An Ancient Attuning

By James Walker


The young Habbalite fled down the alleyways of Shal-Mari, closely pursued by the mob of his fellows. If they caught him he would be lucky if they tore him limb from limb. If unlucky... they would hand him over to The Game. A Habbalite who knew that he was a demon... who realised that he could become an angel... he redoubled his speed, grateful that he was no longer being slowed by the Emptiness backlash.

Finally the mob spotted him; as they began to tear him apart he uttered one last begging prayer - and found that he suddenly had a Vessel! He fled to the safety of the Corporeal, arriving in a Tether of Flowers. He was safe.

Lilith flew towards Venus. Diving into the atmosphere she headed for her target. Not on the surface, but high in the atmosphere, above the sulphur clouds, where the air pressure and temperature were comparable to Earth. As she travelled, the shimmering clouds were replaced by the shimmer of water, a mirage of an ocean floating in the clouds.

And then it was no longer a mirage. As she travelled over the ocean, the air changed, now breathable, and the floating islands appeared on the horizon. Speeding towards the central island, Lilith saw her target: Novalis, enjoying the Tether she had created half a century before.

The Tether she used for anything Dominic shouldn't see.

Lilith slowed in front of Novalis, a quirky smile on her face: "Greetings from Thulcandra...I trust you're happy with my payment? His belief that he was rescued by a miracle should aid him to survive Redemption, yes?"

Novalis nodded, ignoring the undercurrent in Lilith's words - the implication that the secret to a successful Redemption was a solid delusion. ~Yes. I take it that you have recovered from your fury over the cost?~

"I suppose so. It was inevitable, I suppose...that if I haggled you down, you'd just get Marc to haggle the price up again, and then I'd end up paying his commission as well as your fee. It happens. Given how casual you are, there's nothing urgent I need to concern myself about?"

~Not really.~ Novalis passed Lilith a glass of... something... and then continued. ~Mind you, there are a few new threats: or at least, they believe that they threaten you. Saminga has persuaded himself that if he can pour sufficient Forces into a new Mummy it will be able to duplicate your Geasing abilities. The resulting explosions have impressed Belial, but haven't otherwise achieved anything.~

Lilith smirked.

~Two of your Daughters - no, I'm not giving you their names - have persuaded Andrealphus that if they hang around Eli long enough, they'll help him Fall. Their real motivation is much simpler: they're planning to lose their last Geases by drinking from each Font he creates.~ Lilith's face darkened in fury as Novalis continued: ~They are fully aware of the implications of what they are doing: that success will undercut their own value, as other demons will be able to repeat the trick. They feel that they've been 'slaves' - their wording - too long to care.~ Novalis paused, wondering whether Lilith would finally realise the perversion she had made of her Word.

"Lilith's fury was replaced by curiosity: "You don't consider them a real threat to me?"

~No - Eli will keep them far too busy: and probably Redeem them. The closest you face to a real threat is Eli himself - he's grown fond of the pair, and if you endanger them, he's unlikely to ever forgive you.~

Lilith nodded. "Any change in the usuals?"

~Some. Kronos is making some progress, but has discovered that creating Balseraphs with a Bright resonance will interfere with several Fates, so he's put that plan on the backburner until he's corrected the situation. Valefor is bored again, so everyone and thing is in danger of providing him with a target.~

~And I grow more tempted every year to cut my attunement to you.~

Lilith met Novalis' gaze. "That's your right. Why should I care?"

~Yes, it is my right. Although I have never abandoned one of my charges, it is still my right. When I attuned myself to every living thing in the Garden of Eden -~ She ignored Lilith's snarl. ~- I was under no obligation to protect you at all. Then you left: another reason to break the attunement. Then you joined Lucifer... and since then, you have attacked others I am attuned to. And then you hurt yourself - do you think I enjoy the pain of dissonance? Or feeling the burning cuts from your brawls - that's the only way to describe them - with Andre?~

"I... do... not.. care." The two locked gazes, as two powerful Words clashed, wrestling for supremacy. Both knew that Lilith could not survive without Novalis; both knew that Lilith would choose to die rather than beg for that protection; both new that, one day, Novalis would have to either cut the attunement or Fall.

Novalis sighed. ~Leave then. Asmodeus has guessed that you're currently dealing with some Archangel; you have less than a minute before your presence here will be discovered by another Demon Prince.~

And Lilith was gone. Novalis sat still, tears in her eyes, feeling the pain, letting it flow out of her. Harmony was part of her Word; while Gabriel twisted under the pain Hell caused, Novalis could heal herself - somewhat. But not completely. To do that, she would have to make David's choice; to stop caring about the Fallen. Yes, he refused to abandon them, but he no longer ached for them or cared whether they lived or died.

Novalis remembered the pain of the Fall, as she defended her attuned: from each other, mostly. Remembered Blandine, who had rendered combat around her Tower impossible to any except Beleth. Remembered David, attuned to thousands of angels, become a Malakite, abandoning his wards to slaughter the rebels...remembered David, who still could not understand why his fellow Cherub Archangels thought he had betrayed them.

Remembered Lilith's smugness thinking that she was the only Demon Princess to have a Cherub Archangel watching over her. Which was why she was willing to let Novalis suffer dissonance, of course. It wasn't much...

...And Valefor didn't mind either, smug in the knowledge that he had "stolen" the advantage of having Novalis attuned to him...that he alone had this advantage. Fortunately, he considered liberating Renegades to 'fun'. Novalis sighed, reminding herself of the many Redeemed who had been saved by her suffering...

The Renegade of The War charged into the Gamesters send to catch him, carving them apart. Then Baal was there, and speaking: ~And now, traitor - you're dead.~ And both Baal and his Renegade were gone. The Gamesters "knew" that the Renegade had died - didn't they? Of course! Baal was there, no wonder they hadn't seen the Renegade die, given how fast Baal could fight - so really they had seen the Renegade die... they reported this back....

And Baal dropped off his payment, and went to see his 'little sister'. How clever Lucifer had been, when Marc and Novalis had been sent to parlay, 20,000 years ago. So clever! To persuade Novalis to attune herself to all of the First Fallen...and when they had realised that she would need to be paid occasionally to keep her deluded, to pay her in redemption candidates; each Redemption burnt up Heaven's resources far more than creating anew angel did, so weakened the fools delightfully!

True, it was annoying that she knew more of what happened in Hell than he did; but she was too peaceful to pass that information on to Heaven's warriors. Besides, it was only right that the First Fallen have special privileges; the fact that only he or Lucifer could kill one without Novalis Lending an attunement preventing was a privilege, just rewards to the original rebels.

Novalis remembered the weight of Lucifer's will, or Baal's will, as they had 'tricked' her. Remembered how she and Marc had worked to make them think that their lies were their own, not inspired by Heavenly diplomats. It helped a little. Remembered how much she had been able to aid Yves, letting him know what was happening in Hell - it helped a little. And when Baal arrived, gave him the information that had bought the life of yet another redemption candidate. It helped... a little.


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