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“Arise, Gorgon ‘Q for Quisling’ Tethys,” intoned the Mithrant praetor.
When the chained and badly beaten deposed governor had done so, the adjudicator began reading off his personally prepared script. “You freely admit to committing crimes of mass murder, including parricide, uxoricide, filicide and effective fratricide; this last with respect to your underlings within the Mithrant Brotherhood who were attempting to take you into lawful custody.
“You also admit to secreting about yourself, undeclared, a number of Utopian eyeorbs, what they sometimes refer to as prison pods. Compounding your crimes in this regard, you used one of them to capture and hold onto the Master Deva intending to invest you into the sixth rung of our brotherhood’s seven steps to exaltation, that of the Heliodromus.”
He paused to allow the crowd’s murmurings of mostly outrage die down. “Your name shall assuredly survive within the annals of infamy for you are guilty on all counts, Gorgon ‘Q for Quisling’ Tethys,” he pronounced once they’d done so. “Your punishment remains the only issue left to determine.” To this the resultant murmurings were largely of concordance.
Even so, as if in misplaced sympathy, they quickly muted. Everyone in attendance at the town hall-cum-courtroom that late autumn day in the Year of the Dome 4376 knew no one could attain the brotherhood’s final rung, that of the Father, Pater or Pope, until he turned 60 at the minimum. Yet the accomplished and by his own actions disgraced, once exceedingly popular champion of Mithrant military might had qualified for ascent to the level of Heliodromus, or sun-runner, at the almost unheard age of 45.
That he aspired to become the Mithrants’ Taurus, the military brotherhood’s overall commander, was just as well known. That the Mithrants already had a ‘boss bull’, that he, Taurus Chrysaor Attis, was a deviant who kept coming back to life, and that he’d been doing so for almost as long as their third generational devil-gods had achieved individual solidity, was now believed by most to have contributed to Tethys’s tragic meltdown.
With such soaring ambitions, many further speculated he’d lost his mind because he couldn’t envisage waiting another 15 years before he got his shot at advertised apotheosis. Others, though, among them the presiding praetor and the devil possessing him, didn’t believe he had lost it at all. They figured that, having concealed his irrational – make that maniacal – monotheistic fervour so successfully for so long, he’d just got caught out 15 years early.
To back up their suspicions they noted that only Thrygragos Varuna Mithras could confer the papacy. As importantly, Mithras invariably made a point of bestowing the Mithrants’ highest accolade in person. He’d done so for approaching 4400 years – at least he had done so in here for approaching 4400 years – and wasn’t about to change that any time soon. In other words Tethys’s ultimate target had to have been the Great God of Justice, Light and Truth himself.
The praetor, and the devil within him, doubted a single Utopian eyeorb could have the capacity to imprison a Great God for any length of time. Since Mithras inspired approximately infinitely more adoration than the lowly devil ever would, they further doubted even the dozen eyeorbs Tethys had about him when he was apprehended could combine to do the trick.
Nonetheless, the brotherhood and, indeed, the entire Upper Head were undeniably deeply in debt to the child who first spotted an eyeorb in her father’s kitbag and reported its existence to her just as courageous mother. Had they not acted as they’d done, no one could predict how many of their Mithradite devil-gods the governor – once ensconced as a Heliodromus, possibly on Apple Isle, at the very heart of the brotherhood’s hierarchy – might have lured into his presence and subsequently entrapped before anyone realized what he was doing.
Their noble deeds cost them their lives but begrudge them not their eternal rewards. Their soul selves were undoubtedly already up north in the Elysian Fields basking in the radiance of proximity to the Moloch Sedon – Grand Elysium being where the All-Father of Devazurkind held court when he, arguably the Devil Himself, deigned spend any time whatsoever on his Headworld instead of just encompassing it.
Their bodies, along with the minds or consciousness that went with them, would be rejoining their souls directly.
“Neither monotheism nor madness are punishable in our ages old system of impartiality,” the praetor carried on, at last without any interruption. “But even a solitary murder, let alone more than a dozen of them, is abhorrent to any right-thinking person. Your actions require unambiguous condemnation and commensurate punishment.
“That said, I find simple shunning an unsuitable sentence. Similarly, banishment and other commonplace penalties such as either temporary or permanent confinement at the brotherhood’s expense, conscription, demotion and/or forced reenlistment as a frontline skirmisher strike me as ludicrous. After all, short of Taurus, you’d already achieved the highest rank you possibly could within our public services.
“I need hardly remind anyone here that the Great God of Truth, Justice and Light, he and every one of his multitudes of progeny proscribe both enslavement and capital punishment. So too do his brother Great Gods: Thrygragos Lazareme, the Lackland Libertine, he of the occipital and easternmost Head, and Bodiless Byron, the Unmoving One, he of Greater Godbad; they and theirs. Decreeing an immediate, no matter how justifiable, cessation of your life is therefore beyond the jurisdiction of this proceeding.
“I could command you work toward compensation but you are also, by almost any standard, the aggrieved party. Besides, on my instructions, the brotherhood has already confiscated your property and redistributed it amongst your wife’s family, the Korant sisterhood, of which she ranked at their fifth rung, and the brotherhood itself.
“To be frank, as rich as you were, in terms of the measurements we regularly use in order to assess restitution after such mercifully infrequent incidents, you have already overpaid by a considerable margin.” Again he paused, but only to catch his breath. Those in the crowded courtroom waited both patiently and silently. They sensed something extraordinary lurking on the threshold of the praetor’s verbiage.
“Although enquiries have been made, through trusted intermediaries, exile to one of the dwindling number of Utopian Weirdoms does not seem an option. Your crimes are so horrendous even your presumed patron, the notoriously monotheistic, as well as anti-devic, Master Helena Somata, she of the relatively nearby Weirdom of Kanin City, refuses to grant you sanctuary.
“Furthermore, despite what you may believe – and from the looks of you, may wrongly suspect I ordered – no matter how unconscionable your deeds were I am not one for castrating, crippling and/or blinding, then releasing someone onto the streets bowl in hand. In my view that would be a kindness you don’t deserve.
“Upon due deliberation, I find myself left with no other choice in this matter.”
For all intents and purposes said matter began and ended on Midsummer Day 4376 Year of the Dome. The devil attending that glorious noon’s investiture – glorious in terms of the weather; inglorious in nearly every other respect – had a name. Rather, he had a name given to him by bygone Illuminaries of Weir close to a thousand years earlier, shortly after they began returning from the Outer Earth en masse.
That name was Djinn Domitian – Djinn because he was a jinni or sky magician; Domitian because he enjoyed being dominated, hence why his fellow, third generational devils were calling him the Masochist long prior to he and they starting to become solid individuals circa 2000 YD.
Human, humanoid or otherwise sentient heliodromuses were also considered sky magicians. Except, in their case that was because they could summon devil-gods such as Domitian. Moreover, provided the devil chose to respond, heliodromuses were entitled to speak to him or her without fear of condescension or disparagement.
By contrast, Domitian not only could fly – every devil could fly if they wanted to – he could fly beyond the sky. He could fly into Cathonia, the zone or dome of devic, more specifically Sedonic, energy that had been separating the Inner from the Outer Earth since the Great Flood or Genesea of the Dome’s consequential Year Zero.
Although not a particularly highborn Mithradite, Domitian was his father’s favourite as well as most reliable messenger or angel. Quite correctly, therefore, everyone who knew anything about him considered him Mithras’s Heliodromus. Correspondingly Domitian took it upon himself to first vet, then to invest Mithrant heliodromuses in the same way the Great God his father personally did potential Mithrant popes.
When it came to Mithras, Domitian was loyal as a dog. Slurp-sloppily for him, he also proved dumber than most dogs. Ordinarily he would have possessed, then thoroughly gleaned or mind-reamed, any potential candidates for such an illustrious position. As subsequent events made clear, he’d skipped the vetting bit. Perhaps, knowing the truth of Tethys’s half-parentage, he reckoned proper procedure redundant.
This particular Tethys – there were hundreds, probably more like thousands of families in Marutia, Sedon’s Cheek Lands, who had Tethys for a surname – was a Sed-son. Although he’d often heard Mithras rage on about Sed-sons who’d gone bad beyond the Dome, in the now more than 4300 years of their existence Domitian had never heard of one beneath it who’d done so.
Also in his defence, other than those who didn’t worship anyone, virtually no one within the bounds of Cathonia worshipped aught but Domitian, his fellow maybe 300 remaining Master Devas or devil-gods, their three, second generational fathers and their lone grandfather, the Moloch Sedon.
The major exceptions to that statement were their multiple millennia-old, pre-Earth pursuers and seemingly inexhaustible tormentors: the Hate-Sedon Utopians of Weir and their Trinondev Warriors Elite. Invariably mortal, but long-lived – barring injuries or illnesses, even the mixed bloods or hybrids lived healthily deep into their second or third centuries – they were of course, like fallen angel devils, extraterrestrial in origin.
To this day, if perhaps not for very much longer, that made them technologically far, far, advanced compared to any of the planet’s indigenous populations. However, they generally stuck to their own Weirdoms, which meant they didn’t play much of a role in Headworld affairs.
Besides, the purebloods living up north in the primary and still foremost Weirdom – that of Cabalarkon, Sedon’s Devic Eye-Land – were inbred imbeciles too self-centred to be religious. If it weren’t for their automatons and indentured underclass there’d likely be no such thing as purebloods or a Warrior Elite anymore.
In further fairness to Domitian, the devil possessing the praetor, one of the strangest, pudding-proof-unworldly traits Utopians had was that their males were black-as-midnight in a starless sky, whereas their invariably statuesque females were white-as-daylight on a salt flat. The only trace of blackness the Tethys bastard had about him was, as events evinced, confined to his heart.
Tally this up with all the other particulars they knew about ‘Quiz’: the devil within him justified to his shell, the adjudicator without him. He was a Sed-son; he was a respected Persian or earth magician who’d been judged suitable for advancement; he was a heavily decorated Leo before that; and he was a Mithrant general who’d served with distinction in countless battles and outright wars throughout the Upper Head.
No, all things considered Domitian could be forgiven for never even suspecting Gorgon Q Tethys was a closet Trinondev as well as fanatical monotheist.
On the Outer Earth, where enactments celebrating a variety of Mithraic and near-Mithraic mysteries had been practised for almost as long as they had been in here, most formal investitures were conducted indoors or else in caves or covered grottos. That wasn’t necessarily the case beneath the Cathonic Dome. Indeed, initiations for Persian or earth magician candidates, most of who were destined for a provincial governorship or its equivalent, were the only ones that absolutely had to be conducted underground.
Likewise, if oppositely, only those rites involving potential heliodromuses had to take place in the open air. Of course there were many who regarded the entire Hidden Continent of Sedon's Head as being sort of underground anyhow – or undersea, as would more likely be the case if ever the Dome collapsed.
After all, it did constitute an effective, if slightly porous, dimensional barrier between the two sides of the Whole Earth. Nonetheless, unless you chanced upon a functional Tholos Ghost House, or something similar, and tried to get beyond it, for the vast majority of the sentient beings that dwelt on, in, under or over the Hidden Headworld, open air here was identical to open air there.
Although mountaintops were preferable, mountaintops, even hilltops of any decent height, were in short supply within the vast, formerly mostly undersea plains of Marutia, Sedon’s Cheek. As the joke went, the mighty Moloch above us all had a mighty smooth complexion. In the absence of a mountaintop, let alone a respectable hill, the ceremony took place atop a manmade mound overlooking the parade ground within the main Mithrant encampment outside the provincial capital.
As the still reigning governor, Gorgon Tethys and his retinue, including his wife of nearly 30 years, his parents and her Korant of a mother, his three sons, four daughters and their attendants, were the last, but one, to arrive for the Midsummer Day’s pomposity. All were resplendent in their gold, emerald and crimson attire. All eagerly abided in assured anticipation of Gorgon’s elevation to sky magician.
A prestigious promotion was certain to follow. In all likelihood it would initially be an appointment to engineering overseer of canal and roadwork in multiple provinces. After that, perhaps within a few short years, he’d be made consul to the Taurus or beyond him, chief representative of a highborn Mithradite Master Deva. Whatever lay ahead it would soon be bye-bye backwater governorship, hello Ap Isle.
High above them came the sound of a fanfare trumpet, whereupon the one missing ingredient appeared, as if out nowhere, strutting on the air itself. The tawny furred, lion-headed, four-winged devil was tooting on his own horn, his Tvasitar talisman or Brainrock power focus; part of what made him, and kept him, a solid individual.
Djinn Domitian wasn’t alone. All those with him were doing a ditto. Except they, not being devils, had to flap their wings in order to fly as they blew. They were, to a one, yazata Angelycs, Domitian’s cannibalistic, yet nevertheless devoted adherents.
Like so many of the Head’s diverse dozens of mostly sentient life-forms Angelycs were products of Old Eden’s long pre-Genesea, pre-Sedonshem landing, and even pre-Golden Age of Humanity experimentations into the so-called God-country of creative science. The majority of them dwelt far to the north of Marutia in the Mystic Mountains, Sedon’s Crown. Yet, because their unstinting devotion increased his already considerable devic prowess, Domitian rarely went anywhere without a few nearby.
He alit. They stayed aloft. Tethys’s youngest, a pretty, blonde haired 6-year old sporting pigtails to go along with her newest and sassiest outfit, tugged on her mother’s dress. “Now, mommy?” she asked.
“Let me do it, darling,” responded her mother. She accusingly eyeballed her husband and childhood sweetheart before that. “What game are you playing at, Quiz?” she demanded as she rummaged about in her handbag.
Gorgon earned the name Quisling because, from almost the moment he learned to speak, he was forever quizzing his elders. Over 40 years later that hadn’t changed overly much. Evidently he had no idea what she was on about. On this, the biggest day of his life since he became a Persian five years earlier, he was in the process of rebounding at her the same question when she produced an odd-looking object.
Domitian gawked, horrified, recognizing what it was instantly. Tethys did ditto, gawped, apprehending that, whatever it was he’d been playing at, this game of his was suddenly over. The eyeorb cracked open; a solitary eyeball extruded out of it on prehensile tendrils. It focused on the devil.
Not every devil had a third eye in the middle of his forehead. Still, other than the occasional Cyclops, multi-eyed peacock or the Byronic, APM All-Eyes, most did. Domitian’s third eye bulged. Then it tore out of his skull and slurped into the eyeorb. His spirit being self came next; his subtle matter, daemonic body immediately thereafter.
Quick to react, Tethys grabbed the devil’s power focus before it followed suit. So shocked was she by everything transpiring, his wife dropped the eyeorb, filled-up eyeball already retracting.
“Godless heathen,” Tethys shouted at not just her. Swooping low, he snagged the now shut eyeorb as if on first bounce, whereupon he tore the bag out of his wife’s grip, dumped the prison pod into it and flattened her with an elbow to the jaw.
“Godless devil-worshippers,” he began screaming over and over again as he set to amassed murdering.
Anyone with a modicum of sentience, let alone intelligence, could wield a devil’s Tvasitar talisman. That’s what made them so valuable. Power foci were also mutable. As if he’d practised it for years, Tethys willed Domitian’s into a shaft-like approximation of a Trinondev’s tapered eye-stave.
With more of a yank than a thought, he pulled out a second eyeorb and rammed it atop the transformed trumpet’s thicker end. It didn’t open – eyeorbs only opened when they were taking in devils or their azura offspring – but what it did do was far more visually interesting as well as, in its own way, effective.
Like the latter day Roman legionnaires currently dominating traditional territories of Thrygragos Varuna Mithras on the Outer Earth, the Mithrant Brotherhood had long used a golden eagle as one of its primary totems. Having spent all except the first five years of his life subject to brotherhood discipline, that he chose to manifest a thunderbird as his wholly self-encasing gargoyle might have been expected.
In retrospect, that he could take off and fly like one might have been as well. Trinondevs, the elite warriors of Weir, could, so why couldn’t he? However, probably no one could have anticipated the scythe-like blade he similarly manifested out of its oversized, ovular tip. His Korant in-law was his first victim – she’d made the mistake of trying to help her daughter stand up again – but more than a dozen others fell just as swiftly.
Screeching imprecations he scythed down anyone who came too close to him. As soon as there was naught on the mound save he – a blood-splattered, anthropomorphic bird of prey, standing overtop of occasionally still-twitching corpses of his family and those of his invited guests who hadn’t fled – arrows loosed from onrushing legionnaire archers rendered him akin to a pincushion in serious need of plucking.
Although arrows couldn’t pierce all the way through his thunderbird exoskeleton, that must have been when he finally regained a scrap of sanity and took off, Domitian’s faithful, but dumb as they come, Angelycs in pursuit. As for why he cut off his wife and youngest daughter’s heads – and attempted, too hurriedly to be successful, to do a dot-ditto to all his victims – there was a perfectly logical explanation.
“He must have thought we were devil-possessed,” concluded his wife.
Reclamation specialists brought in from the far north had skilfully reattached her head to her neck such that she could testify at the inquiry and subsequent trial, which convened shortly after the autumnal equinox. She was hardly the only one that Valhallan seamstresses, skin weavers and bone technicians pieced back together for the same or similar purposes.
Within a few days of the mound massacre, the bodies of those proven salvageable were occupied by devazurs: devils in the case of his wife and their youngest daughter; Sangazur spirit beings in the case of the rest of his family and friends. A few of the fallen legionnaires and most of Domitian’s Angelycs, who didn’t so much fall as were dropped as they tried to prevent his getaway, benefited from identical restoration.
With their bodies came their minds, if not their spirits per se, and with their minds came memories of their lives. They couldn’t have testified, let alone testified truthfully, otherwise. Devils and their azura offspring could make anyone except pureblood Utopians, whom they couldn’t possess, talk true. They also couldn’t lie any more than they could disobey their fathers or senior-born siblings. And, thanks to them, neither could those they possessed, not even ambulant carcasses.
“Silly daddy,” agreed his reanimated youngest, head in hands. “Unless it was dilly-saddy, tra-la tra tee-hee,” she added with a typical giggle. “We weren’t even there in the square.”
The girl’s head was in her hands due to the fact the devil child – unless she was a demon child – who occupied her wasn’t as accomplished when it came to possession as her adult-sized brood sister, unless she was her devic mother. The former had named herself Tralalorn after the ridiculous, fay-saying rhymes she was always inventing, whilst truly ancient Illuminaries had named the latter Pyrame Silverstar.
Pyrame’s possessive technique was irreproachable, but Trala just couldn’t get it right. In seeking to reanimate the dead girl she’d unintentionally whooshed the cadaver’s newly sewn-on head off her neck like a cork. Pyrame was there so she picked it up and handed it back to her. However, proclaiming herself much better at ventriloquism, an evidently embarrassed Tralalorn wouldn’t countenance any attempt to reattach it.
The praetor presiding at both the inquiry and trial demurred. He couldn’t stand Trala’s actual head – scarlet skin, two-toned pink and red hair, cute but pointy little horns and nastily sharp-looking fangs – sticking out of the corpse’s neck while, at the same time, the Tethys girl’s deadhead, lips moving, appeared to speak.
He found it so distracting that, after she had a tantrum and refused his request to let a different devil or a symbiotic Sangazur take her place, he ruled she couldn’t give any more evidence on behalf of the Tethyses’ dead daughter. There wasn’t much point anyhow. When it came to Tethys, his motivation was no more an issue than his guilt.
How to get rid of him was the question.
He, a thunderbird gargoyle, fled the encampment with one full prison pod and eleven empty ones in his wife’s satchel. The pursuing Angelycs were his only immediate problem, but what could manufacture a killing blade could also project them. Feathers flew much more so than the Angelycs did. In short order he was alone in the sky.
He had no real escape plan, though; certainly no safe place he could get to today. He’d count himself charmed if he got much beyond the encampment. Eyeorbs leached off thought waves. That meant they worked best in crowded areas and cities, packed military bases being ideal.
Needs be he’d have to come to ground soon. He realized that. What he really needed, though, was a psychopomp. A legendary, mono-horned, talarial-winged, raven-headed riding deer would be ideal. A non-daemonic griffin, a Valkyrie’s swan, a Pegasus like Attis rode, or some suchlike mount capable of traversing the Weird, the dark grey, universal substance of between-space, would do just as fine.
Mono-horned ravendeer were extinct and none of the other psychos he knew about grew on trees; at least they didn’t grow on any tree he knew hereabouts, so there wasn’t much hope of finding one. That meant he’d have to steal a horse or a donkey and use whatever high-tech magic – as far as he’d ever seen or heard there was no such a thing as non-tech magic – was left in the eyeorbs in order to cloak his looks in the equivalent of a faerie glamour, a witch-seeming, a second skin or a serpent splendour.
Kanin City was a long way north. It’d take at least a week to get there from here on horseback, but at least he’d shucked the Angelycs. Then he had it. Devils didn’t just will themselves from place to place through the Weird. They employed their power foci to cut themselves through it to wherever they desired beneath the Dome. And what did he have in hand, currently masquerading as a Utopian eye-stave?
A devic power foci of course! If only he could get it to work properly. He wouldn’t want to cut himself into one of the cyclopean city’s megalithic walls, would he? That would be an entirely different kind of stone than the ongoing one he was currently experiencing. It’d definitely be more crush than rush.
It was a tremendous idea, one worthy of a sun-runner. It was also very nearly the last one he had as a free man.
By Sedonic decree Master Devas were not allowed to kill. If they did, so went the Devil’s rationale, they might deprive themselves or their fellow devils of the invigorating adulation they needed to survive, as other than spirit beings, and deserved, for all the good works they did on behalf of their devotees. They did, they’d also deprive the Moloch Sedon of his procedurally generous, funnelled-up share of it. Which would never do.
That was why the silver, star-shaped object did not kill him the same as a ninja’s throwing star would have, had it been thrown by even a neophyte Samarandin assassin from Sedon’s Tongue. It did not slice him in twain like a meteoric silver star falling from the sky would have, were such a thing possible, which it might be, theoretically anyhow.
What passed through him, what brought him to ground, was no ordinary, silvery star shape. It was also different than any ordinary devil. He almost instantly regained his feet, though not his thunderbird over-coating, which required too much mental effort to maintain given who was solidifying before him. That he was a Sed-son, and therefore by definition a deviant, had nothing to do with his rapid recovery. He was just in great condition for a 30-year-old, let alone someone in his mid forties.
The devil finished materializing. Wearing, or at least appearing to wear, a silver shawl and a similarly satiny, ankle-length sheathe dress, she was bodily beautiful. That she intentionally left her breasts uncovered had nothing to do with a desire to show them off. She co-ruled the devic third of Crete during the devic goddesses’ 500-year Middle Sea matriarchate on the Outer Earth and that was how Etocretan women of the time disported themselves.
There was nothing human or even devilish about her cranially, however. Skull-wise she’d describe herself as triangularly pyramidal. In terms more precise, her head was akin to a rock-hewn tetrahedron. Out of each side of its three stony top-slabs a solitary eye glared. And that was it – just a single, glowering eyeball: no hair, no ears, no eyebrows, no noses and no mouths.
She nonetheless spoke and he nonetheless heard her. “You’ve blown it big time this time, big boy.”
“Been a while, mom.”
“Half-mom, Gorgon. You just mutilated your other half-mom.”
“She was a devil worshipper. Fact of the matter is she worshipped you.”
“I don’t have worshippers. Your half-father Sedon is all I need now and have needed ever. We are the Perpetual Presences.”
“And as a Sed-son I help maintain the Cathonic Zone. You’ve told me that many times before. Didn’t realize you were at the investiture.”
“I wasn’t, almost but not quite yet. We were delayed. Tralalorn was pouting as per usual. She wanted to ride her chimera here, but Stynx’s got indigestion. Chimeras with indigestion are unwelcome interlopers at celebratory gatherings, especially gatherings amongst highly flammable mortals.
“Not only that, Stynx has three heads and the necks to go with them, which can be a slightly off-putting sight when you’re not from Apple Isle. By the time we got there you were trying to escape. When did you become a monotheist?”
“Tell you what, I’ll answer you if you first answer me why my prison pods aren’t sucking you in even as you’re non-mouthing-off not five yards away from me. The one my late wife pulled out of her bag got Domitian next thing to automatically. And don’t tell me they’re duds. They can’t all be duds.”
“Around me they can. I made them, didn’t I. Made the first ones, truth told, many multiple multi-millennia ago on New Weirworld. Rather, truth told better, the Female Entity made the first ones, the templates for the rest of them. But I humanize her when she’s around. She likes being human; likes fucking her Herr Hel Helios. And not just him either, I can attest. She wouldn’t make anything that could harm me, would she?”
“You’ll have to kill me first, half-mom, because I’m not going back voluntarily. And devils don’t kill or I’d be dead already.”
“Monotheists, we’d kill. No use to us, are they – aren’t you? You, though, I won’t kill, not right away anyhow. Come to mommy, youngster.”
What she could and did do was possess him. Plus, even though the devic smithy, their Prometheus, never made her one, she was really very good when it came to using other devils’ Tvasitar talismans.
Happily for Djinn Domitian, the devil’s few surviving Angelyc-followers still in the area managed to release him. They did so within moments of Pyrame Silverstar capturing Gorgon Tethys – and their return to the murder mound, as one – by getting their hands on the prison pod containing him, then exercising faith-fomented willpower on it. Pyrame also gave Domitian back his power focus. As a deserved tribute to her overall wonderfulness, her non-Sedonic lover Chrysaor Attis had gifted her with plenty of others over the more than 2500 years of their relationship.
That night, as a thank you, the Masochist played a raunchy dance number taught to him by Helios called Sophos the Wise more than that same more than 2500 years earlier. He did so, to the usual very loud and genuinely enthusiastic approbation, by tooting his fanfare trumpet out of his back end.
Talented fellow, for a devil, that Djinn Domitian!
Also happily, for not just the mortal chimera, Trala’s Stynx had only barfed, not burped, in excitement moments after Domitian concluded his exhibition of nethermost chops. Unhappily for one immortal in particular she’d barfed, three heads concurrently, all over the devil child and her pretty, tailor-made, green, gold and crimson party dress. Thus provoked Trala promptly burst, ear-splittingly loudly, into such a temper Pyrame had to repeatedly threaten to take her home to Apple Isle before she shut up.
After multiple millennia of life, most of the last five – along with Pyrame uniquely for Master Devas – as a solid individual, shouldn’t she have grown up? Not if she didn’t have to, which she didn’t, that answered that. Even if it wasn’t necessarily by name, brats everywhere worshipped her and Tralalorn hated to disappoint her fans.
Ostentatiously her crocodile tears were, howsoever briefly, protozoan crocodiles creeping down her cheeks until she swallowed them anew.
“Since releasing you as you are is out of the question; since death remains solely the preserve of the individual, with respect to the individual alone, and that of the mighty Eye-Mouth above us all, what ordeal would you have me decree? Should I deem it sufficiently challenging, such that only an act of Sedon could cause you to survive, I shall grant it.
“Speak, Gorgon ‘Q for Quisling’ Tethys!”
“Let me die as he died.”
The praetor and the devil within him congratulated each other internally. They’d anticipated precisely that request. Externally it was all either of them could do to suppress a solitarily smug smile. “Let you die as you believe he died, you mean.”
“Have it your own way, praetor.”
He did. They both did. Not that he was ever without it but the devil was glad he brought his horn. Tethys entering the afterlife was the perfect opportunity for him to practise a lament he’d also learned from the Male Entity millennia earlier.
Heliosophos called it taps for some reason.
The crowd parted to let them pass.
Devils they had to be. Devils they were; everyone agreed.
Virtually none of those on or within sight of the highest prominence here or in any neighbouring territory, what everyone already referred to as Murder Mound, had ever witnessed a crucifixion, or any other kind of execution, before. Many of them had seen the two devil-gods before, however. They, along with Domitian and some other, never identified and imperfectly remembered devils, had been frequenting the area ever since they first popped out of the Weird months ago now, on the summer solstice.
Even if you wanted to, which you probably didn’t, it was hard to forget a 3-eyed, brazenly beautiful, devilish woman with starkly silver hair to match her shawl and sheathe dress. Wet dreams, for men and women alike, were made of her. It was far harder to forget her devic brood sister, unless the Hidden Headworld’s third perpetual presence was Pyrame’s demonic daughter by the Moloch Sedon, as many believed. She was the stuff of nightmares.
So over-the-top fearsome were they, the devil child and 3-headed Stynx, whom she was riding, had become instant legends in the staid townships and grain-growing farming communities of the lower- to mid-Cheek Lands. No longer occupying the dead Tethys girl, whose body as promised the Angelycs had transported uneaten to the Elysian Fields, Tralalorn had seemingly acquired a fancy new outfit just for the occasion.
A frilly pinkish or mauve smock underlay an embroidered, variously reddish tunic. With brownish stockings and riding boots to match, perhaps in deference to the cooler weather she offset it with a sleeveless, brocade jacket the colour of thick, rich wine. Although their clothing seemed more suitable to a ballroom than a Golgotha, whatever else you say about devils you had to admit they had style.
Humiliatingly naked, scourged raw as well as bashed about worse, the nevertheless ever-quizzical Gorgon ‘Q for Quisling’ Tethys looked down upon them from his perch on the cross. “Come to gloat?”
“Aren’t you supposed to say something more desperate, like: ‘Oh, mother, why hast thou forsaken me?’”
“Fuck you, Whore.”
“My, my, such language,” scolded Pyrame Silverstar. As Tethys must have known, many devils called her Sedon’s Whore when she wasn’t within earshot – not that devils needed ears to hear anymore than they needed howsoever many or few eyes to see, noses to smell or mouths to speak.
“And in front of the little one too: Bad Gorgon, beastly Gorgon. But, to answer your question: Not me, I’m more the mourning sort.”
“Not me either, wee-the-pee daddy. Met my pet yet? I call her Stynx on account of she stinks almost as much you do, boohoo. She’s cleaner the wiener, though the hoe.”
“I’d rather meet your maker, Lorna. Then I could kill him!”
“You wish,” said Pyrame.
“Can’t I devolve him, mommy?”
“Into what? He’s already an ignoramus.”
“Mean, mommy. He’s too small to be a hippopotamus.”
Tethys didn’t so much choose that moment to give up his ghost as the ghost chose that moment to usurp his being. Pyrame could have predicted it. As far as devils were concerned, when dealing with monotheistic maniacs mockery is often the best medicine. Besides, the praetor didn’t have three eyes; he wasn’t carrying a fanfare trumpet; and where else would the Masochist be except inside a scourged then crucified man?
Tethys physically inflated; his head not so much ballooning as becoming akin to a billowing boulder. His lower legs and feet extended, easily reaching Murder Mound’s ground, upon which the legionnaires had raised the wooden cross, him on it. Nails hammered through his now expanding wrists popped out. Backup cords tore free as his arms thickened, outstretching the crossbeam.
With a flex of his suddenly muscular shoulders he snapped the beam in two. “You want to be worshipped as a god,” he bellowed for the benefit of those already quaking beneath him. “You act like a god, not a simpering toady of some celestial Blob!”
Pyrame and her maybe demon-daughter exchanged glances. Out of the nowhere that was the everywhere between-space Tralalorn produced her white dwarf meteorite: a head- or ball-shaped mass of feces-reeking, faeriedust-spitting, endlessly self-kneading material. Shape shifters were often called face dancers but her White Dwarf seemingly went from one contorted, doughy face to another as it roiled into and out of itself.
“You should have said fool, mommy,” she chastised Pyrame.
“So you could say?”
The enormous ignoramus had three eyes now. Tawny fur was replacing flayed skin. A leonine head and four sets of wings, the smaller pair’s tips pointing up, the larger pair downward, like a regular angel’s, would soon follow, Pyrame felt sure. They did. So too did his fanfare trumpet. A deafening blast later yazata Angelycs fluttered up from the panicky congregation, most of who were nonetheless too cat-curious to flee.
“Don’t you dare!” she shouted, realizing what the jinni was doing.
“Why not, priestess?” Djinn Domitian blared back, raising Tethys’s corpse out of his bulk and up to the yazata Angelycs like the sacrifice they took the former to be. “Waste not, want not, that’s my motto. Besides, he’s dead already.”
The Angelycs took hold of the proffered carcass’s arms, head and legs, two or three per appendage. Dead or only nearly dead – devils may not kill but their adherents did, prolifically, more often than not in the names of their devil-gods – they proceeded to rip him apart as if a humanoid, New Year’s Eve cracker or party treat.
“Gruesome gruel!” exclaimed Tralalorn, a confirmed vegetarian.
“Good thing you wore red, Trala,” said Pyrame, as the now definitely late Gorgon Q Tethys’s blood and guts rained overtop the two of them.
Between-space one devil, unless it was the Devil, never imperfectly remembered – due to the fact he was never remembered period, not unless he fully manifested himself, and was perfectly forgotten the moment he vanished – pocketed his Tvasitar talisman, a panpipe. He didn’t smile in satisfaction of a movement well played.
The fiend never stopped smiling!
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Helena Somata contemplated the night’s sky.
She knew the names of most of the stars. The dimmer ones, those that filtered through Cathonia, the Cathonic Zone or Dome, she knew from her decades living beyond it, in Rome and swaths of both its eastern and western empire. The brighter ones didn’t exist out there but, having been born and having lived most of her life in here, on the Hidden Continent of Sedon’s Head, she often wondered if the Outer Earth’s stars were the same as the Inner Earth’s stars.
Were they cathonitized devils?
Two Masters, three High Illuminaries and 40 years earlier, Helena was living in an Anthean Shelter – an Anthill, as the joke went. As part of the process of attaining the level of an Ant Nightingale, the title bestowed on tiptop witches within the Antediluvian Sisterhood of Flowery Anthea, she was instructing Ant Astartes as they progressed through the second seven-year period of their training.
To qualify for Astarte-training you first had to have a daughter, one who was going through the first seven-year period of Ant-training even as you, her mother, went through your second. Having had Constance, Helena was past that. Having only had a solitary boy, whom she named Christian after her mother’s thus far strictly Outer Earth faith, Constance had never qualified for her second seven-year period of training. As events transpired, she never would.
The Anthill was mostly between-space, within the Forever Forest of Wildwyck, in the southernmost area of the Head’s Occipital Region, just north of the Gypsium Wall, Sedon’s Hairband. Most of 2,000 miles eastward, Hamilcar Suryad ruled the Weirdom of Kanin City as its Master. Constance was married to Egbert Grudal, Kanin’s then High Illuminary, Master Hamilcar’s heir-apparent and, as shortly came to pass, successor.
Hesper Suryad, Hamilcar’s wife, an Ant Nightingale borderline better skilled than her at the time, contacted Helena via witch-stone – their Sisterhood called its witch-stones Anthean Agates – with news that Constance’s Christian had recently just up and vanished. Apparently Constance was heartbroken at the loss. She wanted to see her mom. Could Helena come visit?
Sure she could. And did, via agates, which also functioned as stepping stones through the Weird: the dark-grey matter of between-space and of much more than that, of all there was, of Samsara, of mundaneness itself. She arrived to discover the Weirdom besieged by Mithrant legionnaires under the leadership of their Taurus, Chrysaor Attis.
Reputedly the Attis was an immortal deviant, the possessive half-son of a Master Deva, Kore-Eris, aka Strife or Discord – as well as Marut Kanin, after whom Marutia, Sedon’s Cheek, was named – and her Great God father, Thrygragos Varuna Mithras himself. While there were many deviants, only the Attis was immortal. Rather, since he kept going away and coming back, younger and a whole lot stronger than he had been, only he seemed to be immortal.
Ant Nightingales and Illuminaries of Weir had a theory about that. They speculated the Attis was one man – the Universal Soldier – with a thus far endless number of successions dating back some 2300 years plus.
To be specific, his hypothetical first birth occurred within a century of Master Devas gaining individual solidity, something their subsequent azuras never could attain. In other words, an Attis was killed, usually in battle or by assassination; another Attis would appear soon thereafter to take his place. As Helena proved, it was no theory.
She walked out of the Weird onto one of Hesper’s agates. She thereby found herself in the huge assembly hall within Kanin City’s incessantly added-onto Masters Palace. Veils drawn, perhaps as many as 50 turbaned, indigo-robed, Trinondev Warriors of Weir surrounded the Master’s throne.
The eyeorbs atop their eye-staves were open. Off them what amounted to Kanin’s house guard manifested their individual or family gargoyles, which they could harden and project at will. That should make them an unstoppable force. Yet therein he sprawled, Hamilcar Suryad, dead, pierced through with dozens of hiltless blades that were already dissipating between-space. And there stood his assassin, none other than her grandson, Christian born Grudal.
Like male Utopians everywhere he had black skin. Unlike the male Trinondevs there he dressed in the gold-trimmed, emerald and crimson uniform of a topflight officer in the Mithrant military. Given his youth he couldn’t be an officer. Given he’d lived in Kanin City for most of his 20 odd years, he shouldn’t belong to the Mithrant military anyhow. Mithrants venerated devils, Thrygragos Varuna Mithras foremost, whereas proper Utopians, even hybrids like Kanin’s Utopians, existed to annihilate devils. Christian had been properly raised. His parents saw to that.
Helena was struck by more than just Christian’s outfit. His cobalt-coloured cloak, spiked helm, sheathed sword, the javelin he held and, indeed, his entire being shone with the telltale glow of Brainrock-Gypsium. That indicated he possessed devic talismans, or power foci, aplenty. Even though he only had two eyes, it further suggested he was possessed. If so then the Trinondevs’ prison pods weren’t functioning the way they should.
Constance, his mother, her daughter, was in tears. She had wrapped herself around the legs of her husband Egbert. As the High Illuminary only the dead Master ranked higher amongst Weir’s Trinondev Warriors Elite. Constance, Helena instantly perceived, was begging Egbert not to have his Trinondevs execute Christian.
For his part, Christian was laughing. “Good to see you again, granny,” he chortled, spotting her stepping off Hesper’s agate. “Will you please try to talk some sense into these imbecilic hardheads?”
That was then. This was now.
Like most Utopian women, Helena was white as daylight. Of course, it being less than a week before the Winter Solstice – which those who lived beneath the Dome had as occurring on the 25th of Tantalar – there wasn’t much daylight these days. Accordingly, she was wearing a fur-fringed, hooded cloak made of bleached wool overtop a beige gown, with warm leggings and heavy boots underneath it.
Today was her 128th birthday. Arguably due to the ability of Utopians to use very nearly the fullness of their intellectual capacity, that was already approaching three times the life expectancy of the indigenous, genetically compatible humanoids in this day and age. It nonetheless wasn’t much by the standards of her people.
Utopians arrived on the then Whole Earth roughly 700 years after their eternal enemies, the three generations of devakind. Purebloods aged slowly. They could lead healthy and productive lives that extended well into their third or fourth centuries. She wasn’t a pureblood. There weren’t any purebloods left in the Weirdom of Kanin City. The vast majority lived some 1500 miles farther to the north and west in the postdiluvian Weirdom of Cabalarkon, Sedon’s Devic Eye-Land.
There hadn’t been any purebloods down here, and in the few remaining other Weirdoms on the Headworld, for an extremely long period. That was why devils could possess hybrids like her. Then again she was also an Anthean Witch. The agatine eyes she wore ensorcelled her against devic possession. Or so she believed.
She’d been possessed for a time, more than a hundred years ago, by the devil her Illuminary ancestors named Pyrame Silverstar. That was beyond the Dome, though, where witchcraft wasn’t overly effective.
Son George – Georgie, as she called him – had promised her an unforgettable party later on tonight. He’d been coy as to what would be so unforgettable about it but she didn’t doubt there’d be abundant drinking and dancing. She never drank and didn’t dance much herself, not anymore, but Georgie was like father, like son, in that regard. He loved his beer, his terpsichorean frivolity, his sirens singing and his taletellers either reciting or improvising stories of romance and daring-to-do. Most of all he loved to accompany all of the above on his wooden recorder.
He swore he’d heeded her desires and ditched Bad Rhad, as she referred to him. She was happy about that. Rhad struck Helena as a godless sybarite and, even if the Hidden Headworld’s gods were mostly fallen angel devils from one of three tribes, she had no use for godless sybarites.
Georgie had taken up with the ever-smiling panpipe-player ostensibly from Apple Isle, Sedon’s Human Eye-Isle, after Mithrant legionnaires began setting up camp in the nearby Gregarian Fields, Sedon’s Mole, less than a month back. Were it not for one thing, Helena would have thought him a devil; a Master Deva, to use another Illuminary-coined term.
True, Bad Rhad had only two eyes. Third eyes were easily subsumed, though. True as well, Trinondev Warriors of Weir, even apprentice Trinondevs like her son, could suck third generational devils and their azura offspring, who didn’t start coming into existence until about 2500 years earlier, wholly into the removable eyeorbs they placed atop their eye-staves. That was why their eyeorbs were also known as prison pods.
Masters of the various Weirdoms, of which only Kanin City was altogether antediluvian, had eye-staves too. She didn’t think Rhad was a devil because she’d tried to take him out. Nothing happened. And her ability to concentrate on the task at hand was unrivalled. Plus, her eye-stave, her Master’s Mace, was the oldest in the world. It was so old, pre-Earth old in fact, it generated its own eyeorbs.
She’d go to her party, eventually. She’d listen, outwardly appreciatively, to whatever group of musicians, taletellers, singers and dancers her last surviving son had hired for it. She might deign to tap her feet. She might smile more than she ordinarily did. She’d eat heartily and converse as cheerfully as she could manage. First, though, it was tomb-time.
One hundred and twenty eight years of life, she reflected: two husbands, the first of whom, coming up to a hundred years ago on the Outer Earth, had divorced her; the other of whom, Georgie’s father, who’d always been a wanderer, simply hadn’t bothered to return home, 15 years ago now; and three offspring. Of the latter, only Georgie remained.
Of her lone daughter and lone grandchild on this side of the Dome, only their bodies in their Tantaluses, filled as they were with supposedly life-preserving Cathonic Fluid, lingered. However, unlike thousands of her similarly ensconced ancestors, albeit mostly up north in Cabalarkon, Constance and Christian would never revive, not even briefly, no matter how much of her own blood she dripped into their transparent sarcophagi.
They were dead when she immersed them and, if she had her way, dead they’d stay.
Forty years past Helena didn’t have time to open her mouth. Heedless of his wife’s pleas, son-in-law Egbert ordered their son, her grandson, slain on the spot. His Trinondevs grimly set to the task. Their gargoyles, some of which were based on life forms never imagined, let alone seen, on either side of the Whole Earth, began coagulating around them as if stone armour. Christian laughed the more. Before they could mentally muster and thereupon project their psychical weaponry, via their eye-staves, he transformed in front of their eyes.
Almost instantaneously he went from the black skin of a typical Utopian male to the golden-brown skin of the Attis. As he did so, he physically grew, bulking up, until he was a near giant perhaps six and half feet tall and almost as broad as he was wide. Just in case anyone there didn’t apprehend who he was in reality, as if out of nowhere – what was actually the everywhere of Samsara – he finished adorning himself with the rest of the Attis’s distinctive regalia.
Predominantly, though hardly exclusively, that consisted of the Thrygragos and Trigregos Talismans. In terms of the power foci dedicated to the three Great Gods, they were already visible: Thrygragos Lazareme’s impenetrable, shape-shifting, currently cerulean Cloak of Many Colours; the face-dancing Mask of Thrygragos Byron, which he kept as a spiked helmet; and the equally changeable Cross of Thrygragos Mithras, which he retained in the form of a javelin.
In terms of those dedicated to the three, long pre-Earth lost, Great Goddesses, the curved sword, called a harpe or falchion, sheathed at his waist had to be the body of Demeter. Presumably he’d ejected its instantly regenerating blades between-space in order to slay Master Hamilcar. Now, the soul or shield-mirror of Devaura appeared strapped to his right arm. At the same time, the mind or crown of Sapiendev appeared around the brow of his helm.
A seventh power focus, the kibisis or bottomless bag of none other than Flowery Anthea herself – the inspiration for similar objects carried by many witches, Helena amongst them – materialized slung over his right shoulder. In it, she’d heard, he held dozens if not hundreds of other devic power foci.
That the satchel, shield and sword were within easy, cross-chest reach of his left hand was proof positive of the thoroughness of Christian’s transfiguration. He’d been right-handed. The Attis was a leftie, the same as his reputed non-devic half-father, the Male Entity.
The Trinondevs’ psychical armaments erupted. The deviant must have already cut himself elsewhere between-space because their many substantial, as well as perceptible, castings had no effect on the ghost of himself Attis left behind. As it altogether vanished he announced, for all there to hear: “Oh well, I can wait.”
He did. So did the Mithrant legionnaires he led as their Taurus. The siege lasted another hundred days.
Circumstances ascribable to this then latest succession of the Attis – who, having power foci aplenty, didn’t need witch-stones or even a psychopomp to traverse the Weird – contrived to shorten Hesper Suryad’s time as Egbert Grudal’s High Illuminary and designated successor to a couple of months. Similar circumstances conspired to limit Constance’s time in the same position to weeks. Hardly coincidentally, what amounted to Egbert’s interregnum lasted precisely a hundred days. Helena Somata had been Kanin’s Master ever since.
All she had to do to reach its Mastery was abolish that Attis. To do that all she had to do was sacrifice one Gypsium-fuelled, onetime space-faring cosmicar, him in it, along with its pilot. Said pilot, her claims to the contrary, wasn’t Egbert’s automatic replacement as Kanin’s Master. That was also how Helena verified one Attis succeeded the previous Attis.
She still had the internally burnt-out husk of the cosmicar, a good percentage of its pilot’s body, and the retrievable bits and pieces of the Attis who’d been her grandson, Christian Grudal; hence the tomb-time. What she didn’t have was the Attis’s regalia, shredded as it had been. Taurus Chrysaor Attis had that, no longer shredded. She knew because he had all of it when she tossed him unceremoniously out of the Weirdom a couple of months ago.
He should never have expressed a desire to put Hinny the Hippy to sleep. Georgie loved his pet psycho.
Forty years ago, as today, Mithrant legions controlled much of Sedon’s Upper Head, an area comparable in size to the Roman Empire. Geographically speaking, the Upper Head might actually have been larger than the combined territories ruled by Helena’s then still living firstborn: Constantine, so-called the Great.
The parallels between the two empires didn’t stop there. The most obvious comparison was that, for the most part, Mithrant and Roman legionnaires worshipped the same Great God, Thrygragos Varuna Mithras. The obvious difference was Mithras lived in here and, due to the Dome as well as the Devil’s intransigence when it came to maintaining it, couldn’t get out there anymore.
Another similarity was, given their limited manpower and easily imitated military equipment; both empires had expanded about as far as they could. Another difference was there were no Weirdoms on the Outer Earth. That explained why Attis and his Mithrants were after Kanin City’s originally extraterrestrial weaponry. There was nothing new about that of course. They’d been after it for close to two millennia, probably longer.
However, ostensibly because they needed it themselves, if only to prevent their Weirdoms being overpowered by Mithrants using their own weaponry against them, Masters refused to share their technology. Like Hamilcar Suryad and, indeed, like their hundreds of predecessors, Egbert Grudal was no different. Constance was, though. She loved her son, even if he had become the latest Attis, much more than she loved her husband. So she let him in on the real reason Masters didn’t share their hardware.
Only Utopians, with their evolved capacity to use close to the fullness of their mental might, could get the damn stuff to work. Regrettably, unabated inbreeding was increasingly causing Utopians to lose that capability. Furthermore, their materiel worked best in combination with Trinondev eye-staves. Think of them as the functional equivalent of devic power foci, daughter informed son under flags of truce, and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
Another thing to be said, in general terms, about the city-state’s leftover extraterrestrial equipment was no one, not an Illuminary, nor even the most intellectually able pureblood living up north in Cabalarkon, knew how to reproduce it anymore. The Attis got hold of Kanin’s ordnance, he found a way to use it and he exhausted it, he could never manufacture it anew.
No matter. He wanted it. If he had to hire Trinondevs as mercenaries in order to exploit advantages their equipment would give him over territories he hadn’t as yet brought under the lawful rule of the Mithrant Brotherhood, then so be it. What was the problem? Ah, but that was the kicker, wasn’t it? Mithrants were devil-worshippers and Utopians were as genetically incapable of allying themselves with devil-worshippers as devils themselves were of lying, breaking their oaths or disobeying their fathers. Give it up and go away.
The Attis refused. There were no more flags of truce under which Christian’s mother could come visit him. In unison, as if a concretion of faceless gargoyles on invisible appendages, Kanin City’s cyclopean walls began, day by day, to creep ever outwards. Attis responded by uprooting his legionnaires’ camps farther and farther away from the city-state. Once the walls reached their limitations of creepiness, he had his legionnaires use their own technology, their catapults and suchlike, to lob over top them whatever was at hand.
The land provided. Hills excavated and rocks flung, the forests shrank. He was impressed with the Trinondevs’ resistance. Their psychical barriers covered the sky at the same time they defied his miners. He alone could cut himself through the Weird into Kanin City. He did. The Weird was hardly the only thing he could and did cut through.
He started by killing the old Trinondev who’d been training Christian in the multifarious uses of eye-staves before he became the latest Attis. A week or so later he came through and killed an Illuminary, then someone else the next week. A couple of months into the siege he came through and confronted the Nightingale, Hesper Suryad, Egbert’s replacement as High Illuminary and his designated successor.
Employing the coercive qualities of the Crimson Corona – aka the Mind of Sapiendev – tête-à-tête, he had her open Kanin’s Solidium-shielded vaults, the one place in the entire Weirdom he couldn’t get to via between-space. He thereupon made off with all the full prison pods stashed inside it.
The next time he came through he killed her. In a feeble, placatory gesture, Christian’s father succumbed to the wishes of Kanin’s populace and replaced Hesper with Christian’s mother as High Illuminary. Maser Egbert, presumably after consultation with his wife, thereupon did something superficially even stupider.
He authorized his Trinondevs to take out a half dozen of their more functional cosmicars – which Constance claimed only they could fly – and launch an aerial assault on the Mithrant legion besieging Kanin City. Such aggression, while hardly unheard of for a Master of Weir acting in defence of his realm, played right into the Attis’s hands.
Again employing the coercive qualities of the Crimson Corona, this time long distance, Attis compelled the pilot of the lead cosmicar to turn it on vessels piloted by his fellow Trinondevs. The ploy very nearly backfired. Simultaneously deprived of his free will, yet nonetheless somehow able to pinpoint the Attis’s whereabouts, the Trinondev crashed the cosmicar rather than turn it.
Attis reacted in time to avoid the impact. Dozens of his besieging Mithrant legionnaires were not so fortunate. Neither was the Trinondev pilot, who turned out to be none other than Christian’s father, Egbert Grudal. His rage unbounded, Attis exacted compensation in very much the same unkind variety.
A whirlwind of death, he slashed between-space, single-handedly taking on the Warriors of Weir piloting and manning the remaining cosmicars. In this he acted precisely as a devil would. Except, since devils themselves were only allowed to use their power foci to kill equals, of whom there were next to none, he didn’t respond through intermediaries. He did it personally, as only an Attis could.
Fallen angel devils considered Attis about their only equal. Consequently, had he gone up against especially higher born members of any of the three tribes, they’d have retaliated, likely beaten him back and maybe even killed him, again, without fear of their grandfather cathonitizing or ill-starring them. As it was, as psychically strong as they were, the Trinondevs didn’t stand a chance against him.
In the normal course of events, at least in the multi-millennial tradition of Kanin City’s Weirdom, Christian’s mother Constance, as its High Illuminary, would have succeeded Egbert as its Master. It was certainly in that capacity she came to him a few days later. She flew the Master’s replacement-cosmicar to his campsite by herself. Plus, she carried the Master’s Mace, the oldest eye-stave in the world.
To show his own good faith, he greeted her in the bath, naked as the day she bore him. As Constance would have known, however, him greeting her naked was less a risk on his part than a ruse. He could materialize the Thrygragos and Trigregos Talismans about himself with a mere thought. Similarly, on the obverse side of the coin, the membership of not every sisterhood loved life as much as that of the Antediluvian Sisterhood of Flowery Anthea.
Killer witches such as those belonging to the Hellion Sisterhood – which might have been founded during the pre-patriarchal era of Eden, itself destroyed more than 1500 years prior to the establishment of the Anthean Sisterhood just before the Great Flood of Genesis – could have come off her witch-stones between-space. Doing suchlike, they could then have attempted to assassinate him, albeit with not quite a thought.
None of that happened. Negotiations ensued.
Constance would allow Trinondev Warriors of Weir to pilot and man cosmicars on his behalf only if they volunteered to do so of their own free will. To get around their conditioning, Attis agreed to employ them solely against the strongholds of devils, not against the small number of freeholds that had thrown off the yoke of devic dominance. Furthermore, in that respect anyhow, the only Warriors of Weir she’d permit to volunteer had to have had their psyches, their mindsets, via their eye-staves, pre-attuned to specific cosmicars.
They wouldn’t attack Kanin because, should they dare to even consider it, their superior minds were just as attuned to shut down, meaning their assigned cosmicar would immediately cease to function, crash and burn. In return he’d have to lift the siege, withdraw his legionnaires at least as far as Sedon’s Mole and agree that, for a change, it would be his Mithrants who paid tribute to her Utopians, not the other way around.
“That’s precisely the sense I was trying to talk Master Hamilcar into months ago. What’s changed – Helena Augusta’s influence?”
“I banished my mother, sent her back to her Anthill above the Gypsium Wall; no choice offered, none asked, just done. I’m Kanin’s Master now. Shall we go?”
No fool he, Attis read her, Christian Grudal’s own mother, using the Crimson Corona. She firmly believed she was the Master of Weir. She’d certainly gone through all the ceremonies and rituals every previous Master had in the roughly 4,000 years since Utopians took over Kanin City. Most importantly she held the Master’s Mace.
Although nonetheless personally satisfied as to her authenticity, he fully appreciated the talents of an Ant Nightingale such as his grandmother. He compelled her to do exactly as he required. Then, fool he, Attis did as bade and got into the cosmicar with her. Together they flew back toward Kanin, she in thraldom and he in anticipation of a triumphant welcoming.
He got what he wanted; what the Mithrants had long wanted: the Weirdom’s Utopian technology. True, via the Master’s Mace the real Master’s mental might activated just a sampling of it from afar, but he took the full brunt of it. He got killed. All the power foci in the world couldn’t prevent him being shredded by particle beams built into the insides of the cosmicar. So did his mother, even more so with respect to the shredding. Desperation had consequences.
Constance Somata-Grudal was indeed Kanin’s Master, in her mind. Her mind, and every other part of her, was intentionally misinformed. The Master’s Mace had already practically, if not exactly handily, passed to her mother, Helena Somata, Helena Augusta. It had done so, at the moment of Master Egbert’s death, by the unspoken yet irrefutably psychical sanction of the Utopian populace. It proved hardier, more salvageable, than their bodies did. It wasn’t shredded whatsoever.
Forty years later Helena still held it. And with it she held onto the Weirdom’s Mastery. Her daughter’s death, her grandson’s death, well, mother always knows best.
That same 40 odd years later …
You can’t preserve life once you’re dead. There’s nothing to preserve besides your corpse. Unless, that is, you or someone else, a Valkyrie or a Rakshas demon perhaps, had first turned you into an Ambulatory Dead Thing. Which, amazingly to many, wasn’t such a dead tricky thing to do, provided you had the wherewithal.
Only Master Devas and their azuras, Sangazurs and Nergalazurs most notoriously, could reanimate Dead Things. Since that made them the handiwork of their pre-Earth enemies, Utopians minced zombies on sight. They’d been doing so for the same nearly 5,000 years they’d been just as planet-trapped as devils. Why shouldn’t they? Old habits were much harder to kill than Dead Things.
Furthermore, so long as their willpower was strong enough, Trinondevs could suck azuras into prison pods as easily as they could their devic progenitors. That being the case, and even though they could suck a dozen or more azuras into a single pod – in contrast to no more than one devil per eyeorb – they rarely bothered with them. Other than motivationally, in all senses of the word, azuras were as harmless as they were essentially useless. Warriors of Weir reserved their best efforts for capturing and holding onto devils and their talismans.
Unfortunately their successes were limited to realms where devils didn’t dominate and, on the Head, such places were few and far between. As for the Moloch Sedon or a Great God, Helena could dream, couldn’t she? Yes. And sometimes dreams did come true, didn’t they? For some, not for her, she morosely mused.
Lost in reverie, unattended but unafraid, supremely confident in her abilities within her own Weirdom, Master Helena strolled through the megalithic city’s firestone-lit, cobbled streets until she reached her destination. Unlocking the garden gate, she entered the high-walled enclosure. Shutting the gate behind her, she sensed somebody about to join her.
Suddenly realizing what, if not who, that was, her breath shortened, her heartbeat quickened and her eyeballs boggled in eagerness.
Maybe there always is a first time after all. Happy birthday to me!
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Jordan Q Tethys appraised the Mithraeum’s ceiling.
Mithraea were Cave Temples ostensibly dedicated to an exceedingly ancient Asiatic deity still most commonly known as Mithras. Although his worship, under that name or variations thereof, predated the Ages of Pisces, Aries and possibly even Taurus, two and a half centuries earlier the manifestly insane, Syrian-born emperor Heliogabalus began to refer to Mithras as Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun. As such the Roman soldiery, predominantly, continued to worship him. However, from what he’d been witnessing during his travels throughout the Empire, that likely wouldn’t be the case much longer.
Tethys knew the ceiling was supposed to represent the night’s sky, but it was crudely done. He’d seen better ones in the nearby port of Ostia as well as elsewhere within the Celestial City. He nonetheless felt obligated to finish sketching it before the crazed mob of monotheistic zealots he’d seen massing below Vatican Hill arrived to destroy it.
Damn Rome’s Spanish-born bishop anyhow. Damasus should have been called ‘Damnasus’. That’s certainly the name he’d give him once he returned home and told his tales.
Thrygragos Varuna Mithras regarded the interior dome of the beehive-like Tholos.
Indentured yazata Angelycs built the Whole Earth’s original Mithraeum for him late in the first century of the Dome. They’d done so atop the antediluvian, multi-stepped mastaba that surmounted Theopolis Hill on Apple Isle, Sedon’s Human Eye-Isle. Mithras had taken over the then flat-topped mastaba, renamed it the Mithradium, and made it his home, as well as the centre of his worship, shortly after the Flood.
For payment they naturally wanted to consume him. Angelycs were like that. To satisfy them he contrived the doctrine of transubstantiation and fed them bread and wine, alongside what subsequently became a frequently repeated, ritualistic feast of bull braised in its own blood. The bull in particular seemed to fit the bill. After all it was the Age of Taurus.
Tall, emaciated and hunched over, Mithras had a long, grey beard and wore a filthy robe that looked no more capable of withstanding a proper washing than he did himself. He resembled a Father Time figure whose annual reign was about to run out. It wasn’t. Tantalar was only the second month of the Mithradic Ternary, the tenth month of the Sedonic year.
He glanced at the oversized hourglass standing to one side of his torch-lit sanctuary at the pinnacle of the Tholos. A Tvasitar talisman, it was a gift, a token of filial devotion, from Chrysaor Attis, his ever-enduring deviant offspring. The Attis, rightly fabled as the Universal Soldier, acquired it as a consequence of combat against one of Mithras’s still surviving, hundred-plus, devic daughters. A Lesser Apocalyptic, Desiccated Drought made the same mistake so many others had over the centuries. Rather than funnel her worship quota through him, she preferred to send it directly to Father Sedon. Crime reaps punishment in the lands of Mithras.
He’d set its sands running at midnight, the start of the Mithranalia: the Upper Head’s weeklong celebration of his brilliance and the equivalent of Imperial Rome’s Saturnalia, which the Romans named after one of his myriad other identities. They’d run out at its conclusion, Mithramas, his feast day, the customary date for the Winter Solstice. Due to the fact his Outer Earth devotees were abandoning him in hitherto unprecedented numbers, he’d already deemed it differently this year. And if Thrygragon went badly, many multiple millennia more than a year’s time might run out on him.
Most of the blame for this sorry state of affairs lay with that traitorous Sed-son, the Roman Emperor Constantine, who was decades dead out there, and his meddlesome mother, Helena Augusta, a hybrid Utopian who was still sadly alive and the Master of the Weirdom of Kanin City in here. At least she was as of this minute. She headed his Doomsday Book for payback after Thrygragon. Utopian Weirdoms were blights on the landscape.
With an effortless wave he vanished the beehive’s cupola. Now he regarded what the Dual Entities – who insisted they’d randomly time-tumbled to the Whole Earth’s far future at least as often as they’d appeared in its now distant past – called the Milky Way. Its shimmering luminescence, faint and diffuse, filtered through the intermediate gauze of the Sedon Sphere. Having been through much of it during the multiple millennia he was on or part of the Sedonshem, Mithras reckoned it would have been better named the Bloody Way.
They’d lost, more so than left behind, literally millions of third generational Master Devas as the Sedonshem wound its way from the second Weirworld to the then Whole Earth. Sure, they were little more than pulses of spiritual evanescence, but they were invaluable. A high percentage of them, congealed together, kept his two brothers and him, as well as their usually female bunkmates, solid individuals throughout most of that nearly interminable journey.
Indeed, they’d lost so many that by the time the Sedonshem landed atop Kanin City, 669 years before the Genesea, he and his brothers were almost as insubstantial as all but a couple of their remaining offspring, including their preferred bunkmates, stayed until around 2500 years ago. Even the Devil Sedon looked to have suffered from an enforced diet. When it came to devic nourishment, possession beat starlight any day of the aeons, while adulation, duly offered, was positively fattening.
Today, to borrow a word he picked up from the ever baffling, even ineffable Male Entity – Heliosophos or Helios called Sophos the Wise – when Mithras occupied him most of those same 2500 years ago, the Great God felt anorexic. He wondered, despairingly more so than whimsically, if anyone would notice him if he turned sideways.
Remedying his pathetically deteriorating condition was the main motivation for Thrygragon: as in gone, gone, gone his Thrygragos Brothers.
Typically circular, upwardly tapered and domed Tholoi, of which there were dozens of variants up and down Theopolis Hill, always reminded him of boiled eggs sticking out of the ground – or a stone, cup-like container in the case of his Mithradium. And that in turn reminded him of the strangest story the deviant Legendarian, whom Mithras regularly consulted with respect to current events on the Outer Earth, recounted of his nativity.
Crack! Sky-Father Varuna’s spermatic lightning hit the Mother Earth virgin’s ovum in the form of a raised, navel-like boulder or omphalos – an egg hardboiled to the point of petrifaction – and, voila, he was born. Ha! Certain misconceived Outer Earth mythologies aside, as well as his occasionally cripplingly severe and sometimes regrettably long-lasting schizophrenic episodes, he and Varuna weren’t separate beings. Varuna was just his first name.
The Legendarian, who claimed to have copied the entire library of Alexandria with his devic half-father’s power focus, had even learned a term for the event: ‘petra genetrix’. Not only that, he’d come back with a date for it: Year of the Dome 3800, or thereabouts. Ha, again! As if! To cite just one example of how nonsensical the notion of him being born a mortal, only to go on to become humanity’s saviour, he gave Hammurabi his famous code of laws, minus the state-sanctioned executions, when the Babylonians revered him as the Sun God Shamash.
And that was something like 1600 years before he was supposed to have been born.
At his request, the Legendarian once in awhile regaled him with the utter strangeness of the egg-myth of Mithras. The Earth virgin, who had to have been derived from Mediterranean Athena and others of her by then long familiar ilk, had a name: Anahita or Aban. Just as his had done in earlier creeds naming him as Varuna, Mithras, or both, as the binomial god Mitravaruna or Varunamithra, her adherents venerated her as a fertility deity. How that jibed with her being retroactively declared a virgin mother, well, divinity had its dividends.
Perhaps as perversely as his own spermatic lightning impregnating her with himself, a different version of his nativity had Anahita conceiving him via the preserved seed of Zarathustra. Since Zarathustra, or Zoroaster, had died, at the minimum, in the vicinity of 400 years previously, Mithras reckoned that accomplishment almost as impressive as a fertility goddess regaining her maidenhead in order to oblige him with an unsullied birth.
Circa 3800 was hardly the first time Zarathustra helped him out. During his lifetime the Iranian- or Persian-born prophet revealed the existence of a monotheistic deity he called Ahura Mazda. And, allowing for the garbled gibberish spoken by those living beyond the Dome, didn’t that sound much like Varunamithra? It had to the Legendarian and it did to Mithras. Not surprisingly either: Zarathustra’s post-Magian patron was the Persian Emperor Darius, a succession of his deviant half-son, the Attis.
‘Petra genetrix’, or a moderately more normal nativity achieved, on what was in here the 25th of Tantalar, the mortal Mithras lived a normal life until he had an epiphany of sorts in his 28th year. From that day forth he preached of the unparalleled majesty of Ahura Mazda day in, day out. In the process he attracted at least a dozen apostles, hundreds of disciples and thousands of suitably slavish supporters. In order to secure both their devotion and their salvation, he also performed obligatory miracles. He made the lame walk, the blind see and the deaf hear. He healed the sick and raised the dead, he himself amongst them.
This Mithras, in all probability a make-believe character, one who sounded more akin to the Egyptian Osiris than to any other Mithras 30-Beers told him about, did his storybook best to appear man-as-god-walking-amongst-men for 36 more years. Finally, some 64 years after his birth, from a rock, or a re-enlivened tadpole, he ascended into heaven, where he either rejoined or replaced Sky-Father Varuna.
The Great God would have reckoned the entire fiction laugh-out-loud ludicrous except that, again according to the Legendarian, the forces of monotheism propagated virtually the same preposterous confabulation today, beyond the Dome. Their nominees for the world’s saviour had different names of course, Christ and Mani being two of the more recent. Still, as Heliosophos, the Male Entity, might have said, in that disturbing future-speak of his, Mithras should have demanded royalties.
What he was getting instead, as Helios might also have said were he still around, or around again, was his just desserts. Which, contrariwise, was perfectly fine with Mithras so long as his Thrygragos Brothers were left nibbling on his table scraps.
As the legendary 30-Year Man was fond of remarking, Mithras’s name translated as ‘friend’ in a startling number of languages spoken beyond the Dome. Since always irresponsible Lazaremists – not his, as an enforced rule, generally dutiful Mithradites – possessed his birthparents when he was conceived, it was a minor paradox the deviant came as close as the Great God did to having an actual friend. Then again the Legendarian would happily tell his tales to anyone who plied him with beer, plenty of beer, which was how he earned his 30-Beers nickname.
30-Beers had stacks of knacks, to quote him. He being essentially a Lazaremist, not too many of them were admirable. Mithras being Mithras, the Great God of Justice, Truth and Light – more, of civilization itself – found his history as an unrepentant oath-breaker by far the most reprehensible.
Arguably his ability to keep coming back consciously was the most extraordinary thing about him, but his thirst for beer had to qualify as the most legendary. It was very nearly as unquenchable as his approaching monomaniacal quest for information, particularly about the putatively original Unnameable.
In that regard he’d pieced together a supportable chronicle of, as he put it, the comestible near-debacle of 725 Pre-Dome. That was the year the Sedonshem landed on the Moon. Mithras remained inside it, as part of it, when, as a precautionary measure, their father deposited Thrygragos Lazareme on the planet’s surface. Along with a good-sized scouting party made up of Master Devas from all three tribes, his task was to check out the lay of the land, as it were.
In many respects it was providential Sedon chose prudence over recklessness. As Lazareme soon reported, they’d quickly come across exceptionally long-lived editions of the Dual Entities not so much laying on the land as ruling it – and, Heliosophos being a resolute anarchist, not so much that either.
Although Helios and his somehow humanized Mnemosyne Machine were going by the names of Alorus Ptah and Trishtar Thrae, the Outer Earth’s Book of Byblos remembered them as Adam and Eve. Because of that, certain superstitious fools believed to this day – and to Mithras’s mind defiant of logic – that Adam-Ptah constituted the Male Entity’s first lifetime.
It fell to Thrygragos Lazareme, in effect the Legendarian’s half-grandfather on both sides of the bed, to find a way to kill Helios. In order to do so, that Great God allied himself with the time-tumblers’ sworn enemies of the era. These were the soulless chthonic creatures generically referred to as daemons – demons without the letter ‘a’ being one of their least tolerable subclasses. The Entities had captured and imprisoned their undying aristocracy within Andy the Androsphinx hundreds of years earlier.
In an effort to garner the unsavoury shape-shifters’ support, he allowed far too many of those participating in his scouting party, including the 30-Year deviant’s devic half-parents, to fuse with a contingent of the dull-witted but extremely dangerous – not to mention, as it turned out, plainly duplicitous – tricksters. The resultant conglomeration of earthborn and skyborn saboteurs launched an assault on the Androsphinx as one, as the Unnameable.
Unfortunately Andy gained his name because Lazareme and those on his expedition had also learned by then of the existence of a Gynosphinx, whom they in their ignorance came to call Ginny. The Dual Entities must have been starving them unto voraciousness because one demon-devil-combined Unnameable quickly became dinner for two nameable sphinxes, hence the Legendarian’s characterization of events in 725 PD as a comestible near-debacle.
When in his cups, which he often was – even his own devic children referred to him as the Libertine – Thrygragos Lazareme would laugh sardonically that he was flabbergasted to hear Sedon and those with him on the Moon, his two brothers especially, hadn’t heard Andy and Ginny belching.
As far as Mithras was concerned, in 20/20/20 hindsight, the fact that it was so obviously a trap invalidated the supposition Ptah’s was Helios’s first lifetime. By his own admission Helios didn’t know anything about devils in his first lifetime. So how could he have laid a trap for them? Then again, also by his own admission, Helios didn’t know when, or as whom, he spent his first lifetime.
Nonetheless, and howsoever begrudgingly, he had to give his firstborn brother credit because, before 725’s solar year ended, Lazareme and his firstborn daughter, Harmony as she was now known, conspired to poison Helios. And, as everyone knew even way back then, when Helios dies he goes back into the time stream taking Machine-Memory with him, her as the innards of Trans-Time Trigon.
Still, it wasn’t until decades later, in 669 PD, that the Devil Sedon dared leave the Moon and bring his Sedonshem to ground atop Kanin City, whereupon it pulverized everyone and everything underneath it.
As luck would have it, over 5,000 years later, his ongoing connection to the Prison Beach’s She-Sphinx would grant Mithras a decisive advantage over his two brothers come a week from today. Oh, he’d provide them both with the option of not immediately meeting their maker, their Father Sedon, eye-to-eye as it were, as stars in the night’s sky, but he hoped the Lackland Libertine in particular would prove too arrogant to take him up on his offer.
As for his most hated brother’s firstborn daughter, the Unity of Unrequited Desire as he thought of the Harmony Unity, death voided marriage contracts and his ewe for Aries, Marut Kanin, as Illuminaries first had her, unaccountably disappeared over 300 years ago. As a result Mithras considered himself a widower. Just as Divine Coueranna, in her shells, had been his Boss Cow during Taurus, Harmony might consent to become his fishwife for Pisces.
If she didn’t, he’d likely take her anyhow, regardless of her wishes, but indubitably for her own good. He’d take her in the middle of the Mole, the Gregarian Fields, in the freezing cold of midwinter, if needs be. That was what his and the Attis’s Mithrant Brotherhood did. They called it the spoils of war.
And what, by definition, was the potential Theomachy to come except war among the gods?
All third generational devils were born triplets.
His torchbearers, equinoctial Spring and equinoctial Autumn – whom Illuminaries named Tammuz and Osiraq, but whom the Legendarian said the iconography of Cave Mithraism had as Cautes and Cautopates – were no different. Sedon cathonitized their triplet, Midsummer, also male, because on one of his solstice feast days, nearly 2,000 years ago, he got so blazing drunk he inadvertently triggered a volcano on the Outer Earth island of Strongyne that claimed thousands of its mostly female inhabitants.
The torches they’d left in his Mithraeum aerie were burning down. Thinking about Datong Harmonia, as bygone Illuminaries had unimaginatively named Lazareme’s Harmony Unity, made him feverous. Just because he could, Mithras ignited one hand. Next he tore off his arm and replaced one of the dwindling torches with it. Growing that arm back he then did the same with the other arm.
Mithras enjoyed playing parlour games. He also felt himself in an atypically upbeat mood. Anticipating Thrygragon cheered him immeasurably. He might soon find himself tempted to put on a much younger seeming and go down into nearby Corona City, the oldest still-populated metropolis on either side of the Dome, whereupon he’d seek some action. Then again, she rarely came anywhere near here. So, since any action he did get undoubtedly wouldn’t be with Harmony, why bother budging?
His mood nose-diving again, like an Edenite vimana or a Trinondev cosmicar about to crash and burn, the Milky Way still made him think Bloody Way instead. Even so, once you counted their dozens of remaining, third generational offspring, and the thousands of azura and non-azura possessed fighters they’d bring with them, it could be that the Gregarian Fields, Sedon’s Mole, would run much bloodier come Mithramas.
It definitely would if his two Great God brothers did not at last accept longstanding reality and embrace him as their superior in everyday practical terms. They would, though. They had to, he fretted. If they wanted their tribes restored and their adherents breathing after their submission, they’d have no choice in the matter.
Only he could cause the She-Sphinx, All of Incain, to release those she held, those the Attis imprisoned within her, because only he had the requisite authority over All’s mistress, the female of the two adult Perpetual Presences.
In his view, subordination – what some called henotheism, namely a state of affairs in which there are many gods but only one prevails as the King or God of Gods – was small price for his brothers to pay for his forbearance and intercession on their behalf with All of Incain. He, the deservedly declared Sire of Civilization on both sides of the Dome, had nonetheless experienced it many times over the millennia on the Outer Earth, where neither of them was ever venerated under any name.
During Vedic times, for one, his binomial alter ego, Varuna or Uranus, as some Middle Sea westerners had him, came to be considered the ultimate ruler and judge; the one who sets the parameters within which everybody could thrive, warrants and ensures contracts, forgives and punishes sin. For two, circa a thousand years ago, that curious fellow Zarathustra – he of the potent, not to mention swimmingly preserved spermatozoa – acknowledged him, Mithras, by name, as the ‘Judger of Souls’.
That Zarathustra also spoke of him as his God’s divine representative on earth made no never-mind to Mithras. As much as it looked and sounded like Varunamithra, Ahura Mazda meant Lord Wisdom in Zarathustra’s native tongue. He was therefore more of a concept than a unique entity. Since Mazda’s emblem, a winged ring or sun-disc was as close as he came to having one of his own, Mithras got his reverence second-hand.
Zarathustra additionally had him – had Ahura Mazda, make that – in eternal conflict with Angra Mainyu, aka Ahriman or Aryanman. That did somewhat bother Mithras. Only a madman could oppose wisdom manifest and madmen were self-destructive, not eternal. In the Great God’s considered, as well as considerable, judgement there was no such thing as evil. There were just right and wrong decisions made.
Mithras once asked the Legendarian why a prophet would invent an insane antagonist. To give his priests something to rail on about, the deviant glibly ventured. Priests had to eat too. Mithras almost cut off his beer supply for that spume of simplicity. One of the names under which he received devotion in sensibly syncretic faiths was Olympian Apollo and 30-Beers’ response didn’t satisfy his Apollonian requirement for a rational explanation.
All right, so the Dual Entities, the Male and Female Principals, were the first to name him Varuna Mithras, many multiple millennia ago pre-Earth. All right, so they were often portrayed as overseeing his activities, Helios as the Sun and Mnemosyne as the Moon. All right as well, so self-sanctioned ministers and hierophants purporting to do to his will had their more artistically inclined acolytes repeatedly depict him, surrounded by the 12 Signs of the Zodiac, slaying Taurus the Bull and thereby moving the heavens.
So what if the Romans of the present day showed him looking like his simultaneously mortal, yet thus far effectively immortal half-son, Chrysaor Attis? So what if the Persians of the not-so-distant past, for devils, had Ahriman-Aryanman-Mainyu, instead of either Mithras or Attis, as a bull-slayer? So what if the Etocretans, 50 human generations or more before Zarathustra, had a supposed son of Olympian Zeus, also a judger of the dead, one Rhadamanthys by name, as another bull-slayer, unless it was just as a bull-rider?
It only verged on sacrilegious to think that, if Rhadamanthys-Ahriman-Mainyu did exist, he had to be Father Sedon. Should the callous, frequently out-and-out cruel, near-omnipotent, mighty Eye-Mouth in the sky agree to lower the Dome – or to chew just a teensy hole in it, such that Mithras could get outside again on a regular basis – there’d be no need for Thrygragon. Neither would Outer Earthlings need to invent imaginary deities, perfect or imperfect. They could shake hands with him, Thrygragos Varuna Mithras, the All Gracious Guarantor of Covenants.
Inexplicably fearing for his own survival, Sedon would never deign to do something so eminently reasonable. Consequently Mithras didn’t know how much longer he would last. He did know henotheism, for devil-gods anyways, was preferable to monotheism. Anyone who thought differently had to be as nuts as Zarathustra’s fantasy foe.
And henotheism was what he, ever so magnanimously, was offering his brothers. They didn’t submit, didn’t subordinate themselves to him, then they and not he would be responsible for their demise. They’d be the authors of their own ‘theocide’, to coin a word.
One of the tricks to monotheism, the Legendarian explained to him, was to downgrade gods to angels or saints. For example, with respect to Mithras, one creed nowadays revered him as St Michael, an archangel, whereas a basilica dedicated to a proselytizing martyr by the telling name of St Saturnin had recently been built over a Mithraeum somewhere in Gaul. Overall though, that same creed demonized devils as fallen angels. Which was fair enough, in a way, since devakind did indeed come from the stars, the heavens, if not precisely Heaven.
That in mind Mithras returned his attention to the Sedon Sphere.
He expected to spot a falling star and, sure enough, one star was twinkling almost as luminously as Star Sedon, the Moon’s after dark competitor for intensity above the Hidden Headworld. Did that indicate it was falling? Not precisely. His masochist, his angelic courier and most reliable Heliodromus, Djinn Domitian as Illuminaries had him, was merely returning from his Mithras-mandated, mailman mission to the Moloch.
The Great God of Civil Sensibility hoped the mighty Eye-Mouth in the sky hadn’t chomped on him too severely. Messengers weren’t supposed to enjoy themselves until after they returned with their responses.
The prophet Zarathustra’s precursors, the fire-worshipping Magians, believed they could summon demons if they knew their names. And maybe they could.
For his part, Mithras didn’t accord otherwise inexplicable magic any credence. Bygone Illuminaries of Weir did. Except they hoped to subsequently summon their devic enemies – whereupon they’d forthwith slurp them into their prison pods – by assigning them names.
They were disappointed. But that didn’t prevent them naming devils and the first they named was Pyrame Silverstar.
Illuminaries derived Pyrame’s surname from the fact that, even though she was ever earthbound, they fancied her a shining light compared to that of Sedon, who was a dark star during the day. As for her first name, Mithras himself could attest she was hot-tempered, as well as hot-bodied and seemingly always hot-to-trot, to use another of Helios’s favourite phrases from the future.
However, even though words beginning with ‘pyr’ or ‘pyro’ generally denoted heat or something to do with heat, Pyrame actually came from pyramid. It was an appropriate root in that, when he was on the Inner Earth, Pyrame attended Sedon in the Grand Elysium pyramid wherein he lived and held court.
Furthermore, the Legendarian was one who hypothesized that denizens of the Outer Earth built their copycat structures in order to attract Sedon and Pyrame to their locales and thereby earn special treatment. It certainly fit with the prevailing belief beyond the Dome that Sedon was Satan and that he dwelt in hellfire.
Devils tended to address each other by attributes or distinctive features rather than names. For instance, they’d been addressing his commonest go-between as the Masochist ever since he, Mithras, used him to spice his transubstantiation dodge in the First Century YD. Devils regularly addressed Pyrame as the Pauper Priestess because she had neither a power focus to call her own nor a realm to make her home.
As for devotees, she served Father Sedon, not herself. As a result she didn’t need any devotees. She had Sedon and that was more than enough. She had him because she alone could successfully occupy the mortal women he, occupying mortal men, impregnated in order to produce his necessarily male and invariably mortal sedons, small case, three or four times a human generation on either side of the Dome.
Master Helena’s Emperor Constantine being an egregious exception, Sed-sons seldom amounted to much. Yet the deviants’ existence somehow or other allowed the devils’ All-Father, as well as the daemons’ antediluvian-acknowledged king, to preserve the integrity of Cathonia. By this means sedons therefore helped keep the Inner Earth separated from the Outer Earth.
Wise men, witches, devils and Illuminaries of Weir alike speculated it had to do with retaining a mystical bond between heaven and earth. Still, no one could be entirely sure how or why Sed-sons were so essential. Rather, if Sed-mom or Sed-dad, or both, were sure, they weren’t confiding said sureness to anyone else, not even to Mithras, Sedon’s indisputable favourite.
Third generational devils were the offspring of the Six Great Gods and Goddesses. The Pauper was one of his, at one time, innumerable multitude of devic children by the traitorous Trigregos Sisters. Spirit Beings the lot of them, barely 250, half of them female, got as far as Sedon’s eventual Headworld, thus living through the Genesea.
With very few exceptions, Illuminaries of Weir never got around to naming any of those lost in the Flood or earlier, for whatever reason. That included the entirety of his third-born brood of three. However, because of the virtually unique circumstances not so much of her survival as her revival, as it were, they named Pyrame Silverstar over 3,000 years before they got around to naming any other Master Deva.
So, yes, a number of others did indeed survive the same way she did. But, no, they, inside their shells, did not do so because they were on any of the myriad islands and islets comprising the then Archipelago of Pacifica when Sedon raised the Cathonic Zone all around it out of his own essence. They survived because they were there inside of All, Incain’s already self-declared invincible She-Sphinx.
Like them a member of Lazareme’s ill-fated scouting party back in 725 PD, Pyrame was one of the Master Devas that fused with chthonic daemons to form the Unnameable. After All and her just as moderately semi-sentient male counterpart ate the conglomerate creature, the Dual Entities one way or another immobilized the two sphinxes: Andy the Androsphinx on the Giza plateau in what was even then called Egypt and All – who, being more self-conscious than Andy, disliked being referred to as Ginny the Gynosphinx – on the then island of Incain.
There, shortly after the Genesea subsided beyond the Dome, approaching 4½ millennia ago, Pyrame’s Sedonshem-lover, Dark Sedon himself, managed to break her loose. And that fact was what made her virtually unique. What made her absolutely unique was the additional fact that they’d been Sed-mom and Sed-dad ever since. Which was something else that was okay with Mithras.
Thanks to the Legendarian’s investigations, he now knew how, always assuming they were the ones who did it, the Dual Entities immobilized both sphinxes. He also knew the Unnameable’s actual name, not that it held any real power either. Its head, though, that was a different matter.
He knew where that was as well: in the Attis’s bottomless bag!
Although, by their very nature, devils were as incapable of disobeying their fathers as he was of disobeying his father, Mithras didn’t order his offspring about like his two brothers did theirs. Why should he? He’d made a literal religion for himself as the Great God of Truth, Light and Justice.
As the guarantor of contracts, his word was his bond. So, admittedly with Attis and his Mithrant legionnaires poised as an omnipresent backup, he negotiated with them instead. He could order them about, though. And, if only to forestall him commanding her to do precisely as he pleased, Pyrame was by and large accommodating.
He’d never have to send the Attis after her either – not to force her compliance, nor to enforce their agreements – and it wasn’t because her position as the Sed-sons’ only possible Sed-mom made her untouchable. When she wasn’t in here or out there being conceptive Sed-mom, Pyrame and Attis were lovers. They had been, for him succession after succession, for many hundreds of years.
Mithras approved of their relationship. No one covered his or her angles better than he did. That was why he sent his Heliodromus upstairs. He didn’t want his father-who-art-the-heavens angry with him if he decided to abolish his two Thrygragos brothers a week hence.
The tiny twinkle brightened, bloated. Ergo, the Masochist was slowly returning from his rendezvous with the mighty Eye-Mouth in the sky.
How should he greet him, in what semblance? More to the point, what semblance did the Moloch Sedon prefer to adopt these days? Was he still going with the veneer of a near-naked, red-skinned – not red-furred – satyr? Probably.
True, as if to make himself appear less oafish and more fearsome, he usually sported stubby horns, filed-sharp teeth, a forked goatee and tongue, a braided ponytail and a spade-bladed tail. But did he have to carry a pitchfork with him, like a labarum or a sceptre, whenever he held court in his Grand Elysium pyramid?
Couldn’t he come up with something more creative? Did he really not want to disillusion his admirers – his vilifiers more like – that badly? In short, even though they hadn’t been seen in hundreds of years, did he really not want to let down the Dual Entities by appearing as other than their conventional visualization of their everlasting antagonist, their Satan, their Devil Incarnate?
Probably not answered that. As much as anything even vaguely hircine offended Mithras – merely contemplating Tralalorn and her goatish chimera, something he strove never to do, made him gag involuntarily – Sedon delighted in the look. HaShatan the Peacock Angel, wasn’t that the latest name the Legendarian said some otherwise forgettable Middle Eastern sect referred to Sedon on the Outer Earth these days?
Unlike the Female Entity, who could remember everything, hence her given name Mnemosyne, which meant memory, he had no great memory for names. But it could be. At any rate, he’d soon find out if his father persisted in the guise of a hayloft bumpkin.
The Masochist – who, with a fanfare trumpet for a power focus, doubled as his herald as well as his chief sun-runner – had a non-forked tongue with which to speak and three eyes with which to see. Hopefully Sedon spat them out, still in his head, when he spat him out of Cathonia.
Mithras learned Zarathustra’s concept of dualism pitted Ahura Mazda against Angra Mainyu long before the Legendarian came into being during the first third of the Dome’s 41st Century. Since then, 30-Beers regularly used his insouciant charm to gull Incain’s She-Sphinx into tongue-tugging him to her moribund male equivalent in Egypt. As a result the taleteller had acquired a degree of expertise on various worship-robbing, monotheistic movements proliferating beyond the Dome.
For years now he’d been returning more and more convinced that the vividly explicit distinction their proponents drew between a hypothetically single God and a nearly equal Satan, with their corresponding afterlife rewards for lifestyle performance in either a paradisiacal Heaven or a polar-oppositely horrendous Hell, was what was making them so successful.
Irony of ironing boards, as he put it, the Legendarian therefore blamed the debilitation befalling him, Mithras the Inner Earth’s Great God of Justice, Light and Truth, as well as the avowed advocate of freewill, on Mithras the Outer Earth’s dot-ditto, its acclaimed lawgiver, guarantor of contracts, righter of wrongs and champion of a civil society.
Devils did not believe in a hereafter, unless they were already experiencing theirs here on the Head. Devils were all about the here and now. Yet, by defining what amounted to good and evil in terms of demonstrable crime and remedial consequences, he’d unwittingly driven himself to the precipice he was teetering on today.
Immortality was habit forming. He had to chance the results of trying to overarch his brothers as the Head’s primary deity. Ends justified the means. Absolute rulers not just on both sides of this world, but everywhere he’d ever been throughout the heavens, complied with that dictum as the lone unbreakable law.
After Thrygragon devic adulation would have to channel through him before it reached his father. Once it did, once he attained the hitherto unprecedented position as its final filter, then, and only then, would he at last begin gleaning a slight commission. Only in that way would he be able secure his here, for now and forevermore.
Needs be the Moloch Sedon would remain the nominal God of devil-gods. Mithras couldn’t do anything about that. A Hidden Continent howsoever momentarily bobbing up in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, as the Dual Entities referred to the region, would as likely sink as remain above water. And he hated swimming.
At least he couldn’t do anything about it yet. Not that he particularly wanted to either. Just as there would have been no Sedonshem to transport them safely out of the second Weir System – after Heliosophos had his Mnemosyne Machine ignite the first Weir Star, thus rendering it the sudden supernova that, in the briefest of instants, finished off conceivably billions of Master Devas, their host-shells with them – there would be no Sedon Sphere above and about them without his father around to compose it.
Sedon looked after them. He always had and for that his descendants were unendingly, as well as genetically, grateful.
Due diligence done, more than three centuries of listening to corresponding generations of the Legendarian tell his tales, he’d convinced himself he could withstand everything his brothers could potentially throw at him. Of course just as Thrygragon could mean gone bye-bye, endgame bye-bye, for them, cooperation could mean much more than them going down a rung or two compared to him.
A return to the stars inevitably awaited them. But not the stars in the Head’s night’s sky, the Sedon Sphere, alongside its namesake, though Bodiless Byron would be right at home up there. He wasn’t called the Unmoving One for zilch times zip. The stars beyond it, the real stars, from whence they came, the Milky Way and galaxies much farther away than it, the cosmos itself, those were the stars that beckoned.
Things would be different this time, however. Mithras was all in favour of monotheism. So long as he was the Mono Theo!
His Heliodromus materialized out of the Weird, alighting beside Drought’s Attis-donated hourglass. Seeing the condition he was in, Mithras couldn’t decide whether he should laugh or cry. Before he expectorated him from Cathonia, the mighty Moloch had ground Djinn Domitian up so thoroughly he must have replenished his stock of toothpicks for a year with clumps of the Masochist’s affected, angelic feathers.
Suddenly Mithras lost his option to either laugh or cry. He also lost his supper. He buckled over, spewing out his innards.
Damn Trala! What was she doing riding her cursed, three-headed, lactose-reeking chimera anywhere near Theopolis Hill anyhow?
Standard wisdom had her as Pyrame’s third, simultaneously born, immediate sister, the one besides Desiccated Drought. Standard wisdom also had her as naming herself, perhaps in a pique, but definitely after the nonsensical rhymes she was always inventing, not long after Pyrame acquired her name.
There was no denying Tralalorn constantly addressed him as daddy. Then again she addressed almost everyone, devil and non-devil alike, as either daddy or mommy. There were many other, far more abnormal things about her, though. Perhaps the most incongruous of them was she had a power focus, called the White Dwarf, most of two millennia before the Anvil Artificer crafted for himself his very first talisman: an anvil.
Indeed, Trala had so many disquieting qualities Mithras never could accept her as his daughter. He reckoned her Sed-mom and Sed-dad’s firstborn, their only immortal thus far born on the Whole Earth. To his mind irrefutably, that made her less a delinquent devil than a complete cacodemon, an evil genius who just happened to be a vegetarian. He justifiably referred to her as Sedon’s Demon Child.
Her shells, if shells they were, were invariably young girls. Worse, they always looked the same. 30-Beers described her as a mini Miss Moloch. He was right too, though he did hazard the penalty of sacrilege – commonly punished by the Devil discharging a thunderbolt electrifying the spinal cord – when he did so. As if in an effort to avert charges of blasphemy, the recurring deviant was always quick to add that, alas, unlike him, Sedon had the requisite might to remain resolutely male.
Worst of all, the Demon Child’s shells never aged. If she did cast splendours about them, as her apologists insisted, did she consume them utterly, as a flame did wood, paper or papyrus? In which case, the moment she burnt out the first one, shouldn’t Sedon have instantly ill-starred or cathonitized her? The answer had to be yes.
Mind you, to be fair to his father, only Pyrame and Tralalorn, if she was the second, third generational devil to become mindfully embodied, were autonomous individuals prior to the eruption of Sedon’s Peak circa 2000 YD. He therefore may not yet have realized he could cathonitize anyone besides Mithras and his two brothers, whom Sedon, highly significantly, had never designated Perpetual Presences. Still, what about the nearly 2500 years since then?
Alternatively, if her body was not a shell, if it was her own and if she wasn’t Mithras’s daughter, might that make her the first, fourth generational devil? Could devic spirit beings be born with non-daemonic, subtle matter bodies of their own? If so, as a few optimists who probably should have known better speculated, did that make the Demon Child the repository of Master Devas who never made it to Pacifica prior to Sedon covering, draining and terra-forming it into his Headworld?
The only person who would dare to answer these questions was the little horror herself. Except, her answer usually went something like: ‘Tra-la tra-gee, your brain’s a pea!’ Whereupon she’d point her faces and, sometimes, feces flashing White Dwarf power focus at you and it’d be just that. You didn’t want to sneeze or your peabrain would be in your handkerchief and you’d be stuffing it back up your nose reflexively, if not exactly smartly.
After Father Sedon and definite daughter Pyrame, Trala constituted the Head’s third, albeit never an adult, Perpetual Presence. You trifled with her, absolute aberration that she was, the mighty Moloch above would strike you down with finality as much as he would with a jolt of lightning.
Even though soulless daemons more like persisted than subsisted, the invaluable, long ago proven irreplaceable Korant Sisterhood in effect adopted her millennia earlier, when their devic goddess, Divine Coueranna as Illuminaries named her, was still his primary bedmate. Consequently she ordinarily dwelt right here on Apple Isle, Sedon’s Human Eye-Isle.
Happily for him – to use a euphemism he often did when he found himself inadvertently thinking about her – the miserable little horror ‘abided’ in the vicinity of Mt Maenalus, Kore’s Volcano. And it lay on the southern side of the island, a decent distance, by foot or by hoof, from his Mithradium of an eggcup.
Since, for the better part of 2500 years, mere proximity to her ever re-engendered chain of chimeras invariably made him vomit, her staying much nearer Mt Maenalus than Theopolis Hill amounted to a multiple centuries’ pre-agreed-upon condition of her continuing residency on Ap Isle. She knew that. Yet, he couldn’t help observing, between heaves, that throwing up his last meal and an increasing pile of its prandial predecessors was precisely what he was doing.
Freewill or no freewill, devil-gods couldn’t disobey their fathers. Ergo, didn’t that make proof in the proverbial puke-pudding her not being his daughter?
There were seven rungs up the ladder in the modern Roman version of his self-promulgated rites from close to the Dome’s Year Zero, what the empire’s soldiery also referred to as Cave Mithraism. The Pope, Pater or Father – Mithras’s stand-in, of whom there could be as many as he wanted there to be – was the top rung, the Seventh. The Heliodromus or sun-runner was just below it, the Sixth. In descending order the rest were Persian, Leo, Miles, Bridegroom and Raven.
One reason Domitian assumed the vague likeness of a yazata Angelyc on a semi-permanent basis was because Mithras spiced their first feast upon completion of this Mithraeum, atop his Mithradium, with essence of Masochist. A second reason was the fact that, in not just Persian Mithraism, angels were considered messengers of the gods. A most important third reason for his chosen semblance was that even lowborn Mithradites flourished once they’d acquired sentient worshippers. And, no matter how lowbrow they were, Angelycs would do as well as any.
He appeared angelic in that he had four feathery wings. A single set of two sprouted out of each shoulder blade. One wing on each side pointed upwards; the other, the bigger one, pointed downwards. That he was additionally ‘leontocephaline’, that was due primarily to a suggestion made by the Legendarian, incarnations earlier.
The recurring deviant, at Mithras’s request, had visited any number of Mithraeum Cave Temples on the Outer Earth. He’d come back recommending Domitian start sporting a lion’s head because Mithras’s heralds were often depicted as having one. It was this ‘leontocephalous’ the Great God focused on once he finished adding his lunch and breakfast to his supper on the beehive’s floor.
His Heliodromus perched over him; the lion-headed face regarded him worriedly. His breath stank almost as foully as Trala’s now passed, goatish chimera always did. There was something else about him as well. The mouthpiece of his power focus, his fanfare trumpet, was sticking out of his mouth tube foremost. Did that mean its bell-piece was sticking out of his ass?
The Devil Sedon had masticated the Masochist big time this time. It was pure wonderment it hadn’t resulted in the trumpeter’s endgame. Yet, his angel’s condition … Tralalorn riding so close to his Mithradium despite his oft-expressed desire – he dare not order Sedon’s Demon Child to do anything she didn’t want to do – that she stay in the Mt Maenalus core of Apple Eye-Isle … Did he really need to ask? He did anyhow.
“You’ve a message for me from my father, jinni?”
The angel grinned from ear to ear, whereupon his lower jaw dropped off, broken mouthpiece with it. He nevertheless continued trying to speak. His upper jaw thereupon fell off, tongue detaching from throat with it. Mithras promptly picked up both jaws, extracted the trumpet’s mouthpiece and clipped them together. Tongue betwixt them, he rendered them leonine dentures, at which point they bit him.
This was not going well.
He shuddered hearing the faith-fanaticized throng thunder through the cave temple’s external seal, screaming imprecations in their zealotry as they did so.
No question of it, he wouldn’t have anywhere near enough time to literally draw to a close his rendition of Vatican Hill’s ceiling. Already they were smashing their way through the Mithraeum’s seven outer chambers toward him, he in its dead-end sanctorum, its Holy of Holies. By the time they were done, there wouldn’t be enough left of it to warrant a return visit.
Damn that Damnasus to purple perdition anyhow – or to whatever shade his monotonous God coloured this Hell of his this week!
He wasn’t a spiteful man, even if he was a deviant. His preferred payment was beer, cold if possible, a warm bed, shared or alone, and good fellowship. But he always made sure he got paid. Besides, his procreative imperative was twitching and he knew just the lovely lady who could satisfy its itch.
Jordan Q Tethys flipped back a few sheets of his splotch-pad, signed then dotted its pre-prepared drawing and made his getaway.
Leave the future for the future – and the Dual Entities. For him the present was what little was left of his daily allotment of a maximum thirty beers.
‘Amen’ either of them might have added; should either of them still be around.
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