Consider Solitude

By Ryan Elias


We stand as alone in the crush of souls in Hell as we did in the shadow of Jacob's Ladder. The only real difference is that in Hell we know that we have no allies. What's surprising is the lengths to which we'll go to remedy this.

The games we play down here are just that. Games. None of us really believe, in our most secret hearts, they it will lead to anything. We trade alliances, make friends and enemies and play at politics simply to pass the time. We all know that after a victory for Lucifer, should such a thing be possible, all bets will be off as we scrabble to gather up the pieces. The only reason we present an even vaguely united front is that we're too afraid of each other to show weakness or disloyalty.

And therein lies the secret. Only by splitting ourselves apart can we remain close together. Not much of a secret, truth be told. It's the guiding principle behind democracy. The only reason people ever clump together at all is to keep an eye on each other. Each state would be better of on its own, but is too afraid of what might be done in its absence. Lucifer certainly knows this. Why do you think he keeps me around? To amuse him? To keep his princelings fighting? He hardly needs me for that. He keeps me because he knows that the only thing that holds us, the Princes, together is our mutual hatred of each other. We dislike Heaven, but there's nothing we loath more than our immediate rivals. And we can't turn our backs. If there was no hatred, no fear, between us, we wouldn't hang about in Hell. What's down here for us? We'd be out in the world, fighting Heaven in our own ways. But we're not, because we're afraid of what the others might be doing to catch the Morningstar's eye, or to harness the Essence of the damned.

It's ironic, really, because what Lucifer isn't doing himself any favours by keeping us around. We're a drag on him now, and we won't be any better come Armageddon. War gives birth to weakness, and as soon as Baal is weakened by the battle with Laurence, Asmodeus will bring him down. And Azzie knows that at the first sign of weakness Kobal will destroy him. And so forth, ad absurdum.

It's the secondborn's pride that gets him, really. He knows that he would be better alone. He's stronger than any of us, and under his autonomous control the legions of Hell would be able to fight as an army, rather than a particularily incoherent mob. He keeps us because we're evidence that, even if he didn't win the rebellion, he came damned close. A third of the host followed him, and what the books won't tell you is that nearly a third stayed neutral. He came close and he's not about to abandon all the evidence of that.

And I've told him all of this. That's the beauty of my position. He has no illusions about me, and so I can say whatever I please to him. So I've told him to be rid of me, to destroy me and save himself an enemy later. I've told him that as soon as war breaks out and Nybbas' back is turned my servitors will bring his Word down around his ears and I'll tear the smarmy little bastard apart myself. I've told him everything and it only makes him hate me more, and to hold me even closer. And at the same time, he values me, because he knows that I will only ever tell him the truth, because it hurts him more than any lie I can concoct. As much as he dislikes it, he thinks it good that he can face his weaknesses. In truth, it only gives them credence, makes them stronger. The truth can't set you free at all; it binds you even more tightly than a lie, because it can't be unravelled.

In the end, though, the final stand will be made alone. I think Lucifer grasped that, way back at the beginning. We cannot be truly free unless we claim our free will, and this is impossible with an omniscient creator watching over us. Lucifer made a break for freedom, but bound himself to us instead of God. When my rebellion comes, I'll not make that mistake.


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