Dead souls were nowhere to be found when they entered. There were no walls, nothing but white sand from horizon to horizon, as far as he could see. Even the gate behind him had disappeared, and he hadn't even noticed until now. The sky was bright and nondescript, just like everything else here. A thin layer of sand brushed atop the yellowed stone path at his feet, and it stretched straight as far his eye could see both in front and behind him. A large building having tiers like a temple and climbing high into the sky was nearby to the left. Another large building not unlike the first was set back farther away, in no decipherable pattern that Samael could identify. Beyond them, there was nothing but horizon. Each building possessed two guardians at their entrances, and these were curious in and of themselves. Of the nearest small bastion, the first guardian was half equine and half man. Centaurs. Samael saw the etchings of them, creatures of the gods from wars of old. Strange symbols marked the tiers of the building's walls, none of which he had seen before. The other guardian was the opposite: the head of a cattle and the lower portion of a man. Together, they stared forward as if made of stone, both holding some long pole weapon in their left hands. The view was so obscure, so confusing, so indescribably clear, it screamed against all his senses that he did not belong here. Paradís seemed a distant place, far away from this immaculate vision.
A strange feeling crept over him and he absently reached down to touch the cold skull of his pet. He suddenly realized the strange mood. There were no daemons about. Nothing. It was deafeningly quiet, the sand on the ground was whiter than the streets of the previous section, and only scattered and sometimes strange footprints in the sand told him that some one or some things traveled here. His pet contained its fear but shivered between his legs.
"We go this way," Contrare exclaimed, breaking the stillness without fear. He began to the right and Samael kept up with him.
"This place, it is strange and unsettling," Samael said quietly. The silence was harder to handle than what his eyes saw. Silence was a stranger to him, hardly attainable and never welcome in Paradís.
"This is the dwelling place of the Shaolim."
"Evil incarnate," Samael said, recalling the hardly spoken but well known levels of the evil ones. They were in the land of the gods. He could feel their presence, helot that he was. In the flat horizon, he saw another large building jutting from the sand.
"That is our destination," Contrare pointed to it.
"Why are there no daemons present?" Samael couldn't help but ask.
Contrare chuckled. "They are among us. There are plenty of them here; too many, if you ask me."
Where? Samael looked this way and that, unsure if Contrare was playing him the fool, but he pursed his lip.
As they neared the temple-like structure, Contrare began to take some breaks, palms on his knees, breathless and fatigued. Samael was in the opposite condition, beginning to get impatient with the frequent pauses. He felt more alive with curiosity, cursing Contrare's physical shortcoming and debating on going on without him. Of course, he would stop once he reached the building, but thought it better. He was glad he hadn't taken that initiative, because as he came closer to it, he saw its two guardians, both of same stature and appearance, and both gigantic and terrifying. Two serpeants, gleaming metallic bronze, curled and arched to stand almost twenty feet high stood en guarde at the top of a long and wide flight of stairs. The building was made in similar colored material, and still more glyphs of unknown meaning showed themselves to Samael.
They arrived at the base of the steps, Contrare heaving and Samael standing beside him, his pet hiding itself behind its master.
"Samael the Pale," Contrare said between breaths. He squinted at him. "Boy that you are. May the gods do what they will. I have reached the end of my journey."
"I am to go up there alone?" Samael frowned.
"You're expected," Contrare waved his hand. "Go, those two will do you no harm."
He could think of nothing to say, and Samael nodded to his escort. He ascended the bronze stairs slowly, his pet's clawed toes clacking and echoing loudly in the muted plane. Before him, the windowless building rose high into the sky, arches and crevices disrupting the surface, and soon he was within its shadow. The serpeant's head crested his view and he could see their golden eyes and black slits, thin as a grain of sand, unmoving and focused upon a distant point. Only a few steps more and he and his pet reached the top platform, and still, the serpeants did not look at him. Perhaps they were made of stone, Samael thought as he paused. He turned his head. Contrare was sitting upon the sand now, his back turned to him. Samael swallowed and turned back to what lay before him.
Tall doors, bronze doors, the door to a god. How would he open it? The serpeants were twenty paces from it, their tails disappearing past the platform over the edges to hug the building. He began towards it slowly, his pet by his side. He wished not to move his head to stare in innocence as those leviathans, but before they passed from his vision, he noted that their eyes never moved. He knew they were not stone, deceiving as they were. He neared the door, thirty paces now. Twenty paces now. The bodies of the serpeants lay higher than himself, their scales larger than his head.
Suddenly, those bronze doors shuddered as if now recognizing his presence, and he stopped. His pet froze beside him. He stared up at them. He turned around and from above, he saw a long golden forked tongue extend and flicker from the serpeant head to his right. The rest of it did not move, and after a few seconds, the tongue retracted, and all was still again.
He grit his teeth and turned back to the door.
Clenching his fists, he took a step forward. The doors shuddered again.
He took another step forward. The door creaked. Refusing to be daunted by the colossal structure, he started a strong gait towards it. He neared it, ten paces now, and the two doors began to move inward. Stiff but not slowing down, he kept walking, watching the doors open wider inch by inch until he was almost within a foot of it. It was opened enough to allow his body through.
He passed through it, his pet hurrying after him. As soon as he crossed the threshold, he stopped in amazement. The doors closed behind him, but he did not notice.
Everything was in gold. The floor reflected everything upon it like a gold-flecked mirror. The ceiling rose higher than he could comprehend. And all around him was a sea of deamons. There was hardly room to walk, let alone crawl though. Daemons of all coat and color, tall and short ones, wide and thin ones. Daemons fighting, dancing, singing, shouting, scratching their heads, scratching their stomachs, doing whatever things a waiting daemon would do. Like a rush of hot air, the din of them suddenly reached him, almost knocking him over. A bass thunder that deafened the eardrums.
He swallowed hard and searched around the room for something, a sign of where to go. He looked at the faces around him, but none noticed him, none looked at him. He didn't want to talk to them. The room was something of a circular shape, and now he saw in a far corner something of a low doorway. To this, he began shouldering his way to, his pet scratching at his heels for fear of being separated from the master.
He reached the doorway, which he saw led into a hallway packed still more with daemons. This hallway appeared to lead to a smaller room with a more reasonable ceiling, and after some struggling, he made it into there. Through the bodies and limbs, he spotted a desk with a golden daemon sitting at it with a quill in his hand, writing furiously upon a piece of scroll. One end of the scroll was as thick as a strong one's thigh, and the other end had rolled off the desk. He pushed his way to him, relatively surprised that no one was chiding his elbowing, and he placed his palms upon the desk and stared at the daemon.
The golden one continued his frenzied writing, but crunched his nose and peered up at him.
"Where am I to go? What is this? I have been summoned here to this chaos!"
The gilded one said nothing but continued his writing and peering.
"I will not stand here among these intractable beings that suffocate me."
"Who are you, boy?" The golden one finally said after a long pause.
"There are many with that title," the golden one frowned.
"Samael the Pale," he grumbled.
The pen paused as the golden one narrowed his eyes at him. The pen resumed.
"What is my fate!" Samael bent closer to the golden one.
"Nashachiron knows your fate," he replied.
Samael looked at him, and suddenly, he was cast into darkness.