They Are Very Much Like Us
By Jonathan Walton
Part 1: The Celestial Perspective
Many whisper that the Grigori were the first to find out.
As the closest to humanity, the Truth hit them particularly hard. The worst part was, even more than the Seraphim, the Grigori could recognize this Truth when they heard it. The Watchers were the children of the Symphony, and the underlying theme was instantly apparent, once they knew which melody to listen for.
Of course, the Grigori tried to spread word of their findings, but few beyond their own choir were willing to listen. Frustrated, the Watchers pressed the Archangel of Song to present their dark discovery to the Seraphim Council, convinced that the other Superiors must not be aware of the Truth. How could they be? It was unthinkable.
When Song finished, the Council Chambers were filled with a dead silence.
Yves, Michael, and Dominic looked especially grave. However, most memorable of all was the expression of horror that appeared on the faces of the Mercurian Archangels. Eli and Marc just stared blankly ahead, their pale countenances a mixture of terror and disbelief.
The "trial," if that's what you want to call it, took place on the spot.
There was no jury, no arguments were made, and no quarter was given.
Dominic's sentence was to take effect immediately and an entire choir became Outcast. The reasoning was never made completely clear. Officially, the charge was fornication with humanity, but that had been going on for centuries. After all, how did the Grigori and Mercurians come to be in the first place? Still, the Seraphim Council (Eli and Marc haven been escorted out for a little "reeducation") stood behind Judgment like a wall of Stone.
It was David's Malakim who greeted the Watchers as they stepped down from the clouds to their new Corporeal home. Those who survived, emerging centuries later from Limbo, were dealt with on a case-by-case basis. What became of the Archangel of Song and the other exalted Watchers is not known. David told the Council that the Grigori Archangels had been "dealt with" and offered no further clarifications.
Despite extreme measures on the part of Heaven, news of the Watcher's discovery spread to Hell. The Fallen already knew, of course, at least the older ones (and, because of that knowledge, were fulfilling their own sentence), but the research of Song's servitors, smuggled to Vephar by a newly-Fallen Skulker, revealed far more than anyone had previously imagined.
Once Heaven learned of this, the problem was quickly dealt with. However, in blindly carrying out the orders of the Council, it seems Oannes stumbled across the information himself. Strange how none of the Host showed up to help when the Archangel of the Waters happened to encounter Belial less than a century later.
And Gebbeleth. The secret was safe with the Prince of Secrets, but soon it was the Prince who needed to worry about his safety.
Not all in Heaven approved of such tactics, especially against elder second-generation Celestials like Oannes. Chief among the dissenters was Michael himself, the Firstborn. Dominic, true to form, was prepared to do what must be done, until the Almighty stepped in to change Michael's mind.
David's head servitor, Magog, was the next to have issues. In his case, the Angel of Fortitude was a little too ruthless in protecting the secret.
Though Lucifer hoped to turn the Kyriotate against his former masters, David and Khalid (then, Angel of Faith) managed to remove Magog from the picture.
When, in 600 BCE, the prophet Zoroaster removed a few layers of Eli's conditioning, most of the Host (with the exception of Dominic) was too busy to notice.
Belial, looking for an excuse, later charged that Demogorgon was an avatar of Janus, snuck into Hell to destroy traces of the forbidden knowledge.
Evidence for this claim was minimal.
The spread of early Christianity, especially the more Gnostic strains, led to a break between Michael and the camp of Yves and Raphael, the latter of whom was a strong patron of the Gnostic church. Later, when Dominic accused Gabriel of acting too independently in her creation of Islam, Yves did nothing, earning a deepening of Michael's distrust. There seemed to be a double standard of who could propagate secrets.
Uriel's destruction of Beelzebub, and the subsequent recall of Purity, mirrored the Oannes-Vephar incident centuries earlier. History, it seemed, was repeating itself.
If Legion was Michael's way of killing two birds with one stone, and sending Yves a warning in the process, evidence of his involvement is well hidden.
Whatever God told Kobal, it does seem coincidental that it was with Dark Humor's help that Haagenti rose to power, leaving two more dead Superiors in Gluttony's wake. Lucifer was not pleased at the thinning of his own forces.
After everything that came before, Makatiel's death was a strange incident.
Though Lucifer thought the Prince's vessel-diseases had great promise, Asmodeus and Dominic agreed that Disease posed too much of a threat to both sides. Internal conflicts were developing in both Heaven and Hell, with the elders bickering among themselves.
Then, in a watershed event, Eli finally broke through to what he had been made to forget. Dominic was not happy to find that the Creation had slipped out from under his nose.
Most recently, Khalid is the issue of the day. Formerly a chief minister of the conspiracy, the Archangel of Faith had seen too much. After helping to imprison Magog, Khalid watched as Uriel, his partner in crime, was removed from duty, and Gabriel meandered off the deep end. Kobal and Malphas did their best to recruit Khalid to the other team, but eventually the cavalry arrived. The "reborn" Archangel of Faith, with the new outlook that he has been given, might even last longer than Eli did. That's Dominic's hope, at least.
Part 2: The Ethereal Perspective
At first, the sudden appearance of YHWH didn't surprise the denizens of the Marches. In those early days, humanity had just discovered religion, something far different from animism and other primitive spiritualities. It was the time of god-building and new spirits were continually spawning. That the Semitic people, who were relatively few in number, had a faith strong enough to empower their own deity? Well, it was surprising but not completely unheard of.
The details may also have been somewhat odd, yes. It was very unusual for an Ethereal to appear, fully formed, completely out of nowhere. Normally, new spirits started out weak and grew slowly stronger, but there was some precedent for a quick "growth spurt" in some cases. Still, the fact that Jehovah arrived complete with an entourage of lesser spirits? That was almost unheard of.
Stranger yet, mere centuries after the Judaic Pantheon emerged, the Fall divided the newcomers into two opposing camps. Normally, this would be crippling to a young assemblage of deities, but the gods of the Jews only seemed to grow stronger.
Even in those days, many Ethereals denounced the twin factions of Adonai and the Adversary. Of course, these charges stemmed mostly from jealousy, as the upstarts grew fat on the essence of their worshippers. But that was not all. Many gods expressed concern about the extreme methods of Heaven and Hell, methods (at least according to the testimonies of some) that were completely beyond the pale. However, the other Ethereals were essentially vampires as well, and so opposing the actions of the Judaic Pantheon would be like the pot calling the kettle black.
Despite the similarities, a line was drawn between the Jewish spirits and the rest of the Ethereal world. Initially, the barrier was simply a mental one, built out of the disgust, resentment, envy, and moral indignation of the Ethereals, who now considered the "Celestials" (a sarcastic epithet if there ever was one) to be of a different breed. Later on, the Host and Infernals, who had always had a superiority complex anyway, made the barrier physical.
The Purity Crusade was a walk in the park compared to The Culling. Uriel was knee-high to a grasshopper's nightmare then and Michael was the Commander of God's Armies. Needless to say, it was not pretty.
The thing was, it should never have been possible. That a minor Pantheon could slaughter half the population of the Marches? What had been "unheard of" had now become the unthinkable. The execution squads of Heaven and Hell were relentless. Lucifer and Baal, watching the Host carve out a section of the Ethereal Plane for themselves, quickly took advantage of the situation, following suit.
The worst of the carnage took place in the Vale. Angel clashed with demon while any Ethereals caught between were crushed mercilessly. Beleth and Blandine's Towers became makeshift hospitals as the wounded from both sides were dragged back from the battle lines. In the end, the two factions of "Celestials" built a shaky truce, agreeing to focus on the real threat, the Ethereal spirits. Drawing a imaginary line down the center of the Marches, Michael and Baal fell back to clearing out their portion of the terrain.
By the time The Culling was over, the central regions of the Ethereal Plane were entirely in the hand of Heaven and Hell. What few deities survived the onslaught retreated to the Far Marches. Any new spirits that formed did likewise or were quickly destroyed.
And then the Celestials transcended.
Even now, no one is sure how they did it. What's even stranger is the fact that they did it together. The Host and the Infernals, who, by all accounts, despised each other, somehow teamed up to create the Celestial Plane? It seemed the Judaic gods never ran out of surprises.
The twin towers of the Vale served as a focal point, channeling and magnifying the powers of the chief deities. Half of the Marches appeared to shift sideways, creating a pocket dimension linked to the Ethereal Plane only at the Cathedrals of Fear and Dreams. All in all, it was a dazzling display of power.
If doubts remained about the "Celestials," if anyone still considered them to be pumped-up Ethereal spirits, the creation of their own realm dispelled all doubts. The Celestials were another breed entirely. However, this in itself raised some interesting questions. Was it possible that the Ethereals had been wrong about the Judaic gods from the very beginning? Was it possible that they had never been Ethereals at all, that they were not, in fact, born from the dreams of mankind?
Just who was this god called God?
Part 3: The Cycle of Revelations
"History doesn't repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme."
- Mark Twain
By the time the 23rd Century rolled to a close, the human race was on the verge of uncovering the ineffable. Or, at least, so they thought.
Science had long ago become the religion of mankind and there was nothing that the human mind had not scrutinized, taken apart, reassembled, or fabricated. Sure, some pockets of traditional thought held out, but there would always be people (the Amish, reactionaries, revolutionaries, the devoutly faithful, etc.) who feared the inevitable progress of time and technology. For most, however, the future was bright and filled with the promise of human accomplishment. There was nothing that mankind couldn't do. Scarier yet (to some), it seemed there was nothing that mankind wouldn't do.
The Light Speed Barrier was a large hurdle, of course, but, in the end, it was no more troublesome than the Sound Barrier had been. Human adaptability and innovation was unstoppable. Limitations were always temporary, left to the younger generations who would, one day, crush them under their boots.
The human race marched onward to the stars, setting a course for several earth-like planets discovered by their instruments. It was time to see just what this vast universe held for them.
But it was hard to have an intelligent cultural exchange with algae.
Wherever humanity went, it became clearer and clearer that they might be unique in the universe. Everywhere they went, the complexity of life was never as sophisticated as that on the earth. There were some alien life forms that had reached the cultural sophistication of, say, a school of fish, but, for those who sought a high level of communication with the star children, it was a big disappointment.
Still, all these discoveries did much to feed man's superiority complex.
"The world was made for Man to conquer and rule, and Man was made to conquer and rule it; and under Man's rule the world might have become a paradise except for the fact that he's fundamentally and irremediably flawed."* If this was the chief myth of mankind, the one they'd been acting out for millennia, then discovering that they were the sole children of the stars, the sole princes of the universe**, only made the myth into fact. Of course, now that mankind knew itself to be alone, it was time to create paradise. Surely the fundamental, irremediable flaw of man was simply another temporary limitation. As with all other barriers, it would soon find itself crushed under the boots of future generations. The march of progress would continue at any cost.
And what better way to create paradise than to become the Creator.
"World-building" became the buzzword of a generation, as the reality of terraforming, artificial habitats, and genetic manipulation brought human technology on par with the legendary creator deities that mankind had long abandoned. Humanity's flaws might keep them from creating a paradise for themselves, but perhaps they could best the demon by creating a paradise for others. Work soon began. On a small planet, one orbiting a star thousands of light-years from Sol, the children of man were birthed in Frankenstein labs of glass and steel.
It was carried out through a process called "managed evolution." Certain factors were introduced to the environment of the planet, factors which brought the sophistication of life from algae to vertebrae in a few centuries. Luckily, the creatures brains were too small at that point to realize the incongruity between generations. A few centuries more and the "children" began to look more and more like their parents. Not too similar, of course, just enough to fulfill our narcissistic desires and make it possible to empathize with our creations.
And then our children began to worship us.
We should have been expecting it, but it honestly took most people by surprise. We were their creators, surely, but we did not see ourselves as gods. Spirituality was something that we had left behind with the earth and now to be faced with it again, in reverse? It was more than a little unsettling.
Worse yet, two factions developed among the paradise builders. Some said that, with the Children, humanity was repeating our own mistakes. Was it proper to set up the Children as rulers of their world, a species above all other species? Was that not the very thing that had caused our own planet to be pushed to the edge of destruction? Was that truly a paradise? A peaceable kingdom? No, some answered. The Children were not any more special than the other living things on their planet. After all, we had raised them from being sea-muck, how could they now claim ownership of the planet we had "created?" They worshiped us, yes, but we were not objects of worship. Should we give them the planet just because they made us into gods?
The Experiment was proposed. A specially created mated pair was placed in an isolated environment and monitored closely. In addition to some unknown variables that corrupted the experiment (conflicts within the original pairing; interference by the opposing faction), the test was a complete failure. The greed and arrogance of the Children was clearly demonstrated to surpass the fear and devotion they felt towards us. The opposing faction claimed victory, the supporting faction pointed fingers at the opposition, and the lines were drawn for the coming conflict.
War was declared in Heaven. The two factions collided with all the power of their science behind them. The skies turned red with blood, the earth shook, and mountains crumbled.
And, deep within the tattered husk of the Library, fortified within the Special Collections, as he had been for more than a century, ...
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