"In the beginning," Yves said, "there was light."
The young angels assembled around him nodded in unison, as if their hearts and minds were one. Despite the brevity of their existences, they had heard that line before.
"Remember this," Yves noted with a cough, "it will be important later." He turned the pages of his book and continued.
"In the beginning, there was light. The light was God, and He - as much as He can be called a 'he' - filled up the entirety of space, the length and breadth of the universe. He was happy, quiet and even serene . . . but curious.
"'Hey,' said God. 'I'm alone. I mean, I'm everything, I'm all there is, right?'" Yves knew his youthful audience would not question his informal paraphrasing. The Archangel of Destiny was very familiar with the way that languages changed over time. He spoke to them in the colors and tones they would soon enough deal with on Earth.
Yves continued: "'Who am I talking to?' God asked Himself. 'Why is there a language if there is no one to communicate with?'
"Then God began to notice that parts of Himself - again, we use the term 'Him' loosely - had folded in upon themselves, layer upon layer, until they became complicated, intricate and beautiful. That is to say, even more beautiful than they were before.
"The complicated parts began moving of their own volition. Now we call them angels. 'Well, then,' said God, 'I wonder what's going to happen next.'
"And no sooner had the thought crossed His perfect mind than He knew what was going to happen and that, in fact, He was willing it to happen.
"Matter was forming out of sheer nothingness, out of the celestial purity that is God. It was tiny matter, complicated matter, the base materials that - after firing through the kilns in the hearts of stars - would eventually become the clay of life and flesh and blood.
"Out of such effort, out of such light, folded infinitely upon itself and gathering up in places, there eventually came a darkness. God is infinite light, but when He created new things and new beings, it was perhaps unavoidable that some of His creations would cast shadows."
Yves gently closed the book, paused and pursed his lips, then carefully placed the volume on the ground. He considered his audience with a gaze that was kind and gentle, yet tinged with an infinite sadness. More than one of his listeners shuddered.
"We, the angels, did not yet exist," he said. "And though those of us who were created that day still remember the first moments of our existence, there are many things, things which come later, that have been forgotten.
"Some of us can clearly recall one hundred years back; some have memories that run a thousand years back and the more divine of us can recall all their days in the last ten thousand years - but none of us can remember every moment of our existence."
He paused to let what he had said sink in, then continued: "Why is our memory shortened? To truly help the humans. So that even the most divine of us can hold in our thoughts some inkling of mortality, we have had the capacity of our minds limited. For us, a loss of past knowledge is nothing, compared to the even greater sacrifice God has made in giving up His memories of the future.
"He blinds himself to the flood of onrushing future events so that humans, and perhaps even angels, may have some taste of free will, rather than feeling like actors in a machination, performing for a higher being's entertainment."
He paused, even longer still. The young Ofanim - nearly stilled by the soft sound of his voice - began to stir as the essence of their nature once again took hold. Others among his audience listened even more alertly than before, realizing that they yet awaited the true import of this lesson.
The oldest Archangel spoke again.
"The point is, in the beginning there was light, not darkness," he said. "This is the story we tell ourselves; this is the tale we hold to be true.
"If it were not so, how can we possibly hope to win against an Enemy who had the upper hand even before Creation?"
Archangel Yves ran his perfect hands through his perfect hair and sighed deeply.
"This is all I will tell you today," he said.
This questions holds more complexity than most, for the celestials as well as humans. A typical discussion of it might go like this:
Angels have free will. Don't we?
Of course we do. We can Fall.
Those who Fall were fated to do so. They played their part. They were fated to believe they had free will, and that they were doing as they wished.
Does that mean that the selfish demons have free will, but we do not?
Everything they do is part of the Divine Plan, too. The demons are the part of the Plan that opposes, so the rest may grow stronger.
But if everything is part of the Divine Plan, what is the point of any part of it growing stronger? If the Plan is as it is, perfect and unchanging, what use is all the suffering and struggle?
We don't understand. It's ineffable. You were fated to ask that question.
(At this point, if in celestial form, one angel usually remembers urgent business elsewhere. If corporeal, crockery is thrown.)
Helmrich, a young Malakite of the Sword, has imperiled himself with a radical lapse of judgment. Assigned by Laurence himself to watch for and intervene in any breach of security at a New Orleans hotel, he left his post for a few minutes to chase a demon he recognized.
This bagged an infernal but gained a point of dissonance for disobeying Laurence. Then, compounding his error, Helmrich fudged his account of what happened to his immediate superior, the Angel of Sentries, after a purse snatcher scampered away with a valuable reliquary right in front of where Helmrich was supposed to be stationed. Despite his oath to "always speak the truth plainly," Helmrich decided in this case he was better off with the dissonance.
Helmrich now has the option of confessing his condition to Laurence or working it out on his own. Since confessing would tear at his Malakite pride, usher in a long period of suspicious observation by his fellow Malakim and summon the cold fury of his Archangel, Helmrich decides to fix things himself. Given his track record of late this might not be wise, but it is in keeping with his Malakite nature.
He now has several options - but only for as long as he can avoid discovery by the other two Malakim in his "long-range patrol," any other randomly encountered Malakim or Servants of Judgment, or Laurence himself. (The GM might determine that the Angel of Sentries is hanging on to some suspicions, as well, and have him keep a close eye on Helmrich.) Obviously, the dissonant Malakite should work fast to avoid assuredly getting into even more trouble.
If Helmrich knew a friendly Seneschal and could find the time, he could quietly work the dissonance off at a Tether. Helmrich has that sort of a relationship - just down the road in Houston - but Laurence doesn't leave any of his Servitors unoccupied for anywhere near the amount of time it would take. Asking for "leave" would raise too many (more) suspicions, so other methods must be pursued.
If he can locate an Outcast or Fallen angel of Swords and slay them, Helmrich's prowess would remove 1 point of dissonance (the one gained by disobedience; see p. 49). Perhaps even a Servitor of Malphas or any Lilim would do, since Helmrich's free will was factionalized by his Choir and Servitor agendas. Killing just about any sort of Balseraph should take care of the other point, as well.
Unfortunately, Helmrich's inexperience means it takes him time to hunt down any demon; he certainly doesn't have the luxury of being picky. Still, if he encounters any other sort of demon - preferably, several of them - he could strain to die in combat with them. That would remove one note of his dissonance (provided the Game Master does not rule that he made it too easy for the infernals to slay him), but send his immortal soul back to Heaven with that remaining note of dissonance still staining it . . .
Lastly, he can take on more oaths, two for every point of dissonance he intends to dispel using this method.
Given that speed is crucial, Helmrich decides to make two more oaths ("never place my own needs above those of my Superior" and "never suffer a lie to go unchallenged"), then seek out a pack of tough demons. If all goes well, his purified (but more honor-bound) celestial form will be in Heaven before daybreak.
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