Chapter Five, Part One

When he opened his eyes, he discovered himself in a large and dark room, or something like a cavern, a pit, he could not tell. He could see neither wall nor ceiling, they faded into darkness. The floor was brass in color and hard as glass. He stood to his feet, his pet remaining hidden behind him, and he looked to the only source of light in his surroundings.

Far before him was a platform, on it, an immense throne, and there was a figure upon it. Surrounding this throne were three smaller thrones to the left, and four to the right, each with its own smaller figure sitting on it. Below the thrones were writhing figures, misshapen figures, figures with claws and tails, cloven hooves and canine teeth, equine necks and bloated bodies, eyes of a fish and wings of a bat, lion's feet and serpentine tongues. These abominable creatures circled the thrones, silent, forever moving, stretching and yawning.

Without hesitation, Samael began towards the thrones. As he neared, he discovered the being upon the center throne to be of large stature, youthful appearance, long black hair that spread past his shoulders. He had a long aquiline nose and his eyes were closed, as were all the remaining figures. But that odd figure in the center: he sat upon his throne, his left hand upon a book in his lap, his right hand resting atop the head of wolf that sat beside him. A wolf three times the size of a man. Its eyes glowed white and paid no heed to Samael or his pet. The man was dressed in burgundy and yellow, bronze clasps around his wrists and chains about his neck, pleated armor strapped to his shin and enclosing his feet straps of leather and gold. Those seated beside him were man, woman, and demon alike, in similar dress and handsome appearance. Their hands were empty, resting upon their knees.

Samael approached. The monsters that weaved through the thrones had ignored him, eternally bound to their masters that remained frozen. Samael stopped within ten paces of them, but none opened their eyes.

"I have been summoned," Samael announced after taking a final look around the darkness. As he stared, the man in the center opened his eyes. They were like emeralds, more yellow than green, but brilliant and clear as a crystal. He looked down upon Samael, and only then did an expression of a smile play on his lips.

"The one called Samael the Pale," he exclaimed. His voice was loud and deep, echoing from invisible walls so that the voice encompassed Samael from every direction.

"That is I," Samael said. He knew better than to make demands in the presence of them. He watched the man rise to his feet and take a step forward. The creatures withdrew from him. The others remained with their eyes closed, and none looked at him.

"Mind the basilisk," the man said, taking a step forward and descending from the platform.

Samael kept his eyes upon the man but took note of a great serpent, unnoticed before, but plainly seen now, that remained underneath the throne hidden in shadow and the recesses of the throne's intricate design.

As he neared Samael, he became smaller in stature, so that when he stood within a step of Samael, he was only a mere head taller. He smiled at Samael. "I am Nashachiron, god of avarice, and one who is innately curious of the going-ons of everything that is not of the netherworld."

Samael said nothing.

"Come," Nashachiron gestured forward, away from the thrones. "I wish to go for a walk."

He began walking, and Samael fell into step beside him. The light seemed to follow the god. He tread slow, his book still in his left hand. "I know your spirit, Samael," he began. "I know your thoughts; I know your curiosity of these dead souls that daily invade your city. And I know you are honest and good -- certainly unholy," he chuckled, "but you are noble of mind, respectively. Samael," he paused in his step and turned his head to look down at his companion.

"Yes, my lord?" Samael hadn't spoken until now, not because he was respectful or reverent, or knew the correct behavior when one was near a god, but because he was afraid. At any moment, he expected a chimera to strike him, a harpy to descend upon him and tear him limb from limb while the god laughed. He was departing Paradís for good; the proof had passed him on his journey here. What this god wanted from him, this magician of greed and hatred in the soul of a man was beyond his inadequate comprehension.

"Be fair, and tell me what you wish to know. You are allowed more than one inquiry, if I feel patient with you. Conversation has been dull, and my companions are repetitive and lacking."

Samael looked at him as they resumed walking. How much longer did he have? He would not be cursed without knowing the reason why. "Why have I been summoned?"

"Terse, Samael the Pale. I have just told you why you have been summoned."

Samael frowned, glowered, ashamed, and even more afraid. His pet walked a long and slow stride behind him. "Who are all those creatures in your temple?"

The god growled. "Those useless frauds. All those who wish to consult me, conspire, beg, plead, grasp at me. They come and go. I speak to them occasionally, I grant a few their desires, I cast a few into the Abyss, I play with them sometimes, and I always win. But enough, your questions are as dull as my companions. Samael, now I have a question for you. Something that will not bore you, I am sure." Nashachiron stopped and with a face devoid of expression, watching Samael.

He swallowed, he had no choice.

"Would you like to have a heart?"

He tensed, hastily disguising confusion into an expression of strained curiosity. "A heart?"

"A heart of a man." Nashachiron said.

"I would not know what to do with it."

The god scoffed and shifted his gaze. "You would not have a heart if you had no purpose, no reason for it! You are not Samael the Pale for no reason!" He glared back down at the helot.

"No," Samael said timidly.

"You do not wish to have a heart?" Nashachiron frowned.

"I would, if you would train me what I would do with it," Samael quickly corrected his error.

"Ah," Nashachiron beamed. "Very good." He began walking again and Samael followed. "You see, Samael," he hunched over and held his face near the helot’s, his eyes gleaming. "There is a performance due quite soon, and I need someone of your ilk and mind to do the talking."

Samael felt the overly long silence urged a response. "If I am to talk, then grant me the gift of charisma, my lord, for I am not endowed with such talents and abilities."

"Samael," Nashachiron raised his left hand and motioned to the darkness they walked in. "I could have you sit next to my throne for eternity, if I wanted it so. Have faith in me, only me, Samael, and I will grant to you everything you desire, as well as what your heart desires. Do you wish your little pet to come along with you?" He frowned as he looked back at the groveling gargoyle.

"If it pleases you, my lord," Samael bowed his head.

Nashachiron narrowed his eyes at the pitiful creature for a moment, then looked back at Samael. "It is pleasing. This will be interesting," he trailed off, looking ahead of him as he kept walking. Then he began to tell Samael of all the things he was to learn.

Samael noticed it immediately. The darkness was rising. A greyish mist was falling, no, drifting upon the ground from the blackness. The air became damp, slowly, the dimness turning into a pinkish hue at first, then a dark violet. From above the hues, a dark grey sky emerged. Spread throughout the dim expanse above, millions of tiny white lights glittered, countless twinkling eyes staring down at them as they walked. Samael listened to the god speak, but his eyes incessantly wandered. Strange objects were in the sky too, something like heavy cloth, bulbous and stretched, ending in wisps as they obstructed the infinite points of light. The land was flat, the mist tangible now, moist and rising from the ground. A lavender earth. A dark soil with a single simple plant growing from the ground, covering the earth. Samael looked to the ground he walked on. Wet dirt, not mud, for they did not leave tracks. He felt the blades of the plants staining wetness upon his legs.

They walked in a plain of grass, a word Nashachiron mentioned in between his speech. One end of the horizon was lighter than the other, and the longer they walked, the thinner the mist became. The sky was still mauve and grey, but the clouds -- Nashachiron spoke of this as well -- moved and shifted their shape, thinning and thickening, gliding in the damp air that smelled of earth and plants. As the fog thinned, he began to see shapes at the horizon ahead of him. Tall shapes, shapes that he discovered to be mountains. Through the mist, as distant as they were, they climbed higher and higher into the sky, mountains like he had never seen before.

He had left his nether plane.

The horizon was much brighter now, the mountains now so clear that he could see their white-tipped peaks, tinted in indigo and glistening from an unknown light. He had never seen a white mountain. He had never seen such a red earth with green flora. There was nothing else in his view, but it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. It made him feel strange.

Nashachiron paused in his words and looked down at his companion. "Does this anger you?"

"I fear it does," Samael replied, unsure why.

"It is true: you are treading into the human plane. Colorful, is it not? Enchanting, is it not? The sight, the smell, the sound, and wait until you have a taste. The human plane is even more vivid than this. I may give you a heart, Samael the Pale, but remember that you were a helot."

"A helot with a heart, my lord?"

His teeth glistened like ivory in this light. "No longer helot. You will be Samael of Nashachiron. Will you accomplish this task I have given you?"

"And what will become of me after I complete my task?"

Nashachiron laughed loudly. Samael frowned at the implications. "Afraid of the Abyss, are you? You needn't be afraid -- only if you fail. Which would be a hard thing to do. You will finish your task, and if I or another has use of you, you may remain on the human plane. But if not, you will return to your beloved Paradís, watching the expired souls from the second crimson gate. Am I not fair?"

"Quite so, my lord," Samael bowed.

The god stopped, and Samael stopped alongside him. His pet scrambled at his heels. Through the shift of planes, his pet was visibly uncomfortable, cringing at every unknown sound, of which were many, and practically wishing to walk between its master's legs. Samael had ignored the pitiful creature for the whole of the time, but looked down abruptly as it shivered against his leg.

And Nashachiron looked down at him, too.

"Your fearful companion, does it possess a title?"

"No title, my lord," Samael replied, and found it curious that he had never even thought of giving this creature a name before now. He never called for him, because he was always there. Had always been there for almost a century, he wasn't sure, he never thought about it. Counting time was a frivolous and purposeless distraction. His pet was just that, a purposeless companion who came without prompt or request.

"What would you wish of it? It could not keep that form on the human plane lest it give away your masquerade." Nashachiron's empty black sockets stared directly at him, and Samael tilted his head.

"Whatever form you wish. I am not familiar with the creatures of the human plane, as you assuredly are."

The god continued to gaze at him, then turned his head slightly forward to look at the emaciated, voiceless, four-legged spawn.

"Her name is Vespa, and she will see the things you are unable to see, she will hear the things you are unable to hear. She will be the muse of your spirit and the essence of your soul. She will be the connection of you to the human plane. She will take responsibility for herself, but you must be her guardian, else your human body be in jeopardy of its cover."

A female? Samael thought. My pet was female all this time, and I had no knowledge of such. He looked down at the pathetic half-skeleton that shivered at his legs. And what creature would she become? This form, this was her. Samael realized that things of the human plane were inexplicably different, unusually beautiful, creatures created for beauty and admiration. He did not find Vespa repulsive, but felt a tinge of impatience as to what she would transform into. And what fear lay in those small milky eyes that left searing trails of white embers in the air around her. Her. Vespa. A creature of darkness hearkened without choice into a different existence. His own insipid eyes twinkled and he suppressed a snarling smirk. Like myself.

And as if the matter had never occurred, Nashachiron began his easygoing stride, and his companions followed expectantly.

"Now," Nashachiron turned and pointed to the mountains that lay on the horizon. "Your destination is a city within those mountains. It will not be hard to find."

Samael nodded. He had never traversed long distances, but he was certain that it would not take an extraneous amount of time or effort. He felt an object within his hand, something small and spherical and he raised his hand. But the god's outstretched hand appeared over his hand, and Samael looked up as Nashachiron spoke.

"This is not to be lost or misplaced, helot. It would be the same as failing. The Abyss would welcome you."

The god retracted his hand and Samael kept his eyes upon him a while longer. But the god had no more to add. Reassurance was far too much to request. He looked down upon his closed fist, and when he opened it, he nearly dropped the orb from the palm of his hand.

His human hand.

The End

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