Belial’s transport spell took him away from the city, to a vast grassy land of small round hills. It seemed deserted in the quiet night. Despite he was still shaken, Belial had not lost his practical common sense. He carefully erased the traces that could’ve allowed a magic user to track him down; he diminished his presence and veiled himself, getting practically undetectable. Once he did this, he took in a deep breath and enjoyed the silence. His senses could perceive mice squeaking in their subterranean homes, the sound of insects eating the plants and the various calls of night animals, all unperceivable to human senses. If he paid attention, he could hear the sounds of the ground shifting and the very grass growing… but Rishta’s voice was not part of the chorus – therefore, the ‘silence’ was silent enough.
But if he kept quiet enough yes, her voice was part of the chorus. Her words came back to haunt him, to pester him despite she was miles away now.
//.”.. it isn’t idealism, it is something I truly believe can happen. And I may be young. But I know you aren’t a bad person. I just wish you would see it that way, not as some evil creature who deserves the worst. You may be the Necromancer, you may be fear itself… but you had to earn it to survive, to remain in Her eyes… I don’t want to fight you… I want to help…”
Belial sighed. He allowed himself to sit down on the grass in the skirts of one of the hills. His wings brushed uncomfortably against the grassy ground; he gathered them around himself. A curious thought came to his mind – from when he was… well, younger and he was still learning so many basic things. He had wondered why he had six wings while others had four or simply two. Lucifer on his part interpreted the number of wings as a sign of status and he was quite proud of his own six golden wings. Belial however, just found having six wings cumbersome and rather annoying – back then.
.”.. but you had to earn it to survive, to remain in Her eyes…”
Belial shifted in discomfort, trying to shoo Rishta’s words away from his thoughts. He laid down and crossed his arms behind his head, despite his armor was stinging his back. A cold wind ruffled his feathers and got his hair in his eyes. He slid his fingers through his hair to take it off his face and suddenly the night sky came into view. Belial’s eyes filled again. He let out a deep sigh. Her eyes… The night sky looked like Azrael’s eyes. Ever since he had noticed that, he enjoyed watching the deep night and the dance of the stars in the deep, bottomless blue. However after the Fall, the view only caused him pain.
The wind blew insistently on the grassy hills, chilling in the dark night. Belial felt like crying his heart out, but he was too tired and depressed to even cry. He simply watched the night sky, laying on the grass with his half-closed, huge wings swaying ever so slightly around him like the sails of a ship in a soft sea breeze.
“I have to get up”, he told himself, “and go back to the city. Once there I must… forget all this nonsense and set back to work. I have wards to work on, spells to cast, demons to summon… Spawn of Lucifer to deal with…”
However, he didn’t move.
“I must fight to survive…”, he murmured. “I can’t lose myself. Why do I want to live? I don’t know.” He was so tired by now. His energies were intact, his power at its fullest, but he simply didn’t feel like going back and dealing with his crazed brethren. The night was cold and beautiful. He wondered where was Azrael. He had the annoying suspicion that she simply found their fight pointless and left him alone without a farewell.
Belial closed his eyes and tried to sleep. He was quite confident on his wards to sleep in open field – it was not the first time he did that. However, sleep did not came to him. The archdemon wiped his eyes. He wished he had some place to go – a place where he wouldn’t be questioned. Then he remembered his most recent ‘acquaintance’.
Luna. The spirited were who ambitioned to become a Lupa. Belial rubbed his eyes. She didn’t know as much about him as to ask embarrassing questions or haunt him with either work or redemption. He winced. Everybody expected from him… How tiresome. He missed his loneliness. Luna had met Angel, she’d expect ‘him’ to be the dark, mysterious man she had met. Belial wondered if she had already realized what to bear his Seal implied. He suspected she had known it ever since he heightened her senses.
Belial rose. Maybe he could pay her a visit out of curiosity and to keep his mind busy. He cared not about the traces of the earlier hours on his face – those would disappear once he’d assume his human form. He made the Staff disappear and took off, back to the outskirts of London. The steady flow of energies from the node of power on which her house was set made him feel better for some reason. He landed near the house and assumed his human form, his appearance as noble like and elegant as ever.
Belial stood out of the iron gates to the gardens and took a look at the faces in the ironwork, featuring demonic creatures grimacing or in mocking laughter. His silver eyes shimmered thoughtfully as he allowed the guardian spells to recognize him.
I should’ve brought something for the lady…
Luna smiled graciously as her two guests departed; Were from her pack. She was now the Lupa, and stronger and more dominant than the pack leader. They came to her for advice, orders, assistance… They were quickly becoming the strongest pack, with all of London as their territory. Whispers trickled throughout Europe about a demon-touched Lupa, a beautiful she who commanded magick and destroyed foes without a second thought. As the men departed, her smile became something slightly more malevolent before disappearing entirely to the cool, marble facade she usually wore.
“Mistress? ‘He’ is here to see you. ‘He’ stands at the front gate.” A bound-demon bobbed anxiously, wanting to go back to his duties before the Archdemon saw him shamed. Even though the servants were treated well, the forced service was a great shame on their black hearts. She dismissed him thoughtfully before summoning the demon that had served them before, when she had taken the Seal… Which she had quickly discovered was of the Archdemon Belial, to her only slight amazement. And most of that amazement was to the idea that such a tremendous being would take interest in her.
“Guide our guest from the gate quietly; give orders to the kitchen to prepare the evening meal, as we will be there shortly. Summon others to tidy the reception chamber.” She sent him on his duties with a flick of her wrist; he seemed anxious to see the Archdemon for himself. No matter; she could destroy such a devil now. She toyed with a silver pendant and straightened her black-lace trimmed red velvet gown, and rearranged a silver pen that held up her coiffure ebony hair before walking out into the antechamber to greet her esteemed guest.
“Welcome, Lord Silvanus.” She curtseyed slightly, her golden eyes locked on his. She was far easier in his presence than in the company of humans; he knew what she was and what she wanted, though she did not fool herself into thinking that his desires were the same as hers. They were merely parallel, for the time being, and she was not like to give away any more than she must. “How are you, this evening?” Something about his air seemed to be off, but she would not press. It was not her way.
Silvanus allowed himself a polite bow at his hostess. His ever vigilant eye read her poise and the light and dark harmony in her eyes. She had accomplished her plans – or at least a good part of them. Her very scent was now that of a dominant creature; the various tones had evolved from a wary wolf trying to find her place in the hierarchies to a well-stated pack member – more than that: a dominant lupine; a ruler… but her scent still reminded him of night flowers. Besides, he could read various traces of were spirits that had come in and out of the manor in different dates – the manor had acquired the spectrum of a Head House.
How are you. That was almost a riddle.
“Good Eve”, he said with one of his dark, charming smiles. What he had seen had pleased him, a personal satisfaction similar to that of a teacher before the triumphs of his disciple. Now he wanted to hear her account; his gaze lingered on hers. She had an ever so subtle light of recognition in her eyes. She knows my name already, he thought. How sad… “You are ever so kind to take interest on me”, he enigmatically said. “I am well. I am just starting to enjoy my stay in London.” Silvanus tilted his head, watching her. “But let us not talk about me…” Silvanus’ lips curved slightly in a strange, curious smile. “I presume these past days have been more interesting in you account than in mine.” His smile went slightly more pronounced. “May I admit I most desire to know what has put this fascinating light in your eyes since the last time we met.”
Luna laughed merrily, a slim hand over her mouth. “Indeed! These past few days have been interesting… As you can tell, I have become the Lupa of the packs of London… The Pack, now. And I thank you for your assistance.” But when will he require his payment, I wonder? His scent wafted through the room. Blood, acid, and spice. It singed her nose but at the same time attracted it; as if it were an opiate. She resisted firmly; it must be part of his aura.
“But it seems that I am not the only one who has had interesting days, milord.” She gave him a veiled look. “If ever you require assistance, remember me, and send word.” She waved her hand, indicating that she wished to change the subject; her golden eyes never left his.
A smile slid on Silvanus’ lips – dark yet in a strange complacency. Luna always kept her pride – he liked that. He could sense her subtle resistance to his influence, yet her greeting was sincere.
“The Pack now”, he said with a mischievously proud light to his eyes. “And only in a few days! That is a remarkable feat.” He took a light bow at her. “May I point out I only gave you the means; you designed and carried out your own plans. It pleases me to see you’ve archived this goal – but I am sure you will face new challenges in the future.” When saying the last phrase, Silvanus’ gaze lost part of the mischievous light they had gained.
“You are so kind to offer your assistance; I take your word, of course.” Silvanus had a gentle nod. He need not to show excessive power or futile recalls on the fact she bore her Seal thus was bound to him. That was not necessary. “Yes, these days have had some interest for me. The days to come will be even more interesting, I believe.” Silvanus swept a look around. The demon who assisted him the night he heightened Luna’s senses was in the door to announce dinner was ready. After this, he took a deep bow at the Necromancer, his yellow eyes held a rare expression of anticipation. Silvanus took notice of his but he did not show any sign of acknowledgment. He offered his arm to Luna to leave the hall and walk to the prepared chamber.
“Your guest.” His silver gaze remained in hers, a curious smile in them.
“Things have a way of getting done when one needs them,” she replied cryptically. It wasn’t only her charm that had won her the Pack; she had also relied on the abilities strengthened by the Archdemon and her own occult skills, aided by the hundreds of compendiums in the upper story library. She was now quite an accomplished occultist in her own right.
“Indeed.” She accepted Lord Silvanus’s arm and they walked into the antechamber, which opened straight into the formal dining room. The appointments were the same lush, expensive things as before.
The table was laid out with a fare of oriental-style dishes; spices brought up through the old Silk trading roads. Rice, chicken, beef, several styles of steamed vegetables and something called ‘bamboo’ that the gardeners were trying to culture in the mirror pools. Luna released the demon’s arm and smiled, indicating for him to take a seat. She herself strolled around to the other side and took her own chair.
“My guardian sent me a message the other day; he says that he is remarkably pleased with my progress. I do believe that is the first I’ve heard of him in ages; he must be at least slightly mystified.”
Silvanus waited till his hostess took her place at the table; then he took his seat. As Luna spoke, Silvanus pulled his napkin – which was folded in the likeness of origami work on his plate, opened it with a slight flick of his wrist and placed it on his knees. The various, complex scents from the oriental-style dishes suddenly called an image to his mind: the edge of thick woods, a man-cultivated marshland and a rice plantation that seemed to reach the horizon. Belial tilted his head slightly, sensing the sticky moisture in his hands again. Blood or water? He absently looked at his palms. On both of them showed a small mark in the form of a scythe; when split, Angel had one in his right hand; Aramis, in his left hand. But now he was whole… – it showed on both his palms – and away, in Britain.
Luna’s voice made the china vibe slightly in a delicate harmony of tones, yet far beyond reach of the human hearing. How curious. Belial’s lips moved to form a curious smile. In Luna’s voice he perceived an entire song; he wondered if he had heard it before like this. Every tone, every inflexion of her voice spoke of the ambitious were female that longed for power of her own – to be recognized as the unique, dangerous creature she was and in a way, stand apart from the crowd; the resultant melody danced lazily in his ears like a Hindi demoness.
“How could it be otherwise”, he thoughtfully said. “I perceive your usage of the Dark Arts has increased. It’s not surprising your skills as occultist have morphed into a new stage… If he’s wise enough, he’ll take precautions against you before the year is over.” Belial’s eyes shimmered darkly beneath his thick, black eyelashes. “You have your own goals, but I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t seen possibilities of interesting developments on your part. It pleases me to see you are able to handle these powers and use them in your behalf – some have not been… clever enough to do so.”
His lips curved in a dark smile.
“I ask you. If you need any help in your studies, don’t hesitate to say so. As you climb higher on the Dark Arts, you could reach peaks where information is too scarce – I am the ultimate source of Dark Arts knowledge. I believe… you already know that. Life can last long to your kin – you could reach things you’ve not dreamt of. On my part, I don’t need reasons to act.”
He suddenly smiled.
“Teaching is a personal pleasure of mine.”
Silvanus slightly arched an eyebrow, narrowing his eyes. Sake would be alright at the time – his usual Oporto would ruin the delicate taste of the various dishes, for its own taste was too strong. Usually he’d take his Sake at the end of the meal, but latin customs had found their way into his liking – to accompany the meals with some sort of liquor. He pondered on it while he watched Luna, his silver eyes shimmering like the moon on a black sea of deep, dark thoughts.
Perceiving, at least his surface want, Luna signaled to one of the servants who had stood in station along the wall. He approached and poured two cups of sake in their traditional containers; first for the guest and second for his mistress. He stepped back.
“Reliable information is always scarce; I will most assuredly call upon your skills when I reach such a peak. For now, however, my guardian’s library serves me quite well. I thank you most graciously for the offer.” She declined her head in acknowledgement. “We must all use the skills that come into our hands and the tools that come into our reach.” Her eyes shimmered as she sipped at the light oriental wine; she wished it were possible to grow the rice-plant here in England, but it seemed only the cruder wild rice would grow.
“I have been pondering in what manner, and how, I should reply to my guardian’s query. There are many precautions to be taken on both sides now, at least until a draw can be safely reached.” A wizard’s duel was the least of things she wanted right then. A small magical shield overlapped them both, to hide them from scrying. She could only hold it for a short time before her guardian would notice. “He will be loathe to lose this house; but I will arrange for ample repayment to him, to leaven the sting. It is within my reach, now.” And replacing his creatures within this house with my own… I will, soon. There is no need, once this place is Head House, for the vampire to be receiving reports of the Pack. She waited for his reply before she would dissolve the spell.
Silvanus nodded at her reply. He tasted the sake, holding the small container in a beautiful hand; his lips barely touched the liquid as he listened to Luna’s voice.
Verdaderamente…(1) I could help her give a swift end to this problem once and for all, he thought. But if I tell her that right now she’ll get offended for she can handle it herself, and that won’t he helpful. Besides, if I interfere with this, that will cripple her development. “From what you tell me, right now he doesn’t have enough information to proceed against you; it seems like he’s trying to gain some time by sending you a letter. He might also be trying to measure the depth of the waters, by getting you to explain yourself.”
Silvanus tasted the sake.
“You could take one of two ways. Once could be a diplomatic way; release little, twisted information – send a courteous reply but keep him in the dark while you secure your position. Replace the house servants; set the guardian spells to work only for you; remove his wards and replace them with your own. The node itself is a powerful tool, using its energies to enhance your power. You have allies now and your power increases. After some time, once you’ve secured your position, you may negotiate over the house with him and repay him as you’ve mentioned; but by then it’ll be you who sets the rules.”
Silvanus’s eyes narrowed.
“However, to lessen the sting and avoid direct confrontation won’t help from him turning into an enemy. This is a valuable prize, after all. You’ll be at some degree of risk while his servants work here. The other way could be to confront him directly, but this might be too soon for you. He has his own allies most likely and you ought to find out about these to plan your defenses more effectively. Maybe find a servant of his to inform you; someone with a need you can use to your purposes.”
His silver gaze moved momentaneously to the direction in which the yellow-eyed demon awaited for orders from the lady. Beyond Luna’s shield, the yellow-eyed demon couldn’t perceive what was going on in the chamber. After dropping this hint, Silvanus’s gaze returned to Luna’s golden eyes.
“Either of these two ways I put to your consideration. The decision is all yours, as it should be.” He rose his sake slightly in greeting, then tasted it again with a dark, charming smile.
“No. I know my limits- I do not have the skill to confront one of his age and lore face to face. I shall begin at the bottom and work my way up. And I have something in my possession that may interest him; it will assuredly give him the funds to build another manor over a node in the Americas.” Her mind strayed to the small bauble hidden in her dresser drawer- it appeared only to be a rough stone, but was in truth a valuable ore finding tool, attuned to the earth and stone. It would definitely aid in his ventures.
Luna followed Silvanus’s gaze to the servant… Indeed, she knew that it was one of the Lord Guardian’s agents. Which was why she allowed him to stay- feeding him just enough truth with the misinformation. She gave a brief nod to the Lord Demon and released the spelled shield. “But enough of these matters.”
“As you wish”, Silvanus politely said with one of his dark, charming smiles. He concentrated his attention on the food for a while, tasting and analyzing the flavors and spices like a consummate gourmet. The chopsticks provided for him were made of an oriental white wood, with silver inscriptions in the thicker end; Belial identified the icon of someone he knew in the tiny, contorted dragon worked into the wood by a miniaturist jeweler. Silvanus held and used the chopsticks with a natural skill – some things you never forget.
Enjoying his meal, the archdemon allowed himself some dark thoughts. Some could be optimistic in a moment like this, but Aramis’ side pulled him to withdrawal and meditation. He ate in silence for a few minutes.
“Soon, London will suffer a slight change and you need to be ready”, he slowly said. “The demonic armies have been freed; ancient demons trapped in the Abyss have… been set loose. My Seal will provide a warning to them, though.”
Silvanus tasted his sake, thoughtfully.
“Time is an spiral and the past returns in strange new variations. A new Battle has begun. Long ago, when the world was new I became a Fallen and led my Legions under Lucifer’s lead. We were cast into the Abyss – Hell, if you wish.” He spoke lazily, his voice melodic and dark like a windy night without stars. “The Angelic Host came up with an ingenious way to imprison us to eternal torment…” His voice hardened like ice. “A Seal was created; the Seal of the Abyss, supposed to endure to the end of Time.” Belial’s lips curled in a sardonic, malevolent smile. “I scaped by my own means, and so others did, but few powerful ones scaped. However, the Armies and the Warlord remained imprisoned. I sworn to Myself that I would find the way to break the Seal open. I did. Two nights ago, I carried on the Ritual I composed, successfully. With the power of the Warlord to fuel the spell, I unmade the Seal.” He coolly tasted his sake.
“It’s been a most interesting week. I have perfected the Dark Arts by bringing a dead corpse to real life to host the Warlord in this Plane. He’s not an undead, but a Live One; I altered the Book of Life and Dead. A busy week.” Silvanus’ silver gaze shimmered with dark light and his malevolent smile faded in a small curl of his lips in contempt at the flowing memories.
“I tell you this because your prized possession might call the attention of others in the flow of demons to London; my Seal will discourage them from charging on you because of my Power but in any case, I don’t want you to be unaware, for the Battle has already started. I don’t trust anyone and I know their temper.”
Calmly, Silvanus went back to eating entirely as if he hadn’t revealed hellish horrors and the doom of the World, but a simple tale.
Luna’s eyes widened slightly, and she barely prevented herself from dropping the sliver of beef she held between mahogany chopsticks. …There are more of the Others here? And… The Holy as well? This is more than I had expected… Many precautions will have to be taken! I may as well replace all of the Demon kind from this household and bind Elementals- they will not be tempted to run off and join their brethren any more than usual, at the least! But no… I could not replace all of the Cold Iron in this House. I will have to replace my Guardian’s creatures and bind them as tightly as I can. This was… very unexpected.
Taking a quiet, deep breath to calm her nerves –this is far beyond unusual– she took a dainty bite of the meat, listening closely. He altered the Book of Life and Death? How did he escape Death’s wrath? Of all beings, Death would be the most powerful! Those jaws are ones we all find ourselves in, one day. “Then I shall have to be… Prepared. I have more than a few tricks up my sleeves, like the Fox and Cat of old,” she replied quietly. I still have the Scroll. I will use it if I must, even for different purposes than I had originally intended. And the pendant. Luna had spent long hours studying the scroll that gave the magical means of exorcism- one that did not require faith in God, but only in one’s will and power. Though it required ability, indeed….
So there are several advantages to being the creature of an Archdemon… For a brief moment, she was grateful for the Seal of the Master of Dark Arts. But he has said that it may not give me total protection- I will believe him on that account. He has given me no information to doubt so far. The Pack has, besides my own senses, noticed the huge use of power here… It is all I can do to keep the drain redirected from the Node. I will have to make heavier shields… Which may require some sacrifice. She made a mental note to command a young ram on the morrow.
“I thank you for the warning, Lord Silvanus.”
Silvanus nodded on acknowledgement but did not reply. He ate in silence for a few minutes. The mention he made of the Book of Life and Death had brought the Dark One to his mind again. Belial half closed his eyes, tasting a delicacy. When would he see her again? Maybe too soon, in battle as ever. He tasted his sake again.
Luna’s mind was working, plotting and forecasting possibilities by now; he could feel it. He watched her as he tasted his sake, barely touching the liquid with his lips, his silver gaze dark and calm like still waters.
He sensed a slight disturbance in the Night; the Dark he had used to hide the window to Azazel’s room at the battle in Moloch’s house transmitted him the news. The son of Lucifer had awoken. Belial’s gaze turned inwards as he narrowed his eyes slightly.
//He will summon us, sooner or later.//
//Let him be damned!//
//Let us wait.//
Silvanus put down his sake and ate some more, moving his chopsticks in a slow, almost ethereal way as his gaze darkened.
He was distracted- she could smell it. They finished their meal in silence, she distracted by her thoughts and he by his. They were two in company with Quiet and Solitude, and the quartet were quite comfortable with each other. A light dessert and corresponding wine were brought in. She toyed with hers, not quite hungry any longer, too caught up in her plans and plots.
It will be the nights of Celebration soon… Tomorrow, and the next two days… I would join the Pack tonight, but I have other, more fulfilling obligations. “Will you be leaving,” she asked, “or do you have something else in mind?” She implied nothing improper; she was merely curious as to what his plans were.
Contrary to the previous time when Angel had dinner with Luna, Silvanus showed his appreciation for the dessert and picked a second share after finishing the first. He ate it slowly and thoughtfully. When he finished, he picked up his sake and tasted it. His silver eyes rose to look at Luna when she spoke to him shimmering darkly, but at the same time they had a slight trace of the melancholy that was distinctive of Aramis.
“I will take a walk in your gardens”, he said. “It’s a beautiful night and the moon has a different light here.”
“A walk it is then, milord.” She motioned for a servant to take her dish away, and sat quietly, sipping her sake and watching her beautiful, dangerous guest.
Such lovely eyes… Sadly, he is not Were… And I will not dally or even attempt to dally with one of his kind, through which veins ichor runs. Even though the faint taint of it runs in my own. He may be an ancestor of mine, for all I can ever know. She tapped her long, red-enameled nails on her thin-stemmed goblet.
Taking a glance out of the far skyward window, she noted that it was indeed quite dark out, and that the almost full moon had risen. “It shines clearer here… Because of us.” She rose from the table, smiling. She always felt her best just after the sun set and the moon slipped into the sky.
Silvanus removed his napkin and rose in a slow, graceful movement, then joined his hostess. He stood next to her as he gazed up into the skyward window; the moonlight reflected and shimmered into his silver eyes. “It shines clearer here… Because of us”, she had said; Silvanus gazed up to the lunar disc. The moon had a dark side; Azrael’s name was written on it. The love had turned into a sharp blade; an ever so sweet pain piercing his heart he could not remove… not even will all his power.
Silvanus half-closed his eyes; the thick, black eyelashes tossed a shadow on his eyes, but still the silver gaze shimmered with a light of its own. He gently took Luna’s arm and allowed her to lead him out of the manor and into the gardens. The archdemon watched her as they walked out; her proud poise and her self-confidence. She acknowledged he was a powerful being beyond her sphere but she as well accepted him without hesitation; she didn’t question him. This curiously soothed the demon’s soul.
The night was dark and deep; a magnificent black and blue pierced by the ethereal moonlight. Silvanus’ lips had remained closed. The scents of the night and the delicate symphony of the nocturnal choruses flowed around them with the chants of the various fountains that sparkled like crystal in the twilight. The node energies made these things more defined, purer in their perfect simplicity.
Silvanus and Luna came to a halt next to a bench in the shade of a tree, in a small space in the garden dominated by a fountain. Silvanus felt like dropping his human appearance to follow his relaxed mood, but still didn’t. Luna was looking at him; her golden eyes captured the light. Silvanus took a seat at the bench. He suddenly smiled; his eyes shimmered.
“May I present my excuses for being so silent”, he said with a dark, yet playful smile. “The night and the company took the words from me.”
Red goggle eyes rolled in mismatched directions, a green light flashing from their depths, entirely like a chameleon’s independent eyes. Deep in the bush, a strange, unnaturally crooked figure peered through the leaves into the space ahead. He saw a fountain and across the fountain he saw a bench in the dark under the canopy of a tree; a tall dark figure sat at the bench; a beautiful lady kept him company. Were lady. The figure curled up in his hideout, holding his legs. The air vibed slightly around his feet with the continuous fight his wards held to keep him out of the reach of the guard spells in the place.
Silvanus’ eyes shimmered when he spoke to Luna. A cold drop fell into Silvanus’ mind as he perceived a subtle disturbance in the garden. His eyelids closed slightly and his smile faded a little. Silvanus closed his hand and the outline of a staff could be perceived out of thin air. Silvanus didn’t rise yet, however.
The presence he perceived now reminded him of things he did not want to remember at the moment. Silvanus’ eyes lingered on Luna’s face yet he was as ever, alert to their surroundings.
“Sometimes I have wished… time could be stopped. I’ve not really tried to find a spell of such power; but at times like this it’s a tempting idea.” His silver gaze fell across the fountain ahead onto the dark bushes. Could spare us from unwanted interruptions…
Luna smiled slightly; sometimes a spell to stop time would be welcome… But her nature ever demanded change. She would become bored after a time; with boredom came decadence. “What slays kings and levels mountains, creates valleys and tries patience?” She asked softly, the old riddle just coming to her mind. Something prickled up her spine, tickling her awareness. Her sharp ears picked out the sound of something brushing leaves and cracking twigs; her hackles rose. Did she scent another demon? Of a lesser sort than her guest, as well… And distinctly… Different.
Luna’s silver eyes swept around, glinting fiercely. She may have been a lady of refined tastes, but she was also Were… A born warrior. “Come into the open, Lesser Kindred,” she commanded, her voice low and quiet, but clear.
The creature in the bushes cringed slightly at the were’s voice, annoyed. He peered again and saw the demon next to her remained immutable. Lesser kindred! How nice…, he thought in sarcasm.
A face popped out of the bush – a nightmarish grin distorted his monstrous features. With a long leap, he jumped out of the bush, flipped in the air over the fountain and landed like a frog before the two near the bench. His back was crooked; his legs like a frog’s and the red goggle eyes had a strange green light within them as he rose his face to stare at the two. One eye looked at the were, the other eye was fixed on the demon. “Greetings and good eve”, he said with a sibilant voice.
If Luna had been in wolf-form, her ears would have flickered back. As it was, however, when the strange creature… hopped from the bushes, she recoiled not in disgust but leaned forward with curiosity. “Greetings, Lesser Kindred of the Higher.” She stood and curtsied politely before returning to her seat. Is he friend or foe? He is a cordial enough fellow, for an Other… Luna’s silver eyes dimmed for a moment as a sudden memory hit her… From just a few days ago… The voice she had heard, upon her introduction to Belial… The warning… But it swam away before she could close her vise-like mental grip around it.
She allowed her eyes to half-close, to cover her momentary daze; she pretended indifference, though prepared in case the Other had violent ideas… He didn’t smell as if his intentions were anything but harmless, however…. She couldn’t afford to be trusting. It was a strange and unique situation she found herself in.
The grin on the creature’s face went wider, revealing yellow sharp teeth. One of his eyes looked at Luna from head to toes with curiosity; the other eye remained fixed on the demon. He held his long legs of a dark, brownish color.
“Greetings again, then.” He nodded at her, grinning and hissing. “Greetings to you, Bliol the Archdemon!.” The creature tilted his head.
“Sorry for the delay.”
Silvanus cast a cold look at the newcomer, letting his hostess deal with the visitor. Upon his greeting, Silvanus didn’t bat an eye but frowned slightly.
“You call that a delay? I warned you not to return there.” Silvanus’ jaw was set. “Show some manners and take another shape. What news do you bring?”
The creature cringed like a scolded child with a small pout. The red eyes rolled as he held his knees, then rose. It seemed a trick of the light and shadows, but as he rose his back and legs straightened, his limbs shortened and his claws changed; the brownish, dull skin acquired a metallic shine and the head went smaller. The batrachian-like silhouette had changed to a tall, slender man in a bronze armor. A dark green cloak covered most of it; deep dark red hair shone in the moonlight, yet the horrible, nightmarish face remained. The red eyes blinked, a green light shimmering within them.
“May I speak freely?”, he asked. His voice was grave and melodious, like a singer’s voice. Silvanus nodded gravely.
Silvanus slight frown went deeper. He looked at Luna.
“May I thank you for your patience to this visitor. This is one of my legionaries, Mastema. Mastema, this is Luna Lamina – an ally of mine and my kind hostess.” He cast a speculative look upon Mastema.
“Well, go on with your news.”
Mastema seemed to have expected a different welcome; he looked kind of disappointed. The demon rubbed his left hand on his dark green cloak and the moonlight shone on his hand – one of his fingers seemed to be made of molten silver or quicksilver, yet it was as flexible as the others. He cast a curious look at Luna and took a light, polite bow, then crossed his arms.
“Well”, he reluctantly began, “I… lost my way back. I had to stay in the Abyss, but I’ve kept the legions at my orders organized; when the Seal cracked and it became known what you had done…”, Mastema’s eyes went slightly wider, “that acted on our behalf; it added to our reputation. It raised the morals of the troops! Because since we rely on magic and it’s been shown how powerful that Art is… thanks to you… Everyone is wondering how did you achieve that Ritual. The other legions are ready as well, at your service. Is it true Azazel is hosted in a corpse that’s back to real life?” Belial nodded.
Mastema had an unwilling grin. “How’d you do that? You’ll have to teach me, at least. Moloch was involved, wasn’t she? And what about Azrael?”
Silvanus’ eyes went extremely cold, his gaze shimmering darkly. “What about her?”, he coldly asked.
Mastema shrugged. “Her Book”, he said. “You altered the Book of Life and Death after all…”
“We’ve had a battle. Then another. Nothing has changed, really.” Silvanus had an elegant shrug of his shoulders. “It doesn’t really matter.”
Mastema didn’t look much convinced, but he decided in his own behalf to keep his mouth shut on the subject. He looked at Luna with curiosity. He saw on her soul Belial’s Seal and he guessed she had to be a special being to have caught the Necromancer’s attention. Mastema took a polite nod at her.
“I’m sorry if I’ve been rude”, he said. “But I’m just out of Hell… some people over there have terrible manners and I’ve had to deal with them for a long time. Your manor and the Node are a work of the Art; it called for my attention even before I sensed the Archdemon here.” He looked at Belial, thoughtful. “He’s a good general but sometimes I don’t understand him.”
“I need a place to stay”, he announced with a blink. “Then you decide on what you want us to do.”
Luna sat quietly, observing the interplay between the Archdemon and his subordinate. Belial battled Death? And succeeded, I must assume! Amazing… Azrael is a member of the Host, then… And he altered Death’s Records…? Himself must have been displeased. Strange creature, this ‘Mastema’… A commander of one of Belial’s legions? There are more Others than I had realized… Are they all free, or just these? Moloch? Azaz…el… The son of Satan himself? …This… Will become interesting…
Luna nodded politely in reply to Mastema. “I have found your General to be agreeable company,” she replied, “and I am quite honored to entertain him. If you have need for board, you may take shelter here. It is the least I can do to repay milord.”
Silvanus looked at them thoughtfully. He thought it’d be convenient as well as for Luna as for him to have Mastema stay with her: for Luna because Mastema’s presence would be a helpful warning for the agents of the vampire not to be too audacious and give her more time to carry out her own plans; for him because he could set a quarter in a node of energies with a deft canalization. So he nodded. “You are so very kind, Luna”, he said with one of his dark, charming smiles. “So be it. Mastema will stay here.” Silvanus cast a warning look at Mastema. “Mastema may be of some help to you… I’d be thankful if you help him with any questions he may have about London; you know the area in depth, my kind hostess.”
“The Angelic Host has set quarters in London. Moloch has a district of her own and Azazel’s with her. I believe you could still find my house in London, Mastema.” He cast him a mocking smile. “I have no orders for you at the moment.”
“Oh. That will be just perfect.” Mastema took a polite bow at Luna, seeing that the Archdemon had some consideration to her. Mastema’s mismatched eyes rolled in opposite directions, studying the landscape. “Well, as you wish. I’ll wait for your word…” Mastema rubbed his hand on his cloak. “They have set quarters in London…? Where’s Azrael?”
Silvanus frowned. “May I point out to your notice that I am not her bodyguard”, he said, his voice cold. “She can go back to the Void, as far as I’m concerned… so spare me from your interest about her!” After a little pause, he said, “She will be in the Battles – that is for sure.” His silver eyes shimmered with hatred like eerie flames, then regained their normal look.
Mastema unconsciously gave a step back.
“Alright… I was just curious, that is all!” The red goggle eyes blinked with a guilty air to them. “I didn’t mean to be offensive.” He looked at Luna as if he expected her to come to his rescue. “Hm… at least seems like I arrived on time. The Armies from Hell await Azazel’s orders… but I’d say even if he doesn’t summon them soon, they’d be more than eager to leave the Abyss empty by the end of the month.”
Luna observed quietly; it wasn’t that difficult to fade into the ‘background’ when the others were paying you no mind. It showed a great deal of trust on the Archdemon’s account that he and his subordinate spoke so openly of such… subjects before her.
Or perhaps the knowledge that she couldn’t afford to betray him.
“It is my pleasure. I hope you have an uneventful stay, Oth… milord.” She stood and curtsied, but did not retake her seat. “If you have no further wishes, Lord Silvanus?” she declined her head in his direction, indicating that she would like to leave them to their discussion. She could ill afford to know to little; knowing too much would be more dangerous.
Mastema cocked his head to the side and watched Luna as she discreetly tried to make her exit. One of the goggle eyes turned to Silvanus, inquisitive.
//Why is this one at your service? Why did you choose her?//, he mentally asked. //Why don’t you mind her listening? Am I staying to keep an eye on her or just because of the node? Your Legions are following.//
//What do you want her to do? Go around telling what’s she heard?//, Silvanus replied in sarcasm. //I chose her and that is it. I believe you can still trust my touch to choose my allies//, the silver eyes shimmered darkly. //She has some points in her favor; watch her and learn a couple things, my long lost and recently found friend. Let the Legions set camp around here; you and the other commanders will report to me.// Silvanus graciously nodded. “I have no further wishes; I am thankful for your attentions, my kind hostess.” He rose and took a polite bow.
“I will leave now; I may return later. For now, Mastema will remain here; if you find his services needed don’t hesitate to call him. He is a resourceful demon.” Silvanus had a dark, charming smile. “I thank you for the pleasant eve.”
Silvanus vanished in the cold night breeze.