Palladium: Reason and Existence
132 Echoes Out of Time
Standing beside the Essenser, a man whose dwarven stature failed to undermine his role as the most influential man in the mortal world, he watched in bewildered silence as the guards escorted the leather clad beauty away. His way had always been to acknowledge confounding elements, but to work with the certainties, rather than informed speculation.
He told himself that he had been prudent, that he had maintained his powerbase, whilst ensuring that he did not breach ‘The Impasse of the Gods’ that would have given heaven and hell alike the reason to unite against him. With his plans so near to winning Ell-Maine, the time travellers concessions that some of what she remembered might already have been mitigated had assuaged his concerns.
What had held his attention had not been the woman’s story, but the woman herself. He had never seen her before, but she rang with a familiarity that had resonated disturbingly with the connection she had admitted to sharing with him.
For all of her assertions of a future, he thought probably averted, lost in Tolmet’s grasp where he and the betrayer were dead, she had told him nothing of use. It was the critical promise of her words undermined by an imprecise telling that should have been her death. If she had known him, as she claimed, she would know that he would see her actions unambiguously cast in the light of treachery.
Yet she had brought these uselessly incomplete ‘truths’ without apparent guile. The conflicting thoughts and emotions that had troubled his mind throughout the infuriating exercise had made her companions’ escape possible and allowed her to leave his presence alive.
In time he thought to visit her in her cell within the vault of forbidden knowledge, but not before he had come to understand what she made him feel, and schooled his mind to ensure she gave him what he wanted. Anger rose in him as he flinched from the thought that he might let the Viscerae devour her mind to tell him all she knew.
So preoccupied was he with his dark musings, he had not noticed Essenser Caddis Mallean cease to scratch away at parchment and leave the chamber. Alone, he took in the empty chamber in which he stood alone, realising the building was heaving and shuddering before a power that threatened to bring it down.
When his eyes finished surveying the hairline cracks spidering through the pearl walls and came to the great gold and silver double doors hosting the rising sun, he recognised the hate that had roused him. The mortal voice roared at Morden with unnatural volume as he observed the double doors had been struck with such force that they had detached from the doorway and crashed through the rows of chairs provided for those seeking audience. They had come to rest just short of the pearl desk where the Essenser may have been seated at the time it happened.
Satan felt the guise of Pentemus Morden quiver as he fought against his rage to hold it, and the first words that had been thrown at him penetrated his mind. “Where are they!” demanded the traitor.
Secure once more in the appearance of a mortal Enforcer, Satan surged forward. “Their fate is mine to choose!”, he bellowed like a war cry before he realised that Andrakasis had never crossed the threshold of the room. In the passage of time taken for him to cross the room, he saw the man distort behind the wave of force that exploded from him. With eyes, created by the Old Ones for battle, he witnessed the minutia of the moment the telekinetic blast hit the door frame and saw the compromised structure collapse.
The splintered pearl could not stop the arch devil that had ruled he Hells for millenia, but the ensuing obstructing cloud and debris cost time. Beyond the rubble, the man was not in the corridor, and remembering a time he had chased this man from the Citadel of Dis, he quieted himself to listen as he moved at an disciplined march down the crumbling corridors and out into the courtyard.
The militia and Enforcers of Dawn were nothing if they were not devoted. He came upon them engaged with demons and was absorbed with fascination as the demons were despatched by the combined might of the Enforcer and the Loreguard aiding them. For not the first time he recognised the depth of the similarity of the bond shared between Loreguard and Enforcer, and that he shared through the guardianship of Kavad-Ell.
The irony that they fought alongside disguised Viscerae to drive out demons that might have obeyed the commands of the shape shifters was an ubiquitous theme permeating the remnants of the pledge they had made to him when they had become witches.
At the far end of the courtyard a beam of crimson light cut the horizon in two and Satan recognised, without surprise, what Andrakasis had done. He knew also that it might be turned to is advantage. Spying the man whose plan, be it escape or something more inconvenient, could not be allowed to bear fruit, he growled over the fray in a voice that could be heard throughout the fractured halls of pearl “By the Essenser’s command, the Witch-King, Andrakasis, must be taken or killed”.
The demons and devils would have to die later. He knew that many of them would recognise the authority in his words and if they knew who he was, they could compromise his position to his rivals in Hell. The demons that approached him as he crossed the courtyard ceased to do so when his ferocious glare fell on them. He had difficulty stopping short of commanding them to join the mortals against Andrakakasis and he hid his hesitation in the move to draw his sword and slay those foolish enough to threaten his disguise with efforts at association in the view of mortal eyes.
As he closed on the enemy with savouringly slow steps, he watched the man defend himself from the Enforcers and the Viscerae. Unseen forces turned unforgiving steel and dashed men to the ground, but some few reached him.
At first, seeing the man shouting at a daughter that was wholly consumed by the blaze of dimensions bleeding together in a tide of infernals, Satan did not realise that the men that reached Andrakasis were being allowed to do so. When they did, he took their heads in his hands and made them his own.
The once Lord of Hell could not understand how he could sway them, but he deduced by their pupilless, whitened eyes, that they were unconditionally devoted to their new master. The realisation awoke a concern that matters might escape his control, and confirming his fears his eyes probed the battlefield to isolate other Enforcers under Andrakasis’ sway.
He identified only two before he broke into a run. As he closed the remaining steps, he saw Andrakasis turn to look at him. Whatever fear he held was deeply hidden as he claimed another Enforcer to is cause. Then, just steps away from his goal, Satan saw Andrakasis do something he had thought impossible.
Lucifer had told him that the Prefecture warned all angel kind that the coming of the ‘Message Thieves’ had been heralded by an event that no survivng angel had been a part of. Yet as the thread of light became momentarily visible, Satan knew that Andrakasis was about to enact what Lucifer had called ‘The Miracle of Light’.
With fatalist fascination, Satan looked up at a sky turned red by the curse of the girl. There he saw destruction wreathed in brilliance descending. Few would have been in the presence of ‘The Messengers’ enough to discern the figure within the light, emitting the light, but Satan saw the angel clearly.
The blindness went beyond vision. The “noise” of the message as it was channelled at him had appeared superficially as light, but Satan had felt it plumb the extremes of what defined him. It had drowned out sight, sound, touch, smell, thought, memory, imagining, and reach lethally for the fabric of his creation. It had been an attack on his role in the message, one of existence itself.
Satan knew he bore no obvious scars, but what had ravaged him had defaced every part that had been submerged in it. The feeling of violation emphasised that his imprint on reality had been stamped with the mark of countless others in the message. He knew that a lesser being’s existential signature would have been small enough that they would have been effectively overwritten.
He knew that this measure had first been used by the Old Ones before their ascent to power. He knew that it had culminated in their intrusion in Ell-Maine, and he knew with near certainty, that no one else this side of the Nether Gate had survived it or knew precisely what it was.
The thoughts were the first to bubble through the fading “noise”, and it was a time before he regained the other parts of himself that had been nearly scratched from existence. As sight returned, he observed the destruction in the courtyard of a building that seemed to be in no worse state than before the angel fell. Buildings were not part of the angels’ charge, he thought.
He felt the gap in the ranks of the Viscerae as he realised the other beings in the vicinity, though they had not been the target of the attack, seemed to have been struck from the mortal coil.
With contempt and commitment to the outcome he wanted for them, his eyes fell on the only other living creatures in view. The girl, more significant for her curse and her parentage than for any other reason, clung to the man who was visible from the back as she wept. It pleased the archdevil to see Andrakasis absorbed by the girls misery. He knew that sentimentality was dividing the man with distraction, if not distress.
Healers and militia stepped into to a courtyard that would have claimed them, as it had claimed the Viscera, Loreguard and Enforcer alike had their timing been only minutes prior. The warrior that had ruled Hell for most of the time since the fall of the Old Ones receded behind the facade of a capable Enforcer on Dawn’s work.
He had survived Andrakasis’ ‘Miracle of Light’, but he hoped the man whose continued life gauled him, would not realise how close to he had come to his end, and began an easy stride toward the pair.
It was not Andrakasis that saw him coming. From behind ragged breath and tears, the girl Satan had named ‘Peril’ as part of her curse had seen him, and the reaction was startling. The legendary crown upon her head seemed to pulse above cheeks dusted in the powder of destruction and cut by the wash of her tears.
Her blue eyes rang with a menace that coursed through his mind in a warning he could not quantify. In that moment he had been certain that the girl was far more dangerous than the man. That her reckless short sightedness and lack of fear for self, could break all of his plans in a moment.
Andrakasis whirled when Peril tensed to release her furious shriek. If the betrayer was panicked by the sight of Enforcer Morden still bearing down on him, it was not obvious.
Morden was surprised when the pair simply vanished, but Satan could still see them. Healers believing Andrakasis had teleported away, milled around the courtyard, and some came to check on the only survivor of the attack. Satan was relieved that no one, including the man and his daughter as they walked from his presence, needed to know that he had resisted the witch king’s domination. He gave his ‘attention’ to the questions of the mortals even as he watched one of his greatest goals escaping his grasp.