Aramis and Belphegor left The White Club and Belphegor’s carriage promptly arrived in front of them. Carl, Belphegor’s driver, eyed Aramis suspiciously, but Belphegor just snuggled herself closer to him. Carl got out and helped Belphegor into the carriage, and Aramis climbed in after her. “Carl, dear, I think that me and Aramis would like to take a walk in the park.” Carl nodded and took his place in the driver’s seat while Belphegor relaxed into the cushioned carriage. “It feels so good to be in control, Belial. I’ve been stuck in that body forever, and all I’ve wanted to do was hear somebody familiar. One thing that is so curious to me, Belial, is that you split. How did you ever accomplish something like that. It’s very…interesting. Do you both feel things at the same time…?” Belphegor arched her eyebrow, and assumed Belial would pick up on the hint.
Aramis smiled. His dark smile made him look exactly like Angel. “It’s a secret, Belphegor. Just another secret of mine.” He watched her, thoughtful. “We may. I won’t give you certainty, though.” His eyes narrowed and blazed silver, then suddenly changed again to Aramis’ usual innocent look. “I was wondering why you’ve chosen that family pattern. Did it simply come to you?”
“Oh, you mean that family pattern.” Lilly smiled and twisted a piece of her hair slowly around finger. Needless to say, she was surprised at the sudden change that had come over Aramis, she thought that Angel was the half that housed more of those kind of thoughts. “I wouldn’t say that it simply came to me. I think it’s always been a natural talent of mine. My mother said there was never anyone that was as good as me.” Lilly began to edge over towards Aramis, but the carriage suddenly came to a halt and Carl opened the door.
“We’re here, milady…”
Lilly nodded her head and climbed out of the carriage, and when Aramis got out, she looped her arm in his and dragged him off the direction of one of the more secluded fountains. She had the urge to change into her full demon form, she hadn’t even seen herself for ages. She needed to stretch her wings…
When she had finished dragging Aramis into a part of the park where nobody could see them, she stepped away from him, took a deep breath, and changed into her demon form.
She looked pretty much the same, still gorgeous except even more sexy and her hair was stick straight. She smiled and stretched her wings anxiously. Her outfit was a floor length black silk gown with tons of layers, low cut and suggestive with a huge slit up the side showing off her perfectly sculpted legs. The loose sleeves of the gown were so long that all you could see was the tips her fingers. She gave Aramis a come-hither look and ran her fingers through her silky hair.
“So Belial, is this form more familiar to you?”
Aramis nonchalantly sat by the edge of the fountain and playfully dipped his fingers in the cold water. He then rose his eyes to look at her and stayed where he was, looking annoyingly pure.
“Belphegor, I see the inner you in any form you take!”, he assured her. “Of course I must say, your true form is your best. No one could look like you…” Aramis smiled and his silver eyes blazed. Belial’s words had many significances, as usual. He had more layers than her gown, and he was waiting to see what she was to reveal and what she wanted. Belial made some calculations and dropped another phrase. “The ages have done nothing to you”, he continued. “I am sure you’ve got new ambitions.”
Belphegor smiled and sat down on the fountain next to Aramis. She was secretly very flattered by his compliments, she was worried about how she would look after all those ages of rotting away in other people’s bodies, never able to communicate with the outside world. And now here she was, breathing in the air herself, she had finally gotten strong enough to take over Lilly. “I do have many new ambitions, but first and foremost I absolutely must avenge my mother. Those silly weak angels, I bet they can taste my wrath right now. Destroying them means more to me than anyone. No one loved my mother the way I did, and not one of them will be able to defeat me. I’ve had way to much time to dwell on it, and they have grown weak, I can sense it.”
While Belphegor had been talking, she had been clutching her mother’s necklace tighter and tighter. When she was finished she let go of it and looked at her palm, which had been cut into by the force she had applied on the necklace. She just laughed and stared at the blood that was dripping down her arm.
“And you Belial, do you have any new ambitions? You were powerful beforehand, but now that you are two, your power might go unmatched by the angels. And with me fighting alongside you, we’ll be sure to beat them, to destroy them once and for all.”
Aramis tilted his head and dropped some water drops on her palm, thoughtfully watching the water and blood form single drops of bright scarlet. Belial wondered if she’d get backup from the other powerful demons or not. You never know with them, especially now that Lilith and Lucifer were long gone. He had to play his cards carefully. After all, he might get other proposals and he knew a couple secrets. He let out some truth and gave hues to it.
“Your hatred of the angels has fortified your will”, he said, touching her cheek. He retrieved his hand. “I see you still keep the necklace Lilith used to wear. Your human name is Lilly. All these things tell me you have a clear goal – something a powerful leader must have. On my part, my ambitions have not changed. I want revenge on the angels for all they have done to me.” A strange light blazed in the depth of his pupils. “All they have done…” He rose and bit his lip.
Aramis turned to face her. “My power has increased considerably. I am sure we could take them down. However, there must be room for plans. The seals are weakening and they know it. The Gathering has begun. However, as we survived other powerful demons have survived, and they can also be convenient allies.” He never said yes or no. Simply stated facts and waited again.
Belphegor sat and stared at the fountain in a daze. The water was sprouting from a cherubim angel’s mouth, it looked happy, far too happy. She quickly immersed her hand in the fountain water, letting the blood from her palm mix with the clean fountain water. She removed her hand and stood up to meet Aramis.
“Allies, yes, we do need allies. I’m sure if I met up with one, I could easily persuade them.”
Belphegor glanced back at that infuriating statue. She took a step back from Aramis, and a purplish haze began to form around her palm and into the shape of a long elegant sword. She gripped it for a second and then, as fast as lightning, she sliced at the fountain’s head, severing it from it’s stone body and she smiled as it’s head hit the bottom of the fountain with a satisfying thunk. She turned back to Aramis, and gripped his wrist with her free hand, letting the sword hang limply at the ground.
“Besides, how could they not follow the person who holds the very sword of Lilith.” Belphegor stood there for what seemed like hours, just staring into Aramis’ eyes. Her eyes were burning and she was breathing quick. All she could think about was her mother, and destroying the ones that had destroyed her mother. “I’m sorry Belial, I seem to be just a little too upset about this whole thing, but with your help, I’m sure we could lead our allies into battle and defeat them. Belial…have you come in contact with any angels recently? Are they here, in London?” She stood close to him, waiting for him to answer, with her hand still gripping his wrist tightly. She wondered if he could feel the tension that was coursing through her body.
Belial’s eyes blazed and widened slightly at the sight of the sword. Aramis heart ached, but out of practice and custom, no sign of his secret pain was revealed, buried beneath a cloak of darkness.
“The sword…” A smile slowly formed on Aramis’s lips – a dark yet triumphant one. He held Belphegor’s gaze, his own gaze inscrutable, of shimmering silver. As she breathed quick and her body trembled with unreleased anger, he clasped his fist whose wrist she was gripping to transmit to her he also had anger inside to be released in the same direction as hers. Belial made some more calculations. She had the sword, which was good. Belial had his doubts Azazel would step aside and let his sister take the lead, but due to a little secret he knew, he decided to play along.
“I understand you, Belphegor”, he murmured, softly.
“They are in London”, he said with a grave voice. “I’ve seen the Head General among them.”
Belphegor smiled slightly. She could feel something in Aramis, something like heartbreak. Why, she had no idea, but it definitely intrigued her. She stood for a few more seconds and then sat down on the fountain again. She had begun to grow somewhat suspicious now, as if his understanding could not possibly be real. Trust could not come easily in her world. “What about my brother?” She smiled up at him, trying not to seem imposing. She meant to leave the question vague. He could answer in a few ways, and each way would let Belphegor deduce what Belial actually knew about her…
Aramis’ gaze followed Belphegor as she went back to the fountain and sat down. “What about Azazel?”, he said with a blink when she asked her question. “You’ve not mentioned him yet.” Aramis tilted his head and waited.
Belphegor gave a flippant wave of her hand as she crossed her legs in a slow sensuous movement. "He is of no concern to me. I am only thinking of myself." It was a lie, of course. Azazel was her biggest foe… perhaps even greater than the angels themselves. He was her enemy, and yet he was her obsession. There was a thread-thin line between love and hate to the point of the emotions being one and the same. She lifted Lilith's sword in to her lap and admired the shimmering silver steel of the blade. It was a magnificent weapon, indestructible. Crimson jewels decorating the hilt, and runs inscribed across the blade. After her mother's death, she quickly claimed her most precious items, the necklace and the sword, before anyone else could touch them. No one deserve her mothers things, not like she did.
"While Azazel sleeps, I will claim the armies and avenge my mother. He will be proud." Holding the sword up, she let it shimmer one last time and disappear from sight. "What of you, Belial?" Belphegor gave him a slight look of suspicion. He had asked many questions and given little in the way of answers. Though he gave the impression of understanding, inwardly she still held that fear of betrayal. Belial would be a powerful ally, and even worse adversary. "Would you join my legions?"
Aramis smiled. His silver eyes narrowed, shimmering moons beneath thick and black eyelashes; the Arch demon spoke calmly in a low voice, the small smile on his lips different from the cunning expression in his eyes. "I have Legions of my own", he said, "and yet your offer is interesting, I would rather decline it. To change the structure of the Armies could make us vulnerable when the Heavenly Armies are… gathering".
Aramis looked at Lilith's sword, thoughtfully. The sword emitted a faint vibe in a different plane. Strange… //While Azazel sleeps, I will claim the armies and avenge my mother. He will be proud//, Belphegor had said; Aramis reflected on the contradiction in her words; Azazel's reaction could be interesting to see, but quite untimely. Untimely… Aramis could feel Angel listening through him. They had been working on a powerful spell, and yet it was designed to bring back the Lightbearer, Ages back in his dark and turbulent past… it was drifting off to a dark peak of knowledge Aramis feared to unleash but Angel greatly desired to reach. "Every change in a hierarchy brings a period of weakness while powers settle into place", he muttered.
"I see." With a simple reply he revealed all she needed to know. Belial knew something she didn't – her suspicions weren't misplaced. To say a shift in power would make them weak would mean the hierarchies were still in place. Azazel was sealed away in the abyss and Lucifer long dead. The Fallen couldn't be any more weak without someone in control. Was there something Belial knew that she had yet to discover?
"Sigh… I suppose you would be correct." Belphegor gave a soft pout, very reminiscent of a look her mother used to give. "Though I wonder… Which power must settle? As far as I knew, there was no one left in command." She moved lazily from the edge of the fountain to stand once again. Did Belial think he would take command of the armies? That would be unfortunate for her… and with two of him, it was double the trouble.
A mocking look briefly shimmered in Belial's eyes upon Belphegor's words. Which power must settle? Was she indeed still a child, naive in so many aspects? However his eyes were again inscrutable. How could she believe the hierarchy would remain still? Someone would always try to climb higher, and someone would always strive to be the Master of All. No one would reject the opportunity to climb higher out of the mud… To a peak of dark glory.
"No one in command? Azazel has not died, not that we know of", he softly spoke. "Yet we were sealed in the Abyss, if we know him ever so slightly we could still tell he would not be idle…" Aramis nodded. "All Powers are settling. There's an Universal struggle to attain the peak of Power", he said. "That last Battle was not the last, and you could be aware of it by now. Who will take the higher positions of power? We are still to see about it…" Aramis smiled softly. "It will be interesting to see…" Aramis slowly walked, going back to the trails in the park. His guard however, was not down by any means.
"Interesting indeed." Belphegor silently mused. Belial spoke cryptically and underestimated her abilities. Was he suggesting that Azazel would return? The thought sent chills up her spine. A strange mixture of annoyance and pleasure at the possibility. She glanced at Belial with coal tinted lashes on creamy white skin. Belphegor casually reverted from her demoness form to the supple appearance of Lilly. She admired the perfectly manicured nails, giving a soft vicious smile. "We will certainly see. …Goodnight then, Belial."
And I will not be written off so easily ever again…
She listened as Aramis' soft footsteps slowly echoed out of ear-shot. He was an incredibly handsome man. Only a fool would not notice. It was a shame she couldn't spend a bit more time exploring the pleasures of two bodies of Belial instead of just one. However, Belphegor could sense there was more than met the eye. She brushed her fingers delicately over fresh budding flower in a nearby bush. To read between the lines would reveal that there was so much more going on than what was suggested. Belphegor did not like the idea of her well laid out plans being ruined by anyone. She crushed the flower and allowed the petals to drift through her finger tips to the ground.
Shimmering gold eyes watched the woman with an ominous silence. They regarded her with a cool, almost disgusted silence as if the mere sight of her made them ill. Daughter… you had no worth for me then, and you have no worth now. The eyes narrowed as gnarled old hands curled in a tight fist. Sharp nails cutting in to brittle skin. You will not interfere with the awakening of my precious…
"Girl. Why do you walk these streets like a unkempt whore?" Anastasia stepped from the shadows of the tree, giving the woman's low neckline a disapproving scowl. The lavender dress was tasteless. Only a street slut would wear such an offending thing out in the open and roam the streets without escort.
Belphegor turned to eye the old hag with an icy disdainful frown. How dare she speak to an obviously superior woman with such a tone? The demoness had a mind to burn the flesh from her bones on the spot, but something seemed to prevent her. "I am no whore, old woman." Belphegor crossed her arms in slow sensual movement, lightly tapping her nails against her arm in annoyance. "Return to the gutters where you belong, crone."
"You'd do best to respect your elders, daughter." Anastasia clasped her hands together, shimmering gold eyes staring coolly at Belphegor. The exact same thoughts flittered across two minds as the mouth of the old woman curled up in to a frightening smile. Remove all obstacles.
Belphegor had opened her mouth to give the crone a biting comment, but that could escape her mouth was an audible gasp. Mother! How could you possibly be alive?! I thought they had killed you! Her elation at seeing her mother slowly subsided… something seemed so wrong. Granted Lilith had never been affectionate toward her. Always her attention were directed at Azazel… But something in the woman's eyes looked so cold.
"Did you think you could outwit me, daughter." she practically hissed. "Taking my things as if that would make you as beautiful and powerful as me?" With a small quiver of light around her, the body of the old woman faded to soft skin and lithe form. Ash colored hair fell loose from her tight bun and gleamed a pure silvery white. Crimson lips still held that same chilling smile, now on the one that was known as Lilith.
Belphegor's eyebrows furrowed at the comments, as the wrinkled appearance of the old crone shifted in to the beautiful awe inspiring form of her mother. "I have protected your things since your death, Mother. No one has cherished them as much as I."
"Tell me, daughter. Are you trying to take my place? Or are you trying to take my son?" Lilith knew. The truth behind the actions of her daughter. She could see it in the woman’s eyes, feel it in her bones. The little brat wanted to take her son, hiding her wants behind ambitions for power. Once she claimed Azazel, surely she would attempt to claim Lucifer as well. Lilith would prevent anything from taking what was hers. Even her own daughter…
Did she think her own daughter was trying to take her place? Belphegor stared in awe! As if she would ever betray the woman she cherished above all else! "Mother, please. I would do nothing to harm you. My brother is… nothing to me." She lied out of fear of repercussions. Something was amiss with Lilith, she could sense the ill mood in the woman. So strong it almost made her shudder. "I have only meant to revive your armies and avenge your death." Her death. How was she here? She was dead… "Mother… how are you here now?"
The sinister smile across Lilith's face faded to a thin line of contempt. The girl was naive… ignorant. Her daughter meant nothing to her. Such displays and attempts at proving her worth were useless and a waste of time. All that Lilith wanted or ever cared for were Lucifer and Azazel. Belphegor was nothing more than a tool to be used. A tool that has lost its usefulness.
"Do not underestimate my power, daughter." The girl was afraid. Good. Fear was what Lilith thrived on above all else. "I will always return, until the end of eternity…" Lilith moved across the soft earth as if she weren't even stepping foot on the ground. Like she were floating on thin air. She reached out, brushing her hand across Belphegor's cheek, down her neck and across the cool silver of the necklace's chain. The simple piece was the only jewelry Lilith had ever worn, it held something important. Perhaps her daughter had a use after all… A guardian of her things until Lilith had the strength to reclaim them once again…
She leaned closed, gently kissing the cheek of her daughter and pressed her lips close to her ear. "Your love means nothing. You mean nothing. Now… Stay here like a good daughter until I find use for you…"
Belphegor tried to jerk back, the harshness of Lilith's word's piercing her like a knife, Lilith's hand was firm around her neck holding her in place. Whispered words seem to vibrate her skin as her mother chanted the castings of a spell. She felt her entire body goes ice cold as a chill washed over her and her body stiffened. Belphegor's eyes closed with the evidence of her mother's blatant betrayal as her body turned to cool gray stone.
Lilith's hand fell to her side as she smiled, content with her handy work. "Sleep well, daughter."
Luna stepped gracefully from her carriage, unaided as she waited for Belial. She was his guide here; she had to be the first through the gates so that the protections would ‘recognize’ him… Remarkable protections on a remarkable place.
Her guardian’s manor was located within the finer district of London, alongside many other similar lots. However, his lie upon a singularly impressive natural reservoir of power, a nodule of energy; the manor and grounds were designed to concentrate the energy as it was augmented by her guardian. Over time, the energy had in fact developed a primitive consciousness; it would only accept the use of herself, her guardian, or someone strong enough to cow it.
She opened the wrought iron gate, ignoring the leering faces in its workings that were the terror of many little urchins and suppressing a sniff at the spikes atop it that were the latest rage among Victorian nobles. As if that would stop a clever thief. The perfectly squared wall itself was well over six feet; quite impossible to see over, except for the tops of trees. It was made of vertical rectangular slabs of bluestone; primitive focuses.
Leading Belial through, she motioned and explained about the lush gardens. All of the paths were laid in precise paths; two completely circled the manor, and four crossed directly into the manor itself. All of the walks were secluded and quiet, screened by carefully tended shrubs, trees, and vines. Small ponds with imported fish could be found everywhere; no tainted earth or water to be found within this land. The manor itself was truly interesting; although built in the gothic manner, it a perfectly symmetrical geometric octagon, to maximize energy flows. Four little ‘tower’s tiered from complementary points, and the whole place was studded with carved gargoyles and statues. The stones were even laid with an eye to efficiency, being of gray unpolished marble on the exterior. Large windows allowed light in without making overuse of lamps in the daytime; there were also skylights in the third story and the medium-sized garret. Copper pipes, which were often used as the base of shields, carried hot and cold water around the whole house; the bath room’s floors were heated tile. Even the kitchens were a marvel of efficiency. Luna led Belial down through the main hall, past the two sets of polished gleaming suits of armor that stood guard in the foyer, her shoes clicking on the black marble floor. When they at last made their way from the white stone walls of the hall, a servant appeared.
Angel listened carefully and with a slight smile as Luna led him inside the manor grounds, then inside the main house; he observed everything with a studious eye: proportions, geometry, orientation, materials, colors and symbols. He felt like walking into a cold bonfire as he perceived the energies flowing from the node on which the house was built, then the energies being canalized by it.
Like the Babylon Hanging Gardens. It was a peculiar comparison, but it was the first that came to his mind. The buildings didn’t resemble each other physically but to a deeper meaning behind them.
“This is an acquaintance of mine, Angel, Count Blanco. He will be taking dinner with me tonight.” The servant nodded wordlessly; he was one of the few in the household, and like the others, he was a very minor demon tied by tight coercions and using a human form. “We may speak securely amongst the servants.”
She led him into the elegantly decorated dining room. Its colors were deep reds and maroons, with mahogany and ebony and touches of gold. A large oil painting hung above the mantle of the double-fireplace.
“This is my home.” She smiled with a hint of proprietary pride; it was much more her home than her Father’s house.
The way she said it plus what she had already explained about his father actions showed this was her true lair. Angel smiled and nodded, his eyes shimmering strangely.
“It is indeed a unique place in England”, he gently said. He arched an eyebrow at the servants, then seemingly ignored them. Seemingly, because Belial never lost sight of anyone or anything.
“It’s quite interesting how the energy from the node is canalized through the manor. It’s a meticulous work – seemingly it’s quite efficient.
Belial walked over to the fireplace and watched the dance of flame and shadow. Even the fire was affected by the energies. Angel smiled to himself then his gaze lingered on Luna.
Luna noticed Angel’s careful, studious interest in the pattern and architecture of the grounds. It was quite a beautiful piece of art and planning, and she said so aloud.
“It is also my understanding that he had a hand in the design of the manor himself.” How odd that was, though, from the feel of the place… It always reminded her of ancient places, hidden ruins and sacred cities. Perhaps it was the nodule. Perhaps. She watched him stride towards the mage-fire, noticing the servants but paying no heed to them for now. She doubted anything escaped his notice… A possibly useful point as well. “My guardian is quite… Unique. I have seen him but once, truthfully. Quite intelligent… And a being not to be trifled with, for truth.” She held him in utmost respect after learning more about the manor and reading his majickal journals and resources.
A resonant bell tone sounded, and several servants came in carrying steaming platters. They arranged the table to their liking and disappeared into the kitchens once more.
“If you will?” She gestured to the table and moved to take her seat at the opposite end of the long proper table.
Angel looked at Luna as she spoke, paying attention to every word. When she motioned to the table and went to take her place, he waited till she sat in her chair at the far end of the long table, then he took his seat at the other end of the table.
“He must be an interesting being”, he said as if he spoke casually. He pulled the linen napkin placed for him and let it fall on his knees. “It’d be interesting to leaf through his works. If he had his part in the manor design, he must be a serious student. I reckon he’s written. I write a book of my own… among other works of mine.” Angel looked at the painting over the fireplace and frowned slightly.
Luna nodded thoughtfully. “If one day, perhaps, you finish,” and I still live, “I would be honored to see it. All I have for now are between student and apprentice journals and observations.” Which was very true- she diligently wrote down everything about majick that she felt, saw, sensed.
She followed his gaze to the painting above the mantle. Irony. It depicted a scene of a large pack of wolves pulling down an armed, black-winged figure swathed in red and skulls, a Fallen angel. Several wolves lie dead, but as a testament to their brethren, the Fallen was slowly dying as well. The wolves shown in the picture were no ordinary wolves, either.
“Chose what you want, and the servants will give it to you,” she motioned to the food, a mixed Mediterranean, English affair. Delicately spiced fish, a type of noodle or grain called couscous with raisins, fresh fruit, a few pickled dishes, the ever present legumes, mutton, bread… She tried to balance her fare to stay healthy; some of those sawbones had the right ideas. She chose for herself a portion of couscous, a small filet of fish, and some of the pickled shredded carrot.
Angel examined the picture over the fireplace once more. He didn’t drop any comment about it, but he perceived a strange physical depth to it. It deserved study, but the food did, too.
Angel chose his meal in a balanced, yet random way. It was curious how far he had traveled yet the meals seemed to follow him. Angel wasn’t fond of British traditional meals, but he tried some of everything. He enjoyed eating unlike Aramis, who was a very picky eater. The couscous with raisins was specially good. Angel took his time to eat, tasting everything with parsimony, skillfully handling the silverware.
“Maybe sometime I could show you some of my own works”, he commented after some time. “It’d be interesting to see in your own notes what your journey through the dark arts has been like to this point.”
He gave some orders and soon a servant returned with a bottle of Oporto. The servant poured wine in the Count’s goblet and stepped away; the servant avoided eye contact like all well-trained servants but he cast a terrified look at Angel before leaving.
Luna nodded thoughtfully, carefully and unobtrusively observing her guest. The servants were unusually timorous, their scents mixed terror and shame, for being bound and discovered by one of their Greater kindred. He also carefully studied the painting and seemed to relish the fare. “My own studies are nothing fantastic,” she said modestly. “I have, however, found several fascinating observances on shields and their more subtle ilk that I have not noted in any grimoires I have encountered thus far. Lunar majick seems to require a more deft touch than most males are capable of… Excuse me, I apologize, but it is true… Many of your gender do not have the patience to master it, nor the Earth majicks. It seems to be something females inherit more frequently, although many do not realize it and only use it in a rudimentary fashion.”
She signaled a servant and ordered a sweet white wine, one her guardian had sent from a vineyard he owned in Italy. How he had known it was one of her preferred, she did not care to know, but she was grateful.
Angel had one of his dark, charming smiles and a gentle nod. “What you’ve said is very true. The moon has a powerful influence over the women body and psyche, as well as the Earth-Moon dialog does, and the intrinsic power of earth to transmit and sustain life. This dialog isn’t available to most males senses. Females traditionally outnumber males in the practice of this branch of witchcraft. The males that master dark arts have a double power, for they perceive what women perceive yet they see what males see. For all women, to perceive the dialog is the most normal thing. For men it’s always a discovery. Women want to belong and grow strong in the group; males want to conquer and outstand.” Belial tasted the wine.
“It’s easier to teach a female than a male. Both have their own possibilities, though. Some of these has to do with human nature, from the days humans were beasts.” Angel found the wine excellent. “A jewel from the cave.” He tasted it again, slowly.
Luna nodded. He was telling her things she already knew; but it was also good for her to know that he knew. “Those are my two strongest magical points. I am the strongest in Lunar majick of those Were I have met so far, not to mention those human practitioners. Most of whom are little better than hacks,” she mused.
She was greatly pleased to see him enjoying the wine. She was, after all, a natural hostess.
“If you wish, since I see you are mostly finished, we have light dessert… Although it is not wise to gorge ourselves, so they shall remain light.” Her cook had created a wonderful masterpiece of pie he called ‘cheese cake’. It tasted nothing like cheese to her, but she would allow the creature to keep his fancies. He was, after all, an astounding chef.
Angel tasted his wine. “Thank you”, he said. He watched her rule the house, deconstructing all her moves and expressions. He started a new line for the Black Scroll in his mind.
Belial waited. The energies flowing from the node flowed steadily thanks to the conductor that was the manor; the energies brought memories upon him. He watched and waited till the moment came to increase Luna’s awareness. He’d wait till she was ready. As he waited, he analyzed and studied all he perceived in the flowing energies; a silent dialog between the dark and a master of the dark.
Angel seemed to be waiting for something, studying her and her house with intense scrutiny. Feeling a bit tired, she smiled at him and linked to the node beneath the house.
As always, it was a sensation between agony and ecstasy, a node that was almost too strong for her to handle. What she had done was dangerous, but necessary. She needed to have energy that night. Power flowed into her like sunshine, ice, and fire in one… Deliciously painful.
Her outward expression was one of supreme bliss. She let the node go, the expression fading away with a sigh. There was always that temptation not to let go, the temptation of all strong practitioners everywhere. But she had the will, and there was a way…
Angel narrowed his eyes and his silver gaze shimmered strangely as he watched her linked to the node and letting the energy flow through her being; her face spoke of her emotions as she was immerse in the power flowing into her. Her outward expression was one of supreme bliss as feelings of agony and ecstasy took hold of her mind and body. The room seemed to darken as Angel watched her, his eyes shimmering with eerie light.
The dark, oppressive shadow receded to its previous state, folding around Belial as Luna let go of the node. Angel smiled, his eyes still shimmering darkly. He rose his goblet towards her in greeting, then slowly tasted his wine, his gaze fixed on her.
The servants came in with the special dessert.
Luna returned Angel’s smile with one every bit as enigmatic as she toasted him in turn. She turned and thanked the servant graciously, trying to ease him somewhat. A nervous servant was a useless servant, for they’d make mistakes and incomprehensible decisions.
She waved the servant over to give Angel the first share of the delicate cake, and then received her portion with a welcoming sigh. She felt a little more odd than usual after ‘drinking’ of the node, but nothing truly of note… But she’d file it away anyway, to jot down later.
Angel’s mood changed slightly as he got more into a darker state. He watched the servant over the crystal goblet, his lips barely touching the liquor as the servant removed the main course dishes and placed the dessert plate with his share before Angel. The dished clattered some in the servant’s hands out of nervousness going into frank panic. Angel’s lip curled slightly in boredom and again he found his wine more interesting than the servant, who left as fast as he could.
Angel smiled at Luna and picked a piece of his cheesecake share with the delicate silver spoon. The cheesecake reminded him of Aramis, who was more fond of sweets than him. Angel took his time to enjoy the taste and analyze the flavor in his mouth. Aramis knew exactly what to do, but due to their differences, he might do something unexpected as well. Belial had the ability to surprise himself at times, even though it was mostly a good thing it was not exactly pleasant. Angel picked a little more of cheesecake share.
About other things, he wanted to explore the manor and maybe leaf through some books. Luna would need some rest after the ritual, but she was a strong one. Maybe she could join him later.
Luna finished her small portion of the cheesecake quickly, noting that Angel did not seem all that fond of sweets. “We may begin the ritual any time you like.” She nodded to the servants, who scurried off to prepare the chamber in the center of the house most often used for majick. “If you do not mind, I will go and change into something a little more… Appropriate. One of the servants will provide anything you may need, just tell him and he shall spread the word.” Telepathically, of course. She chose one of the stronger-willed servants and summoned him soundlessly. He bowed slightly to her, a gleam in his eye. This one would not be afraid, but he would be cautious… He was a different breed of demon.
She strode off with a curtsy to her rooms, where she quickly changed into a softer gray linen dress, leaving the choking corset off and choosing a comfortable set of petticoats. She also strung a silver necklace of moonstones around her neck; it was useful when she needed to strengthen and focus her abilities; she seemed to have an affinity for it.
Angel gave a polite nod in response as Luna left. He rose. The servant Luna had chosen walked over to him and took a deep bow. He led Angel to the ceremonial chamber the other, lesser devils were preparing. Angel examined the chamber with apparent indolence, but the truth is he made a detailed scrutiny.
Placed in the center of the manor, the chamber had an octagonal shape to concentrate energies from the main flow. Four alternate walls were of onyx, carved with elemental symbols. The floor design was a labyrinth as those of the gothic cathedrals: a spiritual path of cryptic symbols and twisted knots. In the center of the design there was an oblong altar in bronze, iron, silver and gold; the basement was decorated in ceramics – a resemblance of the Babylon King dream. It was oriented to the true North to summon the energies of Earth. Above, a circular dome had eight lunettes to make the architectural transition from the octagon form to the hemisphere, filled with crystal windows. Belial used his demonic senses to read the traces in the room. //Simple things can get futilely complicated//, he thought. He had no need of any of these to perform the ritual. The node energies however, perturbed the natural state of the individual’s energies. He’d need to introduce some changes to his liking.
“Shadowlord, give me your order.” The demon bowed deeper now. There was joy and reverence in his yellow eyes, yet he was cautious and circumspect. Angel flicked his hand at the various items and small tables put on sub nodes of power, such as candles and amulets. The demon nodded and all those got removed. Angel used his sheer will power to turn the altar to the direction of the lunar path to receive the moon energies. With a flick of his hand, the crystal windows darkened and went out, except one. The moonlight pierced through the glass and fell on the altar. “Purple, silver”, he said. Purple candles were placed in the spots Belial indicated in the chamber, and silver oil lamps on each end of the altar. The various incense scents from previous rituals disappeared. Angel took one hair from his head and let it fall into the oil of the lamp placed in the raising moon path. The flame twisted and turned red, then blue, then black. The lamp for the falling moon remained untouched. He waved the devils away and ordered the demon to stay by the door.
Belial chanted a spell in the language of Infernal in a mesmerizing, low and melodic voice. The chamber seemed to acquire a different nature and turn unreal: the colors went purer, the shadows, thicker; the moonlight resembled a broad sword crashing on the altar. The node energies set the labyrinth design on the floor and the symbols on the wall ablaze as if liquid fire ran through them. Beside the altar, Angel was wrapped in shadows, his eyes shimmering silver in his dark silhouette. He waited for Luna, for she was coming.
Luna padded silently down the stairs, her slippered feet making nary a sound. It seemed that the Other had changed the nature of this place with his coming; it reflected him in an odd way.
It was odd to see her servants deferring to another, even as they removed themselves. But it would make an obscure sense, as he was… Other. She made a slight curtsy to him.
Her element was no longer hers… The subtle moonlight that had always filled her soul was now of a male’s making, bursting into the unnaturally dark chamber like the fist of heaven. It burnt at her to see the chamber so… It was different, then, when she performed the rites. Even though the symbols burned with eldritch energy, they gave off no real light to illuminate Angel, who had wrapped the shadows around himself.
All she could see beyond a sense of thicker shadows were his silver eyes… And she wondered if perhaps she had sold her soul after all. But if she was to be damned, she would be a queen about it and take her gifts with pride. She gathered her dignity around her like an empress’s robes, her head tilted as if she wore a crown. And her eyes burned with a golden flame all their own.
Angel greeted Luna with a nod as she gave a slight curtsy at him. He motioned to her to get on the altar, his hand emerging from the shadow to gently flick at the altar. His eyes shimmered darkly, but strangely welcoming.
Luna nodded slightly, and with an unladylike hop, mounted the altar and laid back, adjusting her demure gray skirts.
As she lay unmoving on the altar, except for the slight movement of her breathing, the blade of moonlight crept upward, seeming to invade her being. Her eyes, now like twin suns, were narrowed slights of gold. She would keep her dignity and her pride.
But she still felt a tingle as a single tendril of fear tried to grow in her heart…
Angel touched the moonstones silver necklace with his fingertips once Luna laid still on the altar. In the moonlight, the moonstones shone with inner light and the silver chain seemed to melt in threads of silver fire at his contact. Angel moved his hand in the air a few inches above her body from her head to toes and back, using different senses to read deep into her, to the very depths of her soul. Images, sounds, sensations flowed. In the dark that surrounded him, his eyes blazed silver and unreal, always fixed on hers.
Angel’s aura inundated everything. He seemed to be everywhere now, but his eyes were still there before her, looking into hers. His immense power pierced her soul and wrapped around it in an unspeakable embrace. Angel rose his hands in the air and slowly drew then together, concentrating the power. He put his hands together above her face. The energy flowed from him to her invasive and threatening, yet bringing her to an ecstasy of pleasure and pain. Angel chanted slowly, yet his dark voice was gentle and soothing it was also bearer of strange horrors. He heightened Luna’s senses, one by one: hearing, smell, sight, taste and touch; each one brought a new wave of the ecstasy of pleasure and pain, building one above the other till it was unbearable. He chanted, his voice unaltered as he did. When he felt Luna’s soul vibe within his touch, beating to a limit, he let go.
Angel moved his hands aside. The moonlight inundated the altar, strangely new. “Open your eyes”, he softly said, with a kind of tenderness to his voice. He smiled darkly and his eyes blazed. “You’ll see a world you’ve barely known.”
As she laid on the altar, Angel put out the light of the falling moon path. A slight outline showed a different form to him, for within the shadow he had assumed his angelic form. He looked at her with a dark smile, yet it was mischievous.
“I’ve sealed power within you with my own seal; this power is yours. You’ll get used to these enhanced senses as you use them.” Angel tilted his head, watching her.
Luna’s mind reeled and her soul shuddered as it received information and lost it thousands of times faster than light flew. The rapport caused her spirit-wrenching pain and body-draining ecstasy; she shuddered as he read her soul and passed through her mind like a shovel through air.
The sense of Angel pervaded her body utterly; his aura replaced and smothered her own in pulsing blasts, her pitifully dim aura shoving his back only to be strangled in an terrible embrace. Her eyes, blazing suns, remained on his unholy silver starlit portals; she barely smothered cries of pain and pleasure, managing so only through instinct and fear. She barely heard his chanting; oddly soothing, but not enough to keep her from wanting to lose her mind in the swamp of unnamable emotion.
Her being vibrated with his magic, his own being, barely preventing total eradication only with her trust and his terrible caution.
“Open your eyes… You’ll see a world you’ve barely known,” the Other said, his voice terrible compassion. She hadn’t realized she’d closed them… She still saw the imprint of his silver discs.
She opened her eyes and reeled back. “Is this what you see?” There were colors she’d never dreamed existed, colors she had no names for. She could see the pulses of energy around her, see the blacker-than-black cloak that hung around Angel. She lifted her own hand before her, faint, and saw that while her aura was still moonlit silver, it also swirled with gold and now a faint streak of black. She could taste the air around her, feel its heretofore imperceptible currents on her skin. Even her hearing… She could hear pitches unimaginable… The faint groan of the earth, squeaking mice.
She looked at him closely… He was not at all what he seemed. She saw the vague outline of wings and armor… And she saw fear.
.”..I see, but I do not understand. I think these new senses will be long in the learning,” she said softly. “And you are not what I perceived. You are more than some strong Other, aren’t you.” It wasn’t really a question.
Angel watched Luna as she opened her eyes and tried to decipher what her heightened senses told her; she was like a new creature out of his own hand. He contemplated her with a demonic dark pride and complacency. Angel had a dark, charming smile. “You’ll get used to your heightened senses in some time”, he assured her. He still didn’t unveil himself, his form cloaked in the shadow. “I’d be utterly impolite if I don’t offer my services to help you understand your new senses…” Angel’s eyes blazed. “I’ll let you know more about me… with time. You bear my seal on your soul. And of course, we’re allies.”
He walked from the extreme of the altar where he was, to her.
“I want to see you reach your goal”, he darkly said, sliding his hand under her chin to look into her eyes. It was a rather commanding statement.
Luna stood slowly and slid her jaw from his cool hands defiantly. She gave him a look of her own… Twin cold metal discs returned the freezing embrace. Something within her had changed with the touch of his magic, and she welcomed it. Cold as white marble, she smiled.
“And so do I.” She turned back to the altar, willing it back to the form it took when she used it, forcing the crystalline mirrors back to the forms of Earth and Moon, the elemental symbols to respond to her once more.
“My home is welcome to your use have you need of it, sir Count.” But it is not yours to bend to your will. She could feel the Guardian spells observing, as if they were watching over her shoulder. Given a semblance of life by the semi-sentient node, they were a comforting presence. Her white smile gleamed in the lifting gloom.
Angel laughed. “I’m not one to take care of the household”, he said, smiling. He watched her defying attitude and found it refreshing. “I’m only your guest. A grateful one, at that.” He smiled darkly.
“You mentioned you’d show me some things.”
“Yes, of course,” she said coolly. With a slight dip, she led Angel up the stairs, motioning for the servant to proceed them.
“My guardian’s library is quite expansive. Mayhaps you will find something to interest you there.” She led him up to the second floor of the house, the only place with a slight guarantee against extreme weather and temperature in the unlikely event of the protective spells’ failure.
In fact, the whole second floor was nothing but books, ranging from everything to philosophy and science to majick and fictional tales.
Within the Easter quarter of the lushly appointed library lie her guardian’s journals and discourses on majick, along with select spell-protect grimoires he allowed her to access. “You may be interested in those, although he has many old grimoires and scrolls. There are also some prophecy scrolls and his personal discourses on alchemy and medicine.”
Luna strode across the blue-carpeted floor to a small stand with her personal choices, kneeling to open a book and remove a small parchment that she swiftly concealed in her sleeve as she read the book. It was a spell of release, or exorcism, and she carefully did not think of that fact. Actually, she flooded her mind with her interest in the healing treatises of lunar majick.
“Milord, do you have any knowledge of the Lost Book of Raziel? It is said that it contained much knowledge of lost healing arts, even if it was not an angel who wrote it.” She smiled, allowing more warmth into this time.
As ever, Angel paid careful attention to her words as Luna gave him a small tour in the library. He smiled to himself. The dark arts scholars found it an utmost honor to have the Necromancer leaf through their works. Unless he’d leave a trace in these books, who’d know? The house was weaved all around with spells. The house owner could already be trying to decipher who the mystery guest is. Luna had set things back in the chamber to their normal state and probably the guardian spells would hide any possible trace. His seal, however…
Angel read through the particular aura of the items in the room and moved to the owner’s works. He read some titles, still choosing and tapped his chin.
Luna kneeled down to fetch something. Her course of thoughts changed abruptly. He was not reading her mind, but he could perceive the current of thoughts change. As if hiding something from a possible reader. Angel tapped his chin and looked at her.
She smiled, allowing more warmth into this time. That warmth was suspicious. Angel took note of this and smiled a little.
“I’ve heard about it”, he said as if nothing had happened. “I don’t think it’s lost though. It’s momentaneously out of reach, that is all. It has a keeper.” Angel picked up a parchment on Alchemy and read. He smiled as he did.
Luna smiled slightly to herself even as Angel did. She was enjoying his company, no lie. “And I suppose you would know who the keeper is.” She had no doubt about it, really, but knew it would probably be an answer to blow her mind.
She turned the page. She was actually reading now. She hadn’t ever finished this book, oddly enough. “Do you know where I might find a discourse on offensive lunar and earth majicks? It seems they are mainly used as defensive or supportive spells… But everything has two sides.”
“I do.” Angel nodded. “There’s been many, though.”
“Everything has two sides, annoyingly enough”, he replied with a strange smile. “Lunar and earth majicks were meant to be defensive and supportive. Some see it along a motherly fashion. However they do have two sides and can be twisted.” Angel nodded. “In Alexandria Library there were some good works, but some idiot burned the library and the earthquake didn’t help…” He frowned slightly. “Alchemy is a good way to start, to get a good point of view – backwards, that is.”
Angel tilted his head. “Spells are recipes to make things simpler to the student. The essence of a spell is beyond its words. Some languages express better the essence than others, and that may vary. The essence of lunar and earth spells is about nurture and protection, about giving continuity to life. To turn them offensive you must turn their equation inverse. The moon has an opposite side that belongs in the darkness. The earth has a power to destroy as much as to nurture. These are the powers you ought to use in your cantrip. There are specific symbols to summon them.” He swept a look over a section of books. “Must be something about it in these old… things. Not all books are accurate, though. They’ve been copied again and again through the ages.” He picked a book and leafed through it, thoughtful.
Luna nodded thoughtfully. “I never thought of doing it that way… In reverse. Hm. I usually went by instinct… A dangerous thing, but useful nonetheless.” Earthquakes, hmm? I wonder how much power that would take. Far beyond my reach I would guess, but a tremor… Every little bit is useful. Kneeling on the floor, her skirts were spread about her as if she were a moonlit nightflower. As always, she managed thoughtlessly careful disarray.
Angel kept an eye on her while he looked into the book. A dark smile lingered on his lips. “Here there’s the one of the symbols of the Dark Side of the Moon. The picture is not too good, but at least it’s illustrative. Maybe you could find some things in this book. It doesn’t speak about what you want, but it might give you a lead.” He made a pause. “If your interest endures. I have some books of my own, if you’d like to see them some time.” Angel stood next to her and let the open book float down to her. He watched Luna, thoughtfully.
“If you mean interest in majick, milord, then you surely jest. Anyone with the ability either masters it or it masters them. So in a way, I have no true choice. I would be grateful for the privilege.” She grasped the book and studied the picture. It was poorly, or hastily, done, but recognizable and fairly accurate, she would guess.
Angel did not reply; he simply let his dark gaze linger onto her and frowned slightly in a sudden mood change.
“I won’t take more of your time”, he said. “The dinner was wonderful and the wine, exquisite. May I return the favor sometime.”
Angel rolled up the parchment on alchemy he had been reading and put it back in its place. Angel liked libraries and he loved the teaching-learning process. Tonight however, his dark nature called for open spaces and a flight in the darkness. Perhaps an experiment or two. Angel also wondered where the archangels had gone to. This however would have to wait. The moon was up and the night aged.
Luna nodded slightly.
“Then if it please you, I will guide you out and you may use a carriage… If you do not wish some other transportation.” She realized that Belial, as an Other, could probably fly… But why waste the strength? She stood and smiled, offering an arm. She did hope he decided to return. She would look forward to it.
Angel took her arm in a gentle touch and let her guide him through her halls to the main doors and back under the stars. The moon was still high in the sky, and Angel’s eyes shimmered silver in the light from the night sky.
“I won’t need a carriage”, he said with an elegant shrug. “It’s a splendid night after all.” He looked around at the gardens as they walked to the gates and he suddenly smiled. It was strange to see, but for less than a second the smile made him look like his twin, yet right then he rose his eyes to the iron gate and his dark smile returned. By the iron gate, he looked into her eyes, had a dark, charming smile and took a polite bow.
“Good night, my hostess. Till we meet again, I’ll treasure these memories.”
Luna smiled slightly and returned with a curtsy.
“Send me a message when you next wish to meet… Of course, you could always just ‘appear’ on my doorstep, too.” She chuckled.
“May your hunt be well.” The gate opened soundlessly.
Angel replied with a nod and walked out of the iron gate. He walked a short distance and stopped.
Belial gazed up into the night sky. The vastness of the dark sphere and the dance of the stars spoke of a different age. The moon was veiled beneath shreds of clouds. His demonic senses were filled with a myriad of sensations as the night wind flew upon him, cold, savage and welcoming. A shadow fell on him and adoring voices whispered in the wind. Belial didn’t pay heed to them. He took his angelic form in the blur of the waving shadow and spread six huge wings of black and white feathers; his robe and armor flashed briefly before he took flight. He soared at high speed, more slowly then, and his form faded as he went invisible to mortal eyes. It was a kind of supreme delight; he slid and went higher, enjoying the pleasure of flying and being free. Free for now, for his deepest secrets were bounds he forged himself. Belial laughed and flew into the night and the dark creatures sensed a hellish power passing by the moon before he disappeared.