Excerpts from Liber Castellorum
The room in Heaven was full of light and air, and the high arched windows let a gentle breeze through to ruffle the wings of the celestials who sat there. None paid it any attention, however, their focus on the Malakite who stood at the podium, his pose at once alert and impatient.
"The purpose of a Tether," said Laurence, "is multiple." There was a whisper of movement as many of the listeners made a note on the tablets they carried.
"Multiple," the Archangel of the Sword continued, his black wings flaring behind him. "Firstly, it nourishes the Word that it is linked to.
"Secondly, it protects the mortal community around it. Thirdly, it acts as a base for angels in the area, and a staging-point for attacks. Fourthly, it is an open link from Heaven to Earth. Do not forget this." Laurence turned to sweep his gaze across the angels in the rear benches. One Seraph shifted, nervously coiling his tail under him. "You are all experienced Servitors who have fought on Earth, and a number of you are being considered as Seneschals. It is easy, on Earth, to be taken up with day-to-day concerns, to pursue demons and protect humans and consider that to be the limit of your duty." The Archangel's voice cut like steel. "It is not. Whatever Word you serve, that Word is a part of the Symphony. Do not let yourself forget that the strength of the Tether is the strength of the Word. Strengthen the Word in the humans and the world around you, and you serve Heaven best." There was a pause.
"But, on the other hand, we must not neglect the practical matters." Laurence turned his gaze to the angels seated at the front, this time. "Remain always vigilant. The forces of Hell are unlikely to directly assault your Tether – in most cases – but will endeavor to spy it out, to corrupt it and to encourage the humans around it to weaken its Word. Do not underestimate what humans can do! As they can form Tethers, so they can also change or destroy them. Guard them and protect them, for they are the essence of your Tether." There was another pause; several angels tried to decide whether or not that was meant to be a joke, and decided that intelligent silence was the best course.
"And the best defense is a good offence." The Archangel's wings shifted in a ripple of obsidian. "Identify local Enemy Tethers. Know their agents. Know their likely methods. Spread the influence of your own Tether – cooperating with other local angelic Tethers – and do not succumb to complacency. Idleness is folly. Satisfaction is folly. We do not sleep, we do not rest, and we guard. The Earth is our charge." His hand brushed the sword at his belt. "You will simply have a more defined group of people to protect than most. They are in your keeping. Do not betray them."
The room was hot and dry, and the chairs in which the demons sat were all imperceptibly too small; the walls were dark steel, and in the distance the dim thud of gunfire pulsed like a bloodstream. All gazes were focused on the starkly uniformed man who stood at the front of the room, and all the demons sat stiffly upright, scribbling quick notes in their pads as they listened.
"Tethers have many purposes," said Baal. "And all of them serve the War." The Demon Prince of the War focused his attention on a Calabite sitting in the middle of the room. There was a pause. "Tethers are military outposts. Even those that serve Words like Gluttony or Dark Humor are of use to us. Each Tether is a dagger plunged into the face of the Earth, a new wound that marks our territory. It is an area forbidden to Heaven and consecrated to Hell." The Calabite desperately stared at his paper as he scribbled the words down verbatim.
"And," Baal said, his voice a clipped sharpness that had all the demons tensing their shoulders, "it is ours." He took a pace, and the shadow of leathery wings flickered briefly on the wall behind him. "You are all officer candidates. You are all intelligent. Always be alert for new territory. Strengthen your Word – it will support the Tether and support you. Make inroads on the territory of enemies if you can, and by that I mean anybody not directly allied to you.
"Those who are not for you cannot be entirely trusted. If it is a choice between leaving territory under the lax authority of a weak Word, or using it for your own purposes, then the choice should be obvious." There was a pause. Somewhere in the distance, an explosion rippled softly through the air like thunder.
"Do not," said the Demon Prince, very softly, very directly, "ever consider disobeying your commanding officers. They have risen to their rank through merit. You have yet to prove yourself. If they order you to defend, then defend. If they order you to attack, then attack. But at the same time, do not be blind. Learn from them. Some day you too may be Seneschals, and then the responsibility will be yours." He took another pace, watching the seated demons. "In the same way, Tethers obey their Princes. They are outposts in the War, forward positions, areas from which we can defend our operations and launch attacks at the Enemy. Any Tether is a vital resource. They are not to be betrayed.
"They are not to be made vulnerable. You must know your Tether's strengths and weaknesses." His voice fell in the air, cadenced and regular. "Be prepared for the most stealthy of attacks, and be prepared for insane Malakim with dynamite. Heaven will stop at nothing in their attempts to reduce us to slavery." Baal turned on his heel, and his gaze was like a knife. "Each Tether is a victory in the War, and a gateway to future victories."
The woman leaned on her spear at the mouth of the cave, and called, "Brother?"
Light flared in a sunburst for a moment, then was gone. The voice from within was very weary. "Go away."
Athena waited, patient as ever. Her white robes shifted in the dawn wind, and she watched the mouth of the cave with cool gray eyes.
Eventually, the voice said, "Very well." Light flared again, and a man who burned with the living incandescence of the sun stood beside her.
"What is it that you want, sister?"
"I came to bring you news," Athena said.
Apollo's laughter was brief and scorching. "That we are diminished further? They are encroaching on Delphi, sister. That is one of my last remaining Tethers. What am I to do? Appear to worshippers?" He spread his hands. "Sister, we don't have worshippers any more."
"No," Athena said calmly.
"Ah." He began to pace. "Then you want a prophecy. Why else would you have come here? Let me give you one. We're dying. We're fading away. We're dreams and dust on the wind. Our power is broken and our Tethers are vanishing or gone. We have less Essence with every season. We are exiles and we have no hope left."
"No," Athena said again.
He touched her shoulder, briefly, and fires rippled on the cloth of her robe before vanishing. "We have no temples to appear to the mortals in. We have no strength to build ourselves bodies. There are no centers to spread our faith from any more. The angels drove us out - damn them!" For a moment, tears ran from his eyes like liquid gold. "And we are too virtuous for Hell. They would use us and throw us away."
"They would," Athena agreed calmly.
"We were strong once. I had temples across the Isthmus." Apollo turned away from her. "I could have appeared in any of them, taken my pleasure with the priestesses and showed myself in glory. Our servants would have defended them. Armies raised shrines to us at each new conquest."
"Oh, my brother, I had temples too." Athena's voice was soft.
Apollo rounded on her again. "And who controls the Agora now? What do we do when there are no Tethers left? Sister, what becomes of us when there is no more belief, no more Essence, when nobody remembers we existed?"
"Brother." Athena regarded him. "They have not forgotten us yet. We still have time."
Apollo stooped to the ground, and sifted a handful of rock dust between his fingers. "Look at us, Athena. This is what our Tethers are becoming, and this is what we will be in the end. Dust. Dust on the wind." Her eyes sought the middle distance, and she whispered, "But not yet."
For millennia, there has been a hidden valley in the depths of Africa where no human ever trod, and where animals of all kinds could find safe haven from humanity. As the years wore on, its untouched nature and position as a sanctuary for endangered species made a Tether of it. With an Ofanite named Arah as Seneschal, watching from above in one of several avian Vessels; it became a Tether of medium size, but largely remained out of the War.
However, in the nineteenth century a new theme entered the literary world and general concepts. Some idyllic valley, far from the hand of man, a Lost World where species survived which had died out everywhere else.
This cultural belief grew and developed new shades as the twentieth century continued. By the 1990s, it was even spawning million-dollar films about valleys of extinct animals and dinosaurs.
The Tether grew in strength notably with this flow of new Essence, and has been able to expand its borders while still remaining a secret. It is, after all, its nature to be a hidden valley. It is now a major Tether, and Arah has several celestial assistants who help patrol the valley and discourage explorers. Jordi himself, while no fonder of humans than before, is quite happy to have them contributing to his Word and Tether, and even finds some irony in this.
Early in his career, Saminga actively sought Tethers. Now, believing himself secure and his power firmly established, he worries less about expansion, but still eagerly harvests any new Tethers that form, and expects his Servitors to notify him immediately if they discover one. And Tethers to Death are plentiful. Saminga, however, believes that every scene of mass carnage should become a Tether to Death, and blames a conspiracy of his fellow Princes for preventing this from happening.
Saminga is outraged that the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians, early in this century, did not produce a single Tether to Death, nor did the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The Holocaust gave him several Tethers, but he expected more. After thousands of years, he still fails to grasp the inherent ineffability of Tethers. The fact is that one particularly horrific death is as likely to open a gate to Hell as a thousand people dying in an earthquake.
"Tether" is merely the word preferred by most English-speaking celestials, along with "Strong," "Average" and "Weak" as classifications.
Some celestials prefer Hebrew, others Latin. Many use an appropriate word in the language of the country they work in. Some – usually Creationers or Wind-Servitors – have tried Esperanto or other human-designed languages.
The preferred word in Hebrew is Hibbur, pronounced "hib-BUR," and meaning "a joining" or "connection." Large is gadol ("ga-DOL," big, mighty), average is memutstsa ("memuts-TSA'," average), and small is katan ("ka-TAN," small, young). A micro-Tether would be one that was ketantan ("ketan-TAN," tiny).
In Latin, one common term is Castellum, pronounced "cas-TEL-lum," and meaning "castle" or "fortress." Large is magnum, average is medium, and small is parvulum. Minisculum could refer to a micro-Tether. Calling a Tether a "Sanctum" (sanctuary) is also appropriate, as is "Vinculum" (chain).