They awoke in a large dark chamber constructed of dark stone slabs. In large bronze bowls burned a scentless liquid. By the light they could see the room was strewn with bones they recognised as belonging to demons and humans. Orbray-Ell stood protectively between the rousing group and a dark skinned primitive at the fringes of the light.
At first the group found themselves at odds with the man. His foreign language sounded menacing and it was only when Emalf activated his “Pendant of Tongues”, that Dzuyi’s words matched his worried body language.
The tribesman uneasily encouraged the group to follow him to an audience with “The Beast”. He seemed terrified that “The Beast” would be angered as he had with the last visitor to arrive. A man they knew from the description must have been Andrakasis. Unhappy with the nonsensical answers that other tribesman had given him, the former witch-king had gouged an eye from the man and used it to learn what he could from the man.
Andrakasis had then avoided all other contact in the temple and the primitives had lost track of him outside.
The group were wary of meeting “The Beast”, but the insistence of the dark skinned native that “The Beast” would have the answers they sought overrode caution. Dzuyi guided them through dark corridors in which no other being was seen and out into blinding light. There they stood on a platform sporting steep stone steps down to the forest at ground level.
As they moved away from the Aztec pyramid and into the wild green, they realised that the inside of the temple had reverberated with dimensional echoes of the Kingdom of Flesh. Yet somehow, the sloped stone walls locked away that tide of evil, keeping it apart from something wholly different.
This “Kingdom of Light” was bright and teeming with life. Overlaying all things was an ubiquitous sensation that Kavad-Ell was present. In every being, in every plant, in every inanimate object. Orbray-Ell was convinced that he had personally “created” almost every part of the world in which they walked, and whilst it had no doubt grown apart from his foundational plan, his mark remained glaringly evident.
Some minutes later they were conducted to a solemn tribal gathering. The occasion brimmed with formality as the group were led along an aisle of devout men and women to the simple throne at its end. The groups eyes at first missed the throne, pausing instead on the stained stone block before it.
Dzuyi shifted uneasily at their pause, saying nervously to Emalf, that they must not anger “The Beast”. The Pulyah (witch doctor) hovered in trance at the shoulder of the Qeqchi (leader) as the decorated man stood to bellow words that only Emalf understood. The warlock relayed what he understood and the group seriously entertained preventing the clear intent of the Pulyah to sacrifice a villager as an offering to “The Beast”.
In their minds, as the Pulyah leant on his walking stick to select the chosen, the impending barbarism vied with the likelihood that “The Beast” would have information they might be unable to otherwise learn. Whether it was shortness of time or dissenting opinions, they watched as the man given to “The Beast” in trade for their audience made his way to the block and had his head removed.
Blood gushed into a bowl beneath, and in a manner disturbingly like that of Tolmet’s followers, the Pulyah revelled with his hands in the blood, and used it to mark his face.
The feeling of dark power gathering crept across the assembly as the Pulyah limped with his stick back to the throne. There the age fell away from him and he stood straight and tall with vital youth like that of a great warrior in his prime. When he turned to face the crowd his eyes were abyssal orbs looking back.
When the possessed man asked whom sought audience, Emalf answered with a question in like tones. Nature itself seemed to exhale as the guttural whisper pierced their consciousness. The shaman “said” only three “words”, and whilst the first was an equivalent for “I AM”, what came after was a word that was many titles with many meanings and evoking many emotions.
With that last “word” “The Beast” called itself by the name of every evil of an entire dimension (Abaddon, Accuser, Adversary, Angel of Light, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Anointed Covering Cherub, Antichrist, Apollyon, The Beast, Beelzebub, Belial, Dark One, Deceiver, Devil, Dragon, Enemy, Evil One, Father of Lies, God of this Age, King of Babylon, King of the Bottomless Pit, King of Tyre, Lawless One, Leviathan, Liar, Little Horn, Lucifer, Man of Sin, Murderer, Power of Darkness, Prince of the Power of Air, Roaring Lion, Ruler of the Darkness, Ruler of Demons, Satan, Serpent of Old, Son of Perdition, Star, Tempter, Wicked One, etc).
With the uttering, there was silence. The group paused to absorb something that could surprise even their experience. Orbray-Ell muttered in quiet tones that this being was not the Lucifer they sought and that she could not discern what he was or how dangerous he was. What she knew was that she would not take whatever it was lightly.
As they regathered their thoughts and described Kavad-Ell, “The Beast” answered that the one they sought was “Yahweh”. Such a realisation brought a hunger to the possessed eyes and the inhuman Pulyah demanded the group surrender “The Key to Heaven” when they found it. A lofty title that Emalf led “The Beast” to believe belonged to Natasha.
With an expressionless pleasure emanating from it, the alien evil extended a hand toward the warlock, saying “You will deliver me heaven”. Then as Emalf’s chest, and the clothes atop it burned in the shape of a large clawed hand, the shadow seemed to wash out of the Pulyah. The dark wind blew through every one of those gathered to witness the audience, and when it reached the group, it swept them across the world.
The group found themselves on stone steps outside the world’s largest gothic place of worship. Standing a few steps shy of the large doors leading into the Cathedral of St John the Divine, the group took in the New York skyline, the cars, and the odd attire of the people.
One woman, amongst others stared at the group as she ascended the stairs and Emalf asked her where they were. “Deborah” responded cryptically of a Church in New York 2012 as she absorbed their appearance.
Suddenly concerned that the fire of the world would not answer his summons Emalf instructed Deborah to stand still as he commanded a raging ring of flame around her. Deborah, screaming and people the length of the street reacting in one way or another, Emalf let the fire subside.
Surrounding the alarmed woman, the group grew fascinated as Deborah tried to stave off what they might do next with a stammering of words. She commented timidly that their magic, the revealing clothes of their women, and the one they sought did not belong in a place the people came to worship God. The mention of God gave the woman what she wanted, as the curious group focused their attention on the double doors and the church inside.
In the entryway parishioners flinched from them as they stared inquisitively at the religious symbols decorating the walls. As Emalf questioned the significance of the ornamental crucified man mounted above the arch leading into the church proper, he realised Deborah had used their distraction to escape.
An officious man dressed in well-made robes strode through frightened people. He boldly counselled the group against making the trouble in the house of God, and asked them to leave in peace. The request was answered with questions over the Bishop’s authority to command them, and on hearing the man was a member of the Clergy, Emalf demanded a demonstration of power.
Emalf did not like the confused priest’s incredulous assertion that god did not work that way. Taking Haltecere in hand he flicked the blades agile edge across a parishioners arm and commanded the “Bishop” to prove his god and heal the woman.
Bishop Ercharez, outraged and afraid, bellowed at the group to leave as Emalf, with utter calm, called the Priest a charlatan and nodded to Orbray-Ell. As the [[:orbray-ell | angel] in mortal guise moved toward the woman, Emalf asked the priest what use was his God if it would not grant him miracles.
The entire congregation watched in terror as Orbray-Ell, beginning to glow, placed hand upon the woman’s wound and reversed the damage.
The display of power changed everything. Not a single parishioner had ever seen anything like it. The Bishop gasped and inspected the woman for traces of her injury before turning to Medicii Aurar Elidor and addressing her with reverence.
In the time since shortly after the groups arrival, the people outside had first fled and then begun to be replaced. On the steps, a woman stood with her back to the cathedral as a man holding a camera filmed her. Her assertion that “In a scene akin to events in LA two days past a group of anarchists has stormed the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York. Live on scene, the struggle between church and devil worshippers takes place beyond these very doors”.
Hearing her words, Emalf turned to the Bishop to ask what happened in “LA”. From the cleric’s description they deduced that Andrakasis had attacked a church in “The City of Angels” demanding for the world to hear that Lucifer “show himself”. Whilst the assault had taken place between services, there had been innocents hospitalised.
Emalf wanted to hear the words from the source. He stormed back out the entry way, his companions in toe, as a number of cars with flashing lights screeched to a stop in the street. He was bewildered as the woman answered his questions with questions and his patience vanished when the black uniformed “police” charged up the stairs and begun shouting at them.
“Monkey Nuts!” the warlock roared as light exploded from him. All those unaware of the long standing code flinched with their hands to their eyes as Echo invoked her power to summon the weapons from the hands of the disabled “police” to her own. If Natasha saw the blinded men had been disarmed, it did not deter her from the lightning quick motion that brought dagger to hand and cast it at them.
One dagger became many, and as bodies crumpled to the concrete, the Bishop came running from the cathedral yelling to prevent further casualties. As more sirens gathered in the distance, the Bishop found himself leading the group, and the reporter they would not release, into the sacred building.
The reporter, “Madeline Eves”, was afraid and confused that the group thought she would know more than she had “reported”. She described the infamous attack on St Stephen’s Cathedral in Los Angeles and said that she had not reported on the incident and probably knew less than the Bishop.
Echo and Emalf, determined to track down Andrakasis, insisted the Reporter and the Bishop take them to St Stephen’s. The Bishop, who seemed to continually transition between states of incredulity and wonder at Orbray-Ell, volunteered the Catholic “jet” after the reporter mentioned “planes”, “911” and “security”. He hurried to his office to get the keys for his “car” as the noise outside the cathedral grew.
As the party made ready to leave, a short dark skinned man confronted them. They were to discovered that Chaisaine’s elusive son, Rhonin, had been a refugee in the Kingdom of Light for years after falling victim to Peril’s curse. Had had learned something of the Kingdom and after seeing reports of Andrakasis’ attack in L.A., had been ready when reports of the group’s actions had reached him.
Wanting as much to help as to get home, he slid in with the group with an ease that marked him his mother’s son.
The drive to the airport was not without incident. Between traffic jams and transport that stood still, the group simmered on the brink of taking matters into their own hands. Perhaps they would have, had Rhonin not been present to tell them what he had come to understand about the world that Lucifer had built.
Having spent years studying volumes of history, religion and philosophy as an assistant librarian in the New York City Library, he told them he thought that Lucifer had fashioned the dimension in the void left by the defeat of the Old Ones. That he had made or exploited a place that was a prison for angels into a world at his mercy and then recruited or duped other celestials into helping him govern it.
Rhonin speculated that the devils birthed in the Hell Womb destined for the Kingdom of Light had not been a problem at first, but then Lucifer, the being the Kingdom knew as “Yahweh”, had left it without warning.
By his reckoning, Rhonin supposed that had been at the time when Lucifer had conspired with Satan to entrap himself with a prefect of Ell-Maine to learn more of the message. A scheme that had kept him away from the Kingdom for more than one thousand years. Rhonin believed that the people of the kingdom knew this tumultuous time as “The Dark Ages”.
Rhonin was not completely clear on what had transpired in that time, but it was evident that the beginning of the first dark age marked he rise of “The Beast” from obscurity to true influence. It could not be an accident that only a century later clear indications of godly interest had answered “The Beast”.
Knowing that Lucifer was imprisoned at that time, Rhonin surmised that one of his celestial lieutenants had taken up the guise of Yahweh to combat the spiritual following that “The Beast” had accumulated. In the following decades, other deities rose to the fore that seemed parallel to that of Yahweh, but known by other names. Rhonin believed these “deities” were Lucifer’s other lieutenants each combatting the rise in power of “The Beast” by another guise.
It was a long and scholarly analysis of the history of more than one world, and one that described no evidence of the return of the “real” Yahweh.
St Stephen’s Cathedral bore the scars of Andrakasis’ frustration. Closed for repair, the group may not have known about the side entrance to the church had Bishop Ercharez not been with them.
They were welcomed by Sister Mary Ephresia. She told them that as much as the building was damaged, it was the injuries sustained by the minister that kept their doors barred. She did not volunteer the details of the attack, but on request she described the black clothed man in the cape, in whom the Minister had seen ‘a lost soul’.
The priest had approached the man to be answered by the demand to know where Lucifer was. “Father Simmonds” had tried to console Andrakasis and help him find the answers he sought inside himself, but the protagonist had become demonstratively angry and showed the first signs of supernatural power. Baffled by what to tell him, the Priest observed that he doubted even “the Vatican” would satisfy his questions.
What had begun as a feeling of power had dashed them to the ground as Andrakasis had called the Father “the worst kind of deceiver, someone that answers questions with questions, deceiving themselves into thinking they know of what they speak. You are no more use to me than a liar and I do not have time for useless things”.
Sister Mary Ephresia had broken then. Through tears she had described how the monstrous man in black had pulled the clerics eye from his skull and crushed it. It was small solace that the action seemed to soothe his rage and he had left as suddenly as he had arrived.
According the Bishop, the hospital was not far. So the group, wanting to know as much as possible of what Andrakasis had learned from the holy man, delayed their return to the airport to check on him. The group laboured on the odd odour permeating the hospital and the oddity that the Bishop called an “elevator”.
In every way the corridors were both less welcome and less effective than their analogue in Dawn and rather than being a place of life saving spiritual fulfilment, the hospital was just a place for the sick and wounded. The object of much attention, the strange company ignored the scrutiny and through the Bishop’s authority found themselves as the bed side of the injured man.
Business like, they did not dally with explorations or try to talk with the unconscious man. Emalf beckoned Orbray-Ell and Bishop Ercharez saw his most potent miracle yet. The man, almost completely restored had awoken in the midst of the process to see the winged woman aglow with her power. Though what she had done eclipsed months of rest, her first words were an apology that she did not have what she needed to return his eye to him.
Father Simmonds gazed at her in wonder as the group questioned him. His answers gave them little new, apart from to confirm the belief that his assailant would be bound for “The Vatican”.
Two car rides and a flight later (at the expense of the church), the group arrived in Vatican City, where the Bishop negotiated their admission from the regular tourist areas in the operating centre of the Catholic Church. Whilst the complex’s public security team had been easy to pass, the inner circles proved less receptive to the Bishop’s efforts to gain them audience with “The Pope”.
Bishop Ercharez, clearly concerned about what the group might do in the holiest of places, told them as explicitly as possible that he would need to engage in careful negotiation to gain a slot in the Pontiff’s busy schedule and that the best action they could take would be to wait patiently – “without causing any disturbances”.