Chapter 0: Prologue
Temple of Beth, Lechimayim, Land of Tawuse Melek
2 Grand Hours, 4 hours, 8 minutes, 49 seconds (02:04:08:49)
Third Day of Aries, 511 Years after the Fall
The red sun of Resh starts to burn southeast of Lechimayim, upon the horizon given by tranquil waters of the Ryuujin Sea, lighting up the lands on the east of Eretshapir and the eastern portion of the ice canopy known as Shamayim shel Qerach, making the sea turn from black to white.
Stretching over the coast of the Nammu Bay that embraces Lechimayim, the Temple of Beth is the first building welcoming the light of a new day. Built in granite, it includes the port, its pharos right on top of the temple’s nave in the center, being the north hall dedicated to the clerics’ clausters and the south hall to the biggest library of Eretsaphir, having various books and documents and many of them unique and ancestral, being the oldest an Æon-old, 6000 years in a simpler manner, tax collection bill of a city lost to time.
As the first vessels of the fishermen arrive to the port from fishing in the high sea under the embrace of the absolutely dark night, the demons of the waking city start to flock upon the nave of the temple, where granite columns with the letter Beth, בּ, engraved over them while they support the abode with a complex painting depicting ropes, olive branches and the letter Tav, ת, highlighted in the middle. As they sit in the rows of mahogany, the demons put the index and ring fingers in front of their lips and start the prayer: “Beth spoke the first word of the world. Be the first word of my day dedicated to Beth.”At the altar, a golem of Beth, a faceless and genderless living statue representing it as a prestidigitator, stretches its arms in a sluggish manner as it welcomes the prayers of the devout populace.
A female Dantalion, a demon so human in appearance if not for the diminutive horns on the forehead, guides some of the youngest local orphans into the library to continue the lessons on the faith of Tav, the Weaver of Existence, they started yesterday with the Oracle of Beth, another Dantalion by the name of Bento. As they enter the library, even the vastness of shelves filled with scrolls of papyrus, mass chanting manuscripts made out of animal hides and the myriads of simple books, it feels empty compared to yesterday’s afternoon parade of scholars rummaging through the dusty tomes. From the top of a ladder found in the epic poem section, Bento descends to welcome the infants.
Female Dantalion: Good day, Oracle Bento
Bento: Good to see you followed my advice, Matron Barbariccia.
Barbariccia: I should thank you, it’s indeed quiet now.
Bento: I know the scholars of this temple, they’ll only be here when the Grand Hour pointer marks three. I’m just surprised Matron Borea didn’t warn you of the schedule.
Young Orc: Hey, are we getting our lesson or what? I’m bored!
As quick was his outburst, Birr, the young orc, quickly crosses his arms and pouts. The other younglings start to protest as they follow their unofficial leader.
Barbariccia: Hush, children. Mind your tongue in the temple of Beth of the Word.
Bento: Shall we go to the auditorium, then?
Bento points to a door on the same side as the matron and her orphans came in and soon the group follows the indication. The auditorium, a miniature of the nave missing the golem, is connected to both the library and the pharos and is located right behind the sacristy. As they enter, the children witness the light of the bay passing through the colored glass of the windows and drawing luminous letters on the western wall. Now that the children and the matron are seated, Bento starts the lecture.
Bento: So yesterday we talked about Tav and how its Malakeben created the world as we know it, us Daemon included. Birr, do you still remember what a Malakeben is?
Birr releases a grunt for having to answer the Oracle’s question.
Birr: Malakaben means “angel of stone”. It’s like a very special golem, right?
Bento: That’s right. But there’s something I didn’t tell you yesterday about our world. Do you know why the sea west of the Land of Izanami is called Blood of Tanen?
The children shake their heads in complete ignorance on the matter, probably due to never have left Lechimayim, much less venture to the lands of Izanami, Marduk, Prometheus and Mut to see the body of water in constant turmoil crushing its vitriolic waves against the sharp, darkened cliffs that dominate the shores.
Bento: It’s called so because it lays where once was the Land of Tanen, the once holiest of lands for it held the first and most sacred of temples, the High Temple of Tav, where Tav itself and its Malakeben reside. But there’s a fascinating story behind how that land turned into a sea, a story of dreams, disobedience, betrayal and death. It’s the story of the Fall of Lucifer.
The children gasp at the mere mention of the name of Lucifer, a name that they only met from the adults sandwiched between scoff and scorn. A female troll child by the name of Brina raises her hand.
Brina: Wasn’t Lucifer a very bad man?
Bento: I wouldn’t call him bad. Misguided is a more accurate description of him.
The Tower of Tzimtzum, Sitra Achra,Land of Zeus
Thirteenth Day of Taurus, 15 years before the Fall
Even when the penumbra as covered the metropolis of Sitra Achra, the crystalline Tower of Tzimtzum shimmers over the last rays of sunshine of the day. Over 852 meters tall, it is the tallest construction made by Daemon, observable for hundreds of kilometers and one of the three buildings constituting the Temple of Shin, being the other two the Ward of the Sword Saint to the east and the Ward of the Shining Seraph to the west, all built above the underground Temple of Pe.
On the very top, Sathariel Lucifer, a very handsome angel of silvery threads of hair and white wings, sits upon the Adamantine Throne in front of his generals, the Qliphoth. From right to left, the first two are Gamaliel & Nehemah, two sisters and succubae, being Gamaliel Lucifer’s wife. Third is Samael Adrammelech, a 4 meters tall anthropomorphic he-goat with twisted horns, sapphire-colored feathers instead of fur and a 5 meters long peacock tail. Fourth is Harab Baal, a demon with the peculiarity of having three heads, being the left one of a frog, the right one of a cat and the middle one of a human. Fifth is Thagirion Belphegor, a dwarfed demon with a beard so long a few centimeters of it sweep the floor. Sixth is Golachab Asmodeus, a demon very similar to Baal but with a lamb’s head on the left and a bull’s head on the right. Seventh is Gamchitoch Astaroth, an angel of dark, curly hairs and dark wings. Eighth is Chaigidel Beelzebub, a 3 meter tall insect with an emerald-colored husk, two enormous composed eyes and four small mammal-like eyes between them, enormous fangs, feathered antennae, a triangular abdomen and wasp-like wings and waist. Finally, the ninth is Thamiel Satan, a red-skinned demon with oryx horns, hooves and bat-like wings. Although not one of the Qliphoth, Isaac Alastor stands next to Lucifer since he’s the latter’s assistant; he has golden eyes contrasting with his skin and bull horns, darker than the night.
Nehemah is the first to break the initial silence.
Nehemah: Why did you summon us so late, melech?
Sathariel: I’ve figured out how to invade the Land of Izanami.
Sathariel: By invading the Land of Tanen first.
The Qliphoth look at each other with genuine concern for their leader’s sanity. The Land of Tanen was holy and forbidden ground to all Daemon and only those who aren’t aware of the borders step on it, making the only way to enter or leave the Land of Izanami by foot the Canyon of Roi, that connects it to the Land of Marduk. Sheireil Lucifer, Sathariel’s father, had conquered almost of Eretshapir except Tanen and Izanami, the first out of respect and the second due to the reinforcement of the Bara Fortress located at the east end of the canyon, making it useless the numbers invading forces may pull due to the field advantage the fortress provides. A maritime invasion was even more fruitless thanks to the almighty naval fleet of the Land of Izanami, being composed of twelve regiments proven to overwhelm any attempt of attacking the shores.
Sathariel: My father didn’t lead such an enormous empire by playing it safe. The border between the Land of Tanen and Izanami is a very long blind spot that we can easily exploit.
Gamchitoch: But to set foot in Tanen, that’s heresy, melech!
Sathariel: Heresy? Why, because the Malakeben live there?
Sathariel: I say is high time to knock the Malakeben off their pedestal. Countless Æons have passed since they were last seen and we still have to worship the ground they walk upon?! Preposterous!
Chaigidel: Melech, are you out-t-t of your mind-d-d? Have you forgot-t-t what-t-t happened-d-d to Abezeth-th-thibou?
Samael: Nobody cares about the fairy tales of your people.
Abezethibou, the One-Winged Angel, was the prototype of sentient life made by the Malakeben in Beelzebub folklore. Born half-formed, it cursed his very creators, to the point of trying to destroy all the other creations in rebellion. For that, he was imprisoned in a water column in a foreign world to serve as example. Despite the belief the Beelzebub express on his existence, other Daemons prefer to believe Lilith was the first sentient being, she who birthed the Daemon via Samael, the holy he-goat highly revered by the Baphomet, the first species born from the union, and the Adrammelech, the second. She also birthed the humans in an adulterous affair with Adam in the world of Gaia.
Gamaliel: My love, don’t you think attacking those who created us is too disrespectful?
Sathariel: Why should we blindly respect our creators? The fact they created us does not the Malakeben holy, they still have to earn our respect like anyone else. Moreover, what they did after the original creation? They banned treading on their private land and hid themselves in the High Temple to never be found. And out there are people starving to death, children being molested and many other calamities and they do nothing. They don’t care for their creation, it’s us Daemons who have to fix up the mess. My father… my father wanted to give the reigns of fate to us.
Harab’s Left Head: *croak* Or he sought after the reigns of the world for himself. *croak*
As Harab’s right head hisses, his left arm smothers the amphibian mouth as the middle head stares at it with a censoring expression.
Sathariel: I guarantee it was not. Although lives were sacrificed to pave this road, many more were and will be saved when it is complete. A single country with a parliament representing all of Eretsaphir, that way battles will be avoided over conflicts of territory, resources and others. Unfortunately, the Land of Izanami loves tyrants and we’re left with no choice but to fight its troops. I hope that if we’re able to conquer Tanen, they’ll give up.
Golachab’s Right Head: “They”, melech? Don’t you mean “he”, Iemitsu Oni?
Sathariel: Despots like him are the last to abandon power. But he’ll be harmless if his people no longer fight for him.
A silence settles in the room, as if the generals asserted that their leader had his mind set with no turning back.
Sathariel: No more objections? Good, now I’ll tell you the first step of my plan: raise the numbers of our army to at least an hundred myriads. It might take a decade or two to reach it while maintaining the quality of our army, but if there’s anything that can conquer Tanen, it must be it. If you have nothing else to say, you’re dismissed. Thamiel and Isaac, meet me tomorrow in the first floor’s terrace over the inner courtyard of the Ward of the Sword Saint at the third Grand Hour.
Thamiel: Sure thing, melech.
Isaac: As you please, melech.
Ward of the Sword Saint, Sitra Achra,Land of Zeus
Fourteenth Day of Taurus, 15 years before the Fall
Surrounded by the terraces of 8 floors and with a sky view skewered by the Tower of Tzimtzum, the inner courtyard is filled with youngsters aspiring to be warriors, trying to stomp their training dummies and skeptics into the sandy soil. Two of them stand out compared to the others, the 12 years-old twin brothers Esau and Jacob Alastor, the two sons of Isaac. Although twins, they are easily distinguishable by their eyes, Esau having inherited his father’s golden eyes and Jacob his mother’s purple eyes. Their fighting skills are also significantly different: Esau brandishes a zweihänder and delivers powerful swings at his wooden adversary, while Jacob wields two short swords and prefers to strike the dummy on would-be vital points with agility.
On the closest terrace, Thamiel and Isaac join Sathariel, who has been watching his future soldiers for quite a while.
Sathariel: You’re both earlier than I asked. Good.
Thamiel: Of course, melech.
Sathariel: Quite the promising swordsmen you have as sons, Isaac. I’m anxious to see their full potential.
Isaac: As do I, melech.
Sathariel: What about your son, Thamiel? Cathariel, is he?
Thamiel: Yes, he’s 6 years-old now and seems to have a knack for magic, so he’ll enter the Ward of Shining Seraph later in a few months.
Sathariel: Good to know. Moving on, you two were awfully quiet yesterday. Have you nothing to say about my plan?
Thamiel: No, melech. You know you can count on me on every occasion as your father did, even if I have to forfeit my life to do so.
Isaac: I too served your father and he wanted me to serve you as well. The least I can do is to assist you without hesitations.
Sathariel: Thank you for your loyalty.
Sathariel takes a deep breath and looks at the sky.
Sathariel: As you know, my race has been plagued and I’m the only one left. Once I die my bloodline will be forever lost and so will the dream my father and I share… but I don’t want that to happen. That’s why I decided to make Esau, Jacob and Cathariel the heirs of my empire, which will become a triarchy. I hope they’ll inherit their fathers’ will and prove my own right.
Thamiel: I can’t thank you enough for your trust, melech.
Isaac: As truly honored as I am, melech, make only Esau and Cathariel your heirs. Jacob may be my son, but he’s a rascal and probably the last person to put in a position of power.
Sathariel: If that’s your wish, Isaac, it shall be so. Thamiel, you are dismissed. Isaac, make sure everything is ready for tomorrow’s trip to Litholeukos.
Isaac: As you wish, melech.
Both bow to Sathariel and leave. Sathariel looks back to the courtyard and decides to pay a visit to the apprentices. As he enters the courtyard, everyone bows in a hurry to their emperor except Jacob, who even turns his back and pretends nobody’s there. Sathariel starts to approach each apprentice, asking their name and giving a pep talk, leaving Esau and Jacob for last. Of the two brothers, Esau is the first to be approached, who stares awestruck at Sathariel as if Tav itself materialized in front of him.
Sathariel: Esau, is it?
Esau: Y-yes, melech.
Sathariel: You’re hitting your target quite hard, I dare say you already have the strength of some adults.
Esau: Thank you, melech. I’m training so I can serve you as my father does, melech.
Sathariel: Good to know. If you keep this performance up, you’ll go very far.
Satheriel pats on Esau’s shoulder, who ecstatically watches the emperor walk towards Jacob, who keeps ignoring Sathariel while practicing.
Sathariel: Jacob, is it?
Jacob answers with silent indifference. Sathariel smirks and snaps his fingers, causing the wooden dummy to be pulverized, leaving only a pile of dust as evidence*. Everybody looks surprised at the power of their leader.
*Beriah’s Word of Defeat: Existence Denial
Sathariel: Do I have your attention now?
Jacob finally turns to meet Sathariel face to face, while setting a glare to him.
Sathariel: Accompany me to the changing room. Now.
Jacob sighs while putting his swords back in the weapons’ rack. He walks to the changing room in front of Sathariel, opening the door to a division composed by pools of steaming water, showers of cold water and various cavities in the walls to keep the clothes of the apprentices. Jacob sits on a bench near a pool and Sathariel stands in front of him, with his arms crossed.
Jacob: What do you want?
Sathariel: Some manners would be a good start.
Jacob: What do you want… melech?
Sathariel: You’re quite snide for your age, don’t you think?
Jacob: What of it?
Sathariel: Let me guess, there’s something unpleasant between you and Esau, isn’t there?
Jacob turns his back to Sathariel, crosses his arms and lowers his head.
Jacob: My father only really cares about Esau. Esau is the good swordsman, Esau is the good citizen, Esau is the good son. No matter what I do, I’ll never be as good as Esau in my father’s eyes.
Sathariel: So your qualm is with your father, then. And I’m sorry to tell this truth, but now you have further confirmed why your father opted to deny you the chance to rule Eretsaphir alongside your brother.
Jacob puts his hand on the back of his neck and incoherently mumbles something.
Sathariel: Your father served me and my father well all these years and I’ll respect his wish to the grave. However, you already have the skill of an assassin and it must not go to waste. What do you say about becoming my hashashin?
Jacob: … what?
Sathariel: Think about it, you’ll sink your sword in living prey while your brother will continue to beat up worn out dummies. I’ll pay you handsomely and, when I pass away, I’ll guarantee that, while your brother rules under the light, you’ll be the king under the shadows.
Jacob turns back to face Sathariel, showing a trail of dried tears from his eyes.
Sathariel: As a test, you’ll receive 100 shekels if you depart from here tomorrow morning and arrive to Litholeukos in 6 days unnoticed. Latest intelligence says that a ninja from Izanami, whose codename is Shiroi Kiba, has climbed the Gihon River all the way to Litholeukos to spy on us. 250 shekels will be yours if you bring new intelligence and 7500 if you bring me his head.
Jacob: I’m not interested.
Sathariel: You’re a poor liar. I’ll hand over the money ten days from today by the dusk in Litholeukos, with or without you.
Sathariel turns his back and leaves the changing room. Jacob turns to the water and stares at his reflection on the water.
The Doors of Litholeukos, Land of Prometheus
Twentieth Second Day of Taurus, 15 years before the Fall
Standing between the river port and the mount where Litholeukos is located, the Doors are four archways made of quartz drawing a star pattern where three roads meet, being the shortest the road from city to the port and the longest the Fifth Royal Road, which travels from Sitra Achra to Roi. In the middle of the crossroads, a single maple tree stands tall, with its orange leafs dancing with the passage of a gentle breeze. From the western archways, a caravan of six carefully treading behemoths comes, for they are giant beats resembling wooly hippopotamus that measure 40 meters from their muzzles to their hips and 25 meters from their shoulders to their feet. On top of them, white tents are built, each with at least 4 people in them.
As the first behemoth passes by the maple tree to walk towards the city, lightning strikes in front of it, startling it and the remaining beasts*. Running rampantly, the behemoth make some Daemon almost fall off their tents until Sathariel exits his tent and whispers some words, making the behemoth calm down and stay put. ** Isaac leaves the same tent.
*Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Thunderbolt
** Yetzirah’s Word of Dominance: Soothing Whisper
Isaac: What happened, melech?
Sathariel: Someone is trying to send a message.
The White City of Litholeukos, famous for its buildings made of calcite and quartz, grows upon a mount in the southeastern extreme of the Eden Mountains and is composed of seven levels, separated from each other in height by 40 meters, and ten districts connected to each other by a shaft found inside the mount. At ground height and the outermost, Malkuth is both the first level and district, containing the stables, warehouses and barns. Yesod is both the second level and district and from it the fumes of industry rise up to form mist that covers the third level which contains the districts of Hod, where the scum scam the poor, and Netzach, were produce and fish vendors, butchers, smiths, carpenters and other small shops make business. Tipheret, fourth level and fifth district, is entirely composed by the Temple of Daleth, the Malakeben of Prayer. The fifth level is composed by the districts of Geburah, where the Tribunal of Litholeukos is set, and Hesed, home of the middle class. The sixth level is composed by the districts of Binah, where the nobles attend the finest tailors, jewelers, restaurants and artisans, and Chokhmah, where the Academy of Magic is set on. Finally, Keter houses the Royal Palace, crowning over the mount.
A platoon of 50 soldiers, wearing white-coloured leather armor with a cowl and mouthpiece making the eyes and horns the only visible parts of the soldiers, comes from the city, in a hurry to assure everyone from the caravan is unharmed. Between the worried calls, rope ladders are cast from the tents and many Daemon descend from them. The soldiers quickly surround Sathariel and his servants, and a captain, distinguishable by a silver stripe on the borders of the cowl, approaches the emperor.
Captain: We apologize for the incident, melech.
Sathariel: I guess Shiroi Kiba still wasn’t captured, right?
Captain: Melech, it’s a city of almost 4 million habitants and we’re trying to avoid alarming the populace. And, has far as I know, this was the first time he did anything.
Sathariel: Do you have at least any idea from where he could’ve cast that spell?
Captain: Melech, the Doors are visible from the northern side of all levels except the third due to the smoke of the factories.
Sathariel: He’s there. Add fog to the grimiest district and you get the perfect habitat for spies. Do a research on the spots o the third level where the Doors can be seen and, if they require access to a private building, please interrogate the people who live there. But only ask if they saw anyone new.
Captain: Yes, melech. What are your orders in the eventuality of us finding him or his location?
Sathariel: Don’t worry, I have someone on the job.