? Belial had always been her favorite among the Fallen. He had been the most creative of the angelic host, after all.
And she had been the most skilled healer. But what could heal could also destroy, could it not?
Moloch smiled slightly, blood red lips arching cruelly once more in her pale, white face. She enjoyed the slight sting of her hair whipping against her back and wings. Sadist she was.
“Greetings, Belial,” she said softly, sensuous voice weaving through the winds.
“Greetings, Moloch”, Belial replied, speaking through Angel. Aramis gazed at her and remained silent.
Beneath them, a lightning crept in the clouds like a blinding silver snake and thunder rolled. The light reflected in Angel and Aramis eyes and their own inner shimmer turned it a dark power; but it died quickly in Aramis eyes.
Angel looked at her with dark complacency. Inside Belial gloated, wondering what did Moloch think or what did she perceive about this change, for she hadn’t seen what he had done before – split in two without losing power, but gaining. Aramis looked at her and his serene gaze seemed to watch something beyond Moloch’s face; but what it was or if he actually saw something, he kept silent and his lips did not open.
“I missed you”, Belial said through Angel, for this was not one of Angel’s only thoughts but of his whole. A dark smile lip on his lips. “It’s strange, is it not? We don’t need anyone. But I missed you. I guess it’s your mind what I’ve missed.” Aramis nodded at this, but still kept silent. He gazed through the clouds.
“Part of the angelic host remains. The others are gone.” Angel tapped his chin.
“The house. The dark remains and they leave. I wonder why they choose to leave.”
Moloch nodded slightly. “We missed you as well.” She sensed his power delicately, with her usual deft touch. It seemed that with his duality, he had actually grown in power… But Moloch did not fear. She, too, had gained strength, over time. She was much stronger than she had been during the days of the Fall and beyond. The lightning below them gave life to her blood-red eyes, and cast odd shadows on her armor.
“You have come up with new ways to intrigue us, as usual, Belial. We would like to know how you came to be two as one, some day.” Her face remained serene, all emotion wiped away.
“Do you go to visit our brethren? They believe the Gathering is almost over… But it is only beginning, no?” She murmured.
Angel nodded and Belial replied. “Yes. The Gathering has just begun; it’s still far from being complete and subject to be sabotaged.” He snickered, gazing below.
“Well.” He looked at her with a strange smile. “Our brethren… Few of the powerful ones have managed to scape. I thought I was alone for a long while, speaking about the archdemons came into being in Heaven. I managed to find my way out, and I see you did as well. However, the seals are weakening and our time comes closer.” Angel narrowed his eyes.
“Our own Gathering has begun as well.”
Then Aramis spoke.
“Necromancy activities have sprouted in London. Occultism and Dark Arts; a last mighty push is needed to loosen and break the seals.”
Moloch continued to fly, falling back into habitual, thoughtful silence. How long has he been out compared to us? Surely almost as long… Maybe he used the same loophole we did. Perhaps, but Belial was never one for subtlety.
A few minutes later, she spoke. “How many have you marked as your own, Belial?”
Moloch wondered briefly if his two sides used different names. No matter, she would know soon. He would always be Belial to Moloch, no matter how many forms he took.
Another flash of lightning broke below them, releasing an orb of electric energy. She flew through it, allowing the lightning to trail over her body and spark between her dark wings. Lightning, after all, was only a cruder form of fire, birth of the infernal. She half-closed her eyes in pleasure as she waited for Belial’s answer.
Belial smiled and watched her fly through the arc and return. That must’ve been painful but she made it look sensuous.
“I’ve marked myriads through all these ages; but the account is in my Book. I’ve also kept the souls of many apart for multiple uses…” Angel frowned slightly.
“I’ve been selective. But the quality of the will in them was better in the early ages of the World.”
Aramis narrowed his eyes at Angel’s complaints. “It’s a matter on what to look for, also.”
Angel nodded. “How about you, Moloch?”
Moloch chuckled darkly. “You ought to know, Belial…” She smiled slightly; again, not exactly pleasant. Sadistic. “We have many to serve our purposes and… increase our powers.” Indeed… Her whole household, generation after generations, was of tainted humans and their children. She slowly, inexorably spread her influence into other households of lesser nobles, bringing them under her name through marriage of adopted ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’. They did her will; it was quite simple. And her power grew.
The sky was quite dark now; the careless use of majick below had disturbed the weather quite badly. Reckless fools. They could not even mask and dissipate their energies correctly… The only one of the angels who had ever bothered to learn the methods besides herself and possibly Belial, and that was Raziel… Because of his ‘quest’ to gather all knowledge. She supposed that store of information was quite large now. Moloch wondered if he ever used it, or deemed it too dangerous.
Angel nodded. “I understand”, Belial said. In an inner dialog inside Belial’s mind, Aramis chuckled.
//You talk too much, brother.// Angel did not reply at that. Belial looked down at the house, thoughtful. Lightning sparks danced around them.
“I feel it now too, Aramis.”
Aramis nodded. “What you feel is different”, he murmured.
Angel tapped his chin. He looked at Aramis and Moloch.
“I want to explore that place. Might be good to wait till the archangels leave, so they won’t get in the way.”
Moloch nodded again slightly. She had felt the short tingle of energies; they had spoken to each other. Moloch took a brief tour-de-force in the sudden blaze of multiple lightning, charging her armor with electric force and using her own pain to build up her stores of energy even as she drank of the lightning. It was truly an experience to dance in a storm; she gave Belial a lazy smile as she played, waiting for the angels to disappear while she masked her presence and Belial’s.
“Won’t you play with us?” She whispered to him, making her first jest in many, many years.
Angel nudged Aramis.
//Like if I’d leave…// Aramis eyed him. Angel laughed and joined Moloch amidst the lightning arcs. Lightning swirled around his body and the black writings on his silver armor turned into letters of black fire. He clasped his fists and the electricity sparks flowed from between his fingers.
His silver eyes lit up with inner, unholy light. The power exacerbated his senses like a warm liquor of infernal. Angel enjoyed the painful pleasure and floated close to Moloch, lightning cracking over his silver armor. A smile formed upon his lips, his silver eyes shimmering beneath his thick black eyelashes.
Moloch laughed, a surprisingly happy sound… She allowed Belial to hover near her for a moment, then darted away, attracting more lightning as she flew, leaving behind a streaking ‘glow’ caused by charged particles. It was quite beautiful, really. She was careful to watch Belial’s other half out of the corner of her cloud-lit eyes. Something seemed odd about him. The air above the clouds was beginning to shimmer with energy and cold. She did a final loop and came back to hover near Belial’s darker side, pulling up a rather large blast that she particularly enjoyed.
“Do you like our playground, Belial? We wonder if the angels would like to play with us too, some day,” she laughed quietly. Blue energy crackled along her wings and armor, causing the darker patches of her armor to glow whitely. We almost wish we could stay like this forever… After all, even demons can wish to enjoy themselves without true danger. But it is not our true nature anymore. It was a sobering thought, and her mirth melted away quickly.
“They will leave soon, I think.“
Angel received the last blast, allowing it to flow through him and his senses pulled him up to a higher state of pleasure. He opened his eyes and rose his arm, gathering the energies before the pleasure would take a stronger hold of him. He laughed and threw the bolt at Aramis. “I do like it”, he murmured in response to her question.
Aramis did not dodge the blast. An arc of energy pulled from his feet and up, winding around him like a huge snake, cracking in an ascendant spiral over him. Aramis let his head fall back slightly and slowly opened his arms. He closed his eyes and floated in the hold of the lightning, immovable and mesmerizing in his strange and ethereal angelic beauty till the energy went out, seemingly absorbed by him. He did not open his eyes but after a few seconds after the lightning spiral went out, but he did not say a word. Angel had a small shiver.
“I do”, he murmured.
Angel tilted his head and smiled a little.
“We can do whatever we want, Moloch. We’ve fought for this”, he murmured echoing her, biting his lip. He looked down and narrowed his eyes, darkly.
“Yes. They’ll leave soon.” A sudden smile flashed and it was mischievous.
Moloch chuckled a bit as Belial’s other half took in the lightning. One of the most beautiful energies on Earth. “We hope so. We are also curious about the presence in the Baroness’s house. You know who lives there, yes?” She tilted her head to the side to watch him, allowing the lightning to calm, although energy still crackled through her armor. She looked down, seeing the angels quickly separating. The ones left… Michael, Azrael, Adriel… The commander of the angelic army and two of Death’s flock. Moloch had the dear wish to speak to Azrael – “Remember us?” She herself had ended many lives far, far to early.
Looking at Angel, Aramis sensed Azrael going away. He did not need or want to look at her to know she was there… and now she was leaving. He remembered her at the park that very morning… His heart ached, but he was so used to the pain his serene expression didn’t change. His memory flowed back, beyond the day Belial split, beyond the War and beyond the Fall: created next to Lucifer, Belial and he had worked and shared many things. Lucifer had begun spreading his rebel ideas, incited by his lover Lilith. He had suggested Belial to try and convince Azrael to join their revolution…
Angel narrowed his eyes in hatred and dark anger, yet his beautiful face barely showed the emotion but his eyes. Azrael was Belial’s opposite, his counterpart in Darkness and the Arts he had initiated. He wanted to overthrow her, grasp her immortal soul and drink her power; he wanted revenge for what she had done to him.
For what she had done and yet dared to ignore.
Her Book and her weapon could’ve been his. Angel watched them go with a malevolent smile which suddenly broke into an evil snigger. “Finally! They’ve left the place.” Angel tilted his head to look at Moloch.
“The Riktophens are from Hungary, but some of them took some time to visit the Harz in past and present centuries, seeking my knowledge. I’ve marked some of them, yes; some of them I keep in my prisons.” Belial looked down at the house and Aramis floated beside Angel.
“It’s curious you ask if I know who lives there. I sense something different. You may laugh if you want, but it feels like…”
“Let us explore the place!”, he impulsively said, closing his wings tightly and dropping on free fall. Aramis dived down after him.
They fell through the storm clouds and into the heavy rain. Thunder and lightning cracked around them and the chilling air spoke of past majicks and majicks in course. The air whistled in Angel and Aramis’ ears as the ground and rooftops came closer at blinding speed. However, Angel landed on one foot as softly as if he were light as a feather. Aramis touched the ground at the same time; his huge, graceful wings covered both in their shadow.
Belial took in a deep breath, sensing the dark powers and reading through the fine webs of spells, so light and thick as to choke the minds. Moloch would join them. Angel pushed the door an the door opened.
“We’re awaited”, he darkly said.
Aramis nodded and both exchanged glances. Aramis rose his white hand, silvery in the light of lightning, and put Angel’s hair behind his ear. Angel grasped his hand.
“We’ll put our senses together to unfurl what we’ve sensed separately.”
Aramis nodded. Angel smiled briefly at him.
“May we increase our Knowledge”, he said, pulling him closer. In a strange flash, both disappeared and Belial stood in the threshold. They had merged back into One.
Belial closed his hand and the Staff of Simara appeared in it.
“We might find some fun before dawn, Moloch!”, he said with dark mirth.
Moloch watched them quietly from the threshold, nodding to herself as they merged back into one… Belial. Too bad her only true love was pain. He was spectacularly beautiful… But some things changed beyond all recognition, and she doubted she would ever return to her “better” half.
We were once one of the best, most touted Healers in the Heavens… We trained many disciples. No one complained about the little extra we took, our small price. They were all too happy to be made well once more… And after every one, we only grew stronger and more skilled, better able to Heal them. And we cared, we truly did care about our patients. She would never forgive them for casting her out. They all expected her to kill herself. After all, it was the respectable, right thing to do. They were all respectable, but she had spent all her days saving others’ lives. So she saved her own, and joined Lucifer for her own reasons.
“She is here. And so is He.” Her voice was quiet, not quite in awe or fear, but as close as she could get. Some emotions were better destroyed, and she was as ruthless in rooting out flaws in her own mind and body as she had been in others’.
Belial nodded and tilted his head in discomfort at being soaked wet. The water – one of his Elements – simply vanished into a gray mist, swirling in thin strings and fading out into the dark hall before them. Belial stood there, tall and beautiful; his silver gaze shimmering.
“Yes, they are”, he simply said as his Staff gave light. The light however was black, and only suitable for demons and angels of the Dark.
Belial led the way inside. He was somehow concerned. Belphegor obviously ignored these two were in London. He had perceived them separately, for now he know Angel had perceived the mother, and Aramis had perceived the son. Belial was forced to face the fact that Aramis had sensed beyond the seal in an act of angelic purity, which he did not like at all. Angel had also reached afar but more like a call of Blood, because despite the fact he wasn’t that related to the mother, Lucifer had left his imprint in her and Lucifer and Belial had been created next to each other. It was evident also that the mother awaited him; the Necromancer, more precisely. He foresaw what she wanted and gloated in a mix of pride and anxiety to grasp a personal glory; a peak of his Art. He snickered darkly and almost involuntarily.
“There’s been a fight here. It’s amazing how many archangels it takes to break an illusion like this”, he murmured sardonically, reaching out and touching the faint threads of the spell yanked and ripped by Raziel and tore down by Michael. “She was toying with them.” Belial took an instant to get oriented, then walked down a hall. “She’s leading us deeper to the live rock.”
Moloch nodded slightly. She could feel Lilith’s pull; mate of Lucifer, she had also been most glorious. She could feel her need here, and it was for the pain. Moloch was, after all, the most suited for the job. One for whom pain and pleasure were the same… And who could conduit that pain and pleasure into Power.
She ran a hand over the carved walls of the passage; it was comfortably warm; as a demon Infernal, she basked in energy related to heat, and enjoyed the slight tingle on her palm as she walked beside Belial.
“You will see the Son? We will help her resurrect him.” She was not merely speaking of herself in plurality; she meant herself and Belial.
The angels must be so weakened now, spending their time lazing about in human shells. It took two of them to destroy one of Her more simple spells.
Moloch sighed. The fools. “You have encountered them, yes?” She meant the archangels.
Belial’s eyes shimmered with infernal light between his dark, thick black eyelashes. Anticipating the moment, he was already tasting the power he’d need to display.
“I’ve encountered the archangels, yes. They have changed little in personality, but the power and skill of those how have remained on the mortal world is numb and rusted. They are trying to recover the time lost.”
Belial’s broad shoulders pulled back and his feathers puffed ever so slightly, as in pleasure and satisfaction.
“I’ve planned the ritual ever since I learned about the existence of the seal.” His jaw was set. “This will be one of my best works, and I will succeed.” He relaxed again. “All’s planned to the last detail.”
Belial bit the corner of his lip. He had originally prepared all to pull back Lucifer into this plane. Too bad he died… but anyway. His son took his place. Belial cared little about the mother’s anxiety. It was the peak of his art, the personal glory what he wanted to achieve.
Moloch’s wings were tightly folded behind her back, black in the darkness. She shivered slightly; Her intentions were grand, as were Belial’s.
“We are sure you will succeed, Belial. If failure comes, it will assuredly be through no fault of our own.”
Even in his own plurality, Belial found that answer to have many sides, all dark. He smiled at her. Yes, he had missed Moloch.
“Yes. We’ll show our power and will infuse fear in the mortals and will pierce the minds and will of our brethren.”
Everything, the walls, floors, statues, were carved from the very stone of the earth.
Click… Click… Click…
The soft sound of heels hitting stone wafted through the tall ominous halls of the chamber. Everything, the walls, floors, statues, were carved from the very stone of the earth. Anastasia walked gracefully down the corridors, a faint smile across her face. A long mass of silvery blue hair trailed down her back in unruly waves. Golden bronze eyes gleamed with evil thoughts unknown. Her appearance seem so much more defined now, her sweet old lady look was replaced by a tall confident woman. Her current masks her thrown away as she was truly free in these halls…
Waving a delicate hand with long painted nails across a pair of gold laden doors, they opened with a long croak allowing her to enter the special chamber. The room was warm to her though painfully hot to any normal person. Adorning the walls were many lines of scripture, and more intricate statues. A dark blood red carpet was placed in the center, leading to an incredible alter decorated with fine metal and sparkling jewels.
Anastasia glided across the floor to the alter. On top it, clear glass coffin. She leaned over it, lovingly kissing her fingers and pressing it to the glass.
“My precious love, it is finally time for you to awake again…” She waved her hand over the coffin, some sparkles of light soaking into the glass, causing it to shatter into a million pieces of dust… Anastasia stat at the alter, next to the body she so affectionate spoke to. She caressed his face softly, it being pure perfection in her eyes. Leaning over him, she placed a simple kiss across his lips…
“Tonight, Azazel, my love… You will take your right place as the Baron Riktophen…”
The Fallen reached a pair of gold laden doors after a long corridor. Belial touched it with the Staff of Simara and the doors opened. Both walked inside the altar chamber.
“We meet again”, he spoke. His voice echoed in the chamber and a form moved next to the altar on which a dead form laid.
Moloch declined her neck gracefully.
“Lady,” she greeted Lilith, standing in the threshold of the light in the darkness.
“We come to assist,” Moloch said softly. Herself as an offering and a buffer; Belial as an instrument, and Lilith herself as the symphony’s conductor. “If you will have us.”
Moloch flared her six dark red wings outward, the gold in them accented in the odd lighting. Her armor seemed to drip with blood; her eyes were the same. The heartstone began to glow softly as she put power into it.
“Come.” Anastasia beckoned with a graceful movement of her hand, stepping down from the alter which held the cold lifeless body of her departed son. Gliding across the floor, she stopped and a small table, a huge pale ivory colored serpent slithering atop it. She patted the snake lightly, reaching for an extravagantly adorned dagger. Finally, she turned back around to face the fallen pair…
“Quickly… the night is almost through…”
Belial was impatient, but he forced himself to hold his composure and concentrate on what was to be done. He strode into the chamber and took a polite bow to the mother. Belial climbed the altar platform steps and examined the body. He frowned slightly and extended his hand over him, reading the echoes of the man’s soul imprinted in his dead flesh. This one was the predestined vessel for the son, but dead flesh needs something more. The soul he had kept. Belial cast a glance at the mother. It had been more of a lucky strike it was him who marked the soul – but that wasn’t something to be told, though. He’d remove his seal and bend the soul to the ritual’s purposes. Belial pinched the flesh and watched the skin get purplish and fade slowly back to it’s pale color.
“You did well; the blood it’s still liquid”, he murmured, taking a step back.
Belial summoned the Black Scroll and grabbing it by the wooden axis carved in strange symbols threw it into the air with a mightily impulse; the scroll unfolded quickly as it flew around the chamber and back, encircling the altar platform in a long parchment whose symbols shone like liquid fire in a leatherish parchment. Belial rose his hand and when he closed it his fingers folded around the wood axis. The long parchment vanished.
Two small tables had appeared at both ends of the altar, packed with strange bottles and tools; lamps had appeared on the altar and Belial’s black robes were all marked in golden symbols. Two of his wings were now dragon-like and geometric forms traced on the floor encircled the altar. Belial took a piece of mineral from the table and motioned to Moloch to come closer.
“Let us begin”, he said.
Moloch stepped forward to the table Belial stood at, taking care not to mar any of the new sigils and symbols around the altar.
It was curious, how the crypt of a vessel many years dead did not have the slightest scent of death or decay, or how the incredible heat had not touched the body at all. Or, it would have been, to any non-majickal being. All of those preservation spells, and the majick born into it… Was amazing.
Moloch’s body quivered slightly in anticipation. This was the task that she existed for, her destiny in pain and joy. She forced all of her power into the jewel, casting lurid crimson light to pulse along the pale body of Azazel’s vessel. Her wings, tightly folded behind her, seemed to drain of their color, slowly darkening to black… Indeed, all of the color on her seemed to concentrate into the ruby heartstone and her eyes… Deep pools of pure crimson, finally coming alive. She stood and readied herself, waiting for the signal.
Belial watched Moloch for a second, then concentrated back in his task. With a flick of his hand, the lamps gave light, burning infernal oils and essences; Belial chanted the first incantation and one of the geometric symbols that encircled the altar set on a white fire. Belial rose his hands with the palms up to gather the darkness in the chamber and began chanting the second spell. One on the other he built spells and incantations till all the symbols blazed in fire: white, purple, green and other colors out of the human eye spectrum.
Darkness built around them like a wall, like a thing with substance, thick and malevolent. Above the house, thunder roared and lightning began to build.
Belial went from one table to the other from one site of the alter to the other, mixing substances and using them on the body. His eyes shone with inner light, his white hands silvery in the strange light of the lamps. At last, he reached inside a pocket and took out a small, round pot of vitrified clay marked with a rune. Belial broke it and a soul came howling out of it, but the Necromancer’s hold was strong and merciless. With his will alone he bound it, twisting it in his hands and tying it to the body.
Belial smiled triumphantly. This wouldn’t be an undead, but a living one. With Azazel’s spirit, he’d infuse real life on dead flesh. The man writhed and opened his mouth to cry out, but no sound came out of him. Belial pinned him securely to the altar with secret bounds and retrieved his marking from the soul, so it’d belong to Azazel – this out of prudence and calculation.
Belial climbed down the steps. Lilith waited, somewhere in the thick darkness. Belial offered Moloch his hand to help her through his web of spells. “Let us go out of the symbols, and from the outside I’ll close the last one, and you’ll canalize your energy, for with the last one I’ll mirror the Seal of the Abyss, and Azazel is already pulling through!” Indeed, the floor trembled and a fine rain of dust came down the ceiling.
Moloch nodded and took his hand delicately, her flesh burning hot due to the energies she gathered. She stepped out of the ring of symbols, already beginning her spell. Many of the words she used would have been musical gibberish to human ears… “Out of pain there comes a flame… And from the flame there comes a life… And from that life there comes a day… And all those days are filled with pain… Out of pain…” She whispered quietly, her silent voice ringing through the chamber as the earth’s bones groaned and the sky bellowed in anger. Three red symbols glowed in the air around her – Pain, Energy, and Life. Death was only the smallest part of her power… She laid the spell gently on Azazel’s soul and body, to shield him from the pain of rebirth and to change that pain to energy… And she would be the vessel for that pain, the catalyst for the energy. It was her unique gift. The sigils flashed brightly for a moment, in time with the pulse of her heartstone, and then faded away, leaving a burning after-impression in the eyes of the beholder.
Moloch’s eyes remained wide open, now glowing malevolently… She was rigid, the first pain already seeping in as she attached a link to Belial.
//If I hold in all of the Power, it will destroy me..//
Belial was not too happy at having to give the son more than he had planned to give, but he accepted the link Moloch attached to him. Why, he wasn’t that fond of Azazel but well. The payoff might be better, and he did want to carry on the ritual to the extreme end. Plus somewhere in Belial he did not want Moloch to be destroyed. Angel or Aramis?
One of Belial’s pure, silverish hands changed; long sharp claws formed in the infernal light. With one of his claws he traced a final sign in a dent in the Seal design and chanted the closing spell, his voice vibrating along with Moloch’s. He took a step back towards her and his beautiful face barely allowed a wince; pain was building and it was ripping into him.
The seal completed and shone like threads of gold fire, giving infernal light to the chamber, ripping the first veils of the shadow around them. On the altar, the Baron writhed in a second agony.
The floor shook and the cracks appeared on the seal, and a terrible howl came through, piercing their ears.
Moloch trembled, the spell drawing in more and more pain; she felt the echo going into Belial, and filtered it out even as larger waves of energy threatened to snap the slowly-burgeoning link. Her own screaming echoed along with the howling of the Seal of the Abyss, rising to an eternal, unearthly shriek that surely trembled the stone and shattered the glass.
The heartstone was like a small red sun, beating faster and faster until it strobed the chamber violently, mixing with the golden light until frequencies outside of human sight erupted and threatened and cavorted as the veils were torn asunder.
“Let us BE!!!“
Even though the pain flowing into him was but an echo of the unspeakable pain Moloch endured, it still ripped through Belial’s conscience, attempting to break his concentration. The seal cracked more and the infernal fire from the Abyss licked the ceiling; a dark form moved beneath the cracks, and he got the impression a malevolent eye had glanced upon them before disappearing again.
//Leave the pain to me, brother//, a voice whispered within.
//We won’t split. Not now!//
//We won’t… we don’t need to. Give me the pain and continue the ritual; you know it’s the best thing to do.//
Belial’s voice rose again, chanting spells as the Seal loosened, securing the perimeter he had weaved to prevent them from being sucked into the Abyss as Azazel struggled to break into their plane. The mirror of the Seal he had created was a buffer, a first step for Azazel into their plane; a Limbo of his own. Belial chanted, but beyond his voice a strangled cry echoed, and even though his chanting didn’t alter, both voices came from him.
Hellish fire sprouted through the cracks in the Seal of the Abyss; a foul wind of darkness flowed out, damp in the blood and tears of the damned. A terrible cry echoed in the chamber and shook the vault as the fine rain of dust falling from the shaking vaults consumed in a rain of tiny fire sparks before they touched the ground. The real Seal was now visible beneath the mirror seal the Necromancer had built; both matched perfect in every detail. A roar capable to shake the foundations of Earth rang through the cracks, which went larger and larger. A dark shadow built larger with bronze eyes that flamed with anger and hatred for all beings. Blood-curdling howls and hissing words of infernal could be heard. The shadow ripped through the cracks and rose before them – ominous, terrible, shapeless. With a terrible cry it swirled within the buffer and fell on the altar like a black wave, crashing on the writhing body and invading it, being absorbed by it. When the shadow entered him completely, the man stopped moving.
A few seconds passed. Then he screamed… and began to change.
A small malevolent smile splashed across her lips as she watched from the shadows, the form of her beloved son shift to that of a blood-red fiery dragon. The sheer dark energy that filled the room sucked every ounce of air from the room, though no a one of them seemed to breath as the seal cracked further.
The lithe form of Anastasia… no Lilith stepped away from the shadows to the center of the room, shapeless forms of escapee demons swirled around her. She outstretched her hands to the dragon-beast as if the pull her son from the very cracks of the Abyss…
“Come to me, Azazel…”
Belial watched, fascinated and with a tingle of joy prickling at his skin, despite the echoes of pain piercing him. The ritual was working, just like he had planned it to. Once in the human shell, Azazel would enter the plane and give real life to the corpse as the spells and majicks we had weaved worked in. The Baron was changing; his form became scaled, of a brilliant, blood-curdling scarlet. The body joints creaked and the skin tightened and stretched, something within it growing larger and larger. Six leathery wings sprouted to one side, six more to the other. An inhuman howl made his ears ache as the hideous form on the altar grew and changed, blurry and then getting defined again, breaking into their plane.
Lilith was calling her son, reaching her arms out to receive him. Belial frowned slightly, wishing she wouldn’t interfere with his masterpiece or get in the way. Moloch’s heartstone and eyes were of infernal red, her form almost black and white, drained of color; Belial tore is gaze from her and rose his arms, chanting the first counter spell. The outer edge of the buffer – the outer geometric form of the seal – vanished with its flame. The read dragon roared triumphantly and the cracks on the ground spitted infernal fire. Belial chanted the second counter spell. energy was draining out of him, but he still had power enough to complete his task. When he chanted the third counter spell, he summoned the Staff of Simara to redirect his energy to certain points of the seal. He continued, till all the mirror seal vanished. The Seal of the Abyss was cracked open, and Azazel Dragon stood on the altar, his twelve wings open and fire coming out his scaled body.
Belial leaned on the Staff, exhausted but trying not to show it. A strange smile slid on his lips. He watched Azazel howl and twitch his long tail, but despite all Belial was immerse in artist joy; he did it. He achieved what he wanted to.
He turned his head to look at Moloch.
“It’s done…”, he murmured.
Moloch sighed as the last of her power drained out of her, taking Belial’s hand gratefully. She was exhausted, drained of the pain, the ecstasy, and the Power, but strangely elated… She gazed upon the fiery form of Azazel, and was proud. She had done her duty.
Too proud to completely rely on Belial’s current good will, Moloch stood on her own as color slowly returned. She released threads of consciousness, pulling in echoing bits of power to restore her strength.
It was a shame she had been too busy channeling energy to actually watch the spell; she was sure it had been quite beautiful, as were all Belial’s masterpieces.
Still leaning on his staff, Belial smiled at Moloch as she retrieved her hand. Truly, he was overjoyed and proud; the intoxicating feeling of victory and the perfect realization of his masterpiece filled him and flowed through his body.
However, even though Belial was now whole and enjoying the contemplation of the peak of his Art, two consciences watched. And the part of him that was Aramis dropped a warning like a cold drop on his feverish joy.
//Watch out now…//
Belial tightened his grip on the Staff of Simara and straightened his back. He still hadn’t fully recovered and he realized he was more vulnerable now. He didn’t trust Azazel; he didn’t trust anyone. Even those he could say he was fond of he knew were very able to turn against him when less expected. Belial’s eyes shimmered but he still did not say a word. Escapees demons could be perceived, shapeless forms crawling and floating about. Belial watched the ravaging dragon before them.
He coolly wondered if he’d survive his attack in his current state.
In dragon form, Azazel howled and roared, flapping his twelve wings and causing a foul infernal wind, fire sparks coming out of his very scales. He spit fire and ripped what was left of the altar to pieces, his sharp claws making screeching sounds on the live rock.
After this expansive stress-relieving spree, Azazel stayed still like an statue out of feverish nightmares. He rose his long neck and arched it to look down at the demons before him, a sly and cunning look in his bronze eyes. He was perfectly aware of their participation in his escape from the Abyss, and he also knew in what conditions they were. Only his mother was full of energies, reaching her arms out at him.
Azazel broke into a heavy snigger and the dragon vanished. A human form rose in his place: it was the Baron Lorant Riktophen, but he also was Azazel. The Baron’s soul had been assimilated, absorbed by Azazel; only Azazel drove this body, but he had all the baron’s experiences and memories. With a flick of his hand, he clothed himself in his red robes, discarding the rags left of his previous clothes. Azazel watched his hands, opening and closing the fingers, examining his senses. He stepped off the platform and walked across the remains of the seal, a cunning, malevolent smile on his pale, yet strangely beautiful face.
“Mother”, he greeted. He acknowledged Belial and Moloch with a blood-curdling smile, so strange it was in his face, even it was a simple curl of his lips.
“My son, my love!” It was unsure if it were Lilith or Anastasia doting over her beloved son, but she reached for him, blocking out any acknowledgement of the others in the room. To see him alive and speaking once again was pure pleasure. Knowing once again they would be together, making everyone quake with sheer terror…
Azazel turned to his side just on time to hold his mother, who had practically leapt on him. Azazel hugged her in a surprisingly warm embrace. Why, it was wise to keep his mother happy. She was after all, his best ally. Azazel rested his head on hers for an instant, then gently slipped out of her anxious motherly arms.
“I am glad to see you with living eyes, mother”, he said. He then turned to look at Belial, who was standing not to far away with Moloch.
“Living eyes”, he repeated. “This lesson you never mentioned, Belial. I see you are full of surprises, as ever.”
Azazel nodded at Moloch.
“The first sensations I’ve had, I shared with you. That’s… interesting, Moloch.” He walked over to them.
Belial tightened his grip of his Staff again, till his knuckles went white. All his senses were alert, for he did not trust Azazel at all and he was worried he’d try something against him just for perceiving his lack of energies. Belial’s face didn’t show his thoughts; he remained cool, his jaw set. Moloch was also trying to regain her strength, but Belial did not fully perceive to what extent, his attention fixed on Azazel. He bowed his head in a slight greeting, his eyes always fixed on Azazel. “May my art and knowledge be useful to you”, he calmly said. “I’ve had time to develop new areas of knowledge and to compose this ritual… among other things.”
Azazel noticed how tight Belial held his grip on his staff. He did know he was not in conditions to face a powerful demon – let alone Azazel was the strongest of the bunch. He looked into his cool silver eyes with his blazing bronze gaze.
“Among other things! Now that’s more interesting!” Azazel smiled darkly. “I wonder what those things are. I’ve been trapped far too long; I might be outdated on many things… may I not, teacher? I see you wish to rest. But I don’t want you to go just yet.” Azazel had a sinister smile.
“You’ll accompany us, won’t you Moloch?” he asked. “What could be more important than me? I can feel the world within my grasp. I will succeed this time!”
Azazel broke into a heavy snigger. He opened his arms, still enjoying the new sensation of this human shell, when his gaze met a strange object.
Azazel fell silent. It was a ring; a gold ring on his hand. It was a simple gold band, but it had some significance. Azazel touched the ring and turned it thoughtfully around his finger.
After a few seconds, he rose his eyes to look at his mother.
“Where’s my dear wife, mother? I wish to see her”, he said.
Every ounce of color that was still left in her pale skin, drained from her face. She narrowed her eyes in obvious irritation, he first instinct to fly into a brutal rage. Instead she merely brushed it off as nothing important… That damn woman was still in the way after all this time…
“She isn’t here. The pretty little angels took her away. Perhaps she’s even dead by now… We can only hope!” Anastasia crossed her arms in a huff, turning her nose up in the air. If she weren’t dead now, she would be soon. She wouldn’t dare let her beloved son be near her again!
Belial narrowed his eyes in cold rage, yet he still didn’t move. Did Azazel dare to think he could order him around?! Belial’s self rebelled against being treated like a slave. Prudence made him stay still and plot in his cold mind; there’d be a way to keep things cool till he regained his energies, most probably before dawn. He guessed Moloch with her great healing abilities would regain her might sooner.
Then the ring matter jumped out of the sack. Belial was surprised, but at the same time he trembled with laughter within. He had some notice of the Baron’s wife, since the Baron had fallen under his power, selling his soul to him. Little had he expected the man’s strange attraction for the woman would endure and infect Azazel as well. Belial did not say anything yet, but a cruel smile showed in his eyes as Azazel looked at Lilith. Belial raised an eyebrow, his eyes shimmering cold again.
“If the woman is not of use to you, I suggest you forget about her, Azazel Dragon. Unless of course, she’s of some use to you.”
Azazel opened his eyes wide at being ‘attacked’ by both Lilith and Belial. He wanted Autumn back and he’d have his way! He didn’t care about their opinion.
“Of some use! But of course she is”, he grumbled. “Mother! Why did you let them take her away?” Azazel turned his wedding ring around his finger. “I’d ask you to go and get her for me, dear teacher, but since you and Moloch are indisposed…” Azazel turned around to leave.
“Azazel!” Anastasia screeched, “Don’t you dare go after that woman!!” But it was in vain. Azazel left, leaving her fuming with anger. This did not leave her undaunted however. He would not find her alive. And the angels would be who he blamed.
“Belial. Moloch.” She growled lowly, digging her nails into the palms of her hands. “I want her dead before she is found.” Anastasia turned away, melting back into her shadows…
“Perhaps it will fuel his desire back to where it belongs.”
The corner of Belial’s lip twitched as Lilith went away. Once she was gone, he leaned again on his staff and rested his forehead on it. His long silky black hair hid his face, and his shoulders trembled but he made no sound. Despite what it could look like, he was not in despair.
He was laughing.
Belial rose his head and took in a deep breath, then letting out a deep sigh. He was still grinning. “Moloch”, he said, wiping some tears of mirth from his thick black eyelashes, “I believe we’ll have to go…” He broke into laughter again, but keeping it low. “Even if it’s just for the fun of it. The truth is, I wouldn’t miss it!” Belial bit his lip to try and stop laughing. “We might be late, though…” He looked at her. “I have to admit my healing abilities are not as refined as yours. After all, it’s one of your higher powers.”
“You are right. We must go before the angels come to see what we have done in this place; for they will come. And we do not feel like sharing what energy we have gathered with them right now, until we regain a bit more strength.” In truth, Moloch was actually gaining power quickly; and the irony was, she was using her own pain and the residues of it.
She had remained silent during the threesome’s exchange, knowing that not replying was the safest route to go. After all, she was the most ‘injured’ of the group of demons, especially since Azazel found fit to drain her energies through Belial’s spells. “Will we hunt the human as Lilith… asked, or shall we accompany Azazel?”>
Belial straightened his back and lazily stretched out his wings. It was obvious Moloch didn’t feel too generous at the time, but it had been a nice try.
Since the decision was up to him, he pondered carefully.
“I suggest we follow Azazel. He’ll suspect we were sent by Lilith, since he left us behind… but he won’t be surprised. I wouldn’t suggest we carry on all of his mother’s request, for it’d be unwise to redirect his hatred to us at the present time, and we won’t arrive first.”
Belial rose his staff and chanted a simple spell; three words in an ancient language, and the Staff sucked in some of the shapeless escapees that still roamed about, despite their screeching agonic voices. The staff canalized the energy and provided it to him.
Belial’s lip curled slightly in disgust. “Disgusting…”, he murmured, turning to leave. The energy provided was not enough to replace his own, but at least his energies were building up slowly and the extra support was of some use.
Moloch chuckled quietly under her breath as she followed Belial. He had meant for her to share, when it was his sorcery that allowed Azazel to drain her? Not a chance in Hell. She nodded at his decision, and still pulling in energies, she deliberately drained the flames of energy until they winked out. Moloch’s energy was filling much quicker than she had imagined; she had grown stronger than she thought.
She walked swiftly from the manor, passing Belial and launching into the skies. The cramped quarters had made her feel somewhat claustrophobic; she enjoyed the sensation of flight as she launched into the roiling midnight air, cruising just below cloud level. It was only hours before dawn, and she intended to find Azazel quickly.
Belial watched Moloch soar into the skies and yawned, placing his hand over his lips. //Oh here we go again…// Belial took flight and lazily followed.
As he flew, he watched the night disturbances all around, in the air and ground. Escapees demons skittered about and crawled into dimensional holes, and the storm had quieted down; through the rags of the clouds, the moon had turned red in her descending course. Belial smiled to himself.
//Such a busy night…//, he thought. His energies were building up quickly, nearly back to their ordinary peak, but the triumphant sensation within him pumped up his spirits, like adrenaline to humans. Belial increased his speed but kept himself behind Moloch.
He decided to pretend he was too weak still. Out of curiosity and mischief, he hid his new energies as they flew following Azazel’s trace.
(1) I don’t want to. I’m reading.
(2) So, just like that?