Well, now that we've got you comfortable - you are
comfortable, right? Excellent - we can have that
So, you've come here because you want to know about the Malakim. I can understand your concern; they are really quite unnerving to the average demon. So quick to judge, so quick to strike, so slow to get rid off - it's not surprising that even in the safest parts of Hell their very name is almost never uttered aloud in tones above a whisper.
But then again, perhaps it is. Rationally speaking, the Ofanim strike harder in battle, the Cherubim are more relentless when roused and the Elohim display superior ruthlessness. I will admit that their ability to treat vessel-death as a minor annoyance is troublesome, but alone it seems a somewhat thin reed to support so much fear. We have had twenty thousand years to adjust, after all -
- While I'm thinking of it, let me adjust that seat for you; I see that you're having difficulty with the mechanism. There: much better, no?
As I was saying, we've had plenty of time to get used to their unique tactical advantage, so why are we still so afraid?
Well, I think that it's partially the way they appeared. Obviously, we knew that the Tyrant would cheat, if things started going badly; it's His nature. But the way that He cheated was completely unexpected... and it's the unexpected setback that's the most disturbing, I've found. We were anticipating some sort of overt display of power, you understand. Some sort of manifestation of Divine (pardon my language) anger, something that would probably destroy us but would at least indicate that He took us seriously. Instead, the Tyrant showed His contempt for His loyal fools by warping some of them into Will-less killing machines.
I think that this is really the key, you know. Most of Hell fears the Malakim because they revolt us: they are revolting because they are both a perversion and an ultimate insult to our original justified complaint. We are Will given form: the Malakim are so bound that their Will cannot be freed. I often doubt that we'll ever be able to help them: we've certainly spent a long time trying!
Ah, the tea is ready. One lump, or two? Oh, I do apologize: I seem to have given you three, instead. I'm afraid that I can be a bit enthusiastic at times.
Where was I? Ah, yes, the Malakite inability to Fall. Do you know that some angels actually think that this proves that Malakim are, if you'll pardon the oxymoron, Divine demons? Amusing, isn't it? Trust it to the Host to completely get things backwards: the Malakim could not be farther removed from being demons. They have had their ability to choose burned out of them, and a demon is nothing without choice. It is really very sad - and painful. You can feel it pressing against your chest like invisible steel bands...
Oh, you seem surprised that I would apparently know of this. Why? Hadn't you come here explicitly to spy out those of my Band and Prince? Well, here I am: a Balseraph of Fate who has shouldered the burden of intimately knowing the Malakim. It is a burden, and one for all who share my doom. We bear up underneath it as well we can, for as long as we can. But I am sure that you are not interested in my plight...
How gratifying of you to show otherwise: still, we have much to do, so I will try to restrain my garrulity.
I cannot tell you what it is like to be safe from Falling: I was never an angel, so I have no idea what that ignorant fear must taste like - and, obviously, currently the point is moot. Also, I am alas no more immune to Trauma than you would have been. But I can speak of the oaths. The oaths are really the key to it all, and I know more than I would have ever wished to know about them.
The oaths... make everything simple. Binary. Linear. Boring. When you are aligned with them, everything is perfect and smooth. There are no complexities or rough edges in your mind. You are detached from yourself, but not in a bad way: you move through your existence secure and perfectly in balance. That is the carrot that the Tyrant gave the Malakim: the ability to be sure where they stand. But, like all his 'gifts', the carrot is also a stick - for when you are not aligned with your oaths, the perfection goes away.
In its place comes pain.
The pain starts slowly. It feels more like an itch than anything else, at first: not enough to hurt, too much to ignore. If it would just steadily build from there, that would not be so bad, but the pain is rarely that accommodating. It builds - and recedes - in fits and starts, depending on stimuli that we do not fully understand, even now. It is like a dull roar with knives in it. It is like a breathing band of red-hot steel across your chest. It is like dry wind on a fevered neck. It is like none of those things. It hurts, and it will not stop hurting, and it cannot be denied...
Excuse me. The loss of Will tied up in this is hard to explain, impossible to share. How can I describe a pain that can make dissonance seem a relief? We Balseraphim who have the hardest of our unique burden rarely speak of it; it is a relief to express my anguish for once.
And, because you have been so attentive, I will whisper a secret in your ear. A gift that you may take with you on your journey to... wherever you will end up going. No, do not shy away: isn't a secret what you wanted, why you came here unbidden?
The secret is... some of us do not own the two oaths that Kronos adapted for his Balseraphim's use. Some of us do not suffer an enemy to live, if it is our choice, or merely never allow ourselves to surrender or be captured by the forces of Heaven. No, indeed, some of us do not suffer evil to live, and never allow ourselves to be taken by Hell. I would curse Kronos for this, but... I cannot.
Do you understand, then, why I must do what comes next? Do you understand how I cannot do otherwise, even though every atom of my Will shrieks otherwise? I have been given no choice but to suffer the evil that is Kronos to live. I have been given no choice but to suffer the evil that is Fate to live. I have even been given no choice but to suffer an evil to live that has legitimate business with the Archive, or Fate, or Kronos. I have a choice, though, when it comes to spies, or those who come unbidden here. I have a choice, so I have no choice at all.
It is a strain to speak to you at all. The oaths look with reptilian eyes through my own, and when I see you there, securely bound to that chair, it is all I can do to stop myself from extinguishing your 'evil' on the spot. I held out for so long, this time - but my Will crumbles, as it did for all the rest. I cannot fight it for much longer, but I so need at least one of you to understand - honestly, truly understand - that I would not do this.
I would not.
I would not.
But I must.
Here endeth the lesson.
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