The golden hall was mostly empty except for Prince Seere’s guard. The thousand-man brawl from last night was over. You’d think that would be a given after a solid twelve hours, but you’d be wrong. The cleanup effort was still ongoing. Dozens of men and women were sweeping ash into dustpans, and others had rags and hot water to scrub away the blood.
<It won’t let you track in mud, but it’ll let you die and bleed all over the place.> Gerry was sure no one but Seere himself understood the golden hall, but the thing seemed just as alive as any person. And just as picky.
Gerry walked the long hallway, savoring the warmth all the way to the throne room. Thankfully, Lydia was gone. Whether he was Gerald or Gerry, Gerry was pretty sure he’d kill that bitch again if he saw her anytime soon. Some things with the newly appointed Dux had changed, but others hadn’t. He was now more polite, courteous, and considerate to everyone he met, but he still had a plan to kill them all; and he would do it in a heartbeat.
“My Lord.” He dropped to a knee before Seere, who was lounging on his throne.
“That was quick.” Seere gave a flap of his bloodstained wings and the doors slid silently shut.
Gerry was now alone with the most powerful creature he’d ever met and his personal guard. <This is too good to be true,> briefly flitted through his mind, and he had to reassure himself that he wasn’t going to get beheaded just when he thought he’d hit it big.
Seere sensed the trepidation, or read Gerry’s mind. The new Dux couldn’t tell which, but the giant smiled comfortingly.
“You really need to relax, Gerry. I’m putting too much time and effort into you to just kill you. So,” he waved off Gerry’s feelings like a bad smell. “I hope the Carver treated you well. She has an…unique sense of humor.”
Gerry really wanted to ask what she was, but thought better of it. “Yes, Sir. She’s one of a kind.”
“You have no idea, but enough of that.” Seere beckoned him forward. “I promised you a tale to clarify everything. So pop a squat and listen.” With a wave he dismissed his personal guards. Whatever he was about to tell Gerry, it was for his ears only.
“I’m going to tell you about the story of this.” He waved his arms dramatically. “It’s the story of you, the story of me, the story of everything.”
He sighed and sat back down on his golden throne.
“In the beginning, everything in the universe was tightly packed into a pocket-sized sphere. Or at least that’s what I’m told. Nobody was around when the universe was small, no matter what religion tells you.”
Religion was a touchy subject in Hell for obvious reasons. So touchy, everyone refrained from using words like “God” and “Holy”, even if they were being used blasphemously. This was the first time Gerry had heard anyone, much less Seere himself, talk about religion.
“Then there was light!” Seere clapped his hands, which made Gerry jump and the hall tremble. He chuckled at Gerry’ surprised expression. “The sphere exploded and it released the æther.”
“Aether?” Gerry couldn’t keep his mouth shut. “What’s æther?”
“Humans don’t have a firm grasp on what æther is, but the closest description I can think of is God.”
Gerry took that in and digested it.
“But don’t confuse the human interpretation of God and æther as the same thing, because they most definitely are not.” Seere’s face soured. “Aether is something that links all things. It is the fundamental building block of the universe. Atomic and subatomic particles are a full order of magnitude larger than æther. Normal humans haven’t discovered and will likely never discover æther.” Seere said the last part condescendingly. Like humans were dirt.
<He’s a Lord of Hell. Of course he thinks that.> And after everything Gerry had seen, he had to agree with his Lord.
“But enough about æther. All you need to know is that it is the true source of power in the universe.” Seere curled his hand into a fist. “Out of this explosion of æther the first ethereal creatures were born, and that is where humans get confused. The God they so foolishly worship was one of these primeval creatures. He is comprised of æther, and can control it, but he’s not omnipotent and omniscient. He’s just as flawed as the rest of us.”
Now Gerry knew Seere was speaking from personal experience.
“So the first ethereal creatures swim around the cosmos for a few billion years; fighting, fucking, and generally doing whatever the hell they want.” Seere continued. “But you can only screw around for so long before you get bored. So they started to build. But ‘build’ isn’t the right word,” Seere scratched his chin. “You could say this is the moment of creation, but that’s egotistical and only plays into my father’s narrative.”
Gerry really wanted to delve into that a bit more, but Seere rolled right over anything he might have said.
“Whoever was left of the ethereal creatures created their realms of power. One of them created Earth. Another created Hell. My father created Heaven, and others created other realms that even I’ve only heard myths about.” Seere frowned. “And then there was peace. Everyone was too busy working on their own creations that they left each other alone.”
<Holy shit!> Gerry thought, and it was oddly appropriate.
“Now, the scope of our story focuses down to Heaven, Hell, and Earth; or the Higher, Middle and Lower Realms respectively. I know what created the middle realm but it disappeared before my birth or when I was very young. Either way I didn’t pay attention. But I do remember the First War of Conquest.” His expression softened, like he was remembering better days.
“My father.” It hardened back to stone at the mention of the name. “The one you all call God, conquered the middle realm and captured its æther. My and my siblings fought a war against the creatures that inhabited it. We killed most, and stripped what was left of nearly all their power. Then my loving father ‘remade the world in his own image’.” Seere used air quotes ironically. “He fostered the growth of humans in his new creation. He fashioned their souls to fill with that realms æther, and then be drawn back to his realm when their mortal form died. Then he charged us, his firstborns, his angels, with stewardship over his new flock.”
If Seere had looked upset before he looked royally pissed off now. Gerry valued his head so he didn’t even breathe until the Lord of Hell got his emotions back under control.
“Naturally,” Seere said through gritted teeth. “Many of my brothers and sisters didn’t agree with what was demanded of us.”
Gerry couldn’t relate. His father had always shown him love and support, but he could imagine having a cold, distant, power-hungry father would suck.
“I don’t need your sympathy!” Seere roared, shaking that hall.
The very sound of his voice practically fileted flesh. If Gerry hadn’t been wearing Infernal Iron he would have been killed.
Seere glared at him, but slowly regained his composure.
“My father gave us power to do our duties. Power drawn from Heaven. Like him, we are creatures of æther, and can control and manipulate it to our will. But unlike him, we don’t have the sheer capacity, which made it difficult to resist.” Seere surprised Gerry by giving a short chuckle. “My father is like that CEO or President who always holds onto fifty-one percent of a company’s stock just so he can do whatever he wants with an organization. Then he left the running of it to us.”
“That’s hardly fair.” The three words escaped Gerry’s mouth before he bit down hard on his tongue.
“It most certainly wasn’t.” Seere gave him an affirming nod. “So we tried to do something about it.”
Seere’s eyes glazed over at the fond memory. “The War of Rebellion.” He sighed. “Its entirety isn’t well documented in human texts because of how close we really got. I can still remember it. Lucifer and Satan fighting Amenadiel and Metatron in my father’s throne room, Seraphim against Seraphim. They destroyed my father’s palace in the process, and I laughed as it burned.” Seere’s lips pulled back into his truly terrifying smile.
This time Gerry kept his mouth shut and waited for his Lord, an angel from Heaven, started to speak again.
“But our diversion failed to distract him long enough. We weren’t able to take his throne and gather the æther needed to defeat him. He returned and cast us out of Heaven and into the middle realms. We were few in number by then, only a few dozen from various Choirs. Then he sent Michael, Gabriel, and a legion of Guardians to finish us. He didn’t want to just defeat us, he wanted to ground us into dirt and make an example of our defiance. All because we didn’t agree with him. So we did what he didn’t expect. We fled here.” He gestured around the room.
“My father hadn’t heard from the primordial creature that created the lower realms, but he dared not aggravate him in his weakened state. So he let us go.” Seere finished, and gave Gerry a shrug. “Fast forward another few eons and here we are. Now I’ll take your questions.”
“The creature that created Hell?” The revelation that there was something bigger and badder than Seere was hard to comprehend.
“We don’t know. We took ownership of our lands, and absorb the æther of the souls drawn here by their actions to serve us.”
Gerry nodded. “And the other Lords of Hell?” He only knew of Cain and Beelzebub.
“Most are fallen angels like myself. A few, like Cain, are cursed beings that have amassed enough power to hold their lands. Beelzebub is a creature of this realm as is The Carver, but she has sworn her loyalty to me.”
“And you, my Lord. What part did you play?” It was a daring question to ask, but Seere grinned.
“In Heaven I was a Throne, an angel of justice and a symbol of godly authority to my lesser brethren.” The angel explained. “I judged actions and crimes based on divine law and made my rulings. My power, and the power of my throne,” he patted the gold throne he was sitting on, “allowed me to enforce my rulings.”
“Open rebellion wasn’t the first action we took against our father,” Seere continued. “All our motivations for rebellion were different, but some of us fought back because we truly believed our father was showing favoritism to humans. Our lives were filled with servitude. The Seraphim’s spent their time endlessly singing my father’s praises. We were slaves to my father’s will while human had the ability to choose. We just wanted to be able to choose”
Gerry saw pain in his Lord’s eyes for the first time.
“My older brother, Lucifer, brought the case before me for judgment and I agreed with him. Needless to say, my father did not like my decision. He took my eye for my crime. Apparently, justice wasn’t as blind as my father wanted it to be.”
“When the fighting started I made sure to give as good as I got, but my greatest accomplishment was this.” Seere patted his golden throne. “I stole my throne from Heaven along with its divine reservoir of æther. For my actions they call me Master of Thieves.” He grinned, liking the name. “Those with more tact and manners call me The Great Dissenter.” While he liked the first name, there was clear pride in the second.
Gerry just sat there for several minutes, awestruck, and not sure what to say.
<What do you say to the creature that defied God’s will, stole a super powered throne, and escaped to Hell where he now rules his own kingdom?>
“That’s a hell of a tale, Sir.”
Seere laughed a rich, hearty sound that filled the throne room with extra warmth. Apparently, that was the proper response.
“And it’s only half of it.” Seere smiled, wiping a tear of laughter from his cheek. “The higher and lower realms are securely under our respective control, but the Middle Realm is not. The Second War of Conquest got us a foothold on Earth, and we’ve been trying to expand it ever sense.”
From what Gerry had heard, taking power away from the creature that called himself God was a good idea. “What do you need me to do?”
Again, that was what Seere wanted to hear.
“You, Gerry, will be a Dux on Earth. You will expand my influence, gather land, make alliances, eliminate opposition, and pave the road for an eventual assault on Heaven.” Seere’s eyes shone with a zealous fire. “You are going to be the tip of my spear, Gerry. Can you do that for me?”
Gerry immediately went down on one knee and bowed his head. He didn’t care if his Lord had asked him to stop doing it, this occasion demanded it. “Yes, Prince Seere. I will be your vanguard. I will defeat your enemies and gather your power on Earth so you can take the fight to the self-righteous prick in the sky.”
“Good.” The Infernal Lord and fallen angel grasped Gerry shoulder, and pulled him to his feet. “Then we have more work to do before you are ready.”