The Armies of Love

By Elizabeth McCoy


Blandine and Beleth were not the only great lovers in Heaven, though they were the first, and as Cherubim, the obvious. But tales can be told of the cool, intellectual love of Jean and Raphael, the first Elohim, or Janus and Oannes, with the everpresent joining of wind and waves...

And of course Andrealphus, Angel and Archangel of Love, felt them all.

One of the most delightful Tethers in Heaven was thrice-forked -- a beach on a small peninsula, where wind and waves came together joyously, and led to the domains of all three.

In the days before the Fall, after Lucifer had begun to make Andrealphus doubt the Word of Love, that Mercurian went to the thrice-forked Tether, and sought to reassure him/herself that the Word was yet true and pure. And the wild whistling wind and roaring waves there did hold a certain peace, a certain reassurance.

So he/she did create... something. Something that was bound into the Tether, a promise and a pledge. Something that even Love's own Fall could not undo. Something not even Oannes's death could undo.

Something, perhaps, that could outlast even the Wind.

By this time, it's claimed that if you can invoke them, if you can perform the rituals to unseal the Something, that the Armies of Love will come to aid you, save you from whatever threatens you. Some Novalines wonder if it might even invoke Andrealphus himself, and restore his faith in his old Word.

There's a building there, now. A huge mansion, of stone and windows, with candelabras. Some very old Servitors wonder if pieces of that house don't remind them a bit of pieces of Love's old Cathedral, with ballrooms for dancing and bedrooms for cuddling. Some Lust-Servitors have found other mirrors that are a little too familiar for comfort -- but not enough to prove anything.

The house is huge. It occupies a large chunk of what was once the thrice-forked Tether.

You start at night. You go out the front of the house, by the land, and begin to circle it, widdershins. (Counter-clockwise, that is.) At the house's first corner -- it's huge, but square, at least on this side -- is the first test.

At night, stand there, where waves and wind roar and howl -- but gently, in this place -- and light a candle. You have to be thinking of someone you care about. Really care about. Sincerity. If the Game knew about this, a demon successfully passing the first test would be named Renegade at once.

The candle will cast the shadow of a candelabra upon the waves. No one knows why, anymore. (Do you want to go ask Andrealphus, Demon Prince of Lust? I thought not.)

Once the candle is lit, the way is opened. You could turn the corner and walk that stretch of beach without the candle, without the ritual caring in your heart, but the beach would end shortly, halfway along the small, rocky cliff that the house now perches atop from this angle. With the candle and the caring, the beach continues to the house's next corner.

Anyone may go with the one who opened the way -- provided they at least care for that person as a friend. Anyone may open the way, too: human, ethereal, celestial... Even undead.

At the second corner, the second trial. There's no further beach here, just rocks jutting from the water. Now, you must turn your back, gaze at the waves (wind-spurred, even higher now, crashing upon the rocks beyond but somehow never actually roaring up to soak those who stand at the second trial; from the house, these waves seem to crash against the cliff, and there is no beach to stand on here)... and love someone, without doubt, without holding back. Then turn around. And one more thing: to pass this trial, one must be human.

It would be an easy thing for a Cherub. It would be an easy thing for a Seraph who knew the right truths about another, without doubt (and Seraphim who love, rarely hold back; they are pure and feel emotions purely). Even an Elohite might manage the task (objectively, if one has need of the treasure hidden within the once thrice-forked Tether, one should not hold back!).

But the only creatures which can open the way are humans, with all their doubts and worries and lack of resonance to tell them that no, they need not doubt.

It is, perhaps, an impossible task. No one has ever achieved it.

It is said that the closest that was ever come was a young woman and the massively Discordant Djinn of Lust (quite thoroughly Renegade) who was attuned to her. That at the second trial, when she would have returned his love... something happened, that clouded her eyes, and instead of him she turned to kiss and lay with upon the sands, it was another -- a Soldier of Hell who had just enough humanity left to be able to care, and thus follow them. And so was love betrayed, as the Djinn stood by, unaware that his beloved's mind had been clouded with illusion.

The story doesn't say what became of them, or if this illusion was in fact a final trial.

But the sea and waves remain, and the beach remains, and the house sits above and broods, held uniformly by people of power and pride.

And the trials... remain.


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